This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

Dozens of bodies have mysteriously washed up on Japan’s shores over the past few weeks — and the evidence suggests they’re coming from North Korea.


At least 40 corpses from about 15 boats have washed up along Japan’s west coast since November, according to figures provided by Japanese authorities and calculated by Business Insider.

The most recent discovery was on Dec. 7, when authorities found two skeletons near an upturned boat near the western city of Oga, The Washington Post reported.

While Japanese authorities haven’t been able to definitively identify the origins of these “ghost ships” — vessels discovered with no living crew — multiple factors suggest they are from North Korea.

A boat found on the island of Sado in late November contained what appeared to be North Korean cigarette packets and jackets with Korean writing on them, Reuters reported.

Two bodies recovered from another boat found in Yamagata prefecture on Dec. 5 were also wearing pins showing the face of Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of North Korea’s current leader, Kim Jong Un, according to the Japanese news agency Kyodo and The Associated Press.

Most of the discoveries have been gruesome — in multiple cases, Japanese authorities have said they found skulls and decaying corpses.

Not a new phenomenon

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan
Ghost ships, presumably originating in North Korea, have been washing ashore in Japan with skeletal remains aboard. (Image Google Earth)

North Korean vessels have been showing up in Japan for years.

Eighty such ships drifted ashore in Japan in 2013, 65 in 2014, 45 in 2015, and 66 in 2016, said Satoru Miyamoto, a professor of political science and economics at Japan’s Seigakuin University, citing Japan Coast Guard statistics.

But at least 76 vessels have shown up on Japanese shores since the beginning of this year, and 28 in November alone, The New York Times reported.

These appearances usually occur more frequently toward the end of the year, when bad weather proves most dangerous to seafarers using old boats and equipment, The Times said.

So, why is this happening?

Life in North Korea is ‘grim and desperate’

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan
Citizens of North Korea face an oppressive regime in the Kim family. (Photo from Flickr user Roman Harak)

The rising number of ghost ships in Japan indicates the dire food scarcity facing North Korea, some experts say.

Jeffrey Kingston, the director of Asian studies at Temple University in Japan, told Business Insider that “the ghost ships are a barometer for the state of living conditions in North Korea — grim and desperate.”

“They signal both desperation and the limits of ‘juche,'” he added, using the word for an ideology developed by Kim Il Sung that justifies state policies despite famine and economic difficulties within the country.

To make matters worse, North Korea suffered a severe drought earlier this year that dramatically damaged the country’s food production and is likely to result in further food shortages, the United Nations said in July.

While the extent of the crop damage remains unclear, the UN said the areas accounting for two-thirds of North Korea’s cereal production had been severely affected.

Also Read: Trump slaps North Korea with new sanctions over human-rights abuses

Earlier this year, doctors treating a North Korean soldier shot while defecting to South Korea found that he had a large number of parasites in his stomach, suggesting a widespread health crisis in the North, The Washington Post reported.

Seo Yu-suk, a research manager at the North Korean Studies Institution in Seoul, told Reuters that “North Korea pushes so hard for its people to gather more fish so that they can make up their food shortages.”

Kingston added, “These rickety vessels are unsuitable for the rough seas of the Sea of Japan in autumn, and one imagines that far more are capsizing that we will never know about.”

Or are they a sign of a booming North Korean economy?

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan
An aerial view of North Korean capital Pyongyang, taken by photographer Aram Pam. (Image via Youtube)

Not all experts agree with the above assessment, however.

Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, an editor at North Korean Economy Watch, told Business Insider that it was “unclear to what degree it’s directly related to food shortages, per se.”

“If fishers are ordered out for longer periods of time, with bigger demands on the catch they bring back — and with less gasoline with them than they need, due to the sanctions and shortages — that is certainly a connection of sorts,” he said. He added,

It is also possible that to make the same level of revenue through selling seafood domestically — which seems to be the best option, given that they cannot export their products to China through formal ways due to current sanctions on seafood imports from North Korea — they would simply need to make bigger catches.

The UN Security Council, of which China is a member, unanimously imposed sanctions on North Korean seafood and other commodities in August in response to two missile tests Pyongyang conducted the month before.

It’s unclear, however, how much the sanctions have affected North Korea’s food situation or economy.

“Though the economy overall is under pressure from sanctions, food prices have not gone up to the degree that some may have expected, which suggests that there isn’t any acute scarcity as of now,” Katzeff Silberstein said.

He added, “On the other hand, there have been anecdotal reports of food scarcity increasing, particularly in the northeastern parts of the country, near the border to China, where agriculture is not at all as widely spread as in the southern regions.”

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan
The Yalu River is a natural and political border between North Korea and China.

Miyamoto, the Seigakuin University professor, said the rise in North Korean fishing vessels found in Japan was indicative of a booming North Korean economy — because seafood is a luxury item.

“Many North Korean vessels are in the Sea of Japan because North Korea has promoted fishery policy since 2013,” he told Business Insider.

“They are fishermen [trying] to earn money,” he added. “Now North Korean economics, which adopted free-market partly, have grown and generated a wealthy class. A wealthy class demands not caloric food, but healthy food. So seafood, which are healthy, is popular in North Korea.”

He continued, “It is evidence not that the North Korean economy is deteriorating, but that the North Korean economy is growing … Hungry people demand not seafood, which are low-calorie, but cereal and meat, which are high-calorie.”

He also told CNN the “ghost ship” phenomenon increased “after Kim Jong Un decided to expand the fisheries industry as a way of increasing revenue for the military.”

“They are using old boats manned by the military, by people who have no knowledge about fishing,” Miyamoto said. “It will continue.”

Japan’s response

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan
Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence the Kantei, in Tokyo, Aug. 18, 2017. (Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

The increased appearance of the vessels has reignited fears among some Japanese citizens who remain haunted by the spate of kidnappings carried out by North Korea that occurred along Japan’s west coast in the 1970s and ’80s.

When eight men claiming to be North Korean fishermen turned up in the coastal city of Yurihonjo two weeks ago, the local newspaper Akita Sakigake Shimpo ran the headline “Are they North Korean spies?” (They are not, local police told The Times.)

Pyongyang’s nuclear program and recent missile tests have also increased Japanese suspicion toward North Korea.

“Given recent missile and hydrogen-bomb tests, public anxieties and anger towards North Korea has increased, so sympathy for the ghost-ship crews has been limited,” Kingston said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New acting SecDef reportedly thinks F-35 was huge mistake

The new defense chief, a former Boeing employee, has reportedly been extremely critical of Lockheed Martin’s embattled F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter in private meetings, raising questions about whether he is biased in overseeing the largest weapons program in history.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who took over when Jim Mattis resigned, spent over 30 years at Boeing before joining the Department of Defense in 2017 as the deputy secretary of defense.


Though he signed an ethics agreement recusing himself from matters involving Boeing, Shanahan has continuously bashed the F-35, a key program for one of Boeing’s top competitors, in high-level meetings at the Pentagon and at other private gatherings, Politico reported on Jan. 9, 2019, citing former government officials who heard Shanahan make the comments.

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

US Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter crew chief Tech. Sgt. Brian West watches his aircraft approach for the first time at Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base in 2011.

(US Air Force Photo)

A former senior Defense Department official told Politico that Shanahan described the F-35 stealth fighter as “f—ed up” and said its maker, Lockheed Martin, “doesn’t know how to run a program.”

“If it had gone to Boeing, it would be done much better,” the former official recalled Shanahan saying, Politico reported.

Lockheed beat out Boeing in the Joint Strike Fighter competition, with the Department of Defense ultimately picking Lockheed’s X-35 — which became the F-35 — over Boeing’s X-32 in 2001. Had Boeing been awarded the contract, the military’s JSF might look very different.

A former Trump administration official told Politico that Shanahan “dumped” on the aircraft regularly and “went off” on the program in 2018.

“He would complain about Lockheed’s timing and their inability to deliver, and from a Boeing point of view, say things like, ‘We would never do that,'” the former official said.

In other private meetings, the former official added, Shanahan has called the program “unsustainable,” complaining about the cost of the stealth fighters, with separate versions built for the Navy, the Marines, and the Air Force. The F-35 is expected to cost more than id=”listicle-2625627238″ trillion over the life of the program, making it the most expensive weapon in US military history.

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

Maintainers from the 388th Maintenance Group preparing an F-35A for its mission.

(United States Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Current administration officials, however, told Politico that Shanahan’s comments were being taken out of context, stressing that he was not advocating for Boeing.

“I don’t believe that’s the case at all. I think he’s agnostic toward Boeing at best,” one official said, adding, “I don’t think there’s any intent to have Boeing favored in the building.”

It’s not the first time Shanahan’s loyalties have been called into question. The Pentagon is said to be planning a request for id=”listicle-2625627238″.2 billion for 12 Boeing F-15X fighter jets, a decision that was made at Shanahan’s urging, Bloomberg reported.

Air Force leaders had previously said there was no reason to buy these advanced fourth-generation fighters because they lack the necessary stealth capabilities provided by fifth-generation planes like the F-35, according to Defense News.

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.

Shanahan’s office told Politico he remained committed to his recusal. In public, he has spoken highly of the F-35 program.

“The F-35 is our future,” he said in September 2018 at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space Cyber Conference.

“I think we can all agree that it is a remarkable aircraft, with eye-watering capabilities critical to the high-end fight,” he added. “I tip my hat to its broad team of government, industry, and international partners. Having worked on programs of similar size and complexity, I have enormous respect for your talent and commitment.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This classic-rock legend is also a top missile-defense expert

Jeff “Skunk” Baxter has earned eight platinum records in a music career that started in the 1960s, and he has received numerous security clearances and contracting jobs since the 1980s as a self-taught expert on missile-defense and counterterrorism.

Baxter was one of many luminaries at the White House on Oct. 11, 2018, to watch President Donald Trump sign the Music Modernization Act, which reforms copyright laws.

Unlike every other musician in the room, including Kid Rock, Baxter has built a successful second career as a defense consultant.


Baxter dropped out of college in Boston in 1969 to join a short-lived psychedelic-rock band. After that, he moved to California and become one of the original six members of Steely Dan, which he left in 1974 to join the Doobie Brothers, which he left in 1979.

Baxter has said he “fell into his second profession almost by accident.”

While living in California in the 1970s, Baxter helped a neighbor dig out their house after a mudslide.

“Afterward, he invited me into his study and I saw all these pictures of airplanes and missiles on the wall — it turned out he was one of the guys who had invented the Sidewinder missile,” Baxter said in a 2013 interview. “As a gift for helping him clean out his house he gave me a subscription to Aviation Week and to Jane’s Defense. It was amazing.”

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

Jeff “Skunk” Baxter.

(InnoTown Conference / Youtube)

Baxter found the technical aspects of music and of defense, particularly missile defense, coincided.

“Technology is really neutral. It’s just a question of application,” he told MTV in 2001. “For instance, if TRW came up with a new data compression algorithms for their spy satellites, I could use that same information and apply it for a musical instrument or a hard disc recording unit. So it was just a natural progression.”

He immersed himself in technical journals and defense publications during the 1980s.

“The good news is that I live in America and am something of a, I guess the term is an “autodidact,” he said in 2013, when asked about his formal education. “There’s so much information available. The opportunity for self-education in this country is enormous.”

The big shift came in 1994.

Inspired by a friend’s work on an op-ed about NATO, Baxter sat down and punched out a five-page paper on the Aegis ship-based antiaircraft missile system, arguing it could be converted to a missile-defense system.

“One day, I don’t know what happened. I sat down at my Tandy 200 and wrote this paper about how to convert the Aegis weapon system,” he said in a 2016 speech. “I have no idea. I just did it.”

Baxter, who had recently retired as a reserve police officer in Los Angeles, was already in touch with California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher as an adviser. Baxter gave his paper to Rohrabacher.

“Skunk really blew my mind with that report,” Rohrabacher told The Wall Street Journal in 2005. “He was talking over my head half the time, and the fact that he was a rock star who had basically learned it all on his own was mind-boggling.”

Rohrabacher gave the paper to Pennsylvania Rep. Curt Weldon, a Republican and member of the House Armed Services Committee, who asked, “Is this guy from Raytheon or Boeing?” according to Baxter.

Rohrabacher replied, “No, he’s a guitar player for the Doobie Brothers.”

Like Rohrabacher, Weldon was struck by Baxter’s prowess. In 1995, he nominated Baxter to chair the Civilian Advisory Board for Ballistic Missile Defense, a congressional panel.

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper, equipped with the Aegis integrated weapons system, launches a missile during an exercise in the Pacific Ocean, July 30, 2009.

(Department of Defense Photo)

“The next thing I knew, I was up to my teeth in national security, mostly in missile defense, but because the pointy end of the missile sometimes is not just nuclear, but chemical, biological or volumetric, I got involved in the terrorism side of things,” Baxter told MTV in 2001.

The appointment to the panel “sort of opened up a door for me to end up working in the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO), which then morphed into the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), which then morphed into the Missile Defense Agency (MDA),” Baxter said in 2013.

He’s also worked with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and contractors like Northrup Grumman.

“We did some pretty cool stuff,” Baxter said in 2016 of his work on SDI, which President Ronald Reagan first proposed in 1983. “Reagan’s plan was a bit much. It was a plan to drive the Russians nuts, and it worked. They believed what we were doing was real and spent lots of money trying to counter it.”

He was also a hit at the Pentagon.

“Some of these people who are generals now were listening to my music when they were lieutenant colonels or lieutenant commanders, so there was a bond there,” Baxter said in 2001. “But what they realized is that they’re looking for people who think out of the box, who approach a problem with a very different point of view because we’re talking about asymmetrical warfare here.”

Military leaders brought him in to consult, regularly asking him to play the role of the enemy during war games.

“I’m told I make a very good bad guy,” Baxter said in 2005. People who worked with him also told The Journal he could be a self-promoter.

Baxter has kept up his musical work. He became a sought-after session guitarist, working with acts like Dolly Parton, Rod Stewart, and Eric Clapton.

In 2004 he flew 230,000 miles to reach all his gigs. That year he also made more money from his defense work than from music.

For his part, Baxter has pointed to his creativity as his biggest asset.

“We thought turntables were for playing records until rappers began to use them as instruments, and we thought airplanes were for carrying passengers until terrorists realized they could be used as missiles,” he said in 2005.

“My big thing is to look at existing technologies and try to see other ways they can be used, which happens in music all the time and happens to be what terrorists are incredibly good at.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran seizes a South Korean ship after the USS Nimitz does a U-turn

Iran seized a South Korean tanker and arrested its crew in the Persian Gulf on Monday as the US military continued an on-again, off-again military build-up around its border. The maneuvers came days after the first anniversary of the US assassination of a top Iranian general.


The seizure — which Iran described as related to environmental pollution in a statement reported by the Associated Press — came just one day after the Pentagon abruptly reversed a decision to move the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz out of the region just three days prior.

Little more was known about the seizure of the Korean ship on Monday morning.

The US and Iran have been flexing their military and rhetorical might over the past few weeks around the one-year anniversary of the US drone killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Jan 3, 2020. Iran has threatened revenge for the targeted killing of the country’s most powerful military official.


Last month the US Navy announced it was moving a cruise missile-armed submarine into the Persian Gulf for the first time in nearly a decade. Long-range US Air Force bombers conducted 30+ hour patrols over the region on several occasions from their bases in the United States. At the same time, increased rocket fire on US diplomatic and military compounds in Iraq — believed to have been conducted by Iranian proxy groups — forced the evacuation of non-essential personnel from several facilities. That led to another round of threats and counterthreats by US and Iranian officials in the Trump administration’s last days.

National security advisors convinced Trump not to conduct a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities last November, according to a New York Times report, despite strong encouragement from Israel. The Israeli government fears the incoming Biden administration will take a softer line on the Iranian nuclear program. Iran has responded angrily to the provocations, which included last year’s assassination of a top Iranian nuclear scientist reportedly by Israeli operatives. 


The reversal of the Nimitz’s movements over the past five days alarmed several NATO officials who have repeatedly expressed concerns about what they see as erratic US national security moves post-election. 


“I feel like my briefings are on a 24-48 hour delay,” said a NATO official in Brussels, who asked not to be named criticizing a close ally.


“What we believe is that after weeks of pushing additional material and warships into the Gulf region to pressure Iran, it was decided to send the Nimitz home after a mission off the coast of Somalia in an effort to reduce tensions,” said the official. “NATO supported this de-escalation because tensions were dangerously high and there’s more than enough military firepower in the region to deter Iran.”


When asked why such an immediate reversal, the NATO official admitted that it was too early to tell. 


“I guess I need a briefing,” said the official. “I suspect they will say there was new information or a new threat and that the Nimitz was needed to stay in the area but there will be widespread suspicions that Trump overruled the redeployment for his own political or emotional concerns.”


The New York Times reported that Trump vetoed the redeployment of the Nimitz over concerns it made him look weak. 

A former US national security official, who is expected to join the Biden administration and thus asked not to be identified, said that the previous overflights of the region by long-range bombers — which the official described as not particularly useful for defensive operations — might have inflamed regional allies enough that the Pentagon concluded the Nimitz had to go, only to be overruled by Trump three days later. 


“The B-52s [sent from US bases] are useful on the first day of a major war because they can target command and control centers and anti-aircraft defenses from range with cruise missiles,” said the former official. “It’s an offensive threat and so long as they were over the Gulf, Iran would have been convinced of an imminent attack. But they go home after a few hours, the Nimitz can stay and support a much wider range of operations. So it’s an operational mistake to have tried to send it home at all but maybe this was forced by the outcry over the B-52s. Now there’s double confusion everywhere.”

The USS Nimitz — one of the world’s most powerful warships with dozens of attack and support aircraft — had been operating off the Horn of Africa in support of US forces deployed in Somalia as recently as Dec. 28, according to the US Navy. It is believed to be returning to a patrol position in the northern Gulf of Oman. 


For its part, Iran announced just minutes after that it had detained the South Korean tanker that it finds South Korea sanctions unreasonable and planned to discuss the sanctions and the detained ship with the South Korean deputy foreign minister, who is due in Iran this week for talks. 

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

Donald Stratton, who served aboard the USS Arizona when it was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, passed away on Feb. 15, 2020. He was 97 years old.


Stratton was born and raised in Nebraska and joined the Navy in 1940 at the age of 18 right after finishing high school. He heard rumors of war and figured it was best to join sooner rather than later.

When he was asked why he joined the Navy he said, “My theory was you either had a nice place aboard a ship and were high and dry or you didn’t have anything. In the Army, you were crawling around in the mud and everything else, and I didn’t want to do that.”

After finishing training, he was sent to Washington state, where he would be assigned to his first duty station, the USS Arizona. When he saw the ship for the first time, she was in dry dock. He said, “It was quite a sight for an old flatlander like me to see a 35,000-ton battleship out of the water.”

The Arizona was a Pennsylvania-class battleship that was commissioned during the First World War. While she didn’t see action then, the Navy made good use of her first in the Mediterranean and later in the Pacific. She was 908 feet in length and had twelve 45 caliber, 14-inch guns as part of her armament.

When the Arizona made its way down to Pearl Harbor, Stratton went with her. Stratton and the rest of the crew settled into the routine of training and exercises, both in port and out at sea. There was no doubt in his mind that the U.S. was preparing for war. Like most Americans, though, he was still shocked at how the war began.

The “day that would live in infamy” started out pretty routinely for Stratton and the thousands of other Sailors and Marines at Pearl Harbor. He woke up for Reveille and went to get chow. After bringing oranges to a buddy in sick bay, he stopped at his locker and headed up top. He heard screams and shouts and followed everyone’s points to Ford Island. There he saw an aircraft bank in the morning light and the distinctive rising sun emblem on the plane. Stratton quipped, “Well, that’s the Japanese, man – they’re bombing us.”

Stratton ran to his battle station, calling out coordinates for his anti-aircraft gun crew. His crew soon realized that they didn’t have range on the bombers and watched in horror as the Japanese made their bombing runs.

The Japanese had 10 bombers assigned to attack the Arizona. Of the bombs dropped, three were near misses, and four hit their target. It was the last hit that would prove catastrophic for the Sailors and Marines on board. The bomb penetrated the deck and set off a massive explosion in one of the ship’s magazines. The force of the explosion ripped apart the Arizona and tore her in two.

Stratton had the fireball from the explosion go right through him. He suffered burns over 70% of his body and was stuck aboard a ship that was going down rapidly. Through the smoke, he could make out the USS Vestal and a single sailor waving to him. He watched as the Sailor waved off someone on his own ship and tossed a line over to the Arizona. Stratton and five other men used the rope and traversed the 70 foot gap to safety. Stratton never forgot the sailor yelling, “Come on Sailor, you can make it!” as he struggled to pull his badly burned body to safety.

Two of the men who made it across died alone with 1773 other men on the Arizona. Only 334 men on the ship made it out alive. The Arizona burned for two days after the attack.

Stratton was sent to San Francisco where he spent all of 1942 recovering from his wounds. His weight dropped to 92 pounds, and he couldn’t stand up on his own. He almost had an arm amputated too. Shortly thereafter, he was medically discharged from the Navy

Stratton then decided that he wasn’t going to sit out the rest of the war. He appealed to the Navy and was allowed to reenlist, although he had to go through boot camp again. He was offered a chance to stay stateside and train new recruits, but he refused. He served at sea during the battles of the Philippines and Okinawa where he worked to identify potential kamikaze attacks. He called Okinawa “82 days of hell.”

Stratton left the Navy after the war and took up commercial diving until his retirement. He settled in Colorado Springs, and he actively participated in Pearl Harbor reunions and commemorations. Stratton wanted to make sure people didn’t forget about the men who died that day.

It was at one of those reunions in 2001 that Stratton’s life found another mission to complete. He found out the Sailor aboard the USS Vestal was named Joe George. When the attack commenced the Vestal was moored to the Arizona. After the catastrophic explosion, an officer ordered George to cut lines to the Arizona as it was sinking. George frantically motioned to men trapped on the Arizona, burning to death. The officer told them to let them be and cut the lines.

George waved him off and threw a safety line and saved men, including Stratton. Stratton learned that George had passed away in 1996, so he wouldn’t get a chance to thank him. But to his disbelief, George had never been commended for saving his fellow Sailors.

The Navy looked at the incident and decided they couldn’t award a Sailor for saving lives because he disobeyed an order from an officer. (Some things never change.)

Stratton and fellow rescued Sailor, Lauren Bruner, took up the cause to get George awarded. They met nothing but resistance from the Navy. From 2002 to 2017 Stratton repeatedly tried to get George honored but was ignored. It wasn’t until 2017 when he was able to meet with President Donald Trump and then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis that the ball started rolling. Shortly thereafter, George’s family was presented with a Bronze Star with “V” for George’s heroic actions that day.

Stratton wanted to make sure people never forgot that day. He recounted his life’s journey in his memoir, “All the Gallant Men: An American Sailor’s Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor.

He also helped with a documentary about George’s life, which was narrated by Gary Sinise.

Stratton had the option to have his remains cremated and scattered at the Arizona memorial. But after a life at sea, he instead chose to go home and will be buried in Nebraska.

Of the men who served on the USS Arizona that day, only two surviving crew members are still alive: Lou Conter, 98, and Ken Potts, 98.

Fair Winds and Following Seas.

Articles

This recreational drug could be used to treat post-traumatic stress

Thirty percent of the current veteran population is suffering from some level of post traumatic stress, according to VA statistics. Treatments vary, but researchers and doctors are aggressively responding to the crisis.


As marijuana begins to gain traction in treating veteran PTS (the Veterans Administration maintains its position that marijuana has only an “anecdotal effect” on veteran post-traumatic stress) researchers are examining other recreational drugs to treating the unseen wounds of war. And the newest drug under scrutiny is methylene-dioxy-meth-amphetamine, better known as “MDMA,” “Molly,” or “ecstasy.”

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan
Pure MDMA in crystal form (wikimedia commons)

Pure MDMA is of interest to neuroscientists because of its effect on human empathy, fear, and defensiveness. In a recent Popular Science article, psychiatrist Dr. Michael Mithoefer said that 83 percent of his treatment resistant patients not only responded positively to MDMA treatment, they soon showed no symptoms at all.

Other reports show the drug works in treating end-of-life anxiety and alcoholism. Rick Doblin, who runs the nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, thinks the FDA could allow the use of MDMA as a viable treatment option as early as 2021.

In studies published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, MDMA was found to be addictive in “rare cases.” One being a veteran self-medicating with MDMA to treat his own post-traumatic stress. Clearly, more study is needed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is building a massive amount of warships

The U.S. Navy’s 2016 shipbuilding plan called for 355 ships needed to compete in an increasingly contested international environment. The acting Secretary of the Navy has promised the Navy’s new plan will be complete by Jan. 15, 2020, but by all accounts, the number of ships will be reduced to 304, allotting for the construction of 10 new ships per year, fewer than the 2016 assessment.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Navy is increasing its naval presence – at a massive rate.


The People’s Liberation Army Navy is gearing up for the naval fight of the century, one that will likely happen without ever firing a shot. For control of the contested islands in the South China Sea, the PLAN is going to have to intimidate all the other naval forces of the world, but mostly the United States Navy. While China sees the waters around the Spratly Islands as its sovereign territory, other countries in the neighborhood don’t see it that way. The U.S. Navy, as part of its Freedom of Navigation mission, makes regular trips through these “Chinese waters,” challenging China’s claim to the islands and its territorial sea.

Basically, the U.S. Navy goes to contested sea areas and conducts operations inconsistent with “Innocent Passage,” which would be any action that doesn’t contribute to their quick and hasty movement through the territorial waters. When the U.S. Navy does something like launch planes or helicopters while in the disputed zones, it’s basically telling China, the U.S. doesn’t recognize their claim. In the South China Sea, there are at least two island chains in dispute between the Chinese and their neighbors.

The U.S. doesn’t take sides, but it also doesn’t recognize China’s Excessive Maritime Claims, so it frequently conducts Freedom of Navigation operations – and China hates it.

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

(Forbes)

China’s response to the ongoing Freedom of Navigation operations has been to increase the presence of its deployed military hardware throughout the Spratly and Paracel Islands. It has even moved its vaunted DF-26 Ballistic Missile forces onto the islands in an effort to intimidate the U.S. Navy from continued operations. It has not been successful. China has even put its own ships in the way of the U.S. ships traversing the islands, threatening to stop them with one ship and sink it with another. But that is easier said than done. The United States Navy is the largest and most advanced fleet of ships in the world, with 11 aircraft carrier battle groups and hundreds of ships. It’s a lot to consider fighting.

Unless you also have hundreds of ships.

While the U.S. Navy is planning to build ten ships every year, the Chinese shipyards have been documented building up to nine ships at a time. The photo above shows nine Destroyers under construction, a number that would dwarf the UK’s Royal Navy, who has just six destroyers in service. This is only one yard, captured on social media for the world to see. China just finished its homegrown aircraft carrier, its second, and it boasts a crazy mysterious sailless submarine the United States knows very little about.

One day soon, the U.S. Navy’s intimidating Freedom of Navigation missions might just blow up in its face and it might find a fleet of Chinese ships waiting for it.

Articles

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

Air Mobility Command has grounded the C-5 Galaxy cargo planes operating at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware after a nose landing-gear unit malfunctioned for the second time in 60 days.


The stand-down order, issued July 17, affects all 18 C-5s stationed at Dover — 12 of them are primary and six are backup aircraft, according to a release.

The Air Force has 56 C-5s in service.

“Aircrew safety is always my top priority and is taken very seriously,” Air Mobility Command’s chief, Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, said in a release. “We are taking the appropriate measures to properly diagnose the issue and implement a solution.”

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker

An Air Mobility Command spokesman told Military.com that both malfunctions involved C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft. On May 22 and again July 15, the planes’ “nose landing gear could not extend all the way,” the spokesman said. The C-5M was introduced in 2009 and is the latest model of the C-5.

Air Force personnel will perform inspections “to ensure proper extension and retraction of the C-5 nose landing gear,” Air Mobility Command said. The halt applies only to C-5s at Dover, and Air Mobility Command said it would work to minimize the effect on worldwide operations.

Also read: Behold, the largest plane in the US Air Force

The C-5 is the Air Force’s largest airlifter. It has a 65-foot-tall tail and is 247 feet long with a 223-foot wingspan. The first version, the C-5A, entered service in 1970, and several models have joined the fleet since then.

The C-5M was given more powerful engines, allowing it to carry more cargo and take off over a shorter distance. It can haul 120,000 pounds of cargo more than 5,500 miles — the distance from Dover to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey — without refueling. Without cargo, its range is more than 8,000 miles.

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan
USAF Airmen load an M1A1 Abrams Tank into an Air Force C-5M Super Galaxy cargo aircraft. (USAF photo by Roland Balik)

In recent years, budgets cuts and sequestration compelled Air Force leadership to begin taking C-5Ms out of service.

Everhart, the Air Mobility Command chief, said in March that total C-5 inventory had fallen to 56 from 112 a few years ago.

But the Air Force has made moves to reverse that deactivation, saying it plans to move at least eight mothballed C-5Ms back into service, using newly allocated funds, over the next four years.

That return to service would partially overlap with an upgrade project for the active fleet of airlifters that is slated to wrap up in 2018.

“I need them back because there’s real-world things that we’ve got to move, and they give me that … added assurance capability,” Everhart told lawmakers at the end of March.

Articles

This is what happens when a hero Army veteran tries to save a CVS

No good deed goes unpunished. Ask Joe Morici, an Army veteran who attempted to stop two suspects from robbing a Beltsville, Maryland CVS on February 26, 2015.


The two attempted to rob the pharmacy managed by Morici, whose seven years of Army service included a tour in Afghanistan. He told the cashiers to call 911, helped an elderly man exit the store, and then locked the front door to prevent the two robbers from leaving. When they ran into the door, Morici confronted them. Chick Hernandez, an eyewitness, told Fox 5 News how Morici called their bluff.

“Joe got one of them,” Hernandez said. “The kid, he said to his partner, ‘Shoot him.’Then Joe said, ‘I’ve been in the military far too long. You don’t have anything.'” Morici was right. All they had was a screwdriver.

“I don’t really know that they didn’t really have one,” the former soldier said. “I just kind of assumed.” He wrested the tool from the men, but they eventually escaped. The real trouble started when Morici’s boss arrived on the scene to terminate Morici’s job because of his actions.

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan
Joe Morici (right)

“My boss, when he came in to deliver the news, he was sick to his stomach,” Morici said. “He didn’t have a choice.”

In a statement to FOX5, CVS said it would “not comment on specific security procedures or polices as we do not want to undermine them.”

Morici received many job offers since news of his firing went public. He also applied for the Prince George’s County Police Department.

A status on Morici’s Facebook page reads:

“First I want to thank everyone who’s supporting me from all over the country! This has officially gone national. I got a phone call from Fox today and they want me to join them this Saturday on Fox and Friends. To everyone who’s supported by posting and sharing and all the kind messages I’ve been receiving I again say THANK YOU!”

If you would like to let CVS know how you feel about their policies, email them using this online form.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

DOD & VA to hold ‘closed door’ conference on burn pits

Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs officials are meeting in March 2019 in Arlington, Virginia, for a two-day symposium on burn pits and airborne pollutants but, as with previous Joint VA/DoD Airborne Hazard Symposia, the meeting is closed to the public and press.

The symposium’s purpose, according to documents from the first meeting in 2012, is to “provide an opportunity to discuss what we know, what we need to know and what can be done to study and improve care” for veterans and troops who “might have suffered adverse health effects related to exposure to airborne hazards, including burn pit smoke and other pollutants.”


Attendance is tightly controlled, with Pentagon and VA officials convening to discuss topics such as a joint action plan to address potential health conditions related to exposure, the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Burn Pit Registry, monitoring deployment environments and the impact of exposures on the Veterans Benefits Administration, according to a copy of the first day’s agenda obtained by Military.com.

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

A soldier pushing a bulldozer into the flames of a burn pit at Balad, Iraq

(US Army photo)

Members of several veterans service organizations and advocacy groups have been invited to speak, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, Burn Pits 360 and the Sgt. Sullivan Circle.

But those veterans’ representatives are allowed to attend only a handful of sessions on the first day, March 14, 2019, including opening remarks and segments on outreach and education, as well as a brown-bag lunch during which they can discuss concerns and issues.

All events scheduled for March 15, 2019, remain unpublished.

Neither the VA nor the DoD responded to requests for information on the event. Veterans advocates also declined to discuss the meeting or their participation, with some expressing concern that they would be prevented from receiving future invites.

Thousands of troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere were exposed to airborne pollutants while working and living near burn pits used to dispose of trash, medical waste and other types of refuse at area military bases.

Some have developed a chronic lung disease, constrictive bronchiolitis, while others have developed skin rashes, autoimmune disorders and various types of cancer, including glioblastoma, a brain cancer rarely seen in young adults, that they believe are related to burn pit exposure.

Veterans and advocates have pressed the VA for years to recognize these illnesses as related to burn pit exposure and want them to be considered “presumptive” conditions, a designation that would automatically qualify them for disability compensation and health services.

The VA says it lacks the scientific evidence to directly tie burn pit exposure to certain diseases but has granted service connection for several conditions associated with burn pits, deciding each claim on a case-by-case basis.

In 2011, the Institute of Medicine reviewed all available studies, reports and monitoring data on burn pit utilization and combustibles exposure and concluded that there was not enough evidence or data to draw conclusions about the long-term consequences of exposure.

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

A service member tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit

(DoD photo)

More than 140,000 veterans have enrolled in the VA Burn Pit and Airborne Hazards Registry.

From June 2007 through Nov. 30, 2018, the VA received 11,581 claims applications for disability compensation with at least one condition related to burn pit exposure. Of those, 2,318 had a burn pit-related condition granted, according to VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour.

During the same time frame, the VA processed nearly 13.5 million claims; burn pit-related claims made up less than a tenth of a percent of those claims.

“VA encourages all veterans who feel their military service has affected their health to submit a claim, which will be adjudicated using the latest scientific and medical evidence available,” Cashour said.

The Pentagon and VA are developing a way to track environmental exposures in service members starting with the day they enlist. The Individual Longitudinal Exposure Record, or ILER, will record potential and known exposures throughout a service member’s time on active duty. A pilot program is set to begin Sept. 30, 2019.

But those who have suffered exposures in the past 30 years will need to rely on Congress to pass legislation to assist them, the Defense Department to continue researching the issues, and the VA to approve their claims.

Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Wounded Warrior Project, IAVA, Disabled American Veterans, the Fleet Reserve Association, the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Military Officers Association of America all have made burn pit and toxic exposure issues a top legislative priority this year.

Several lawmakers, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, have introduced legislation that would require the DoD and VA to share information on troops’ exposure to airborne chemicals and provide periodic health assessments for those who were exposed.

The meeting is to take place at the Veterans Health Administration National Conference Center in Crystal City, Virginia.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

I’m a milspouse living with chronic anxiety. Here’s what I want you to know

It’s Monday. I’ve been awake since 6am and I’m sipping on hot coffee – a rare treat in my house, since my kids are still asleep – and looking at my weekly planner. I see that I have another full week of appointments and social gatherings.

Seems pretty normal, right?


For any other person, this looks like a normal week. As for me, this looks like a million things to do and I start thinking of all the ways any of these can go wrong. I quickly become overwhelmed, and then, anxious. I try to gain some control by using my husband as a soundboard to discuss everything coming up, and we formulate a plan together. His reassurance is what helps me overcome the anxiety and get things done.

Then, he calls me and tells me he has a last-minute TDY, and he leaves this weekend. Once again, the military has thrown a wrench in our plans, and I am expected to pick up the slack and adapt.

For some, this last part is just par for the course, and they manage just fine despite the difficulties ahead. For me, my anxiety is now in full swing. How will I get through this?

This is just one example of how my anxiety used to affect my daily life as a military spouse. My anxiety also had control over other aspects, such as:

  • Making friends at a new place (because I feared I wouldn’t be accepted by them)
  • Cancelling plans
  • PCSing
  • My spouse’s work schedule changes
  • Deployment

As military spouses, the expectations placed on us to be strong can be difficult even without anxiety. With anxiety, those expectations are even harder to meet – including the ability to quickly adapt to situations and do things on our own while our spouses are gone. It is really hard to ask for help because we don’t want to be a burden, and as a result, we often feel more alone than we actually are.

If any of this sounds like what you are experiencing, I want you to know that you are not alone! Your friends, key spouse, and even mental health professionals are there to assist you when you are struggling, and it is okay to ask them for help. Asking for help is the best thing I ever did, and if I can do it, you can, too!

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of January 11th

Now that the military life is thoroughly back into full swing after the new year lull, I’m going to make a wild guess and assume that a large portion of the grunts are now going to go out into the field “to make up for lost time.” Have fun with that.

To a certain extent, I understand summer field problems. Go out and train for what you’ll do on a deployment. And I get that there are certain parts of RC-North, Afghanistan, that get cold as balls, so acclimatizing makes sense. But winter field exercises back stateside just teaches troops one crucial thing: never second guess the packing list.

You’ll be doing the exact same as thing you’ll do during every other field exercise, but if you, for some reason, forget gloves… Well, you’re f*cked.

For the rest of you POGs who’re still lounging around the training room on your cell phones, have some memes!


This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

(Meme via PT Belt Nation)

Five bucks says that Adam Driver still has a poncho liner on his couch. 

Very Related: 5 Marine things Kylo Ren would do if he was a Lance Corporal

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

(Meme via Private News Network)

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

(Meme via On The Minute Memes)

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan
This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the US should worry more about Xi Jinping than Putin

Under President Donald Trump, the US is starting to prepare for a great-power war and has set its sights on two countries run by powerful men — Russia and China.


Both Vladimir Putin in Russia and Xi Jinping in China are set to stay in power for years to come. Putin is widely expected to win Russia’s upcoming election in March and China recently announced plans to end presidential term limits, which could allow Xi to keep his position for decades.

Related: Russia now claims the US is interfering in their elections

Evan Osnos, a New Yorker staff writer who lived in China from 2005 to 2013, charted the differences between the two leaders in an article on Xi and China’s term limit decision. He noted that the similarities between Putin and Xi are “limited.”

“In matters of diplomacy and war, Putin wields mostly the weapons of the weak: hackers in American politics, militias in Ukraine, obstructionism in the United Nations,” Osnos wrote.

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan
Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Osnos argued that Putin’s Russia uses “the arsenal of a declining power,” while Xi’s China is “ascendant.”

“On the current trajectory, Xi’s economy and military will pose a far greater challenge to American leadership than Putin’s,” according to Osnos.

Xi, he said, “is throwing out the written rules, and to the degree that he applies that approach to the international system — including rules on trade, arms, and access to international waters — America faces its most serious challenge since the end of the Cold War.”

The US has largely avoided weighing in on China’s planned term limit change.

Also read: China’s president is kind of a big deal

“That’s a decision for China to make about what’s best for their country,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Feb. 26, 2018.

However, Osnos is not alone in thinking the US should be worried about China under Xi.

“For the United States, the idea of an absolute dictator running the most powerful peer competitor nation-state-and soon to be the most powerful economy — with a single-minded obsession to ‘Make China Great Again’ who is going to be around for another 10 to 15 years must give us pause,” former State Department official and China expert John Tkacik told the Washington Free Beacon.

“Fasten your seatbelts.”