Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs - We Are The Mighty
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Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

There’s a mystique to battleships. Whenever inside-the-Beltway dwellers debate how to bulk up the US Navy fleet, odds are sentimentalists will clamor to return the Iowa-class dreadnoughts to service. Nor is the idea of bringing back grizzled World War II veterans as zany as it sounds.


We aren’t talking equipping the 1914-vintage USS Texas with superweapons to blast the Soviet Navy, or resurrecting the sunken Imperial Japanese Navy super-battleship Yamato for duty in outer space, or keeping USS Missouri battleworthy in case aliens menace the Hawaiian Islands. Such proposals are not mere whimsy.

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Built to duel Japan in World War II, in fact, battleships were recommissioned for the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. The last returned to action in 1988. The Iowa class sat in mothballs for about three decades after Korea (except for USS New Jersey, which returned to duty briefly during the Vietnam War). That’s about how long the battlewagons have been in retirement since the Cold War. History thus seems to indicate they could stage yet another comeback. This far removed from their past lives, though, it’s doubtful in the extreme that the operational return on investment would repay the cost, effort, and human capital necessary to bring them back to life.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

Numbers deceive. It cost the US Navy $1.7 billion in 1988 dollars to put four battlewagons back in service during the Reagan naval buildup. That comes to about $878 million per hull in 2017 dollars. This figure implies the navy could refurbish two ships bristling with firepower for the price of one Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. One copy of the latest-model Burke will set the taxpayers back $1.9 billion according to Congressional Budget Office figures. Two for the price of one: a low, low price! Or, better yet, the Navy could get two battlewagons for the price of three littoral combat ships—the modern equivalent of gunboats. Sounds like a good deal all around.

But colossal practical difficulties would work against reactivating the dreadnoughts at low cost, despite these superficially plausible figures. First of all, the vessels no longer belong to the US Navy. They’re museums. New Jersey and Missouri were struck from the Navy list during the 1990s. Engineers preserved Iowa and Wisconsin in “reactivation” status for quite some time, meaning they hypothetically could return to duty, but they, too, were struck from the rolls, in 2006. Sure, the US government could probably get them back during a national emergency, but resolving legal complications would consume time and money in peacetime.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs
USS Iowa (BB-61) fires a full broadside of her nine 16″/50 and six 5″/38 guns during a target exercise near Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. Photo from DoD.

Second, chronological age matters. A standard talking point among battleship enthusiasts holds that the Iowas resemble a little old lady’s car, an aged auto with little mileage on the odometer. A used-car salesman would laud its longevity, assuring would-be buyers they could put lots more miles on it. This, too, makes intuitive sense. My old ship, USS Wisconsin, amassed just fourteen years of steaming time despite deploying for World War II, Korea, and Desert Storm. At a time when the US Navy hopes to wring fifty years of life out of aircraft carriers and forty out of cruisers and destroyers, refitted battleships could seemingly serve for decades to come.

And it is true: stout battleship hulls could doubtless withstand the rigors of sea service. But what about their internals? Mechanical age tells only part of the story. Had the Iowa class remained in continuous service, with regular upkeep and overhauls, they probably could have steamed around for decades. After all, the World War II flattop USS Lexington served until 1991, the same year the Iowas retired. But they didn’t get that treatment during the decades they spent slumbering. As a consequence, battleships were already hard ships to maintain a quarter-century ago. Sailors had to scavenge spares from still older battleships. Machinists, welders, and shipfitters were constantly on the go fabricating replacements for worn-out parts dating from the 1930s or 1940s.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

This problem would be still worse another quarter-century on, and a decade-plus after the navy stopped preserving the vessels and their innards. Managing that problem would be far more expensive. An old joke among yachtsmen holds that a boat is a hole in the water into which the owner dumps money. A battleship would represent a far bigger hole in the water, devouring taxpayer dollars in bulk. Even if the US Navy could reactivate the Iowas for a pittance, the cost of operating and maintaining them could prove prohibitive. That’s why they were shut down in the 1990s, and time has done nothing to ease that remorseless logic.

Third, what about the big guns the Iowa class sports—naval rifles able to fling projectiles weighing the same as a VW Bug over twenty miles? These are the battleships’ signature weapon, and there is no counterpart to them in today’s fleet. Massive firepower might seem to justify the expense of recommissioning and maintaining the ships. But gun barrels wear out after being fired enough times. No one has manufactured replacement barrels for 16-inch, 50-caliber guns in decades, and the inventory of spares has evidently been scrapped or donated to museums. That shortage would cap the battleships’ combat usefulness.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

Nor, evidently, is there any safe ammunition for battleship big guns to fire. We used 1950s-vintage 16-inch rounds and powder during the 1980s and 1990s. Any such rounds still in existence are now over sixty years old, while the US Navy is apparently looking to demilitarize and dispose of them. Gearing up to produce barrels and ammunition in small batches would represent a non-starter for defense firms. The navy recently canceled the destroyer USS Zumwalt‘s advanced gun rounds because costs spiraled above $800,000 apiece. That was a function of ordering few munitions for what is just a three-ship class. Ammunition was simply mot affordable. Modernized Iowas would find themselves in the same predicament, if not more so.

And lastly, it’s unclear where the US Navy would find the human expertise to operate 16-inch gun turrets or the M-type Babcock & Wilcox boilers that propel and power battleships. No one has trained on these systems since 1991, meaning experts in using and maintaining them have, ahem, aged and grown rusty at their profession. Heck, steam engineers are in short supply, full stop, as the Navy turns to electric drive, gas turbines, and diesel engines to propel its ships. Older amphibious helicopter docks are steam-powered, but even this contingent is getting a gradual divorce from steam as newer LHDs driven by gas turbines join the fleet while their steam-propelled forebears approach decommissioning.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

Steam isn’t dead, then, but it is a technology of the past—just like 16-inch guns. Technicians are few and dwindling in numbers while battleship crews would demand them in large numbers. I rank among the youngest mariners to have operated battleship guns and propulsion-plant machinery in yesteryear, and trust me, folks: you don’t want the US Navy conscripting me to regain my proficiency in engineering and weapons after twenty-six years away from it, let alone training youngsters to operate elderly hardware themselves. In short, it’s as tough to regenerate human capital as it is to rejuvenate the material dimension after a long lapse. The human factor—all by itself—could constitute a showstopper for battleship reactivation.

Battleships still have much to contribute to fleet design, just not as active surface combatants. Alfred Thayer Mahan describes a capital ship—the core of any battle fleet—as a vessel able to dish out and absorb punishment against a peer navy. While surface combatants pack plenty of offensive punch nowadays, the innate capacity to take a punch is something that has been lost in today’s lightly armored warships. Naval architects could do worse than study the battleships’ history and design philosophy, rediscovering what it means to construct a true capital ship. The US Navy would be better off for their inquiry.

Let’s learn what we can from the past—but leave battleship reactivation to science fiction.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy will pump out more attack subs to counter Russia and China

A completed, comprehensive Navy analysis says producing more Virginia-Class attack submarines on a much faster timetable is “achievable” and necessary to ensure future undersea dominance for the U.S. — in an increasingly contested strategic global environment.


The Navy report, titled “The Submarine Industrial Base and the Viability of Producing Additional Attack Submarines Beyond the Fiscal Year 2017 Shipbuilding Plan in the 2017–2030 Timeframe,” was delivered to Congress on July 5, 2017, Navy officials told Scout Warrior.

The current or previous status quo had been for the Navy to drop from building two Virginia-Class boats per year to one in the early 2020s when construction of the new Columbia-Class nuclear armed submarines begins.

The completed study, however, maintains that the Navy and industry can produce two Virginia-Class boats and one Columbia-Class submarine per year, increasing the current plan by one Virginia-Class boat per year.

Navy leaders have consistently talked about an expected submarine shortfall in the mid 2020s and that more attack submarines were needed to strengthen the fleet and keep stay in front of near-peer rivals, such as Russia and China.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs
The Virginia-class attack submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776) enters Apra Harbor for a scheduled port visit. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Corwin Colbert/Released)

The study found that sustainment of the two-per-year Virginia-Class submarine production rate during the procurement years of the Columbia-Class SSBNs is achievable and that it provides significant benefit to the Navy and the SSN (Attack Submarines) force structure, Navy officials told Scout Warrior.

Maintaining a two-per-year Virginia Class build-rate will help the Navy reach its goal of 66 SSNs, as identified in the December 2016 Force Structure Assessment, Navy officials added.

Increasing production will, to a large extent, rely upon the submarine-building industry’s capacity to move up to three submarines per year.

The Virginia-Class Submarines are built by a cooperative arrangement between the Navy and Electric Boat, a subsidiary of General Dynamics and Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries.

Each industry partner constructs portions or “modules” of the submarines which are then melded together to make a complete vessel, industry and Navy officials explained.

Virginia-Class Attack Submarine Technology

Virginia-Class subs are fast-attack submarines armed with Tomahawk missiles, torpedoes, and other weapons able to perform a range of missions; these include anti-submarine warfare, strike warfare, covert mine warfare, ISR, anti-surface/ship warfare and naval special warfare, something described as having the ability to carry and insert Special Operations Forces.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs
An undated artist’s rendering of the planned Columbia-class submarine. (Naval Sea Systems Command Image)

Future Virginia-Class submarines provide improved littoral capabilities, sensors, special operations force employment, and strike warfare capabilities, making it an ideal platform for the 21st Century security environment, Navy developers said.

Compared to prior Navy attack subs like the Los Angeles-Class, the Virginia-Class submarines are engineered to bring vastly improved littoral warfare, surveillance and open ocean capabilities, service officials said.

For instance, the ships can be driven primarily through software code and electronics, thus freeing up time and energy for an operator who does not need to manually control each small maneuver.

The Virginia-Class submarine are engineered with this “Fly-by-Wire” capability which allows the ship to quietly linger in shallow waters without having to surface or have each small move controlled by a human operator. With this technology, a human operator will order depth and speed, allowing software to direct the movement of the planes and rudder to maintain course and depth.

Also, unlike their predecessor-subs, Virginia-Class subs are engineered with what’s called a “Lock Out Trunk” – a compartment in the sub which allows special operations forces to submerge beneath the water and deploy without requiring the ship to surface.

Read More: This is how Navy SEALs swim out of a submerged submarine

Unlike their “SSBN” Columbia-Class counterparts to be armed with nuclear weapons, the Virginia-Class “SSN” ships are purely for conventional attack, Navy officials said.

Development of Virginia-Class submarines are broken up into procurement “Blocks.” Blocks I and II have already been delivered.

The Block III subs, now under construction, are being built with new so-called Virginia Payload Tubes designed to lower costs and increase capability.

Instead of building what most existing Virginia-Class submarines have — 12 individual 21-inch in diameter vertical launch tubes able to fire Tomahawk missiles – the Block III submarines are being built with two larger 87-inch in diameter tubes able to house six Tomahawk missiles each.

Although the new tubes were conceived and designed as part of what the Navy calls its “Design for Affordability” strategy to lower costs, the move also brings strategic advantages to the platform, service officials say.  Specifically, this means that the submarines are constructed such that they will be able to accommodate new technologies as they emerge – this could mean engineering in an ability to fire upgraded Tomahawk missiles or other weapons which may emerge in the future.

The Block III Virginia-Class submarines also have what’s called a Large Aperture Bow conformal array sonar system – designed to send out an acoustic ping, analyze the return signal, and provide the location and possible contours of enemy ships, submarines and other threats.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs
Sailors, aboard the Virginia-class attack submarine USS Texas (SSN 775), moor the boat to the pier. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian G. Reynolds)

Virginia-Class Block V – Virginia Payload Modules

For Block V construction, the Navy is planning to insert a new 84-foot long section designed to house additional missile capability.  “Virginia Payload Modules.”

The Virginia Payload Modules, to come in future years, will increase the Tomahawk missile firepower of the submarines from 12 missiles up to 40.

The VPM submarines will have an additional (approximately 84 feet) section with four additional Virginia Payload Tubes (VPTs), each capable of carrying seven Tomahawk cruise missiles, for a ship total of 40 Tomahawks.

The idea is to have additional Tomahawk or other missile capability increased by 2026, when the “SSGN” Ohio-Class Guided Missile Submarines start retiring in larger numbers.

Early prototyping work on the Virginia Payload Modules is already underway and several senior Navy leaders, over the years, have indicated a desire to accelerate production and delivery of this technology – which will massively increase fire-power on the submarines.

While designed primarily to hold Tomahawks, the VPM missile tubes are engineered such that they could accommodate a new payload, new missile or even a large unmanned underwater vehicle, Navy officials said.

The reason for the Virginia Payload Modules is clear; beginning in the 2020s, the Navy will start retiring four large Ohio-class guided-missile submarines able to fire up to 154 Tomahawk missiles each. This will result in the Navy losing a massive amount of undersea fire power capability, Navy officials explained.

From 2002 to 2008 the U.S. Navy modified four of its oldest nuclear-armed Ohio-class submarines by turning them into ships armed with only conventional missiles — the USS Ohio, USS Michigan, USS Florida and USS Georgia. They are called SSGNs, with the “G” designation for “guided missile.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

That time when Green Berets who avenged 9/11 on horseback recreated this legendary WWII jump

Before D-Day, on June 5, 1944, some 90 teams of two to four men parachuted into Nazi-occupied France. They were members of the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessors of both the CIA and the modern-day Army Special Forces. These OSS teams were called “Jedburgh” teams and were highly skilled in European languages, parachuting, amphibious operations, skiing, mountain climbing, radio operations, Morse code, small arms, navigation, hand-to-hand combat, explosives, and espionage. They would need all of it.

The OSS teams’ job was to link up with resistance fighters in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands to coordinate Allied airdrops, conduct sabotage operations, and roll out the red carpet for the Allied advance into Germany. D-Day was to be the “Jeds'” trial by fire.


Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

The Jedburghs preparing to jump before D-Day.

Fast forward to 75 years later: Europe is no longer a fortress and the OSS has since evolved into both the CIA and the US Army’s Special Forces. To honor that tradition, a team of Army Special Forces veterans, including SOF legend and 2017 Bull Simons Award Winner CSM Rick Lamb, are planning to recreate the Jedburghs’ famous nighttime jumps into Europe in June 2019 and those veterans just happen to be members of the ODA that rode into Afghanistan on horseback in the days following the 9/11 attacks — they are Team American Freedom.

If the name “American Freedom” sounds familiar, it’s because they’re also the founders of American Freedom Distillery, a Florida-based premium spirits brand, makers of Horse Soldier Bourbon and Rekker Rum. And it’s not only the Special Forces veterans jumping from the lead aircraft on June 5th, they’re in good company. Joining them in the jump will be retired Army Ranger Bill Dunham, who lost a leg in Panama in 1989, the Gold Star mother of another Army Ranger and some of her late son’s fellow Rangers, and a 97-year-old World War II veteran.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

The American Freedom Distillery Team

“This group will represent every major known and unknown conflict for the past 30 years – every group who inserted early and fought with little recognition,” says American Freedom co-founder and Special Forces vet Scott Neill. “This is the last big World War II anniversary (other than VJ Day) that World War II vets and these generation will share. The very special part is that we will also share this with our families. Our wives who took care of the home front and our kids who watched daddy go away again and again. It’s a way to show our family why we did it.”

For the entire summer of 2019, France and England will be celebrating the D-Day landings and the start of the liberation of Europe. The D-Day airdrop is just the beginning, other events will include parades, military encampments, and showcases featuring World War II uniforms.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

Good work if you can get it.

The team is set to stage out of Cherbourg, France and tour some of the areas where the most intense fighting occurred. On June 5th, they will jump out of a C-47 Skytrain, just like their forebears did 75 years ago, and hit the dropzone at around 11a.m. They won’t be coming empty-handed. They will also be dropping a barrel of their Horse Soldier Bourbon to support the festivities on the ground as 200 more jumpers hit the drop zone throughout the day.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

(Image courtesy of Scott Neil, American Freedom Distillery)

If you want to support Team American Freedom as they remember the brave men who landed behind enemy lines a full day before the Allied invasion of Europe, you can help by contributing to their GoFundMe page. You will be enabling generations of special operators, CIA veterans, and Gold Star Families, many of who have lead insertions into modern day areas of operations attend this historic event.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs
MIGHTY HISTORY

This ‘demi-brigade’ is the Foreign Legion’s World War II pride

The 13th Demi-Brigade is one of the legendary units of the French Foreign Legion. During World War II, it was the only formation to immediately join Gen. Charles de Gaulle and the Free French Forces when France capitulated to to the Nazis.

From the creation of Vichy France to the country’s eventual liberation, the 13th Demi-Brigade carried the Legion’s honor in battles across the world. The 13th fought in Norway and across Africa, Syria, Italy, and France before victory was achieved.


Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

Allied soldiers during the Battle of Narvik where French legionnaires with the 13th Demi-Brigade and other forces liberated Norwegian ports from Nazi occupation.

The 13th was formed in 1940 as a light mountain unit to fight in the Winter War, the conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland. The Winter War ended before the 13th could get into the fight, but an invasion of Norway by Germany soon followed, so the 13th went to fight them instead.

The 13th took part in two landings in Norway, both aimed at the port town of Narvik. The first was on May 6 at a point seven miles north of the city, and the second was on May 26 from a position to the south. Conditions during the fight were brutal. Temperatures fell as low as minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit and the legionnaires were attacking a force three times their size.

While the German’s conquest was ultimately successful, the victory wouldn’t matter. The legionnaires fought through vicious machine-gun fire, Luftwaffe attacks, and artillery bombardment, finally pushing the Germans out of Narvik and into the surrounding country. The Legion was pursuing the Germans across the snow and were only 10 miles from the Swedish border when the call came in to return home.

The Germans had invaded France, and all hands were needed to defend Paris.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

France surrenders to Germany following the fall of Paris.

But it was too late. The brutal blitzkrieg laid France low before the legionnaires could get back. They landed in France only to learn that it was now German territory. After a brief debate about whether to continue fighting, the force’s commander executed a lieutenant who wanted to abandon the mission, and the bulk of the force went to England.

It was here that the 13th, answering the call of de Gaulle, joined the Free French Forces, the only legion able and willing to do so. As the rest of the Legion decided how much to cooperate with German authorities assigned to watch them per the armistice, the 13th was deciding how many Germans each of them would kill.

They first got their chance when they were sent to North Africa in the end of 1940. There, they captured Gabon and the Cameroons essentially unopposed and helped the British during vicious battles against Italian forces to secure territory in East Africa. In June 1941, they were sent to Syria where they would fight their own — Legion forces loyal to Vichy France.

The 6th Foreign Legion Infantry was garrisoned in Syria, an area under French mandate. Vichy France was allowing German forces to use their ports and airfields in Syria, posing a threat to the Suez Canal and British oil fields in the Middle East. The situation could not stand, and legionnaire was doomed to fight legionnaire.

The 13th, for their part, took a risk in the hopes that a legion civil war could be avoided. They fought through other French forces, at one point using outdated artillery in direct-fire mode as improvised anti-tank guns. When they had fought through to the Legion forces, they sent a small patrol to the outpost.

The outpost sent out a guard who presented the patrol with a salute and then arrested the patrol’s members. The fight was on.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

Free French Forces legionnaires, likely members of the 13th Demi-Brigade, maneuver during the Battle of Bir Hacheim.

(Photo by Sgt. Chetwyn Len)

Luckily for the 13th, the 6th and other forces under Vichy control had been stripped of most of their serious weapons and were suffering severe morale problems. But the fight was fierce but brief. The 13th Demi-Brigade won the battle, a fight that included bayonet charges and grenade assaults, and it marched into Damascus in triumph eight days later.

They allowed all members of the 6th to join the 13th if they so wished. Less than 700 of nearly 3,000 did so.

The 13th was then sent to Bir Hacheim, where approximately 3,700 men faced about 37,000 attackers. The Italian armored commander leading the first assault was assured by Rommel himself that the Allied soldiers, mostly French forces, would fall within 15 minutes.

Instead, the French forces destroyed 33 tanks in the first hour and held out for another two weeks. When the defenders finally gave in, they did so on their terms, conducting a nighttime breakout through German lines with the walking wounded and healthy troops marching and providing cover fire for the wounded on litters.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

Allied forces celebrate at the end of their successful evacuation out of Bir Hacheim.

They made it through the desert to El Alamein where the commander, the legendary prince and Lt. Col. Dmitri Amilakhvari, reportedly had a dream where he was hit with a mortal wound and the last rites were administered by someone other than his chaplain.

During the first morning of the Battle of El Alamein, a German counterattack with tanks and air support felled the brave prince when a shell fragment pierced the iconic legion white kepi that he wore instead of a helmet. His last rites were administered by a French chaplain.

The 13th failed to take their objective, and the British command sidelined them for the next year.

While the end of their time in Africa was less than glorious, they were still heroes of fighting in multiple countries, and they were still needed to continue the war. Their next chance at glory was in Italy in April, 1944, during fighting that would be brief but bloody.

The legionnaires, with two infantry battalions, an artillery battery, and an anti-tank company, were sent against Italian troops dug into the mountainsides and fortresses of Italy. They were tasked in some areas with climbing rock faces and castle walls under fire. In one case, six troops climbed a wall with bags of grenades and managed to take the high ground from the enemy and rain the explosives down on the enemy in a daring coup.

Italy cost the legionnaires over 450 killed and wounded, but the war wasn’t over. The D-Day invasions of Normandy were underway, and the French Foreign Legion wasn’t about to sit out the liberation of France.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

13th Demi-Brigade troops parade during a ceremony in the 1950s or ’60s.

(Private collection of Lieutenant-colonel Paul Lucien Paschal)

The Legion wasn’t called up for the D-Day invasion, but it was for Operation Dragoon on Aug. 15, 1944, the lesser-known, second amphibious landing in France — this time, in the south. They landed in Provence and made their way through Toulon, Hyeres, Avignon, Lyon, Autun, Dijon, Besancon, and Vosges, slowly pushing the Nazis out and liberating the French people.

Paris was liberated on August 25, but the legionnaires were to the south and east, continuing to push the invaders from the southern French coast north past Switzerland and east, back towards Germany. The 13th, unfortunately, was not allowed to follow.

It had suffered over 40 percent losses in the fighting in France and western Italy as they pushed the Germans back. The unit was put on other duties as newly revived Legion units and Free French Forces drove with the rest of the Allied forces into Germany.

Even though the 13th had distinguished itself during fighting everywhere from the Arctic Circle, across Africa, into Italy, and finally France, it was sent back to Africa for peacetime duties within a year of the armistice with Germany.

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.”

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

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.

Articles

The insane military legacy of the Roosevelts

Everyone knows that the Roosevelt family held a political dynasty for decades; fielding two presidents of the United States and a first lady in 50 years is a pretty impressive record, and that’s without mentioning all the other jobs like assistant secretary of the Navy (Theodore and Franklin) and Governor of the State of New York (Franklin).


But the Roosevelts actually have a strong claim to a military dynasty as well with three Medals of Honor, a Navy Cross, 11 Silver Stars, and a slew of other awards from the U.S., France, and Britain, all in 100 years.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs
American troops march in the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia. Three of the Roosevelt family’s Silver Stars were a result of actions in North Africa. (Dept. of Defense photo)

So, you know, awkward Christmases for the cousin who went into finance.

The Roosevelt military legacy dates back to the Revolutionary War when Henry Rutgers (a descendant of Elsie Roosevelt) and Nicholas Roosevelt served on the American side. But it really got steaming in the Civil War when two of Theodore Roosevelt’s uncles served the Confederate Navy.

While the Roosevelt family was based in New York, Theodore’s father had married Martha Bulloch, a Souther belle whose family had deep ties to what would become the Confederacy. When the war broke out, two of her brothers volunteered for service.

James and Irvine Bulloch became naval officers, and both brothers were involved in launching the CSS Alabama, one of the most feared Confederate commerce raiders in the war. James, by that point assigned to secretly buying ships for the Southern Navy from English shipyards, commissioned the ship and supervised its construction.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs
Confederate officers aboard the CSS Alabama, 1863. (Photo: Public Domain)

But the Union State Department was working feverishly to get the future Confederate ships in England seized, so Irvine led a “sea trial” of the Alabama before stealing away with it to the Azores to receive its crew and weapons. Irvine would serve on the vessel for most of the war as a midshipman and is credited with firing the Alabama’s last shot before it was sunk at Cherbourg, France, in battle against the USS Kearsarge.

All of this had an effect on the brother’s nephew, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., who, from the age of 5, was noted as having idolized the Bulloch side of the family and their sense of adventure. He loved his father, but is thought to have been deeply embarrassed about his father’s having purchased a substitute for his place in the Civil War.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs
First Sgt. George Washington Roosevelt, Medal of Honor recipient. (Photo: Public Domain)

One of Theodore’s cousins did distinguish himself in the war, though. First Sgt. George Washington Roosevelt received the Medal of Honor for recapturing his unit’s colors and capturing a Confederate color bearer at the Second Battle of Bull Run.

While young Theodore grew up with the New York side of the family and entered politics, those stories from his uncles were still rattling around his head when the U.S. entered the Spanish-American War.

Theodore resigned his position as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy to form the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, “Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.” They participated in two major battles. The first was the Battle of Las Quasimas and the Battle of San Juan Heights where, on July 1, 1898, Theodore Jr. led multiple charges for which he would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor in 2001.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

When the Lusitania was sunk and America finally entered World War I, Theodore Jr., a former president by that point, was turned down for service. But three of his sons were accepted into the U.S. Army and a fourth, Kermit, volunteered for service in the British army where he was accepted and rose to captain.

Capt. Quentin Roosevelt was the youngest of the four brothers and the only one who died in the conflict. He trained hard as a pilot, rose to squadron commander, and had one confirmed kill before being engaged by three enemy planes and killed during the Second Battle of the Marne. He was awarded the French Croix de Guerre.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs
Then-Lt. Quentin Roosevelt in the Nieuport trainer in France. (Photo: Public Domain courtesy of the Roosevelt family)

Theodore III, and Archibald Roosevelt were commissioned as a, Army major and lieutenant, respectively, and joined the 1st Infantry Division. Kermit accepted a commission as a captain in the British army.

Kermit was sent to the Middle East where he earned a British Military Cross for bravery after capturing Turkish soldiers in the Battle for Baghdad. Archibald received two Silver Stars and a Croix de Guerre, and Theodore received the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, the Croix de Guerre, and the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur, all awards for high valor. Theodore was gassed once and Archibald was crippled by shrapnel.

After America entered World War II, Theodore III returned to service as a colonel. He rejoined the 1st Infantry Division where he was joined by his youngest son, Capt. Quentin Roosevelt II. They were sent first to North Africa.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs
A U.S. ship is destroyed during the Invasion of North Africa. (Photo: U.S. Army Lt. Longini)

It was there that the men earned three Silver Stars. Quentin earned the first at the Battle of Kasserine Pass when he manned an artillery observation post under fire and used it to help hold back German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s attack until a Messerschmitt shot him through the back.

Theodore, a brigadier general by that point, then earned two more. His first World War II Silver Star came when he manned an observation post under attack from German dive bombers, fighter planes, and artillery. He earned his next Silver Star, his fourth overall, the next day when he led a reinforced combat team against enemy machine gun positions.

Quentin was sent to recover from his wounds but the men were reunited at D-Day when Quentin hit Omaha Beach and Theodore personally directed the 4th Infantry Divisions landings at Utah Beach, redrawing the division’s attack plans while under fire. He would later receive a Medal of Honor and recommendation for promotion to major general, but he died before he received either.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs
U.S. Army Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., and Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt III talk in North Africa during the invasion in World War II. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Quentin II would receive the Croix de Guerre before the war ended.

Archibald, meanwhile, had received full disability after World War I but returned to the Army for World War II and once again received two Silver Stars and was wounded. According to Military Times’ Hall of Valor, that made him the only U.S. service member to receive full disability for two different wars.

Meanwhile, two sons of then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt and distant cousins to Theodore’s family also distinguished themselves in World War II. James R. Roosevelt received a “SPOT AWARD” of the Navy Cross for his leadership under fire with the Marines on Makin Island during a 1942 raid. A year later, he received a Silver Star as a lieutenant colonel for leading assaults to capture the same island.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs
U.S. Marine Corps Raiders hit the island of Makin in World War II. (Photo: Public Domain)

Navy Lt. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., received the Silver Star in 1943 for rendering aid and rescuing two men wounded by shrapnel during an air raid in Palerno, Sicily.

Finally, in 1955, Air Force Capt. Theodore S. Roosevelt, named for the president but descended from a separate line of the family, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1955 for successfully conducting an emergency landing in California after his C-124 loaded with 79 combat-equipped personnel lost two engines while flying over the Pacific, 300 miles from land.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia calls Israeli demand for Iran to leave Syria ‘unrealistic’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s repeated demands that Iranian forces and their allies leave Syria are not “realistic,” Russia’s ambassador to Israel has said.

“The Iranians are playing a very, very important role in our common efforts to eliminate the terrorists in Syria,” Anatoly Viktorov said in English on Israel’s Channel 10 broadcaster on July 30, 2018.


“That’s why, for this period of time, we see as nonrealistic demands to expel any foreign troops from the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic,” he said.

Viktorov said the presence of Iran’s military advisers and allied fighters in Syria is “fully legitimate, according to UN principles,” and Russia “cannot force them” to leave the country.

Syria, with help from Russia, Iran, and Tehran’s ally, the Lebanese militia Hizballah, has swiftly regained control over large swathes of territory after seven years of a civil war that has killed more than 400,000 people.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

Syrian Marines.

On July 30, 2018, the Syrian Army was reported to be consolidating control of its border with Israel after having ousted a last remnant of the Islamic State extremist group in the area.

Russia, which has friendly relations with both Iran and Israel, recently has sought to play a mediating role between the two sworn enemies.

Both Tel Aviv and Washington have demanded that Iranian fighters leave Syria, and Israel has repeatedly carried out deadly air strikes against Iranian facilities and positions in Syria.

Viktorov told Channel 10 that Russia is “not OK” with such use of “force” by the Israeli government, which has reportedly killed dozens of Iran-allied fighters.

But the diplomat said Russia “cannot persuade Israel how to proceed” in Syria. “It is not up to Russia to give it freedom to do anything or to prohibit anything,” he said.

The Israeli air raids have gone largely unimpeded by Russian defense systems deployed in Syria, and Israel set up a hotline with Russia in 2015 to ensure the two countries avoid accidentally clashing in the air over Syria.

While Viktorov’s comments are the first to publicly state that Russia will not try to kick Iran out of Syria, in July 2018 Israeli officials reported that Russia offered to keep Iranian forces 100 kilometers from Syria’s border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights during a Jerusalem meeting between Netanyahu and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Israel has been on high alert since June 19, 2018, when Syrian government forces launched an offensive to retake southern Daraa and Quneitra provinces, next to the occupied Golan Heights.

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometers of the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War, in a move never recognized internationally.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why recruiters have a thankless job

If there’s one thing every military veteran has in common, it’s that we all went through a recruiter — but experiences may vary. For example, some recruits had either high-value skills or were willing to take any job the recruiter might offer and, thus, were pursued by military recruiters. Others had to seek one out. Either way, our feelings about our recruiters rise and fall as our career progresses.

At first, many feel like they were bamboozled by their recruiter. As if somehow, they lied to us.


Maybe they made us promises they had no intention of keeping. Maybe they said we were going to get a bonus when we didn’t, or maybe the bonus wasn’t as big as promised. Or maybe the recruiter told us we could go in “Open General” and then choose to be an Airborne Cryptologic Language Analyst when we’re in basic training and we wouldn’t have to take whatever the Air Force chose to give us.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs
Which is how I became a combat cameraman. Don’t tell me recruiters don’t lie.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Ave I. Pele)

The fact of the matter is that every U.S. enlisted troop has a recruiter story. The recruiting process is the one thing every branch of the military has in common. From MEPS to the naked duck walk to going on a trip with a group of strangers whose only common bond is a manila envelope full of personal information, this is the area of the military that transcends branch of service — one that all Coast Guardsmen, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines experience equally.

But what we don’t realize until we’re grown up a little and have a little rank on our sleeves or collars is that recruiting is a really, really tough job.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

“Yeah, we all totally love this uniform.”

1. Everyone thinks recruiters are g*ddamn liars.

I know I kinda covered this one, but it’s a big deal. Not because the recruits think recruiters are lying — who cares what they think? They can go home if they want to. It’s that people already in the military think recruiters are liars. That’s the whole thing about recruiters — the one tired joke that never stops playing.

People think you’re out there luring high school kids into a Marine Corps-painted Astro van with promises of chest candy. Or that you somehow prey on minorities and low-income communities. Or that you’re filling the ranks with sub-par people just to make an invisible quota of some kind. The Army doesn’t exactly sell itself, so recruiters must be tricking these kids somehow.

Now read: 7 white lies recruiters tell and what they really mean

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

“What’s the matter, you already have the haircut.”

2. Recruiters are competing with a great job market.

The unemployment rate of Americans between 16 and 24 — prime military recruiter targets — fell to a 50-year low in 2018. For recruiters, people who have to bring in a certain number of recruits to keep the Army, Air Force, and Navy Departments going for the foreseeable future — this is a terrible thing.

For some, joining the military is something that provides access to opportunity. If someone from Podunk, Conn. (which is a real place, by the way) has the choice of working at the Ice Cream Factory (which does not exist in Podunk, it’s just an example) or joining the Marines during a 17-year-long war, which do you think they might be more inclined toward? As a Marine Recruiter, you have to convince him that a lifetime of mud, dirt, paperwork, and potentially killing ISIS fighters is a better choice than riding dirtbikes at the bonfire Saturday night.

Good luck with that.

Read: The top 6 reasons civilians back out of military service

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

Or, in some cases, a unicorn.

3. Most wannabe recruits aren’t cut out for service.

The Pentagon believes that 71 percent of American youth aren’t able to enlist for a number of reasons. They may be overweight, they may have drug use issues or ear gauges, or maybe they can’t score well on the ASVAB. No matter what the issue is, of the 29 percent left, the Army estimates only seven percent of the remainder is even interested in serving.

So, your job is basically to find those needles in all that haystack.

Related: Here’s why most Americans can’t join the military

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

“Pew pew! … And that’s how you do Army. Just sign your name in crayon.”

4. Training and living as a recruiter is actually incredibly difficult.

Recruiters train to go into a local community and pull out the most potentially exceptional recruits from neighborhoods that might hate you. At the same time, the recruiter has to typify everything that makes the perfect U.S. troop, from physical fitness and on down the line. If you even pass the screening process, every branch of the military has an in-depth intense training school that involves professional development and very detailed instructional lessons on all the ins and outs of your chosen branch of service.

Remember, recruiters are supposed to be demi-gods with all the answers, so it makes sense that to be an example for youth to follow, potential recruiters have to train incredibly hard at it.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

In case you didn’t believe me when I said people will hate you. Because they will.

5. You’re (mostly) alone out there.

More than that, a recruiter lives far from a military community, where things might be way more expensive than in your standard military base area. There may be no other military personnel to lean on except for the other recruiters in your area and since none of you are exactly keeping banker’s hours, a potluck jamboree might be hard to schedule.

So you only need to be the perfect picture of physical, mental, and financial health with unlimited energy and money to stay up all night to recognize talent and have all the answers required to get them to give you the first years of their adult life while their parents (who might really, really hate you) look on. No sweat, right?

You dirty liar.

Articles

West Point, Ranger School grad is the first female US Army infantry officer

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs
Capt. Kristen Griest participates in Ranger School. | Photo by Spc. Nikayla Shodeen, US Army


The U.S. Army has just announced that Captain Kristen Griest’s request to change her military occupational specialty from Military Police to Infantry has been approved, according to a report posted by the Ledger-Enquirer.

“Like any other officer who wishes to branch transfer, Capt. Griest applied for an exception to Army policy to transfer from military police to infantry,” Fort Benning Spokesman Bob Purtiman said. “Her transfer was approved by the Department of the Army over the weekend.”

Griest, a West Point graduate, was one of three women to successfully complete Ranger School last August. She is scheduled to graduate from the Captains Career Course at Fort Benning this week. The Army has not announced her next assignment.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs
Captain Kristen Griest | Photo by U.S. Army

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

DoD tests cyber warriors in deployment-like conditions

Exercise Patriot Warrior featured airmen, sailors, and soldiers practicing their cyber defense skills in highly challenging environments.


“We have to stay ready at all times to defend our networks at home and abroad,” said Air Force Senior Airmen Christopher Hillen, an exercise participant. “This exercise is so important, once we get deployed and experience different situations we’re going to lean on the training we received here and apply it to real world situations.”

One part of Patriot Warrior enabled Air Force and Army personnel to interact and train together in realistic scenarios providing both services with a unique perspective on the exercise and future missions.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

Staff Sgt. Michael Bigee and Airman Steven Hilton, 265th Combat Communications Squadron cyber operations specialists, work on systems at Fort McCoy, Wis., June 12, 2015.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrea Salazar)

Challenging Scenarios

“These scenarios provide our soldiers and also the airmen with a very realistic outlook on what both entities could expect in the real world,” said Army Maj. Robert Bell, 261st Theater Tactical Signal Brigade operations and plans officer. “Everyone learns great lessons in trainings like this, it develops different skills that each other has learned and also builds confidence in our airmen and soldiers.

The exercise was comprised of joint forces from around the country to showcase deployment capabilities and was hosted here. The exercise hosted Army, Navy and Air Force personnel from 22 different bases.

“Working with other services is an invaluable experience for our Airmen and their development as cyber operators,” said Air Force Maj. Bennett Reid, director of operations.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

Airmen and Soldiers gather during Exercise Patriot Warrior for cyber defense training on Aug. 8, 2018 at Fort McCoy, Wisc. Patriot Warrior is Air Force Reserve Command’s premier exercise, providing an opportunity for Reserve Citizen Airmen to train with joint partners in the combat support training exercise.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Xavier Lockley)

Cyber Combat Support Training

“With this being the first time that we’ve integrated with the Army in a cyber combat support training exercise, it allowed us to see areas in which we aren’t as strong and fix the issue as team,” Reid said. “We got to work with a network we’d never seen before, and we had to learn how to get plugged into our weapon system which we had to learn but it helped us understand how to operate other networks outside of our comfort zone.”

Exercises like Patriot Warrior provide critical contingency oriented skills for all members who participate, but there is also a bigger picture in mind.

“The way the fight is won nowadays is through cyberspace,” said Air Force Tech Sgt. Christian Coleman, a reservist from the 911th Communications Squadron cyberspace operations controller and member of the Cyber Mission Defense Team.

“All branches continue to evolve as the battlefield changes and now the World Wide Web is where we have to maintain dominance,” Coleman added.
Articles

This is how presidents-elect learn about covert operations before they’re sworn in

Now that the Republican Party has officially nominated Donald Trump as its candidate for president, briefers from intelligence agencies will soon begin detailing America’s current covert operations to both Trump and likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.


And that’s if they haven’t already begun.

So how does a presidential candidate — and later a president-elect — get caught up on everything that’s going on in the cloak-and-dagger world of international intelligence?

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs
President Barack Obama receives his daily intelligence briefing. Presidential candidates will not receive his level of information, but presidents-elect do. (Photo: White House Photographer Pete Souza)

Intelligence officials give them a series of briefings that former NSA Director Michael Hayden described as “a college seminar on steroids.”

When possible, the briefings take place in secure areas. But more often than not, briefers are sent to meet candidates and presidents-elect where they are.

In 1992, the Deputy Director of the CIA flew to Little Rock, Arkansas, and rented a cheap motel room to inconspicuously brief then-President-elect Bill Clinton.

When candidates are on the campaign trail, the briefers plan spots on the route where they can establish a temporarily secure area to brief.

These initial briefings to candidates are not as in depth as the president’s daily brief. The idea isn’t to give the candidate a detailed breakdown of each operation and how it works, it’s to give them a broad understanding of what America is doing around the world and why.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has said that all major candidates for president must receive the same intelligence briefing. (Photo: Kit Fox/Medill)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has said that each candidate receives the exact same briefing. But this wasn’t always the case.

For instance, the intel briefings were first given to Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson during the 1952 election. During the run-up to Election Day, Eisenhower was receiving more sensitive information than Stevenson. This was because Eisenhower had extensive experience with intelligence from his command time in World War II, while Stevenson did not.

Once a candidate is selected, though, the briefings become more detailed and some of them become decision briefs. Even though the president-elect is not yet in charge, the intelligence agencies have to be prepared to immediately execute his or her orders on Inauguration Day.

The president-elect receives a roughly complete copy of the president’s daily brief — sometimes as early as election night. The only information omitted is operational information that isn’t useful to the president-elect.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs
President John F. Kennedy was a war hero and senator before campaigning for the presidency. But he didn’t gain access to America’s top intelligence until after winning the election. (Photo: National Archives)

For presidents-elect who need a primer on intelligence, such as John Kennedy, there will also be a series of general briefings to provide context and understanding. For those with an extensive intelligence background, such as former Vice President and Director of Central Intelligence George H.W. Bush, the general briefings are skipped.

Once the president-elect has a base of knowledge about the situation, senior intelligence officials begin coming to him or her for their expected orders on Jan. 20. If the president-elect wants to cancel a covert operation or change its course, the decision is made ahead of time so the agency can prepare.

In 2000, then-President-elect Barack Obama made it clear that the detention and interrogation program would cease the moment he was in charge. That allowed Hayden to prepare to cut that program while keeping most other covert operations going full-bore.

You can learn a lot more about these briefings and their history in former-CIA Analyst John L. Helgerson’s book, Getting to Know the President. The book is available for free on the CIA’s website.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War

“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

So wrote 21-year old Nathan Hale before being hanged for espionage by the British on Sept. 22, 1776. Hale had originally been encouraged to join the revolution by an old Yale classmate, Benjamin Tallmadge.

Tallmadge and Hale had been close during their time at Yale and often exchanged letters. Three years after their graduation, Tallmadge wrote to Hale, newly an officer in the American forces, saying, “Was I in your condition, I think the more extensive service would be my choice. Our holy Religion, the honor of our God, a glorious country and a happy constitution is what we have to defend.”


Hale agreed with Tallmadge’s sentiment and soon accepted an assignment to do more than just fight–he would spy from behind enemy lines. Although Hale’s venture into espionage ended rather poorly, Tallmadge’s revolutionary feelings did not subside. Soon, he would find himself at the center of the American Revolution’s most important spy ring.

The Culper Ring, founded and supervised by Tallmadge, operated from late October in 1778 until the British evacuated New York in 1783. Although the ring was active for all five of these years, its most productive period was between 1778 and 1781.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

Benjamin Tallmadge with his son, William.

After Tallmadge brought the ring together, it was led by Abraham Woodhull and Robert Townsend, codenamed “Samuel Culper, Sr.” and “Samuel Culper, Jr.” respectively. The codename “Culper” came straight from George Washington himself, a slight alteration of Culpeper County, Virginia where Washington had worked as a surveyor in his youth.

The ring was highly sophisticated, using methods still familiar today. Couriers, invisible ink. and dead drops were the norm. Some messages were hidden in plain sight, coded within newspaper advertisements and personal messages. Supposedly, one woman, Anna Strong, was even able to use the clothes she hung to dry to send messages to other members of the ring. Codes and ciphers were standard practice. These methods enabled agents to send Tallmadge apparently innocent letters. Tallmadge could pick out individual words to decode messages.

While Woodhull and Townsend ran the show, many agents, couriers, and sub-agents were also involved. Caleb Brewster, Austin Roe, Anna Strong and the still-unidentified ‘Agent 355’ all played vital roles. Other members included Hercules Mulligan and his slave Cato. Mulligan warned in January, 1779 of British plans to kidnap or kill senior American leaders including Washington himself. Cato delivered the vital message.

Other agents included Joseph Lawrence, Nathan Woodhull (Abraham’s cousin), Nathaniel Ruggles, William Robinson and James Rivington. So solid was the ring’s security that its very existence remained unconfirmed until the 20th century. Even Washington himself couldn’t identify every Culper agent. Its strict security preserved both the ring and the lives of individual members, boosting their confidence in themselves and each other.

The Culper Ring’s successes, what spies call coups, were many. They warned of a surprise attack on newly arrived French troops at Newport, Rhode Island. The forces, properly warned, were able to foil British plans to devastate their men while they recovered from their transatlantic voyage. The Culper spies uncovered British plans to destroy America’s nascent economy by forging huge amount of Continental dollars. Continental dollars were soon withdrawn from circulation, replaced with coins by 1783.

Without the Culper Ring, Washington may have fallen for a raiding operation meant to divide his forces. In 1779, General William Tryon raided three main ports of Connecticut, destroying homes, goods in storage, and a number of public buildings. Tryon was attempting to split off a portion of Washington’s forces to allow British forces to rout the Americans.

Washington did not ride out to meet Tryon. Instead, Tryon’s forces rampaged through civilian land and the general was criticized by both American rebels and those who supported the British as barbarous.

By far the Culper Ring’s most important coup was exposing General Benedict Arnold. Arnold, whose name has entered the American language as a metonym for treachery, was in contact with British spy Major John André and planned to surrender West Point to the British. The Culper Ring warned Tallmadge of a high-ranking American traitor, but lacked his identity. Tallmadge identified Arnold when André was captured and later hanged for his treason. Although Arnold escaped with his life, West Point remained safe from the British.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

Benedict Arnold in 1776

Abraham Woodhull’s sister Mary is sometimes credited with exposing Major André and thus Benedict Arnold. André (alias John Anderson) fled when he realized he was under suspicion. Unlike the Culper Ring’s, André’s security was lax. That cost André his life, Arnold his reputation, and ultimately helped cost the British Empire its American colony.

Stopped by three soldiers, André first tried to bribe them to let him go. Instead of taking the bribe, the soldier, now actively suspicious rather than idly curious, searched him and found incriminating papers. The letters proved conclusively that André was a British spy. The information contained in André’s letters was almost useless to the British; their commander General Clinton already had it. They were, however, extremely valuable to Tallmadge.

André’s captured messages were in Benedict Arnold’s handwriting, making it suddenly clear who was leaking high-level information. Arnold fled for his life, going to England, then Canada. After alienating a number of business partners in New Brunswick, Arnold returned to England. André was not so lucky to escape the American forces–he would make a useful reprisal for the hanging of Tallmadge’s dear friend, Nathan Hale. Caught dead to rights by the Culper Ring, André would soon be dead, period.

Hale had been hanged on Sept. 22, 1776 at the tender age of 21. He died bravely, with composure, courage and dignity. André faced the gallows equally bravely on Oct. 2, 1780. Before his death he received a visitor: Colonel Tallmadge.

The two spent part of their time together talking. At one point André asked Tallmadge whether his capture and Hale’s were similar. Tallmadge, remembering his dead friend and perhaps feeling guilty at encouraging him to take a more active revolutionary role, replied, “Yes, precisely similar, and similar shall be your fate…”.

The British evacuated New York in mid-August, 1783. On Nov. 16 of the same year, Washington himself visited to mark the seventh anniversary of the American retreat from Manhattan. While there he met someone to whom he and his new nation owed a personal and national debt: Culper agent Hercules Mulligan.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The art of the rant according to Graham Allen, host of ‘Rant Nation’

We live in a time when anyone with a smartphone can become a viral internet star. The technology is literally in the palm of your hand. Hit “record,” hit “upload,” and you’ve got a potential audience numbering in the millions.

Few people understand that power better than Graham Allen, a 12-year U.S. Army veteran who has made a name for himself with his “daily rant” videos on social media. In a little more than two years, he’s released dozens of videos, racked up over 1 billion views, and landed a show on Glenn Beck’s BlazeTV.


Allen said that while ranting has brought him success, that is only one side of who he is. In addition to being “much quieter in person,” he enjoys spending time helping others in his community.

“It’s more fun to me to go feed the police departments working the night shift than it is to get a 100-million-view video,” Allen said.

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

Graham Allen displaying his love for America.

(Photo courtesy of Graham Allen’s Instagram)

Not that he took the videos all that seriously when he first started making them in 2016 while on a recruiting tour in Anderson, South Carolina. He’d gotten run off the road by an elderly person and pulled over to rant about bad drivers. He posted it, and it resonated well with a few people, so he kept at it.

“The rants kind of started off as a joke,” Allen said. The topics ranged from making fun of people at the gym to parents with bad kids to Hillary Clinton to teenagers. Then Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, knelt during the national anthem, and Allen’s videos took a turn toward the political — and many would say, the divisive.

“I made a video about that because it legitimately was something that I cared about, and that’s when everything kind of changed,” Allen said. “It went from a gag into this ‘Dear America, I’ll say it for you’ kind of thing.”

That was two years ago. Now, Allen has his own show, “Rant Nation,” on BlazeTV. Although he is the host of the show, he is very clear that he’s not a news anchor, journalist, or political commentator.

“I’m just a guy who believes what I believe and thinks what I think. […] I like to look at things from my own worldview and my own value standpoint,” he said. “So, I take things that people are talking about and things that people are passionate about, and instead of just repeating it, I really try to put the moral value around it.”

The success of the rant videos and landing a TV show have increased the pressure for Allen, but he’s taken steps to try to keep things moving in the right direction. One of those decisions was moving back to his home state of Mississippi, to a “nowhere” small town where he can stay connected to his roots.

“This thing is really starting to go, and I just really felt that if we move to these bigger places like all these other people do, then we would lose what it is that apparently people are latching onto,” Allen said.

He acknowledges that he entered the social media personality game at the right time — people like Mat Best had already successfully paved the way, and enough others had come before Allen and failed that he could see what worked and what didn’t.

And when he does something that doesn’t work — or if he realizes he was flat-out wrong about something — he’s not afraid to correct his error.

“I think that’s something that hardly anyone does,” Allen said, “because I don’t know everything, and I feel like I’ve been very open and honest about that, that I’m not the end-all, be-all on this thing, this is just what I think and what I feel.”

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Graham Allen with his wife and daughter.

(Photo courtesy of Graham Allen’s Instagram)

By that same logic, he’s also never regretted any videos or opinions he’s put out — even when they’ve drawn heavy criticism.

“One thing that I’ve done that I think is very different than anybody else is I don’t respond — I don’t get into battles with people, I don’t block comments, I don’t do any of that stuff,” Allen said. “If people want to say that I’m the worst person in the history of the world, I let them do it because if I didn’t, I would be a hypocrite, right?”

In terms of whether Allen considers himself a divisive figure, he contests that division is a sign of the times.

“We live in a culture now where you’re either left or you’re right, and, unfortunately, we can’t be friends, so that means we’re enemies now,” Allen said. “I don’t believe that, but there’s a lot of people that do. And so, because I’m very conservative — I’m a Southern-born and raised, gun-loving, freedom-loving, Christian conservative, that is who I am. Oh, and I’m a white guy at the same time. So, some people view me as the absolute worst thing that this country has to offer — I don’t think there’s any way for some people to not view me as divisive.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.