4 ways armies have sent 'FU' messages to their enemies - We Are The Mighty
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4 ways armies have sent ‘FU’ messages to their enemies

As far back as documented history goes, war has crushed civilizations and built new empires. Regardless of era, military leaders and warlords have long sent visual (or “FU”) messages to their enemies in hopes that emotions, not tactics, take over the battlefield.


Related: 7 badass nicknames enemies have given the American military

With both sides desperate for a victory, the art of mind manipulation can trigger a response that just might reduce the enemy’s will to fight.

1. Tossed in a gutter

ISIS controls many areas in Iraq, but that doesn’t stop members of the Iraqi forces from showing their own progress. 

According to Fox News, Iraqis toss the dead bodies of ISIS members in the street gutters as a form of intimidation to ISIS sleeper cells and their supporters.

2. Drawn and Quartered

Most of us are familiar with William Wallace’s legacy, especially if you’ve seen Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. What the award-winning filmmaker didn’t show was what King Edward did after the end credits rolled.

According to duhaime.org, the King of England ordered his soldiers to cut Wallace’s body into four pieces and post them at the four corners of Britain. Wallace’s head was stabbed with a spike and set on London Bridge for an epic “screw you” message.

William Wallace statue stands tall in Scotland.

3. Capture the flag

Those who have had the opportunity to fight in a Taliban-infected area probably noticed the white flags flapping in the wind over extremist strongholds.

Marines love flags, too — especially their own, which wave high above American positions. They also enjoy taking the Taliban flags and putting them on display for the bad guys to see.

Infantrymen from 3rd Battalion 5th Marines Lima Company 2nd Platoon enjoy a moment after capturing a Taliban flag. #wegotyoursh*t

4. A good slicing

Around 500 B.C., a war between the State of Yue and the State of Wu in China broke out.

Gou Jian, the King of Yue, was unsure of his victory over the Wu. To try to gain an element of surprise, Jian ordered 300 of his men to stand in front of the enemy, remove their swords and cut their own throats before the battle began.

The Wu were so completely stunned, Jian was able to send in his attack on the unsuspecting army and defeat them.

(We actually don’t recommend this tactic…)

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

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6 Reasons Why The Korengal Valley Was One Of The Most Dangerous Places In Afghanistan

Nestled between high mountains on the Afghan side of the border with Pakistan, the Korengal Valley has been one of the hardest fought over patches of ground in the War on Terror. 54 Americans have been killed and four Medals of Honor were earned in the valley — or it’s immediate vicinity — while the case for a fifth is under review. One was that of the first living recipient of the award since Vietnam: Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta.


Today, the American military rarely moves into the valley, but handpicked Afghan commandos, some trained by the CIA, fight constantly with militants there. The Afghan government maintains offices at the Pech River Valley, the entryway to Korengal. Their police execute raids and patrols in a continuing attempt to shut down or limit the shadow government operating there.

When the American military was there, they faced the same challenges the Afghan forces do today. Some of these dangers are common across Afghanistan, while some only existed in Korengal Valley and the other branches of the Pech River Valley.

The terrain is a nightmare.

Photo: US Army Sgt. Matthew Moeller

Steep mountains, loose shale, thick forests, and open patches of land made the area a nightmare for an occupying force. Combat outposts were built in relatively open areas so that defenders could see approaching militants. However, this meant patrols returning to the base had to cross the open ground, sometimes under heavy small arms fire from nearby wooded areas and houses. The thick trees in the area allowed fighters to attack U.S. forces from cover and concealment.

The attackers would then hide their weapons in the forests and return to the civilian population. The steep hillsides allowed snipers to climb above outposts and fire into the bases as soldiers slept. Loose rock on the steep land led to injuries from trips and falls.

Building new bases — and keeping them resupplied — presented constant challenges.

Photo: US Army Spc. Jon H. Arguello

Tied to the problem of the terrain, engineering in the valley has historically been difficult. To build the infamous Restrepo outpost, soldiers slipped up the hilltop in the night and frantically dug ditches in the dark. Working until dawn, they were barely able to create shallow trenches to lay in before sunlight exposed them to enemy fire. They created the outpost over the following weeks and months, chipping away at the rock and throwing the fragments into bags or Hesco barriers to create walls and fighting positions. Everything in the valley had to be made this way as the hills were too steep to move heavy equipment and there was little dirt or sand to put in the bags and barriers.

Supply was similarly constricted as many vehicles couldn’t make it into the hills. Trucks would move through washed out roads to deliver supplies to positions near the bottom of the valley. Getting food, water, and gear to the tops of the hills required either helicopter lifts or infantry carrying it up on their backs.

Its proximity to Pakistan gives the Taliban a cross-border sanctuary.

Photo: US Army Sgt. Matthew Moeller

The Korengal Valley is located on the border with Pakistan in steep mountains and thick forests where it has served as a major conduit for smugglers for decades, especially during Soviet occupation. The Pakistan side of the border is in the tribal region which has historically served as a recruiting and training ground for terrorists. The valley itself is so inaccessible that the Afghan government temporarily gave up on trying to control it, even before the people began a strong resistance.

The civilian population is largely confrontational toward outsiders.

Photo: US Army Spc. David Jackson

The Americans in the valley found that the Korengalis were even less hospitable to U.S. and NATO forces than those in most of the war torn country. Most of them follow a sect of Islam known for its particularly conservative and hardline attitudes. They also all speak a dialect that not even their neighbors in the Pech River Valley — which Korengal Valley intersects — can understand. In addition, the Korengalis have a history of lumber smuggling and bad blood with other tribes. Meetings between U.S. and Afghan military leaders and tribal elders were generally tense if not confrontational.

The U.S. faced multiple insurgent groups, along with criminal elements.

Photo: US Army

Most NATO units faced opposition from multiple factions in their regions, but the Korengal Valley was a high priority for both the Jamaat al Dawa al Quran, or JDQ, and Al Qaeda. JDQ is suspected of having connections to Pakistani intelligence and both groups are certainly well-funded. In addition, local insurgencies cropped up under former timber barons who lost family members and money when the Americans moved in.

The Taliban often used human shields in battle.

Photo: US Marine Corps Robert M. Storm

Though civilians were used as shields in much of Afghanistan, it was constant in Korengal Valley. Women and children were nearly guaranteed to show up on the roof of any house that came under attack from US forces. Vehicles filled with civilians tested checkpoints, forcing soldiers to choose between firing at potentially unarmed civilians or leaving themselves open to a potential suicide vehicle attack. This drastically limited the ability of U.S. forces to engage the enemy.

NOW: This Video Shows What The Military’s Awesome ‘Iron Man’ Suit May Look Like 

AND: 21 Photos That Show What It’s Like When Soldiers Assault A Taliban Stronghold 

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How to make the best steak ever, according to a Marine chef

There isn’t a dish more widely recognized as the single item dad’s cook than steak. Being able to prepare the perfect steak, for many Americans, is a rite of passage.


But a good cut is expensive, so there isn’t a whole lot of room for error when it comes time to put the meat to the heat.

As a kid, whenever there were steaks marinating in the fridge and the smell of charcoal burning hung in the air, you knew it had to be a special occasion.

Let’s get cookin’.

Related: 8 reasons Marines hate on the Army

What you need

– A stove

– A cast-iron skillet big enough to comfortably fit your steak.

– A roasting rack

– A sheet pan

– A serving spoon

– A sheet of parchment paper

– A pair of grilling tongs

Ingredients.

– 1 cowboy-cut, 1.5 inch-thick ribeye steak (Buy it from the butcher, ensure it has great marbling)

– 2 tbsp vegetable oil (do not use olive oil, the smoke point is too low)

– Black peppercorn (Freshly ground/crushed to order), to taste.

– Coarse, flakey salt, to taste.

– Half stick of butter

– 4 garlic cloves (crushed)

– 6 sprigs of thyme

Step 1. Assemble your gear.

Get it together.

Put your steak on the parchment-paper-lined sheet pan and let it sit under refrigeration for an hour. Put the skillet on the stove on medium heat and have all other ingredients close by. Once you get started, this process will require constant attention, so prep your ingredients beforehand.

Step 2. Be ready.

Once all items are in place and your skillet is hot, add the vegetable oil to your pan (Ensure that the oil is at least 1/8 inch deep across the pan). The oil needs to reach 375 Fahrenheit. When you see a slight shimmering across the top of the oil, it’s good to go. Test the oil by dropping a thyme leaf — just one leaf — in the oil. If it makes a popping noise, you’re on track.

Pepper that thing!

Step 3. Sear your steak.

Once your oil is ready and all items are in place, season your steak with salt and pepper generously. Crush or grind the pepper before sprinkling it on all sides of your steak. Use your hands and really cover the steak with seasoning. Next, turn the stove to high. The oil is going to reduce in temperature significantly when you add the steak, this will help keep it at 375-Fahrenheit.

Just before putting the steak on, pat the steak dry. Then, using tongs, place the steak into the cast iron skillet. Press to ensure as much surface area as possible is making contact with the pan.

Let it cook for a minimum of four minutes on that side before attempting to move. The steak will stick when it first comes into contact with the heat. It needs time to cook off before it will freely move.

Flip your steak with tongs to the other broadside for three minutes, or until edges turn brown. Sear all asides — the edges as well.

Keep the pan hot!

Step 4. Baste!

Next, toss in the butter, garlic, and herbs. When the butter has melted, tilt the pan so that the butter pools to the side of the pan closest to you.

Using that serving spoon, push the steak towards the other side of the pan and begin spooning the hot, aromatic butter over the top of your steak. Let the butter touch as much of the steak as possible before tilting the pan and pooling the butter once more.

Continue to do this until your steak is cooked the way you prefer (Anywhere from rare to medium is acceptable).

Spoon the butter over the steak constantly.

Step 5. Let the steak rest.

Turn off the heat, remove the steak, and let it rest on the roasting rack. Let the skillet and oil cool in a safe place.

Let the steak rest at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Also Read: 5 things infantrymen love about the woobie

Step 6. Enjoy!

Eat it with your hands for full enjoyment or use a knife and fork to pretend like you aren’t an animal.

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This Pearl Harbor hero refused to abandon his ship

December 7, 1941, is a heartrending day for Americans — even 75 years later.


Despite the solemn reminder that over 2,000 individuals perished that day, the instances of self-sacrifice and valor offer a source of inspiration to Americans.

Captain Bennion of the USS West Virginia is one of those men, immortalized forever for his stubborn refusal to give up his ship or abandon his men during one of America’s darkest hours.

Medal of Honor Recipient Captain Mervyn Sharp Bennion. (Photo courtesy of the Naval Historical Center)

Mervyn Sharp Bennion was born in Utah Territory in May of 1887. He successfully graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1910, ranked third in his class. His roommate, Earl C. Metz, recalled the Mormon farmer’s sharp mind during his academic years. “He was able to concentrate mentally to a degree I have never seen equalled. He could read over a thing once and he had it. He had a perfectly marvellous brain and mental processes,” Metz recollected.

After graduation, Bennion served aboard the USS North Dakota as a lieutenant during the First World War. He methodically rose in the ranks of the Navy until he received command of the USS Bernadou in 1932. He returned to the Naval War College for a short time, and served as an instructor. On July 2, 1941, Bennion assumed command of the USS West Virginia of the U.S. Pacific Fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor. A little over five months after receiving the command he would be dead.

His brother, Howard Sharp Bennion, published an account of his deeds in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Captain Bennion was casually shaving in his cabin on the morning of December 7 before heading out to church service. This stillness in his cabin was disrupted when one of his sailors burst through the door and alerted him that a wave of Japanese aircraft was headed directly toward the vessel.

Bennion rushed to the deck and issued a series of orders to prepare for the imminent attack. It was not long before a low flying Japanese torpedo bomber dumped three bombs on the West Virginia, causing severe damage and tearing a hole in its side.

A rescue operation underway from the burning USS West Virginia after the Japanese attacks. (U.S. Navy, December 7, 1941)

On his way to the Flag Bridge a fragment of metal tore through the air and gashed Bennion in the abdomen. The projectile nearly decapitated him, tearing his torso to shreds and damaging his spine and left hip. He was unable to move his legs and his entrails protruded from his stomach.

A pharmacist’s mate came to his aid and placed a makeshift bandage over the mortal wound. Bennion demanded that the man go attend to other wounded sailors and continued to issue orders amid the chaos.

Bennion refused to be moved an inch from his location until the first Japanese attack ended. During the lull before the second wave arrived, he finally permitted himself to be placed on a cot under a sheltered position on the deck.

As he lay protracted and in agony, he resumed issuing commands and receiving reports when the second wave struck an hour later.

Due to the combination of the loss of blood and shock, he began to lose consciousness. A few of his men tied him on a ladder and carried the makeshift stretcher to the navigation bridge out of the way of flames and smoke engulfing the vessel.

Barley coherent and somehow still clinging to life, Bennion again ordered his men to leave him and look after themselves. Roughly 20 minutes later he passed away, one of the thousands of Americans to perish that day.

One officer who remained alongside Bennion to the end proudly proclaimed that “the noble conduct of Capt. Bennion before and after being wounded met the highest traditions of the naval service and justified the high esteem in which he was universally held. I consider it my great good fortune to have served under him.”

The USS West Virginia continued to serve as an active battleship throughout the Pacific, and was present for the surrender of the Japanese on September 2, 1945. (U.S. Navy)

Bennion’s body was transported home and buried with honor in Utah. He was afterward awarded the Medal of Honor for his inspirational leadership. His citation read: “For conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and complete disregard of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. As Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. West Virginia, after being mortally wounded, Capt. Bennion evidenced apparent concern only in fighting and saving his ship, and strongly protested against being carried from the bridge.”

Despite being incapacitated early in the action at Pearl Harbor, Bennion refused to abandon his ship and nobly encouraged his men until the bitter end.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think

December 1969 was not a very merry Christmastime for many American families. The war in Vietnam was ramping up and the draft lottery was held for the first time. 366 blue capsules were drawn, each containing a day of the year. Each calendar date was assigned a number based on draw order. The lower the draft number, the higher the possibility was of being drafted.


The first drawn, September 14, was assigned 001.

The final tally is on this table, with months and dates listing out American draft numbers for 1970.

Related: This is how to see if you would have been drafted for Vietnam

Conscription in the United States was a common practice, especially during wartime. It had been a part of American life since the Civil War. It wasn’t until 1975 that the draft disappeared and the U.S. military turned into an all-volunteer force.

But back in 1970, one Ph.D. student in computer planning saw the “random” Vietnam draft lottery as flawed — mathematically flawed. According to a New York Times article from the period, he wasn’t the only one.

Mathematicians and statisticians challenged the legality of the process, as it did not produce a truly random result. As the Times’ article points out, hundreds of thousands of men were already preparing for service in Vietnam.

The Nixon White House and the Selective Service System claimed they made a great effort to produce a random result, one that was as fair as possible. Pentagon experts, at the time, estimated that anyone with a number over 200 was unlikely to get drafted.

Experts said the resulting monthly average number could have been predicted if the capsules containing the dates early in the months were on the bottom and the later days were at the top and the capsules were not adequately mixed — which is exactly what happened.

The monthly average draft number from the 1970 draft.

David Stodolosky, the aforementioned Ph.D. student, is the one who filed a suit against Selective Service, based on the findings that the drawing wasn’t truly random. His lawyers argued that President Nixon’s orders called for a random draft and that wasn’t what they got.

His argument was that later birthdates were drawn much earlier than others and, thus, were more likely to be drafted for wartime service.

The student tried to get an injunction against the government pressing men into service until the draft lottery process was truly randomized — a task as simple as attaching numbers to dates using a random number table and then sorting them.

A judge refused the injunction. Besides, a live lottery made for a much better show.

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Meet the F-16 pilots who turned their wartime experiences into hilarious songs

Some vets with a tendency toward showmanship like to take their talents to YouTube or Hollywood when they hit the post-service world.


These guys sang a couple songs that pissed their CO off (bravo!). (Photo: Amazon.com)

But the former F-16 fighter pilots behind Operation Encore took the old-school approach and are working to shatter some of the caricatures of veterans through music. The result is a blend of music genres from a variety of military-affiliated artists that range from folksy bluegrass to present-day pop rock — all of it relating to experiences of war that poke fun at life in the service and lament the tragedy of war.

Chris Kurek is the co-founder and partner with Viper Driver Productions. He’s better known as “Snooze,” one of the two founding members of the band Dos Gringos, a pair of F-16 pilots who released four satirical albums full of songs with titles like “I Wish I Had a Gun Just Like the A-10” to the NSFW drinking song “Jeremiah Weed” to the Willie Nelson-esque “TDY Again.”

The band kicked off when Kurek and his fellow jet jock Robert “Trip” Raymond were deployed to Kuwait for Operation Southern Watch and later Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“We were out there for six months, there was nothing else to do,” Kurek said. He and Raymond wrote some songs and performed for the rest of their squadron.

Their songs drew what Kurek described as “wonky eyes” from some, but their squadron commander was very supportive, encouraging them to record the songs on CD, even offering to put up the money.

“We were kind of writing on stuff that pointed out things that drive you crazy in the military,” he said.

After the band’s return stateside, they went to Texas to record their first CD, “Live at the Sand Trap.”

Turns out Dos Gringos’ wing commander was less than pleased with their extracurricular enterprise and barred them from performing at the Cannon Air Force Base Officer’s Club.

But the band went viral in a 2003 sorta way via the enlisted maintenance personnel who particularly dug the song, “I’m a Pilot,” Kurek said. The semi-satirical ditty about a self-centered fighter jock — which evokes a sound similar to some songs from the 80s band Warrant — was passed around the flightline.

Eventually, Dos Gringos would put out three more albums —”2,” “Live at Tommy Rockers,” and “El Cuatro” — before the band had to go on hiatus due to pressure from higher ups as Raymond rose through the ranks.

They were not done with music, though. Both felt some frustration with how some caricatured vets and with what they perceived as an effort by Nashville to cash in on the veteran experience.

Kurek recounted that the war wasn’t always patriotism or sadness, pointing out there was a lot of “goofing off and laughter” because of “boredom.”

Stephen Covell, a former Army medic who contributes to Operation Encore. (From OperationEncoreMusic.com)

“Vets can write about anything,” Kurek said. Eventually, in a conversation with Erik Brine, a C-17 pilot who was a later addition to Dos Gringos, Kurek recounted someone asking, “I wonder if there are any other people who did what we did on deployment – bring a guitar and write songs.”

They began a search, and it was a pair of submissions from Stephen Covell, an Army medic who served with the 82nd Airborne Division, that prompted them to create Operation Encore.

“Those two alone were the best I ever heard,” Kurek said. “They conveyed a combat vet’s experience.”

Covell’s submissions pushed Kurek and Raymond to launch a Kickstarter campaign to pay for airfare, studio time, mixing and mastering.

Rachel Harvey Hill, a military spouse who has contributed to Operation Encore. (From OperationEncoreMusic.com)

While two albums, “Volume 1” and “Monuments,” have so far been released, Kurek notes the process has been a challenge, largely due to the way the music industry has changed. Kurek recounted that when the first Dos Gringos album came out, CDs were still king. The rise of iTunes and digital downloads were one shift which evened out – the volume increased, even as they got less per song.

With Operation Encore, though, the big challenge has been the fact that the music industry has shifted once again to streaming services, and it takes hundreds of thousands of streams to get real money. Furthermore, Kurek pointed out that Dos Gringos was a niche market, and their audience knew what they would get.

Operation Encore is different.

“Operation Encore is a compilation, not one band, sound, or genre,” he explained, pointing out some of the songs were pop rock, others country or bluegrass. Furthermore, the singers who appear are scattered all over the world. Just getting the performers together for a concert would entail airfare, hotel rooms, and equipment rental. Not to mention all the stuff that is in the riders for the artists.

Kurek, though, is still hot on his Iraq War-era band.

“I wish we could do one more Dos Gringos album,” he said.

Operation Encore’s CDs can be purchased at CDBaby.com, or bought as digital downloads from iTunes, Amazon.com, and Google Play. Dos Gringos CDs are also available at CDBaby.com, and can be purchased from iTunes, Amazon.com, and Google Play.

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The secret war record of Col. Sanders (and other businesses using military ranks)

From the way people talk to product ideas, the civilian world has learned plenty from the military. That’s certainly true for some business mascots who have taken on military ranks.


For some businesses, like Kentucky Fried Chicken’s “Col. Sanders,” the title does indeed have military roots. For others however, it seems to be nothing more than clever marketing. So we thought it’d be fun to research the actual military records, or put together what their records may have been, if we were writing the history.

Here we go:

“Col. Sanders” — Kentucky Fried Chicken

Born Harland David Sanders, the future “Col. Sanders” first got into the restaurant business by selling chicken and other dishes out of a Kentucky gas station in 1930. His popular “Sunday dinner, seven days a week” would become the basis for what we now know as Kentucky Fried Chicken.

But was he actually a colonel? Well, as it turns out, Sanders did have a brief stint in the U.S. Army in 1906, when he forged documents at the age of 16 and enlisted. He was sent to Cuba, but served only three months before his honorable discharge, according to Today I Found Out.

So it’s pretty safe to assume that “Col. Sanders” was actually a U.S. Army private. It was only after his business success that he picked up his colonel rank in 1949 from Kentucky Gov. Lawrence Wetherby, who awarded him the honorary title of “Kentucky Colonel.

Unfortunately, Sanders doesn’t have any cool Army stories or battlefield exploits, although he did shoot a guy working at a competing gas station once.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

“Cap’n Crunch” — Quaker Oats

A much beloved cereal brand first introduced in 1963, “Cap’n Crunch” is the name of the cartoon character featured on the side of the box. But what’s the deal with the “Captain” claim? His full name is Cap’n Horatio Magellan Crunch and he apparently knows how to salute and wear a Navy uniform.

But in 2013 — and we’re totally not making this up — the Cap’n was called out for stolen valor after sleuths found him wearing the rank of a commander on his sleeve.

“We have no Cap’n Crunch in the personnel records – and we checked,” Lt. Commander Chris Servello, director of the U.S. Navy’s news desk at the Pentagon, told The Wall Street Journal. “We have notified NCIS and we’re looking into whether or not he’s impersonating a naval officer – and that’s a serious offense.”

“The General” — The General Automobile Insurance Services, Inc.

We looked far and wide for information on the cartoon mascot of “The General,” but came up short. According to the company’s website, The General Insurance was first started as Permanent General Insurance in 1963, but rebranded to its current form in 1997. It wasn’t until 2000 that the cartoon “General” made his first appearance.

A five-star general with a love for oversized cell phones, “The General” seems to have modeled himself after Gen. George S. Patton and has been seen wearing a similar outfit to the Army leader famous for his battlefield exploits during World War II.

Unfortunately, “The General” doesn’t seem to be legit. His mustache and eyebrows are way out of regulations, and the Army hasn’t awarded five star rank to anyone since Omar Bradley in 1950. That’s not to mention that the general’s uniform currently features a mixture of ribbons and a medal — a common problem seen among stolen valor types.

Photo: Youtube

“Sergent Major” — Sergent Major clothing

Started by French entrepreneur Paul Zemmour, Sergent Major is a children’s boutique fashion chain with stores throughout Europe, though most are in France.

As far as we were able to ascertain, Zemmour doesn’t appear to have any military service, so it looks like “Sergent Major” is a brand that has nothing to do with the military. Still, it would be way more interesting if the store was created by a guy named Sgt. Paul Major. In addition to confusing Duty NCO’s when he called and announced himself as Sgt. Major, he served time with the French Foreign Legion and later opened a children’s clothing store that would help him forget the horrors of war.

But hey, that’s not the case.

Photo: Centrometropoli

“Sgt. Grit” — Sgt. Grit Marine Specialties

Sgt. Grit is a popular clothing and accessories brand based in Oklahoma, and it is the only company on this list that can claim its branding as 100% legitimate. It was started by Don Whitton in 1988, borrowing the nickname he earned in Vietnam while serving as a Marine Corps radio operator with 11th Marines.

“I’d like to say it was because of my John Wayne type persona, but unfortunately, it was only because I was from Oklahoma,” Whitton writes on his website. Though he started out as Pvt. Grit in 1969, he eventually was promoted to Sgt. and the nickname followed with it.

His business started as just himself in his basement, but Grit now has more 25 employees and operates out of a 22,500 sq. ft. warehouse.

NOW: 9 military terms that will make you sound crazy around civilians

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the enemy should have brought a battalion to kill this soldier

Specialist Michael Fitzmaurice was stationed in the area near Khe Sanh on March 23, 1971. The base had just been re-activated to support Operation Lam Son 719, the South Vietnamese invasion of Laos. That night in March, the American base was attacked by North Vietnamese regular army sappers, who expected to overrun the Americans.

They just didn’t count on a 21-year-old from the Dakotas being there. They should have – and they should have brought more sappers.


American tanks cover the retreat of South Vietnamese forces from Laos.

Operation Lam Son 719 was an effort by the South Vietnamese to invade Laos to be able to cut off the Ho Chi Minh Trail, North Vietnam’s “secret” supply line into the South. It did not go well for the ARVN forces or the Americans who were there to evacuate wounded and cover their retreat. By March 25, 1971, the ARVN were in full retreat. Two days before the end of Lam Son, however, the North Vietnamese tried to hit the Army’s base at Khe Sanh with a force of sappers. Luckily the Army was able to repel the surprise attack and turn the NVA around.

Among those Army troops stationed at Khe Sanh that day was Michael J. Fitzmaurice, a soldier from the Dakotas who was about to take it to the Communists like a badass American from the Great North.

This is a shoot of Fitzmaurice receiving the Medal of Honor from President Nixon, so you can probably imagine what’s about to happen.

Fitzmaurice was manning a bunker that day with three other members of his unit, unaware the base had been infiltrated by NVA sappers. What he did notice was three explosive charges tossed in their bunker from out of nowhere. He quickly tossed two of them out of the bunker and then threw his body, flak vest first, over the last explosive. The blast severely wounded Fitzmaurice and partially blinded him, but his fellow soldiers were still alive. But Fitzmaurice didn’t stop there he also didn’t stay there.

He left the bunker and began taking down enemy troops with his rifle, one after another, until another grenade hit him and disabled that rifle. Still undeterred, he stopped an enemy soldier with his bare hands, killed him, took his weapon, and began fighting on. With that weapon in hand, he went back to the bunker and started taking down the attackers one by one, refusing to be evacuated.

For saving his buddies and taking down the enemy in the most conspicuous manner possible, he was rightfully awarded the Medal of Honor.

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8 reasons why ‘Aliens’ perfectly captures Marine infantry life

I loved “Aliens” and think it is the best film of the franchise. It’s an action-packed sequel to the original that establishes Lt. Ripley as a certifiable badass by the closing credits. But it is also, in my opinion, one of the better depictions of Marine infantry life.


Despite it being set far in the future and their name being “Colonial Marines” the second of the “Alien” franchise gives a good look inside the grunt life dynamic. Here’s why:

1. All they really care about is finding the aliens and killing them.

Marines can conduct humanitarian, peacekeeping, and ceremonial duties, but infantry Marines train year-round for just one thing: combat. Understandably, grunts want to test that training in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Colonial Marines heading to LV-426 think the exact same way. While being briefed before the mission by their lieutenant, they are completely uninterested in the details of rescuing colonists.

The sentiment is summed up in what Vasquez tells Ripley: “I only want to know one thing [about the aliens],” she says, while imitating firing a gun with her fingers. “Where. They. Are.”

2. They know how to pull pranks.

If you put grunts together for any extended period of time, they will inevitably pull pranks on each other. As part of the bonding and camaraderie of being close, Marine infantrymen will mess with each other’s uniforms, food, or build MRE-powered tear gas. In the movie “Aliens,” there’s no better example of this than when Drake holds down Pvt. Hudson’s hand as Bishop stabs the table in between his fingers.

He’s shocked, terrified, and he didn’t think the prank was very funny. To the rest of the grunts watching, it was very, very funny.

3. There’s at least one whiny private who won’t shut the hell up.

There’s at least one in every platoon. No matter what is going on, this junior-ranking grunt is guaranteed to complain about something. There’s a reason why “Man this floor is freezing,” is the first line uttered by Pvt. Hudson. It sets the tone for what will be a constant theme throughout the movie.

Hudson’s brain knows only that his recruiter lied, the food here is terrible, he should’ve joined the Coast Guard, and we’re never going to make it out of here. “Game over, man! Game over!” You know he’s super annoying when even the civilian embedded with the platoon thinks he needs to shut up.

4. They are experts at talking crap to each other.

Marine grunts know how to talk smack to each other. Even worse, if someone shows any sign of weakness, the rest of the platoon will just pile on with more insults. But it’s all good: They do it only because they love them.

The grunts in “Aliens” play this part very well, and there are many great zingers and insults thrown out throughout the movie. Upon waking up, Drake says, “They ain’t paying us enough for this man,” to which Vasquez quickly responds: “Not enough to have to wake up to your face, Drake.”

And there are many others. Here’s a sampling:

Drake: “Hey Hicks, you look just like I feel.”

Hudson (to Vasquez): “Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?” Her response: “No. Have you?”

Frost (to Lt. Gorman): “What are we supposed to use man, harsh language?”

Hudson (to Vasquez): “Right right, somebody said alien, she thought they said ‘illegal alien’ and signed up.”

5. Their gear doesn’t work very well.

I’m going to go out on a limb here, but my guess is that much like the U.S. Marine Corps, the Colonial Marine Corps is underfunded and gets hand-me-down gear from the Colonial Army. They should be outfitted with high-speed futuristic gear but instead they get helmet cams that send back grainy pictures, and their radios work intermittently right when they need them the most.

And then there are the motion sensors. These things seem like a really cool piece of gear, giving the Marines the ability to sense movement around them and respond to threats. But the sensors include fatal flaws: They capture all movement — even little mice — and there is no way of distinguishing on what level of the complex it is coming from. The Marines think something is right in front of them, but it could be three levels above them.

“Movement! Multiple signals!” Hudson says, to which Apone asks, “what’s the position?”

He says he can’t lock in. Of course! Of course he can’t lock in. You just know the Army version gives all this information and you can probably click a button to vaporize the aliens. But hey, Marines make do.

6. The platoon sergeant is a crusty old-timer who doesn’t take any crap.

Marine infantry platoons are usually led by a staff sergeant or gunnery sergeant who simultaneously commands the respect of his commander and the platoon. In Sgt. Apone, “Aliens” excels in bringing to life a character grunts know well in real life. Just like an old platoon sergeant of mine throwing in a wad of Copenhagen right after he brushes his teeth (what, why?!?), Apone puts a cigar in his mouth seconds after he wakes up.

And then there’s his “another glorious day in the Corps” speech, his use of the phrase “assholes and elbows,” and his wonderful way of chewing out Pvt. Hudson. There’s some added realism to this one: Al Matthews, who played Apone in the film, served in the Marine Corps during Vietnam.

7. They are pretty much pissed off all the time.

Among outsiders, grunts pretend like they love their job and it’s the greatest thing in the world. Meanwhile, they are really thinking that it’s pretty annoying that higher isn’t telling them anything. Lance Cpl. Smith over there thinks this mission is total B.S. And the rest of the platoon can’t wait to get out of this hellhole of Afghanistan and get back to important stuff, like drinking beer.

A similar sentiment permeates among the Colonial Marines, which Frost sums up pretty well after he wakes up and proclaims, “I hate this job.”

8. The boot lieutenant has no clue what he’s doing, and everyone knows it.

Brand new Marine second lieutenants are assigned to their own infantry platoons soon after they finish Infantry Officer Course, and “Aliens” captures this perfectly in Lt. Gorman, a super-boot (Marine-speak for total new guy) officer who has very little experience. While officers are treated with courtesy, it takes time and experience before they earn the respect of their platoon.

Gorman doesn’t do too well in the respect department right off the bat, opting not to sit with his men at chow: “Looks like he’s too good to sit with the rest of us grunts,” says Cpl. Hicks.

When asked how many drops he had been on while enroute to LV-426, Gorman says (while looking totally freaked out): “38. Simulated.” As for combat drops, he says, “Uhh, two. Including this one.” The grunts onscreen and in the audience react similarly in thinking, “Oh no.”

Later on in the movie, he completely loses communication with his men, then he freaks out and loses control. And like any good second lieutenant, he ends up getting lost (and then cornered by a bunch of aliens). You just know his story is now a tactical decision game (TDG) at the Colonial Marine Infantry Officer Course.

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US sets up ballistic missile defense system in South Korea

U.S. Pacific Command has deployed the first elements of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, known as THAAD, to South Korea, implementing the U.S.-South Korean alliance’s July decision to bring the defensive capability to the Korean Peninsula.


U.S. Pacific Command has deployed the first elements of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, known as THAAD, to South Korea, implementing the U.S.-South Korean alliance’s July 2016 decision to bring the defensive capability to the Korean Peninsula. (DoD photo)

North Korea’s accelerating program of nuclear weapons tests and ballistic missile launches constitute a threat to international peace and security and violate multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions, Pacom officials said, adding that the THAAD ballistic missile defense system deployment contributes to a layered defense and enhances the alliance’s shield against North Korean missile threats.

“Continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include yesterday’s launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy THAAD to South Korea,” Navy Adm. Harry Harris, Pacom commander, said. “We will resolutely honor our alliance commitments to South Korea and stand ready to defend ourselves, the American homeland and our allies.”

The THAAD system is a strictly defensive capability, and it poses no threat to other countries in the region, Pacom officials said. It is designed to intercept and destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles inside or outside the atmosphere during their final phase of flight.

Pacom joint military forces remain vigilant in the face of North Korean ballistic missile threats and provocations and are fully committed to working closely with South Korea to maintain security in the region, officials said.

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The insane military legacy of the Roosevelts

Everyone knows that the Roosevelt family held a political dynasty for decades; fielding two presidents of the United States and a first lady in 50 years is a pretty impressive record, and that’s without mentioning all the other jobs like assistant secretary of the Navy (Theodore and Franklin) and Governor of the State of New York (Franklin).


But the Roosevelts actually have a strong claim to a military dynasty as well with three Medals of Honor, a Navy Cross, 11 Silver Stars, and a slew of other awards from the U.S., France, and Britain, all in 100 years.

American troops march in the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia. Three of the Roosevelt family’s Silver Stars were a result of actions in North Africa. (Dept. of Defense photo)

So, you know, awkward Christmases for the cousin who went into finance.

The Roosevelt military legacy dates back to the Revolutionary War when Henry Rutgers (a descendant of Elsie Roosevelt) and Nicholas Roosevelt served on the American side. But it really got steaming in the Civil War when two of Theodore Roosevelt’s uncles served the Confederate Navy.

While the Roosevelt family was based in New York, Theodore’s father had married Martha Bulloch, a Souther belle whose family had deep ties to what would become the Confederacy. When the war broke out, two of her brothers volunteered for service.

James and Irvine Bulloch became naval officers, and both brothers were involved in launching the CSS Alabama, one of the most feared Confederate commerce raiders in the war. James, by that point assigned to secretly buying ships for the Southern Navy from English shipyards, commissioned the ship and supervised its construction.

Confederate officers aboard the CSS Alabama, 1863. (Photo: Public Domain)

But the Union State Department was working feverishly to get the future Confederate ships in England seized, so Irvine led a “sea trial” of the Alabama before stealing away with it to the Azores to receive its crew and weapons. Irvine would serve on the vessel for most of the war as a midshipman and is credited with firing the Alabama’s last shot before it was sunk at Cherbourg, France, in battle against the USS Kearsarge.

All of this had an effect on the brother’s nephew, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., who, from the age of 5, was noted as having idolized the Bulloch side of the family and their sense of adventure. He loved his father, but is thought to have been deeply embarrassed about his father’s having purchased a substitute for his place in the Civil War.

First Sgt. George Washington Roosevelt, Medal of Honor recipient. (Photo: Public Domain)

One of Theodore’s cousins did distinguish himself in the war, though. First Sgt. George Washington Roosevelt received the Medal of Honor for recapturing his unit’s colors and capturing a Confederate color bearer at the Second Battle of Bull Run.

While young Theodore grew up with the New York side of the family and entered politics, those stories from his uncles were still rattling around his head when the U.S. entered the Spanish-American War.

Theodore resigned his position as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy to form the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, “Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.” They participated in two major battles. The first was the Battle of Las Quasimas and the Battle of San Juan Heights where, on July 1, 1898, Theodore Jr. led multiple charges for which he would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor in 2001.

When the Lusitania was sunk and America finally entered World War I, Theodore Jr., a former president by that point, was turned down for service. But three of his sons were accepted into the U.S. Army and a fourth, Kermit, volunteered for service in the British army where he was accepted and rose to captain.

Capt. Quentin Roosevelt was the youngest of the four brothers and the only one who died in the conflict. He trained hard as a pilot, rose to squadron commander, and had one confirmed kill before being engaged by three enemy planes and killed during the Second Battle of the Marne. He was awarded the French Croix de Guerre.

Then-Lt. Quentin Roosevelt in the Nieuport trainer in France. (Photo: Public Domain courtesy of the Roosevelt family)

Theodore III, and Archibald Roosevelt were commissioned as a, Army major and lieutenant, respectively, and joined the 1st Infantry Division. Kermit accepted a commission as a captain in the British army.

Kermit was sent to the Middle East where he earned a British Military Cross for bravery after capturing Turkish soldiers in the Battle for Baghdad. Archibald received two Silver Stars and a Croix de Guerre, and Theodore received the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, the Croix de Guerre, and the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur, all awards for high valor. Theodore was gassed once and Archibald was crippled by shrapnel.

After America entered World War II, Theodore III returned to service as a colonel. He rejoined the 1st Infantry Division where he was joined by his youngest son, Capt. Quentin Roosevelt II. They were sent first to North Africa.

A U.S. ship is destroyed during the Invasion of North Africa. (Photo: U.S. Army Lt. Longini)

It was there that the men earned three Silver Stars. Quentin earned the first at the Battle of Kasserine Pass when he manned an artillery observation post under fire and used it to help hold back German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s attack until a Messerschmitt shot him through the back.

Theodore, a brigadier general by that point, then earned two more. His first World War II Silver Star came when he manned an observation post under attack from German dive bombers, fighter planes, and artillery. He earned his next Silver Star, his fourth overall, the next day when he led a reinforced combat team against enemy machine gun positions.

Quentin was sent to recover from his wounds but the men were reunited at D-Day when Quentin hit Omaha Beach and Theodore personally directed the 4th Infantry Divisions landings at Utah Beach, redrawing the division’s attack plans while under fire. He would later receive a Medal of Honor and recommendation for promotion to major general, but he died before he received either.

U.S. Army Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., and Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt III talk in North Africa during the invasion in World War II. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Quentin II would receive the Croix de Guerre before the war ended.

Archibald, meanwhile, had received full disability after World War I but returned to the Army for World War II and once again received two Silver Stars and was wounded. According to Military Times’ Hall of Valor, that made him the only U.S. service member to receive full disability for two different wars.

Meanwhile, two sons of then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt and distant cousins to Theodore’s family also distinguished themselves in World War II. James R. Roosevelt received a “SPOT AWARD” of the Navy Cross for his leadership under fire with the Marines on Makin Island during a 1942 raid. A year later, he received a Silver Star as a lieutenant colonel for leading assaults to capture the same island.

U.S. Marine Corps Raiders hit the island of Makin in World War II. (Photo: Public Domain)

Navy Lt. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., received the Silver Star in 1943 for rendering aid and rescuing two men wounded by shrapnel during an air raid in Palerno, Sicily.

Finally, in 1955, Air Force Capt. Theodore S. Roosevelt, named for the president but descended from a separate line of the family, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1955 for successfully conducting an emergency landing in California after his C-124 loaded with 79 combat-equipped personnel lost two engines while flying over the Pacific, 300 miles from land.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why troops love and hate aluminum vehicles

Aluminum has served in war since ancient times, but its most common application today is as armor, allowing for well-protected but light vehicles that can tear through rough terrain where steel would get bogged down. But aluminum has an unearned reputation for burning, so troops don’t line up to ride in them under fire.


Crewmen in the coupla of an M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle elevate the barrel during a 1987 exercise.

(U.S. Army Pfc. Prince Hearns)

Aluminum got its start in war as alum, a salt composed of aluminum and potassium. This was one of the earliest uses of aluminum in military history. Ancient commanders learned you could apply a solution of the stuff to wood and reduce the chances it would burn when an enemy hit it with fire.

As chemists and scientists learned how to create pure aluminum in the 1800s, some military leaders looked to it for a new age of weaponry. At the time, extracting and smelting aluminum was challenging and super expensive, but Napoleon sponsored research as he sought to create aluminum artillery.

Because aluminum is so much lighter than steel, it could’ve given rise to more mobile artillery units, capable of navigating muddy lanes that would stop heavier units. Napoleon’s scientists could never get the process right to mass produce the metal, so the ideas never came to fruition.

But aluminum has some drawbacks when it comes to weapon barrels. It’s soft, and it has a relatively low melting point. So, start churning out cannon balls from aluminum guns, and you run the risk of warping the barrels right when you need them.

Instead, the modern military uses aluminum, now relatively cheap to mine and refine, to serve as armor. It’s light, and it can take a hit, making it perfect for protection. The softness isn’t ideal for all purposes, but it does mean that the armor isn’t prone to spalling when hit.

But aluminum’s differences from steel extend deep into the thermal sphere. While aluminum does have a lower melting point than steel, it also has a higher thermal conductivity and specific energy (basically, it takes more heat to heat up aluminum than it does to heat up steel). So it can take plenty of localized heat without melting away.

An armored personnel carrier burns in the streets of Egypt during 2011 protests.

(Amr Farouq Mohammed, CC BY-SA 2.0)

So why don’t troops love the stuff? It has a reputation for burning, for one. It’s not fair to the material. Aluminum actually doesn’t burn in combat conditions, needing temperatures of over 3300 Fahrenheit to burn and lots of surface area exposed to keep the reaction going.

(In industrial applications that rely on aluminum burning, the process is usually started by burning another metal, like magnesium, which burns more easily and releases enough heat, and the aluminum is crushed into a fine powder and mixed with oxygen so that the soot doesn’t halt the reaction.)

But that hasn’t stopped detractors from blaming the metal for all sorts of vehicles that were lost. The Royal Navy lost nine ships in the Falklands War, and three of them had aluminum superstructures. Aluminum detractors at the time claimed it was because the ships’ aluminum hulls burned in the extreme heat after being hit, even though the ships had steel hulls and aluminum does not burn outside of very certain conditions.

U.S. Army armored vehicles leave Samarra, Iraq, after conducting an assault on Oct. 1, 2004.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

All these reports of burning aluminum were spurred on in the ’80s and ’90s by a very public fight between Army Col. James G. Burton, a man who didn’t like the M113 in Vietnam and hated the M2 Bradley while it was under development. He repeatedly claimed that the Army was rigging tests in the Bradley’s favor, tests that he said would prove that the vehicles would burn and kill the crew in combat.

In a book published in 1993, after the Bradley became one of the heroes of Desert Storm, he claimed that the vehicles survived because of changes made after those tests. But while the Army might have switched the locations where ammo was stored and other design details, they didn’t change the hull material.

But, again, aluminum does melt. And the few Bradley’s that did suffer extended ammo fires did melt quite extensively, sometimes resulting in puddles of aluminum with the steel frame sitting on top of it. This spurred on the belief that the aluminum, itself, had burnt.

The M2A3 Bradley is capable, but troops don’t love its aluminum hull.

(Winifred Brown, U.S. Army)

But aluminum melts at over 1,200 Fahrenheit, hot enough that any crew in a melting aluminum vehicle would’ve died long before the armor plates drip off. Aluminum is great at normal temperatures, providing protection at light weights.

And so aluminum protects vehicles like the M2 Bradley and the M113 armored personnel carrier. The new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle that is slated to replace the M113 has, you guessed it, an aluminum hull. But while troops might enjoy the increased space, they’ll probably leave off any discussion of the vehicle’s material while bragging.

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A terrorist blew himself up in Afghanistan over this piece of paper

A Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up outside of a US military base in Afghanistan on Sept. 6 in retaliation for the US dropping leaflets that were offensive to Islam the day before, according to the Los Angeles Times.


Three US soldiers were wounded and an Afghan interpreter was killed, the Washington Examiner reported Sept. 7, in the blast that occurred at an enemy-control point outside of Bagram Air Force base, the LA Times and Reuters reported.

Three Afghan troops were also wounded, the Examiner reported.

Taliban spokesman Zabihulla Mujahid tweeted Sept. 6 that the bombing was to “avenge” the insulting leaflets.

 

The leaflets the US dropped from a plane on Sept. 5 in Parwan province pictured a lion, symbolizing the US-led coalition, chasing a dog, which symbolized the Taliban.

Dogs are considered an unclean and dangerous animal by many Afghans, according to The Washington Post, and the one depicted on the leaflet had part of the Taliban flag superimposed on it along with a common Islamic creed.

“There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet,” the creed, known as the Shahada, reads.

“Get your freedom from these terrorist dogs” was also written on the leaflet above the two animals, the LA Times said. “Help the coalition forces find these terrorists and eliminate them.”

The offensive leaflet dropped by the US on Sept. 5. Photo from Twitter user Dan Murphy.

The Taliban also released a statement on Sept. 6 that the leaflets showed the US’s “utter animosity with Islam,” The Post reported.

Maj. Gen. James Linder released a statement on Sept. 6 saying that the “design of the leaflets mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam. I sincerely apologize.”

“We have the deepest respect for Islam and our Muslim partners worldwide. There is no excuse for this mistake,” he said. “I am reviewing our procedures to determine the cause of this incident and to hold the responsible party accountable. Furthermore, I will make appropriate changes so this never happens again.”

Many Afghan civilians were also irate with the leaflets.

US Army Maj. Gen. James B. Linder. Photo by Staff Sgt. Ken Scar.

“It is a very serious violation. The people are very angry. It is a major abuse against Islam,” the Parwan province police chief, Mohammad Zaman Mamozai, told The Post.

“Why they do not understand or know our culture, our religion, and history?”

“The foreign forces don’t have any idea of what are the values of the Afghan people,” Ahmad Shaheer, an analyst living in Kabul, told the LA Times. “They’ve hired some interpreters and advisors who only know how to speak English, make money, and gain trust, but really are strangers to the real values of the local people.”

The US has been at war in Afghanistan for almost 16 years, and President Donald Trump recently announced he would be deploying more American forces — about 4,000 by most estimates — to the war-torn country.