Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years

Russia’s defense minister said the country will hold its biggest military exercises since almost 40 years.

Sergei Shoigu said on Aug. 28, 2018, that the drills, called Vostok-2018, will involve almost 300,000 troops, more than 1,000 aircraft, both the Pacific and Northern Fleets, and all Russian airborne units. They will take place in the central and eastern military districts, in southern Siberia, and the Far East.

“This is the biggest drill to take place in Russia since 1981,” Shoigu said in a statement.


He was referring to the Zapad exercises that year, which involved Soviet and other Warsaw Pact forces and were the largest war drills ever carried out by the Soviet Union and its allies.

The Vostok-2018 exercises are set to be carried out from Sept. 11-15, 2018, with the participation of Chinese and Mongolian military personnel.

The maneuvers come as relations between Moscow and the West have deteriorated to a post-Cold War low. Tensions have been stoked by Russia’s seizure of Crimea, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, and its alleged election meddling in the United States and Europe.

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years

In recent years, Russia’s military has stepped up the frequency and scope of its military exercises, reflecting the Kremlin’s multiyear focus on modernizing its armed forces and its tactics.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that such war games were “essential” in the current international situation, which he said is “often aggressive and unfriendly toward our country.”

NATO spokesman Dylan White said that Russia had briefed the alliance, which planned to monitor them.

“Vostok demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict. It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time: a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence,” White said in a statement.

Russia last held large-scale war games in September 2017, in regions bordering NATO countries in the Baltics.

Moscow and Minsk said the joint maneuvers involved some 12,700 troops in the two countries combined, but Western officials have said the true number may have been around 100,000.

Featured image: Marshalls Nikolay Ogarkov, Dmitry Ustinov, and Alexey Yepishev pose with airborne troopers during exercise ZAPAD-81.

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

Articles

Britain is looking to robots for resupply under fire

Britain is trying to get homegrown robots ready for service on the front lines of combat, but they’re not looking for Terminators yet. They’re looking for POGs.


Specifically, they’re looking for robots to handle “last-mile” logistics. While insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven that a small force can slow down the movement of supplies across the entire theater, engineers and other route clearance assets can usually keep the roads open between bases.

But when troops need ammo, water, medical supplies, or other necessities under fire, there’s no guarantee that a route clearance asset will be available. That could lead to infantry losing fire superiority or cavalry forces who are unable to keep scouting enemy positions.

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years

So, Britain wants drones, autonomous vehicles, or other technologies that could ferry supplies between friendly elements, say a group of riflemen in a firefight and their reinforcements who won’t arrive for 20 minutes. The supplies sent forward by the reinforcements could keep the lead element going long enough for backup to arrive.

To get the ball rolling, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory has announced what’s called a “Defense and Security Accelerator competition.” These are similar to DARPA challenges where a government agency puts up a cash prize to spur civilian companies to innovate.

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years
British forces may be able to asks robots for more ammo in the not-so-distant future. (Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

There are guidelines for the competition, but the Ministry of Defence also put forward two vignettes to show the battlefield challenges it wants technology to overcome.

In the first, a group of infantrymen in vehicles lacks the part needed for a vital repair while a nearby group of soldiers on foot needs food, water, ammo, and sleeping systems. Obviously, the logistics robots’ jobs would be to get the spare part to one group and the personal supplies to the other.

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years
A new technology competition out of Britain wants to find ways to get supplies to troops under fire, making sure they always have enough ammo and medical supplies to get the job done. (Graphic: Crown Copyright)

The second vignette paints a more dire picture. A group of soldiers are in contact and running low on ammunition when they suffer a casualty. With a full ammo load, they would be able to eliminate the enemy or lay down cover fire and break contact to evacuate the wounded. But they don’t have a full load of ammo left.

The troops do have a group of friends on foot about 1.5 miles away. It would be the robot’s job to get ammo from the reinforcements to the troops in contact quickly. Preferably, the supplies would arrive broken down by weapon system and would be delivered as close to each shooter as possible.

For anyone interested in learning more or submitting technologies, the performance thresholds are available here. The contest is looking for relatively mature technologies that could be demonstrated by early 2018.

Articles

Army JLTV armed with lethal 30mm cannon

Army and Marine Corps may add a more-lethal 30mm cannon to its new JLTV to improve lethality for the emerging high-tech platform and better prepare it for large-scale, mechanized force-on-force warfare.


The Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is a new fast-moving armored vehicle engineered to take bullets, drive over roadside bombs and withstand major enemy attacks; the vehicle was conceived and engineered as a high-tech, more survivable replacement for large portions of its fleet of Humvees.

Also read: The US Army is testing a faster and more lethal variant of the Abrams tank

While the Army remains focused on being needed for counterinsurgency possibilities across the globe and hybrid-type wars involving groups of terrorists armed with conventional weapons and precision-guided missiles — the service is identifying, refining and integrating technologies, such as its emerging Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, with a specific mind to attacking enemies and protecting Soldiers in major-power war, service officials said.

As evidence of this approach, Lt. Gen. Michael Williamson, Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition, Logistics Technology, said the multi-year developmental effort of the new Humvee replacement has been focused on engineering a vehicle able to help the Army win wars against a large, near-peer adversary.

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years
US Army photo

As part of this effort, the Army is looking at options to up-gun JLTV with more lethal weapons such as a 30mm cannon. JLTV maker Oshkosh recently unveiled a 30mm cannon-armed JLTV at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium last Fall.

In a special exclusive interview with Scout Warrior, Williamson pointed to some of the attributes of the Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV, as a platform well-engineered for large-scale mechanized warfare. Communications technologies, sensors, computers and extra add-on armor protection are, by design, some of the attributes intended to allow the vehicle to network the battlefield and safely deliver Soldiers to a wide-range of large-scale combat engagements.

Several reports, from Breaking Defense and Military.com, have said that the Army is preparing to use its JLTV for missions previously slated for a Light Reconnaissance Vehicle, or LRV. The LRV mission sets, can be met by a better armed JLTV, allowing the Army to forgo construction of a new lightweight vehicle and therefore save money.

The Army has received the first 7 “test” vehicles from by Oshkosh Defense at different sites around the force.

A total of about 100 of the JLTV “production vehicles” will be provided to the Army and Marine Corps for testing over the next year, at a rate of about 10 per month, officials said. The vehicles will undergo maneuverability and automotive testing at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, and other sites around the country. In addition to testing at Yuma, the vehicles will undergo testing for cyber integration of command, control, communications and intelligence at the Electronics Proving Ground on Fort Huachuca, Arizona, an Army statement said.  The vehicles will also be tested for automotive performance at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland and the Cold Regions Test Center on Fort Greely, Alaska.

“It’s on schedule,” Scott Davis, program executive officer for combat support and combat service support, said in an article from Army.mil. “It’s doing everything we ever expected it to. It’s just incredible.”

JLTV-Prepared for Major Power War

Major, great-power war would likely present the need for massive air-ground coordination between drones, helicopters and ground vehicles, infantry and armored vehicle maneuver formations and long-range weapons and sensors. The idea is to be ready for enemies equipped with high-end, high-tech weapons such as long-range rocket, missile and air attack capabilities.

Williamson explained how the JLTV, for instance, is engineered with additional armor, speed, suspension, blast-protection and ground-clearance in order to withstand enemy fire, mines, IEDs and roadside bombs. These same protection technologies would also enable the vehicle to better withstand longer-range attacks from enemy armies far more capable than those encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The vehicle is being built to, among other things, replace a large portion of the Army’s Humvee fleet.

The JLTV represents the next-generation of automotive technology in a number of key respects, such as the ability to design a light tactical, mobile vehicle with substantial protective ability to defend against a wide range of enemy attacks.

The vehicle is designed from the ground up to be mobile and operate with a level of underbody protection equivalent to the original MRAP-ATV (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected — All Terrain Vehicle) vehicle standards. Also, the vehicle is being designed with modular armor, so that when the armor is not needed we can take it off and bring the weight of the vehicle down to drive down the operating costs, Army officials have explained.

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years
Oshkosh Defense

The modular armor approach gives the vehicle an A-kit and B-kit option, allowing the vehicle to integrate heavier armor should the war-threat require that.

With a curb weight of roughly 14,000 pounds, the JLTV will provide protection comparable to the 25,000-pound M-ATV, thus combining the mobility and transportability of a light vehicle with MRAP-level protection. The vehicle can reach speeds greater than 70-MPH.

The vehicle, made by Oshkosh Defense, is also built with a system called TAK-4i independent suspension designed to increase off-road mobility in rigorous terrain – a scenario quite likely should there be a major war. The JLTV is equipped with next-generation sensors and communications technologies to better enhance Soldiers’ knowledge of a surrounding, fast-moving dynamic combat situation.

TAK-4i can be described as Variable Ride-Height Suspension, explained as the ability to raise and lower the suspension to meet certain mission requirements such as the need to raise the suspension in high-threat areas and lower the suspension so that the vehicles can be transported by Maritime preposition force ships.

Also, the JLTV will be able to sling-load beneath a CH-53, C-130 or CH-47 under standard conditions. Sling-loading the vehicle beneath a large helicopter would give the Army an ability to conduct what they called Mounted Maneuver – an effort to reposition forces quickly on the battlefield in rough terrain which cannot be traversed another way.

Oshkosh, based in the Wisconsin city of the same name, last summer won a $6.7 billion Army contract to begin to produce about 17,000 of the light-duty JLTVs for the Army and Marine Corps beginning in the first quarter of fiscal 2016, which began Oct. 1.

The services plan to buy nearly 55,000 of the vehicles, including 49,100 for the Army and 5,500 for the Corps, to replace about a third of the Humvee fleets at an overall estimated cost of more than $24 billion, according to Army officials.

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years
Oshkosh Defense

When compared with earlier light tactical vehicle models such as the HMMWV, the JLTV is being engineered with a much stronger, 250 to 360 Horsepower engine (Banks 6.6 liter diesel engine) and a 570-amp alternator able to generate up to 10 kilowatts of exportable power. In fact, due to the increase in need for on-board power, the vehicle includes the integration of a suite of C4ISR kits and networking technologies.

The JLTV, which can be armed with weapons such as a grenade launcher or .50-cal machine gun, has a central tire inflation system which is an on-the-fly system that can regulate tire pressure; the system can adjust tire pressure from higher pressures for higher speed conditions on flatter roads to much lower pressures in soft soil such as sand or mud, JLTV engineers explain.

Also, instead of having a belt-driven alternator, the vehicles are built with an integrated generating system that is sandwiched between the engine and transmission in order to increase efficiency.

Army Future Strategy

As a high-level leader for the Army’s weapons, vehicle and platform developmental efforts, Williamson explained that some technologies are specifically being engineered with a mind toward positioning the service for the prospect of massive great-power conflict; this would include combat with mechanized forces, armored vehicles, long-range precision weapons, helicopter air support and what’s called a Combined Arms Maneuver approach.

Combined Arms Maneuver tactics use a variety of combat assets, such as artillery, infantry and armored vehicles such as tanks, in a synchronized, integrated fashion to overwhelm, confuse and destroy enemies.

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years
A Joint Light Tactical Vehicle production model is displayed by Oshkosh on the floor of the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exhibition in the Washington Convention Center Oct. 4, 2016. | US Army photo by Gary Sheftick

While the Army naturally does not expect or seek a particular conflict with near-peer nations like Russia and China, the service is indeed acutely aware of the rapid pace of their military modernization and aggressive activities.

As a result of its experience and skill with counterinsurgency fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army’s training, doctrine and weapons development is sharpening its focus on armored vehicles, long-range precision weapons and networking technologies to connect a force dispersed over a wide area of terrain.

Another key aspect of the Army’s future strategy is called Wide Area Security, an approached grounded in the recognition that large-scale mechanized forces will likely need to operate and maneuver across much wider swaths of terrain as has been the case in recent years. Having a dispersed force, fortified with long range sensors, armor protection, precision weapons and networking technologies, will strengthen the Army’s offensive approach and make its forces a more difficult, less aggregated target for enemies. This strategic emphasis also incorporates the need for combat forces to operate within and among populations as it seek to identify and eliminate enemies.

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Here’s why some Corpsmen are considered Marines, and some aren’t

Since its creation, the U.S. Marine Corps has been involved in some of the most epic military battles in history. From raising the flag at Iwo Jima to hunting terrorists in Iraq, it’s pretty much a guarantee that a Navy Corpsman was right next to his brothers during the action.


The unique bond between Marines and their “Doc” is nearly unbreakable.

Since the Marine Corps doesn’t have its own medical department and falls under the Department of the Navy, the majority of the medical treatment Marines receive comes directly from the Naval Hospital Corps.

Related: 9 things you should know before becoming a Marine infantry officer

So, why are some Corpsmen considered Marines when they’re in the Navy and never went through the Corps’ tough, 13-week boot camp? Well, we’re glad you asked.

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years
At first glance, it appears that a Marine is cuddling this adorable little puppy. But look closer and you’ll notice he’s actually a Doc. (Source: Pinterest)

It’s strictly an honorary title and not every Corpsman earns that honor. In fact, it’s hard as f*ck to earn the respect of a Marine when you’re in the Navy — it’s even harder getting them to say happy birthday to you every Nov. 10.

After a Corpsman graduates from the Field Medical Training Battalion, either at Camp Pendleton or Camp Lejeune, they typically move on to one of three sections under the Marine Air Ground Task Force, or MAGTF. Those three sections consist of Marine Air Wing (or MAW), Marine Logistics Group (or MLG), and Division (or the Marine Infantry).

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years

Not every Corpsman goes through the FMTB and, therefore, some won’t have the opportunity to serve with the Marines.

Once a Corpsman checks into his unit, however, he’ll eat, train, sleep, and sh*t with his squad, building that special bond.

This starts the journey of earning the honorary title of Marine.

Also Read: 6 reasons why you need a sense of humor in the infantry

Once the unit deploys, the squad’s Corpsman will fight alongside his Marines, facing the same dangers as brothers. That “Doc” will fire his weapon until one of the grunts gets hurt, then he’ll switch into doctor mode.

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years
Can you spot the “Doc” in this photo? It’s tough, right? I’m the tall drink of water in the middle.

After a spending time with the grunts, studying Marine culture, Corpsmen can take a difficult test and earn the designation of FMF, or Fleet Marine Force, and receive a specialized pin.

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years
Behold, the almighty FMF pin in all of it’s glory.

Notice the mighty eagle, globe, and anchor placed directly in the middle of the pin. Once a “Doc” gets this precious symbol pinned above his U.S. Navy name tape, he earns a measure of pride and the honorary title of Marine.

Semper fi, brothers! Rah!

MIGHTY CULTURE

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

While Black Hawks, Apaches, and Chinooks usually get top billing when the Army comes out to play at air shows and sporting events (plus the occasional MH-6 Little Bird when special operation aviators come to play), the service does have another helicopter quietly working behind the scenes to plug crucial gaps: the UH-72 Lakota.


Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years

(New Jersey National Guard Mark Olsen)

There are a few reasons why you may not know much about the Lakota. First, there aren’t very many of them. While the Army has over 2,000 Black Hawks, there are less than 500 UH-72 Lakotas. And a new purchase of less than a dozen UH-72 airframes can trigger news coverage. Meanwhile, even the expensive and relatively niche Apache fleet boasts over 650 birds.

But another reason the Lakota doesn’t usually get on the front page is that it doesn’t deploy. It wasn’t purchased to deploy, and then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told Congress that it couldn’t go overseas as currently configured. It simply doesn’t have the necessary systems to protect itself from enemy fire and keep its pilots alive after crashes.

But the missions the Lakota can do are still important. It’s a workhorse that can fly in rough weather and provide assistance during disaster response. That’s a big part of why it’s primarily flown by National Guard units. It may not be expected to fight and win in the deserts of the Middle East, but it can hoist a family out of hell or high water during a wildfire or flood.

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years

(Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office Scott Sturkol)

And it can do so at a discount. It costs 30 to 50 percent less to fly per flight hour than a Black Hawk according to Sikorsky estimates, partially thanks to the lack of all those protective systems that a Black Hawk has.

It first flew in 2006, making it the youngest helicopter in the Army’s fleet. It has two engines that supply over 1,400 shaft horsepower to the main rotor over 36-feet in diameter. The main and tail rotors are intentionally set higher than normal above the ground so that, when the helicopter is on the ground, it’s still relatively safe to load patients, passengers, or cargo into the side or rear doors.

This is especially valuable when the UH-72 is used as an air ambulance, which it often is. Litter crews can load a patient in quickly and safely from multiple angles, and the helicopter can carry two litters and a medic per flight. In its utility role, it can carry eight troops instead of the two passengers.

It can reach a maximum altitude of 18,000 feet, pretty close to the Black Hawk’s 19,000 feet ceiling. Though, again, that’s largely thanks to all the gizmos the Lakota doesn’t need for its peacetime missions. The newest Black Hawk has way more power at over 3,600 shaft horsepower, more than 2.5X the Lakota’s.

All of this makes the Lakota great for homeland security and disaster response, and the Army has even made it the primary helicopter in its training fleet.

But don’t expect it to become the shiny crown jewel in the Army’s fleet. Modifying the Lakota to take on the Black Hawk’s mission or anything similar would drastically drive up costs and, without upgraded engines, adds little in terms of capability. And the Army is already shopping for more exotic designs like the tilt-rotor V-280 Valor and Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider with its compound rotor and push propeller.

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UN uncovers increased reports of torture in Afghanistan

A UN report says cases of torture and mistreatment of detainees in Afghanistan have increased despite promises from President Ashraf Ghani and new laws enacted to curb the widespread practice.


At least 39 percent of the conflict-related detainees interviewed by UN investigators “gave credible and reliable accounts” of being tortured or experiencing other mistreatment at the hands of Afghan police, intelligence, or military personnel while in custody, the report says.

That compares with 35 percent of interviewees who reported such ill-treatment in the last UN report, released in 2015.

The Afghan government has acknowledged that problems could be caused by individuals but not as a national policy.

“The government of Afghanistan is committed to eliminating torture and ill-treatment,” the government said in a statement.

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years
Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Saadabad Palace. (Photo via Tasnim News Agency)

The report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) is based on interviews with 469 conflict-related detainees conducted over the past two years in 62 detention facilities administered by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghan National Police, and other Afghan national-defense and security forces across the country.

“Torture does not enhance security,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in a statement. “Confessions produced as a result of torture are totally unreliable. People will say anything to stop the pain.”

The UN report comes as senior Afghan officials prepare to appear before the UN Committee Against Torture in Geneva late April during a review of Afghanistan’s record of implementing anti-torture laws.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague is conducting a separate review of torture in Afghanistan.

“Notwithstanding the government’s efforts to implement its national plan…the present report documents continued and consistent reports of torture and ill-treatment of conflict-related detainees, mainly during interrogation, and highlights a lack of accountability for such acts,” UN officials concluded.

The document notes a 14 percent increase in reports of torture by Afghan National Police, at 45 percent of those interviewed.

Also read: General ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis got Trump to rethink his position on torture in under an hour

The report says that more than a quarter of the 77 detainees who reported being tortured by the police were boys under the age of 18.

A force known as the Afghan Local Police severely beat almost 60 percent of their detainees, according to the interviews carried out by UN investigators.

Nearly 30 percent of interviewees held by Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the NDS, said they had faced torture or mistreatment.

Afghan National Army soldiers were also accused of mistreating some detainees.

Most detainees who reported being tortured said it was to elicit a confession, and the ill-treatment stopped once they signed a written confession. In many cases, they could not read the confession, the report says.

Torture methods included severe beatings to the body and soles of the feet with sticks, plastic pipes, or cables; electric shocks, including to the genitals; prolonged suspension by the arms; and suffocation.

With reporting by Reuters.

MIGHTY TRENDING

See the Coast Guard and Navy own cocaine smugglers in the Pacific

Members of the US Coast Guard, US Navy, US Customs and Border Patrol, as well as the Colombian navy, intercepted a go-fast boat laden with cocaine in the eastern Pacific Ocean in early April 2018.

The various forces fought a fire on the smuggling vessel before off-loading more than 1,000 pounds of cocaine.


A CBP Air and Marine Operations P-3 patrol aircraft spotted the boat, technically called a low-profile go-fast vessel, in the waters of the eastern Pacific on April 7, 2018. Go-fast boats are specially made vessels, typically made of fiberglass, designed to carry large quantities of drugs with a low surface profile, which helps them avoid visual or radar detection.

The crew on the P-3 reported the go-fast boat to the Joint Interagency Task Force-South, which directed the crew of the US Navy coastal patrol ship USS Zephyr to make an intercept.

After spotting the Zephyr, the crew of the go-fast boat began to throw their cargo overboard. They then jumped overboard themselves when their boat caught fire.

US Coast Guard Navy go-fast smuggling boat drug bust fire

A US Coast Guard law-enforcement team launched from the Zephyr caught up with the go-fast boat and rescued four suspected smugglers. Coast Guard and Navy personnel then fought the fire aboard the suspected smuggling vessel, extinguishing it in about 90 minutes, according to a Coast Guard release.

Coast Guard personnel and other US law-enforcement personnel were then able to recover about 1,080 pounds of what is believed to be cocaine. The Colombian navy ship 07 de Agosto arrived during the recovery to assist with documenting the case. The go-fast boat, which was severely damaged, was intentionally sunk.

“There was no doubt in our minds what needed to be done to salvage the evidence needed for a successful prosecution even if it meant laying Zephyr alongside a burning hull, with the intense heat and acrid smoke hindering our 90-minute firefight,” Lt. Cmdr. Grant Greenwell, commanding officer of the Zephyr, said in the release.

‘We’re basically giving all of this illegal activity a free pass’

The waters of the Pacific along South and Central America have become a particularly busy venue for traffickers.

Colombia, the only South American country with both Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, is the world’s largest producer of coca, the base ingredient for cocaine. (Bolivia and Peru are the only other major producers.)

US Coast Guard go-fast smuggling boat drug bust rescue

Traffickers typically launch from secluded areas on the Pacific coast in Colombia, Ecuador, or Peru and head north. Limited government presence and corruption allow traffickers and criminal groups to operate with relative freedom in these areas, particularly in the coastal areas and inland waterways in western Colombia.

In recent years, trafficking routes have moved farther out, sometimes going around the Galapagos Islands, likely to avoid detection in waters closer to shore.

“During at-sea interdictions in international waters, a suspect vessel is initially located and tracked by US and allied, military or law enforcement personnel,” the Coast Guard said in its release. “The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are conducted by Coast Guard members.”

The cargoes that make it through are typically off-loaded somewhere in Central America — Coast Rica in particular has become a busy drug-transit hub— and then they’re moved up the coast via another ship or overland through Central America and Mexico toward the US border.

More than 90% of the cocaine that makes it to the US comes through the Central America/Mexico corridor, though there are signs that traffickers are trying to increase production in Central America itself.

US Coast Guard go-fast boat drug bust fire

The US and international partners have stepped up their operations in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, including Operation Martillo, a US, European, and Western Hemisphere initiative launched in 2012, and through the US Coast Guard’s Western Hemisphere strategy, which started in 2014.

The US Coast Guard has warned repeatedly in recent years that its resources fall short of what is needed to fulfill its interdiction responsibilities in the US’s southern maritime approaches.

“In 2014, we knew where about 80% to 85% of the activity was taking place, to include when a go-fast [boat] was leaving Colombia or Ecuador or somewhere in Central America with a shipment ultimately destined for the United States,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft told Business Insider in December 2017. “But on the best of days we could probably put a ship over next to and a plane above maybe 10% of that 80% to 85%. We’re basically giving all of this illegal activity a free pass.”

Zukunft said the ultimate goal was deter traffickers and the people who sign on to transport drugs and contraband.

“We want these smugglers to look at that same risk calculus and say, ‘You know, you can’t pay me enough to move a shipment of illegal drugs, because I don’t want to get arrested. I don’t want to spend the next 10-plus years of my life in a US prison, where I’m severed from my family in isolation.'”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Turks stand by decision to buy Russian missiles despite threat of US sanctions

Turkey’s defense minister said Ankara was preparing for potential U.S. sanctions over its purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems, but also spoke of what he called a growing “rapprochement” with Washington over the issue.

The United States has demanded that Ankara call off the deal to purchase the Russian system, and NATO allies have also expressed concerns about the potential threat to U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets.


Washington has warned Ankara that it could invoke the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) and impose financial penalties should Turkey go ahead with the deal.

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years

An F-35B Joint Strike Fighter.

(U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin by Michael Jackson)

Speaking to reporters late on May 21, 2019, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that during recent talks with Washington, Ankara had seen a “general easing and rapprochement” on the issue.

But he said Turkey was “making preparations” and “considering all options” against possible U.S. sanctions over the purchase.

Akar also said Turkish military personnel were receiving training to operate the S-400 missile defense system.

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years

S-400 missile defense system.

(Flickr photo by Dmitriy Fomin)

Washington has said it could withdraw an offer to sell Ankara the U.S. equivalent — the Patriot anti-missile system — and warned that Turkey risks being ejected from the F-35 fighter-jet program.

Turkey is a member of the consortium involved in the production of the jet and a buyer.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Navy surveys ships lost in combat 100 years ago

The Navy announced plans in September 2017 to survey the wreck of the World War I U.S. Navy cruiser, on which six American Sailors lost their lives when she was sunk as a result of enemy action off the coast of New York on July 19, 1918.


The survey’s objective was to assess the condition of the wreck site and determine if the ship, the only major warship lost by the United States in WWI, was sunk as a result of a German submarine-launched torpedo or mine. Ultimately, data gathered helps inform the management of the sunken military craft, which lies only a few miles south of Long Island.

The announcement comes just weeks after the 99th anniversary of the sinking of the ship, and the survey is timed to allow researchers to conduct a thorough examination of the site and prepare, then release, their findings around the date of the 100th anniversary. The U.S. is currently commemorating the 100th anniversary of its entry into World War I.

Midshipman Nolan Brandon, a student at the U.S. Naval Academy, assisted with the survey. He recounts his experiences below, in the first of our three-part series on the survey:

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years
U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) Midshipman 1st Class Nolan Brandon monitors the cables leading to a remotely operated vehicle as it dives on the wreck of the World War I-era armored cruiser USS San Diego (ACR 6), Sept. 12. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Eric Lockwood/Released)

“You’re holding onto a $500,000 sonar head. Don’t drop it.” These were the words of encouragement I received from Tim Pilegard, a graduate student at the University of Delaware. At that moment, Tim and I were struggling to bolt the sonar onto the side of the R/V.

After several failed attempts, we finally got the bolts secured, and my risk of being heavily indebted to the University was momentarily over. As I looked over at a very large number of pelican cases containing more expensive equipment still resting on the dock, I realized it was going to be a long night, but there’s no place I’d rather be.

My name is Nolan Brandon, a Midshipman in my final year at the United States Naval Academy. I’m working with team members from Naval History and Heritage Command, Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and the University of Delaware, to survey the wreck of the USS San Diego, help preserve the ship’s heritage, and hopefully, to lay to rest the debate over its sinking. The story of this ship and its men is not well known. I had never heard of USS San Diego until I was invited on this mission. But now that I have learned of what happened on that day 100 years ago, I hope more Americans can hear the story, too, and be awed by the courage and skill of United States sailors.

History of the Ship

San Diego was a 504-foot long armored cruiser commissioned into service on August 1st, 1907. San Diego, and the other ships of the Pennsylvania class, was a new breed of ships that were more heavily armed and armored than cruisers, yet still faster than the great battleships. San Diego served in a multitude of roles from testing the channel of the then brand-new Pearl Harbor to escorting convoys of merchant vessels against German U-boat attacks during World War I.

Also Read: This castaway airman helped map the entire world

It was during her time of service that San Diego met her sudden end. On the 18th of July, 1918, the ship was steaming towards her home port in New York through waters in close proximity to Fire Island, known to be hunting grounds for U-boats. San Diego’s commanding officer, Capt. H. H. Christy, was well aware of this threat and took every precaution to safeguard his ship, including stationing additional lookouts, zigzagging along his path, and closing additional watertight hatches. Unfortunately, these measures were not able to protect the ship from the explosion that rocked its port side below the waterline at 11:05 a.m. No one knows for certain whether this explosion was caused by a torpedo, a mine, or a spy onboard (that’s part of the reason why we’re here), but it was enough to cripple the San Diego. As the ship began listing to port, the captain kept his head and initiated evasive maneuvers while scanning for a suspected attacking U-boat. Despite the increasing list as San Diego took on water, Christy was reluctant to abandon ship in case a nearby U-boat could surface and take over San Diego. But as time passed, it became clear that the ship would soon capsize, and so, the call to abandon ship was sounded. Of the 1,183 men on the ship at the time of its sinking (including a few midshipmen), all but six safely escaped peril under the captain’s skillful command, and four of those six died in or as an immediate result of the initial explosion. As per tradition, Capt. Christy was the last to leave the ship. His actions, along with those of his men, reflect the competence, courage, and professionalism expected of United States sailors.

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years
Photographed 28 January 1915, while serving as flagship of the Pacific Fleet. Her name had been changed from California on 1 September 1914. Note two-star Rear Admiral’s flag flying from her mainmast top. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

The Prep

I’m excited and honored to be part of this mission. In addition to the $500,000 side scan sonar head, our equipment includes a fully autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) equipped with side-scan and bathymetric sensors, a remotely operated vehicle with a video camera, a drop camera, a quadrocopter, and a vast multitude of all the cables, tools, computers, monitors, and spares necessary to support our operation. After many hours of wrench-turning and troubleshooting preparations on Sunday, the team ate dinner and returned to the hotel, ready to hit the water and start the surveying work Monday.

Monday

We got an early start Monday morning in order to get a full day of surveying in with the AUV. After the team’s briefing with the senior Coast Guardsman at the base, the survey boat’s captain, Kevin skillfully steered the Daiber through the shoals of the inlet and out to the wreckage of the San Diego. As we made preparations to launch the AUV, I felt a little out of place surrounded by such capable individuals such as Dr. Art Trembanis, an oceanographer from the University of Delaware with a PhD in Marine Science and one of our team’s leaders, or Dr. Alexis Catsambis, an archaeologist with NHHC with a PhD in Nautical Archaeology and our team’s other leader. However, I did my best to prove my worth as a deckhand and to suck up as much knowledge and experience as possible.

Read Midshipman Nolan’s full account of the three-day survey here.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Can you actually pull a grenade pin with your teeth?

GatGatCat asks: Is cooking grenades and pulling the pins with your teeth something people really do or just something in games?

We’ve all seen it — the protagonist of a film whips out a hand grenade, dashingly yanks the pin with his teeth as his hair flows in the wind, counts one-potato, two-potato, three and hucks it at nearby teeming hoards of enemy swarming on his location. But is this actually a thing in real life?

First thing’s first, yes, if you have hair, it is possible for it to flow in the wind… As for the grenade part, the generally recommended proper technique is — “proper grip, thumb to clip, twist pull pin, strike a pose, yell frag out, hit the dirt”.


On the first step of “proper grip” it is particularly important to make sure to NEVER adjust your grip on the lever (called “milking”) once the pin is pulled. Doing so may let up enough on said lever to allow the striker to do its thing to the percussion cap, which in turn creates a spark, thereby causing a slow burn of the fuse materials lasting approximately 2-6 seconds for most types of grenade, after which the main charge will ignite, sending shrapnel in all directions. So should you adjust your grip, you could potentially have a really bad time, even should you re-squeeze the lever after. Such a thing has caused the deaths of many a soldier, for example thought to have been the cause of the death of Specialist David G Rubic who had an M67 grenade explode in his hand as he was about to throw it during a training exercise.

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years

M67 grenade.

(Public domain)

As you can see from these steps, at no point is taking your sweet time getting rid of the grenade after you release the lever, called “cooking”, mentioned. Nevertheless, cooking the grenade is not without its virtues, with the general idea to minimise the window of opportunity the enemy has to react to said grenade — potentially throwing it back or diving for cover.

That said, while in film throwing the grenade back is a common trope, this is an incredibly difficult thing to pull off in real life. Consider that when the grenade is thrown, it is likely going to be in the air or bouncing around on the ground for a couple seconds in most scenarios, and thus about the only chance of someone actually picking it up and throwing it back successfully is if they Omar Vizquel’d it and caught it in the air and immediately hucked it back. But even then, whether it would get back to the thrower before exploding is anybody’s guess — quite literally given, if you were paying attention, that rather variable estimate of 2-6 seconds from lever release to explosion, depending on model of grenade.

For example, the US Army’s own field manual on the use of grenades and pyrotechnic signals states the fuse time tends to vary by as much as 2 whole seconds with, for example, the M67 grenade then having an estimated “3-5 second delay fuze”. So counting one-potato, two-potato potentially only gives you one potato to go through the throwing motion, then take cover. And if you happen to be on the 3 potato end of things to boom, that grenade is going to be extremely close to your position when it sings the song of its people.

It’s at this point we should point out that in many common grenade designs the potential lethal area is approximately 15-30 metres (50-100 feet), with the risk of injury from shrapnel extending to a couple hundred metres with some types of grenades. As you can imagine from this, potentially under one-potato just isn’t a good enough safety margin in most scenarios.

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years
Giphy

For this reason, both the US Army and the Marines Corp strongly advise against cooking grenades with the latter referring to it as the “least preferred technique” to throw a grenade. As for the most preferred technique, to quote the Marine Corps manual on Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain:

The preferred technique involves throwing the grenade hard enough that it bounces or skips around, making it difficult to pick up. The hard-throw, skip/bounce technique may be used by Marines in training and combat.

That said, there are edge cases where cooking a grenade may be beneficial where the reward outweighs the risks and potentially environmental factors make it a safer prospect. As such, the same manual notes that cooking a grenade is a technique that can be used “as appropriate” based on the discretion of an individual Marine, but should never be used during training. Likewise, the US Army notes in its field manual on the use of grenades that the act of cooking off grenades should be reserved for a combat environment only.

As for situations where cooking a grenade is deemed potentially appropriate, the most common are clearing rooms and bunkers where there are nice thick barriers between you and the impending blast. (Although, it’s always worth pointing out that while many a Hollywood hero has taken cover on one side of a drywall wall, this isn’t exactly an awesome barrier and shrapnel and bullets easily go through the gypsum and paper. Likewise as a brief aside, any such hero ever trapped in a room in many homes and buildings can quite easily just smash a hole in the drywall to escape if they so chose. It’s not that difficult. Just make sure not to try to punch or kick through the part with a 2×4 behind it…)

In any event, beyond urban environments, hitting very close enemies behind heavy cover is another common scenario cited in field manuals we consulted for cooking a grenade.

As for the amount of time it is advised to cook a grenade before throwing it, every official source we consulted notes that 2 seconds is the absolute maximum amount of time a soldier is advised to hold onto a live grenade before throwing it, with emphasis on MAXIMUM.

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

All this said, technology has improved this situation in some newer designs of grenades that use electronic timer components, rather than unpredictable burning fuses. In these grenades, you can be absolutely sure that from the moment you release the lever, you have exactly the amount of time the designers intended, making cooking these grenades a much safer prospect in the right circumstances. Further, there are also new grenade designs coming out with position sensors as an added safety mechanism, via ensuring they cannot detonate unless the sensor detects the grenade has been thrown first.

But to sum up on the matter of cooking grenades, soldiers can and do, though rarely, “cook” grenades to minimise the time an enemy has to react to them, although doing so isn’t advised and requires, to quote a book literally titled Grenades, “great confidence in the manufacturer’s quality control”. And, of course, similarly a soldier with balls or ovaries of solid steel and compatriots who are extremely trusting of their ability to count potatoes accurately — when literally a one second margin of error may be the difference between you dying or not, a sloppy seconds counter is not to be trusted.

Now on to the matter of pulling a pin with your teeth… While designs of grenades differ, from accounts of various soldiers familiar with a variety of grenades, as well as looking at the manufacturers’ stated pull power needed — it would seem trying to pull a grenade pin with your teeth is a great way to put your dentist’s kids through college.

For example, the relatively common M67 grenade takes about 3-5 kg (about 7 to 11 pounds) of force to pull free stock. The Russian F1 grenade takes about 8 kg (17 pounds) of pull power to get the pin out. Or as one soldier, referring to the Singapore SFG87 grenade, notes, “The pin was actually partially wrapped around the spoon(handle) of the grenade and was extremely stiff. You had to literally twist and yank the pin out, which made your fingers red and hurt a little.”

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years
Frag out!

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller)

Even without bent pins, to illustrate just how hard it can be to pull these pins in some cases, we have this account from Eleven Charlie One Papa by James Mallen. In it, he states,

[The] new guy had entered the hooch and hung up his gear, apparently from the canvas web gearing of his LBG but actually hanging on the pull pin of an HE fragmentation grenade, and then decided to go off somewhere. Worse still, the guy had not bent the cotter pin of the grenade over, so that at any moment…the gear would fall, the pin would be pulled out, the grenades’ primer would ignite, and give seconds later everyone in the hooch at the time would be killed or horribly wounded.I had a mini heart attack and turned immediately to jump out but a soldier behind me was blocking my way, whereupon I mostly violently pushed him out of the way, up the stairs and outside, to escape a quick and violent end…
I learned that the guy who was responsible for it would return soon. I decided that he would have to take care of it… After about ten minutes that soldier … returned…He went back down, seemingly unconcerned, and rearranged his LBG so that it was hanging by the suspender strap instead of the pull-pin of a hand grenade….

Going back to bent pins, while many grenades don’t come stock with the pins bent, this is a common practice done by soldiers the world over anyway, making it even more difficult to pull the pin. The primary purpose behind this is to ensure that the pin doesn’t accidentally get pulled when you’d rather it not, like catching on a stray tree branch as you’re trotting through the jungle, or even in combat when you might be hitting the deck or scrambling around haphazardly with little thought to your grenade pins.

Illustrating this, in Eleven Charlie One Papa, Mallen states, “I pointed out to him that the grenade cotter pin wasn’t even bent over and he said that he was completely unaware that he should have them bent over. So for the last week or so we had been humping the bush with this guy whose grenades could have easily been set off by having the pin catch in a big thorn or spike. I guess it was our fault for not telling the guy things like that, things that were never taught in basic or advanced infantry training back in the states.”

This practice, although widely utilised by soldiers is sometimes discouraged by some in the military precisely because it makes it extremely difficult to pull the pin if one doesn’t first take the time to bend the metal back. This not only makes the grenade potentially take a little longer to be deployed in a pinch, but is also thought to contribute to soldiers unintentionally milking the grenade directly after the pin has finally been pulled with extreme force. This is what is speculated to have happened in the aforementioned death of Specialist David G Rubic, as noted by Colonel Raymond Mason who was in charge of figuring out what went wrong. In the investigation, it was discovered that Rubic had, according to witnesses, both previously bent the pin and been holding the lever down at the time it exploded in his hand.

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Dengrier Baez)

Of course, if one throws the grenade immediately upon pin removal, whether you milk the grenade or not makes little difference — with it only being extra risky if you choose to hold onto it for some number of potatos. On top of this, regardless of what superiors say, many soldiers are unwilling to entrust their and their compatriots’ lives to a mere 3-8 kg worth of pull force, which a tree branch or the like while jogging can potentially exert.

That said, a tree branch is not your teeth and whether bending the pins or not, as Sergeant Osman Sipahi of the Turkish Armed forces states, you can pull the pin this way, “but there is a high probability of you fucking up your teeth. It’s the same as biting the top of a beer bottle off; it’s doable but not recommended.”

Or as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Quigley, author of Passage Through A Hell of Fire And Ice, sums up: “The business in the movies of the guy grabbing the grenade ring in his teeth and pulling out the pin is a load; it does not happen unless he is prepared to throw out a few teeth with it as well. We have all commented how we would like to get some of those Hollywood grenades that allow you to bite off the pin, throw the grenade a few hundred yards, and never miss your target, going off with the blast effect of a 500-pound bomb…”

Bonus Facts:

Any article on the discussion of grenade usage would be remiss in not answering the additional question often posed of whether you can put the pin back in after you’ve pulled it and still have it be safe to let go of the lever — the answer is yes, but this must be done VERY carefully, as letting up even a little on the lever before the pin is fully-re-inserted can cause the striker to do its thing, potentially without you knowing it, as illustrated in the death of one Alexander Chechik of Russia. Mr. Chechik decided it would be a good idea to pull the pin on a grenade he had, take a picture, then send it to his friends. The last text he ever received was from a friend stating, “Listen, don’t f*** around… Where are you?” Not responding, reportedly Chechik attempted to put the pin back in, but unsuccessfully. The grenade ultimately exploded in his hand, killing him instantly, while also no doubt making him a strong candidate for a Darwin award.

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Justin J. Shemanski)

Next up, as occasionally happens to all of us, if you happen to find a grenade thrown at you or drop the one you’re holding with the pin already pulled, if no readily available cover is nearby the general recommendation is to lay flat on the ground with, assuming you remembered to wear your Kevlar helmet like a good soldier, your head towards the grenade. These helmets are designed to be an effective barrier against such shrapnel. This position also ensures minimal odds of any shrapnel hitting you in the first place via reducing the cross section of you exposed to the grenade’s blast.

Now, you might at this point be thinking as you have your shrapnel proof Kevlar helmet, why not just put it on the the grenade? Genius, right? Well, no. While these helmets can take a barrage of quite a bit of high speed shrapnel, they cannot contain the full force of the blast of a typical grenade, as was tragically proven by Medal of Honor winner, Jason Dunham. In his case, not trusting his helmet to contain the blast, he also put his body on top of the helmet to make sure nobody else would be hurt by the dropped grenade. He did not survive, but those around him did.

In yet another case of a soldier jumping on a grenade to save his fellow soldiers, but this time with a reasonably happy ending, we have the case of Lance Corporal William Kyle Carpenter. On November 21, 2010 while in Afghanistan, a grenade was thrown into his sandbagged position. Rather than run, he used his own body to shield the other soldier with him from the blast. Miraculously, though severely injured, Carpenter lived and was awarded the Medal of Honor in June of 2014.

In a similar case, during a battle on Feb. 20, 1945, one Jack H Lewis and his comrades were advancing toward a Japanese airstrip near Mount Suribachi. Taking cover in a trench under heavy fire, Jack realized they were only feet away from enemy soldiers in a neighboring trench. He managed to shoot two of the soldiers before two live grenades landed in his trench. Thinking quickly, Jack threw himself on the first grenade, shoving it into volcanic ash and used his body and rifle to shield the others with him from the pending blast. When another grenade appeared directly after the first, he reached out and pulled it under himself as well. His body took the brunt of the two blasts and the massive amount of shrapnel. His companions were all saved, but his injuries were so serious they thought he had died. Only after a second company moved through did anyone realize he was somehow still alive. Jack endured nearly two dozen surgeries and extensive therapy and convalescence. Despite the surgeries, over 200 pieces of shrapnel remained in his body for the rest of his life which lasted an additional six decades. He died at the ripe old age of 80, on June 5, 2008 from leukemia.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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5 of the biggest Mafia names also served in the US military

Believe it or not, members of Cosa Nostra had a lot to offer the United States during wartime, and most of it had nothing to do with violence. While most members of the mob, from street soldiers to capos, managed to avoid military service, others saw their way to using their special skills to advance the military aims, both in peace and in war. 

Even some of the mafia’s biggest names have put on the uniform of the armed forces of the United States. 

  1. Albert Anastasia

Anastasia’s main boss was none other than Charlie “Lucky” Luciano, the man who did more to create the Italian mafia in the U.S. than any other figure. Luciano founded what would one day become the Genovese crime family and helped form the National Crime Syndicate that would one day be governed by the body of the heads of the five families, known as “The Commission.”

mafia member
Anastasia’s 1936 mugshot

To implement the Commission’s power over organized crime, they used a gang of killers that came to be called Murder, Inc. and the head of the Murder, Inc. hist squad was a loyal Luciano enforcer and former longshoreman named Albert Anastasia. 

After the start of World War II, Murder Inc. had begun to crumble under dozens of investigations by law enforcement. Hoping to escape those investigations, Anastasia joined the Army to train U.S. troops how to work ports and unload ships as longshoremen. 

Anastasia himself was killed in a New York City barbershop after the war by members of the Profaci crime family.

2. Gennaro Angiulo

Angiulo was one of the most notable figures of Boston’s Patriarca crime family. For 20 years, Angiulo dominated Boston’s criminal underworld. But before any of that, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor, eventually piloting landing craft to islands in the Pacific Theater of the war. 

Angiulo eventually earned the rate of Chief Bosun’s Mate before the war’s end. His criminal empire would be brought down by FBI informants and fellow Boston gangsters James “Whitey” Bulger and Stephen Flemmi, who aided the FBI in planting the bugs used to gather evidence against him. After his 2007 death, he was given a Navy funeral, complete with honor guard.

Flemmi himself was a veteran of the Korean War, who learned his stock in trade as a hitman in the U.S. Army’s 187th Infantry Regiment. 

3. John “Johnny Green” Faraci 

Before “Johnny Green” became one of New York City’s biggest loan sharks and a capo in the Bonanno family, he was landing on the beaches of Normandy, where he was awarded a Bronze Star. It was his wartime service that earned the immediate respect of fellow mobsters but it was Faraci they turned to when other members of the mafia ran up gambling debts. 

Faraci, too, eventually found himself in court as an aging mobster. In a 2002 arraignment, Faraci’s lawyer pointed out to the judge that his client was a World War II veteran who landed at Normandy, the 78-year-old judge simply replied, “So did I.”

4. Matty “The Horse” Ianniello

When Genovese boss Vincent Gigante went to federal prison in 1997, his underboss Matthew Ianniello became acting boss of the entire crime family. He was a big earner for the Genovese family in his mafia career, first serving as an enforcer, then as an owner of Manhattan topless bars, then racketeering garbage removal services in Connecticut. 

Before all of that, he worked the docks in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard when World War II broke out, and later joined the Army, fighting in the Philippines as an artilleryman, earning a Bronze Star for valor and receiving a Purple Heart for being wounded there. The Horse was an underboss until the very end, convicted for racketeering in 2006 at age 86. 

5. Sammy “The Bull” Gravano

mafia member
Arrest photo of Sammy Gravano taken by the FBI.

John Gotti’s right hand man turned FBI informant was also a veteran of the US Army. The Bull is better known as the highest ranking mobster ever to turn state’s evidence, but long before that, he enlisted in the Army in 1964, just as the Vietnam War was starting to heat up. 

Initially, it was Gravano’s lawyer that told a judge his client would join the Army rather than see a prison cell for a burglary arrest. The Bull told his lawyer there was no way he was going into the Army, but his lawyer just told the judge that so he wouldn’t serve time. The Bull was drafted anyway.

Gravano never made it to Vietnam. He spent a lot of his basic training time on KP duty at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, then to Indiana and Fort Meade, Maryland, where he used his mafia skills to run illegal gambling and loansharking operations. He received an honorable discharge after two years. 

As for Vietnam, Sammy the Bull once said, “I wouldn’t have minded going to Vietnam. You get medals for killing people there.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Nazis developed a ‘wonder weapon’ that the Allies couldn’t stop and changed the face of future wars

On the morning of September 8, 1944, a massive explosion rocked the southeastern outskirts of recently liberated Paris. The blast killed six people and wounded 36 more. Nearly eight hours later, two more explosions occurred in London, killing three people and wounding 17.

One of the explosions in London left a crater 30 feet wide and 8 feet deep. The site was closed to the public, and censors barred journalists from reporting on it. The blast was blamed on a faulty gas main and quickly hushed up.


Hundreds of explosions in the following weeks forced the British to admit the truth. The Germans had launched a horrifying new type of weapon at France and England: the V-2, the first guided ballistic missile in history.

For almost a year, more than 3,000 V-2s would be launched at civilian and military targets in Belgium, Britain, France, and the Netherlands.

A vengeance weapon

Development of the V-2 started in 1934. The German Wehrmacht had a keen interest in rockets, and some of Germany’s best engineers were tasked by the military to create this new “Wunderwaffe” or “wonder weapon.”

The missile had its first successful test flight in October 1942. Traveling over 118 miles and reaching an altitude of 277,200 feet, or 52.5 miles, it was the first rocket to reach the edge of space.

The project was repeatedly downgraded and upgraded during the war, but in 1943 it became one of the largest weapons projects of the Third Reich.

Hitler, angry at the destruction Allied bombing was causing in Germany, wanted to strike Allied cities in revenge. The missile became the second in Hitler’s series of “Vergeltungswaffen,” or “vengeance weapons,” and was designated V-2.

About 6,000 V-2 rockets were built. They were intended to be launched from hardened complexes similar to modern missile silos, but Allied bombing and advances on the ground forced the Germans to rely on mobile launch platforms.

V-2s were much more complex and larger than their predecessor, the V-1. They were about 46 feet tall and were equipped with a 2,000-pound amatol warhead at the tip. They also had a range of 200 miles.

After launch, the missile rose over 50 miles into the air and reached a speed of over 3,000 mph, enabling most to reach their targets in just five minutes. V-2s were so fast that they could hit their targets at up to 1,790 mph.

A program of death and destruction

Their speed and operational ceiling made them impossible to intercept, and Allied attempts to jam the V-2’s guidance system were useless, as the missile did not use radio guidance. (Its guidance system was an innovation in its own right; gyroscopes and an analog computer in it constantly tracked and adjusted its course to a preprogrammed destination.)

Up to 100 V-2s were launched each day, and they wreaked havoc on Allied cities. Over 2,700 people were killed by the missiles in Britain alone.

One V-2 struck a packed cinema in the Belgian port city of Antwerp, killing 567 people, including 296 Allied soldiers — the deadliest strike from a single piece of aerial ordnance in the European theater.

There is no complete official toll, but it is estimated that V-2 attacks killed anywhere from 5,000 to 9,000 people. Together, V-1 and V-2 attacks caused over 30,000 civilian casualties and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

That number does not include the deaths of 10,000 to 20,000 people who were used as slave labor in V-2 construction at the underground Mittelwerk factory and various concentration camps.

Desperate to stop the strikes, the Allies launched Operation Crossbow — a series of operations and bombing campaigns aimed at destroying the V-weapon program. The Allies were aware of the V-2 as early as 1943 and even managed to obtain V-2 parts with the assistance of the Polish Home Army.

A lasting legacy

In the end, the V-2, like many of Nazi Germany’s so-called wonder weapons, was too little, too late. Though the civilian body count was high, it was smaller than that caused by other weapons.

Moreover, V-2s did almost no significant damage to military targets, and by 1944 the Allied war machine was just too large for Germany to fight off.

The Wehrmacht spent so much money and resources on the V-2 for such minimal military gain that Freeman Dyson, a Royal Air Force analyst during the war, later likened it to “a policy of unilateral disarmament.”

But the V-2 left a lasting legacy. Combined with the advent of nuclear weapons, it proved that the most important weapons of the future would be ballistic missiles.

The Soviets and the Western Allies scrambled to collect as much of the V-2 program as possible when the war ended, and some of the earliest ballistic missiles on both sides of the Cold War were essentially copies of the V-2.

Many scientists from the V-2 program, including its leader, Wernher von Braun, were also directly involved in the US space program, ultimately helping NASA land on the moon in 1969.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

World War II veteran recalls time as German prisoner of war

On Sept. 21, 2018, the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System hosted our annual POW/MIA Recognition Day program. Three former prisoners of war (POW) attended including World War II Veteran Fred Brooks.

Here is his story.


From Bartlesville to the Battle of the Bulge

Born on April 2, 1926, Fred Brooks turned 18 in 1944. Nearly nine months later, the native of Bartlesville, Okla. was sent to the front lines on Christmas Day during the Battle of the Bulge.

On January 10, 1945, Brooks and five other solders in the 4th Infantry Division were conducting a night patrol and entered a German village.

“We went into this little village at night to check it out, and there wasn’t anyone in that village when we entered it,” said Brooks. “When daylight came, the Germans were everywhere. They killed one and wounded two.”

Surrounded, the remaining soldiers were forced to surrender, and were transported to Stalag IV-B Prison Camp in Mühlberg, Germany.

Brooks said the Germans fed the POWs once a day, which was typically a small cup of vegetable soup.

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years

World War II Veteran Fred Brooks.

“That’s all they had to give you,” he said. “The Germans had nothing to feed their own troops, let alone us.”

He said the Germans never harmed him, but he did have to endure the brutal winter conditions.

“My feet were frozen terribly bad,” he said. “I didn’t have one drop of medication. There was an elderly English man in the camp where I was at and he helped me tremendously to clean the wounds as best we could. It was a rough winter.”

On April 23, 1945, the Russians liberated Stalag IV-B and approximately 30,000 POWs.

“The Russians entered our camp during the night,” said Brooks. “The next day, I think there was three German guards left and the Russians hung them high in the trees. We were very happy to see (the Russians). They fed us.”

Approximately 3,000 POWs died at Stalag IV-B, mostly from tuberculosis and typhus.

World War II Veteran and former POW Fred Brooks has received his health care from the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System for approximately 30 years.

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years

Coming home

Brooks was reunited with the American Army and sent to the coast of France to wait for a transport ship home. While waiting, he met another soldier from Bartlesville, and the two made a pact not to tell their families they were coming home.

“When we got to the little bus station in Bartlesville, his wife was waiting on him,” he said with a laugh. “He had broken our vow not to call.”

From the bus station, Brooks walked a mile to his parent’s home.

“I got my parents up at 2 o’clock in the morning,” he said. “It was unreal. My parents were just out of it to see me walking in the door. It really surprised them. They were very happy.”

After the war, Brooks worked in construction and retired at the age of 75. He still lives in Bartlesville.

Looking back on the war and his internment in a German POW Camp, Brooks credits divine intervention for his survival.

“God was with me.”

Featured image: U.S. POWs, 1944.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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