This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

There’s an old U.S. Marine adage: “The only color that matters in the Corps is green.” That saying got its start in the 1970s under the guidance of Gen. Leonard Chapman, Jr. In the 20th Century, the U.S. military was far ahead of the rest of the country in terms of race relations.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its shameful moments.

There are so many stories of American troops overcoming racial bias in World War II because Chapman is right: the only color that mattered was (and still is) green. It would be years before these stories became widespread. It would take even longer for the stories of racial bias without happy endings to come to light.


One such story is that Cpl. John E. James, Jr. James, an African-American drafted in 1941, attended officer training school at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1942. But instead of graduating with the deserved rank of second lieutenant, he was given corporal’s stripes and shipped overseas with an all-black unit.

The U.S. Army rectified that error in judgment on June 29, 2018, according to the New York Times. James was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant at age 98.

“It’s unbelievable,” James, who comes from a military family dating all the way back to the Revolution, told the New York Times. “I thought it would never happen.”

James’ daughter spent three years fighting the Army Review Board to get her father his promotion. It was originally denied because his OCS records were lost in a fire – but they resurfaced in the National Archives. His daughter even had a photo of his graduating class as proof.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years
James at Benning in 1942.
(Museum of the American Revolution)

When James was told he wasn’t going to be an officer, he did his duty like any U.S. troop might have during World War II. He took the racial injustice and became a typist in a quartermaster battalion. When he got home after the war, he didn’t even tell his wife.

But 76 years later, with the support of his family and his senator, he found himself reciting the officer’s oath to retired Air Force General and former Chief of Staff John P. Jumper at the Museum of the American Revolution.

There is no word on his date of rank and if it comes with back pay.

Articles

The Navy is developing rail gun rounds for Army Howitzers

An Army Howitzer is now firing a super high-speed, high-tech, electromagnetic Hyper Velocity Projectile, initially developed as a Navy weapon,  an effort to fast-track increasing lethal and effective weapons to warzones and key strategic locations, Pentagon officials said.


Overall, the Pentagon is accelerating developmental testing of its high-tech, long-range Electro-Magnetic Rail Gun by expanding the platforms from which it might fire and potentially postponing an upcoming at-sea demonstration of the weapon, Pentagon and Navy officials told Scout Warrior.

While initially conceived of and developed for the Navy’s emerging Rail Gun Weapon, the Pentagon and Army are now firing the Hyper Velocity Projectile from an Army Howitzer in order to potential harness near-term weapons ability, increase the scope, lethality and range ability to accelerate combat deployment of the lethal, high-speed round.

Related: Need to put some warheads on foreheads? There’s an app for that

The rail gun uses an electromagnetic current to fire a kinetic energy warhead up to 100 miles at speeds greater than 5,000 miles an hour, a speed at least three times as fast as existing weapons.

Firing from an Army Howitzer, the hypervelocity projectile can fire at high speeds toward enemy targets to include buildings, force concentrations, weapons systems, drones, aircraft,vehicle bunkers and even incoming enemy missiles and artillery rounds.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years
In this image, provided by the U.S. Navy, a high-speed video camera captures a record-setting firing of an electromagnetic railgun, or EMRG, at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, Va., on Thursday | US Navy

“We can defend against an incoming salvo with a bullet. That is very much a focus getting ready for the future,” Dr. William Roper, Director of the Pentagon’s once-secret Strategic Capabilities Office, told Scout Warrior among a small group of reporters last year.

Pentagon weapons developers with the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, are working to further accelerate development of both the gun launcher and the hypervelocity projectile it fires. While plans for the weapon’s development are still being deliberated, ongoing work is developing integration and firing of the projectile onto existing Navy’s deck-mounted 5-inch guns or Army M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzer (a mobile platform which fires 155mm artillery rounds).

The Strategic Capabilities Office, a high-level Pentagon effort, is aimed at exploring emerging technologies with a mind to how they can be integrated quickly into existing weapons systems and platforms. Part of the rationale is to harness promising systems, weapons and technologies able to arrive in combat sooner that would be the case should they go through the normal bureaucratic acquisition process. In almost every instance, the SCO partners with one of the services to blend new weapons with current systems for the near term, Roper explained.

Also read: This company wants F-35-style helmets in future tanks

Part of the calculus is grounded in the notion of integrating discovery and prototyping, being able to adjust and fix in process without committing to an official requirement, Roper said.

Roper further explained that firing the HVP out of a 155m Howitzer brings certain advantages, because the weapon’s muzzle breach at the end of its cannon is able to catch some of the round’s propellant – making the firing safer for Soldiers.

“Its design traits were all based with dealing with extreme electromagnetic fields – that projectile could be fired out of an existing weapon system. Its whole role is to just keep the hot gas and propellant from rushing past. You dont want it eroded by the hot material,” Roper explained.

The goal of the effort is to fire a “sub-caliber” round that is aerodynamic and able to fly at hypersonic speeds. We can significanly increase the range and continually improve what powder guns can do, he added.

“We’ve been looking at the data and are very pleased with the results we are getting back,” Roper said.

One Senior Army official told Scout Warrior that firing a Hyper Velocity Projectile from a Howitzer builds upon rapid progress with targeting technology, fire-control systems and faster computer processing speeds for fire direction.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years
U.S. Army photo

“If you can destroy approaching enemy fire in a matter of seconds, it changes the calculus of fire support. You have really changed things,” he told Scout Warrior.

Adjusting for the higher-speed round also invovles managing blast overpressure released from the muzzle when the projectile leaves the cannon; the trajectory or guidance of the round also needs to be properly managed as it exits the cannon tube through the muzzle toward the intended.

“This is not just making sure you are not damaging the tube, but retaining accuracy for the projectile based on projectile stability,” he said.

Accomplishing this high-tech integration also widens the target envelope a Howitzer is able to destroy, expanding its offensive attack, ground defense and counter-air possibilities.

The senior official described the Army Howitzer as an “advanced countermeasure,” therefore underscoring the added combat value of firing a round with massively increased speed and lethality.

Meanwhile, the Navy intends to arm portions of its surface fleet with Rail Gun fire power; platforms include Joint High-Speed Vessels, Destroyers and Cruisers, among others.

On the ocean, a HPV be fired against a floating target, in an effort to test the rail gun’s ability to destroy targets that are beyond-the-horizon much faster than existing long-range weapons, Navy officials said.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years
One of two electromagnetic railgun prototypes on display aboard joint high speed vessel USS Millinocket (JHSV 3) in port at Naval Base San Diego on July 8, 2014. | US Navy photo

The rail gun uses an electromagnetic current to fire a kinetic energy warhead up to 100 miles at speeds greater than 5,000 miles an hour, a speed at least three times as fast as existing weapons.

High-Speed, Long-Distance Electromagnetic Weapons Technology

The weapon’s range, which can fire guided, high-speed projectiles more than 100 miles, makes it suitable for cruise missile defense, ballistic missile defense and various kinds of surface warfare applications.

The railgun uses electrical energy to create a magnetic field and propel a kinetic energy projectile at Mach 7.5 toward a wide range of targets, such as enemy vehicles, or cruise and ballistic missiles.

The weapon works when electrical power charges up a pulse-forming network. That pulse-forming network is made up of capacitors able to release very large amounts of energy in a very short period of time.

The weapon releases a current on the order of 3 to 5 million amps — that’s 1,200 volts released in a ten millisecond timeframe, experts have said. That is enough to accelerate a mass of approximately 45 pounds from zero to five thousand miles per hour in one one-hundredth of a second, Navy officials added at a briefing last Spring.

Due to its ability to reach speeds of up to 5,600 miles per hour, the hypervelocity projectile is engineered as a kinetic energy warhead, meaning no explosives are necessary. The hyper velocity projectile can travel at speeds up to 2,000 meters per second, a speed which is about three times that of most existing weapons. The rate of fire is 10-rounds per minute, developers explained at last years’ briefing.

Due to its ability to reach speeds of up to 5,600 miles per hour, the hypervelocity projectile is engineered as a kinetic energy warhead, meaning no explosives are necessary. The hyper velocity projectile can travel at speeds up to 2,000 meters per second, a speed which is about three times that of most existing weapons. The rate of fire is 10-rounds per minute, developers explained at last years’ briefing.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years
YouTube

A kinetic energy hypervelocity warhead also lowers the cost and the logistics burden of the weapon, they explained.

Although it has the ability to intercept cruise missiles, the hypervelocity projectile can be stored in large numbers on ships. Unlike other larger missile systems designed for similar missions, the hypervelocity projectile costs only $25,000 per round.

The railgun can draw its power from an onboard electrical system or large battery, Navy officials said. The system consists of five parts, including a launcher, energy storage system, a pulse-forming network, hypervelocity projectile and gun mount.

While the weapon is currently configured to guide the projectile against fixed or static targets using GPS technology, it is possible that in the future the rail gun could be configured to destroy moving targets as well, Navy officials have explained over the years.

Possible Rail Gun Deployment on Navy Destroyers

Also, the Navy is evaluating whether to mount its new Electromagnetic Rail Gun weapon from the high-tech DDG 1000 destroyer by the mid-2020s, service officials said.

The DDG 1000’s Integrated Power System provides a large amount of on board electricity sufficient to accommodate the weapon, Navy developers have explained.

The first of three planned DDG 1000 destroyers was christened in April of last year. Navy leaders believe the DDG 1000 is the right ship to house the rail gun but that additional study was necessary to examine the risks.

Also, with a displacement of 15,482 tons, the DDG 1000 is 65-percent larger than existing 9,500- ton Aegis cruisers and destroyers.

The DDG 1,000 integrated power system, which includes its electric propulsion, helps generate up to 78 megawatts of on-board electrical power, something seen as key to the future when it comes to the possibility of firing a rail gun.

It is also possible that the weapon could someday be configured to fire from DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.  Something of that size is necessary, given the technological requirements of the weapon.

For example, the Electro-magnetic gun would most likely not work as a weapon for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship.

Articles

12 rare and amazing photos from the ‘War to End All Wars’


The Great War – World War I – raged through Europe and the Middle East 100 years ago. These are some of the most unbelievable photos of troops and tech from the “War to End All Wars.”


Losing incredible photos to history could happen for any reason. Perhaps there were so many, these were rejected by publications, locked away in a box for us to find a century later. Or maybe they were just the personal keepsakes of those who fought the war. Whatever the reason, we can marvel at what wartime life was like, both in and out of the trenches.

Soldiers on all sides are more than just cannon fodder. These photos show people’s hearts, souls, and personal beliefs. They show the innovation on the battlefield – the gruesome killing power of the world’s first industrialized war. They also show the efforts made to improve technology that could save lives by ending the war.

Most of all, it shows that we who fight wars are still human, no matter which side of the line we maintain.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

1. This listening device.

Before the advent of radar, aircraft had to be located by hearing the direction from which the aircraft approached. The horns amplified sound and the tech would wear headphones to try to pinpoint the location of the incoming enemy.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

2. Holy rolling.

German infantryman Kurt Geiler was carrying his bible when a four centimeter piece of shrapnel embedded itself in the book, likely making a lifelong Christian out out of Geiler.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

3. Lady Liberty takes 18,000 soldiers.

This depiction of the Statue of Liberty was made to drive war bonds and is made up of 18,000 troops – 12,000 just for the torch, which is a half mile away.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

4. Realities of war.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affected troops even 100 years ago. Called “shell shock” at the time, up to 65,000 troops were treated for it, while thousands of others were charged with cowardice for it. Blasts from shells would leave lesions on the brain, resulting in symptoms similar to traumatic brain injuries (TBI) experienced by post-9/11 veterans.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

5. This Austro-Hungarian war face.

This war face would make Gunnery Sergeant Hartman proud. It looks like William Fichtner’s great-grandfather.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

6. These Italian troops mummified by the cold.

The next time you complain about being in formation in the winter, remember it could always be worse. These Italians froze in the Alps, fighting Austrians.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

7. This gay couple flaunting DADT before it was controversial.

Proof that DADT was garbage in the first place.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

8. This pigeon is ready for your close up.

Both sides used animals for reconnaissance and communication. Pigeons were especially useful for their homing ability and attitude.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

9. This woman looks ready to take the whole German Army.

There’s so much so-called “great man history,” that we often forget about women’s contributions. Women worked in many industrial areas during the Great War. Look at this photo and realize most of you couldn’t chop wood all day on your best day.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

10. This incredibly brave little girl.

Where are this girl’s parents? This is 1916, and child rearing was slightly tougher back then, but that’s still unexploded ordnance. (Europeans still find unexploded bombs from both world wars.)

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

11. This is the “Ideal Soldier.”

This propaganda photo depicts what the French public thought the ideal French soldier looked like.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

12. These Vietnamese troops who did not fit #11’s profile.

A total of 92,411 Vietnamese men from what was then called French Indochina were in the service of France and were distributed around Europe, of which around 30,000 died.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the full text of Secretary Mattis’ resignation letter.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced that he will be resigning from his role in February. His letter of resignation was released by the Pentagon just minutes after President Trump said on Twitter that Mattis was retiring.

For the President’s tweet and Secretary Mattis’ full resignation letter, please read below:


This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

(Department of Defense photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Dear Mr. President:

I have been privileged to serve as our country’s 26th Secretary of Defense which has allowed me to serve alongside our men and women of the Department in defense of our citizens and our ideals.

I am proud of the process that has been made over the past two years on some of the key goals articulated in our National Defense Strategy: putting the Department on a more sound budgetary footing, improving readiness and lethality in our forces, and reforming the Department’s business practices for greater performance. Our troops continue to provide the capabilities needed to prevail in conflict and sustain strong U.S. global influence.

One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliance and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies. Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world. Instead, we must use all tools of American woes to prove for the common defense, including proving effective leadership to our alliances. NATO’s 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America. The Defeat-ISIS coalition of 74 nations is further proof.

Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours: It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model — gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions — to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies. That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.

My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity, and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.

Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my positions. The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed as well as to make sure the Department’s interests are properly articulated and protected at upcoming events to include Congressional posture hearings and the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in February. Further, that a full transition to a new Secretary of Defense occurs well in advance of the transition of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September in order to ensure stability within the Department.

I pledge my full effort to a smooth transition that ensure the needs and interests of the 2.15 million Service Members and 732.079 DoD civilians receive undistracted attention of the Department at all times so that they can fulfill their critical, round-the-clock missions to protect the American people.I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform.
Signed, James N. Mattis
MIGHTY TACTICAL

President compares crucial new icebreaker to border wall

President Donald Trump on Dec. 25, 2018, renewed his pledge to fund a new icebreaker for the Coast Guard, comparing its necessity with his effort to build a wall on the southern border.

“It’s like the border wall. We still need a wall,” and the Coast Guard needs an icebreaker to replace the 42-year-old Polar Star, Trump said in a series of Christmas Day phone calls to service members around the world.

In a call to the Coast Guard’s District 17 in Juneau, Alaska, he said the new icebreaker will be fitted with the latest technology, but its defining feature will be the thick steel in its hull.

“With all of the technology, it still needs very thick steel,” Trump said.


Following the partial government shutdown that began at midnight Dec. 21, 2018, over billion the president is seeking to fund the wall, Trump said the new sections of the wall he proposes would consist of “steel slats.”

Technology would be no substitute for the wall, despite what House and Senate Democrats claim, he said. “They can have all the drones they want, all the technology they want,” but the wall is essential to border security, Trump said in the call to Alaska.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

President Donald Trump.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“I call it bells and whistles,” he said of the technology, “but if you don’t have the wall, it doesn’t work.”

The new icebreaker will have capabilities “the likes of which nobody’s seen before. The bad part is the price,” Trump said, apparently referring to the Coast Guard’s estimate of 0 million.

“The good part is it’s the most powerful in the world,” he said. “The ice is in big trouble when that thing gets finished. It’ll go right through it. It’s very expensive, but that’s OK.”

Trump called the icebreaker a Christmas present for the Coast Guard and suggested that a contract had already gone out, although Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said earlier this month that he expected an announcement on a contract award in spring 2019.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, with 75,000 horsepower and its 13,500-ton weight, is guided by its crew to break through Antarctic ice.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)

In addition to the phone call to the Coast Guard, Trump also called Task Force Talon at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam; Marine Attack Squadron 223 and Navy Forces Central Command in Manama, Bahrain; and the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Udeid Air Base, in Qatar.

The overall message: “There’s no greater privilege for me than to serve as your commander,” Trump said. “I know it’s a great sacrifice for you to be away from your families.”

In his own Christmas message to the troops, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who resigned Dec. 20, 2018, in a dispute with Trump over his order to withdraw troops from Syria and other issues, said he was proud to serve with them.

“To those in the field or at sea, ‘keeping watch by night’ this holiday season, you should recognize that you carry on the proud legacy of those who stood the watch in decades past. In this world awash in change, you hold the line,” Mattis said in the message prepared before his resignation.

“Far from home, you have earned the gratitude and respect of your fellow citizens, and it remains my great privilege to serve alongside you,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Russian military is fighting a blizzard in Moscow

Moscow authorities have struggled to clear the streets and told children they could skip school after the Russian capital was hit by massive snowfall.


The national meteorological service said on Feb. 5 2018 that more than the monthly average of snow fell on Moscow over the weekend, with the height of snow reaching up to 55 centimeters in some parts of the capital.

“That’s an anomaly of course,” Nadezhda Tochenova, the deputy head of the Hydrometeorological Center, told AFP news agency.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years
Blizzard hits Moscow. (YouTube)

However, she denied claims that the snowfall was an all-time record.

Calling the event “the snowfall of the century,” Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin hailed utility workers and other municipal employees he said had kept the city “functioning normally.”

“There is no collapse, no catastrophe,” Sobyanin told journalists.

The mayor said on Feb. 4 2018 that one person had been killed when a tree brought down electricity lines, and that 2,000 trees collapsed due to the massive snowfall.

Also read: The Russian military is flexing its missile muscles in massive war exercise

The city authorities said more than 100 of those trees fell on vehicles.

Thousands of city workers have been working to keep Moscow’s roads and the subway system open, while the Russian military said it had sent soldiers to help clear snowdrifts on the streets.

Deputy Mayor Pyotr Biryukov said snowplows had cleared 1.2 million cubic meters of snow from the streets.

Meanwhile, the emergency services urged drivers to use public transport unless there was “extreme need,” and Moscow authorities announced that children need not come to school, although they would remain open.

Related: 17 beautiful photos of troops training in the snow

The heavy snowfall triggered the cancellation or delay of dozens of flights at Moscow’s airports, as well as power failures in hundreds of smaller towns around the city.

Officials at the Emergency Situations Ministry said that heavy snowfall also affected the regions of Leningrad, Tatarstan, Saratov, Penza, Ulyanovsk, Kaluga, and Vladimir, where power cuts affected tens of thousands of people.

Articles

How the legendary U-2 spy plane landed on an aircraft carrier

The famed U-2 “Dragon Lady” reconnaissance and spy aircraft is an icon of the Cold War still in service today. It’s crewed by some of America’s most elite pilots, and even then the finicky plane is typically landed on a large runway with the assistance of a “chase car” that coaches the pilot to the ground.


This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years
A U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane comes in for a landing. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt Aaron Oelrich)

The U-2 has wheels aligned like bicycle tires and an 80-ft. wingspan, forcing pilots to carefully guide the plane down the runway just to keep from accidentally banging the tips into the asphalt and ruining the plane.

That’s why it’s so crazy that a group of Air Force and CIA pilots and crew tested the U-2G, a modified version of the spy plane, and certified the Dragon Lady onboard the aircraft carrier USS Ranger.

After CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers was shot down over Soviet airspace during a flight from Pakistan to Norway, it became harder for the State Department to convince allies to allow U-2s to be based in their countries.

To get around the sudden restriction in land bases willing and capable of handling the planes, the CIA decided to test the possibility of deploying the U-2s on Navy aircraft carriers.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years
(GIF: YouTube/Military Videos)

The USS Ranger was selected for the top-secret tests which went surprisingly well, but the only declassified mission of a U-2G launched from a carrier took place in the South Pacific where two Dragon Ladies flew from California to Hawaii to the USS Ranger.

The Ranger delivered the U-2s to a launching point, and the planes sampled the air around the test site to learn more about French nuclear efforts.

See more touch-and-go landings from the USS Ranger trials in the video above.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

During the Cold War, an Army Special Forces unit was tasked with sabotaging Soviet infrastructure and crippling an invasion force to buy NATO time should war break out. The mission was so secret that the entire thing was almost forgotten — until a few veterans of the unit stepped forward.

We spoke to two of these veterans to find out what it was like serving as clandestine soldiers in an occupied city on what was likely a suicide mission if the seemingly-imminent war ever started


This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

U.S. and Soviet forces standoff across Checkpoint Charlie in 1961, one of the many Cold War flare-ups that occurred in occupied Berlin after World War II.

(U.S. Army)

Master Sgt. Robert Charest is a veteran of Detachment A who has started the push for recording the unit’s history. Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Stejskal is the man who literally wrote the book on Detachment A.

The specific mission of Detachment A changed over the years, but the overarching goal was always preparing to counter and stall a Soviet invasion.

“If the Soviets decided to come across Checkpoint Charlie, we would just try to slow them down so that the rest of the folks, they’d get out of Berlin and all that stuff,” said Charest while describing the mission.

This meant that Charest, Stejskal, and others assigned to the unit — which had about 90 people in it for most of its existence — had to know what infrastructure to hit and how best to reach it. They also had to maintain all of the materials and weapons needed to complete their mission.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

Berlin was criss-crossed by a network of trains, like this train for travelers on the U-Bahn. Another railway ran around the outside of the city carrying heavy freight, and Detachment A members were prepared to blow up train engines on the railway in case of war.

Some of the targets were obvious, like the railroad that ran around divided Berlin.

“Around Berlin, there was a railway network, basically called the Berliner Ring,” said Stejskal. “It was that railway network that would carry the majority of the Russian forces from east to west. So, you got the guys that are on the ground already and then you got all these troops that are going to be coming from Poland and the Czech Republic and then you’re heading for the Fulda Gap.”

Shutting down the railroad would slow the Soviet advance, but the teams that made up Detachment A needed a way to do it without getting caught. The more stuff they could break before getting captured and killed, the better chance NATO forces would have in building a defensive line and eventually launching a counter attack.

So, they rigged up pieces of coal, filled with explosives. Were these ever loaded into a train, the engineer would eventually blow up his own engine, blocking the rail line with a shattered train until authorities could clean up the mess, drastically slowing reinforcements.

Other targets included factories and other centers of manufacturing, transportation, and command and control.

To supply these missions, Detachment A relied on a series of spy-like gadgets and hidden caches of conventional weapons buried deep all over West Berlin. But the targets were in East Berlin, and Detachment A had to plan on how to strike across the city and, later in the war, across the Berlin Wall, to hit targets.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

Special Forces sergeant Robert Charest while assigned to operation in Berlin, clearly rocking a different grooming standard than most soldiers in the Cold War.

(Photo courtesy of Bob Charest)

This required missions deep into Soviet-held Berlin. While Detachment A members usually enjoyed relaxed grooming standards and wore civilian clothes, spying across the wall was done in uniform surprisingly often.

“You put on a uniform, shaved your hair, got in the military vehicles, went through Checkpoint Charlie, and you had access to East Berlin,” Charest said, “Alexanderplatz and stuff like this. You drove around and that was your cover story. The Russians would do the same thing in West Berlin. They had their little system. That was how we conducted surveillance of our targets.”

The men had a huge advantage when spying on the East, though. Thanks to the 1950 Lodge Act, foreign nationals could obtain U.S. citizenship after a five-year stint in the military. This allowed Detachment A to recruit people from the neighborhoods and areas where their targets were without rousing suspicions. These recruits and leaders proved invaluable.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

Soviet workers build the Berlin Wall, breaking up the city and reducing Detachment A’s ability to surveil its targets.

(U.S. National Archives)

“Our commander was great,” said Stejskal. “Our commander was Czech Officer who had served in the Resistance during World War II. Our Sergeant Major was a German who had served in the German Army, sort of, at the end of World War II. Just, nothing like you could imagine.”

“… several of the guys that reconned these targets were the actual Lodge Act people that lived in Berlin and had come from Berlin,” said Charest. “They knew where these targets were and the intel, G2 and above, knew what targets would be best to slow the Soviets down if they decided to come across.”

Detachment A practiced crossing the wall, swimming through deep canals with SCUBA gear, or making their way through sewer and water pipes under the city. One recon of the sewer pipes even got a senior officer in trouble.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

Allied troops in West Berlin were deep behind Soviet lines. When the Soviets attempted to cut off re-supply to those troops, America launched the massive “Berlin Airlift” to keep them alive. The airlift was a success, but it drove home for many just how vulnerable West Berlin was.

(U.S. Air Force)

“He, along with somebody else, went into the sewer system to check the situation out for crossing points, okay,” Charest said. “Well, little did he know that the CIA had these things monitored with all kinds of stuff. They triggered the alarms.”

While the plans were well laid, they still relied on brave men willing to take on huge risks to make the mission a success. After all, West Berlin was still deep inside East Germany.

“It’s a strange feeling,” said Stejskal. “We were 110 miles behind the East German border, about 12,000 allied troops inside West Berlin surrounded by close to a million Russian and Warsaw Pact soldiers. Oddly enough, I think most of us were very energized to be where we were.”

And the men had a good idea of how dangerous that situation was.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

Soviet forces prepare to leave Hungary. If the Cold War had gone hot, Detachment A members, like the rest of the allied troops in Berlin, would have been outnumbered and outgunned over 100 miles from friendly forces.

(RIA Novosti Archive, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

“Well, it was basically a suicide mission,” Charest said. “If we got in and hit anything and then we had to face escape and evasion, all right? You were on your own. There was nothing set up, formally, for escape and evasion, yet. You were on your own. That’s why you spoke the language, that’s why you were familiar with the countryside. You knew, essentially, you had to get to the coast or wherever NATO withdrew to and stuff like this. But, you had nothing formal, you were on your own.”

“I think we would’ve been hard-pressed to survive more than 72 hours, but you never can tell,” Stejskal said. “How did the OSS agents feel when they parachuted France or into Yugoslavia during World War II? Same kind of feeling. You’re anticipating that you’re going in to a very bad situation, but you got the best tools, the best cover, and everything else.”

Luckily, Detachment A never had to slow a Soviet invasion, despite flare-ups, like the tank standoff at Checkpoint Charlie. Instead, they spent their time training and conducting surveillance, preparing to save American forces in a war that never came and quietly saving American lives while building the framework and doctrine for units that followed them, like SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia talks trash after it buzzed a US Navy aircraft

In the wake of the United States protesting a close encounter between a Su-27 Flanker and a Lockheed EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance aircraft operated by the United States Navy, the Russians have a response: They’re not apologizing.


According to a report from USA Today, Russia has instead decided to trash-talk the United States Navy after the buzzing incident late last month. Over the space of two hours and forty minutes, the Flanker made at least one pass in front of the EP-3E, coming as close as five feet from the surveillance plane.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

“The Aerospace Force will continue to maintain reliable protection of Russia’s airspace,” the Russian news agency TASS reported the Defense Ministry as saying. “If the awareness of this is a reason for U.S. air pilots to feel depression or succumb to phobias, we advise the U.S. side to exclude the routes of such flights near Russian borders in the future or return to the negotiating table and agree on their rules.”

The Russians also claimed that the Flanker pilot’s actions were safe, legal, and standard operating procedure. They also claimed that NATO planes made “similar maneuvers” near Russian planes over the Norwegian, North, Baltic, and Barents seas.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years
A U.S. RC-135U flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-27 Flanker June 19, 2017. Due to the high rate of closure speed and poor control of the aircraft during the intercept, this interaction was determined to be unsafe. (Courtesy photo)

The United States Navy has dealt with a number of close encounters recently. In 2017, Russia, China, and Iran all were responsible for buzzing American forces. The Navy’s history with the Russians even includes a time when the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Yorktown (CG 48) and the Spruance-class destroyer USS Caron (DD 970) were bumped by Soviet Navy vessels.

The United States Navy released a video of the incident between the EP-3E and the Su-27. You can judge for yourself if the Flanker pilot’s actions were safe or not.

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch a young Chuck Yeager test fly a stolen MiG-15

Brigadier General Chuck Yeager is best-known for being the first man to break the sound barrier. He was also a World War II ace and saw action in Vietnam as commanding officer of the 405th Tactical Fighter Wing, flying B-57s. But did you know that this aerial all-star also logged time in the MiG-15?


The MiG-15 in question was flown from North Korea to Seoul by No Kum-sok, a defector who, upon landing, learned that he was fulfilling a $100,000 bounty by delivering the plane into allied hands. The MiG-15 was quickly taken back to the United States and put through its paces.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

The last moments of a MiG-15 — many of these planes met their end in MiG Alley.

(US Navy)

Test pilots are known for getting in the cockpit of new, unproven vehicles and using their skills and adaptability to safely maneuver vessels through early flights. They’ve flown the X-15 into space and are responsible for putting the newest fighters, like the F-35, through their paces. But what’s just as important (and half as reported) is role they play in exploring the capabilities of foreign aircraft, like a MiG, Sukhoi, or some other international plane.

This is why the “Akutan Zero,” a Japanese plane that crashed on June 4, 1942 over Alaskan soil, was so important. It gave the US invaluable insight into the strengths and weaknesses of an enemy’s asset, informing the design of the F6F Hellcat.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

This is the MiG-15 that was flown to South Korea by a North Korean defector.

(USAF photo)

The MiG-15 of the Korean War wasn’t quite as fearsome as the Zero was in World War II. In fact, the F-86 dominated it over “MiG Alley.” But finding out just how good – or bad – the MiG-15 really was still mattered. After all, American allies, like Taiwan, ended up facing the MiG-15 later in the 1950s (the Taiwanese planes ended up using the AIM-9 Sidewinder to deadly effect).

The MiG-15 still is in service with the North Korean Air Force, meaning Yeager’s half-a-century-old flight still informs us today.

Learn more about Yeager’s time flying the MiG-15 in the video below.

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy bets big on drones to counter lethal anti-carrier missiles

The US Navy awarded Boeing an $805 million contract to develop refueling drones in what the service’s top officer called a “historic” step toward making the fleet’s carriers more effective and more deadly.

The contract provides for the design, development, testing, delivery, and support of four MQ-25A unmanned aerial refueling vehicles. It includes integration into the carrier air wing with initial operational capability by 2024.


It is a fixed-price contract, meaning the Navy is not on the hook for costs beyond the 5.3 million award. Boeing will reportedly get million of the total award to start.

The Navy expects the program to yield 72 aircraft with a total cost of about billion, James Geurts, the service’s assistant secretary for research, development, and acquisition, told Defense News.

Geurts also called the MQ-25A “a hallmark acquisition program.”

“This is an historic day,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in a release.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

Boeing conducts an MQ-25 deck-handling demonstration at its facility in St. Louis, Missouri, January 29, 2018.

(US Navy / Boeing)

The Navy has been working on a drone that can operate on carriers for some time. The unmanned carrier-launched airborne surveillance and strike program was scrapped in 2016 and reoriented toward developing an unmanned tanker.

According to the Navy, the MQ-25A will bolster the carrier air wing’s performance and efficiency while extending their operating range and tanking capability.

Richardson told Defense News that the new drone will free up the Super Hornet aircraft currently dedicated to providing tanker support to other aircraft.

“We will look back on this day and recognize that this event represents a dramatic shift in the way we define warfighting requirements, work with industry, integrate unmanned and manned aircraft, and improve the lethality of the airwing — all at relevant speed,” Richardson said in the release. “But we have a lot more to do. It’s not the time to take our foot off the gas. Let’s keep charging.”

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

An F/A-18E Super Hornet launches from the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan U. Kledzik)

Boeing has a long history of involvement in naval aviation, including manufacture of the Hornet and Super Hornet carrier aircraft, and in tanker operations.

This award is seen as a much-needed victory, however, as the company has been on the outside looking in for major aviation programs in recent years, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Boeing was involved in the UCLASS program, and the design it offered for the refueling drone was influenced by that previous project. The company has already built a prototype of the MQ-25A and has said a first flight may take place not long after the contract was awarded.

“The fact that we’re already preparing for first flight is thanks to an outstanding team who understands the Navy and their need to have this important asset on carrier decks around the world,” Leanne Caret, head of Boeing’s defense, space and security division, said in a company release.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

An F/A-18E Super Hornet prepares to launch from the flight deck of the USS Nimitz.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan R. McDonald)

Boeing said the Navy believes the MQ-25A will extend the range of the F/A-18 Super Hornet and the EA-18G Growler, both of which are Boeing aircraft, as well as the F-35C, which is the Navy’s variant of the Lockheed Martin-made joint strike fighter.

The crews of the Navy’s Super Hornets are currently tasked with both refueling and fighter operations, rising concerns about wear and tear and stoking interest in unmanned replacements.

The Super Hornets and the F-35Cs that make up carrier air wings also have shorter ranges than the aircraft they replaced — a particular hindrance in light of the “carrier-killer” missiles that both Russia and China have developed.

Get the latest Boeing stock price here.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Russia has pledged to go ahead with a massive WWII memorial parade despite its growing coronavirus outbreak

Despite steadily mounting infections from the coronavirus in Russia, President Vladimir Putin has so far refused to cancel a massive parade celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Soviet triumph Nazi Germany.

The annual Victory Day parade on May 9 typically includes tens of thousands of troops, military equipment, and hundreds of thousands of spectators.


The event came under fire last week after social media footage showed thousands of re-enactors rehearsing for the event, despite a government ban on gatherings of more than 50 people.

One video, found by Rob Lee, an open source military researcher who focuses on former Soviet militaries, shows re-enactors at a military base in Alabino, outside of Moscow.

Video purportedly of Russian troops at the Victory Day Parade rehearsals in Alabino who aren’t quite meeting the 1.5 meter social distancing requirement instituted by local officials. https://vk.com/milinfolive?w=wall-123538639_1404052 …pic.twitter.com/JIQLTPFUMQ

twitter.com

Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny circulated the video, and other politicians criticized organizers for letting them go ahead.

The government announced it would halt rehearsals, but still planned to hold the main event on May 9, according to the Guardian.

The 2020 parade had been scheduled to be especially large, given its importance marking the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazism, which cost tens of millions of Soviet lives.

Putin had planned to include not only the cream of Russia’s modern military but thousands of WWII-style re-enactors armed with historically accurate gear.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years

To prepare for the event, Russia spent years accumulating working models of the famous Soviet T-34 tank, sourcing them from as far afield as Laos and Albania.

Russia’s coronavirus outbreak, currently at 6,000 recorded cases but growing fast, may yet end hopes of the parade going ahead.

Russian government officials have attacked news organizations that report on the increasing number of cases in Russia, as well as anyone who suggests the event should be canceled.

static.kremlin.ru

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “May 9th is a sacred date for millions upon millions in Russia and [ex-Soviet] countries. The Victory Day parade is scheduled (sanitary measures taken) and will march on Red Square,” according to the Guardian.

Alternative plans being considered for the parade, according to multiple Russian media outlets, include conducting the parade for TV cameras without a live audience, or postponing it until other historically significant anniversaries in September or November.

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

Articles

China just tested a new weapon that could blind the US military

China has tested a new anti-satellite weapon, marking a new threat to American space assets like reconnaissance satellites and the Global Positioning System. The Dong Neng 3 missile was previously tested on two occasions, including this past December.


According to a report by the Washington Free Beacon, the test took place late last month, and was not successful due to a problem with an upper stage of the missile. The test was broadcast on the Internet by a number of users in China near the launch facility. This has been part of a long process as China has pushed to acquire the means to carry out warfare in space.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years
Satellite image showing a Kiev-class carrier under construction. (NRO photo)

“Since the early 1990s China has developed four, possibly five, attack-capable space-combat systems,” Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center said. “China may be the only country developing such variety of space weapons to include: ground-based and air-launched counter-space weapons; unmanned space combat and Earth-attack platforms; and dual-use manned platforms.”

Harsh Vasani from Manpaul University in India, noted that the purpose of those systems would be to “counter the United States’ conventional strength and gain strategic parity, Chinese strategists believe, Beijing will need to strike at the U.S. Achilles heel—Washington’s over-reliance on satellites for [command, control, communications, computer, intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance]. Beijing plans to exploit the vulnerable space infrastructure of the United States in the case of a war.”

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years
Maj. Wilbert ‘Doug’ Pearson successfully launched an anti-satellite, or ASAT, missile from a highly modified F-15A on Sept. 13, 1985 in the Pacific Missile Test Range. He scored a direct hit on the Solwind P78-1 satellite orbiting 340 miles above.(U.S. Air Force photo by Paul E. Reynolds)

The United States has carried out a number of its own anti-satellite tests in the past. Most notable was the 1980s-vintage ASM-135 ASAT missile, capable of being launched by F-15 Eagle air-superiority fighters. After a 1985 test, though, Congress prohibited further tests against satellites, and the program was ended in 1988. The ASM-135 could destroy satellites anywhere from 350 to 620 miles above the Earth.

In 2008, the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) used a RIM-161 Standard Missile SM-3 to destroy a failed satellite. Operation Burnt Frost was a success, with the failed satellite being destroyed 133 nautical miles above sea level. China and Russia protested the operation.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years
This image shows the interception of a satellite by a SM-3 missile fired by the cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) in 2008. (US Navy photo)

American defense officials claim that the United States has “very robust” capabilities in space. But Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten says that China and Russia have been developing space-warfare capabilities.

Hyten noted that Chinese and Russian threats to American space systems will be “a much nearer-term issue for the commander after me, and for the commander after that person, it will be more significant because the gap is narrowing quickly” between American capabilities and those of China and Russia. A 2013 test of an earlier missile in the Dong Neng series reached up to 18,600 miles over the earth.

This World War II vet finally got his commission after 76 years
Gen. John E. Hyten, USAF, commander of United States Strategic Command. (DOD photo)

“It’s not very complicated. You treat it as a war-fighting domain. And when you do that, the answers are not that complicated. You have to have increased maneuver capabilities on our satellites. We have to have defensive capabilities to defend ourselves. These are just war fighting problems,” he said.

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