18 more photos from the hellish campaign that was Iwo Jima - We Are The Mighty
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18 more photos from the hellish campaign that was Iwo Jima

Seventy-two years ago Marines raised the American flag over Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945. Joe Rosenthal’s photo of the second flag-raising became one of the most famous photos of World War II, but the battle actually raged from Feb. 19 to Mar. 26. Here are 18 other photos from the battle where almost 7,000 Marines, sailors, Coast Guardsmen, and soldiers lost their lives:


1. The Marines landed on Iwo Jima in waves on tracked boats.

Photo: US Marine Corps

2. The water was thick with the Marines, sailors, and Coast Guardsmen of the landing force.

Photo: National Archives and Records

3. At the beaches, the Marines poured onto the black, volcanic sand under Japanese fire.

Photo: US Marine Corps

4. Japanese artillery and mortars took out a lot of the heavy equipment as it got bogged down in the sand.

Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Robert M. Warren

5. The Navy used its big guns to destroy the lethal Japanese artillery where possible and to break open bunkers firing on U.S. troops.

Photo: US Navy

6. This duel between the heavy guns played out on the island as constant explosions.

Photo: US Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections

7. The Marines would advance when the fire was relatively light, trying to take Japanese positions before another artillery barrage.

Photo: US Marine Corps

8. When the fire was particularly heavy, they’d burrow into the sand for cover.

Photo: National Park Service

9. Additional forces surged onto the beach as the first waves made their way inland. The reinforcements were made necessary by the stunning Marine losses. One 900-man regiment lost 750 Marines in just 5 hours.

Photo: US Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections

10. Throughout the fighting up the beaches, Mount Suribachi dominated the landscape. The Marines knew it would be a tough fortress to capture.

Photo: US Marine Corps

11. Sailors and Coast Guardsmen continued to land materials at the secure beachheads, giving the Marines more ammunition and other supplies.

Photo: US Coast Guard Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Paul Queenan

12. Moving up the mountain, the Marines had to use heavy firepower to stop Japanese counterattacks.

Photo: US Marine Corps

13. The Marines busted bunker after bunker and cleared trench after trench, but the march up Mount Suribachi was dangerous and long.

Photo: US Government

14. Flamethrower tanks helped clear out the defending Japanese.

Photo: US Marine Corps Mark Kaufman

15. The Marines moved into the Japanese trenches that they had just knocked the enemy out of.

Photo: US Marine Corps

16. The Japanese bunkers had protected both the Japanese infantry and the big guns that were firing on the Marines.

Photo: National Park Service

17. When the Marines first took the summit, they flew an American flag they had carried up. When it was spotted by Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal, Forrestal asked to keep it.

Photo: US Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Louis R. Lowery

18. However, the Marines were set on keeping the symbol of their brothers’ sacrifice. Lt. Col. Chandler Johnson ordered a group of Marines to raise a second, larger flag and recover the original for the Corps.

Photo: US Navy

The photo by Joe Rosenthal of the second flag raising became an icon of the Pacific campaign. The Marine Corps selected the image for the Marine Corps War Memorial.

Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Daniel J. McLain

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Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words

The Imperial Stormtroopers featured in Star Wars are a big deal. Culturally, they are one of the most recognizable henchmen and foot soldiers in all of American pop culture history. So when we see so many iterations of the iconic armor, it makes sense that so many want to know more about them… and that they care about what lies beneath.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens features new kinds of specialty Imperial troops as well as updates on the original, iconic Imperial Stormtrooper, not to mention Gwendoline Christie’s chrome-plated trooper armor she wears as Captain Phasma.

I mean, shiny armor in combat seems like a bad idea, but it doesn’t seem so bad here.

The First Order Flametrooper is a specialized Stormtrooper. They carry incendiary weapons that “turn any battlefield into an infernal blaze.” Flamethrowers are not exactly a battlefield innovation, though since this was “a long time ago,” it might have been for them. It does speak to the evil nature of the First Order since the weapon was banned by the Geneva Convention.

… But it still uses liquid fuel, pumps, and hose technology.

See Also: EA releases combat stats for ‘Star Wars Battlefront’ and the results are amazing

And then there’s the updated First Order Snowtrooper. Let’s be honest, the Snowtroopers were the only troops from the original trilogy who had any effectiveness on the battlefield. The Snowtroopers captured the Rebel base on Hoth, where regular Stormtroopers couldn’t duck while entering doorways and Imperial Scouts couldn’t even beat Ewoks on a planet they occupied long enough to build the Death Star.

Also, the original Snowtroopers don’t seem all that warm.

But even though no one in the audience ever saw the faces underneath Stormtrooper armor in the previous films, the idea of a Stormtrooper being a black man caught a few people by surprise when audiences first saw actor John Boyega in the armor. It doesn’t make much sense for people to be surprised since the Armed Forces have historically led the way for racial and other forms of integration.

Draftees in Korea on their way to the front.

Finn (played by John Boyega) doesn’t think it’s important either.

“I really don’t care about the black stormtrooper stuff,” he said.  “This is a movie about human beings, about Wookiees, spaceships, and TIE fighters, and it has an undertone and a message of courage, and a message of friendship, and loyalty. And I think that’s something that is ultimately important.”

Which is pretty much the same takeaway anyone who served had when President Truman signed Executive Order 9981 in 1948, which abolished racial discrimination in the U.S. military. Three years later, the U.S. was fighting in Korea. In war, as one Korea-era Marine Corps officer once told me, “after you’ve fought alongside a man, it doesn’t matter what color he is, you gotta respect his fighting ability.”

See Also: Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq Afghanistan

Joe Owen, then a Marine Corps lieutenant and author of Colder Than Hell, a retrospective about his time in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, remembered getting two young black men in his mortar company.

Joe Owen, age 90.

“We had some black guys who came to us who were named squad leaders. Some of our people objected to this. Two Marines from the first platoon approached me and asked for a transfer to my outfit because a black guy was their squad leader. They refused to take orderes from him,” Owen recalled. “I told them they were going to take orders from a  Sergeant of Marines and that they were to go back to their outfit. After one night of fighting the Chinese, that squad leader was killed. I was on the detail of carrying the dead and wounded to battalion, and as I’m taking my column down, those same two Southerners came up to me and said they wanted to go with their squad leader and carry his body down because they said they wanted to pay proper respect to the best goddamn squad leader in the Marine Corps. That’s how that was settled.”

What the First Order Stormtrooper needs most is the ability to stop and aim. Kylo Ren was a Marine for crying out loud. Empire Fi.

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The dark origins of Bikini Bottom

Wikimedia Commons


Have you ever sat around wondering how Spongebob learned to tie a Windsor knot, how Squidward acquired his affinity for the arts, or how Plankton became perceptive enough to develop a Napoleon complex? Well, here’s a theory that should simultaneously quell your curiosity while fulfilling the core function of the internet: robbing you of your childhood innocence.

Basically, this unique aquatic society was the result of U.S. nuclear testing in the South Pacific Ocean, and that all of your childhood pals, from Mr. Krabs to Mrs. Puff, are radioactively mutated fish.

Our thoughts exactly

History seems to support this claim. The nuclear testing site that the theory refers to is Bikini Atoll, a group of islands in Micronesia. After World War II, the U.S. military detonated 23 nuclear devices on the islands as it geared up for an arms race with the Soviet Union. Remember that island that appears at the beginning of every SpongeBob episode? Well, that’s what remains of Bikini Atoll. The creators of the show left other clues to this radioactive origin story, such as Squidward’s Easter Island head residence (a hint of the town’s South Pacific locale), the popular Bikini Bottom magazine Toxic Waste Monthly, and the mushroom cloud that seems to rise from every explosion in the show.

So, it seems likely that the bombing of Bikini Atoll created Bikini Bottom, a nightmarish seascape where a sponge is economically extorted by a crab, who somehow fathered a sperm whale. But maybe it was all for the best. Bikini Bottom seems like a pleasant enough city, and the residents certainly have less mundane lives than your average fish or sponge. All’s well that ends well, right?

Maybe not. Because before U.S. nukes created one of America’s most beloved children’s shows, there were real, non-animated people living on Bikini Atoll: 167 to be exact. Bikini Atoll is part of the Marshall Islands, which has its own distinctive language, culture, and society. Leading a subsistence based lifestyle, Bikinians were a subset of this society.

In 1946 the people of Bikini Atoll were compelled to “temporarily relocate” by the United States, who wanted to begin nuclear testing on the islands. They were told they had to leave “for the good of mankind” and were subsequently sent to Rongerik Atoll, an uninhabited group of islands one-sixth the size of Bikini that lacked adequate sources of food and water. The U.S. navy dropped them on the shore with several weeks of food supplies and left. Soon, the Bikinians had a serious malnutrition problem, with most living on the brink of starvation. Within two months of relocation, they were begging the U.S. to allow them to return to Bikini, not knowing about the nuclear devastation being brought down upon their home. Their calls were ignored, and they were left on the island for two years. “We were dying, but they didn’t listen to us,” commented one of the inhabitants of Rongerik.

Eventually, the government began the process of moving the Bikinians to Ujelang Atoll. A handful Bikinians were sent to Ujelang to begin construction of their new society. But two months later, the plans fell through. The U.S. had chosen a second location for nuclear testing, Enewetak Atoll, and decided that the Enewetak people, instead of the Bikinians, would be relocated to Ujelang.

In 1948, The Bikini natives were finally liberated from Rongerik and sent to Kwajalein Atoll, where they lived in tents next to a concrete military airstrip. Six months later they were relocated once again to Kili Island, a .36-square-mile island where most Bikinians still live today. The island greatly differed from the Atolls they were accustomed to, making their traditional methods of fishing and food cultivation far less effective. Starvation once again became a daily concern and the Bikinians had to rely on USDA rice and canned goods to survive. The island was also prone to flooding, making them vulnerable to hurricanes and typhoons. They soon began referring to Kili as “Prison Island.”

Meanwhile, nuclear tests continued on Bikini Atoll, culminating in the 1954 “Castle Bravo” test, which detonated a nuclear weapon 1,000-times more powerful than the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The blast was larger than the U.S. government expected and the resulting radioactive fallout spread throughout the Marshall Islands, blanketing inhabited islands and contaminating their residents. The subsequent health effects still plague Marshall Islanders today.

Mushroom cloud at Castle Bravo

Decades passed, and in 1969, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that the now 540 Bikinians would be able to resettle their home islands. The Atomic Energy Commission issued a statement saying “There’s virtually no radiation left and we can find no discernible effect on either plant or animal life.” Feeling confident in these assurances, Bikinians began to resettle in 1972. But in 1978, tests by U.S. physicians revealed that the radiation levels in the 139 people on Bikini Atoll were well above the permissible level. They were evacuated.

Today, the native inhabitants of Bikini Atoll continue to seek compensation from the U.S. government for the devastation of their home. Many demand that the U.S. clean up the mess they made in Bikini so they might return home. Some have more modest claims, like Simon Jamore, who wants access to better healthcare for four of his family members who have developed cancer. The islands remain almost entirely uninhabited, excluding the marine citizens of Bikini Bottom. For now, the only thing fit to live in Bikini Atoll is a radioactive fry-cook sponge.

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Marines close in on new service rifle

The Marine Corps is eyeing a purchase of 11,000 new infantry automatic rifles and their accessories as it moves closer to making the IAR the new service rifle for grunts.


The service published a detailed request for information earlier this week asking companies to signal their interest in producing a future IAR. The current IAR is the M27, based on the Heckler Koch HK416.

Military.com broke the news in November that the Marine Corps’ experimental battalion, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, was testing out broader use of the M27 throughout the battalion as Marine leadership considered using it to replace the current infantry service rifle, the M4 carbine.

Related: Marines elevate marksmanship standards

The service has been considering fielding the IAR more broadly within the infantry since it introduced the M27 to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon in 2010, Col. Michael Manning, program manager for Infantry Weapons Systems at Marine Corps Systems Command, told Military.com.

Sgt. Jeremy T. Wellenreiter, a primary marksmanship instructor with Weapons Training Battalion, fires an M-4 Carbine at Robotic Moving Targets at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel Wetzel

Still under consideration is how the weapon might be fielded. At roughly $3,000 apiece, the M27 is a pricier investment than the M4, which costs less than $1,000. Manning said officials are working to determine which jobs within the unit truly needed the enhanced firepower.

“Not every 03XX would get an M27,” he said, using the generic Marine Corps military occupational specialty code for infantry. “There are select billets that would not get it because we don’t believe, based on our requirements, that they need it. But that is something we’ll continue to work with the [infantry] advocate and Marine Corps leadership on what the final mix will be like in an infantry unit. Everything is on the table.”

The 11,000 figure, he said, represents an estimate of how many rifles the Corps needs to purchase to equip the infantry.

Even though the M27 is the current IAR, the request for information is competitive, due to contracting rules and practices. If the Marine Corps gets interest from other manufacturers who can meet existing IAR criteria and produce a rifle that works compatibly with the existing platform, Manning said Systems Command would complete testing and a downselect process to determine a winner.

Among the criteria: The system should accept all Defense Department 5.56mm ammunition, weigh less than 12.5 pounds, and be capable of a rate of fire of 36 rounds per minute.

A Marine fires his M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle while conducting squad attack exercise in Bahrain on Dec. 1, 2016. The Marine Corps is eyeing a purchase of 11,000 new infantry automatic rifles and their accessories as it moves closer to making the IAR the new service rifle for grunts. | US Marine Corps photo by Manuel Benavides

Unlike the standard M4, the M27 has a fully automatic firing option. It also features a slightly longer effective range and a free-floating barrel design that contributes to accuracy.

“It is the best infantry rifle in the world, hands down,” Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade, the gunner, or infantry weapons officer, for 2nd Marine Division said of the IAR in November. “Better than anything Russia has, it’s better than anything we have, it’s better than anything China has. It’s world-class.”

Manning said the timeline for contracting for and fielding the new infantry service rifles is difficult to estimate because of the variables involved and the possibility of competition.

“We’ll do some sort of testing and a downselect, and then as we finalize, we will actually put a request for proposal out on the street, letting industry know that we are actually going to buy these, we have the money and the finalized requirements for them to come back with an offer to to the Marine Corps,” he said.

Responses to the Corps’ request for information are due March 17.

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The real story of the Hell’s Angels biker gang and the military

The first Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) was founded in the areas of Fontana and San Bernardino, California in 1948. From there, the club grew exponentially, becoming one of the largest in the world. The club has since earned a reputation in media and popular culture, thanks to a number of high-profile raids and wars on its various national charters, and in no small part to Gimme Shelter, a 1970 documentary about a riot during a Rolling Stones concert. The Stones’ management allegedly paid the Hell’s Angels to provide security at the concert and paid them in beer, which was a terrible idea. As a banner once read on the club’s website, “when we do right, no one remembers; when we do wrong, no one forgets.”


What the motorcycle club never forgets is its own heritage. While mainstream media gave the club a creation myth involving drunken, misfit airmen who flew bomber missions in World War II and struggled to adapt to life after the war, the real story is much simpler.

The fake story starts with a WWII Army Air Forces unit in Europe during WWII, the 303rd Bombardment Group. The 303rd was not a misfit group, as popular lore has implied, but rather one of the highest performers in the entire air war. In its official history, the motorcycle club tells the story of the B-17 the 303rd named “Hell’s Angels,” and its commander, the capable (and not drunken) Capt. Irl E. Baldwin. Why? To make sure the world knows this aircrew wasn’t a band of drunken misfits, but instead were heroes of the war in Europe. The aircrew has nothing to do with the motorcycle club. The Angels just care that the memory of the crew isn’t dragged through the mud. (They care too much, right? That’s always been a fault of the Hell’s Angels.)

This B-17F, tail number 41-24577, was named Hell’s Angels after the Howard Hughes movie about World War I fighter pilots. The bomber would fly with several commanders and numerous crewmen over 15 months and was the first B-17 to complete 25 combat missions in Eighth Air Force.

The 303rd’s story starts with naming their B-17 “Hell’s Angels” after the 1930 movie by famed aviator Howard Hughes. The plane was the first 8th Air Force B-17 to complete 25 combat sorties in the European Theater. It even participated in one of the first strikes on Berlin 1944. Two of the plane’s crewmen would earn the Medal of Honor. Another four would ear the Distinguished Service Cross. Fifty years later, the entire 303rd would vote to change its name to the Hell’s Angels, with “Might in Flight” as its motto. That name is the only common thread between the bikers and the airmen of the 303rd.

So where did the name Hell’s Angels really come from? The motorcycle club’s official history says it comes from a World War II veteran from the All-Volunteer Group (AVG), better known as “the Flying Tigers.” This Flying Tiger, named Arvid Olson, was a close friend of the founders of the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club after the war, but never even tried to become a member.

The Flying Tigers, aka the A-10’s grandpa. You *might* have seen the tiger shark design before.

The Flying Tigers were an all-volunteer group of airmen and maintainers in service to the Chinese Air Force who fought the Japanese Imperial Air Forces in China, preparing for combat even before the U.S. entered World War II. The unit’s 3rd Pursuit Squadron, comprised entirely of Marine Corps aviators, called themselves the Hell’s Angels. They first saw combat against Japan days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Over the life of the unit, the Flying Tigers would down almost 300 Japanese aircraft in combat between December 20, 1941 and July 4, 1942.

The Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club’s copyrighted “Death’s Head” logo (below, left) can even be traced back to two U.S. Army Air Corps patches, from the 85th Fighter Squadron (center) and the 552nd Medium Bomber Squadron (right).

 

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Air Force officials: F-35 is the ‘Burger King jet’

USAF photo


Although the F-35 Lightning II regularly makes headlines for all the wrong reasons, Air Force pilots at Edwards Air Force Base in California have begun weighing in on the jet’s capabilities, and it’s good news.

US Air Force Lt. Col. Raja Chari, director of the F-35 integrated test force and commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron, said that the F-35’s automated systems free up the pilot to focus on mission planning in an interview with Defense News.

“Each plane is its own command and control platform,” said Chari, who also has experience flying a legacy platform, the F-15.

“You don’t have to do as much stick and rudder, just getting to and from, because there are so many automated modes to use on the F-35 … [It] is almost as easy as breathing.”

US Air Force Maj. Raven LeClair, also of the 461st flight test squadron, raved about another unique aspect of the Joint Strike Fighter, the “glass” or dual touch-screen display which is highly customizable by individual pilots.

“It’s the Burger King jet,” Chari said of the F-35’s versatile setups. “You can have it however you want, your way.”

Combined with the F-35’s helmet, which employs six infrared cameras positioned around the plane to allow pilots to see through the jets’ airframe, F-35 pilots have an unprecedented awareness of the entire battle space.

“In this plane it’s 360 degrees and a much larger range of stuff that you are looking at so that you are not just thinking about what your particular jets doing, but now you are looking at other elements in a national strike package,” said Chari.

An F-35 flies at a high angle of attack relative to the US Air Force Thunderbird F-16s on either side of it. | USAF photo

“So whether that’s looking at ground targets or emitters or air targets, you are building a much bigger picture than the traditional planes.”

Chari also spoke highly of the F-35’s ability to fly at a high angle of attack, or with its nose pointed up, saying that pilots are learning to use this quality to perform close-in flight maneuvers.

Though the F-35’s dogfighting ability has been questioned before, Chari says the eventual integration of the AIM 9X missile with the plane’s systems will be a “dogfighting game-changer.”

Not only are pilots touting the F-35’s next-gen capacities, maintainers are big on the plane’s internal diagnostic system.

Though critics have claimed that the Joint Strike Fighter’s Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), a system that internally tracks and diagnoses problems with each part of each plane worldwide, could be wiped out by a single server failure, maintainers told Defense News that the claim is ludicrous.

“We’ve had that happen multiple times, and we can still use ALIS,” said RJ Vernon, supervisor of the Third Air Force about server failures affecting the F-35. In the event of a long-term server failure, the worst-case scenario would be that maintainers have to track the parts manually, which they already do with legacy fighters.

On the whole, Lockheed Martin contractors and Air Force technicians agree, the ALIS is a big help.

“It tells you everything you need to know instantly,” Vernon said. “ALIS reduces our troubleshooting drastically, it makes my job very easy.”

Big and Little Brother: An F-35A sits in a run station on the Fort Worth, Texas, flight line, while an F-16 Fighting Falcon, also produced at the Fort Worth plant, takes off in the background. Learn more about F-35 production. | Lockheed Martin photo

Air Force Staff Sgt. Cody Patters, who as worked on the A-10 and F-16s, said the F-35 was far easier to work on. His only complaint was waiting on the computer to load new tasks.

“We could teach you in 15 minutes,” Patters said of the user-friendly interface.

Additionally, the F-35 was built with maintainers in mind. The time they save working on the plane will translate to millions of dollars in savings over the life of the program.

For example, the panels of the plane allow easy access to maintainers, like the nose that comes off in a single piece. Also, the weapons bay doesn’t require cleaning, because the missiles are launched with air pressure instead of explosives that leave behind residue.

“Our jobs are drastically easier because of the way the jet takes care of itself,” concluded Patters.

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This “right arm of the free world” killed Commies and other Cold War-era scumbags

Don’t fight ladies. There’s plenty of firepower for everyone. (Photo: youtube)


Name a war, revolution, or revolt during the Cold War that involved the British Commonwealth, Western European nations or their allies and you’ve also named a conflict that had combatants fighting with the Fabrique Nationale FAL.

No wonder the FAL earned the nickname “the right arm of the free world” and became a symbol of the struggle against Communism.

In many ways, it was the West’s answer to the Kalashnikov, albeit one chambered to fire the heavier 7.62 x 51 mm NATO round instead of the AK-47’s 7.62 x 39 mm intermediate round.

Created in the years immediately after World War II, FN eventually produced 2 million FALs (Fusil Automatique Léger or “Light Automatic Rifle”) that were used by the militaries of more than 90 nations.

At one time, the FAL was even the official battle rifle of most NATO-member countries. It was even considered for the role as the United States’ main battle rifle.

Frankly, the FAL was everywhere.  For example, consider the Six-Day War in 1967.

A common misconception is the 9mm Uzi was the weapon of choice for the Israeli Defense Forces. Actually, Israeli soldiers carried more FALs than Uzis when facing Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian troops.

Then, there was the 1982 Falklands War. The Argentine Army carried the full-auto version of the FAL; British troops had the semi-auto L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle model of the FAL.

When captured Argentine troops piled their weapons, British infantry and Royal Marines often walked over to the stack and retrieved the full-auto FAL so they could spray more lead at the enemy.

In Argentina, thousands of FALs underwent armory rebuilds in 2010, a sure sign that nation will continue to put the weapon in the hands of its troops.

How the FAL saw the light of day is a story that combines the tactical realities that emerged out of World War II and the politics of who would lead who during the Cold War.

The success of the innovative Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle convinced ordnance officers and weapons designers that era of the bolt-action battle rifle was dead and gone. Lighter cartridges in select-fire assault rifles captured the imagination of weapons designers.

Only the United States fielded a heavy caliber semi-auto battle rifle, the well-regarded M1 Garand .30-06 weapon that Gen. George S. Patton called “the greatest battle implement ever devised.”  But the future was one that fired full auto – and the Garand did not.

Caliber was also an issue. As weapons designers on both sides of the Atlantic toyed with prototype battle rifles the British tested a 7 mm (.280-caliber) round in the new FAL and liked it.

In the United States, the Army wanted to stick with the .30-caliber round, flatly stating that no other cartridge could hold its own on the battlefield.

With the formation of the new NATO alliance in 1949, generals and civilian planners both talked of the necessity to standardize equipment, weapons and supplies.

“The laudable aim was one that had been much in the minds of many forward-looking military thinkers for a long time,” writes David Westwood, author of Rifles: An Illustrated History of their Impact. “For experience had shown that the United States and Britain often fought side by side, and commonality would be to the benefit of all including soldiers in the field.”

One thing was certain: the British were impressed with the FAL and were willing to choose it over other weapons.

It was deemed the superior firearm to competitors because it was easy to maintain, field strip, and clean. It reassembled without special tools and it was a select-fire weapon – but it fired the lighter round.

The “gravel belly” U.S. generals would accept nothing but a .30-caliber weapon, insisting on the superiority of a prototype called the T25, a forerunner of the M14 that was nothing more than a glorified Garand.

Soon, there was a “Battle of the Bullets” that went as high as the White House and 10 Downing Street. Pres. Harry Truman and Prime Minister Winston Churchill even held a mini-summit, where rumor has it they struck a quid pro quo – the U.S. would adopt the FAL as its main battle rifle if Britain backed NATO adopting the 7.62 x 51 mm round.

NATO relented and adopted the round. However, the U.S. reneged, developed the M14, which fired the NATO 7.62 mm cartridge, and adopted it as the American military’s main rifle.

In the end, it didn’t matter to FN because NATO countries (including Britain) began snapping up the FAL chambered for the NATO round.

Many consider that combination of weapon and cartridge the quintessential pairing of battle-rifle and bullet during the 20th Century – the FAL went into production in 1953 and FN continued to produce the rifle until 1988. The M-14 fell by the wayside as the main U.S. battle rifle within a few years, replaced by the M-16.

“Regardless of the political activity that went on before its adoption, the 7.62 x 51 mm NATO turned out to be an excellent, powerful military cartridge,” writes Robert Cashner, author of The FN FAL Battle Rifle. “With millions of FALs manufactured and internationally distributed, the rifle played a large part in making the 7.62 x 51mm NATO the success that it was.”

Vietnam is one often overlooked place where the FAL also proved a success. The weapon arrived there in the hands of Australian troops who fought as allies of the United States under the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO).

More than 60,000 Aussies would serve in the Vietnam War from 1962 to 1972, including the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. More commonly known as 1RAR, soldiers in the regiment fought in many significant battles during the war’s escalation in the mid-1960s.

During those the engagements, they often faced well-equipped Viet Cong who carried new AK-47s supplied by the Communist Chinese and East Bloc nations.

Despite its weight and size (the FAL is one of the longest battle rifles of the 20th Century), 1RAR’s troops considered their weapon suited for jungle warfare.

The powerful NATO round would punch through thick foliage, killing their concealed VC opponents. It was also a far more reliable weapon than the early version of the M-16 issued to U.S. forces – the FAL rarely jammed or misfired, two problems that plagued the M-16 for years.

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If you think your duty station sucks try serving on ‘Snake Island’

Ilha da Queimada Grande is an island off the coast of Brazil that is more commonly known as “Snake Island.” The British navy forbids visitors due to the extremely venomous snakes that live there. With 1-5 snakes per square meter, the island has the highest concentration of venomous snakes in the world.


In this photo: about 1500-2000 snakes and a single lighthouse. Photo: flickr/Prefeitura Municipal Itanhaé

The golden lancehead is a pitviper species that lives only on the island. Its venom is up to five times more potent than normal pitvipers living in mainland Brazil.

The snakes are described as moving landmines, but they actually spend most of their time in trees, hunting the migratory birds that are their primary food source. Researchers believe that the island was once connected to the mainland, but rising seas cut it off. The snakes then evolved their organ-liquefying venom so that their strikes would kill the birds before the birds flew away.

This thing can strike and kill a bird before it can take off. Photo: Otavio Marques (Instituto Butantan)

A lighthouse on the island used to be manned, but was automated in the 1920s. Local legend says the change was made after a family that tended the lighthouse in 1909 awoke to a snake crawling in through the window. The family attempted to flee but was attacked by snakes in tree branches and didn’t make it.

Brazilian sailors and a Vice journalist begin their ascent from the shore to the island lighthouse during a maintenance mission. Photo: Youtube/VICE

For the few people who are allowed onto the island, the navy orders that a doctor be present in case an anti-venom needs to be administered. A researcher interviewed by Vice said it’s still highly probable that the victim will die.

Despite the navy’s attempts to keep people away, smugglers visit the island and steal the snakes which then make their way to buyers around the world. Other bio-pirates (actual term) bribe researchers and navy sailors to get snakes for them. The going rate for the snakes in 2014 was thought to be between $10,000 and $30,000 each.

Researchers are allowed to remove the snakes legally in order to investigate potential applications for the venom. Certain compounds in it have shown promise as drugs for heart disease, blood clots, and cancer.

YouTube, Vice

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The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 23 edition)

You may have screeched with the owls, but now it’s time to soar with the eagles. Here’s what you need to know to make it happen:


Now: 17 wild facts about the Vietnam War

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That time the British tried to assassinate Erwin Rommel

Erwin Rommel with the 15th panzer Division. | YouTube


British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was never one to shy away from thinking big. When he saw the plans for General Claude Auchinlek’s offensive, Operation Crusader, he looked beyond its stated goals of lifting the siege of Tobruk and eliminating the Axis threat to Egypt—way beyond. He envisioned it as being a potential victory to rank with Blenheim and Waterloo; one in which the British Eighth Army would destroy the Axis forces threatening Egypt, relieve Tobruk, continue west and eject the Axis from North Africa. Then the British Army of the Nile would march east and north through the Levant to the Iranian border. But Auchinlek was grounded enough to know that if he were to have any sort of shot at victory, he had to eliminate the general who had so brilliantly led the Axis troops to the Egyptian border, Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel.

If Rommel could be assassinated, the resultant chaos in the Axis command would give the Eighth Army its best chance of success. To that end Auchinlek authorized Operation Flipper.

Operation Flipper

Operation Flipper originally had four goals:

  • Kill Rommel at his headquarters in Sidi Rafa
  • destroy the nearby Italian headquarters and its communications network
  • sabotage the Italian Intelligence Office in Appolonia and the communications network between Faidia and Lamdula
  • conduct general sabotage actions elsewhere in the Axis forces’ rear.

Leading the mission was Colonel Robert Laycock. His second in command was Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Keyes, the son of Admiral Roger Keyes the first director of Combined Operations and who would be responsible for the attack on Rommel. On November 10, 1941, Laycock’s force of six officers and 53 men boarded the submarines Torbay and Talisman and left Alexandria harbor for Beda Littoria, Cyrenaica. They arrived at their landing site on the evening of November 14. Waiting for them on the beach was guide Captain Jock Haselden and his team who had been parachuted there earlier.

Keyes got himself and all his men ashore. But as Layton and his men prepared to disembark, a squall struck. Heavy seas drove Talisman aground and only Layton and seven men reached the beach.

With the force cut in half, the plan was drastically modified. Now it would be a two-part assault; Keyes attacking Rommel’s HQ and Lt. Roy Cooke leading the attack on the Italian headquarters. Layton and a small force would defend the force’s escape route. On the evening of November 15, Keyes, Cooke, and their men headed inland, dogged by constant rain. Despite the weather, the groups managed to reach their respective launch positions the evening of November 17.

At midnight, they attacked. Keyes, leading a three-man assault team, burst into the villa identified as Rommel’s headquarters. They surprised a German officer who was killed as he struggled with Keyes. The attackers then rushed down the hall and Keyes opened a room where ten Germans were arming themselves. One of the Germans shot Keyes, killing him.

Rommel with captured British officers in Cherbourg, France, June 1940. | Gregory J. W. Urwin Collection

Failure

The mission was a failure. Only three German supply colonels and a soldier were killed at the villa. And only a fuel supply depot was destroyed. After 37 days avoiding Axis patrols, Colonel Layton and Sergeant Jack Terry reached British lines. They were the only ones; everyone else was either captured or killed. As it turned out, Rommel was not at the villa; inclement weather delayed his arrival from Rome. Operation Crusader did not achieve Churchill’s lofty goals. Though the siege was lifted, Rommel managed to save the bulk of his forces.

Rommel ordered that Lt. Colonel Keyes be buried with full military honors; sending his personal chaplain, priest Rudolf Dalmrath, to officiate. He had cypress crosses and wreaths made for the British and German dead. Rommel also instructed that photographs be taken of the ceremony and of Keyes’ grave and sent to his parents, a chivalrous act that increased British respect for him.

Laycock and Terry arrived at Eighth Army headquarters on Christmas Day. A message dispatched to Minister of State in the Middle East Oliver Lyttleton stated, “Feel it would interest C-in-C and Minister to know that Laycock arrived today at 9:20 p.m. for his Christmas dinner.” Lyttleton responded, “Please state why Laycock was one hour 20 minutes late for his Christmas dinner.”

Layton would serve with distinction, rising to the rank of major general and, in October 1943, succeed Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten as Director of Combined Operations.

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Spend some range time with a SEAL Team 6 frogman who helped kill bin Laden — Video

Love him or hate him, Matt Bissonnette (aka Mark Owen) is a certified badass.


As part of the legendary SEAL Team 6, Owen (we’ll use his pen name) was a top-tier special operator who knew how to kick in doors, snatch HVTs and dispatch tangos with precision marksmanship.

Mark Owen throws some .308 downrange for a personal pew-pew party in the desert. (Photo screenshot from YouTube)

In fact, he was part of the daring raid that snuck into Pakistan and landed on terror mastermind Osama bin Laden’s lair to bring Public Enemy #1 to justice.

His story is chronicled in two awesome books, including “No Easy Day,” which delivers a blow-by-blow of the mission to kill bin Laden, dubbed “Operation Neptune Spear,” and “No Hero,” which chronicles his extensive career as a senior NCO in the SEAL teams.

In the years since the May 2010 raid, Own has remained in the shadows, posting some cool pics to Instagram and doing some trigger pulling on the side for a couple companies in the shooting sports industry. He’s still all secret squirrel about his true identity, so it’s rare to see him out in the wild.

But this video shows the ST6 frogman’s still got it, slinging lead with several ARs and dinking close-range steel with a dialed out Glock.

He’s even throwing some hate in the dark, decked out with NODs and loaded up with tracers that just make you want to shout “‘Merica!”

And the best part: Owen’s sporting a rare pair of Vans DEFCON high tops patterned in AOR1 (these things are going for $200+ on eBay).

There’s a lot of ballistic goodness going on here with a true American hero…

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10 crazy facts about World War II

DID YOU KNOW?

1. There was a Japanese soldier, named Hiroo Onada, who didn’t surrender until 29 years after World War II was over, in 1974.

Hiroo Onada (Credits: Wikimedia Commons)


2. That a Japanese man, Tsutomu Yamaguchi, survived both the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

Atomic Cloud over Nagasaki. (Credits: Wikimedia Commons)

3. Flight Sergeant Nicholas Alkemade, who was a rear gunner in RAF Avro Lancaster bombers, survived a fall from 18,000 feet (5,500 m) without a parachute! He suffered only a sprained leg.

A Lancaster Mk III of No. 619 Squadron on a test flight from RAF Coningsby, 14 February 1944. (Credits: Imperial War Museum)

4. Emil Hacha, who was in 1939 President of Czechoslovakia, suffered a heart attack after he was informed by Hitler Göring of the imminent invasion of his country and threats to bomb the capital if he didn’t cooperate and was kept awake by injections to sign the surrender.

Berlin, Besuch Emil Hacha, Gespräch mit Hitler Hácha, Hitler and Göring meeting in Berlin, March 1939 (Credits: Bundesarchiv / F051623-0206)

5. Spanish double agent, Joan Pujol Garcia, received medals from both sides during World War II. He received the Eisernes Kreuz II. Klasse from the Germans and the Member of the Order of the British Empire from the British.

Iron Crosses of the Third Reich. (Credits: Laurence H. via Historical War Militaria Forum)

6. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941,Canada declared war on Japan before the United States did.

USS Arizona (BB-39) sunk and burning furiously, 7 December 1941. Her forward magazines had exploded when she was hit by a Japanese bomb. At left, men on the stern of USS Tennessee (BB-43) are playing fire hoses on the water to force burning oil away from their ship. (Credits: U.S. Navy)

7. Did you know that Japan did claim U.S. soil? During the Battle of the Aleutian Islands Japan managed to seize U.S. owned islands in Alaska. It was a major blow to the U.S. Troops’ moral and costed many lives to reclaim the islands.

Aleutians theater (Credits: Wikimedia Commons)

8. That Nutella was invented during World War II? Pietro Ferrero, an Italian pastry maker mixed hazelnuts into chocolate to extend his cocoa supply.

Nutella (Via: Wikimedia Commons / A. Kniesel)

9. There was a Polish bear, named Wojtek, who gained the rank of Corporal, was taught to salute, wrestled with the men, drank and smoked cigarettes and helped the front-line troops by carrying ammo and displayed courage in his willingness to participate in the action.

Photo: imgur coveredinksauce

10. The Dutch warship, Abraham Crijnssen, was disguised as a tropical island to escape detection by the Japanese bombers. It worked.