There’s nothing like government-imposed isolation to bring out the best and the worst in people. It’s time to take a break from the empty shelves, homeschooling, terrifying headlines (and harrowing reality) and the truly unprecedented times we’re currently living in and lighten the load with our favorite memes of COVID-19.
In seriousness, we know these are scary times. We hope you and your loved ones stay safe and well.
Famous Maj. Gen. George A. Custer is probably best known for his exploits after the Civil War, but he graduated from West Point in June 1861, arriving in the regular Army just in time to lead cavalrymen in the First Battle of Bull Run that July. Yeah, Custer rode into combat the month after he graduated college.
Cadet George A. Custer at West Point in 1859.
The First Battle of Bull Run, or the First Battle of Manassas as it was known in the South, focused on the railroad intersection at Manassas. The railroads that intersected there were key to Washington’s ability to send troops and supplies south into Virginia in case of an invasion of the South. Both sides knew this and wanted to control the junction.
The South stationed an army there, but those men largely fell back when 30,000 Union troops assembled nearby in June 1861. Just weeks later, the field commander of the Union Army, Gen. Irvin McDowell, proposed using his 30,000 men to further drive back the Confederate defenders and then advance on Richmond. His goal was to capture the Virginia capital, recently selected as the second capital of the Confederacy.
While the Confederate forces under Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard had fallen back when the Union troops showed up, they were obviously not willing to leave the capital undefended. They had to fight the Union at Manassas Junction.
Custer arrived in Washington D.C. on July 20, 1861, the day before the battle broke out. He had been held on West Point’s campus for disciplinary reasons right after he had graduated from the school as the 34th ranked student in a class of 34. Because of his late start after this detainment, he barely reached D.C. in time for the battle.
He reported to the Adjutant-General’s office and was told that he had been assigned as an officer in the 2nd Cavalry Regiment. (This was an auspicious assignment. Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee had commanded the unit until January 1861.)
But after giving Custer his orders, the adjutant offered to introduce Custer to Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott. At the time, Scott was the Commanding General of the United States Army. Custer gave his assent, and Scott asked Custer if he would rather spend the following weeks training recruits or if he desired “something more active?”
A Union artillery battery is overran at the First Battle of Bull Run.
Custer said he wanted more active work, and Scott ordered him to procure a horse and report back by 7 p.m. to carry dispatches to McDowell, the field commander. Custer did so, introduced himself to the general and his staff, and then reported to his regiment.
Because of West Point’s detaining him, Scott had managed to ingratiate himself with the Army’s top commander and its top field commander mere hours before its first engagement, a fight he would now ride in. It was a pretty great start for a bottom-of-his-class West Pointer.
But when the actual battle touched off, Custer was present and in the saddle, but did not see serious action. The Union commanders had seven cavalry troops on the field, but largely used them attached to infantry brigades where they would, at most, protect the infantry’s flanks or do a little reconnaissance.
Custer, on the right, as a captain after he captured one of his West Point classmates.
(Library of Congress)
Still, he made himself present and provided warnings to commanders, leading to a citation in reports from the battle and impressing George C. McClellan. The battle went badly for the Union, and McDowell was removed from command. That might seem like a problem for the cavalry officer who had just impressed McDowell, but McDowell was replaced by McClellan.
As McClellan re-organized and re-trained the Union military, he kept an eye on Custer who was quickly impressing others, largely through brash actions. During the Peninsula Campaign, he saw a debate about whether it was safe to ford a river and ended the argument by riding into the middle of it and reporting that, yeah, he wasn’t dead. It was probably fine.
Everyone knows that when Navy SEALs arrive at their target, they can do some serious ass-kicking. But how they get to the point of attack is changing – and becoming more high-tech.
According to a report from TheDrive.com, the Combatant Craft Assault has been stealthily prowling the battlefield, giving SEALs new capabilities to insert into hostile territory and then make a clean getaway.
The CCAs reportedly took part in Eager Lion, a joint exercise in Jordan, and also got a moment in the spotlight when Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of United States Central Command took a training ride in one.
According to AmericanSpecialOperations.com, the CCA is 41 feet long, and is capable of carrying M240 medium machine guns, M2 heavy machine guns, and Mk-19 automatic grenade launchers. The boat is also capable of being air-dropped by a C-17A Globemaster, making it a highly flexible asset.
These boats can operate from the well decks of Navy amphibious ships or afloat staging bases like USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) and USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB 3), which departed this past June for a deployment to the Persian Gulf region.
The craft reached full operational capability this year. While initially built by United States Marine, Inc., Lockheed Martin is now handling maintenance of these boats, which are manned by Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewmen. Two other stealthy special-ops boats, the Combatant Craft Medium and the Combatant Craft Heavy, are reportedly in various stages of development and/or deployment to the fleet.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Tim, O.V., and Blake speak with The Marine Rapper a.k.a. TMR about all the A-level training our service members receive but don’t capitalize on it when they get out.
Every veteran’s journey after the military is different.
While some of us pursue the career along the lines in which the military trained us for, others take a different path and sometimes fall short of their full potential.
“They [veterans] have a set of skills, they have leadership abilities, and there is so much more we can do,” Blake passionately states. “Granted, I’m a writer, and I have five degrees, and none of them have to do with writing.”
A veteran finding his or her purpose is essential to life outside of the military.
So when did TMR decide to become a rapper after serving the Corps?
“When I started getting better at it,” TMR jokingly admits. “In the Corps, I wasn’t at the level I am now.
If you’ve ever surfed the internet looking for military rap songs, chances are you’ve come across the unique sound of “The Marine Rapper.”
Known for sporting a red mohawk and wearing an American flag bandana, TMR served 10 years in the Marine Corps as a Combat Correspondent where he earned a Combat Action Ribbon and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals during his service.
After successful tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, TMR left the Marine Corps in February 2014. After entering back into civilian life, TMR began focusing on music as a profession and for cathartic expression.
Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan captured the respect of both veteran and civilian audiences across the country with a realistic, heartfelt, and grim depiction of World War II. The movie follows a squad of Soldiers from the 2nd Army Rangers who embark on a near-impossible mission to locate a single troop in the middle of the war.
Facing incredible odds, the Rangers tirelessly search for the native Iowan and sustain heavy causalities along the way. The film won several awards and is considered, by some, to be one of the best pieces of film in cinematic history.
Spielberg expertly captured the brutality of war on film, but the little-known things that happened behind the scenes helped contribute to the film’s authenticity.
Sgt. Horvath (played by Tom Sizemore) stands next to Capt. Miller (played by Tom Hanks) before storming the Omaha Beach.
How it got its unique look
Typically, a movie camera’s shutter is set at a 180-degree angle. However, legendary cinematographer Janusz Kaminski decided to set the camera to a 90- and 45-degree shutter instead. This shortened the amount of time the film was exposed to light, creating an incredibly sharp image.
When sending the film off to be processed, Kaminski had it run through the developer more than usual to achieve that washed-out look.
His idea delivered a fantastic visual, and the film looks freakin’ great for it.
The actors’ weapons came with squib sensors
We’ve seen movies where an actor points his or her weapon, takes a shot, and the round’s impact doesn’t feel entirely organic. For Saving Private Ryan, the special-effects guys rigged the actors’ rifles with special sensors that send a signal to exploding squibs located on their targets.
Shortly after an actor pulls the trigger, the targeted squib detonates, creating a realistic impact for both shooter and target.
Steven Spielberg as he discusses the next scene with the crew.
Reportedly, Spielberg didn’t storyboard the film
Instead, the filmmaker made incredible decisions on the fly, putting the camera up to each scene and determining the direction from there. This might have been career suicide for a lesser director, but Spielberg wanted his shots to feel unpredictable, just like a real firefight.
Although the film has several epic moments, the opening sequence in which American troops storm Omaha beach is one that you’ll never forget. Spielberg decided to drop the audience inside an incredibly intense battle scene and, to tell the story, used three different perspectives: Capt. Miller’s, the German machine gunners’, and a characterless camera.
The YouTuber Nerdwriter1 broke the epic scene down and counted each of the 200 shots that takes place over the 24-minute scene. That’s right: 200 shots. That’s 7.2 seconds per shot.
Many Russia-watchers are questioning or makinglight of the Foreign Ministry’s surprise appointment of Steven Seagal as a special envoy for humanitarian ties with the United States — but not the action-film actor himself.
“I take this honour very seriously,” Seagal tweeted late on Aug 5, a day after the Russian Foreign Ministry announced the appointment on Facebook.
Seagal, who has warm ties with President Vladimir Putin and was granted Russian citizenship in 2016, said he was “deeply humbled and honoured” by the appointment.
“I hope we can strive for peace, harmony, and positive results in the world,” Seagal wrote.
Seagal, 66, starred in Hollywood action movies such as Above The Law (1988), Hard To Kill (1990), and Under Siege (1992). His films were popular in the Soviet Union and then in Russia and other ex-Soviet republics.
Seagal has vehemently defended Putin’s policies, including Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula, along with criticizing the U.S. government.
Kyiv last year banned Seagal from entering Ukraine for five years, citing what it said were national security grounds.
The Russian Foreign Ministry statement said that Seagal’s task will be to “foster the further development of Russian-American relations in the humanitarian sphere, including interactions in… culture, the arts, public and youth exchanges, and so forth.”
The position is not paid and will be similar to the United Nations’ goodwill ambassador positions, the statement said.
Movies are outstanding. They allow for a short break from reality and fill us with hope and pride as we watch protagonists followthrough on their journeys, but suspension of belief is a fickle thing.
If a film explains the rules of its universe or, at the very least, remains consistent, then the viewer can stay in the story. When these rules are egregiously broken, it’s hard for the audience to remain engaged through the gawking and scoffing.
The Matrix is a perfect example of a film that explains why characters survive outrageous situations. However, not all films are The Matrix. Some movies stay grounded in reality until the very moment the protagonist needs to accomplish something fantastic, then all bets are off — and so is our attention.
The following four characters are guilty of convenient miracles.
Windtalkers is a beautiful idea for a film; immortalizing the very real heroism of World War II Marine Navajo code talkers is absolutely a worthy idea. However, John Woo directing Nick Cage in the lead role is a recipe for some over-the-top scenes. In film’s opening, Corporal Joe Enders (Nick Cage) sustains a blast from an enemy grenade while holding a position somewhere in the Solomon Islands. There’s no way he survives that in real life.
The real cause of death? A grenade to the everything.
No. No. Nooo! (Image via GIPHY)
3. Specialist John Grimes – Black Hawk Down
Black Hawk Down is another military biopic, but it takes way less creative license. At one point, John Grimes (Ewan McGregor) steps out from cover to successfully take out a mounted .50 cal, but the celebration is short-lived when an RPG is accurately fired at him. Instead of being blown to bits, we discover Grimes covered in dirt, ears ringing.
The real cause of death? RPG to the body.
Take cover, bruh! (Image via GIPHY)
2. Major William Cage – Edge of Tommorrow
This one is particularly hard to forgive since the entire film centers around showing this character die unceremoniously at every potentially lethal moment. However, when Cage (Tom Cruise) can no longer restart his day after death, he suddenly becomes a superhuman.
Our hero crashes a huge aircraft into a fortified area packed with all kinds of explosions all while under heavy enemy pursuit — and he gets nothing more than a small bruise to show for it.
Platoon is a masterclass in war movies, and it’s written and directed by a veteran with informed combat experience. At one point in the movie, Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe) goes off on his own to disrupt the enemy and, on his way back, is met by his fellow, Sergeant Barnes.
Elias is happy to see a friendly face until he realizes Barnes intends to kill him. Elias takes three rounds to the chest but is later seen running out of the jungle, away from the North Vietnamese.
The real cause of death? Three sunken chest wounds.
A settlement has been reached in a landmark lawsuit that the American Civil Liberties Union brought against two psychologists involved in designing the CIA’s harsh interrogation program used in the war on terror.
The deal announced August 17 marked the first time the CIA or its private contractors have been held accountable for the torture program, which began as a result of the attacks on September 11, said professor Deborah Pearlstein of the Cardozo Law School in New York.
“This sends a signal to those who might consider doing this in the future,” Pearlstein said. “There are consequences for torture.”
Terms of the settlement were not disclosed August 17. The deal avoided a civil jury trial that had been set for September 5 in federal court in Spokane, Washington.
Pearlstein said the settlement also makes it unlikely the CIA will pursue torture again in the war on terror. “This puts an exclamation mark at the end of torture,” she said.
“We certainly hope this opens the door for further lawsuits,” said Sarah Dougherty, an anti-torture activist for Physicians for Human Rights.
The ACLU sued James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen on behalf of three former detainees, including one who died in custody, who contended they were tortured at secret CIA prisons overseas. Mitchell and Jessen were under contract with the federal government following the September 11 terror attacks.
The lawsuit claimed they designed, implemented, and personally administered an experimental torture program. The techniques they developed included waterboarding, slamming the three men into walls, stuffing them inside coffin-like boxes, exposing them to extreme temperatures, starving them, and keeping them awake for days, the ACLU said.
“This outcome shows that there are consequences for torture and that survivors can and will hold those responsible for torture accountable,” said Dror Ladin, an attorney for the ACLU. “It is a clear warning for anyone who thinks they can torture with impunity.”
James T. Smith, lead defense attorney, said the psychologists were public servants whose interrogation methods were authorized by the government.
“The facts would have borne out that while the plaintiffs suffered mistreatment by some of their captors, none of that mistreatment was conducted, condoned, or caused by Drs. Mitchell and Jessen,” Smith said.
Jessen said in a statement that he and Mitchell “served our country at a time when freedom and safety hung in the balance.”
The torture program began as a result of the attacks on September 11. USCG photo by PA3 Tom Sperduto.
Mitchell also defended their work, saying, “I am confident that our efforts were necessary, legal, and helped save countless lives.”
But the group Physicians for Human Rights said the case shows that health professionals who participate in torture will be held accountable.
“These two psychologists had a fundamental ethical obligation to do no harm, which they perverted to inflict severe pain and suffering on human beings in captivity,” said Donna McKay, executive director of the group.
The lawsuit sought unspecified monetary damages from the psychologists on behalf of Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and the estate of Gul Rahman.
Rahman, an Afghan, was taken from his home in Pakistan in 2002 to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan. He died of hypothermia several weeks later after being shackled to a floor in near-freezing conditions.
According to the lawsuit, Salim and Ben Soud both were subjected to waterboarding, daily beatings, and sleep deprivation in secret CIA sites. Salim, a Tanzanian, and Ben Soud, a Libyan, were later released after officials determined they posed no threat.
A US Senate investigation in 2014 found that Mitchell and Jessen’s techniques produced no useful intelligence. They were paid $81 million for their work. President Barack Obama terminated the contract in 2009.
Mitchell and Jessen previously worked at the Air Force survival school at Fairchild Air Force Base outside Spokane, where they trained pilots to avoid capture and resist interrogation and torture. The CIA hired them to reverse-engineer their methods to break terrorism suspects.
The ACLU said it was the first civil lawsuit involving the CIA’s torture program that was not dismissed at the initial stages. The Justice Department got involved to keep classified information secret but did not try to block it.
Though there was no trial, the psychologists and several CIA officials underwent lengthy questioning in video depositions. Some documents that had been secret were declassified.
The ACLU issued a joint statement from the surviving plaintiffs, who said they achieved their goals.
“We were able to tell the world about horrific torture, the CIA had to release secret records, and the psychologists and high-level CIA officials were forced to answer our lawyer’s questions,” the statement said.
The lawsuit was brought under a law allowing foreign citizens to have access to US courts to seek justice for violations of their rights.
China’s growing influence in the Asia-Pacific region has made some of its neighbors uneasy, and many are making political and military efforts to counter what they see as a potential threat.
An unofficial report from the Five Eyes intelligence partnership, made up of the UK, US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, recently warned about what it saw as “a concerted foreign interference campaign” from China against New Zealand.
The current government in Wellington has denied any tension with its Five Eyes partners, and its latest Strategic Defense Policy statement, released in July 2018 by Defense Minister Ron Mark, puts the perceived challenges posed by Beijing in clear language.
“New Zealand is navigating an increasingly complex and dynamic international security environment, and will also face compounding challenges of a scope and magnitude not previously seen in our neighbourhood,” the document says.
New Zealand’s leaders have in the past shied away from directly naming China when discussing tensions in the region, but the statement makes explicit criticisms of China, saying that even as Beijing has benefited from the international rules-based order and sought greater economic interconnectedness, “it has not consistently adopted the governance and values championed by the [international] order’s traditional leaders.”
China, it says, “holds views on human rights and freedom of information that stand in contrast to those that prevail in New Zealand.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping
Beijing wants to “restore claimed historical levels of influence in its periphery” and take “an enhanced global leadership role,” it adds. In Asia, “China’s more confident assertion of its interests has at times raised tensions with neighbouring states and with the United States.”
China’s growing military power raises the costs of acting against its interests, and Beijing also “has determined not to engage with an international tribunal ruling on the status of sovereignty claims,” the statement says, likely referring to a 2016 international-court ruling that rejected China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea.
The paper cites other challenges, such as illiberal approaches to the international order taken by countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia, internal concerns about national-security and political and demographic shifts in Western democracies, and global sources of disorder like terrorism, climate change, and cyber threats.
Uncertainty about the US’s future international role “has disruptive implications in itself,” the statement says. And amid increasing competition between world powers, “complex transnational threats will disrupt New Zealand’s neighbourhood in ways not previously seen.”
When presenting the document, Mark said it would not surprise China, which he said would respect New Zealand’s “forthrightness.” In the days since, however, Beijing has responded severely.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said July 9, 2018, that Beijing “lodged stern representations” with Wellington over the latter’s “wrong remarks.”
“We urge New Zealand to view the relevant issue in an objective way, correct its wrong words and deeds and contribute more to the mutual trust and cooperation between our two countries,” she said.
Winston Peters, New Zealand’s foreign minister, also said on July 9, 2018, that China had expressed concern over the paper through its ambassador in Wellington and to New Zealand’s ambassador in Beijing, but he downplayed the response and said his government would not change course.
“We’re not here to make people happy,” he said. “We’re here to be a responsible international citizen.”
“New Zealand’s position had firmed up,” Robert Alyson, a professor at Victoria University’s Center for Strategic Studies, told The Wall Street Journal. “It’s more willing to say things about China that are a bit critical.”
A P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft
New Zealand’s response to China’s growing presence is not been limited to words.
Days after announcing the new defense statement, the government there approved the nearly id=”listicle-2586055515″.5 billion purchase of four P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, which are made by Boeing and are in use by a number of allies, including Australia and the UK. South Korea also recently said it would purchase several Poseidons.
The purchase in Wellington’s biggest military buy in decades, and the planes will give the island nation enhanced patrol and intelligence-gathering capability — as well as an advanced sub hunter— at a time when China’s growing submarine fleet is worrying its neighbors.
Wellington got rid of its combat aircraft at the beginning of this century, and the fleet of aging P-3 Orion patrol aircraft that the Poseidons will replace have seen their maintenance costs spike over the past decade. The Defense Ministry has said the Orions would need to be replaced by the mid-2020s. The Poseidons are to start operations in 2023.
“This decision strengthens the coalition government’s Pacific reset by providing a maritime patrol capability with the significant range and endurance needed to assist our partners in the region,” Mark said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock was the kind of Marine that would inspire generations of warfighters. He engaged in sniper duels and came out on top every time. He hunted Viet Cong and North Vietnamese officers through the jungles and grasses of Vietnam. And a new animation from The Infographics Show tells his story as a cartoon.
Most Hard Core American Sniper – The White Feather
Hathcock was an Arkansas native who grew up hunting in order to help feed his poor family. He aspired to military service, and specifically the Marine Corps, and enlisted soon after he turned 17. He was soon competing in marksmanship competitions with the Marine Corps and won some prestigious competitions including the Wimbledon Cup.
From a base in Vietnam, he achieved the longest sniper shot up to that point in history, and he did it with a .50-cal. machine gun in single-shot mode. He waged an extended sniper duel against the “The Apache,” a female Viet Cong platoon leader who tortured Marines, eventually dropping her from 700 yards when she got lazy and peed in the open.
He hit her with his first shot even though he had been switching rifles when he spotted her. After the first shot dropped her, he scored a second hit, just to be certain.
In another engagement, Hathcock and a spotter saw a green platoon of North Vietnamese Army troops. Hathcock hit the lead officer, and his spotter dropped the officer at the back. There was a third leader who tried to escape across a rice paddy, and so the Americans dropped him too. In order to protect their position from discovery, the sniper team stopped firing.
Instead, Hathcock and his partner called artillery, moved positions, and wiped out the enemy force.
He killed an enemy officer after four days of crawling to the target. (Hathcock believed it was an enemy general, though the NVA never acknowledged losing a general at the time and place that Hathcock scored his kill.)
He hunted down an enemy sniper sent to kill him, shooting his foe through the scope just moments before the Vietnamese sniper would’ve hit him.
So, yeah, there were lots of reasons that he was a legend. Check out the cartoon at top to learn more.
The US cyber strategy needs some major improvements if the country hopes to defend itself against threats from China, Russia, and other adversaries, according to a report released this week by a bipartisan group of senators.
Among its 80+ recommendations are the creation of a “national cyber director” overseen by new congressional committees on cybersecurity, more personnel trained in cyber operations, and increased funding to ensure federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and Election Assistance Commission are equipped to carry out increasingly complicated missions.
“The U.S. government is currently not designed to act with the speed and agility necessary to defend the country in cyberspace,” concluded the report, the result of a year-long study by the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, a group created by Congress in 2018.
“We want this to be the 9/11 Commission Report without the 9/11,” Sen. Angus King, one of the commission’s co-chairs, told Cyberscoop, adding that the group is “trying to urge and foment change without a catastrophic event.”
To accomplish that goal, the commission suggested the US adopt a “layered cyber deterrence” strategy. Broadly, that involves encouraging allies to promote responsible behavior in cyberspace, shoring up vulnerabilities in private and public networks that enemies could exploit, and being able to retaliate against attackers.
“China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea all probed U.S. critical infrastructure with impunity,” the report said, while globally connected networks allowed criminals to commit cyber theft and extremist groups to raise funds and recruit followers.
“American restraint was met with unchecked predation,” the report said, advocating that the US take a more active role in deterring bad actors.
However, the report did not address some of the more controversial topics surrounding cybersecurity, like encryption — a frequent target of US Attorney General William Barr and others in law enforcement — and which offensive capabilities the US might be willing to give up to secure similar agreements from adversaries.
The Cyberspace Solarium Commission was modeled after President Dwight Eisenhower’s Project Solarium, which was formed in the 1950s to help the US devise a new foreign policy strategy around the Cold War, showing that the US is fundamentally rethinking how it’s approaching new digital battlegrounds as the nature of warfare evolves.