Navy Cape Henlopen, The U.S. Navy at Cape Henlopen SOSUS Naval Facility

I visited Rehoboth Beach, Delaware last week for some intuitive training. While I was there I got a chance to visit the Cape Henlopen State Park, former home of a U.S. Navy base known as NAVFAC Lewes. This facility was one of many that was tuned to track deep-diving Soviet submarines, some thousands of miles away. The program was called SOSUS for Sound Ocean Surveillance System and was highly successful at tracking subs until that traitor Navy Chief Warrant Officer John Walker Jr. sold it out to his Soviet handlers.

To defend against the threat of Soviet submarine operations inthe eastern Atlantic or off the coast of the U.S., in the mid-to-late 1950s, the Navy established an underwater Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS). Naval facilities (NavFacs) of the system were located along the coast of the U.S. and Carribean Islands. From those facilities cables ran to the edge of the continental shelf with hydrophones that could detect the sound of submarines.

The mission of these NavFacs was “To provide world-widemaritime surveillance and cueing from undersea sensors to warfare commanders and intelligence partners in support of Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW).” But, since that mission statement was (then) classified, a cover story was provided explaining the role, purpose and operations of the stations as an extension of and adjunct to the acoustic and oceanographic surveys conducted by the Navy’s fleet of research ships.

Soon the Navy realized that NavFac Cape May was threatened by beach erosion, which would eventually undermine the station buildings. Thus, in September 1960, Delaware Senator Allen J. Frear announced that $1,500,000 had been allotted for the construction of a Navy oceanographic research facility at Fort Miles, which had been a WWII Army Coastal Defense Artillery fort and was still being utilized as an Army training facility and as a Department of Defense military receation center. In October 1960, the Navy had obtained 626 acres at the southern end of Fort Miles.

Source: Navy Cape Henlopen, The U.S. Navy at Cape Henlopen SOSUS Naval Facility

Operation Paul Bunyan: The most heavily-armed tree-trimming operation in history

The tree involved with the Korean Axe Murder Incident

Talk is in the air that North and South Korea may finally sign a peace agreement that will officially end the Korean War. The guns mostly went silent with the 1953 signing of the Korean Armistice, but there were still outbursts of violence, such as the Korean Axe Murder Incident of 1976.

The Korean Axe Murder Incident began on August 18, 1976 when United Nations Command (UNC) forces (consisting of U.S. Army and Republic of Korea [ROK] troops) identified a poplar tree in the Korean Joint Security Area (JSA) of the DMZ that blocked the view in the summertime of a UNC checkpoint (CP No. 3) from a UNC observation post (OP No. 5). A work party of UNC soldiers, led by U.S. Army CPT Arthur Bonifas and USA 1LT Mark Barrett, was organized to trim the tree using axes and other tools.

This prompted a response from North Korean soldiers. A group of 15 North Korean soldiers led by a notoriously confrontational officer, Senior Lt. Pak Chul, tried to intervene, with Chul claiming the tree was planted by North Korean founder Kim Il Sung himself. The UNC troops promptly ignored Chul and his troops and returned to trimming when Chul ordered his men to kill them. In a skirmish lasting less than 30 seconds, Chul’s men killed Bonifas with one of the working party’s axes and then fled. Barrett managed to escape the initial attack and hid in a nearby depression but UNC forces did not notice he was missing until after North Korean troops had found him and also killed him with an axe.
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Ride along as an F/A-18 gets launched from a carrier

If there were GoPros when I was the Navy you’d get to see videos of me chipping paint, buffing passageway floors, putting down floor tile, and other exciting work! LT Evan Levesque, a Navy fighter pilot, used his to show us what it’s like to launch off an aircraft carrier’s catapult in an F/A-18 Super Hornet.

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Looks like fun, doesn’t it?

TheDrive has the background on the pilot and his videos.

How To Successfully Get Launched Off A Carrier At Night In A F-14 Tomcat

I’ve only seen carrier flight operations from the perspective of my destroyer sailing behind it, acting as plane guard. This is a good overview of what is actually happening there.

LCDR Joe “Smokin” Ruzicka, the last F-14 Radar Intercept Officer to fly the Tomcat Tactical demonstration, is back to walk us through exactly what it took to strap on a 70k pound F-14 Tomcat in the dark of night and successfully get flung off the front of a US Navy super carrier via one of the ship’s mighty steam-piston catapults.

I walk closely behind Corky through the passageway, making sure I have all of my gear strapped down while there is still a fraction of light. Once you step outside the hatch to the flight deck, it’s likely the only real light will be a partial moon hidden behind some clouds. Corky told me to grab the back of his survival vest once we stepped out onto the flight deck and not to let go. The flight deck of an aircraft carrier is simply too dangerous for a new guy to wander around on, especially at night and alone.

Immediately after you step outside, your senses strain to help your brain figure out what is going on. Your eyes see nothing. It’s too dark. You better have your flashlight out and pointed at the ground or you will step on something dangerous. Your ears hear the high whine of other airplanes turning just above you. The first thing you smell is jet fuel. Lots of it. The fumes are everywhere, but it’s not suffocating, just omni-present. Mostly, you just feel the rush of wind interspersed with an intermittent burst of jet exhaust. The wind might be hot or it might be cold, depending on the time of year and the location of the ship, but the exhaust is always hot. In any case, the air is definitely moving and it creates a noise inside your helmet that can be partially deafening.

Source: How To Successfully Get Launched Off A Carrier At Night In A F-14 Tomcat

Pahrump-based radio host Art Bell dies at 72 – Las Vegas Review-Journal

North Carolina native, talk show pioneer, and fellow explorer Art Bell has passed away, or as we in the amateur radio field say, W6OBB is now a “silent key.”

I started listening to Art Bell’s Coast to Coast show back around 1995. Much of what I heard was off-the-wall nonsense but some of it was truly amazing. Life-changing amazing, in fact.

He was always a gentleman on the airwaves, no matter whom was his guest. In the depths of those dark nights you always felt like you had a friend out there, somewhere in the desert of Nevada.

Thanks for all the stimulating conversation and for shining a light on some of the most interesting topics imaginable.

He was awake when most of the country was asleep, cultivating a loyal following while sharing his fascination with the unexplained on his nighttime paranormal-themed show.

For the better part of two decades, longtime late-night radio personality Art Bell was his own producer, engineer and host of his show, “Coast to Coast AM.” He later launched his own satellite radio program from his Pahrump home after retiring from full-time hosting duties in 2003.

On the airwaves, Bell captivated listeners with his fascination for the unexplained, such as UFOs, alien abductions and crop circles. He died Friday at his home at the age of 72.

“As he begins his journey on the ‘other side,’ we take solace in the hope that he is now finding out all of the answers to the mysteries he pursued for so many nights with all of us,” Coast to Coast said in a statement Saturday.

Source: Pahrump-based radio host Art Bell dies at 72 – Las Vegas Review-Journal

Howard Jones responds to email

Howard Jones.

Over the years I’ve had a few email conversations with famous people. I once traded emails with legendary White House Reporter Helen Thomas. I got a reply from an email I sent entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in 2005. An email from futurist and biographer Walter Isaacson helped me bust the Einstein Bees story. Oh, and though it’s not email comedian Norm MacDonald briefly followed me on Twitter.

Recently I got on a kick for Howard Jones’s music. Jones was an 80s synthpop god and his music still holds up very well. As does he, since he’s still touring and appears to be happy and healthy. I found Jones’s website and saw that his email address was listed there, with a promise that all emails would be acknowledged:

Hello, Howard.

I know you’re busy but wanted to reach out and thank you for all the
music. Your “Things Can Only Get Better” has been on my mind recently.
We so need its optimism right now.

Sorry I missed your latest US tour but I want to catch you the next time
you come near North Carolina.

Best to you and yours.

Your fan,

Mark Turner
Raleigh, NC, USA

I got back this reply two days later:

Thankyou Mark!!
Very best wishes
Howard

While it was a short response, it’s pretty cool that he took a minute to respond to me.
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Thirty years a sailor

It was thirty years ago this morning when I woke up before the crack of dawn and officially entered the United States Navy. My mom and dad drove us through the early morning DC traffic the long way from our house in Great Falls, VA to the Baltimore MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Center), then at Linthicum Heights. It was my dad’s 47th birthday. Coffee hadn’t kicked in so there wasn’t much conversation, I recall.

About the time the sun was rising we arrived, I said goodbye to my parents, and got my first taste of the “hurry up and wait” that the military is famous for. I would be poked and prodded for my medical examination, be drug screened, retake the ASVAB test, select the job I wanted in the Navy, and finally be sworn in: the point of no turning back.

It was a two-day ordeal. The government put us up in a nearby cheap hotel because our travel would begin in earnest early the next morning. I was assigned a roommate; a slight, probably gay, Navy-bound African-American kid named Bernard (pronounced BUH-nard, he took pains to remind me) who was more interested in going out for one last night of partying than sleeping. I chose to sleep (as I usually do) and boarded a plane with Bernard and others at BWI early the next morning, bound for Orlando.

Orders in hand, I stepped off the plane at the Orlando airport and was motioned over to a large group of somewhat nervous-looking young people milling around. The adventure the Navy had promised me was just beginning. It was as life-changing as I thought it would be.

I now remember why I left DOS behind

This is harder to emulate than you think.

Because I apparently haven’t had enough technical challenges to solve, this weekend I decided to return to my little side project of getting my old DOS-based PCBoard BBS running in a virtual machine. For this project I’m using oVirt as the VM host and booting FreeDOS 1.2.

Needless to say, I’m running into some challenges. My first thought is: oh my God what a kludgy mess DOS is! It’s a half-assed solution on top of a half-assed solution on top of a half-assed solution. Device drivers up the wazoo. More than 640K memory? Gotta load EMM drivers. Want to use a CD? Load an ATAPI driver. Want USB? Hah, not available! Want networking? Find a packet driver for your specific network card and ensure you use the right interrupts. Oh, and you’ll still need to load a separate TCP/IP stack! With so many parts to the puzzle it’s a miracle anything ever worked at all!

It took me a little while but I finally did get my DOS VM networked via TCP/IP. Then when I loaded PCBoard it initially seemed to be looking for a (non-existent) modem. Subsequent runs had it complaining about “Cannot run as a child of BASIC” before exiting. I am assuming this is a problem with the way PCBoard was compiled using QuickBASIC and QuickBASIC (QB) might not be playing nicely with FreeDOS. I’ve seen others say QB works fine with FreeDOS but I don’t know if that applies to the compiled programs or not.

So, now I’m on to installing a DOS VM using MS-DOS 6.22. I can’t imagine QuickBASIC not liking MS-DOS.

The project continues. It may or may not be worth the trouble but at the very least it is a reminder of just how far we’ve come with operating systems!

Stand-up kids

Lost dog spurs action

Last night we had an unexpected guest as a dog followed Hallie home from her neighborhood run. It was a pitbull-looking dog named Dexter who turned out to live at a home just down the street.

When we first were presented with Dexter, the excited pup was all over the place, barely sitting still for me to take a photo. His excitement was contagious, it seems. As I scrambled to photograph the dog and then to ask the neighborhood for advice, both Hallie and Travis were excitedly barking out suggestions for what we should do.

I had to ask them to stop so I could think clearly but this morning I began to appreciate how awesome this really was. We were presented with an emergency event – a strange dog needed rescuing – and both kids jumped in right away with ideas for what to do. I’d seen them do this before – that time when Hallie jumped into gear when a classmate had a seizure, for instance – but it was great to see it demonstrated again.

The world won’t change unless there are people willing to change it. I’m super-proud that I’m helping raise two who won’t pass up the opportunity.

The time Santa rescued me

A visit from Santa at sea

Over the holidays, I found myself thinking back to another Christmas of over 25 years ago.

I was serving in the Navy on the USS Elliot (DD-967) and it was yet another Christmas away from home. I was in a funk at the time though now I’m not sure which one of the many possible causes was responsible. I’m pretty sure I was nearing the end of my enlistment. I definitely remember that the deployment was ending and we were bound for San Diego. Maybe it was because I had been butting heads with some of the other guys in my division (we didn’t always get along and when I finally earned some rank I became more comfortable with confronting the slackers and assholes). Maybe it was simply because I didn’t know what I should be doing with my life. Still don’t, actually.

But there I was at sea. It was about 8 AM. I had been working midwatches and had just come off of twelve hours of nighttime duty. I was in my rack, exhausted and feeling depressed. I just wanted to sleep and make the time pass as quickly as I could.
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