FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day January 23rd through 27th 2018

Saying of the Day

English is tough.  It can be understood through tough, thorough thought though.  Maybe I need another scotch in order to have a better saying of the day.  Try to work it into a discussion today.


There’s no baseball being played, but lots of baseball news


Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman Elected To Hall of Fame

VOTED IN: 3B Chipper Jones

Teams: Braves

Length of career: 19 years

Career stats: .303 BA, 468 HR, 1,623 RBI, 150 SB, 2,499 G, .455 OBP, .930 OPS

Career WAR: 85, via Baseball Reference

Ballot percentage:  92.2

Years on ballot: 1

What you should know: Real first name is Larry … got the nickname “Chipper” from being like his father, or a “chip off the old block” … 1995 World Series winner … 1999 NL MVP, 8-time All-Star … 2 Silver Sluggers …1995 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up … Braves retired his No. 10 … first pick of the 1990 draft … is the Braves’ all-time leader in hits and RBI … hit better than .300 from each side of the plate … Only switch-hitter with a career .300 BA and 400 or more home runs.


VOTED IN: OF Vladimir Guerrero

Teams: Expos, Angels, Rangers, Orioles

Length of career: 16 years

Career stats: .318 BA, 449 HR, 1,496 RBI, 181 SB, 2,147 G, .379 OBP, .931 OPS

Career WAR: 59.3, via Baseball Reference

Ballot percentage: 92.9

Years on ballot: 2

What you should know:  Appeared on 71.7 percent of ballots last year … 2004 AL MVP … nine-time All-Star … eight-time Silver Slugger winner … retired as the all-time leader in hits among players from the Dominican Republic, but was passed by Adrien Beltre in 2014 … helped Angels win five AL West titles … retired as an Angel when he signed a one-day contract with them … is the first Angels player in the Hall of Fame … six top-10 MVP vote finishes … has eight siblings … has eight children


VOTED IN: 1B/DH Jim Thome

Teams: Indians, Phillies, White Sox, Twins, Dodgers, Orioles

Length of career: 22 years

Career stats: .276 BA, 1,699 RBI, 612 HR, 2,543 AB, .402 OBP, .956 OPS

Career WAR: 72.9, via Baseball Reference

Percentage of ballots: 89.8

Years on ballot: 1

What you should know: Just the eighth player to hit 600 home runs … Five-time All-Star … 1 Silver Slugger … 2006 AL Comeback Player of the Year … 2002 Roberto Clemente Award … 2003 NL home run leader … Indians’ Hall of Fame … Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame … two Marvin Miller Man of the Year Awards … a Lou Gehrig Memorial Award … 19th all-time in OPS … 13th round pick in 1989 … two World Series appearances … signed a one-day contract to retire with the Indians in 2014 … has two kids.


A good class.


A-Rod To Join ESPN Sunday Night Baseball

Who replaced Aaron Boone at third base for the New York Yankees in 2004?   Answer: Alex Rodriguez.  Who is replacing Aaron Boone in what most would consider being the very best job in broadcast baseball – color commentary for ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball?  Answer:  Alex Rodriguez.  Michael McCarthy of The Sporting News is hearing that ESPN is going to give the gig, vacated by Aaron Boone by virtue of his hiring by the Yankees, to Rodriguez.  In this role he’ll join Jessica Mendoza and the newly named Matt Vasgersian in the booth.  And rumors are A-Rod is likely to keep his job at Fox, broadcasting the postseason games.  Some broadcasters have worked for multiple networks in the past, but it’s rare.  Fox obviously believes it’s worth keeping A-Rod around.  He knows baseball, he knows hitting and he knows pitching, is articulate and personable on television.  He’s a very good broadcaster in my opinion.  But he’s being rewarded for having taken performance-enhancing substances while he played baseball and in that matter he brought discredit upon himself and the game of baseball.  He should not be forgiven.  He will likely be snubbed by the current group of BBWAA (Baseball Writers’ Association of America) voters when he becomes eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame in a couple years.  But maybe he’s hoping to make it with the Ford C. Frick Award that recognizes outstanding MLB broadcasters.


Support For A Living Wage

As a society we’re improving the lives of those working at fast food restaurants and other establishments.  But for those who have a dream of playing baseball at the professional level, things can be different.  Pitcher Kaleb Earls was a pitcher in the  Milwaukee Brewers  minor league system, selected in the 13th round of the 2014 draft. He struggled over parts of three seasons and ended up playing for the Gateway Grizzlies of the independent Frontier League last year. On Monday, Earls received his Form W2 and on 22 January decided to tweet about it: “I just received my W2 and I made a whopping $3,712.05 during entire baseball season.

I feel bad for the players who have a family and can’t pursue their dream because they can’t afford to take care of their families. People wonder why players have to get a job in the off-season.”  Those players who find themselves in those independent leagues there’s not much money to go around.  For an affiliated minor league team however things should be different.  It would only cost each team $1.25 million to pay each player on its 25 man roster $50,000 per year.  Major league teams have at least six minor league affiliates between AAA and rookie league, so that’s $7.5 million per organization.  Chump change!  Even the Rays have a payroll of $66-77 million over the last few years.  So even if you brought that down a bit to say $30K to $40K per man that’s only $750K- $1million for each 25 man roster.  I just think keeping them below $10K per year is embarrassing to the game.  There is no reason why owners can’t pay their minor league players a fair wage; it’s that they don’t want to!  Minor league players are not represented by a union and therefore have no negotiating power.  Owners spend more money than this to influence politicians to introduce favorable legislation.  And the MLB Players Association hasn’t shown any interest in including their minor league counterparts in much the same way as pilot’s unions were not interested in supporting first year pilots and has on several occasions sold them down the river to make other gains in their own collective bargaining agreements.  The differential between major and minor league players is mind boggling.  For example it’s been reported the Yankees are willing to pay “at least half” of Jacoby Ellsbury‘s contract in order to unload him.  Ellsbury is owed $21.142 million per year through 2020 with a $5 million buyout for this $21 million club option for 2021.  And he’s a player who is owed far more than his production supports.  Beyond the moral imperative, if minor league players were paid a living rage, they could stay in better health, pay their bills, sleep better, eat better, watch more tape, work on their mechanics, receive coaching on the diamond or spend some more time in the gym.  This could be an opportunity to improve each player, taking him to the next level as opposed to retiring from baseball because he can’t afford to play it anymore.  If teams, like the Rays for example, want to improve their farm systems and make their teams better, then beyond the moral issue, here’s a way to gain a competitive angle.


Space X Retains USAF Satellite Certification

Bloomberg is reporting the U.S. Air Force command that certified Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. for military missions says it remains confident in the company’s capabilities despite the disappearance this month of a classified satellite it launched.  “Based on the data available, our team did not identify any information that would change SpaceX’s Falcon 9 certification status” after “a preliminary review of telemetry that was available to us from” the Jan. 7 launch, Lieutenant General John Thompson, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center, said in a statement to Bloomberg News.  While Thompson’s comments were carefully qualified — he emphasized that “the Air Force will continue to evaluate data from all launches” — they bolstered SpaceX’s position that its Falcon 9 rocket apparently “did everything correctly” in the mission code-named Zuma.  That may increase scrutiny of Northrop Grumman Corp., which oversaw the mission and built the satellite as well as the coupling to release it from the second-stage rocket.  Northrop has repeatedly declined to discuss its role in the mission. Spokesman Tim Paynter has said “we cannot comment on classified missions.”  SpaceX was certified by the Air Force in 2015 to compete for military launches against United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. For Musk, who also heads the electric-vehicle manufacturer Tesla Inc., it was a hard-won victory against what he portrayed as a government-blessed monopoly.  SpaceX remains eligible to compete for 11 launches through fiscal year 2019, including a looming winner-take-all contest for three Global Positioning System III missions now in source selection. SpaceX has already received two of three contracts in which it competed against United Launch Alliance.  Before the Zuma mission, which was launched for an undisclosed U.S. agency other than the Air Force, Northrop Grumman spokesman Lon Rains said the launch represented “a cost-effective approach to space access for government missions.” The U.S. “assigned Northrop Grumman the responsibility of acquiring launch services for this mission. We have procured the Falcon 9 launch service from SpaceX.”  “Northrop Grumman realizes this is a monumental responsibility and we have taken great care to ensure the most affordable and lowest-risk scenario for Zuma,” he said then.


Navy Nurse Saves Life of Passenger on Washington Ferry

Navy Times is reporting a story I should have reported earlier: LCDR Erika Schilling, a nurse midwife at Naval Hospital Bremerton, was presented the Life Ring Award on Jan. 18 from Washington State Ferries, an honor usually reserved for ferry employees who respond to life and death emergencies, the Navy release said.  In Schilling’s case, however, an exception was made. While traveling with her two young sons on a ferry from Kingston to Edmunds on Dec. 2, she overheard a woman speaking frantically on the phone.  “I just happened to be there and hear that help was needed. I heard her on the phone saying, ‘this is an emergency.’ My ears went up,” Schilling said.  A passenger had slumped over and was not breathing. The man’s heart had stopped.  Schilling, who has 21 years combined experience with Navy Nurse Corps and as a hospital corpsman, rushed to the scene and immediately laid the man on the ground, where she began performing CPR.  A crew member quickly arrived with an Automated External Defibrillator, while Schilling and a fellow passenger alternated performing CPR. In the end, it took 14 minutes and an exhausting effort by Schilling to save the man’s life.  “I was sweating afterwards. My arms and upper body felt like I’d been through one of the hardest workouts I’d ever done,” she said.  Schilling credited her military training for her quick response.  “I respond to emergencies. It’s what I do,” she explained.  Once the ferry docked, EMTs took the resuscitated patient to Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton. When Schilling learned that the man’s wife was unfamiliar with the area, she took it upon herself to drive the concerned spouse 45 minutes to the hospital.


US Signals Harder Line In South China Sea

I’ve talked a lot lately about how China is using their power projection capabilities to claim territory and waters of the South China Sea as their possession.  The US has recently walked the line between confrontation with China while attempting to engage China to support more and stronger sanctions against toward North Korea.  Asia Times is reporting, the United States kicked off 2018 by sending an unmistakable signal to China’s maritime ambitions in the South China Sea. The moves appear to be the first salvo in President Donald Trump’s new National Defense Strategy, (reported in FOD) which identifies China as a “strategic competitor.”  United States Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is making visits this week to two key Southeast Asian countries, Indonesia and Vietnam, both of which are at loggerheads with Beijing over festering territorial disputes in the maritime region.  On Wednesday, Mattis praised Indonesia as the “maritime fulcrum of the Indo-Pacific”, while stating that the US supported Jakarta’s decision last year to rename Chinese-claimed maritime areas near the Natuna islands as the “North Natuna Sea.”  The energy-rich maritime zone lies in Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) but also overlaps with China’s expansive claim staked in its controversial nine-dash-line map (below).

Indonesia’s Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu and visiting U.S. Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis are seen during a welcome ceremony in Jakarta, Indonesia January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

Mattis met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, while Indonesia forces put on a lively display of force, including a demonstration that involved beheading live snakes and drinking their blood. Mattis’ visit to Vietnam also aimed at underlining America’s commitment to deeper defense cooperation with another key Southeast Asian claimant in the South China Sea. Today, Mattis thanked Vietnam for its support of United Nations sanctions on North Korea, which he acknowledged has cost Hanoi in bilateral trade, namely cheap coal imports.  Mattis and his counterpart, Ngo Xuan Lich, discussed the planned carrier visit during a closed-door meeting, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said. Davis said the Vietnamese are awaiting final approval by more senior government authorities, but Mattis appeared to indicate it was a done deal.

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) transits the South China Sea, April 8, 2017. Photo taken April 8, 2017. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

The US Navy carrier will likely visit Danang where they’re using the airport and the dock facilities built by the US during the Vietnam War.  Hanoi increasingly views America as a crucial counterbalance to Chinese maritime ambitions in adjacent waters, particularly as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has failed to take a tougher collective position on the disputes.  The two sides also reportedly discussed freedom of navigation issues in the South China Sea, with a US emphasis on international rule of law and national sovereignty.  Just before Mattis’ arrival in the region, the US sent a strong signal in that direction. On January 20, the United States Navy deployed its guided missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70) within the 12-nautical mile radius of the Scarborough Shoal, a contested land feature in the South China Sea which has been under de facto control of China since 2012.  (Reported in FOD Jan 19 – 22, 2018 edition).  The shoal, which lies within the Philippines’ 200 nautical EEZ, is viewed by security analysts as a potential new flashpoint in the maritime area. The deployment was part of US’ Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs), which are aimed at challenging China’s maritime claims in the area.  In response, China accused the US of violating its “sovereignty” over the land feature, which has been declared as a “common fishing ground” by an Arbitral Tribunal at The Hague in mid-2016. China contends that the shoal is a full-fledged island capable of generating its own maritime jurisdictional zones. A commentary in the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily sought to portray the FONOPs as a justified pretext for further Chinese consolidation of control over disputed land features in the area. In particular, it called for further reclamation activities and establishment of military facilities across various contested land features.  “Against this backdrop of peace and cooperation, a US ship wantonly provoking trouble is single-minded to the point of recklessness,” warned the commentary.  “If the relevant party once more makes trouble out of nothing and causes tensions, then it will only cause China to reach this conclusion: in order to earnestly protect peace in the South China Sea, China must strengthen and speed up the building of its abilities there,” the commentary said.  The Philippines, which claims the shoal as part of its national territory, has accused China of unlawfully occupying the feature and denying Filipino fishermen from accessing its maritime resources.  The Philippines, historically a key US ally, claims it has exercised effective sovereignty over the land feature for the past century. Back in mid-2012, China and the Philippines were locked in a months-long naval standoff over the shoal which sparked a dramatic deterioration in bilateral relations.  President Rodrigo Duterte has shifted Manila towards more accommodation with China while downgrading certain bilateral military exchanges with the US. It is somewhat notable that Mattis did not visit Manila in his first symbolic tour to promote his new National Defense Strategy, which makes mention of the Philippines’ strategic importance. The Pentagon is also reportedly concerned about the long-term implications of possible Chinese construction activities on the shoal, which lies just above 100 nautical miles from the Subic and Clark bases, key forward deployment bases for the US Navy in the region.  Though the US has claimed neutrality on territorial disputes and equivocated on whether its mutual defense treaty with the Philippines could apply in the event of a conflict over the Scarborough Shoal, it has nonetheless steadily stepped up its patrols and surveillance operations in the area in recent years.  Under the Trump administration, the Pentagon has been empowered to expand and regularize activities aimed at countering Beijing’s claims. Trump’s White House, unlike the preceding Barack Obama administration, no longer requires the US Navy’s Pacific Command to seek prior approval for conducting FONOPs in the South China Sea.  This has given the Pentagon greater leeway to challenge China’s activities in the area – and more room to maneuver is likely on the way.  In its newly-released National Defense Strategy, the Pentagon described China as a principal priority and “strategic competitor”, which is “using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea.”  The NDS also accuses China of “seek[ing] Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and displacement of the United States to achieve global preeminence in the future.”  As such, great power rivalry, instead of transnational terrorism, has apparently become America’s primary strategic concern in the region. As the Trump administration enters its second year in office and with a tougher defense strategy in hand, expect more turbulence in the South China Sea.  Good job Mr. President.


Both USN and USAF Continue Hypoxia Investigations

No smoking guns to report but Air Forces Times is reporting the Air Force has assembled a team to look into the rash of hypoxia and other alarming physiological events endangering the safety of pilots.  BGEN Bobbi Jo Doorenbos will head the Unexplained Physiologic Events Integration Team, the Air Force said in a release Monday. The panel will try to find ways to eliminate those events or minimize their impact, the Air Force said.  “As part of the integrated effort to address physiological events, the Air Force is providing more resources to understand UPEs, standardize response actions to such events and assess options for more robust aircrew training to recognize and respond to these events,” Doorenbos said in the release. “Our ultimate goal is to prevent UPEs.”  And in the case of the US Navy, Navy Times is reporting Rear Adm. Sara “Clutch” Joyner (right in the photo right) started the Navy’s Physiological Episodes Action Team in August, an initiative aimed at identifying and developing solutions to the deadly issue of oxygen supply problems that are plaguing several air frames.  Joyner will head to an assignment as director, J1, for the Joint Staff, according to a Pentagon release.  A spokesman for the action team said Joyner’s replacement has not been named yet, and that she is expected to depart the team sometime this summer.  Speaking at the Tailhook Convention in September, Joyner said she quickly abandoned the hope for any single solution to the oxygen deprivation issue shortly after she began her review, according to a Navy release chronicling the event.  Physiological episodes occur in many air frames, she told the convention, and can arise whenever a person is fed oxygen in a pressurized environment.


Bathyscaph Trieste Makes Challenger Deep Dive

Trieste is a Swiss-designed, Italian-built deep-diving research bathyscaphe, which with its crew of two reached a record maximum depth of about 10,911 meters (35,797 ft), in the deepest known part of the Earth’s oceans, the Challenger Deep, in the Mariana Trench near Guam in the Pacific. On 23 January 1960, Jacques Piccard (son of the boat’s designer Auguste Piccard) and US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh achieved the goal of Project NektonTrieste departed San Diego on 5 October 1959 for Guam aboard the freighter Santa Maria to participate in Project Nekton, a series of very deep dives in the Mariana Trench.  On 23 January 1960; she reached the ocean floor in the Challenger Deep (the deepest southern part of the Mariana Trench), carrying Jacques Piccard (left in photo right) and Don Walsh (right in photo right).   This was the first time a vessel, manned or unmanned, had reached the deepest known point of the Earth’s oceans. The onboard systems indicated a depth of 11,521 meters (37,799 ft), although this was revised later to 10,916 meters (35,814 ft); fairly recently, more accurate measurements have found Challenger Deep to be between 10,911 meters (35,797 ft) and 10,994 meters (36,070 ft) deep.  The descent to the ocean floor took 4 hours 47 minutes at a descent rate of 0.9 meters per second (3.0 ft/s).  After passing 9,000 meters (30,000 ft), one of the outer Plexiglas window panes cracked, shaking the entire vessel.   The two men spent barely twenty minutes on the ocean floor. The temperature in the cabin was 7 °C (45 °F) at the time. While at maximum depth, Piccard and Walsh unexpectedly regained the ability to communicate with the support ship, USS Wandank (ATA-204), using a sonar/hydrophone voice communications system.  At a speed of almost 1.6 km/s (1 mi/s) – about five times the speed of sound in air – it took about seven seconds for a voice message to travel from the craft to the support ship and another seven seconds for answers to return.  While at the bottom, Piccard and Walsh observed a number of small sole and flounder.  Their claim the fish were swimming would prove at least some vertebrate life can withstand the extreme pressure at the oceans’ deepest point.  They noted that the floor of the Challenger Deep consisted of “diatomaceous ooze”. The ascent took 3 hours and 15 minutes.


USS Pueblo (AGER-2) Seized by North Korean Forces in Sea of Japan

USS Pueblo (AGER-2) is a Banner-class environmental research ship, attached to Navy intelligence as a spy ship, which was attacked and captured by North Korean forces on 23 January 1968, in what is known today as the “Pueblo incident” or alternatively, as the “Pueblo crisis.”  The seizure of the U.S. Navy ship and her 83 crew members, one of whom was killed in the attack, came less than a week after President Lyndon B. Johnson‘s State of the Union address to the United States Congress, a week before the start of the Tet Offensive in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War, and three days after 31 men of North Korea‘s KPA Unit 124 had crossed the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and killed 26 South Koreans in an attempt to attack the South Korean Blue House(executive mansion) in the capital Seoul. The taking of Pueblo and the abuse and torture of her crew during the subsequent 11-month prisoner drama became a major Cold War incident, raising tensions between the western democracies, and the Soviet Union and China.  North Korea stated that Pueblo deliberately entered their territorial waters 7.6 nautical miles away from Ryo Island, and that the logbook shows that they intruded several times.  However, the United States maintains that the vessel was in international waters at the time of the incident and that any purported evidence supplied by North Korea to support its statements was fabricated.  Pueblo, still held by North Korea today, officially remains a commissioned vessel of the United States Navy.

Since early 2013, the ship has been moored along the Potong River in Pyongyang, and used there as a museum ship at the Pyongyang Victorious War MuseumPueblo is the only ship of the U.S. Navy still on the commissioned roster currently being held captive.  On 5 January 1968, Pueblo left U.S. Navy base YokosukaJapan, in transit to the U.S. naval base at Sasebo, Japan; from there she left on 11 January 1968, headed northward through the Tsushima Strait into the Sea of Japan. She left with specific orders to intercept and conduct surveillance of Soviet Navy activity in the Tsushima Strait and to gather signal and electronic intelligence from North Korea. At 17:30 on 20 January 1968, a North Korean modified SO-1 class Soviet style submarine chaser passed within 4,000 yards (3.7 km) of Pueblo, which was about 15.4 nautical miles (28.5 km) southeast of Mayang-do at a position 39°47’N and 128°28.5’E.  In the afternoon of 22 January 1968, the two North Korean fishing trawlers Rice Paddy 1 and Rice Paddy 2 passed within 30 yards (27 m) of Pueblo. That day, a North Korean unit made an assassination attempt in the “Blue House” executive mansion against the South Korean President Park Chung-hee, but the crew of Pueblo were not informed.  The following day, 23 January, Pueblo was approached by a submarine chaser and her nationality was challenged; Pueblo responded by raising the U.S. flag. The North Korean vessel then ordered Pueblo to stand down or be fired upon. Pueblo attempted to maneuver away, but was considerably slower than the submarine chaser. Several warning shots were fired. Additionally, three torpedo boats appeared on the horizon and then joined in the chase and subsequent attack.  The attackers were soon joined by two MiG-21 fighters. A fourth torpedo boat and a second submarine chaser appeared on the horizon a short time later. The ammunition on Pueblo was stored below decks, and her machine guns were wrapped in cold weather tarpaulins. The machine guns were unmanned, and no attempt was made to man them. U.S. Navy authorities and the crew of Pueblo insist that before the capture, Pueblo was miles outside North Korean territorial waters. North Korea says the vessel was well within North Korean territory. The mission statement allowed her to approach within a nautical mile (1,852 m) of that 12 NM limit. North Korea, however, describes a 50-nautical-mile (93 km) sea boundary even though international standards were 12 nautical miles (22 km) at the time.  The North Korean vessels attempted to board Pueblo, but she was maneuvered to prevent this for over two hours. A submarine chaser then opened fire with a 57 mm cannon, killing one member of the crew. The smaller vessels fired machine guns into Pueblo, which then signaled compliance and began destroying sensitive material. The volume of material on board was so great that it was impossible to destroy it all. An NSA report quotes Lieutenant Steve Harris, the officer in charge of Pueblo‘s Naval Security Group Command detachment: Radio contact between Pueblo and the Naval Security Group in Kamiseya, Japan, had been ongoing during the incident. As a result, Seventh Fleet command was fully aware of Pueblo‘s situation. Air cover was promised but never arrived. The Fifth Air Force had no aircraft on strip alert, and estimated a two to three-hour delay in launching aircraft. USS Enterprise was located 510 nautical miles (940 km) south of Pueblo, yet her four F-4B aircraft on alert were not armed with air-to-surface munititions. Enterprise‘s captain estimated that 1.5 hours (90 minutes) were required to rearm the aircraft and get them into the air   Enterprise was never ordered to rearm nor launch her aircraft to support PuebloPueblo followed the North Korean vessels as ordered, but then stopped immediately outside North Korean waters. She was again fired upon, and a sailor, fireman Duane Hodges, was killed. The ship was finally boarded at 05:55 UTC (2:55 pm local) by men from a torpedo boat and a submarine chaser. Crew members had their hands tied and were blindfolded, beaten, and prodded with bayonets. Once Pueblo was in North Korean territorial waters, she was boarded again, this time by high-ranking North Korean officials.  The first official confirmation that the ship was in North Korean hands came five days later, 28 January 1968. Two days earlier a flight by a CIA A-12 Oxcart aircraft from the Project Black Shield squadron at Kadena, Okinawa flown by pilot Ronald Layton made three high altitude high speed flights over North Korea. When the aircraft’s films were processed in the United States they showed Pueblo to be in the Wonsan harbor area surrounded by two North Korean vessels.  There was dissent among government officials in the United States, regarding how to handle the situation. Congressman Mendel Rivers suggested that President Johnson issue an ultimatum for the return of Pueblo on penalty of nuclear attack, while Senator Gale McGee said the United States should wait for more information and not make “spasmodic response[s] to aggravating incidents.”  According to Horace Busby, Special Assistant to President Johnson, the president’s “reaction to the hostage taking was to work very hard here to keep down any demands for retaliation or any other attacks upon North Koreans,” worried that rhetoric might result in the hostages being killed.  Although American officials at the time assumed the seizure of Pueblo had been directed by the Soviet Union, it has emerged in recent years that North Korea acted alone and the incident actually harmed North Korea’s relations with most of the Eastern BlocCommander Lloyd M. Bucher was psychologically tortured, such as being put through a mock firing squad in an effort to make him confess. Eventually the North Koreans threatened to execute his men in front of him, and Bucher relented and agreed to “confess to his and the crew’s transgression.” Bucher wrote the confession since a “confession” by definition needed to be written by the confessor himself. They verified the meaning of what he wrote, but failed to catch the pun when he said “We paean the DPRK [North Korea]. We paean their great leader Kim Il Sung.”  (Bucher pronounced “paean” as “pee on.  (photo above right) Following an apology, a written admission by the U.S. that Pueblo had been spying, and an assurance that the U.S. would not spy in the future, the North Korean government decided to release the 82 remaining crew members, although the written apology was preceded by an oral statement that it was done only to secure the release.  On 23 December 1968, the crew was taken by buses to the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) border with South Korea and ordered to walk south one by one across the “Bridge of No Return“. Exactly eleven months after being taken prisoner, the Captain led the long line of crewmen, followed at the end by the Executive Officer, Lieutenant Ed Murphy, the last man across the bridge. The U.S. then verbally retracted the ransom admission, apology, and assurance. Meanwhile, the North Koreans blanked out the paragraph above the signature which read: “and this hereby receipts for eighty two crewmen and one corpse.” Reverse engineering of communications devices on Pueblo allowed the North Koreans to share knowledge with the Soviet Union that led to the replication of those communications devices. This allowed the two nations access to the US Navy’s communication systems until the late 1980s when the US Navy revised those systems. The seizure of Pueblo followed soon after US Navy warrant officer John Anthony Walker introduced himself to Soviet authorities, setting up the Walker spy ring. It has been argued that the seizure of Pueblo was executed specifically to capture the encryption devices aboard. Without them, it was difficult for the Soviets to make full use of Walker’s information.


It’s the Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread

“It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.” Now, factory or bakery sliced bread was first introduced in 1928, but even better than sliced bread was the introduction of canned beer on 24 January 1935. And just to go along with this; 24 January is also National Beer Can Appreciation Day.  Historically speaking; in partnership with the American Can Company, the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company delivered 2,000 cans of Krueger’s Finest Beer and Krueger’s Cream Ale to faithful Krueger drinkers in Richmond, Virginia. Ninety-one percent of the drinkers approved of the canned beer, driving Krueger to give the green light to further production.  Cans were/are easier to stack, more durable and took less time to chill. As a result, their popularity continued to grow throughout the 1930s, and then exploded during World War II, when U.S. brewers shipped millions of cans of beer to soldiers overseas. After the war, national brewing companies began to take advantage of the mass distribution that cans made possible, and were able to consolidate their power over the once-dominant local breweries, which could not control costs and operations as efficiently as their national counterparts.  Today about 50% of the beer sold is sold in cans.  With the advent of microbreweries there was a slight shift toward glass, but lately I see many microbreweries beginning to can their products so as to allow them to be transported and consumed in an easier fashion.

24 Jan 1908 Boy Scouts movement begins

26 Jan 1788 Australia Day

27 Jan 1888 National Geographic Society founded

27Jan 1965 Shelby GT 350 debuts

Apollo One Fire

This is not a pleasant story.  Apollo 1 initially designated AS-204, was the first manned mission of the United States Apollo program, which had as its ultimate goal a manned lunar landing.   The low Earth orbital test of the Apollo Command/Service Module never made its target launch date of February 21, 1967. A cabin fire during a launch rehearsal test on January 27, 1967 at Cape Kennedy Air Force Station Launch Complex 34 killed all three crew members—Command Pilot Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Ed White, and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee—and destroyed the Command Module (CM). The name Apollo 1, chosen by the crew, was officially retired by NASA in commemoration of them on April 24, 1967. On January 27, 1967, on pad 34, was a “plugs-out” test to determine whether the spacecraft would operate nominally on (simulated) internal power while detached from all cables and umbilicals. Passing this test was essential to making the February 21 launch date. The test was considered non-hazardous because neither the launch vehicle nor the spacecraft was loaded with fuel or cryogenics, and all pyrotechnic systems (explosive bolts) were disabled.  During a last minute countdown hold the crew members were using the time to run through their checklist again, when a momentary increase in AC Bus 2 voltage occurred. Nine seconds later (at 6:31:04.7), one of the astronauts (some listeners and laboratory analysis indicate Grissom) exclaimed “Hey!” or “Fire!”; this was followed by two seconds of scuffling sounds through Grissom’s open microphone. This was immediately followed at 6:31:06.2 (23:31:06.2 GMT) by someone (believed by most listeners, and supported by laboratory analysis, to be Chaffee) saying, “[I’ve, or We’ve] got a fire in the cockpit.” After 6.8 seconds of silence, a second, badly garbled transmission occurred, interpreted by various listeners as:

  • “They’re fighting a bad fire—Let’s get out ….Open ‘er up”
  • “We’ve got a bad fire—Let’s get out ….We’re burning up”, or
  • “I’m reporting a bad fire ….I’m getting out ….”.

This transmission, believed by some listeners to be White, lasted 5.0 seconds and ended with a cry of pain. Some blockhouse witnesses said that they saw White on the television monitors, reaching for the inner hatch release handle as flames in the cabin spread from left to right.  The intensity of the fire fed by pure oxygen caused the pressure to rise to 29 psi which ruptured the Command Module’s inner wall at 6:31:19 (23:31:19 GMT, initial phase of the fire). Flames and gases then rushed outside the Command Module through open access panels to two levels of the pad service structure. Intense heat, dense smoke, and ineffective gas masks designed for toxic fumes rather than heavy smoke hampered the ground crew’s attempts to rescue the men. There were fears the Command Module had exploded, or soon would, and that the fire might ignite the solid fuel rocket in the launch escape tower above the Command Module, which would have likely killed nearby ground personnel, and possibly have destroyed the pad.  As the pressure was released by the cabin rupture, the convective rush of air caused the flames to spread across the cabin, beginning the second phase. The third phase began when most of the oxygen was consumed and was replaced with atmospheric air, essentially quenching the fire, but causing high concentrations of carbon monoxide and heavy smoke to fill the cabin, and large amounts of soot to be deposited on surfaces as they cooled.  It took five minutes for the pad workers to open all three hatch layers, and they could not drop the inner hatch to the cabin floor as intended, so they pushed it out of the way to one side. Although the cabin lights remained lit, they were at first unable to find the astronauts through the dense smoke. As the smoke cleared, they found the bodies, but were not able to remove them. The fire had partly melted Grissom’s and White’s nylon space suits and the hoses connecting them to the life support system. Grissom had removed his restraints and was lying on the floor of the spacecraft. White’s restraints were burned through, and he was found lying sideways just below the hatch. It was determined that he had tried to open the hatch per the emergency procedure, but was not able to do so against the internal pressure. Chaffee was found strapped into his right-hand seat, as procedure called for him to maintain communication until White opened the hatch. Because of the large strands of melted nylon fusing the astronauts to the cabin interior, removing the bodies took nearly 90 minutes.  NASA establishment of the Apollo 204 Review Board chaired by Langley Research Center director Floyd L. Thompson, which included astronaut Frank Borman, spacecraft designer Maxime Faget, and six others.  Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee were buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Ed White was buried at West Point Cemetery on the grounds of the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.  Their names are among those of several astronauts and cosmonauts who have died in the line of duty, listed on the Space Mirror Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Merritt Island, Florida. President Jimmy Carter awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor posthumously to Grissom on October 1, 1978. President Bill Clinton awarded it to White and Chaffee on December 17, 1997.  An Apollo 1 mission patch was left on the Moon’s surface after the first manned lunar landing by Apollo 11 crew members Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.


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