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Earth’s copper ring; or, a science experiment that didn’t catch on

19 Aug

This pairs well with another post of mine from a while ago:  Science You Never Knew Existed

The Forgotten Cold War Plan That Put a Ring of Copper Around the Earth



During the summer of 1963, Earth looked a tiny bit like Saturn.

The same year that Martin Luther King, Jr. marched on Washington and Beatlemania was born, the United States launched half a billion whisker-thin copper wires into orbit in an attempt to install a ring around the Earth. It was called Project West Ford, and it’s a perfect, if odd, example of the Cold War paranoia and military mentality at work in America’s early space program.

The Air Force and Department of Defense envisioned the West Ford ring as the largest radio antenna in human history. Its goal was to protect the nation’s long-range communications in the event of an attack from the increasingly belligerent Soviet Union.

During the late 1950’s, long-range communications relied on undersea cables or over-the-horizon radio. These were robust, but not invulnerable. Should the Soviets have attacked an undersea telephone or telegraph cable, America would only have been able to rely on radio broadcasts to communicate overseas. But the fidelity of the ionosphere, the layer of the atmosphere that makes most long-range radio broadcasts possible, is at the mercy of the sun: It is routinely disrupted by solar storms. The U.S. military had identified a problem.

A potential solution was born in 1958 at MIT’s Lincoln Labs, a research station on Hanscom Air Force Base northwest of Boston. Project Needles, as it was originally known, was Walter E. Morrow’s idea. He suggested that if Earth possessed a permanent radio reflector in the form of an orbiting ring of copper threads, America’s long-range communications would be immune from solar disturbances and out of reach of nefarious Soviet plots.

Each copper wire was about 1.8 centimeters in length. This was half the wavelength of the 8 GHz transmission signal beamed from Earth, effectively turning each filament into what is known as a dipole antenna. The antennas would boost long-range radio broadcasts without depending on the fickle ionosphere.

Today it’s hard to imagine a time where filling space with millions of tiny metal projectiles was considered a good idea. But West Ford was spawned before men had set foot in space, when generals were in charge of NASA’s rockets, and most satellites and spacecraft hadn’t flown beyond the drafting table. The agency operated under a “Big Sky Theory.” Surely space is so big that the risks of anything crashing into a stray bit of space junk were miniscule compared to the threat of communism.

The project was renamed West Ford, for the neighboring town of Westford, Massachusetts. It wasn’t the first, or even the strangest plan to build a global radio reflector. In 1945, science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke suggested that Germany’s V2 rocket arsenal could be repurposed to deploy an array of antennas into geostationary orbit around the Earth. So prescient was Clarke’s vision, today’s communications satellites, residing at these fixed points above the planet, are said to reside in “Clarke Orbit”.

Meanwhile, American scientists had been attempting to use our own moon as a communications relay, a feat that would finally be accomplished with 1946’s Project Diana. An even more audacious scheme was hatched in the early 1960s from a shiny Mylar egg known as Project Echo, which utilized a pair of microwave reflectors in the form of space-borne metallic balloons.

Size of the copper needles dispersed as part of Project West Ford. (NASA)

As Project West Ford progressed through development, radio astronomers raised alarm at the ill effects this cloud of metal could have on their ability to survey the stars. Concerns were beginning to arise about the problem of space junk. But beneath these worries was an undercurrent of frustration that a space mission under the banner of national security was not subject to the same transparency as public efforts.

The Space Science Board of the National Academy of Sciences convened a series of classified discussions to address astronomers’ worries, and President Kennedy attempted a compromise in 1961. The White House ensured that West Ford’s needles would be placed in a low orbit, the wires would likely re-enter Earth’s atmosphere within two years, and no further tests would be conducted until the results of the first were fully evaluated. This partially appeased the international astronomy community, but still, no one could guarantee precisely what would happen to twenty kilograms of copper wire dispersed into orbit.

The West Ford dispersal system. (NASA)

On October 21, 1961, NASA launched the first batch of West Ford dipoles into space. A day later, this first payload had failed to deploy from the spacecraft, and its ultimate fate was never completely determined.

“U.S.A. Dirties Space” read a headline in the Soviet newspaper Pravda. 

Ambassador Adlai Stevenson was forced to make a statement before the UN declaring that the U.S. would consult more closely with international scientists before attempting another launch. Many remained unsatisfied. Cambridge astronomer Fred Hoyle went so far as to accuse the U.S. of undertaking a military project under “a façade of respectability,” referring to West Ford as an “intellectual crime.”

On May 9, 1963, a second West Ford launch successfully dispersed its spindly cargo approximately 3,500 kilometers above the Earth, along an orbit that crossed the North and South Pole. Voice transmissions were successfully relayed between California and Massachusetts, and the technical aspects of the experiment were declared a success. As the dipole needles continued to disperse, the transmissions fell off considerably, although the experiment proved the strategy could work in principle.

Concern about the clandestine and military nature of West Ford continued following this second launch. On May 24 of that year, the  The Harvard Crimson quoted British radio astronomer Sir Bernard Lovell as saying, “The damage lies not with this experiment alone, but with the attitude of mind which makes it possible without international agreement and safeguards.”

Recent military operations in space had given the U.S. a reckless reputation, especially following 1962’s high-altitude nuclear test Starfish Prime. This famously bad idea dispersed radiation across the globe, spawning tropical auroras and delivering a debilitating electromagnetic pulse to Hawaiian cities.

The ultimate fate of the West Ford needles is also surrounded by a cloud of uncertainty. Because the copper wires were so light, project leaders assumed that they would re-enter the atmosphere within several years, pushed Earthward by solar wind. Most of the needles from the failed 1961 and successful 1963 launch likely met this fate. Many now lie beneath snow at the poles.

But not all the needles returned to Earth. Thanks to a design flaw, it’s possible that several hundred, perhaps thousands of clusters of clumped needles still reside in orbit around Earth, along with the spacecraft that carried them.

The copper needles were embedded in a naphthalene gel designed to evaporate quickly once it reached the vacuum of space, dispersing the needles in a thin cloud. But this design allowed metal-on-metal contact, which, in a vacuum, can weld fragments into larger clumps.

In 2001, the European Space Agency published a report that analyzed the fate of needle clusters from the two West Ford payloads. Unlike the lone needles, these chains and clumps have the potential to remain in orbit for several decades, and NORAD space debris databases list several dozen still aloft from the 1963 mission. But the ESA report suggests that, because the 1961 payload failed to disperse, thousands more clusters could have been deployed, and several may be too small to track.

Active communication satellites quickly made projects like West Ford obsolete, and no more needles were launched after 1963. Telstar, the first modern communications satellite, was launched in 1962, beaming television signals across the Atlantic for two hours a day.

In Earth’s catalog of space junk, West Ford’s bits of copper make up only a fraction of the total debris cloud that circles the Earth. But they surely have one of the strangest stories.

The scheme serves as yet another reminder that it was military might that brought the first space missions to bear, for better and worse. Like moon bases and men on Mars, it’s another long-lost dream born at a time when nothing was out of reach. Even putting a ring around the Earth.

Battle of Mogadishu – 19 years ago today

3 Oct


I recommend anyone interested go get a copy of  In the Company of Heroes by Mike Durant (the downed pilot they helped save)



19 years ago today – Blackhawk Down

1st SFOD-D

MSG Gary Gordon Killed defending the crew of Super Six-Four Medal of Honor

SFC Randy Shughart Killed defending the crew of Super Six-Four Medal of Honor

SSG Daniel Busch Crashed on Super Six-One, died from wounds received defending the downed crew Silver Star

SFC Earl Fillmore Killed moving to the first crash site Silver Star

SFC Matt Rierson Killed on October 6, 1993 by a mortar which landed just outside the hangar Silver Star

MSG Tim “Griz” Martin Died from wounds received on the Lost Convoy Silver Star and Purple Heart.

3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment

CPL Jamie Smith Died of wounds with the pinned-down force around crash site one Bronze Star with Valor Device and Oak leaf cluster, Purple Heart

SPC James Cavaco Killed on the Lost Convoy Bronze Star with Valor Device

SGT Casey Joyce Killed on the Lost Convoy Bronze Star with Valor Device

PFC Richard “Alphabet” Kowalewski Killed on the Lost Convoy Bronze Star with Valor Device

SGT Dominick Pilla Killed on Struecker’s convoy Bronze Star with Valor Device

SGT Lorenzo Ruiz Killed on the Lost Convoy Bronze Star with Valor Device

160th SOAR (Nightstalkers)

SSG William Cleveland Crew chief on Super Six-Four-killed Silver Star, Bronze Star, Air Medal with Valor Device

SSG Thomas Field Crew chief on Super Six-Four-killed Silver Star, Bronze Star, Air Medal with Valor Device

CW4 Raymond Frank Copilot of Super Six-Four-killed Silver Star, Air Medal with Valor Device

CW3 Clifton “Elvis” Wolcott Pilot of Super Six-One and died in crash Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Air Medal with Valor Device

CW2 Donovan “Bull” Briley Copilot of Super Six-One and died in crash Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Air Medal with Valor Device

2nd Battalion 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade 10th Mountain Division

SGT Cornell Houston Killed on the rescue convoy Bronze Star with Valor Device, de Fleury Medal

PFC James Martin Killed on the rescue convoy Purple Heart

Here’s a story about the two MOH recipeints. Long, but worth the read…

Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart

“It was terribly risky, maybe even hopeless. But one or two properly-armed, well-trained soldiers could hold off an undisciplined mob indefinitely. Shughart and Gordon were experts at killing and staying alive. They were serious, career soldiers, trained to get hard, ugly things done. They saw opportunity where others could see only danger. Like the other operators, they prided themselves on staying cool and effective even in extreme danger. They lived and trained endlessly for moments like this. If there were a chance to succeed, these two believed they would.”


The situation was grim on the afternoon of October 3rd, 1993. Things had been fucked from the beginning – what was supposed to have been a routine, thirty-minute raid to bust in and snatch the brutal Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid from the confines of his Mogadishu hideout quickly devolved into a clusterfuck of epic proportions. One Black Hawk helicopter had already been shot down – hit by a salvo of RPG fire, stranding teams of U.S. Army Rangers and Delta Force operatives on the ground deep inside enemy territory, surrounded by people actively trying to kill them. The entire city had completely exploded into a full-blown warzone in the span of a little less than an hour, as men from Aidid’s militia rushed out from buildings across the city, armed to the teeth with assault rifles, pistols, rocket-propelled grenades, and whatever other nasty weaponry they could get their hands on. And now, just because things weren’t fucked-up enough already, a second Black Hawk – one that had been sent in to provide assistance with this rapidly-degenerating situation – had also taken an RPG to the tail rotor and was now spewing black smoke as it crash-landed in a residential neighborhood dozens of blocks from the battle.

As Warrant Officer Michael Durant’s Black Hawk, code named Super Six-Four, smashed down in a cloud of dust and smoke, Master Sergeant Gary Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randy Shughart watched helplessly from the deck of their Black Hawk as it maneuvered over to the crash site. These elite Delta Force snipers had initially been assigned to provide precision air-to-ground fire support to the operation, but now with Super Six-Four sitting helplessly in the middle of enemy territory like a six-million-dollar sitting duck, its crew all either dead or critically wounded, the herculean task had suddenly fallen on them – and them alone – to provide covering fire and keep any surviving crew members alive until a ground team could arrive and secure the area.

But the cavalry wasn’t coming any time soon. Gordon and Shughart knew that as they looked out across the burning cityscape of Mogadishu. They knew that fewer than a hundred Rangers and Delta operatives were currently pinned down on the other side of the city, fighting for their lives, surrounded by thousands of well-armed Somali militia troops with explosives and heavy machine guns. The U.S. convoy that had been sent to rescue the stranded soldiers had been hammered by RPG fire from city windows, and they weren’t making any progress through the maze of city streets that had been expertly blockaded by Aidid’s men. Super Six-Four was completely cut off, and now a growing mob of AK47-toting militia was sprinting down the streets of Mogadishu, making a beeline towards the smashed helicopter and her severely battered crew.

Looking down at the wreckage of the Black Hawk, watching helplessly as Warrant Officer Durant sitting there in the pilot’s chair of the crippled machine desperately fighting for his life, trying to pick off swarms of marauding militia men with an MP5 submachine gun set on single-shot fire, Delta Force sniper team leader Gary Gordon made the toughest call any man could possibly make.

He was going down there.

“Without a doubt, I owe my life to these two men and their bravery.
Those guys came in when they had to know it was a losing battle.
There was nobody else left to back them up. If they had not come in, I wouldn’t have survived.”


With the crowd rapidly closing in, and realizing that there was no chance for the downed pilot to survive the oncoming tidal wave of gunslinging humanity, Sergeant Gordon boldly requested to be placed on the ground so that he and Sergeant Shughart could set up a defensive perimeter and protect the downed helicopter and her crew. His request was denied. Twice. It was too dangerous, the commander argued, which is seriously fucking saying something considering that Sergeant Gordon’s current job involved shooting a sniper rifle out of a moving helicopter while ground troops launched RPGs and shot AK-47s at him. But this was too much. He was volunteering for a suicide mission. Gandalf wasn’t going to ride in on a white horse and save the day with a blinding flash of light. They were going to be going in alone.

But Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart couldn’t just sit there and do nothing while wounded Americans were down there fighting for their lives against impossible odds.

On his third request, Gordon received permission to hit the ground and take the attack in.

“I never saw where they came from, but they had to come from the rear, otherwise I would have seen them approach. It was a surreal feeling. I mean it was like this awful situation that you just realized your in is now suddenly over.”


The pilot of Gordon and Shughart’s Black Hawk first attempted to land right next to the crash site of Super Six-Four, but the LZ was too hot – a flood of small arms fire, RPGs, and an excess of ground debris and fire made insertion impossible. So instead of putting down in the middle of the action, Gordon and Shughart jumped from the hovering helicopter 100 meters from the crash site, getting boots on the ground just seconds before an RPG smashed into the Black Hawk, blowing the door gunner’s leg off and severely injuring many of the crew (in a related tale of impossible badassitude, the pilot of this Black Hawk ended up flying the bird home with a bullet in his shoulder and his co-pilot unconscious). The two Delta snipers moved quickly through the shanties of the neighborhood, fighting the enemy solely with their rifles and pistols. Before long, they’d fought through the streets to reach the clearing where the smoking hulk of Super Six-Four lay motionless.

They arrived just in time. Warrant Officer Durant was still strapped in the cockpit, running low on ammunition, his leg broken in several places and a couple of his vertebrae crushed but continuing to fight like a wildman. Three of the other crew members were in even worse shape, barely alive and in no condition to fight.

But Gordon and Shughart were the best of the best. Green Berets. Delta Force. Veterans of countless firefights and career soldiers who always remained cool no matter how ridiculously the odds were stacked against them. The two men rushed to the cockpit, checked on the pilot, and pulled him from the wreckage without further aggravating the man’s grievous injuries. They then moved him and the three wounded crew members back away from the wreckage, gave some ammunition to Durant and proceeded to set up the best perimeter they could muster, considering they were just two guys preparing to stand off against pretty much the entire fucking city of Mogadishu with nothing more than a pair of assault rifles and pistols.

“Their actions were professional and deliberate to the point that they looked like they were planning a parking lot. They didn’t seem alarmed the situation that we were in.
It was just focused on the task, doing what they needed to do to improve our situation, and get through it, get us rescued. Whatever it is they needed to do.”


The mob arrived. Gordon and Shughart knew they were just going to have to go Horde Mode against an armed militia and hope that there might be any possible chance that they could hold the attack off long enough for rescue to show up. But that wasn’t likely, and they knew it. These guys were the cavalry. The only thing standing between an angry throng of pissed-off Somalis and four critically wounded Americans.

Militia troops swarmed in from every side, scrambling over the rubble, AK-47s spewing lead. Some of them just ran screaming out into the middle of the road, without any cover, desperately trying to reach the Americans and achieve glory in combat or die for the cause in the process (Gordon and Shughart helped them out with the latter). Ducking behind cover, popping and firing, the Delta snipers laid down a wall of death for anyone who came close, blasting away with burst-fire with their rifles and switching over to double-tap pistol fire when necessary, trying their damnedest to separate the armed militia targets from the innocent civilians on the street. Carrying only those two firearms, this pair of death-dealing Delta operatives fought tenaciously, refusing to give up ground, defending at all costs, and surgically mowing down their foes while assault rifle rounds pinged off nearby debris and enemy troops chucked hand grenades at their positions.

“When you get in a situation like that, I think pretty much without exception, what I’ve heard described as a feeling of I’m not fighting for my country anymore, I’m not fighting for my paycheck, I’m not fighting for the flag, I’m fighting for the guy next to me. I’m fighting for my comrades. I’m gonna do whatever it takes so that we get out of this alive. And uh, I’ve heard that said before, and that, that’s what it boils down to.

I mean when I went back in there, I went back in there because I knew the Rangers on the ground needed our help. When Randy and Gary came into my crash site they knew the chances were pretty good they wouldn’t make it out alive, but they did it because they knew that if they didn’t take action, we were gonna die. And that’s why they did it. “


There’s some debate over who was killed in action first. The official military documents say it was Shughart. Durant is pretty sure it was Gordon. I would argue that it doesn’t really matter. These two men – Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart – are going to be inextricably linked together forever in the annals of American military history, and I’m completely confident that either of these men would have reacted the exact same way under fire.

Whatever the case may be, one of the snipers was finally shot with a mortal wound. Durant recalls the operative’s last words as simply, “Damn, I’m hit,” said plainly in a matter-of-fact way that “sounded almost irritated”. The lone surviving Delta operator circled back around the nose of the Black Hawk, back into Durant’s field of vision, handed the wounded pilot an assault rifle, and asked if there was any extra ammo in the helicopter. Durant told him about the M-16s the crew chiefs kept between the seats, so the lone survivor rushed over, grabbed a handful of mags, and got on the radio to request a status report. He was told that reinforcements would be there “in a little while.”

He knew what that meant.

The Delta operative showed no emotion as he walked back over to Durant, stopping only to say one thing – Good luck – before circling back around the front of the helicopter and taking the entire city on by himself. When this fearless soldier ran out of rifle ammunition, he took on the mob with only his pistol, but finally, after an heroic last stand worthy of the greatest warriors in history, the last member of this unbelievably-badass Delta Sniper Team was finally overwhelmed by a coordinated attack from the Somali National Alliance, and the position was overrun by a sea of militia troops and Somali citizens.

But Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart’s sacrifice would not have been in vain. Thanks to their ferocious defense of the crash site, giving up their lives to aid their fellow soldiers, Michael Durant was spared by the mob, imprisoned briefly, and survived to return home to his wife and kids. If these two men had done nothing, Durant would certainly have been killed while still strapped into his pilot’s chair.

The Somalis would report at least 25 men dead at the crash site of Super Six-Four, with dozens more wounded and injured. Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart would be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions.

June 6, 1944

6 Jun

The Normandy Landings were the first operations of the Allied Powers’ invasion of Normandy, also known as Operation Neptune and Operation Overlord, during World War II. D-Day for the operation, postponed 24 hours, became June 6, 1944, H-Hour was 6:30 am.


Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have
striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The
hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.
In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on
other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war
machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of
Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well
equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of
1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats,
in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their
strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home
Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions
of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men.
The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to

I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in
battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great
and noble undertaking.

SIGNED: Dwight D. Eisenhower



And now, the best speech ever written. Period.


General George S Patton on June 5, 1944



Be seated.

Men, this stuff that some sources sling around about America wanting out of this war, not wanting to fight, is a crock of bullshit.

Americans love to fight, traditionally. All real Americans love the sting and clash of battle.

You are here today for three reasons. First, because you are here to defend your homes and your loved ones. Second, you are here for your own self respect, because you would not want to be anywhere else.

Third, you are here because you are real men and all real men like to fight.

When you, here, everyone of you, were kids, you all admired the champion marble player, the fastest runner, the toughest boxer, the big league ball players, and the All-American football players. Americans love a winner. Americans will not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards.

Americans play to win all of the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That’s why Americans have never lost nor will ever lose a war; for the very idea of losing is hateful to an American.

You are not all going to die. Only two percent of you right here today would die in a major battle. Death must not be feared. Death, in time, comes to all men. Yes, every man is scared in his first battle. If he says he’s not, he’s a liar. Some men are cowards but they fight the same as the brave men or they get the hell slammed out of them watching men fight who are just as scared as they are.

The real hero is the man who fights even though he is scared.

Some men get over their fright in a minute under fire. For some, it takes an hour. For some, it takes days. But a real man will never let his fear of death overpower his honor, his sense of duty to his country, and his innate manhood. Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best and it removes all that is base. Americans pride themselves on being He Men and they ARE He Men.

Remember that the enemy is just as frightened as you are, and probably more so. They are not supermen.

All through your Army careers, you men have bitched about what you call ‘chicken shit drilling’. That, like everything else in this Army, has a definite purpose. That purpose is alertness. Alertness must be bred into every soldier. I don’t give a fuck for a man who’s not always on his toes. You men are veterans or you wouldn’t be here. You are ready for what’s to come. A man must be alert at all times if he expects to stay alive. If you’re not alert, sometime, a German son-of-an-asshole-bitch is going to sneak up behind you and beat you to death with a sockful of shit!

There are four hundred neatly marked graves somewhere in Sicily, all because one man went to sleep on the job. But they are German graves, because we caught the bastard asleep before they did.

An Army is a team. It lives, sleeps, eats, and fights as a team. This individual heroic stuff is pure horse shit. The bilious bastards who write that kind of stuff for the Saturday Evening Post don’t know any more about real fighting under fire than they know about fucking! We have the finest food, the finest equipment, the best spirit, and the best men in the world. Why, by God, I actually pity those poor sons-of-bitches we’re going up against. By God, I do.

My men don’t surrender, and I don’t want to hear of any soldier under my command being captured unless he has been hit. Even if you are hit, you can still fight back That’s not just bull shit either. The kind of man that I want in my command is just like the lieutenant in Libya, who, with a Luger against his chest, jerked off his helmet, swept the gun aside with one hand, and busted the hell out of the Kraut with his helmet. Then he jumped on the gun and went out and killed another German before they knew what the hell was coming off. And, all of that time, this man had a bullet through a lung. There was a real man!

All of the real heroes are not storybook combat fighters, either. Every single man in this Army plays a vital role. Don’t ever let up. Don’t ever think that your job is unimportant. Every man has a job to do and he must do it. Every man is a vital link in the great chain.

What if every truck driver suddenly decided that he didn’t like the whine of those shells overhead, turned yellow, and jumped headlong into a ditch? The cowardly bastard could say, ‘Hell, they won’t miss me, just one man in thousands.’ But, what if every man thought that way? Where in the hell would we be now? What would our country, our loved ones, our homes, even the world, be like?

No, Goddamnit, Americans don’t think like that. Every man does his job. Every man serves the whole. Every department, every unit, is important in the vast scheme of this war.

The ordnance men are needed to supply the guns and machinery of war to keep us rolling. The Quartermaster is needed to bring up food and clothes because where we are going there isn’t a hell of a lot to steal. Every last man on K.P. has a job to do, even the one who heats our water to keep us from getting the ‘G.I. Shits’.

Each man must not think only of himself, but also of his buddy fighting beside him. We don’t want yellow cowards in this Army. They should be killed off like rats. If not, they will go home after this war and breed more cowards. The brave men will breed more brave men. Kill off the Goddamned cowards and we will have a nation of brave men.

One of the bravest men that I ever saw was a fellow on top of a telegraph pole in the midst of a furious fire fight in Tunisia. I stopped and asked what the hell he was doing up there at a time like that. He answered, ‘Fixing the wire, Sir.’ I asked, ‘Isn’t that a little unhealthy right about now?’ He answered, ‘Yes Sir, but the Goddamned wire has to be fixed.’ I asked, ‘Don’t those planes strafing the road bother you?’ And he answered, ‘No, Sir, but you sure as hell do!’ Now, there was a real man. A real soldier. There was a man who devoted all he had to his duty, no matter how seemingly insignificant his duty might appear at the time, no matter how great the odds.

And you should have seen those trucks on the rode to Tunisia. Those drivers were magnificent. All day and all night they rolled over those son-of-a-bitching roads, never stopping, never faltering from their course, with shells bursting all around them all of the time. We got through on good old American guts. Many of those men drove for over forty consecutive hours. These men weren’t combat men, but they were soldiers with a job to do. They did it, and in one hell of a way they did it. They were part of a team. Without team effort, without them, the fight would have been lost. All of the links in the chain pulled together and the chain became unbreakable.

Don’t forget, you men don’t know that I’m here. No mention of that fact is to be made in any letters. The world is not supposed to know what the hell happened to me. I’m not supposed to be commanding this Army. I’m not even supposed to be here in England. Let the first bastards to find out be the Goddamned Germans. Some day I want to see them raise up on their piss-soaked hind legs and howl, ‘Jesus Christ, it’s the Goddamned Third Army again and that son-of-a-fucking-bitch Patton’. We want to get the hell over there.’ The quicker we clean up this Goddamned mess, the quicker we can take a little jaunt against the purple pissing Japs and clean out their nest, too. Before the Goddamned Marines get all of the credit.

Sure, we want to go home. We want this war over with. The quickest way to get it over with is to go get the bastards who started it. The quicker they are whipped, the quicker we can go home. The shortest way home is through Berlin and Tokyo. And when we get to Berlin I am personally going to shoot that paper hanging son-of-a-bitch Hitler. Just like I’d shoot a snake!

When a man is lying in a shell hole, if he just stays there all day, a German will get to him eventually. The hell with that idea. The hell with taking it. My men don’t dig foxholes. I don’t want them to. Foxholes only slow up an offensive. Keep moving. And don’t give the enemy time to dig one either. We’ll win this war, but we’ll win it only by fighting and by showing the Germans that we’ve got more guts than they have; or ever will have.

We’re not going to just shoot the sons-of-bitches, we’re going to rip out their living Goddamned guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We’re going to murder those lousy Hun cock suckers by the bushel-fucking-basket. War is a bloody, killing business. You’ve got to spill their blood, or they will spill yours. Rip them up the belly. Shoot them in the guts. When shells are hitting all around you and you wipe the dirt off your face and realize that instead of dirt it’s the blood and guts of what once was your best friend beside you, you’ll know what to do!

I don’t want to get any messages saying, ‘I am holding my position.’ We are not holding a Goddamned thing. Let the Germans do that. We are advancing constantly and we are not interested in holding onto anything, except the enemy’s balls. We are going to twist his balls and kick the living shit out of him all of the time. Our basic plan of operation is to advance and to keep on advancing regardless of whether we have to go over, under, or through the enemy. We are going to go through him like crap through a goose; like shit through a tin horn!

From time to time there will be some complaints that we are pushing our people too hard. I don’t give a good Goddamn about such complaints. I believe in the old and sound rule that an ounce of sweat will save a gallon of blood. The harder WE push, the more Germans we will kill. The more Germans we kill, the fewer of our men will be killed. Pushing means fewer casualties. I want you all to remember that.

There is one great thing that you men will all be able to say after this war is over and you are home once again. You may be thankful that twenty years from now when you are sitting by the fireplace with your grandson on your knee and he asks you what you did in the great World War II, you WON’T have to cough, shift him to the other knee and say, ‘Well, your Granddaddy shoveled shit in Louisiana.’ No, Sir, you can look him straight in the eye and say, ‘Son, your Granddaddy rode with the Great Third Army and a Son-of-a-Goddamned-Bitch named Georgie Patton!'”

Welcome Home – A Soldier’s Homecoming

23 Apr

I saw this today and I immediately thought of all my friends who have served. While most seem to have fared pretty well it’s sometimes very easy to forget what they have been through. Some saw worse than others, some had to do worse than others, some hide it better than others, but everyone who has served comes home with something. Memories, keepsakes, friends, brothers… and sometimes PTSD.

The story below is about a photo essay. It was put together by Craig Walker and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography. It’s a stark reminder of what some members of the armed forces come home with, and I think everyone should read this article and definitely look through the 50 pictures that make up the award winning essay.

I often feel that I should have served in the military… at least once a week it crosses my mind. I think back to my grandpa, a sergeant in WWII who saw action in Italy and Germany, or two uncles, one who was a RIO in F-4 Phantoms or the other who was a Green Beret in Vietnam. I think about friends (Marines, Army, Navy, etc) that have served recently. I feel that I somehow missed out on a huge opportunity not only to see the world but to make a difference and really find out what I am made of. I’ve even told my wife that I won’t be dropping my current life and leaving her to chase a strange dream, but if it ever came to it and I had to go serve my country I would step up and volunteer for a combat medic MOS… but then I read stories like Scott’s and it makes me wonder. I don’t wonder if I could do the job, but I wonder if I could handle the aftermath. I hope everyone coming back stateside gets everything they need to really feel at home again, and I hope everyone else does anything and everything they can to facilitate that.

Gallery –>  Welcome Home, The Story of Scott Ostrom

Posted at 07:55 AM ET, 04/19/2012 TheWashingtonPost

Pulitzer Prize winning subject Scott Ostrom reflects on the pain that led to prize

By May-Ying Lam

The recruitment ad that started it all is still on YouTube if you just search for “marine lava monster.” In the commercial, a man strides out of a white beam of light in a post-apocalyptic landscape. The man dives through the blades of a turbine to attain a sword (as a fireball shoots to the sky). Then, while balancing on a tightrope of blue light, he slashes a lava monster, and the inferno of its demise sweeps up the man turning him into a Marine.

Rewatching the video that persuaded him to enlist in the Marine Corps, Scott Ostrom has a long laugh at his apartment in Boulder, Colo. “…And then he puts on his dress blues and looks so good…I want that,” he said over the phone.

Ostrom cups his hand over his mouth as he tries to calm a panic attack at his apartment in Boulder, Colo. (HANDOUT – REUTERS) Ostrom, 27, an Iraq War veteran with PTSD, found his experiences to be far different from the recruitment spot. The painful long road after his deployment was documented by Denver Post photographer Craig F. Walker and the subsequent photo essay won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography on April 16.

Ten days after joining boot camp, on May 20, 2003, Ostrom’s drill instructor came into the barracks. “I hope you didn’t plan on getting a free ride to college ‘cause we’re going to war with Iraq,” Ostrom remembered him saying. “I didn’t even know where Iraq was on a map.”

Walker’s project, titled “Welcome Home,” chronicles Ostrom’s return home from Iraq — and the resulting nightmares, hypervigilance and rage. It required full commitment by both Walker and Ostrom. “I told him he’d have to let me be there for everything, good days and bad,” Walker said.

The poetic photos expose the viewer to a tumultuous range of emotions. In one frame, light outlines the bright thread of a suicide attempt that holds together two halves of a skull tattoo. There are also heartbreaking emotional moments, including one where Ostrom weeps after having his apartment application rejected because of an assault charge.

Brian Scott Ostrom looks over his military service records and weeps after being told his apartment application had been turned down. (HANDOUT – REUTERS) One of the most powerful visual metaphors is a frame where Ostrom faces into a blinding block of light. Here, he waits for his girlfriend to pick up her belongings after a breakup. Ostrom seems to be not only looking into his internal paranoia, but also viewing a hostile outside world from a dim room.

Some of the most astounding features of Walker’s photography are the depth and sheer amount of time he dedicates to his subjects. Walker’s work does not offer fleeting glimpses into his subjects’ lives.

Walker’s first Pulitzer in 2010 was awarded in the same category, feature photography, recognizing Walker’s series on Ian Fisher, who enlisted as a baby-faced 18-year-old. Walker stayed with Fisher for two years through graduation, enlistment, basic training, first assignment, breakup, breakup, Iraq, marriage and frequent returns home.

Denver Post photographer Craig F. Walker hugs his son, Quinn, while telling his mother he won a Pulitzer Prize. (Aaron Ontiveroz – AP) In a video of Walker receiving the news of the Pulitzer Prize in the Denver Post newsroom, someone informs Walker’s new baby, “Your daddy just won a Pulitzer!”

Walker’s boss had sneaked Ostrom into the newsroom so he could be present for the announcement. After congratulations all around, the video cuts to Ostrom. “This story has definitely saved at least one guy’s life so far,” he says.

Ostrom said that he just got word the day before that the Department of Veterans Affairs finally officially recognized his PTSD. He hopes that the compensation will help him resume a semblance of normal life. Furthermore, he hopes to enroll at the University of Colorado.

Craig F. Walker hugs former Marine Scott Ostrom in the Denver Post newsroom. (Joe Amon – AP)

View the other 2012 Pulitzer Prize winners here.

By May-Ying Lam  |  07:55 AM ET, 04/19/2012

“Nothing to be gained by trying to get away” – BBC’s 70s script to be read in case of nuclear war

3 Mar


This doc is from the 1970s.

This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons. Communications have been severely disrupted, and the number of casualties and the extent of the damage are not yet known. We shall bring you further information as soon as possible. Meanwhile, stay tuned to this wavelength, stay calm and stay in your own homes.
Remember there is nothing to be gained by trying to get away. By leaving your homes you could be exposing yourselves to greater danger.
If you leave, you may find yourself without food, without water, without accommodation and without protection. Radioactive fall-out, which follows a nuclear explosion, is many times more dangerous if you are directly exposed to it in the open. Roofs and walls offer substantial protection. The safest place is indoors.
Make sure gas and other fuel supplies are turned off and that all fires are extinguished. If mains water is available, this can be used for fire-fighting. You should also refill all your containers for drinking water after the fires have been put out, because the mains water supply may not be available for very long.
Water must not be used for flushing lavatories: until you are told that lavatories may be used again, other toilet arrangements must be made. Use your water only for essential drinking and cooking purposes. Water means life. Don’t waste it.
Make your food stocks last: ration your supply, because it may have to last for 14 days or more. If you have fresh food in the house, use this first to avoid wasting it: food in tins will keep.
If you live in an area where a fall-out warning has been given, stay in your fall-out room until you are told it is safe to come out. When the immediate danger has passed the sirens will sound a steady note. The “all clear” message will also be given on this wavelength. If you leave the fall-out room to go to the lavatory or replenish food or water supplies, do not remain outside the room for a minute longer than is necessary.
Do not, in any circumstances, go outside the house. Radioactive fall-out can kill. You cannot see it or feel it, but it is there. If you go outside, you will bring danger to your family and you may die. Stay in your fall-out room until you are told it  is safe to come out or you hear the “all clear” on the sirens.
Here are the main points again:
Stay in your own homes, and if you live in an area where a fall-out warning has been given stay in your fall-out room, until you are told it is safe to come out. The message that the immediate danger has passed will be given by the sirens and repeated on this wavelength. Make sure that the gas and all fuel supplies are turned off and that all fires are extinguished.

Water must be rationed, and used only for essential drinking and cooking purposes. It must not be used for flushing lavatories. Ration your food supply: it may have to last for 14 days or more.
We shall repeat this broadcast in two hours’ time. Stay tuned to this wavelength, but switch your radios off now to save your batteries until we come on the air again. That is the end of this broadcast.

Prairie Fire

21 May

Thanks to the guys at ARFCOM for providing this powerful bit of history.


“Prairie Fire” x2

This is a recording of two Recon Teams (RT’s) who are in dire straits. Both RT’s are loosing a battle wherby death is immenient. Those RT’s are: RT Colorado with Pat Mitchel being the 10, Lyn St. Laurent as the 11, and David “Lurch” Mixter as the 13. RT Colorado is an eight man team including the five Indigenous troops. The other was RT Hawaii with Les Dover as the 10, Regis Gmitter the 11, and John Justice the 12 (I believe this to be the case with this recon team as far as who was what on the team through natural progression of skills learned in combat.) May not be accurate though, reader and listener take note. Also, it is unknown to me how many Indigenous Troops made up RT Hawaii at that time.

RT Colorado is the team that is running for its life. RT Hawaii is holding their own. Both RT’s have called out a “Prairie Fire” in Laos near the Ho Chi Minh Trail and are approximately 10 miles apart as the crow flies. Colorado has just been hit by a North Vietnamese platoon of 40 men who desire no more than to wipe this team completely off the face of the Earth.

During this Prairie Fire, David Mixter is killed when he saves Mitchel’s life by shoving him to one side and exchanging fire with an NVA armed with an RPG. Mixter and the NVA exchange fire immediately. The NVA fires his RPG as Mixter fires his weapon. The RPG hits Mixter in the knee area and kills him instantly as the NVA drops dead by Mixter’s return Fire.

What exactly does a “Prairie Fire mean? It means at least three things, they are: 1) You are in contact with a much superior force than yours. 2) Either completely surrounded or will be. 3) Death is imminent.

The other two “emergencies” were the following: 1) Tactical – meaning you are engaged with the enemy, but you are holding your own for now. A “Team emergecy” which means that someone on your team is injured or sick.
this could be upgraded at any time to a “Prairie Fire”. Especially if you are surrounded and have allot of wounded.

All pilots that flew gunships, helicopters, attack and fighter aircraft were given a “briefing” before flying in country. That briefing entailed what to do if a FAC has called out a “Prairie Fire” over the radio. By the rules in Vietnam everyone listening was to stop what they were doing and come to the aid of the FAC/Recon Team(s).

John “Plasticman” Plaster is the “Covey Rider or Backseater” on the afternoon shift with Captain Mike Cryer as the pilot of their OV-10 Bronco. They had just lifted off from Pleiku after eating lunch there and are heading out towards Laos. Ken “Shoebox” Carpenter is flying as the CR onboard the military version of the Cessna 210 Skymaster over Laos at this time. As Plaster and Cryer left for Laos they noticed how clear the sky was considering that most of January had been very wet. As they passed Ben Het below, Cryer switched their radio frequency over to “Shoebox” Carpenter’s frequency and what you hear for the next 35 minutes is two RT’s fighting to stay alive.

One other item of importance. The reason why you hear so many people talking at once is because allot of the helicopters and FACs had what is known as a “hot mic”. What this means is that the microphone is always on and talking on it is much like talking on a telephone. Everybody can talk and hear responses immediately. The only exception to this is the Recon Team(s). They relied upon the PRC-25 and much later in the war the PRC-77 for commo and this meant that the RT could constantly moniter a channel (receive) and transmit by pushing the button in on the handset.

Also, the first “Prairie Fire” you here is from RT Hawaii’s 1-0 Regis Gmitter and it is during their rescue mission. When you here Platster call on the radio: “I have your smoke, where do want the firepower brought in?” you will hear Pat Mitchel’s voice stating that “Their is only two of us left and Charlie is dead on our ass!”. Mixter was killed a few minutes before this and the Indigenous troops are nowhere to be seen. Also, it is during this time that Mitchel is carrying Lyn St Laurent as he is seriously wounded himself. They are fighting for for their lives. Pay special attention to the background noise when Plaster is talking. You can hear the twin engines screaming and an occasional burst of the four mounted M-60’s. The continuos M-60 firing at the end is from the rescue Hueys doorgunners. One is firing one long string of 7.62 ammunition through his M-60 without stopping. It is still a very hot area.

Here is the following code names/words that are used in this recording that may be of use to the listener. Hopefully this will make the following conversations easier to understand and follow. Here are some of these words:

1) Plasticman John Plaster’s personal call sign while on a RT
2) White Lead Huey in charge of flying the rescue mission
3) Delta Papa Three John Plaster’s call sign while flying as Covey Rider in Bronco
4) Tango Papa Pat Mitchels call sign as 1-0
5) Panthers AH-1G Cobras. Also known as “Cobra”
6) Kingbees H-34 Helicopters usually flown by Vietnamese pilots
7) Bravo Hotel Ben Het SF camp
8) Delta Tango FOB at Dak To
9) Foxtrot Mike FM radio frequency
10) Victor VHF radio frequency
11) Uniform UHF radio frequency
12) Straw Hat Type Code name for American personel on a RT
13) Kilo November Known North. Position is “Kilo November”
14) Lurch David Mixter’s personel call sign
15) Winchester Air assets that are out of ordnance

Note: If any codenames/words are left out, they are unintentional. I ask that you either PM me or send a response to this thread with any question you may have. I will try and find out the answer and if I cannot, hopefully one of the SOG members here can respond to it. Any error(s) that may have occurred above are mine and only mine. I applogize ahead of time for this.

Note: From my point of view, one should listen to this if possible, in a dark and quiet room with no distractions. This way you can hear and understand most of the recording.

This recording is dedicted to the greatest soldiers in the world, the men who wear the Green Beret.

And a response from someone there…

What a surprise to find this after 40 years!!! I am Lyn St. Laurent, the 11 on RT Colorado, and mentioned by name in Plaster’s book as well. Just a few corrections to your description of what took place Jan 29, 1971: First off, it was me who David Mixture shoved down, not Mitchell, and yes, he did save my life @ that time. I had a hold of him when the RPG hit, and the blast knocked me down….at that time a burst of AK fire hit me, and I ws wounded seriously. I recovered a bit to see only Mitchell’s face and called out to him that I had been hit. He did not hesitate to come for me, and we both escaped downhill. One should note that although I was wounded, I could walk on my own, and could carry on conversations with Plaster and other assets, as I was the radio operator. We had regained our numbers when the ‘yards’ found us, and were safely extracted, thanks to our great American comrades!!! Over the years I have been in touch with Mitchell and Plaster, and those of us @ SOG will always have a special bond. It is good to know that our efforts were not in vain, and we are thankful for the support of so many. Sincerely, Lyn W. St. Laurent


19 Apr

Haven’t been shooting in a while. Scratching the itch today with some pics.

Enjoy some SPR Mk12 Mod0 / Mod1 goodness.

The Flying Crowbar

13 Apr

excerpts from  Air & Space Magazine, April/May 1990, Volume 5 No. 1, page 28. Written by Gregg Herken, illustrations by Paul DiMar


Full Article here (definitely worth the read):


 At the dawn of the atomic age, scientists began work on what might have been the nastiest weapon ever conceived.

Once it switched from booster rockets to nuclear power, Pluto would have been a danger to friend and foe alike

“Pluto’s namesake was Roman mythology’s ruler of the underworld — seemingly an apt inspiration for a locomotive-size missile that would travel at near-treetop level at three times the speed of sound, tossing out hydrogen bombs as it roared overhead. Pluto’s designers calculated that its shock wave alone might kill people on the ground. Then there was the problem of fallout. In addition to gamma and neutron radiation from the unshielded reactor, Pluto’s nuclear ramjet would spew fission fragments out in its exhaust as it flew by. (One enterprising weaponeer had a plan to turn an obvious peace-time liability into a wartime asset: he suggested flying the radioactive rocket back and forth over the Soviet Union after it had dropped its bombs.)”

“The idea behind any ramjet is relatively simple: air is drawn in at the front of the vehicle under ram pressure, heated to make it expand, and then exhausted out the back, providing thrust. But the notion of using a nuclear reactor to heat the air was something fundamentally new. Unlike commercial reactors, which are surrounded by hundreds of tons of concrete, Pluto’s reactor had to be small and compact enough to fly, but durable enough to survive the several thousand-mile trip to targets in the Soviet Union.

The success of Project Pluto depended upon a whole series of technological advances in metallurgy and materials science. Pneumatic motors necessary to control the reactor in flight had to operate while red-hot and in the presence of intense radioactivity. The need to maintain supersonic speed at low altitude and in all kinds of weather meant that Pluto’s reactor had to survive conditions that would melt or disintegrate the metals used in most jet and rocket engines. Engineers calculated that the aerodynamic pressures upon the missile might be five times those the hypersonic X-15 had to endure. Pluto was “pretty close to the limits in all respects,” says Ethan Platt, an engineer who worked on the project. “We were tickling the dragon’s tail all the way,” says Blake Myers, head of Livermore’s propulsion engineering division.”

“so many unknowns surrounded Pluto that Merkle decided that it would take a static test of the full-scale ramjet reactor to resolve them all. To carry out the tests, Livermore built a special facility in a desolate stretch of Nevada desert close to where the lab had exploded many of its nuclear weapons. Designated Site 401, the facility — built on eight square miles of Jackass Flats — rivaled Project Pluto itself in ambition and cost.”

“Just to supply the concrete for the six- to eight-foot-thick walls of the disassembly building, the U.S. government had to buy an aggregate mine. It took 25 miles of oil well casing to store the million pounds of pressurized air used to simulate ramjet flight conditions for Pluto. To supply the high-pressure air, the lab borrowed giant compressors from the Navy’s submarine base in Groton, Connecticut. For a five-minute, full power test, as much as a ton of air a second had to be forced over 14 million one-inch steel balls in four huge steel tanks raised to 1,350 degrees Fahrenheit by oil-burning heaters.”

The 25 miles of oil well casing needed to store air for ramject simulations dominated Pluto's test site at Jackass Flats.

“Meanwhile, at the Pentagon, Pluto’s sponsors were having second thoughts about the project. Since the missile would be launched from U.S. territory and had to fly low over America’s allies in order to avoid detection on its way to the Soviet Union, some military planners began to wonder if it might not be almost as much a threat to the allies. Even before it began dropping bombs on our enemies Pluto would have deafened, flattened, and irradiated our friends. (The noise level on the ground as Pluto went by overhead was expected to be about 150 decibels; by comparison, the Saturn V rocket, which sent astronauts to the moon, produced 200 decibels at full thrust.) Ruptured eardrums, of course, would have been the least of your problems if you were unlucky enough to be underneath the unshielded reactor when it went by, literally roasting chickens in the barnyard. Pluto had begun to look like something only Goofy could love.”

“The Navy, which had originally expressed an interest in firing the missile from ships or submarines, also began to back away from the project after successful tests of its Polaris missile. Finally, at $50 million apiece, there were doubts that SLAM was worth the price. Pluto was suddenly a technology without an application, a weapon without a mission.”

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