Developed in the late 1970s, Russia’s Kirov-class battle cruisers are the largest and heaviest surface-combat ships in the world — and they’re coming back with advanced weaponry, according to Russia’s Tass news agency.
At more than 800 feet long, with a displacement of around 25,000 tons, the Kirov dwarfs any navy ship short of an amphibious assault ship or aircraft carriers. But only one, the Pyotr Veliky, is still in service.
Russian media says that another aging Kirov-class hull, the Admiral Nakhimov, is being fitted with Russia’s newest antiship, antiair, and surface-to-surface missiles.
Russia intends to return the Admiral Nakhimov to its fleet in 2019, at which time the Pyotr Veliky will be docked to undergo the same upgrades.
These include missiles of the Kalibr variety that recently hit targets in Syria from the Caspian Sea, Zircon hypersonic missiles, which are slated to be ready by 2020, and a “navalized” version of Russia’s S-400 missile-defense system, according to Foxtrot Alpha.
To accommodate these missiles, Russia plans to overhaul the ship’s vertical-launch systems. That contract alone is worth 2.56 billion rubles, or $33.5 million, NavyRecognition.com notes.
In the ongoing game of raising and lowering tensions on Russia’s doorstep, the United States Navy has once again raised eyebrows in the Black Sea. This time, it’s defending a number of drills it conducted in the area as “essential.”
The exercises, called Sea Breeze 2021, weren’t a surprise to anyone. It was a scheduled series of exercises, complete with photos and video available on the publicly available Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS). It even has its own Twitter account. The exercise has been held annually since 1997, according to the U.S. Navy.
But this year is a very different year, as tensions between Russia, Ukraine and the United States and its western allies have been mounting in recent months.
From June 28-July 10, 2021, the United States and Ukraine hosted the massive sea drill, attended by 32 countries from six continents providing 5,000 troops, 32 ships, 40 aircraft and 18 special operations and dive teams.
Earlier in 2021, as many as 30,000-60,000 Russian ground troops were massing on its border with Ukraine, leading many to believe that an invasion similar to the 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula was imminent. The United States and the United Kingdom attempted to move naval forces into the area as a show of support, which only angered the Russian government, increasing the tension there.
Eventually, cooler heads prevailed and much of the large Russian force was withdrawn but not before the United States was forced to keep its naval forces away from the Crimean Peninsula. Even so, British and Dutch forces came in contact with Russian forces in potentially explosive confrontations.
When the long-planned Sea Breeze 2021 exercises kicked off, Russia condemned them as a military provocation. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the western forces there risked provoking the Russians.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov even said the western ships “would be better off leaving their provocations aside next time and staying away from that area because they will get clocked in the nose.”
The Black Sea is just another front in the ongoing conflict over Ukraine, and Russia’s dwindling sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and the Black Sea region. While Black Sea waters are an important area for Russia’s foreign trade, the Russian bear also uses its influence there to choke Ukraine’s trading capabilities.
U.S. Navy officials say the Sea Breeze exercises are an essential element in deterring Russian aggression toward its former Soviet client states, especially ones like Ukraine who believe their future lies with the West. Ukraine is still fighting pro-Russian separatists in the eastern portion of its border areas.
Meanwhile, as Sea Breeze 2021 continued, Russia began its own series of naval and air exercises, which included air-to-air refueling, strategic missile carriers and air defense systems. These were all designed to counter what Russia believes is an attempt to establish new military installations closer to Ukraine, a threat to Russian sovereignty and something Vladimir Putin said he would not allow.
In a statement in July 2021, Putin told a gathering of reporters that in case of war between Russia and the West, Russia would prevail.
“They know they cannot win this conflict,” Putin said. “We would be fighting for our own territory; we didn’t travel thousands of miles to get to their borders, they did.”
China has made excellent progress developing its second aircraft carrier, and Chinese state-run media says it could start patrolling the South China Sea by 2019.
The South China Morning Post, based on a scan of Chinese state media reports, states that the carrier was “taking shape.”
“It will be used to tackle the complicated situations in the South China Sea,” said Chinese media.
The “complicated situation” the media report referred to stems from Beijing’s claims to about 85% of the South China Sea, which sees $5 trillion in trade annually. China has developed a network of artificially built, militarized islands in the region, and at times has unilaterally declared “no fly” or “no sail” zones.
In 2016, the International Court of Arbitration ruled these claims illegal, and the Trump administration has promised to put a stop to China’s aggressive, unlawful behavior.
But that’s easier said than done, and a designated aircraft carrier in the region could help cement China’s claims.
China’s second carrier, likely to be named the “Shangdong” after a Chinese port city, will resemble the Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier, which itself is a refurbished Soviet model.
China’s carriers, like Russia’s sole carrier the Admiral Kuznetzov, feature a ski-slope design. US models, on the other hand, use catapults, or devices that forcefully launch the planes off the ship. Ski-slope style carriers can’t launch the heavy bomb-and-fuel-laden planes that US carriers can, so their efficacy and range are severely limited.
But Taylor Mavin, a UC San Diego graduate student in international affairs, notes for Smoke and Stir that these smaller, Soviet-designed carriers were built with the idea of coastal defense, not seaborne power projection, being the main goal:
“Since a major confrontation between NATO and Warsaw Pact would most likely take place in Europe, during the later Cold War Soviet planners focused on protecting the heavily defended ‘bastions’ shielding their ballistic missile submarines and not seaborne power projection.
China’s navy has undergone rapid modernization in the last few years with particular emphasis on fielding submarines. So while a Chinese carrier couldn’t travel to say, Libya, and project power like a US carrier could, it might just be custom made for the South China Sea.
But don’t expect the world’s most populous nation to stop at two carriers. A recent report from Defense News states that satellite imagery from China shows the nation developing catapults to possibly field on a US-style carrier.
Taken in concert with China’s other efforts to create anti-access/area-denial technology like extremely long-range missiles, the US will have to have its work cut out for it in trying to offer any meaningful counter to China’s expansionism in the Pacific.
Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team started arriving in Europe this week for a nine-month rotation as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
The 2nd ABCT’s rotation is the fifth one by an armored brigade in support of Atlantic Resolve, which started in 2014 to show US commitment to Europe’s defense after Russia’s interference in Ukraine.
But the unit is the first “in recent memory” to use the port of Vlissingen in the Netherlands, where soldiers, Army civilians, and local workers started unloading the first of three shipments of equipment early on Oct. 11, 2019.
A 2nd ABCT soldier directs an M1A2 Abrams tank as vehicles are offloaded at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 11, 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
Armored units deployed for Atlantic Resolve rotations are typically stationed in Germany or elsewhere in Eastern Europe and have in the past arrived at ports closer to their bases.
But the 2nd ABCT’s arrival at Vlissingen — like that of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team at the nearby port of Antwerp last spring — is part of an Army effort to practice navigating Europe’s bureaucratic and geographic terrain.
NATO has been trying to operate out of more ports in Europe since around 2015, according to Ben Hodges, who led the US Army in Europe between 2014 and 2017.
There was a need to “to reestablish capabilities in all these ports” and “to demonstrate that we could come [into Europe] at a variety of different places,” Hodges, who is a retired lieutenant general, told Business Insider in 2018.
Vlissingen is the “first main juncture point” for the 2nd ABCT’s current deployment, and its troops and gear will arrive at ports in Poland, Latvia, Belgium, Greece, and Romania throughout October, the Army said in a release.
First Lt. Quanzel Caston, a unit movement officer with the 2nd ABCT, examines M1A2 Abrams tanks at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 11, 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
In total, the unit will deploy about 3,500 soldiers, 85 tanks, 120 Bradley fighting vehicles, 15 Paladin self-propelled howitzers, 500 tracked vehicles, 1,200 wheeled vehicles and pieces of equipment, and 300 trailers.
Massing forces across the Atlantic Resolve area of operation “displays the US Army’s readiness, cross-border military mobility and speed of assembly,” the release said.
The Army’s 598th Transportation Brigade will move the 2nd ABCT’s gear a variety of ways, including by “low-barge, rail-head, line-haul and convoy operations.”
It’s the first time the Army has used a low-barge inland cargo ship to transport tracked armored vehicles across Europe for Atlantic Resolve.
“The significance of using the low-barge is it enhances readiness in the European region by introducing another method of movement to the Atlantic Resolve mission,” said Cpl. Dustin Jobe, noncommissioned officer in charge of lifting provisions for the 647th Expeditionary Terminal Operations Element.
Sgt. Julian Blodgett, a senior mechanic with the 2nd ABCT directs an M1A2 Abrams tank for loading on a low-barge cargo ship at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 12, 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
‘Better than it was’
The US Army in Europe shrank after the Cold War. Since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014, however, the Army has beefed up its presence with exercises along NATO’s eastern flank and back-to-back rotations of armored units.
But returning to Europe in force has highlighted NATO’s problems getting around the continent, where customs rules and regulations, insufficient infrastructure, and shortages of transports for heavy vehicles inhibit movement.
These obstacles would present issues for any peacetime mobilization effort and led NATO to conclude in a 2017 internal report that its ability to rapidly deploy around Europe had “atrophied since the end of the Cold War.”
A local contractor attaches lift chains to an M1A2 Abrams tank for lowering into a low-barge ship at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 12, 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
European countries, working through the European Union and NATO, have sought to reduce or eliminate the hurdles.
A new NATO command based in Germany now oversees the movement of alliance forces in Europe, and the EU has set up Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, to address security issues by “integrating and strengthening defence cooperation within the EU framework.”
The logistical skills of the US and its NATO allies will face their biggest test yet next year, during Defender 2020 in Europe — the US Army’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years. It will range across 10 countries and involve 37,000 troops from at least 18 countries.
The point of Defender 2020 “is to practice the reinforcement of US forces in Europe for the purposes of collective defense of the alliance,” Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the head of US Army Europe, said on Monday during a panel hosted by Defense One at the Association of the US Army’s annual conference in Washington, DC.
A 2nd ABCT M1A2 Abram tank is raised over the pier at Vlissingen to be lowered onto a low-barge ship for transportation to another location in Europe, Oct. 12, 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
“That’s something that requires practice, because you’re moving large forces great distances through complicated infrastructure and across a variety of different national lines,” Cavoli added.
“We call this strategic readiness, the ability to strategically deploy and to project a force,” he said. “It’s a significant concatenation of small things that have to go right in order to do this well.”
Asked about Europe’s railways, which vary in rail size and have differing regulations, Cavoli said there were procedural and infrastructural issues that had to be addressed.
“Procedurally, we’ve made a great deal of progress across the alliance. Some countries, they’ve relaxed some of their restrictions, shortening the notification times required,” Cavoli said. “We, as an alliance, have gotten much more practice scheduling and moving and loading rail, and we’re able to move very, very quickly across great distances.”
US Army Reserve Cpl. Dustin Jobe watches a 2nd ABCT M1A2 Abram tank as it’s raised over the pier to be lowered onto a low-barge ship for transport elsewhere in Europe, at Vlissingen, Netherlands Oct. 12, 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
But infrastructural problems remain, Cavoli said, pointing specifically to a difference in rail gauge between Poland and Lithuania. But Lithuania plans to buy dual-gauge rail cars for heavy equipment, Cavoli added.
“In addition to that, across the alliance, there’ve been some challenges with bridge classification, with the strength of rail heads … can it take a tank driving off a train there?” Cavoli said. “The EU has really stepped in using prioritized … shopping lists, prioritized by NATO, and it has been investing throughout the alliance in mobility infrastructure.”
Cavoli said recent exercises had exposed challenges to mobility but had also prompted NATO members “to get after those challenges. So I think we’re in a fairly good place right now.”
Asked to assign the alliance a letter grade for mobility, Cavoli demurred, saying only that it’s “better than it was previously.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The vaunted 82nd Airborne Division is America’s Global Response Force, tasked with answering the President’s phone call when he needs to place between 800 and 20,000 armed and well-trained soldiers into another country on short notice. And a group of 82nd Paratroopers just finished training in Bulgaria in a Combined-Arms Live-Fire Exercise, a CALFEX, giving us a chance to revel in how they operate.
Full disclosure, the author is a former member of the 82nd Airborne, and he is super biased. He’s also a former member of the 49th Public Affairs Detachment whose personnel took many of these photos, and he’s biased toward them as well. Basically, he’s biased as hell and doesn’t care who knows it.
(U.S. Army Spc. Justin Stafford)
The training was part of Swift Response 19 and went from June 11-25. The live-fire part was just the last four days of the event. The whole point was to test and validate the Global Response Force concept, deploying the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division to Europe to fight alongside other NATO powers in Europe.
(U.S. Army Spc. Justin Stafford)
Eight nations took part in the training including Italian and Canadian airborne forces. On June 18, these paratroopers took an airfield, and on June 20, they launched air assaults to take a simulated village in the Novo Selo Training Area. Above the paratroopers, helicopters with the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division provided support. The aviators hauled troops and weapons around the battlefield as well as fired on the enemy from the sky.
Simulated attacks, of course. No one really wants to kill the Bulgarians.
(U.S. Army Spc. Justin Stafford)
These combined exercises seek to test all the major individual and collective tasks that units have to accomplish. That’s a fancy way of saying they test the individual soldiers and the units at the same time. These tasks include everything from properly caring for a casualty to calling in fires to maneuvering a battalion or brigade against an enemy force.
(U.S. Army Spc. Justin Stafford)
And the combined part of the CALFEX means that everyone gets to play. The Apaches from the 1st Infantry Division provided close combat attack support, but Air Force assets like the A-10 often come to these parties as well. Occasionally, you can even see some naval assets fire from the sea or Marine aviators flying overhead. All of the services have some observers trained to call in fires from other branches’ assets so they can work together.
(U.S. Army Spc. Justin Stafford)
It’s actually part of why training with other countries is so important. If a paratrooper is deployed into a future war with, just pulling it out of a hat, Iran, then it’s worth knowing how to call the British ship in the Persian Gulf for help or for bombs from a jet flying off of France’s carrier the Charles de Gaulle.
(U.S. Army Spc. Justin Stafford)
Keep scrolling for a crapton more photos from the 82nd in Swift Response 19. If you want even more photos and videos and whatnot, try this link.
Linda Glocke was incensed by a story she read on KABC-TV’s (Los Angeles) website back in January of this year about the two Japanese hostages taken by the terrorist organization ISIS in Syria. The two men were executed on camera. She commented on the article, saying “I will destroy ISIS.” A Redditor named ‘Jamesnufc’ took a screen grab and blurred her name, but it was easily still legible.
Her comment went unnoticed, as most do, until after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, when a second Redditor re-posted the image of Linda’s comment. In November 2015, after the attacks in Paris, when ISIS claimed responsibility for those as well, another redditor re-posted the comment and its resurgence is now viral, in an odd way capturing the spirit of defiance from the Internet community.
Linda’s internet fame is now complete with a parody twitter account which immediately gained 22.7 thousand followers
The trio shuffled into the small room with canes and walkers to record their testimonies of the first confrontations of the Cold War and how the allies prevailed without firing a shot, saving a former enemy from oppression.
The Royal Air Force Museum American Foundation celebrated the 70th anniversary of the end of Berlin Airlift at their annual “Spirit of the Battle of Britain” banquet October 2019 to honor these veterans for their contributions to the alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom.
The trio retold their stories of using soft air power to deter Soviet aggression in post-World War II Berlin, and current U.S. Air Force and RAF airmen were honored for continuing to further the partnership between the two nations.
Prior to the dinner, the trio transported family, listeners and caregivers back to 1940s Germany.
“I remember the war,” said Mercedes Wild, who was seven years old at the start of the Berlin Airlift. “They (Allied bombers) destroyed Berlin. It was a hard time for the kids in West Berlin. Berlin is a destroyed city. We will never forget the sound of the bombers.”
After WWII, the German capital was divided with Soviet Russia controlling East Berlin and British, French and American Allies responsible for the west. The city was located more than 100 miles inside the Russian controlled portion of Germany. On June 24, 1948, the Russians implemented a blockade of West Berlin to prevent food and supplies, such as coal, from entering the town. The effort attempted to break the spirit of the West Berlin people to reject democracy and embrace communism.
A C-54 Skymaster piloted by retired Col. Gail Halvorsen drops candy with attached parachutes to children during the Berlin Airlift. Halvorsen earned the nickname “Candy Bomber” for his operation Little Vittles candy drops. Note the parachutes below the tail of the C-54.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
Enter, veterans and the Berlin Airlift.
Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Gail Halvorsen, widely known as the “Candy Bomber,” described volunteering for the mission that changed his life and the lives of millions in West Berlin. Halvorsen, a 28-year-old lieutenant at the time, grew up on a farm in Utah, where helping a neighbor in need was a way of life.
“My dad was an example to me,” he said. “He had plenty to do himself, but when a neighbor, a farmer, needed help and couldn’t get enough help, my dad would drop some of the things that weren’t so important on our farm to help the next-door neighbor.”
Halvorsen saw his first aircraft flying overhead on the farm while he was working the fields. He was hooked and signed up for a non-college pilot training program. Soon he received his flight training and was flying cargo aircraft in Mobile, Alabama. When the word came of the attempts by Russia to stomp out freedom in West Berlin by starving its residents, there was no doubt of his next step.
“I volunteered to fly supplies in early,” Halvorsen recalled.
At first, the citizens of West Berlin didn’t know what to think of hearing heavy aircraft over their heads again.
“The noise of the airplanes during the airlift in the beginning I feared, because it was the same noise while bombing Berlin,” Wild said.
They would soon learn the aircraft were not carrying bombs but food and supplies to keep them alive. The logistics of flying 2.3 million tons of goods and equipment was not without risks. In total, 101 airmen from around the world perished in the Berlin Airlift.
“Two hundred meters from our house, there was the first airlift airplane crash in the night,” Wild remembered. “The next morning I went with my mother. It was destroyed. The two pilots were dead. The people were very sorry about this … They feared that the west allies would now stop the airlift.”
A hard winter already made food in short supply, Wild explained. The only meal she might get would come from school and she would sneak part of this food to her mother, who was sick. She also took care of the family chickens, whose eggs she would trade on the black market for meat or shoes. Still, none of these hardships compared to the fear of the Russians returning to West Berlin as they had done in the final days of the war.
“The normal West Berliner did not want to become Soviet,” she said. “The Soviet regime was near the same as Nazi time and they feared the Russians. They remembered the Russian soldiers.”
As Halvorsen flew food and coal into the city of Berlin, a 19-year-old RAF pilot flew gasoline into Berlin.
Then-Lt. Gail S. Halvorsen.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
“The Halifax aircraft was a converted bomber,” said Dereck Hermiston. “The bomb racks had been taken and we flew, I think it was 40 or 41, 45-gallon tanks of gasoline. They had wooden beams, and they (used them) to roll these drums up. Quite unstable, and it stank to high hell.”
The son of a WWI pilot, Hermiston was among the youngest airmen to participate in flying the airlift. Yet, even as a teenager, the reversal of roles did not escape him.
“I realized, as a British officer, that we had bombed, and bombed, and bombed Berlin with the Americans, and it was a reversal,” he said. “We were now trying to save the Berliners from what was quite an oppressive regime from the Russians. I met a few Russian officers, and they were very sure they wanted to stop Germany from growing ever again.”
There was always worry of an international incident turning the Cold War operation hot, as Hermiston told.
“We were buzzed by a Russian MiG-9 one morning,” Hermiston, very much still a kid at heart, said with a chuckle. “I think it was about 4 o’clock in the morning. It was just getting daylight. There was this great shudder, and this fighter aircraft flew underneath us … and looped around us. As he came down, I had no room to maneuver. I suppose he missed us by about 200 to 300 feet. It was enough to make the aircraft shudder. Little things like that I remember because I was frightened.”
Despite the harsh weather conditions and aero acrobatic antics of the Soviets, the Allies continued to do what was needed to feed and fuel a city. In some cases this involved evacuating Berliners in need of medical attention.
“I flew out something like 220 people in my aircraft from Berlin that were sick or were children needing operations,” Hermiston said. “My aircraft was a tanker aircraft, so they had to sit on these wooden beams that were going up the fuselage in stinking conditions. It stank of petrol oil from all the gasoline. Yet, they were all so very grateful — very, very grateful. I found the people extremely grateful.”
The British pilot was not the only person struck by the grateful nature of the people of Berlin. In a previous interview, Halvorsen recalled how he became known as the “Candy Bomber” after a trip to Berlin, seeing children line up along the fence line outside the flightline of the Templehof airport.
“I had been to other countries where the kids had chocolate,” he said, recalling that moment nearly 70 years later. “When George Washington visited his troops, he had little hard candies in his pocket for the kids. That was nothing new. But these kids had not had chocolate for a couple of years. Not one out of the 30 broke ranks and said, ‘do you got candy?’ When I realized that, it just hit me like a ton of bricks — black and white. I just could not believe that quality of character called gratitude. They were so grateful. They were thankful for their freedom. When I realized that, I thought I got to do something. I reached in my pocket, and all I had was two sticks of gum.”
Convinced that everyone deserved a treat or no one did, Halvorsen took about three more steps and the little voice came clear as a bell directing him back to the fence.
Lt. Gail Halvorsen, “The Candy Bomber,” greets children of isolated West Berlin after dropping candy bars from the air on tiny parachutes.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
“Boy, when I stopped and started back, those kids came to attention,” he said. “I pulled out two sticks of gum and broke them in half and passed it to the kids doing the translating. I couldn’t believe what I saw. The other kids didn’t push or shove or try to grab it. The kids that got half a piece of stick of gum tore off the wrapper and passed it. The kids that got a strip of paper, put it up to their noses, smelled it and their eyes got big. They were dumbfounded. They clutched it in their hands to go home and show their parents, if they had any.”
An idea came to Halvorsen — return the next day.
“I will be flying overhead, and I will drop enough chocolate for all of you,” he announced to the children. “When that translated to everybody, there was a celebration going on.”
Halvorsen made one demand of the children. They must share the candy. They agreed, but another question arose. With planes arriving every few seconds, how would the children know which one was Halvorsen’s?
“When I would fly over the farm (back home), I would wiggle the wings back and forth. So I said, ‘kids, you watch the airplane. When I come over the center of Tempelhof, if it is clear, I will wiggle the wings.’ That is how it began.”
The “Candy Bomber,” with his parachutes of chocolate, was born, and the act would soon be named operation Little Vittles.
One little girl never caught one of the treats — the 7-year-old Wild.
“I was never quick enough,” she said.
Crews unload planes at Tempelhof Airport during the Berlin Airlift.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
To make matters worse, the chickens whose eggs brought a fortune on the black market had stopped laying because of the noise from the aircraft landing every few seconds over head.
“Therefore, I decided to write a letter because I was so sad about the situation, and I cried,” she said. “My grandmother told me don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t weep, do something. I decided to write a letter.”
The letter was addressed to her “Chocolate Uncle,” and she asked him to aim his parachute for the garden with the white chickens.
No parachute ever came, despite nearly 20 tons of candy being dropped from the C-54 Skymasters flown by the Americans.
A letter from her “Chocolate Uncle” did come, with two special treats — a lollipop and peppermint-flavored stick of gum. Between the war and the blockade, the smell of peppermint was unknown to the child.
“I exchanged it on the black market, this peppermint gum, for a glass marble; I have this glass marble,” Wild said, pulling the smooth glass toy from her pocket and placing it on the table with as much pride as any seven-year-old. “This is the same glass marble.”
The lollipop was saved for a Christmas treat, but the greatest gift that day was not the candy.
“The most important was the letter; the letter changed my whole life,” she said.
Offered a chance to join an aunt in Switzerland where food and supplies were not held hostage by the Soviets, Wild turned it down with the hopes of one day meeting her “Chocolate Uncle.”
Around-the-clock supplies continued flying into Berlin as British and American pilots made three round trips a day. After nearly a year, the Soviets lifted the blockade, reopening the transportation routes on the ground.
“The Soviets gave up,” Halvorsen said. “They said we can’t compete with that. They got red-faced and backed off. The airlift was the reason they had to do that; it broke the blockade. I was proud to be a part of that.”
With the blockade lifted in May 1949, British and American aircraft continued to fly supplies into Berlin to rebuild the stocks. On Sept. 23, 1949, the last RAF aircraft landed in Berlin with supplies.
Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen, known commonly as the “Berlin Candy Bomber” stands in front of C-54 Skymaster.
(Photo by Bennie J. Davis III)
Time passed, and in 1970, Halvorsen returned to Germany, now as a colonel and the commander of Tempelhof. A now grown and married Wild decided now was the time to meet her “Chocolate Uncle.”
“First, we went to airport Templehof, and I took the letter with me,” Wild said. “Then I invited him to our home for dinner with the family.”
The two families have remained close all these years.
Seventy years later, these veterans of the Berlin Airlift travel the world telling the story of how the gratitude of the Berlin Airlift shaped their lives and the world.
“We must give the good spirit to the kids to have good society and future…” Wild said. “This was a very good thing that Colonel Halvorsen decided to have those candy droppings because I think he is the best ambassador for mankind–for humanity. It is not only Col. Halvorsen, but the other pilots and the people of Great Britain, South Africa, Canada and USA. The people were standing behind the airlift.”
The U.S. military is getting out of the nation-building business and is now focusing on killing terrorists. That is among the policy changes announced by President Donald Trump in a speech delivered at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, Aug. 21.
“From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing Al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America,” he said, while also explicitly refusing to set a timetable or to reveal how many more troops will be deployed.
Trump has already shown an inclination to not micro-manage and to give local commanders authority to make operational and tactical decisions. In April, the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb made its combat debut in Afghanistan when it was used to hit a tunnel complex used by the Afghanistan affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
President Trump, while not mentioning Obama by name, also criticized the abrupt withdrawal of American troops from Iraq in 2011, saying that the removal of troops created a vacuum and allowed ISIS to rise and take control of a number of cities in Iraq.
President Trump also had harsh words for Pakistan over the existence of safe havens for groups like the Taliban. Perhaps the most notable terrorist provided safe haven in that country was Osama bin Laden, who was killed at a hideout in Abbottabad — a city a little over 30 miles from the capital in Islamabad.
Commandos from the 7th Special Operation Kandak prepare for the unitís first independent helicopter assault mission, March 10, 2014, in Washir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan The mission was conducted to disrupt insurgent activity. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard B. Lower/Released)
“I, Private Schmuckatelli, take you, whatever your name is, to be my lawfully wedded wife.”
Many service members (not mentioning any names) spoke these words right before a deployment to move out of the small studio-sized barracks most likely for the extra money every month.
This money comes from the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). Implemented in January 1998 BAH pays housing expenses for service members to move off-base if the barracks are overcrowded or if a change in the member’s lifestyle warrants it (i.e., having a baby or getting married. After a certain pay grade, everyone receives BAH, but it is restricted in the lower ranks. That’s why some take the risk of a contract marriage.
Although contract marriages are frowned upon by the chain of command, it’s a well-known practice utilized by all ranks today. Capitalizing on this financial loophole could benefit your future (depending on the person with whom you join in court-approved matrimony).
Here are a few added bonuses to your contract marriage that you may have never noticed before.
1. Renter’s History
Signing a lease with a rental company starts your “Renter’s History.” As long as you pay your rent on time, this keeps you in good standing with the rental bureaus. Young service members may not have the best credit, but having good rental history is a step in the right direction.
Your contract marriage could help prevent you from being homeless in the future.
“I am serious and don’t call me, Shirley.” (Paramount Pictures)
2. Learn to Budget
Although the medical benefits are valuable, they could throw a curveball and require more money every month than you planned. Checking to see how much a service member earns is simple: you can Google it. Waiting to get paid on the 1st and 15th of every month could feel like a freaking eternity without a budget.
A contract marriage probably didn’t make you a millionaire even if it made you feel that way after that first check. So learn to…
3. It Follows
Unfortunately, one crappy aspect of being in the military is how your command intervenes in your personal life. They like to know about everything and if you don’t tell them upfront, somehow they manage to find out.
If you plan on making the military a career, I advise against a contract marriage, especially when word gets out about your legally-binding “spouse” while you’re out hitting on every single person at the bar. Remember: it’s technically fraud, so good luck getting promoted.
People can often suck.
4. Emotional Maturity
The average marrying age range in the civilian world is 25 to 27. However, in the military, the median falls at 22 – above legal drinking age, but not yet a mature adult. No one is condoning getting married for the benefits, but if you do and it doesn’t work out, you shouldn’t be surprised.
You were young, dumb and full of one bad idea after another. Your temporary spouse may not have been the perfect soulmate, but at least you narrowed it down.
5. The Silver Lining
Looking back on it, would you do it again? Overall experiences will vary depending on if everything went to plan. The memories you have are what separates you as an individual and makes you unique. If it made you into a grumpy old man, then that sucks.
Take it for what it is. It’s always better to look toward the future than dwell in the past.
For decades, submarines have been patrolling and protecting America’s ships with honor as they operate deep down below the sea’s surface. Functioning as the “Silent Service,” these vessels have come a long way with their vast array of technological advances and undersea stealth.
But the concept goes back as far as the Revolutionary War, though how it got to the level of today’s technology is a wonder given the dangers of plying the ocean’s depths.
The “Drebbel,” the “Turtle,” and the “Nautilus” were all early versions of submarine technology that never quite got underway. But it wouldn’t be until Confederate Naval Secretary Stephen Mallory authorized the construction of the CSS H.L. Hunley to break the blockade of their southern ports that sub-surface warfare really came into its own.
After completion, the Hunley measured 40-feet long, 4-feet high, and 42-inches wide tightly housing a crew of eight men who had to power the vessel by hand cranking the propeller and steer through the ocean’s dark waters.
During its first testing phase in the fall of 1863, the CSS Hunley failed and sunk killing five crew members. The sub was recovered, but sank again and killed all eight crew, including co-inventor Horace Hunley, later that same year.
Although considered a dud, the Hunley’s commanders still believed in its worth and resurrected the sub from the water for the second time.
It wouldn’t be until Feb. 17, 1864, where the Hunley sank the USS Housatonic and soon after plunged toward the ocean’s floor for a third time killing all of its crew — a real death trap.
A curious and credible Tweet from the Director of the Nuclear Information Project for the Federation of American Scientists, Hans Kristensen, on August 1, 2018, at 5:14 PM Washington D.C. time claimed that a, “Meteor explodes with 2.1 kilotons force 43 km above missile early warning radar at Thule Air Base.”
The Tweet apparently originated from Twitter user “Rocket Ron”, a “Space Explorer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory”. The original Tweet read, “A fireball was detected over Greenland on July 25, 2018 by US Government sensors at an altitude of 43.3 km. The energy from the explosion is estimated to be 2.1 kilotons.” Rocket Ron’s Tweet hit in the afternoon on Jul. 31.
The incident is fascinating for a long list of reasons, not the least of which is how the Air Force integrates the use of social media reporting (and non-reporting) into their official flow of information. As of this writing, no reporting about any such event appears on the public news website of the 12th Space Warning Squadron based at Thule, the 21st Space Wing, or the Wing’s 821st Air Base Group that operates and maintains Thule Air Base in support of missile warning, space surveillance and satellite command and control operations missions.
An early warning radar installation in Thule, Greenland
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory did provide a Tweet with a screenshot of data showing record of an object of unspecified size traveling at (!) 24.4 Kilometers per second (about 54,000 MPH or Mach 74) at 76.9 degrees’ north latitude, 69.0 degrees’ west longitude on July 25, 2018 at 11:55 PM. That latitude and longitude does check out as almost directly over Thule, Greenland.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory showed the object’s reentry on their database.
When you look at NASA’s Near Earth Object (NEO) Program database for objects entering the atmosphere you see that, “The data indicate that small asteroids struck Earth’s atmosphere – resulting in what astronomers call a bolide (a fireball, or bright meteor) – on 556 separate occasions in a 20-year period. Almost all asteroids of this size disintegrate in the atmosphere and are usually harmless.” That is a rate of one asteroid, or “bolide”, every 13 days over the 20-year study according to a 2014 article by Deborah Byrd for Science Wire as published on EarthSky.org.
But there are exceptions.
You may recall the sensational YouTube and social media videos of the very large Chelyabinsk meteor that struck the earth on Feb. 15, 2013. Luckily it entered the earth’s atmosphere at a shallow trajectory and largely disintegrated. Had it entered at a more perpendicular angle, it would have struck the earth with significantly greater force. Scientists report that Chelyabinsk was the largest meteor to hit the earth in the modern recording period, over 60-feet (20 meters) in diameter. Over 7,000 buildings were damaged and 1,500 people injured from the incident.
What is perhaps most haunting about the Chelyabinsk Meteor and, perhaps we may learn, this most recent Thule, Greenland incident, is that there was no warning (at least, not publicly). No satellites in orbit detected the Chelyabinsk Meteor, no early warning system knew it was coming according to scientists. Because the radiant or origin of the Chelyabinsk Meteor was out of the sun, it was difficult to detect in advance. It arrived with total surprise.
Northern Russia seems to be a magnet for titanic meteor strikes. The fabled Tunguska Event of 1908 was a meteor that struck in the Kraznoyarsk Krai region of Siberia. It flattened over 770 square miles of Siberian taiga forest but, curiously, seems to have left no crater, suggesting it likely disintegrated entirely about 6 miles above the earth. The massive damage done to the taiga forest was from the shockwave of the object entering the atmosphere prior to disintegration. While this recent Thule, Greenland event is very large at 2.1 kilotons (2,100 tons of TNT) of force for the explosion, the Tunguska Event is estimated to have been as large as 15 megatons (15 million tons of TNT).
It will be interesting to see how (and if) popular news media and the official defense news outlets process this recent Thule, Greenland incident. But while we wait to see how the media responds as the Twitter dust settles from the incident, it’s worth at least a minor exhale knowing this is another big object that missed hitting the earth in a different location at a different angle and potentially with a different outcome.
World War II has given the video game industry plenty of material, but a good World War I game is pretty hard to find.
Not anymore. A recently-released game set on the early 20th century battlefields puts players into the trenches, and it’s surprisingly good.
The first World War was a very different kind of war. Soldiers often served in long stalemates between trench lines, or “went over the top” to attack the enemy. It was often a battle for just inches of more ground, and not allowing game players to move very far seems a bit counterintuitive in a game.
With the game “Verdun,” the developers took an innovative approach to this problem, and made a World War I game actually worth playing. The developers went to great lengths to use historically accurate equipment, uniforms, and weapons, and they used reconnaissance photos — and in some cases walked the ground — to recreate the landscape of 1914-1918 France.
Still, a game that looks realistic could still turn out to be terrible. The gameplay is important, and “Verdun” excels in this area. While it’s a first-person shooter game, “Verdun” requires players to work along with their squad, much like they would if they really were in an infantry unit.
What makes Verdun so different from other first-person shooters is the way battles ebb and flow. Some players are instructed to assault individual enemy strongpoints, while others are told to defend. Anyone who disobeys an order by moving outside the engagement area is killed — effectively shot on the spot for cowardice.
“The maps are a composition,” Hoebe said. “This imagery can all be found through Google. There are large collections of postcards on Flickr, but also Belgian towns post their historical collections online. I pretty much went through the extent of what could be found … and compressed this into on overall image.
The gameplay is unlike your typical World War II shooter or, any modern shooter for that matter. If you enjoy running around blasting the bad guys in “Call of Duty” while enduring quite a few hits, the realism of this game will certainly be a surprise.
“If you’re going into Verdun with a mind to cut about the place, emptying hot lead into the faces of all and sundry with reckless abandon, then you can quite rightly expect to be put into the ground very quickly. And many, many times, too,” writes Game Watcher.
There are three game modes: Frontlines, Attrition and Rifle Deathmatch. Deathmatch is the multiplayer slugfest you’d come to expect from most first-person shooters, except this one features no rocket launchers (sorry Doom fans) and only bolt-action rifles.
Frontlines is the game’s “campaign mode,” where you team up with your squad, ordered to capture or defend your ground. Attrition is centered around a single battle, with each side’s manpower levels being depleted as the player is killed and re-spawns.
“If nothing else, Verdun‘s given me an excellent understanding of what a mess World War I was,” Hayden Dingman wrote at PCWorld. “The game doesn’t have the best graphics, the best sound, the best character models, or what have you—and yet few games have so consistently stressed me out like Verdun.”
During the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, elements of the 3rd Infantry Division had come under fire from Iraqi forces, including T-72 tanks. That’s when the boots on the ground called for air support.
Thornton came within 1,000 yards of the enemy, using his A-10’s GAU-8 cannon in some cases. Ultimately, he and the other pilot would be credited with killing three T-72s, six other armored vehicles, and a number of other targets.
Fourteen years after that battle, Thornton, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, will receive the Silver Star in a ceremony in July that will be presided over by Gen. Mike Holmes, the commander of Air Combat Command. The ceremony will take place at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
“This courageous and aggressive attack, while under withering fire and in poor weather, along with Capt. Thornton’s superior flying skills and true attack pilot grit, allowed Task Force 2-69 Armor to cross the Tigris River with minimal combat losses and successfully accomplish their objective of linking up with coalition forces completing the 360-degree encirclement of Baghdad,” the citation that outlined the award reads.
Thornton had been assigned to the 75th Fighter Squadron at Pope Field, near Fort Bragg, prior to his retirement. At the time of the incident, Thornton was a captain in the Air Force.