22 brutal dictators you've never heard of - We Are The Mighty
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22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of

Representative government has been a luxury that relatively few people have enjoyed throughout human history.


And while the vast majority of dictators fall short of Hitler- or Stalin-like levels of cruelty, history is rife with oppressors, war criminals, sadists, sociopaths, and morally complacent individuals who ended up as unelected heads of government — to the tragic detriment of the people and societies they ruled.

Here’s a look at 22 brutal dictators that you may not have heard of.

Francisco Solano Lopez (Paraguay, 1862-1870)

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Last picture of Francisco Solano López, 1870. Wikimedia

Although he became a revered figure in Paraguay decades after his death, Paraguayan president and military leader Francisco Solano Lopez unwisely provoked neighboring Brazil and Argentina by meddling in a civil war in Uruguay in the mid-1860s.

After that war concluded, Brazil, Argentina, and the winning faction in Uruguay secretly agreed to a plan in which they would annex half of Paraguay’s territory.

Lopez rejected the peace terms offered by the “triple alliance,” incurring a full-on invasion.

What followed was a devastating conflict in which an overmatched Lopez conscripted child soldiers, executed hundreds of his deputies (including his own brother), incurred steep territorial losses, and triggered an eight-year Argentine military occupation.

By the time of Lopez’s death in battle in 1870 and the war’s subsequent end, Paraguay’s population had plunged from an estimated 525,000 to 221,000, and only 29,000 males over the age of 15 were left alive.

Jozef Tiso (Slovakia, 1939-1945)

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Josef Tiso. Wikimedia

A Catholic priest who led Slovakia’s fascist moment, Tiso was in charge of one of Nazi Germany’s numerous satellite regimes for almost the entirety of World War II.

Although arguably a less energetic fascist than the leaders of comparable Nazi puppet regimes, Tiso led a brutal crackdown after a 1944 anti-fascist rebellion.

He also either facilitated or had first-hand knowledge of the deportation of the vast majority of the country’s Jews to Nazi concentration camps.

At the time, Slovakia had a Jewish population of over 88,000. However, by the conflict’s conclusion, nearly 5,000 were left in the country.

Döme Sztójay (Hungary, 1944)

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Döme Sztójay.Wikipedia

Hungarian leader Miklós Horthy had been an ally of Nazi Germany, collaborating with Adolf Hitler’s regime in exchange for assistance in restoring Hungarian control over lands the country had lost as a result of World War I.

Horthy began attempting to chart an independent path from the Nazis as the German war effort flagged in 1944 and largely refused to deport the country’s Jews — triggering a Nazi invasion and Döme Sztójay’s installation as the country’s puppet leader even while Horthy officially remained in power.

During Sztójay’s six months as Hungary’s prime minister, more than 440,000 Jews were deported from Hungary to concentration camps in one of the last major forced population transfers of the Holocaust.

Sztójay, who had been Hungary’s ambassador to Nazi Germany for the decade leading up to World War II, was captured by American troops after the war and executed in Hungary in 1946.

Ante Pavelic (1941-1945)

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Ante Pavelic. Wikipedia

Ante Pavelic started out as a politician who was opposed to the centralization of what later became officially known as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

After Yugoslavia’s king declared himself dictator in 1929, Pavelic fled the country in order to organize an ultra-nationalist movement called Ustaše.

The Ustaše was dedicated to creating an independent Croatia, and sometimes resorted to terrorism. Ultimately, the group assassinated King Alexander in 1934.

After Axis forces took over Yugoslavia in the 1941, Pavelic took control as the head of the Independent State of Croatia (or NDH).

The country was nominally ruled by the Ustaše, but was essentially a puppet state of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Under Pavelic’s leadership, the regime persecuted Orthodox Serbs, Jews, and Romani living in the NDH.

After Germany was defeated in 1945, Pavelic went into hiding, and eventually escaped to Argentina. He died in Spain in 1959.

Mátyás Rákosi (1945-1956)

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Mátyás Rákosi. Hungarian Government

Mátyás Rákosi became the communist leader of Hungary after consolidating political power in 1945.

He was called “Stalin’s best Hungarian disciple,” orchestrating purges and installing a repressive Soviet-allied regime.

After Stalin died in 1953, the USSR decided his regime was too brutal and told Rákosi that he could stay on as the Hungarian communist party’s secretary-general — on the condition that he give up his prime ministership to the “reform-minded” Imre Nagy.

Rákosi managed to stick around for a bit, until the USSR officially decided he was a liability.

Moscow removed him from power in 1956 in order to appease the Yugoslav leader, Mashal Tito.

Khorloogiin Choibalsan (Mongolia, 1930s-1952)

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Khorloogiin Choibalsan. Wikipedia

After several meetings with Stalin, Choibalsan adopted the Soviet leader’s policies and methods and applied them to Mongolia.

He created a dictatorial system, suppressing the opposition and killing tens of thousands of people.

Later in the 1930s, he “began to arrest and kill leading workers in the party, government, and various social organizations in addition to army officers, intellectuals, and other faithful workers,” according to a report published in 1968 cited in the Historical Dictionary of Mongolia.

In late 1951, Choibalsan went to Moscow in order to receive treatment for kidney cancer. He died the following year.

Enver Hoxha (Albania, 1944-1985)

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Enver Hoxha. Wikipedia

Albania’s communist dictator feuded with both the Soviet Union and China before promoting a ruinous policy of national self-reliance that turned his country into a Balkan version of modern-day North Korea.

During his four-decade rule, Hoxha banned religion, ordered the construction of thousands of concrete pillboxes throughout Albania, undertook eccentric public building projects, purged his inner circle multiple times, and severed nearly all of Albania’s meaningful international relations.

Hoxha enforced a Stalin-like cult of personality and created a completely isolated society with virtually no tolerance of political dissent.

An estimated 200,000 people were imprisoned for alleged political crimes during Hoxha’s rule, in a country with a current population of around 3 million.

Lê Duan (Vietnam, 1960-1986)

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Lê Duan. Wikipedia

Although he was never Vietnam’s official head of state, Lê Duan was the dominant decision-maker within the country’s communist regime for more than 20 years.

After the Vietnam War and the North’s successful invasion of South Vietnam, Duan oversaw purges of South Vietnamese anticommunists, imprisoning of as many as 2 million people and forcing more than 800,000 Vietnamese to flee the country by boat.

Under Duan, Vietnam also embarked on a failed economic-centralization effort that later generations of Vietnamese leaders would reverse.

Ian Smith (Rhodesia, 1964-1979)

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Federal government photograph of Ian Smith, then a Member of Rhodesia and Nyasaland’s Federal Parliament, circa 1954.

One of the most controversial figures in post-colonial African history, Ian Smith, a decorated fighter pilot during World War II, led the secession of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) from the British empire in 1965.

His aim was to preserve white rule in an overwhelmingly black colony.

As prime minister of an independent Rhodesia, Smith oversaw an apartheid system similar to the one in neighboring South Africa, seeking to ensure white rule through a system of racial separation and control.

Although whites were less than 4% of Rhodesia’s population, Smith’s government survived nearly 15 years of international isolation and civil war.

He agreed to a power-sharing accord that elevated Robert Mugabe to prime minister in 1980.

Although sometimes lauded for his willingness to surrender power — something that meant Rhodesia was liberated from minority rule some 15 years before neighboring South Africa — he still led a racially discriminatory regime for well over a decade.

Ramfis Trujillo (Dominican Republic, May 1961-October 1961)

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Ramfis Trujillo. Screen grab/YouTube.

Ramfis’s father, the more infamous Rafael Trujillo, ruled the Dominican Republic for over 30 years.

His oldest son, who was made a colonel at the age of 4, only spent a few months as the Caribbean nation’s dictator — but he used them to mount a brutal reprisal campaign against those he suspected of assassinating his father on May 30, 1960.

An “accomplished torturer” and inveterate playboy, when Ramfis left the Dominican Republic by yacht to go into exile in Spain in late 1961, he reportedly took his father’s coffin with him.

What’s more, the coffin was filled with nearly $4 million in money and jewels.

Michel Micombero (Burundi, 1966-1976)

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Michel Micombero. Wikipedia image.

Michel Micombero, an army captain and then minister of defense, was just 26 years old when he led the 1966 counter-coup that landed him the prime minister’s chair.

That was a dangerous job in Burundi, considering that two of his predecessors had been assassinated since the country won its independence from Belgium in 1962.

Micombero, an ethnic Tutsi, swiftly abolished the country’s monarchy and exiled its 19-year-old king.

Micombero cultivated a Tutsi elite within the army and government, raising tensions with the country’s Hutu community.

In 1972, Micombero’s government crushed a Hutu insurrection by organizing mass killings in which an estimated 150,000 to 300,000 people were killed.

Although Micombero was overthrown in a 1976 coup, the Hutu-Tutsi divide persisted in Burundi, and helped spark a civil war in the country that lasted between 1993 and 2005.

Yahya Khan (Pakistan, 1969-1971)

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Yahya Khan. Wikipedia

The Pakistani general and World War II British Army veteran dissolved the government and imposed martial law in 1969.

By the time he lost power two years later, Eastern Pakistan had broken off to become the independent nation of Bangladesh and Pakistan lost another war to its rival, India.

Meanwhile, Khan oversaw the mass slaughter of as many as half a million Bengalis and other minorities in India.

In March 1971, Khan ordered his army to crack down on a burgeoning separatist movement in Eastern Pakistan.

“Operation Searchlight” targeted Bengali nationalists and intellectuals and produced a wave of 10 million refugees that convinced India to intervene in Pakistan’s civil war, setting the stage for Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan the following year.

During a high-level meeting in February 1971, Khan was recorded saying to “kill three million of them,” in reference to the separatists and their supporters.

By the end of the year, hundreds of thousands of people were dead — and Khan had been deposed as president and sent into internal exile. He died in Pakistan in 1980.

Carlos Manuel Arana Osorio (Guatemala, 1970-1974)

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Carlos Manuel Arana Osorio. Guatemalan government

Carlos Arana Osorio was one of the several military rulers who were president in Guatemala during the volatile years following a 1954 coup.

During his presidency, he amped up government efforts to subdue armed rebels and persecuted “student radicals,” workers groups, and political opponents.

An estimated 20,000 people “died or ‘disappeared’” under the Arana Osorio administration.

Guatemala went had military presidents through 1986, but the country’s civil war continued until December 1996.

Jorge Rafael Videla (Argentina, 1976-1981)

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Jorge Rafael Videla. Wikimedia image.

Military officer Jorge Rafaél Videla took over Argentina during a coup d’état in 1976.

At the time, the country was straddled with a corrupt government and a battered economy, and was “besieged by attacks from guerrillas and death squads,” with many Argentines “welcoming Videla’s move, hoping the three-man military junta would put an end to the violence,” according to Biography.com.

Videla tried to bring back economic growth via free-market reforms, and was “moderately successful.” However, he closed the courts and gave legislative powers to a nine-man military commission.

His government conducted a notorious “‘dirty war,’ during which thousands of people considered to be subversive threats were abducted, detained and murdered,” among them intellectuals, journalists, and educators.

The official estimate of people killed during his presidency is 9,000, but some sources believe the number is between 15,000 and 30,000.

He was sentenced to life in prison in 1985, but pardoned in 1990. He was once again put on trial in 2010, and received another life sentence. He died in prison in 2013.

Francisco Macías Nguema (Equatorial Guinea, 1968-1979)

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Francisco Macías Nguema. Wikimedia image.

The first president of Equatorial Guinea was a paranoid kleptocrat who declared himself leader for life, kept much of the national treasury in suitcases under his bed, and killed or exiled an estimated one-third of the former Spanish colony’s population of 300,000.

Nguema’s hatred of his country’s educated classes led to comparisons with Cambodia’s Pol Pot.

Extensive forced-labor programs brought to mind other historical cruelties as well: One visitor to the country during Nguema’s rule described it as “the concentration camp of Africa — a cottage-industry Dachau.”

Nguema was executed after his nephew, Teodoro Obiang, overthrew him in a 1979 coup.

Teodoro Obiang (Equatorial Guinea, 1979-present)

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Teodoro Obiang.Wikipedia

Teodoro Obiang overthrew his uncle Francisco Macías Nguema, the first president of Equatorial Guinea, in 1979.

In 1995, oil was discovered in Equatorial Guinea, which provided Obiang with an almost limitless means of self-enrichment.

While the country of 700,000 languishes in the bottom quartile of the Human Development Index, its resource wealth has funded one of the world’s most oppressive regimes.

Obiang’s government is accused of torturing dissidents and banning most forms of political expression.

At the same time, Obiang has attempted to turn the capital of Malabo into a tourism and conference destination, and has tried to portray Equatorial Guinea as one of Africa’s rising political and economic powers.

Siad Barre (Somalia, 1969-1991)

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Siad Barre. Wikipedia

Somalia’s socialist military dictator committed a disastrous strategic error when he invaded Ethiopia’s Somali-majority Ogaden region in 1977.

The invasion convinced the Soviet Union to withdraw its support from Barre’s government.

And instead the Soviet Union backed Ethiopia’s emerging communist regime.

After the failed war against Ethiopia, Barre continued to rule Somalia for 13 years.

He maintained control through a combination of blunt force and canny manipulation of Somalia’s clan system.

His most disastrous legacy is Somalia’s descent into civil war in 1991, which marked the beginning of over two decades of anarchy in the country.

Radovan Karadžic (Republika Srpska, 1992-1996)

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Radovan Karadžic’s arrest in November 1984. Wikipedia

Radovan Karadžic was president of Republika Srpska, the self-proclaimed ethnic Serb “republik” that seceded from Bosnia after Bosnia’s secession from Yugoslavia in 1992.

As president, Karadžic oversaw an ethnic-cleansing campaign against Bosnian Muslims that included some of the most severe human-rights abuses committed on European soil since World War II.

Karadžic is believed to have ordered the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which Serbian militants killed over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in the span of three days.

Karadžic went into hiding, and after Bosnia’s civil war, he became a homeopathic health expert under an assumed name and began writing articles about healing.

In 2008, he was arrested in Serbia and sent to the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity.

Theodore Sindikubwabo (Rwanda, April 1994-July 1994)

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Theodore Sindikubwabo. YouTube screengrab.

Theodore Sindikubwabo bears little personal responsibility for the organization of the Rwandan genocide, which was largely the project of hardline army officers and government officials like Theoneste Bagasora.

But when Rwandan president Juvenal Habyrimana’s plane was shot down on April 6, 1994, Sindikubwabo was the man that the genocide’s architects selected as Rwanda’s head of state.

The former pediatrician was the official head of a government that perpetrated the slaughter of an estimated 800,000 people.

Far from attempting to stop the bloodbath, Sindikubwabo appeared in Cayahinda, Rwanda, on April 20, 1994, to “to thank and encourage” militants carrying out the genocide, and to “promise he would send soldiers to help local people finish killing the Tutsi who were barricaded” in a local church, according to Human Rights Watch.

Sindikubwabo fled into neighboring Zaire after the forces of current Rwandan president Paul Kagame invaded the country during the closing days of the genocide.

He died in exile in 1998.

Than Shwe (Myanmar, 1992-2011)

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Than Shwe. Wikipedia image.

Than Shwe was the leader of the ruling military junta in Myanmar (Burma) and had been criticized and sanctioned by Western countries for human-rights abuses.

Up to 1 million people were reportedly sent to “satellite zones” and “labor camps” under his rule.

There was virtually no free speech in the country, and “owning a computer modern or fax [was] illegal, and anyone talking to a foreign journalist [was] at risk of torture or jail,” the Guardian reported in 2007.

Although Shwe stepped down in 2011, The Wall Street Journal reports that he “still exerts considerable leverage behind the scenes.”

Most recently, he pledged support to his former foe, Aung San Suu Kyi, as the Myanmar’s “future leader” — even though during his rule, the country’s Nobel Prize-winning opposition leader was kept under house arrest.

Isaias Afwerki (Eritrea, 1991-present)

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Isaias Afwerki. Wikipedia image.

Eritrea won its independence from Ethiopia in 1991 partly because of President Isaias Afwerki’s leadership in the armed struggle against Ethiopia’s brutal communist regime, which he helped overthrow.

Over the next 25 years, Afwerki built one of the world’s most terrorizing dictatorships.

Afwerki’s government maintains a network of brutal secret prison camps, and forcibly conscripts the country’s citizens into indefinite military service.

Eritrea’s internal oppression has led to over 380,000 people fleeing out of a population of less than 7 million — despite the lack of active armed conflict in the country.

Afwerki’s foreign policy has been equally problematic.

A 1998 dispute with Ethiopia over the demarcation of the countries’ border quickly escalated into the last full-scale interstate war of the 20th century, with Afwerki bearing at least partial blame for failing to defuse a conflict in which an estimated 100,000 people were killed.

Eritrea is also under UN sanctions for its alleged support of Al Shabaab militants fighting the Ethiopian military in Somalia.

Yahya Jammeh (Gambia, 1996-present)

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Yahya Jammeh. Wikipedia

Gambia’s president since 1996 has built one of the most oppressive states on earth.

Jammeh has used arbitrary arrests and torture as his preferred means of control, and has threatened to personally slit the throats of the country’s gay men.

Gambians are fleeing the country in droves.

Despite its population of only 1.8 million, Gambia is among the 10 most common origin points for migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean into Europe.

Articles

The only Native American general in the Civil War wore gray

According to a pair of memos produced in during Theodore Roosevelt’s administration, the Union and the Confederacy combined for roughly one thousand generals during the Civil War. Of those hundreds of generals, only one was a Native American — and he fought for the South.


Brigadier General Stand Watie isn’t that well-known, mostly because he was fighting in what the Confederates called the Trans-Mississippi Department. This region did not see battles on the scale of Antietam, Gettysburg, or Shiloh. Instead, the Civil War was more a collection of raids or guerilla warfare – and it wasn’t always the nicest of affairs.

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Battle of Pea Ridge (Library of Congress)

Stand Watie was familiar with violence. As a major leader of the Cherokee Nation, he had seen family members killed and had himself been attacked in the aftermath of the removal of the Cherokee to Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. Many of the Cherokee owned slaves, and took them west during that removal. This lead a majority of the Cherokee to support the Confederacy when the Civil War started.

The Oklahoma Historical Society notes that Stand Watie was commissioned as a colonel in the Confederate Army after he had raised a cavalry regiment. He was involved in a number of actions, including the Battle of Pea Ridge.

The Cherokee soon were divided in the Civil War, and a number began defecting to the Union. Watie and his forces were involved in actions against pro-Union Cherokee. Watie was promoted to brigadier general, and his command would encompass two regiments of cavalry as well as some sub-regimental infantry units. His best known action was the capture of the Union vessel J. R. Williams in 1864 and the Second Battle of Cabin Creek.

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Map of the Cabin Creek battlefield. (Graphic from Wikimedia Commons)

By today’s standards, his unit also committed some grave war crimes, including the massacre of Union troops from the First Colored Kansas Infantry and the Second Kansas Cavalry regiments in September 1864.

Watie would later be given command of the Indian Division in Indian Territory, but never mounted any operations. By 1865, he would release his troops. He would be the last Confederate general to surrender his forces, doing so on June 23, 1865. After the war, Watie tried to operate a tobacco factory, but it was seized in a dispute over taxes.

He died in 1871.

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The tragically powerful story behind the lone German who refused to give Hitler the Nazi salute

Adopted by the Nazi Party in the 1930s, Hitler’s infamous “sieg heil” (meaning “hail victory”) salute was mandatory for all German citizens as a demonstration of loyalty to the Führer, his party, and his nation.


August Landmesser, the lone German refusing to raise a stiff right arm amid Hitler’s presence at a 1936 rally, had been a loyal Nazi.

Landmesser joined the Nazi Party in 1931 and began to work his way up the ranks of what would become the only legal political affiliation in the country.

Two years later, Landmesser fell madly in love with Irma Eckler, a Jewish woman, and proposed marriage to her in 1935.

After his engagement to a Jewish woman was discovered, Landmesser was expelled from the Nazi Party.

Landmesser and Eckler decided to file a marriage application in Hamburg, but the union was denied under the newly enacted Nuremberg Laws.

The couple welcomed their first daughter, Ingrid, in October 1935.

And then on June 13, 1936, Landmesser gave a crossed-arm stance during Hitler’s christening of a new German navy vessel.

The act of defiance stands out amid the throng of Nazi salutes

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Photo: Wikipedia

In 1937, fed up, Landmesser attempted to flee Nazi Germany to Denmark with his family. But he was detained at the border and charged with “dishonoring the race,” or “racial infamy,” under the Nuremberg Laws.

A year later, Landmesser was acquitted for a lack of evidence and was instructed to not have a relationship with Eckler.

Refusing to abandon the mother of his child, Landmesser ignored Nazi wishes and was arrested again in 1938 and sentenced to nearly three years in a concentration camp.

He would never see the woman he loved or his child again.

The secret state police also arrested Eckler, who was several months pregnant with the couple’s second daughter. She gave birth to Irene in prison and was sent to an all-women’s concentration camp soon after her delivery.

Eckler is believed to have been transferred to what the Nazi’s called a “euthanasia center” in 1942, where she was killed with 14,000 others. After his prison sentence, Landmesser worked a few jobs before he was drafted into war in 1944. A few months later, he was declared missing in action in Croatia.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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This song will give you a flashback to your time in the service

From the time the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, infantry Marines are out on the range or catching some much-needed shut-eye — usually in an uncomfortable place.


While on active duty, they’ll lament their decision-making history while hauling heavy combat loads across the rough and unforgiving terrain or missing important events back home or, you know, taking fire from terrorists.

But at the end of the day, ask any Marine and they’ll tell you: all that blood and sweat they shed was worth it. Not only that, their shared hardships become the foundation of some epic memories.

Related: This Marine rapper spits lyrics that veterans know all too well

Life after the military can be a challenging and confusing time as many veterans attempt to find themselves. For the Marine-turned-rapper known as Fitzy Mess, using his passion for music to help tell the stories of his unique experiences is a way of easing the transition.

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Fitzy Mess performs on stage wearing the legendary silkies. (Source: Fitzy Mess’ Facebook)

“To tell the truth its fun as hell for me, puking up booze while my platoon sergeant yells at me,” Fitzy Mess raps.

We’ve all been there, Fitzy Mess. We’ve all been there…

Also Read: 9 things you should know before becoming a Marine infantry officer

Check out Fitzy Mess‘ video below to hear the lyrics that reflect on his time serving in the Marine Corps — we bet the veterans out there will find themselves relating:

(Fitzy Mess, YouTube)
Articles

5 fictional planes we wish were real

Let’s face it. There are fictional planes from some of our favorite stories that are simply awesome, but life is cruel, so we just don’t have the tech yet.


Still, here are five we wish would happen:

1. Airwolf

In the 1980s, this TV series was one of the few that was unapologetically pro-American. The creator behind this series was Don Bellisario, best known for JAG and NCIS. Yeah, it has Oscar-winner and former Chief Petty Officer Ernest Borgnine on the cast, but “The Lady” was the real star of this series that lasted for four seasons.

This helicopter could reach altitudes that fighters like the F-15 couldn’t dream of reaching. It had hot avionics and a powerful gun and missile armament. The closest we have come to this awesome chopper was the RAH-66 Comanche, which was cancelled in 2002 in favor of the abortive ARH-70. The OH-58 is being retired without a replacement. Ya blew it, DOD.

2. The EB-52C Megafortress

Okay, like many recent planes, this star of early Dale Brown novels like Flight of the Old Dog and Night of the Hawk managed to become the subject of a computer flight simulator.

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
We want to give B-52s secret lasers. (U.S. Air Force photo)

It’s a BUFF, but this BUFF got a multi-role fighter’s radar, the latest air-to-air missiles, and could still carry a lot of firepower to hit ground targets. In the original book, this BUFF slipped through Soviet air defenses, blasted a secret laser, then fought its way out. Much of that technology exists today…and perhaps the B-52 isn’t the only airframe it could be applied to…

3. Blue Thunder

According to IMDB, the movie featured an advanced helicopter that certain folks (mostly military) had sinister plans for. A spin-off TV series lasted 11 episodes opposite the iconic series Dallas.

This helicopter is not as heavily armed as Airwolf, but did feature astounding ISR gear, and a 20mm M61 Gatling gun. The ISR gear would have made this an excellent Kiowa replacement. Add a little firepower, and we have decent scout that could kill anything that stumbled on it. After all…dead men don’t talk.

4. Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet

The superhero who came to help America fight the Nazis in World War II had perhaps the ultimate in stealth technology: an invisible plane. According to screenrant.com this plane’s been with her since the 1940s.

The plane didn’t have much firepower in earlier iterations; lately, it’s picked up some firepower, but its primary defense is to not be seen at all by radar or the Mark One eyeball. While we have accomplished that with fifth-generation fighters as opposed to radar, we haven’t quite worked out the visual part. Yet.

(On a separate note, we also wish Wonder Woman were real…)

5. MiG-31 Firefox

No, this is not named for the browser. And yes, we know there is an actual MiG-31 called the Foxhound, which is a pretty sweet ride with some long-range firepower (4 AA-9 Amos air-to-air missiles, and four AA-11 Archers).

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
The tail end of a MiG-31 Firefox from the movie. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to IMDB.com, the MiG-31 Firefox was capable of Mach 6, could be flown by thinking in Russian, and it was invisible to radar. That’s a very sweet ride.

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VA chief says he’d stay if Trump wants him

As a new administration prepares to take charge in late January, the man who’s lead the Department of Veterans Affairs through nearly three years of turbulence says if President-elect Donald Trump wants him to stay aboard, he’ll keep working to reform the sprawling agency.


“I haven’t yet received a call,” says Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald. “But I would never turn my back on my duty.”

Trump has reportedly looked into several candidates for the post, including former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, but some are calling for McDonald to stay on.

During a recent “Town Hall”-style meeting at the West Los Angeles VA Jan. 4, McDonald fielded questions from the veteran audience that touched on service lapses and recent scandals, including accusations and fraud within the VA and a perceived lack of accountability.

“A certain employee here lost 30 vehicles and still drew a $140,000 salary,” one veteran and VA employee complained. “There’s no accountability with people in management.”

McDonald agreed he inherited a VA plagued with bad actors, but said most of the local VA leaders who were in office when he took over are no longer employed by the VA.

For McDonald the changes haven’t happened fast enough. Speed, he laments, is his greatest challenge. Future VA Secretaries will feel the need for speed as well.

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James A. Winnefeld, Jr. and (left) Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald (center) receive a brief on a firearms training driving simulator during a tour of the Center for the Intrepid, Dec. 19, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

“One of the things I talk about in my top 10 leadership principles is the need to get the right leaders in place,” McDonald told WATM in an exclusive interview. “I changed 14 of my 17 top leaders, but it’s two and a half years later, and we’re not done yet.”

Many of the veterans at the town hall meeting asked McDonald to address problems specific to them — bad record keeping or missed appointments. While the VA secretary said he’d get those problems fixed, he argued its a good sign the complaints focus on the tactical rather than larger systemic problems.

“Two and a half years ago, many of the comments I got were things like, ‘it’s too hard to get an appointment,’ ” he says. “Now, more and more, we’re hearing about individuals and that individual service.”

When you run a large customer service organization, you want to get from anecdotes to specific situations so you can deal with them,” he added.

Talking to McDonald, you can hear how his time as CEO of Procter  Gamble colors his view of running the VA.

“The brands you like the most, ones you can’t do without, you feel like you have an intimate relationship,” he says. “That intimacy leads to trust. What you want to do is measure the trust and measure the emotion that comes out of the experience that you have.”

Those are the metrics that he says matter.

“The fact that trust of the VA has gone up from 47 percent to 60 percent, it’s not where we want it to be, but the fact that it’s gone up says the veterans are seeing a difference,” he said. “What we’ve seen is ease of getting care has gone up 20 points, and the effectiveness of care has gone up about 12 points. Trust, then, has gone up 13 points.”

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(VA photo)

While veterans’ trust in the system has gone up, McDonald said, there are still calls for more services to be transitioned to private organizations. Many argue private doctors and specialists are more efficient and provide a quicker turnaround for vets in need, while others say moving toward privatization is a bad idea.

For McDonald, a careful mixture of both is the right way forward.

“Since I’ve been the secretary, we’ve gone from 20 percent of our appointments in private medicine to now 32 percent in the private sector, so there has been some degree of privatization,” he says. “We’ve done that in a very evolutionary way, where if we didn’t have a skill, specialty, or a location, we would send people into the community.”

“As I looked at this, privatizing VA services wholesale didn’t make sense to me,” he added.

He explained what he calls the “three-legged stool” of the VA: valuable medical research (to the tune of $1.8B per year), training 70 percent of doctors in the United States, and providing the “best patients” for clinical work – patients with unique situations.

He also said many veterans organization don’t want total privatization.

“They like the integrated care that the VA provides, and they like having medical providers who are familiar with their unique situations,” McDonald says. “They typically have a number of issues that need to be resolved simultaneously.”

Whether he stays in the job or not, McDonald feels it’s important the next VA secretary has a similar pedigree to his — one that combines military experience with top-line business credentials.

“It’s important to have somebody who’s a veteran, obviously, because they have to have credibility with the veteran population, but somebody who’s also run a large organization,” he says. “I think it’s advantageous to have somebody who’s run a large organization and understands the importance of getting the right leaders in place, of setting the right strategies, of making sure the system’s robust, of setting the right culture.”

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The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades

In the final six months of World War II, the 104th Division — “The Frontier Division” — launched a series of night attacks against German troops while equipped with only empty rifles, bayonets, and grenades, slicing and exploding their way through enemy lines on the drive to Berlin.


The 104th Division was stood up in Oregon on Sep. 15, 1942, around the same time that its future commander, Maj. Gen. Terry “Terrible Terry” Allen, was loading the 1st Inf. Division into ships for the invasion of North Africa.

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A 1st Infantry Division tank in Germany in world War II. Maj. Gen. Terry Allen left the 1st Inf. Div. to command the 104th Inf. Div., a unit which quickly proved itself after arriving in France in 1944. (Photo: U.S. Army Tech. Sgt. Murray Shub)

One of Allen’s big takeaways from commanding the 1st in Tunisia was that night attacks were generally less costly than daytime assaults, especially against fortifications and massed guns. So, when he handed the 1st over to Maj. Gen. Clarence R. Huebner and was sent to take over the 104th, he insisted that the Frontier Division learn to fight at night.

According to a 1946 news article about the Division, Allen required the men to train 30-35 hours a week at night, well above the Army standard of eight to 12 hours.

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American troops march in the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia. Tunisia was a formative experience for Maj. Gen. Terry Allen who took lessons from the battlefield there to the 104th Infantry Division. (Dept. of Defense photo)

After training in the U.S. and England, the 104th finally landed in France in September 1944 and was sent to Antwerp a month later to help capture the port there. In two weeks of bloody fighting that included multiple night assaults, the Timberwolves worked with the Canadians and British to eliminate Nazi defenses.

And some of those night assaults were conducted with only cold steel bayonets and the explosive fire of hand grenades.

Even when the “Nightfighters” had rifle ammunition and permission to use it, they seemed to prefer their bayonets and explosives, likely in a bid to reduce tell-tale muzzle flashes that would give away their position.

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The bayonet has served the U.S. from the Revolutionary War to Iraq and Afghanistan, but was especially useful in World War I. (Photo: U.S. Defense Visual Information Center)

During the Battle of the Dykes near Antwerp, then-1st Lt. Cecil Bolton tried to use mortars to knock out enemy machine gun positions raining fire on his unit. After being knocked unconscious by German artillery, he awoke and led a two-man volunteer bazooka team against the German lines by sneaking through chest-deep, nearly frozen water in the canals to the enemy positions.

The three men took out one position with grenades and an artillery position with the rockets, only using rifle fire to take out a sniper and machine gun position who spotted them before they could attack. Bolton was wounded a second time while returning to U.S. lines and was later awarded the Medal of Honor.

The night attacks were usually reserved for positions in relatively open terrain, but were sometimes conducted against cities. The city of Eschweiler was captured in November thanks to a pre-dawn insertion of troops into the city center. Those men raised hell inside German lines at sunrise while the rest of their unit attacked from the outside.

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104th Infantry Division soldiers drive a captured German tank in 1944 after painting it with U.S. markings. (Photo: U.S. Army)

A midnight attack on Lucherbourg went south when the Americans were spotted immediately after crossing a river, but the men pressed on anyways, seizing four houses at the edge of town and holding them against enemy counterattacks, including armored assaults, all night and the following day.

Then-Maj. Gen. Joseph “Lightning Joe” Collins praised the men for their daring and success during the campaign:

The second phase, involving the crossing of the Inde River and the advance to the Roer, was even more difficult, but with characteristic skill and dash, in a series of brilliant night attacks, the 104th Division forced a crossing of the Inde, and in a few days had cleared its entire sector to the Roer River.  I regard the operation which involved the seizure of Lamersdorf-Inden-Luchererg as one of the finest single pieces of work accomplished by any unit of the 7th Corps since D Day.

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German mortars fire towards American positions during the Battle of Hurtgen Forest. (Photo: German Army Archives)

On Oct. 23, 1944, the division deployed to the Battle of Hurtgen Forest, the longest single battle in which America ever fought.

The 104th later took part in Operation Grenade, the late-February 1945 crossing of the Roer River and the drive into the heart of Germany as well as the March 22 crossing of the Rhine. Over the following week, they captured important strategic points like airfields and created blocking positions to stop the escape of Nazi units.

On April 11, the division arrived at Nordhausen, Germany, and found a German concentration camp with 6,000 survivors and 5,000 corpses. The inmates of the camp had been forced to manufacture V-2 bombs until the American approach forced the Germans to withdraw.

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This is the underground facility in Germany where prisoners of the concentration camp near Nordhausen were forced to create V-2 rockets for German use against the Allies. (Photo: German Federal Archives)

On April 26, the 104th met up with Russian troops that had been pushing the Germans west from Moscow. The Allied forces continued to hunt German units until May 5 when they ran out of Nazis to fight. Thus ended 195 days and nights of continuous combat, some of it conducted at night against machinegun nests and artillery positions by attackers armed only with blades and grenades.

The Timberwolves were scheduled to take part in the invasions of the Japanese home islands as part of Operations Olympic and Coronet. The operations were made unnecessary by Japan’s surrender on Sep. 2, 1945.

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A memorial plaque for the 104th Infantry Division in Arlington National Cemetery. (Photo: Tim1965 CC BY-SA 3.0)

The 104th is now a training unit in the Army Reserve. It still proudly carries the names “Timberwolves” and “Nightfighters.”

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Team Rubicon is on the ground in Nepal

Team Rubicon, a non-government organization made up of military veterans and first responders, rapidly deploys skilled personnel to emergency areas after disasters. After the earthquake in Nepal, Team Rubicon sent folks who have made a difference on the ground executing what they’ve called Operation Tenzing Nepal.


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Photo: Team Rubicon

The team members have deployed to very remote areas, so knowing what to put in the pack-up is crucial.

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Photo: Team Rubicon

Veterans with the appropriate skills set up medical aid stations to help those affected by the quake. After major disasters, the spread of disease can be accelerated due to contaminated water and a loss of basic services.

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Photo: Team Rubicon

Keeping track of care can be a challenge in the chaotic, high patient volume environment that follows a disaster.

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Photo: Team Rubicon

Many patients have multiple injuries, each of which requires treatment and follow-up. Teams stationed in a village do their best to make sure injuries don’t become worse.

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Photo: Team Rubicon

Team Rubicon works with local and foreign governments while conducting their operations. And since many members are veterans, they are able to interact with militaries more easily than some NGOs.

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Photo: Team Rubicon

Reconnaissance in remote areas can be challenging, especially after existing infrastructure is damaged by an earthquake. Drones allow foreign responders like Team Rubicon, as well as local forces, to respond more efficiently.

Team Rubicon is collecting donations to support of Operation Tenzing Nepal on their website. Also, military veterans or civilians with skills as first responders can volunteer with Team Rubicon for future operations. Teams serve one of 10 regional areas in the United States or deploy internationally.

MORE: This Green Beret’s heroism was so incredible that Ronald Reagan said it was hard to believe

AND: New report shows vets more civic-minded than non-vets

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7 things we loved about ‘The Man in the High Castle’ season one

What if the Allies lost World War II and the United States was invaded by Japan on the Pacific Coast and the Nazis on the Atlantic? The Amazon Studios show “The Man in the High Castle” premiered in November 2015 to answer just that question. The second season of the show drops on Amazon on Dec. 16, 2016.


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(Amazon Studios)

Related: Here’s what America would be like if the Nazis and Japanese had won WWII

The show is based on the novel of the same name, penned by sci-fi legend Philip K. Dick. “The Man in the High Castle” is in good company; Dick’s other films and short stories include “Blade Runner,” “Minority Report,” and “Total Recall.” The Amazon Studios show does not perfectly follow the book, but stands tall on its own.

If you haven’t seen the first season, be advised: there are some minor spoilers ahead.

“The Man in the High Castle” is more than just an alternative history story. The science fiction element stems from the show’ namesake. Someone known as the titular “Man in the High Castle” is looking for films that appear to depict multiple timelines, including one in which the Japanese Pacific States and the American Greater Nazi Reich never exist.

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(Amazon Studios)

The films are newsreels that show U.S., British, and Soviet forces defeating the Nazis. What’s more, one even shows the destruction of Japanese cities by an American superweapon. Now the Japanese and the Nazis are in an arms race as each try to capture as many of the films as possible. Resistance fighters are also looking for the films as the rest of what used to be America struggles under the boot of occupation.

Here are a few things we loved about the first season and some things we’re looking forward to for the next.

1. Seeing Juliana’s face as she watched a film for the first time.

When Juliana first discovered the films, she watched it (over and over) in her apartment. The film showed D-Day, the Japanese Surrender, the liberation of Paris, V-J Day, and the fall of Berlin. The look on her face was everything.

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
(Amazon Studios)

2. Googling Canon City to see if it’s a real place (it is).

In the show, there is a sort of neutral zone between the two Axis powers, and it looks like it encompasses the Rocky Mountains. Basically an ungoverned space, it’s the place to go for anyone seeking to leave the heavy-handed brutality of the Reich or the Japanese States. Canon City is what’s left of the former United States.

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Canon City (Amazon Studios)

3. Inspector Kido is quietly frightening.

The head of the Kempeitai — Japanese secret police — in San Francisco is Takeshi Kido, a no-nonsense officer with the determination of Michael Ironside’s Richter from “Total Recall” and the look of Ronald Lacy’s Sturmbannführer Toht from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

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Can’t you see his face melting from looking at the Ark? (Amazon Studios)

4. DJ Qualls!

Everyone’s favorite movie friend is in the cast too, playing Juliana and Frank’s friend (duh), Ed McCarthy. Ed does everything he can to keep Frank out of trouble and help Juliana escape capture by the Kempeitai. Now that Inspector Kido think’s he’s the would-be assassin of the Crown Prince, what will Frank do?

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Isn’t he precious? (Amazon Studios)

5. Obergruppenführer John Smith is an awesome villain.

Cold, calculating, and murderous, the great thing about Obergruppenführer Smith is that he honestly believes he’s on the right side and will do anything to further Hitler’s Reich. Plus, he throws unsuspecting people off of buildings. It will be interesting to see if there’s any weakness in his resolve now that he has to kill his son.

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We also like saying the word “Obergruppenführer”. (Amazon Studios)

6. There’s a Cold War coming.

It’s 1962 and Hitler is close to death. Everyone seems to think that the fragile peace between the two Axis powers is only because Hitler is still alive. Once he dies, everyone predicts a coming war. To stave off impending conflicts, the Japanese “acquire” a superweapon from a Nazi turncoat.  Now both sides have the ability to destroy each other and the world.

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Tentative peace at best. (Amazon Studios)

7. Trade Minister Tagomi tasted freedom.

Tagomi, who never seemed to be fully into the full-on oppressive occupation of America, suddenly ended up in the alternative history (that is, the real history as we know it, where America won WWII) and stepped into 1960’s San Francisco. It’s probably likely this experience significantly changed his character.

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
Freedom with a touch of Reagan. (Amazon Studios)

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The VA might actually be getting its act together

Trying to emerge from scandals that shook the agency to its core, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is attempting to overhaul what officials admit was sometimes pretty bad customer service.


Quietly, since 2015, the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs has built a national Veterans Experience Office.

The office’s first steps have been rolling out over 100 community veterans committees nationwide and retraining employees to be less rigid and more customer-focused.

The VA even hired professional writers to redraft the language of 1,200 official letter templates to make them more reader friendly.

“(We) had somehow gotten away from the primary mission of organizing the enterprise through the eyes of the customer,” said Joy White, who leads the office’s Pacific district, which includes California and the West Coast.

“(We did) things that made sense to us, made it easy for us as the VA,” White said. “But, in all of that, we lost the voice of the customer.”

The task at hand: How to change the culture of a massive federal agency that provides everything from medical care to monthly disability checks to funerals.

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Or her widow, Mr. President. Or her widow. (Photo: Veterans Affairs)

Some might wonder if — with what’s a famously dense bureaucracy — it can be done. Even new VA Secretary David Shulkin has said it’s a struggle to fire bad apples, including employees who watch porn on the job.

The new Veterans Experience Office’s budget this fiscal year is $55.4 million, up from $49 million last year, “to lead the My VA transformation,” according to a budget document. About 150 jobs now fall under this office’s umbrella.

Two years in, the nation’s veterans organizations are still taking a wait-and-see position.

“We’re not sure how much the VEO has improved the VA to date, but we are encouraged by this initiative and hope to see it succeed,” said Joe Plenzler, American Legion spokesman. “Any effort to improve dialogue between veterans and VA employees and administrators is time and money well spent.”

One vocal critic of the VA said the office has potential but not if it tries to just “paper over” structural issues facing the veterans agency.

“Doing things that are more feel-good measures, but actually don’t address some of the core problems of the VA, could distract from what’s needed to be done,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director at Concerned Veterans for America.

“That’s the danger I see, potentially, with this office. But I want to say there’s a lot of opportunity here. If this office is managed well and insists that they are here to improve the outcomes for veterans — and not just ‘the experience’ — they could be successful.”

Also read: The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

The “veterans experience” campaign started under former VA Secretary Bob McDonald, the retired Proctor Gamble chief executive brought in by President Barack Obama in mid-2014 following a national scandal over wait times for VA medical care.

McDonald installed a “chief veterans experience officer” in early 2015.

The office reports directly to the VA secretary — now Shulkin, a doctor and health-care executive who is the first non-veteran to lead the agency.

Whether he will continue the “experience” campaign is an open question.

However, in April he named Lynda Davis, a former Army officer and Pentagon civilian executive with experience in personnel and suicide prevention, to head the office. She replaces a former McDonald’s executive, Tom Allin, who held the job for about two years.

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Talihina Veterans Center (Oklahona Department of Veterans Affairs)

Some of the hiring was for “human-centered design” teams. These teams, which include people from Stanford’s prestigious D School, are supposed to re-engineer VA routines that aren’t working.

They produced a “journey map” showing what VA patients experience.

It identifies “pain points” along the way, such as cancelled appointments. It also calls out “moments that matter,” such as the check-in process and whether it’s hard or easy to park.

Two early goals were to establish one consumer-oriented website and one toll-free telephone number for all VA divisions. The result was vets.gov and 1 (844) My-VA311.

The VA is now looking for inspiration from national brands famous for good service. Starbucks, Marriott, and Walgreens are on the list.

“We get the experience that we design. Historically, we haven’t put an emphasis as an organization on customer service. There was no program of record that said ‘this how we do customer service,'” White told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“You walk into a Starbucks anywhere in the country, there is something that looks and feels very familiar wherever you go.”

Also read: Starbucks donated free coffee to every US service member in Afghanistan

One change the Veterans Experience Office has led: hiring for customer-service skills, instead of just looking for people qualified for a position.

“We weren’t hiring for attitude,” said White, who said her office identified questions to insert in the VA’s interview process to draw out whether an applicant had customer service aptitude.

In a changing health-care industry, this is a bandwagon that the VA is belatedly jumping on.

Other hospital organizations have rebooted their customer experience in the past decade in response to a shift in Medicare reimbursement policy that now rewards for patient satisfaction, experts said. The power of social media is also a factor.

The Cleveland Clinic was the first major academic medical center to appoint a chief experience officer in 2007. Across the country, hospitals have built grand entrances, opened restaurants intended to draw non-patients and put flowers by bedsides.

“My sense of it is that we live in the age of the empowered consumer,” said John Romley, an economist at the University of Southern California’s Schaeffer center for health policy.

“VA customers maybe have less choice in the matter, but at the same time, there’s a great deal of sensitivity in the broader population about how we treat these people in the VA system.”

The VA’s new customer service motto — Own the Moment — sounds a bit like a commercial TV jingle.

Training is rolling out across the country, including at the La Jolla VA hospital.

The premise: Each VA employee should “own” their time with a customer, the veteran, and do their best to ensure the person gets the help he or she needs.

That contrasts to the like-it-or-lump-it experience that veterans have sometimes complained about in the past.

“We’re moving away from a rules-based organization to a more of what we call a values, principle-based organization,” said Allan Castellanos, the VA employee teaching the La Jolla seminar.

“I call it more like integrated ethics, like doing the right thing for the right reason,” he said.

The employees were shown a video of VA workers going the extra mile to welcome an uncertain new veteran into a clinic.

In another, VA workers allowed the family of a dying veteran to bring his horse onto hospital grounds.

The VA is trying to emerge from bunker mentality after back-to-back national embarrassments.

First, in 2013, the backlog of disability claims rose to mountainous proportions, bringing down the wrath of Congress and the public.

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We just wanna see more vets smiling. (Photo: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

Then, in 2014, news reports revealed that VA medical workers were keeping secret lists of patients waiting for appointments to make wait-time data appear satisfactory.

All of this occurred as the VA struggled to handle a flood of new veterans coming home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

A few of the ideas being pursued by the Veterans Experience Office have origins in San Diego.

Officials acknowledge that what they are calling Community Veterans Experience Boards — the 152 community boards they eventually want to create nationally — came from San Diego’s longstanding example.

San Diego veterans leaders meet monthly with VA officials here in both closed-door and public sessions.

Additionally, the tragic suicide of 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran Jeremy Sears appears to have helped spur a campaign to redraft VA correspondence to make it more user friendly.

Sears shot himself at an Oceanside gun range in 2014 after being rejected for VA disability benefits despite the cumulative effects of several combat tours.

Veterans advocates suggested that the VA rejection letter could have offered advice on where to go for counseling and other assistance, instead of just a “no.”

“That was one of the ‘pain points’ that was identified,” White said, referring to the veteran’s “journey mapping” that her office did. “There was a lot of legalese, when in fact we just want it to be simple and clean.”

They started with the Veterans Benefit Administration’s correspondence and are working their way toward the Veterans Health Administration’s appointment cards.

Veterans Experience Office officials first told the Union-Tribune that they could provide examples of the rewritten letter formats, but later said they weren’t ready yet.

The Veterans Experience Office, headquartered in Washington, now has split the country into five districts and dispatched “relationship managers” to each.

The Veterans Experience Office is now trying to finesse those moments that matter to veterans. In 2017, officials expect to roll out a veterans real-time feedback tool in 10 locations. They also plan to release a patient experience “program of record.”

“Our goal is to build trust with veterans, their family members, and survivors,” White said. “How do we do that? By bringing their voices to everything we do.”

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These are the 5 most lethal weapons in the Japanese military

Japan has been making a comeback as a carrier navy, but they’re small compared to those of other Western powers. Overall, Japan had perhaps the most modern navy in East Asia during the Cold War, and did so while mostly respecting its constitution that renounced war.


But now, with China getting aggressive around the Senkaku Islands and in the South China Sea, Japan is stepping up its preparations. What are their best weapons? Here’s a listing from one video.

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
JS Izumo underway in 2015. (Wikimedia Commons)

1. Izumo-class “helicopter destroyers”

Japan’s most modern “carriers” are among the biggest game-changers in the region. Vessels similar to this have operated small detachments of AV-8B Harriers but mostly deploy helicopters. And this isn’t the first time Japan has set its sights on bantam-weight carriers — its powerful Kido Butai dominated the seas during the initial stages of World War II.

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A Soryu-class submarine arrives at Pearl Harbor for a visit. (US Navy photo)

2. Soryu-class diesel-electric submarines

Even more quiet than the carrier comeback has been Japan’s submarine force. In this case, Japan has perhaps the most modern diesel-electric submarines in East Asia. The Soryu-class vessels could also be getting new batteries that would greatly increase submerged performance.

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JS Atago in 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Jennifer A. Villalovos)

3. Atago-class guided-missile destroyers

This is Japan’s version of the Arleigh Burke Flight IIA guided-missile destroyers. They’re about the same size, both have 96 vertical launch cells in two Mk 41 vertical-launch systems, and both can carry a couple of Seahawk helicopters. Two-to-four modified versions are planned to be added to the fleet in the coming years.

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
A U.S. Marine V-22 Osprey ascends the USS Bataan in Aqaba, Jordan, to begin a demo flight in support of Eager Lion 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mickey A. Miller)

4. V-22 Osprey

A planned purchase of the hight-tech tiltrotor aircraft is more rumor than fact. It should be noted that Japanese troops have been training on the Osprey since 2013. The Hyuga, a “helicopter destroyer” that is slightly smaller than the aforementioned Izumo, has operated this tilt-rotor aircraft. This could be a game-changer in a Senkaku Islands conflict.

22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of
An F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is displayed in the U.S. corral at the Paris Air Show June 20, 2017 at Le Bourget, France. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

5. F-35 Lightning

This is a future purchase for Japan and will likely replace some of Japan’s F-4EJ and F-15J fighters. The F-35A is definitely headed over to Japan, but don’t count out a F-35B purchase, especially with reports Japan is considering purchasing the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship design. That could make the Wasps a match for the Liaoning.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3G5lQ-GkFM
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Hollywood legend Jimmy Stewart was a World War II hero

Today I found out Jimmy Stewart was a two star general in the United States military.

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In 1940, Jimmy Stewart was drafted into the United States Army, but ended up being rejected due to being five pounds under the required weight, given his height (at the time he weighed 143 pounds).  Not to be dissuaded, Stewart then sought out the help of Don Loomis, who was known to be able to help people add or subtract pounds.  Once he had gained a little weight, he enlisted with the Army Air Corps in March of 1941 and was eventually accepted, once he convinced the enlisting officer to re-run the tests.

Initially, Stewart was given the rank of private; by the time he had completed training, he had advanced to the rank of second lieutenant (January of 1942).  Much to his chagrin, due to his celebrity status and extensive flight expertise (having tallied over 400 flight hours before even joining the military), Stewart was initially assigned to various “behind the lines” type duties such as training pilots and making promotional videos in the states.  Eventually, when he realized they were not going to ever put him in the front line, he appealed to his commanding officer and managed to get himself assigned to a unit overseas.

In August of 1943, he found himself with the 703rd Bombardment Squadron, initially as a first officer, and shortly thereafter as a Captain.  During combat operations over Germany, Stewart found himself promoted to the rank of Major.  During this time, Stewart participated in several uncounted missions (on his orders) into Nazi occupied Europe, flying his B-24 in the lead position of his group in order to inspire his troops.

For his bravery during these missions, he twice received the Distinguished Flying Cross; three times received the Air Medal; and once received the Croix de Guerre from France.  This latter medal was an award given by France and Belgium to individuals allied with themselves who distinguished themselves with acts of heroism.

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By July of 1944, Stewart was promoted chief of staff of the 2nd Combat Bombardment wing of the Eighth Air Force.  Shortly thereafter, he was promoted to the rank of colonel, becoming one of only a handful of American soldiers to ever rise from private to colonel within a four year span.

After the war, Stewart was an active part of the United States Air Force Reserve, serving as the Reserve commander of Dobbins Air Reserve Base.  On July 24, 1959, he attained the rank of brigadier general (one star general).

During the Vietnam War, he flew (not the pilot) in a B-52 on a bombing mission and otherwise continued to fulfill his duty with the Air Force Reserve.  He finally retired from the Air Force on May 31, 1968 after 27 years of service and was subsequently promoted to Major General (two star general).

Bonus Facts:

  • Both Stewart’s grandfathers fought in the American Civil War.  He also had ancestors on his mother’s side that served in the American Revolution and the War of 1812.  His father served in the Spanish-American War and World War I.  His adopted son, Ronald, was killed at the age of 24 as a Marine in Vietnam.
  • The full list of military awards achieved by Stewart are: 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 4 Air Medals, 1 Army Commendation Medal, 1 Armed Forces Reserve Medal, 1 Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1 French Croix de Guerre with Palm.
  • As a child, Stewart was a Second Class Scout and eventually became an adult Scout leader.  He was also the recipient of the prestigious Boy Scouts of America Silver Buffalo Award, of which only 674 to date have been given out since 1926.  Of the other recipients besides Stewart, 14 have held the office of President of the United States.
  • A brigadier general is equivalent to a lower rear admiral in the navy.  A major general is equivalent to a rear admiral and is typically given 10,000-20,000 troops to command and is authorized to command them independently.
  • U.S. law limits the number of general officers that may be on active duty at any time to 302 for the Army, 279 for the Air Force, and 80 for the Marine Corps.
  • Eligible officers to be considered to promotion for the rank of brigadier general (one star) are recommended to the President from a list compiled by current general officers.  The President then selects officers from this list to be given the promotion.  Occasionally, the President will also nominate officers not on this list, but this almost never happens.  Once the President makes their selection, the Senate confirms or rejects the selected individuals by a majority vote.
  • The name “brigadier general” comes from the American Revolutionary War when the first brigadier generals were appointed.  At that time, they were simply general officers put in charge of a brigade, hence “brigadier general”.  For a time in the very early 19th century, this was the highest rank any officer in the military could achieve as the rank of major general (two star) had been abolished.  The rank of major general was later re-established just before the war of 1812.
  • At Princeton, Stewart excelled at architecture and was eventually awarded a full scholarship for graduate work by his professors as a result of his thesis on airport design.
  • Stewart and Henry Fonda were roommates early in their careers.  Later in life, they still shared a close friendship and, when they weren’t working, they often spent their time building and painting model airplanes with each other.
  • Jimmy Stewart also was an avid pilot before his military service.  He received his private pilot certificate in 1935 and used to fly cross-country to visit his parents.  Interestingly, when he did so, he stated that he used rail road tracks to navigate.
  • Stewart was also one of the investors and collaborators who helped build Thunderbird Field, which was a pilot training school built to help train pilots during WWII.  During the WWII alone, over 10,000 pilots were trained there.
  • After WWII, he strongly considered abandoning acting and entering the aviation field, due to personal doubts that he could still act.
  • His first film after the war was Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life which, at the time, was considered somewhat of a flop with the public, though it was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Stewart.  Partially due to this film’s poor showing at the box office, Capra’s production company went bankrupt and Stewart began to further doubt his ability to act following the war.
  • On January 5, 1992, It’s a Wonderful Life became the first American program ever to be broadcast on Russian television.  A translated version, courtesy of Stewart and Lomonosov Moscow State University, was broadcast to over 200 million Russians on that day.
  • Stewart went on to act in several flops, as well as several critically acclaimed films, and by the 1950s was still considered a top tier actor over all.  This was important because in 1950 he became one of the first top tier actors to work for no money up front, but rather a percentage of the gross of the film.  Others had done this before, but it was rare and generally only lower end actors on the tail of their careers would agree to this.  He did this on the movie Winchester ’73 where he had asked for $200,000 pay to appear in that movie and Harvey.  The studio rejected, so he countered that he’d work for a percentage of the gross.  He ended up taking home nearly $600,000 for Winchester ’73 alone.  Hollywood’s other top-tier stars took noticed and this practiced began becoming the norm for top tier actors.
  • By 1954, Stewart was voted the most popular Hollywood actor in the world, displacing John Wayne.  He also was the highest grossing actor that year.
  • Stewart was also known somewhat for his poetry.  He frequently would appear on Johnny Carson’sThe Tonight Show and would read various poems he had written throughout his life.  One of his poems, written about his dog, so moved Carson that, by the end, Carson was choking back tears.  Dana Carvey and Dennis Miller, in 1980, parodied this on Saturday Night Live.  These poems were later compiled into a book called Jimmy Stewart and His Poems.
  • Later in life, Stewart appeared in The Magic of Lassie (1978), much to the dismay of critics and the general public, as the film was a universal flop and seen to be beneath him.  Stewart’s response to them was that it was the only script he was offered that didn’t have sex, profanity, or graphic violence.
  • Stewart’s final film role was as the voice of Wylie Burp, in the 1991 movie An American Tail: Fievel Goes West.
  • Stewart devoted much of the last years of his life to trying to enhance the public’s understanding and appreciation of the U.S. constitution and the Bill of Rights as well as promote education.  He died of a blood clot in his lung on July 2, 1997.  Over his life, his professions included a hardware store shop-hand; a brick layer; a road worker; an assistant magician; an actor; an investor; a war hero; and a philanthropist.  He also held a bachelors degree in architecture from Princeton.

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The CIA once hired prostitutes to test LSD on unsuspecting Johns

It’s no secret by now that the U.S. government used to really love testing LSD on people. What civilians used to get better at dancing (or at least care less about how bad they danced), the CIA reportedly wanted to use to brainwash, disable and hypnotize people. Sounds about right.


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Unless you’re brainwashing people to do more acid, I think you need a new plan.

Project MKUltra was born from the desire to “develop a capability in the covert use of biological and chemical materials.” The project was an extensive testing program which administered citizens from all walks of life with LSD. Even the researchers were dosed.

At least two people died and one of the researchers became schizophrenic after his unwilling trip.

With such disregard for human life, is it any surprise the CIA wouldn’t feel too bad about giving men committing a crime a dose of acid? In the 1950s, that’s just what they did.

In Operation Midnight Climax, the agency used sex workers on its payroll to administer hits of acid to their unsuspecting customers in New York and San Francisco.

Troy Hooper of SF Weekly reported at least three houses used by the CIA to lure men in and give them LSD-laced drinks. Either that or they would have their customers, picked up in bars and restaurants, drive back to one of the houses used by the agency. The men would consume “large doses” of LSD and then do the deed under observation from CIA agents via a two-way mirror.

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Observation is important in all kinds of studying, obviously.

Houses in San Francisco operated until 1965, New York’s operated until 1966.

When MKUltra’s overseers left the agency in the 1970s, all files related to the project were ordered destroyed. The American public didn’t even know about the operation until after 1975, when a CIA employee came across documents referring to the program that somehow avoided destruction.

In 1977, John Marks, the author of “The Search for the Manchurian Candidate,” filed a FOIA request for the documents, which numbered some 20,000. President Gerald Ford ordered a congressional commission to look into the matter.

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Sidney Gottlieb, a chemist and chief of the CIA’s technical services division testified (in exchange for immunity) that hospitals, prisons, military units, colleges, pharmaceutical companies, and more were all part of the MKUltra program.

No one was ever punished for the program.