The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success - We Are The Mighty
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The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success

The officer who’s running a massive Marine Corps and Navy war game in April that’ll test around 50 new technologies for storming beaches actually wants things to go wrong.


Navy Capt. Chris Mercer, a top tester for the service’s future concepts and technologies office, went so far as to say during a March 23 meeting with reporters: “If we don’t fail, I haven’t done my job.”

 

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success
A MV-22 Osprey. The tilt-rotor’s game-changing technology took a lot of RD to get right. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado)

Now, before you start measuring Mercer for a new white coat with a very snug fit, think about this. With the upcoming Ship To Shore Maneuver Exploration and Experimentation Advanced Naval Technology Exercise 2017 in April, the Marines are looking to change how they carry out forced-entry operations. Forget what you saw in “The Pacific” – the renowned HBO series actually presents an outdated view on such operations. It’s not going to be sending hundreds of Higgins boats to storm a beach under heavy fire. Instead, the Marines, rather than storming a surveyed beach, will be looking for what Doug King of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory called a “gap in the mangroves.”

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success
Amtracs severely damaged on the shores of Iwo Jima. (Robert M. Warren, United States Navy)

But how will they find that gap? The answer lies in new technology – and this is what ANTX 2017 is intended to evaluate. With over 50 dynamic demonstrations planned for the 11-day exercise and another 50 static displays, ANTX 2017’s purpose is to find out what the state of today’s technology is – and to turn “unknown unknowns” into” known unknowns” or “known knowns” — to borrow from the logic former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made popular.

“In these early stages of prototype demonstrations and experimentation, the intent is to push the envelope and take on higher risk technologies,” Mercer told We Are The Mighty. “We expect to find systems that perform well technically, but score low in the operational assessment and vice versa.”

“If everything is performing well and going exactly as planned, then we were probably not aggressive enough in our efforts to advance.”

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success

So, that’s why Mercer is hoping to see failures during ANTX 2017 — if you don’t fail, you don’t learn.

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Vietnamese farmers have been using US fuel tanks as boats for 50 years

Poor farmers and fishermen the world over need all the help they can get. Sometimes, buying a boat is just too costly, no matter how critical it is to their livelihood. So when the raw materials necessary to create exactly what is needed start raining from the sky, no one would think twice about using them. 

That’s exactly what the people of Vietnam began doing during the Vietnam War and the decades that followed. 

On Jan. 2, 1967, Col. Robin Olds was leading a flight of F-4 Phantom II fighters in a surprise raid over North Vietnam. The raid itself wasn’t a surprise; Olds wanted the enemy to see him coming and take off to intercept. The surprise was what the North Vietnamese would find once they were airborne. “Operation Bolo” was a go.

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success
F-4 Phantom on display in Maryland. Wikimedia Commons.

Olds and his Phantoms were outfitted with special gear that would make the enemy air base believe they would engage slower, less dangerous F-105 Thunderchief fighter bombers. By the time the communists realized they were going up against waves of nimble, faster F-4 Phantom fighters, it would be too late.

And it was. As soon as the North Vietnamese MiG-21s cleared the cloud cover, the Air Force another flight of Phantoms, led by Col. Daniel “Chappie” James were already in the area. Olds, like many other fighter pilots of his day, jettisoned his external fuel tanks and engaged the enemy MiGs. 

Air combat isn’t the only reason for pilots to jettison external tanks. Once they began to run empty, tanks were often dumped to lower the weight of the aircraft and extend the life of what fuel was remaining. Once dropped from the plane, the tanks simply fell into the countryside, landing wherever they landed.

The U.S. Air Force alone flew some 5.25 million sorties over North and South Vietnam during the American involvement there. While not all of those were fighter missions and not all of those required pilots to dump their external fuel tanks, a lot of tanks were dumped into Vietnam. 

In Vietnam, however, the tanks weren’t simply taken to some waste dump or discarded out of hand. In the 1960s, Vietnam’s rural population was comprised of mostly farmers and fishermen, many of which lived in the coastal areas of the South China Sea or near the Mekong River. When the F-4s dropped fuel tanks, they were dropping materials that could be repurposed.

F-4 Phantoms carried three external fuel tanks, a large 600-gallon tank in the center under the fuselage, along with two 370-gallon tanks under its wings. This means tens of thousands of drop tanks were potentially dropped into Vietnam’s jungles and farmlands throughout the war. 

While dropping empty aluminum from thousands of feet in the air would likely cause a lot of damage to them, enough survived to where Vietnam’s population was able to upcycle them for a new purpose: river canoes. 

Today, visitors to Vietnam’s rural areas along the rivers can see potentially dozens of  repurposed Air Force drop tanks being used as canoes by the locals. Many are cut in half, others have been refitted to look more like canoes, carry an onboard motor, or hold fish and other supplies.

Featured image: Guns.com

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Air Force begins massive high-tech F-15 upgrade

The US Air Force is vigorously upgrading the 1980s-era F-15 fighter by giving new weapons and sensors in the hope of maintaining air-to-air superiority over the Chinese J-10 equivalent.


The multi-pronged effort includes the current addition of electronic warfare technology, super-fast high-speed computers, infrared search and track enemy targeting systems, increased networking ability and upgraded weapons-firing capability, Air Force and Boeing officials said.

“The Air Force plans to keep the F-15 fleet in service until the mid-2040’s.  Many of the F-15 systems date back to the 1970’s and must be upgraded if the aircraft is to remain operationally effective. Various upgrades will be complete as early as 2021 for the F-15C AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar and as late as 2032 for the various EW (electronic warfare) upgrades,” Air Force spokesman Maj. Rob Leese told Scout Warrior.

The Air Force currently operates roughly 400 F-15C, D and E variantsA key impetus for the upgrade was well articulate in a Congressional report on the US and China in 2014. (US-China Economic and Security Review Commission —www.uscc.gov). Among other things, the report cited rapid Chinese technological progress and explained that the US margin of superiority has massively decreased since the 1980s.

As an example, the report said that in the 1980s, the US F-15 was vastly superior to the Chinese equivalent – the J-10. However, Chinese technical advances in recent years have considerably narrowed that gap to the point where the Chinese J-10 is now roughly comparable to the US F-15, the report explained.

Air Force and Boeing developers maintain that ongoing upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that this equivalence is not the case and that, instead, they will ensure the superiority of the F-15.

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success
Advanced F-15 Eagle on St. Louis Flight Line | Boeing photo

Among the upgrades is an ongoing effort to equip the F-15 with the fastest jet-computer processer in the world, called the Advanced Display Core Processor, or ADCPII.

“It is capable of processing 87 billion instructions per second of computing throughput, translating into faster and more reliable mission processing capability for an aircrew,” Boeing spokesman Randy Jackson told Scout Warrior.

The F-15 is also receiving protective technology against enemy fire with a system called the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System.

“This allows the aircraft to identify a threat and actively prosecute that threat through avoidance, deception or jamming techniques,” Mike Gibbons, Vice President of the Boeing F-15 program, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

High tech targeting and tracking technology is also being integrated onto the F-15, Gibbons added. This includes the addition of a passive long-range sensor called Infrared Search and Track, or IRST.

The technology is also being engineered into the Navy F-18 Super Hornet. The technology can detect the heat signature, often called infrared emissions, of enemy aircraft.

“The system can simultaneously track multiple targets and provide a highly effective air-to-air targeting capability, even when encountering advanced threats equipped with radar-jamming technology,” Navy officials said.

IRST also provides an alternate air-to-air targeting system in a high threat electronic attack environment, Navy, Air Force and industry developers said.

The F-15 is also being engineered for additional speed and range, along with weapons-firing ability. The weapons-carrying ability is being increased from 8 up to 16 weapons; this includes an ability to fire an AIM-9x or AIM-120 missile. In addition, upgrades to the aircraft include adding an increased ability to integrate or accommodate new emerging weapons systems as they become available. This is being done through both hardware and software-oriented “open standards” IP protocol and architecture.

The aircraft is also getting a “fly-by-wire” automated flight control system.

“Fly by wire means when the pilot provides the input – straight to a computer than then determines how to have the aircraft perform the way it wants – provides electrical signals for the more quickly and more safely move from point to point as opposed to using a mechanical controls stick,” Gibbons explained.

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success
Single-engine Chengdu J-10 | Wikimedia Commons

Along with these weapons upgrades and other modifications, the F-15 is also getting upgrades to the pilot’s digital helmet and some radar signature reducing, or stealthy characteristics.

However, at the same time, the F-15 is not a stealthy aircraft and is expected to be used in combat environments in what is called “less contested” environments where the Air Force already has a margin of air superiority over advanced enemy air defenses.

For this reason, the F-15 will also be increasing networked so as to better support existing 5th-generation platforms such as the F-22 and F-35, Air Force officials said.

The intent of these F-15 upgrades is to effectively perform the missions assigned to the F-15 fleet, which are to support the F-22 in providing air superiority and the F-35 in providing precision attack capabilities, Leese said.

“While these upgrades will not make these aircraft equivalent to 5th generation fighters, they will allow the F-15 to support 5th generation fighters in performing their missions, and will also allow F-15s to assume missions in more permissive environments where capabilities of 5th generation fighters are not required,” Leese added.

Gibbons added that the upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that the fighter aircraft remains superior to its Chinese equivalent.

“The F-15 as a vital platform that still has a capability that cannot be matched in terms of ability to fly high, fly fast, go very far carry a lot. It is an air dominance machine,” Gibbons explained.

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An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy

A French air force flying team will roar over the Air Force Academy on April 19 to celebrate the nations’ bonds built in the sky during World War I.


Patrouille de France, that nation’s equivalent of the Air Force Thunderbirds, will arrive over the academy about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 19, for a brief air show. It’s a big flying team with eight Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jets, a twin-engined light attack fighter that’s known for its nimbleness.

“I think folks in Colorado Springs will get a great miniature airshow,” said Lt. Col. Allen Herritage, an Air Force Academy spokesman.

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success
The Patrouille de France flying over Paris during Bastille Day 2015. (Photo by wiki user XtoF)

This year marks the centennial of formal U.S. involvement in World War I, with America declaring war on the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the German monarchy on April 6, 1917.

The first Americans to reach the aerial battlefields of France, though, were American airmen of the French air force’s Lafayette Escadrille, a fighter unit with American pilots that was established a year before the United States entered the war.

America’s first flying aces came from the small French unit, including Maj. Gervais Lufberry, who was credited with downing 16 planes before he was killed over Francein 1918.

The relationship built over the trenches between French and American pilots is still celebrated at the Air Force Academy today.

Herritage said the school has a French officer on the faculty and French exchange cadets on the campus. One of the pilots on the French flying team, Maj. Nicolas Lieumont, was an exchange student at the Colorado Springs school.

“We feel lucky to have them stop in Colorado Springs,” Herritage said. “It marks our nation’s longstanding relationship with France.”

The academy is inviting locals to get a better view of the French team. Visitors are welcome at the academy on April 19 and can watch the show from a viewing area near the Cadet chapel.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s why this veteran decided to walk across the US

Veteran Tom Zurhellen was hoping to write a novel this summer. Instead, he’s walking 22 miles a day across the U.S. to raise awareness about veteran homelessness and suicide.

Zurhellen is a Navy veteran who teaches English at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. He’s breaking his journey of about 2,860 miles into segments of 22 miles a day. The daily goal matches an [outdated] number of veterans who commit suicide each day.

“I had a year off [for] sabbatical and I was just going to write another novel,” he said. “But then I got this commander job at the Poughkeepsie Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 170. I’m a veteran, but I had no idea how much support was needed by our local veterans with mental health and homelessness.


“I figured if that was happening in my hometown, it had to be happening all across the country. So instead of writing just another silly novel, I decided to use my sabbatical to embark on this crazy adventure.”

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success

Air Force Veteran Erin Ganzenmuller and Zurhellen.

Maintaining the pace

Since leaving Oregon in mid-April 2019, Zurhellen has doggedly maintained his 3-mph pace through all kinds of weather.

“It was 100 degrees in Sioux City, 98 degrees in Beloit, I hit a snowstorm three or four times, sub-freezing temperatures, so yeah, I’ve seen it all,” said Zurhellen.

His journey brought him along the Hank Aaron Trail, which winds through the campus of the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

He kicked off his walk through the Milwaukee metro area in a local coffee shop.

On hand to offer support was Navy veteran Mike Waddell, who said he had learned of Zurhellen’s walk that morning on Facebook.

“I just figured I’d come down and show him a little love and encourage him, keep him going,” Waddell said. “I think what he’s doing is great.”

Erin Maney, a social worker at the Milwaukee VA, said raising awareness with a goal of prevention is extremely important.

“I think there’s a lot of media coverage when, unfortunately, there’s a veteran death by suicide,” Maney said. “But there’s not always coverage when every day, Veterans are coming in asking for help, getting the help that they need, and going on to live meaningful lives. What he’s doing is extraordinary.”

Erin Ganzenmuller, an Air Force veteran and environmental consultant, thanked Zurhellen.

“I think it’s an incredible journey to raise awareness for struggles that our veterans face,” said Ganzenmuller, who also volunteers at Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. “It’s awesome that he came to Wisconsin.”

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success

Zurhellen at the Milwaukee VA greeted by employees and well-wishers.

Never giving up


“There was a time up until about a month ago, I was hitting the wall at about mile 15. And I thought, ‘What am I doing, experiencing pain? It would be so easy to go home.’

“But then I remembered the pain of the veterans I’m walking for. The people who are dealing with mental health issues. The people who are dealing with homelessness.

“Their pain’s a lot worse than mine. I can go home anytime. It’s like I’m just playing at being a homeless veteran, but they’re doing it for real. So, when I put in that perspective, it gets a lot easier.”

And with that, it was time for Zurhellen to hit the road and walk another 22 miles — a distance that to him means something far greater than just a number.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

How to forge your own blade like Rambo

In honor of the release of Rambo: Last Blood, Lionsgate invited me out to Adam’s Forge in Los Angeles SO THAT I COULD LITERALLY BEND STEEL TO MY VERY WILL. A group of us had the chance to forge knives out of railroad spikes, much like Sylvester Stallone does in the film.

It. Was. Awesome.

If you’ve never had the chance to do something like this, then my friend I beg of you, get thee to a forge. It’ll make you feel alive.


Rambo: Last Blood (2019 Movie) New Trailer— Sylvester Stallone

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Rambo: Last Blood Trailer

Almost four decades after he drew first blood, Sylvester Stallone is back as one of the greatest action heroes of all time, John Rambo. Now, Rambo must confront his past and unearth his ruthless combat skills to exact revenge in a final mission. A deadly journey of vengeance, RAMBO: LAST BLOOD marks the last chapter of the legendary series.

“A hammer can be used to build or destroy,” observed Aram, the artist in residence at Adam’s Forge — and our lead instructor for the day.

He started out with safety information (“Assume everything is hot. The forge can be up to 2200 degrees and the steel doesn’t have to be glowing to burn you…”) and then, without any delay, he was thrusting his spike in the fire.

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success

“I don’t want you to worry about how sexy it is until the end.” Well, I am worried about it, Aram. I want mine to be sexy.

Lionsgate Image

When the steel is at critical temperature, it’s ready to be shaped and forged with the hammer. Aram demonstrated this, making it look exceptionally easy, but as you might imagine, it’s actually pretty challenging. The metal cools rather quickly, so we had about enough time to strike 16-20 times in quick succession per side, rotating the blade every 8-10 strikes.

Then there’s the issue of hitting the target, which takes practice. I found at first that I was able to strike with force OR precision — but rarely with both. Eventually I began to get the hang of it, until I learned that I was twisting my blade.

Sharpen, straighten, pound, heat.

Aram and guest instructor Al were there to supervise and teach us about the science behind the blacksmith trade.

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success

Lionsgate Image

I discovered that if my tongs were too deep in the forge, their metal began to expand, loosening the grip on my blade. A quick dip in a bucket of water helped cool them down enough to begin again.

Once we’d begun to sharpen and shape the blade, it was time to work the handle, twisting it in a vice and hammering it into a curve. Here we were able to make artistic choices, which stressed me out because, again, I wanted my blade to be sexy.

Once we were satisfied with the shape of our weapon, it was time to temper it.

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success

Lionsgate Image

First we brought the blade to critical temperature, which we were able to test not just by visually seeing that the thing was glowing hot, but by the fact that it was demagnetized. Then we removed it from the forge and let it cool until the magnetic quality returned. The molecular alignment of the metal was literally changing during this process.

Then we brought the knife to critical temperature once more before quickly “quenching” it.

According to Aram, different cultures had different recipes to quench their metal, which rapidly hardens and cools it. We could safely handle the blade after less than a minute of quenching.

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success

From there it was time to sharpen the knife on the grindstone, shave off and smooth down excess steel, and then apply a light layer of WD-40 to prevent rust.

At the end of four hours, we’d each forged our own blade. It was seriously bad ass. I felt like Iron Man.

Tony Stark Builds Mark 1 – First Suit Up Scene – Iron Man (2008) – Movie CLIP HD

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Here’s my biggest takeaway about blacksmithing: it’s got the meditative quality of crafting with your hands combined with the power that comes from working with weapons. If you like going to the gun range, grab some buddies and go forge your own freaking dagger. It’s just cool.

I’m excited to share this with other veterans because it’s been proven how therapeutic it is to work with your hands, to create. I wouldn’t exactly tell a macho guy to go take a painting class (although…maybe?) but I’d recommend this in a heartbeat.

It felt powerful. It was hot and challenging and violent and contained.

And then I walked away with a bitchin’ new blade to call my own.

HUGE SHOUTOUT to Lionsgate, who does so many cool events for veterans, for this opportunity. Don’t forget to check out Rambo: Last Blood, out on Digital and coming to 4K Ultra HD™ Combo Pack, Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, DVD on Dec. 17.

MIGHTY TRENDING

One surviving veteran of the ‘Mighty 8th’ remembers WWII

Sitting in his favorite chair at home in Edgewater, Maryland, only a shadow box of medals and patches on the wall offer a glimpse into Staff Sgt. Louis R. Perrone’s eventful past.


The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success
A shadow box belonging to Luis Perrone, a B-17 ball turret gunner with the 533rd Bomb Squadron during World War II, at his home in Edgewater, Maryland. He completed 32 bombing missions over western Europe, represented by the five bronze oak leaf clusters on the blue and orange Air Medal for meritorious achievement in aerial flight. (Photo courtesy of Bennie J. Davis III) 

At 19, he went to war, and now at 94, he’s the only living member of his 10-man bomber crew who flew missions over Germany during World War II as part of the Eighth Air Force.

Also read: These are Britain’s most controversial World War II vets

He wanted to sit in the cockpit as a pilot, but a failed depth perception test found him sitting underneath the plane as a ball turret gunner on the B-17 Flying Fortress.

But while his view of the ground may have changed, his view of the bomber never waivered.

“The B-17 was the best airplane ever built, ’cause it brought you home,'” he said. “We’ve come home on a wing and a prayer, sometimes you come in on two engines, sometimes two engines and a half of a wing, but you got home.”

Many never did, however, as between 1942 and 1945 flying bombing missions for the “Mighty 8th” proved to be the most dangerous occupation in the U.S. Army Air Forces. Airmen were asked to complete a 25-mission quota at a time when the life expectancy of a crew didn’t surpass six missions. Casualty rates for heavy bomber crews also reached as high as 89 percent.

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success
A B-17 Flying Fortress of the Army Air Forces during a bombing mission over western Europe.

During his time at RAF Ridgewell, England from 1943 – 1945 Perrone flew 32 missions with the 533rd Bomb Squadron at the height of the aerial campaigns against the Third Reich. He is credited with 3.5 kills from the ball turret.

“You’re by yourself and it’s an odd feeling (shooting someone down). It’s been so long ago, I can’t think of all the ins and outs. I prayed a lot, I can tell you that,” said Perrone. “War, it’s a young man’s game.”

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success
Airmen of the 381st Bomber Group at Royal Air Force Ridgewell in Essex, England, during World War II.

“War, it’s a young man’s game.”

According to Perrone, the amount of bombers in the air during missions was mind-boggling. Most missions involved hundreds of B-17 and B-24 Liberator bombers targeting ball-bearing plants, rail yards, oil production facilities and aircraft manufacturing factories.

Nighttime area bombing attacks by the RAF complimented the daytime precision bombing raids by the U.S. Army Air Force. The bombers wreaked havoc on the German war machine, but allied casualties began to mount due to German 88mm anti-aircraft gun shells, commonly described as “flak,” and the vulnerability of the bombers to be attacked head-on by the Luftwaffe or German air force.

Bomber losses rapidly increased to a rate the Eighth could not withstand.

On Sept. 6, 1943, Perrone’s crew joined a raid on a German ball bearing production plant. Of the 400 Flying Fortresses launched for the mission, 60 were shot down and 600 Airmen were lost.

“The flak was so thick you could walk on it,” said Perrone. “During the ins and outs of the cities, through flak, was the only time I was scared. I always wanted to see those puffs of flak clouds below me, way below me.”

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success
B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 381st Bomb Group make their way through exploding 88mm anti-aircraft gun shells, commonly called flak, during a bombing mission over western Europe during World War II. (Courtesy photo)

“When the Germans look up to see all our bombers, better them than us, believe me when I tell you, it had to be tough on them, and as the war went along, we became stronger and stronger and stronger,” said Perrone. “There were some towns and cities in Germany we leveled. We broke the Germans’ backs. The British softened them and then we really gave it to them.”

The strength was provided by the long-range escort of P-38 Lightning and P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft outfitted with extra fuel drop tanks. Eventually, the employment of the P-51 Mustang allowed fighter escorts to reach Berlin.

The bombers and fighters together destroyed the Luftwaffe and air supremacy was gained over western Germany.

Also Read: This is what you need to know about the B-17 Flying Fortress

“My favorite memory; my last mission. I knew I was done and everything was okay,” said Perrone. “I was more scared on my last mission than my first.”

Perrone considers himself lucky, only one in five aircrew members of the 8th AF made the quota to end their tour of duty.

At the end of the war in Europe USAAF shifted focus to Japan with the deployment of the most technologically advanced aircraft, and the last bomber of World War II, the B-29 Superfortress.

The B-29 was designed as a high-altitude strategic bomber, but it was primarily used as a low-altitude night bomber in the Pacific theater. It was equipped with a pressurized cabin and had a central fire system of remotely controlled gun turrets each armed with .50 caliber machine guns.

The Superfortress also became the first nuclear capable aircraft.

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success
Boeing B-29 “Enola Gay” on Tinian in the Marianas Islands. (U.S. Air Force photo)

On Aug. 6, 1945, a B-29 named the “Enola Gay” deployed the world’s first atomic weapon on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later a second B-29, “Bockscar,” dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

Six days later Japan surrendered, the war was over and the era of nuclear deterrence began.

With the advent of the nuclear weapon, bombers became the first vehicle to deliver apocalyptic devastation. Today’s strategic bombers provide one of the three delivery components of the nuclear triad along with land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which make up our nation’s nuclear deterrence strategy.

“The capabilities of our nuclear deterrence are the bedrock of everything we do as a military,” said Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. “It’s the thing that keeps our adversaries from taking a step too far. Nuclear deterrence keeps the great power conflicts down and the horrible death and destruction, like what was seen during World War II, away from the world.”

In its infancy, the Air Force, then dubbed the Army Air Corps, lacked strategic bombing support while under Army control. The Army wasn’t convinced airplanes should be used for strategic bombing, but advocates like Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell argued bombers could replace traditional land and naval tactics as a dominant form by striking an enemy nation’s industrial complex and crippling its economic ability to fight. The Army’s prevailing view of the airplane, however, was as a reconnaissance and tactical bombing vehicle supporting ground troops on the front lines.

Despite the debate, the American bomber was born in 1934 and shepherded in a new era of aerial combat.

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success
1st Lt. Andy Alexander, weapons systems officer on the B-52H Stratofortress with the 2d Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, is a second-generation Òbomber crew dogÓ of the Eighth Air Force. His grandfather, Bill Alexander, was a co-pilot on a B-24 for the 489th Bombardment group out of Royal Air Force Halesworth, England.

 “World War II set the groundwork on how we employ, taking in collateral damage and validating how air power in so influential,” said 1st Lt. Andy Alexander, B-52H Stratofortress weapons systems officer at the 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. “Strategic bombing doctrine of World War II continues today in terms showing how decisive air power is to the campaign picture. The wars we fight today cannot be fought without bomber airpower.”

Alexander is a second-generation “bomber crew dog” of the Eighth Air Force. His grandfather, Bill Alexander was a co-pilot on a B-24 for the 489th Bombardment Group out of RAF Halesworth, England.

“I can’t imagine what he and his crew went through,” said Alexander of his grandfather. “You are basically in a flying unpressurized beer can with a couple engines strapped onto it, a few guns and about 8,000 pounds of bombs. There’s no GPS, no inertial navigation system, it’s charts and a protractor getting you across the English Channel through clouds of German flak. It’s noisy and freezing 20 degrees below zero. Oh, and there’s like a 0.06 percent chance of survival over the course of 25 missions.”

“They were truly our greatest generation”

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success
The crew of Jack Goldstein’s B-17 Flying Fortress, the “Miasses Dragon.” From the back row, (L-R): Nelson Campagnano, radio operator; Robert McCluskey, top turret gunner; Troy Swope, ball turret gunner; Harry Sibila, tail gunner; Jack Goldstein, waist gunner. Front (L-R): Paul Stratton, co-pilot; Gordon Stickles, bombardier; Larry Smith, pilot; and Clifford Winslette, navigator.

“They were truly our greatest generation,” he added.

Alexander said the basics of bombing doctrine were established in World War II, but with a myriad of sensors helping deploy munitions with absolute precision, landing within inches from the target, the B-52, B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit have certainly come a long way.

Alexander explained what happened in the skies of Europe was absolutely instrumental. The losses were catastrophic, but at the time the USAAF had to launch 70 aircraft to take out a facility in the hopes one got lucky to peer through the clouds and strike a target. Nowadays one B-52 can take out that same facility, but from 1,000 miles away.

“They laid down the absolute fundamentals of what air power brings to the picture in terms of complete destruction of enemy objectives,” said Alexander. “We provide the same thing today in a much more non-contested environment.”

Alexander said the 8th AF is in demand by combatant commanders around the world. The strategic importance of bombers is even more important today than ever in terms of our posturing, projecting power, nuclear deterrence and assuring our allies.

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success

GRAPHIC BY CHRIS DESROCHER // ANIMATION BY MAUREEN STEWART

“Strategic bombers are also incredibly important to the nuclear triad. You have your intercontinental ballistic missiles and they stay in the ground all day. You have submarines, but it’s their job for you to not see them. The difference with the nuclear bomber is the visibility,” said Alexander. “If there’s a nuclear bomber in your yard, you know it’s there. It’s the most visible part of the triad.”

Alexander stated another importance of the bombers is their recall ability. The president has the ability to recall the aircraft before weapons are launched. It’s the flexibility the bomber brings to the triad.

“Strategic posturing sometimes is a greater deterrence,” said Alexander of what the nuclear bombers bring to the fight. “You can have the B-1s in Guam, but when the B-52 shows up it’s a different message … it’s the big stick. When that happens the tone does change. No one wants to go to war. Deterrence, that’s what we will be focusing on.”

Also Read: The B-17 Flying Fortress debuted exactly 80 years ago — here’s its legacy

Alexander said when he walks the halls of the Mighty 8th AF and sees the black and white photos of the bomber crews of World War II, he sees the pride and spirit of our crews today, a bond and dependence of each other knowing the guy or gal on the left or right of you would die for you to protect our freedoms.

“There is a great sense of camaraderie with bomber crews, because we have to work more as a team,” said Alexander. “Thanks to the Army Air Corps we have the most powerful and devastating Air Force the world has ever seen.”

Perrone isn’t too sure about all that. All he does know is he made his mission quota and did what he was asked to do.

Now he meets every Wednesday for lunch with a fellow World War II and Mighty 8th veteran Jack Goldstein. The two were stationed on the same base in England, but never met.

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success
Jack Goldstein, 93, a World War II veteran, at his home in Annapolis, Maryland. Goldstein was a waist gunner for the 535th Bomb Squadron on a B-17 Flying Fortress with the Army Air Forces from 1943 to 1945. He completed 25 bombing missions over western Europe. (Photo courtesy of Bennie J. Davis III) 

 Goldstein also completed his 25 missions as waist gunner on the B-17. He too is the last of his crew from the 535th Bomb Squadron.

“I was only there for the last six months of the war, but I completed my missions and we all went home together in 1945,” said Goldstein.

It took 40 years for Goldstein to open up and talk about the war. He now shares these stories with fellow veterans, but his family is unaware.

The pictures and documents stuffed away for decades in the back of his closet are now proudly displayed in his home.

“I now feel proud now when people come and thank us for our service,” said Goldstein. “There’s not too many of us kids left.”

Each of them outlived their crews, and most World War II veterans are the last remaining of a dying breed … a breed that helped shape the importance of aerial warfare and set the stage for the bomber crews of today.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Crowd at ‘Avengers: Endgame’ screening may have been exposed to measles

As if Avengers: Endgame wasn’t dramatic enough, health officials in California are now warning moviegoers who attended the midnight screening of the flick at the AMC Movie Theater in Fullerton on April 25, 2019, that they may have been exposed to measles.

According to the Orange County Health Care agency, a 20-something woman, who did not know at the time that she had measles, was in the audience for the April 25, 2019 show. She was later diagnosed as the first confirmed case of measles in Orange County.

Since the highly contagious virus can stay in the air for up to two hours after the infected person has left, the agency advises anyone who was at the theater between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. to check their vaccination history and keep an eye out for common measles symptoms which include a runny nose, fever, and a red rash.


Officials are also reminding people who think they may have the measles to call their doctor before going to the physician’s office to prevent infecting others.

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success

After learning about the possible exposure, one of the movie theater employees, Carlee Greer-McNeill, told NBC Los Angeles that he never thought to feel unsafe at his job or anywhere in Orange County. She said, “If you know you have the measles, please don’t come to a movie theater, let alone a public place.”

Currently, the U.S. is in the middle of the worst measles outbreak since 1994, with 704 cases reported so far this year across 22 states. California, in particular, has been hit hard by the infectious disease, with 38 confirmed cases. The Health Care Agency urges people to get vaccinated if they aren’t already. “The MMR vaccine is a simple, inexpensive, and very effective measure to prevent the spread of this serious virus,” Dr. Nichole Quick, Interim County Health Officer, said in a press release.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Denmark, Greenland sign deal to clean up US military waste

Denmark and its autonomous Arctic island of Greenland have signed an agreement to clean up U.S. military installations that were left to rust in the pristine landscape after the Cold War.


The deal earmarks 180 million kroner ($29 million) over six years for the cleanup. Greenland Premier Kim Kielsen and Danish Environment Minister Esben Lunde Larsen finalized it in Copenhagen on Jan. 11.

Lunde Larsen said a Denmark-Greenland steering group will decide when and where to start the cleanup.

Read More: This former top-secret missile base is being slowly exposed

A 1951 deal between Copenhagen and Washington allowed the U.S. to build 33 bases and radar stations in Greenland. The agreement didn’t specify who would be responsible for cleanup.

Lunde Larsen and Kielsen singled out areas south of Nuuk, the Greenland capital on the west coast, and Tasiilaq on the east coast, where there are defunct buildings, abandoned vehicles, and empty fuel barrels littered along runways used by Americans for the North Atlantic air ferry route during World War II. U.S. planes touched down in Greenland on their way to war in Europe and North Africa.

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success
One of Camp Century’s subterranean tunnels. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The deal between Denmark and Greenland doesn’t cover a U.S. facility that is still in use or, for instance, Camp Century, an under-ice missile project abandoned in 1966 because the cap began to crush the camp. A separate deal from February 2017 between Denmark and Greenland is monitoring and gauging the never-completed launch site for nuclear missiles under the surface of the massive ice cap.

“I am pleased that we can work together to do the cleaning,” Kielsen said, adding Greenland for long had wished to remove junk from American activities.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Navy might know what sank its only major warship lost in WWI

When America joined the Great War, the British Fleet was holding most of the German Navy in the North Sea, meaning that American warships and troop ships rarely faced severe opposition. But one ship did fall prey to an unknown assailant: The USS San Diego, sank off the U.S. East Coast due to a massive explosion from an unknown source.


The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success

The USS San Diego in March 1916.

(U.S. Navy)

But the ship is now a fish sanctuary, and researchers looking at the wreck and at historical documents think they’ve figured out what happened all those years ago.

On July 19, 1918, the armored cruiser was sailing from Portsmouth Naval Yard to New York with a full load of coal in preparation to strike out across the Atlantic. But, as it was coming up the coast, an explosion well beneath the waterline suddenly tore through the ship, hitting so hard that it warped the hull and prevented the closure of a watertight door.

The crew was already positioned throughout the ship in case of trouble, and damage control jumped into action to try to save the ship. Meanwhile, the captain ordered his men to fire the ships massive guns at anything that even looked like a periscope.

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success

USS San Diego sinks in this 1920 painting by Francis Muller.

(Naval History and Heritage Command)

His working theory was that they had been hit by a German torpedo, and he wanted to both kill the bastard who had shot his ship and save the vessel. Unfortunately, he could do neither. The ship sank in 30 minutes into water 110 feet deep, and the crew never spotted the vessel that attacked them.

Six sailors died in the incident. They were Engineman Second Class Thomas E. Davis, Engineman 2nd Class James F. Rochet, Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Frazier O. Thomas, Seaman 2nd Class Paul J. Harris, Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Andrew Munson, and Fireman 1st Class Clyde C. Blaine.

It was a naval mystery for years, but there was a theory competing against the torpedo one: The ship might have struck a mine placed there by a submarine that was long gone when the San Diego arrived.

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success

The proud USS San Diego, also known as Armored Cruiser 6.

(U.S. Navy)

Researchers created a 3-D map of the wreck, and found damage that was most similar to the larger explosive load of a torpedo, but could have been caused by a large mine. And so they turned to naval records handed over by Germany after World War I.

In those records, they found reports from the U-156, a German submarine that did operate on the East Coast that month. But it wasn’t concentrating on finding ships to torpedo. She was carrying mines.

The first thing she did was to lay a string of mines right here, because this was the main convoy route. Most of the convoy routes were coming out of New York City, heading for Europe,” Retired Rear Adm. Sam Cox said in July during a ceremony to honor the six sailors lost in the sinking. “We believe those mines were what the San Diego hit.”

The mine explosion took place well below the waterline and against relatively thin plating. The mine detonated against a half inch of steel. If it had contacted at the armored band, it would’ve done paltry damage against the ship’s 5-inch thick armor belt.

Because of the limited ships the Central Powers could put to sea in the later years of World War I, the Navy concentrated on protecting and conducting logistics operations rather than chasing elusive fleet action. The Navy delivered more than 2 million soldiers to Europe without losing any soldiers to U-boats.

In World War II, it would be forced to conduct fleet actions while also delivering troops and supplies across the Pacific, Europe, and Africa.

Articles

6 ways you can tell your 1st sergeant is lying to you

Everyone lies in the military. From the newest privates to the saltiest of generals — we’ve all done it.


Studies show that by the time a child reaches the age of three, they know how to tell a fib. Although white lies are considered harmless, others can screw with peoples’ heads.

Since the military is a structured environment, young troops depend on their senior enlisted leaders for not only career guidance but personnel management. You can’t go home on leave or sometimes liberty without getting their signature (depending on the branch).

Keep in mind many first sergeants won’t even know your name without looking at your name tape. So they might not even care if they lie to your face. However, others may care and want to earn your respect — but that won’t stop them from lying.

Related: 7 military regs service members violate every day

So check out a few ways in which you might catch your first sergeant in a fib.

1. Look for a momentary head jerk or tilt

First sergeants don’t know everything, even though they may want you to think they do. According to lie expert Richard Wisemen, liars tend to retract, jerk or tilt their head during specific parts of their reply. If they jerk their heads while listening, that doesn’t technically mean they’re lying because they need to be speaking.

If they jerk their heads while listening, it doesn’t technically mean they’re lying because they need to be speaking.

This muscle jerk is considered a form a user uncertainty.

The old fashion head tilt. It’s universally not a good sign. (Image via Giphy)

2. Watch their blinking

Everyone human on the planet blinks to lubricate their eyeballs. The average person blinks their eyelids 15-20 times per minute at nearly a consistent rate.

Lie experts suggest people who fib tend to change the rate of their blinking, slowing it down then increasing nearly eight times faster than norml. So to my E-4 mafia, if your first sergeant blinks too much, your request is denied.

Pretty inconsistent. (Image via Giphy)

3. Repeating their words

Since the military is about maintaining high levels of discipline, people often tend to over-speak or repeat the question you just asked them to buy themselves time. This act allows your brain to generate its next words carefully.

So the next time you ask your first sergeant for special liberty and it takes them an hour to explain why you can’t — they’re probably lying.

So, I guess it’s a no. (Image via Giphy)

4. Point towards the exit

We don’t mean that they literally point their index finger toward the exit, but many times when liars are in a situation they want to get out of, they tend to steer their bodies toward the nearest exit.

Yup, she’s lying. (Image via Giphy)

5. Breathing changes

In many cases, when someone is lying to you, their breathing habits increase as their stress levels elevate. Troops should watch how many times their first sergeant inhales and exhales. If the rate increases, it could be an indication they aren’t telling you the truth.

We think we just caught her in a lie. (Image via Giphy)

Also Read: 7 reasons why you shouldn’t be too nice in the military

6. Fidgeting

Body language tells us more than what the speaker is usually saying. In many cases, when a liar is lying, the lie creates a level of anxiety. So you may notice your higher ups overly correct their uniforms or put their hands in their pockets trying to relieve that stress.

If they do that, you can bust them for lying and for stowing their hands in a place that they’re not supposed too.

Next time you speak to anyone in your command, look for these “tells” to see if they’re telling you the truth.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This nonprofit charity helps veterans and their spouses find great careers

This article is sponsored by Disabled American Veterans.

In the wake of World War I, hundreds of thousands of returning and separating American troops came home to a nation ill-prepared to support them. In 1920, DAV (Disabled American Veterans) was founded with the goal of helping these service members transition comfortably back into civilian life. Since then, DAV has been providing a lifetime of support for veterans of all generations and their families by helping them access benefits they earned—like health care, education and disability—and connecting them to meaningful employment opportunities.


The nonprofit charity was founded by an injured infantryman who rose to become a judge in the Superior Court of Ohio after The Great War. The organization was originally known as the Disabled American Veterans of the World War and, as its name suggests, it was focused on helping those who were disabled by the War.

Now, in addition to helping veterans receive their earned benefits, providing outreach to families of disabled veterans, and representing veteran interests to the government, they run an employment program that, in 2017, supported 140 traditional and virtual career fairs that helped over 43,000 attendees — and they’re setting higher goals with each passing year.

DAV established the National Employment Program in 2014, which focuses on connecting veterans and their spouses with employers. Their goal is to improve the lives of veterans and their families by finding meaningful employment.

Today, DAV hosts a job board that has as many as 250,000 active job openings listed at once. They also help represent veterans to employers, explaining to decision-makers why it’s best to target veterans for open positions.

If you’re a veteran or military spouse looking for new or improved employment, check out DAV’s employment resources, specifically their comprehensive hiring guide. And if you’re well-employed and looking to help veterans, consider giving to DAV by donating your time, money, or used vehicles.

This article is sponsored by Disabled American Veterans.

MIGHTY CULTURE

One of the scariest tasks for pilots is to land in rough seas

What’s the most dangerous part of the mission for a Navy pilot? Flying over enemy forces? Dodging hostile jets? Well, when the enemy isn’t ready for the full might of the U.S. Navy and what the sea state is, the most dangerous part of the mission might be landing on the ship when it’s time to go home. That’s because the sea can move the ship’s deck 30 feet.


PBS: Carrier – Landing on a Pitching Deck Pt. 1

www.youtube.com

PBS had a documentary team out on the USS Nimitz when it hit rough seas in the Pacific and got to watch pilots, many of whom had experience flying missions over Iraq and Afghanistan, get nervous when they were sent out for some peaceful training.

But it was still some of the riskiest flying that many of the young pilots had done, because the waters were so rough that the ship’s deck—the thing the pilots had to land their planes on—was heaving up and down and rising as high as 30 feet. Just dealing with that altitude is a big deal, but it also means that the angle of the deck their landing on or taking off from is changing as well.

Time it wrong, and a takeoff could throw you straight into the water.

“This is absolutely more dangerous than it was flying missions in the gulf,” an unnamed pilot told the film crew. “We got lucky in the Gulf; the seas are calm. But out here, pitching decks, this is scarier. Still gotta get back and land on the boat.”

“It’ll kill you in a second,” said a Navy commander.

But it’s still worth it to the Navy to do risky training like this, because it needs the pilots able to fly and fight in the worst seas they can possibly handle, because that reduces the types of weather that can weaken the Navy against an enemy like China.

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