Saturday, January 3, 2015

⚓️Mare Island’s key place amid the tides of history ⚓️

  • Capt. David G. Farragut established the Mare Island Naval Yard. / ONLINE_YES

Several islands of San Francisco Bay have a long military history. Alcatraz was a U.S. military base before it was a prison, Nike missiles once bristled on Angel Island, and Treasure Island was a naval base for decades before it was sold to San Francisco in 2009.
But the island that has played the most significant role in U.S. naval history is Mare Island — the first and once the largest naval base on the Pacific Coast.
Mare Island, just west of Vallejo, was inhabited by Indians who left extensive shell mounds. It was mapped in 1775 by the first Spanish mariner to enter the bay, Juan Ayala, who named it Isla Plana, or Flat Island. It received its current name thanks to an incident involving the most famous Californio, Mariano Vallejo. During a stormy trip from Martinez to Benicia in 1835, the terrified animals on board, which included a prized white mare belonging to Vallejo’s wife, Francesca Benicia, kicked down the crude fencing holding them in and fell into the water.
Many were lost, the white mare presumed among them. But weeks later, she turned up 8 miles away on Isla Plana, peacefully grazing on the hills. A grateful Vallejo renamed the island Isla de la Yegua — Mare Island.
Naval base
When California became part of the United States, the federal government decided Mare Island would be a good site for a naval base. In 1852, it bought the island from its owners for $83,491, and a young officer named Capt. David G. Farragut was ordered to build a Navy yard on it. 
Farragut had been at his post less than two years when he was confronted with one of the trickiest situations ever to come before a U.S. military officer.
In 1856, the second Committee of Vigilance, the largest vigilante movement in U.S. history, was created in response to two notorious slayings. The vigilantes raised a citizens’ army of 6,000 men and were supported by most San Franciscans, but were opposed by a pro-Southern faction known as the Chivs and by many officials, including Mayor James Van Ness and California’s 28-year-old governor, Neely Johnson. 
Johnson declared that San Francisco was in a “state of insurrection” and called upon all citizens to enlist in the militia to crush the revolt. Johnson asked Gen. John Wool, who commanded the federal troops and arsenal at Benicia, to provide 4,000 muskets to the militia. Johnson then visited Farragut and requested the Navy’s aid in putting down the insurrection.
Tough decision 
Farragut and Wool were faced with a quandary. To refuse Johnson’s request would be to ignore a full-blown uprising. But to agree to it would be to create a situation in which the military could find itself opening fire on the citizens of a U.S. city.
The two commanders decided not to send troops into San Francisco or arm the militia. Wool said that under the circumstances, it was too dangerous to try to ship any federal arms to San Francisco. Farragut said he had no authority to act without orders from Washington, and added that “he doubted the wisdom of the attempt” to suppress the vigilantes by force.
If the Chivs had known what Wool and Farragut had done, they would have been enraged. Perhaps the Southern sympathizers could have exacted revenge that would have damaged the men’s careers — and if they had, Farragut might never have commanded the Union fleet in the decisive Civil War battle of Mobile Bay, upon which occasion he uttered his legendary command, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”
Names live on 
Farragut’s legacy lives on in another way — there’s a street named after him in the Outer Mission District of San Francisco. Wool has a street named for him in Bernal Heights. 
The base at Mare Island that Farragut once commanded would turn out no fewer than 513 combat ships during its 142-year life, including nuclear attack submarines and the world’s first aircraft carrier.
The first ship to come out of the Mare Island yard was the Saginaw, a four-gun, shallow-draft side-wheeler built of Petaluma oak in 1859. This unimposing craft was the primary ship patrolling the bay for the Union.
As Paul McHugh writes in his essay on Mare Island in James A. Martin and Michael T. Lee’s “Islands of San Francisco Bay,” if history had taken a different turn, the Saginaw might well have been a casualty in the last conflict of the Civil War — a battle that would have been fought in, of all places, San Francisco Bay.
While the Saginaw paddled around the bay, one of the more obscure campaigns of the Civil War was unfolding far outside the Golden Gate. A powerful, 230-foot Confederate ship called the Shenandoah was attacking Yankee commercial shipping off Alaska, sinking or capturing 38 vessels.
The Shenandoah’s captain, James Waddell, was a die-hard who kept fighting for months after he learned that Gen. Robert E. Lee had surrendered in April 1865. In fact, Waddell was determined to sail through the Golden Gate and capture San Francisco — an action that the feeble Saginaw would have been ill-equipped to resist.
En route to California, however, Waddell happened upon a British ship whose crew reported that Confederate President Jefferson Davis had been captured. Waddell decided to give up, but to avoid surrendering on U.S. soil and possibly being hanged as a pirate, he sailed the Shenandoah to Liverpool, England. 
There, crowds gaped as the famous Confederate raider sailed down the Mersey and surrendered — the last act of the Civil War.
Stained-glass trove
Mare Island Naval Shipyard closed in 1995. The ships built there are commemorated in a haunting sculpture, the “Ghost Ship,” that stands atop the island’s highest point. 
But the most famous works of art on Mare Island have nothing to do with ships. In 1900, the base’s chaplain, Adam McAlister, had a chapel built at the end of Captain’s Row, a street lined with the stately residences of admirals. He commissioned the studio of Louis Comfort Tiffany to create the chapel’s 29 stained glass windows. 
The panels depict, among other figures, Christ, St. Paul, Galahad and a mysterious allegorical depiction of Truth. It’s an unlikely treasure trove of world-class stained glass on a shuttered military base on one of the dozens of fascinating islands in and around San Francisco Bay.

Gary Kamiya is the author of the best-selling book “Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco,” awarded the 2013 Northern California Book Award in creative nonfiction. All the material in Portals of the Past is original for The San Francisco Chronicle. E-mail:

Vallejo had vast land holdings in the North Bay. According to Solano County historian Kristin Delaplane, supplies and livestock were delivered to some of his properties on a ramshackle ferry made of planks nailed atop oil barrels from whaling ships.

⚓️USS Bennington Monument, San Diego, California 7 January 1908⚓️

Ceremonies dedicating the monument at Fort Rosecrans, overlooking San Diego harbor, 7 January 1908. It was erected in memory of the Navy personnel who lost their lives in the boiler explosion on board USS Bennington (Gunboat # 4) at San Diego on 21 July 1905.
North Island and Coronado are in the left background. USS Charleston (Cruiser # 22) is at right.
Photographed by Norton-Bennette, 820 Fifth St., San Diego.

Collection of Lieutenant Commander Abraham DeSomer, donated by Myles DeSomer, 1975.

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

WW I letters project offers window into brutality of battle

This unknown soldier statue at Paddington Station was erected to honour railway workers who died in WW1. It also served as an inspiration for a centenary commemoration project focusing on soldiers' letters.
One hundred years ago, soldiers from all over the world were spending the holiday season huddled in the muddy trenches of the First World War, dealing with combat, death and separation from their loved ones. For many, mail was their only link to home.
The war, which began in the summer of 1914, was not over by Christmas, as so many had thought it would be. Instead, it dragged on for four years.
The world is now in the midst of marking the centenary of the conflict, prematurely dubbed "the war to end all wars." In Britain, the past year has seen a series of initiatives meant to ensure public remembrance of WWI, which claimed the lives of more than 880,000 soldiers, including Canadians, who were killed while fighting for the British empire
APTOPIX Britain World War I
People look at the near completed ceramic poppy art installation by artist Paul Cummins entitled 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red' in the dry moat of the Tower of London on Monday, Nov. 10, 2014. The finished installation will be made up of 888,246 ceramic poppies, with the final poppy being placed on Armistice Day on November 11. Each poppy represents a British and Commonwealth military fatality from World War I. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)
Many of these commemorations were extremely well-publicized, such as the ceremonies attended by members of the Royal family and the sea of poppies planted around the iconic Tower of London to honour the fallen.
One of the lesser-known projects to mark the centenary, called Letter to an Unknown Soldier, invited members of the public to write a letter to an often-unnoticed statue of an unknown soldier reading a letter at London’s Paddington Station.
People were asked to write what they would say if they could talk to a soldier who fought in the war. In just over a month, the project received more than 21,000 letters.
It also gave the public a chance to learn more about the vast number of letters exchanged between soldiers in the trenches and those on the home front.
An average of 12.5 million letters crossed the English Channel headed to soldiers on the Western Front each week during the height of the war.
Mail was so important for morale,” said Chris Taft, head of Collections at Britain’s Postal Museum and Archive. “The imperative was always to get post to the troops. It was so important for troops to get those letters, to get that connection and that contact with home.”

Getting mail to the front

Chris Taft telling Margaret Evans about WW1 mail delivery
Chris Taft shows CBC's Margaret Evans images relating to WW1 mail delivery. Taft said the army went to great lengths to ensure mail was delivered as quickly as possible to the troops given how important it was for morale. (Ellen Mauro/CBC News )
Getting mail to the troops, however, was a complex operation.
Letters would arrive at the Home Depot, a massive sorting office covering five acres of Regent’s Park in central London. Employees there, mainly women, would receive daily updates on troop movements to ensure the letters reached the right destination.
The mail would then be sent to army depots on the northern coast of France. From there, the letters would be loaded onto supply trains that would take them to staging posts close to their relevant destinations, under the cover of darkness. The letters would be handed out with the soldiers’ evening meals.

'Letters are my only thing to live for now' 

Remarkably, letters from the U.K. would usually be delivered within just two or three days of being posted.
Canadian WW1 Soldier Hart Leech
Canadian WW1 soldier wrote many letters home from the front lines. In one he talked about the feelings that came when soldiers wrote their families goodbye letters in case they died in battle. Leech was killed in battle. (Vancouver Island University )
Letters from Canada took longer to arrive, given that they had to reach England first. But no matter how long it took for the letters to be delivered, many of those on the front wrote about how much they were buoyed by receiving communication from home. 
Patricia Tuckett, a Canadian nurse, wrote the following while stationed in the Mediterranean in 1915: 
“My Dear, I had not had Canadian mail since I left England and was surely glad to get your letters …. Give my best to all the family. Letters are my only thing to live for now, so write often.” 
Another Canadian on the front, Hart Leech, talked about the feelings that came when soldiers wrote their families before going into battle.
“In a way it’s darned funny. All the gang are writing postmortem letters and kind of half-ashamed of themselves for doing it. As one of our officers said: ‘If I mail it and come through the show, I’ll be a joke. If I tear it up and get killed, I’ll be sorry I didn’t send it.’”
Leech was killed soon after writing the letter. It only reached his mother 12 years later, as it became lost for a time in his belongings after he died. 

A window on 'war to end all wars' 

Dr. Stephen Davies, a professor at Vancouver Island University, has been archiving Canadian letters from WWI for 10 years. He says the importance of mail is a common theme throughout the thousands of letters he’s read. 
'The letters kept them connected both to their past lives and future dreams.'- Dr. Stephen Davies, Vancouver Island University
“What we see is soldiers writing about how much they valued their letters from home,” he said. “The letters kept them connected both to their past lives and future dreams." 
Today, the letters provide the world with the best record of the traumatic experiences that came with serving on the front lines of the first truly global conflict. 
One of the most harrowing is British soldier Arthur Hubbard's account of being ordered to kill three wounded German soldiers.
“They was bleeding badly, begging for them to be put out of their misery,” he wrote. "It makes my head jump to think about it.”

Two soldiers of the Great War: One came home to Cape Breton, the otheris buried in France

Published on December 30, 2014
Like a storyline from a Hollywood movie, newlywed Edna McLeod disguised herself as a nursing sister and travelled to England to be with her husband before he was sent across the English Channel to the battlefields of France and Belgium. She returned home and gave birth to the son that her husband would never see.
GLACE BAY — It has become an accepted axiom that old soldiers don't like to talk about the war, but perhaps it's more accurate to say that some of the things they saw were just too terrible to revisit, even in conversation.
Pte. Ralph Turner of Glace Bay served with a horse-drawn artillery unit during the First World War. His descendants have long since forgotten what unit he served with and which battles he took part in, but the little he did tell them about his experiences in France have become part of family history.
"He never talked about what he saw in the war, but Dad did tell us that he was upset with how the German prisoners were treated when they were taken through the lines," said Edna Nearing, 76, of Glace Bay. "They would strip the buttons off their coats, and that would really upset my dad."
A couple of light-hearted — and food-related — recollections have also been passed down over the years.
"My father used to talk about how the (Canadian) soldiers would eat corn, but the French would only feed corn to their animals," said Nearing. "And the first time my father ever saw black bread was was when he was a soldier overseas — the flour wasn't refined like it was here."
Turner came home from the war in 1920 and soon after married Nearing's mother, Ellen, and built a house on Wallace Road where together they raised a family of three girls and two boys: Ellen, Edna, Janet, Frank and Ralph Jr.
Nearing can remember seeing her father's wartime spurs hanging in the basement of the house for many years, but says they are long gone now.
Ralph and Ellen lived happily together for more than 50 years, with Ellen passing on first in 1975 and Ralph following her less than a year later at 81 years of age. But even in happy marriages there are the occasional rough patches. Like many soldiers who saw action in the "war to end all wars," Turner very likely came home with some degree of post-traumatic stress disorder, which in those days was called shell-shock.
Nearing can recall nights when her father would wake up in a rage and her mother would have to settle him down before things got out of hand.
"My sister and I always thought that he may have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder," she said. "He very well might have, but my mother could control him when he was agitated."
A hard-working coal miner who preferred the army and navy club to the local legion, Turner could sometimes be "hard to handle" when he had too much to drink, which can also be a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder.
According to Nearing, Ralph enlisted with his two brothers, Fred and Frank Turner, and all three survived the war. While Ralph and Frank came home to Glace Bay and raised families there, Fred went to Ontario after the war and never returned to Cape Breton.
"They were all in France together, but when we were young it never really came up in conversation that they had served together. But we knew they were all lucky to have come back alive."
• • •
LOUISBOURG — How Harvey Garfield Lewis got his name takes on special meaning when the calendar rolls around to November.
"When I was young, it was just a story," said the 91-year-old Louisbourg resident. "But in later years I'd go every year to the Remembrance Day ceremonies here in town. My mind would be full of him then."
Lewis, a retired businessman and former mayor of the town, is referring to his uncle on his mother's side, Harvey Garfield McLeod, an artillery officer who didn't come home from the First World War.
"He was long gone before I came along," said Lewis, "but he was my mother's brother and she missed him, so the last son that came along, she named him after her brother."
But it wasn't only a grieving sister keeping a dead brother's name alive; McLeod's widow also named her only child, a son conceived just a few months before his father fell in battle, Harvey. And when it came time for him to name his own son, Harvey seemed like the right choice then as well.
"So (my uncle) had a son named Harvey, and that son had a son named Harvey. As well, another guy who served in the regiment with (my uncle) also had a boy that he named Harvey, in his memory."
Harvey Garfield McLeod came from a close-knit family of 11 children, which helped spread his compelling story far and wide over the years.
The McLeod family ran a hardware business in Sydney and, at the outbreak of war in August of 1914, Harvey McLeod was an officer with the 17th Field Battery in Sydney. He soon found himself training in Valcartier, Que., then moving on to England for further training before heading to France in February of 1915, where he took part in the long and bloody battles around Ypres.
But it was the short time he spent in England that is at the heart of the family's memories of the man.
Margaret Irwin from the Guysborough area, was a schoolteacher in Sydney who had become engaged to Harvey McLeod before the war. After he was called to active service, she followed him to Valcartier, where they were married before the troops went overseas.
This is where a less resourceful woman would have headed for home to wait for her husband's eventual return. This newlywed was resourceful in the extreme.
"Margaret disguised herself as a nursing sister and came to England to be with her husband," said Lewis. "They has a wonderful time — it was like their honeymoon — and she was pregnant before she came home."
In July of 1915, Margaret returned to her mother's home in Wine Harbour, Guysborough County, where Harvey Jr. was born on Sept. 22, 1915. Tragically, Harvey Sr. died in France in December of 1915, never having seen his only son. He is buried in the Maple Leaf Cemetery, on the border of France and Belgium.
"It was very dark that night and he was returning to his company's gun position in the field from battalion headquarters and he fell into a flooded shell hole and drowned," said Lewis.  
Over the years, Lewis's mother kept in touch with her brother's widow and family and eventually he met Harvey McLeod Jr. when the family would come to Cape Breton for summer visits.
"For my 90th birthday, four grandchildren of Harvey McLeod from the war came to see me. I was really happy to see them."
And, yes, one of them was named Harvey.  

Relatives of Mersey World War I heroes to bring together their medalsfor first time since they were awarded in 1918

Medal ceremony at Gorse Chateau, France, in February 1918 where nine soldiers were recognised for their actions in the battle of Cambrai, including several from Merseyside- Sgt Cyril Edward Gourley, Victoria Cross, far left. Sgt Edward J. Thornley, Distinguised Conduct Medal, third from left. Bdr Joseph Austin Pinnington, Military Medal, far right.

Medal ceremony at Gorse Chateau, France, in February 1918 where nine soldiers were recognised for their actions in the battle of Cambrai, including several from Merseyside- Sgt Cyril Edward Gourley, Victoria Cross, far left. Sgt Edward J. Thornley, Distinguised Conduct Medal, third from left. Bdr Joseph Austin Pinnington, Military Medal, far right.

Relatives of Merseyside soldiers recognised for their brave actions during a World War I battle will bring together their medals for the first time since 1918 this month.
The group found each other after Calday Grange Grammar School held an Armistice Day event in November, where a Victoria Cross awarded to former Calday pupil Sgt Cyril Gourley was paraded.
Sgt Gourley was awarded the gallantry medal for showing “unlimited courage” in taking command of a section of guns and keeping advancing German forces in check for four hours during the battle of Cambrai in France on November 30, 1917.
But 11 other Royal Field Artillery soldiers from D Battery of the 276th (West Lancs) Brigade also received medals for their actions on the day, with at least four from Merseyside.

Former Calday Grange Grammar School pupil Sgt Cyril Edward Gourley was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1917 for showing unlimited courage in taking command of a section of guns and keeping advancing German forces in check for four hours.
Former Calday Grange Grammar School pupil Sgt Cyril Edward Gourley was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1917 for showing unlimited courage in taking command of a section of guns and keeping advancing German forces in check for four hours.
Now family members of three of them – Sgt Edward Thornley, from West Derby, who received the Distinguished Conduct Medal, and Gnr Frederick Backhouse and Bdr Joseph Pinnington, who each received Military Medals – are set to meet along with the son of another soldier, Gnr Reginald Evans, who received a Military Medal.
It comes after Sgt Thornley’s grandson Steve attended the Calday event and met Pat Metcalfe, from Wallasey, daughter of Bdr Pinnington, and her husband Jim.
Mr Thornley, 61, from Spital, said: “It’s been an emotional few weeks.
“I met Pat and it turned out she had her father’s war diary, which detailed how a group of them from Merseyside served together for three years across France, including at the Somme and Ypres. She also had the photo of them being awarded their medals. After that I did some research and tracked down Gnr Backhouse’s son Les in Meols, and Gnr Evans’ grandson Wayne Finch in Cheltenham. We’re all now going to meet up at West Kirby library and bring together the medals.”
Mr Thornley still hopes to trace the relatives of the other seven Royal Artillery soldiers, and believes at least one of them – Bdr Thomas Edge, who received a Distinguished Conduct Medal – is also from Merseyside, as his service number is similar to the other four known Mersey soldiers.
He said: “Their numbers are all within 200 of each other so we think they all enlisted together in Liverpool in September 1915 – and were probably in the same queue.
“All of us would like to find relatives of the other soldiers and to locate the other medals and would be delighted if anyone can help us to do that.”

Friday, January 2, 2015

Russia nuclear modernization with ICBMs on rail, new nuclear submarinesand new liquid fueled ICBM

President Vladimir Putin says Russia will continue its ambitious military modernization program with a particular emphasis on nuclear strategic forces. Putin said the military is set to receive 50 new intercontinental ballistic missiles — a significantly higher number than in previous years.

As of March 2013, Russia had a military stockpile of approximately 4,300 nuclear warheads, of which roughly 1,600 strategic warheads were deployed on missiles and at bomber bases. Another 700 strategic warheads are in storage along with roughly 2,000 nonstrategic warheads. A large numberÑperhaps 3,500Ñof retired but still largely intact warheads await dismantlement

The Russian Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN, in Russian) confirmed December 26 the successful test 
As of March 2013, Russia had a military stockpile of approximately 4,300 nuclear warheads, of which roughly 1,600 strategic warheads were deployed on missiles and at bomber bases. Another 700 strategic warheads are in storage along with roughly 2,000 nonstrategic warheads. A large numberÑperhaps 3,500Ñof retired but still largely intact warheads await dismantlement

The Russian Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN, in Russian) confirmed December 26 the successful test firing of a RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missile. Late in 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin informed in a meeting with senior military officials that this type of more modern weaponry, capable of hitting up to four targets with a warhead, will gradually replace the RS-12M2 Topol-M.
Russian Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN) recently told reporters that by the year 2020, Russia plans to start inducting into active service the new heavy liquid-fuel ballistic missiles “Sarmat”. Russia is continuing with the modernization of its own strategic nuclear forces.

In addition to the “Sarmat” missiles, work has begun on the creation of a new rail-based complex - “Barguzin”

according to a 2014 Rand study, mobile nuclear missile systems that depend on roads or rail lines visible via overhead imagery effectively shrink the target area and could significantly lower the number of missiles required to barrage mobile systems. In other words, clever targeting professionals could identify where the nukes are stowed, calculate where they'd be from the speed of the trains, and bombard everywhere along the rail lines that they might be.

Russia still retains more than 50 of the old huge Soviet missiles - RS-20, known in the West as Satan. These are the most powerful military missiles amongst the existing ones, capable of carrying ten warheads and with numerous means to prevail over missile defense systems. For these missiles, during the Soviet era, a powerful infrastructure was created, which included underground launching chambers, command posts, storage facilities, maintenance depots with all necessary communications and access to roads for transportation. On the whole, the infrastructure equipment was much more expensive than the missiles themselves. The “Sarmat” missile has been specially designed in such a way so that it is capable of utilizing the existing infrastructure.

SS-27 Replacement will be completed by 2024

Over the next decade, all Soviet-era ICBMs will be retired and replaced with a smaller forceconsisting of mainly five variants of one missile: the SS-27.

After more than a decade-and-a-half of introduction, the number of SS-27s now makes up a third of the ICBM force. By 2016, SS-27s will make up more than half of the force, and by 2024 all the Soviet-era ICBMs will be gone.

The new force will be smaller and carry fewer nuclear warheads than the old, but a greater portion of the remaining warheads will be on missiles carried on mobile launchers.

Russia deploys two versions of the SS-27 missile: the SS-27 Mod. 1, a single-warhead missile that comes in either mobile (RS-12M1) or silo-based (RS-12M2) variants, and the SS-27 Mod. 2 (RS-24), a road-mobile missile equipped with MIRVs. Deployment of the SS-27 Mod. 1 was completed in 2012 at a total of 78 missiles: 60 silo-based missiles with the 60th Missile Division in Tatishchevo and 18 road-mobile missiles with the 54th Guards Missile Division at Teykovo, northeast of Moscow. All new Russian ICBM deployments are MIRVed SS-27 Mod. 2 ICBMs, or RS-24 (Yars).

New Severodvinsk Class nuclear powered submarine

The first new nuclear-capable Severodvinsk-class (Yasen-class) nuclear-powered guided-missile attack submarine (SSGN) was delivered to the Russian navy in December 2013. A second sub is under construction, and the keel of the third sub was laid down in July 2013. A total of eight to 10 Yasen subs are planned. The submarine is equipped for nonstrategic nuclear weapons, including antisubmarine rockets, and has eight vertical launch tubes for cruise missiles.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Nuke transport chief noted for hostility 11 Top-secret U.S. nuclearteam has anger-management issues

San Diego is a literal hot spot of high-grade military nuclear materials, from the nuke-tipped missiles on Point Loma–based submarines to the reactors powering the subs and aircraft carriers frequenting the harbor.
"There are some 165 nuclear aerial bombs stationed at Naval Air Station North Island storage facility in San Diego, California. Another 65 W-80-0 Tomahawk [submarine launched cruise missile] munitions are distributed between this storage facility and the La Playa Annex Naval Weapons Station in the Point Loma area of San Diego," according to the website
Charged with transporting and protecting all that radioactive firepower as it discretely travels in and out of town is an Albuquerque, New Mexico–based outfit called the Office of Secure Transportation in the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.
The organization is "responsible for the safe and secure transport in the contiguous United States of government-owned special nuclear materials," according to its website.
"These classified shipments can contain nuclear weapons or components, enriched uranium, or plutonium.

Office of Secure Transportation video

"The cargo is transported in highly modified secure tractor-trailers and escorted by armed Federal Agents in other vehicles who provide security and national incident command system response in the event of emergencies."
Is all that atomic freight in good hands?
recent audit by the Energy Department's Office of Inspector General raises doubts.
"We received an allegation that an Operations Squad Commander was engaged in unsuitable, reportable behavior and even though management was aware of the problems, no disciplinary action was taken," a summary of the report says.
"We found that the Squad Commander, along with other agents, engaged in unsuitable, reportable behaviors, such as uncontrolled anger, hostility, and aggression toward fellow workers and authority figures.”
In addition to anger-management issues, the summary goes on to say that the squad commander was alleged to have "forced a medically restricted agent to participate in physical training," as well as to have "falsified Federal documentation related to a work injury."
The unidentified employee also allegedly "manipulated the promotion selection process to select a personal friend over another applicant" and "threatened to pull agents’ [Human Resource Planning] access rendering them unable to train or perform their duties."
“These incidents were not reported as required. While the specific allegation that the Squad Commander forced an agent to participate in strenuous training while under medical restriction was not substantiated, we did find that the Deputy Director allowed the agent to engage in this strenuous training exercise without proper medical clearance….
"We confirmed seven separate incidents that took place over a span of 10 years, with the most recent occurring in early 2013. 
“Senior OST officials told us that none of the incidents were reported to them, so they were unable to take disciplinary or other action. The remaining allegations against the Squad Commander were not substantiated….
"Even though OST had a number of internal controls in place designed to prevent the type of problematic behavior we substantiated, we found them not to be completely effective," the report notes.
"We made recommendations designed to strengthen controls in this important area," the summary concludes.
But the specific nature of the suggested changes and other details of the inspector general’s findings remain secret.
"The full report in this matter has been designated as for 'Official Use Only’ and is not available for public release," according to the November 24 online summary. 

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