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Army’s First Female Deep-Sea Diver Reflects on Career

Sunday, February 5th, 2023

FORT LEE, Va. — Andrea Motley Crabtree’s career can be lauded as a ground-breaking triumph.

Or, it could be noted as a tragic tale of lingering misery, a grim reminder such achievements often come with human tolls.

Crabtree is the Army’s first female deep-sea diver and the first African American female deep-sea diver in any branch of service.

The retired Army master sergeant was the guest speaker at the Martin Luther King Jr. observance Jan. 19 at the Lee Theater. She spoke in front of a few hundred people, including CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general Maj. Gen. Mark T. Simerly, whom she has known 30 years.

During the speech, the 64-year-old laid bare her fight to pursue what she loved, the forces that undermined her ambitions and the deep, invisible wounds she suffered as a result.

Crabtree said she knew the journey to earning the Army Diver Badge would be fraught with difficulty — a classmate said she “belonged in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant” — but even she could not anticipate the malevolence exhibited by some classmates because she was black and female.

“I expected to go through a lot of hazing when I went through dive school and I did,” she recalled, “and I actually agree with the process. Once that diver badge is pinned on, any diver that sees that pin knows exactly what I went through and what I’m capable of, and I knew the same of them … If they were wearing that pin, I knew they knew what they were doing. That should have been enough. That should tell it all. For me, it never stopped. I had to prove myself over and over and over again every day.”

The Westchester, N.Y., native was the only Black person and the only woman among eight Soldiers and more than 20 others on day one of her 1982 class at the U.S. Navy Deep Sea Diving and Salvage School at Panama Beach, Florida. The three-month program of instruction awarded the Corps of Engineers’ military occupational specialty 00B to Soldiers, who go on to use their training to support underwater maintenance and construction projects amongst other missions.

To graduate, students were required to pass a health and fitness assessment that disqualified many. Other course challenges included requirements to rise from a seated position wearing the 198-pound Mark V deep sea dive suit, walking to a ladder, descending into the water and climbing back up. In the end, Crabtree was one of only two Soldiers and nine Sailors to earn the coveted diver badge.

Although Crabtree had accomplished what no female Soldier had in the predominately white, male career field, there would be no confetti drop. It became clear from her first assignment at Fort Belvoir.

“There were only about 39 divers total in the Unites States Army diving field at that time — all male — and the majority of them were not thrilled to have me,” she said.

Soldiers’ expressions of disapproval included pranks such as turning Crabtree’s air off underwater; placing a dead snake in the freezer; walking around naked following physical training; and “assigning me with what they thought were impossible tasks to complete,” she said.

Nevertheless, Crabtree dove head-first into her duties because the rewards were much greater than the efforts to stop her.

“For the most part, I could put up with it because I was a diver, I was diving, I was doing what I loved and I was learning,” said the Soldier of 21 years and mother of three adult sons. “I was learning to become a better diver. I loved what I was doing.”

Seeing she might rankle the dive community’s elitist culture, Crabtree said she was shipped off to South Korea after about eight months at Fort Belvoir. There loomed one Sgt. 1st Class James P. “Frenchy” Leveille, a renowned master diver who had enough juice to squeeze Crabtree out of the career field. He introduced himself to her via a boisterous, blustering tirade on who was in charge and how things would be run.

“He told me I was no different than any other diver, and if I couldn’t pull my weight, he’d be getting rid of me,” Crabtree recalled. “He went on and on and on and on.”

Leveille defied what many thought was his role in pushing Crabtree out of the career field, she said. Instead, he turned out to be no more or less than a hard-but-fair Soldier who took care of his troops no matter what and who was ready to challenge anyone questioning his leadership.

“He told all the divers that he would decide who dove, when they dove and who they would dive with, and anybody who wouldn’t dive with me wouldn’t dive at all and would be taken off of dive duty,” she added.

Leveille, now 75, said he staked his career on fairness and was not ignorant to Crabtree’s circumstance.

“As far as I was concerned, she was going to get the same treatment and same opportunity as everybody else,” said retired the sergeant major, “and she did very well for herself. She was a good diver, and she was a good Soldier. That’s the way I rated her.”

Leveille’s directive to his troops was clear — he called the shots and nothing was going to happen to Crabtree or anyone else unless he approved. He stood firm on what was right in the face of tense dissent, and the troops eventually fell in line, said Crabtree.

“It was only due to the respect they had for him, that they did as they were told,” she said. “Command climate is everything. It trickles down. No one was going to go against Frenchy.”

Crabtree, who remains friends with Leveille, said she grew under his leadership, learning more about diving than in dive school. Her proficiency eventually became a threat to earning diving’s most coveted honor. In the eyes of diving’s leadership at the time, it was one thing to be a female diver, but it was downright blasphemous for one to sport the Master Diver Badge, said Crabtree.

“I’m not trying to be conceited,” she said, “but I was a good diver. And the senior leadership knew it. They knew if I was allowed to continue, I would’ve made master diver. And they would be damned if that was going to happen on their watch.”

Crabtree at some point concluded leaders bet against her becoming a diver in the first place. When she questioned why she was accommodated prior to training and not so much during the course and afterward, one officer concluded, “We didn’t think you’d make it.”

Crabtree withstood powerful gales of hostility in doing so, but destructive storms were brewing on the horizon. Her orders for advanced schooling in California following the Korea assignment were cancelled; her 300-point Army Physical Fitness Tests were rescored as a male’s; and she later received notice her MOS would be closed to women due to changes in policy.

Deciding some of the actions directed against her were discriminatory, Crabtree filed complaints with her chain of command, the post inspector general, the specialized training branch sergeant major and the Department of the Army inspector general.

“They all wouldn’t help me,” she recalled. “They all said there was nothing they could do. I told my command they had won and requested to be relieved from dive duty. I’ve been angry every day since then.”

That was 1985. Crabtree finished out her career as a signal Soldier. Over the course of leaving dive duty, her indignation has grown into debilitating discontent, consuming every corner of her consciousness.

“That anger has taken its toll on every aspect of my life — on my marriage, my children. It’s affected my finances and, most of all, it’s affected my mental health,” she said.

Crabtree, who was accompanied by her service dog Buddy during the speech, said she could accept people resisting her for breaking new ground but has had difficulty reconciling why she was ill-treated.

“It didn’t bother me when I was the only woman; it didn’t bother me when I was the only Black,” she said. “What bothered me was the way they treated me because I am a Black woman.

“I know what it feels like to be hated because I’m a woman,” continued Crabtree, “and I know what it feels like to be hated because of my race. Yes, I’m sure a lot has changed for the good in the last 25 years, but many of the same issues are still hanging around as well as plenty of new issues that are not being addressed properly …”

Crabtree said a strong, values-driven command climate is a potent antidote for building foundations that are supportive of Soldiers.

“Soldiers will follow without question the leaders who take care of them,” she said to the audience. “Be a good leader. Take care of your Soldiers, and they will take care of you.”

Now living in the Augusta, Georgia area, Crabtree said she has spent considerable time trying to heal as a result of what she experienced in the Army. Engagements such as the Fort Lee MLK event at which she spoke have helped.

After the speech, Crabtree spoke with Soldiers and many were thankful she shared her story. One interaction with an officer was notable and even haunting because it proved to be powerfully restorative, if only in a small way.

“I get a little choked up when I think about it,” said Crabtree later of her exchange with a senior Soldier who had no hand in her ordeal. “He handed me a coin, took off his Sapper Badge (Tab) and apologized for the engineers. He’s an engineer officer. It’s the first apology I received from anybody associated with the Engineer Corps or the military. It’s really had an effect on me.”

The effect of offering glimmers of hope in an otherwise tragic tale of lingering misery.

By Terrance Bell

Army Editor’s note: In the U.S. Army today, males and females can sign up for the dive MOS — re-designated 12B — as well as many others that were only open to males when Crabtree enlisted. They include those in infantry, armor, field artillery and special forces. The U.S. Army also has initiated numerous efforts to ensure all Soldiers are treated with dignity and respect.

SHOT Show 23 – Ghost Robotics x Onyx Industries Nautical Autonomous Unmanned Tail

Friday, January 20th, 2023

Exhibiting in the Darley Defense booth the Ghost Robotics team has been demonstrating the various capabilities of their Vision 60 Quadraped Unmanned Ground Vehicle seen in this photo from Ghost Robotics.

An unexpected capability is the ability to swim. Onyx Industries developed an appliqué called the Nautical Autonomous Unmanned Tail kit which uses a water jet to propel the Quadraped through water at a speed of 3 knots for over half an hour.

Onyx Industries provided this photo of the NAUT mounted to a Vision 60.

SCUBAPRO Sunday – POW Ships

Sunday, January 1st, 2023

Throughout the course of the American Revolutionary War, the British imprisoned a significant number of colonists as prisoners of war. They were held on ships because doing so was more cost-effective than constructing prison of war camps on land.

In Wallabout Bay, one ship that fit this description was the HMS Jersey. This port was in close proximity to New York City. The captives were handled in an extremely cruel manner. They were not provided with an adequate amount of food or water. Many of the soldiers perished as a result of diseases such as yellow fever and smallpox. More Americans lost their lives on British prison ships in New York Harbor than in all of the Revolutionary War’s engagements combined. For the majority of the conflict, there were at least 16 of these floating prisons, all of which were known for their filth, bugs, contagious diseases, and terror. They were all anchored in Wallabout Bay on the East River. The Jersey was the most infamous of the miserable ships, although they were all awful.

The British had hundreds of prisoners on their hands after the Battle of Long Island in August 1776 and the subsequent surrender of New York City, and the jails in New York quickly became overcrowded. The British then converted a number of old ships into prison ships when they started taking hundreds of seamen from privateers.

On the HMS Jersey, more than a thousand soldiers were crammed at once. When their British jailers opened the hatches in the morning, their first words to the soldiers below were, “Rebels, turn out your dead!” They died so frequently.

The Department of Defense reports that during the Revolutionary War, 4,435 people died in action. There may have been more deaths on prison ships than the 7,000–8,000 that one historian estimated. Some sources have that number as high as 12, 000 dyeing on the prison ships. Although such number is improbable for a single ship, it is plausible for all of the prison ships taken together and is frequently used.

Elizabeth Burgin was a loyal and brave citizen. We don’t have a lot of information regarding her life. It is well knowledge that she paid as many visits as she could to the captives held aboard the British prison ships. She provided the men food as well as a joyful spirit. An American officer took note of her frequent trips. He intended to provide assistance to a few of the inmates so that they might flee. He requested Elizabeth’s assistance in carrying out his plan. The British authorities did not permit male visitors on board the ships. Elizabeth gave her consent for the inmates to be informed to prepare. They were able to escape the ship with her assistance. The winter of 1779–1780 was one of the coldest on record. Men were able to escape from the ships by walking on the ice that formed when the water in the harbor froze over. During the winter of that year, Elizabeth Burgin was responsible for freeing more than two hundred convicts.

The anger felt by the British was palpable. They were willing to pay a reward of two hundred pounds for information leading to her capture. This sum was greater than what the majority of British troops were paid throughout their whole career of twenty years. Elizabeth was concerned that she might be executed by hanging. As a result of being forced to escape her home, she had to leave the majority of her valuables behind. Elizabeth’s bravery was praised in a letter that General George Washington sent to the Continental Congress. In recognition of her service and sacrifice, the Continental Congress awarded her a pension in the year 1781.

SCUBAPRO Sunday – Gift Ideas

Sunday, December 18th, 2022

I have never done this, but I wanted to share what I think is the best gear for someone that might want some new dive gear for working divers.

Masks

The Zoom EVO is a low-volume dual lens mask that is appropriate for all divers, but it is especially well-suited for combat divers who need a low-volume mask for diving O2 and for divers who need prescription lenses. The mask’s innovative lens-changing system lets you swap lenses in under a minute without tools. Even with thick gloves, the Zoom EVO’s one-hand nose compartment is easy to access. SCUBAPRO HUD mounts to the mask frame of the zoom.

Steel Comp/ Pro

The Steel Pro and Comp fit a range of faces and noses well. The Steel masks have been one of my favorite masks, and despite the many years of frequent use, I have experienced very little damage to any of them (I have three) (I have three). I don’t use them that much now because you cannot use the HUD with them. I always carry a backup mask. Its modest volume and flexible skirt make it ideal for deep diving. Thanks to the skillfully constructed softer nose pocket, equalization is not a problem.

The Steel Pro/ Comp Freediving Mask is a top-of-the-line low-volume mask. This mask is designed to be worn for lengthy periods.

The SPECTRA provides a broad field of view, a cozy water-blocking seal, and a low-volume design for simple clearing. The SPECTRA employs a clever double-sealed silicone skirt for maximum comfort and is specifically made to accommodate a variety of face shapes.

In addition to enabling the mask to be folded flat for simple packing, push-button buckles that attach to the skirt allow for simple adjustment, optimum strap angle, and range of motion for attaining that perfect fit. All the above masks can use the Comfort and Odin straps, The Odin allowing you to attach your mask to the helmet’s ACH Rails for simple donning and doffing.

Fins

Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite fin is, it is one of these two. I have not been using the Supernova as long as I have the Go Sports, so the Go is honestly my go-to fin (get it go to, go sport?! No, ok, sorry). They are light, so they are great to carry around if needed and have great power and control for tight spaces like being around piers. I have given away many of these fins because I have let guys try them, and they won’t give them back. All that said, the Supernovas are a close second, if not first. They have unmatched power, control, and speed. I have had units try them, and they switched to them that day. 

The new Seawing Supernova is a step in performance, construction, fit, and adaptability. Its Pivot Control Technology (PCT) and the Auto-Adjust center panel give the appropriate blade attack angle. PCT hinges set the blade at 40 to 50 degrees, which converts kicks into forward momentum. The Auto-Adjust center panel counter-pivots to fine-tune the angle of attack depending on the strength of the kick. Blade form innovation increases power, speed, and maneuverability. Blade’s center panel membrane adjusts the angle of attack based on kicking strength for simpler cruising and maximum power. A key fob-style multipurpose utility is supplied for breaking it down and reassembly. The heel bungee can be adjusted for use with different size boots. It lets you switch from a winter dive boot to a beach jungle boot. 

The SCUBAPRO GO Sport fin has a “boot-fit” design, enabling divers who wear boots for cold water or negotiating rocky shore entries to benefit from the proven kicking performance. Lightweight yet virtually indestructible, this provides great power and control in the water. It is lightweight, making it ideal if needed to carry in the field. The blade has been slightly revised from the original; it now provides mounting points to attach skegs that minimize sideslip and maximize stability. The self-adjusting bungee heel strap allows for a versatile fit. The strap also makes for easy donning and doffing.

Regulators

The MK19 EVO / A700 combines the exceptional breathing capabilities of the A700 with an environmentally sealed first stage from the MK19 EVO that is remarkably resistant to freezing and fouling its inner mechanism. A dry ambient pressure chamber with a double spring for maximum dependability and an LP port swivel turret to maximize hose routing choices are features of the MK19 EVO. The powerful A700 provides best-in-class breathing performance, including smooth inhalation and unsurpassed ease of exhalation. Its precision-manufactured full-metal front cover, valve housing, and casing are all made of metal.

For someone new to diving, the MK2 EVO internal parts, which were created expressly to withstand freezing in extremely cold-water conditions, are downstream piston-style first-stage components. Therefore, you can count on top-notch breathing performance whether you’re reef diving in the Caribbean or wreck diving in the Great Lakes. The R195 is a cutting-edge second-stage design that combines a traditional downstream valve with a sizable diaphragm, a useful purge, and VIVA switch for slick and straightforward operation. The MK2 EVO/R195 is not only the finest option—it is the only option—for both novice and experienced divers seeking a reliable but affordable regulator that can withstand almost all water temperatures.

The MK11 / S270 is a simple, sturdy, and easy-to-use air delivery system for divers looking for dependable performance. Its easy airflow is unaffected by depth, tank pressure, or breathing rate thanks to the balanced diaphragm MK11. With its unbreakable anti-scratch construction and smooth breathing performance, the little S270 can withstand years of rigorous use.

Knives/Cutting Tools

The JAWZ Ti is a versatile, all-in-one multipurpose rescue equipment that is more than just a dive knife. The instrument has two major cutting surfaces with three unique cutting zones, is made of Grade 38 ATI 425 ballistic titanium, and has 316 stainless steel hardware. It also has a heat-injected molded polypropylene thermoplastic grip with a pointed breaker. Choose between a flat black or glow-in-the-dark handle for operating in low light. Included are a sheath and a TacWare J-clip.

The X-Tek X- cut is made from Alpha (hardened) titanium and is used to create versatile, lightweight. Its blade features a line cutter and serrated and smooth cutting edges. The blade is uniquely formed and intended to preserve a cutting edge that is extremely robust for a long lifespan of corrosion-free performance. When focusing on a demanding cutting task, the no-nonsense handle’s contoured design with finger indents and a thumb guard allows you to keep a strong and non-slip hold. A lanyard eyelet is offered so you can always have the knife close to you.

SCUBAPRO WHITE TIP is an ultra-compact, space-saving cutting tool for divers. The WHITE TIP’s blade is made of 304-grade hard-tempered stainless steel for outstanding cutting and oxidation resistance. It has a serrated edge for sawing rope, a standard edge for slicing, and an angled Tanto tip, one of the strongest knife points. A handle slot holds a lanyard. The WHITE TIP is a tiny knife that may be attached to a hose or BCD as a primary knife or carried in a pocket as a backup. I like the Mako also, but I see no need for a bottle opener on a knife.

Black Mask Divers Shears, which rescue divers employ for heavy cutting, may readily cut through entanglements. Marine-grade stainless steel is corrosion-resistant. Most have nylon sheaths; however, Black Mask divers’ have Kydex sheaths. Nylon sheaths must dry before storing shears. But with Black Mask diver ones, they’re dry practically immediately. Also, it’s one-handed. The shear holster system may be mounted anywhere, drawn, and re-holstered with one hand, even when wearing gloves. The sheath can be used with almost any standard trauma shears.

Wetsuits

The new line with its multi-thickness panels, blind stitched seams, and soft inner fleece (Dimond Span Lining), the newest SCUBAPRO’s Everflex Yulex wetsuit is genuinely one of the most comfortable dive wetsuits available. Regardless of runtime, depth, or task loading, the wetsuit provides the highest possible level of stretchability and comfort; after all, you are looking for the best. It is extremely rare for a wetsuit with a thickness of 3 millimeters to offer sufficient thermal protection to be classified as a Class C diving suit in Europe. SCUABPROs new wetsuits, the EVERFLEX 3/2MM, has done this. To say that this is a testimonial to the premium materials, structure, and design of the EVERFLEX 3/2MM wetsuit is an understatement. This wetsuit is widely considered to be the best option for diving. This incredibly cozy steamer was designed with SCUBAPRO’s Pure Design Concept, ensuring a superb fit while allowing complete freedom of movement. The suit can move more naturally with your body due to the preformed dimensional shapes, which deliver unprecedented comfort and flexibility. All Everflex steamers are constructed with 100% Everflex Yulex material. This is the new standard for wetsuits right now.

Lights

A small but powerful dive light that fits in a pocket is the Nova 250. It has an over-pressure valve to release battery off-gassing and three modes: 100% power, 50% power, and Flash, making it the safest compact light on the market. The Nova 250 uses a CR123 battery to produce 250 lumens of illumination (rechargeable or disposable). You shouldn’t worry if the CR123 throwaway battery is left in your BCD pocket during the winter because it has a shelf life of up to 10 years.

Products are available from www.scubapro.com

SCUBAPRO Sunday – Operation Flipper

Sunday, December 4th, 2022

Operation Flipper was a raid by the Combined Operations to kill Field Marshall Erwin Rommel at his headquarters in Sidi Rafa, Libya, that would take place between 10-19 November 1941. The attack would use man from Combined Operations, Special Boat Services (SBS), No. 11 Commando, Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), and also the man from the Special Operations Executive (SOE) G(R). This raid was to be a smaller part of a more significant campaign to relieve Tobruk and push the Axis from North Africa.

The operation had four main objectives, first and foremost was to kill Rommel at his headquarters, destroy the nearby Italian headquarters and its communications network, sabotage the Italian Intelligence Office in Appolonia and its communications network between Faidia and Lamdula, and lastly, conduct general sabotage actions elsewhere in the Axis forces rear area.

Leading the mission was Colonel Robert Laycock. His second in command was Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Keyes. On November 10, 1941, Laycock’s six officers and 53 men boarded the submarines Torbay and Talisman and left Alexandria harbor for Beda Littoria, Cyrenaica. Waiting for them on the beach was Captain Jock Haselden and an Arab soldier from the SOE’s G(R). They would guide the folbots (early versions of Klepper type canoes) to the beach and help them ashore. Once ashore, they would meet up with the rest of Haselden man, including two more Brits, a free Belgian, and another Arab soldier who stayed further inland; all had been dropped off by the LRDG earlier that day. Haselden’s team had local knowledge of the area; one of the Arabs would lead the assault team to the target while the rest of Haselden’s team would sabotaging the communications. Keyes got himself and all his men ashore. But as Layton and his men prepared to disembark, a storm struck. Heavy seas drove Talisman aground, and only Layton and seven men reached the beach.

With his force cut in half, Keyes modified the plan. It would be a two-part assault; Keyes would attack Rommel’s HQ, and Lt. Roy Cooke would lead the Italian headquarters’ attack. Layton and a small force would defend the force’s escape route. On the evening of November 15, Keyes, Cooke, and their men headed inland. Despite the weather, the groups managed to reach their respective launch positions on the evening of November 17. At midnight, they attacked. Keyes, leading a three-person assault team, burst into the villa identified as Rommel’s headquarters. They surprised a German officer who was killed as he struggled with Keyes. The attackers then rushed down the hall, and Keyes opened a room where ten Germans were arming themselves. One of the Germans shot Keyes, killing him. What the team didn’t know was that Rommel had left the compound a week earlier for Rome. After Keyes’s death, things started to get worse.

Campbell was shot in the leg by one of his men. He passed command to Sergeant Jack Terry and remained behind. Terry gathered the raiding team and retreated with 17 men to rejoin Laycock at the beach. Cooke’s men encountered a platoon or so of Italian police paratroopers. The Italians had been searching for the British raiders close to the village Mansura north of Cyrene. With the Italian and Germans looking for the raiding party, Laycock knew it would be impossible to re-embark on the submarines as they waited for the weather to improve. They were discovered and exchanged fire with local Italian and German troops. Low on ammo and aware that they could not stand off a larger force, Laycock ordered the men to scatter. Laycock and Terry made it to safety after 37 days in the desert. Bombardier John Brittlebank, one of the SBS teams who had guided the commandos in the folbots, escaped and survived alone in the desert for forty days until Allied troops picked him up. The rest of the raiding force was captured, some of them were wounded.  

The raid was considered a failure by the British high command, but to the Germans, especially to Rommel, it showed what the Combined Operations could do. It would also help Winston Churchill decide to put the Commando’s and other groups under the SOE after the British military decide they didn’t need them anymore. Rommel was quoted as saying, “It was a brilliant operation and with great audacity.” Rommel ordered that Keyes and all the rest of the Commandos be buried with full military honors, sending his personal chaplain, priest Rudolf Dalmrath, to officiate. He had cypress crosses and wreaths made for the British and German dead. Rommel also instructed that photographs be taken of the ceremony and Keyes’ grave and sent them to his parents, a chivalrous act that increased British respect for him. British Special Operations would continue to wreak havoc thru out the Africa Theater of Operation, significantly contributing to the Allies victory.

SCUBAPRO Sunday – The Seawing Supernova

Sunday, November 27th, 2022

The Seawing Supernova are like the MultiCam of fins. If you understand camo, you know that MultiCam is a camouflage pattern developed for usage in a variety of settings. It is said it can be used in 70% of the world. When it comes to frog and alternate kicks, the new twin-tip winglets increase control and markedly improve maneuverability. I started using the Supernovas a couple of months ago and noticed a difference immediately. I felt like I had a lot more maneuverability than with conventional fins. It also feels like what you expect a great dive fin to feel, but without the weight and, honestly, a lot more flexibility on the kicks, Frog, Reverse, Scissor or Flutter.

A diving fin needs power, and the Seawing Supernova has it. The fins are designed with Pivot Control Technology. The blade is pre-set in the 40º to 50º range, which is the appropriate angle of attack for the blade and ideal for translating kicks into forward propulsion.

The blade’s revolutionary flexible Auto-Adjust center panel coordinates with this hinge mechanism to adjust the angle of attack by counter-pivoting in response to the force of the kick. So, what does that all mean? On a traditional paddle fin, the harder you kick, the more the blade bends. That means a soft fin will achieve the ideal 45-degree angle when kicked gently but will over-bend and lose thrust when kicked hard. On the other hand, stiffer fins achieve that ideal 45-degree angle when kicked hard but remain too flat to be efficient when kicked gently.

Consequently, both types require the diver to compromise their kicking style to get any efficiency out of the fin.

When you are fining, you can kick so hard that it will bend the blade so far back that it can “technical” pull you backward; this offers a softer angle of attack for comfort while lightly kicking, a more aggressive angle of attack when powerfully kicking, and anything in between. New twin-tip winglets improve control and maneuverability when doing frog and alternating kicks.

The Seawing Supernova, winner of the prestigious Red Dot Award for product design, is a remarkable improvement over the Seawing Nova in terms of performance, construction, fit, and versatility. It also features a cutting-edge blade shape that generates significantly more power, speed, and maneuverability.

The Seawing Supernova also has a novel two-piece design, with the blade and foot pocket molded separately, is made of quality Monprene® for maximum durability, and breaks down effortlessly for transport. This will also allow you two change your blades as SCUBAPRO designed more. The Seawing Supernova’s open heel foot pocket has an updated heavy-duty bungee strap that enables micro-adjustments to accommodate various boot types and extended grip pads that improve non-skid traction on wet surfaces. It is sold as an open heel set with a foot pocket and blade already built.

Additionally, the two-piece construction enables the option of a full foot pocket in place of the usual open heel foot pocket for barefoot diving. You may quickly get ready to hit the water by disassembling the fin’s Socket-Lock Connecting System, replacing the open heel foot pocket with a complete foot pocket, and then reassembling. The entire foot pocket also has a re-profiled heel-retention cup to reduce slippage and chafing and is made of superior Monprene®

Liberty Lifter Aims to Revolutionize Heavy Air Lift

Saturday, November 26th, 2022

Large seaplane concept envisions extended operations, affordable production, advanced controls

DARPA has launched the Liberty Lifter project to demonstrate a leap in operational logistics capabilities by designing, building, and flying a long-range, low-cost X-plane capable of seaborne strategic and tactical lift. The new vehicle concept seeks to expand upon existing cargo aircraft by proving revolutionary heavy air lift abilities from the sea.

The envisioned plane will combine fast and flexible strategic lift of very large, heavy loads with the ability to take off/land in water. Its structure will enable both highly controlled flight close to turbulent water surfaces and sustained flight at mid-altitudes. In addition, the plane will be built with a low-cost design and construction philosophy.

Although current sealift is very efficient in transporting large amounts of payload, it is vulnerable to threats, requires functional ports, and results in long transit times. Traditional airlift is much faster, but has limited ability to support maritime operations. Additionally, today, such aircraft suffer payload limitations or require long runways.

There is a history of attempting to develop aircraft created to fly with “wing-in-ground effect,” which means the aircraft is flying no more than the length of its wingspan above ground or water. The most well-known examples are the Soviet “ekranoplans.” These vehicles were high speed and runway- independent, but were restricted to calm waters and had limited maneuverability.

“This first phase of the Liberty Lifter program will define the unique seaplane’s range, payloads, and other parameters,” said Alexander Walan, a program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “Innovative advances envisioned by this new DARPA program will showcase an X-plane demonstrator that offers warfighters new capabilities during extended maritime operations.”

To address the shortcomings of existing vehicles and operational concepts, the Liberty Lifter program focuses on addressing three main challenges.

Extended Maritime Operations: Emphasis will be placed on operating in turbulent sea states by creating high-lift abilities at low speeds to reduce wave impact load during takeoff/landing, and innovative design solutions to absorb wave forces. In addition, the project will address risks of vehicle collision during high-speed operation in congested environments. Finally, the aim is for the vehicle to operate at sea for weeks at a time without land-based maintenance activities.

Full-Scale Affordable Production: Construction will prioritize low-cost, easy-to-fabricate designs over exquisite, low-weight concepts. Materials should be more affordable than those in traditional aircraft manufacturing and available to be purchased in large quantities.

Complex Flight and Sea Surface Controls: Advanced sensors and control schemes will be developed to avoid large waves and to handle aero/hydro-dynamic interactions during takeoff/landing.

SCUBAPRO Sunday – Operation Vengeance  

Sunday, November 13th, 2022

One of the biggest codebreaking achieved by Naval intelligence during WWII was on April 14, 1943, they learned that Adm. Isokoru Yamamoto was preparing a visit to the upper Solomon Islands to inspect Japanese bases. Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz immediately relayed the details to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, who informed President Franklin D. Roosevelt. According to reports, the president’s response was “Get Yamamoto.” Whether or not the president actually said those terms, the order was given to assassinate the mastermind of the Pearl Harbor attack.

Ironically, the object of American vengeance had repeatedly put his life on the line by speaking out against US wars. He saw how poor industrial Japan was in comparison to the United States and the United Kingdom because of his postings in America and England.

When asked how he thought a war between Japan and America would go, Yamamoto replied that he would “run wild for six months or a year, but after that I have absolutely no confidence.”

“It is a mistake to consider Americans as luxury-loving and weak,” Yamamoto said in a meeting with classmates from his hometown of Nagaoka on Sept. 18, 1941. Remember the American industry is much more mature than ours, and they have unlimited oil supplies, unlike us. Japan would never be able to defeat the United States. As a result, we should refrain from fighting the US.”

When his government decided to go to war, Yamamoto put his personal feelings aside and pledged to do everything in his power to win.

Yamamoto was playing chess with a member of his team, Capt. Yasuji Watanabe, when they learned over the radio about the assault on Pearl Harbor and Japan’s subsequent declaration of war. “That’s too bad, Watanabe,” he said. Tell the Emperor that the navy did not intend it this way from the start if I die before you.”

Operation Vengeance is a vengeance-seeking operation.

Adm. Yamamoto was killed when the Betty bomber was shot down over Bougainville on April 18, 1943.

Following that came an incredible run of Japanese victories. The Imperial Japanese Fleet was then defeated at Midway, nearly six months to the day after Pearl Harbor. Yamamoto saw the writing on the wall when the arduous Guadalcanal war ended in early 1943. “I sense that my life must be completed in the next hundred days,” he wrote in a letter to a friend in Marchs. He left for the south to oversee the next phase of the operation.

Operation I-Go was a joint Japanese navy-army aerial counter-offensive launched on April 1, 1943, to halt American advances in the Solomon Islands and New Guinea. Yamamoto, now based in Rabaul, decided on April 13 that he wanted to inspect Japanese bases in the upper Solomons. Yamamoto halted the offensive on April 16, pending the completion of his inspection, after acknowledging without question exaggerated pilot reports of ship sinking’s and aircraft shootdowns.

Eighteen P-38s were chosen and fitted with special drop tanks (sixteen for the assault, two spares). While the others targeted the fighter escorts, a “killer” flight of four fighters led by Capt. Thomas G. Lanphier, Jr. would target the two Betty bombers containing Yamamoto and his staff.

Nimitz had to time his window of opportunity to intercept Yamamoto perfectly. Fortunately for him, his opponent was known for being punctual. Yamamoto’s path was outside the control of naval fighters, but it was within the range of Army Air Force P-38Gs that had recently been deployed to Guadalcanal.

Maj. John Mitchell USAAF, commander of Squadron 339, found himself assisting Vice Adm. Marc Mitscher and other senior commanders in preparing the assault on April 17. The intercept will take place over Bougainville Island. A 1,000-mile round trip was planned, with a 600-mile roundabout approach from the south. Eighteen P-38s were chosen and fitted with special drop tanks (sixteen for the assault, two spares). While the others targeted the fighter escorts, a “killer” flight of four fighters led by Capt. Thomas G. Lanphier, Jr. would target the two Betty bombers containing Yamamoto and his staff.

Operation Vengeance is a vengeance-seeking operation.

Any of the pilots who flew Adm. Yamamoto’s assassination flight, Operation Vengeance. From left to right: William Smith, Doug Canning, Besby F. Holmes, Rex Barber (historians believe he was the pilot who shot down Yamamoto), John William Mitchell, Louis Kittel, and Gordon Whittiker. Roger Ames, Lawrence Graebner, Julius Jacobsen; Eldon Stratton, Albert Long, and Everett Anglin; and unknown, crouching from left to right. Image from the National Archives

The P-38s of Operation Vengeance took off at 7:25 a.m. on April 18, the first anniversary of the Doolittle Raid. They arrived at the intercept point at 9:34 a.m. and saw their objective exactly on time.

While the other planes assaulted the other escorts, Lanphier and 1st Lt. Rex T. Barber of the killer flight split up to target the Bettys and immediate escorts. One P-38 and its pilot, 1st Lt. Raymond K. Hine, were killed when both bombers were shot down.

“That son of a bitch will not be dictating any peace terms in the White House,” Lanphier radioed shortly before noon, as the returning P-38s prepared to land at Henderson Field. Yamamoto was no longer alive. Lanphier’s comment was a misinterpretation of Yamamoto’s words, as he broke radio silence to say. Yamamoto was implying that a military victory over America could not be achieved by winning a single war, or even a series of battles.

The Navy Cross was awarded to any pilot who took part in the assault. The question of who shot down Yamamoto’s plane sparked a debate, with both Lanphier and Barber claiming responsibility. Barber was later identified as the perpetrator by historians.