MIGHTY HISTORY

These soldiers built 3 tanks in a night to face the entire Nazi ‘bulge’

On Dec. 18, 1944, Pfc. Harry Miller was cold, exhausted, and covered with grease. His hands were numb from the cold and he was bone tired after working all night. He and his fellow Soldiers from the 740th Tank Battalion had toiled around the clock to piece together three American tanks from an ordnance depot in Belgium.


With only the three refurbished tanks, Miller and the 740th was asked to stop the 1st SS Panzer Division, the German spearhead in the Battle of the Bulge.

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Even before the Germans launched their surprise Ardennes offensive that December, Miller was not thinking about Christmas. His only thought was on keeping warm, he said. Northern Europe had been gripped by record-breaking cold.

When the German tank columns first approached, Miller and his fellow Soldiers were in Neufchateau, Belgium, but they had no tanks. At the beginning of the battle, the 740th was ordered to proceed to an ordnance depot in nearby Sprimont. Miller was hopeful, as he believed tanks would be issued at the depot. However, upon arrival, there were no functional tanks.

Depot personnel had left town in a hurry, leaving all of their equipment and tools behind. Miller and the 740th worked throughout the night and by morning, three tanks and a tank destroyer rolled out the gate. They were ordered to Stoumont to stop the German advance.

Also read: This is the massive Nazi sneak attack at the Battle of the Bulge

The 740th’s three tanks faced the lead element of Battle Group Peiper and the 1st SS Panzer Division. One M-1 Sherman tank fired and destroyed a German Panther. A second Sherman destroyed a second German tank. A third tank, a restored M-36, destroyed a third German tank. With the three German tanks out of action, and the narrow road blocked, the attacking German column retreated. Thus, a few restored tanks within their first one-half hour of combat had turned the tide of the German attack.

Miller was part of a specialized unit. A few days later he crewed one of six Sherman tanks that formed the Assault Gun Platoon. His tank had a 105mm gun.

During much of the Battle of the Bulge his unit supported the 82nd Airborne Division.

Miller remembers the snowfall was especially heavy. Members of 82nd were cold and exhausted. Marching through four feet of snow was laborious. A few lucky Soldiers from the 82nd jumped on his tank to hitch a ride to avoid walking in the deep snow. Suddenly the tank took on enemy fire. When they heard audible dings from enemy bullets hitting the tank, the 82nd Soldiers scrambled off to take defensive positions.

The Battle of the Bulge lasted from Dec. 16, 1944 to Jan. 25, 1945. It was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II. For the Americans, out of 610,000 troops involved in the battle, 89,000 were casualties. It was the largest and bloodiest battle fought by U.S. troops in World War II.

The 740th Tank Battalion was formed at Fort Knox, Kentucky, on March 1, 1943. It had mostly men from Texas and Oklahoma. They trained at Knox and at the Desert Training Center in Bouse, Arizona.

Leaders: 8 amazing facts about General Douglas MacArthur

Miller is a veteran of 22 years in the Army and Air Force. The Columbus, Ohio-native had always wanted to serve in the Army and enlisted at the age of 15 in 1944. Besides being a veteran of World War ll, he served in the Korean War with Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters, in the communications center.

Miller later served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War with the Strategic Air Command. He was in charge of codes and cryptology used for command missions, including bombing runs in Vietnam. He retired from the Air Force in January 1966 as a senior master sergeant and a communications operations superintendent.

Upon retirement, Miller worked as a private investigator, director of security and safety at St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and as a safety inspector at the University of Texas in Arlington, Texas, where he again retired in January 1989. He took up jazz and swing drumming lessons at age 69 to play with Seattle, Washington bands.

Miller, 89, resides at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C. He laments that out of 800 Soldiers from the 740th, only six were able to attend this year’s reunion on Labor Day.

Miller said he is proud of all of his military service and wishes he could do it all over again. He advises Soldiers who are serving today to stay in and retire.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Is the US putting sailors at risk by sending a carrier to Iran?

John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, announced on May 5, 2019, that the US would send the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and its associated strike group to the waters near Iran to “send a message” and respond to vague threats.

But the US will be sending the powerful carrier to a job it’s arguably ill-suited for, putting thousands of sailors at a major military disadvantage. And if a conflict were to arise, the sinking of a US aircraft carrier would be in Iran’s sights.

Though the carrier’s deployment to Iran’s nearby waters may have been planned long ago, Bolton has been clear that the ship’s return to the region marks a response to “a number of troubling and escalatory incident and warnings” from Iran.


While Bolton did not get into specifics, a report from Axios said Israel passed the US “information on an alleged Iranian plot to attack” US forces or interests in the region.

The Wall Street Journal cited US officials as saying new intelligence “showed that Iran drew up plans to target U.S. forces in Iraq and possibly Syria, to orchestrate attacks in the Bab el-Mandeb strait near Yemen through proxies and in the Persian Gulf with its own armed drones.”

(DoD photo)

US aircraft carrier strike groups represent the highest order of naval power ever put to sea, but they’re not the right tool for every job.

Caitlin Talmadge, an associate professor of security studies, said on Twitter that US carriers are “designed for operations on the open ocean.”

As a floating air base with guided-missile destroyers and cruisers sailing nearby for anti-missile defenses from land and sea, the carriers are best off when moving around far from the range of missiles fired from ashore.

The narrow, “confined waters of the Persian Gulf make carriers tremendously more vulnerable to asymmetric air, land, and naval threats,” wrote Talmadge.

Iran’s home field advantage could sink a tanker

In the shallow, brown waters of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow pass through which about a fifth of the world’s oil passes through, Iran’s outdated submarines and missiles see a vastly uneven playing ground leveled out.

“Ideally, a Nimitz class carrier would operate within comfortable range of its targets (based on the range of its air wing) but at sufficient stand-off distance to minimize the risk of enemy threats,” Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting firm, told Business Insider. “This varies based on operating environment, but is usually between 300 to 400 nautical miles.”

Aircraft carriers do send a message, and have been relied on for such by presidents for decades, but according to Talmadge, it’s kind of empty in this situation.

The USS Abraham Lincoln makes a sharp turn at sea.

(AiirSource Military via Youtube)

In the Gulf wars, or against militants like ISIS, aircraft carriers made plenty of sense.

“Iraq has tiny coast, couldn’t contest US carrier presence, so unusual situation,” continued Talmadge, who pointed out that Iran was a different kind of beast.

But “Iran’s geography military capabilities, particularly presence of significant assets near Strait of Hormuz, make sailing carrier through Gulf a lot riskier, and w/ less benefit given US ability to deploy carriers in Arabian Sea Indian Ocean instead,” she said.

In fact, the Persian Gulf, Iran’s home waters, plays directly into their hands. One of Iran’s favorite and best documented ways to harass the US Navy is to use fast attack boats in a swarming attack.

Swarm boat attacks, would “not be much of a danger in the open sea,” where the carrier had room to maneuver, but could be a problem in the choked gulf.

“Iran has various systems that can be a threat within the Persian Gulf, including anti-ship cruise missiles, fast attack craft and swarm boats, mini-submarines, and even asymmetric tactics like UAV swarms that seek to harass rather than disable the carrier,” Lamrani continued.

Iran’s Ghadir submarine behind a US carrier strike group in a propaganda video.

(Iranian TV via MEMRI)

Aircraft carriers lack onboard defenses against torpedoes, something that an old Iranian submarine could manage. In the noisy brown waters of the Persian Gulf, the US Navy may also struggle to track such small boats.

Furthermore, Iranian media has fantasized for years about sinking an aircraft carrier. In the country’s state-controlled media, the massive ships are often seen as targets ripe for sinking.

With US-Iranian relations hitting a startling new low, the Trump administration’s decision to send an aircraft carrier to Tehran’s home waters seems a risky choice with little apparent payoff.

Accompanying the carrier deployment announced by Bolton was an increase in bombers in the region. As Business Insider reported before, Iran is highly unlikely to attack even small, exposed groups of US troops in the region because the response from nearby US airbases would all but obliterate the country.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what it took to be an executioner in medieval times

Mary A. asks: How did someone get the job of an executioner in medieval times?

Few occupations from history are as maligned as that of Medieval-era executioner. Popularly painted as gleeful dispensers of death and torture, the truth seems to be that many executioners throughout this period usually treated the occupation with a certain reverence and exhibited an extreme dedication to duty. Beyond trying to minimize the suffering of those slated to be executed, this was, among other reasons we’ll get into, because it would often mean the life of the executioner if they ever botched an execution or otherwise weren’t extremely professional in carrying out their job.


So, moving beyond any Hollywood depictions, what was it actually like to be an executioner in the ballpark of Medieval times and how did someone get the job in the first place?

A thing to note before we continue is that the duties expected of and performed by executioners, as well as what life was like for specific executioners, has varied wildly across time and regions. For example, as we’ve talked before, those condemned to death in the Ottoman empire during the 18th century could potentially get off scot-free by challenging the executioner to a footrace. In this case, in addition to doling out lethal justice with their bare hands, executioners also worked as both bodyguards and gardeners.

That caveat out of the way, how did one become an executioner in the first place? It turns out that many European Medieval executioners were former criminals themselves. You see, for reasons we’ll get into shortly, the role of executioner was so unpopular that finding someone to do the job often required either forcing someone into the profession or offering the gig to someone who was slated to be executed themselves.

Scandinavian countries were known to make extensive use of this novel hiring practice, with a little twist thrown in- they’d maim executioners by cutting off one or both of their ears so that they could be easily identified by the public. It also wasn’t uncommon for people made executioners in this way to be branded somewhere on their head, once again for the purpose of their new profession being, in this case literally, written all over their face. For example, as noted in Hugo Mathiessen’s Boddel og Galgefugl,

“In the year 1470, a poor thief stood at the foot of the gallows in the Swedish town Arboga and was waiting to be hanged. The public attending the spectacle had pity on the sinner and when he, to save his neck, offered to become executioner in the town, it was agreed. He was pardoned and the red-hot iron was used to brand his body with both thief and executioner mark.”

In Germany, on the other hand, as author Joel Harrington notes in a discussion of his book, The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century, while “standing executioners on salary were the norm” throughout Germany during the 1600s, for many centuries prior to this it was commonplace to thrust role of executioner upon a victim’s oldest male relative.

This all brings us around to why so many avoided the profession like the plague. To begin with, the general consensus among most was that in taking such a job, one was then sure to be damned in the afterlife. This was despite the fact that in some regions, such as France, executioners were by official church decree absolved of the sins committed while performing their duties.

This still didn’t stop the general public from considering executioners unclean, leading to the more practical problem with the job- nearly being completely ostracized from society. Coming back to those condemned to die instead becoming an executioner, people seem to have been perfectly fine with this as the criminal’s life would still be forfeit, just in a more metaphorical sense.

For example, throughout Medieval Europe executioners were often forced to live in houses outside of the city or town they plied their trade in. In cases where this wasn’t possible, they tended to live near things like public latrines, lepertoriums, or brothels. Executioners were similarly often denied citizenship to the towns and cities they served (and thus had few rights in the town) and were largely barred from holding office or even entering churches, pubs, bathhouses, etc- basically most public establishments were off limits to the executioner.

Thus, despite executioners being deemed critical for a society to remain civilised, they were paradoxically generally forced to live apart from that civilised society.

In fact, some places across Europe went as far to institute laws specifically targeting executioners and what they could and could not do in their day to day lives. For example, the Bavarian town of Memmingen enacted an ordinance in 1528 that forbade members of the general public dining with an executioner.

Such laws and just general attitudes effectively limited the people an executioner could interact with in their day to day lives to their own family and those from the criminal underworld who simply didn’t care that the executioner was unclean. On top of this, an executioner’s children and spouse were likewise similarly shunned by anyone but the underbelly of society.

This, combined with the fact that the children of executioners could usually only find mates with children of other executioners, understandably led to the role of executioner becoming a macabre family trade that resulted in executioner dynasties that spanned centuries.

Beyond being ostrosised and damning your progeny to a similar life, as well as an afterlife full of hellfire, while there were potentially ways for an executioner to make a killing within the profession, it turns out for most there simply weren’t enough executions themselves to make ends meet. Alternate work was limited to jobs nobody else wanted. This included all manner of things, from disposal of corpses (animal and human), emptying cesspools, collecting taxes from the diseased and prostitutes, etc.

Oddly, at least from a modern perspective, another common profession for a well trained executioner was that of a doctor and surgeon. You see, beyond executing people, another thing executioners were often called to do was torture people for various reasons. These two things, combined with the close-knit community of executioners sharing their knowledge amongst themselves, resulted in lifelong executioners generally having exceptional knowledge of human anatomy, and thus they were commonly called on to treat various medical maladies.

In fact, one rather famous 17th century German executioner, Frantz Schmidt, noted in his journal that over the course of his near five decade career he had over 15,000 people he treated as a doctor, while executing only 394 and disfiguring or otherwise torturing or flogging roughly the same number- meaning most of the time he functioned as a doctor, despite society at the time considering him an executioner.

Schmidt was one of those thrust into the profession as his father was strong-armed into becoming an executioner, condemning Schmidt to the same life once he came of age, though Schmidt’s story has something of a happy ending.

Like many executioners, Schmidt was given a wide berth by the public in his day-to-day life, but the incredible professionalism with which he conducted his grisly duties earned him the begrudging respect of both the general public and those in power. In his later years, Schmidt was able to parlay this into a meeting with Nuremberg authorities and then was able to appeal to Emperor Ferdinand II himself, with the goal of restoring his family honor.

Swayed by not just Schmidt’s words, but also letters from city council members and other notable people extolling Schmidt’s character and dedication to his duty, the then 70 year old executioner was granted both Nuremberg citizenship and had his family name cleared, allowing his progeny to escape the bloody spectre of his work.

Of course, being ultra-professional with the profession was something of a necessity for Schmidt as, at the time in Germany, there was a law stipulating that any executioner tasked with doling out death by the sword (a form of execution largely reserved for especially important individuals) who took more than three swings to behead a victim would be condemned to die themselves.

Even where such laws didn’t exist, the job of an executioner was extremely dangerous as executioners were also at risk of being killed either by vengeful relatives or the crowd witnessing an execution. In regards to the latter, if an executioner was especially cruel in their meting out of punishment, simply incompetent to the point that they caused undue suffering, or just otherwise acted in an unprofessional manner in performing their duties, it wasn’t unheard of for a crowd to retaliate by killing the executioner on the spot, generally with no consequence to anyone in the mob.

This constant danger of the job was something Schmidt himself talked about several times in his journal, though he only notes one instance where the crowd turned into a mob. This occurred during a flogging he was performing, with the person being beaten ultimately stoned to death by the crowd.

As you might imagine from this, in cases like Schmidt who was trained from childhood to take over the job from his father, a rather lengthy apprenticeship was called for, including a robust education from one’s parent, followed by assisting in executions and torture from a young age. Schmidt also notes that he practiced executions extensively on various animals before being allowed to actually execute a human himself. The end goal of all of this was to make sure he wouldn’t screw up, as raucous mobs didn’t really care if it was someone’s first day on the job or not.

Now, although being an executioner came with some massive downsides, it wasn’t all bad. Enterprising executioners could actually earn a fairly decent living doling out torture and capital punishment on command if they were smart about it. For example, especially skilled executioners who didn’t mind traveling could take advantage of the scarcity of people willing to do their job by plying their trade across whichever country they happened to live in, rather than just staying local.

Executioners also frequently earned extra money in the form of bribes from the condemned or their families, invariably given in the hopes that the executioner would ensure death was as swift and painless as possible, or otherwise allow the condemned extra comforts leading up to the execution. This might include, for example, slipping them extra alcohol or the like to make the execution a little easier to handle.

On top of this, throughout much of Medieval Europe a perk of being an executioner is that it was customary for whatever property was worn at the time of death to be granted to the executioner.

Additionally, executioners in Germany were frequently tasked with things like arbitrating disputes between prostitutes and driving lepers out of town, among other such jobs, all of which they could charge a premium for because nobody else was willing to do the job.

Executioners were also sometimes not just given the job of disposing of animal carcasses, but also in some regions the explicit right to all stray animal carcasses found in a town. Depending on the animal, this could mean the rights to valuable hides, teeth, etc.

An even greater benefit for certain executioners, this time in France, was the idea of droit de havage. In a nutshell, because executioners were so ostracized and couldn’t in some regions, for example, just go down to the market and shop freely, under droit de havage, executioners were more or less allowed to tax those who sold various food and drink items. This came in the form of being able to demand goods for free.

Finally, there’s the money an executioner would be paid for performing an execution, flogging, or the like. Although it’s hard to say exactly how much an executioner could earn per hanging or beheading in today’s currency due to the inherent difficulty of gauging the value of historic currencies, it’s evident that it was a good amount, at least relative to the generally low social standing of executioners.

For example, according to information gleaned from an old statute dated to a small German town in 1276 an executioner could earn the equivalent of 5 shillings per execution. This is an amount roughly equal to the amount of money a skilled tradesmen could earn in about 25 days at the time. Likewise, an executioner operating in England some two centuries later in the 1400s could reportedly earn a fee of 10 shillings per execution, or roughly 16 times the amount a skilled tradesmen could earn in a single day.

Granted, as you might have deduced from the aforementioned case of Frantz Schmidt only executing about 400 people and flogging a similar number in his near five decades on the job, nobody was getting rich doing this by itself, it at least wasn’t bad pay per hour of work.

Finally, we’d be remiss in any discussion of Medieval executioners to not point out that the idea of executioners wearing masks to hide who they were does not appear to have actually been much of a thing. Beyond, as mentioned, in many regions being literally branded as executioners, even large cities for much of history weren’t actually that large; so people knew who the executioner in a given region was, if not directly, by being marked such. Thus, wearing a mask would have been pointless.

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

Articles

These tunnel detectors can ferret out enemy below ground

Enemy combatants lurking in tunnels have attacked US troops throughout history, including during both world wars, Vietnam, and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Detecting these secretive tunnels has been a challenge that has been answered by the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s engineers at the Geotechnical and Structural Laboratory in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

The lab developed the Rapid Reaction Tunnel Detection system, or R2TD, several years ago, according to Lee Perren, a research geophysicist at ERDC who spoke at the Pentagon’s lab day in May.

R2TD detects the underground void created by tunnels as well as the sounds of people or objects like electrical or communications cabling inside such tunnels, he said. The system is equipped with ground penetrating radar using an electromagnetic induction system.

Additionally, a variety of sensors detect acoustic and seismic energy, he added.

Emblem courtesy of r2td.org/

The detection equipment data can then be transmitted remotely to analysts who view the data in graphical form on computer monitors.

The system can be carried by a soldier or used inside a vehicle to scan suspected tunnel areas, he said.

R2TD has been deployed overseas since 2014, he said. Feedback from combat engineers who used the system indicated they like the ease of use and data displays. It takes just a day to train an operator, Perren said.

Jen Picucci, a research mathematician at ERDC’s Structural Engineering Branch, said that technology for detecting tunnels has been available for at least a few decades.

However, the enemy has managed to continually adapt, building tunnels at greater depths and with more sophistication, she said.

In response, ERDC has been trying to stay at least a step ahead of them, continually refining the software algorithms used to reject false positives and false negatives, she said. Also, the system upgraded to a higher power cable-loop transmitter to send signals deeper into the ground.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The improvements have resulted in the ability to detect deeper tunnels as well as underground heat and infrastructure signatures, which can discriminate from the normal underground environment, she said.

Picucci said ERDC has shared its R2TD with the Department of Homeland Security as well as with the other military services and allies. For security reasons, she declined to say in which areas R2TD is being actively used.

Besides the active tunneling detection system, a passive sensing system employs a linear array of sensors just below the surface of the ground to monitor and process acoustic and seismic energy. These can monitored remotely, according to an ERDC brochure.

While current operations remain classified, ERDC field engineers have in the past traveled in to Afghanistan according to members of the team.

In 2011, for example, ERDC personnel set up tunnel detection equipment to search the underground perimeter of Camp Nathan Smith, Afghanistan, said Owen Metheny, a field engineer at ERDC who participated in the trip.

(DoD photo by Sgt. 1st Class Dexter D. Clouden)

His colleague, Steven Sloan, a research geophysicist at ERDC in Afghanistan at the time, said the goal was to ensure safety at the camp.

“We make sure nobody is coming into the camp using underground avenues that normally wouldn’t be seen and wouldn’t be monitored,” Sloan said. “We check smaller isolated areas — usually areas of interests and perimeters.”

The researchers did a lot of traveling around Afghanistan.

“We travel to different regional commands and help out in the battle spaces of different military branches,” Sloan said. “We use geophysical techniques to look for anomalies underground. We look for things that stick out as abnormal that might indicate that there is a void or something else of interest. As we work our way through an area we look for how things change from spot to spot.”

“I really enjoy my job,” Metheny said. “I’m doing something for my country and helping keep people safe. Plus, where else could a bunch of civilians get to come to Afghanistan and look for tunnels?”

MIGHTY CULTURE

5-year-old grandson gets veteran to quit smoking

United States Army veteran Tony Fife-Patterson started smoking when he was 17 because “the cool guys in the neighborhood were doing it, and I wanted to fit in.” Eventually, he settled in to a pack a day habit, and never considered that he might be addicted to nicotine. Occasionally, someone would tell him he ought to quit, but it only made him want to smoke more.

A couple of years ago, Tony’s daughter called him about his 5-year-old grandson who was crying after watching a “Truth Ad” on television. The ad is part of a national campaign to eliminate teen smoking. Tony’s grandson never liked how smoking made Tony smell, but the advertisement made him worry about how smoking could hurt his grandfather’s health.


Although Tony began contemplating his cigarette smoking, he still didn’t think he had a problem. Yet a few days later, after lighting a cigarette, Tony had an epiphany.

“At that moment, I realized I really was getting tired of this habit,” Tony said. “It had become something that no longer was fun.”

At his next VA appointment, Tony asked his provider about quitting and learned about Truman VA’s “Thinking About Quitting?” program.

(Photo by Paweł Czerwiński)

“This really DOES control me!”

Tony agreed to attend the program’s orientation class. At first, he had doubts; however, once he learned that his smoking was an addiction, he knew he didn’t want tobacco to control him.

“Wait a minute,” Tony thought. “This really DOES control me!”

The realization that he was controlled by cigarettes offended him and he was determined to do something about it.

Tony enrolled in Truman VA’s Quit program with other veterans who wanted to quit tobacco. The first three classes helped Tony develop a personal plan to manage the physical, psychological and habit parts of his smoking addiction. He also learned how to get through urges to smoke without giving in. On the program’s “Quit Day,” Tony found it was helpful to quit with other motivated veterans. The final three classes focused on lifestyle changes to help him remain tobacco-free and avoid a relapse.

In the photo above, proud “Thinking About Quitting” graduate Tony poses with Joseph Hinkebein, Ph.D., Truman VA psychologist and tobacco cessation coordinator.

It’s now a year-and-a-half since Tony’s “Quit Day,” and he remains tobacco-free.

(Photo by Gilles Lambert)

Tracks progress…and SAVINGS…with app

As part of his success, Tony uses a quit smoking smart phone app to track how long he has been tobacco-free and how much money he has saved since quitting. He’s saved almost id=”listicle-2641557022″,400 so far.

More importantly, Tony loves the tobacco-free lifestyle. His sense of taste and smell has improved, and he no longer gets complaints from his grandson about smelling like smoke.

“I didn’t realize how bad I smelled, but now I get it,” Tony said.

Most of all, he is proud to no longer be controlled by cigarettes. While the thought of smoking still crosses his mind every now and then, when stressed, he reminds himself, “I don’t need a cigarette to cope with stress anymore!”

Tony tries to lead by example and never “lectures or nags” those who still smoke. He just wants other veterans to know that they can quit when they are ready to do it for their own reasons. He encourages veterans to attend the “Thinking About Quitting” orientation class to learn how to successfully quit. The program provided education and support to help him be successful, but Tony gets all the credit.

“I never thought I could do this,” Tony said. “But I did it. It is something I am immensely proud of!”

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

Articles

These are the secret tunnels ISIS uses to launch sneak attacks in Syria

The Kurdish YPG, a contingent of the US-backed forces fighting ISIS in Syria, released a video Aug. 29 showing the underground tunnels that ISIS digs to launch sneak attacks.


The video shows two rather large tunnels inside a captured, bombed-out mosque, from which the YPG claim that ISIS had been using.

“The barbaric group, aware of the YPG’s sensitivity towards people’s places of worship and other historic sites, has been using [mosques] as bases to delay the liberation of Raqqa,” text in the YPG video reads.

ISIS has been known to use such tunnels in Iraq and Syria not only for sneak attacks, which the militants reportedly paid civilians $2 per day to dig, are also used for moving supplies, housing ISIS fighters, and laying booby traps.

 

(YPG PRESS OFFICE | YouTube)

 

Former ISIS fighters have reportedly said that some of the tunnels are extremely complex, some even containing rooms, toilets, and medical facilities.

A YPG commander recently said there are about 700 to 1,000 ISIS fighters left in Raqqa, and that the battle should be over in about 2 months.

This older Fox News video shows how intricate the tunnels can get:

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China launches new combat-ready unmanned warship

China has launched a new “world-leading unmanned warship” that is supposedly ready for combat, Chinese media reports.

The JARI multi-purpose unmanned combat vessel, a new product of the state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, is 50 feet in length and displaces 20 tons. Chinese media reports that this ship is capable of conducting the same missions as China’s Type 052 destroyers, namely air-defense, anti-ship and anti-submarine missions.

Chinese military observers refer to China’s latest development as a “mini Aegis-class destroyer” because of its radars, vertically-launched missiles and torpedoes, the Global Times reports, referencing the US Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, many of which are equipped with powerful Aegis radars, surface-to-air missiles, and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.


“This is [People’s Liberation Army] vaporware,” Bryan Clark, a US defense expert and former naval officer, told Insider, referencing technology that is a bit more conceptual than meaningfully applicable.

“The boat is very similar to commercially-available unmanned harbor patrol vessels,” he said.

“Like those boats, there is a mount on the forward deck that would normally carry a machine gun. It may also have some vertically-launched rockets or small missiles in cells on the rear deck or behind the gun.”

China has yet to say what type of missions this vessel might conduct. “This boat doesn’t have the range for operations very far from Chinese territory. Therefore, it may only be good for patrolling around China’s islands in the South China Sea or around Chinese ports,” he said.

China first revealed a model of the JARI unmanned warship last year in South Africa at the Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition, where a China industry representative explained to Navy Recognition that the medium-sized vessel is propelled by a single water jet, has a maximum speed of 42 knots, and has a maximum range of 500 nautical miles.

The model showed a 30mm main gun with eight vertical launch systems behind the cannon and two light torpedo launchers on each side of the superstructure.

Another model was again showcased at the International Defense Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi back in February, where Defense News noted that the vessel included an electro-optical sensor, a phased array radar, a dipping sonar, and a rocket launcher, among the previously-mentioned features.

It is unclear how many of these features have been effectively incorporated into the final design. There are actually quite a few uncertainties surrounding this technology.

Seth Cropsey, a seapower expert at the Hudson Institute, told Insider that China is getting better and better at technology but said there are questions of “how soon the Chinese can field this, what its real capabilities are versus what its advertised capabilities are and, this is important, how many of these things they are going to put out to sea.”

The JARI can, the Global Times reports, be controlled remotely or operate autonomously, although more testing is required before it can fully do the latter. Chinese military analysts have talked about this vessel being used with other drone ships to create a swarm.

The US military has experimented with small crewless swarm boats, as well as medium-sized unmanned surface vessels like the Sea Hunter.

Earlier this month, the US Navy expressed an interest in the development of a large unmanned surface vessel, “a high-endurance, reconfigurable ship able to accommodate various payloads for unmanned missions to augment the Navy’s manned surface force.”

The Navy has said that it is pursuing “a balance of high-end, survivable manned platforms with a greater number of complementary, more affordable, potentially more cost-imposing, and attritable options.”

Expert observers suspect the new revelation is a response to US Navy plans. “I believe one of the drivers for this rollout from the PLA is the US Navy’s recent announcement of its proposed Large USV,” Clark told Insider.

Cropsey explained that “this is a start” for the Chinese, but added that “it doesn’t really compare to what we’re planning.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the agenda for Mattis’ Indo-Asia-Pacific tour

Strengthening ties with allies, increasing defense capabilities in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, and discussions about the threat of North Korea are among the topics Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will contend with on his trip to the region, he told reporters traveling with him yesterday.


The secretary arrived in the Philippines on Oct. 23. He laid out his agenda for the trip during an in-flight news conference.

Mattis will meet with Philippine officials before taking part in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations defense ministerial set for Oct. 23-25. That meeting is at the former Clark Air Base.

“One of the first things I’m going to do when I get there is commend the Philippine military for liberating Marawi from the terrorists,” he told reporters. “It was a very tough fight, as you know, in southern Mindanao. And I think the Philippine military sends a very strong message to the terrorists.”

The Armed Forces of the Philippines battled forces allied under the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Marawi. Coalition forces helped the Philippine troops with intelligence, advice and logistic support. While small pockets of terrorists remain, the government declared the city liberated Oct. 17.

Marawi, Phillipines, sits on the northern bank of Lake Lanao. The tiny country is surrounded by the Phillipine, South China, Sulu, and Celebes Seas, and the Pacific Ocean to the east. (image Chrisgel Ryan Cruz)

ASEAN

The association has been in existence for almost 50 years and is a force promoting peace and stability in the region. It is a forum for the nations to discuss issues among themselves and hash out ways to cooperate that brings prosperity to the region, Mattis said. The meeting also marks 40 years of friendship and cooperation between ASEAN and the United States.

“ASEAN provides an international venue, giving voice to those who want relations between states to be based on respect, not on predatory economics or on the size of militaries,” he said. “ASEAN nations have demonstrated that they can listen to one another, they identify opportunities to increase defense cooperation for their own security and seek shared solutions to shared concerns. The U.S. remains unambiguously committed to supporting ASEAN.”

The secretary will take advantage of his time at the meeting to visit with his regional counterparts, he said. In addition to meeting Philippine counterparts, Mattis is scheduled to meet with representatives of Japan, South Korea, India, Indonesia and Malaysia.

He will also hold trilateral talks with Japanese and South Korean defense officials.

Signalman Seaman Adrian Delaney practices his semaphore aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) during an at-sea training evolution with the Royal Thai Navy tank landing ship Her Thai MajestyÕs Ship (HTMS) Prathong (LST 715) during the Thailand phase of exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT). (U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 3rd Class Alicia T. Boatwright.)

North Korea

Mattis said the regional disturbances created by North Korea will be on the agenda at ASEAN. He said will also emphasize the shared values the nations of the alliance have, the territorial sovereignty of the nations and the need for “freedom of navigation through historically international waters and fair and reciprocal trade.”

Related: This is why Mattis isn’t losing sleep over threats from North Korea

At the conclusion of the meeting, Mattis will lead the official U.S. delegation to the funeral of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October 2016. The royal cremation rite ends the period of mourning for the country — one of America’s treaty allies in the region. “He was understandably beloved by his people and a proponent of our strong Thailand-United States relationship,” the defense secretary said.

After the ASEAN meeting ends, Mattis will move on to Seoul, where he and South Korea’s Defense Minister Song Young-moo will co-chair the 49th annual Security Consultative Meeting. “There, we will underscore our ironclad commitment to each other,” Mattis said.

North Korea is a threat to the region and globally, defense officials have said. Two unanimous U.N. Security Council resolutions have isolated the state from the rest of the world. The U.N. acted after North Korea detonated nuclear devices and flew an intercontinental ballistic missile over Japan. During his meetings in South Korea, the secretary said he will discuss reinforcing diplomatic efforts to return to a denuclearized Korean peninsula.

The defense leaders will also discuss “how we are going to maintain peace by keeping our militaries alert while our diplomats — Japanese, South Korean and U.S. — work with all nations to denuclearize the Korean peninsula,” Mattis said.

Articles

Watch the Air Force launch an ICBM in mid-air from the back of a C-5

During the Cold War, the American nuclear deterrent strategy required coming up with ways to guarantee the survival of nuclear weapons if the Soviets managed a surprise first strike. The surviving devices would then be used to destroy Soviet civilization.


Keeping U.S. nukes out of Soviet crosshairs required a lot of imagination. The Americans had to keep the nukes deeply buried or constantly on the move. Then they had to make sure the surviving devices could be used effectively.

One such scheme was outfitting a full-size Minuteman III Inter-continental Ballistic Missile to fit in the back of a U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy aircraft, dumping the nuke out the back and triggering the ICBM’s full ignition sequence.

They’re really serious about nothing stopping the U.S. Air Force.

Minuteman III ICBMs carry multiple warheads bound for separate targets. This makes the Minuteman III the ideal missile for the mobile nuclear weapon strategy. At 60 feet long and 78,000 pounds, the missile is easily carried by the gargantuan aircraft.

The C-5 Galaxy’s maximum payload is an amazing 285,000 pounds and the aircraft itself is just under 248 feet long. With an operational range of 5,250 nautical miles, the C-5 can fly from Dover Air Force Base to the Middle East without having to refuel.

Launching a fully functional ICBM out the back of an aircraft inflight might sound crazy, but the Air Force first tested this concept successfully in 1974.

Articles

Why Navy SEALs will storm the beaches of Normandy in 2018

Jumping into freezing water is just part of the legacy of being a Navy SEAL. During World War II, the U.S. Navy Combat Demolition Units were just a handful of guys equipped only with a pair of shorts, a knife, and maybe some explosives. But those amphibious roots are still close to the hearts of the Navy special warfare community — that’s why they still call themselves “Frogmen.”

Some 74 years ago, in the English Channel during the predawn hours of June 6, 1944, these Navy Combat Demolition Units braved the freezing waters — not to mention the thousands of Nazi guns pointed at the water’s edge.

They were trained for this.

They weren’t necessarily trained to be the secret first wave of invaders up against some of the most fortified positions in the world. No, instead they were trained to win against any and all odds or obstacles. These men were the precursor to modern day SEALs, moving to do their part on the beaches before the D-Day Landings.

That’s how SEAL training works to this day. Recruits are taught to overcome the things they think can’t be done. Now, in tribute to those few who landed at occupied France well before the rest of the Allies, 30 current and former Navy SEALs, as well as some “gritty” civilians, will recreate those NCDU landings.

Today’s SEAL reenactors will do a seven-mile swim to land at Normandy, where they’ll scale the cliffs of Omaha Beach to place a wreath in memorial. At that point, they’ll gear up with 44-pound rucks to do a 30-kilometer march to Saint-Lô.

Why? To raise awareness (and funds) for the Navy SEAL Heritage Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida — and the wide range of programs they offer to support family members of SEALs who fell in combat, doing things only the U.S. special operations community would ever dare.


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“The greatest barrier to human performance is your own mind,” says Kaj Larsen, a Navy SEAL veteran who is also a seasoned journalist and television personality (among other things). “… what [BUD/S training] is really doing is putting guys into the [SEAL] community who aren’t going to quit in combat.” Larsen will be among the SEALs hitting the beach on D-Day 2018.

Larsen with Nigerian troops while covering the fight against Boko Haram for Vice News.
(Kaj Larsen)

The goal is to keep the 2018 mission as close as possible to the original mission of the D-Day Frogmen.

The night before D-Day, an ad hoc team of underwater demolition sailors, along with Navy divers and Seabees, led by Ensign Lawrence Stephen Karnowski, rigged the mine fields, obstacles, and other impediments set up by the Nazi defenders to explode so the main invasion force could make it to the beach.

Karnowski (center) with his UDC team.
(U.S. Navy)

It was 2 a.m. when the NCDU units slipped into the water, wearing little more than diver’s shorts and carrying satchels of explosives. The water temperature at that time of year peaks at just below 58 degrees Fahrenheit (for reference, water freezes at 32 degrees).

This is why today’s SEALs get that mental training: they need it.

Be sure to listen to this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast to find out more about “The Murph” workout (Larsen was a close friend of SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient Michael P. Murphy for whom the exercise is named), to learn about a “Super Murph,” how SEALs are dealing with their fame in the wake of the Bin Laden Raid, and why veterans might be the future of American journalism.

Larsen on assignment in Peru with Vice camerawoman Claire Ward while embedded with Peruvian Special Forces.
(Kaj Larson)

You can also find out how to follow Kaj and his work, as well as what comes next for the veteran journalist.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

The Air Force has ‘natural’ explanations for all these UFO sightings

From 1947 to 1970, the United States Air Force conducted investigations into the increasing number of unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings throughout the United States. The purpose of the investigations was to assess the nature of these sightings and determine if they posed any potential threat to the U.S.

Three successive projects were created to carry out these investigations: Sign, Grudge, and Blue Book.


Blue Book was the longest and most comprehensive, lasting from 1952 to 1970. A 1966 Air Force publication gave insight into how the program was conducted:

The program is conducted in three phases. The first phase includes receipt of UFO reports and initial investigation of the reports. The Air Force base nearest the location of a reported sighting is charged with the responsibility of investigating the sighting and forwarding the information to the Project Blue Book Office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
If the initial investigation does not reveal a positive identification or explanation, a second phase of more intensive analysis is conducted by the Project Blue Book Office. Each case is objectively and scientifically analyzed, and, if necessary, all of the scientific facilities available to the Air Force can be used to assist in arriving at an identification or explanation. All personnel associated with the investigation, analysis, and evaluation efforts of the project view each report with a scientific approach and an open mind.
The third phase of the program is dissemination of information concerning UFO sightings, evaluations, and statistics. This is accomplished by the Secretary of the Air Force, Office of Information.
—Project Blue Book, February 1, 1966, p. 1. (National Archives Identifier 595175)

After investigating a case, the Air Force placed it into one of three categories: Identified, Insufficient Data, or Unidentified.

Project Blue Book, February 1, 1966, p. 2.
(Records of Headquarters U.S. Air Force, National Archives)

Sightings resulting from identifiable causes fall into several broad categories:

  • human-created objects or phenomena including aircraft, balloons, satellites, searchlights, and flares;
  • astronomical phenomena, including meteors and meteorites, comets, and stars;
  • atmospheric effects, including clouds and assorted light phenomena; and
  • human psychology, including not only psychological frailty or illness but also fabrication (i.e., hoaxes).

The conclusions of Project Blue Book were:

(1) no unidentified flying object reported, investigated, and evaluated by the Air Force has ever given any indication of threat to our national security;
(2) there has been no evidence submitted to or discovered by the Air Force that sightings categorized as unidentified represent technological developments or principles beyond the range of present day scientific knowledge; and
(3) there has been no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as unidentified are extraterrestrial vehicles.
—Project Blue Book, February 1, 1966, p. 4. (Records of Headquarters U.S. Air Force, National Archives)

In 1967, the Air Force’s Foreign Technology Division (FTD), the organization overseeing Blue Book, briefed USAF Gen. William C. Garland on the project. The July 7 report stated that in the 20 years the FTD had reported and examined over 11,000 UFO sightings, they had no evidence that UFOs posed any threat to national security. Furthermore, their evidence “denies the existence of flying saucers from outer space, or any similar phenomenon popularly associated with UFOs.”

The FTD reiterated an expanded finding from Project Grudge:Evaluations of reports of UFOs to date demonstrate that these flying objects constitute no threat to the security of the United States. They also concluded that reports of UFOs were the result of misinterpretations of conventional objects, a mild form of mass hysteria of war nerves and individuals who fabricate such reports to perpetrate a hoax or to seek publicity.”

An independent review requested by FTD came to the same conclusion:

Briefing by 1st Lt. William F. Marley, Jr. to General William C. Garland, July 7, 1967, p. 7
(Records of Headquarters U.S. Air Force, National Archives)

Looking to specific investigation files, we can see what a typical investigation was like, the kinds of documentation and information collected, the investigatory process, and how the Air Force arrived at its conclusions.

Datil, NM, 1950

Cpl. Lertis E. Stanfield, 3024th Air Police Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, reported seeing a strange object in the sky on the night of February 24/25, 1950. He had a camera with him at the time and took several pictures, including the following:

(Records of Headquarters U.S. Air Force)

The details of the sighting were included in an investigation report:

Report of Investigation, 7 March 1950, p1. (National Archives Identifier 595175)Report of Investigation, 7 March 1950, p2. (National Archives Identifier 595175)Report of Investigation, 7 March 1950, p3. (National Archives Identifier 595175)


This was not the first time an unusual sighting had occurred at Holloman. In fact, it was part of a recurring pattern (and one that explains Stansfield’s possession of a camera at the time of the sighting).

Report of Aerial Phenomena, Holloman Air Force Base, February 21, 1950, through April 31, 1951.
(Records of Headquarters U.S. Air Force, National Archives)

At the time, Project Grudge was unable to provide an explanation. However, a decade and a half later, a similar sighting over the Soviet Union provided Blue Book with an answer: a comet.

Project 10073 Form, ca. 1965
(Records of Headquarters U.S. Air Force, National Archives)

Several sightings of this kind were reported in the desert Southwest around this time. Despite the delay in reaching a conclusion, the similarity of the photographic evidence to known comet sightings led the Air Force to conclude it was dealing with a comet here too.

Redlands, CA, 1958

On December 13, 1958, a man in Redlands, California, snapped a photograph of a strangely shaped object in the sky.

Close-up photo of UFO in Redlands, CA, 1958.
(Records of Headquarters U.S. Air Force, National Archives)

The UFO worksheet described the sighting in detail:

UFO Worksheet, 16 December 1958 (National Archives Identifier 595175)UFO Worksheet, 16 December 1958 (National Archives Identifier 595175)


However, inconsistencies in the reporting led the Air Force to initially determine that the case was impossible to analyze accurately.

Correspondence, February 5, 1959.
(Records of Headquarters U.S. Air Force, National Archives)

A final report dated January 1959, elaborated on these inconsistencies but reached a conclusion nonetheless. The observer had photographed a lenticular cloud.

Report, January 30, 1959 (National Archives Identifier 595175)Report, January 30, 1959 (National Archives Identifier 595175)


All of these sighted were explained as initially misinterpreted natural occurrences. In the next post of the series, we’ll turn our attention to sightings ultimately identified as human-created objects and one sighting truly classified as a UFO.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy’s newest aircraft carrier finally gets long-missing gear

The USS Gerald R. Ford, the first-in-class aircraft carrier that’s been plagued by technical problems and cost overruns, got the first of its 11 advanced weapons elevators on Dec. 21, 2018, “setting the tone for more positive developments in the year ahead,” the Navy said in January 2019.

That tone may be doubly important for Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who has promised the elevators would be ready by the end of the carrier’s yearlong post-shakedown assessment summer 2018. Spencer staked his job on the elevators, which were not installed when the carrier was delivered in May 2017, well past the original 2015 delivery goal.


Advanced Weapons Elevator Upper Stage 1 was turned over to the Navy after testing and certification by engineers at Huntington Ingalls-Newport News Shipbuilding, where the carrier was built and is going through its post-shakedown period after testing at sea.

The elevator “has been formally accepted by the Navy,” Bill Couch, a spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, said in a statement.

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer being briefed by the USS Gerald R. Ford’s commanding officer, Capt. John J. Cummings, on the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator on the flight deck.

(US Navy photo Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Kiana A. Raines)

The testing and certification “focused on technical integration of hardware and software issues, such as wireless communication system software maturity and configuration control, and software verification and validation,” Couch said.

The Ford class is the first new carrier design in 40 years, and rather than cables, the new elevators are “commanded via electromagnetic, linear synchronous motors,” the Navy said in a news release. That change allows them to move faster and carry more ordnance — up to 24,000 pounds at 150 feet a minute instead of Nimitz-class carriers’ 10,500 pounds at 100 feet a minute.

The ship’s layout has also changed. Seven lower-stage elevators move ordnance between the lower levels of the ship and main deck. Three upper-stage elevators move it between the main deck and the flight deck. One elevator can be used to move injured personnel, allowing the weapons and aircraft elevators to focus on their primary tasks.

The Ford also has a dedicated weapons-handling area between its hangar bay and the flight deck “that eliminates several horizontal and vertical movements to various staging and build-up locations” offering “a 75% reduction in distance traveled from magazine to aircraft,” the Navy said.

Chief Machinist’s Mate Franklin Pollydore, second from left, reviewing safety procedures for the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator with sailors from the USS Gerald R. Ford’s weapons department.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Jeff Troutman)

The upper-stage 1 elevator will now be used by the Ford’s crew and “qualify them for moving ordnance during real-world operations,” Couch said.

The amount of new technology on the Ford means its crew is in many cases developing guidelines for using it. The crew is doing hands-on training that “will validate technical manuals and maintenance requirements cards against the elevator’s actual operation,” the Navy said.

James Geurts, the Navy assistant secretary for research, development, and acquisition, told senators in November 2018 that two elevators had been produced — one was through testing and another was “about 94% through testing.”

The other 10 elevators “are in varying levels of construction, testing, and operations,” Couch said. “Our plan is to complete all shipboard installation and testing activities of the advanced weapons elevators before the ship’s scheduled sail-away date in July.”

“In our current schedule there will be some remaining certification documentation that will be performed for 5 of the 11 elevators after [the post-shakedown assessment] is compete,” Couch said. “A dedicated team is engaged on these efforts and will accelerate this certification work and schedule where feasible.”

Spencer during a tour of the USS Gerald R. Ford.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Kiana A. Raines)

That timeline has particular meaning for Spencer, the Navy’s top civilian official.

The Navy secretary said at an event this month that at the Army-Navy football game on Dec. 8, 2018, he told President Donald Trump — who has made his displeasure with the Ford well known — that he would bet his job on the elevators’ completion.

“I asked him to stick his hand out — he stuck his hand out. I said, ‘Let’s do this like corporate America.’ I shook his hand and said the elevators will be ready to go when she pulls out or you can fire me,” Spencer said during an event at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, DC.

“We’re going to get it done. I know I’m going to get it done,” Spencer added. “I haven’t been fired yet by anyone — being fired by the president really isn’t on the top of my list.”

An F/A-18F Super Hornet performing an arrested landing aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford on July 28, 2017.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Elizabeth A. Thompson)

The weapons elevators have posed a challenge to the Ford’s development, but they are far from the only problem.

Trump has repeatedly singled out the carrier’s new electromagnetic aircraft launch system, or EMALS, which uses magnets rather than steam to launch planes. Software issues initially hindered its performance.

“They have digital. What is digital? And it’s very complicated, you have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out,” Trump told Time magazine in May 2017, referring to the new launch system. “You going to goddamned steam, the digital costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money and it’s no good.”

Spencer said he and Trump had also discussed EMALS at the Army-Navy game.

“He said, should we go back to steam? I said, ‘Well Mr. President, really look at what we’re looking at. EMALS. We got the bugs out,'” Spencer said at the event in January 2019, according to USNI News. “It can launch a very light piece of aviation gear, and right behind it we can launch the heaviest piece of gear we have. Steam can’t do that. And by the way, parts, manpower, space — it’s all to our advantage.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why World War II veterans are returning captured Japanese flags

It’s not uncommon for troops who overrun an enemy position to take a photo with a captured enemy banner. It’s just as common for them to take that banner home as a souvenir. There are a lot worse things to remove from the battlefield. American troops have been capturing flags since the founding of the republic.

So, why are these World War II veterans returning captured Japanese flags?


The importance of a unit’s standard dates back to antiquity. Roman legions carried standards that took on an almost divine quality, representing the Legion, the Emperor, and even the Gods themselves. They would take extraordinary measures to recover a captured standard, even invading neighboring countries decades after losing the standards just to get them back. The Japanese had a similar tradition with their Yosegaki Hinomaru.

The hinomaru was a blank flag carried by every drafted Japanese soldier. It was signed by everyone in their life; mother, father, sisters, brothers, neighbors, teachers, wives, and children. It was a good luck charm that wished bravery and a safe return home to the carrier. The Japanese troop then marched off to war, the flag folded and tucked somewhere on his person.

These are usually the flags that were captured by American troops in World War II. Because no one enjoys taking photos with the flags of their fallen enemies like U.S. troops.

Read: These 13 photos of US troops with enemy flags show some traditions never die

U.S. Marines with a yosegaki hinomaru after the Battle of Iwo Jima.

But American troops had no idea these flags were the personal keepsakes of fallen individuals and not unit flags carried by the Japanese army. Now that the men who captured these battlefield trophies are aging and dying, the flags are being sold off or thrown away altogether, but there’s a better way to handle these pieces of history: giving them back.

And that’s what World War II veterans and their families are doing. Through the international nonprofit Obon Society, families and veterans who still possess a captured yosegaki hinomaru are tracking down the Japanese veterans and families of Japanese veterans of the Pacific War to return the family heirlooms and help the aging veterans heal their decades-old, invisible wounds.

If there’s any doubt about the power of these standards, even to this day, just watch below as a Japanese man reacts to seeing his missing brother’s yosegaki hinomaru.

There are no better frenemies than American and Japanese veterans of WWII. In the years that followed, the U.S. and Japan grew ever closer as allies and as people. Despite the overwhelming brutality of the war, the enduring friendships that developed in the years since have been a testament to the idea that peace is always possible, even in the face of such hard fighting. The only thing that remains is handling the losses incurred along the way – brothers, fathers, sons, and friends.

Groups like the Obon Society and its team of researchers make it easy to start healing the pain that remains between families and friends who lost loved ones in the war. If you or your departed veterans have a flag like the ones seen in the photos above, contact the Obon Society to return the flag to its family and maybe even make contact with them.