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 TRENDING

Taliban returns American and Australian hostages in prisoner swap

An American and an Australian who were held by the Taliban in Afghanistan for over three years were freed Nov. 19, 2019, as part of a prisoner swap.

The State Department said in a statement on Nov. 19, 2019, that the American Kevin King, 63, and the Australian Timothy Weeks, 50, were “successfully recovered” in the morning and were in the custody of the US military.

The department added that both men would soon be reunited with their families.

Weeks and King were teachers at the American University of Afghanistan in the capital of Kabul and were kidnapped at gunpoint outside the university in August 2016. The two men were held hostage for over three years.


In 2017, the Taliban released a propaganda video showing the two men in black robes and looking disheveled. In the video, the men discussed their time in captivity and urged their governments to negotiate with the Taliban to secure their release.

In a statement in 2017, the Taliban said King was “gravely ill” and needed urgent care.

The State Department said the Taliban released the professors as a “goodwill measure.” The department added that the Taliban intended to release 10 Afghan prisoners, and the Afghan government intended to release three Taliban prisoners as part of the exchange.

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

Pictures taken in 2014 by Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security that officials said showed Anas Haqqani, left, a senior leader of the Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, and Hafiz Rashid, another commander.

(National Directorate of Security)

The men released as part of the swap were senior members of Haqqani network, which is linked to Al Qaeda.

“We see these developments as hopeful signs that the Afghan war, a terrible and costly conflict that has lasted 40 years, may soon conclude through a political settlement,” the State Department said.

Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said that the Australian government was “profoundly relieved” by the agreement and thanked the Trump administration and the Afghan government for their assistance.

“We regard this release as one of a series of confidence-building measures that are taking place in Afghanistan,” she said.

Payne added that Weeks’ family had “asked for privacy” but conveyed that they felt “relief that their long ordeal is over.”

According to The Washington Post, the Afghan government initially said the pair appeared to have been kidnapped by a criminal gang. The Pentagon and Navy SEALs also unsuccessfully attempted to rescue the two men in a botched mission in eastern Afghanistan.

The US had kickstarted talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government in September 2019 but abandoned talks after a Taliban attack in Kabul killed a US soldier.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

7 of the best military movie battle speeches, ranked

The moments leading up to a bloody engagement are frightening. Troops, knowing the end may be near, stand and wonder what lies beyond the next bend.


Every so often, Hollywood recreates this moment on film. Invariably, we see our hero take to ramparts to deliver a rousing speech. It takes some well-written words of encouragement to lower troops’ stress levels and get them ready for the fight.

These are a few of the best battle speeches to ever hit the screen.

Related: 7 of the most overused lines in war movies

7. Zulu

Directed by Cy Endfield, this classic film follows a group of outnumbered Welsh infantrymen as they defend a hospital and supply dump for 12 long hours from a massive force of Zulu warriors.

In this case, the battle speech was more like a war song. Each man belts out lyrics to grant them the courage they need to take on the brutal, blade-wielding charge.

6. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Directed by Peter Jackson, the third installment of this juggernaut trilogy dominated the Hollywood box offices for weeks on end and, hopefully, taught a lesson to a few military leaders on how to deliver speeches to their troops. 

5. Braveheart

Directed and starring Mel Gibson, this Oscar-winning film centers around one poor Scotsman as he rallies a country to fight against English oppression — and it all started with this famous battle speech.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEOOZDbMrgE

4. Gladiator

It’s a good thing that, in modern war, we don’t to ride into battle on horseback or clash with enemy swords. However, if we did, we’d want to hear words of encouragement from a general who isn’t afraid to fight alongside his men.

3. Independence Day

If the earth is ever attacked by aliens, someone better revive this exceptional battle speech word-for-word to rally up the troops. The world might feel like it’s legitimately going to end, but it only takes a few minutes of a truly inspiring speech to get everyone on the same patriotic page.

2. Patton

Based on the life of the legendary Gen. George Patton, the opening speech to 1970’s Patton is one of the best pieces of motivational dialogue ever recorded on film.

Also Read: 6 of the most disappointing military movies of all time

1. 300

300 follows a small squad of elite Spartan warriors, led by King Leonidas, as they stand their ground against a massive Persian army. After the King’s death, a Spartan named Dilios delivers a speech that motivates the crap out of the rest of the men to take out the remaining Persian army.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy wants to replace Vikings with drones

The return of great-power competition has the US military refocusing on the potential for a conflict with a sophisticated adversary whose submarines can sink the US’s supercarriers.

Defense experts are increasingly concerned by a resurgent Russian undersea force and by China’s increasingly capable boats.

But the centerpiece of the US Navy’s fleet has a decade-old gap in its submarine defenses, and filling it may require new, unmanned aircraft.


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

A US Navy S-2G Tracker in the foreground, accompanied by its successor, the S-3A Viking, over Naval Air Station North Island, California, in July 1976.

(US Navy photo)

‘It’s got legs’

During the Cold War and the years afterward, aircraft carriers had fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters for anti-submarine-warfare operations. For much of that period, the fixed-wing option was the S-3 Viking.

Introduced in 1974, the turbofan S-3 was developed with Soviet submarines in mind. It replaced the propeller-driven S-2 Tracker, carrying a crew of four. It wasn’t particularly fast, but it had a 2,000-mile range and could stay airborne for up to 10 hours to hunt submarines.

“It’s got legs,” said Capt. John Rousseau, who flew the Navy’s last Vikings as part of an experimental squadron before their retirement in early 2016.

It had strong surface-search abilities to find periscopes, a magnetic anomaly detector to search for submerged subs, and gear to analyze sounds from sonobuoys it dropped in the ocean. Its search and processing capabilities tripled its search area. And in a war scenario, it could fire Harpoon missiles at ships and drop torpedoes and depth charges to destroy submarines.

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

An S-3A Viking with a Magnetic Anomaly Detection boom extending from its tail in May 1983.

(US Navy photo)

“It can go fast and long. The radar, even though it’s old, there’s not many better. We still spot schools of dolphins and patches of seaweed” when patrolling off California, Rousseau said in 2016.

The Viking performed a variety of missions, including cargo transport, surveillance and electronic intelligence, search and rescue, and aerial refueling, but it was a mainstay of the carrier anti-submarine-warfare efforts.

Helicopters deployed on carriers typically perform close-in ASW, usually within about 90 miles of the ship. The S-3, with a longer range and the ability to linger, filled the midrange-ASW role, operating about 90 to 175 miles from the carrier.

Land-based aircraft, like the P-3 Orion and now the P-8 Poseidon, have flown the longest-range submarine patrols.

‘The leadership totally turned over’

As the sub threat lessened after the Cold War, the S-3 was reoriented toward anti-surface operations. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, an S-3 attacked a ground target for the first time, firing a missile at Saddam Hussein’s yacht.

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

“Navy One,” a US Navy S-3B Viking carrying President George W. Bush, lands on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003.

(US Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Gabriel Piper)

An S-3 designated “Navy One” even flew President George W. Bush to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003. Some of the Navy’s last S-3s operated over Iraq in the late 2000s, looking for threats on the ground.

The S-3 was eventually able to deploy torpedoes, mines, depth charges, and missiles.

With the addition of Harpoon anti-ship missiles, the S-3’s designation in the carrier air wing shifted from “anti-submarine” to “sea control,” according to “Retreat from Range,” a 2015 report on carrier aviation by Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy officer who took part in force-structure planning and carrier-strike-group operations.

Amid shifts in Navy leadership and the rise of new threats after the Cold War, the S-3 lost favor. It officially left service in 2009. There was nothing to replace it.

“There was a slow transition in the makeup of the air wing, as well as a slow transition in the changeover in the leadership of the air-wing community,” Hendrix, now a vice president at Telemus Group, told Business Insider. As a naval aviator, Hendrix spent over a decade in P-3 patrol squadrons that routinely conducted maritime patrols looking for foreign submarines.

“By the time we got … to replace the S-3, essentially the leadership totally turned over to the short-range, light-attack community, led by the F/A-18 Hornet pilots, and also they’ve been operating for the better part of 20 years in permissive environments,” Hendrix said, referring to areas such as the Persian Gulf, where threats like enemy subs are almost nonexistent.

Because of the lack of other threats, the S-3 was relegated largely to a refueling role during its final years, mainly as a recovery tanker for aircraft returning to the carrier.

“When it came time to make a decision, they said, ‘Well, we really don’t need the recovery tanker. I can do recovery tanking with other Hornets, and this anti-submarine warfare doesn’t seem all that important to us because there’s not submarines around us,'” Hendrix said. “So they made a decision to get rid of the S-3.”

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

A US Navy S-3 Viking refuels another S-3 Viking over the Caribbean Sea in May 2006.

(US Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Christopher Stephens)

The S-3s that were retired had thousands of flying hours left in their airframes. Dozens are being held in reserve in the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.

“They actually got rid of the S-3 early in the sense that the community still had a viable population of aircraft,” Hendrix said.

Their departure left a hole in carrier defenses that remains unfilled, especially when carrier groups are far from the airfields where P-8 Poseidons are based.

More helicopters have been added to the carrier air wing, Hendrix said. “However, the helicopters don’t have either the sensors or the mobility to be able to really patrol the middle zone” in which the S-3 operated.

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

Sailors on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell load a MK-46 torpedo on an MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter during an ASW exercise in the Pacific Ocean in March 2014.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Chris Cavagnaro)

Nor does the arrival of the P-8 Poseidon — a vaunted maritime patrol aircraft introduced in 2013 to replace the P-3 — make up for the Viking’s absence, according to Hendrix.

“We haven’t brought the P-8s in in a one-to-one replacement basis for the older P-3s, and so they’re not really in sufficient numbers to do the middle-zone and outer-zone anti-submarine-warfare mission for the carrier strike groups,” he said. “So we haven’t filled that requirement in force structure.”

‘The Navy could mitigate this vulnerability’

Amid the increasing focus on facing a sophisticated adversary, discussion has intensified about changing the composition of the carrier air wing to replace the capabilities — anti-submarine warfare in particular — shed after the Cold War.

“ASW will become an increasingly important [carrier air wing] mission as adversary submarine forces increase in their size, sophistication, and ability to attack targets ashore and at sea using highly survivable long-range weapons,” said a recent report on the carrier air wing by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

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

A Navy S-3B Viking from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson on January 23, 1995. It carries a refueling pod under its left wing, and openings in the fuselage for dropping sonobuoys are visible in the rear.

(US Navy photo by PH1 (AW) Mahlon K. Miller)

Longer-range anti-ship missiles allow subs to be farther outside carrier helicopters’ operational range, the report argued. (Long-range land-based weapons may also hinder ASW by reducing the area in which the P-8 can operate.)

“The increasing range of submarine-launched cruise missiles may result in [carrier air wing] aircraft being the only platforms able to defend civilian and other military shipping as well as high-value US and allied targets ashore from submarine attack,” the report added.

Unmanned systems — sensors as well as unmanned underwater and surface vehicles — are seen as an option to extend the carrier’s reach. (The Navy has already awarded Boeing a contract for unmanned aerial refueling vehicles.)

“The Navy could mitigate this vulnerability using distributed unmanned sensors to find and track enemy submarines at long ranges and over wide areas,” the CSBA report said, adding that ships and aircraft in the carrier strike group could then use anti-submarine rockets to keep enemy subs at bay rather than trying to sink all of them.

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

Boeing conducts an MQ-25 deck-handling demonstration at its facility in St. Louis, Missouri, in January 2018.

(US Navy/Boeing photo)

The need to operate at longer ranges with more endurance and higher survivability also makes unmanned aerial vehicles appealing additions to the carrier air wing, according to the CSBA report.

“There’s potential there,” Hendrix said, but he added that using the vehicles in the ASW role would be complicated.

“A lot of times doing anti-submarine warfare, there’s a lot of human intuition that comes into play, or human ability to look at a sensor, which is a very confused sensor, and pick out the information” that may indicate the presence of a submarine, he said.

Much of the midrange mission vacated by the S-3 Viking is done within line-of-sight communication, meaning a range in which sensors can communicate with one another, so, Hendrix said, “you could use an unmanned platform to go out and drop sonobuoys or other sensors … and then monitor them, or be the relay aircraft to send their information back to” the ASW station aboard the carrier, where humans would be watching.

“I could see an unmanned platform playing in that role in the future.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 perfect memes about the Area 51 invasion

So…there are 1.5 million people on Facebook who are going to “Storm Area 51” to “see them aliens.” ?

The Air Force has already responded to the viral event, so I’m not going to. Instead, I’m just going to share the best memes out there surrounding this monstrosity plan. Because if we can’t laugh, then we have nothing left.

Grab your tinfoil hats and enjoy, my fellow Terrans!


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

Wait! Does this mean there’s a future for the human race? Come back, Traveler! Why are you walking awa–

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

…and it will sound like Coachella.

2. You just know there will be music…

Also read: 9 hilarious memes that actually teach military history

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

You deserve whatever happens to you.

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

This isn’t even plausible. It’s way too dusty in Nevada.

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

Summer of 2020 will be full of Area 51 baby births. Eywa help us all.

5. We thought dating apps couldn’t get any worse:

Related: 7 tips for getting away with fraternization

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

Maybe *Florida* is actually full of extraterrestrial life???

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

Reach for the moon; even if you miss, you’ll have a new brunch buddy.

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

What does your heart tell you? Mine says we good here.

So who has RSVP’d? Tell the truth.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy identifies Sailor Killed in Manbij, Syria attack

A Sailor assigned to Cryptologic Warfare Activity 66 (CWA 66), based at Ft. George G. Meade, Md., was killed while deployed in Manbij, Syria, Jan. 16, 2019.

Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, was killed while supporting Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve.


“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and teammates of Chief Petty Officer Kent during this extremely difficult time. She was a rockstar, an outstanding Chief Petty Officer, and leader to many in the Navy Information Warfare Community,” said Cmdr. Joseph Harrison, Commanding Officer, CWA-66.

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

Personal photo provided by the family of Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent.

Kent, who hailed from upstate New York, enlisted in the Navy Dec. 11, 2003, and graduated from boot camp at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Ill., in February 2004. Her other military assignments included Navy Information Operations Command, Fort Gordon, Ga.; Navy Special Warfare Support Activity 2, Norfolk, Va.; Personnel Resource Development Office, Washington, D.C.; Navy Information Operations Command, Fort Meade, Md.; and Cryptologic Warfare Group 6, Fort Meade, Md. Kent reported to CWA 66 after the command was established on Aug. 10, 2018.

“Chief Kent’s drive, determination and tenacity were infectious. Although she has left us way too soon, she will not be forgotten, and her legacy will live on with us,” said CWA 66 Command Senior Enlisted Leader, Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician (Collections) Denise Vola.

Kent’s awards and decorations include the Joint Service Commendation Medal (2), Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon, and Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Congress upgrades award for hero killed at COP Keating

More than nine years after the Battle of Kamdesh claimed eight lives and left 27 injured, a soldier killed there received a posthumous medal upgrade Dec. 15, 2018, to the nation’s second highest honor, the Distinguished Service Cross.

Army Staff Sgt. Justin Gallegos, 27, had been posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions at Combat Outpost Keating, the location of the assault by Taliban insurgents that led to one of the bloodiest battles of the war in Afghanistan.”


The Distinguished Service Cross was presented here to Gallegos’ son, MacAidan Justin Gallegos,14, who lives in the area with his stepfather and mother, Amanda Marr. Marr and Gallegos were divorced at the time of his death.

“A couple weeks ago, when I heard the news that Justin’s Distinguished Service Cross had finally been approved, I knew that one of the great discrepancies in the long narrative of the battle of Combat Outpost Keating had finally been corrected,” Maj. Stoney Portis said during the ceremony. Portis was Gallegos’ commander at the time of the battle.

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

Distinguished visitors bow their heads during the invocation at Staff Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos’s Distinguished Service Cross ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska Dec. 15, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Crystal A. Jenkins)

Called “a day for heroes” because of the number of heroic acts during the Oct. 3, 2009, battle, COP Keating was all but overrun when, just before dawn, Taliban fighters assaulted the outpost with machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire.

With what the citation calls “extraordinary heroism,” Gallegos, a team leader for Troop B, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, maneuvered “under heavy sniper and rocket-propelled grenade fire to reinforce a [High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle] battle position that was critical to the Outpost’s defense,” the citation states.

“While under heavy fire for nearly an hour, Staff Sergeant Gallegos continued to suppress the oncoming enemy with the crew-served weapon. Once the weapon’s ammunition was exhausted, he engaged the enemy with his M4 carbine to allow fellow soldiers in a nearby truck to evacuate from their position,” it states.

As they attempted to join the unit defending the outpost, Gallegos retrieved and moved a wounded soldier to safety while under fire, then exposed himself again to ongoing machine-gun fire while trying to provide suppression and cover so the rest of his team could move to his position.

“During this final act, Staff Sergeant Gallegos paid the ultimate sacrifice,” the citation states. “Staff Sergeant Gallegos’ actions enabled a section of soldiers to regroup and provide necessary security to stave off enemy forces from the west side of the camp. His actions played a critical role in the defense of Combat Outpost Keating, and Troop B’s subsequent counterattack against a numerically superior Taliban force.”

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

Soldiers assigned to U.S. Army Alaska listen during Staff Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos’s Distinguished Service Cross ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska Dec. 15, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Crystal A. Jenkins)

Medals of Honor have been awarded to two soldiers who fought at Keating, while 37 have received Army Commendation Medals with combat “V” device for valor, 18 were awarded Bronze Star Medals with “V” device, and nine received Silver Star Medals.

Upgrading Gallegos’ medal was not a quick or easy process, requiring a literal act of Congress. The order for the upgrade was included in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. Dec. 15, 2018’s ceremony marked the end of that journey, Marr said, shining a spotlight on Gallegos’ heroic actions.

“We never really know what we’re going to do in any situation that’s like that, but I would’ve known that Justin would’ve been that person,” Marr said. “When I was notified, even, of his death, I knew that it had to be something extraordinary … there was not another explanation. Justin didn’t die — he just fought hard. So I just knew.”

Medal of Honor recipients Staff Sgt. Ty Carter and Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha were in attendance at the medal ceremony, as was Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who presented a flag to MacAidan Gallegos and a handful of veterans of the unit.

Gallegos’ other medals and commendations include the Silver Star; Bronze Star; three Purple Hearts; two Army Commendation Medals; two Army Achievement Medals; the Army Good Conduct Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star; the Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star; the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; the Army Service Ribbon; two Overseas Service Ribbons; the NATO Medal; and the Combat Action Badge.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How we know China has big plans for aircraft carriers

China is recruiting a lot more carrier-based fighter pilots, a clear sign of the Chinese navy’s ambitions.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy’s annual pilot recruitment program ended in early July with 20% more recruits than last year, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Furthermore, recruiters witnessed a 41% increase in enrollment in the carrier-based fighter pilot program, an important development as the country pushes ahead with plans to build a fleet of aircraft carriers.


China just unveiled its first homemade aircraft carrier

www.youtube.com

China only has one operational carrier at the moment. A second aircraft carrier is expected to enter service soon, and a third is under construction.

China’s sole aircraft carrier — the Liaoning — began as the discarded hull of an unfinished Soviet heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser, which China purchased, refitted, and transformed into its first flattop.

The second carrier, currently unnamed, will be China’s first indigenously produced aircraft carrier, although it is essentially a slightly improved derivative of its predecessor.

The third carrier, which China began building in 2018, is expected to be China’s first step toward a modern aircraft carrier.

The Pentagon assesses that this vessel will “likely be larger and fitted with a catapult launch system,” featuring a design that “will enable it to support additional fighter aircraft, fixed-wing early-warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations.”

Chinese military analysts expect China to continue to build up its carrier fleet as it strives to rival American military might.

Wang Yunfei, a naval expert and retired PLA destroyer naval officer, told the South China Morning Post earlier this year that China ought to have at least six aircraft carriers by 2035.

“The country needs to keep developing until it is at the same level as the United States,” he said.

The US has a total of 11 nuclear-powered carriers that are much more capable than anything China currently has and likely will have for the foreseeable future. Not only does the US still have a technological advantage, but the US Navy also has decades of experience with aircraft carrier operations.

As China builds up its fleet, it will inevitably need more capable carrier-based pilots, of which the Chinese navy has traditionally had a shortfall.

“China has been training more pilots for aircraft carriers for some time now, and this upward trend will continue to guarantee warship operations,” a Chinese military analyst told the Global Times this weekend.

The expert, the state-affiliated newspaper paraphrased, explained that “China will not only have more carriers in the future, but the sizes will be bigger, enabling them to carry more aircraft, thus requiring more pilots.”

Chinese carrier-based fighter pilots presently fly the J-15 “Flying Shark,” a heavy, unreliable aircraft not particularly well suited for carrier operations, but China is looking into better alternatives as its carrier program advances.

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

Articles

Russia and China are about to flex their muscles in the South China Sea

The South China Sea is already a powderkeg, given the major tensions in the region over a six-way maritime Mexican Standoff involving China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei. This past summer, China saw an international tribunal rule against its claims in that body and condemn Beijing’s construction of artificial islands.


This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan
The forward deployed Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85), left, leads the Russian Federation navy Slava-class guided-missile cruiser Varyag and the Irkut tanker during Pacific Eagle, a bilateral exercise with the Russian Federation navy. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Corey Hensley)

That’s not to say China’s abiding by the ruling. Far from it, to be honest. The Chinese took a page from the playbook of Game of Thrones’ Cersei Lannister by not even showing up for any of the process leading up to the ruling. China doesn’t seem to care that the ruling went against them, as it is now inviting Russia for joint exercises in the maritime flashpoint for the fifth straight year.

According to a report from the Times of India, Chinese military spokesman Liang Yang said, “Chinese and Russian participants will undertake defense, rescue, and anti-submarine operations, in addition to joint-island seizing missions and other activities.”

The Times of India noted China has sent 10 naval vessels to take part in the exercise, along with 11 aircraft, eight helicopters, and other military assets. Russia is reportedly sending three surface combatants, two supply vessels, and other assets as well.

Two of the vessels Russia sent were an Udaloy-class “large anti-submarine ship” (often referred to as a destroyer in Western media) and a Ropucha-class landing ship.

The South China Sea has seen a number of incidents in the past few years involving Chinese forces. Shortly before the international tribunal issued its ruling on China’s claims, Chinese forces sank a Vietnamese fishing boat and then interfered with rescue operations. Chinese aircraft have also made a number of close passes to U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance aircraft, including some within ten feet.

One such close pass in 2001 went wrong, and a Chinese J-8 “Finback” collided with a U.S. Navy EP-3E Aries II. The Chinese plane crashed, killing the pilot, Wang Wei, while the EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, where the 24-person crew was held for ten days. Lieutenant Shane Osborn received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions after the incident.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army pilots share their cockpit with autonomous bots

Recently, Army pilots got to tool around with an autonomous helicopter kit that could one day make all Army rotorcraft capable of autonomous flight, completing tasks as varied as take off and landing, flying across the ground and behind trees, and even selecting its own landing zone and landing in it with just a simple command.


US Army Pilot Tests ALIAS’ Autonomy Capabilities in Demonstration Flight

www.youtube.com

The pilots were given access to the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA), an optionally-piloted helicopter filled with tech being developed under a DARPA grant. The idea isn’t to create a fleet of ghost helicopters that can fly all on their own; it’s to give pilots the ability to let go of the stick for a few minutes and concentrate on other tasks.

According to a DARPA press release,

During the hour-long flight demonstration, [Lt. Col. Carl Ott, chief of Flight Test for the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Aviation Development Directorate] interfaced with the autonomous capabilities of the system to conduct a series of realistic missions, including aircrew tasks such as low-level terrain flight, confined area takeoffs and landings, landing zone selection, trajectory planning, and wire-obstacle avoidance.
This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

Lockheed Martin’ MATRIX Technology is created to help pilots by allowing them to focus on complex tasks while the helicopter pilots itself.

(DARPA)

“The Army refers to this as Mission Adaptive Autonomy. It’s there when the pilot needs the aircraft to fly itself and keep it free of obstacles, so the pilot can focus on more of the mission commander type role. But the pilot is able to interact with the system to re-suggest, re-route or re-plan on the fly,” said Ott.

But SARA has a pretty robust bag of tricks. When pilots call on it, the helicopter can land or take off on its own, select its own safe landing zones using LIDAR, avoid obstacles including wires and moving vehicles, and can even fly across the ground and behind obstructions, like trees, to hide itself.

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

A U.S. Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter lands during training with U.S. Marines.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rachel K. Young)

Of course, the Army needs the technology from SARA to be ported over to Army helicopters, like the UH-60 Blackhawk, and that’s coming in the next few months, according to Sikorsky. The package, known as MATRIX Technology, should theoretically work on any aircraft, and porting it to rotary aircraft should be fairly easy.

“We’re demonstrating a certifiable autonomy solution that is going to drastically change the way pilots fly,” said Mark Ward, Sikorsky Chief Pilot, Stratford, Conn. Flight Test Center. “We’re confident that MATRIX Technology will allow pilots to focus on their missions. This technology will ultimately decrease instances of the number one cause of helicopter crashes: Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT).”
This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

An optionally piloted UH-1H helicopter drops off supplies during a May 2018 exercise at Twentynine Palms, California.

(Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory Matt Lyman)​

The Marine Corps has been doing its own experiments with autonomous rotary flight. Their primary program is the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System on the Bell UH-1H platform, which can take off, fly, land, plan its route, and select landing sites on its own using LiDAR. So, similar to the MATRIX platform.

AACUS comes from Aurora, a Boeing subsidiary, and has already been successfully installed on Bell 206 and Boeing AH-6 helicopters. It uses off-the-shelf hardware components combined with the proprietary algorithms. One big advantage of AACUS is that infantrymen on the ground can directly request flights to their location without necessarily having to route it through a pilot.

As helicopters are cherished assets during a real fight, though, it’s almost certain that requests for aviation will require an officer signing off, whether it’s an AACUS or a MATRIX bird.

Articles

That time Chick-Fil-A sent deployed troops a care package

When troops are deployed, they soon find themselves missing the comforts – or tastes — of home. MREs can get old, and even when fresh food is available, it just doesn’t compare to what troops are used to.


A Texas National Guard unit deployed to the MidEast realized that very quickly.

According to a report by Todd Starnes, those troops were facing a serious letdown every Sunday night, which for them was “Chicken Tender Night.” The chicken at the undisclosed military base was just not up to the troops’ specs.

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan
Who’s hungry? (Photo: yoppy/Flickr)

“Every Sunday is chicken tender night – which is one of the highlights of every week,” a National Guard first lieutenant identified as Jessie, wrote to Starnes. “With this being said, the chicken is okay at best,” he added.

The troops hit on the idea of using BBQ sauce to help address what Jessie would describe in a Facebook post as “overcooked and bland chicken tenders.” However, when forward deployed, refrigeration became an issue, as most bottles of BBQ sauce instruct people to “refrigerate after opening.”

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan
A Chick-Fil-A restaurant in Port Charlotte, Fla. has a long line of customers. (Wikimedia Commons)

Jessie then took a stab at a solution — acquiring individual packets of BBQa sauce. He reached out to the Chick-Fil-A restaurant at Founder’s Square in Flower Mound, Texas, with the request for some sauce.

Two weeks later, on Chicken Tender night, the deployed Texas National Guard unit got a delivery: two cases of sauces, one of the requested BBQ sauce, the other of Chick-Fil-A’s signature “Chick-Fil-A” sauce.

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan
Chick-Fil-A’s signature food item: The chicken sandwich. A Chick-Fil-A restaurant came to the culinary rescue of deployed National Guard troops. (Wikimedia Commons)

“Who would have ever thought you would see Chick-fil-A sauces in Iraq. It was our pleasure and honor to send you the BBQ and CFA sauces, and what a miracle that they actually arrived on Chicken Tender night!” Jason Driscoll of Chick-Fil-A posted on the local restaurant’s Facebook page after Jessie shared the story of the sauces arriving.

Bravo Zulu to Chick-Fil-A for rescuing our troops’ taste buds!

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Kremlin demands an explanation of Trump’s treaty rejection

The U.S. withdrawal from a landmark 1987 nuclear arms treaty could make the world “more dangerous” and force Moscow to take steps to restore the balance of power, senior Russian officials said as U.S. national security adviser John Bolton held talks on the issue in Moscow.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov issued words of warning on Oct. 22, 2018, two days after President Donald Trump declared that the United States would withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.


European allies of the United States also expressed concern, and the European Union’s executive commission urged Washington and Moscow to negotiate to “preserve this treaty.”

Peskov said Russia wants to hear “some kind of explanation” of the U.S. plans from Trump’s national-security adviser, John Bolton, who is meeting with senior officials in Moscow on Oct. 22-23, 2018.

“This is a question of strategic security. And I again repeat: such intentions are capable of making the world more dangerous,” he said, adding that if the United States abandons the pact and develops weapons that it prohibited, Russia “will need to take action…to restore balance in this area.”

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

President Donald Trump’s national-security adviser, John Bolton.

(Photo by Eric Bridiers)

“Any action in this area will be met with a counteraction, because the strategic stability can only been ensured on the basis of parity,” Lavrov said in separate comments. “Such parity will be secured under all circumstances. We bear a responsibility for global stability and we expect the United States not to shed its share of responsibility either.”

The INF treaty prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing, producing, or deploying medium-range, ground-launched cruise missiles with a range of between 500 kilometers and 5,500 kilometers.

Peskov repeated Russian denials of U.S. accusations that Moscow is in violation of the treaty, and said that the United States has taken no formal steps to withdraw from the pact as yet.

Bolton on Oct. 22, 2018, met with his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Putin’s Security Council, and then headed into a meeting with Lavrov at the Russian Foreign Ministry that was described by the Kremlin as a ‘working dinner.”

Bolton was expected to meet with Putin on Oct. 23, 2018.

Russian Security Council spokesman Yevgeny Anoshin said Bolton and Patrushev discussed “a wide range of issues [involving] international security and Russian-American cooperation in the sphere of security.”

Ahead of the meetings, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also said Russia hopes Bolton will clarify the U.S. position on the treaty.

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

Nikolai Patrushev and Vladimir Putin.

Earlier, Ryabkov said a unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the INF would be “very dangerous” and lead to a “military-technical” retaliation — wording that refers to weapons and suggests that Russia could take steps to develop or deploy new arms.

Both France and Germany also voiced concern.

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to Trump on Oct. 21, 2018, and “underlined the importance of this treaty, especially with regards to European security and our strategic stability,” Macron’s office said in a statement on Oct. 22, 2018.

Many U.S. missiles banned by the INF had been deployed in Europe as a bulwark against the Soviet Union, but Macron’s remark underscores what analysts says would be resistance in many NATO countries to such deployments now.

European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told reporters that the United States and Russia “need to remain in a constructive dialogue to preserve this treaty and ensure it is fully and verifiably implemented.”

The German government regrets the U.S. plan to withdraw, spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Oct. 22, 2018, adding that “NATO partners must now consult on the consequences of the American decision.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said a day earlier that Trump’s announcement “raises difficult questions for us and Europe,” but added that Russia had not convincingly addressed the allegations that it had violated the treaty.

China criticized the United States, saying on Oct. 22, 2018, that a unilateral withdrawal would have negative consequences and urging Washington to handle the issue “prudently.”

“The document has an important role in developing international relations, in nuclear disarmament, and in maintaining global strategic balance and stability,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said when asked about Trump’s comments.

U.S. officials have said Russia has been developing such a missile for years, and Washington made its accusations public in 2014.

Russia has repeatedly denied the U.S. accusations and also alleged that some elements of the U.S. missile-defense systems in Europe were in violation of the agreement. Washington denies that.

Sharp criticism

The INF, agreed four years before the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, was the first arms-control treaty to eliminate an entire class of missiles.

“Russia has not, unfortunately, honored the agreement. So we’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out,” Trump told reporters on Oct. 20, 2018, during a campaign stop in the state of Nevada.

The United States is “not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons [when] we’re not allowed to,” Trump said.

The announcement brought sharp criticism from former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who signed the treaty in 1987 with U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

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

General Secretary Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan signing the INF Treaty in the East Room of the White House.

Gorbachev, 87, told the Interfax news agency that the move showed a “lack of wisdom” in Washington.

“Getting rid of the treaty is a mistake,” he said, adding that leaders “absolutely must not tear up old agreements on disarmament.”

Reactions were mixed in the West.

In Britain, Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said his country stands “absolutely resolute” with Washington on the issue and called on the Kremlin to “get its house in order.”

U.S. Senator Rand Paul (Republican-Kentucky), criticized Bolton, and said on Fox News that he believes the national-security adviser was behind the decision to withdraw from the treaty.

“I don’t think he recognizes the important achievement of Reagan and Gorbachev on this,” Paul said.

Bolton has been a critic of a number of treaties, including arms-control pacts.

Many U.S. critics of Trump’s promise to withdraw say that doing so now hands a victory to Russia because Moscow, despite evidence that it is violating the treaty, can blame the United States for its demise.

Critics also charge that withdrawing from the pact will not improve U.S. security and could undermine it.

Aside from the INF dispute, other issues are raising tensions between Moscow and Washington at the time of Bolton’s visit, including Russian actions in Ukraine and Syria as well as alleged Kremlin interference in U.S. elections.

Lavrov said on Oct. 22, 2018, that Russia would welcome talks with the United States on extending the 2010 New START treaty, which limits numbers of Russian and U.S. long-range nuclear weapons such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, beyond its 2021 expiration date.

Meanwhile, Peskov, when asked to comment on remarks Putin made on Oct. 18, said Russian president had stated that Moscow would not launch a nuclear strike unless it was attacked with nuclear weapons or targeted in a conventional attack that threatened its existence.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon to the operationally unready: shape up or get out

This week, the Pentagon made good on a policy it’s been developing to guarantee the operational readiness of the US military’s 2.1 million service members. The new message, aimed at personnel listed as non-deployable for 12 months or more, is simple: either get ready or get out.


Since the closing months of 2017, as the current administration has struggled to create a working budget and to fund the government through a series of congressional stop-gap agreements, Defense Secretary James Mattis has been fighting a singular crusade: to make the U.S. military “more lethal.”

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan
Soldiers with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, prepare to fire an AT4 rocket launcher at an insurgent position during a firefight in Baghdad’s Adhamiyah neighborhood. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs)

Having succeeded in securing $700 billion for the DoD in 2018 — a 4.5% increase over President Trump’s proposed $668 billion defense budget — the Pentagon is now turning its attention to increasing operational readiness across all branches.

That includes the much-anticipated policy, released Feb. 14 in a DoD memo, that will begin assessments of and, in many cases, separation procedures for service members who have been non-deployable for the last 12 months or more.

According to Robert Wilke, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, “about 13 to 14 percent of the force is medically unable to deploy” at any given time. That comes out to about 286,000 of the 2.1 million personnel serving across all branches of the military — active duty, reserves, and National Guard. Some of that number, an estimated 20,000, is sidelined due to pregnancy and over 100,000 are recovering from injury or addressing illness.

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Robbins, of the Provincial Reconstruction Team from forward operating base Kalagush, conducts a patrol through the village of Kowtalay in the Nuristan province of Afghanistan June 12, 2007.  (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Bracken)

But 34 percent of those medically unavailable, some 99,000 personnel are currently non-deployable for administrative reasons, like failing to stay up to date with immunizations or falling delinquent with required medical exams. And that subset of the force is now officially on notice from the Pentagon that they can get ready for deployment or get ready to discharge.

Waivers will be made available on a case-by-case basis, but the DoD seems to expect swift implementation. In the official language of the memo,

Military Services will have until October 1, 2018, to begin mandatory processing of non-deployable Service members for administrative or disability separation under this policy, but they may begin such processing immediately.
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