Today I was a hero. I rescued some beer that was trapped in a bottle.
Fireball on China and North Korea
I’ve mentioned several times here in FOD that I believe one of the worst things that could happen to China, from their prospective, would be a fall of the North Korean family business/government of Kim Jung Un. A reunification of North and South Korea would result in US and/or western aligned troops on the border with China, a prospect much feared by China. Additionally a North Korea experimenting or threatening with nuclear weapons is one thing, but a North Korea with a real nuclear delivery capability is likely to foster the development of western supported nuclear capabilities in South Korea and eventually Japan. And dare we mention Taiwan in that nuclear soup? Such developments would realign the balance of power in Asia to China’s great disadvantage. Remember just a few months ago Kim Jung Un made that mysterious train trip to China? Since that time we have seen a distinct change in North Korea’s behavior. No further missile testing, no boasting of eventual war with the US and/or other nations in the region. And now President Donald Trump will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un on June 12 in Singapore, the US president announced Thursday. I think it possible Kim Jung Un was called upon Xi Jinping’s proverbial red Chinese carpet during that train trip. Xi says, “OK Kim dude, it’s perfectly fine for you to play with your nuclear toys, but threatening the US and other countries in the region upsets my plan for dominance in Asia long term. So here are your choices: make a deal with the US and soon before they export nuclear weapons to both South Korea and Japan and before they develop additional missile systems capable of shooting down your weapons and by extension my ICBMs in my backyard; OR, I will find a new family to operate North Korea. Now go back home and execute my command. We saw where North Korea has promised to allow the world to watch it blow up some of their nuclear test facilities. Likely that already happened. Back on 3 September when North Korea conducted its latest nuclear test on Punggye-ri registering 6.3 magnitude on earthquake sensors. Several minutes later however, geologists detected a smaller 4.1 magnitude rumbling. That got scientists speculating as to whether the nuclear test site, hidden inside a mountain, actually collapsed. A massive collapse could render the test site useless for future nuclear tests and may even increase the risk of radioactive gases escaping from the rock and into the air, scientists said. The case for this so-called “tired mountain syndrome” was bolstered three weeks ago, when North Korea announced that it planned to shut the main testing facility at Mount Mantap where five of the six tests, including the last explosion, took place. A few weeks ago, a group of Chinese geologists claimed in a study published in Geophysical Research Letters that the mountain had collapsed following the latest nuclear test. Of course the Chinese might be lying. That wouldn’t surprise me either. Now we see Kim Jung Un has cancelled recently scheduled talks with South Korea after the failure of the South and the US to cancel scheduled military exercises. Then again he has always been unpredictable. We can expect the unexpected.
Always remember you are unique, just like everyone else.
Buy Your Epic Pass
I don’t endorse many products on FOD, but this one is too good to pass up! If you’re a skier or a rider than you owe it to yourself to look into the Epic Pass. For $99 it gives Active/Retired/Dependent service members unlimited, unrestricted access to Vail, Beaver Creek, Whistler Blackcomb, Breckenridge, Park City, Keystone, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Stowe, Wilmot, Afton Alps, and Mt. Brighton for the 2018-19 season, as well as Perisher in Australia for the 2019 ski season. And they’re looking to add more resorts for next year as well. There is also a good deal for Veterans and their Dependents at $499 for the same benefits. You also get discounts on food on and off the mountain, lodging and ski rentals as well. There are also free lift access during the summer at most resorts for hiking or biking adventures. Also included are six ski with a friend/buddy tickets which give some pretty good deals for friends as well.
Congress Races to Pass $1.3T Defense-Friendly Omnibus Bill And Avoid Shutdown
Defense News is reporting the sweeping $1.3 trillion spending bill that congressional leaders unveiled Wednesday includes $654.6 billion for the Pentagon. But it’s unclear whether Congress can pass the proposal without shutting down the government. Lawmakers touted the bill as providing the biggest year-over-year increase in defense funding in 15 years. Pentagon appropriations include $589.5 billion in the base budget and $65.2 billion in the overseas contingency operations (OCO) budget — an increase of $61.1 billion over the 2017 enacted level, when combined with other previously enacted funding. The bill surpasses President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 request for the Pentagon by $15.5 billion. Leadership and the heads of the appropriations committees struck a deal on a spending bill to fund the Pentagon and 11 other departments through the end of the fiscal year. The hard-won deal also involved funding to address the opioid crisis and strengthen’s the country’s gun background check system, but it does not include a fix for expiring protections for young immigrants. Hardline House GOP conservatives, however, have signaled they will vote against the bill because negotiations have been too friendly to Democrats. Their non-support forces the GOP to rely on Democrats for the votes to pass it. The agreement increases a cap on spending in the last two months of the fiscal year from 20 percent to 25 percent. It also changes the reprogramming threshold from $15 million to $20 million, and modifies the guidelines for realignments between readiness budget line items from requiring prior approval to written notification. “These flexibility changes will allow for smarter execution of the $230 billion in base and OCO funding provided for the operation and maintenance accounts by avoiding the ‘use it or lose it’ dilemma and allowing more timely execution of readiness line items that have been affected by fact-of-life changes or emergent requirements,” a bill summary reads. The defense bill includes $705.8 million for Israeli cooperative programs. A separate State and Foreign Operations bill includes $9 billion in base and OCO funding for international security assistance, with $3.1 billion for Israel, $1.3 billion for Egypt and $1.5 billion for Jordan. For Navy shipbuilding programs, there is $23.8 billion to procure 14 Navy ships, including funding for one carrier replacement, two DDG-51 guided missile destroyers, two Virginia-class submarines, three littoral combat ships; one expeditionary sea base; one expeditionary fast transport; one amphibious ship replacement; one fleet oiler; one towing, salvage, and rescue ship, and one oceanographic survey ship. For aviation, there is $10.2 billion for 90 F-35 aircraft; $1.8 billion for 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft; $1.6 billion for 30 new build and 50 remanufactured Apache helicopters; $1.1 billion for 56 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters; $225 million for 20 MQ-1 Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles; $1.7 billion for 10 P-8A Poseidon aircraft; $1.3 billion for 14 V-22 aircraft; $2.9 billion for 18 KC-46 tanker aircraft; $2.4 billion for 25 C/HC/KC/MC-130J aircraft, and $103 million for A-10 wing replacements. For space, there is $1.4 billion for three evolved expendable launch vehicles and $675 million for two wideband gap-filler satellites. Air Force space programs net $800 million, with $100 million above the budget request for space launch vehicle and engine development activities. There’s also $9.5 billion for the Missile Defense Agency, bringing the FY18 total for MDA to more than $11.3 billion when combined with the previously passed supplemental, according to the summary.
If you want someone who will listen to you every time, do everything you tell them to do, and always be there for you for better or for worse, get a dog.
New Russian Sanctions
The US Treasury Department issued tough sanctions on Thursday against Russian entities and individuals for what it said were “ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russia.” Among the institutions targeted in the new sanctions for election meddling were Russia’s top intelligence services; the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). Also included was the Internet Research Agency, which was recently indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for interfering in the 2016 US presidential election. The FSB is being sanctioned for the use of cyber tools in targeting US officials “including cyber security, diplomatic, military, and White House personnel.” The GRU, as well as a number of its top officials, is being sanctioned for its direct involvement in “interfering in the 2016 US election through cyber-enabled activities.” The Treasury also says that the GRU was “directly responsible” for the June 2017 NotPetya cyberattack on European businesses. The Internet Research Agency and 13 individuals connected to it are being sanctioned for using fake identities online as well as posting thousands of online ads in an effort to sow confusion among US voters. Sanctions also target a number of individuals for ongoing attempts to hack the US energy grid. US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says, “The administration is confronting and countering malign Russian cyber activity, including their attempted interference in US elections, destructive cyber-attacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure.” The move is seen as significant as the Trump administration and, above all, President Donald Trump himself, have been slow to criticize Russia for election meddling, fearing it may undermine the legitimacy of his victory over Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton. Russian reaction: Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that although Moscow was calm about the sanctions, it had already begun “to prepare a response.” He also accused the US of timing the sanctions announcement to coincide with this weekend’s Russian presidential elections, saying, “It is tied to US internal disorder, tied of course to our electoral calendar.” And there was an election in Russia over this past weekend. The 65-year-old head of state, Vladimir Putin, waited for a long time until he announced he would again stand as a presidential candidate. According to some observers, Putin was toying with people’s fears that the “father of the nation” might not run for the presidency again. Then came the move which had to be expected. Putin chose a symbolic venue to announce that he would run for the post: the legendary Russian GAZ car factory in Nizhny Novgorod, in front of workers who supported him when he said he’d like to throw his hat into the ring again. Putin is not fond of conventional campaigning, including TV debates. He prefers to present himself as a savior of rare animal species, or as a brave huntsman or fisherman. Opinion polls seem to prove that his approach is successful. With approval rates between 75 and 83 percent, Putin is considered to be the most popular politician in Russia. However, another part of the truth is that the Kremlin — since Putin came to power in 2000 — has been marginalizing free and critical media, and putting Russian opposition under pressure, thereby nipping any real alternative in the bud. Putin didn’t show much respect for those people who officially announced his candidacy on December 26. He didn’t show up for his own nomination. Even so, he submitted his records to the central election commission in person — as an independent candidate. And he won by over 65% in this ceremonial election which in one news clip I saw actually showed an election official putting numerous ballots into a ballot box.
There is food value in beer, but no beer value in food!
I should have mentioned some other events from February 20:
Friendship 7 and John Glen Orbit the Earth
20 February 1962, 14:47:39 UTC: At 9:47:39 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, NASA’s Mercury-Atlas 6 lifted off from Launch Complex 14 at Cape Canaveral, The Mercury spacecraft, named Friendship 7, was carried to orbit by an Atlas LV-3B launch vehicle the first time that launch vehicle was used . Aboard the spacecraft was Lieutenant Colonel John Glenn, United States Marine Corps, an experienced fighter pilot and test pilot. After several delays in the countdown over several days for various systems pre-launch malfunctions and system component replacements, the launch button was depressed and then capsule communicator Scott Carpenter uttered the famous phrase “Godspeed, John Glenn.” Glenn received word that the Atlas had boosted the MA-6 into a trajectory that would stay up for at least seven orbits. Meanwhile, computers at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland indicated that the MA-6 orbital parameters appeared good enough for almost 100 orbits. As Friendship 7 crossed Cape Canaveral at the start of its second orbit, flight systems controller Don Arabian noticed that “Segment 51”, a sensor providing data on the spacecraft landing system, was giving a strange reading. According to the reading, the heat shield and landing bag were no longer locked in position.
If this were the case, the heat shield was only being held against the spacecraft by the straps of the retro package. Mercury Control was still undecided on the course of action to take. Some controllers thought the retrorocket pack should be jettisoned after retrofire, while other controllers thought the retro pack should be retained, as added assurance that the heat shield would stay in place. Flight Director Chris Kraft and Mission Director Walter C. Williams decided to keep the retro pack in place during reentry. Walter Schirra, the California communicator at Point Arguello, relayed the instructions to Glenn: the retro pack should be retained until the spacecraft was over the Texas tracking station. After the mission was over, the “Segment 51” warning light problem was later determined to be a faulty sensor switch, meaning that the heat shield and landing bag were in fact secure during reentry. Throughout the flight Friendship 7 used greater than expected the attitude controlling rockets actuations and hence used greater than expected fuel. The spacecraft splashed down in the North Atlantic at coordinates near 21°20′N 68°40′W, 40 miles (64 km) short of the planned landing zone. Retrofire calculations had not taken into account spacecraft weight loss due to use of onboard consumables. USS Noa, a destroyer code-named “Steelhead”, had spotted the spacecraft when it was descending on its parachute. The destroyer was about 6 miles (9.7 km) away when it radioed Glenn that it would reach him shortly. Noa came alongside Friendship 7 seventeen minutes later. The Mercury Friendship 7 capsule is on display in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall, just inside the Mall-side doors at the SmithsonianNational Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Neil Armstrong Sets Five More Records
19–20 February 1979: Professor Neil Armstrong of the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering, member of the Board of Directors of Gates Learjet Corporation, former United States Navy fighter pilot, NACA/NASA research test pilot, Gemini and Apollo astronaut, and The First Man To Set Foot On The Moon, set five Fédération Aéronautique Internationale(FAI) and National Aeronautics Association class records for time to climb to an altitude and altitude while flying the prototype Learjet 28, serial number 28-001. Armstrong, with Learjet program test pilot Peter Reynolds as co-pilot, and with NAA observer Don Berliner aboard, flew the Learjet 28 to 15,000 meters (49,212.598 feet) in 12 minutes, 27 seconds at Kittyhawk, North Carolina on 19 February. On the same day, during a flight from Wichita, Kansas, to Elizabeth City, New Jersey, Armstrong flew the Learjet to 15,584.6 meters (51,130.577 feet), setting records for altitude and for sustained altitude in horizontal flight. The following day, 20 February 1979, flying from Elizabeth City to Florence, Kentucky, Armstrong again set altitude and sustained altitude in horizontal flight, in a different class, by taking the Learjet to 15,585 meters (51,131.89 feet). I was very fortunate to sit next to Neil Armstrong at a luncheon for the Society of Experimental Test Pilots a few years before he passed.
BGEN Jimmy Stewart Flies His Last Combat Mission
20 February 1966: Brigadier General James M. Stewart, United States Air Force Reserve, flew the last combat mission of his military career, a 12 hour, 50 minute “Arc Light” bombing mission over Vietnam, aboard Boeing B-52 Stratofortress of the 736th Bombardment Squadron, 454th Bombardment Wing. His bomber was a B-52F-65-BW, serial number 57-149, call sign GREEN TWO. It was the number two aircraft in a 30-airplane bomber stream. Stewart enlisted as a private in the United States Army 22 March 1941, just three weeks after winning the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in “The Philadelphia Story.” Concerned that his celebrity status would keep him in “safe” assignments, Jimmy Stewart had repeatedly requested a combat assignment. His request was finally approved and he was assigned as operations officer of the 703rd Bombardment Squadron, 445th Bombardment Group, a B-24 Liberator unit soon to be sent to the war in Europe.
Three weeks later, he was promoted to commanding officer of the 703rd. The 445th Bombardment Group arrived in England and after initial operational training, was stationed at RAF Tibenham, Norfolk, England. The unit flew its first combat mission on 13 December 1943, with Captain Stewart leading the high squadron of the group formation in an attack against enemy submarine pens at Kiel, Germany. On his second mission, Jimmy Stewart led the entire 445th Group. He flew missions with the 445th, 453rd, 389th Bomb Groups, and with units of the 20th Combat Bomb Wing. After being promoted to the rank of Colonel on 29 March 1945, he was given command of the 2nd Bombardment Wing. He had risen from Private to Colonel in four years. He received a second Distinguished Flying Cross and was presented the Croix de Guerre avec Palme by France. Following World War II, Jimmy Stewart remained in the U.S. Air Corps as a Reserve Officer, and with the United States Air Force after it became a separate service in 1947. He commanded Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Marietta, Georgia. In 1953, his rank of colonel was made permanent, and in 1959, Jimmy Stewart was promoted to Brigadier General. During his active duty periods, Colonel Stewart remained current as a pilot of Convair B-36 Peacemaker, Boeing B-47 Stratojet and B-52 Stratofortress intercontinental bombers of the Strategic Air Command.
Latest Word on Transgender Troops – No News – Yet
Military Times is reporting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis missed a Wednesday deadline to provide President Donald Trump guidance on transgender service members, which the Pentagon said reflected the complexity of the issue. “The secretary is taking his time to consider the information he’s been given,” Pentagon Press Secretary Dana White told reporters Thursday. Based on direction from the White House, Mattis had a Feb. 21 deadline to provide Trump his recommendations on whether allowing transgender service members to serve negatively impacted readiness, and whether those already in the military should be allowed to continue to serve. Mattis has received and considered internal recommendations from a DoD study and panel looking at the issue, White said. However he is not obligated to follow their advice and is evaluating the issue “through the lens of lethality,” White said. Outside the Pentagon, the courts have already weighed in on key aspects of the policy. “Things are at a very confusing moment right now,” said Shannon Minter, who is representing transgender personnel in two of the four federal lawsuits challenging Trump’s ban. “The Secretary of Defense, after consulting with the Secretary of Homeland Security, may advise me at any time, in writing, that a change to this policy is warranted,” Trump said in the August 2017 memo. The Pentagon is likely to provide guidance to the White House by the end of the week, White said. The guidance is not expected to be made public, several defense officials told Military Times. The White House is not obligated to accept Mattis’ recommendations, and the August memo said that barring any decisions to the contrary, on March 23, 2018, the White House intends to reinstate a ban on transgender service members and allow no additional funds to be spent on sex-reassignment surgeries. It was not clear if on that date the White House would also make Mattis’ February recommendations public. In addition, parts of Trump’s August directive have already been overturned in the courts, further muddying what exactly the transgender policy will be. In the August memo, Trump also directed that no new transgender recruits be allowed to enlist in the military, upending earlier direction from Mattis that set a six-month delay that expired Jan. 1. Multiple federal courts have also ruled against that limitation, and transgender personnel were allowed to join the military as of Jan. 1, 2018. In a statement issued in late December as the Jan. 1 ban expired, the Justice Department pointed to the anticipated guidance, supported by a study Mattis directed last August, as reason not to further pursue that angle of the ban. The courts are still weighing in on the wider issue of whether any restrictions on transgender service are constitutional. In the two federal cases that Minter is involved with, administration attorneys have pointed to the anticipated policy from Mattis as a reason for delay. The cases are also in a heated discovery phase where attorneys for the transgender plaintiffs are trying to determine on what basis Trump made his July decision, and in consultation with whom.
Navy Looking At Radical New Career Paths
The traditional days of a 20- to 30-year Navy career may be numbered, as service officials are looking into ways to challenge the traditional stovepipe “up-or-out” career paths. And now Congress wants to help. According to Navy Times, With the need to increase manpower and the new blended retirement system potentially leading to retention challenges down the line, Navy officials want services and lawmakers to take a long look at how a military career is defined — and executed by sailors. That means in the years to come, the old 20-year career model could end up looking more like putting in 20 over a span of 40 years, or even 30 over 50. After an office discussion with Chief of Naval Personnel VADM Robert P. Burke, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) is asking all the service personnel chiefs how Congress could help the services make these alternative career paths a reality. “We talked about new ways of thinking about an individual’s lifecycle in service,” she said during a Feb. 14 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel. Warren also floated the idea of “potentially making it easier for someone who has to leave military service for either personal or professional reasons to be able to return to uniform later in life.” The Navy has been working on this idea all the way back to at least 2005, when it began investigating how to quickly bring a reserve sailor back to active duty in less than 72 hours. And the service succeeded — at least on the enlisted side. In 2009, The Navy began their RC to AC Program that has been regularly bringing qualified reservists back to active duty ever since. It takes much longer on the officer side, however, due to current laws governing officer personnel policies for all the services. “We can fairly quickly bring folks back in that were on the reserve side, bring them back into the active component,” Burke told lawmakers at the hearing. “We’re filling…hundreds of gaps to sea with reservists that we brought back into the active component.” But Warren would like to see it go a step further and make it easier for those who are now on the street to get back into the fleet, and has asked the services to share with lawmakers what additional changes in the law are needed to make the system more flexible. Burke outlined to the subcommittee a possible future Navy gameplan under such a scenario. “We’re thinking in terms of a longer career, making our people pyramid narrower at the base, so we bring in fewer people, giving them opportunities to move around,” Burke said. “But as importantly, with this commitment to family readiness, which is important to sailor readiness and fleet readiness, we have to let people step off the treadmill occasionally or they’re not going to hang out for a 40-year career.” But getting to a point where someone can serve off and on over a lifetime will require changes in the law, individual service policies and culture. For example, right now, the military has a mandatory retirement age of 62. With people staying fit longer than ever before, Congress should consider changing the law to allow a person’s fitness level — not an arbitrary age cutoff — to determine length of service, a familiar source expressed to Navy Times. Current Department of Defense and Navy medical standards and policies would have to be changed as well. If a sailor leaves the service today, for instance, and doesn’t affiliate directly with the reserve, that sailor may face greater challenges when trying to get back in under the current rules, the source said. Those rules require a person who is completely separated from all military obligations to meet the same initial entry physical and medical standards as someone entering the service for the first time, standards significantly more strict than those faced by service members already in the system. A sailor with a medical condition that would still allow for re-enlistment, for example, may be denied re-entry into the service if trying to come back as a civilian. “So we’ve got to have an alternative to out,” Burke said. “So that option could be into the reserves…or the other alternative would be…a horizontal career track where they can keep flying…go into her research job, whatever it may be. We need alternatives to out and right now there are none.”
Follow What China Does Not What They Say
Eleven Chinese warships sailed into the East Indian Ocean this month, a Chinese news portal said, amid a constitutional crisis in the tiny tropical island chain of the Maldives now under a state of emergency. Japan Times is reporting a fleet of destroyers and at least one frigate, a 30,000-ton amphibious transport dock and three support tankers entered the Indian Ocean, news portal Sina.com.cn said, without linking the deployment to the crisis in the Maldives or giving a reason. “If you look at warships and other equipment, the gap between the Indian and Chinese navy is not large,” Sina.com.cn said Sunday. It did not say when the fleet was deployed or for how long. Rivalry between old foes India and China for influence in the Maldives became evident after President Abdulla Yameen signed up to Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative to build trade and transport links across Asia and beyond. India, which has had long-standing political and security ties to the islands about 400 km (250 miles) away, has sought to push back against China’s expanding presence in the overwhelmingly Muslim country of 400,000 people. Maldivian opposition leaders have urged New Delhi to intervene in the crisis. China’s Ministry of Defense did not respond to requests for comment. Friday, the People’s Liberation Army posted photos and a story on rescue training exercises taking place in the East Indian Ocean on its official Twitter-like Weibo account. China earlier this month advised Chinese citizens to avoid visiting the Maldives, famous its luxury hotels, scuba-diving resorts and limpid tropical seas, until political tensions subside. China has been striking deals with countries in Asia and Africa in line with its Belt and Road initiative to improve imports of key commodities, upgrade infrastructure and trade routes in the region and boost its diplomatic clout. Yameen imposed the emergency Feb. 5 for 15 days to annul a Supreme Court ruling that quashed convictions against nine opposition leaders and ordered his government to free those held in prison. He sought parliamentary approval to extend the emergency for 30 days Monday. China has drawn criticism in the West for its perceived military buildup of the neighboring South China Sea, where it has built and expanded islands and reefs. China claims most of the sea where neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.
New Requirement For Baseball’s Baseballs
Spring baseball is underway with the Grapefruit and Citrus League play getting started! Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reports that Major League Baseball will mandate that teams store baseballs in “an air-conditioned and enclosed room[s]” this season. He adds that the league will install climate sensors in each room to measure temperature and humidity during the 2018 season, with such data being used to determine if humidors — like the ones being used in Colorado and Arizona — are necessary for 2019.
On 21 February 1945 and during the Battle of Iwo Jima, (mentioned in the previous issue of FOD), two Japanese kamikazes hit the USS Bismarck Sea (CVE-95). The Bismarck Sea is Casablanca classescort carrier, She was launched on 17 April 1944 by Kaiser Co., Inc., Vancouver, Washington. The first kamikaze aircraft strikes the starboard side under the first 40 mm gun (aft), crashing through the hangar deck and striking the ship’s magazines. The fire was nearly under control when the second plane struck the aft elevator shaft, exploding on impact and destroying the fire fighting salt water distribution system, thus preventing any further damage control. Shortly after, the order was given to abandon ship. The USS Bismarck Sea sank with the loss of 318 men, and was the last US Navy aircraft carrier to be lost during World War II. Three destroyers and three destroyer escorts rescued survivors over the next 12 hours, between them saving a total of 605 officers and men from her crew of 923. Survivors were then transferred to Dickens and Highlands. Additionally five kamikaze aircraft strike the USS Saratoga (CV-3). Saratoga participated in the Battle of Iwo Jima as a dedicated night fighter carrier. Saratoga was assigned to provide fighter cover while the remaining carriers launched the strikes on Japan, but in the process, her fighters raided two Japanese airfields. The force fueled on 18 and 19 February, and the ship provided CAP over Iwo Jima on 19–20 February. The following day, Saratoga was detached with an escort of three destroyers to join the amphibious forces and carry out night patrols over Iwo Jima and nearby Chichi Jima. Taking advantage of low cloud cover and Saratoga‘s weak escort, six Japanese planes scored five bomb hits on the carrier in three minutes; three of the aircraft also struck the carrier. Saratoga‘s flight deck forward was wrecked, her starboard side was holed twice and large fires were started in her hangar deck; she lost 123 of her crew dead or missing as well as 192 wounded. Thirty-six of her aircraft were destroyed. Another attack two hours later further damaged her flight deck. Slightly over an hour later, the fires were under control, and Saratoga was able to recover six fighters; she arrived at Bremerton on 16 March for permanent repairs.
Miracle On Ice
In one of the most dramatic upsets in Olympic history, the underdog U.S. hockey team, made up of college players, defeats the four-time defending gold-medal winning Soviet team at the men’s ice hockeytournament at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York on February 22, 1980. The Soviet squad, previously regarded as the finest in the world, fell to the youthful American team 4-3 before a frenzied crowd of 10,000 spectators. Two days later, the Americans defeated Finland 4-2 to clinch the hockey gold. The victory became one of the most iconic moments of the Games and in U.S. sports. Equally well-known was the television call of the final seconds of the game by Al Michaels for ABC, in which he famously declared in the final seconds, “Do you believe in miracles?! Yes!” In 1999, Sports Illustrated named the “Miracle on Ice” the top sports moment of the 20th century. As part of its centennial celebration in 2008, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) named the “Miracle on Ice” as the best international ice hockey story of the past 100 years. I remember completing two back to back ACM flights and had the opportunity to watch the third and final period. It was a great, great moment in sports.
Battle of Verdun Begins
At 7:12 a.m. on the morning of February 21, 1916, a shot from a German Krupp 38-centimeter long-barreled gun—one of over 1,200 such weapons set to bombard French forces along a 20-kilometer front stretching across the Meuse River—strikes a cathedral in Verdun, France, beginning the Battle of Verdun, which would stretch on for 10 months and become the longest battles of the First World War on the Western Front between the German and French armies. The Battle of Verdun lasted for 303 days and became the longest and one of the most costly battles in human history. An estimate in 2000 found a total of 714,231 casualties, 377,231 French and 337,000 German, for an average of 70,000 casualties a month; other recent estimates increase the number of casualties to 976,000, during the battle, with 1,250,000 suffered at Verdun during the war.
Theodore Roosevelt Welcomes Home Great White Fleet
In this photo, President Theodore Roosevelt (on the 12-inch (30 cm) gun turret at right) addresses officers and crewmen on Connecticut, in Hampton Roads, Virginia, upon her return from the Fleet’s cruise around the world, 22 February 1909. The Great White Fleet was the popular nickname for the United States Navy battle fleet that completed a journey around the globe from December 16, 1907, to February 22, 1909, by order of United States PresidentTheodore Roosevelt. It consisted of 16 battleships divided into two squadrons, along with various escorts. Roosevelt sought to demonstrate growing American martial power and blue-water navy capability. Hoping to enforce treaties and protect overseas holdings, the United States Congress appropriated funds to build American sea power. Beginning with just 90 small ships, over one-third of them wooden, the navy quickly grew to include new modern steel fighting vessels. The hulls of these ships were painted a stark white, giving the armada the nickname “Great White Fleet.” The purpose of the fleet deployment was multifaceted. Ostensibly, it served as a showpiece of American goodwill, as the fleet visited numerous countries and harbors. In this, the voyage was not unprecedented. Naval courtesy calls, many times in conjunction with the birthdays of various monarchs and other foreign celebrations, had become common in the 19th century. Roosevelt’s stated intent was to give the navy practice in navigation, communication, coal consumption and fleet maneuvering; navy professionals maintained, however, that such matters could be served better in home waters. In light of what had happened to the Russian Baltic Fleet, they were concerned about sending their own fleet on a long deployment, especially since part of the intent was to impress a modern, battle-tested navy that had not known defeat. The fleet was untested in making such a voyage, and Tsushima had proven that extended deployments had no place in practical strategy.
On February 23, 1954, children at Arsenal Elementary School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, receive the first injections of the new polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk. Polio vaccines are vaccines used to prevent poliomyelitis (polio). There are two types: one that uses inactivated poliovirus and is given by injection (IPV), and one that uses weakened poliovirus and is given by mouth (OPV). The World Health Organization recommends all children be vaccinated against polio. The two vaccines have eliminated polio from most of the world, and reduced the number of cases each year from an estimated 350,000 in 1988 to 74 in 2015. The inactivated polio vaccines are very safe. Mild redness or pain may occur at the site of injection. Oral polio vaccines result in vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis in about three per million doses. This compares with one in two hundred who are paralysed following a polio infection. Both are generally safe to give during pregnancy and in those who have HIV/AIDS but are otherwise well. The first polio vaccine was the inactivated polio vaccine. It was developed by Jonas Salk and came into use in 1955. The oral polio vaccine was developed by Albert Sabin and came into commercial use in 1961. They are on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system. The wholesale cost in the developing world is about 0.25 USD per dose for the oral form as of 2014. In the United States it costs between 25 and 50 USD for the inactivated form.
The Great One
Jesus saves! He passes to Gretzky and Gretzky scores. On 24 February 1984, Wayne Gretzky scores his 77th goal in one season, a record thought to have been unbeatable. He played twenty seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) for four teams from 1979 to 1999. Nicknamed “The Great One,” he has been called “the greatest hockey player ever,” by many sportswriters, players, and the league itself. He is the leading scorer in NHL history, with more goals and assists than any other player. He garnered more assists than any other player scored total points, and is the only NHL player to total over 200 points in one season – a feat he accomplished four times. In addition, he tallied over 100 points in 16 professional seasons, 14 of them consecutive. At the time of his retirement in 1999, he held 61 NHL records: 40 regular-season records, 15 playoff records, and six All-Star records. He still holds 60 NHL records.
United 811 Remembered
On February 24, 1989, United Airlines Flight 811 a Boeing 747-122 was on a regularly scheduled airline flight from San Francisco to Sydney, with intermediate stops at Los Angeles, Honolulu, and Auckland. 16 minutes after takeoff, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) south of Honolulu, the 747 was climbing through an altitude of 22,000 feet (6,705 meters) at 300 knots (345 miles per hour/556 kilometers per hour) when, at 02:09:09 HST, the cargo door on the lower right side of the fuselage, just forward of the wing, failed, blowing outward. Explosive decompression blew a huge hole in the fuselage. Ten passenger seats were carried away along with nine passengers. A flight attendant was nearly lost, but was dragged back inside by passengers and crew. serving the flight experienced a cargo door failure in flight shortly after leaving Honolulu. The resulting explosive decompression blew out several rows of seats, resulting in the deaths of nine passengers. Debris damaged the two engines on the right wing, causing them to lose power. Flames were visible. Both engines had to be shut down. Flight 811 declared an emergency, began descending and dumping fuel to reduce the airliner’s weight for an emergency landing. The 747 turned back toward Honolulu. The wing had also been damaged, such that the flaps could not be fully extended and this necessitated a much higher than normal approach speed. The 747 touched down at approximately 200 knots (230 miles per hour/370 kilometers per hour). After coming to a stop, Flight 811 was completely evacuated within 45 seconds. Every flight attendant suffered some injury. The cause of the cargo door failure was determined to be a faulty design, combine with a short in the 747’s electrical system. Based on developments after it issued its original report, NTSB issued a superseding accident report on March 18, 1992. In its superseding report, the NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was the sudden opening of the cargo door, which was attributed to improper wiring and deficiencies in the door’s design. It appeared in this case that a short circuit caused an uncommanded rotation of the latch cams, which forced the weak locking sectors to distort and allow the rotation, thus enabling the pressure differential and aerodynamic forces to blow the door off the fuselage, ripping away the hinge fixing structure, the cabin floor and side fuselage skin, causing the explosive decompression. The door (photo above right) was recovered by a U.S. Navy manned deep sea submersible Sea Cliff from a depth of 14,100 feet (4,298 meters).
I prefer my kale with a silent k in a pint frosted mug
Navy Likely To Offer Greater Pay For Aviators
In some previous editions of FOD I have mentioned the USAF is offering greater financial incentives to their pilots to stay on active duty. Now Navy Times is reporting the Navy is struggling to retain experienced aviators and may need to offer aviation incentive pay and aviation bonuses to help remedy the problem, Vice Adm. Robert P. Burke told Congress in a written statement submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday. “We continue to face challenges within some historically retention-challenged communities, particularly among aviators in specific model/type/series platforms,” Burke said in his statement. The communities at risk include strike fighter (VFA), electronic attack (VAQ) and helicopter mine countermeasure (HM) squadrons. Burke said these squadrons did not retain enough O-4 pilots to meet operational department head requirements. The reserves are facing aviator shortages in the same communities, as well as in maritime patrol (VP) and fleet logistics (VR) squadrons. Burke told Congress that aviation incentive pay and bonuses are the most effective incentives for retaining pilots, but the Navy is also considering non-monetary incentives like geographic stability for orders and training and educational opportunities. Aviation readiness has been a persistent problem for the Navy. Last October, only one-third of the Navy’s Super Hornet fighter jets were fully mission-capable and ready to fight. Last March, Burke spoke before Congress about the need to increase retention bonuses for O-4 fighter, electronic attack and mine countermeasure pilots, the same communities facing retention shortfalls today. From experience aircraft availability and monthly flight time increase job satisfaction and that leads to increased pilot retention.
Navy’s Stealth Destroyers Getting A New Mission – Killing Ships
I’ve mentioned here a couple times the new Zumwalt-class destroyers needed a new munitions round to replace the Long Range Land Attack Projectile that was cancelled because of its completely ridicules cost per round. Now Defense Times is reporting the Navy has a new vision for what its enormous high-tech destroyers will do: Killing enemy warships at extended ranges. The Navy is asking Congress to fund a conversion of its 600-foot stealth destroyers from primarily a land attack ship to an anti-surface, offensive strike platform, according to budget documents released Feb. 12. The service’s 2019 budget request includes a request for $89.7 million to transform its Zumwalt-class destroyers by integrating Raytheon’s long-range SM-6 missile, which can dual hat as both an anti-air and anti-surface missile, as well as its Maritime Strike variant of the Tomahawk missile. Converting DDG-1000 into a hunter-killer is a win for the surface warfare community’s years-long drive to beef up the force’s offensive capabilities. It also answers the bell for U.S. Pacific Command, which has been pushing for the Navy to add longer range weapons to offset the increasing threat from Chinese long-range missile technology. The SM-6 is a versatile missile that the Navy has been excited about. In August, the Navy shot down a medium-range ballistic missile target with the SM-6, which uses a fragmenting explosion near its target as the kill mechanism. This is different from the SM-3 Block IIA in development that hits its target directly. It can also be used to hit surface targets at sea and on land from hundreds of miles away. The Navy is planning to buy 625 of the SM-6 over the next five years. For the Maritime Tomahawk, Raytheon is integrating a new seeker into its tried-and-true strike missile for long-range ship-on-ship engagements. The decision to switch the requirements from a land-attack platform to an anti-surface platform came in November following a review of the requirements, according to the documents. “After a comprehensive review of Zumwalt class requirements, Navy decided in November 2017 to refocus the primary mission of the Zumwalt Class Destroyers from Land Attack to Offensive Surface Strike,” the documents read. “The funding requested in [FY19] will facilitate this change in mission and add lethal, offensive fires against targets afloat and ashore.” USNI News first reported in December that the Navy was eyeing converting the Zumwalt to a surface strike platform. The lead ship in the class, Zumwalt, is currently getting an overhaul and combat systems installation in San Diego. The Michael Monsoor, the second in the class, completed acceptance trials this month. Getting a surface strike platform in the Pacific fits snugly in with the distributed lethality concept that was championed by former Naval Surface Force Pacific commander Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden. Rowden argued that surface ships can and should be used in an offensive capacity, not just be relegated to the defense of the aircraft carrier. By adding long-range systems to every kind of ship, Rowden argued, it forces potential adversaries to expend resources looking not just for destroyers and cruisers but also littoral combat ships and even amphibious ships that have not had a strike role in the past. In testimony submitted Feb. 14 to the House Armed Services Committee, PACOM commander ADMHarry B. Harris Jr., USN said China’s advancing capabilities made investing in long-range systems for his theater is a must. All three of the Zumwalt-class destroyers will be based in the Pacific. “I need increased lethality, specifically ships and aircraft equipped with faster and more survivable weapons systems,” Harris wrote. “Longer range offensive weapons on every platform are an imperative.” The money requested in 2019 also funds a combat systems refresh, a datalink upgrade and some new signals intelligence collection equipment. It also goes after some cyber-security hardening and replacing components of the ship’s computing systems that are becoming obsolete. Funds will also be expended replacing displays for consoles that run the ship’s computing systems, known as the Common Display System . There are about 40 consoles that use the display per hull and 22 on the class’s shore trainer. “The CDS variant on Zumwalt class are unique configuration based on a 10 year old design and should be aligned with ongoing modernization efforts in the Fleet.” One thing the budget isn’t funding is a new round for the ship’s purpose-built Advanced Gun System. In late 2016, the service canceled its Long Range Land Attack Projectile, which cost about a million dollars per round, and has struggled to come up with a replacement round for the gun. “The Advanced Gun Systems will remain on the ships, but in an inactive status for future use, when a gun round that can affordably meet the desired capability is developed and fielded,” the documents read. In January, Zumwalt’s former commanding officer, Capt. James Kirk, said the Navy was in a holding pattern on the guns. While the service is keeping an eye on a couple key technologies that could fill in the gap left by LRLAP, “there is not a plan right now for a specific materiel solution for the replacement round,” Kirk told reporters at the Surface Navy Association symposium. “We continue to monitor industry’s development and technical maturation. An example of that is the Hyper Velocity Projectile,” he said, referring to a high speed guided munition made by BAE Systems and originally developed for use in electromagnetic rail guns. “We’re monitoring that technical maturation to see do we get there to get the kind of ranges and capabilities we want, that’s the right bang for the buck, cost to capability, for the Navy. We’re monitoring that, but we have not made a decision for that yet.” The Navy got in its present pickle with the 155mm/62-caliber gun with automated magazine and handling system because the service cut the buy from 28 ships, to seven, and finally to three. The AGS, the largest U.S. naval gun system since World War II, was developed specifically for the Zumwalt class, as was the LRLAP round it was intended to shoot. There was no backup plan so when the buy went from 28 to thee, the costs stayed static, driving the price of the rounds through the roof. “We were going to buy thousands of these rounds,” said a Navy official familiar with the program told Defense News at the time. “But quantities of ships killed the affordable round.”
‘US Presence Matters’ Says Admiral on Carrier in the South China Sea
I spend considerable effort pointing out the emerging battle for influence and control of communication and navigational freedom between China and the US now playing out in the South China Sea. It’s not being covered in the mainstream media, but it is a growing struggle and a mission the US military will have to deal with over the next few years. Well at least our military leaders are realizing the importance of being there, of maintaining freedom of navigation rights for the US as well as all countries is vitally important for the future. Military Times is reporting with a deafening roar the fighter jets catapulted off the US aircraft carrier and soared above the disputed South China Sea, as its admiral vowed that the mighty ship’s presence was proof America still had regional clout. “US presence matters,” Rear Admiral John Fuller (USNA ’87) told reporters on board the USS Carl Vinson. “I think it’s very clear that we are in the South China Sea. We are operating.” The Carl Vinson, one of the US Navy‘s longest-serving active carriers, is currently conducting what officials say is a routine mission through the hotly contested waters where years of island reclamation and military construction by Beijing has rattled regional nerves. Following criticism that the Trump administration’s commitment to the Asian region has been distracted by North Korea, reporters were flown onto the ship Wednesday as it sailed through the sea. In a rapid series of take-offs and landings, F-18 fighter jets roared off the deck, travelling from zero to 290 kilometers (180 miles) per hour in a dizzying two seconds. Fuller, commander of the Carl Vinson Strike Group, said the thousand-foot-long ship’s presence was a way to reassure allies. “The nations in the Pacific are maritime nations,” he said. “They value stability … That’s exactly what we are here for. This is a very visible and tangible presence. The United States is here again.” But the location of the strike group — which includes a carrier air wing and a guided-missile cruiser — is also a very direct message to China, whether US officials admit it or not. Its voyage comes just a month after the Pentagon’s national defense strategy labeled China a “strategic competitor” that bullies its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea. Beijing claims most of the South China Sea — believed to hold vast oil and gas deposits and through which $5 trillion in trade passes annually — and has rapidly built reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes. The Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have claims in the sea. Compared to the 11 active aircraft carriers in the US Navy, China currently boasts just one carrier. But the rising Asian superpower has made no secret of its desire to build up its naval forces and become much more regionally assertive. Last month Beijing said it had dispatched a warship to drive away a US missile destroyer which had “violated” its sovereignty by sailing close to a shoal in the South China Sea. Major naval nations like the US, Britain and Australia are determined not to let China dictate who can enter the strategic waters. They have pushed “freedom of navigation” operations in which naval vessels sail close to Chinese-claimed militarized islets in the South China Sea. “We will follow what international rule says and we will respect (it), even if there are disputes there,” Fuller said. The nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson — the ship that took Osama Bin Laden’s body for burial at sea — began a regular deployment in the Western Pacific last month. The carrier is home to 5,300 sailors, pilots, and other crew members as well as 72 aircraft. Washington has announced plans for it to dock in Vietnam — a first for the communist nation which is rattled by China’s expansionism in the sea and has forged a growing alliance with its former foe the US. Britain said on Tuesday it will sail its own warship from Australia through the South China Sea next month to assert freedom of navigation rights in support of the US approach. But alliances are shifting. The Philippines, a US treaty ally, was once the strongest critic of Beijing’s expansionism in the South China Sea, successfully winning a tribunal case in The Hague over their claims. But it has changed course under President Rodrigo Duterte in a bid for billions of dollars worth of Chinese investment. Duterte last week said it was not time to fight China over the row, adding the Philippines should “not meddle” with Washington and Beijing’s competition for superpower status. In Wednesday’s trip, the USS Carl Vinson hosted top Duterte aides and key Philippine military officers. Duterte’s communications secretary Martin Andanar described the carrier as “very impressive” and its equipment “massive”. Asked if Manila welcomed US patrols in the disputed area, Andanar told reporters: “The United States has been a big brother of the Philippines, a military ally.”
Most Bold and Daring Act of the Age
When Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated in March of 1801, he inherited troubled relations with the Barbary states — the Ottoman Regencies of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli, along with independent Morocco. The United States had treaties with all four, but tension was high and rising. American representatives in the region wanted an American naval presence. They regularly, if less eloquently, echoed the 1793 view of their colleague in Lisbon: “When we can appear in the Ports of the various Powers, or on the Coast, of Barbary, with Ships of such force as to convince those nations that We are able to protect our trade, and to compel them if necessary to keep faith with Us, then, and not before, We may probably secure a large share of the Medit trade, which would largely and speedily compensate the U. S. for the Cost of a maritime force amply sufficient to keep all those Pirates in Awe, and also make it their interest to keep faith.” Commodore Edward Preble (left) assumed command of the U.S. Mediterranean Squadron in 1803. By October of that year Preble had begun a blockade of Tripoli harbor during the First Barbary War (1801–1805). The first significant action of the blockade came on 31 October 1803 when USS Philadelphia cruised off Tripoli gave chase and fired upon a pirate ship. Philadelphia ran aground on an uncharted reef two miles off Tripoli Harbor. The captain, William Bainbridge, tried to refloat her, first laying the sails aback, and casting off three bow anchors and shifting the guns aft. But a strong wind and rising waves drove her further aground. Next they jettisoned many of her cannons, barrels of water, and other heavy articles overboard in order to make her lighter, but this too failed. They then sawed off the foremast in one last desperate attempt to lighten her. All of these attempts failed and Bainbridge, in order not to resupply the pirates, ordered holes drilled in the ship’s bottom, gunpowder dampened, sails set afire and all other weapons thrown overboard before surrendering. Her officers and men were made slaves of the Pasha (or Bashaw). Philadelphia was eventually refloated by her captors and converted to a gun battery within the Tripoli harbor, as they attempted to make her serve as a fighting ship once more. Thus she was too great a prize to be allowed to remain in the hands of the Tripolitans, so a decision was made to recapture or destroy her. The U.S. had captured the Tripolitan ketchMastico, renamed her Intrepid, and re-rigged the ship with short masts and triangular sails to look like a local ship. On February 16, 1804, under the cover of night and in the guise of a ship in distress that had lost all anchors in a storm and needed a place to tie up, Intrepid was sailed by a volunteer assaulting party of officers and men under Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, Jr. (right) next to Philadelphia. The assault party boarded Philadelphia, and after making sure that she was not seaworthy, burned the ship where she lay in Tripoli Harbor. Lord Horatio Nelson, known as a man of action and bravery, is said to have called this “the most bold and daring act of the Age.” Even Pope Pius VII stated, “The United States, though in their infancy, have done more to humble the anti-Christian barbarians on the African coast than all the European states had done. Her anchor was returned to the United States on April 7, 1871, when the Bashaw presented it to the captain of the visiting Guerriere.
Remember the Maine! A massive explosion of unknown origin sinks the battleship USS Maine (ACR-1) in Havana Harbor, (photo is of Maine arriving in Havana Harbor) killing 260 of the fewer than 400 American crew members aboard. One of the first American battleships, the Maine weighed more than 6,000 tons and was built at a cost of more than $2 million. Sent to protect U.S. interests during the Cuban revolt against Spain, she exploded suddenly, without warning, and sank quickly, killing nearly three quarters of her crew. The cause and responsibility for her sinking remained unclear after a board of inquiry investigated. Nevertheless, popular opinion in the U.S., fanned by inflammatory articles printed in the “yellow press” by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, blamed Spain. The phrase, “Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain”, became a rallying cry for action, which came with the Spanish–American War later that year. While the sinking of Maine was not a direct cause for action, it served as a catalyst, accelerating the approach to a diplomatic impasse between the U.S. and Spain. Admiral Hyman G. Rickover became intrigued with the disaster and began a private investigation, in 1974. Using information from the two official inquiries, newspapers, personal papers and information on the construction and ammunition of Maine, it was concluded that the explosion was not caused by a mine. Instead, spontaneous combustion of coal dust in the bunker, next to magazine, was speculated to be the most likely cause. Rickover published a book about this investigation, How the Battleship Maine Was Destroyed, in 1976. The Maine‘s foremast resides at the U.S. Naval Academy.
“Billy the Kid” Takes First American Gold Medal in Downhill
I haven’t commented on the Olympics in FOD, but generally I’d like to see more of the other events (well maybe not curling). But looking back a bit, William Dean “Bill” Johnson (March 30, 1960 – January 21, 2016) was an American World Cupalpine ski racer. He was the first American male to win an Olympic gold medal in alpine skiing, winning the downhill at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. He was the first racer (of either gender) from outside the Alps to win an Olympic downhill. He moved with his family to Boise, Idaho, when he was seven. He learned to ski at Bogus Basin in the late 1960s. After a run-in with the law at age 17, the juvenile defendant was given the choice between six months in jail or attending the Mission Ridge ski academy in central Washington State, and he chose the latter. In 1984 at age 23, Johnson challenged the long-established European domination of downhill ski racing. Even some of his teammates considered the 23-year-old Mr. Johnson a brash upstart, as he reveled in his image as the bad boy of skiing. He was called “Billy the Kid.” “Basically, any downhill skier is a daredevil, and I’m no exception,” he said before the Winter Games in the former Yugoslavia. “I like to drive cars faster than 100 [miles per hour]. I like to go over bumps in my car and get airborne. I like to drink. I chase girls full time, but I only drink part time.” A month later at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia (now Bosnia), he had promising downhill training runs on a course that favored his gliding style. He boldly predicted his Olympic victory, evoking comparisons to Joe Namath and Muhammad Ali, and irking his European competitors. His gold medal win at Bjelašnica in a time of 1:45.59 edged out silver medalist Peter Müller of Switzerland by 0.27 seconds. True to form, when asked in the post-race press conference what his victory meant to him, he exclaimed, “Millions, man, we’re talkin’ millions!” His career faded abruptly after the Olympics and his attempted comeback ended abruptly on March 22, 2001, when Johnson crashed during a training run prior to the downhill race of the 2001 U.S. Alpine Championships, held at The Big Mountain near Whitefish, Montana. He sustained serious injury to the left side of his brain, nearly bit off his tongue, and was comatose for three weeks. He required continual care thereafter and passed fifteen years later at age 55.
The first YF-104A flew on 17 February 1956, and with the other 16 trial aircraft, were soon carrying out aircraft and equipment evaluation and tests. Modifications were made to the aircraft including airframe strengthening and adding a ventral fin. Problems were encountered with the J-79 afterburner; further delays were caused by the need to add AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. Test pilot Herman Richard (“Fish”) Salmon made the first flight of the Lockheed YF-104A service test prototype, Air Force serial number 55-2955 (Lockheed serial number 183-1001) on February 17, 1956. This airplane, the first of seventeen pre-production YF-104As, incorporated many improvements over the XF-104 prototype, the most visible being a longer fuselage. The two photos below show the fuselage differences.
On 28 February 1956, YF-104A 55-2955 became the first aircraft to reach Mach 2 in level flight. The YF-104A was later converted to the production standard and redesignated F-104A. One of the Century Series of fighter aircraft, it was operated by the air forces of more than a dozen nations from 1958 to 2004. Its design team was led by Kelly Johnson, who contributed to the development of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, Lockheed U-2, Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird and other Lockheed aircraft. A total of 2,578 F-104s was produced by Lockheed and under license by various foreign manufacturers.
(Right) Lockheed test pilots Anthony W. (“Tony”) LeVier, on the left, and Herman R. (“Fish”) Salmon, circa 1957. An F-104 Starfighter is in the background. (Jet Pilot Overseas)