This castaway airman helped map the entire world - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This castaway airman helped map the entire world

A sandy white beach. Swaying palm trees. Cocktails made from coconut juice.


As frigid air and snowstorms whip across most of the U.S., service members may dream of trading their current duty station for an exotic Pacific paradise.

But they might want to think again, according to Bob Cunningham, a former Air Force radar operator whose first duty station was a tiny, oblong blister of land in the South China Sea. He knows it as North Danger Island.

This castaway airman helped map the entire world
Airman 2nd Class Bob ‘Red’ Cunningham, 1374th Mapping and Charting Squadron, sits near his footlocker and reads a magazine during his six-month assignment on North Danger Island in 1956. The 22-year old radar operator and his three teammates lived in a tent and shared the tiny island in the South China Sea with a six-man Air Force radio relay station team. (Courtesy photo Bob Cunningham)

For six months in 1956, Cunningham lived on a remote knob approximately 2,000 feet long and 850 feet wide in the Spratly Islands group located midway between the Philippine Islands and Vietnam. His home was a canvas tent and he manned radio and radar equipment for a secret Air Force project mapping the earth.

The mission was an aerial electronic geodetic survey. Specially equipped aircraft flew grid patterns and triangulated electromagnetic pulses sent between temporary ground stations hundreds of miles apart. The data, computed into highly accurate coordinates, would eventually provide targeting information for intercontinental ballistic missile development.

It was a ‘million dollar experience’ that he wouldn’t give two cents to repeat, Cunningham jokes today.

Not that it wasn’t an adventure, he admits.

Cunningham’s four-man team and all its equipment was helicoptered to the island from the deck of a Landing Ship, Tank (LST), along with the drinking water, fuel and rations the men would need to survive. Resupply occurred every 4-6 weeks by helicopter, supplemented by occasional parachute drops. A radio relay team of six Airmen had already established itself on the island and shared the same copse of trees.

“I was 22 years old. I was the kid on the island so it was a real experience,” Cunningham remembers. “I didn’t have a lot of sophistication psychologically, and that was a real psychological test for human beings, to be going like that.”

Also Read: Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

He was an Airman 2nd Class, a two-striper, with just over a year of service in the Air Force and some college education. His sergeants had seen combat during World War II and were wise to what the isolated team would endure. Their ingenuity, humor and direct leadership kept young Cunningham and the others on the island from mentally cracking.

To keep a low profile, the Airmen were ordered to stow their uniforms and wear civilian shorts and sneakers, sandals and cowboy hats instead.

The men also kept their pistols and M-1 Garand rifles ready, knowing that pirates and other possible threats roamed the waters surrounding them.

“The Chinese nationalists came by with a gun boat. A big, long vessel. Military. Chinese Navy,” Cunningham said. “And they had this big three-inch cannon on the front on a turret, and they swung that baby in toward our island, and they had some machine gun turrets, and pretty soon we saw boats come over the edge and some officers got on that and they came in to see who we were and what we were doing.”

The Airmen placed palm fronds along the beach to spell out U-S-A-F. The gunboat crew was satisfied and the standoff ended.

On another occasion, Okinawan fishermen came ashore to trade their fish for drinking water.

“They saw our 50-foot antenna that we put up for our radar set, our pulse radio, and so they were curious,” Cunningham said. “They came onboard and they were quite friendly.”

This castaway airman helped map the entire world
Cunningham pumps water from an old well on North Danger Island in 1956. The Airmen only used this for laundry and washing. Drinking water was delivered in 55-gallon barrels. (Courtesy photo Bob Cunningham)

But visitors were the exception. Day after day, interaction was limited to within the tiny community of Airmen.

A feud between two staff sergeants took a bad turn when one threatened to kill the other.

Cunningham’s technical sergeant knew he had to step in and confront the enraged man. But first he warned Cunningham and the other radar operator that the situation could explode and that they might have to use their weapons.

“He said, ‘I’m calling him in here, I’m going to present this to him, our concern,'” Cunningham recalled. “‘If he gets up and breaks like I’ve seen a guy do it, he’ll run right over to the ground power tent where those guys live and he’ll just start shooting people.'”

Fortunately, there was no violence and the conflict was resolved.

“We had to stay up around the clock for a day or so to see what would happen in case we had to call for an SA-16 (amphibious flying boat) to come out with Air Police and come in and capture this guy, and we’re going to have to tie him up to a palm tree or something,” Cunningham said. “We didn’t know what was going to go on.”

The veteran sergeants kept up morale in other ways.

Read Also: That time Americans demanded the Coast Guard rescue the cast of Gilligan’s Island

They improved the camp with funny signs, hand-made furniture and a wind-driven water pump. They cooked sea turtles for the men. And they improvised a way to make alcohol from coconut juice and cake mix.

Cunningham remembers the technical sergeant busy at his distillery ‘making moonshine.’ When the sergeant was asked why he was wearing his pistol, he replied that revenuers might come through and he couldn’t be interrupted.

That sense of humor was “what you really needed on a place like that to keep from cracking up,” Cunningham said.

For recreation, Cunningham would walk around the island and photograph the thousands of birds it attracted. He also tried diving off the reef once and became terrified by the absolute darkness.

“I opened up my eyes and it scared the bejeepers out of me,” he said. “It was total black. I couldn’t see anything. I got so danged scared, I came up and I got off and I got back to that reef and I never went back again.”

This castaway airman helped map the entire world
Cunningham points to the camp on ‘North Danger Island’ where he lived and worked as a radar operator for six months in 1956 during an Air Force project mapping the earth. (Air Force photo by Josh Turner)

In the final month, he and the sergeant were the only humans left on the island. Two members of his team were evacuated. The radio relay team was relocated, taking their noisy generator with them. For the two men remaining, the silence at night was now ‘spooky’ – a lone coconut dropping from a tree was enough to send them scrambling for their weapons.

Cunningham’s experience on the reef forever changed how he relates to other people.

“I have an expression,” he said. “‘This guy sounds like a North Danger kind of guy,’ meaning somebody compatible, smart, you can get along with him, he’s got a good temper. Or this guy, I would not want to be with him on North Danger.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US troops demolish ISIS leader’s compound to keep it from becoming a shrine

US special operations forces who are believed to have killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi issued an airstrike on his compound to prevent the location from becoming a shrine, according to Newsweek.

Soldiers from the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment, or Delta Force, conducted a raid against what they believed to be Baghdadi at the northern province of Idlib, Syria, on Oct. 26, 2019, unnamed US officials said in numerous news reports.

Baghdadi, who fetched a $25 million bounty in the US, is believed to have been killed in the raid. Military officials were still awaiting forensics verification, according to Newsweek, who first reported on the assault.


US troops faced incoming fire once they entered the site, a senior Defense Department official said to Newsweek, adding that the ISIS leader appeared to have killed himself by detonating a suicide vest. Two of Baghdadi’s wives were reportedly killed by their own suicide vests.

Who Is Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi? | Velshi & Ruhle | MSNBC

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Prior to the raid against al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, White House officials decided the US would bury him at sea in the event he was killed. Officials reportedly reasoned that it would prevent bin Laden’s gravesite from becoming a shrine. Then-CIA director John Brennan said the administration consulted with Islamic experts and that bin Laden was buried “in accordance with the Islamic requirements,” according to The New York Times.

Baghdadi’s last public sighting was from an April 29 propaganda video, the first visual sighting of him in five years. In September, an audio recording purportedly of Baghdadi issuing orders was released by the terrorist organization. Both of Baghdadi’s appearances followed ISIS’s loosening grip in Syria and Iraq amid the US-led coalition’s campaign to rid the region of the group.

Donald Trump FULL announcement ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed in military operation

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In 2018, ISIS militants and Iraqi intelligence indicated that Baghdadi’s son, Hudhayfah al-Badri, was killed in Syria. ISIS’s social media channels claimed Badri was conducting a suicide bombing operation against Russian forces, while Iraqi reports suggested he and 10 others were killed in a Russian missile attack, Voice of America reported.

Baghdadi was previously rumored to have been killed or wounded by airstrikes on numerous occasions in recent years. He became ISIS’s leader in 2010 after two of his predecessors killed themselves before being captured by US and Iraqi forces.

President Donald Trump on Oct. 26, 2019, tweeted vaguely that a “very big” event had taken place, and a White House official said he would make an announcement on Oct. 27, 2019.

The Defense Department did not respond to a request for comment.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US government listed Black Panther’s Wakanda as a free-trade partner

President Donald Trump may be preparing to slap tariffs on Wakanda, the fictional homeland of the Marvel superhero Black Panther.

That’s one explanation for the US Department of Agriculture’s removal of the high-tech African nation from a list of free-trade partners that includes Panama and Peru in addition to other actual countries. In reality, officials uploaded Wakanda and its supposed exports to test a tariff-tracking tool and neglected to remove it.


“Wakanda is listed as a US free trade partner on the USDA website??” tweeted Francis Tseng, a fellow at the Jain Family Institute, after he spotted the gaffe while using the agency’s Tariff Tracker tool.

Tseng tweeted a screenshot of the list and another detailing Wakandan exports such as horses, goats, and sheep. The “Heart-Shaped Herb” that gives Black Panther his superhuman strength and agility didn’t make the cut.

“I definitely did a double take,” Tseng told NBC News. “I Googled Wakanda to make sure it was actually fiction, and I wasn’t misremembering. I mean, I couldn’t believe it.”

Wakanda was added to the USDA Tariff Tracker after June 10, NBC reported, and removed Dec. 18, 2019.

“Over the past few weeks, the Foreign Agricultural Service staff who maintain the Tariff Tracker have been using test files to ensure that the system is running properly,” the USDA said in a statement to NBC. “The Wakanda information should have been removed after testing and has now been taken down.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why experts think Kim Jong Un never actually attended an elite military academy

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is not only the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he is the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), the fourth-largest military in the world.

North Korea’s military is part of its foundation; Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather and the founder of the so-called “Hermit Kingdom,” used his own military service — as a guerilla fighting against the Japanese occupation of Korea — to burnish his cult of personality, according to Washington Post reporter Anna Fifield’s book, “The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un.”

Military service is baked into the North Korean constitution; “National defense is the supreme duty and honor of citizens,” it says, and military service is generally compulsory. Kim has never served in the North Korean military but reportedly graduated near the top of his class at a prestigious military academy, a claim that experts and a former North Korean military member found highly suspect.


North Korea spends approximately 25% of its GDP on its military, including its nuclear program, spending .5 billion each year on its forces between 2004 and 2014. It boasts 1.1 million troops, about 5% of its population, according to CFR.

This castaway airman helped map the entire world
(KCNA)

According to North Korean propaganda, the 35-year-old Kim Jong Un prepared to lead this massive force by attending Kim Il Sung Military University in Pyongyang; experts said it was more likely that he had received some instruction from military trainers associated with this university.

Some propaganda accounts cited by Fifield say Kim, who reportedly started at the academy when he was 18, was such a natural at military strategy that he was soon training his instructors.

Kim’s ‘elite’ alma mater

Kim Il Sung Military University is a “military institution for educating elite military officers,” according to Bruce W. Bennett, senior defense analyst at The RAND Corporation. It was established in 1952, according to North Korea Leadership Watch, and is one of several military training schools.

“The students of this university are middle level officers such as majors and lieutenant colonels,” Bennett said, equating the university to institutions like the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

“It is the university that is a gateway to becoming a senior officer in the Korean People’s Army (KPA). Most of North Korean military generals studied in this university when they were mid-career,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.

This castaway airman helped map the entire world

An image of Pyongyang, with Kim Il Sung Military University outlined.

(North Korea Leadership Watch/Google Images)

Fifield’s book, and official North Korean propaganda, report that Kim studied here alongside his older brother, Kim Jong Chol.

“It was their mother’s idea to send them to the military academy, a way to bolster her sons’ claim to succession,” Fifield writes. Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Chol are the children of Kim Jong Il and Ko Yong Hui, to whom he was not officially married. Kim Jong Il installed Ko Yong Hui and her sons in a home in his compound, ensuring they were well cared for.

Kim Jong Un reportedly entered the university in 2002, after his early education in Switzerland, and began studying “juche-oriented military leadership,” Fifield writes, referring to the North Korean concept of juche, or self-reliance. Juche is essential to the North Korean identity, although the country was economically dependent on the Soviet Union until its collapse. China is now its most important economic relationship.

“I would expect that most of the training at Kim Il Sung Military University would be on military operations, military history, and political indoctrination,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.

“But a big part of the curriculum is likely also competition between the personnel to see how they deal with each other physically and mentally, which leads to forming bonds of friendship critical as officers are promoted.”

‘A natural at military strategy’

While Kim Jong Un never served in the KPA, North Korea Leadership Watch (NKLW) contends that it’s likely some students are able to enter Kim Il Sung Military University without any prior service, straight out of high school.

NKLW describes Kim Il Sung Military University as modeled on Soviet military academies; while there might be classes on North Korean military history, the structure and academics of Kim Il Sung Military University find their closest analogs in the Soviet system.

This castaway airman helped map the entire world

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) in an unknown location in North Korea in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency.

(KCNA)

According to North Korean official state media, Fifield writes, Kim Jong Un was “such a natural at military strategy that he was instructing the instructors rather than learning from them.”

He graduated on Dec. 24, 2006, Fifield writes, “with honors,” after writing a final dissertation on “A Simulation for the Improvement of Accuracy in the Operational Map by the Global Positioning System (GPS).”

But a former member of the North Korean military who now lives in the US and is familiar with the Kim family said it was unlikely that Kim Jong Un actually attended Kim Il Sung Military University, at least not in the traditional sense.

“According to North Korean propaganda, Kim Jong Un attended Kim Il Sung Military University, but I couldn’t find any of his classmates or Army mates. If he really attended that university, somebody should know that he attended,” the former military member said.

“If Kim Jong Un actually attended that college, he has pictures, he has a record, and he has friends. But [none] of the North Korean elite could find his picture and his friends. I think it’s a kind of propaganda,” the former military member said, noting that the North Korean propaganda department would have exploited any evidence of Kim Jong Un having attended the university to build up his cult of personality.

Rather than actually physically attending classes, there were “probably private instructors visiting his house to give him a lecture,” the former military member said.

“Kim Il Sung Military University is a more closed university, the students are military officers, not civilians, so they can keep the secret that Kim Jong Un didn’t actually attend.”

This castaway airman helped map the entire world

(KCNA)

Kim would have been unique in attending the military school named for his grandfather; “I don’t think most of the Kim family become military officers — they avoid becoming military officers,” the former military member said.

“They have a good life […] they don’t need to go [in] the military to risk their lives.”

In order to qualify for a school like Kim Il Sung Military University, potential recruits must have, “superior service records, excellent physical condition and trusted political reliability” and have “a flawless family background, be popular among fellow soldiers, and receive the approval of their commanding and political officers,” according to Joseph Bermudez’s book “Shield of the Great Leader: The Armed Forces of North Korea.”

NKLW contends that Kim probably had private tutoring for at least a few years, and that he was likely a very good student, exhausting teachers with his questions. The academics on military operations are thought to be rigorous, even if it’s unlikely Kim also participated in the physical and professional competitions that other students must face.

In whatever capacity he studied with the university’s instructors, it influenced his relationship with the North Korean military today, in particular the aggressive missile testing North Korea undertook under the third Kim leader.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Photos surface of tense standoff between destroyers

A Chinese destroyer challenged a US Navy warship in an “unsafe and unprofessional” encounter in the tense South China Sea Sept. 30, 2018.

The Chinese ship, reportedly the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Type 052C Luyang II-class guided-missile destroyer Lanzhou (170), part of the Chinese navy’s South Sea Fleet, took on the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Decatur (DDG-73) during a close approach near Gaven Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands.


The Chinese vessel “conducted a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings” for the US Navy ship to “leave the area,” Pacific Fleet revealed in an official statement on Oct. 1, 2018. US Navy photos first obtained by gCaptain and confirmed to CNN by three American officials show just how close the Chinese destroyer got to the US ship.

(The USS Decatur is pictured left, and the Chinese destroyer is on the right)

The USS Decatur was forced to maneuver out of the way to avoid a collision with the Chinese vessel, which reportedly came within 45 yards of the American ship, although the pictures certainly look a lot closer to the 45 feet originally reported.

Ankit Panda, foreign policy expert and a senior editor at The Diplomat, called the incident “the PLAN’s most direct and dangerous attempt to interfere with lawful U.S. Navy navigation in the South China Sea to date.”

China condemned the US for its operations in the South China Sea, where China is attempting to bolster its claims through increased militarization. The US does not recognize Chinese claims, which were previously discredited by an international tribunal.

Beijing said the US “repeatedly sends military ships without permission close to South China Seas islands, seriously threatening China’s sovereignty and security, seriously damaging Sino-U.S. military ties and seriously harming regional peace and stability,” adding that the Chinese military is opposed to this behavior.

The latest incident followed a series of US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress long-range bomber flights through the East and South China Sea. Beijing called the flights “provocative,” but Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis insisted that the flights would not mean anything if China had not militarized the waterway.

“If it was 20 years ago and had they not militarized those features there it would have been just another bomber on its way to Diego Garcia or wherever,” he said on Sept. 26, 2018.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The F-22 is getting an awesome avionics upgrade

The Air Force is vigorously pursuing new avionics, radar, targeting sensors, weapons, glass cockpit displays and Artificial Intelligence for its F-22 stealth fighter to try to sustain air supremacy amid Russian and Chinese 5th-generation stealth fighter technical modernization, service officials said.


The service has an ambitious, wide-ranging set of objectives woven into this initiative; the Air Force aims enable the F-22 to ID targets at longer ranges, respond more efficiently to sensor input, sustain an air-to-air combat superiority over near-peer rivals and lay down a technical foundation such that the aircraft can quickly embrace new weapons, technologies, sensors and software as they emerge – all so that the F-22 can serve all the way out to 2060.

This castaway airman helped map the entire world
F-22 Raptor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brittany A. Chase)

The multi-pronged effort is inherently connected to early iterations of increased computer automation and AI, as a mechanism to integrate otherwise disparate elements of F-22 avionics, sensors and mission systems. Common IP protocol standards, including both software and hardware, are engineered to provide a technical backbone enabling upgrades and integration of a variety of interconnected systems—to include radar warning receivers, AESA radar, LINK 16 connectivity, improved weapons, emerging sensor and targeting configurations and new transponders, able to identify friend or foe.

“The Air Force has made progress with efforts to upgrade sensors on the F-22. The Air Force continuously looks for ways to upgrade and enhance capabilities based on threats around the world, to include the F-22 sensors,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.

In concept and application, AI can lower a hardware footprint and increasingly use advanced algorithms to perform processes without requiring as much human intervention. For instance, a more integrated computer processor is better-equipped to potentially perform real-time analytics during a mission to make adjustments as maintenance and combat circumstances may require. Faster analytics, relying on newer forms of computer automation, can more quickly identify problems, recognize threats and streamline various cockpit functions.

Also read: F-22s will soon deploy anywhere in the world with 24 hours notice

​In particular, this can mean the emergence of multi-function sensors where single systems can simultaneously perform different missions and organize incoming data. Such AI-oriented technologies can have targeting benefits for combat, threat-recognition improvements, longer-range enemy identification or weapons delivery applications.

Ken Merchant, Lockheed Vice President of F-22 Programs explained this to Warrior Maven in an interview, “we are starting AI, which includes what includes what we call enterprise sustainment organization. Our cockpit is still a series of six displays. Should we go to glass and synthesize new sensor inputs in front of the pilot? Can I squeeze all that information into a small display and sustain those for next 20-years, or should I go to glass?”

Many of these considerations, in terms of specifics, are expected to inform an upcoming mid-life upgrade and sustainment enterprise for the F-22 fleet. Merchant said the mid-life upgrade will not only extend the functional service life of the aircraft for several more decades, but also reduce technical risk. The mid-life work on the aircraft, slated for 2024, is primarily geared toward maintaining F-22 technological superiority while both China and Russia fast-track 5th-generation stealth aircraft.

Exploration of AI for the F-22 aligns, in many respects, with the current “sensor fusion” technologies built into the F-35; this includes organizing and displaying information from Electro-Optical/Targeting Systems (EOTS), Distributed Aperture Systems (DAS) and other sensors onto a single screen. Relying on advanced algorithms, this system is often referred to as man-machine interface, able to lower the “cognitive burden” placed on pilots, who can be freed up to focus on other priorities and decisions.

This castaway airman helped map the entire world
An Air Force F-22 Raptor executes a supersonic flyby over the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). (U.S. Navy photo by Sonar Technician (Surface) 1st Class Ronald Dejarnett)

Specifically, Merchant said, F-22 engineers were already exploring a lightweight DAS-like sensor system for the F-22, able to bring advanced tech to the F-22 without compromising stealth advantages or maneuverability.

Computer-enabled AI, naturally, can greatly expedite completion of the Air Force’s long-discussed OODA-loop phenomenon, wherein pilots seek to quickly complete a decision-making cycle – Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action – faster than an enemy fighter. The concept, dating back decades to former Air Force pilot and theorist John Boyd, has long informed fighter-pilot training and combat preparation.

Related: Russian fighters and F-22s almost had a catastrophic midair crash

If pilots can complete the OODA loop more quickly than an enemy during an air-to-air combat engagement, described as “getting inside an enemy’s decision-making process,” they can destroy an enemy and prevail. Faster processing of information, empowering better pilot decisions, it naturally stands to reason, makes a big difference when it comes to the OODA loop.

​This entire effort synchronizes with a current 3.2b software upgrade (covered extensively in Part 2 of the F-22 series), which uses agile software development to, among other things, upgrade F-22 weapons systems.

This progressive series of F-22 modernization enhancements feeds into a commensurate effort to update 1980s and 1990s computer technology, in some cases drawing on commercially available technical innovations, such as RedHat open-source software, Merchant explained. The mid-life upgrade will address much of this in an effort to ensure the pumps, valves and integrated core processors are brought up-to-date.

This castaway airman helped map the entire world
F-22 Raptors parked at Rickenbacker ANGB in Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

Newer F-22s are already getting advanced AESA radar, not unlike what is already on the F-35, engineered to accommodate software upgrades as they emerge. This architecture enables the aircraft radar warning receiver to broaden its threat library to identify new enemy aircraft. These upgrades involve the installation of new transponders able to quickly identify “friend or foe” aircraft more efficiently, developers explained.

“You can see air-to-air targets coming your way and a ground target will appear as a blip on a screen – with an information tag on it based on intel telling you what it is,” Merchant said.

Interoperability with the F-35 and 4th-gen aircraft will also be greatly improved by the addition of more LINK 16 data-link technology; the F-22 will be able to wirelessly transmit targeting, mapping and other sensor information to other aircraft without needing to rely upon potentially “hackable” voice transmissions, Merchant explained. Merchant said Lockheed and the Air Force are planning some initial flight tests of this transmit improvement by the end of this year.

“This will help everybody that is airborne see a common picture at the same time,” Merchant added.

A hardware portion of the upgrades, called a “tactical mandate,” involves engineering new antennas specifically designed to preserve the stealth configuration of the F-22, John Cottam, Lockheed F-22 Program Manager, told Warrior Maven.

“New antennas have to be first constructed. They will be retrofitted onto the airplane. Because of the stealth configuration putting, antennas on is difficult and time consuming,” he said.

Air Force is already using wirelessly-enabled automation to facilitate real-time analytics for conditioned based maintenance on board F-16s.

Automated CBM can help identify potential points of failure while an aircraft is in-mission and therefore increase safety and reliability while also lower costs and streamlining maintenance. AI is one of the emerging ways this can increasingly be accomplished. At the same time, AI is also fundamental to rapid targeting, navigation and other aircraft functions – it allows the aircraft to keep pace with rapid technology change and add new algorithms or computer processing tech as it becomes available.

Upgrading computer tech is something the Air Force is pursuing across the fleet, recognizing its significance to future combat; for instance, the service is progressing with an ongoing effort to equip the F-15 with the fastest jet-computer processor in the world, called the Advanced Display Core Processor, or ADCPII. Boeing developers tell Warrior Maven the system is capable of processing 87 billion instructions per second of computing throughput.

More: This ‘Einstein Box’ helps F-22s secretly communicate with unstealthy planes

The F-22 will also continue to upgrade its collision avoidance technology which is somewhat different than the F-16s ground collision avoidance system which can automatically re-route an aircraft headed for collision. The F-22 system simply keeps the aircraft above a certain altitude in the event that a pilot is incapacitated. Also, auto-navigation software could be used to help an F-22 maneuver, re-position during an air-to-air engagement or land in challenged circumstances. A technology of this kind, called Delta Flight Path, is already operational on the F-35; the software helps guide the aircraft independently in circumstances where that might be necessary.

Autonomous, or semi-autonomous, flight is a fast-evolving technology across the US military services which increasingly see AI as a key wave to future warfare; the Air Force has already experimented with unmanned F-16s and there is a lot of work going more broadly in this area. Former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus once said the service’s F-35C will likely be the last “manned” fighter. This question, continues to inform an ongoing debate. AI enabled autonomous flight, while bringing some advantages without question, also has limitations, military scientists and engineers explain.

This castaway airman helped map the entire world
An F-35C Lightning II on USS George Washington during F-35C Development Test III. (Lockheed Martin)

Thus far, AI-enabled computer programs are able to complete procedures much more quickly than efficiently, in many instances, than a human can. At the same time, there is still not as of yet a suitable substitute for the kind of problem-solving and dynamic decision-making ability provided by human cognition, scientists explain. For this reason, future explorations place a premium on machine-learning and autonomy as well as man-machine interface wherein algorithms are advanced to support a human functioning in the role of command and control.

Also read: How China’s stealthy new J-20 fighter jet compares to the US’s F-22 and F-35

For instance, Air Force former Chief Scientist Dr. Gregory Zacharias often talked about these questions over the course of several interviews with Warrior Maven in recent years. As an expert specialist in the area of autonomy, he talked about a fast-approaching day wherein pilots will be able to control nearby drone “wing-men” from the cockpit of an F-35 or F-22. Such a technology, naturally, could enable forward operating drones to conduct reconnaissance missions, test enemy air defenses and even fire weapons – all while a pilot remains at a safer standoff distance acting in the role of command and control.

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 Star Wars blasters made from real-life guns

Despite the creation of the United States Space Force, we’re still a long way off from building blasters like ones in the Star Wars universe and defeating our enemies with intense bolts of plasma energy. That’s right, they’re not lasers. In the Star Wars universe, ranged weapons are primarily powered by an energy-rich gas that is converted to a glowing particle beam. A far cry from jacketed lead ammunition propelled by gunpowder, or slugthrowers as they’re known in Star Wars, many of the blasters used in a galaxy far, far away are actually built from real-life firearms that are more familiar to us.

With a very tight budget of $11 million, or just under $50 million today adjusted for inflation, George Lucas and his film crew elected to modify real-life surplus weapons rather than create futuristic weapons from scratch. Weaponry and prop supplier Bapty & Co was contracted to provide Star Wars with modified surplus firearms to serve as space-age blasters. However, because of the aforementioned budget, many of the props could only be rented for the film. As a result, modifications were light and we can easily recognize the base weapons today.
This castaway airman helped map the entire world

The left-side magazine, large breastplate, and restricted arm movement in their armor forced Stormtrooper actors to hold their E-11s left-handed (Lucasfilm Ltd.)

1. BlasTech E-11 blaster rifle

The standard issue weapon of Imperial stormtroopers, the E-11 was a light, handy, and lethal blaster. The debate about Stormtrooper accuracy aside, the blaster was very effective on the battlefield and even featured three power settings: lethal, stun, and sting. It also came equipped with a telescopic sight and a folding three-position stock, a carryover from the real-life weapon it is based on.

This castaway airman helped map the entire world

British soldiers of 2 PARA armed with Sterlings (Ministry of Defence)

The Sterling L2A3 submachine gun is a British firearm designed at the end of WWII to replace the famed Sten submachine gun. Firing the 9x19mm Parabellum round, the Sterling was a favorite of special forces units for its excellent reliability and good accuracy. The Star Wars conversions used a cut-down version of the Sterling’s stick magazine as their power cell.

2. BlasTech A280 blaster rifle

The favored small arm of the Rebel Alliance, the BlasTech A280 was highly effective at piercing armor and provided more power than other standard infantry blasters at long range. Two variants of the A280 existed. The A280C was the preferred weapon of Rebel commandos. The A280-CFE (Covert Field Edition) was a modular weapon system that could be converted from its core heavy pistol to an assault rifle or sniper rifle.

The standard A280 is an amalgamation of an AR-15 receiver with a cut-down magazine and the front of a German StG 44, again with a cut-down magazine. Original StG 44s are extremely rare and expensive, so the ones cut apart to make the A280 were rubber props previously used by Bapty Co. The A280C is based largely on the StG 44; the only notable changes being the alteration of the stock, removal of the magazine, and the addition of a scope and handguard. The A280-CFE is more akin to the base A280, featuring an AR-15 as its core heavy pistol. The assault rifle and sniper rifle conversions feature the addition of the StG 44 front end.

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Did Han shoot first? (Lucasfilm Ltd.)

3. BlasTech DL-44 heavy blaster pistol

Considered one of the most powerful blaster pistols in the galaxy, the DL-44 delivers massive close-range damage at the expense of overheating quickly under sustained fire. A carbine variation with an extended barrel and an attachable stock also exists. This version was used by Tobias Beckett on Mimban before he deconstructed it and gave it Han Solo. Solo further modified the weapon to make his iconic sidearm. After all, “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side.”

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The Waffen-SS soldier on the right shoulders an M712, an automatic variant of the C96 (Bundesarchiv)

The DL-44 is modified from the Mauser C96 pistol, easily identifiable by its rectangular internal magazine and broomhandle grip. Originally produced in Germany beginning in 1896, unlicensed copies were also produced in Spain and China throughout the first half of the 20th century. With the popularity of Han Solo’s DL-44, Star Wars enthusiasts have been known to purchase and modify increasingly rare original C96s to make replicas, much to the dismay of gun collectors.

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Though small in stature, the Defender could still put down an Imperial trooper (Lucasfilm Ltd.)

4. DDC Defender sporting blaster pistol

On the other end of the spectrum, the Defender blaster pistol was a low-powered weapon meant for civilian defense and small-game hunting. It was also popular amongst the nobility of the Star Wars universe who used it in honor duels. The weapon was the sidearm of choice for Princess Leia Organa who wielded it against Imperial Stormtroopers during the boarding of the Tantive IV and the attack on the Endor shield generator bunker.

The Defender is based on the Margolin or MCM practice shooting pistol. The Soviet-made .22lr pistol is used primarily for competitive target shooting in the 25m Standard Pistol class. The weapon was chosen for its diminutive size to keep the prop gun from looking bulky and unwieldy in Carrie Fisher’s hands during filming.

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Death troopers used vocal scramblers that could only be understood by other death troopers (Lucasfilm Ltd.)

5. BlasTech DLT-19 heavy blaster rifle

The DLT-19 was used heavily by Imperial forces as well as bounty hunters and even some Rebel heavy troopers. Although it was not a crew-served weapon, its high rate of fire meant that it could be used to suppress and cut down enemies at long range. The DLT-19D variant, which featured a scope and an under barrel glow rod (flashlight), was used by the elite Imperial death troopers. The DLT-19x targeting blaster was another variant. It featured a scope with greater magnification than the D variant and released all of its power in one shot, making it an extremely accurate and deadly long-range precision weapon.

Very little was changed on the MG 34 to make it into the DLT-19. Introduced in 1934, the German machine gun could be belt-fed or utilize a drum magazine; neither of which were used on the DLT-19. The MG 34 was designed under the new concept of a universal machine gun and is generally considered to be the world’s first general-purpose machine gun. It was the mainstay of German support weapons until it was replaced by the MG 42 in 1942. Even then, because the MG 34’s barrel could be changed out more easily inside of a vehicle than the MG 42, it remained the primary armored vehicle defensive weapon throughout the entirety of the war.

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You can never have too much suppressive fire (Lucasfilm Ltd.)

6. BlasTech T-21 light repeating blaster

If you couldn’t tell, the nationalization of BlasTech industries meant that it was the premier military-grade arms manufacturer in the galaxy. The T-21 was a rarer sight than their more common E-11 or A280 blasters though. It was issued to more elite units like stormtroopers, magma troopers, and shadow troopers. However, its high rate of fire and long-range accuracy were limited by its power capacity of just 30 shots. To remedy this limitation, the T-21 could be hooked up to a power generator to provide sustained fire. The T-21B variant added an optic to increase its lethality at long range.

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Australian soldiers drill with Lewis guns in France (Public Domain)

The Lewis light machine gun was designed in America, but built in Britain and fielded by the British Empire during WWI. It featured a distinctive barrel cooling shroud and a top-mounted pan magazine. Like the magazine of the MG 34, the Lewis gun’s magazine was omitted for its use in the Star Wars universe. It was often used as an aircraft machine gun and served to the end of the Korean War.


Articles

Sebastian Junger’s ‘Hell on Earth’ chronicles the rise of ISIS in Syria

War correspondent Sebastian Junger, most famous for his documentaries “Restrepo” and “Korengal” that followed paratroopers in the Korengal Valley, has teamed up with Nick Quested to create a new documentary with National Geographic detailing the hell that is life in ISIS-controlled territory.


“Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS” is cut together from over 1,000 hours of footage, most of it filmed inside the so-called caliphate.

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ISIS members conduct a checkpoint in their territory. The footage comes from an upcoming National Geographic documentary. (Image: YouTube/Deadline Hollywood)

This 13-minute teaser tells the story of families trying to escape, at first with smugglers and then on their own when their smuggler is caught by ISIS.

(Be warned that some of the images in the documentary are disturbing)

Previous reporting has shown how ISIS maintains control in its territory, how it makes its money, and how it recruits and deploys fighters.

None of it is good.

Torture and public executions are used to keep populations cowed, and money is raised through debilitating taxes, sex slavery, robbery, and other pursuits. And its fighters are recruited through international networks and then deployed at half pay or less, often as undertrained frontline fighters that amount to little more than human shields.

The full documentary is scheduled to air June 11.

Articles

This D-Day vet played the role of his British commander in ‘The Longest Day’

On D-Day, Richard Todd was one of the paratroopers who took part in the capture of Pegasus Bridge. Todd had parachuted in after the original assault and helped reinforce the British Army’s Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry led by Maj. John Howard.


Little did Todd know at the time that he would find himself portraying that same British commander when legendary director Daryl Zanuck was making Cornelius Ryan’s book “The Longest Day” into an epic movie.

Imdb.com reports that Todd was very nearly killed on D-Day. He had been assigned to a new plane. The switch was a fortunate one since his original transport was shot down by the Nazis, killing all aboard. A 2004 article by the London Guardian reported that Todd’s D-Day involved making his way to Pegasus Bridge, reinforcing Howard’s unit, and helping to fend off German attacks on the bridge while under Howard’s command until seaborne forces linked up with the paratroopers.

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Pegasus Bridge, June 9, 1944. Richard Todd helped defend this bridge. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Todd never discussed his actions on D-Day. However, in his memoirs, “Caught in the Act,” he would write, “There was no cessation in the Germans’ probing with patrols and counter-attacks, some led by tanks, and the regimental aid post was overrun in the early hours. The wounded being tended there were all killed where they lay. There was sporadic enemy mortar and artillery fire we could do nothing about. One shell landed in a hedge near me, killing a couple of our men.”

By 1962, Richard Todd had become a well-known actor, with his most notable role having been Wing Commander Guy Gibson in the 1954 movie, “The Dam Busters.” Todd had also starred in “D-Day, the Sixth of June” three years later as the leader of a commando group sent to take out German guns.

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When he was asked to play himself in “The Longest Day,” he demurred, admitting his own role in the invasion had been a small part. The London Telegraph quoted him as saying, “I did not do anything special that would make a good sequence.” Zanuck, determined to have Todd in the film, cast him as Howard instead.

“The Longest Day” was one of Todd’s last big roles, as British cinema moved in a very different direction in the 1960s. He still found work acting, narrating the series “Wings over the World” for AE Television and appearing in several “Doctor Who” episodes, among other roles.

Todd would die on Dec. 3, 2009, after having been named a member of the Order of the British Empire in 1993. Below is the trailer for “The Longest Day.”

Articles

5 key differences between Delta Force and SEAL Team 6


SEAL Team 6, officially known as United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), and Delta Force, officially known as 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D), are the most highly trained elite forces in the U.S. military.

Both are Special Missions Units (SMU) under the control of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), they perform various clandestine and highly classified missions around the world. Each unit can equally perform various types of operations but their primary mission is counter-terrorism.

So what’s the difference between the two? Delta Force recently took out ISIS bad guy Abu Sayyaf in Syria; DevGru took out al Qaeda bad guy Osama Bin Laden a few years ago. Same-same, right?

Wrong.

WATM spoke with former DEVGRU operator Craig Sawyer as well as a former Delta operator who asked to remain anonymous to uncover 5 key differences between the two elite forces.

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1. Selection

Delta Force is an Army outfit that primarily selects candidates from within their own special forces and infantry units. However, they will also select candidates from all branches of service, including the National Guard and Coast Guard.

SEAL Team 6 selects candidates exclusively from the Navy’s SEAL team community. If a candidate does not pass the grueling selection process they will still remain part of the elite SEAL teams.

“It’s a matter of can candidates quickly process what they are taught and keep up,” Sawyer says.

2. Training

Both units have the most sophisticated equipment and are highly trained in Close Quarters Combat (CQB), hostage rescue, high value target extraction, and other specialized operations. The difference is the extensive training DEVGRU operators have in specialized maritime operations, given their naval heritage.

“Each unit has strengths and weaknesses, neither is better or worse,” according to our Delta operator source.

3. Culture

Delta Force operators can be vastly diversified in their training background since they can come from various units across different military branches (including DEVGRU). Delta operators will even be awarded medals of their respective branch of service while serving with the Army unit.

“No matter what your background is, everyone starts from zero so that everyone is on the same page,” says our former Delta operator.

DEVGRU operators come from the SEAL community, and while the training is intensified and more competitive, they all retain their roots in familiar SEAL training and culture.

“Candidates have proven themselves within the SEAL teams,” Sawyer says. “It’s a matter of learning new equipment, tactics, and rules of engagement.”

4. Missions

Generally speaking, both units are equally capable of executing all specialized missions that JSOC is tasked with. Again, because of DEVGRU’s extensive training for specialized maritime operations, they are more likely to receive missions like the rescue of Captain Phillips at sea. Delta’s known and successful missions include finding Saddam Hussein and tracking down Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi.

“These are two groups of the most elite operators the military can provide,” says Sawyer.

5. Media exposure

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Photo: YouTube.com

Members of both units are known as “quiet professionals” and are notorious for being massively secretive. Unfortunately, with today’s social media, 24-hour news coverage and leaks within the government, it can be difficult to keep out of the media no matter what steps are taken to ensure secrecy. While both units carry out high profile missions, SEAL Team 6 has gained much more notoriety and (largely unwanted) exposure in the media in recent years thanks to government leaks and Hollywood blockbuster films such as Zero Dark Thirty (photo above).

“We are very strict with our quiet professionalism. If someone talks, you will probably be blacklisted,” says our former Delta operator.

For more detailed differences between these elite forces check out this SOFREP article.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how 2 Delta Force snipers earned the Medal of Honor in Somalia

27 years ago, the Black Hawk Down incident was unfolding on the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, when a pair of US Army MH-60 Black Hawks were shot down by Somali militia toting rocket propelled grenades.


Of the many incredible stories of bravery and brotherhood that emerged from the day, one in particular stood out enough that two of the soldiers within would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor for their heroism and sacrifice.

In August of 1993, a task force consisting of members of America’s elite special operations units were deployed to Somalia after a deadly IED attack on American military personnel who were, at the time, in country conducting a humanitarian mission.

Known as Task Force Ranger, the deployment package consisted of Rangers from the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, Night Stalkers from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and operators from Delta Force, among many others.

Attached to the Delta contingent were a pair of sharpshooters — MSG Gary Gordon and SFC Randy Shughart. Both Gordon and Shughart were old hands in the special operations community, the former having served with 10th Special Forces Group before being selected to join Delta Force, and the latter having served with the 75th Ranger Regiment.

On Oct. 3, an operation was launched with TF Ranger running the show entirely. It would be known as “Gothic Serpent,” though in later years, it would more popularly be known as the Black Hawk Down incident. The mission’s primary intent was to capture a pair of high-ranking officials of the Habr Gedir clan, led by warlord Mohamed Farrah Aided.

The events of Gothic Serpent were documented in Mark Bowden’s best seller, “Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War,” and helicopter pilot Mike Durant’s book, “In The Company of Heroes.”

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Members of Task Force Ranger pose for a picture in Somalia, 1993 (Photo US Army)

Delta operators and Rangers would be inserted from the air by Night Stalkers in MH-60s near the target building, secure the site and capture the high value targets. A convoy of Humvees and trucks would roll in immediately after to pick up the assault team and the prisoners back to the Mogadishu International Airport, where TF Ranger maintained its headquarters and garrison.

Things began going awry during the mission, however, and Somali irregulars and militia began amassing in considerable numbers, putting up an unexpectedly ferocious fight. Things went south, entirely, when Super 61, one of the Black Hawks attached to the assault element, was shot down killing both pilots and seriously injuring its crew chiefs and two Delta operators in the main cabin during the crash.

Though the momentum of battle was still on TF Ranger’s side, it was firmly lost when a second Black Hawk — Super 64 — was shot down just 20 minutes after Super 61. A nearby Black Hawk, callsign Super 62, circled near the crash site to provide covering fire. Gordon, Shughart and SFC Brad Hallings, another Delta sniper, were aboard Super 62, picking off targets one by one.

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Gary Ivan Gordon during his service with Delta Force (Photo US Army)

The three operators realized that it was highly likely that one if not all of the crew in Super 64 had survived the crash, at least initially. They quickly resolved to request an insertion near the crash site to set up a defensive perimeter to war away an angry lynch mob of Somali civilians and militia starting to stream towards the site. Should the militia get their hands on the survivors, a horrible fate worse than death would potentially await them.

When Gordon radioed in the request, it was nixed twice. Commanders, back at the airport, figured that the three operators would be of more use in the air to Super 64, than on the ground. Repeating his request a third time, Gordon and Shughart were given the go-ahead to insert at the crash site.

Knowing that a supporting ground element wasn’t anywhere nearby, both snipers were fully aware that this would essentially be a suicide mission. Their objective: to buy the crew of Super 64 a little more time until help arrived, even if it meant giving up their lives in the process.

Super 62 swooped in low near the crash site, Gordon and Shughart jumping out with Hallings staying behind to man a minigun in place of an injured crew chief. Super 62 took to the skies again, covering the two operators on the ground as they fought their way to the fallen Black Hawk. Super 62 would soon have to return to base after being hit by an RPG – thankfully, they made it.

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Arriving at the crash, the two snipers were proven right when they discovered pilot CW3 Mike Durant alive and conscious, and the other members of the crew – Ray Frank, Tommie Field and Bill Cleveland – still clinging to life, though barely so. They worked quickly to extricate the Night Stalkers from the carcass of the Black Hawk, giving Durant a gun to use defensively while they engaged the oncoming mob.

Dropping targets with the efficiency and effectiveness Delta operators are known for, Shughart and Gordon inflicted major casualties on the mob. Gordon was the first to fall, having succumbed to numerous wounds sustained in the fight. Shughart was killed soon after, having depleted most of his ammunition. Durant was taken alive as a prisoner of war, while the rest of Super 64’s crew tragically died, either due to their injuries from the crash or torture inflicted by the mob.

Gordon and Shughart’s sacrifice was not in vain — Durant would survive his ordeal in captivity, and would later return to fly with the 160th SOAR before retiring. The two operators were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor the following year in 1994, a token of remembrance for their incredible valor and sacrifice in the midst of battle that fateful October day.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Chinese citizens are furious at the death of the whistleblower doctor censored for talking about the coronavirus

Chinese citizens are furious after the death of Li Wenliang, the whistleblower doctor who was censored for warning about the beginning of the coronavirus, and his mother said she wasn’t able to say goodbye.


Li died of the coronavirus at 2:58 a.m. local time on Friday, the Wuhan Central Hospital, where he also worked, said in a statement on the microblogging site Weibo.

“During the fight against the novel coronavirus outbreak, Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at our hospital, was infected. Efforts to save him were ineffective. He died at 2:58 a.m. on Feb. 7. We deeply regret and mourn his death,” the post said.

Li had warned some of his medical-school colleagues about the virus on December 30, about three weeks after the outbreak started but shortly before the government officially acknowledged it. The virus has now killed more than 630 people, mostly in China, and spread to more than 20 countries.

Li had said that some patients at his hospital were quarantined with a respiratory illness that seemed like SARS. But he was reprimanded and silenced by the police in Wuhan, made to sign a letter that said he was “making false comments.”

People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s Communist Party, reported that he said on social media before his death: “After I recover from the disease, I will work on the front line of the battle. The virus is still spreading, and I don’t want to be a deserter.”

Li is now being hailed as a hero in China, with posts seeking justice for him and calling for freedom of speech trending on Weibo. Many were removed from the site, which often complies with government demands to censor politically sensitive content.

The top two trending hashtags on Weibo on Friday were “Wuhan government owes Dr. Li Wenliang an apology” and “We want freedom of speech,” the BBC reported. It said that hours later those hashtags had been removed and “hundreds of thousands of comments had been wiped.”

According to the BBC, one comment on Weibo said: “This is not the death of a whistleblower. This is the death of a hero.”

Li’s death was the most-read topic on Weibo on Friday, with more than 1.5 billion views, The Guardian reported.

Li’s death was also widely discussed in private messaging groups on WeChat, the instant-messaging sister app to Weibo, The Guardian said.

CNN called the response “overwhelming, near-universal public fury.”

One image shared on Weibo showed that someone had carved “farewell Li Wenliang” into the snow in Beijing.

People’s Daily wrote on Friday: “At present, China has entered a critical stage of epidemic prevention and control work. The country needs solidarity more than ever to jointly win a battle that it cannot lose, so that its people can be protected against disaster and patients around the country can return to health.

“No one can make an accurate prediction about when the battle will end, but everyone knows that only with sufficient confidence can the people win the battle against the novel coronavirus.”

His parents ‘never, never, never saw’ him

In a heartbreaking interview with the Chinese news site Pear Video on Friday after Li’s death, Li’s mother said she never got to say goodbye to her son in his final days.

She said the hospital sent a car to pick up her and Li’s father, “then they sent his body to the crematorium.”

She said they “never, never, never saw” him for the last time.

“Thirty-four years old. He had so much potential, so much talent. He’s not the kind of person who would lie,” she said, alluding to Li’s reprimand by the police in Wuhan.

Li had a wife, who is pregnant, and a 5-year-old son, his mother said. Shortly after the outbreak, Li sent them to Xiangyang, a city about 200 miles from Wuhan.

The Chinese government has been accused of covering up the virus

Chinese authorities have been criticized as responding slowly to the virus. Officials have arrested citizens accused of spreading rumors online and detained journalists covering the virus.

The announcement of Li’s death also came amid conflicting statements in which state media reported that he had died, then that he was still alive, and then again that he had died.

China’s Communist Party has sent investigators to Wuhan to do “a comprehensive investigation into the problems reported by the public concerning Dr. Li Wenliang,” state media reported Friday.

Earlier this month, the Chinese government issued a rare statement acknowledging that its response to the virus had “shortcomings and deficiencies.”

The World Health Organization has largely defended China’s response, saying it has been much more open with the world about this virus than it was in the early 2000s with the SARS outbreak, which it tried to cover up.

President Donald Trump also tweeted his support for Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday, calling him “strong, sharp and powerfully focused on leading the counterattack on the Coronavirus.”

Many other doctors have caught the virus in Wuhan, where the health system has become overwhelmed and supplies are running low.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West

They brought the herd of camels into unfamiliar territory as part of an experiment, but when things went wrong, they accidentally let them loose to terrorize the countryside. No, that’s not the plot of a campy, direct-to-DVD horror film, that’s a true piece of US Army history.

Following a siege at Camp Verde, Texas, just before the onset of the American Civil War, nearly forty camels escaped US Army custody. These camels turned feral, reproduced, and roamed the southwest for years, damaging farms, eating crops, and generally wreaking havoc wherever they went. A few of them even ended up as the basis for a handful of ghost stories.


The sad and bizarre history of the U.S. Army Camel Corps

www.youtube.com

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I mean, if it worked for the Ottomans, it’ll work for us… right?

(Imperial War Museum)

The experiment technically started back in 1836 when U.S. Army Lt. George H. Crosman came up with a brilliant solution to traversing the stark deserts of the American Southwest before the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Horses could only take them so far through the sands and would eventually refuse to work in extreme heats. His solution? The Arabian camel.

In 1855, his plan began to take shape. In theory, the imported camels were to replace horses in the region. They were far more accustomed to heat, they could go great distances with little water, and they preferred to eat the shrubbery that other livestock and horses wouldn’t.

Unfortunately, they were still camels. Giant, goofy, smelly camels. As it turned out, they weren’t any faster or able to carry any more weight than a horse or mule — and they had a tendency to scare smaller livestock nearby. But they were able to go more than a few hours without water, so the plan was labelled technically a success.

The Army gave it the stamp of approval and the Camel Corps was unofficially green-lit.

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Even today, troops aren’t the biggest fans of camels.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James Clark)

The camels were housed in Camp Verde, Texas, which is roughly half way between San Antonio and El Paso. Since camels were very expensive to buy and maintain and had niche applications, the Camel Corps never really went anywhere.

Instead of being useful assets in the desert, the camels were more something that soldiers stationed at Camp Verde just had to deal with. Their smell wasn’t pleasant, to say the least, and were generally apathetic towards doing anything useful. When camels get agitated, which would obviously occur when their handlers mistreated them, they tend to spit, kick, and will outright refuse to do anything. The camels were basically just contained within either Camp Verde or at Fort Tejon, wherever the guy advocating their use was stationed.

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Imagine you were a 19th century pioneers would have absolutely no knowledge of what the a camel was and you see one out of your ranch… You’ve got yourself a recipe for many horror stories.

(Photo by Pelican)

Then, just months before the Civil War broke out, Confederate troops overthrew Camp Verde on February 28th, 1861. In the chaos of the battle, the camels were set free to cause a distraction. They did exactly that and the camels scattered. Of the over one hundred original camels stationed there, the Confederate troops were only able to capture 80 of them — meaning plenty were scattered to the wind.

The camels were said to be spotted all across the west. Sightings were reported from Iowa to California to even British Columbia. In the following decades, the camels would periodically destroy and the locals would look on, many of whom had no idea what a camel even was. To them, these were odd, giant, humped beasts that occasionally spat at them.

These camel sightings continued until 1941. For the most part, their sightings were often met with confusion or wonder as they would happen upon a random farm here and there. Weird, but they are gentle giants, after all.

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Just because there’s a logical explanation for it doesn’t mean it’s not creepy.

(True West Magazine)

But the most remarkable tale came from a lonely ranch outside of Eagle Creek, Arizona. It was called “The Legend of the Red Ghost.”

As the story goes, two ranchers went out for the morning and left their wives back home with the kids. The dogs started barking at something and one of the wives went to go check on it. There, she saw a terrifying, reddish monster (one of the Camel Corps’ camels) stampeding through the farm. It is said that the woman’s dead body was found trampled on with hoofprints left behind were larger than those of nearby horses.

A few nights later, a group of nearby prospectors were awoken to thunderous stomping and a terrifying scream (if you haven’t heard a camel make noise, I guess it’d sound creepy on a moonlit night.) They saw the beast and corroborated the ranchers’ tale. Of course, as with all tall tales, there was a good deal of exaggeration involved — one miner said they saw the “Red Ghost” kill a grizzly bear. Camels are tough, but they’re not that tough.

The story continued to evolve until, eventually, storytellers spoke of a ghostly figure riding atop the red beast — but this part might have been true. The “Red Ghost” was eventually tracked down and killed by a hunter nine years later. Oddly enough, the hunter found the beast with a saddle attached. Attached to those straps was a long-deceased corpse.

Who that person was or how long the camel was carrying them is still shrouded in mystery.

Writer’s Note: Some of the information about camels in the original version of this article were a bit incendiary towards the lovable goofy beasts. As a few people who’ve worked with camels have informed me, they’re rarely aggressive unless seriously agitated.

What may have also been a contributing factor to their aggression past that was left out of the original version was their extremely poor handling and maltreatment by the troops at Camp Verde. If you treat them well, they really are gentle giants. If you beat the camels, as was done by their “handlers” in those times, it will definitely win that fight.