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Military Tourism: MiGs, Tanks, and Bugs…Oh My!

800px-Soviet_MiG-29_DF-ST-99-04977According to CNN International, the quality of a unique military experience has long characterized tourism in Southeast Asia and parts of Eastern Europe. A patently unique military experience has usually also been illicit, however. Legal programs to provide camera-clickers in camo to be keep-the-receipt-for-return troopers for a day, though, have emerged in the past decade in all corners of the world.

The fall of the Soviet Union garnered both the great poverty of the Russian Federation and Russian ingenuity. According to World Tourism Rankings, the closest Russia has gotten to becoming a top tourist country was a 10th place ranking in 2007 for international tourist arrivals, it is not for lack of giving it the good ol’ “universitet” try [i]. In spite of its statistically unimpressive metrics, Russian components have developed a thriving military tourism complex.

Among their military tourism exploits, Russia boasts a range of military tourism offerings. From being a soldier for a day (“you will be able to get [sic] the skills to protect yourself during the radiation, chemical, and biological attack [sic]”) to tank rides to being a passenger to a master Russian pilot “performing his aerobatics,” or encountering the future in space travel in, “Space Training for the Future Cosmonaut in a MiG-29,” being a soldier for a day for play, while not inexpensive, can quench the spirit of any curious civilian [ii].

800px-Giant_water_bugs_on_plateSimilarly notable is Thailand’s bustling and relatively newly legal military tourism offerings. Since 1997, the Royal Thai Army has increasingly been working with the National Tourism Authority (of Thailand) to legally harness the greatly profitable military tourism industry with more than 20% of the bases in Thailand now running tourism programs.

For the committed military tourist, several bases teach jungle survival techniques, including a week-long course training tourists on Thai Army know-how, “such as knowing which bugs are safe to eat and how to kill a snake and drink its blood” [iii]. Like the Russian industry, tourists in Thailand may also ride and drive in a tank and fly in a vintage military plane (though neither seem to be as brazenly exhilarating as the Russian offerings).

To learn more about “Military Tourism” around the world please visit:

[i] Most Visited Countries – Top Ranking Countries – World Tourism Rankings

[ii] MiG Fighter jets for tourist flights: MiG planes, russian fighters, military jets. Fly in modern combat aircraft.

[iii] Military tourism: Where to shoot guns and ride tanks in Thailand #2 | CNNGo.com

Victory in Europe: A Day Remembered

General-Dwight-D-Eisenhower-Lt-General-Lucius-D-Clay-at-Gatow-Airport-in-Berlin“Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in blood of his followers and sacrifices of his friends.”

Standing on the balcony of London’s Guildhall and accepting the London Sword, then General Dwight D.  Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, stood at the precipice of human sacrifice and dignity, as he orated a speech that he had written himself and memorized for the occasion.[i]

With Europe in ruins, and the rues of the Holocaust cemented in the inroads of world memory, Eisenhower who led the Allied to the defeat of Nazism, “accepted the tribute, acknowledging that he was but a symbol of the great human forces that had ‘labored arduously and successfully for a righteous cause’”.[ii]

VE_Day_-_Germany_Surrenders-1On May 8th, both the United States and Britain celebrate Victory in Europe Day. This day commemorates the day, in 1945, that the Nazi force, fraught with casualties, laid down their arms in a final cease-fire.[iii] With only pockets of fire the next day, the Germans surrendered comprehensively on May 9th, the day that Russians officially celebrate VE Day.[iv] Stalin himself, uncharacteristically because of his thick Georgian accent, broadcasted a salute over the radio: “Your courage has defeated the Nazis. The war is over.”

Please try to take a moment today to commemorate those Americans who served on the front during WWII and those who continue that great tradition of service today. The service to the country stops not with those formally serving but extends to the parents, wives, husbands, and children who support(ed) their warriors and country.

To learn more about VE Day and World War II visit HERE:


References:

[i] http://www.military-quotes.com/forum/eisenhower-quote-parliament-after-v-t19485.html

[ii] http://www.military-quotes.com/forum/eisenhower-quote-parliament-after-v-t19485.html

[iii] http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/v-e-day-is-celebrated-in-american-and-britain

[iv] http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/v-e-day-is-celebrated-in-american-and-britain

Why the Titanic was Found: A US Navy Covert Mission

The ship God himself could not sink found tinged in a Cold War tale (Titanic)

TitanicSoon a century will have passed since the April 15th, 1912, sinking of the greatest boat to scarcely float, the RMS Titanic. With a rerelease of the 1997 blockbuster, Titanic100th anniversary postage stamps, memorial cruises (imagine the irony in that), and exhibitions, the legend of the Titanic continues to grow (Brewin). The latest postscript to the tale, however, lays its roots in a supposed covert US Naval Intelligence mission during the Cold War.

All But a Sub-par Search For Titanic

A new National Geographic documentary set to premiere on April 9th, uncovers an alternate mission and larger purpose behind the discovery of the Titanic’s 73-year-old ocean resting place. After four previous attempts to uncover the ship’s remains off the coast of Canada, the ocean’s own Indiana Jones, veteran of more than 125 sea expeditions, Dr. Robert Ballard,set sail (West).

The professor of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island says, though, that this expedition, was not to uncover the Titanic, but to find the reactors and weapons from two sunken US nuclear submarines, the USS Scorpion and Thresher, who have interesting histories in themselves as the only nuclear submarines the US Navy has ever lost (West).

Scorpion, Stung by Soviets

USS_Thresher__SSN-593__launchingThe USS Scorpion specialized in the development of submarine warfare tactics, participating in exercises that cast her in varying roles, from hunter to the hunted, to intelligence-driven missions (Wikipedia). After 3 months of deployment and what has been unofficially recounted as a mission to spy on a Soviet submarine, the Scorpion was set to arrive at homeport at 1pm on May 29th, but something had gone amiss. A week before, unofficial reports suggest that the USS Scorpion had failed to respond to encrypted messages from headquarters regarding it’s home-coming, the impetus to a the seaboard-wide search-mission redirection of all Navy vessels still unverified by official Navy records (Offley).

Officially, the failure to break radio silence in the early morning of the day of arrival had sent the Atlantic Submarine Force headquarters into a bustling panic. At 3:15, event SUBMISS at 271915Z for USS Scorpion ETA NORVA had been executed (Offley). The USS Scorpion was officially missing.

Official reports never concluded what ended in the deaths of the 99 sailors aboard and a submarine buried in mystique and poignancy. Unofficial reports and interviews with former Soviet and US sailors paint a tale of a Cold War confrontation concealed in an attempt to avoid an escalation and to persist a status quo (Offley). Unofficial reports suggest that the Navy had known all along where the USS Scorpion lay, “officially” being hauled back to harbor five months after it had missed its Norfolk arrival (ibid).

With the 100th anniversary of the Titanic approaching and Dr. Ballard’s claims of a covert mission to uncover the nuclear remnants of the USS Scorpion, the tale of the Titanic and the US Navy’s interweaving mission only becomes more mythical with the story behind the second nuclear submarine, the USS Thresher.

Dasvidanya, USS Thresher Drowns in Atlantic Depths

“Experiencing minor problems…positive up angle…attempting to blow up…” were the last words of a revolutionary “hunter-killer” submarine designed to quietly hunt enemy (Soviet) submarines and dispatch of them at the Empire State building depths (Polner).

The USS Thresher was a nuclear-powered attack submarine, known for its well-trained sailors and revolutionary ability. It sunk during Test Depth exercises off the eastern seaboard in 1963 (Polner). Officially, the cause of the accident is believed to have been a pipe malfunction that led to an electrical malfunction, which quickly turned into a literal crushing of the hull of the nuclear sub as it plunged below maximum safety depth of 1,900 feet (ibid). Though officially reported to be an accident, rumors abounded regarding a second crater near the wreck site, possible evidence, many believed to be of the existence of a previously sunken Soviet submarine that collided with the US war-machine (ibid).

Because the submarine had been off the Atlantic coastal shelf (drawing a maximum depth of 600 feet), it sunk to the sea floor, over 8,000 feet below (Polner). Official reports have the USS Thresher’s remains being found by a deep sea sonar and diving submarine and dredging hooks, with findings that the submarine was not carrying nuclear weapons nor had the nuclear reactor broken up as it fell to the bottom of the ocean (Aerospace).

A Titanic Cover-Up

Of course the official findings, rumors, and now the claims made by Dr. Ballard all point to the discovery of the Titanic in Atlantic coastal waters to be shrouded in the history of the Cold War. The most grandiose vessel of the time laid at the bottom of the ocean, hidden from the world for over seven decades, while two equally grandiose military vessels, met their fates, either by accident or as casualties to the Cold War.

Dr. Ballard’s mission, still during the Cold War, in 1985, may have been much more.

According to Dr. Ballard his “mission was to find those reactors and find those weapons. But we didn’t want the Soviets to know that we were doing that or they’d put a satellite on us and we’d lead them to our submarines…so we needed a cover, and I suggested, naturally, the Titanic, because I wanted to find the Titanic. And so we then went out and did our covert operations and then went and did the Titanic” (West).

*Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the Lint Center Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Lint Center for National Security Studies, Inc. or any employee thereof. The Lint Center for National Security Studies, Inc. is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the Lint Center Bloggers.


About the Authors:

Brittany Minder received her BA in International Relations from Stanford University and she serves as the Lint Center’s Public & External Affairs Associate.

Tim Coleman serves as the Center’s Director of Communications.


References:

  1. Titanic. 1997. Movie.
  2. Brewin, Kester. 5 April, 2012. 100th Anniversary of the Sinking of Titanic, 15 April: A grand Vision and Enduring Tragedy. TES. http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6204415&s_cid=tesmagazinehome
  3. West, Erik. 5 April, 2012. New Documentary Claims Mission to Find Titanic ‘was covert US Navy Operation.’ The Australian Eye. http://www.theaustralianeye.com/news/new-documentary-claims-mission-to-find-titanic-was-covert-us-navy-operation-aoi35826650.html
  4. ibid
  5. 5 April 2012. USS Scorpion (SSN-589). Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Scorpion_(SSN-589)
  6. Offley, Ed. 26 August, 2009. Retrieved 5 April, 2012. The USS Scorpion Buried at Sea. http://www.historynet.com/the-uss-scorpion-buried-at-sea.htm
  7. ibid
  8. ibid
  9. ibid
  10. Retrieved on 5 April, 2012. “The Death of the USS Thresher: 129 Men Perished in the 1962 Submarine’s Sinking-Norman Polmar-The Death of the USS Thresher. Epinions.com.
  11. ibid
  12. ibid
  13. ibid
  14. Retrieved on 5 April, 2012. Aerospaceweb.org Ask Us-Broken Arrow Nuclear Weapon Accidents. Aerospaceweb.org.
  15. ibid
  16. West, Erik. 5 April, 2012. New Documentary Claims Mission to Find Titanic ‘was covert US Navy Operation.’ The Australian Eye. http://www.theaustralianeye.com/news/new-documentary-claims-mission-to-find-titanic-was-covert-us-navy-operation-aoi35826650.html