Russia’s new heavy attack drone, called the Okhotnik (Russian for “hunter”), just made its visual debut as a flying wing stealth platform intended to fight Moscow’s enemies from the air and inform the next generation of jet fighters.
The picture of the Okhotnik, posted on a Russian aviation blog and first reported at Aviation Week, shows a drone on a snowy runway with a flat flying wing design like the B-2 Spirit bomber of the US Air Force.
The B-2 represents the US’s stealthiest plane despite being originally built in the early 1980s, which owes to the flying wing design.
Fighter jets which hit supersonic speeds and maneuver tightly need vertical fins, meaning Russia’s Okhotnik likely places stealth above turning and air-to-air combat.
In July 2018, Russian media quoted a defense industry source as saying the Okhotnik could perform “any combat task in an autonomous regime,” but that the drone would require a human pilot to pull the trigger.
US drones only perform in an air-to-ground role, as they’re subsonic aircraft that would be sitting ducks to enemy fighters.
But the defense industry source claimed the “Okhotnik will become the prototype of the sixth generation fighter jet,” further suggesting some air-to-air role.
Again, this seems to suggest a connection between the combat drone and air superiority fighters, though Russia’s own media describes the drone as having a takeoff weight of 20 tons and an airspeed in the high subsonic range.
Russia frequently makes unverified and dubious claims about its combat aircraft. Russia dubbed the Su-57, meant to fight F-22 and F-35 fighter s or beat top-end air defenses, “combat proven” after a few days of dropping bombs on militants in Syria who had no anti-air capabilities.
But the sixth generation of fighter aircraft, or even the true purpose of the current, fifth generation of fighter aircraft, remains an open question. Many top military strategists and planners have floated the possibility of pairing advanced manned fighter jets with swarms of drones or legacy aircraft to act as bomb trucks or decoys.
It seems like every week brings another potential flashpoint for global conflict. North Korea acts like it wants to go 12 rounds over its nuclear program. China threatens war to protect its control of Taiwan and the South China Sea. Russia stages major exercises near NATO borders and is currently occupying two regions of Ukraine.
And that’s without touching the cluster that is the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
But Americans can still sleep soundly because its military keeps teams ready to deploy at a moments notice, projecting power to any part of the globe within hours.
These are the U.S. military units who, in conjunction with NATO and other allies, would be in charge of drawing first blood in a knockdown fight. We modeled the conflict based on the war in Syria erupting into something larger, but the scenario would play out similarly in other regions of the world.
Listen to the author and other vets discuss this World War III scenario on the WATM podcast.
1. U.S. Air Force’s first move is to achieve air superiority.
The Air Force is likely going to find itself the first one in the ring. Strikes in Syria fall under U.S. Central Command, but command and control for a conflict that spills into Turkey would shift to U.S. European Command.
Within 24 hours, the Air Force would dispatch 1-2 “Rapid Raptor” teams. Each consists of four F-22s that can refuel in the air as they race to any spot on the planet in 24 hours. Their support crew and additional equipment follow them in a C-17. The rest of the planes in each squadron would come later.
Marines deployed to the Black Sea Rotational Force in Romania would provide expertise and assist in defending Romania’s coast from potential attacks by Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Marines across the rest of the continent would prepare to repulse a land invasion from Moscow.
4. The Army looks to hold the line across over 750 miles of border.
They would be backed up by the Global Response Force from the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
5. Supporting all of this activity would be the special operators of Special Operations Command Europe.
Special Operations Command Europe has operators from the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The Army fields its oldest Special Forces group, the 10th, in Europe. Navy Special Warfare Unit 2 mostly supports forward deployed SEAL platoons but could also pivot missions to leading a Naval Special Warfare Task Unit that would support U.S. European Command.
Meanwhile, the Airmen of the 352nd Special Operations Group would plan the complex air missions supporting these other operators. The Air Force special operators from the 321st Special Tactics Squadron would provide pararescue, air traffic control, and reconnaissance capabilities.
That’s right; the same company that makes affordable watches that you can buy at Walmart was once a major player in the world of defense contracting. It’s difficult to imagine, but Timex used to be mentioned in the same sentences as industry giants like Lockheed and Northrop.
Timex was originally founded in 1854 as the Waterbury Clock Company in Waterbury, Connecticut. Located in the Naugatuck River Valley, the Waterbury Clock Company was one of dozens of companies that produced millions of clocks every year there and earned the region the nickname, “The Switzerland of America”.
The Waterbury Clock Company branded itself as an affordable and American-made alternative to more expensive and high-end European clocks. In 1887, the company introduced the Jumbo pocket watch named for P. T. Barnum’s famous elephant. The Jumbo caught the attention of salesman and marketing pioneer Robert H. Ingersoll. The Waterbury Clock Company went on to produce millions of watches for Ingersoll including the popular Ingersoll Yankee. Priced at just one dollar, the Yankee became known as the watch that made the dollar famous.
The Waterbury Clock Company fell into bankruptcy during the turn of the century as a result of poor marketing strategies that cheapened the brand’s image. The company discontinued business in 1912 and its Waterbury plant was purchased by Ingersoll who began manufacturing his own watches there in 1914.
However, the onset of WWI brought a new demand for wristwatches that the Waterbury Clock Company was able to satisfy. They did this by modifying their Ingersoll ladies’ Midget pocket watch. Lugs were added to allow for wear on a canvas strap, the crown was moved to 3 o’clock, and luminescent material was applied to the hands and indices for nighttime legibility.
Following the armistice, the Waterbury Clock Company hit hard times again. The reduced demand for watches combined with the Great Depression forced the company to sell off many of its assets during the 1920s. However, the company was able to regain its identity in the consumer market with an advantageous business deal.
In 1930, the Waterbury Clock Company reached a license agreement with Walt Disney to produce Mickey Mouse watches and clocks under the Ingersoll brand name. The famous timepieces featured America’s favorite mouse displaying the time with his arms and hands. Introduced to the public in 1933, the Mickey Mouse line quickly gained popularity and became the company’s first million-dollar line.
The partnership with Disney was enough to keep the Waterbury Clock Company afloat until they were called upon to supply the military again. WWII saw an increased demand for precision timekeeping devices for military use. In 1942, the company built a new concrete plant in just 88 days to produce vast quantities of precision timers under government contract. In 1943, the Under-Secretary of War awarded the Waterbury Clock Company the Army-Navy “E” Award for excellence for their “Anglo-American fuse.” The next year, the company was renamed the United States Time Corporation.
Following the end of the Korean War, U.S. Time sales dropped again due to reduced demand from the military. Using wartime research, the company introduced affordable, accurate, and durable watches made from a proprietary material called Armalloy. The new alloy was used to produce long-wearing bearings as an affordable alternative to the expensive jewels that are traditionally used in time-keeping instruments. This led to the debut of the Timex brand in 1950.
Consequently, the company’s reputation for accuracy and durability earned more government contracts during the American missile development boom of the late 1950s. U.S. Time produced mechanical missile components like fuses, gyroscopes, accelerometers, guidance sub-systems, and other miniature precision items. As a result, the company marketed itself as, “The world’s largest manufacturer of watches and mechanical time fuses.”
Additionally, U.S Time applied its precision manufacturing knowledge to ammunition and ordnance production. This lasted through the Vietnam War into the 1970s and saw the company operate the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant as well as privately-owned plants and storage facilities.
Moreover, U.S. Time marketed the durability of its products to the civilian market with live torture tests. John Cameron Swayze was regarded as the most credible newsman in America at the time. The company hired him as the spokesperson for these torture tests of Timex brand watches. These tests included baseball players, boxers, golfers, and even turtles torturing a Timex watch.
As a result, popularity of Timex watches skyrocketed. By 1962, one out of every three watches sold in the U.S. was a Timex. The foreign market was also booming and production was expanded to Europe and Asia to meet the demand. In 1969, U.S. Time was renamed accordingly with the popularity of its watch brand to the Timex Corporation.
Unfortunately, the Quartz Crisis of the 1970s devastated the mechanical watch industry. More affordable and precise battery-powered watches from Asia killed off dozens of watch companies. Although Timex survived, the company lost its Disney license and Swayze as a spokesperson. They were forced to abandon all other products and focus solely on timepieces.
In the mid-1980s, Timex attempted to revive its reputation for accurate and durable watches. With the help of top athletes, Timex created a watch that was simple, durable, accurate, and boasted a longer battery life that any of its competitors. The watch was released in 1986 as the Ironman Triathlon, named for the famous Hawaiian triathlon that the company began sponsoring two years before. Within its first year, the Ironman became the best-selling watch in the United States and went on to become the world’s best-selling sports watch of the decade.
Timex again made headlines with its pioneering Indiglo technology. The glowing watch backlight was used by an office worker during the 1993 World Trade Center bombing to guide a group of evacuees down 40 dark flights of stairs. The story led to a huge boost in sales and regained Timex a large portion of the American market share.
In the 21st century, Timex has continued to innovate with the introduction of affordable GPS watches and heart rate monitor exercise devices. In addition, the company is reissuing many of its classic mechanical watches from the 1960s alongside modern mechanical watches. Timex has also seen great success with its Peanuts licensed watches. Although the company no longer retains any government contracts, its long history of durability and innovation make Timex a name that any American can be proud to wear.
Although the U.S. mission in Iraq is often referred to as one of advising and assisting, only about 25 percent of the 101st Airborne Division‘s 2nd Brigade Combat Team was doing that during its deployment to Iraq, which concluded in January, the brigade’s commander said at the Pentagon May 3 during a media roundtable discussion of the deployment.
Army Col. Brett Sylvia, the brigade’s commander, told reporters that the other 75 percent of his Task Force Strike soldiers were engaged in route clearance, expedited communications, air and ground coordination, and logistics, which enabled Iraq to build up its forces up and get to their tactical assembly area for the push into eastern Mosul, which began Oct. 17 as part of the effort to liberate Iraq’s second-largest city from the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
When Task Force Strike arrived in Iraq in April 2016, the Air Force was delivering all the precision strike capability to the Iraqis fighting ISIS, Sylvia said. Over the course of the deployment, Task Force Strike soldiers augmented much of that strike capability with their own artillery and unmanned aerial vehicle assets. About 6,000 artillery rounds were fired, he added.
Sylvia said he was pleased with the authorities the U.S. commanders on the ground were given to call for fire to enable the Iraqi ground forces to move forward. In March 2016, the month before the task force arrived in Iraq, the authority was granted not only to the general in charge of the operation, but also for colonels, lieutenant colonels, and in at least one case, a captain near the front of the fighting, he explained.
Although the Iraqis did the fighting, some limited situations arose when U.S. soldiers accompanied them to provide “niche capability,” Sylvia said. For example, he said, soldiers accompanied an Iraqi battalion on a bridge-building mission on the Tigris River, where the enemy had blown up the bridge. The soldiers advised them on establishing area security as the U.S.-made bridge was erected, he told reporters.
Militia fighters not attached to the Iraqi army who also were fighting ISIS were pretty much segregated from Iraqi forces, Sylvia said. U.S. forces were aware of their location and movements, he added, but did not interact with them in any way.
In one day alone, 12 appeared, he noted — mostly quadcopters operated by Wi-Fi with about 45 minutes of flight time.
At first, he said, the enemy used them for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and to obtain video for use as propaganda on social media sites.
Over time, Sylvia said, the enemy managed to mount 40 mm grenades on the UAVs and drop them. It was primitive, such as when World War I pilots tossed bombs out of their airplanes by hand, he said. It’s not precision bombing, but it’s more effective than their indiscriminate bombing, the colonel told reporters.
Over time, U.S. forces employed countermeasures that stopped or slowed their flight, enabling Iraqi ground forces to shoot them out of the sky, he said, noting that the new threat from the air led to dusting off old manuals on how to respond to threats from the air with countermeasures such as camouflage.
Best Day in Iraq
Sylvia said he clearly recalls his best day in Iraq. It was Christmas Day, and Iraqi forces, who are Muslim, invited him and his soldiers to a Christian church just outside Mosul to attend services. ISIS had gutted the church, but the Iraqis had rebuilt it with their own money.
“It was a powerful symbol, and was amazing,” he said of the visit to the church, adding that he hopes the relationship forged with the Iraqis will be enduring.
Task Force Strike returned to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in January, replaced in Iraq by the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
The Navy announced Aug. 4 that its much-maligned blue digital camouflage uniform will be removed from service and replaced with the Naval Working Uniform Type III, a digital woodland camouflage pattern commonly worn by SEALs and other Navy expeditionary forces.
Despite years of development and millions of dollars spent on replacing the old Navy dungarees, sailors hated the so-called “blueberry” uniforms, joking that the pattern was only good at hiding sailors who’d fallen overboard and that the material felt heavier and less comfortable than other working uniforms.
“As the CNO and I travel to see sailors deployed around the world, one of the issues they consistently want to talk about are uniforms,” said Navy Sec. Ray Mabus in a press release. “They want uniforms that are comfortable, lightweight, breathable … and they want fewer of them.”
Mabus said that the sea service will begin moving to the woodland digital NWU Type III and away from the blue digital NWU Type I for all sailors ashore starting Oct. 1.
The Navy said the blue NWU Type I will still be authorized for wear for three years, but the service will soon stop issuing it to new sailors. Instead, enlisted sailors will be given funds to buy the NWU Type III, which is based on the AOR 2 pattern developed for SEAL Team 6.
“Over the next three years, sailors may wear either the NWU Type I or III, but effective Oct. 1, 2019, all Sailors will be expected to wear the NWU Type III as their primary Working Uniform when ashore or in port,” the Navy said.
Officers will have to buy the new uniforms with their own funds.
WASHINGTON (Aug. 3, 2016) The Dept. of the Navy announced that it will transition from the Navy Working Uniform (NWU) Type I to the NWU Type III as its primary shore working uniform. While the NWU Type I will be phased out over the next three years, effective Oct. 1, 2019, all Sailors will be expected to wear the NWU Type III as their primary Working Uniform when ashore or in port. (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Julia A. Casper/Released)
Some NWU Type I items, including the black parka, will be authorized for wear with the NWU Type III. For now sailors will be required to wear black boots with the Type III uniform, while expeditionary forces and those forward-deployed may wear desert tan boots at the commander’s discretion.
“This change is the first step in a multi-phased process that will streamline and consolidate the Navy’s uniform requirements, and ultimately improve uniformity across the force,” the Navy said. “The Navy has listened to Sailors’ feedback and is incorporating their desires to have a working uniform that is better fitting, more breathable and lighter weight.”
The B-2 Spirit is perhaps the most expensive bomber ever built, costing over $1 billion per aircraft (when all the R&D costs are factored in). For that money, though, there is a lot of capability this plane brings.
For instance, the B-2 is capable of dropping precision-guided weapons, namely the Joint Direct Attack Munition.
The GBU-31 is a 2,000-pound bomb, with the smaller GBU-38 packing a 500-pound warhead. Either can use Global Positioning System guidance to hit within about 35 feet of a target. Let’s just say your day won’t go well after that, nor will you have any chance of future improvement.
Its stealth technology also means that the only warning someone has that a B-2 is overhead with hostile intentions will be when the bombs hit.
A few years ago, the Air Force ran one test of the B-2 with the 500-pound JDAMs. The plane was loaded with 80 inert versions of the GBU-38 and was sent to hit a simulated airfield in Utah. In addition to two runways, there were other targets simulated, including a SA-6 “Gainful” missile site, a SS-1 Scud launch site, an aircraft revetment, a hangar, and the other accoutrements that one finds around an airfield.
Think of it as a stealthy version of an Arc Light.
A video of the test not only shows the number of bombs a B-2 can carry, but it also shows just how accurate JDAMs are. Note, the runways are also thoroughly cratered, meaning any planes that survived the pass of the first B-2, will be kept at the field until the next strike arrives.
Two proposals concerning Amazon’s controversial facial recognition software failed to pass at the company’s shareholders meeting on May 22, 2019, according to reports from CNET and TechCrunch.
The first proposal would have prevented the Seattle tech giant from selling the software — called Rekognition — to the government, while the other would have required an independent human rights group to study the technology.
The decision marks a contentious turning point in a saga that put Amazon at odds with activist shareholders and civil rights groups, which have vocally opposed government use of facial recognition due to privacy concerns.
But with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos controlling a significant, though not a majority, stake in the company he founded and many large institutional shareholders holding similar voting rights as Bezos, it was a long shot that the proposals would pass.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
Rekognition, which Amazon launched in 2016, can identify people and objects in both videos and photos and has been used by government groups as well as media organizations. Amazon said the software has been used to rescue victims of human trafficking, for example, and Sky News used it to identify celebrities attending the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last year.
But the technology has been heavily criticized by civil rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which has raised concerns over Rekognition’s accuracy and its potential to be used for surveillance. Last July, the organization found that the facial recognition software incorrectly identified 28 members of Congress with images of people who had been arrested. Prior to May 22, 2019’s meeting, the ACLU published an open letter urging shareholders to back both proposals.
Amazon has said in a previous statement to Business Insider that it has been working with working with academics, researchers, customers, and lawmakers to balance the “benefits of facial recognition technology with the potential risks.”
The decision comes after Amazon unsuccessfully requested that the SEC block the proposals in January. The company is expected to share a filing with the final vote tally later this week.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In the 1950s France, in the midst of dealing with insurgencies in its colonies in Algeria and Indochina, recognized a military need for easily transportable artillery that could quickly be deployed to the front lines. It happened upon one very novel solution: a militarized Vespa scooter with a built-in armor-piercing gun.
The Vespa 150 TAP, built by French Vespa licensee ACMA, was designed expressly to be used with the French airborne special forces, the Troupes Aéro Portées (TAP).
The Vespa TAP was designed to be airdropped into a military theater fully assembled and ready for immediate action. This high level of mobility made the TAP the perfect anti-guerilla weapon, since enemy irregulars could appear at a moment’s notice even in remote locations.
Outfitted with an M20 recoilless rifle, the TAP proved more than capable of destroying makeshift fortifications used by guerrillas in Algeria and Indochina. The M20 was designed as an anti-tank recoilless rifle that was outfitted with a high-explosive anti-tank warhead. Under ideal circumstances, the rifle could penetrate 100mm of armor from 7,000 yards away.
The M20 outfitted on the Vespa was never actually meant to be fired while the vehicle was in motion. Instead, the Vespa frame functioned as a way of transporting the artillery to the front line. Once there, the rifle would be removed from the Vespa and placed on a tripod for accurate firing.
Remarkably, aside for a slight overhaul of the engine, plus the inclusion of the rifle and ammunition mounts, the standard Vespa and the TAP were designed almost identically. The TAP had a strengthened frame and lower gearing, but besides that it drives just as any Vespa would.
About 500 total TAPs were produced throughout the 1950s.
However ingenious the TAP was, the vehicle was never used outside of the French military during engagements in Algeria and French Indochina.
While the Air Force is best known for dropping bombs on the enemy — and they’ve done a lot of that throughout the War on Terror — there is one critical mission that some elite airmen carry out: evacuating wounded troops in the middle of a firefight. Air Force Pararescue took that mission on in Afghanistan, even though it’s not exactly what they were trained for — the original mission was to recover downed aircrews.
As a result, the Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk has had quite a workout. This is the Air Force’s standard combat search-and-rescue helicopter, which replaced the older HH-53s. According to an Air Force fact sheet, the HH-60 has a top speed of 184 miles per hour, a maximum unrefueled range of 504 nautical miles, and the ability to use 7.62mm miniguns or .50-caliber machine guns. It has a crew of four and has a hoist that can haul 600 pounds.
But there is one question: How do you get a Pave Hawk to Afghanistan? Or to other disaster areas, like Mozambique in 2000? Well, believe it or not, the helicopters fly in — but not by themselves. Despite the fact that they can be refueled in mid-air thanks to a probe, the helicopters often are flown in on the Air Force’s force of C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III cargo planes.
You may be surprised, but the HH-60 is actually an easy cargo for one of these planes to carry. It comes in at 22,000 pounds — or 11 tons. The C-17 can carry over 170,000 pounds of cargo, per an Air Force fact sheet. The C-5 carries over 281,000 pounds. With weight out of the way, the only remaining issue is volume — and the HH-60 addresses that with folding rotor blades.
So, if a Pave Hawk needs to go to Afghanistan, they fold the rotor blades, roll the chopper onto the C-5 or C-17, and take off. The cargo planes reach Afghanistan with a bit of mid-air refueling. Once it lands, the HH-60 rolls off, the rotor blades are unfolded, and it’s ready to save lives.
Check out the video below to see an HH-60 arrive in Afghanistan:
The United States fielded a number of famous fighters in World War II. The P-40 Warhawk, the P-47 Thunderbolt, the F4F Wildcat, the F6F Hellcat, the P-38 Lightning, the F4U Corsair, and the P-51 Mustang all made huge marks. There was one plane, however, that did a lot of damage to the Axis but didn’t enjoy the same fanfare.
And it makes sense — because the Bell P-63 Kingcobra never saw action with the United States.
The P-63 Kingcobra did most of its fighting for the Soviet Air Force, where it served as a tank-buster, armed with a 37mm cannon (about 25 percent bigger than the A-10’s gun), that could also hold its own in the air.
The Kingcobra also packed four M2 .50-caliber machine guns — two in the nose (with 200 rounds per gun) and two in the wings (with 900 rounds per gun). These guns proved more than enough to take out German fighters. The Kingcobra also was able to carry up to three 500-pound bombs or drop tanks. And, with a top speed of 410 miles per hour, this plane was no slowpoke.
The P-63 packed a single 37mm auto-cannon and four .50-caliber machine guns.
Nearly 2,400 Kingcobras were provided to the Soviet Union under the provisions of the Lend-Lease policy. Despite its solid performance, the Soviets never gave this plane much credit for what it did to the Nazis, preferring to highlight the Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik, a Russian design, for propaganda purposes.
Some P-63s did serve in the American military – as training aids for pilots headed overseas.
The P-63 also saw some service with the French, who got 112 planes and used them in Indochina until they got second-hand F8F Bearcats from the United States.
In a way, the Kingcobra did serve in the United States — mostly as either aerial targets or target tugs to help American pilots practice their gunnery. Some were even slated to become (but were never used as) target drones.
Learn more about this forgotten fighter in the video below.
Gamers playing “Battlefield 1,” a game set in World War 1, stopped shooting to participate in a ceasefire during an online match at 11 a.m. Canberra time to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, which marks the end of the first World War.
The ceasefire in the game took place on the same day and same time that the annual World War 1 commemoration typically occurs around the globe: On November 11 at 11 a.m.
The player who helped arrange the ceasefire posted a short video of the event on Reddit, but it’s hard to tell from the video everyone actually stopped shooting. It looks like some players either didn’t hear about the planned ceasefire at the specified time or they ignored the effort altogether. The game’s background audio and effects, like loud explosions and artillery from battleships were also still ongoing, which diminished the silence. There’s also a player in a plane who performs a strafing run on a bunch on players who are partaking in the ceasefire, which somewhat ruins the moment.
EA/Dice developer Jan David Hassel posted the video on Twitter:
Still, you can tell that some players abided to the ceasefire by the fact that the player recording the video was surrounded by enemy players (with red icons above their heads) and didn’t get shot. Any other day and time and the player recording the event would have been killed in seconds when surrounded by so many enemy players.
Ultimately, however, the player recording the event was stabbed and killed. The player doing the stabbing apparently apologized for doing so.
“Battlefield 1” players like myself will know how surprising it is that anyone partook in the event, considering how difficult it is to communicate with others in the game.
The player, known as u/JeremyJenki on Reddit, who helped set up the event and recorded the video posted on Reddit how they did it:
“At the start of the game, me and a couple others started talking about having a ceasefire. We made it known in the chat and many people were on board with it, deciding that this armistice should be held on the beach (This didn’t seem like a great idea to me at the time). Players started heading down to the beach early and for a few minutes it was amazing. When editing the video I cut out most of the in between, only showing the beginning and end. But hey, against all odds, we did it, and while short it was the coolest experience in Battlefield I had ever had.”
Seaman Lawrence Eugene “Larry” Doby’s first realistic thought that they might give him a chance happened on the remote Pacific atoll of Ulithi, the Navy‘s staging base for the invasion of Okinawa during World War II.
A report on Armed Forces Radio announced that the Brooklyn Dodgers were going to sign UCLA football star and former Army lieutenant Jackie Robinson to a contract to play baseball in 1946.
If Robinson proved himself on Brooklyn’s Montreal farm team, if he could withstand the vicious taunts and shunning, he could make history as the first black major leaguer.
Brooklyn’s front office boss, Branch Rickey, believed Robinson would be ready to be called up to the big team in 1947 to break baseball’s unofficial color line, which relegated black ballplayers to the Negro Leagues.
Doby let himself think the door might open for him too. “All I wanted to do was play,” he later recalled.
Statue of Larry Doby outside of Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Navy, like everything else then, was segregated, but Doby was stunned to find that the color line extended to sports within the service, where he had to play on an all-black squad for base teams.
Doby was born in Camden, South Carolina, in 1923 but moved to be with his mother in Paterson, New Jersey, at age 14. Race was also a factor in New Jersey, but less so than in the South. At Paterson’s Eastside High School, Doby was a four-sport athlete.
When the Eastside football team won the state championship, Doby and his teammates were invited to play a school in Florida, but there was a condition: They couldn’t come with Doby. In solidarity with Doby, the team voted to reject the offer, and the game was never played.
Doby, 17, accepted a basketball scholarship to play at Long Island University in Brooklyn, but first, he played baseball that summer for the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League under the assumed name “Larry Walker” to keep his amateur status.
It was there that he had a gruff introduction to playing baseball for money from the legendary Josh Gibson, the catcher for Pittsburgh’s Homestead Grays. Gibson was so legendary that within the Negro Leagues, the fans sometimes referred to Babe Ruth as the “white Josh Gibson.”
As Doby recalled, “My first time up, Josh said, ‘We’re going to find out if you can hit a fastball.’ I singled. Next time up, Josh said, ‘We’re going to find out if you can hit a curveball.’ I singled. Third time up, Josh said, ‘We’re going to find out how you do after you’re knocked down.’ I popped up the first time after they knocked me down. The second time, I singled.”
Larry Doby in 1951.
Following his Navy stint, Doby rejoined the Newark Eagles in 1946 and had a stellar season, leading the team to the league championship. He attracted the attention of Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck, who had his own plan for breaking baseball’s color line.
On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson played his first game in the National League at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. On July 5, 1947, in Chicago against the White Sox, Doby pinch-hit to become the first black player in the American League.
Doby played little his first year but had a breakout in 1948, leading Cleveland to its second (and most recent) World Series championship. Over 13 seasons, he was a seven-time All Star, hit 253 home runs and had a batting average of .283.
In 1998, Doby was voted into baseball’s Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. He died in 2003 at age 79.
Recently, the Senate passed a joint bill to award Doby with the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian award alongside the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The citation directed “the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate to arrange for the presentation of a Congressional Gold Medal in honor of Larry Doby, in recognition of his achievements and contributions to American major league athletics, civil rights, and the Armed Forces during World War II.”
“For too long, Larry Doby’s courageous contributions to American civil rights have been overlooked,” New Jersey Republican Rep. Bill Pascrell said. “Awarding him this medal from our national legislature will give his family and his legacy more well-deserved recognition for his heroism.”
The silent treatment, except for ‘Yogi’
Jackie Robinson had warned Doby that it was going to be tough, but the first game was still a shock to him.
He went around the clubhouse to say hello and shake hands with his Cleveland teammates. He later recalled that he mostly received “cold fish” handshakes, and four of his teammates refused to take his hand. Two of those turned their backs on him, he said.
He went on the field to warm up, but nobody would play catch with him until veteran second baseman Joe Gordon came over to toss a ball.
Doby also was a second baseman, but later in the season, again against Chicago, he was told he would start at first base. He was humiliated when Cleveland’s regular first baseman wouldn’t loan him a first baseman’s mitt. Gordon went into the Chicago clubhouse to borrow one for him.
In the off-season, Doby was told to work on outfield play. He became Cleveland’s centerfielder for his breakout season in 1948 and remained one for the rest of his career.
In addition to the opposition he faced within his own team, opposing players also would not talk to or associate with him — at first. But then came former Navy Gunner’s Mate Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra — the man, the catcher, for all seasons.
When Berra’s New York Yankees came to town to take on the surging Indians in 1948, the first chat between Berra and Doby made the front pages. Berra talked to everybody but on the field, the chatter had a dual purpose for Berra: he also wanted to distract the hitter. It didn’t take Doby long to catch on.
Doby told the umpire to tell Berra to shut up. Berra told the umpire that he was just trying to be friendly. The umpire told them both to shut up.
The next day’s papers showed photos of what appeared to be a dustup between the first black player in the American League and the famous Yankee. They would become best friends and laugh about it in later years.
“I felt very alone” in the first two years in the major leagues,” Doby later told The New York Daily News. “Nobody really talked to me. The guy who probably talked to me most back then was Yogi, every time I’d go to bat against the Yankees.”
Statue of Hall of Famer Larry Doby in Cleveland.
He continued, “I thought that was real nice but, after a while, I got tired of him asking me how my family was when I was trying to concentrate up there.”
Berra later recalled with a laugh: “I know at least one time I didn’t interrupt his concentration. The time he hit that homer to center field in the old Yankee Stadium,” he said of Doby’s prodigious shot in the spacious ballpark.
When Doby died of cancer in 2003 at age 79, Berra said, “I lost my pal. I knew this was coming, but even so, you’re never ready for it. I’d call him, and he’d say he didn’t feel like talking, so I knew then it was bad.”
Things only veterans can share
Following his playing, managing and coaching days, Berra opened the Yogi Berra Museum Learning Center in Montclair, New Jersey, where Berra and Doby were neighbors.
After Doby’s death, Berra dedicated a wing of the museum to Larry Doby featuring memorabilia from his career and the Negro Leagues.
When Berra died at age 90 in 2015, then-President Barack Obama called him “an American original — a Hall of Famer and humble veteran, prolific jokester, and jovial prophet.”
“He epitomized what it meant to be a sportsman and a citizen, with a big heart, competitive spirit, and a selfless desire to open baseball to everyone, no matter their background,” Obama said.
No one knew that better than Doby. He also knew there were things that still haunted Berra from World War II that he could speak of only to another veteran.
At an American Veterans Center conference in Washington, D.C., in 2010, Berra hinted at what those things were.
He had been assigned as a gunner’s mate to what he called a “rocket boat,” a gunboat launched at the beachhead for the June 6, 1944 invasion of Normandy in World War II.
Berra recalled the big mistake his ship made as the invasion boats rumbled ashore.
“We had orders to shoot at anything that came below the clouds,” he said. They fired and downed the first plane they saw, which turned out to be an American aircraft. However, they managed to rescue the pilot.
“I never heard a man cuss so much,” Berra said. “We got him out of the plane but, boy, was he mad.”
He said, “It was like the 4th of July to see all them planes and ships out there. I stood up there on the deck of our boat” to watch. The officer told him to get down “before you get your head blown off.”
Statue of Hall of Famer Larry Doby in Cleveland.
Berra was slightly wounded on D-Day but later declined being put in for a Purple Heart. He said he didn’t want his mother in St. Louis to find out and become upset.
Then, while speaking before the crowd of veterans, he grew emotional. “We picked up some of the people who got drowned,” he said. Then Berra, the non-stop talker, stopped talking.
Later, he told a reporter there were some things he would talk about only to his friend, Doby, and, as they both aged, they spoke nearly daily, either on the phone or in person. They hung out together at Berra’s house, or messed around in his garage, until Berra’s wife, Carmen, started finding things for them to do.
Then they headed to Doby’s house, until Doby’s wife, Helyn, also started finding things for them to do.Their last escape would be the local American Legion post to talk about baseball and the Navy, Berra recalled.
In the newest museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, a photo of Doby is prominently displayed: it’s from the 1948 World Series when Cleveland beat the Boston Braves for the championship.
The photo shows Doby hugging Cleveland pitcher Steve Gromek. Doby had just hit a homer to give Gromek and Cleveland the winning margin in Game Three.
Doby told The New York Times, ”I hit a home run off Johnny Sain to help Steve Gromek win, and in the clubhouse, the photographers took a picture of Gromek and me hugging. That picture went all over the country. I think it was one of the first, if not the first, of a black guy and a white guy hugging, just happy because they won a ballgame.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.