These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy

The U.S. Coast Guard has an under-recognized place in World War II history, fighting German spies before the U.S. entered the war and immediately taking on convoy escort duties, weather patrols, and anti-submarine missions after America declared war on the Axis Powers. One of the Coast Guard crews that bravely shouldered the load was the USCGC Campbell which, in icy Atlantic waters, took bold action to finish off a German U-boat that attempted to attack it.


These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy

Crewmembers of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Campbell pose with their mascot, Sinbad, in World War II.

(U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office)

The Campbell was part of a class of 327-foot Coast Guard cutters specially designed for high-speed service on the high seas. It spent much of World War II protecting convoys and, in February 1943, was one of the escorts for Convoy ON-166. This was before the bulk of German submarines were chased from the Atlantic in “Black May,” and the wolf packs were on the prowl to cut off supplies to Europe and starve Britain into submission.

On February 21, one of those wolf packs found and engaged the convoy. Over a dozen subs fired torpedoes and shells into merchant vessels as the Coast Guard and Navy vessels rushed to protect them.

The Campbell’s involvement started with rescuing 50 merchant mariners from the water. It had to dodge a German torpedo during the rescue, and then it pressed the attack against U-753, heavily damaging it and forcing its withdrawal. It spent the rest of the night driving off German U-boats until it finally attempted to get back to the convoy.

These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy

Crewmembers load a Mk. VII depth charge onto the HMS Dianthus, another escort of ON-166, during World War II.

(Imperial War Museums)

In the pre-dawn darkness, Campbell was 40 miles behind the convoy, essentially alone and attempting to catch up and help kill more German submarines. But then a shape emerged from the inky blackness. U-606 was bringing the fight to the Campbell and attempting to engage it before it could meet up with the convoy.

U-606 had three kills to its name, including two ships of ON-166. But it had been damaged while sinking those earlier ships, and attacking the Campbell was a greedy and potentially risky move. Attacking from the surface exposed its position to the American crew and would allow the Campbell to employ its gun crews as well as depth charges.

When the Campbell spotted the sub, it went one step further. Cmdr. James A. Hirshfield ordered a ramming maneuver, swinging the ship about to slam its hull against the submarine.

The Campbell’s bold maneuver came at a cost, though, as the side plating ruptured and salt water began to pour in. Cmdr. Kenneth K. Cowart supervised damage control while also helping to ensure that sufficient engine power was on hand for the continued maneuvering and fighting.

Meanwhile, on the deck, the men controlling the depth charges had managed to drop two during the ram, damaging U-606 further. And deck gun crews began pouring fire onto the stricken sub, attempting to disable or kill it before it could unleash its own deadly barrage against the cutter.

In this melee, an all-Black gun crew of a three-inch gun battery distinguished itself for bravery, accurately concentrating its damage on the sub’s deck and conning tower.

But the salt water took its toll, finally shorting out Campbell’s power. The German sub was defeated, and the cutter took five prisoners, but Campbell was liable to sink at any moment. Hirshfield ordered the prisoners, the merchant mariners, and all non-essential personnel off the ship.

He led the remaining crew through four days of damage control without engine power before finally receiving a tow back to port for repairs. The Campbell survived the war. Hirshfield received the Navy Cross for his actions, and Cowart and Cmdr. Bret H. Brallier received Silver Stars for their parts in saving the cutter.

Louis Etheridge, the man who led that all-Black gun crew on the three-inch battery, later received a Bronze Star for his work that February.

MIGHTY TRENDING

As Iran’s missiles get better, US presses for new sanctions

The U.S. special representative for Iran has urged the European Union to impose new sanctions targeting Iran’s ballistic-missile program, calling it a “grave and escalating threat.”

Brian Hook made the call on Dec. 3, 2018, two days after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned what he described as Iran’s testing of a medium-range ballistic missile “capable of carrying multiple warheads” and striking parts of Europe and the entire Middle East.


The Iranian military has said it will keep conducting missile tests despite Western condemnation.

The latest statements from Pompeo and Hook come amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington, which in 2018 imposed tough sanctions on Iran’s economy.

The move was part of a broader U.S. campaign to pressure Iran over what the President Donald Trump’s administration describes as its “malign conduct” such as missile development and support for militant groups in the Middle East.

These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy

Remains of Iranian Qiam ballistic missiles seen at the Iranian Materiel Display at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington.

(DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

Tehran has repeatedly rejected negotiations over its missile program and insists the missiles are only to be used for defensive purposes.

Speaking aboard Pompeo’s plane as he traveled to Brussels for a NATO meeting, Hook told reporters that Washington “would like to see the European Union move sanctions that target Iran’s missile program.”

The U.S. envoy said that Trump’s campaign of “maximum pressure” on Tehran since withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers in May “can be effective if more nations can join us in those [sanctions].”

“It is a grave and escalating threat, and nations around the world, not just Europe, need to do everything they can to be targeting Iran’s missile program,” Hook said.

He also said that “progress” was being made on getting NATO allies to consider a proposal to target individuals and entities that play key roles in Iran’s missile program.

European countries have criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal and are working to preserve the accord that lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities, even though they have also criticized Iranian positions on other issues.

In a Dec. 1, 2018 statement, Pompeo charged that Iran’s testing of a medium-range ballistic missile violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the Iran nuclear deal.

These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

(Photo by Mark Taylor)

Pompeo warned that Iran’s “missile testing and missile proliferation is growing,” and called on the country to “cease immediately all activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”

The French Foreign Ministry issued a similar call, condemning the Iranian missile test as “provocative and destabilizing.”

Iran’s military did not confirm or deny it had tested a new missile, but said it will “continue to both develop and test missiles.”

“Missile tests…are carried out for defense and the country’s deterrence, and we will continue this,” the semiofficial Tasnim news agency quoted Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi, a spokesman for Iran’s armed forces, as saying on Dec. 2, 2018.

Shekarchi said such activity “is outside the framework of [nuclear] negotiations and part of our national security, for which we will not ask any country’s permission.”

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

Articles

ISIS chief Abu al-Baghdadi may still be at large

As the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate collapses across Iraq and Syria under unrelenting pressure by the US-backed coalition, the whereabouts of the group’s chieftain, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remain a mystery.


Since fleeing the group’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa in May, various reports over recent weeks allege the terrorist leader either has been killed by Russian or coalition forces or is still at large in the group’s redoubts in central Syria.

The impetus inside the White House and Pentagon to kill or capture al-Baghdadi has seemingly been lukewarm at best compared to the hunt for al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, which ended with the Navy SEAL raid on the terrorist leader’s Pakistani hideout in May 2011.

These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy
Former President Barack Obama and members of the national security team receive updates on Operation Neptune’s Spear, a target and kill operation against Osama bin Laden in the White House Situation Room, May 1, 2011 (White House photo)

The defeat of the terrorist group also known as ISIS or ISIL, along with the death of its emir, has been the clearest objective of President Trump’s national security and foreign policy strategy, and one that critics claim has been heavy on rhetoric and little else.

What remains unclear is how the Trump White House plans to carry on the fight against Islamic State once al-Baghdadi is no longer in the picture.

US military officials have reiterated that al-Baghdadi’s death remains a top priority for the American-led coalition battling Islamic State. However, coalition commanders and Pentagon officials also claim that the Islamic State chieftain has been effectively sidelined from any command-and-control role over the group’s operations in the Middle East and across the globe.

The Islamic State leader “is somebody who we would like to see dead,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters July 17.

These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

US and coalition-led operations to kill or capture Baghdadi and other Islamic State leaders are integral to the mission to dismantle and destroy the terrorist group and its affiliates worldwide, Capt. Davis said during a briefing at the Pentagon.

“Leadership strikes are important,” he said of the coalition’s operations to hunt down the upper echelon of Islamic State, starting with al-Baghdadi. Such missions provide the “moral authority or imperative” to American and coalition forces fighting to curb Islamic State in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere.

But the Pentagon spokesman made clear that while the hunt for al-Baghdadi may be morally essential, his loss will mean little on the battlefield.

“Militarily speaking, he is already irrelevant,” Capt. Davis said.

These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy
ISIS patrol the streets of Raqqa, Syria. (Image from Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.)

Those comments echo those of Defense Secretary James Mattis, who said al-Baghdadi’s death would create “disarray in the enemy’s ranks” and upend efforts by Islamic State to hold onto its territorial gains in the Middle East.

“We’re not here to help him through his midlife crisis. We’re here to give him one,” the Pentagon chief said.

Top Islamic State leaders, including al-Baghdadi, reportedly began fleeing Raqqa for Deir-e-zour and Madan en masse in May ahead of the coalition’s operation to liberate the Syrian city of Raqqa, which had been the group’s self-styled capital in the country since taking the city three years ago.

Since his departure from Raqqa, unconfirmed reports of the Islamic State leader’s demise have permeated across a number of media outlets over the last several weeks.

Russian news outlets, citing defense officials in Moscow, had reported al-Baghdadi’s demise months earlier, saying he had been killed during Russian airstrikes on Islamic State positions outside Raqqa in May.

These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy
DoD photo from Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo.

Most recently, members of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights — which has a strong track record for accuracy in the chaotic Syrian struggle — claimed they had irrefutable evidence al-Baghdadi had been killed in counter-terrorism operations in the Deir-e-Zour area in eastern Syria.

Those claims were upended by reports from Kurdish intelligence officials who said al-Baghdadi remains alive.

“It is not about Baghdadi necessarily, there are other leaders waiting” who are former Iraqi military under Saddam Hussein, Lahur Talabani, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s intelligence services, told Reuters July 17. “Do not expect the game to be over anytime soon for the Islamic State.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

What a battle between the Space Force and China would look like

Billions of bits of debris flying across space, lasers burning holes into the atmosphere, and space-faring robots steering satellites into fiery reentry… welcome to the Space Force vs. China.


These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy

Luckily, for now, it seems like everyone is sticking to the “No weapons of mass destruction in Space” rule.

(U.S. Army)

Any future war between the U.S. and China will likely become a space battle, and any space battle will focus on the destruction of each other’s warfighting satellites — the ones that provide intelligence, communications, and GPS. The U.S. has over 800 in orbit and China has over 200.

The first salvos will be the least destructive. The U.S. Space Force and the People’s Liberation Army would use weapons like lasers and jammers to temporarily blind or disable. If things escalates from there, it’ll be time to turn to true anti-satellite weapons.

These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy

The Raven allows for relatively easy and precise steering in space.

(NASA)

The U.S. could turn to systems like the Raven, a NASA program that allows for automated link ups between satellites, to get American kill satellites into position above Chinese satellites, link up with them, and then steer them downwards, turning them into a meteor that will explode and burn up in the atmosphere.

But by the time a space war breaks out, China may have has its own system for sending orbiting objects into the atmosphere, like the proposed “space broom,” a satellite bearing a laser for burning up space debris and sending it back into the atmosphere. If it aims at a pressurized tank on an American satellite, it could create a tiny hole that would vent gasses and degrade the satellite’s orbit, dooming it.

For a more visceral destruction, China’s AoLong 1 satellite can grab enemy satellites with its arm and hurl them towards the ocean.

These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy

Like this, but then the robotic arm throws the satellite back towards earth, cups its hand to its ear, and acts like it can’t hear the crowd cheering for the first successful wrestling take down between robots in space. (Wrestling leagues, I look forward to pitching you a spec script.)

(NASA)

By this point, it would be expected that military forces would start to clash on the lands and sea — that is, if the war didn’t start there in the first place.

Once significant numbers of troops are in harm’s way, which would be immediately with both navies sailing carriers holding thousands of sailors in the Pacific, the forces would be willing to turn to even move destructive measures to gain an advantage.

This would mean the use of missiles designed for destroying ballistic missiles. Most weapons capable of engaging a ballistic missile in the middle of its flight are also capable of engaging a satellite in low earth orbit, where most military and civilian satellites operate. Some are even capable of engaging targets in higher, faster orbits.

In general, hitting an object in low earth orbit means firing a guided missile at an object approximately 250 miles above the earth that’s traveling at over 17,000 miles per hour. It’s a bit of a tricky shot, but China and the U.S. have shown they’re capable. The Space Force would likely inherit some of the land-based missiles and lasers capable of making this shot, but they would also ask for a huge assist from the Navy.

See, China and the U.S. both have land-based missiles that can make the shot, but any anti-satellite missile launch faces a fuel problem. Missiles can only hit satellites that fly within a certain range of the launch point since the missiles have to make it into space with enough fuel to maneuver and reach the target. So, a Space Force would likely be stacked to engage targets that fly over missile shields on the West Coast, but would be weak elsewhere.

These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy

These things can reach space and kill things there. For realsies.

(Missile Defense Agency photo by Leah Garton)

But the Navy’s Standard Missile-3, a common armament on the Navy’s Aegis destroyers, has a demonstrated capability of killing satellites after a software change.

In a shooting war with China in space, expect the missiles to get their software upgraded immediately.

A tit-for-tat escalation into missiles exploding in space creates an immediate crisis for all astronauts up there. See, nearly all manned space missions have taken place in low earth orbit, an area that would become even more saturated with space debris in this situation. The International Space Station, for example, is in LEO.

Think thousands if not millions of bullets, all flying at speeds sufficient to punch right through the International Space Station or the planned Chinese large, modular space station. Expect both countries to immediately try to evacuate their troops. For the ISS crew, this means they need to make it the Soyuz capsules and immediately start the launch sequence, a process expected to take three minutes.

But the really bad thing about this type of war is that it can’t end. See, those bits of space debris go in all directions. The ones flying at escape velocity will fly away and travel, potentially forever, through the universe. The ones that explode towards the earth will likely burn up quickly.

But the ones flying at the right velocity, quite possibly thousands or millions of pieces of metal per missile vs. satellite engagement, will simply fly through low earth orbit at thousands of miles per hour, shredding everything they come in contact with and creating more debris.

Think of those really scary scenes in Gravity.

These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy

Eventually, this is nearly guaranteed to take out the bulk of the satellites in orbit, from communications to weather to mapping.

In a stroke, we’d get rid of a significant portion of our internet architecture, our weather data, and other systems, like GPS, that we just expect to work, potentially setting us back decades.

So, even if the combatants decide to stop shooting at each other, it’s too late to save space for that generation. For decades, the job of the Space Force, NASA, and all of our allies will be cleaning up from the war, whether the whole thing lasted minutes or years.

So, let’s just make a movie about it, watch that, and try to avoid actually fighting each other in space.

Come on, Space Force. You guys can work out deterrence strategies, right?

/**/
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Watch police stop the world to salute troops coming home from Afghanistan

Police officers and the military share a special bond in the United States. Many police officers are former military members themselves, and many of those officers have deployed to support various military operations. But even if they aren’t veterans, no one in America can come close to understanding what it means to serve quite like the people who make up the thin blue line.

Both professions are dangerous and difficult. Police officers all over the country know theirs is a job that could cost them their lives. Who better to understand the courage and sacrifice military members make all over the world? So, when a cop stops his or her duties to take a moment and show respect to a returning troop, it’s meaningful.

When a line of cops stop — and stop traffic — to do it, it’s downright heartwarming.


These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy

(Rhea Ramsey Taylor)

A line of police officers on motorcycles stopped their lives and their duties while in uniform to stand and render a sharp salute to buses full of soldiers returning home from Afghanistan. The Colorado Springs cops stood at attention next to their bikes, blocking oncoming traffic, as they saluted.

It was a small gesture, but it allowed the buses carrying the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division to make and immediate left-hand turn, rather than waiting those excruciating last few minutes to turn before going onto the base and getting the troops back to their loved ones.

It’s not known how long this group of Fort Carson soldiers were away from their families, but the extra time it would have taken for a long line of buses to turn left across a divided highway was ten more minutes longer than necessary. The video above was captured by Coloradan Rhea Ramsey Taylor, who was coming home after helping a friend move. She was overcome with emotion while recording the moment.

When they got off the bikes and saluted, I was in tears,” she told CBS News. “It’s a great, positive way to recognize our police officers and welcome home our troops.

The buses of the returning soldiers were also escorted by local police officers, a small indicator of just how important the military is to the relatively close-knit community around Fort Carson.

Articles

How Iran-backed militias are running around in M-1 Abrams tanks

Several years ago, the United States debated supplying Syrian rebels with high-tech armaments such as anti-tank and surface-to-air missiles. Critics contended that the weapons might fall into the hands of US-designated “terrorist organizations.”


But it is in Iraq that the fear has become real: the US has armed American-killing Iranian proxies and terrorist groups with its best tank, the M1 Abrams.

The Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella organization of Iranian-backed Shia militias fighting the Islamic State group, have acquired M1 Abrams tanks given to the Iraqi army. Two PMF militias – the Badr Organization and Kataib Hezbollah – have posted pictures and videos of their fighters alongside M1 Abrams tanks draped with their banners and flags.

These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy
A US-made M1 Abrams tank can be seen with the flag of the Iranian-backed militia Kata’ib Sayyid al Shuhada. Image from the Long War Journal.

The tanks once belonged to the 9th Armored Division, the only Iraqi Army unit that operates the M1 Abrams. It remains ambiguous whether the militiamen in the videos are controlling the tanks themselves or just posing with them under the supervision of tank crews from the 9th.

“In the videos, the passengers in the tanks are wearing the 9th’s uniforms,” Iraqi Army spokesman Colonel Muhammad Baidani told The New Arab. “Taking pictures and placing flags on the tank alone is not proof of ownership.”

Baidani added that the Iraqi Armed Forces and the PMF conduct combined operations “in most battles,” calling allegations that the 9th had loaned the M1 Abrams to the PMF “untrue.”

But sources in the PMF told The New Arab a different story, explaining that the militias obtained the M1 Abrams in two ways: “Sometimes, the PMF asks for American tanks from the Iraqi Army, if Russian-made tanks are unavailable,” said Hussam al-Mayahi, a Badr engineer specializing in military technology and remote weapons stations.

These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy
Logo of Popular Mobilization Forces. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

“The PMF also seized some after the fall of Mosul and the second Battle of Tikrit, taking them from IS.”

During IS’ campaign across the east and north of Iraq, the militants managed to seize numerous M1 Abrams tanks, including at least ten during the Battle of Ramadi in 2015.

Jafar al-Husseini, a spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah, confirmed this story: “We captured the American tanks and other military vehicles from IS, who, in turn, [had] seized them from what was left by the Iraqi army. Now, they are under our control, and we are seeking more.”

He claimed that Kataib Hezbollah and other Shia militias now held all IS’ M1 Abrams tanks.

These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy
USAF Airmen load an M1A1 Abrams Tank into an Air Force C-5M Super Galaxy cargo aircraft. USAF photo by Roland Balik.

Other tanks appear to come straight from the 9th: “Tanks are provided to us according to the circumstances of the battles and offensives, before being returned to the Defense Ministry,” Karim al-Nuri, a ranking Badr commander, told The New Arab.

Al-Nuri says he has never seen the PMF directly use an American tank but, when shown the pictures and videos that Badr had posted, replied: “It’s important to take any tanks – whether Russian or American.”

If the US delivered M1 Abrams tanks to Iraq’s Defense Ministry despite knowing that they could be given to the PMF, the Pentagon might have violated the Leahy Law – which prohibits the US Defense and State Departments from providing military aid to security forces guilty of abusing human rights.

These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy
Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman

Human rights defenders accuse the PMF, including Badr and Kataib Hezbollah, of ethnic cleansing, summary executions, and other war crimes.

Iraq remains on the State Department’s list of countries with the most child soldiers, because of these militias who continue to recruit minors.

Kataib Hezbollah presents a wider dilemma. In 2009, the State Department designated it a “terrorist organization” for killing American soldiers, and the US Treasury Department labelled its founder, the Iraqi warlord Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a “specially designated global terrorist.”

Al-Muhandis works as an operative for the Quds Force, the sub-unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for extraterritorial operations on Iran’s behalf.

These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Photo from CounterExtremism.com

“We have heard these reports and we are looking into them,” said a spokesman for the US-led anti-IS coalition, who emphasized in an email, “Department of Defense policies on the provision of military assistance to foreign military forces require that Iraqi Security Forces receiving equipment or training are strictly vetted in accordance with the Leahy Act as well as for associations with terrorist organizations and/or the government of Iran.”

These policies appear to have failed.

A State Department official admitted, “not all US-provided defense articles are under the control of the intended recipient ministry/unit. We are concerned that a small number of M1A1 tanks may be in the possession of forces other than the Ministry of Defense and Iraqi Army.”

“The United States has not provided these or other defense articles to the PMF.”

“Nevertheless, we understand that some equipment has come into the possession of the PMF, which are part of the Iraqi Security Forces by law, and have been used in the fight against ISIS. We will continue to press the Government of Iraq to act as quickly as possible to return these defense articles to their intended recipient ministry/units.”

These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy
US Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerma

Despite acknowledging that the PMF had seized many M1 Abrams tanks in one way or another, the State Department declined to estimate just how many. It could not confirm whether it had lost track of how many tanks may be under the militias’ control.

The ranking Democrats and Republicans on the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which oversee the sale of M1 Abrams tanks and other weapons to Iraq, failed to reply to repeated requests for comment by email and phone for this article.

In December 2014, several months after the Iraqi army had lost many of its M1 Abrams tanks to IS, the State Department agreed to sell it another 175, once the Defense Department notified the US Congress, which has spent much more time deliberating over tanks sold to Saudi Arabia than to Iraq.

For now at least, Iraq appears to have a continuous supply of the M1 Abrams for years to come. Al-Husseini, the Kataib Hezbollah spokesman, may just get his wish.

Articles

Key ISIS commander taken out in US strike

Conflicting reports from U.S. officials and terrorist leaders suggest a top commander of the militant Islamic State group might have been killed in a U.S. airstrike near the embattled Syrian town of Aleppo.


The Pentagon said in a release late yesterday that a precision airstrike had targeted a vehicle that officials say Abu Muhammad al-Adnani was riding in. Al-Adnani was believed to be the ISIS group’s top spokesman and a key player in inspiring so-called “lone wolf” attacks on Western targets, including the shooting rampages in Paris, France, and Orlando, Florida.

These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy
Al-Adnani was believed to be the number two commander for the Islamic State group and was a key recruiter and operational planner for the terrorist organization. (Photo: France 24 YouTube)

“Al-Adnani has served as principal architect of ISIL’s external operations and as ISIL’s chief spokesman,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement. “He has coordinated the movement of ISIL fighters, directly encouraged lone-wolf attacks on civilians and members of the military and actively recruited new ISIL members.”

While the American military was uncertain whether Al-Adnani had been killed in the strike on Al Bab, near Aleppo, the Islamic State confirmed his death in a statement.

Analysts say the result, if confirmed, is an effective blow against the terrorist group, which has seen its hold on territory in both Iraq and Syria wither under U.S., coalition and Russian air and ground assaults in recent weeks.

“He was an important Islamic State leader and one of the top remaining leaders of the old guard,” said terrorism analyst and founder of The Long War Journal Bill Roggio. “It’s definitely a good kill.”

But while ISIS has now lost three of its top leaders in one year, the death of al-Adnani could have the unintended consequence of bringing rival terrorist groups together. For years, Roggio says, al-Adnani has been at odds with al Qaeda — eventually causing a very public split and disavowal from Osama bin Laden’s successor, Aymen al Zawahiri.

With al-Adnani gone and only one of the Islamic State’s founding leaders left on the battlefield, the group behind the 9/11 attacks could rise as ISIS falls.

“In it’s way, al-Adnani’s death could pave the way for a rapprochement with al Qaeda,” Roggio said. “It could have implications that could bolster other jihadist movements.”

Al-Adnani may have been an important leader and a key victory in the war against ISIS, but that doesn’t mean the U.S. military is planning to stop going after them anytime soon.

“The U.S. military will continue to prioritize and relentlessly target ISIL leaders and external plotters in order to defend our homeland, our allies, and our partners, while we continue to gather momentum in destroying ISIL’s parent tumor in Iraq and Syria and combat its metastases around the world,” Pentagon spokesman Cook said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards chief tells Trump to bring it on

A top Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander in Iran says his forces are ready to confront U.S. forces should President Donald Trump act on his warning that Tehran will “suffer consequences” if it threatens the United States.

“Mr. Trump, how dare you threaten us?” Qassem Soleimani, who leads the IRGC’s elite foreign operations Quds force, was quoted as saying on July 26, 2018.


“We are near you, where you can’t even imagine…. Come. You will start the war, but it is us who will end it, ” Soleimani said in a speech in the central city of Hamedan.

He made the remarks in response to a July 22, 2018 all-capital-letters post on Twitter by Trump in which Trump warned Iran not to “threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.”

Trump’s tweet came following comments by Iran’s President Hassan Rohani who said: “America should know peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”

Soleimani called Trump a “gambler” and said his language belongs in “nightclubs.”

“We’re ready to stand against you,” Soleimani, who has been blacklisted by Washington, added.

Rohani said on July 25, 2018, that Trump’s “empty” threats did not deserve an answer.

Iran’s governmental IRNA news agency reported that, after Rohani mentioned “baseless comments” by “some U.S. leaders,” he told a cabinet meeting “there is no need for us to respond to any nonsensical comment and answer back to them.”

Soleimani said he’s responding to Trump “as a soldier.”

“Don’t threaten to kill us; we’re thirsty for martyrdom,” he was quoted as saying by the hard-line IRGC affiliated Fars news agency.

Following his Twitter warning, Trump suggested on July 24, 2018, that he’s ready to talk to, saying, “We’re ready to make a real deal.”

In May 2018, Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and announced that the United States is moving to reimpose tough sanctions.

U.S. officials have been telling countries to cut all imports of Iranian oil by November 2018.

Iran has warned of equal countermeasures, with Rohani suggesting that the country could block Persian Gulf oil exports if its own exports are halted.

“The Red Sea, which was secure, is no longer secure today with the presence of American forces,” Soleimani said.

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

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4 surprising things North Korean spies have to learn

North Korea and the United States don’t have a lot in common. What they do share is a need for gathering intelligence — typically about each other. While the United States’ intelligence agencies might have a difficult time penetrating the North’s rigid class system and meticulous tracking of its citizens, the Hermit Kingdom can exploit the open societies of the West to plant its operatives – and it does.


Kim Hyon-hui was one of those operatives. The daughter of a high-level North Korean diplomat during the Cold War, she trained rigorously in the North as an intelligence operative. She went on a number of missions, including the infamous 1987 bombing of Korean Airlines flight 858, which was personally ordered by President Kim Il-Sung to frighten teams from attending the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Much of her training would not surprise anyone, but some of it might.

Japanese national Yaeko Taguchi was kidnapped after dropping her kids off at school at age 22. She’s been training spies ever since.

Japanese

There’s a special school for North Korea’s spy agents, located outside the capital city of Pyongyang. There, they learn the usual spy stuff we’ve all come to expect from watching movies and television: explosives, martial arts, and scuba diving. What’s most unusual is not just that this school also teaches its agents Japanese, but who teaches it to them.

For the longest time, North Korea denied ever having abducted Japanese citizens for any reason. But a number of defectors, including the captured spy, Kim Hyon-hui, described learning Japanese from a native speaker, Yaeko Taguchi. North Korea has been accused of abducting a number of Japanese citizens to put them to work for similar reasons. The North’s disdain for Japan dates back to World War II, owing to the atrocities committed on Koreans by Japanese troops. North Koreans like Japan as much as they like the United States. Maybe less.

North Korean spies
Image by tragrpx from Pixabay

Supermarkets

It may or may not surprise you to learn that North Korean grocery stores are very much unlike any Western grocery stores. Most of the time, North Koreans don’t actually go to supermarkets, no matter how much food is available to them. North Korea doesn’t have supermarkets as we know them.

North Korean spies
Image by Free stock photos from www.rupixen.com from Pixabay

Credit Cards

The idea of using plastic instead of hard currency was a huge surprise to Kim. She had to be trained not just to use a credit card, but how credit cards work in general, considering much of the technology used to create this system of payment wasn’t available to North Korea back then (and still isn’t, but that’s by choice).

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It somehow took practice to dance like this

Nightclubs

The nightlife of North Korea seems like something from the pre-sexual revolution 1960s. While beer and soju are widely consumed in Pyongyang, even in the capital there are no obvious bars or nightclubs. Many North Koreans spend their evenings with their families at the dinner table or by going to concerts and family fun parks, small carnivals that stay in the same place all the time. To go to a European disco and party like a Westerner required training.


-Feature image by Ryan McGuire via Pixabay

MIGHTY TRENDING

US continues to train with allies in the event of Chinese attack

US and Philippine troops have reportedly been training for a potential island invasion scenario, which is a real possibility as tensions rise in the disputed South China Sea.

On April 10, 2019, US and Filipino forces conducted a joint airfield seizure exercise on a Lubang Island, located adjacent to the sea, in what was a first for the allies, Channel News Asia reported April 11, 2019.

The drill was practice for a real-world situation in which a foreign power has seized control of an island in the Philippines, taking over the its airfield, GMA News reported.


“If they [the Filipinos] were to have any small islands taken over by a foreign military, this is definitely a dress rehearsal that can be used in the future,” Maj. Christopher Bolz, a US Army Special Forces company commander involved in planning the exercises, told CNA.

“I think the scenario is very realistic, especially for an island nation such as the Philippines,” Bolz added.

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US Marines and Philippine marines land on the beach in assault amphibious vehicles during an exercise in Subic Bay, Philippines, Oct. 3, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christine Phelps)

The Philippines requested this type of training last year. “The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) must be ready to any eventualities,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Pondanera, commander of the exercise control group with the AFP-SOCOM, explained.

Balikatan exercises are focused primarily on “maintaining a high level of readiness and responsiveness, and enhancing combined military-to-military relations and capabilities,” the Marine Corps said in a recent statement. Balikatan means “shoulder to shoulder” in Tagalog.

Both the US military and the Marines have stressed that the ongoing exercises are not aimed at China, although some of the activities, such as the counter-invasion drills, seem to suggest otherwise.

Thitu Island, known as Pagasa in the Philippines, is the only Philippine-controlled island in the contested South China Sea with an airfield, and the current drills come as Manila has accused China of sending paramilitary forces to “swarm” this particular territory.

“Let us be friends, but do not touch Pagasa Island and the rest,” Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said in a recent message to China. “If you make moves there, that’s a different story. I will tell my soldiers, ‘Prepare for suicide mission.'”

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Philippines lacks the firepower to stand up to China, but it is protected under a Mutual Defense Treaty with the US.

In March 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reaffirmed US commitment to defend the Philippines, stating that “any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft, or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defense obligations.”

For the 35th iteration of the Balikatan exercises, the US sent the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp with 10 F-35s — an unusually heavy configuration of the stealth fighter. This marks the first time the F-35 has participated in these exercises.

Recently, the Wasp was spotted running flight operations in the vicinity of the disputed Scarborough Shoal, territory China seized from the Philippines by force roughly seven years ago.

The Philippines took the dispute before an international arbitration tribunal in 2016 and won. Beijing, however, rejected the ruling, as well as the tribunal’s authority.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Image shows pair of black holes stuck in a collision between galaxies

It takes more than a billion years for a pair of galaxies to merge.

But in the constellation of Ophiuchus, about 400 million light-years from Earth, two galaxies are almost ready to become one.

The galaxies are in the process of violently crashing into one another. Astronomers estimate it will take them another 10 to 20 million years to fuse completely; at that point, they’ll form a new galaxy called NGC 6240.


Both galaxies contain a supermassive black hole in their center, and those are expected to merge as well.

This whole process is difficult to capture on camera, however. Black holes’ gravity is so strong that nothing can escape — not even light — so astronomers attempting to see them have to rely on light from the matter that gets sucked in (before it disappears). The first-ever photograph of a supermassive black hole was published in April 2019.

But an international team of astronomers recently captured a sharp photo that shows how two supermassive black holes are caught in the galactic collision that’s forming the NGC 6240 galaxy.

The astronomers used the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), a powerful telescope funded in part by the US National Science Foundation, to assemble the image. They presented their research at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday.

The black holes themselves aren’t visible in the photo, but you can see the glowing gas that surrounds them (the blue stuff in the images below).

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NGC 6240 as seen with ALMA (top right) and the Hubble Space Telescope (bottom right).

(ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), E. Treister; NRAO/AUI/NSF, S. Dagnello; NASA/ESA Hubble)

That gas is located within the black holes’ “sphere of influence” — the innermost region of a galaxy where the black hole is the dominant force of gravity. The two black holes are feeding on the gas, which causes them to grow bigger as the galaxies merge. Previous images weren’t able to capture this gas in such detail.

‘A chaotic stream of gas’

Ezequiel Treister, an associate astronomy professor at Pontificia Universidad Católica in Santiago, Chile, told the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) that the gas doesn’t form a rotating disk, as some scientists anticipated.

“We don’t find any evidence for that,” he said. “Instead, we see a chaotic stream of gas with filaments and bubbles between the black holes. Some of this gas is ejected outwards with speeds up to 500 kilometers per second. We don’t know yet what causes these outflows.”

Gas that isn’t ejected from the sphere of influence will likely get sucked into the black hole.

Revolve Around a Black Hole Accretion Disk in Amazing Visualization

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The black holes are less massive than researchers expected

The image also challenges astronomers’ ideas about the masses of these particular black holes. By observing the photo, the team found that a lot of the gas was stuck in the spheres of influence instead of the black holes themselves. That means the black holes are much less massive than anticipated.

Until recently, astronomers believed that the supermassive black holes in the NGC 6240 galaxy had a mass equivalent to about 1 billion suns. The new photo suggests, however, that the black holes are about as massive as a few hundred million suns.

The finding suggests black holes involved in other galaxy collisions could also be smaller than expected.

“This galaxy is so complex that we could never know what is going on inside it without these detailed radio images,” Loreto Barcos-Muñoz, a researcher at the NRAO, said in a statement. “We now have a better idea of the 3D structure of the galaxy, which gives us the opportunity to understand how galaxies evolve during the latest stages of an ongoing merger.”

Our own Milky Way galaxy is expected to merge with the nearby Andromeda galaxy in about 4 billion years.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s massive new flying boat seems aimed at Pacific rivals

China claims to have successfully tested a new sea plane, purportedly the largest in the world, and while its primary purposes are firefighting and water rescue, this new aircraft could be used to advance the country’s ambitions in the disputed South China Sea.

The AG600 Kunlong, a domestically-built Chinese aircraft roughly the size of a Boeing 737, recently completed several on-water tests on a lake in central China, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, citing China Aviation News, reported Sept. 9, 2018. It can reportedly even land in choppy seas with its hull-like fuselage.


During the testing in Hubei province, the aircraft was put through a series of water maneuvering and low-speed flight tests, according to the Associated Press.

The aircraft made its maiden flight in December 2017 Military experts reportedly believe that the latest tests indicate the plane could soon be ready for service.

The AG600 Kunlong, powered by four turboprop engines, has a significant carrying capacity. In a rescue situation, it could carry up to 50 people, and were it to be deployed for firefighting purposes, it could carry around a dozen metric tons of water.

Experts suggest that it could be used to move troops and equipment into the disputed South China Sea, where China has built militarized outposts armed with various point defense systems, jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles. China even landed a heavy bomber at an outpost in early 2018.

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“The AG600 would be suitable for the quick transport of troops and materials, and could also provide other support such as evacuating garrisons in the South China Sea or even out to the Spratlys,” Collin Koh, a research fellow in Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University’s Maritime Security Program, told SCMP.

“Beijing will also use it to justify any further build-up in the region, saying the aircraft can be used for the common good, such as providing support to foreign vessels in the area and for search and rescue,” he added.

A Beijing-based military expert suggested that the the AG600 Kunlong, the work of China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co., can link countless islands in the South China Sea and play a big role in law enforcement, emergency rescue, and even reconnaissance.” Ching Chang, a research fellow at Taiwan’s ROC Society for Strategic Studies, argued three years ago that the aircraft could play a role in “all the government functions that may signify its substantial governance in the South China Sea,” thus bolstering its previously discredited claims to the highly-contested region.

The South China Sea, which briefly took a back seat to the nuclear war crisis on the Korean Peninsula, has once again emerged as a hot-button issue. Not only has the Chinese military been threatening foreign ships and planes that venture too close to Chinese-occupied territories, but the Chinese military recently got into a standoff with a British amphibious assault ship that approached its South China Sea holdings.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Russians were all drunk when Trump Tomahawked Syria

When Syrian President Bashar al-Asad used a sarin nerve gas attack on his own citizens during the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, Trump was pissed. According to veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s 2018 book, Fear: Trump in the White House, Trump wanted to kill Asad for the attack, using a targeted leadership strike.


But cooler heads prevailed, and then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis convinced the President to hit Syrian airfields with a series of Tomahawk missiles instead.

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Sparing them from getting hit by Mattis’ personal Tomahawk.

The Russians came to Syria in September 2015, at a time when things looked pretty bleak for the regime, good for the loose confederation of rebels, and great for the Islamic State. Almost immediately, Russian intervention began to make the difference for the Syrian government forces. By the end of 2017, the government had retaken key cities and areas from both rebel groups and ISIS fighters.

Also the end of 2017, the Russians began to make their presence at air bases in the country permanent. That’s who the United States called in April 2017, delivering a warning that some of America’s finest manufactured products were being forcibly delivered to a Syrian airbase that night.

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There goes id=”listicle-2636430379″.8 million worth of forcible export.

Nearly 60 Tomahawk missiles were fired from the destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross of the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea that night. The Pentagon ordered the Navy to deliver a warning to Russian troops in the area right before the attack hit at 3:45 in the morning. According to Woodward’s source, the Russian airfield troop who picked up the phone sounded like he was dead drunk.

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“That’s our secret, captain… we’re always drunk.”

The warning worked, and the attack reportedly killed no Russian troops at the Shayrat Air Base, though it did damage and destroy aircraft and missile batteries, on top of killing nine Syrian government troops and seven civilians. The U.S. attack purposely avoided attacking a sarin gas storage facility on the base. The base itself was targeted because it was the source of Asad’s sarin gas attack on Syrian civilians.

Warning Russia of the pending attack may have given the Syrian Air Force notice to shelter its planes and prepare for the attack, as it was noted that many of the planes there survived the assault and its airfields were operational again less than 24 hours later.

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