6 facts you should know about Ukraine - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

6 facts you should know about Ukraine

Ukraine has become a defining feature of the 2020 presidential election season. Here are some facts to help you better understand Ukraine’s role on the global stage:


6 facts you should know about Ukraine

Traditional Ukrainian embroidered blouses.

(Source: Shutterstock)

Ukraine 101

Medieval Ukraine, known as “Kievan Rus,” was the birthplace of Slavic culture. Ukraine was formerly part of the Soviet Union and became an independent country in 1991. The country has long been known as the “breadbasket of Europe” due to its fertile soil. Although its economy has improved steadily since 2000, Ukraine continues to suffer from poverty and corruption. Ukraine is a close ally of the United States, and polls have shown a generally positive attitude toward the U.S. by Ukrainians.

6 facts you should know about Ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers take cover during a mortar attack in eastern Ukraine.

(Source: Sergei L. Loiko)

Ukraine has been at war since 2014

Ukraine was rocked with instability in 2014 due to a political protest movement called “Euromaidan.” Russia seized this opportunity to invade Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and claim it as Russian territory while also stirring up pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Crimea was conquered without bloodshed, and a large proportion of Crimea’s residents actually support the annexation. The insurrection in eastern Ukraine, however, quickly became violent.

Today the Ukrainian military continues to fight heavily armed, Russian-backed separatists and Russian military forces (although Russia publicly denies the latter) in eastern Ukraine. The conflict, which has claimed at least 13,000 lives and displaced over 1.4 million people, has since become a stalemate.

6 facts you should know about Ukraine

Euromaidan protestors battle police in central Kyiv in 2014.

(Source: Reuters)

Euromaidan was a really big deal

In 2014, growing discontent against president Viktor Yanukovych erupted in a massive protest movement. The activists, who hoped for a Ukraine more oriented toward Western Europe, accused Yanukovych of being a puppet of Vladimir Putin trying to pull Ukraine closer into Russia’s orbit. The Euromaidan movement led to street battles between police and protesters and over 100 deaths.

Euromaidan eventually succeeded, however. Yanukovych abandoned the presidency and fled to Russia, where he remains to this day. (In 2019 a Ukrainian court convicted him, in absentia, of treason.) Euromaidan was historic because it reflected the will of many Ukrainians to choose a trajectory free of Russian domination, but it also aggravated simmering tensions within Ukraine’s population and triggered Russia’s armed interventions in Crimea and the eastern regions.

6 facts you should know about Ukraine

Mural in Kyiv depicting a Ukrainian Cossack strangling Vladimir Putin, represented as a snake.

The Ukrainian population is deeply divided

Many Ukrainians, especially in western Ukraine, are staunch Ukrainian patriots. They take great pride in Ukrainian culture, history, and language and generally hold negative attitudes toward Russia.

More eastern regions of the country, however, have larger percentages of Ukrainians who speak Russian as a first language and consider themselves more Russian than Ukrainian. This is the root of the current war in eastern Ukraine, and the reason many Ukrainians in Crimea welcomed Russian annexation in 2014.

6 facts you should know about Ukraine

(Source: WorldAtlas.com)

Choose your words carefully when referring to Ukraine

There are some semantics involved when speaking of Ukraine which cannot be divorced from the country’s complicated history and politics. Even the name “Ukraine” means “borderland” in Russian. The Ukrainian capital city has historically been transliterated as “Kiev,” the traditional Russian spelling, although the Ukrainian-language “Kyiv” is increasingly preferred.

Likewise, many English speakers incorrectly refer to the country as “the Ukraine,” a dated reference to the Soviet era when Ukraine was a Soviet republic (similar to saying “the Midwest” in relation to the United States). Both the Ukrainian government and many Ukrainians strongly discourage the term “the Ukraine.”

Even language itself is contentious: the majority of Ukrainians can speak both Ukrainian and Russian, but the use of either language can be seen as a political and social statement by the speaker.

6 facts you should know about Ukraine

President Volodymyr Zelensky

(Source: Getty Images)

Ukraine’s current president is literally a comedian

Current president Volodymyr Zelensky, whose phone call with President Donald Trump in July 2019 has triggered controversy within the United States, was a comedian before being elected in a landslide in 2019. He is most famous for playing the lead role in “Servant of the People,” a hugely popular sitcom about a schoolteacher who is unexpectedly elected president of Ukraine.

The 41-year-old Zelensky ran for office as a reformer whose priorities include fighting corruption and negotiating an honorable end to the war. Zelensky also wants to maintain U.S. support, particularly American shipments of “lethal” aid such as anti-tank missiles, which Ukrainian troops need to counter the Russian-equipped rebels.

Although a longtime Ukrainian patriot, Zelensky’s first language is Russian, and he has been criticized for not being entirely fluent in Ukrainian.

MIGHTY HISTORY

‘Shoot it down!’: The tragic tale of two American balloonists over Belarus

It was the fourth day of the 1995 Gordon Bennett Cup, one of the world’s most prestigious balloon races and one of the most challenging as well.

Alan Fraenckel, 55, and John Stuart-Jervis, 68, were over the skies of Poland before dawn on September 12, 1995, heading toward Belarus with a real chance of winning.

The two Americans, residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands, were excited by the prospect of flying over the former Soviet republic, which was mostly off limits until gaining independence following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Race organizers said Belarusian authorities had been informed about the Americans’ plans and had cleared them, along with four other American racers who were also planning to fly over Belarus in two other balloons.

However, as Fraenckel, an airline pilot by profession, and his copilot, Stuart-Jervis, headed into Belarus, they were tracked for more than two hours by Belarusian air-defense system before a military helicopter sprayed the balloon – which was filled with some 900 cubic meters of highly flammable hydrogen — with machine-gun fire, sending it crashing into a forest in western Belarus and killing both men.

Belarusian authorities said the balloon – registered in Germany as D-Caribbean — had strayed too close to a military airbase and missile-launch site and had failed to respond to radio calls or warning shots.

The International Aeronautical Federation would later say that Belarusian authorities had known about the race since March, had authorized the balloon of Stuart-Jervis and Fraenkel as well as those of J. Michael Wallace, Kevin Brielmann, David Levin, and Mark Sullivan. Moreover, race officials said the pilots had provided specific flight plans during the race.

Belarus did express regret over the tragedy, but stopped short of issuing a formal apology. Washington slammed Minsk for dragging its feet on notifying them of the incident and was further incensed when Belarusian authorities issued fines of $30 to the other balloonists – who had been forced to land — for not having visas.

“This is a farce,” said State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns at the time. “We expected an apology from the Belarusian government and instead we got a bill.”

The incident came a year after Alyaksandr Lukashenka — a former collective farm manager who cast himself as a crime and corruption buster — had been elected president of Belarus, a post he would hold for decades as he erected an authoritarian system much like the former Soviet one, crushing all opponents who stood in his way.

6 facts you should know about Ukraine
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (center) with his American and Russian counterparts, Bill Clinton (right) and Boris Yeltsin, shortly after he came to power in 1994.

Spirits High

Hours before tragedy struck, Fraenckel and Stuart-Jervis were in radio contact with Wallace and Brielmann, who were only 20 kilometers away after more than 60 hours of flight.

“We have 12 bags [of ballast] left,” said Fraenckel, “and all our water. We’re going to do a fourth night.”

“If you can’t find your crew,” answered Wallace, a close friend of Fraenckel’s, “you could still land now. My guys are right under you.” Half joking, half serious, Wallace was aware that the other balloon stood a good chance of winning if it stayed aloft.

“I don’t think so,” chuckled Fraenckel.

The Gordon Bennett Balloon Race, named for the millionaire sportsman and owner of the New York Herald newspaper, is the premier event among balloon racers. In principle, it is a simple event — the winner is the balloon that flies the furthest from the starting point without landing.

But it is literally a killer, and dozens have fallen victim to it over the years. In the 1923 race, which was held in Europe, five balloonists were killed by lightning, and a half dozen more were seriously injured in storms.

6 facts you should know about Ukraine
The 1995 Gordon Bennett Cup, which Stuart-Jervis and Fraenckel had high hopes of winning before tragedy struck.

In 1995, the year of the Belarus tragedy, German balloonists Wilhelm Elmers and Bernd Landsmann set the race record for longest flight time, remaining aloft for more than 92 hours before touching down in Latvia on September 13.

That year, the race began on September 9 when 17 balloons lifted away from the starting point at Wil, Switzerland. By the evening of September 10, six of the balloons had landed in various locations in Western Europe, ending their bid for the trophy.

Witness To A Tragedy

As the Americans were traversing the skies of western Belarus, Vasil Zdanyuk, editor in chief of the Belarusian newspaper Svododnye Novosti and a correspondent for the Moscow-based Military Journal, sat down for an interview in his Minsk office with Belarusian Air Force commander Valery Kastenka.

“About 20 minutes into our interview, the operative on duty at the Air Defense Forces called and said: ‘We have the following situation: an unidentified object has appeared not far from our facilities, not far from an airfield.’ There is a military airbase nearby,” recounted Zdanyuk to Current Time, the Russian-language network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.

In fact, according to Zdanyuk, Kastenka was at that moment explaining the nuisance that low-flying probes — mostly weather balloons — posed for Belarus’s air defenses.

“Kastenka recounted how one of these balloons flew right over Minsk and almost caused a panic, although there was no danger,” he recalled. “And he says, ‘See how lucky you are. We are discussing it, and there is a balloon in the air.'”

6 facts you should know about Ukraine
The gunship that shot down the balloon was a Russian-made Mil Mi-24 combat helicopter. (file photo)

Kastenka ordered a military helicopter – a Mil Mi-24 — up in the air to check out the object.

As the military gunship got closer to D-Caribbean, Kastenka flicked on the speakerphone, letting Zdanyuk hear the conversation between Kastenka and the helicopter commander.

“After five more minutes, when the helicopter had flown around [the balloon], the operative asked: ‘What should we do with it?’ ‘What should we do? Let’s shoot it down,’ [Kastenka] added a few tough expletives. And I’m sitting there, doing the interview, and all of this is being recorded,” Zdanyuk said.

Zdanyuk said he could even hear the fusillade of machine-gun fire as Kastenka allegedly boasted to him: “You see, this is how we work. This is how we serve.”

The bodies of Fraenckel and Stuart-Jervis were later found in a forest near the town of Byaroza, after having fallen some 2,000 meters.

6 facts you should know about Ukraine
The balloon Stuart-Jervis and Fraenkel were traveling in was shot down near the town of Byaroza in western Belarus.

Zdanyuk told Current Time in his December 2019 interview that he was confident Kastenka did not know the balloon was manned, speculating things may not have taken a tragic turn had Kastenka waited some 20 minutes until the other two American balloons appeared.

“Then he would have been more cautious: Why are they flying one after another,” Zdanyuk said. “And it would have become clear that a world ballooning championship from Switzerland was taking place.”

The Other Americans

Of the two remaining U.S. balloons, the first to land was the N69RW, navigated by David Levin and Mark Sullivan.

“At first we stuck to a more northern route: we headed to a small part of Russia near Latvia and climbed over the Baltic. But when in the morning the balloon began to rise due to solar energy, we turned east to Belarus,” Sullivan later recounted.

6 facts you should know about Ukraine
Competitors line up a the start of the Gordon Bennett Cup in September 1995. Stuart-Jervis and Fraenkel’s balloon can be seen in the foreground.

Two hours before crossing the border, the balloonists tried to contact the Minsk air traffic control center. Their signal was confirmed, but they were answered in Russian, although English is normally used in international aviation communication.

Wallace and Brielmann landed in Belarus after being ordered to do so by the Belarusians. Levin and Sullivan ignored a similar order, but also landed in Belarus because of deteriorating weather.

A Mockery?

The Belarusian government expressed regret for the incident but stopped short of offering a formal apology.

“We would call upon the Belarusian government to get its act together and to make sure that all the entities of the Belarusian government…begin to understand that the way they are handling this incident and the way they are treating American citizens is really a mockery,” the State Department’s Burns said on September 16, 1995.

“Whatever the circumstances may have been, and whether or not the balloon was able to answer radio calls from the Belarus military, the shooting was absolutely indefensible,” he said. “Moreover, the Belarus government took 24 hours even to notify us of the incident. We are strongly protesting and demanding a full investigation by the Belarus government.”

The Interstate Aviation Committee of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) — a loose grouping of former Soviet republics — investigated the incident with representatives of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and German aviation authorities also participating.

6 facts you should know about Ukraine
Balloonist John Stuart-Jervis in 1986.

In its final report, the committee concluded the causes of the shooting were: “Unauthorized flight into the airspace of [Belarus] by an unidentified balloon, with no radio communication [between the balloon crew and Belarus air traffic control (ATC)0],” and “errors by [Belarus] anti-aircraft defense elements in the identification and classification of the airship that violated [Belarus] airspace.”

Yury Sivakou, head of the Belarusian Security Council at the time of the incident, defended Belarus’s actions, telling Current Time in 2019 that any country under similar circumstances would have done the same.

“If an unidentified aircraft appears in foreign space — in any country — first they negotiate with it, then they raise the appropriate air defense forces, which either enter into communication or force it to land,” said Sivakou, now blacklisted by the EU for his alleged role in the abduction and killings of opposition leaders in Belarus in the 1990s. “Even if radio communication does not work, there is a whole range of various [actions]: flapping wings and so on to force it to land, or indicating manually, ‘Follow me.’ In this case, the balloon did not react at all, and that was very strange at the time.”

According to Sivakou, the military assumed there could be “anything” in the balloon gondola. They came to this conclusion because there was an air base and other military facilities nearby.

He dismissed reports that the crew involved in the downing had been awarded medals as “speculation and rumors.”

“People died – it’s a tragedy,” he said. “Who awards anything in such cases? This was no act of aggression. It was just an accident.”

‘Forgive Us’

While families of the victims have never received a formal apology or any compensation from Minsk, many ordinary Belarusians expressed sorrow and shame for how its government had acted.

Alyaksandr Artsyukhovich, studying at a U.S. university at the time, expressed hope the shooting would be the last such tragedy.

“My country is a mess now,” he wrote at the time. “Millions of people feel themselves manipulated and frustrated. I only hope that the [recent] incident [will] be the only tragedy. Only removal of the artificial barriers built by the West to our integration into the world’s community can normalize things in Belarus.”

On the first anniversary of the tragedy, activists in Belarus placed a simple stone at the crash site with a cross, the date of the accident, and the phrase in Belarusian: “Forgive us.”

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

Articles

The military is cracking down on hazing

A U.S. Navy officer charged with hazing and maltreatment of sailors is facing a general court martial.


The Virginian-Pilot reported April 18 that the unnamed lieutenant commander is accused of verbal abuse and retaliating against a sailor who asked to stop being called Charlie Brown. Court documents say the officer told the sailor to carry a Charlie Brown cartoon figurine at all times.

6 facts you should know about Ukraine
Don’t laugh. (Official image of Charlie Brown, created by Charles M. Schultz)

The officer also allegedly punched a chair next to a sailor and yelled at someone for more than an hour. The officer is also accused of lying about his actions.

Also read: Lawmakers visit Parris Island after recruits death highlight’s hazing

The lieutenant commander is a reservist assigned to a cargo handling battalion in Lakehurst, New Jersey.

Military hazing has drawn extra scrutiny in recent years after a series of high-profile cases.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Emergency Relief looks to convert $1 million into grants for soldiers

Army Emergency Relief expanded its support programming in 2020 to keep up with the evolving needs of those impacted by COVID-19. Now the organization is going a step further in easing financial burdens for soldiers and their families.

AER disbursed assistance to more than 710 soldiers this year, according to its website, totaling $1.1 million in assistance. With the pandemic continuing to cause detrimental impacts to Army families, the organization is looking to convert loans into zero-payback grants.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, Director of AER, said he is excited to announce this initiative.

“Soldiers and their families may be exposed to financial challenges as an incident to their service, and this year has presented many challenges. We’ve been closely monitoring the situation and I believe Americans have noticed as well,” he said.

Since its inception, AER has provided $2 billon in financial assistance, with half of that occurring since the events of September 11, 2001. The organization has also supported around 4 million soldiers. While donations do come from larger organizations, many come from citizens who want to support U.S. troops.

“Thanks to the generosity of citizens, patriotic corporations, and Soldiers themselves, we were able to go back and review zero-interest loans where conversion to grant makes the most sense and alleviates distress caused by the unique challenges we’ve experienced this year,” Mason said.

Although the goal itself isn’t to specifically hit the $1 million mark, Mason says by examining the individual needs that prompted the loans, they’ll be able to hit that target.

“Our goal is to identify loans issued in response to some of the unique challenges we’ve faced this year, and eliminate the requirement of payback on those loans. In doing so, we believe we will convert $1 million in loans to grants and potentially change the financial future for over a thousand soldiers and their families,” Mason explained.

Although the loans soldiers received are zero interest, the organization wants to take it further by seeing where they can turn them into grants and further support relief efforts.

“In short, we’re trying to do the right thing while respecting the contributions we’ve received from generous Americans,” Mason explained.

AER has expanded its outreach efforts to ensure soldiers and their families know about its mission and the importance of asking for help when it is needed. The organization is doing this through engagement with Army leadership to instill the notion that AER should be the first stop when Army families find themselves in financial trouble of any kind.

With the entire country being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the needs remain great for many families. AER is poised to continue supporting Army families and finding ways to ensure they thrive, even in the midst of a pandemic. Stepping forward to convert loans into grants is just one more way it can live out its mission of soldiers helping soldiers.

To learn more about AER and how you can support their mission or request assistance, click here.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

“The Battle of Brisbane” was a drunken WWII brawl between the US and Australia

Tensions run high during war. In 1942, the American and Australian soldiers allied to fight the Japanese were as tense as ever. The stakes were high for both nations, but higher for the Aussies. In the early days of the war, an Allied victory was anything but assured and Australia faced the real possibility of a Japanese invasion. No one knows how “The Battle of Brisbane” started, but it sure relieved some of that tension.


At 6:50 p.m. on Nov. 26, 1942, the pubs in Australia’s third-largest city were closed and the streets flooded with allied soldiers. Private James R. Stein of the U.S. Army stopped on the corner of Adelaide and Creek Street to talk to three Australian troops when a U.S. MP stopped Pvt. Stein and asked for his leave pass. Growing more impatient as Stein fumbled through his pockets, the MP demanded he hurry up. Stein’s three Aussie friends told the MP to cool it.

6 facts you should know about Ukraine
U.S. military police outside the Central Hotel, Brisbane.

An exchange occurred, but nobody knows exactly the order in which it happened.

Amidst some shouts and curses, the MP raised his baton, which drew a response of shoving and flying fists. Passing Australians stopped to help their fellow troops as more American MPs ran to the scene. Alarm bells and whistles began to go off, blanketing the shouts and the punches.

Outnumbered, the Americans retreated to a nearby Base Exchange, but were followed by the Aussies, who hurled rocks, sticks, bottles, and even a street sign. The MPs set up a perimeter outside the building and, by the time MP Lt. Lester Duffin arrived on the scene an hour later, 100 Australians were fighting to get through the cordon.

The Australians moved to break into the American Red Cross building adjacent to the opposite corner as the fighting spread to other streets in the area. A little over an hour after Pvt. Stein was fumbling for his leave pass, an estimated 2,000 to 5,000 GIs were in the streets of the city.

American troops were ordered back to their barracks and ships as picket guards stopped an Australian truck in the area carrying some firepower — Owen submachine guns and grenades. But despite everyone’s best effort, an American did get a shotgun into the melee and it quickly went off, killing an Australian and wounding many others on both sides.

6 facts you should know about Ukraine
The American Red Cross building on the corner of Adelaide and Creek Streets in Brisbane Australia, 1942.

Fights raged in canteens around the city throughout the night, but the main fighting was finally quelled by 10 p.m. that evening. There were sporadic confrontations throughout the city in the following days, but none rivaled the size, anger, and violence of the first night of what came to be known as “The Battle of Brisbane.”

News of the brawl never reached the U.S. due to military censorship, but the legend only grew in the following days, as the stories of those involved in the fighting were exaggerated and began to spread. Up to one million Americans served in Australia during World War II and weren’t always appreciated by the locals.

Americans were said to be aggressive with Australian women, and Australian troops were annoyed that American troops were better paid, equipped, and fed — not to mention that U.S. troops had access to cheap cigarettes, liquor, and other luxury items that Aussies couldn’t even get. The whole situation was a powder keg waiting to explode — and it did.

Articles

Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm

Bob Hope entertained troops on USO tours from 1941 to 1991 — fifty years of laughter and fun. From World War II to Vietnam to Desert Storm, Bob Hope was there for our nation’s heroes.


“He brought such enthusiasm, brought your life back to you. You felt like you were renewed,” said Seabee Ron Ronning, who saw Hope perform during his final USO show of the Vietnam War. “That was one of the biggest thrills of my life.”

A true patriot who traveled to more war zones than even some of the highest-ranking military leaders of all time, Bob Hope brought laughs to the front lines for the better half of the 21st Century.

As a tribute to his lasting impact on our country, President George W. Bush ordered all U.S. flags on government buildings be lowered to half-mast on the day of Hope’s funeral.

“Bob Hope served our nation when he went to battlefields to entertain thousands of troops from different generations,” the president told reporters before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base. “We extend our prayers to his family. God bless his soul.”

Hope’s legacy endures, continuing to impact service members through the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, which provides one-on-one employment services and referrals to other resources to meet the unique needs of military personnel and veterans transitioning out of the military into a civilian job, starting their own small business, or pursuing higher education.

Since launching in 2014, the program has served nearly 1,100 veterans and families, placing more than 600 into civilian positions and helping 83 pursue degrees. Free to all veterans (the program is not exclusive to those with a disability), the program was launched with a generous seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy, a division of The Bob Dolores Hope Foundation, which supports organizations that bring hope to those in need.

To date, The Bob Hope Legacy has donated more than million dollars in support of Easterseals’ military and veteran services.

6 facts you should know about Ukraine

Bob Hope on stage with Miss World 1969, Eva Rueber-Staier, during a Christmas show for servicemen held on board the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CVA-60) in Formia Bay, Italy, Dec. 22, 1969.

(U.S. Navy)

During a week-long campaign this year (May 23-29) in observation of Memorial Day, Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions shoppers throughout Southern California can make donations in support of the program via the pin pad at registers. 100 percent of the donations go directly to Easterseals Southern California’s Bob Hope Veterans Support Program.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US privately warns Iran that this one thing would trigger an attack

As the US military builds up its forces in the Middle East, America’s top diplomat has been privately warning the Iranians that the death of even a single US service member at the hands of Iran or one of its proxies would trigger a military response, The Washington Post reported on June 18, 2019, citing US officials.

In May 2019, the US detected signs of possible Iranian aggression targeting US forces and interests in the Middle East. The US responded by deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the US Central Command area of responsibility.

White House national security adviser John Bolton issued a statement on May 5, 2019, saying that the military assets deployed to the region were meant “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”


Two days later, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unscheduled trip to Baghdad, where he delivered the warning that one American fatality would be enough to trigger a counterattack, The Post reported. Pompeo, a former US Army officer, has been a major player, together with Bolton, in shaping the US “maximum pressure” strategy directed at Iran.

6 facts you should know about Ukraine

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

More US military assets have since been moved into the region, and more are on the way in the wake of suspected limpet mine attacks on tankers that the US blames on Iran. US military leaders revealed on June 18, 2019, that the US does not plan to carry out a unilateral military response to the tanker attacks.

Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said any military action taken in response to the tanker attacks would “require an international consensus,” something the US military has been trying to secure through the release of evidence it says points to Iran’s culpability.

“If the Iranians come after US citizens, US assets or [the] US military, we reserve the right to respond with a military action, and they need to know that,” the country’s second-highest-ranking general told reporters. “The Iranians believe that we won’t respond, and that’s why we’ve been very clear in our message.”

6 facts you should know about Ukraine

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zachary S. Welch)

Iran is “lashing out against the international community,” but the Iranians “haven’t touched an American asset in any overt attack that we can link directly to them,” he added.

“What happens if Americans are killed? That changes the whole thing,” a senior Trump administration official told The Washington Post. “It changes everything.”

Pompeo, who appears to be taking the lead on the standoff with Iran amid a reshuffling of senior leadership at the Pentagon, visited US Central Command on June 18, 2019, the same day acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan withdrew his name from the nomination for defense secretary and said he would be stepping down.

“We are there to deter aggression. President Trump does not want war,” Pompeo said. “We will continue to communicate that message while doing the things that are necessary to protect American interests in the region.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how much the Milky Way weighs (probably)

We can’t put the whole Milky Way on a scale, but astronomers have been able to come up with one of the most accurate measurements yet of our galaxy’s mass, using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite.

The Milky Way weighs in at about 1.5 trillion solar masses (one solar mass is the mass of our Sun), according to the latest measurements. Only a tiny percentage of this is attributed to the approximately 200 billion stars in the Milky Way and includes a 4-million-solar-mass supermassive black hole at the center. Most of the rest of the mass is locked up in dark matter, an invisible and mysterious substance that acts like scaffolding throughout the universe and keeps the stars in their galaxies.


Earlier research dating back several decades used a variety of observational techniques that provided estimates for our galaxy’s mass ranging between 500 billion to 3 trillion solar masses. The improved measurement is near the middle of this range.

“We want to know the mass of the Milky Way more accurately so that we can put it into a cosmological context and compare it to simulations of galaxies in the evolving universe,” said Roeland van der Marel of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. “Not knowing the precise mass of the Milky Way presents a problem for a lot of cosmological questions.”

6 facts you should know about Ukraine

On the left is a Hubble Space Telescope image of a portion of the globular star cluster NGC 5466. On the right, Hubble images taken ten years apart were compared to clock the cluster’s velocity. A grid in the background helps to illustrate the stellar motion in the foreground cluster (located 52,000 light-years away). Notice that background galaxies (top right of center, bottom left of center) do not appear to move because they are so much farther away, many millions of light-years.

(NASA, ESA and S.T. Sohn and J. DePasquale)

The new mass estimate puts our galaxy on the beefier side, compared to other galaxies in the universe. The lightest galaxies are around a billion solar masses, while the heaviest are 30 trillion, or 30,000 times more massive. The Milky Way’s mass of 1.5 trillion solar masses is fairly normal for a galaxy of its brightness.

Astronomers used Hubble and Gaia to measure the three-dimensional movement of globular star clusters — isolated spherical islands each containing hundreds of thousands of stars each that orbit the center of our galaxy.

Although we cannot see it, dark matter is the dominant form of matter in the universe, and it can be weighed through its influence on visible objects like the globular clusters. The more massive a galaxy, the faster its globular clusters move under the pull of gravity. Most previous measurements have been along the line of sight to globular clusters, so astronomers know the speed at which a globular cluster is approaching or receding from Earth. However, Hubble and Gaia record the sideways motion of the globular clusters, from which a more reliable speed (and therefore gravitational acceleration) can be calculated.

The Hubble and Gaia observations are complementary. Gaia was exclusively designed to create a precise three-dimensional map of astronomical objects throughout the Milky Way and track their motions. It made exacting all-sky measurements that include many globular clusters. Hubble has a smaller field of view, but it can measure fainter stars and therefore reach more distant clusters. The new study augmented Gaia measurements for 34 globular clusters out to 65,000 light-years, with Hubble measurements of 12 clusters out to 130,000 light-years that were obtained from images taken over a 10-year period.

When the Gaia and Hubble measurements are combined as anchor points, like pins on a map, astronomers can estimate the distribution of the Milky Way’s mass out to nearly 1 million light-years from Earth.

Hubblecast 117 Light: Hubble & Gaia weigh the Milky Way

www.youtube.com

“We know from cosmological simulations what the distribution of mass in the galaxies should look like, so we can calculate how accurate this extrapolation is for the Milky Way,” said Laura Watkins of the European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany, lead author of the combined Hubble and Gaia study, to be published in The Astrophysical Journal. These calculations based on the precise measurements of globular cluster motion from Gaia and Hubble enabled the researchers to pin down the mass of the entire Milky Way.

The earliest homesteaders of the Milky Way, globular clusters contain the oldest known stars, dating back to a few hundred million years after the big bang, the event that created the universe. They formed prior to the construction of the Milky Way’s spiral disk, where our Sun and solar system reside.

“Because of their great distances, globular star clusters are some of the best tracers astronomers have to measure the mass of the vast envelope of dark matter surrounding our galaxy far beyond the spiral disk of stars,” said Tony Sohn of STScI, who led the Hubble measurements.

The international team of astronomers in this study are Laura Watkins (European Southern Observatory, Garching, Germany), Roeland van der Marel (Space Telescope Science Institute, and Johns Hopkins University Center for Astrophysical Sciences, Baltimore, Maryland), Sangmo Tony Sohn (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland), and N. Wyn Evans (University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom).

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C.

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time pilots dropped terrifying darts out of their planes at the enemy

The first World War was a horrific time to be a soldier on the frontlines. Nations were in a rush to quickly develop and implement the newest and most effective tools of destruction. Before the war, troops had no idea of the true devastation that a tank, fighter pilot, or the various gas canisters could bring.

Then, there were the flechette darts that — thankfully — never really took off. To be frank, they sound a little silly. They’re just oversized versions of the darts that troops would toss around at their local pub — what’s the big deal? In reality, they were more like something out of a freakin’ horror movie.


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The darts were also mostly silent. One minute, you and your platoon are fine in the trenches. The next, you’re all being turned into pincushions.

(Illustration from the Petit Journal, August, 1915)

First, let’s talk about the physics behind these darts from Hell. They were roughly five inches long, weighed just over a pound, and were made of sharpened steel. When they were dropped from hundreds of feet above the ground, they’d strike the ground with enough force to pierce helmets and even vehicles.

If you filed grooves into the top or added a bird’s feather to the dull end, the dart would always land pointy-side down. Now consider the fact that a single pilot could release a canister filled with around 250 of these darts at a time and you can understand the sheer terror that these things wrought.

The Italians invented the darts before the war, but soon, countries on both sides of No Man’s Land were dropping them on opposing trenches. They were also extremely cheap to make and implement, which means they were used constantly — although the Royal Flying Corps felt they were “unsportsmanlike.” The Germans, on the other hand, were very keen on using the darts on the French. In fact, they had them specially imprinted with the text, “invention Française, fabrication Allemande.” Which roughly translates to, “a French invention, German made.”

The flechette darts didn’t last past the early years of the war when bombs were deemed more effective. But the design of sharp darts being used for war later resurfaced with the flechette rounds used in shotguns and the infamous Beehive artillery round used in the Vietnam War.

To learn more about the flechette darts, check out the video below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This dad asked about his son, and the Bismarck was doomed

In the early days of World War II, battleships were still considered kings and all of the combatants hunted for their enemies’ greatest ships. The battleship Bismarck, the largest battleship in commission at the start of 1941, was the pride of the German Kriegsmarine and an epic combatant. Britain desperately wanted to sink her before she could break into the open Atlantic.

Luckily for Britain, a badly timed, badly encoded radio transmission allowed British warships to find and kill the vessel.


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The Bismarck fires during the Battle of the Denmark Straits in May, 1941. It sank the pride of the Royal Navy, the HMS Hood, during the engagement.

(German federal archives)

In May, 1941, the U.S. and Russia had not yet joined the Allies as combatants, and Britain had already been pushed entirely off the continent. Morale was low in Great Britain, and its control of the seas was challenged by German U-boats that preyed upon convoys from the U.S.

One of Britain’s greatest fears was that Germany would starve the island kingdom out, potentially by sending more and larger ships into the Atlantic to prey on shipping. One of the most frightful possibilities was the Bismarck, a massive craft that was, at the time, the largest battleship in active service in the world (Japan’s Yamato-class and America’s Iowa-class would later beat its records).

The Bismarck had 16-inch guns and thick armor, and it could hit most convoys with impunity if it ever broke out of the Baltic and North seas. In May, 1941, it attempted to do just that.

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Spoilers are above, but this story originally played out over 70 years ago, so you should’ve seen it already by now.

(Citypeek, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Bismarck left port on May 18 and attempted to slip out undetected. It made it through the North Sea with the Prinz Eugen as well as a number of smaller vessels. But when the flotilla passed between Denmark and Sweden into the North Sea, Norwegian resistance members and Swedish forces got a good look at the ships, and someone passed the report to Britain.

It’s unsure how much detail Britain received (Norwegian resistance members only identified “two unidentified major ships”), but British naval officers immediately suspected that the Bismarck was breaking out.

On May 21, the ships were spotted, and the British gave chase. The full story is great, from British cruisers tailing the massive vessel to attackers hiding in fog banks to when the Bismarck sank Britain’s pride and joy, the HMS Hood, with a single hit from the Bismarck’s main guns. The YouTube channel Extra History has a great series on the hunt, available here for all who want to watch it.

But we’re going to skip ahead to the final days of the chase.

By dawn on May 25, the Hood was sunk, the Prinz Eugen had escaped into the Atlantic, and the Bismarck had evaded the British cruisers in pursuit. But the Bismarck had been wounded and was now leaking oil across the ocean, limiting its range and speed.

The British, more desperate than ever to prevent the Bismarck from joining the war in the Atlantic as well to avenge the loss of the Hood, had called every available ship into the hunt.

But the days of naval maneuvering had left the Bismarck hundreds of miles out to sea, and the British didn’t know if the ship would head to Norway or France for repairs. Britain didn’t have enough ships to search both routes.

Hunting the Bismarck – A Chance to Strike – Extra History – #3

youtu.be

The British commander sent most of the fleet north to search the route to Norway, leaving one battleship and a few other vessels within range of the route to France.

This problem was compounded when the Bismarck made a monumental mistake, sending two 30-minute radio transmissions, but some of the British intercept officers made a mistake and pinpointed the transmission as coming from the route to Norway, when the transmission actually came from the route to France. It would take them hours to catch the mistake.

At this moment, the Bismarck’s path into France was relatively clear. The German vessel had the lead, and the British fleet was headed the wrong way. But the rumors of the Bismarck’s fighting had made it to the continent, and a concerned father made one of the worst mistakes of the war.

The general had a son on the Bismarck, and he asked after his son’s status. The request was transmitted to the Bismarck, and the Bismarck responded. Then, that response was relayed back to the general. It said the Bismarck had suffered no casualties and was now headed to Brest, a port city in France.

When the message was relayed, though, it was done on a Luftwaffe enigma machine with only four wheels instead of the more secure, five-wheel model used by the Admiralty. The British quickly decoded the message, and the entire British fleet turned back south to intercept the Bismarck before it could reach Brest.

On May 26, the HMS Ark Royal, an aircraft carrier, was chasing down the Bismarck as night came on. It was mere hours till darkness would halt any more attacks. By morning, the Bismarck would be under the protection of Luftwaffe planes taking off from France.

It was now or never, and the Swordfish planes flying from the Ark Royal had just enough time for two attacks. But the first attack was a ridiculous catastrophe. The British planes made a mistake, attacking the British ship chasing the Bismarck instead of the Bismarck itself. Luckily, they were equipped with magnetic detonators that set off the torpedoes as they hit the water.

The Swordfish returned to the Ark Royale to re-arm, and then headed back out for Britain’s last chance at the Bismarck before it was safely in France.

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The HMS Ark Royal sails with its swordfish overhead.

(U.K. Government)

The planes chased down their quarry, and the Swordfish flew into the teeth of the Bismarck’s guns. The rounds shredded the canvas wings of the planes, but the planes managed to drop a spread of torpedoes anyway.

There were two hits. One struck the Bismarck’s armor belt and did little damage, the other struck low in the water but did no visible damage. The Swordfish pilots turned home in dismay.

But when they landed, they learned glorious news. The Bismarck had been in a hard turn to port when the second torpedo struck, and the strike had knocked out rudder control. Since the Bismarck had been in a hard turn at the time, it was now stuck turning in tight circles in the Atlantic, out of range of Luftwaffe protection.

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The HMS Dorestshire rescues survivors of the Bismarck. Only about 114 sailors made it out.

(Royal Navy)

The rest of the British fleet barreled down on the stricken foe, and eventually, four battleships and cruisers were circling the Bismarck, pounding it with shell after shell. They knocked out turrets, they shredded the decks, and they terrified the crew.

It only ended when the British fleet ran low on fuel. It was under orders to sink the Bismarck at all costs, so as most of the ships headed to refuel, the HMS Dorsetshire was left to finish the job. It dropped torpedoes into the water, and finally, the Bismarck suffered holes beneath the waterline. The Bismarck sank. The pride of the German fleet was done. Just over 100 sailors survived of the 2,200-man crew.

If the general had loved his son a little less, or, you know, if signals officers had been more careful to use the best available encryption or leave the ship’s destination out of the message, the Bismarck likely would have made it to France without further damage.

MIGHTY SPORTS

7 fat-burning workouts that aren’t boring

For some guys, the structure and routine of hitting the gym is exactly what they need to keep their fitness on track. For others, it’s a slog. The space is dark, the treadmills relentless, and the music mind-numbing. You’d rather be outside, shooting hoops with your boys. Which, actually, you should be, since a pick-up game of basketball burns more calories and builds more muscles than any 30-minute session on the elliptical ever could.

If sports excite you more than spin class, and the idea of scoring points matters more than how much you can bench press, consider these activities that emphasize team spirit and gamesmanship while getting you, incidentally, super fit.


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(Photo by Christopher Burns)

1. Tennis

At 600 calories an hour, you’ll definitely be feeling the burn as you channel your inner Nadal. What’s more, the lateral movements — something your body is not used to — strengthens your glutes, quads, calves, and core, while mastering your stroke is excellent for developing ripped shoulder and arm muscles.

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(Photo by Edoardo Busti)

2. Soccer

A sneaky way to disguise a running workout, you’ll benefit from exercising with your buddies on soft turf. Few activities tax the lungs and heart the way running does, so you’ll reap the benefits of a monster aerobic workout while still honing your coordination and motor skills. The sport burns about 300 calories for every 30 minutes of field time.

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(Photo by Tamarcus Brown)

3. Basketball

The quintessential pickup basketball game is so popular because it is both exceptionally simple (you just need a ball and hoop), and also enticingly precise (the satisfaction of hitting a three-pointer is hard to beat). The calorie burn is on par with tennis (roughly 600 an hour), but the rhythmic agility and closer physical contact of b-ball means you work a little more on balance and flexibility.

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(Photo by Elizeu Dias)

4. Volleyball

There are indoor leagues where you can play in a gymnasium in the winter, but nothing beats beach volleyball for that emotional, summer-is-finally-here high. (You don’t have to live at the beach either, New York City has large courts in the middle of Central Park.) You’ll burn around 400 calories an hour in this spirited game, developing shoulder and arm muscles, eye-hand coordination, and explosive power from your jump shots, all the while protecting your bones by landing on soft sand.

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(Photo by Jose Francisco Morales)

5. Baseball and Softball

Team camaraderie rules this sport, so if socializing is an important carrot for getting you to exercise, consider spending an hour or two, a few nights a week, in the dugout with your buds, swapping jokes and de-stressing while building a solid fitness base. The on-off nature of the sport means you burn fewer calories (around 350 per hour), but you’ll get moderate cardio from running the bases, and reasonable upper-body strength from working on your swing.

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(Photo by Josh Rocklage)

6. Ultimate Frisbee

No longer the pastime of overgrown collegiates, ultimate frisbee is a legit sport recognized by the International Olympic Committee. More importantly, it is a game on nonstop running, leaping, reaching, and throwing. This full-body workout burns about 500 calories an hour, while developing reflexes, hand-eye coordination, and some serious tumbling skills.

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(Photo by Riley McCullough)

7. Football

Strength, explosiveness, mental toughness and a desire to be pummeled by large men are at the core of this sport. In rec leagues, the physical contact is often moderated (see: flag football), so if you’re looking for the adrenalin rush minus the bruising, know which rules you’re playing by before you sign up. While calorie burn varies significantly depending on the position your play, you’ll definitely benefit from an increase in strength, flexibility, and range of motion through warm-up drills and stretches.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

The Army found an M2 .50 caliber machine-gun still shooting perfectly after 90 years of service

The .50 caliber M2 machine gun was designed in 1918, near the end of World War I by John Browning.


Production began in 1921 and the weapon was designed so a single receiver could be turned into seven different variants by adding jackets, barrels or other components.

Roughly 94 years after the first production run of M2 machine guns came off the assembly line, the 324th weapon produced made it to Anniston Army Depot for overhaul and upgrade.

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Cody Bryant, left, and Corby Tinney inspect the 324th M2 receiver ever produced. The weapon arrived at Anniston Army Depot to be converted to a M2A1 in May. Photo: Army Materiel Command Mrs. Jennifer Bacchus

In more than 90 years of existence, the receiver with serial number 324 has never been overhauled.

“Looking at the receiver, for its age, it looks good as new and it gauges better than most of the other weapons,” said John Clark, a small arms repair leader.

Despite the fact that the weapon still meets most specifications, it may be destined for the scrap yard.

Modifications made to the weapon in the field mean part of the receiver would have to be removed through welding and replaced with new metal, a process which usually means the receiver is scrap.

“I’d rather put this one on display than send it to the scrap yard,” said Clark, adding the weapon’s age makes it appealing as a historical artifact.

Currently, the 389th M2 is on display in the Small Arms Repair Facility. There is an approval process the older weapon would have to go through in order to be similarly displayed. Clark and Jeff Bonner, the Weapons Division chief, are researching and beginning that process.

In 2011, the depot began converting the Army’s inventory of M2 flexible machine guns to a new variant.

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Photo Credit: US Army Gertrud Zach

The M2A1, has a fixed headspace, or distance between the face of the bolt and the base of the cartridge case, and timing, the weapon’s adjustment which allows firing when the recoil is in the correct positon.

In the past, every time a Soldier changed the barrel on the M2, the timing and headspace had to be changed as well. If that wasn’t done properly, the weapon could blow apart. The fixed headspace and timing eliminates this risk to Soldiers.

“It only takes 30 seconds to change out the barrel on the M2A1 and you’re back in business. The M2 Flex version could take three to five minutes, depending upon your situation,” said Jeff Bonner, weapons division chief.

Bonner said this is the first major change to the M2 weapon system since the machine gun was first fielded.

Since the overhaul and upgrade work began in fiscal year 2011, the depot has brought more than 14,000 of these .50 caliber machine guns to better than new, and upgraded, condition.

Once the weapon is rebuilt, it has to be readied to be fired, repeatedly, without jamming or suffering other mechanical difficulties.

To assist with this process, a machine known as the exerciser is used to ensure the new parts work well with the old.

After all, the older parts of the weapon could be nearly 90 years old.

The exerciser simulates charging the weapon, or preparing it to be fired, 700 times.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Navy might buy new frigates from France or Italy

When the last of the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigates (FFGs) retired in 2015, the littoral combat ship (LCS) was expected to pick up the slack. Well, between mechanical failures and the fact that the LCS is under-armed, that hasn’t happened.

As a result, the Navy has cut the LCS program down to 40 vessels and is now looking for a new generation of frigates. Two contenders for the FFG(X) program have surfaced, one from Lockheed based on the Freedom-class LCS and one from Spain based on the Álvaro de Bazán-class guided-missile frigates. There’s a third contender, however, and it’s also from Europe, based on the Franco-Italian FREMM.


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The French Aquitane-class frigate Provence during Joint Warrior 17-2.

(Photo by Mark Harkin)

FREMM stands for “Frégate européenne multi-mission,” which is French for “European multi-mission frigate.” France has 11 of these vessels either in service or under construction, while Italy has 10. Morocco and Egypt have also acquired or ordered vessels of this class.

The FREMM comes in three varieties: One is optimized for anti-submarine warfare, the second is a general-purpose warship, the third is an anti-air destroyer called FREDA (or, Frégate de defense aeriennes). All of these vessels carry the ASTER 15 surface-to-air missile (the FREDA also carries the ASTER 30). The French FREMMs, called the Aquitaine-class, can also fire the SCALP cruise missile (and did so during the recent retaliation against Syria’s use of chemical weapons), while Italian vessels pack the Teseo surface-to-surface missile and Milas anti-submarine missile and a five-inch gun equipped with the Vulcano round.

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An Italian FREMM sails alongside an Italian Horizon-class air-defense destroyer.

(Photo by ItalianLarry)

French and Italian FREMMs also have 76mm OTO Melara guns, torpedo tubes for the MU-90 anti-submarine torpedo, and can operate an NH-90 helicopter. The FREMM variant proposed for the FFG(X) competition will displace 6,500 tons, reach a top speed of over 26 knots, and use a hybrid-electric drive for greater range. The vessels will have a crew of 133.

Could the French and Italians have already solved America’s need for a new frigate? That remains to be seen. The Navy plans to buy 20 vessels from this program and will announce the winner in 2020.