4 photos of soldiers chilling in dictators' houses - We Are The Mighty
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4 photos of soldiers chilling in dictators’ houses

Long before the Facebook profile was a thing, American soldiers saw the value of photos taken in historical landmarks like Hitler’s retreat or Hirohito’s palace.


1. The Band of Brothers hung out together in Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.

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As World War II was ending, American soldiers coming off of frontline conflict were assigned to guard important structures from both looting and attempts by criminals to destroy evidence of war crimes. 101st paratroopers from the famous Easy Company were given the task of guarding Kehlsteinhaus, Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest.”

2. American troops toured, lived in, and worked in Saddam’s palaces.

4 photos of soldiers chilling in dictators’ houses
Photo: US Army Pfc. Jason Jordan

After the fall of the Baath Regime, U.S. commanders looking for headquarters turned to buildings abandoned by the Iraqi Army in their retreat. Among those repurposed for American military operations were a number of Hussein family palaces. The “Victory Over America Palace” was a part of many tours.

3. An Italian Palace became a way station for Allied troops pushing up through the “soft underbelly” of Europe.

4 photos of soldiers chilling in dictators’ houses
A US Army soldier is baptized by a chaplain in the fountain at the Palace of Caserta. Photo: US Army

The Palace of Caserta was originally commissioned for Charles VII of Naples but he abdicated his thrown and so it passed to his son Ferdinand IV of Naples in the late 1700s. Ferdinand’s two major claims to fame were being curb-stomped by Napoleon twice and executing a bunch of his own citizens.

The palace of this amazingly ineffective dictator was one of the largest palaces in the world and was in good shape when World War II rolled around. Allied soldiers moving up the Italian peninsula moved into the palace grounds and used the fountains for swimming and baptisms as shown above.

4. Gen. MacArthur hung out with the Japanese emperor.

4 photos of soldiers chilling in dictators’ houses
Photo: US Army Lt. Gaetano Faillace

Gen. Douglas MacArthur was tasked with occupying Japan after the island nation’s surrender that ended World War II.

As part of the effort to both diminish the emperor in Japanese eyes and to raise the stature of the American occupiers, MacArthur had photos taken of himself and the emperor together, a surprising visual for the Japanese people. He also had men stationed on the palace grounds.

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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.

4 photos of soldiers chilling in dictators’ houses


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.

4 photos of soldiers chilling in dictators’ houses

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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5 awesome ways the military collects toys for kids

The world’s most powerful military has a soft spot for kids and Christmas, and they show it every year through a number of toy drives and holiday events. Here are 5 annual operations designed to being Christmas cheer to kids in need:


1. Toys for Tots

4 photos of soldiers chilling in dictators’ houses
Photo: US Marine Corps Sgt. Christopher Green

The largest and best known of the military toy drives, Toys for Tots is ran by the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation as a mission of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. Nationwide, Marines and veterans collect new toys and run events year round to give Christmas cheer to children across the country. Other military services get involved by holding their own toy drives to donate to the Toys for Tots program.

2. Operation Toy Drop

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Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Logan Brandt

The Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop is an annual event where paratroopers donate toys and are given a chance to earn foreign jump wings. This year, 4,300 paratroopers and their supporters donated 6,000 toys. With seven nations participating, Operation Toy Drop is the world’s largest Airborne operation.

3. Santa’s Ruck March

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Photo: US Army Capt. John Farmer

In Santa’s Ruck March, soldiers and family members from two brigades at Fort Hood, Texas conduct a one-mile march with rucksacks filled with toys to Santa’s Workshop where all the toys are placed on large tables. The annual event supports over 3,000 Fort Hood children.

4. Fill the Boat Toy Drive

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Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Caleb Critchfield

Hosted by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Fill the Boat Toy Drive selects a charity that supports children every year to distribute toys collected in a large boat with Santa and Mrs. Claus presiding over the collection. In 2015, hundreds of toys were given to the Ronald McDonald House to distribute to children spending the holiday in the hospital.

5. Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Christopher Anderson toy drive

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Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Timothy Walter

Split between two locations, Anderson Hall in Joint Base San Antonio, Texas and Longmont, Colorado, this toy drive memorializes Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Christopher Anderson who died on a deployment to Ramadi, Iraq. The toys collected are sent to the Longmont Police Department in Anderson’s hometown and to the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots.

There are also other military operations that center on the holiday. The Air Force drops toys, books, and humanitarian assistance on Pacific islands every year in Operation Christmas Drop. NORAD tracks Santa’s progress across the world every Christmas Eve.

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The SAS knew how to take out the Luftwaffe in spectacular fashion

Britain’s Special Air Service is full of elite special operators who know how to get the job done. In World War II, one of their tasks was breaking the back of the Luftwaffe in North Africa, and they did so in spectacular fashion.


The top-tier warriors of the SAS bolted a bunch of weapons, sometimes as many as 10 Vickers machine guns with a .50-cal. kicker, to Willy Jeeps and then conducted lightning raids through German airfields, hitting grounded planes with incendiary rounds.

See how the fights worked in the video below:

Video: YouTube/LightningWar1941
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Kim Jong Un executed an official using anti-aircraft guns… again.

Remember those days in the military where early morning briefings forced several attendees to stand up and walk to the back of the room to keep from dozing off? Maybe some did push-ups during intermission to stave off sleepiness.


In North Korea, that struggle can be a matter of life and death.

Just the other day, a few push-ups might have saved Ri Yong Jin, a North Korean education minister, from a horrible fate. He was arrested for dozing off during a meeting with DPRK dictator Kim Jong Un, according to Jane Onyanga-Omara of USA Today

He was accused of corruption and sentenced to die. The method?

Death by anti-aircraft cannon.

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Like this. (KCNA photo)

The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea released a report in 2015 detailing satellite imagery that shows what they believe to be a special military facility for such executions. Located just outside of the DPRK capital of Pyongyang, the Kanggon Military Facility contains a 100-meter firing range, complete with viewing area that’s big enough to accommodate anti-aircraft guns.

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The Kanggon site in satellite photos. (Committee for Human Rights in North Korea)

In October 2014, the regular firing lanes were replaced with six ZPU-4 anti-aircraft guns, using fearsome 14.5mm caliber rounds – a total of 24 heavy guns. Many believe an execution was performed at the Kanggon site just after a satellite grabbed an image of the guns.

Since taking power in 2012, Kim Jong Un spent much of his time consolidating his power base, executing the “old guard” of his father’s regime and keeping only Kim Jong Un stalwarts to prevent a coup. This isn’t even the first time he used anti-aircraft guns to execute a high-level official.

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Seems he knows the secret of the knife hand as well. (KCNA photo)

This time around, Kim Jong Un also executed an official in the agriculture ministry with AA fire because his policy efforts contradicted the young dictator’s directives. In 2015, the DPRK’s defense minister was reportedly killed by ZPU-4 guns.  The regime has been known to use mortars and flamethrowers to execute dissidents and officials. Kim Jong Un even reportedly fed his uncle to a pack of hungry dogs.

A recent spat of high-profile defections to South Korea aren’t helping things settle down in the North. A public relations official for North Korea, based in London defected to the South with his family in August. Voice of America’s Youmi Kim quoted South Korean President Park-Geun Hye as saying the defections are a mark of the North’s current instability.

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(KCNA photo)

“Recently, even North Korea’s elite group is collapsing, followed by key North Korean figures defecting to foreign countries, showing a sign of serious cracks with chances of shaking the regime higher,” Park told VOA.

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Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

U.S. troop increases in Syria and Iraq could be part of the plan for speeding up the campaign against ISIS that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will present to the White House next week, military officials said Wednesday.


Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters traveling with him in the Mideast, “It could be that we take on a larger burden ourselves” in supporting a combined Syrian Arab and Syrian Kurdish force closing on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria. “That’s an option.”

It was less clear whether Mattis would consider a U.S. troop increase in Iraq.

Also read: Here’s how McMaster differs from Flynn on Russia

Last week, during a visit by the new defense secretary to Iraq to assess the situation, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said, “I have all the authorities I need to prosecute our fight, and I am confident that if I were to need more that my leadership would provide those.”

However, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a task force spokesman, said in a video briefing Wednesday to the Pentagon, “I don’t want to speculate on what we’re going to ask for” in presentations to Mattis. “We’ve provided our input to General Votel” and that input is working its way through the chain of command.”

He added, “We’re awaiting decisions.”

In his Senate confirmation hearing, Mattis spoke to the possibility of “accelerating” the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump directed him to draw up a plan within 30 days.

Trump has spoken favorably on the creation of safe zones for refugees in Syria, which would potentially require major increases in the U.S. troop presence to police and protect them. The president renewed his support for safe zones at what was billed as a campaign rally in Florida last week, and said that the Gulf states would pay for them.

“We’re going to have the Gulf states pay for those safe zones,” Trump said. “They have nothing but money.”

Mattis is prepared to submit the ISIS plan to Trump next week, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday. “It will address ISIS globally, and it is not just a DoD plan,” he said. “We’re charged with leading the development of the plan, but it absolutely calls upon the capabilities of other departments.

“We have been working diligently with our interagency partners to develop it with the intelligence community, our military commanders on the ground, the Joint Staff and our policy team here, and it represents the input of a number of other departments,” Davis said.

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U.S. Marines with Task Force Spartan, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), on Fire Base Bell, Iraq, fire an M777A2 Howitzer at an ISIS infiltration route March 18, 2016. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis

On the ground in the Mideast, Votel told reporters, “I am very concerned about maintaining momentum” in the simultaneous campaigns to take Raqqa and liberate the western sector of Mosul in northwestern Iraq.

Currently, the U.S. has about 500 troops, mostly Special Forces, in Syria and more than 5,000 in Iraq in train, assist and advisory roles. In the coming fight for Raqqa, Votel said, “We want to bring the right capabilities forward.”

“Not all of those are necessarily resident in the special operations community. If we need additional artillery or things like that, I want to be able to bring those forward to augment our operations,” Votel said, according to The New York Times.

“We might bring potentially more of our assets to bear if we need to, as opposed to relying on our partners” under the umbrella group called the Syrian Democratic Forces, he said. “That’s an option.”

In his statements last week, Townsend said U.S. troops in advisory roles are moving closer to the front lines with the Iraqi Security Forces as the battle for Mosul intensifies. “It is true that we are operating closer and deeper into the Iraqi formation,” he said. “We adjusted our posture during the east Mosul fight and embedded advisers a bit further down into the formation.”

The result has been that U.S. troops serving as Joint Terminal Attack Controllers to guide airstrikes and in other advisory capacities have increasingly come under fire, Dorrian said in his briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon.

“When someone is shooting at you, that is combat. Yes. That has happened,” Dorrian said. “They have come under fire at different times, [and] they have returned fire at different times in and around Mosul.”

There have been no recent reports of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq, and Dorrian declined to say whether any U.S. troops had been wounded in the fighting in and around Mosul.

He said the U.S. military in Iraq and Syria does not immediately report on the number of wounded troops, if any, to avoid giving intelligence to the enemy. Casualty figures would be compiled at a later date by the Defense Department, he said.

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9 amazing facts about General George Custer

Most Americans don’t know much about General George Custer beyond the fact that he was killed — along with all of his troops — by Native American warriors at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Here are 9 other facts that illustrate there was a lot more to the man beyond the bad tactical decisions he made that day:


1. He didn’t graduate with the rest of his West Point class because he got in trouble

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Cadet Custer at West Point.

The night before he was supposed to graduate with the Class of 1861, he was the cadet duty officer. During his watch he came across two junior cadets having a heated discussion, and instead of breaking it up he suggested they settle it by fighting it out. He was punished by the officers on the staff for his lack of judgment and kept from getting his diploma and commission until a few months later.

2. His future father-in-law wasn’t a big fan at first

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Custer with his wife Libbie (seated).

Custer had a romantic interest in Libbie Bacon, who was from a prominent Michigan family, but her father was concerned about his working class roots and excessive drinking.

3. He was given sick leave following the Battle of Antietam

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Custer (right) with rebel prisoner.

Custer distinguished himself at the bloody Battle of Antietam near Maryland’s border with West Virginia on the Potomac River, but the campaign took a physical and emotional toll. He was given sick leave, which he used to return to Michigan and pursue his relationship with Libbie.

4. He pinned on his first general’s star at age 23

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Custer remains the youngest general officer in U.S. military history.

5. He became a national hero after the Battle of Gettysburg (and his future father-in-law started to like him)

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Custer hanging with the boys (and a dog) at Gettysburg.

Custer led several charges at Gettysburg, including one where his horse was shot out from under him. On his final charge (mounted once again), Custer raised his saber and shouted, “come on, you Wolverines!” as he drove off the dismounted Rebels. His glory came at a great cost, however: 50 percent of the soldiers in his company were killed during the battle. The tales of his heroism spread far and wide, and his name was soon synonymous with victory in the war.  His notoriety also shifted the attitude of Libby’s dad, and in time he was able to successfully ask for her hand in marriage.

6. He considered being a coal baron or a politician after the Civil War

Because of his celebrity Custer was well-connected, and as the military grew smaller and his sense of purpose after the war faded, he considered working in both the coal industry and politics. But before he could move on either option, Gen. Sherman summoned him to help move the country westward.

7.  He was demoted to colonel for a while

As tends to happen after every major war, the U.S. Army downsized following the Civil War, which reduced the number of general officer billets. In order to remain on active duty Custer had to accept being reduced to the rank of colonel for a while.

8. While he was popular with troops during the Civil War, his men hated him while he blazed across the wild west

From his first days establishing a more permanent U.S. military presence in Texas until that fateful day on the plains of Montana he was constrained by an unresponsive military bureaucracy and limited resources, and those things contributed to a draconian, self-centered, and often hypocritical leadership style that tended to trash morale.

9. He was killed at Little Bighorn only 15 years after leaving West Point

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Custer with a group of scouts, including Bloody Knife (kneeling left), who warned him about the number of Sioux braves waiting at Little Bighorn.

Custer miscalculated his enemy on June 25, 1876.  When his scout Bloody Knife told him there were more Sioux waiting for the Seventh Cavalry than they had bullets, he simply responded, “Well, I guess we’ll go through them in one day.” Somewhere Sitting Bull was saying the same thing, and his prediction proved to be the accurate one.

Here’s the Battle of Little Bighorn as portrayed in the movie classic “Little Big Man,” starring Dustin Hoffman as Custer’s scout and Richard Mulligan as Custer:

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ISIS is running for the hills — literally — as its Afghan leader is killed in strike

The leading candidate to take the helm of the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan was killed in a US air-strike on August 10, US forces Afghanistan announced August 13.


Abdul Rahman and three other senior ISIS militants were killed in the strike marking the latest in a series of decapitation strikes by the US on the terrorist group in Afghanistan. The location of the strike reveals that ISIS “appears to be relocating some of its senior leadership from the eastern province of Nangarhar to the rugged, mountainous northeastern province of Kunar,” Long War Journal fellow Bill Roggio noted August 14.

ISIS’s previous leader in Afghanistan, Abu Sayed, was killed in Kunar in a July 11 drone strike. Sayed was only at the helm of the terrorist group for 6 weeks before being killed and was the third head of the group in Afghanistan killed by the US.

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USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

ISIS in Afghanistan has morphed from a nascent band of militants in 2015 to a full-fledged threat in the eastern province of Nangarhar. The group controls a relatively small amount of territory but has used it to launch multiple complex attacks on the capital city of Kabul, killing hundreds with its brutal tactics.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of ISIS. We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem,” Pentagon Chief Spokesman Dana White declared in a recent interview with Voice of America.

Roggio concurred with White’s assessment saying ISIS  “has far fewer resources and personnel, and a smaller base a of support than the Taliban and its allies – has weathered a concerted US and Afghan military offensive in Nangarhar and the persistent targeting of its leaders for nearly two years.”

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The first ‘Memphis Belle’ was actually shot down before it completed 25 missions

You’ve probably heard of the Memphis Belle, especially after the 1990 film starring Matthew Modine and Harry Connick, Jr.


That film took a lot of liberties with the story of the actual B-17 that was the subject of a documentary done during World War II, “Memphis Belle: The Story of a Flying Fortress.”

But history can also be very malleable, especially in the hands of Hollywood.

When Hollywood director William Wyler was doing a documentary for the U.S. government on the first Allied bomber crew to complete a 25-mission “tour” over Europe, he took some liberties. Why? Because it was World War II, and the bombing campaign over Europe was a bloody affair. In fact, the Directors Guild of America notes that during the filming of the documentary, cinematographer and World War I vet Harold J. Tannebaum was killed when the Nazis shot down the B-24 Liberator he was in.

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The Memphis Belle in the sky, June 1943. (USAF photo)

According to the memoirs of Robert Morgan, the pilot of the Memphis Belle, Wyler had picked a different bomber for the feature film, a B-17 known as “Invasion 2nd.” That plane – and five others – were shot down on an April 17, 1943, mission to Bremen. The Memphis Belle was chosen to replace Invasion 2nd – Morgan related how he was told that another plane had a back-up film crew on a bomber called “Hell’s Angels” in case the Memphis Belle went down. Wyler actually filmed parts of multiple missions for the documentary – the mission portrayed on the film was actually the Memphis Belle’s 24th mission.

Of course, the Memphis Belle did complete the tour – and she got all the accolades of being the “first” to do so. The crew of Hell’s Angels, though, actually flew their 25th mission a week before the Memphis Belle flew her 25th mission. The documentary, though, became a classic.

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The Memphis Belle on a War Bond tour. (USAF photo)

Wyler went on to direct a documentary about the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt’s operations in Italy, titled, “Thunderbolt!” He was wounded by an exploding anti-aircraft shell, losing some of his hearing.

After the war, he went on to direct the classic films “The Best Years of Our Lives” — a movie about veterans who returned home that won nine Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director — and “Ben Hur,” featuring former B-25 gunner Charlton Heston, which won 11 Oscars.

Today, “Memphis Belle: The Story of a Flying Fortress” is available via the Internet Archive and Netflix is also streaming the film. It is also on Youtube. Feel free to watch it below. The Memphis Belle is currently being restored at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio.

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The Nazis nearly completed a super-cannon capable of hitting London and France

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WW2 saw the nations of the world investing massive amounts of manpower and money into the development of better ways to extinguish life in hopes of turning the tide of the war in their respective favors, sometimes including coming up with outlandish contraptions like (surprisingly effective) bat bombs and pigeon guided missiles, anti-tank dogs,flying jeeps and tanks, suicide torpedoes,super ships made of ice, and even balloon bombs randomly sent out with the hope they might land somewhere thousands of miles away on enemy soil. Today we’ll be looking at another notable WWII weapon, the V-3 cannon- a piece of artillery capable of hitting a target more than 100 miles (165 km) away, shooting its projectiles at around 3,400 mph (5500 km/h)!

Technically defined as a “supergun”, a term given to guns of such comically large size they need to be categorised separately, the V-3 was 430 feet long (131 metres). This massive size meant that the gun had to be built already aiming at its target and could only reliably hit a target the size of a city, a fairly minor trade-off considering the weapon’s nigh-unparalleled range for a non-rocket based weapon.

4 photos of soldiers chilling in dictators’ houses
The V-3 was able to achieve the incredible projectile range due to a rather unique firing mechanism that utilized multiple smaller explosions, rather than one big one, along the length of its barrel set to go off just as the projectile passed these side chambers. This allowed the supergun to fire its payload at extreme distances without damaging the barrel, which had proved to be a problem for other, similarly massive guns.

Notable here, for reasons we’ll get to in a minute, is the so-called Kaiser Wilhelm Geschütz (quite literally, Emperor Wilhelm Gun). This was a 200 ton, 111 foot long gun used by the German’s to shell Paris during WW1. It could only fire around 60 rounds before its entire barrel needed to be replaced due to damage from the explosions used to launch its 106 kilo or 236 pound shells.  The projectiles also had to be numbered and fired in a specific order, with each one slightly bigger than the previous one to account for the increasing diameter of the barrel as the massive cannon was fired each time.

The Emperor gun was so powerful, it was noted for being the first man-made invention to launch an object into the stratosphere, with the shells it launched peaking at an altitude of around 40 kilometres during flight. The range of the gun was so unthinkably extreme for such a weapon that the 80 man team in charge of firing it had to aim a little under a kilometre “to the left” of the target to account for the Coriolis effect. The French military genuinely suspected for a time that these projectiles were being launched from super-high Zeppelins hiding behind clouds because the idea of them being fired from a gun up to 75 miles  (120 km) away was deemed to be too absurd.

Virtually all records of this gun’s existence and how it was constructed were destroyed towards the close of WW1. Nonetheless, it was known to the French and in response they drafted plans for an even bigger gun that utilised multiple explosions to launch projectiles a similar distance.

Sound familiar? These plans were ultimately archived by the French after WW1 and were found by German soldiers in 1940 who then passed them onto August Cönders, the guy who designed the V-3 cannon… In other words, the only reason the V-3 cannon was even invented is because the Germans found plans at the start of WW2 explicitly drafted to counter another giant gun they’d used during WW1.

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Mini Replica of the V-3

In any event, beyond its massive range, a battery of V-3 cannons could fire close to 300 shells an hour, or roughly one shell every 12 seconds. This is a fact that piqued the interest of Hitler himself, who enthusiastically granted the project near unlimited support when existence of a prototype was brought to his attention in 1943 by his advisor, Albert Speer, even though said prototype had yet to fire a single shell.

With Hitler throwing everything the German military had at its disposal behind the project in mid-1943, the V-3 cannon, dubbed the “Hochdruckpumpe” or “High-Pressure Pump” during construction to hide its purpose from spies, went from the idea phase to construction almost immediately.  Since Hitler wanted to use the gun to shell London, and the gun had to be built aiming at its target, the location had to be somewhere in Northern France. The gun also needed to be built within close proximity to a railway (due to the size of its ammunition which could only be transported effectively via rail).

Luckily for the Nazis, an ideal location was found in the form of limestone hill located in the French hamlet of Mimoyecques in Landrethun-le-Nord. The location was deemed ideal as the chalk that made up most of the hill would be easy to excavate but was ultimately strong enough to tunnel through to create the underground infrastructure needed for the weapon.

Construction of 50, V-3 guns began in earnest in September of 1943 utilising a combination of drafted German engineers and Soviet POWs. The initial plan was for two separate facilities to be constructed roughly 1000 metres apart, each housing 25 V-3 cannons built into drifts dug into the hillside. They also planned to build tunnels connecting each facility that would be used for storing the shells, which in turn would be transported to the guns via an underground railway.

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Amazingly, construction of most of the underground tunnels was completed. However, construction of the guns themselves was severely hampered when the allies learned of a German plan to attack London using an unknown superweapon in the latter stages of 1943. Knowing that the German’s were planning something at Mimoyecques, and putting two and two together, the RAF doggedly attacked it throughout the last few months of 1943 and the first half of 1944. This led to the proposed number of V-3 cannons dropping from 50 to 25 when the RAF destroyed the Western-most site. This was further reduced to 5 following a bombing run utilising “tallboy” bombs specifically designed to destroy fortified bunkers on July 6, 1944. Plans were dropped altogether in on July 30th that same year due to the advance of allied ground troops.

The allies wouldn’t actually learn about the existence of the V-3 cannons until after the war, at which point then Prime Minister Winston Churchill was reported as saying that the site could have been responsible for the “most devastating attack of all on London”.

Although the Nazis never got a full-size V-3 cannon working during WW2, they did manage to construct two much smaller versions of the weapon with which they shelled the recently liberated Luxembourg from a somewhat less impressive distance of 43 kilometres (26 miles) away in late 1944. Smaller, but still impressively powered, these mini V-3’s were capable of shooting off their deadly projectiles at speeds of over 2,000 mph or 3300 km/h.

Despite the impressive specs, and with the guns firing hundreds of rounds (142 of which hit Luxembourg), only 10 people were killed and 35 wounded as a result. While the Nazis tried desperately to use the gun again, even deploying one during their last major offensive of WW2, Operation Nordwind, they never actually successfully fired another version of the V-3 again during the entire war, giving these guns a laughably low kill rate given the resources put into them.

Today the failed location of the French battery has been converted to a museum containing what remains of the guns.

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At the beginning of the Civil War, most surgeons didn’t know how to treat gunshot wounds

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While more soldiers died of disease than from battle injuries during the Civil War, a three-page document written by P.J. Horwitz, the surgeon general of the Union’s Navy, proves that many members of the medical corps had little idea of how to treat a gunshot wound at the war’s start. Part of the online exhibition “Passages Through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War,” put together by the Shapell Manuscript Foundation, Slate shared a transcript of Horowitz’s “rudimentary advice” in regards to handling injuries caused by bullets on the battlefield.

If the wound is produced by a musket ball, the patient will generally first feel a slight tingling in the part, and on looking at the seat of injury perceive a hole smaller than the projected ball, generally smooth lined, inverted and the part more or less swelled, and on examining further, if the ball has made its exit there would be found another opening, which unlike the other will have its margin everted and ragged.
Should the patient present radical symptoms of injury, one of the first things to be done is to stop the hemorrhage, if there be any, and then carefully examine the wound to see that no foreign body is lodged there in, and then after bathing the flesh in cold water, apply to the wound a piece of lint on which may be spread a little cerate, and attach it to the parts by adhesive or if the surgeon prefers it he can dip a little lint in the patient’s blood and in the same manner apply it to the part, and then put the part at rest, and treat the local and general symptoms as they arrive.

Head over to Slate to read Horwitz’s full treatise.

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Marines’ nude photo scandal is even worse than first realized

The scandal that prompted an investigation into hundreds of Marines who are accused of sharing naked photographs of their colleagues in a private Facebook group is much larger than has been reported, Business Insider has learned.


The practice of sharing such photos goes beyond the Marine Corps and one Facebook group. Hundreds of nude photos of female service members from every military branch have been posted to an image-sharing message board that dates back to at least May 2016. A source informed Business Insider of the site’s existence on Tuesday.

The site, called AnonIB, has a dedicated board for military personnel that features dozens of threaded conversations of men, many of whom ask for “wins” — naked photographs — of specific female service members, often identifying the women by name or by where they are currently stationed.

Related: Commandant on nude photo scandal: ‘Do you really want to be a Marine?’

The revelation comes on the heels of an explosive story published earlier this week by journalist Thomas Brennan. He reported on a Facebook group called “Marines United,” which was home to approximately 30,000 members that were sharing nude photos of colleagues, along with personal information and even encouragement of sexual assault.

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US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tyler Main

The report led the Marine Corps to open an investigation, spurred widespread outrage in the media and in Congress, and prompted sharp condemnation from the Corps’ top leaders. According to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, investigators in that case are considering felony charges that could carry a maximum penalty of up to seven years in prison.

An official familiar with the matter told Business Insider the Marine Commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, would be briefing members of the House Armed Services Committee on the scandal some time next week.

“We’re examining some of our policies to see if we can make them punitive in nature,” the official said, adding that the Corps was taking the issue very seriously.

Facebook group exodus leads to message board’s popularity

Brennan’s story also led to an apparent exodus of members from the private Facebook group, though some appeared to have found the publicly viewable message board soon after — with the express intent of finding the cache of nude images Marines in the Facebook group were sharing.

“Come on Marines share the wealth here before that site is nuked and all is lost,” wrote one anonymous user who posted on March 6, just two days after Brennan’s story was published. Follow-up replies offered a link to a Dropbox folder named “Girls of MU” with thousands of photographs inside.

Dropbox did not respond to a request for comment.

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Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, is expected to brief Congress on scandal next week. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shawn Valosin

Members on the board often posted photos — seemingly stolen from female service members’ Instagram accounts — before asking others if they had nude pictures of a female service member.

For example, after posting the first name and photograph of a female soldier in uniform on January 21, one board member asked: “Army chick went to [redacted], ig is [redacted].” Another user, apparently frustrated no pictures had yet been found, posted a few days later: “BUMP. Let’s see them t——.”

On another thread, a member posted a photograph on May 30, 2016, of a female service member with her breasts exposed, asking, “She is in the navy down in san diego, anyone have any more wins?”

One user followed up on June 13, offering another nude photo of the purported female sailor.

Also Read: Chinese troops have been spotted in Afghanistan

“Keep them coming! She’s got them floating around someone [sic] and I’ve wanted to see this for a while,” another user wrote in response.

Some requested nude photographs by unit or location.

One user in September 2016 asked for photos of women in the Massachusetts National Guard, while another requested some from the Guard in Michigan. Other requests included nude pictures of any women stationed at Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Bragg in North Carolina, McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, or Naval Medical Center in San Diego, along with many more US military installations around the world.

In statements to Business Insider, military branches universally denounced the message board and promised discipline for any service members who engaged in activities of misconduct.

“This alleged behavior is inconsistent with our values,” Lt. Col. Myles Caggins, spokesperson for the Department of Defense, told Business Insider.

Capt. Ryan Alvis, a spokesperson for the Marine Corps, told Business Insider the service expects that the discovery of the Marines United page will motivate others to come forward to report other pages like it.

“Marines will attack this problem head-on and continue to get better,” Alvis said.

Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson, a spokesperson for the Army, told Business Insider: “The Army is a values-based organization where everyone is expected to be treated with dignity and respect. As members of the Army team, individuals’ interaction offline and online reflect on the Army and its values. Soldiers or civilian employees who participate in or condone misconduct, whether offline or online, may be subject to criminal, disciplinary, and/or administrative action.”

Air Force spokesperson Zachary Anderson told Business Insider: “We expect our Airmen to adhere to these values at all times and to treat their fellow service members with the highest degree of dignity and respect. Any conduct or participation in activities, whether online or offline, that does not adhere to these principles will not be tolerated.  Airmen or civilian employees who engage in activities of misconduct that demean or disrespect fellow service members will be appropriately disciplined.”

The Navy did not respond to a request for comment.

‘Hope we can find more on this gem’

The image board hosts disturbing conversations from what appears, in many cases, to be between active-duty personnel.

“Any wins of [redacted]?” read one request, which shared further details about a female Marine’s whereabouts, indicating the anonymous user likely worked with her in the past.

Another thread posted in November 2016, which saw dozens of follow-up comments as users acted as cyber-sleuths to track down the victim, started with a single photograph of a female Marine, fully clothed, taken from her Instagram account.

“Any wins?” that user asked, telling others the Marine’s first name and where she had been stationed.

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US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink

One user hinted at her last name as others scoured her Instagram account, posting more photos that they had found. One photo of the victim and her friend prompted one user to ask for nude photos of the friend, as well: “Any of the dark haired girl in the green shirt and jeans next to her?”

The thread carried on for months.

“Amazing thread,” one user wrote. “Hope we can find more on this gem.”

In December, a nude photo was finally posted. “dudeee more,” one user wrote in response. Many others responded by “bumping” the thread to the top, so that others on the board would see it and potentially post more photos. Indeed, more photos soon appeared from the victim’s Instagram account, which was apparently made private or shut down numerous times.

On the board, users complained that her Instagram account kept disappearing, apparently due to the victim trying to thwart her harassers. But others quickly found her new accounts and told others, with the new Instagram account names being shared throughout the month of February.

“Oh god please someone have that p—-,” one user wrote.

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Screenshot

The site that hosts the message board seems to have little moderation and few rules, though it does tell users: “Don’t be evil.” Its posting rules instruct members to not post personal details such as addresses, telephone numbers, links to social networks, or last names.

Still, large numbers of users on the board do not appear to follow those rules.

In one popular thread started on January 9, an anonymous user posted non-nude pictures of a female airman, teasing others with the caption: “Anyone know her or have anything else on her? I’ve got a lot more if there is interest. Would love for her friends and family to see these.”

The user, who suggested he was a jilted ex-boyfriend, judging by the accompanying captions, posted many more photos in the following hours and days.

“She knows how to end it all. If she does get in contact with me I won’t post anymore. So get it while it’s hot!” he wrote.

Later in the thread, the man even referred to the airman by name and told her to check her Instagram messages.

“Wow, she blocked me on Instagram!” he later wrote. “Stupid c— must want me to post her s— up. I gave her a choice, it didn’t have to be this way. I’m not a bad guy, she had a choice. Oh well, no point in holding back now. I want you all to share this everywhere you can, once I start seeing her more places I’ll post her video.”

Aside from those serving on active-duty, even some who identified themselves as cadets at some military service academies started their own threads to try to find nude photos of their female classmates.

In a thread dedicated to the US Military Academy at West Point, some purported cadets shared photos and class graduation years of their female classmates.

“What about the basketball locker room pics, I know someone has those,” one user asked, apparently in reference to photos taken surreptitiously in the women’s locker room. “I always wondered whether those made it out of the academy computer system,” another user responded.

In 2012, an Army sergeant who helped to train and mentor cadets was discovered to have secretly filmed more than a dozen women in the bathroom and shower areas at West Point. The soldier pleaded guilty in the case and was sentenced in 2014 to 33 months in prison.

A spokesperson for West Point did not respond to a request for comment.

“Bumping all 3 service academies’ threads to see who can post the best wins in the next 7 days. Winning school gets the [commander’s cup],” one user wrote. “Go Army, Beat Everyone.”

‘This has to be treated harshly’

The existence of a site dedicated solely to sharing nude photographs of female service members is another black mark for the Pentagon, which has been criticized in the past for failing to deal with rampant sexual harassment and abuse within the ranks.

A 2014 Rand Corporation study found that more than 20,000 service members had been sexually assaulted in the previous year. Nearly six times that number reported being sexually harassed. In some cases even, the military has pushed out victims of sexual assault who have reported it, instead of the perpetrators.

“I’m kind of surprised. I’m still naive I think, on some level,” said Kate Hendricks Thomas, a former Marine Corps officer who is now an assistant professor at Charleston Southern University. “I am really disappointed to hear that the reach is broader than 30,000 and a couple of now-defunct websites.”

Thomas criticized past responses to the problem, in which some have indicated the issue is too difficult for the military to wrap its arms around.

“This renders us less mission-effective. It’s got to be a priority,” she said.

“These websites are not boys being boys,” she added. “This is a symptom of rape culture.”

The message board also presents a challenge for military leaders, who may face an uphill battle in trying to find, and potentially prosecute, active-duty service members who share photos on the site. Unlike the Marines United Facebook group, where many users posted under their real names, the newly-revealed message board’s user base is mostly anonymous, and the site itself is registered in the Bahamas, outside the jurisdiction of US law enforcement.

Brad Moss, a lawyer who specializes in national security issues, told Business Insider the military may have a hard time convincing the internet service provider to shut down the website. Instead, he explained, the victims themselves may have more legal standing when contacting the ISP in order to get photos removed.

Still, Moss believes the military could squash the behavior if it adopted a “zero-tolerance” posture.

“I think that absolutely 100% should be the policy. If they catch the main perpetrators who are sharing these photos around and essentially engaging in revenge porn,” Moss said. “They should have a zero-tolerance policy, and boot them from the military with a dishonorable discharge.”

“If they do anything less, it’s only going to incentivize this behavior in the future,” he added. “This has to be treated harshly.”

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The real story behind ‘The Mutiny on the Bounty’ is different from what you think

The story goes that captain of the Royal Navy’s HMS Bounty, Lt. William Bligh, was a harsh captain, prone to giving out abuse and unfair punishment in an already-harsh environment. The officers and men had enough one day and set Bligh to sea aboard a rowboat, only to land in the Polynesian islands and live happily ever after, free from the sweat and toil aboard a British ship. 

That’s not exactly what happened aboard the ship. Bligh wasn’t entirely unjustified in his treatment of the crew and the crew wasn’t entirely unjustified to kick him to sea. The Bounty’s mission was simply to bring breadfruit plants from the Pacific to the West Indies for use in feeding slaves there. It never made it. Here’s what happened.

Lt. Bligh was an accomplished sailor, having traveled around the world on Capt. James Cook’s third circumnavigation of the globe. Bligh served as the ship’s chief navigator, called the sailing master. Bligh paid attention to how Cook kept his men alive along the long voyage, paying particular attention to the quality of the food aboard the ship and its cleanliness. He never took a risk with the safety of his crew, even turning around when Cape Horn proved too treacherous to pass, and sailing the Cape of Good Hope instead. 

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HMS Bounty II 1960 Tall Ship with full sails on Lake Michigan near the Port of Chicago for the 2010 Great Lake Tall Ship Challenge. (Wikimedia Commons)

On land, he gave his crew ample time to rest, recuperate and replenish their stores. He had hoped the entire voyage would pass without a disciplinary action, and for much of the longest parts of the voyage, that was the case. Bligh was not just the ship’s captain, he was also the purser and managed a few other parts of the voyage. He even took a huge pay cut from his regular work as a merchant seaman to make the voyage. 

The handful of troublemakers aboard the ship on their way to Tahiti were still relatively light but laid the foundations for a much bigger problem. Chief among them was the surgeon, Huggan. A drunk, Huggan bled a sailor to death while treating him for asthma, but told the captain (and thus the crew) the man died of scurvy. As captain and purser, Bligh took this very seriously. 

Bligh not only paid Fletcher Christian (the man who would lead the mutineers) when he didn’t have to, Bligh lent him money when he needed it while aboard the ship. When the crew finally reached Tahiti to acquire the breadfruit for their mission, Bligh made them work only light duty while enjoying their time on the island. So why did the men mutiny?

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Tahitian War Galleys in Matavai Bay, Tahiti. (Wikimedia Commons)

Once landed in Tahiti, the men had their way with the island’s women for months. Bligh didn’t bat an eye at this behavior until the men and officers began slacking in their duties. Many contracted sexually-transmitted diseases and Huggan drank himself to death. Equipment began to disappear, and discipline was slipping away. Bligh used the Royal Navy’s punishment system to maximum effect in an effort to reestablish it. Sailors even began to desert. 

After five months, it was time to leave, but the men didn’t want to go. Once at sea, Bligh reinstated the disciplinary actions to an almost-paranoid degree. He would routinely embarrass the officers and men, especially Fletcher Christian. Everything came to a head when someone stole from the Captain’s coconut supply, for which they were punished by the book. That’s when they mutinied. They put Bligh on the ship’s launch along with 18 loyal men – two others wanted to go but couldn’t be spared in the operation of the ship. 

With Bligh gone, they returned to Tahiti while some went to Tubuai the Pitcairn Islands. Bligh and his men, using the rations afforded to them by the mutineers, made their way 3,500 nautical miles to the Dutch colony of Kupang, where he informed the Admiralty of the mutiny.

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