11 critical questions about the coronavirus that remain unanswered, 6 months after the first cases were reported - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

11 critical questions about the coronavirus that remain unanswered, 6 months after the first cases were reported

In the realm of medicine, what you don’t know can indeed kill you.

Six months have passed since China reported the first coronavirus cases to the World Health Organization. But even now, what experts are still trying to understand sometimes seems to outweigh what they can say for certain.


That is little surprise to any infectious-disease researcher: Highly contagious diseases can move through communities much more quickly than the methodical pace of science can produce vital answers.

What we do know is that the coronavirus seems to have emerged in China as early as mid-November and has now reached 188 countries, infected more than 10.4 million people, and killed around 510,000. Population-level studies using new testing could boost case numbers about 10-fold in the US and perhaps elsewhere as well.

As hospitals around the world care for COVID-19 patients with blood clots, strokes, and long-lasting respiratory failure, scientists are racing to study the coronavirus, spread life-saving information, and combat dangerous misunderstandings.

Here are 11 of the biggest questions surrounding the coronavirus and COVID-19, and why answering each one is critically important.

How did the new coronavirus get into people?

The first coronavirus infections was thought to have emerged in a wet market in Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province. But newer research suggests the market may simply have been a major spreading site.

Researchers are fairly certain that the virus — a spiky ball roughly the size of a smoke particle — developed in bats. Lab tests show that it shares roughly 80% of its 30,000-letter genome with SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), a virus that also came from bats and triggered an epidemic in 2002 and 2003. It also shares about 96% of its genome with other coronaviruses in bats.

Mounting evidence continues to undercut the conspiracy theory that the virus came from a Chinese laboratory.

Still, researchers still aren’t sure how the coronavirus made the jump from bats to humans. In the case of SARS, the weasel-like civet became an intermediate animal host. Researchers have suggested that civets, pigs, snakes, or possibly pangolins — scaly nocturnal mammals often poached for the keratin in their scales — were an intermediary host for the new coronavirus. But it could also be that the virus jumped straight from bats to humans.

A May study suggested that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus’ clinical name) may be a hybrid of bat and pangolin viruses.

Why it matters: Understanding how novel zoonotic diseases evolve and spread could lead to improved tracing of and treatments for new emerging diseases.

How many people have actually gotten COVID-19?

Global tallies of cases, deaths, recoveries, and active infections reflect only the confirmed numbers — researchers suspect the actual number of cases is far, far larger.

For every person who tests positive for the novel coronavirus, there may be about 10 undetected cases. This is because testing capacity lags behind the pace of the disease, and many governments, including in the US, failed to implement widespread testing early on.

New estimates from MIT suggest the world had already seen 249 million coronavirus cases and 1.75 million deaths by June 18. That would make the global case total 12 times higher than official reports, and the global death toll 1.5 times higher.

Other similar research estimated that the US alone may have seen 8.7 million coronavirus cases from March 8 to 28. US researchers also suggested in May that the nation’s official death count may “substantially understate” the actual number of coronavirus fatalities.

Meanwhile, Italian studies suggest that Italy’s coronavirus deaths could be twice as high as the official tally.

Why it matters: An accurate assessment is critical in helping researchers better understand the coronavirus’ spread, COVID-19’s mortality rate, the prevalence of asymptomatic carriers, and other factors. It would also give scientists a more accurate picture of the effects of social distancing, lockdowns, contact tracing, and quarantining.

What makes the coronavirus so good at spreading?

Viruses are small, streamlined particles that have evolved to make many, many copies of themselves by hijacking living cells of a host.

The measurement of a virus’ ability to spread from one person to another is called R0, or R-naught. The higher the value, the greater the contagiousness — though it varies by region and setting. The novel coronavirus’ average R0 is roughly 2.2, meaning one infected person, on average, spreads it to 2.2 people. But it had a whopping R0 of 5.7 in some densely populated regions early in the pandemic.

The seasonal flu, by contrast, has an R0 of about 1.3.

A person’s ability to transmit the virus depends partly on their viral load: the amount of virus particles they release into the environment. Coronavirus patients tend to have high viral loads in the throat, nasal cavity, and upper respiratory tract, which makes the virus highly contagious. Research indicates that there’s little difference in the viral loads between coronavirus patients who show symptoms and those who don’t.

Coughing — a signature symptom of COVID-19 — helps spread viruses in tiny droplets, especially in confined spaces. But the virus can also spread through singing, normal breathing, or even loud conversation.

Just one minute of loud speech can produce over 1,000 coronavirus-containing droplets that linger in the air for eight minutes or longer, according to research from the National Institutes of Health. Studies have shown that just a few hundred copies of a respiratory virus are enough to infect another person.

There’s also evidence the virus may be spread by feces, but that seems to pose less of a transmission threat.

Why it matters: Knowing how a virus gets around can help everyone better prevent its spread. Getting a handle on its behavior may also spur governments to act sooner to contain future outbreaks of this or other similar diseases.

What drives mortality in people infected by the coronavirus?

Studies have outlined a step-by-step path for how the coronavirus kills patients.

First, the virus’ spiky proteins latch onto cell receptors in the lungs called ACE2. Our immune system then senses a threat and responds by activating white blood cells. Among patients who develop severe outcomes, immune systems can overreact by producing a “cytokine storm” — a release of chemical signals that instruct the body to attack its own cells.

The reaction may cause milder coronavirus symptoms like fever, fatigue, muscle aches, or swollen toes. But it can also lead to severe symptoms including blood clots, excessive leaking in the blood vessels, fluid in the lungs, depleted oxygen in the blood, and low blood pressure.

Doctors have linked blood clots to the increased prevalence of strokes among coronavirus patients. An aggressive immune response can also damage the heart, kidneys, intestines, and liver. But most coronavirus deaths are due to respiratory failure, meaning the lungs aren’t supplying enough oxygen to the blood.

The pattern of critical cases is alarming to clinicians, and something they’re still trying to grasp: It’s not just people with apparent risk factors like smoking and chronic illnesses who get severely ill — it’s also some young and seemingly healthy people.

Why it matters: Understanding how the coronavirus does so much harm could lead to more effective treatments in hospitals and make for promising drug targets.

What percent of people infected by the coronavirus die?

Death rates for COVID-19 are not one-size-fits-all. Many factors are at work.

Age is a big one. Older people are more likely to die as a result of lung failure, strokes, heart attacks, and other problems triggered by coronavirus infections, while younger individuals are much less likely to do so. However, people of all ages, including children, have experienced severe symptoms and sometimes death.

Government action matters greatly, too. In places that did not respond forcefully and early to the outbreak, emergency rooms and intensive-care units have been crushed with patients who require care. That can outstrip resources and force doctors to make life-or-death triage decisions.

Recent estimates suggest that the global fatality rate for the coronavirus is about 1%, but may range from 0.4% to 3.6%.

Experts still aren’t sure why some coronavirus patients develop severe symptoms that could lead to death, while other people have mild, if any, symptoms.

One hypothesis is that the answer lies in an individual’s genetic code. People whose genes tell their bodies to make more ACE2 receptors — which the coronavirus uses to invade our cells — could get hit harder.

Why it matters: Variations in death rates help researchers expose flaws in government responses, supply chains, patient care, and more, ideally leading to fixes. Being able to identify the people at higher risk of severe symptoms and treati them accordingly could also lower death rates. However, the early data is clear enough: The coronavirus has the capacity to kill millions of people in a relatively short time.

Why do young people face the least risk of dying?

On a per-capita basis, young people are the most resilient to the coronavirus. But they do get infected and suffer from it. Even blood clots and strokes have emerged among some younger patients.

Between January 22 and May 30, people in their 20s and 30s made up 30% of confirmed cases in the US, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those age categories represented 10% of hospitalizations and 9% of ICU admissions, but less than 2% of confirmed deaths.

Typically, young kids and older people are in the same risk category for diseases like the flu. But it’s not so with COVID-19: About 70% of US deaths have been people 70 and older. Children, meanwhile, represent less than 2% of confirmed coronavirus infections in China, Spain, Korea, Italy, and the US.

It’s not clear yet whether kids are less likely to contract the virus in the first place, or whether many of their cases are simply being missed because they are often mild or asymptomatic.

The CDC’s largest study of children with the coronavirus to date found that 18% of those studied tested positive but didn’t report symptoms. The report, however, only included kids with confirmed cases, so the breakdown is likely skewed.

Out of more than 2,500 pediatric cases in the CDC study, only three patients died. The study concluded that “most COVID-19 cases in children are not severe.”

One reason for this could be that children have less mature ACE2 receptors — the enzymes that serve as ports of entry for the coronavirus — which could make it more difficult for the virus to infect a child’s cells.

The immune system also becomes more dysregulated as a person ages. So the pediatric immune system may simply be better at battling the coronavirus than the adult immune system.

Why it matters: Understanding why kids don’t often show signs of the disease — either because they’re not as prone to infection or because they more often experience very mild, cold-like symptoms — could have huge ramifications for vaccine development and understanding how the disease spreads.

Can you get reinfected?

The body almost certainly develops short-term immunity in the form of antibodies, and immune-system researchers are reasonably confident that the body will recognize and fight the coronavirus in the future.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah in March that he’d be “willing to bet anything that people who recover are really protected against reinfection.”

There have been a small number of cases in which people tested positive for the coronavirus, were later found to be free of the virus, then tested positive again after that. But these cases are mostly the result of false positives and misinterpretations of test results, since some diagnostic tests can detect leftover pieces of dead virus in the body.

Still, no one is certain about the prospects for long-term immunity. For other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS, antibodies seemed to peak within months of an infection and last for a year or more. But a June study found that SARS-CoV-2 antibodies may only last two to three months after infection. Asymptomatic individuals also demonstrated a weaker immune response to the virus, meaning they could be less likely to test positive for antibodies.

Researchers also don’t know the specific levels of antibodies required for a person to be fully immune.

A May study from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York showed that most people with confirmed coronavirus cases tested positive for antibodies — but longer or more severe cases didn’t necessarily produce more antibodies than mild ones. Instead, the amount of antibodies a person produces may be related to innate differences in people’s immune responses.

Why it matters: Understanding whether long-term immunity is the norm would have major ramifications for controlling the pandemic and could enable officials to lift social-distancing restrictions for people who have already gotten sick.

How seasonal is the coronavirus?

Warmer temperatures and lower humidity may hinder the virus’ spread, according to research published in June. That could explain why New York City had a higher growth rate of new infections compared to Singapore in March, though other factors like testing and contact tracing likely played a role as well.

An April study found a similar link between the virus’ lifespan and the surrounding temperature. At 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit), the coronavirus lasted up to two weeks in a test tube. When the temperature was turned up to 37 degrees Celsius (99 degrees Fahrenheit), that lifespan dropped to one day.

But warmer temperatures haven’t done much to quell the US outbreak. The nation’s surge in new daily cases has surpassed its prior peak in April.

Why it matters: Knowing how much — if at all — the coronavirus is affected by changing seasons would help governments around the world better deploy resources to stop its spread.

Are there any safe and effective drugs to treat COVID-19?

There is, as of yet, no slam-dunk treatment for the coronavirus or its symptoms. However, 17 leading treatments are being tested.

President Trump has promoted and sought stockpiles of hydroxychloroquine: a relatively inexpensive drug typically used to kill malarial parasites and treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. But it was found to have no significant benefits for COVID-19 patients. The Food and Drug Administration revoked the drug’s emergency use authorization on June 15, noting “serious” heart issues and other side effects in patients taking the medication.

A more promising drug is remdesivir, an experimental antiviral chemical that the FDA approved for emergency use on May 1. Data from the National Institutes of Health suggests that remdesivir helped hospitalized coronavirus patients recover more quickly. Thousands of patients have been treated with the drug through clinical trials and expanded access programs.

Clinical trials have also shown that dexamethasone, a common, cheap, steroid, can reduce deaths in severely ill COVID-19 patients.

Why it matters: Having tools to slow infections or perhaps even stop the coronavirus from harming people could curtail its spread, reduce suffering, ease the burdens on healthcare systems, and save lives.

Will there be a vaccine for the coronavirus, and when?

More than 140 coronavirus vaccines are in development. At least 30 are expected to start human testing in 2020, and 16 leading candidates are already being tested on humans in clinical trials.

Arguably the most promising vaccine is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine developed by biotech company Moderna. The company was the first to publish early results in humans after starting its first trial on March 16. It aims to start a late-stage efficacy trial with 30,000 people in July.

Other promising candidates include “vector vaccines” — which use live viruses to teach the immune system how to fight off pathogens — developed by the University of Oxford and Johnson Johnson. The Oxford vaccine is spearheaded by British pharma company AstraZeneca, which will start its own efficacy trial in August. Johnson Johnson aims to enroll more than 1,000 healthy volunteers in a clinical trial in July.

The US government hopes to have hundreds of millions doses of a vaccine ready by January 2021 — a record timeline. But some vaccinologists and industry analysts doubt a vaccine will be ready before 2022 or 2023.

Why it matters: Developing a vaccine would help the world put an end to the pandemic.

What are the long-term consequences for those who survive COVID-19?

It’s not yet clear what the long-term consequences of weathering a severe bout of COVID-19 might be. In severe cases, the virus may cause permanent damage to the lungs and other organs, resulting in chronic, lifelong issues.

Patients who experience blood clots also face a risk of longer-term damage, pain, and loss of function, especially in organs.

While some people’s symptoms seem to clear up after two weeks, even those with milder cases have reported symptoms lasting for several months — including fatigue, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and loss of taste and smell. These symptoms may be the result of lingering inflammation rather than an active infection.

“The symptoms are probably coming from an immune reaction,” Dr. Ramzi Asfour, an infectious-disease doctor in the San Francisco Bay Area, told Business Insider.

“You have to separate the damage from the disease,” he added. “It’s going to be difficult to tell for now what subset is active, ongoing infection and what subset is really just pure immune dysfunction.”

Why it matters: Knowing the extent of lasting damage due to the coronavirus can help governments prepare for long-term strain on healthcare systems, impacts to the workforce, and slower economic recoveries. Governments can also push for more research into the underlying causes of lingering symptoms and effective treatments for them.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

12 rare and amazing photos from the ‘War to End All Wars’


The Great War – World War I – raged through Europe and the Middle East 100 years ago. These are some of the most unbelievable photos of troops and tech from the “War to End All Wars.”


Losing incredible photos to history could happen for any reason. Perhaps there were so many, these were rejected by publications, locked away in a box for us to find a century later. Or maybe they were just the personal keepsakes of those who fought the war. Whatever the reason, we can marvel at what wartime life was like, both in and out of the trenches.

Soldiers on all sides are more than just cannon fodder. These photos show people’s hearts, souls, and personal beliefs. They show the innovation on the battlefield – the gruesome killing power of the world’s first industrialized war. They also show the efforts made to improve technology that could save lives by ending the war.

Most of all, it shows that we who fight wars are still human, no matter which side of the line we maintain.

1. This listening device.

Before the advent of radar, aircraft had to be located by hearing the direction from which the aircraft approached. The horns amplified sound and the tech would wear headphones to try to pinpoint the location of the incoming enemy.

2. Holy rolling.

German infantryman Kurt Geiler was carrying his bible when a four centimeter piece of shrapnel embedded itself in the book, likely making a lifelong Christian out out of Geiler.

3. Lady Liberty takes 18,000 soldiers.

This depiction of the Statue of Liberty was made to drive war bonds and is made up of 18,000 troops – 12,000 just for the torch, which is a half mile away.

4. Realities of war.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affected troops even 100 years ago. Called “shell shock” at the time, up to 65,000 troops were treated for it, while thousands of others were charged with cowardice for it. Blasts from shells would leave lesions on the brain, resulting in symptoms similar to traumatic brain injuries (TBI) experienced by post-9/11 veterans.

5. This Austro-Hungarian war face.

This war face would make Gunnery Sergeant Hartman proud. It looks like William Fichtner’s great-grandfather.

6. These Italian troops mummified by the cold.

The next time you complain about being in formation in the winter, remember it could always be worse. These Italians froze in the Alps, fighting Austrians.

7. This gay couple flaunting DADT before it was controversial.

Proof that DADT was garbage in the first place.

8. This pigeon is ready for your close up.

Both sides used animals for reconnaissance and communication. Pigeons were especially useful for their homing ability and attitude.

9. This woman looks ready to take the whole German Army.

There’s so much so-called “great man history,” that we often forget about women’s contributions. Women worked in many industrial areas during the Great War. Look at this photo and realize most of you couldn’t chop wood all day on your best day.

10. This incredibly brave little girl.

Where are this girl’s parents? This is 1916, and child rearing was slightly tougher back then, but that’s still unexploded ordnance. (Europeans still find unexploded bombs from both world wars.)

11. This is the “Ideal Soldier.”

This propaganda photo depicts what the French public thought the ideal French soldier looked like.

12. These Vietnamese troops who did not fit #11’s profile.

A total of 92,411 Vietnamese men from what was then called French Indochina were in the service of France and were distributed around Europe, of which around 30,000 died.

MIGHTY GAMING

4 tips for you to win a real life battle royale game

The most recent trend to take the gaming world by storm is the advent of massively multiplayer battle royale games that pit around 100 players against each other. The gameplay is simple: The player lands in a random location, picks up whatever weapons they can manage, and fights others to be the last player standing.


While there are plenty of game mechanics that counter the tips on this list, it wouldn’t be too hard to imagine what it would take to emerge victorious should a battle royale actually happen. Who knows, maybe these real-life tactics will even help you win a game or two.

Dropping into Pleasant Park might not be the best idea…

(Epic Games)

Avoid people

The beginning of every match has the players make a mad rush in search of randomly placed weapons. Players can generally assume that larger locations have better gear because there are more locations in which for gear to appear.

Assuming the real-life situation is similar and gear is placed without rhyme or reason, there’d simply be no reason to pick a popular place to start. The last situation you want to find yourself in is one where you’re without weapons or protection among people who have both.

Maybe hide in a bunker. No one ever bothers to check the bunkers.

(Bluehole Studio, Inc.)

Defensive location

Most battle royale games constrict the field of play as the game goes on, preventing players from hiding in one spot the entire time instead of, you know, actually playing the game.

In real life, however, where isn’t any time limit, look for a place where you can watch only one avenue of approach and wait things out while the enemies dwindle.

“Don’t mind me. I’m just an aggressive bush. A very aggressive bush.”

(Bohemia Interactive)

Stealth

The focus of the game is to outlive everyone. This also means that the last two players will need to duke it out (or let the other player die on their own) for there to be a single winner.

You want your enemy to be focusing on the other 98 enemies around them. If you need supplies, keep a low profile. Do not draw attention to yourself. Find some way to blend into the environment so that any enemy looking for you instead looks right past you.

Because everything actually is a trap.

(Mojang)

Slow, methodical pace

Much of what separates the games from any real-life, hypothetical scenario is the pace. If you run around having fun and you die in the game… Cool. On to the next round. Meanwhile, in real life, we’ve started wars over the question of whether there is indeed a “next round after death.”

In real life, you’ll need to take the time to think every action through. If your current position is in more danger than another, move without drawing attention to yourself. Believe every step you take is into a trap and plan accordingly.

MIGHTY CULTURE

WWII ‘Hero of Cologne’ receives medal during surprise ceremony

One of the most celebrated World War II tank gunners received the bronze star during a surprise award ceremony 74-years in the making.

Clarence Smoyer, 96-year-old former 3rd Armored Division tank gunner, never bragged about the five tanks he destroyed in the war, including an infamous Nazi tank he leveled during a dramatic duel in war-torn Cologne, Germany.

He didn’t ask for anything, either. To Smoyer, he was just doing his job to protect the men he considers family.


(Pictured left) Clarence Smoyer, former 3rd Armored Division tank gunner, and Joe Caserta, World War II veteran of Omaha Beach, Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, attend a Bronze Star award ceremony, with Smoyer as the guest of honor, Sept. 18, 2019, at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Smoyer was nicknamed the “Hero of Cologne” for his efforts destroying a German tank during the battle.

(Thomas Brading, Army News Service)

Duel at the cathedral

It was March 6, 1945, and WWII was winding down, much of Germany was left in ruins.

Cologne, one of the country’s largest cities, was no exception. Once a bustling metropolis, Cologne had been reduced to rubble, with only a few identifiable buildings remaining — including its cathedral.

As the Americans entered Cologne, Smoyer recalls the now-infamous words of his lieutenant, Bill Stillman, who said, “Gentlemen, I give you Cologne, let’s knock the hell out of it.”

Clarence Smoyer (top middle) was a 21-year-old Pennsylvania native when he, and his fellow tank crew members, were photographed in Cologne, Germany, in 1945. This photo, courtesy of the National Archives, was taken moments after the battle of Cologne, Germany, and Smoyer delivered the fatal shots that destroyed a German tank.

“So… we obliged,” Smoyer joked, thinking back to that day.

American forces, before making their way east toward Berlin, had to conquer Cologne first. Their goal was to secure a bridge over the Rhine River, but a nearby Nazi tank had other plans.

“Attacking such a large city gave the enemy plenty of places to hide,” Smoyer said. “Not just in the horizontal plane, but from the basements to the tops of five-story buildings — Cologne put us to the test.”

“We were chosen as the first tank(s) into the city,” he added. “Everyone else followed us in. So, for us, it was constant firing. You fired at anything that moved. That’s when a gunner’s instinct kicked in.”

One street over from Smoyer, the Panther tank, used by the Nazis, took out an American Sherman tank, killing three soldiers inside, including Karl Kellner. The Wisconsin native, and Silver Star recipient, had received a battlefield commission to lieutenant just two weeks prior.

(Pictured left) Clarence Smoyer, receives his long-awaited Bronze Star Sept. 18, 2019, during a ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Smoyer was recognized for his heroic efforts during the battle of Cologne, Germany, where as a tank gunner, he delivered the fatal blows to a German Panther tank and was nicknamed “The Hero of Cologne.”

(Thomas Brading, Army News Service)

After being hit, Kellner’s leg was amputated at the knee. He jumped from the tank and landed on his remaining leg. Smoke lifted from his stump like a ghost fading into the air, witnessed remembered.

Nearby, Stars and Stripes reporter, Sgt. Andy Rooney — the future acclaimed television journalist — along with another man sprinted toward Kellner. He was lying near the destroyed American tank. They moved him to onto a jumble of debris, safely out of the way, and attempted to stop the blood as it flowed from Kellner’s severed limb.

Rooney, the future 60 Minutes newsman, held Kellner in his arms as he died. Later, Rooney would say it was the first time he witnessed death. The other two tankers, both killed by the Germans, never escaped the Sherman tank. Meanwhile, Smoyer and his crew were slowly approaching the battle.

The Panther tank idled quietly in the street, as the Americans approached.

Veterans Clarence Smoyer and Joe Caserta stand near a Pershing tank, similar to the ones they were both crewmembers of during World War II, Sept. 18, 2019, near the National World War II Memorial in Washington. Both men were present in their respective tanks in Cologne, Germany, March 6, 1945, when Smoyer’s tank crew “Eagle 7,” took out a German tank.

(Photo by C. Todd Lopez, DOD)

“Experience taught me it’s impossible to knock out a German tank in one shot,” he said. “So, I worked a plan with our driver. He was to edge into the intersection, I’d shoot, and then he’d back up — fast! When we roared into the intersection to shoot, everything went out the window.”

Instead of “seeing the flank of the Panther in the periscope,” like he planned, Smoyer looked at the Panther’s super velocity muzzle pointed at street level, right at him, he said.

Smoyer added “his heart stopped.” The driver, also staring down the barrel of the German’s muzzle, panicked and “floored the gas.”

“We were totally vulnerable,” Smoyer said. “I snapped off a quick shot and hit him first. I kept yelling for (armor-piercing) rounds and kept hitting him until he caught fire. I could hardly breathe as we backed out of there.”

Smoyer’s finger squeezed the trigger of his tank, and he fired 90mm rounds into the side of the Panther tank, garnishing three direct hits.

World War II veterans Clarence Smoyer, Joe Caserta and Buck Marsh stand for the chaplain’s invocation during a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.

(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)

“People always ask why I fired three times,” Smoyer said. “Some say I was butchering that German crew by not giving them a chance to flee the tank. Any crewman still alive in that Panther could have pulled the trigger and with that powerful of a gun still pointing at us, we’d all be dead.”

But, that wasn’t the case. The Americans won, and Smoyer, the thin, 21-year-old curly blonde haired corporal, earned the nickname “the hero of Cologne.”

Footage of the battle, captured by Tech. Sgt. Jim Bates, a combat cameraman attached to the 165th Photo Signal Company, made its way into movie newsreels worldwide, including back home in Pennsylvania, where Smoyer called home.

“That’s Hon!” Smoyer’s sister-in-law yelled during an airing of the newsreel, Hon was Smoyer’s family nickname.

She later convinced the theater owners to replay the reel, so Smoyer’s parents, who had never been to a movie theater, could see their son was still alive.

Author Adam Makos and World War II veteran Clarence Smoyer walk to a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.

(Photo by James K. Lee)

History in the making

For his actions that day, Smoyer was notified he earned the Bronze Star. However, this was short-lived after Smoyer talked to German children, who were begging the soldier for bubble gum. This small act of charity cost him the medal.

“They wanted bubble gum and I was still searching my pockets when a jeep full of (military police) turned the corner,” Smoyer said. “Fraternization was a no-no.”

Smoyer added, he felt bad for the kids, who had been on the frontlines of war longer than him. The MPs took his name, tank, serial number, and indirectly, his Bronze Star.

Army Maj. Peter Semanoff salutes World War II veteran Clarence Smoyer after awarding him the Bronze Star during a ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.

(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)

“I could have avoided all that if I just had a stick of gum!” He joked.

But, it was never about the medals and glory. As decades passed, the war ended, and Smoyer returned to civilian life. His neighbors in Allentown, Pennsylvania, never knew they lived by a war hero.

That all changed after an author, Adam Makos, who wrote a book on Smoyer’s story, happened upon information that changed everything.

“Smoyer’s tank commander and an Army combat cameraman both received Bronze Stars for their actions that day — yet, Smoyer got nothing,” Makos said.

This inspired the author to change that. He used witnesses to Smoyer’s actions, evidence he collected, including Bates combat camera footage, and contacted the Army.

World War II veterans Joe Caserta and Clarence Smoyer embrace during a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.

(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)

In the end, a military review board agreed with Makos, and Smoyer was awarded the Bronze Star. Three additional Bronze Stars were also awarded to the rest of the tank crew, making Smoyer’s tank crew “one of the most celebrated in Army history,” according to Makos.

To keep the surprise, Smoyer’s loved ones convinced him he was visiting the WWII Memorial as a tourist. The monument was filled with soldiers, fellow WWII veterans, news crews, and onlookers. Then, overwhelmed with emotion, he received the long overdue medal.

With the Bronze Star pinned to his chest, Smoyer promised to, “Wear the medal to remember the ones who lost their lives” that day, nearly 75 years ago.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MUSIC

The unexpected history of the hilarious ‘Spirit of 76’ meme

The historic piece of art that’s featured in the hilarious meme showcasing three marching Revolutionary War musicians has a long, long history. While it might not date as far back as the Revolutionary War, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone to learn it was inspired by and modeled after drunken American war veterans.


Ohioan Archibald Willard was a Civil War veteran who enlisted with the 86th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. During the Civil War, the 86th saw action at the Battle of the Cumberland Gap and headed off Confederate General John Hunt Morgan as he made the furthest incursion northward during the war, but it only lost 37 men total — all due to disease. Willard began to draw pictures of the things he saw as he moved with the unit. He and a business partner began to finish and sell the drawings throughout the war.

Archibald Willard, Civil War veteran and creator of “The Spirit of ’76.”

Before moving back to Cleveland, Willard studied art in New York City. He stayed for a number of years, but it was back in his native Ohio that Willard was inspired to paint a humorous picture he called, “Yankee Doodle.” It was the first incarnation of what would become his most famous and celebrated work, with three Revolutionary War musicians marching in tune to their martial music. But this first pass was less of a serious work and more of a funny comic-book painting.

The original featured three natives of Wellington, Ohio — all slightly intoxicated veterans of the War of 1812 — goofing around and creating mock battles with instruments in the town square. He also used Wellingtonians as models to paint the patriots seen in the famous painting. These models included his father, the Reverend Samuel Willard, fellow Civil War veteran Hugh Mosher as the fife player, and a local named Henry Devereaux, a military academy cadet and the son of a local railroad president, as the drummer boy.


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Willard drew the original as a comic scene, but a friend who saw his sketch suggested that Willard take it a little more seriously, perhaps draw it up with a patriotic theme. The idea intrigued Willard because it was outside the realm of anything he’d ever done before. He preferred to paint landscapes and comical scenes of everyday life. Thinking back to old stories his grandfather would tell him about fighting in the American Revolution, Willard created an eight-by-ten foot masterpiece, re-titled “The Spirit of ’76.”

“The Spirit of ’76” first went on display in 1876 as part of a celebration of the American Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Willard went on to paint several different versions of the painting but there were none so iconic or reproduced in American culture than the original. In the years following the Civil War, years characterized by mixed feelings, resentment, and Reconstruction, “The Spirit of ’76” was a work of art that evoked a shared sense of national unity.

And lived on in many different iterations.

After the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, the original painting was sold to General John H. Devereux, father of the drummer boy in the painting, who took it to his home in Marblehead, Mass. where it remains on display to this day. The drum used by the younger Devereux and Hugh Mosher’s fife can be seen in the Spirit of ’76 Museum in Wellington, Ohio.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia may be preparing a ground invasion of Ukraine

Ukraine on Nov. 26, 2018, imposed martial law in parts of the country as President Petro Poroshenko warned of the “extremely serious” threat of attack by Russian forces.

Poroshenko on Nov. 26, 2018, said in a televised address that the move was necessary after Russian ships attacked Ukrainian vessels off the coast of Crimea on Nov. 25, 2018.

“Russia has been waging a hybrid war against our country for a fifth year. But with an attack on Ukrainian military boats it moved to a new stage of aggression,” Poroshenko said.


Ukraine says Russia opened fire on its navy and seized three of its vessels, injuring at least six of its servicemen. Russia claims the ships entered Russian waters illegally, and gave them warning to turn back.

Poroshenko said in his video address that martial law was necessary as intelligence services had evidence that Russia was preparing for a massive incursion.

“Here on several pages is a detailed description of all the forces of the enemy located at a distance of literally several dozens of kilometers from our border. Ready at any moment for an immediate invasion of Ukraine,” he said.

Flagship of the Ukrainian Naval Forces.

The country’s parliament granted him emergency powers in areas of the country most vulnerable to attack, and suspended elections for 30 days.

Critics alleged that Poroshenko’s request for martial law was an attempt to postpone elections scheduled for 2019, though lawmakers confirmed the polls would take place as scheduled.

President Donald Trump said he was working with EU leaders to assess the situation, though he refused to condemn Russian aggression. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the incident “a dangerous escalation” and a violation of international law, and called on both countries to exercise caution.

Several countries, including Britain, France, Poland, Denmark, and Canada, denounced Russia’s use of force.

Russia has been steadily increasing its control around the Crimean peninsula, which it annexed in 2014. Nov. 25, 2018’s stand-off came to a head after Russia used a huge tanker to block passage through the Kerch Strait — the only access point to the Sea of Azov, which is shared by both Ukraine and Russia.

The Sea of Azov has been a flash point in the conflict between the two countries. In May 2018, Russia completed its construction of a massive 18-kilometer (11.2 mile) bridge linking the Crimea peninsula to mainland Russia.

Russia’s foreign ministry accused Ukraine of “well-thought-out provocation” in order to justify ramping up sanctions against them. Russia also alleged that Kiev was working in coordination with the US and EU and warned of “serious consequences.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Senate under pressure to vote on blue water veterans

Members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee called on the Senate on Dec. 20, 2018, to vote on the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans bill before the legislative body heads home for the holidays.

During a press conference, committee chairman Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., and Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., the ranking member and committee’s next chairman, pressed for a floor vote after an effort failed Dec. 19, 2018, in the Senate.


“There’s a joke that sometimes the enemy is not the other party, it is the Senate. They are not really the enemy, but they are being very difficult,” Takano said.

On Dec. 19, 2018, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, blocked a move to pass the bill, the Blue Water Navy, Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018, by unanimous consent. Lee wants to wait for a Department of Veterans Affairs report, due out in 2017, on whether health issues diagnosed in Blue Water veterans actually are related to Agent Orange exposure.

U.S. Army Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over agricultural land during the Vietnam War.

“The brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country should undoubtedly get the medical care they need in connection with their service. But … it’s also our duty to ensure that this is done in a prudent and proper way with all the relevant information available to us,” Lee said, speaking on the Senate floor on Dec. 19, 2018.

Lee’s objection, as well as concerns by Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, over the bill’s estimated .2 billion cost over 10 years, was enough to block the bill in the Senate, where lawmakers hoped to pass it by unanimous consent, which would not require a floor vote of all senators.

But House members, who passed the bill 382-0 in June 2018, proposed that the Senate hold a floor vote.

Roe admitted that the existing studies that link health conditions in Navy veterans to Agent Orange aren’t definitive, but he added that it’s time to “move past that.”

“We’re this close to solving a decades-old problem for 90,000 of our colleagues. If we wait long enough, it won’t matter because they’ll all be gone,” Roe said.

The bill would provide compensation for veterans who served on Navy ships off Vietnam and have diseases that have been linked to Agent Orange in ground-based Vietnam veterans. These “Blue Water” veterans have pushed for years to get health care and compensation for their service-connected illnesses and disabilities.

In 2002, the VA ruled that veterans must have served on the ground in Vietnam to receive Agent Orange-related benefits; personnel who served on certain vessels that patrolled inland waterways also are eligible.

U.S. Army armored personnel carrier spraying Agent Orange over Vietnamese rice fields during the Vietnam War.

Veterans and their advocates say the exclusion of personnel who served on ships offshore is unfair, as studies indicate that troops may have been exposed when they showered or drank water on their vessels that was distilled from contaminated sea water.

Under the House proposal, the cost of the bill would be offset by raising interest rates for VA home loans for active-duty service members. “I feel very comfortable that this bill is fully funded,” Roe said.

VA officials, however, have objected to the measure, saying it puts a burden on young active-duty troops as well as disabled veterans.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, pledged Dec. 19, 2018, that the Senate would take up the measure next year. “[These veterans] have been denied year after year. … Asking them to wait denies them justice. … These veterans very simply are passing away; they will be denied of these benefits owed them.”

The bill also would broaden coverage for veterans who served in the Korean demilitarized zone, where defoliants were tested, and also expand benefits to children with spina bifida caused a parent’s exposure in Thailand.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what happens after a deadly friendly fire incident

It’s a reality no one likes to face: accidents happen in wartime, and sometimes the wrong people get killed. Once the fog of war is lifted, someone has to sort out what happened and why, no matter how much the truth hurts. There are many infamous, tragic examples of the U.S. military losing good people to friendly fire, the most well-known perhaps, being the story of ex-NFL star and Army Ranger Pat Tillman.


Friendly fire incidents are not unique to the United States military. Notable examples of casualties inflicted by friendly forces can be found all the way back to the ancient Greeks. An Austrian army even fought a full-on battle against itself on one occasion. The fog of war can be thick and pervasive.

Tillman was killed in Afghanistan while attempting to support his own unit.

In the wake of a friendly fire incident, especially a public one, even if it’s not as well-known as the Tillman incident, there must still be accountability. Friendly fire, it should be noted, is a distinctly different event from a fragging, as far as the Army and the Uniform Code of Military Justice are concerned. A friendly fire incident involves the killing or wounding of friendly forces while engaging with what is thought to be a hostile force. “Fragging” is simply premeditated murder. An investigation of the incident will reveal who is at fault for which potential offenses. When a troop or unit is found to have committed a friendly fire incident, depending on the severity, the investigators will first look into the type of error committed.

The two offenses most likely to be charged in such an incidence are involuntary manslaughter or the lesser charge of negligent homicide. For the involuntary manslaughter charge to stick, investigators have to prove “a negligent act or failure to act accompanied by a gross, reckless, wanton, or deliberate disregard for the foreseeable results to others.” Pointing a pistol believing it to be unloaded and firing it accidentally killing someone is an example of involuntary manslaughter. For a negligent homicide charge, all the prosecution has to prove is negligence, even a simple failure to act that resulted in the death of another.

During Desert Storm, 77 percent of American vehicle losses were attributed to friendly fire.

Dereliction of duty is another charge that could be levied in a friendly fire investigation. This would mean the accused knew he or she had a duty to perform and willfully neglect to perform them or knowingly underperform them without a reasonable excuse – though ineptitude is a defense against this charge.

While these are the most common charges for those accused of friendly fire incidents, in the U.S. military, few of these -charges ever go to a court-martial and those that do usually result in an acquittal. The reason for this is not a failure to respond to the issue of friendly fire, friendly fire incidents have been around since the beginning of war and will continue to occur in wartime. It is simply difficult to prove that negligence or wanton disregard was at play for troops who had to make split decisions in combat situations. Even the best troops can make bad decisions with tragic consequences when bullets start to fly.

During World War II, the US accidentally bombed neutral Switzerland more than once.

Even when charges aren’t pursued by courts-martial, troops are still able to be punished through non-judicial punishment. Career-ending letters of disapproval can be written, troops can be put behind desks, pilots can be grounded. The difference is in proving negligence.

In the case of Pat Tillman, his fellow Rangers saw movement and muzzle flashes from Tillman’s position while they were being attacked from the surrounding areas. Since they reasonably believed they were firing at the enemy, it did not meet the charges of negligent homicide or involuntary manslaughter. While none of the soldiers involved were criminally liable, seven received non-judicial punishments for various offenses, including dereliction of duty.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The dopest generation of soldiers are clearly kids of the ’90s

What do you get when you combine a ’90s childhood with military training? The best damn generation of soldiers, that’s what. Written by an elder millennial, this is the completely unbiased reasoning behind that statement.


Raised with an abundance of empathetic statements like “get out of the house and don’t return until the streetlights are on” gave future service members eighteen years to prepare for the nuances of military life. What exactly did an eight-year-old do with a 12-hour Saturday? They figured it out, and not with GPS, cell phones or viral videos to stream.

Lima Co. Pugil Sticks and Confidence Course

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Military life aims to sharpen core human skills like navigation, an awareness of terrain, and stamina. ’90’s kids roamed in the back 40, hopped fences, dug foxholes (just for fun) and played the rudimentary version of land navigation-hide and go seek. Yes, the last generation outside became the last generation with an abundance of experience honing this primal skillset. Weekends were for pushing the limits of both physical boundaries, the body, and the mind. Getting lost made you better made you distinctly aware of how important it was to pay attention, because no one was coming to find you until well after dark.

Nicknames were so brutal, you longed for the days where the military would rebrand you into something (hopefully) better. Feelings were completely unacceptable in the ’90’s. The closer you became to a human Terminator, the emotionless badass who knew and did everything right, the better chance you stood at surviving childhood without the need for therapy.

If you’ve ever wondered why your current Staff Sergeant lacks empathy or seemingly takes joy in the majestic poems of correction spewing from his mouth, it’s because that was affection that was displayed. The harsher the nickname, the greater the chance some sort of affection was behind its origination.

’90’s kids firmly believe in coming in first. Competition flows through their veins, and the flashbacks to being pointed at and laughed off the dodgeball courts in gym class ensures they will do everything in their power to crush you and anyone else standing in their way. Participation ribbons did not exist, and even if the rare ones did, it would have been too embarrassing to ever admit they owned any. Trying is failing unless of course, you win.

Not only will they do whatever it takes to win, they will wait…patiently plotting, as dial-up internet taught them to. While newer generations become disgusted with anything less than instantaneous results or satisfaction, service members with ’90’s childhoods are the last to be taught patience through the agonizing experiences of rewinding videotapes, gluing their fingers together (for fun), or waiting until the show aired on prime time. The enemy can hide, but they are trained to wait.

Generation Y (elder millennials) was raised in a deeply patriotic time. G.I. Joe’s appeal hadn’t faded within the early years of this crop, instilling the message that military service was something to not just admire, but aspire to. Their grandparents remembered the Depression and World War II. Their parents lived through or served in Vietnam or the Gulf War. At every turn, the sacrifice of serving was remembered and valued.

India Company Pugil Sticks Mar. 15, 2019

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If a history of roaming free or honing early marksmanship skills via NERF or BB guns hadn’t tipped the scales in Uncle Sam’s favor, witnessing 9/11 through their innocent eyes did. American flags flew abundantly in yards, while many awaited the day they became eligible to enlist, to do their part and keep their hometowns safe.

’90’s culture still reigns king with sitcoms and music, which has yet to go out of style. This space in time produced a “fly” crop of service members if you ask us.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The coolest souvenir at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge won’t cost you a dime

After you sink money into travel, tickets, and blue milk at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge you might not have much cash left over for a customized lightsaber or droid. Thankfully, there’s one souvenir you can take home that won’t cost you a dime: an only-available-at-Galaxy’s Edge drink coaster.

The coasters are available at Oga’s Cantina. As you can see in the images below, shared by some of the lucky few who’ve experienced the park pre-opening day, there are several different designs to choose from, with Star Wars icons like Ewoks and Banthas. Designs featuring a Rancor and the T-16 Skyhopper are also available.


There’s already a fairly vibrant market on eBay for the coasters, along with the souvenir mugs you can also pick up at the bar. There’s the Endor mug that holds the Yub Nub, a concoction of pineapple and spiced rums, citrus juices, and passion fruit, and the Cliff Dweller, a kid-friendly blend of citrus juices, coconut, hibiscus-grenadine, and Ginger Ale.

Parents who don’t want the upcharge of a souvenir mug can sip on cocktails like the Jedi Mind Trick, the Dagobah Slug Slinger, and Fuzzy Tauntaun. There are also beers brewed especially for the bar with names like White Wampa Ale, Gamorrean Ale, and Bad Motivator IPA.

And if you don’t feel like getting tipsy at a theme park, opt for a sugar rush from non-alcoholic beverages like the Hyperdrive (Punch It!), a mixture of Mountain Berry Blast Powerade, white cranberry juice, black cherry puree, and Sprite. (Your kids will probably like those too.)T

his article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The Master of Comedy and Army veteran passes away at age 98

Carl Reiner, the comedic presence that was know for various roles across many generations passed away yesterday at the age of 98 according to a statement from his son, Rob Reiner via Twitter.

Reiner’s career spanned decades from TV to the movies and gave us all millions of laughs along the way. But before his legendary Hollywood career, Reiner, like many from his great generation served our country during one of its darkest hours and put a smile on soldiers’ faces while doing it.


Reiner was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1922 to an immigrant Jewish family. In 1943, Reiner joined the Army Air Forces. He was originally slated to be a radio operator but contracted pneumonia and was sent to the hospital to recover for several months.

After recuperating, Reiner was sent to train as a French translator. While there at Georgetown, he got his first taste of directing. After learning French, the Army decided to send Carl to the next best logical place…Hawaii. There, he worked as a teletype operator. One day before he was to be shipped off on assignment, he saw a Special Services production of Hamlet. He managed to do a quick audition and was immediately transferred into Special Services himself. He spent the rest of the war touring the South Pacific while performing for GIs in places like Guam, Saipan and Iwo Jima. He was honorably discharged as a corporal in 1946.

Reiner later wrote about his time in the military, including his famous audition and how his buddies almost got court martialed for passing on a message that Japan surrendered three days early.

After his time in military service, Reiner started two enduring partnerships. He was cast to work with Sid Caesar in “Your Show of Shows.” While working with Caesar, he also met another World War II veteran who was a writer on the show. Mel Brooks and Reiner hit it off and began a partnership that culminated in the legendary routine, “The 2000 Year Old Man.” The routine made its way into five comedy albums, numerous TV show appearances and an animated series.

2000 Year Old Man Mel Brooks Carl Reiner Hollywood Palace 1966

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Reiner also started working on a show based on his life. It was later turned into the massively popular Dick Van Dyke Show. He worked as a writer but also started cutting his teeth as a director. He worked on two incredible comedies, “Oh God” and “The Jerk” starring Steve Martin. Reiner directed and/or co-wrote three other Steve Martin films, helping him when his career took up in the late 70s.

The Jerk (7/10) Movie CLIP – He Hates These Cans! (1979) HD

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For those younger people, Reiner was known for this portrayal of Saul Bloom from the Ocean trilogy. His last movie role was in Toy Story 4 as Carl Reineroceros (get it?).

Reiner was a true comedy legend and will be sorely missed. He also served our country with honor and we thank him for his service.


MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Military stop-movement orders to be lifted immediately at some bases

The stop-movement order in effect for military families on permanent change-of-station moves, originally set to run through June 30, will be lifted in stages, with some installations to begin accepting transfers immediately, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.

At select installations stateside that have met White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on preventing COVID-19, commanders will be able to “go green immediately” on PCS moves, said Matt Donovan, under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.


The installations approved for immediate lifting of restrictions and travel and permanent changes of station would be listed in a classified document Tuesday night and named publicly as early as Wednesday, Donovan said.

He and Lisa Hershman, the Pentagon’s chief management officer, said that, overall, the lifting of the stop-movement restrictions would depend on local conditions, both stateside and overseas.

Donovan cited the example of the Army‘s Fort Campbell, which straddles the Kentucky-Tennessee border, saying the installation commander would have to gauge whether local conditions in both states have been met.

Esper issued the stop-movement order on travel in March and on April 20 extended it to June 30, but thousands of exceptions have been approved for individual cases.

Earlier this month, U.S. Transportation Command said about 30,000 military families had received conditional permission to move before June 30.

“So those are the families who have been approved or authorized to move, if conditions allow,” Rick Marsh, director of the Defense Personal Property Program for U.S. Transportation Command, said at a May 6 Pentagon briefing.

The overall travel restrictions will be lifted in five phases, mostly dependent on local conditions stateside and overseas and on bases themselves, said Jonathan Hoffman, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman.

Both Hershman and Donovan said that there was no timeframe for going through the five phases on lifting restrictions — it was all dependent on local conditions and the decisions of installation commanders stateside and Combatant Commanders overseas.

Donovan said there were “two overarching [sets of] factors” to be considered in easing the travel and permanent change of station restrictions: first, state and local criteria on protection against COVID-19, and White House guidance on “reopening America.”

A second set of factors included conditions on the installations themselves, testing capabilities and the availability of essential services such as schools and hospitals, Donovan said.

“It’s not date-related, we’re looking at the conditions,” Hershman said.

The Pentagon building itself and other facilities on the Pentagon reservation have remained open, but entrances have been restricted and those reporting to work have been required to wear face masks and observe social distancing.

Hershman said that the move by Defense Secretary Mark Esper to ease the conditions for opening facilities will also apply to the Pentagon building itself and other facilities on the Pentagon reservation.

She said that the basic requirement for reopening moves at the Pentagon will be Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia showing a downward trend in coronavirus cases that continues for at least 14 days.

About two-thirds of the Pentagon’s workforce of more than 20,000 has been teleworking during the pandemic. Hershman said the Pentagon was looking to set conditions that would “enable their return in a controlled and steady manner,” but there was no timeframe.

She also said many in the Pentagon’s workforce could be allowed to continue teleworking.

“That’s something we’re considering. We’re encouraging the leadership to do what makes sense.”

Service members who move themselves instead of relying on a government-contracted moving company will also be paid more, effective immediately, as part of a temporary incentive, according to new guidance released by TRANSCOM Tuesday.

Typically, troops who move themselves as part of a Personally Procured Move (PPM), also known as a DITY, are reimbursed 95% of what the government would pay a contracted moving company. The new authority increases that reimbursement by 5%, putting it on par with what the moving company would be paid.

“This item revises Joint Travel Regulations … to temporarily authorize a monetary allowance that is equal to 100% of the Government’s ‘Best Value’ for personally procured moves due to COVID-19,” the guidance states.

The increase will be available for moves May 26 through December 31. The proposal, first floated by Army officials in late April, aims to clear out a backlog of PCS moves created by the Defense Department’s global stop-movement order.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 5 countries that are most impossible to conquer

Historically, all empires either fall or morph into some other empire… and then fall. While we don’t use the term “empire” to describe nation-states that much anymore, some countries are still able to project power outside their borders. they project power globally (like the United States) or regionally (like Iran). But when it comes to having to defend their home turf, some countries are just not going to roll over for any reason.

These are those countries.


This is America.

1. The United States of America

We all saw this one coming, so let’s get it out of the way early and start with what I know many are thinking: any invader of the United States isn’t facing just the U.S. military, they’re facing all 330 million Americans. Yes, there are more weapons than people in the U.S. (and that’s just considering the guns we know about). Americans are even allowed to design and build their own weapons in many states, without ever having to register. So who knows what they’re packing. This also means every American with an arsenal can recruit and train their own band of Wolverines.

This is just Los Angeles county.

(LAPD)

Even if an invader managed to take control of the civilian population — and that’s a big if — they’d still have to get through the best-trained, best-equipped military in the world first, all recruited from the very violently pro-America people I was just telling you about.

Then they have to hold on to that territory without getting killed and without the locals organizing against them. Too bad many major American cities are already organized. And armed. And ready to go killing again once the war dies down a bit. We call them street gangs.

Me either. But you feel free to fight the next Stalingrad if you want.

Albuquerque, Houston, Oklahoma City, Detroit, Baltimore, New York City — whether the invasion moves from east to west or west to east, there are a lot of pressure points invaders need to secure before moving on. Which brings up another point: America is huge.

Our four mainland time zones contain seven different climate regions, not to mention everything from high mountains to marshland, swamps to deserts, and in some places, a lot of flat nothing. Just going across the mighty Mississippi River without a bridge is enough to kill off a good chunk of an army while the residents of East St. Louis are using it as target practice.

When the invaders get out of the actual geographical features of the United States (where roving bands of armed American militias are waiting in ambush), the invader will enter some of the largest cities in the world, three of which are in the top 100 in terms of population, and many are full of the aforementioned gangs and violent extremist groups.

Ever look up at New York City buildings and just imagine what it would be like to have to invade, conquer, and keep a city so populous and so large in size and scale?

2. Russia

This one goes well beyond the myth of “General Winter” (although that would definitely be a factor for most invading countries). Russia projects power regionally but its armed forces (as I mentioned before in other articles) is not as great as Putin is hyping it up to be lately.

Related: 10 worst armies in the world 2018

If invaded, however, Russia doesn’t have to project anything and its legendary toughness can really bloom, even in the middle of the freezing Russian winter. Invading Russia, as any student of history knows, is a terribly difficult task. When Napoleon invaded in 1812, the Russian people took casualties, to be sure, but what really suffered was Russia’s towns, cities, farms, and other infrastructure — all of it destroyed by Russians.

Which is called Volgograd now. And invaders will have to take this city, too. Good luck with that.

That’s right, Russians would rather destroy their own country than leave it for any invader. And if you’re thinking that was a long time ago and how modern Russians might have different sensibilities, remember they did that when the Nazis invaded in World War II. From there, the fighting only got more brutal. So any invader has to remember that they’re likely fighting every single Russian – across 11 times zones.

Did you catch that? There are 11 time zones in Russia, the largest country by land mass. If that wasn’t bad enough, Russia also contains every single climate type there is (yes, Russia has a rain forest. Look it up). If that wasn’t enough, they will likely have to fight every ex-Soviet client state around Russia’s borders, too. Many of them are still very loyal to Russia and would take up arms to fight for their Russian friends. This only extends the range and variety of people, climate, and geography to conquer. It means everything from the deserts of Kazakhstan, to the mountains and forests of the Caucasus region, and to the frozen shores of the Black and Caspian Seas

The steppes and tundras of Central Asia are not a forgiving place and just like the Americans who would take up arms against an invader, the Russian and pro-Russian people living in these areas will too. These are hardy, gun-toting, skilled hunters who have no compulsion about killing an invader, having grown up with their parents’ and grandparents’ stories about fighting the Great Patriotic War against the Nazis.

Fighting which included the deadliest fighting in the history of human warfare (which the Russians won) at Stalingrad.

“Come at me bro.”

3. Afghanistan

Despite what every successive American general would have you believe for the past 17 years, victory in Afghanistan is not just around the corner.

Every invading empire who thought victory was just around the corner in Afghanistan really just helped contribute to Afghanistan’s legacy as “The Graveyard of Empires.” This includes the current sole superpower in the world, the United States, the only other superpower to ever exist, the Soviet Union, and the largest empire ever assembled by any state in the world, the British Empire at its height.

Also known as the original Brexit.

What makes Afghanistan so difficult to capture and keep is first and foremost its terrain. It’s a giant bowl of desert surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the world. Any army an invader can’t destroy could just fade away into the mountains and lick their wounds until the next fighting season came. In modern times, the high peaks negate the advantage of armor and tanks, just as it negated the advantage of heavy cavalry in earlier times.

The United States is a viable fighting force in Afghanistan because of its logistical advantage. Where the U.S. can get supplies and troops in and out relatively easily, the attacking British in 1839 had a much less reliable system. That’s why only one man of 16,000 troops and camp followers returned.

That’s why it’s remembered as the “Disaster in Afghanistan.”

Just Palaw me.

The most important reason no one can conquer Afghanistan is because any invader has to completely subdue the population. The whole population. And these people are as diverse as it gets. Pashtun, Turkmen, Baloch, Palaw, Tajik, and Uzbek are jut a few of the ethnic groups in the country. Even after 17 years in the country, many Americans wouldn’t pick up on the fact that one of those ethnic groups I just mentioned is actually a rice dish.

Put aside Taliban or Mujaheddin loyalty for a moment and imagine the life of a regular Afghan man. Their clan, their tribe, their unit, their sheikh, their ethnicity, their religion, maybe their provincial or central government? And when you do take into account their loyalties to extremist groups, you have to factor in the group, that unit, and the shadow government. That’s 12 potential loyalties right there. Imagine trying to subdue 34 million of them, because you have to if you invade Afghanistan.

Defeating those people in pitched battles didn’t work, ask the British. Massacring them also didn’t work, ask the Soviets. The American nation building strategy isn’t coming along either.

And China didn’t even try to equip their soldiers back then. Today, they would have rifles and shoes — and maybe food.

4. China

Did your invading army plan on fighting one billion people? Because that is what is likely to happen when invading China. The most populous country in the world now boasts 1.3 billion-plus people. For the uninitiated or bad at math (or both), that means they have almost the entire population of the United States plus a billion. Having written these wargaming posts for a few years now, I know that many will tell me to consider that this doesn’t mean China has a skilled or fearsome force of ground troops and that all they’ve ever tactically perfected on a modern battlefield is human wave attacks.

Imagine a billion people running at your unit.

While these one billion Chinese people likely don’t have their own arms, it wouldn’t take long for the planned central bureaucracy to start handing out weapons to form a unified front against an invader. There’s an old U.S. military saying: if it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid. So it may sound like a throwing a few million soldiers at an invader is stupid, but it’s quite the human wave and it will likely work. So even if the numbers of the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir are repeated and it takes ten Chinese divisions to repel one Marine Division, the Marines will need to send 25 divisions just to establish a beachhead.

Enjoy that iPhone.

The fun doesn’t stop just because the invader made it ashore. China is as massive as the United States with a diverse climate and diverse geographical features. It’s surrounded by extreme weather and oceans on all sides, so invaders will have to be prepared for the impassable Gobi Desert and the jungles of Southeast Asia, not to mention the mountainous, snowy Himalayan regions which will make air support difficult.

If invading troops aren’t massacred along the way by bands of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, then they still get to contend with a variety of tropical diseases along with the diseases that come from overpopulation and pollution.

This is just in fighting a conventional war. The Chinese are the masters of ripping off foreign technology, so an invading army would have to assume that the country they’re invading will also have all the technological prowess of the United States – and with its 750-million-plus person manpower (assuming they didn’t die in a human wave) and strong economy, they’re ready to grind on for a long time.

Ask Pakistan.

5. India

This is probably the only entry on the list many readers didn’t predict. But on its own, India is a formidable place to invade.

Remember that India has always lived in a rough neighborhood.

To the north and east lay harsh Himalayan mountain passes and arid deserts makes up roughly half of India’s northwest regions. In the southwest, India is wet and tropical, limiting the best places to land an ocean-born invasion force.

That is, if you ever get to land an invasion force on the subcontinent. Part of India’s major naval strategy is to flood her territorial waters with enough submarines to sink both enemy warships and enemy landing craft while strangling sea lanes of enemy shipping. This tactic has been in place for a long time, since before China’s foreign policy went from one of “peaceful rise” to “crouching tiger.”

And Gurkhas. They have Gurkhas.

Since the British left India in 1947, they’ve had to deal with Pakistan on a few occasions and even went to war with China once. Ever since, China and Pakistan have only grown closer so India’s entire defense strategy has to be predicated on the idea of fighting a war on two fronts — and they’re ready for it.

Fighting in India is not a small matter as any Indian general will probably tell you. The height of the Himalayan mountains makes air support very difficult, even impossible at times. India can’t rely exclusively on one benefactor, meaning it can’t just choose to be closer to the USA or Russia. India cares about Pakistan and China and will accept any tech or gear that helps them win that war. As such, their near-limitless manpower, religious fervor, and billion-plus population would make them a formidable opponent on any front.