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Inside the Biggest Aircraft Carriers Ever Built



The George H W Bush, currently on deployment off Iraq, is a Nimitz-class carrier. Here is a fascinating look at these huge war machines.

USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) is the tenth and final Nimitz-class supercarrier of the United States Navy. She is named for the 41st President of the United States and former Director of Central Intelligence George H. W. Bush, who was a naval aviator during World War II. Bush’s callsign is Avenger, after the TBM Avenger aircraft flown by then-Lieutenant George Bush in World War II.

Construction began in 2003 at the Northrop Grumman Newport News shipyard’s Dry Dock 12, the largest in the western hemisphere. She was completed in 2009 at a cost of $6.2 billion and her home port is Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia.


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Hasta La Victoria Siempre – The Kind of Man Che Guevara Was



50 years ago Comandante Ernesto Guevara a.k.a. CHE, one of the most famous Latin American revolutionaries, was killed by the CIA-backed Bolivian military forces. One of Che’s dreams was to bring a revolution to his homeland, Oscar Fernandez Mell, Guevara’s friend and associate, told Sputnik, sharing memories about the Argentinean.

The rebellious spirit of Ernesto Che Guevara still inspires people around the world, as if the great revolutionary of the 20th century had not been killed 50 years ago. Today we will show you Che’s life through the eyes of his own friend, who knew him not as an iconic figure but a person with merits and demerits, successes and failures and who knows where Che wanted to bring the revolution.

Ernesto “Che” Guevara 1928-1967

Sputnik got in touch with Oscar Fernandez Mell, a doctor and Guevara’s old friend. Their friendship began in the end of the 1950s, when Cuban rebels were fighting against the regime of the US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar. Mell, then a young doctor, was working on the west side of the Sierra Maestra mountain range, in southeast Cuba, when Che went there to organize the resistance against the Cuban dictatorship.

“The first time I saw him, he was riding a mule, and we greeted each other,” Mell recollected. “Then we went together by jeep driving on a terribly narrow road with numerous potholes that ran along the edge of the cliff. Periodically, the car stalled, and we had to start the engine again and again. I was sitting on the side nearest to the precipice.”

Realizing that Mell was in panic Che tried to divert him from his fear: “When we reach our destination I will tell you something very important,” the revolutionary said.
However, when they arrived, Che immediately threw himself into work and forgot about his promise. The young doctor had to remind the partisan of his pledge.

“Then he confessed to me that he was driving a car for the first time in his life,” Mell said. “That’s the kind of man Che was.”

These peculiarities made the famous Argentinean an “atypical” person.

In the Sierra Maestra — an extremely unfriendly place — Che created the first permanent camp for the rebels. There were a hospital, an ordnance workshop, tailor’s workshop, and even a shoe-repair shop. According to Mell, “it was a luxury.”

However, the camp was soon detected by Batista’s army which started bombarding it from the air. Nevertheless, the Comandante managed to outmaneuver his adversaries: Che took the flag of the 26th of July Movement — a revolutionary organization led by Fidel Castro — and placed it on the hill 5 kilometers away from the camp.

“After that [Batista’s] bombers flew away,” Mell noted, adding that the people called such tricks “Che’s deeds.”

Che’s African Campaign

The old doctor recalled that after their first meeting he and Che had never parted. The two took part in the Cuban revolutionary mission in Congo. Their goal was to overthrow the government. However, the situation was not as easy as it initially seemed. According to Mell, there were problems in Congo that Che “was unable to solve.”

“The information he received was inaccurate,” Che’s old friend told Sputnik. “There were no resistance fighters, but people from different tribes without any military organization.

In addition, although the Tanzanian government agreed to provide passage for Cuban revolutionaries through its territory, a person like Che, who was known worldwide, caused political problems. Therefore, Che had to remain anonymous for a period of time and Congolese revolutionaries learned about the famous Argentinean only when he was already in their territory.

This file photo taken in the 1960s shows then Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro (L) lighting a cigar while listens Argentine Ernesto Che Guevara (Photo: Wikipedia)

‘I Lost More Than a Friend’

After the Congolese operation the two friends never saw each other again. Che continued his revolutionary struggle which ultimately led him to Bolivia, while Mell stayed in Congo as the head of a group of soldiers who were ordered to rescue remaining Cubans in the region.

Mell believes that Che’s major goal was not Bolivia, but Argentina.

“[Bolivia] was just one step on his way to the south,” the old doctor said. “He wanted to bring revolution to his native land.”

By the time it became known that Che was killed, Mell had already been in Havana. The doctor accurately remembers this moment. “I was in the Ministry of Armed Forces, and Ramiro Valdez Menendez [the incumbent Cuban government vice president] told us that news,” he recalled.

“At that moment I realized that I lost more than a friend,” Mell said, “I lost a man who taught me to be a revolutionary.” “It was very painful,” the old doctor added, confessing that although 50 years have passed he couldn’t help but miss his famous friend.

Ernesto Guevara (June 14, 1928 — October 9, 1967) was an Argentine revolutionary, physician, author and military theorist who played a pivotal role in the Cuban Revolution of 1953 —1959 headed by Raul and Fidel Castro.

After the ouster of Batista, Guevara was appointed as an official in the new Cuban government, responsible for a wide range of the country’s domestic and foreign affairs. Guevara’s military skills helped the Cubans to repel the CIA-organized invasion of the Bay of Pigs in April 1961.

In 1965 Guevara left the Caribbean country to assist the revolutionary struggle in Congo and then in Bolivia, where he was captured by the country’s military forces backed by the CIA. He was killed without trial on October 9, 1967, at the age of 39.

Apart from being a military strategist, diplomat and politician, Che was a writer. His “Motorcycle Diaries” which tells the story of his voyage across Latin America in the early 1950s became nothing short of a best-seller. In 1999 he was named among the 100 most important people of the 20th century by Time magazine.

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Cuban Missile Crisis: 14 Days When the World Was on the Brink of Nuclear War



On October 14, 1962, 55 years ago, a US Air Force U-2 spy plane took pictures confirming the deployment of Soviet R-12 missiles on Cuba. This date is believed to be the starting point of the Cuban missile crisis, a standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union, which nearly turned the Cold War into an open confrontation.
One year before the crisis broke out the US deployed 15 Jupiter mid-range ballistic missiles near Izmir, Turkey, which were capable of destroying Moscow and other major cities in the European part of the USSR just within 10 minutes. Washington believed that the move would make Moscow incapable of a full-scale retaliation strike in case of war.

On the Eve of the Crisis

For the first time, deployment of Soviet ballistic missiles and troops to Cuba was proposed by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev on May 20, 1962 during his meeting with Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, Defense Minister Rodion Malinovsky and Deputy Premier Anastas Mikoyan.

By that time, the global standoff between Moscow and Washington had reached its peak.

The Soviet Union could not compete with the US in the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). The US had 144 SM-65 Atlas missiles and some 60 SM-68 Titan missiles. Moreover, 40 Jupiter missiles with a range of 2,400 kilometers were deployed in Italy and 60 PGM-17 Thor missiles with similar capabilities were stationed in Britain.

The Soviet Union at the time had only 70 R-7 ICBMs, but only up to 25 of them could be launched simultaneously. Moscow also had 700 mid-range ballistic missiles, but they could not be deployed close to American territory.

CIA reference photograph of Soviet medium-range ballistic missile (SS-4 in U.S. documents, R-12 in Soviet documents) in Red Square, Moscow. The weapon was deployed to Cuba in October 1962, sparking the Cuban Missile Crisis. (Photo: CIA)

On May 28, a Soviet delegation departed to Cuba. Fidel and Raul Castro were concerned about a possible US invasion and saw Moscow as a powerful military ally. On June 10, Soviet Defense Minister Malinovsky presented a plan to deploy Soviet missiles to Cuba, including 24 R-12 missiles with a range of nearly 2,000 kilometers and 16 R-14 missiles with a maximum range of 4,500 kilometers. Missiles of both types were capable of carrying a one-megaton warhead.

Operation Anadyr

In addition to the missiles, the Soviet forces deployed to Cuba included a Mi-4 helicopter regiment, four mechanized infantry regiments, two armored battalions, 42 Il-28 bombers, two cruise missile units, several artillery batteries and 12 S-75 anti-aircraft and air defense systems. The deployment operation was code named Operation Anadyr.

The ships were covered by a naval group, including two cruisers, four destroyers, 12 missile-carrying boats and 11 submarines. A total of 50,000 people were involved in the unprecedented mission.

A U-2 reconnaissance photograph of Cuba, showing Soviet nuclear missiles, their transports and tents for fueling and maintenance (Photo: CIA)

The operation was prepared by the best Soviet military strategists, including Marshal Ivan Bagramyan, Col. Gen. Semyon Ivanov and Lt. Gen. Anatoly Gribkov. The primary objective was to make the deployment completely secret.

A total of 85 cargo ships were involved in the operation, which conducted 180 voyages from Soviet ports in the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea and the Barents Sea.

On July 7, Khrushchev was informed about the Defense Ministry’s readiness to implement the deployment plan. The total costs of the operation was $20 million (at the 1962 exchange rate), but the game was worth the risk. Despite its efforts, US intelligence could not find out the real reason behind increased activity of Soviet cargo ships near Cuba until missile sites were photographed from a spy plane.

In July, NATO spy planes intensified their flights over the Soviet ships at extremely low altitudes. Starting September 18, US warships required information from the Soviet ships about the cargo, but no single detail of the clandestine operation was revealed.

Black Saturday

On October 14, a U-2 spy plane piloted by Major Richard Heyser took photos of what turned out to be a Soviet missile launch site in western Cuba. The pictures were shown to US President John F. Kennedy. On October 22, Kennedy delivered a televised address to the nation, including announcing a complete naval blockade of Cuba starting October 24.

On October 15, the US president placed the country’s armed forces on DEFCON-2. The situation was getting increasingly dangerous hour by hour. Washington threatened with a full-scale invasion of Cuba, while Moscow pledged to respond.

The tensions reached their zenith on October 27, the day called “Black Saturday,” when a S-75 air defense missile shot down a U-2 spy plane over Cuba. Many specialists believe that on that day the chance of a full-scale nuclear conflict was real as never before and after in history.

Soviet submarine B-59, forced to the surface by U.S. Naval forces in the Caribbean near Cuba (Photo: US Navy)

However, the incident had a sobering effect for both Washington and Moscow. In the early hours of October 28, Robert Kennedy, the brother of President Kennedy, met Soviet Ambassador to the US Anatoly Dobrynin and gave him guarantees from the US government that Washington would not attack Cuba. Later in the day, Soviet Defense Minister Malinovsky ordered to begin dismantling the missile sites on the island.

On November 20, the last Soviet missiles were removed from Cuba and President Kennedy ordered the blockade to be lifted. A few months after, the US withdrew the Jupiter missiles from Turkey and the crisis was finally resolved.

There are still a lot of blank pages in the history of the Cuban missile crisis. In September 2017, the Russian Defense Ministry released information regarding Soviet military casualties during the confrontation and after the crisis. According to the documents, 64 Soviet nationals were killed on Cuba in the period between August 1, 1962 and August 16, 1964. The document, however, provided no further details.

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