The American Jets Sent Off to Fight World War III

The Cuban Missile Crisis began on October 14, 1962, when the United States obtained photographic evidence of a Soviet nuclear missile installation in Cuba. For nearly two weeks, the world was on the brink of nuclear war. The U.S. military went to high alert. Any action on either side of the conflict could have resulted in mutually assured destruction, as both militaries and their nuclear arsenal were at the ready.

On the night of October 25 and into the next morning, that nearly happened. Nuclear-armed U.S. jet planes were ordered to the skies to intercept incoming Soviet bombers. They thought the Soviet Union had started World War III. Late that evening, around midnight, a would-be intruder attempted to gain access to a military base in Duluth, Minnesota. The base was one of a handful that held a large computer network called the SAGE system—Semi-Automatic Ground Environment—which collected and reconciled radar data to give military officials a single image of the region’s airspace. Using this information, officials could coordinate a response in case of a Soviet air assault. 

Had the Soviets gained access to the Duluth base and sabotaged the computer network, parts of the U.S. military operations would be flying blind. 

The intruder did not make it into the Duluth base. A sentry noticed him climbing the fence and shot him, incapacitating the apparent Soviet saboteur. For reasons unreported—given the global situation at the time, this was prudent—the guard sounded the alarm signaling a sabotage attempt. The alarm system was designed to sound in bases throughout the region if not the entire United States—after all, if the Soviets were taking a crack at one base, there’s a good chance others were immediately at risk as well. If things went right, many U.S. bases would, once the alarm sounded, run a security sweep for possible breaches. 

Unfortunately, things went wrong. At Volk Field in Wisconsin, something was amiss with the alarm wiring. The alarm that sounded wasn’t the one signaling a possible saboteur. Instead, it was the one telling nuclear-armed jet fighters to take to the skies. This wasn’t a drill, either—the policies at the time did not allow for such practice runs when on such high alert, as to avoid ambiguity. As far as Volk Field’s personnel believed, World War III had begun. To make matters worse, because of the activity in Cuba, the military had sent nuclear bombers into patrol, some near Volk Field. Had the interceptors ever taken flight, there’s a good chance the American fighters would have shot down their own nuke-laden bombers— and above U.S. soil.

The planes, however, never took off. An official raced from the command center to the runway, probably while the jet fighters were still doing their pre-flight checks, to inform them that it was a false alarm. Not only had the wrong alarm sounded at Volk Field, but there was no saboteur in the first place. The man who tried to invade the Duluth base wasn’t a saboteur or a Soviet, or for that matter, a man.

It was a bear.

Bonus Fact

In 2008, a beekeeper in Macedonia noticed that his hives were being attacked by an unknown invader. The culprit, taking a page from Winnie the Pooh’s playbook, turned out to be a bear looking for honey. The beekeeper, though, wanted to be compensated for the bear’s damage, so the local government pressed criminal charges against the bear, according to the BBC. The bear was convicted in absentia (officials couldn’t locate the bear to arrest him). Because the animal had no owner, the beekeeper was able to collect damages from the local government, totaling about $3,500.

Excerpted from Now I Know More Copyright © 2014 by Dan Lewis and published by F+W Media, Inc. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. 

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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Feel Nostalgic With the New Hello Kitty-Themed Tamagotchi

Bandai America/Amazon
Bandai America/Amazon

Back in November 1996, Bandai released the cult favorite Tamagotchi, a tiny virtual pet that users could feed, play with, give medicine to, and more. The name itself is actually a combination of two Japanese words, tamago and tomodachi, meaning egg and friend—and it was the toy's egg shape that was key to its distinct design. They could fit in pockets, on keychains, and inside the backpacks of any kid who wanted a distraction during the school day.

According to NME, more than 82 million of these egg-shaped digital pets have been sold since their initial release in the ‘90s, with 10 million of those coming within the first year alone. Now, the handheld pets are back again in the form of a collaboration with another famous Japanese creation, Hello Kitty.

Hello Kitty first took over hearts starting in 1974 when a Japanese company called Sanrio put the design on a vinyl coin purse. More than 45 years later, Hello Kitty (her real name is actually Kitty White) has been developed into video games, cafes, hospitals, wine, and more. This new Tamagotchi is the perfect mixture of two of Japan’s most famous brands, both of which have reached a global audience.

Bandi America/Amazon

In these new editions, Hello Kitty will help you raise your Tamagotchi. You’ll be able to feed them Hello Kitty’s favorite foods, like apple pie or milk, and play a balloon game and piano game. Based on how well you raise your Tamagotchi from an egg to an adult will determine which of the seven surprise characters you receive.

These new Tamagotchis will be released on December 1, 2020, and are available to pre-order in red and white on Amazon for $20.

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