The submarine that smuggled 130 soldiers out of Crete - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The submarine that smuggled 130 soldiers out of Crete

In August 1941, a submarine crew that already had a series of crazy, Mediterranean adventures under its belt slid up to the coast of Crete, a sailor swam from the boat to the shore with a lifeline, and the submarine rescued 130 stranded soldiers, setting a record for people crammed into one submarine in the process.


The submarine that smuggled 130 soldiers out of Crete

An Italian ship burns in the Mediterranean while under fire from an Allied vessel.

(Australian War Memorial)

The Mediterranean and Middle East Theater of World War II get short shrift next to the much more famous European, Pacific, and even North African theaters. But the Mediterranean was home to some fierce fighting and amazing stories, like that of the submarine HMS Torbay. Originally launched in 1938, the submarine was commissioned in 1941 and sent to the central and eastern Mediterranean.

Once there, the crew proved itself to be straight P-I-M-P. It slaughtered the small, wooden ships from Greece that Germany had pressed into service for logistics, and it took down multiple tankers and other ships. At one point, it even attacked a convoy with both an Italian navy and air escort, narrowly escaping the depth charges dropped near it. They were ballsy.

But while the Torbay was killing Italian and German ships and escaping consequence-free, even when it’s by the skin of the crew’s teeth, other forces in the area weren’t faring so well. The New Zealanders, British, Australian, and Greek troops holding Greece were being beaten back by a German assault. The Balkans had oil that Germany desperately needed, and the sparse forces there simply could not hold the line.

The submarine that smuggled 130 soldiers out of Crete

German paratroopers land in Crete during the 1941 invasion.

(Bundesarchiv Bild)

Defenders fought a slow withdrawal south in April 1941, eventually falling back to the island of Crete. Forces there were brave, but doomed. There was almost no heavy equipment. Troops had to defend themselves with just their personal weapons while they could only entrench by digging with their helmets.

Glider- and airborne troops hit the island on May 20, quickly seizing an airfield and using it to reinforce their units. The defenders fought hard for a week and then began evacuating. Over 16,000 troops were successfully withdrawn, and another 6,500 surrendered to the Germans.

But, in secret, at least 200 troops were still on the island. During the night on July 26, these troops signaled the submarine HMS Thrasher by flashing a light in an SOS pattern. The Thrasher gathered 78 survivors, but was forced to leave more than 100 on the beach.

An Italian ship burns in the Mediterranean while under fire from an Allied vessel.

(Australian War Memorial)

Soon after, the Torbay was sent to patrol the Gulf of Sirte, and it survived a torpedo attack as well as a fight with an escorted convoy. It sank a sailing vessel with scuttling charges, and then got word of the men on the beach of Crete. The Torbay sailed there to help.

Despite the tight quarters on the small submarine, the HMS Torbay loaded men through the dark of August 18-19 and again August 19-20. A submariner, Petty Officer Philip Le Gros, swam across from the sub to the beach with a lifeline and helped the men get from shore to safety.

Between the two nights, the Torbay onloaded 130 men, setting a record for most people in a submarine at once. Obviously, with quarters that cramped, they couldn’t continue their wartime patrol, so they took the passengers to Alexandria, Egypt.

That wasn’t the end of the Torbay’s adventures. It took part in a failed attempt to kidnap German Gen. Erwin Rommel, and it once followed an entire convoy into a protected harbor in an attempt to slaughter it. The Torbay later served in the North Atlantic until the end of the war.

Military Life

Why the Army should reconsider turning down Detroit

The Army is mulling over where they can set up the Army Future Command. One of the locations that’s been on the tips of everyone’s tongues is none other than the Motor City — until recently. There are countless benefits that the city of Detroit stands to gain, but the Army would benefit far more if they gave them a second look.


So, why turn down Detroit? The primary reason that Detroit was removed from contention is because of the “livability scale.” As a Michigan native, I can assure you those claims are blown out of proportion. Yes, there are bad neighborhoods in Detroit, but the area most suited for the Future Command would be the really-nice suburb of Warren.

The submarine that smuggled 130 soldiers out of Crete
‘Motown’ doesn’t just referu00a0to the cars made in Detroit.
(U.S. Army TARDEC Photo)

There’s historical precedent here. This suburb was once home to the Detroit Arsenal, where the Army manufactured its tanks until 1996. It’s still currently home to the Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command. The Army chose to this location for two separate installations throughout history for the same reason they’re now eyeing the outskirts of Washington D.C.: it has an infrastructure capable of handling many people.

When many cities around the United States were created, the infrastructure had to evolve around them. Most cities east of the Mississippi River struggled to restructure themselves around a new need to support everyone’s cars — except Detroit. In recent years, the infrastructure has taken hits — there’s no denying that — but the city has been recovering far faster than anyone cares to admit.

The submarine that smuggled 130 soldiers out of Crete
This is the I-75 heading towards Detroit on an average day. Traffic jams aren’t really a thing here.
(Photo by Sean Marshall)

Choosing Detroit as the center for the Futures Command also affords it many opportunities to work hand-in-hand with TACOM. The tanks and vehicles that are going to be used in combat are literally just down the street. Logistically, this means you can get a good gauge of where the Army is at with a quick meeting at your local Tim Hortons.

Another factor that disqualified Detroit (an excuse first employed by Amazon and seemingly copied by the Army) is the educational credentials of the potential workforce. To counter this, I show you the nearby city — one of Forbes’ Most Livable Cities — Ann Arbor. It’s home of also one of Forbes’ best Public Colleges, the University of Michigan. The workforce is available and highly educated, with 75.2 percent of the population holding a degree and a whopping 10.3 percent with doctorates.

The submarine that smuggled 130 soldiers out of Crete
Ann Arbor is essentially the small town you see in every TV show. Except everyone you run into is probably a doctor.
(Courtesy Photo)

Detroit and the surrounding regions are making a strong comeback. The goal of Future Command is to detail how the Army will advance it’s technology into the coming decades. There really is no better place to look towards than the city that is leading the way.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This non-profit wants veterans to vote

With less than 100 days until the 2020 election, Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has a core mission of serving America’s post 9/11 veterans. It is with this in mind that they launched The Vote Hub.

“We are absolutely bi-partisan, 100 percent. We got the idea for The Vote Hub from anecdotal things we were hearing from the community… The process is just so confusing,” Hannah Sinoway, Executive Vice President of Organization, Strategy and Engagement for IAVA explained. She shared experiences of moving and hitting roadblocks on even being able to register to vote as a veteran spouse herself. More challenges exist this year with COVID-19.


“This effort was really with one goal: to provide simple and easy access for veterans and civilians alike to be able to register to vote and/or to find polling information,” Sinoway said. “So, we built the tool on our website, which is completely free… we don’t even take anyone’s information.”

She explained that the new IAVA tool is for the people and not for any other reason. “We are excited to have people exercise their right to vote, use their voice and be heard,” Sinoway said.

Voting for military members and their families has long been a struggle, with certain studies finding that as much as 67 percent of their absentee votes haven’t been counted. One study in 2009 called it an obstacle course. “When we look at veterans, they fought for the rest of us along the way for pretty much all of our freedoms. To be able to have this tool available to them and their community, we felt was really important,” Sinoway said.

IAVA is a 501c3 nonprofit organization established in 2004. Founded by Army Iraq War Veteran Paul Rieckhoff, it was created to make a space for resources and community for the veterans of the post-9/11 era. They are headquartered in New York City and have a policy office in Washington, D.C., as well. They’ve grown and evolved to continue supporting veterans and ensuring they are honored.

Membership to IAVA is completely free to veterans. Their website states, “Members all paid their dues while serving our country. Our members are true heroes.” Their 2018 impact report indicates that they are currently connecting, empowering and uniting over 400,000 veterans and allies nationwide.

Sinoway herself is the longest tenured employee with IAVA and has been working for the company for almost seven years. “It’s honestly been the privilege of a lifetime,” she shared. She continued, “The social justice aspect of our work, I kind of have that in my blood. There are groups of people who don’t have a voice or a strong enough voice and we are that strength to bring them beside us — not to fight for them but fight with them. I think that’s been the best part for me.”

IAVA plans to continue the fight to ensure justice for America’s post 9/11 veterans as well as support all veterans with resources and initiatives. To learn more about IAVA and The Vote Hub click here.

Articles

Watch the Air Force test fire one of its nuclear doomsday weapons

The US Air Force test launched an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile on the California coast early August 2, which follows a similar missile test by North Korea.


Vandenberg Air Force Base said the operational test occurred at 2:10 a.m. PDT.

“The seamless partnership of Team V and our Air Force Global Strike Command mission partners has resulted in another safe Minuteman III operational test launch,” U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Hough, the commander of the 30th Space Wing who made the decision to launch, said in a statement. “This combined team of the 90th Missile Wing, 576th Flight Test Squadron and 30th Space Wing is simply outstanding. Their efforts over the past few months show why they are among the most skilled operators in the Air Force.”

The Air Force released a video of the test launch.

The US launch comes after North Korea launched an improved ballistic missile with intercontinental range late last week — Pyongyang’s second missile launch in less than a month.

Last month, North Korea threatened a nuclear strike against the United States.

“Should the U.S. dare to show even the slightest sign of attempt to remove our supreme leadership, we will strike a merciless blow at the heart of the U.S. with our powerful nuclear hammer, honed and hardened over time,” North Korea’s foreign ministry said. “The likes of [CIA Director Mike] Pompeo will bitterly experience the catastrophic and miserable consequences caused by having dared to shake their little fists at the supreme leadership.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

11 celebrities you didn’t know were passionate about supporting America’s veterans

Many celebrities use their influence to bring awareness to issues they are passionate about. Something as simple as a social media post or attending an event can bring support and attention for an organization. For the military veteran community, celebrities such as Gary Sinise and Bob Hope have used their influence so much that it becomes part of their lifestyle.


But there are many other superstars who have gone above and beyond in supporting troops, although most people have no idea. Here are 11 superstars you probably didn’t know were passionate about supporting veterans.

1. Kathy Griffin

The submarine that smuggled 130 soldiers out of Crete
Kathy Griffin, Michael McDonald and Karri Turner perform an improv skit for soldiers and airmen in Tikrit, Iraq, March 17, 2006.

The multi Emmy award winning actress and comedian has been a long time supporter of the troops performing on USO tours, hosting VH1 Divas Salute the Troops,  and offering veterans free backstage tickets to her shows. She has been awarded recognition for her commitment in supporting the troops.

2. Jared Allen

Jared Allen is a five-time NFL Pro Bowl selection and current player for the Chicago Bears. He was so inspired by his interaction with troops on a USO tour that he created the non-profit Homes for Wounded Warriors which builds and remodels homes for wounded warriors.

3. Judd Apatow

The award winning comedy writer/producer has many well known credits including “Anchorman,” “Pineapple Express,” “Bridesmaids,” and HBO’s “Girls.” What many don’t know is his passion in supporting troops by performing stand up comedy to raise money for wounded warriors, sending gifts to troops, and hiring veterans to work on his productions.

4. Adam Sandler

The submarine that smuggled 130 soldiers out of Crete

Whether he’s making videos of messages in support of the troops  or hosting wounded warriors at his production company Happy Madison, Adam is known as a long-time supporter of the troops and veterans.

5. Snoop Dogg

One of hip-hop’s most iconic figures, Snoop should also be known for being a huge troop supporter. He visits wounded warriors at the hospital, has played with the Wounded Warrior Amputee football team, and performs for the troops. Watch this video of him expressing his support.

6. Vince McMahon

The submarine that smuggled 130 soldiers out of Crete
Photo: Wikimedia

 

Owner of World Wrestling Entertainment, Vince partnered his entertainment powerhouse with the Armed Forces Entertainment to organize an annual Tribute to the Troops since 2003. Prior to the show each year, he has WWE wrestlers and employees visit military bases and hospitals.

7. KISS

The legendary rock band has given an incredible amount of support to the troops. In every community where the band opens a Rock Brews restaurant, it donates money to a local veterans organization. Not only have they performed many times for the troops but they have been hiring veterans to work on their tours. Further, the band has roots in World War II that link two of its members together.

8. Katy Perry

The award-winning singer has performed several times for troops, including a show during fleet week, on VH1 Divas Salute the Troops, and on USO tours. She also portrayed herself as a new Marine enlistee in her music video “Part of Me.” The video shot on Camp Pendleton and involved 80 Marines.

9. Fergie

In addition to performing for the troops, the Grammy award-winning singer organized a fundraiser supporting a military charity, and invited many of her celebrity friends.

10. Barry Zito

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strikeoutsfortroops.org

The Cy Young award-winning pitcher founded the non-profit Strikeouts for Troops in 2005, which provides financial support to wounded warriors. He also flies out a group of veterans to watch spring training every year.

11. J.J. Abrams

Many know the director/producer for his work on blockbuster films like the “Mission Impossible” franchise, “Star Trek,” and the upcoming “Star Wars.” Behind the camera, he has also joined efforts with Hollywood in depicting more stories that portray the sacrifices and service of veterans. He has flown overseas to screen his films for troops and partnered his production company Bad Robot with the non-profit The Mission Continues to support post 9/11 veterans.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 3 most realistic firefights ever filmed by Hollywood

It’s no secret that movies get a lot wrong about firearms and the ways they’re used in a fight. From every 80’s protagonist refusing to shoulder their rifles when they fire, to the seemingly infinite magazine capacity in every hero’s gun, filmmakers have long prized what looks cool over what’s actually possible in their work, and to be honest, it’s hard to blame them. After all, diving sideways while firing pistols from each hand does look pretty badass, even if it’s just about the dumbest thing someone could do in a firefight.

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule when it comes to Hollywood’s depictions of firefights–movies that manage to offer a realistic representation of how armed conflicts actually play out while still giving the audience something to get excited about. These movies may not be realistic from end to end, but each offers at least one firefight that was realistic enough to get even highly trained warfighters to inch up toward the edges of their seats.


“Sicario” – Border Scene HD

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Delta’s time to shine: “Sicario”

The border scene in 2015’s Sicario is worthy of study from multiple angles: as an exercise in film making, this scene puts on a clinic in tension building, and although some elements of the circumstances may not be entirely realistic, the way in which the ensuing firefight plays out offers a concise and brutal introduction to the capabilities boasted by the sorts of men that find their way onto an elite team like Delta.

Unlike the Chuck Norris depictions of Delta from the past, these men are short on words and heavy on action, using their skill sets to not only neutralize opponents, but to keep the situation as contained as possible. The tense lead up and rapid conclusion leaves the viewer with the same sense of continued stress even after the shooting stops that anyone who has ever been in a fight can relate to, despite the operators themselves who are seemingly unphased. As real special operators will often attest, it’s less about being unphased and more about getting the job done–but to the rest of us mere mortals, it looks pretty much the same.

Saving Private Ryan – Omaha Beach HD

youtu.be

The Gold Standard: “Saving Private Ryan”

When “Saving Private Ryan” premiered in 1998, I distinctly recall my parents returning home early from their long-planned date night. My father, a Vietnam veteran that had long struggled with elements of his service had been excited about the new Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg wartime epic, but found the opening scene depicting the graphic reality of the Normandy invasion of World War II to be too realistic to handle. My dad, who never spoke of his time deployed, chose to leave the theater and spent the rest of the evening sitting quietly in his room.

This list is, in spirit, a celebration of realism in cinema, but realism has a weight to it, and sometimes, that weight can feel too heavy to manage. A number of veterans have echoed my father’s sentiments about the film (he did eventually watch it at home by himself), calling that opening sequence, often heralded as a masterpiece of film making, one of the hardest scenes they’ve ever managed to watch.

Heat (1995) – Shootout Scene – Bank Robbery [HD – 21:9]

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Val Kilmer helps train Green Berets: “Heat”

The dramatic ten-minute shootout in “Heat” has become legendary in Hollywood for good reason. For six weeks, the film’s production team closed down parts of downtown Los Angeles every Saturday and Sunday to turn the city into a war zone, and the actors came prepared to do their parts. Production brought in real British SAS operatives to train the actors in real combat tactics at the nearby L.A. County Sheriff’s combat shooting ranges.

Legend has it that Val Kilmer took to the training so well that the shot of him laying down fire in multiple directions and reloading his weapon (without the scene cutting) has been shown at Fort Bragg as a part of training for American Green Berets. Marines training at MCRD San Diego have also been shown this firefight from “Heat” as a depiction of how to effectively retreat under fire.

Articles

This is what jail is like on an aircraft carrier

Most sailors who go out on deployment don’t get into trouble. Others may find themselves on the wrong side of the shore patrol, though. Much of that can be minor, and is usually addressed with a loss of pay, or placing a sailor on restriction. But in some cases, that sailor needs to be confined.


Now, when you’re deployed to the Middle East, Mediterranean, or some other hot spot, it’s hard to ship the guy (or gal) back to the States to lock them up. So, on carriers and other large ships, the jail is brought with them – and it’s called the brig.

And in case you think that an upcoming battle earns some leeway for misbehavior, you’d best keep in mind that heading towards a fight won’t keep a sailor from getting tossed in the brig. In the book “Miracle at Midway,” historian Gordon Prange related how Marc Mitscher, captain of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV 8), threw a couple of sailors in the brig for minor infractions prior to the Battle of Midway.

In many cases where that is necessary, the sailors are sent to the brig after what is known as a “Captain’s Mast,” which is covered under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. According to Naval Orientation, the amount of time someone may be confined is limited. The exact limits depend on the rank of the commanding officer and the rank of the accused. The chart below from the linked manual explains those limits.

 

The submarine that smuggled 130 soldiers out of Crete
(Scanned from US Navy publication)

The video clip below is from the 2008 documentary mini-series “Carrier,” produced by Mel Gibson’s production company. It provides a tour of the brig on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) as it was in 2005.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy Search and Rescue saves the day once again

A Search and Rescue team from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island rescued an injured hiker at Deception Pass State Park on Oct. 21.


The SAR crew took off from NAS Whidbey Island around 5 p.m. Due to the injured hiker’s location and surrounding terrain, North Whidbey Fire and Rescue was unable to reach the man.

Upon arrival, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class John Siedler, a search and rescue medical technician, hoisted down to the scene and prepared the injured man for immediate extraction. The patient was transported to Island Hospital where he was delivered to a higher level of care.

The submarine that smuggled 130 soldiers out of Crete
Deception Pass State Park, Washington. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Tobias Haase.

This was the 35th rescue of 2017 for NAS Whidbey Island SAR, which has also conducted seven searches and 15 Medical Evacuation missions this year, totaling 64 lives delivered to a higher level of care.

The Navy SAR unit operates three MH-60S helicopters from NAS Whidbey Island as search and rescue/medical evacuation platforms for the EA-18G aircraft as well as other squadrons and personnel assigned to the installation.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine F-35s fly 5,000 miles, join new UK aircraft carrier

Six U.S. Marine Corps F-35 jets flew more than 5,000 miles to join their British counterparts as the Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier prepares for its first worldwide deployment.

The F-35B fighter jets from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, the “Wake Island Avengers,” flew from their home base in Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, in Arizona, to Royal Air Force base Lakenheath.

From there, they joined the HMS Queen Elizabeth, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 21, in a series of NATO exercises in the North Sea. They will be flying alongside 617 Squadron, the “Dambusters,” a joint Royal Air Force-Royal Navy unit that also flies the F-35B. The combined US-UK wing will be the largest 5th generation carrier air wing in the world.

“Moving the Marines, aircraft and equipment to the United Kingdom required coordinated planning, complex logistical effort, diligent maintenance and seamless execution,” Lieutenant Colonel Andrew D’Ambrogi, the commanding officer of VMFA-211, said in a press release.

“Now that we have arrived in the United Kingdom, we are reintegrating with our UK counterparts and focused on providing both the commodore of CSG-21 and US combatant commanders with ready, combat-capable, 5th-generation aircraft.”

The submarine that smuggled 130 soldiers out of Crete
Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 21 “The Wake Island Avengers” conduct carrier qualifications in F-35 jets aboard Her Majesty’s Ship (HMS) Queen Elizabeth at sea off the coast of the United Kingdom (UK) on 02 May, 2021 (1st Lt. Zachary Bodner).

Carrer Strike Group 21 will be sailing in its inaugural worldwide deployment later in the year. The inclusion of the VMFA-211 in the British order of battle will mark the first operational deployment of a combined US-UK F-35 air wing.

“We have no closer ally than the United Kingdom. Together, we stand committed to protecting our shared security, addressing security challenges in the Indo-Pacific and beyond, and reaffirming our steadfast commitment to the NATO alliance,” Yael Lempert, the U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires in London, said.

The submarine that smuggled 130 soldiers out of Crete
F-35 jets assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 “The Wake Island Avengers” and the United Kingdom’s Lightning 617 Squadron shortly after embarking onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth (Royal Navy Photograph by LPhot Belinda Alker)

HMS Queen Elizabeth, and its sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, are the Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carriers. After several years without an aircraft carrier capability, the British Armed Forces decided to invest again in the concept. The last time British aircraft carriers saw operational use was in the first Gulf War in 1990-91. Before that conflict, British aircraft carriers had been pivotal in the recapturing of the Falkland Islands during the Falklands War with Argentina in 1982.

MIGHTY TRENDING

South Korea ramps up production of its own anti-missile system

South Korea’s military is planning to mass produce the Cheongung, a self-developed midrange surface-to-air missile system after a reassessment or reappraisal.


The development of a long-range radar and an aerial infrared countermeasure may also restart after they were suspended, Newsis reported Dec. 26.

Seoul’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration made the announcements following the 108th arms acquisition project committee meeting.

The submarine that smuggled 130 soldiers out of Crete
South Korea’s Cheongung. (Image Youtube Screengrab)

Discussions of mass production of the Cheongung, also known as the Cheolmae-2, or KM-SAM, began on Nov. 17, according to the South Korean press report.

The technology is part of the country’s homegrown anti-missile systems, the Korean Air and Missile Defense.

KAMD in turn is part of South Korea’s “three-axis system” that also includes Seoul’s homegrown anti-missile systems and Kill Chain, a pre-emptive strike system.

Defense authorities said programs to develop a fixed long-range radar system to detect North Korea aircraft, and infrared countermeasures, are to be suspended following the discovery of flaws, but to be resumed as “soon as possible,” according to Newsis.

Yonhap reported Dec. 26 LIG Nex1, a local defense contractor, developed the radar that failed in an operational test in 2014.

Also Read: Iran’s home-grown surface-to-air missile shows new military aspirations

“Multiple defects were found in the test and a violation of contract terms was also detected,” DAPA said.

South Korea’s military is planning to make changes following the explosion of a K-9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer in August, News 1 reported Dec. 26.

The military plans to install a black box in the artillery and require personnel to wear flame-resistant combat uniforms, according to the report.

The explosion, caused by a mechanical flaw, wounded four soldiers and killed three, according to Yonhap.

popular

You need to see this incredible B-1B Bomber crash landing

In a 1989 incident, the Air Force crew of a B1-B bomber found itself unable to lower the front landing gear during a training flight and was forced to execute an emergency landing in the dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base, California.


The four-person crew was executing a routine training flight without nuclear weapons onboard on Oct. 4, 1989, and realized three hours into the flight that the front landing gear was malfunctioning. Over the next nine hours, the crew worked to get the gear down.

 

The submarine that smuggled 130 soldiers out of Crete
(GIF: YouTube/airailimages)

 

Investigators later blamed a hydraulic failure, but the crew in the air just knew that they had to reach the ground safely. The Air Force routed the plane to a dry lakebed in California that was often used for landing the space shuttle.

The dust of the Rogers Dry Lake bed is more likely than most surfaces to allow for a safe skid, reducing the risk to the crew and plane. The full landing is visible from a few angles in this video from airailimages:

Feature image: screen capture from YouTube/Airrailimages

Articles

For military veterans, finding a job is one thing — staying in it is another

Tommy Diaz was looking to make a career move after graduating community college in 2008, so he joined the U.S. Army. In 2010, he was deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan, where he worked in military intelligence.


“I talked with high-level Taliban members,” Diaz said. “I did over 400 debriefings. The euphemism is debriefings. They’re really interrogations.”

The job was high pressure, but Diaz knew it mattered. He picked up important skills, but he struggled to put those skills to work when he came home to Southern California. He got his first full-time job tracking inventory for an aircraft parts supplier.

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DoD Photo by Noriko Kudo

“I did that for about 10 months, but I just got bored of it,” Diaz said. “It just felt like a dead end. It wasn’t clicking. I was just hashing out reports, and I wanted to do more.”

So, he left. And Diaz isn’t alone. A 2016 survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation found that 44 percent of veterans left their first post-military job within a year.

The unemployment rate for U.S. military veterans is down from nearly 9 percent back in 2010 to just above 4 percent today. Thanks to a big push from the federal government and a bunch of corporate initiatives, U.S. companies have done a good job hiring veterans in recent years, but keeping them is another story.

Many leave because they have trouble matching military skills to job requirements or finding a sense of purpose in the job. But for many vets, the very experience of being in an office causes problems.

The submarine that smuggled 130 soldiers out of Crete
Photo Courtesy of the DoD

“It just becomes kind of a minefield of how to interact with people,” said Emily King, author of “Field Tested: Recruiting, Managing and Retaining Veterans.”

King has been hired by companies to help integrate veteran employees. She said it’s hard for them to reorient from the military way of doing things.

“An attitude where the mission comes first and interpersonal communication and effectiveness come second is not usually effective in a civilian environment where they tend to pay as much attention to how you do something as to what you do,” King said.

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DoD Photo by Lt. Col. Angela Wallace

Some veterans’ service providers say the recent push to get companies to hire veterans has actually unwittingly played into the turnover problem.

“They’re looking more into quantity than they are into quality,” said Mark Brenner, of Los Angeles nonprofit Veterans Career XChange. “If you have to put 40 people to work, they’ll put them to work wherever they can.”

So, vets are thrown into jobs they’re not prepared for, or jobs they don’t see a future in. Brenner said if we need people to volunteer to fight wars, helping them find meaningful careers when they get back is crucial.

MUSIC

That time James Blunt helped prevent World War III

It’s always going to be a tricky situation when the Russian Army and NATO allied armed forces are in the same fight. In the 1999 Kosovo War, such a situation could have sparked the all-out NATO-versus-Russia war the world had been hoping to avoid for 50-some years at that point. Good thing Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter James Blunt was there to stop all the madness from taking hold over everyone’s better judgement.

The submarine that smuggled 130 soldiers out of Crete
Like Kendall Jenner with a Pepsi, except real and not stupid.


The submarine that smuggled 130 soldiers out of Crete

No time for Stalin when you’re racing the Russians.

To be fair, he wasn’t yet Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter James Blunt quite yet. In 1999, he was still James Hillier Blount, a Royal Military Academy-trained British Army officer, and he was leading a reconnaissance troop ahead of the coming NATO peacekeeping operation in Kosovo to the airport at Pristina.

He led his armored troop all the way to capital city of Kosovo, only to find Russian troops already already captured the airport.

The submarine that smuggled 130 soldiers out of Crete

No one told General Strangelove the Russians weren’t the enemy.

For Russia, the NATO intervention in Kosovo was a stark reminder of how far they had fallen since the end of the Soviet Union. The Balkans were firmly in Russia’s sphere of influence but there was little the Russians could do about the NATO meddling in their backyard — except maybe join them a little.

The Russians sent a small, token unit of peacekeepers to Kosovo and the first thing they did was a capture the airport. When Gen. Wesley Clark, then NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, found out the Russians had beaten NATO to the punch, you might think his response would be mild, considering they essentially had the same mission and the Russians were no longer the Soviet Union.

He gave an order to retake the airport by force.

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General Michael Jackson politely implored General Clark to beat it.

Think, for a moment, what would happen if a NATO armored column completely annihilated a 250-man Russian peacekeeping contingent with 30 armored vehicles over an airport in Kosovo. British General Mike Jackson, the commander of NATO’s Kosovo Force, knew exactly what would happen.

He told General Clark, “I’m not going to start the Third World War for you.”

The submarine that smuggled 130 soldiers out of Crete

“Oh look, here come our British Allies, Sergei.”

Instead, the British General flew in to Pristina and shared a flask of whiskey with the Russian general of the small force, even though Clark was also on his way into Pristina. Meanwhile, Russian airbases and paratroopers were getting ready for any escalation that might come next. Thousands of Russian troops were on standby to kick off World War III.

Jackson and Clark met at the NATO headquarters in the capital of neighboring Macedonia. He reminded the Supreme Allied Commander that the Russians helped broker the peace deal that ended the war and would be assisting the peacekeeping afterward.

The British, instead of murdering potential allies, simply used the armor to isolate the airfield but didn’t even block the runway. Blunt, the commanding officer of an armored troop, with a parachute regiment and some SAS in reserve, instead called for instructions and held the position while the generals decided what to do — and what not to do. After a few days without water or food, the Russians offered to share responsibility for the airport.

But even if Jackson wanted to carry out Clark’s orders, Blunt — from a military family with more than a thousand years of service — would rather have taken a court martial than carry them out, starting a world war.

In the end, no one carried out Clark’s orders to recapture the airfield from the Russians by force. In fact, Clark left his posting as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander a little earlier than expected after the incident. Blunt served two more years in the British Army and recorded his first album just a few months later.

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