In the spring of 1954, Allen Pope risked life and limb to fly covert Central Intelligence Agency resupply missions to besieged French forces in what is now Vietnam. But the thing he recounts most vividly is not the dangers he faced. It's the heroism of the French troops he was helping. \n"This is what I'll always remember: the way they fought. There were men without hands, men without legs, men without feet, men that were blinded," he says. "They were catching hell." \nThey caught it at Dien Bien Phu, a cluster of villages in a valley ringed by mountains near the Laotian border. Communist rebels on higher ground pummeled the French with artillery in an epic battle that marked the end of French colonial rule in Indochina and foreshadowed the US involvement in Vietnam. \nNext week, nearly 51 years after the fall of Dien Bien Phu, the seven surviving US pilots who braved those perilous skies -- but later were essentially disowned by the CIA -- will be awarded the Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur, or Legion of Honor, France's highest award for service. \nSix of the seven will gather at the official residence of French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte for a Feb. 24 ceremony to commemorate an important chapter in the history of US-French relations. \n"It's a nice gesture on their part," says Douglas Price, who was 29 years old when he flew 39 airdrop missions to Dien Bien Phu in April and May 1954 as a civilian employee of Civil Air Transport, a flying service whose undeclared owner was the CIA. \n"There has been a lot of friction between the [US and French] governments lately," he said, alluding to the leading role France played in opposing the Bush administration's decision to go to war in Iraq. "Maybe they're making a gesture, hoping that they can get things back together again." \nThe gesture will exceed any public thanks these now-elderly Americans have received from their own government, which sent them into harm's way in unarmed C-119 "Flying Boxcar" cargo planes with the understanding that if captured or killed they would not be acknowledged as agents of the US government. \n"I was a covert employee. We were expendable," says Roy Watts. \nHe unsuccessfully sued the government for extended disability and retirement benefits based on his 16 years of flying covert missions in Asia for the CIA. \nThe CIA argues that the men technically were not government employees since they worked for a CIA front company.
An uncrewed Chinese spacecraft has acquired imagery data covering all of Mars, including visuals of its south pole, after circling the planet more than 1,300 times since early last year, state media reported yesterday. The Tianwen-1 successfully reached the Red Planet in February last year on the country’s inaugural mission there. A robotic rover has since been deployed on the surface as an orbiter surveyed the planet from space. Among the images taken from space were China’s first photographs of the Martian south pole, where almost all of the planet’s water resources are locked. In 2018, an orbiting probe operated by the European
QUARANTINE SHORTENED: A new protocol detailing risk levels and local policy responses would be ‘more scientific and accurate,’ a health agency spokesman said China’s revised COVID-19 guidelines, which cut a quarantine requirement in half for inbound travelers, also create a standardized policy for mass testing and lockdowns when cases of the disease flare, showing that the country still has a zero-tolerance approach to the virus. Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) solidified the position during a trip to Wuhan, where the pathogen first emerged in 2019, saying that China is capable of achieving a “final victory” over the virus. The “zero COVID-19” policy is the most effective and economic approach for the country, Xi said during the trip on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported. The first
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A flight test of a hypersonic missile system in Hawaii on Wednesday ended in failure due to a problem that occurred after ignition, the US Department of Defense said, delivering a fresh blow to a program that has experienced stumbles. It did not provide details of what took place in the test, but said in an e-mailed statement that “the department remains confident that it is on track to field offensive and defensive hypersonic capabilities on target dates beginning in the early 2020s.” “An anomaly occurred following ignition of the test asset,” Pentagon spokesman US Navy Lieutenant Commander Tim Gorman said in