This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens - We Are The Mighty
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This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

Dan Sherman joined the Air Force in 1982 to be what was then called Security Police (now known as Security Forces). While serving in Korea in 1984, he met another airman who told him about how great it was to be in Electronic Intelligence (ELINT). The man spoke about it so often, it convinced Sherman ELINT was where he wanted to be as well. Sherman was unhappy with being in Security and often told others if he couldn’t cross-train to the ELINT career field, he would get out entirely. His peers told him his job in security was a critically manned field and his chances of cross-training out were zero.


As luck would have in Sherman was approved to train into ELINT, analyzing electromagnetic energy for intelligence value. He went to tech school in 1990 and was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. While he liked the job, he wasn’t thrilled with Offutt. He wanted to get back to Korea, and told his peers as much, even going so far as to say he wouldn’t re-enlist if he didn’t get orders there. His luck held again. A month later, he had the orders in hand.

He was enjoying his new career field and in 1992 was sent to Fort Meade, Maryland to train in an intermediate-level ELINT course at the National Security Agency (NSA) building there. His first day in town, he was ordered to report to the NSA for what he thought would be a quick introduction. His life was about to change forever.

According to his book “Above Black: Project Preserve Destiny,” Sherman was indoctrinated into an above Top Secret-level program involving what the Air Force called “Greys.” Grey are purported to be extra-terrestrial beings first encountered by the United States in 1947. Since the early 1960’s, it was revealed to Sherman, the U.S. government had been working on a way to communicate with the Greys. That’s where he came in. His mother was “visited by aliens” before he was born. She was the subject of genetic manipulation, the result would be bearing a child who could be more receptive to the way the Greys communicate, receiving transmissions and passing them on.

 

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens
This means something. This is important.

The Air Force had been waiting for Sherman his entire life. He was part of a new communication plan just coming to fruition. His mother was not supposed to be able to have children. When she was pregnant, little Dan Sherman was not supposed to survive for long. All through his life, people had been telling him how great the Air Force life was, making that life seem to be his own destiny. Now, here Sherman sat, ready to be what the USAF called an “Intuitive Communicator.”

After his regular training courses at the NSA, Dan was taken to an unknown location in a blue Air Force van with blacked out windows. He was given two pills and instructed on how to move waves on electronic screens with his mind. Once he was proficient, he was released and given new orders, now as part of Project Preserve Destiny, or PPD.

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

His first PPD base established what his life would become. Though he no longer took the pills, he and another airman would sit in a communications van for their shift. Sherman would receive the communication, which included his identifier, 118, a five-digit code, and then what Sherman came to believe were latitude and longitude coordinates. His first handler was a Grey Sherman nicknamed “Spock.”

One day during communication, something startled Sherman and he reached a new “plane.” The alien asked Sherman if this was intentional. When Sherman said it wasn’t, the alien ended the conversation. Sherman would try for months to repeat the situation. Eventually, he was able to, and asked “Spock” some questions about their race and how they were communicating. Sherman’s command was apparently unable to monitor his communications with the Greys, so he was free to ask what he wanted. But after this second meeting, Spock never returned and Sherman was transferred to a new PPD base.

His role at this second base was very similar, but this time “Spock” was gone forever. His new counterpart (whom Sherman nicknamed “Bones”) was more conversational and forthcoming. Sherman asked about how the beings age, procreate, travel through space, and if they had souls. Here are a few more answers from the Greys to questions posed by Sherman:

1. God

“You question answers itself.”

2. Time

They don’t travel through time but around time and from time to time.

3. Souls

“Any entity that realizes its existence has intellect and therefore must have a soul.”

4. Previous visits

They’ve been visiting Earth for a “very long time,” because its much easier to visit the past than it is today. They’ve contributed to the culture and technology of some civilizations.

5. Interbreeding

Sherman believes they interbred with Humans (whom the Greys call “water vessels”), most likely the Basque people of the Pyrenees region of Spain, whose language is completely unrelated to any other and whose genetic makeup is different from most humans.

6. Other Aliens

There are many.

7. Pooping

They do it, just different from the way humans do.

8. Mating

They do that too.

9. Life Span

They don’t see time the same way humans do, but they live approximately the same span.

10. Energy

Earth’s sun is unique and one day we will learn to use the same energy on a smaller scale.

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

When Sherman asked “Bones” about Project Preserve Destiny, the Grey abruptly ended their ongoing discussions. Shortly after that, the nature of the “comms” between the Air Force and the Greys changed. Sherman started receiving what he calls “abduction data,” complete with dates, geographic information, potential for recall (reabduction), and a 1-100 “pain scale.” Rememberign some of the coordinates, he traced some sites to the Florida panhandle, Upstate New York, and rural Wisconsin.

Increasingly isolated from the outside world, Sherman began to grow increasingly frustrated with his PPD work. He wanted to go back to ELINT or to get out entirely. The response from his command was that he could not only never go back to ELINT, but he could never separate from the Air Force now that he was part of PPD. He did the only thing he knew to do. In the book, Sherman says “the way I obtained my discharge is not a secret. Anyone can go back and see the reason emblazoned on my discharge papers. But certain self-incrimination legalities keep me from discussing it here.”

According an interview with Sherman on the website Exopolitics, which (*sigh*) studies the communications of aliens with humans, Sherman’s twelve years of Air Force service were exemplary. He earned an Air Force Commendation Medal, as well as three Air Force Achievement Medals and four Outstanding Unit Awards. he also served in the Persian Gulf War.

Sherman concluded his story with this:

I only wish I could have continued an otherwise wonderful career of which I was extremely proud. I miss serving my country and being part of the most sophisticated and well-trained military in the world.

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

With modern technology, US soldiers can learn the essentials of operating everything from grenade launchers to .50-caliber machine guns before they ever set foot on a firing range.


Soldiers with the New Jersey National Guard’s D Company, 1-114th Infantry Regiment recently conducted virtual-reality training on a number heavy weapons at the Observer Coach/Trainer Operations Group Regional Battle Simulation Training Center at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.

Capt. James Ruane, the company’s commander, explained the virtual-reality system to Insider, introducing how it works and how it helps the warfighter.

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New Jersey National Guard soldiers train with a heavy weapons simulator at the Observer Coach/Trainer Operations Group Regional Battle Simulation Training Center, Feb. 8, 2020.

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht

This virtual-reality system, known as the Unstabilized Gunnery Trainer (UGT), gives users the ability to operate mounted M240B machine guns, Mk 19 grenade launchers, and .50-caliber machine guns — all heavy weapons — in a virtual world.

“When the gunner has the goggles on, he’s able to look around, and it is almost like he’s in an actual mission environment,” Ruane told Insider.

The virtual-reality system is designed to mimic a heavy weapon mounted on a vehicle. In the simulated training environment, users can engage dismounted and mounted targets, as well as moving vehicles and stationary targets.

“It’s the same type of targets they would engage on a live-fire range,” Ruane said.

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A New Jersey National Guard soldier on a heavy weapons simulator, February 8, 2020.

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht

The “weapon” is designed to feel and function much like an actual machine gun or grenade launcher.

“When you pull the trigger and actually fire this thing, it moves,” the captain said. “It has the same recoil as a weapon system would. So it gives the gunner as real of an experience as you could have in a virtual environment.”

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A New Jersey National Guard soldier trains with a heavy weapons simulator, February 8, 2020.

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht

To operate the gun, the user even has to load ammunition.

There are, however, limitations to the system that prevent it from being a perfect one-for-one training platform for the real deal.

For example, this virtual-reality training platform does not factor things like jams or barrel changes in, despite both issues being important parts of operating a heavy machine gun.

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New Jersey National Guard soldiers practice on a Virtual Convoy Operations Trainer, February 9, 2020.

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht

In addition to the single gunner training system, there is also a convoy trainer for three vehicle crew members and a dismount.

“In this setup, you have a driver, you have a vehicle commander, and you have a gunner,” Ruane told Insider. “You also have the ability to have a dismount, and all members of that crew are plugged into the same virtual system.”

“They are all wearing the goggles,” Ruane added. “They all have weapons systems attached to the [VR] system, including a dismount who would have an attached M4.”

“They operate like a crew,” he said, telling Insider that while the training, usually carried out over the course of a weekend, is focused on taking troops through the gunnery tables, the simulator can also be used to train forces for convoy protection missions and other more complex mission sets.

The training normally involves two vehicle crews, but it could be connected to other systems for training with a platoon-sized element.

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A New Jersey National Guard soldier trains with a heavy weapons simulator, February 8, 2020.

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht

The company commander said he has seen marked improvements in performance since the introduction of the virtual reality trainer a few years back.

“I’ve definitely seen a dramatic improvement over the last five years,” the captain said.

“In the beginning, crews would have to go two or three times through gunnery,” Ruane, who has been with his company for five years now, told Insider, explaining that soldiers would make “simple mistakes.”

“Now,” he said, “crews are able to get through their engagements and get qualified as a crew” with some of “the highest scores that we’ve seen in the scoring cycle over the last five years.”

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New Jersey National Guard soldiers train with a heavy weapons simulator, February 8, 2020.

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht

Ruane says virtual reality has enhanced their training in a big way.

“A lot of people think, especially some old-school military people, think that the virtual-reality stuff takes away from the actual live-fire ranges, when in fact this is actually an enhancer,” he explained, adding that “when you get out to the live-fire ranges, it is going to be muscle memory at that point, and it’s going to go flawlessly.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Navy tradition that rewards ice cream for rescued pilots

Imagine you’re a Navy torpedo pilot in World War II. Your life is exciting, your job is essential to American security and victory, but you spend most days crammed into a metal matchbox filled with gas, strapped with explosives, and flying over shark-filled waters of crushing depths. But your Navy wants to get you back if you ever go down, so it came up with a novel way of rescuing you: ice cream bounties.


This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

The wake coming off this thing could easily drown even a strong swimmer.

(U.S. Navy History and Heritage Command)

Before helicopters were stationed on carriers after World War II, those massive ships had few good options for rescuing pilots who had to bail out over the sea. It’s not like they could just pull the floating city up alongside the swimming pilot and drop him a line. After all, carriers displace a lot of water and could easily swamp a swimmer. And rescuing a pilot like that would restrict or temporarily stop aircraft launches and recoveries.

So, carrier crews came up with a silly but effective way of rewarding boat crews and those of smaller ships for helping their downed pilots out: If they brought a pilot back to the carrier, the carrier would give them gallons of ice cream and potentially some extra goodies like a bottle or two of spirits.

The exact amount of ice cream transferred was different for different carriers, and it seems to have changed over time. But Daniel W. Klohs was a sailor on the USS Hancock in World War II, and he remembered being on the bridge the first time a destroyer brought back a pilot:

I told the captain (Hickey) that it was customary to award the DD with 25 gallons of ice cream for the crew and two bottles of whiskey for the Capt. and Exec. We ended up giving 30 gallons of ice cream because it was packed in 10-gallon containers. This set a new precedent for the return of aviators.

Carriers could rarely swing about, slow down, and pick up their own pilots, especially in the heat of battle. But a small destroyer or PT boat could fire a salvo of torpedoes at enemy subs and ships and then swing around and try to get a swimming pilot aboard.

Obviously, sailor to sailor, these rescues would’ve happened anyway. But the carriers figured that any goodwill they could foster in the other crews to rescue their pilots might help the aviators’ chances in the water. And while some submarines and other vessels had their own ice cream, it was a rare treat in most of the deployed Navy and Army. But carriers had massive freezers and stockpiles.

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

​Destroyers like the USS Yarnall could look forward to some well-earned desert if they were the ones to pass an aviator back to his carrier.

(U.S. Navy)

Tom Kocurko spent World War II in the Navy, serving on cruisers and destroyers and even wading ashore with Marines to direct naval gunfire. It was while he was on a destroyer escorting a carrier that he found out about the ice cream tradition.

“We’d get 10 gallons of ice cream every time we picked up a pilot, which was a real treat. So we started joking, ‘Let’s shoot one down.”‘

For the pilots, this could feel a bit reductive. Lt. Cmdr. Norman P. Stark was a Hellcat pilot in World War II, and he was shot down while attacking Japanese positions on Okinawa. After a controlled dive and crash into the ocean, his fellow aviators marked his location and called for rescue. A floatplane from a battleship pulled him out.

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

Coast Guard pilot Lt. John Pritchard helped rescue air crews in Greenland and surrounding waters, eventually disappearing while rescuing crewmembers from a lost bomber. Small planes like his could land in the water, pick up pilots, and return to a cutter or other ship.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

But then the battleship transferred him to a destroyer, and the destroyer crew was happy to have him … because of the ice cream:

After disembarking from the canvas bag, I was greeted like a long lost brother. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that they weren’t seeing me, but what I was worth to them–10 gallons of ice cream. Destroyer crews loved to rescue pilots. A pilot returned to his carrier was exchanged for 10 gallons of ice cream.

A little later in his history, available here, Stark says:

The Yarnall came alongside the Wasp, shot a line which was made fast, and I was transferred back to my Carrier. This was a dry trip. The 10 gallons of ice cream was passed to the Yarnall, and as they pulled away, I saw grins, from ear to ear. At least I had finally ascertained my true value–10 gallons of ice cream.

As carriers began to receive their own rescue helicopters after World War II, the tradition became less important. A Naval Aviation News reporter asked a helicopter crew about it in 1958:

Does the carrier greet the rescue crew with special treatment when a pilot is saved, like the old practice whereby a carrier gave a destroyer five gallons of ice cream for returning a downed pilot?
“You kidding?” a pilot asks. “They give us a hard time for delaying operations!”

But the first helicopter rescue of a carrier pilot was actually effected by a civilian crew from Sikorsky there to sell the Navy on the value of rescue helicopters in 1947. Since the helicopter pilot was a Sikorsky employee and not a member of the carrier crew, the carrier ponied up 10 gallons per pilot rescued.

The Sikorsky crew had picked up three downed pilots and so was lined up for a 30-gallon bounty which the carrier gave them all at once on their last day aboard. The Sikorsky pilot had to quickly gift the ice cream back to the carrier crew in an impromptu ice cream social since he couldn’t possibly eat 30 gallons in mere minutes.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US military is testing water-penetrating bullets

A new weapon being tested by the US military could give special operators a more lethal edge by allowing them to shoot underwater, according to Defense One.

The bullets, manufactured by DSG Technologies, are tipped with tungsten and create an gas bubble to allow the bullet to move rapidly through the water. Ordinary bullets don’t have this supercavitating effect, which means they move much more slowly through water.

While ordinary bullets can travel about half a mile per minute, that speed quickly slows to a complete stop when the bullet travels through denser materials like water.


According to DSG Technologies, “Depending on the weapon and the used loading variant, this ammunition is suitable for use in partial or fully submerged weapons, regardless of if the target is in water or on the surface.”

DSG Technology Presentation

www.youtube.com

A press officer with US Special Operations Command told Insider that the bullets were being tested by the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO). CTTSO confirmed to Insider that it is testing supercavitating ammunition, but declined to answer questions about whether Special Forces communities have been involved in the testing, or whether DSG Technologies is the company that provides the ammunition for testing.

DSG told Defense News that its ammunition is undergoing several tests with the military, including tests in which the bullets are fired from underwater up to the surface.

Odd Leonhardsen, DSG’s chief science officer, also told Defense One that DSG is selling the bullets to governments around the world, but did not specify where — although he did mention that those countries were testing the bullets by firing them from a helicopter into water.

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

CAV-X bullets.

According to Defense One, .50 caliber CAV-X bullets can travel 60 meters underwater, and can go through 2 centimeters of steel fired from 17 meters away, indicating that it could be used to penetrate submarines.

How the bullets actually create the gas bubble is unclear, Popular Mechanics reports, but they could somehow harness the gasses created from the gunpowder when the bullet is fired. Popular Mechanics also reports that the bullets are being developed to be compatible with existing weapons, indicating that bullets can be used in and out of the water.

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

popular

An Army officer was why Teddy Roosevelt had to quit boxing

America’s 26th President was well-known for his love of fisticuffs. He could be considered one of the world’s first mixed martial artists, considering his love for jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and, of course, boxing. He would have to give up boxing after holding a series of bouts at the White House. He challenged an Army artillery officer to a match, and the officer rung the Commander-In-Chief’s bell so hard, TR couldn’t see straight.

Literally.


Theodore Roosevelt’s glasses were so synonymous with the President, they might as well have been trademarked. The President had eye troubles from an early age and wore spectacles for all of his adult life. His glasses never prevented him from doing any of the amazing feats to which he is credited, including boxing matches. Just don’t call him “four eyes.”

Read more: This is how Teddy Roosevelt wins a bar fight

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens
Seriously though, don’t. (Library of Congress)

Even as President, he would get so caught up in his enthusiasm for boxing that he would ask professional boxers to hit him in the jaw as hard as possible, even while in the West Wing. And the President had no reservations about hitting those same boxers right back.

He challenged a military aide, Capt. Daniel T. Meade, to a boxing match at the White House. Knowing the Commander-In-Chief’s demand for the highest possible effort at all times and that he would be in trouble only if he didn’t give his boss the fight of his life, Capt. Meade delivered a blow that changed Roosevelt’s life forever.

Teddy Roosevelt boxing
“I guess I’ll just have to stick with Judo and Jiu Jitsu. Sincerely, Theodore.” (Naval History and Heritage Command)

Meade, the President, and Kermit Roosevelt were in the White House gym one day when Roosevelt told Meade to put on his boxing gloves.

“When you put on gloves with President Roosevelt, it was a case of fight all the way,” Meade later wrote. “… he wanted plenty of action, and he usually got it. He had no use for a quitter or one who gave ground and nobody but a man willing to fight all the time and all the way had a chance with him.”

Roosevelt wrote in his autobiography that Meade’s punch smashed the blood vessels in his left eye and “the sight has been dim ever since. … Accordingly, I thought it better to acknowledge that I had become an elderly man and would have to stop boxing.” Doctors later believed Meade’s hit may have detached part of Roosevelt’s retina.

This just seems rude.

For Meade’s part, he had no idea the hit blinded the President. Roosevelt would not reveal the fact that he was blinded by the hit until relaying the story in 1917, twelve years after the incident occurred. By this time, Capt. Meade had become Col. Meade and confirmed the story to The New York Times.

“I give you my word I didn’t know I had blinded the Colonel until I read about it in the paper a few days ago,” Meade told the New York Times. “I shall write the Colonel a letter expressing my regrets at the serious results of the blow.”


-Feature image: Public domain courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

MIGHTY HISTORY

40 years later, a documentary tells the story of Desert One: Delta Force’s ill-fated Operation Eagle Claw

Forty years ago, a two-day, American rescue mission launched on April 24 to free the hostages held by Iran in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. For John Limbert, who was held hostage for more than a year during his role as a diplomat in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, it feels like yesterday.


Last fall, the documentary “Desert One” debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival, telling the story of Operation Eagle Claw, the secret mission to free the hostages.
This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

“For better or worse, the film does bring back memories,” Limbert told We Are The Mighty.

“Memories fade, you don’t remember all the details and particularly when you’re in the middle of it, but that was one of the powers of the film.”

Desert One is a 107-minute documentary directed by Barbara Kopple. The film gives viewers an intimate look into the military response led by then-President Jimmy Carter to rescue 52 hostages that were being detained in Tehran, Iran in the U.S. Embassy and Foreign Ministry buildings. Ultimately, the mission was aborted due to unoperational helicopters, with zero hostages rescued, eight servicemen dead and several others severely wounded. The crisis received near 24-hour news coverage and is widely considered a component of Carter’s eventual landslide loss to Ronald Reagan.

Through interviews with hostages, Delta Force soldiers, military personnel and President Carter, as well as animation done by an Iranian artist intimately familiar with the topography of the country, Kopple’s film chronicles the mission from every aspect, taking care to tell the story through people who lived it, a detail that was paramount for the two-time Academy Award winner.

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

“You can’t tell a story unless you have a lot of different angles of people coming at it from different places,” Kopple said. “They’re all feeling something. Whether it’s the special operators, or the hostages, or the people in Carter’s administration – there are so many different elements to it, which is also why it drew us in. We didn’t want to leave any stone unturned. Why should we tell everything about the Americans’ experience and not tell everyone about the Iranian’s experience? We’ve got to know these things exist to communicate. That’s so important. It’s a tough thing to do, but a very important thing to do.”

The ill-fated Operation marked the emergence of special operations in the American military. In 1986, Congress passed the Nunn-Cohen Amendment, citing this tragedy as part of their justification. The amendment mandated the President create a unified combatant command for Special Operations, and permitted the command to have control over its own resources.

“The film captures the best of our military colleagues,” Limbert explained. “This wasn’t a suicide mission, but that’s what it was. They didn’t have to go, but they did it. I have nothing but admiration for them. It was me and my colleagues that they were trying to rescue. They were willing to do this for people they didn’t know. It’s absolutely amazing. That’s the strength of the film. That willingness to self sacrifice so beautifully.”

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

Desert One

Added Kopple, “What I felt is that these guys were all willing to give up their lives for the rescue. That was incredible that they wanted to get the American hostages out and they were a team. Even if one of them doubted it, they thought … well my buddies are going. They all had each other’s back — that thing inside of them not to leave anybody behind. That was their duty and that was their job.”

For Kopple, the hardest part of the filmmaking process was tracking down President Carter to speak on camera for his role in the mission and how it impacted his presidential legacy.

“I tried for three months [to get access] and there’s a guy named Phil who works for his administration who would never call me back,” she said. “So I started to have a relationship with his voicemail. I would tell them all about filming and every few days, I would call and beg him, ‘Please let us film President Carter.’ Three months had gone by and Phil called, and he introduced himself and I said, ‘I know, I’d know your voice anywhere.'”

Kopple was eventually granted just 20 minutes of access to the former president for the making of the film.

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

“He gave us 19 minutes and 47 seconds and we used a lot of it in Desert One,” Kopple said.

Desert One is expected to be released in movie theaters in late 2020 or early 2021, with an eventual television debut on the HISTORY channel.

“When you’re [making a film], you don’t think – where will this show?” Kopple said. “Hopefully the film presents an opportunity for Iranian and American audiences to find healing and reconcile with this very complicated history, not to stereotype people, [and] to really see who people are as individuals.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why you won’t see this awesome plane design in combat

Remember those super sweet toys from the 1990s, the planes with “backward” wings. The one that comes to mind for me is the old X-Men X-Jet. The new movies feature a plane that looks a lot more like an actual SR-71 Blackbird, but the old cartoons and the movie trilogy from the early 2000s had those distinctive, futuristic, forward-swept wings.


Why Do Backwards Wings Exist?

www.youtube.com

Well, those wings existed on actual planes, first in World War II and then in experimental designs through 1991. But you likely won’t see the iconic wings on any real fighters or bombers overhead, even though they allow planes to fly faster while still directing air over the craft’s control surfaces.

The inspiration for forward-swept wings dates back to World War II. As the warring powers developed faster and faster aircraft in the war, they eventually all found that, above a certain speed, pilots suddenly lost control of their aircraft. America tried to overcome this problem with brute force, and it backfired gruesomely in November 1941.

On November 4, Lockheed test pilot Ralph Virden was piloting a P-38 in a controlled dive when he activated spring-loaded servo-tabs that were supposed to help him regain level flight. Instead, they overstressed the plane and caused the tail to tear away. The plane crashed, and Virden was killed.

Eventually, plane designers figured out a more graceful solution to the problem. If they swept the wings, then the airflow would shift, and the shockwaves wouldn’t form. But, when the wings are swept back, the new airflow creates a new problem. The air starts flowing quickly along the wings away from the body of the aircraft, creating stall conditions at the tips of the wings.

And those tips of the wings hold the ailerons. A stall in that region robs the pilot of the ability to roll the aircraft, a vital capability in combat.

So, in 1984, DARPA, NASA, and other agencies launched the X-29 for the first time. It was an experimental aircraft with its wings pointed forward from the body of the aircraft, same as the old X-Men jet. And the Germans actually had a design in World War II with similar characteristics, the Junker 287.

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

The Russian Su-47 had a similar wing design to the American X-29, but neither plane was adopted for combat use.

(Jno, CC BY 2.5)

The X-29 had some amazing characteristics compared to its more conventional brethren in the air. It had less induced drag, meaning that it had a better balance of lift-to-drag at high speed. And that allowed it to be up to 20 percent more efficient than it would be with wings swept to the rear. Best of all, the plane would be super-maneuverable even at high speeds. A Russian plane, the Su-47, saw similar advantages.

But designers found in their models, their wind tunnel tests, and actual flight tests, that the X-29’s wings created a lot of problems.

First, the wings had to be made extra strong to deal with the additional stress of the wind hitting those leading edges of the wing far from the body. And, the plane had trouble maintaining its pitch, even with those canards mounted near the cockpit.

But worst of all, the air flowing over all these control surfaces was simply too chaotic for a pilot to control. So, in the X-29, pilots had three computers working together to adjust the flight surfaces 40 times per second. These computers worked to keep the aircraft stable so the pilot could give their inputs according to what they wanted the plane to do rather than constantly having to prevent crashes.

But, if the computers ever all failed in flight at the same time, it was likely that the pilot would encounter an irrecoverable spin or other emergency. So, when the computers all failed on the ground during testing, it sent a shudder through the program. A DARPA history page about the plane even calls it “the most aerodynamically unstable aircraft ever built.”

Still, with all the advances in AI and computers, there might be a place for a design like the X-29 if not for one additional problem: forward-swept wings seem to be inherently less stealthy than wings swept to the rear or a delta-wing design like that of the B-2.

So, with the X-29 less stable and also inherently less stealthy than other designs, the U.S. decided to continue using rear-swept designs in combat aircraft, and it’s unlikely that you’ll ever look up to see something like the X-Jet supporting you from overhead.

But at least it looks cool in movies.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The ‘Waffle House Index’ tells FEMA how to worry about storms

No one endures a national state of emergency like the Waffle House. For those who don’t live near the 2,000-plus locations spread out across 25 states, a Waffle House is a restaurant that harnesses the enduring image of the all-night truck stop greasy spoon. The most outstanding thing about the food at a Waffle House is that it’s always available 24-7, rain or hurricane.

But when your local Waffle House is suddenly not open, you know it’s time to head for the hills.


Waffle Houses have a loyal following in the areas where they operate, and it’s not just truckers and the late night, post-drinking crowd. A good slice of Americans would tell you that Waffle House produces the kind of food they love.

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens
And heroes. Waffle House produces goddamn heroes.

The restaurant chain is so reliable during disasters that FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, actually closely monitors the activities of local Waffle House restaurants to prepare for potential economic damage and make risk-management decisions. They call it the “Waffle House Index,” and it’s not just a measure of the danger of a storm, it’s a barometer for economic recovery.

The Waffle House Index has three levels of severity. Green means a Waffle House is open and serving a full menu, yellow means the menu is limited to just a few options, and red indicates the Waffle House was forced to close, its crew has skipped town, and you probably should, too.

The reason is that Waffle House operates a huge number of stores in the American South and Southeast. Their properties and supply chain are always vulnerable to extreme weather conditions faced on the U.S. coasts. In the event of an emergency, the chain is able to quickly inform employees and move supplies to secure warehouses. Once the crisis has passed, the Waffle House is usually the first business open in the aftermath.

It’s not only in the public’s (and FEMA’s) best interest to monitor dangerous storms. For Waffle House, who maintains a storm watch center, it keeps the company’s product and supply chain intact and ready to re-open for business. Food, after all, is not a product that stands the test of time. The company has generators, supplies, and staff ready to go as soon as the all clear is given.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, it wasn’t just fry cooks and waitresses that flocked back to North Carolina after the storm. Waffle House sent in construction teams and IT personnel, all lead by the company’s CEO. The supply staging strategy used by Waffle House is the same method used by the U.S. Military and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in case of a national crisis or theater-level operation.

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Waffle House Restaurant torn apart by Hurricane Katrina on the Biloxi, Mississippi, coast.

(Library of Congress)

While the Waffle House Index is a decent risk indicator, it’s not always 100-percent perfect. Waffle Houses closed in the wakes of Hurricanes Katrina, Matthew, and Harvey. The Waffle House in Joplin, Mo. remained open during the devastating tornado that hit the town in 2011. The Waffle House survived, but much of the rest of the town did not.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

9 epic photos of riverine sailors preparing for combat

The U.S. Navy’s Coastal Riverine Squadron 1 is proving itself right now in preparation for mobilization, and its sailors have been showing off at tasks from convoy security to medical aid to speeding around in boats (a fun and major part of their mission) in complex tasks at Camp Pendleton, California.


So, it’s a bunch of badass sailors playing with machine guns and boats in Southern California. Wanna see some photos? Yeah, of course you do.

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(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

Engineman 2nd Class Christian McCain of Arlington, Texas engages opposing forces while dismounted with a M240 machine gun.

.

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine

In a March 2019 executive order, President Trump made a clear avenue for U.S. military veterans to transition into the Merchant Marine after their military service ends. This is a great thing for the men and women of the U.S. military who want to continue a life of service, but many will wonder what exactly the Merchant Marine is and what serving in it really requires.


During peacetime, the Merchant Marine is not a part of the military, but they do support military operations aboard ships like Kaiser-class replenishment oilers and Hope-class vehicle cargo ships. Its regular mission is the import and export of cargo in and out of the United States.

Components of the Merchant Marine are both civilian sailors and government-owned ships. During wartime, the Merchant Marine can be used as the sealift component of the U.S. Naval Reserve.

1. Call them “Mariners”

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A Merchant Marine Academy graduation ceremony.

While the Merchant Marine could go by many names, the preferred term is “mariner.” The terms sailor, seaman, and Marine are used elsewhere, and merchant mariners don’t need to try and be more than they are – they have an illustrious history of their own.

2. It has an illustrious history of its own

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“Look out! Americans!”

So much so, it’s worth mentioning twice. The merchant mariners of the United States have existed in some form or another since the founding of our country, and have distinguished themselves in “getting the stuff to the fight” whenever called upon.

Their first action came when a bunch of merchants off the coast of what is now Maine boarded a lumber schooner and sailed out to the HMS Margaretta in the aftermath of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Yes, this is during the American Revolution.

The lightly-armed rabble of merchant seamen not only captured the Royal Navy’s armed sloop of war, they harassed the British for the remainder of the war.

3. It officially dates back to 1936

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In the days leading up to World War II, Congress and President Roosevelt passed the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, which states:

“It is necessary for the national defense… that the United States shall have a merchant marine of the best equipped and most suitable types of vessels sufficient to carry the greater portion of its commerce and serve as a naval or military auxiliary in time of war or national emergency…

4. War is not kind to the mariners

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When the declaration of war on Japan forced the nationalization of the merchant marine fleet, it was a merger of American government needs and interest combined with the private sector’s means of getting the men and cargo to their destinations – for which the companies received handsome contracts. Weapons and armed guards from the U.S. Navy were then posted on ships.

And while you may think merchant shipping seems like an easy place to ride out the war, you’d be wrong. The merchant marine suffered the highest casualty rate of any branch serving in the war. For every 26 people who served aboard merchant marine ships, one of those would die, at a rate of almost four percent.

5. They didn’t get veteran status for 30 years

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens
Retired Merchant Marine captain Paul Washburn sits on top of a Merchant Marine life boat.

After all was said and done and American GIs went home and bought houses and went to college, merchant mariners struggled for the same benefits for risking their necks just as much as the guys who fought in the Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. World War II merchant mariners weren’t afforded veteran status until 1988.

Merchant Mariners who worked in hostile waters during the Korean War, Vietnam War, and Desert Storm are still waiting for veteran status.

6. The Merchant Marine never stops

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens
Oil and gas tankers on the high seas.

When the treaties are signed, and the troops go home, the U.S. Merchant Marine still has a lot of work to do. Who do you think took all those men and vehicles back to the United States? Or moved occupation troops to Japan? Or hauled cargo for the Marshall Plan in Europe?

The Merchant Marine.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Kurds just launched their ‘endgame battle’ against ISIS

The moment the people of Iraq and Syria have waited so long to see has finally arrived: the Kurdish SDF are assaulting the last ISIS stronghold in the Middle East. For years, ISIS and its so-called caliphate conquered and subjugated people across the two countries – including the Kurds, against whom they committed numerous atrocities.

It’s all in the past now, as the U.S.-backed Kurdish SDF just brought the war on ISIS to their last doorstep.


In the small Syrian town of Baghuz, near its eastern border with Iraq, ISIS fighters are using smoke and suicide bombers to try to slow the progress of the Kurds as they roll through ISIS’ last stronghold. The SDF waited weeks before assaulting the area in an attempt to allow innocent civilians to flee the combat zone. Now, the battle has begun, and it’s not looking good for the Islamic State, despite its potentially thousands-strong numbers.

No one in the region will be particularly sad to see the threat of the Islamic Caliphate dissipate. In 2014, the Islamic State saw a surprisingly easy territory grab across Iraq and Syria, capturing weapons, vehicles, cash, and oil in a blitz of unprecedented success.

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

Kurdish SDF forces have arrested scores of ISIS fighters trying to flee the area.

Inside the captured territory, life under ISIS rule was harsh and repressive, with dire consequences for noncompliance. Under the strictest forms of Islamic law, civilians would be put to death for offenses ranging from smoking cigarettes to dancing. The terror group destroyed numerous historical and religious sites considered blasphemous by their brand of Islam and threatened persecution and genocide against religious and ethnic minorities they considered apostates.

Kurdish fighters in Syria and Iraq began to strike back just as fast. U.S.-backed Kurdish and Iraqi forces had retaken all ISIS-held territory in Iraq by the end of 2017. Though Syria remains a country fractured by civil war, at least one faction is finally on its last leg as the SDF empties the last pocket of ISIS.

At the end of the operation, American forces are likely to go home, as President Donald Trump has restated time and again, most recently in the 2019 State of the Union Address. They are slated to leave Syria by the end of April. For the U.S.-backed Kurdish militias, the future is far from certain.

Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, considered armed Kurdish groups in Syria to be terrorist groups, no better than ISIS itself. Turkey maintains a large presence in Syria after intervening in the country in 2015. To date, Turkey has struck SDF positions numerous times, despite U.S. warnings – and the SDF has promised retaliation for any Turkish attacks in Syria.

Military Life

4 reasons why troops need to be a little salty

Parents tend to teach their kids that kindness is one of the greatest traits a human can exhibit. When those kids eventually join the military, they’ll learn that they need to drop the niceties before too long.

Troops should show a general politeness toward their peers — after all, the military wouldn’t function if everyone was truly spiteful toward one another. We’d never recommend that you treat others like dirt, but every service member must obtain a certain level of saltiness in order to get through their career.


In a way, military life is the reversal of civilian norms. In the military, kindness is negatively received; being assertive and salty is the only way to get what you want. We’re not saying this is bad or good — it’s just the weird life that troops live.

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help others out.

(Photo by Spc. L’Erin Wynn)

Your kindness will be perceived as weakness

Before any of this gets twisted, kindness isn’t a weakness and showing genuine empathy toward your fellow troop isn’t going to kill you. In fact, showing your brothers- and sisters-in-arms compassion will take you far and may save a life some day.

However, the harsh reality is that there are no brakes on the military train. Slowing down for others and offering a helping hand isn’t always smiled upon. When you pause to help someone who’s stalled, in the eyes of many, there are now two impediments.

It’s not an pleasant circumstance, but that’s how life in the military goes.

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

(Photo by Staff Sgt. R.J. Lannom)

Your kindness will get pushed to the limits

There’s another side to the compassion coin. Offer your help too readily and others will take advantage. One favor leads to three. “Hey, can you get me…” quickly turns into, “you don’t mind, do you?”

In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be any toxic leadership in the military. Everyone would take unit morale into consideration, do their part, and ensure tasks are completed on schedule. Unfortunately, when people find it easier to get someone else to their job, they’ll take that road.

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

But they’re not mutually exclusive in combat situations.

(Photo by Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal)

Your saltiness will get things done

Aggression and anger are not essential traits of great leaders. A first sergeant who never yells still commands the same respect as a first sergeant who barks at everyone. It is entirely possible to be assertive and state your intentions to others without shouting.

…but most people won’t see it that way. The moment you raise your voice, people listen. If you’re of a lower rank, people will assume you’re ready for a leadership position — in actuality, yelling and true leadership skills are apples and oranges.

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

Troops will rarely give an honest answer if their first sergeant asks them how are they doing, even if it’s meant sincerely.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Your saltiness won’t ever get questioned

Being nice will cause everyone to question your motives. Other troops will think you’re up to something, trying to work them over. Conversely, there’re almost no repercussions for being a dick to everyone.

The higher your rank, the less people will wonder why you’re grouchy. Everyone just accepts it as normal, everyday life. Niceties at that rank set off alarms in the lower ranks or just confuse everyone.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The president is getting a new Marine One after almost 60 years

Marine One is an icon of the presidency and for the most part, one helicopter has carried that load for almost 60 years: The VH-3, which first carried President Eisenhower in 1961. The current D model of the VH-3 entered service in 1978 and was later backed up with the introduction of the VH-60N in 1987. But, the fact remains that both of these helicopters are getting older by the day.


The first effort to replace them was the VXX program. This program got started in the wake of the 9/11 attacks when some possible shortcomings in the current Marine One airframes were identified. The program was marred by frequent delays, cost overruns, constantly changing requirements, and unresponsiveness on the side of the U.S. government. In 2009, the program was called off.

The need for a new Marine One remained.

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The VH-3D Sea King has been used as Marine One since 1978.

(White House photo by Paul Morse)

So, the Corps started work on a new Marine One program in 2010, culminating with a requests for proposals in 2012. Sikorsky, now a division of Lockheed, won the second round of the competition in 2013. This time around, the Marines are going about getting their new Marine One very differently. The Marine One replacement’s acquisition strategy is centered on two main principles: First, well-defined and achievable requirements, and second, a low-risk, technical approach.

The latter is epitomized by the use of the S-92 helicopter (in essence, a souped-up UH-60) that has seen service with a number of civilian, government, and military operators ranging from China Southern Airlines to the Canadian Navy (as the CH-148 Cyclone). Plans call for 23 VH-92s, as it is designated, to replace both the VH-3 and VH-60 by 2023. These choppers can be hauled anywhere in the world on a C-17 Globemaster III or C-5 Galaxy cargo plane.

This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

The other Marine One, the VH-60N, has been used since 1987.

(White House photo by Eric Draper)

Now, you may wonder why so the US government wants so many of these helicopters? Well, the current composition of HMX-1’s Marine Ones is a total of 11 VH-3Ds and 8 VH-60Ns. That’s because, these days, Marine One never flies alone. Often, as many as five “Marine Ones” will be in the air, creating, in essence, a five-card monte game for a terrorist. While Marine One hasn’t been attacked in real life, it was shot down by a narco-terrorist in the 1990 novel Under Siege written by Navy veteran Stephen Coonts. Of course, the new Marine One is equipped with multiple countermeasure systems to protect against such an attack should the worst happen.

The VH-92 will be expected to handle the important duty of Presidential transport for a long time. It certainly will have big shoes to fill coming after the distinguished service provided by the VH-3 and VH-60.

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