This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII - We Are The Mighty
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This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

If you pay attention, you might sometimes see long, cigar-shaped pods firmly attached to the undersides of classic fighter and attack aircraft, sometimes with unit markings on them.

Known as “drop tanks,” these simple devices extend the range of the aircraft they’re hooked up to by carrying extra usable fuel. Back during World War II, however, attack pilots found a secondary use for drop tanks as improvised bombs, used to bombard enemy ground positions.


Drop tanks became popular in the late 1930s as a means for fighters to carry more fuel for longer escort and patrol missions. Easily installed and removed, they were a quick solution for the burgeoning Luftwaffe’s fighter and dive bomber fleets, which would prove to be instrumental in the opening months of WWII.

By the onset of WWII, air forces with both the Axis and Allies were experimenting with the use of drop tanks in regular combat operations. In the European theater, British and German pilots stuck to using their drop tanks as range-extenders. American fighter pilots changed the game.

 

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII
A P-47 Thunderbolt with a drop tank.

(US Air Force)

Though it wasn’t common practice, P-47 Thunderbolt pilots were noted for their creativity in combat, switching their fuel feed selector to their internal tanks while making a low pass over an enemy position. With relative precision, they would jettison their drop tanks, still filled with a decent amount of fuel, before climbing away.

After releasing their tanks, pilots would swoop back around and line up again with their target. If they timed it right and aimed well, a long burst from their cannons would ignite the fuel left inside the tanks, blowing them up like firebombs.

This didn’t always work, however, especially as paper tanks became popular during the war as a method of conserving metal. So, by the end of the war, American crews in both the European and Pacific theaters had to refine their drop-tank technique.

Instead of pilots peppering the tanks with shells from their cannons, they’d simply fill up the tanks with a volatile mixture of fuel and other ingredients to form rudimentary napalm bombs, which would detonate upon impact.

 

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII
USAF F-51D Mustangs dropping tanks repurposed as napalm bombs during the Korean War

(US Air Force)

By the time the Korean War started, the newly-formed US Air Force had cemented the practice of filling drop tanks with napalm and using them as makeshift bombs for low-level close air support missions. According to Robert Neer in his book, Napalm: An American Biography, British statesman Winston Churchill notably decried the practice of using napalm during the Korean conflict, calling it cruel and noting the increased likelihood of collateral damage and casualties during napalm strikes.

In the Vietnam War, the use of napalm expanded greatly, though factories now began building bombs specifically designed to carry napalm internally. Today, the US military has virtually ceased using napalm as a weapon. Here’s what life is like for US Army Tankers, today. 

Humor

6 of the least effective ‘training’ exercises that soldiers will love

Coming up with a training exercise that is engaging is required of every junior NCO on a weekly basis. If a leader trusts their Joes, this should be a time to reward his or her troops with something that is less useful and more enjoyable.

You can cut your troops some slack and tell the higher-ups that you’re focusing on team building and squad integrity through less intensive tasks if you re-title the exercises carefully. Hell, if it works for NCOER bullets, why can’t it work for training?


If all goes according to plan, the Joes should be out of there faster than first sergeant can say, “zonk.”

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

Translation: “Send them back to the barracks and have them clean until whenever.”

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jason E. Epperson)

Proper cleaning of living spaces

“Hygiene is important to the health and wellbeing of the soldiers. They are tasked with ensuring their personal living accommodations are kept in good order to mitigate the risk of illness. They will continue until satisfactory.”

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

Translation: “Let them play video games.”

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Randall Pike)

Cost-effective combat simulations

“Combat readiness is a must. In the interim between field exercises and live-fire ranges, we must also test troops’ skills in a simulated battle zone. To do this, we will forgo any expenses from the unit’s budget and rely on the tools available.”

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

Translation: “Send them on a PX run.”

(Photo by Spc. Taryn Hagerman)

Procuring supplies in an urban environment

“Soldiers must always know how to gather necessary supplies in any location. This includes securing means of hydration, food, and whatever else may be mission-critical. An ability to come by these in a densely populated region is as vital as any other.”

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

Translation: “Have them just go on a computer and hope they do their SSD1.”

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Kennedy Benjamin)

Discovering knowledge of the world around them

“We live in an ever-changing and interconnected world. To keep troops informed, each troop has their own means of communication. They are also encouraged to conduct correspondence courses while there.”

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

Translation: “Grab a bite to eat with your troops.”

(Photo by Maj. Ramona Bellard)

Proper dieting practices

“A sign of a true leader is knowing how their troops eat when not in the field. Keeping troops at peak performance is mission-critical and great dieting practices are a force multiplier.”

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

Translation: “Just send them home and hope they don’t do anything stupid along the way.”

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell)

Land navigation in a familiar setting

“Given two points that a troop is very familiar with, plot a point and execute a maneuver between the company area and the location of their barracks. Given that most transportation in-country is done via vehicles, it would behoove them to get to their destination with whatever vehicle necessary. Expedience is key.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

How many MREs it takes to get a lethal dose of Tabasco

Now, don’t panic, but there is a lethal limit of hot sauce. Well, at least there is a limit in theory. There’s no record of a person ever drinking hot sauce to death, and very few cases of lethal pepper exposure. But you’re not going to run into the limit just dashing hot sauce on your MRE, no matter how poorly spiced the components are out of the packaging.


This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

An Army lieutenant general visits with his troops, but they can’t stop thinking about the hot sauces on their table that they’d rather be spending time with.

(U.S. Army Master Sgt. Mark Woelzlein)

The potentially dangerous chemical in Tabasco is the spice which gives it the punch: capsaicin. It’s the same stuff that’s in some pepper sprays and mace. Acute capsaicin poisoning usually comes after people handle or eat a lot of extremely hot chili peppers. There are a few cases of lethal poisoning from chili powders, but that’s extremely rare. A 1980 study estimated that you would need three pounds of an extreme chili powder to suffer a lethal dose.

Tabasco is a bit more diluted than straight peppers, and much less concentrated than the most potent chili powders. Tabasco has between 100 and 300 mg of Capaiscin per kilogram.

And researchers have estimated the lethal dose of a human at between 60 and 190mg/kg (that’s based on mouse research, though). A 180-pound Marine weighs just over 81.5 kilograms. And so he or she would need to eat just over 15.5 grams of straight capsaicin.

In a 1982 study, scientists studied the lethal dose of not just capsaicin, but Tabasco in particular. Using their estimates, half of Marines/adults weighing 150 pounds would be killed if they consumed 1,400 ml. That’s over 40 ounces of Tabasco. Yup, you would need to switch out the 40 of beer after work for one of Tabasco to get a lethal dose.

And those packets in MREs? Those are about 1/8 an ounce each, so over 320 packets all at once. And the death would not be pretty.

Rats in that 1982 study suffered hypothermia, tachypnoea, and lethargy. Capsaicin poisoning is also associated with extreme gastrointestinal distress, internal swelling, diarrhea, vomiting and more. It’s not a pretty way to go.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time two Navy legends fought a duel with Marines

In 1818, two of the Navy’s most famous names, Oliver Hazard Perry and Stephen Decatur, were involved, one as a participant and the other as his second, in a duel that was the culmination of a two-year-long dispute about Navy discipline and the limits of a commander’s powers.


It was an era when dueling was all too common.

“In the United States, dueling’s heyday began at around the time of the Revolution and lasted the better part of a century,” wrote author and researcher Ross Drake for Washington’s Smithsonian Institute. “This was especially true in the Navy, where boredom, drink, and a mix of spirited young men in close quarters on shipboard produced a host of petty irritations ending in gunfire.”

In the late summer of 1816, the USS Javawhich Perry commanded, was stopped at Messina, Sicily, when Perry became displeased with what he considered the unsatisfactory appearance and attitude of the ship’s Marines. Capt. John Heath, the Marine commander, added to the problem by responding — at least in Perry’s opinion — with what Perry later called, “marked insolence.”

The incident escalated to the point that the two men had words. Perry allegedly shouted that Heath was a “damned rascal and scoundrel” and had “not acted as a gentleman.” Perry then summoned 2nd Lt. Parke G. Howle, the Marine detachment’s second in command, and relieved Heath. In a rash and thoughtless act, Perry, who was known for is short and violent temper, then slapped Heath.

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII
Oliver Hazard Perry standing at the front of a small boat after abandoning his flagship, the Lawrence at the Battle of Lake Erie. (Library of Congress)

Lieutenant Howle stepped between the men and no further blows were exchanged — but the damage had been done.

According to a Midshipman Mackenzie, who was aboard the Java at the time, the “following day was a gloomy one on board the Java. The officers and crew had the most profound respect for their commander, [Perry], and were strongly attached to his person; the victim of uncontrolled passion, he became an object of their pity; he was himself overcome with shame and mortification.” Perry meanwhile, realizing he had acted in anger, had a fellow officer write to Heath saying that Perry regretted what had happened and was in “readiness to make an honorable and personal apology.” 

It was, however, not enough for Heath or the other Marine officer on the Java, who thought Perry’s actions had insulted the entire Corps.

Related: This fight proves Stephen Decatur is the most intense sailor ever

On Dec. 31, 1816, a court-martial was convened to hear the charges that had been placed against Heath, namely disrespectful and insolent conduct towards a superior officer, neglect of duty, and disobeying orders, which involved what Perry considered an unacceptable delay in going after deserting Marines. Heath was found guilty of all but the last charge and was sentenced to receive a verbal reprimand from the Commodore of the squadron. Perry was also found by the court to have himself used “disrespectful language” toward a fellow officer and to have slapped him.

The incident became a major controversy in the Navy, gave birth to front page newspaper stories, and even ignited calls — that were ignored — for a Congressional investigation.

In the summer of 1817, Heath, who had then been dismissed from the service, published a pamphlet about the incident in which he referred to Perry, among other things, as “the slave of the most violent and vindictive passions” who could “descend to acts of revenge and cruelty.”  Perry was also, Heath wrote, filled with “the most consummate arrogance” and “a spirit of the rankest malevolence.”

A duel between the men became inevitable.

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII
Pistol duels, like the one depicted above, were all too common at the time.

As preparations for the meeting began, Perry, who had always opposed dueling, wrote to Decatur saying that he would meet Heath and stand in the duel, but he would not fire. He also asked Decatur to serve as his second, and Decatur traveled to New York to oblige. The two men finally met near Hoboken, New Jersey in October 1818, more than two years after the original incident. Heath and Perry stood back to back, marched five paces each, and wheeled. Heath fired missing Perry who, true to his word, handed his unfired pistol to Decatur.

Decatur then approached Heath, told him that Perry had all along intended not to fire and asked if Heath’s honor was not satisfied. Heath said it was.

It was over.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Watch celebrities challenge each other to push-ups for veterans

Pairing athletes with military veterans just makes sense. Both have a team mentality, dedication to their uniform and all the meaning associated with it, and — most importantly — a deep connection to their fellow teammates. It may (or may not) surprise some to learn that making film and television is very much a team sport as well. The cast and crew have to operate in tandem and rely on one another for success. Physical fitness is also a very important aspect to all three lifestyles.

So, it makes sense that movie stars are getting into the latest social media trend: push-ups for veterans.


In 2015, FOX NFL insider Jay Glazer created the nonprofit Merging Vets and Players to match separated combat veterans and former professional athletes to help the vets deal with transitioning out of their old team — the U.S. military — and into civilian life. He wanted to show that the country cared about what happens to them when the uniform comes off, that the skills they picked up in service to the United States are still applicable in their new lives, and that professional athletes could help show them their true potential.

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

Glazer was soon joined by Nate Boyer, a U.S. Army Special Forces veteran and player for both the Texas Longhorns and Seattle Seahawks who is very active in the veteran community. He believes the two worlds have a lot in common.

“Both war fighters and football players need something to fight for once the uniform comes off, and your service to country or time on the field is over,” Boyer says. “Without real purpose for the man on your right and left, it can be easy to feel lost.”

Related: Nate Boyer climbs Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water

With Glazer’s access to the world of the NFL and its players combined with Boyer’s impeccable credentials in the military-veteran community and unique knowledge of the struggles returning veterans face, the nonprofit offers peer support between the athletes and veterans, as well as physical training and challenges at locations across America.

One of those challenges recently caught on with another group: movie stars. Glazer challenged all the members of his elite LA-based training center, Unbreakable Performance, to a 25 push-up challenge. For every member who publicly posts their 25 push-ups, TV personality and NFL alum Michael Strahan will donate fitness equipment to Merging Vets and Players. It immediately got a response.


Chris Pratt, star of Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World was challenged by Strahan specifically. He answered the call, then challenged Jack Ryan star, John Krasinski, who challenged both Captain America Chris Evans and The Rock to pump out 25 for Merging Vets and Players.


They both did their 25. In the days that followed, Pratt’s Guardians of the Galaxy co-star Dave Bautista answered the call, as did Caleb Shaw, and Sylvester Stallone. Recently challenged stars include Mark Walhberg, LeBron James, and even Snoop Dogg.

The 25 push-up challenge didn’t stop with celebrities, though. Veterans who follow Merging Vets and Players, as well as MVP alumni, are also posting their 25 push-up challenge videos on Instagram and Twitter.

Follow Glazer’s @unbreakableperformance or @mergingvetsandplayers on instagram to keep track of the latest responders to the #25PushUpChallenge.

For more about Merging Vets and Players, visit the MVP Website.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The first Japanese aircraft carrier in 75 years begins conversion

At the Japan Maritime United Isogo shipyard in Yokohama, JS Izumo DDH-183 has entered into the process of being converted to a genuine aircraft carrier. Currently designated as a helicopter destroyer, Izumo does not have the capability to operate fixed-wing aircraft from her deck. In the first of two main stages of her conversion, coinciding with her regular 5-year refit and overhaul programs, Izumo will receive upgrades to accommodate Japan’s new F-35B Lightning II fighter jets.


Following the surrender of the Japanese Empire in WWII, the Imperial Japanese Navy had only three aircraft carriers left in its fleet: Hōshō survived the war as a training carrier, Junyō had been damaged during the Battle of the Philippine Sea and was awaiting repairs, and Katsuragi could not be equipped with enough fuel, aircraft, or pilots by the time she was completed in late 1944. Hōshō and Katsuragi would ferry Japanese servicemen back to Japan until 1947 when all three surviving carriers, along with three unfinished carriers, were scrapped.

Article 9 of Japan’s post-war 1947 Constitution renounced war as “a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.” As a result, a Japanese Navy could not be formed as a military branch for power projection. Rather, Japan created the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force as a branch of the Japan Self-Defense Forces in 1954. Though the JMSDF is tasked with the naval defense of the Japanese islands, Japan’s partnership with Western countries during the Cold War led its focus on anti-submarine warfare to combat the Soviet Navy.

In 2007, Japan launched two Hyūga-class helicopter destroyers. With their flat-top decks, the Hyūgas were often called Japan’s first aircraft carriers since WWII. However, they were only capable of operating rotary-wing aircraft from their decks and had no launch or recovery capabilities for even VTOL fixed-wing aircraft. Doctrinally, the Hyūgas were used as flagships for anti-submarine operations.

Launched in 2013, Izumo is the lead ship in her class and the replacement for the Hyūgas. Displacing 27,000 long tons fully loaded, Izumo and her sister ship, Kaga DDH-184, are the largest surface combatants in the JMSDF. Like the Hyūgas before, Izumo is a helicopter destroyer that carries rotary-wing aircraft and is tasked with anti-submarine operations. However, in December 2018, the Japanese government announced that Izumo would be converted to operate fixed-wing aircraft in accordance with new defense guidelines.

Japan’s updated defense policy called for a more cohesive, flexible, and multidimensional force in response to growing Chinese aggression in the South China Sea and the completion of the Shandong, China’s first domestically-built aircraft carrier.

Estimated at million, the modifications to Izumo include a cleared and reinforced flight deck to support additional weight, added aircraft guidance lights, and heat-resistant deck sections to allow for vertical landings by F-35Bs. At this time, no specifications have been released regarding a ski-jump, angled flight deck, or catapults.

The first stage of modifications will be evaluated in a series of tests and sea trials following completion. Final modifications in stage two of the ship’s conversion are expected to take place in FY 2025 during the next overhaul and further evaluation. Izumo‘s sister ship, Kaga, will also be converted to an aircraft carrier, though no timeline has been released for her modifications.

The conversion to accept fixed-wing aircraft will provide Izumo and Kaga increased interoperability with allies. As aircraft carriers, they would be able to support not only Japanese F-35Bs, but also American F-35Bs and V-22 Ospreys. During a meeting on March 26, 2019 with General Robert Neller, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, the Japanese government asked for guidance and advice on how to best operate F-35Bs from the decks of the future carriers; General Neller said that he would, “help as much as possible.”

On the creation of the new carriers and their joint capabilities, Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya is quoted as saying, “The Izumo-class aircraft carrier role is to strengthen the air defense in the Pacific Ocean and to ensure the safety of the Self-Defense Force pilots. There may be no runway available for the US aircraft in an emergency.”

The conversion of the helicopter destroyers into aircraft carriers has received some opposition both domestically in Japan and abroad. Some people fear that the new capabilities will be a catalyst for future Japanese military expansion and aggression. Already, the JMSDF is the fourth largest world naval power by tonnage, behind only China, Russia, and the United States. However, the Japanese government remains adamant that the modernization efforts are only meant to bolster the country’s self-defense capability against growing threats from China.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine makes miraculous recovery after brain injury

Olivia Nord doesn’t remember much from Marine Corps boot camp, or the car accident that killed her three friends, and almost killed her and her mother.

Her mom, Jennifer, doesn’t remember anything either. But as she looks at her daughter, says she knows one thing for sure.

“She’s my miracle. She’s my absolute miracle.”

The two were returning home Dec. 2, 2016, for Olivia’s first leave after she graduated from basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina.

“I don’t have any memory of that,” Jennifer says. “The last memory I have is waiting at the airport in South Carolina.”

“I don’t even remember basic training,” she adds. “I remember running and shooting. That’s it.”


Olivia’s boyfriend, Austin, joined the Marines six weeks ahead of her. His family — mother, Dawn; sister, Dylan; and Dylan’s 2-year-old son, Payton–met them at the Minneapolis Airport. As they drove onto the interstate, another driver having an epileptic seizure slammed head first into their car.

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

Olivia Nord is all smiles after graduating from Marine Corps basic training. Hours later, she would be in a coma from a head-on car crash.

Dawn, Dylan and Payton were killed.

“I was broke in half,” Jennifer says. “My pelvis was crushed. I have a moderate brain injury and a rod in my back, with four screws holding it together.”

First responders didn’t have much hope for Olivia. Paramedics first took her to Hennepin County Medical, a level-1 trauma center, before she was transferred to Walter Reed in Maryland, and finally, to the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, Jan. 12, 2019. She had a severe brain injury and was in a coma, along with a shattered femur, torn aorta and lacerated liver. She had a tracheotomy, and was kept alive with artificial respiration.

Coming out of the coma

The Minneapolis VA is one of five major polytrauma centers in the entire Department of Veterans Affairs. It offers an array of integrated services for those in inpatient, transition and outpatient care. Brain-injury runs the gamut from someone with a concussion or stroke, or in Olivia’s case, all the way to a coma — one of their most severe cases.

“She was in our ‘Emerging Consciousness’ program, but wasn’t very responsive,” said Christie Spevacek, a nurse who oversees some of the most acute polytrauma cases. “We had to wean her from the vent, and she was in a very minimal state. Wasn’t talking, wasn’t doing anything.

“You see that, and you say, ‘Let’s get to work.’

“In the next month or so, she started waking up, but she’d maybe have five minutes, and then would be down again,” Spevacek said. “We had to bring up her endurance.”

Olivia shares photos from that time. Tubes and wires run everywhere. In another, she hugs her mom with a vacant stare in her eyes.

“She was awake, but she wasn’t awake,” Jennifer said. “She wasn’t aware of what was happening and didn’t know she was hurt. We had to keep reminding her.”

At one point, Olivia woke up and it didn’t know where she was at.

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

Olivia Nord suffered a severe brain injury, torn aorta, lacerated liver and crushed femur. She was in a coma for more than a month.

“I didn’t know I was hurt or why I was there,” she said. “I didn’t know my one leg didn’t work. I started to get up and fell down. The nurse came in to get me.”

Doctors, nurses, and therapists continued working with her. They’d take her out of the room. The goal was to make her feel normal again. They painted her fingernails and gave her lipstick. She worked on walking, talking, remembering, and all those things taken for granted.

“It was amazing to see her flourish,” said Kristin Powell, a recreation therapist who worked with her on the acute side, and now as an outpatient. “We were able to take her on outings. She was able to take what she learned in physical therapy and use those skill and flourish in the community.”

Not every outcome is as good as Olivia’s, which makes the recovery even more remarkable,” Powell said. “You see them come in here at their worst, in acute care, with tubes going in and out, and that was Olivia. And look at her now.”

Olivia is training to ride the recumbent bike at the upcoming VA Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego. She works as a grocery cashier and has plans to go back to school for elementary education.


No one expected 18-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Private Olivia Nord to survive …

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Patrick Hayes, the man who caused the crash, was not even supposed to be driving. He was sentenced April 9, 2019, to 100 months in prison. Olivia and her mom both gave victim statements at the sentencing.

“I feel like we are a flicker of a flame, and you caused three of those flickers to burn completely out,” Olivia sobbed in court.

The car crash is still a blank for mom and daughter.

“In one way, it’s a blessing,” Jennifer says. “But there is a part of us that wants to remember, just so we can grieve.”

“It’s just like they were here one moment, and now they’re gone,” Olivia adds.

She and her boyfriend are no longer together.

“We don’t talk,” Olivia says. “He was back home for his birthday and I sent him a ‘Happy birthday’ text.”

“We know it’s hard for him, too,” Jennifer says. “He lost his mom. He lost his family.”

Recovery beyond the Minneapolis VA

Today, in a lot of ways, Olivia is like any 21-year-old. She laughs, tells jokes and likes to cuss like… well, like a Marine.

Jennifer and Olivia help each other remember dates and even the right words that sometimes get lost or garbled.

“She’ll help me and I’ll help her,” Jennifer says. “The other day, I said, ‘I’m going out to vacuum the lawn.'”

“I said, ‘No, you’re going to mow the lawn,'” Olivia added.

Olivia uses a leg brace to walk, and also participates in Wounded Warrior events in the community. But sometimes it’s hard not to get angry.

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

Jennifer and Olivia Nord lost their three friends, and were both nearly killed in a head-on collision. Today, mom and daughter are thriving despite brain injuries.

“I’m still not the best,” she says. “I see how far I’ve come. My gosh, I’m out of the hospital. At some point, I don’t want any injuries. I can’t run. I can’t use my left arm. But I’m getting better. My thinking process is better. I’m always thinking.

“My friends think I’m crippled,” she adds. “I’m not crippled.”

Mom and daughter have tattoos that show their love for one another — and those they’ve lost.

Both sport a red fox tattoo on their ankles. Jennifer’s says, “Love you, bebè.” Olivia’s says, “Love you, mamá.” She also has another, larger tattoo on her waist. It’s an American flag shaped like the United States, a cross and three dog tags bearing three names Dawn, Dylan and Payton. She has another on her inside right arm — four different colored roses for family members, and a tiny cross on a chain that says, “Faith.”

“For me, the faith is not always what you believe in. It’s what you do to get better,” Olivia says. “I have faith in myself that I will get better.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

A $110 million Nigerien air base constructed by the US will finally begin counterterrorism operations using intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) drones after delays due to inclement weather conditions, the military announced on Nov. 1, 2019.

“We are working with our African and international partners to counter security threats in West Africa,” US Africa Command (AFRICOM), the combatant command overseeing US operations in the continent, said in a statement. “The construction of this base demonstrates our investment in our African partners and mutual security interests in the region.”

The base is called Nigerien Air Base 201, and is located in the desert region of Agadez, a strategic transit area for migrants. Both US and Nigerien aircraft will use the runways to launch armed and unarmed air assets against extremists operating in West and North Africa, the military said.


While the US-constructed base will be under Nigerien control, American forces will have exclusive use of around 20% of the roughly 9-mile base, military officials previously said to Stars and Stripes.

The base was expected to be operational in 2018, but the rainy season and other “environmental complexities” caused a delay, a US official said to The Air Force Times.

Here’s are some key details about Nigerien Air Base 201:

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

An Airman from the 724th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron marshals a C-130J Super Hercules at Nigerien Air Base 201, Agadez, Niger, August 3, 2019. This was the first C-130 to take-off at Air Base 201, marking the beginning of limited Visual Flight Rules operations at the base.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer)

Around 600 US Air Force Airmen are estimated to deploy for six-month tours.

The construction process of the base proved to be a challenge for around 350 service members involved in the project. Dry conditions caused concrete to dry and crack freshly-poured concrete.

“We’re building a base from nothing, from scratch,” US Air Force Lt. Col. Brad Harbaugh said in 2018. “This was all historically nomadic land.”

Source: Stars and Stripes

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

US Air Force engineers construct a dining facility on Nigerien Air Base 201, Niger.

(Staff Sgt. Daniel Asselta)

The construction project has also benefited Nigerien locals.

Around million was spent on the asphalt for the base, in addition to million for rubble. Nigerien locals were also employed for day-to-day jobs on the base, such as dining facility operations.

Source: Stars and Stripes

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

A US Air Force air advisor gives instructions to a Niger Armed Forces member while an interpreter translates the instructions during a training exercise at Nigerien Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger, July 10, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer)

Numerous terrorist group operate within the region.

In a new report released by the State Department on Friday, US officials say terrorist groups like Boko Haram and ISIS continue to operate in the region. US analysts say that terrorist elements have proliferated due to Niger’s limited military and budget.

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

Niger Armed Forces members clear a corridor during a training exercise with the US military at the Nigerien Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger, July 10, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer)

Four US troops and four Nigerien soldiers were killed in a 2017 terrorist ambush.

On October 4, 2017, 11 US troops and 30 Nigerien forces were ambushed by ISIS-related militants near the Niger-Mali border.

Four US troops were killed, in addition to four Nigerien partner forces, in a battle against overwhelming terrorist forces. The US military awarded six medals to the Nigerien soldiers who fought in the battle, including two Bronze Stars.

A US-led investigation found that US’s ISR assets did not have enough fuel to provide cover for American forces, in addition to inadequate rest for the troops. Roughly an hour and a half after the battle began, two French fighter jets responded by driving the enemy forces away.

Source: The Army Times

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

US Airmen load a C-130J Super Hercules at Nigerien Air Base 201, Agadez, Niger, Aug. 3, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Lexie West)

Since 2013, the number of US troops in Niger has risen.

In 2013, President Barack Obama announced that 100 US service members would deploy to Niger for “intelligence collection.”

Roughly 800 US troops were operating in Niger by 2018. The terrain and its borders with Chad and Mali make the country an optimal transit route for terrorist militants seeking to travel to Europe, according to the State Department.

In 2018, AFRICOM publicly announced it had started deploying armed drones in a separate Nigerien base, dubbed Air Base 101, near the capital of Niamey.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This enemy of France earned its top military honors

Emir Abdelkader was born the son of a respected military leader who had helped harass French occupiers in Algeria. As might be expected, young Emir continued his father’s war against the French in a conflict that had religious overtones since, you know, the Algerians were mostly Muslim and the French predominantly Christian. But when he rode forth to save Christians from angry mobs in 1860, France conferred on him its top military honors, the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor.


This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

Emir Abdelkader as a military leader in the late 1830s.

(Public domain)

Abdelkader’s military career started about how you would expect with his taking over his father’s war against the predominantly Christian French military. But where his father ran campaigns of harassment against the French, the younger Emir quickly capitalized on some of his father’s successes and managed to negotiate a treaty with France that gave him the interior of Oran. Oran is a coastal area of Algeria.

Further successes on the battlefield and in negotiations gave him control of more land and pushed most French forces back to a few ports. His success on the battlefield in service of Algerian independence led to him being dubbed the “George Washington of Algeria.”

And one thing that made these successes even more impressive is that he succeeded while strictly adhering to Islamic rules for combat. He wouldn’t kill women, children, or the wounded. He demanded proper treatment of prisoners, dead bodies, and Christian leaders, including priests. He even employed Christians and Jews in his administration and refused to force Islam on prisoners or conquered subjects.

This obviously frustrated colonial French efforts to undermine his popular appeal. (In fact, some modern Muslims have used his story and legacy to shame members of Daesh and show how Muslims are supposed to fight according to the Quran.)

But Abdelkader was unable to defeat the larger and better equipped French military forever. A renewed French campaign in 1840 slowly ground down Abdelkader and his supporters and, in 1847, he surrendered to a French general and the duc d’Aumale, the French king’s son.

But his story was not over. He was a prolific writer and was widely respected in the region and across the world. So, when political violence erupted into a summer civil war in 1860, Abdelkader’s calls for calm incited some popular support for peace.

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

A statue of Emir Abdelkader in Algeria.

(Mouh2jijel, CC BY-SA 3.0)

But the violence did continue and spilled into Damascus, now the capital of Syria. Abdelkader rode forth with his guard and supporters and personally rounded up Christians and took them back to his compound where he and his men guarded them. He put a bounty out for the safe delivery of any Christians to him and his men. And, he sent guards to escort local Christian leaders and officials back to safety.

His efforts were credited at the time with saving thousands, and he had hundreds of Christians at a time sheltered under his protection.

So France, now under the control of Napoleon III who was broadly friendly to his empire’s old foe, awarded Abdelkader the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor. The 1860 Mount Lebanon Civil War lasted less than three months, but an estimated 20,000 Christians were killed.

Abdelkader lived until 1883 and was toasted by leaders from America to Europe to the Middle East for his religious tolerance.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways military friends make your life easier

Listen! I’m just going to say it plainly. Military spouses are a different breed of people.

In spite of the fact that the ground under our feet is constantly shifting, we grow invisible roots with each other. And even though the faces in front of us change often, we find ways to connect and thrive. We lean on each other for support to navigate this lifestyle and at the same time create lasting connections.

Looking back, I don’t know what I would have done with out my military peeps!

Here are 5 ways having military friends make life easier…


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(Photo by Marco Bianchetti)

1. We cling quickly without judgment

I typically don’t have an issue making friends. What’s cool is having that quality fit right in with the military world, without it being weird. It wasn’t too hard to find my people and start friendships that still stand firm!

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

(Photo by Scott Warman)

2. We share the same woes

A few seconds into a vent session with one of my friends and the words, “Girl, I know right,” are already escaping her lips.

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

(Photo by Priscilla Du Preez)

3. We help each other parent military kids through the changes

I had no family (other than my husband) to lean on when we became parents. But I still had a room full of supportive friends at my birth and even afterwards. They provided meals, washed and folded laundry and in general were just there for me.

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

(Photo by Helena Lopes)

4. We are the BEST resources

There are many resources out there for us to take advantage of, but military spouse friends take it a step further. For those who have been there or done that, they provide a filter of what works for specific situations. Where I needed to go and what –specifically- I needed to do. Lifesavers!

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

5. We become family

Some of my best memories have been made with other military spouses and our families. We’ve created our own traditions, been pregnant together, taken world adventures, shared hard times and formed the deepest of bonds. There are many parts of my life that my blood family will never understand or weren’t even able to be a part of because of the distance. My friends were there to fill the gap with love and camaraderie.

This sums up just how awesome, special, and necessary these connections with military spouse friends have been for my life!

What are some of the epic ways your military friends have impacted your journey?

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

A timeline of the political crisis in Venezuela

For the past two months, Venezuela has been locked in a dramatic political crisis, which has seen countries around the world disavow its president and back an upstart politician in his bid to depose him.

In less than two months, Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó went from being a little-known lawmaker to the opposition leader posing one of the greatest threats to President Nicolás Maduro’s socialist rule in recent years.

But the tensions between the socialist government and the opposition party dates back more than a decade, spanning over accusations of vote rigging, violent protests, and a humanitarian crisis.

Here are the events that culminated in the current crisis.


• Socialist leader Hugo Chavez died in 2013, when his vice president Nicolas Maduro stepped in to take over. Chavez had been in charge for 14 years.

• Soon after, shortages and crime ravaged the country. Anti-Maduro mass protests broke out, and 43 people died.

• Leopoldo Lopez, the most prominent opposition leader, was charged for fomenting unrest in the 2014 protests. He spent three years in prison and is now under house arrest.

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

Leopoldo Lopez speaking to a crowd.

• In December 2015, the opposition party won a majority of seats in the National Assembly for the first time since Chavez took power in 1999.

• As oil prices continued plummeting, the oil-dependent economy tanked, and the government could not afford to import many foods. Maduro declared a state of “economic emergency” in January 2016.

• Maduro’s government faced significant protests in 2017 as it created the Constituent Assembly, which took over most important legislative functions. The Supreme Court also tried taking over the functions of the opposition-led National Assembly, but failed.

• On Jan. 5, 2019, the little-known lawmaker Juan Guaidó was appointed the head of the National Assembly, shorn of most of its power.

• Just five days later, Maduro started a second presidential term. His election win was dogged by accusations of vote-rigging. Domestic opposition parties, the US, and 13 other countries in the Americas do not recognize the result.

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

​Juan Guaidó speaking at a demonstration.

• Tens of thousands of people around the country staged protests saying that Maduro’s presidency was unconstitutional and fraudulent, and told him to resign. They were met with pro-government rallies.

• On Jan. 23, 2019, Guaidó declared himself Venezuela’s interim president, on the basis that there is no legitimate president of Venezuela, and called for free elections.

• With opposition leader Lopez still under house arrest, Guaidó emerged as the new face of the anti-Maduro movement.

• The US, Canada, and most Latin American nations immediately recognized Guaidó as interim president. Maduro severed diplomatic ties with the US in response.

• Guaidó began to urge soldiers, especially high-ranking ones, to join the opposition. The military is the backbone of Maduro’s power, with generals holding important government positions. The national guard is frequently deployed against protesters.

• In an op-ed for The New York Times, Guaidó offered amnesty to everyone opposing Maduro’s government, and members of the armed forces who haven’t committed crimes against humanity. Many members of Venezuela’s military — a solid power base for Maduro — are implicated in human rights abuses and drug trafficking, according to The Associated Press.

• Venezuela’s Supreme Court imposed a travel ban for Guaidó and froze his assets on Jan. 30, 2019, saying he is being investigated for “usurping” power.

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

Maikel Moreno, the president of Venezuela’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice.

(Maikel Moreno Twitter via TSJ Noticias)

• Some of Europe’s most important nations, such as Germany, France, Britain, and Spain, backed Guaidó on Feb. 4, 2019.

• On Feb. 22, 2019, Guaidó defied his travel ban. He left Venezuela to attend the “Venezuela Live Aid” concert in Colombia, organized by British billionaire Richard Branson.

• The following weekend, opposition supporters tried to bring in US-backed humanitarian aid over the Colombian and Brazilian borders, which the government closed. The armed forces barred their entry, killing two and injuring more than 300. The Venezuelan government shut the country’s bridge to Brazil on Feb. 21, 2019, and to Colombia on Feb. 23, 2019.

• International leaders rejected the possibility of sending their militaries into Venezuela to take over control. Guaidó had tweeted that “all options are open” after Maduro barred US-backed aid to enter.

• Guaidó traveled around South America to meet world leaders who back him, including US Vice President Mike Pence and the presidents of Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Ecuador.

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

Guaidó, Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez, and US Vice President Mike Pence meet in Colombia.

(Official White House Photo by D. Myles)

• Guaidó announced March 4, 2019, as his definitive return date to Venezuela, risking arrest and imprisonment for going against the travel ban.

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Guaidó announces his return on a livestream.

(Juan Guaido’s Periscope)

• Guaidó arrived in Venezuela and passed through immigration on March 4, 2019, he said on Twitter. He was met by European diplomats.

• Thousands of supporters welcomed him at a rally where he called for a new round of protests on March 9, 2019.

• On March 5, 2019, Guaidó met with unions to win their support, he tweeted. He is planning to organize a public sector strike, but the details have yet to be confirmed. On the same day, Maduro announced an “anti-imperialist” march to rival Guaidó’s

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch: Famous graves at Arlington

Arlington National Cemetery holds over 300,000 United States veterans. Veterans from every US war or conflict since the Revolutionary War lie here. Founded in 1866, this cemetery is the largest and most prestigious in the nation. It is meant to honor all men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces. 

The grounds are steeped in history 

The cemetery grounds, formerly Arlington House, used to be the property of George Washington’s adopted grandson and his wife. In 1831, their daughter married Robert E. Lee, and the couple lived there until Virginia ceded from the Union in 1861. A tax dispute led the federal government to reclaim the property in 1864. However, the land was later returned to Lee’s son after a lawsuit, though the government promptly repurchased it for about $150,000. This made little Lee a very rich man—the equivalent in today’s world would be roughly $4 million. 

Presidents, change-makers, and military leadership

One of the most prominent people buried there is 27th US President William Howard Taft, a man who never really wanted to be president at all. His real dream was to become a Supreme Court Justice, a goal he achieved later. No other man has ever served as President of the United States and Chief Justice on the Supreme Court. 

Change-makers

Another notable figure buried at Arlington is Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court. He argued on the Brown v. Board of Education case, where the Supreme Court finally determined racial segregation to be unconstitutional once and for all. 

Presidents

JFK and Bobby Kennedy have a special, solemn place in Arlington. Above their graves, an eternal flame is lit. Jackie Kennedy was so moved when she saw the eternal flame over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that she wanted the same thing for her husband. When Jackie passed years later in 1994, her remains were placed next to her husband’s. 

Military Leaderships

David Hackworth, a colonel in the US Army who served in Korea and Vietnam, is also buried in Arlington. He was a highly decorated serviceman with tons of honors, including a Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart with many oak leaf clusters attached to several. Hackworth also wrote a book that criticized how the Vietnam War was handled, for which he took some heat from the government—oops. 

Speaking of famous, one of the most famous women buried at Arlington is Admiral Grace Hopper. A leading programmer in the US Navy between 1943 and 1986, Hopper was a pioneer of computer programming and one of the first to use the Harvard Mark I. She was also the inventor of one of the first linkers. Today we think of linking as such a standard computer action, but we wouldn’t have it without Hopper. 

MIGHTY TRENDING

These countries are the worst human traffickers in the world

In a new report, the U.S. State Department says Belarus, Iran, Russia, and Turkmenistan remain among the worst offenders of human trafficking and forced labor.

The department’s annual Trafficking In Persons report, which is aimed at curbing human trafficking, was unveiled in a ceremony in Washington on June 28, 2018, by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and presidential adviser Ivanka Trump.


It evaluates 187 countries and territories and ranks them into four tiers (Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, and Tier 3), with Tier 1 being the best and Tier 3 the worst.

Russia, Belarus, Iran, and Turkmenistan were among 22 countries ranked as Tier 3. Others included Burma (also known as Myanmar), China, North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela.

The Russian government “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so,” the 2018 Trafficking In Persons report stated as a reason why Russia remained among the worst offenders for the sixth year in a row.

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

It said Russian authorities “routinely detained and deported potential forced labor victims without screening for signs of exploitation, and prosecuted victims forced into prostitution for prostitution offenses.”

It urged Moscow to investigate allegations and prevent the use of forced labor in construction projects, screen for trafficking indicators before deporting or repatriating migrants, and to establish formal national procedures to aid law enforcement officials.

The report said Belarus, a Tier 3 country since 2015, “maintained policies that actively compelled the forced labor of its citizens, including civil servants, students, part-time workers, and the unemployed, citizens suffering from drug or alcohol dependency, and, at times, critics of the government, among others.”

In Iran, which has been Tier 3 since at least 2011, “trafficking victims reportedly continued to face severe punishment, including death, for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.”

It also accused the government of providing financial support to militias fighting in Iraq that recruited and used child soldiers.

It said Turkmenistan, which remained on the Tier 3 list for the third consecutive year, continued to use “the forced labor of reportedly tens of thousands of its adult citizens in the annual cotton harvest and in preparation for the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games” that the country hosted in September 2017.

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

Pakistan, meanwhile, was upgraded from Tier 3 to Tier 2, with the report crediting Islamabad with “making significant efforts” to tackle trafficking.

It said Pakistan, which had been Tier 3 from 2014-17, “demonstrated increasing efforts by increasing the number of victims it identified and investigations and prosecutions of sex trafficking.”

It cautioned, though, that the country’s overall law enforcement efforts on labor trafficking remained “inadequate compared with the scale of the problem.”

The State Department ranked Georgia as the only former Soviet republic to be a Tier 1 country, a category that comprises 39 countries.

In the middle are the Tier 2 countries, defined as those that do not fully meet the minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance.

These include Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Pakistan, Romania, and Serbia.

The report listed 43 countries in danger of being downgraded to Tier 3 in future years. The Tier 2 Watch List includes Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, along with EU member Hungary.

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

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