FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day November 12th through 15th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

He, who falls in love with himself, will have no rivals. – Benjamin Franklin

FOD Trivia Question of the Day

The word orient refers to the “East.”  What corresponding word refers to the “West?”

Previous FOD Trivia Answer

What group of islands, consisting of Pinta, Pinzon, Santa Cruz and Isabella were made famous by Charles Darwin’s expedition on the Beagle?  Answer – The Galapagos Islands.

 

Florida Military Ballots May Be Arriving

President Trump is uninformed on about how some military voter’s votes get counted.  I would think this would be the function of one of his staff to inform him of what the law provides for in Florida, among other states.  As President Donald Trump and others express concerns about ballots materializing in Florida after the Nov. 6 election, some advocates are reminding people that many of these ballots are likely coming from military voters and U.S. citizens living overseas.  In Florida in particular, if a ballot coming from overseas from a registered voter is postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 6, it will be counted if it arrives by Nov. 16. Over the years, many states have enacted legislation that extended deadlines for these voters to make sure the ballots get there to be counted.  “As far as I’m concerned, this [Florida] election isn’t over until Nov. 16. That’s legal, and any ballot from a military voter or citizen overseas that’s postmarked by the 6th and arrives by the 16th has a right to be counted and should be included in the certified ballot count,”said Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, president and CEO of U.S. Vote Foundation and Overseas Vote.  Let’s let the process play out.

 

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day November 12th through 15th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 18th through 22nd 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

The secret of Happiness in Freedom, and the secret of Freedom, Courage – Thucydides

FOD Trivia Question

The infamous carnivorous Venus Fly Trap is obliged to devour insects because the surrounding soil is deficient in this chemical.

Previous FOD Trivia Answer

What is the name given to the heat used to turn a liquid into a gas or a liquid into a solid rather than to raise temperature?  Answer: Latent Heat

 

Senate Passes Defense Spending Bill

An important piece of legislation was passed by the Senate this week – the DoD Defense Authorization Bill allowing DoD to complete the upcoming FY planning and lessens the impact of a potential Government shutdown.  Military Times is reporting with the fiscal year winding down, Senate lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a multi-agency appropriations deal that would prevent a government shutdown and give the Defense Department its full-year budget on schedule for the first time in a decade.  The measure, which provides for more than $606 billion in base defense spending and nearly $68 billion more in overseas contingency funds, is in line with White House requests and spending targets outlined in the annual defense authorization bill approved earlier this summer.  The funding total — approved by a 93-7 vote — amounts to an increase of more than 3 percent for military spending in fiscal 2019, but as important as the boost is the timing of the measure.  In recent years, Congress has struggled to pass any appropriations measures before the start of the new fiscal year, relying instead on a series of budget extensions to avoid partial government shutdowns.  That has infuriated Pentagon leaders, who have said the fractured appropriations process prevents them from keeping equipment purchases and new program starts on time.  (Fireball note: And it always costs the taxpayers and DoD more money when there are contract delays, contract changes and both contribute to decreased readiness.)  If the House finalizes the appropriations measure next week and President Donald Trump signs it into law in the following week (all parties involved have already signaled they expect to do so), it will mark the first time since 2008 that Congress and the White House have passed their spending plans on time.  The measure funds a 2.6 percent pay raise for troops starting next January and a boost in military end strength of 16,400 spread across the active-duty and reserve forces.  Operation and maintenance spending totals $243.2 billion of the defense total, and research and development efforts another $96.1 billion. Defense health and military family programs would receive $34.4 billion.  The appropriations fund 13 new Navy ships ― including three DDG-51 guided missile destroyers and two Virginia-class submarines ― 93 F-35 aircraft, 58 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, 66 AH-64 Apache helicopters, 13 V-22 aircraft, and $1.5 billion for the upgrade of 135 Abrams tanks.  The National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account would also see a $1.3 billion boost from the appropriations plan.  In order to avoid political fights over non-defense spending levels, lawmakers agreed to package the military budget bill with the full-year funding for the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Education.  In addition, the legislation contains a budget extension for a handful of agency budgets lawmakers have not yet finished negotiating. The move will prevent a government shutdown at the end of the month, when the fiscal year ends.  Several senators lamented before the vote that all of the appropriations bills have not yet been finalized, but for the first time in years, defense advocates aren’t among those complaining.  In addition to the full Defense Department appropriations plan, lawmakers last week finalized a spending plan for military construction projects and the Department of Veterans Affairs, covering nearly all aspects of national defense and military personnel spending.  President Trump has taken to social media but tweeting “I want to know, where is the money for Border Security and the WALL in this ridiculous Spending Bill, and where will it come from after the Midterms?” the president wrote. “Dems are obstructing Law Enforcement and Border Security. REPUBLICANS MUST FINALLY GET TOUGH!”  So lots of turmoil to follow.

 

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 18th through 22nd 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day July 25th through 27th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

Walk groundly, talk profoundly, drink roundly and sleep soundly. – William Hazlitt.

 

FOD Trivia Question

A new FOD feature!  FOD readers – answer the question.  The answer or at least the one I have will be published in the next edition.

Which Polish Astronomer, in 1543, located the sun as the center of our solar system?

 

There’s a lot going on today – I don’t want to have to have you add me to your weekend reading list – let’s get to it:

 

Remains of US Troops Killed In Korea Returned

The longest journeys must begin with the first steps.  While it’s not a giant step, it is a first step to advancing relations with North Korea, with the goal being the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.  The remains of multiple of U.S. troops killed in the Korean War more than six decades ago are headed back to America now after North Korean officials turned them over to military officials, White House officials announced Thursday night.  The move comes on the 65th anniversary of the armistice that ended hostilities in the conflict and about six weeks after President Donald Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong UnIn a statement, White House officials praised their North Korean counterparts for honoring a promise from that meeting to return the remains. “We are encouraged by North Korea’s actions and the momentum for positive change.”  (Fireball note:  Thank you President Trump making this a priority when dealing with North Korea.)  Military officials said the remains were loaded onto an Air Force C-17 at an air base in Wonsan, North Korea, and taken to Osan Air Base in South Korea. Service members from United Nations Command Korea and technical experts from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency were on hand for the event.  United Nations Command officials confirmed that 55 cases of remains were turned over by the North Koreans. A formal repatriation ceremony will be held on Aug. 1, with plans to return the remains to Hawaii after that for further analysis.  “The United States owes a profound debt of gratitude to those American service members who gave their lives in service to their country and we are working diligently to bring them home,” the White House statement said.  “It is a solemn obligation of the United States Government to ensure that the remains are handled with dignity and properly accounted for so their families receive them in an honorable manner.”  More than 35,000 Americans died on the Korean Peninsula during that war. Of those, 7,700 are still listed as missing in action, with 5,300 believed to be on North Korean soil.  U.S. and North Korean officials had previously worked together on the recovery of those casualties in the past, forging a repatriation agreement that lasted from 1990 to 2005. During that span, 229 fallen troops were identified and returned home.

 

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day July 25th through 27th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day June 5th through 15th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

Never let your best friends get lonely… keep disturbing them.  Thanks my friends!

 

I’m a Cabbage Patched Kid

I’m not a product of that Xavier Roberts designed Cabbage Patch doll from the 1980’s toy fad, but a successful beneficiary of quadruple Coronary artery bypass surgery, also called Coronary Artery Bypass Graft, but pronounced “cabbage.”  I had a coronary stress test as part of a full physical I prescribed for myself when I retired from Boeing.   That test indicated I might have something, but being asymmetric we didn’t proceed further.  I was also in spin class about 4 days/week, rode my bike on local trails, and skied more than 40 days last year.  About 16 months later when I changed doctors, the new guy suggested a cardiologist we do a coronary angiogram which, despite no symptoms showed several sections with atherosclerosis is characterized by yellowish plaques of cholesterollipids, and cellular debris deposited into the inner layer of the wall of a large or medium-sized coronary artery, most often resulting in a partial obstruction in the affected arteries – in short – cardiovascular disease  I was getting a cross-sectional narrowing of at least 50- 90 percent in some areas. And when the cardiac surgeon, the pump guy, as opposed to the vascular surgeon, pipes guy, says I have you on my schedule four days from now; you say –  it’s time to get a blog edition out.  My surgeon opted for the big kahuna.  The terms single bypassdouble bypasstriple bypass, and quadruple bypass bypass refer to the number of coronary arteries bypassed in the procedure. In other words, a double bypass means two coronary arteries are bypassed (e.g., the left anterior descending (LAD) coronary artery and right coronary artery (RCA)); a triple bypass means three vessels are bypassed (e.g., LAD, RCA and left circumflex artery (LCX)); a quadruple bypass means four vessels are bypassed (e.g., LAD, RCA, LCX and first diagonal artery of the LAD), using the left and right mammary arteries.  Well as long as you’re in there muckin’ around I might as well get my full Medicare and TriCare for Life benefits (which I see are going up – see article below).  I did have several of the known risk factors – cigarette smoking (no), diabetes (no), high cholesterol (only slightly elevated), high blood pressure (again only slightly elevated), sedentary lifestyle (no), overweight (too many burritos with Mule) and family history of premature heart disease (both my grandfathers died of heart attacks in their 40’s).  I was lucky in that I found it.  So now it’s the summer of cardiac recovery (2 months before I can ride my bike again – a new Specialized Stumpjumper).  Thanks for all the good wishes I received along the way and I meant call more folks in advance, but I got busy.

 

Military Retirees To See Tricare Fees Increase

Military Times is reporting some military families would see some co-pays decrease under a Senate proposal to change the Tricare fee structure, but retirees under age 65 would see a major fee hike.  Working-age retirees now pay no enrollment fees to join Tricare Select. The proposal would create a $450 annual enrollment fee for an individual and a $900 annual enrollment fee for a family, in addition to a new out-of-network deductible for this coverage group that could cost retirees even more.  Retirees in Tricare Prime would see their enrollment fee increase to $350 per individual, from the current $289.08, or to $700 per family, from the current $578.16.  “Our concern is that in the course of a year this would be the second major Tricare hike for retirees under age 65,” said Kathy Beasley, a retired Navy captain who is director of government relations for health care for The Military Officers Association of America.  This proposal doesn’t affect military retirees and their family members age 65 and older, who are in Tricare for Life (Fireball note: YET). Active-duty families and working-age retirees/families could see some co-pays decrease, Beasley said, although not enough to offset the increase in enrollment fees for retirees.  The proposal, which is included in the Senate version of the defense authorization bill, was designed to fix a problem that caused higher co-pays for those eligible for Tricare before Jan. 1, when many of the Tricare reforms took effect.  The bill will go before the Senate for a vote, and the provision would then be considered in conference with House lawmakers. In its current form, if approved, the new cost structure would take effect Jan. 1, 2019.  “This provision would correct an inequity in the Tricare benefit among beneficiaries by establishing a single co-payment structure applicable to all Tricare beneficiaries,” stated a report accompanying the bill text. Senate Armed Services Committee members stated they were aware that those who were already in Tricare before the reform took effect in January were paying higher co-payments than beneficiaries who entered the military after Jan. 1.  But this provision doesn’t fix the overall problems with the new, higher co-pays introduced in January, said Karen Ruedisueli, government relations deputy director for the National Military Family Association. Instead, it “just increases overall out-of-pocket costs by hiking up retiree enrollment fees and the catastrophic cap while creating a new non-network deductible ― cost increases we’ve always opposed since Congress mandated them for new entrants and their families.”  Working-age retirees and their families in Tricare Select would also be subject to a new out-of-network deductible of $300 for individuals and $600 for families ― which has to be met before Tricare begins paying its share of medical bills.  “We are particularly disappointed [the proposal] doesn’t fix the unreasonably high co-pays for the physical, speech, occupational and mental health therapies ― co-pays so high, we are concerned that families won’t follow recommended treatment plans,” Ruedisueli said.  “After months of problems with the Tricare contract transitions, including disruptions in care, network problems, and customer service nightmares, it is outrageous to ask families to pay more out-of-pocket,” Ruedisueli said.  “The Tricare fee increases which took effect on Jan. 1 were disproportionately high and broke faith with currently serving families and those who have served full careers,” Beasley said. “The addition of these new Senate-proposed fee increases do nothing but place a more disproportionate burden on military beneficiaries.”  The provision would benefit the Defense Department by lowering health care costs by about $2.8 billion over the period between 2020 and 2023, according to a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office. (CBO assumes this legislation wouldn’t be enacted in time to affect fees and enrollments for 2019.) CBO estimates that the average out-of-pocket cost for those in Tricare Select would be about $570 for individual retirees and $1,645 for those with families.  For those enrolled in Tricare before Jan. 1, the proposal would cut some in-network co-pays in the current fee schedule in Tricare Select. Some examples:

  • Primary care outpatient visits would decrease from $21 to $15 for active-duty family members, and from $28 to $25 for retirees and their families.
  • Specialty care outpatient visits would decrease from $31 to $25 for active-duty families, and from $41 to $40 for retirees and their families.
  • Emergency services would decrease from $81 to $40 for active-duty families, and from $109 to $80 for retirees and their families.

 

China Rapidly Militarizing South China Sea With Missile Exercise

China is continuing to militarize the South China Sea in ways similar to how Japan moved into the Pacific region in the years preceding WW II and in violation of their own statements and their obligations under international law.  The Japanese were in violation of agreements they made with the League of Nations and now China defies United Nations and international court decisions.  Reuters is reporting China’s navy carried out drills in the South China Sea to simulate fending off an aerial attack, state media said on Friday, as the country trades barbs with the United States over responsibility for heightened tension in the disputed waterway.  United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed concern during a visit to Beijing on Thursday over China’s efforts to militarize the seas.  His remarks came after a flurry of U.S. activity in the region, including reports last week that U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers had flown near disputed islands that drew a sharp rebuke from China.  China’s navy carried out a simulated missile attack in an unspecified area of the South China Sea using three target drones making flyovers of a ship formation at varying heights, the official army newspaper said.  The drills were part of efforts by a training base, also unspecified, to prepare for real-life combat with aerial targets after China’s leadership said some training failed to prepare troops effectively, it added.  The United States and China have frequently sparred over who is militarizing the South China Sea, with Beijing blaming tension on actions such as the “freedom of navigation” operations by the U.S. Navy.  Washington says such operations are necessary to counter China’s efforts to limit nautical movement there.  A U.S. Navy destroyer sailed through waters claimed by China in May just days after the United States withdrew an invitation to it for a major U.S. hosted naval drill.  Critics have said the operations have little impact on Chinese behavior and are largely symbolic.  Pentagon officials have long complained that China has not been candid enough about its rapid military build-up and its use of South China Sea islands to gather intelligence.  In addition to China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam all have competing claims in the South China Sea.  Strengthening their navy has been a key part of China’s ambitious military modernization overseen by President Xi Jinping, as it seeks to project power far from its shores.  State television on Friday showed pictures of Xi touring a submarine in the northern port city of Qingdao, where was briefed on its weapons systems, chatted with sailors and asked questions about the submarine fleet’s training. 

 

Congress Passes 19th  Amendment

I was remiss in not mentioning this in the previous edition of FOD.  On June 4, 1919, The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote, was passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.  The women’s suffrage movement was founded in the mid-19th century by women who had become politically active through their work in the abolitionist and temperance movements. In July 1848, 240 woman suffragists, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, met in Seneca Falls, New York, to assert the right of women to vote. Female enfranchisement was still largely opposed by most Americans, and the distraction of the North-South conflict and subsequent Civil War precluded further discussion. During the Reconstruction Era, the 15th Amendment was adopted, granting African American men the right to vote, but the Republican-dominated Congress failed to expand its progressive radicalism into the sphere of gender.  In 1869, the National Woman Suffrage Association, led by Susan B. Anthonyand Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was formed to push for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Another organization, the American Woman Suffrage Association, led by Lucy Stone, was organized in the same year to work through the state legislatures. In 1890, these two societies were united as the National American Woman Suffrage Association. That year, Wyoming became the first state to grant women the right to vote.  By the beginning of the 20th century, the role of women in American society was changing drastically; women were working more, receiving a better education, bearing fewer children, and several states had authorized female suffrage. In 1913, the National Woman’s party organized the voting power of these enfranchised women to elect congressional representatives who supported woman suffrage, and by 1916 both the Democratic and Republican parties openly endorsed female enfranchisement. In 1919, the 19th Amendment, which stated that “the rights of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex,” passed both houses of Congress and was sent to the states for ratification. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, giving it the two-thirds majority of state ratification necessary to make it the law of the land. Eight days later, the 19th Amendment took effect.

 

Invasion of Normandy

Operation Overlord was the code name for the Battle of Normandy, the Allied operation that launched the successful invasion of German-occupied Western Europe.  A 1,200-plane airborne assault preceded an amphibious assault involving more than 5,000 vessels. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on 6 June, and more than two million Allied troops were in France by the end of August.  The decision to undertake a cross-channel invasion in 1944 was taken at the Trident Conference in Washington in May 1943. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed commander of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), and General Bernard Montgomery was named as commander of the 21st Army Group, which comprised all the land forces involved in the invasion. The coast of Normandy was chosen as the site of the invasion, with the Americans assigned to land at sectors codenamed Utah and Omaha, the British at Sword and Gold, and the Canadians at Juno. To meet the conditions expected on the Normandy beachhead, special technology was developed, including two artificial ports called Mulberry harbours and an array of specialized tanks nicknamed Hobart’s Funnies. In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allies conducted a substantial military deceptionOperation Bodyguard, using both electronic and visual misinformation. This misled the Germans as to the date and location of the main Allied landings. Adolf Hitler placed German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in charge of developing fortifications all along the Atlantic Wall in anticipation of an invasion.  The Allies failed to accomplish their objectives for the first day, but gained a tenuous foothold that they gradually expanded when they captured the port at Cherbourg on 26 June and the city of Caen on 21 July. A failed counterattack by German forces on 8 August left 50,000 soldiers of the 7th Army trapped in the Falaise pocket. The Allies launched an invasion of southern France (code-named Operation Dragoon) on 15 August, and the Liberation of Paris followed on 25 August. German forces retreated across the Seine on 30 August 1944, marking the close of Operation Overlord.  From D-Day to 21 August, the Allies landed 2,052,299 men in northern France. The cost of the Normandy campaign was high for both sides.  Between 6 June and the end of August, the American armies suffered 124,394 casualties, of whom 20,668 were killed.  Casualties within the First Canadian and Second British Armies are placed at 83,045: 15,995 killed, 57,996 wounded, and 9,054 missing.  Of these, Canadian losses amounted to 18,444, with 5,021 killed in action.  The Allied air forces, having flown 480,317 sorties in support of the invasion, lost 4,101 aircraft and 16,714 airmen (8,536 members of the USAAF, and 8,178 flying under the command of the RAF).  The Free French SAS paratroopers suffered 77 killed, with 197 wounded and missing.  Allied tank losses have been estimated at around 4,000, with losses split evenly between the American and British/Canadian armies.  Historians slightly differ on overall casualties during the campaign, with the lowest losses totaling 225,606 and the highest at 226,386.

 

First Machine Gun on An Aircraft

On 07 June 1912, then Lieutenant Roy C. Kirtland, flying a Wright Model B at College Park, Maryland, Captain Charles deForest Chandler was the first person to fire a machine gun mounted on an aircraft. The weapon was a prototype designed by Colonel Isaac N. Lewis.  Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico was named for him. He was among the first American military aviators and he recommended Henry “Hap” Arnold for aviation training.

 

X-15 First Flight

8 June 1959: At Edwards Air Force Base, California, North American Aviation’s Chief Engineering Test Pilot, Scott Crossfield , made the first flight of the X-15A hypersonic research rocketplane.  56-6670 was the first of three X-15s built for the U.S. Air Force and NASA. It was airdropped from a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, NB-52A-1-BO 52-003, at 37,550 feet (11,445 meters) over Rosamond Dry Lake at 08:38:40, Pacific Time. This was an unpowered glide flight to check the flying characteristics and aircraft systems, so there were no propellants or oxidizers aboard other than hydrogen peroxide which powered the pumps and generators.  The aircraft reached 0.79 Mach (522 miles per hour, 840 kilometers per hour) during the 4 minute, 56.6 second flight. The North American X-15 was a hypersonic rocket-powered aircraft operated by the United States Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as part of the X-plane series of experimental aircraft. The X-15 set speed and altitude records in the 1960s, reaching the edge of outer space and returning with valuable data used in aircraft and spacecraft design. The X-15’s official world record for the highest speed ever recorded by a manned, powered aircraft, set in October 1967 when William J. “Pete” Knight flew Mach 6.72 at 102,100 feet (31,120 m), a speed of 4,520 miles per hour (7,274 km/h), has remained unchallenged as of June 2018.  The X-15 was a research program and changes were made to various systems over the course of the program and between the different models. The X-15 was operated under several different scenarios including attachment to a launch aircraft, drop, main engine start and acceleration, a ballistic flight into thin air/space, re-entry into thicker air, and an unpowered glide to landing. Alternatively, if the main engine was not started the pilot went directly to a landing. The main rocket engine operated only for a relatively short part of the flight, but was capable of boosting the X-15 to its high speeds and altitudes. Without main engine thrust, the X-15’s instruments and control surfaces remained functional, but the aircraft could not maintain altitude. Because the X-15 also had to be controlled in an environment where there was too little air for aerodynamic flight control surfaces, it had a reaction control system (RCS) that used rocket thrusters.  There were two different X-15 pilot control setups: one used three joysticks; the other, one joystick.  The X-15 type with multiple control sticks for the pilot included a traditional rudder and stick, and another joystick on the left which sent commands to the reaction control system.  A third joystick on the right side was used during high-G maneuvers to augment the center stick.  In addition to pilot input, the X-15 “Stability Augmentation System” (SAS) sent inputs to the aerodynamic controls to help the pilot maintain attitude control.  The Reaction Control System (RCS) could be operated in two modes, manual and automatic.  The automatic mode used a feature called “Reaction Augmentation System” (RAS) that helped stabilize the vehicle at high altitude.  The RAS was typically used for approximately three minutes of an X-15 flight before automatic power off.  The second setup used the MH-96 flight control system which allowed one joystick in place of three and simplified pilot input.  The MH-96 could automatically blend aerodynamic and rocket controls depending on how effective each system was at controlling the aircraft.  The initial 24 powered flights used two Reaction Motors XLR11 liquid-propellant rocket engines, enhanced to provide a total of 16,000 pounds-force of thrust as compared to the 6,000 pounds-force that a single XLR11 provided in 1947 to make the Bell X-1 the first aircraft to fly faster than the speed of sound. The XLR11 used ethyl alcohol and liquid oxygen.  By November 1960, Reaction Motors was able to deliver the XLR99 rocket engine, generating 57,000 pounds-force of thrust. The remaining 175 flights of the X-15 used XLR99 engines, in a single engine configuration. The XLR99 used anhydrous ammonia and liquid oxygen as propellant, and hydrogen peroxide to drive the high-speed turbopump that delivered propellants to the engine.  It could burn 15,000 pounds of propellant in 80 seconds.  The X-15 reaction control system (RCS), for maneuvering in low-pressure/density environment, used high-test peroxide (HTP), which decomposes into water and oxygen in the presence of a catalyst and could provide a specific impulse of 140 seconds.  The HTP also fueled a turbopump for the main engines and auxiliary power units (APUs).  Additional tanks for helium and liquid nitrogen performed other functions, for example the fuselage interior was purged with helium gas, and the liquid nitrogen was used as coolant for various systems.  Albert Scott Crossfield was an American naval officer and test pilot. In 1953, he became the first pilot to fly at twice the speed of sound.  One year to the day after his first X-15 flight, on June 8, 1960, he had close call during ground tests with the XLR-99 engine. He was seated in the cockpit of the No. 3 X-15 when a malfunctioning valve caused a catastrophic explosion. He was uninjured as Dr. Toby Freedman, NAA Medical Director, pried open the cockpit to save him and despite being subjected to a later calculated acceleration force of near 50 Gs (although Crossfield stated in the Discovery Channel’s series Frontiers of Flight that he began to have debilitating issues with his night vision after the accident) and the airplane was completely rebuilt. On November 15 of the same year, he completed the X-15’s first powered flight with the XLR-99 engine. Two flights later, on December 6, he brought North American’s demonstration program to a successful conclusion as he completed his final flight in the X-15. Although it had been his hope to eventually pilot one of the craft into space, the USAF would not allow it, and gave strict orders which basically amounted to “stay in the sky, stay out of space.”  From 2001 to 2003, Crossfield trained pilots Terry Queijo, Kevin Kochersberger, Chris Johnson and Ken Hyde for The Wright Experience, which prepared to fly a reproduction Wright Flyer on the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers‘ first flight on December 17, 1903. The training was successful, but the re-creation of the flight on December 17, 2003 was ultimately not successful due to low engine power and the flyer’s rain-soaked fabric covering which added considerably to its takeoff weight. The Wright replica did fly successfully at Kill Devil Hills, NC after the Centennial jubilee but without media coverage. On April 19, 2006, a Cessna 210A piloted by Crossfield was reported missing while flying from PrattvilleAlabama toward ManassasVirginia.  On April 20, authorities confirmed his body was found in the wreckage of his plane in a remote area of LudvilleGeorgia. There were severe thunderstorms in the area when air traffic monitors lost radio and radar contact with Crossfield’s plane.  Scott Crossfield was the first member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots to welcome me to the organization at a new member’s happy hour in 1991.  I also sat next to him at lunch at an SETP Symposium several years later.  He was always interesting, always engaged and very personable.  When asked to name his favorite airplane, Crossfield replied, “the one I was flying at the time,” because he thoroughly enjoyed them all and their unique personalities.

 

Porsche No. 1 Completed

In 1948, building cars in post war Germany was a risking proposition at best.  The Austrian automotive engineer Ferdinand Porsche debuted his first design at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1900. The electric vehicle set several Austrian land-speed records, reaching more than 35 mph and earning international acclaim for the young engineer. He became general director of the Austro-Daimler Company (an outpost of the German automaker) in 1916 and later moved to Daimler headquarters in Stuttgart. Daimler merged with the Benz firm in the 1920s, and Porsche was chiefly responsible for designing some of the great Mercedes racing cars of that decade. Porsche left Daimler in 1931 and formed his own company. A few years later, Adolf Hitler called on the engineer to aid in the production of a small “people’s car” for the German masses. With his son, also named Ferdinand (known as Ferry), Porsche designed the prototype for the original Volkswagen (known as the KdF: “Kraft durch Freude,” or “strength through joy”) in 1936. During World War II, the Porsches also designed military vehicles, most notably the powerful Tiger tank.  At war’s end, the French accused the elder Porsche of war crimes and imprisoned him for more than a year. Ferry struggled to keep the family firm afloat. He built a Grand Prix race car, the Type 360 Cisitalia, for a wealthy Italian industrialist, and used the money to pay his father’s bail. When Porsche was released from prison, he approved of another project Ferry had undertaken: a new sports car that would be the first to actually bear the name Porsche. Dubbed the Type 356, the new car was in the tradition of earlier Porsche-designed race cars such as the Cisitalia. The engine was placed mid-chassis, ahead of the transaxle, with modified Volkswagen drive train components.  On June 8, 1948, a hand-built aluminum prototype labeled “No. 1″ becomes the first vehicle to bear the name of one of the world’s leading car manufacturers: Porsche.  I bought my first car, a Porsche 1969 911E, in 1971 and since then have always owned a Porsche 911.

 

Committee of Five Formed

The Second Continental Congress meeting at the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall) in Philadelphia  decided upon a committee of five to draft and present to the Congress what would become America’s Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776. This Declaration committee operated from June 11, 1776 until July 5, 1776, the day on which the Declaration was published.  The members of the committee were: John Adams, representative of Massachusetts – became the second US President;  Thomas Jefferson, representative of Virginia – became the third US President; Benjamin Franklin, representative of Pennsylvania – known as one of the most famous of the Founding Fathers, and first US Minister to France; Roger Sherman, representative of Connecticut – the only person to sign all four of the US state papers: the Continental Association, the Declaration, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution; Robert Livingston, representative of New York – negotiated the Louisiana Purchase as the Minister to France.  The revolutionary treatise began with reverberating prose:

When, in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the Causes which impel them to the Separation.  We hold these Truths to be self-evident that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

 

Pioneer 10 Departs Solar System

Jun 13, 1983.  After more than a decade in space, Pioneer 10, the world’s first outer-planetary probe, leaves the solar system. The next day, it radioed back its first scientific data on interstellar space.  It was launched on March 2, 1972, by an Atlas-Centaur expendable vehicle from Cape CanaveralFlorida. Between July 15, 1972, and February 15, 1973, it became the first spacecraft to traverse the asteroid belt. Photography of Jupiter began November 6, 1973, at a range of 16,000,000 mi, and a total of about 500 images were transmitted. The closest approach to the planet was on December 4, 1973, at a range of 82,178 mi. During the mission, the on-board instruments were used to study the asteroid belt, the environment around Jupiter, the solar windcosmic rays, and eventually the far reaches of the Solar System and heliosphereRadio communications were lost with Pioneer 10 on January 23, 2003, because of the loss of electric power for its radio transmitter, with the probe at a distance of 12 billion kilometers (80 AU) from Earth.  Headed in the direction of the Taurus constellation, Pioneer 10 will pass within three light years of another star–Ross 246–in the year 34,600 A.D. Bolted to the probe’s exterior wall is a gold-anodized plaque, 6 by 9 inches in area, that displays a drawing of a human man and woman, a star map marked with the location of the sun, and another map showing the flight path of Pioneer 10. The plaque, intended for intelligent life forms elsewhere in the galaxy, was designed by astronomer Carl Sagan.

 

TWA 847 Hijacking

TWA Flight 847 was a flight from Cairo to San Diego with en route stops in Athens, Rome, Boston, and Los Angeles.  On the morning of Friday, June 14, 1985 TWA 847 was hijacked by members of Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad shortly after takeoff from Athens. The hijackers were seeking the release of 700 Shiite Muslims from Israeli custody.  The passengers and crew endured a three-day intercontinental ordeal. Some passengers were threatened and some beaten. Passengers with Jewish-sounding names were moved apart from the others.  TWA 847 was operated with a Boeing 727-200, registration N64339.  The flight originated in Cairo on the morning of June 14. After an uneventful flight from Cairo to Athens, a new crew boarded TWA 847. The new Athens  TWA crew were: Captain John Testrake, First Officer Philip Maresca, Flight Engineer Christian Zimmermann, Flight Service Manager Uli Derickson, Flight Attendant Judith Cox, Flight Attendant Hazel Hesp, Flight Attendant Elizabeth Howes, and Flight Attendant Helen Sheahan.  At 10:10am, Flight 847 departed Athens for Rome. It was commandeered shortly after takeoff by two Arabic-speaking Lebanese men who had smuggled a pistol and two grenades through the Athens airport security. One was later identified as Mohammed Ali Hamadi, who was later captured and sentenced to life imprisonment in Germany.  The plane was diverted from its original destination of Rome, in airspace over Greece, to the Middle East and made its first stop, for several hours, at the Beirut International Airport in Lebanon, where 19 passengers were allowed to leave in exchange for fuel. Shortly before landing, air traffic control initially refused to let them land in Beirut. Captain Testrake argued with air traffic control until they relented.  “He has pulled a hand-grenade pin and he is ready to blow up the aircraft if he has to. We must, I repeat, we must land at Beirut. We must land at Beirut. No alternative.”  At the time, Lebanon was in the midst of a civil war, and Beirut was divided into sectors controlled by different Shia militia Amal and Hezbollah.  That afternoon, the aircraft continued on across the Mediterranean to Algiers, Algeria, where 20 passengers were released during a five-hour stop before heading back to Beirut that night.  Beirut International Airport was surrounded by a Shia neighborhood. It had no perimeter security, which had been over-run by Islamic militias, and nearby residents could simply drive onto the runway.  The hijackers had systematically and regularly beaten all the US military passengers.  During this stop they selected U.S. Navy diver, Steelworker Second Class (SW2) Robert Stethem, was singled out.  When their demands were not met, Stethem, was targeted, beaten, and tortured. Finally, the hijackers shot him in the temple and dumped his body onto the tarmac at the Beirut airport and shot him again, seeking permission from other Shia Muslims operating the control tower to obtain more fuel.   He posthumously received the Bronze Star for his heroism during this situation.  Seven American passengers, alleged to have Jewish-sounding surnames, were taken off the jet and held hostage in a Shia prison in Beirut.  Nearly a dozen well-armed men joined the hijackers before the plane returned to Algiers the following day, Saturday, 15 June, where an additional 65 passengers and all five female cabin crew members (flight attendants and purser) were released.  The hijackers wished to fly to Tehran, but mysteriously returned to Beirut for a third time on Sunday afternoon, 16 June, and remained there for unknown reasons. (The pilot working as Flight Engineer deemed this portion of events could be dangerous to any who may be involved in future situations. The other pilots agreed with him to withhold details of his actions from the media.)  The initial demands of the hijackers included:

  • the release of the “Kuwait 17,” those involved in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Kuwait
  • the release of all 766 mainly Lebanese Shias transferred to Israel’s Atleat Prison in conjunction with immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon

The Greek government released the accomplice, Ali Atwa, and in exchange the hijackers released eight Greek citizens, including Greek pop singer Demis Roussos, to be flown by a Greek government business jet from Algiers back to Athens.  By Monday afternoon, June 17, the 40 remaining hostages had been taken from the plane and held hostage throughout Beirut by the Hezbollah. Nabih Berri was the chief of the Amal militia and the Minister of Justice in the fractured Lebanon cabinet. One of the hostages was released when he developed heart trouble. The other 39 remained captive until intervention by US President Ronald Reagan with Lebanese officials on 30 June, when they and the pilots held captive on the airplane were collected in a local schoolyard and met with international journalists, then driven to Syria by the International Red Cross to the Sheraton Hotel and a press conference in Damascus. The hostages then boarded a U.S. Air Force C-141B Starlifter cargo plane and flew to Rhein-Main ABWest Germany, where they were met by US Vice President George H. W. Bush, debriefed and given medical examinations, then flown in a TWA Lockheed L1011 Tristar non-stop to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home by President and Mrs. Reagan (accompanied by Reagan’s Chief of Staff Donald Regan). Over the next several weeks, Israel released over 700 Shia prisoners, while maintaining that the prisoners’ release was not related to the hijacking.  Flight attendant Uli Derickson was credited with calming one of the hijackers during a fuel-quantity incident during the first leg to Beirut, because she spoke German, the only European language which either hijacker spoke. Notably, she interrupted an attempt to end the hijacking in Algiers when airport officials refused to refuel the plane without payment by offering her own Shell Oil credit card, which was used to charge about $5,500 for 6,000 gallons of jet fuel, for which she was reimbursed. She also refused to cooperate with the hijackers in identifying for them the passports of any passengers with Jewish-sounding names so they could not be singled out.  USS Stethem (DDG-63), an Aegis Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, commissioned in 1995, was named in honor of SW2 Robert Dean Stethem.

 

1777 Congress Adopts Stars and Stripes

Flag Day is celebrated on June 14. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States, which happened on June 14, 1777, by resolution of the Second Continental Congress.  The United States Army also celebrates the U.S. Army Birthdays on this date; Congress adopted “the American continental army” after reaching a consensus position in the Committee of the Whole on June 14, 1775.  The week of June 14 (June 12–18, 2016; June 11–17, 2017; June 10–16, 2018) is designated as “National Flag Week.” During National Flag Week, the president will issue a proclamation urging U.S. citizens to fly the American flag for the duration of that week. The flag should also be displayed on all government buildings.  The Betsy Ross House has long been the site of Philadelphia’s observance of Flag Day.  Coincidentally, June 14th is also annual anniversary of the “Bear Flag Revolt.” On June 14th 1846, 33 American settlers and mountain men arrested the Mexican general in Sonoma, and declared the “Bear Flag Republic” as an independent nation. A flag emblazoned with a bear and a star was raised to symbolize independence from Mexico. The Bear Flag was adopted as California’s state flag upon joining the union in 1850.  Prominently flying both the U.S. and state flag on June 14th is a tradition for some Californians.  I flew my US flag yesterday.

 

Invasion of Saipan Begins

The Battle of Saipan was a battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II, fought on the island of Saipan in the Mariana Islands from 15 June to 9 July 1944. The Allied invasion fleet embarking the expeditionary forces left Pearl Harbor on 5 June 1944, the day before Operation Overlord in Europe was launched. The U.S. 2nd Marine Division4th Marine Division, and the Army’s 27th Infantry Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Holland Smith, defeated the 43rd Infantry Division of the Imperial Japanese Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Yoshitsugu Saito.  In the campaigns of 1943 and the first half of 1944, the Allies had captured the Solomon Islands, the Gilbert Islands, the Marshall Islands and the Papuan Peninsula of New Guinea. This left the Japanese holding the Philippines, the Caroline IslandsPalau Islands and Mariana Islands.  It had always been the intention of the American planners to bypass the Carolines and Palauan islands and to seize the Marianas and Taiwan. From these latter bases, communications between the Japanese archipelago and Japanese forces to the south and west could be cut. From the Marianas, Japan would be well within the range of an air offensive relying on the new Boeing B-29 Superfortress long-range bomber with its operational radius of 1,500 mi.  While not part of the original American plan, Douglas MacArthur, commander of the Southwest Pacific Area command, obtained authorization to advance through New Guinea and Morotai toward the Philippines. This allowed MacArthur to keep his personal pledge to liberate the Philippines, made in his “I shall return” speech, and also allowed the active use of the large forces built up in the southwest Pacific theatre. The Japanese, expecting an attack somewhere on their perimeter, thought an attack on the Caroline Islands most likely.  The bombardment of Saipan began on 13 June 1944. Fifteen battleships were involved, and 165,000 shells were fired. Seven modern fast battleships delivered 2,400 16 in (410 mm) shells, but to avoid potential minefields, fire was from a distance of 10,000 yd (9,100 m) or more, and crews were inexperienced in shore bombardment. The following day the eight older battleships and 11 cruisers under Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf replaced the fast battleships but were lacking in time and ammunition.  The landings began at 07:00 on 15 June 1944. More than 300 LVTs landed 8,000 Marines on the west coast of Saipan by about 09:00. Eleven fire support ships covered the Marine landings. The naval force consisted of the battleships Tennessee and California, the cruisers Birmingham and Indianapolis, the destroyers Norman ScottMonssenCoghlanHalsey PowellBaileyRobinson and Albert W. Grant. Careful artillery preparation — placing flags in the lagoon to indicate the range — allowed the Japanese to destroy about 20 amphibious tanks, and they strategically placed barbed wire, artillery, machine gun emplacements and trenches to maximize the American casualties. However, by nightfall, the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions had a beachhead about 6 mi wide and 0.5 mi deep.  The Japanese counter-attacked at night but were repulsed with heavy losses. On 16 June, units of the U.S. Army’s 27th Infantry Division landed and advanced on the airfield at Ås Lito (now the location of Saipan International Airport). Again the Japanese counter-attacked at night. On 18 June, Saito abandoned the airfield.  The invasion surprised the Japanese high command, which had been expecting an attack further south. Admiral Soemu Toyoda, Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Navy, saw an opportunity to use the A-Go force to attack the U.S. Navy forces around Saipan. On 15 June, he gave the order to attack. But the resulting battle of the Philippine Sea was a disaster for the Imperial Japanese Navy, which lost three aircraft carriers and hundreds of planes. The garrisons of the Marianas would have no hope of resupply or reinforcement.  Without resupply, the battle on Saipan was hopeless for the defenders, but the Japanese were determined to fight to the last man. Saito organized his troops into a line anchored on Mount Tapotchau in the defensible mountainous terrain of central Saipan. The nicknames given by the Americans to the features of the battle — “Hell’s Pocket”, “Purple Heart Ridge” and “Death Valley” — indicate the severity of the fighting. The Japanese used the many caves in the volcanic landscape to delay the attackers, by hiding during the day and making sorties at night. The Americans gradually developed tactics for clearing the caves by using flamethrower teams supported by artillery and machine guns.  By 7 July, the Japanese had nowhere to retreat. Saito made plans for a final suicidal banzai charge. On the fate of the remaining civilians on the island, Saito said, “There is no longer any distinction between civilians and troops. It would be better for them to join in the attack with bamboo spears than be captured.” At dawn, with a group of 12 men carrying a great red flag in the lead, the remaining able-bodied troops — about 3,000 men — charged forward in the final attack. Amazingly, behind them came the wounded, with bandaged heads, crutches, and barely armed. The Japanese surged over the American front lines, engaging both army and Marine units. The 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 105th Infantry Regiment were almost destroyed, losing 650 killed and wounded. However, the fierce resistance of these two battalions, as well as that of Headquarters Company, 105th Infantry, and of supply elements of 3rd Battalion, 10th Marine Artillery Regiment, resulted in over 4,300 Japanese killed. For their actions during the 15-hour Japanese attack, three men of the 105th Infantry were awarded the Medal of Honor — all posthumously. Numerous others fought the Japanese until they were overwhelmed by the largest Japanese Banzai attack in the Pacific War.  By 16:15 on 9 July, Admiral Turner announced that Saipan was officially secured.  Saito — along with commanders Hirakushi and Igeta — committed suicide in a cave. Vice-Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, the naval commander who led the Japanese carriers at Pearl Harbor, also committed suicide in the closing stages of the battle. He had been in command of the Japanese naval air forces stationed on the island.  In the end, almost the entire garrison of troops on the island — at least 30,000 — died. For the Americans, the victory was the most costly to date in the Pacific War: out of 71,000 who landed, 2,949 were killed and 10,464 wounded.  Future Hollywood actor Lee Marvin was among the many Americans wounded. He was serving with “I” Company, 24th Marine Regiment, when he was shot in the buttocks by Japanese machine gun fire during the assault on Mount Tapochau. He was awarded the Purple Heart and was given a medical discharge with the rank of Private First Class in 1945.  When I flew for Northwest Airlines, I flew in and out of Ås Lito (now the location of Saipan International Airport) on at least five trips.  I was a 33 hour layover and I got to tour all parts of the island.  Saipan International Airport was a sugarcane field before the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS) constructed a temporary landing field on the site in 1933. The landing field was used for training purposes and had two runways configured in an “L” pattern. In 1937, the Navy began upgrading the airfield for full military use, despite an international law ban on constructing military facilities within the South Pacific Mandate. Following the attack against the United States in 1941, the field was named Aslito Field (アスリート飛行場), based on the indigenous Chamoru name for the area of its location, As Lito.  The IJNAS assigned two squadrons of Mitsubishi A6M5a-52 Zeros to the airfield in mid-June 1944. These squadrons took part in the occupation of the Mariana Islands during the Battle of the Philippine Sea later that month, being almost wiped out by the American forces during the battle.  As mentioned above, the airfield was liberated by the United States Army 27th Infantry Division on June 18, 1944 during the Battle of Saipan. Once in American hands, Isley Field was expanded considerably to support Twentieth Air Force B-29 Superfortress operations. The XXI Bomber Command had been assigned the overall responsibility of the B-29 operations out of the Marianas bases, and Isley Field was used by the 73rd Bombardment Wing (which consisted of the 497th498th499th, and 500th Bombardment Groups).  During the battle of Saipan, just after the fall of Isley Field, a Zero from Guam actually landed at Aslito Airfield, the pilot being unaware that the field was under American control. As it landed, the aircraft was fired at and damaged, crashing at the end of the runway. The pilot survived and the plane was captured. The field was renamed Isley Field after United States Navy Commander Robert H. Isley who was killed on June 13, 1944, while strafing the base.  One sees just south close by, the island of Tinian allowing you can fully realize US forces had to take Saipan; for without Saipan you could not build and sustain runways capable of supporting B-29’s capable of striking mainland Japan on Tinian.  The North Field and West Field on Tinian are today mostly abandoned, but you can make out the taxiways, runways.  Limited tourist is attempting to take hold.  You can see the pits where the first atomic bombs would be loaded aboard B-29s. There is a small US memorial on Saipan, but no American cemetery.  There are many monuments and memorials to various Japanese military units and one at the cave where Saito committed suicide.  Suicide Cliff and Banzai Cliff, along with a number of surviving isolated Japanese fortifications, are recognized as historic sites on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The cliffs are also part of the National Historic Landmark District Landing Beaches; Aslito/Isley Field; & Marpi Point, Saipan Island, which also includes the American landing beaches, the B-29 runways of Isley Field, and the surviving Japanese infrastructure of the Aslito and Marpi Point airfields.

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 19 through 22, 2017

New Sanctions for North Korea

I’ve stated before here in FOD, I don’t believe sanctions against North Korea will have the desired effect of divesting their efforts to develop nuclear weapons.  Kim Jong Un has consistently pursued a path of acquiring nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them in spite of the world’s desires for diminish his resolve to the point of allowing millions of his own people to die of starvation.  Lack of cash however, might have the effect of at least slowing North Korea’s efforts. China’s banks in particular have been willing to launder Kim Jong Un’s money for years.  Only recently, the Department of  the Treasury took actions against the Bank of Dandong over concerns that it was participating in illicit financial activities with North Korea — an early signal to Chinese financial institutions of U.S. willingness to increase pressure on entities that do business with Pyongyang.  On 21 September 2017, President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he had signed an executive order authorizing additional sanctions against North Korea by targeting individuals, companies and financial institutions that do business with what he called “this criminal rogue regime.”  Speaking before a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump said his goal is the “complete denuclearization” of North Korea and added that the nation led by Kim Jong Un posed a “grave threat to peace and security in our world.”  Trump noted that he’d signed the executive order just as China’s central bank “has told their other banks … to immediately stop doing business with North Korea.” The president praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for the “very bold move.”  Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (photo right) confirmed that he did call the People’s Bank of China early Thursday morning to alert them to this coming action, but skirted the question when asked if these sanctions were specifically aimed at China.  “This action is directed at everyone,” Mnuchin said, calling the executive order a significant expansion of Treasury’s power to target the Kim regime and those financial entities and individuals who seek to do business with it. The executive order is “forward looking,” meaning Treasury will consider new designations on a “rolling basis” from Thursday on.  So far, the administration has sought to pressure Pyonyang largely through forceful economic steps, including Thursday’s latest action and U.N. Security Council sanctions earlier this month. The President has this right.

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