5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule - We Are The Mighty
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5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule

Regimes rise and fall. The Roman Empire lies in ruins and most of the former European colonies have regained their independence. Yet, each of these regimes leaves a long-lasting print on the land they rule. By shaping the laws, the economy and the livelihood of the inhabitants’ leaders control the culture. Some of these legacies are so beneficial that they endure through history. For example, the democracy of Ancient Greece is the foundation of many modern Western governments. Other leaderships shape their country for the worst, leaving nothing but poverty, instability and oppression behind. Those regimes, covert tyrannies or open dictatorships, are often lead by the incompetent or the uncaring. Those that rule with an iron fist and refuse to allow any opposition from threatening their position. When personal power is more important than the good of the people, the entire country pays the price.

1. Iran

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
Female protestors during the Iranian Revolution, 1978 (Wikimedia Commons)

When thinking of Iran, one pictures Sharia law, bearded men and women covered from head to toe. Yet, this image of the country is less than fifty years old. Unlike many dictatorships, Iran is not an underdeveloped country. The setback brought about by the Islamic Revolution has more to do with human rights than with the economy. The economy has not suffered much from the change of regime. On the other hand, the population and particularly the women and the LGBTQ+ community, have had to face immense difficulties. Before 1979, Iranian women enjoyed rights equal to those of the Western countries.

Women were an important part of the workforce. They had roles in politics and art, and even gained the right to vote in 1963. Most of these rights were reversed by the new theocratic government. Women who do not respect the oppressive Sharia law face fines, lashes, jail time or even death, depending on the gravity of the offence. Homosexuality is outlawed and punishable by death. Political repression is severe and the use of torture or imprisonment without trial is common against dissidents. No music, film, book or cultural support can be created and distributed without official permission. Freedoms of speech and press are non-existent. The development of a country is not only measured by the economy, and although Iran’s GDP is growing, it’s defined by its systematic violation of basic human rights.

2. North Korea

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
A very telling NASA image showing the difference in night-time lighting in North Korea vs. South Korea, taken in 2017

What better example of the consequences of tyranny than comparing the development of two neighboring countries with a common history and culture but who are now ruled by very different regimes. Korea was split in two at the end of WWII in 1945. Kim Il Sung came into power in North Korea in 1948. His failed attempt at reuniting the two countries in 1950 resulted in a bloody war that left both Koreas devastated. Although at the beginning of his rule, North Korea was able to expand its economy, to the extend that economist Joan Robinson called it a “miracle,” that trend stopped in the 1970s. Kim Il Sung consolidated his power and instituted a cult of his person, turning himself into a god-like figure.

His seat and status were passed down to his son, Kim Jong Il, and his grandson, Kim Jong Un, current president of North Korea. Their successive authoritarian rule has led to possibly the worst human rights track record in the world. According to the UN “The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.” Compared to the technologically and humanely advanced South Korea, North Korea has an obsolete and decrepit infrastructure. Its people face chronic power outages, shortages of food and basic necessities, and a total absence of the most basic freedoms. There, to disagree is to condemn three generations of one’s own family to hard labor or death. The reunification of the two Koreas, two parts of the same original country, still seems a very long way down the road.

3. Sudan

The legacy of Omar Al-Bashir, former leader of Sudan, is a bloody ethnic cleansing in Darfur and a country broken in half. Al-Bashir orchestrated a coup in 1989, only four years after the previous dictator, Gaafar Nimeiry, was ousted from power. If Nimeiry had caused the economic ruin of the country through indiscriminate borrowing, he brought about ten years of peace and stability – before encouraging conflict between Christians in the south and Muslims in the north by attempting to impose the Sharia law. On the other hand, Al-Bashir was able to somewhat stimulate growth in the country, but his brutal regime was marked by gruesome conflicts. The war in Darfur, which started in 2003, is an armed conflict between ethnicities that is regarded as attempted genocide.

It led to a major humanitarian crisis, as civilian populations were the primary targets of attacks from either side. Al-Bashir’s government was accused of financing some of the rebel groups. South Sudan took its independence in 2011 to break away from Al-Bashir’s rule but remained in a state of unrest due to its violent past. Since the end of Al-Bashir’s tyranny in 2019, the new government has abolished the Sharia law and is working towards democracy. However, the inflation that started in 2012 has seriously damaged the economy and the conflict in Darfur hasn’t stopped. Sudan still has a long way to go to find peace again.

4. Venezuela

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
Protests in Altamira Square in the capital of Caracas are met by Venezuelan National Guard, 2014 (Wikimedia Commons)

One of the most recent examples of a country’s fall to dictatorship is Venezuela. Until a few years ago, it was the richest country in South America. Its economy has now completely collapsed and the current president Nicolas Maduro has become an autocrat. Amidst the worst economical crisis the country has ever known, Maduro leads a reign of terror on journalists, protestors, and his opponents. In 2017, at least 46 protestors were killed by the government security forces.

Meanwhile, the people are dying from starvation and a sharp increase in malaria cases. The inflation has gone up over 1,300,000% since Maduro’s election in 2012, while the GDP growth in 2018 was -16%. It hasn’t been positive since 2012. The people of Venezuela now have no money, no jobs, no medicine, no food — and no freedom. It is difficult to see a way out. The country’s leader is more concerned about staying in power than he is about his citizens’ wellbeing.

5. Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe was once called the “breadbasket of Africa.” It was the second-largest economy on the African continent after Egypt. When Robert Mugabe came to power in 1980, its agricultural products were widely exported, feeding people all over Africa. Unfortunately, the reign of Mugabe has led the country to economical ruin. It is estimated that $1 billion out of its $13 billion annual GDP is lost to the corruption of Mugabe’s government. Although the country boasts one of the best educational systems in Africa, the graduates have no place to go as the unemployment rate reaches 80%, the highest in Africa.

Hyperinflation is so severe that local currency is worthless and has been replaced by U.S. dollars or South African rands. Mugabe has encouraged the expulsion and the murders of white farmers, leaving large areas of arable lands unexploited or in the care of incompetent hands. This lead to massive shortages in food and other commodities. The only reason Mugabe has been able to stay in power until November 2017 is because of the brutality of his regime. Through corruption, intimidation and violence, he has won election after election, all the while stealing the country’s resources and leading the once fertile country of Zimbabwe to ruin.

Articles

This foundation exists because the financial needs of vets aren’t being met

“Very simply, the PenFed Foundation exists because there are real financial needs facing America’s veterans and their caregivers that, frankly, are not currently being met,” says James Schenck, PenFed Credit Union and PenFed Foundation President and CEO


The PenFed Foundation has four key programs to assist with veteran financial well-being:

  • Military Heroes Fund – Focused on keeping a medical emergency from becoming a financial one
  • Asset Recovery Kit -Offers interest-free loans and financial counseling to break the cycle of payday lending
  • Dream Makers – Providing closing cost assistance and other help to allow vets to realize the American dream of home ownership
  • Defenders Lodge -Safe, no-cost hotel for outpatient veterans and their caregivers at Palo Alto, CA’s VA Med Center

Watch:

Articles

US officials warn that North Korea will test another missile soon

North Korea has made preparations for yet another missile test within the coming days, US officials have told Fox News.


“The test could come as early as the end of the month,” said an unnamed official. Another official told Fox that a US WC-135 Constant Phoenix “nuclear sniffer” plane would patrol the area to detect possible nuclear activity.

The Pentagon, as well as its Japanese and South Korean counterparts, has been closely monitoring North Korea after a string of high-profile and alarming moves within its nuclear infrastructure.

Related: How China could potentially stop a US strike on North Korea — without starting World War III

Most recently, Japan detected two missile launches in North Korea that exploded “within seconds” after takeoff, CNN reported. Before that, North Korea tested a “saturation attack” — a salvo of four missiles meant to overwhelm US and allied missile defenses — with much more success.

Jeffrey Lewis, founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk, told Business Insider that North Korea’s ultimate intention with its nuclear program is to create a thermonuclear weapon that can hit the mainland US.

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. | KCNA/Handout

The increased pace of tests in 2017 shows North Korea is perhaps more serious than ever about hitting this goal, which it is increasingly moving closer to achieving.

Meanwhile, the US has openly floated military action against North Korea, which experts tell Business Insider could easily cost millions of lives and result in the first use of nuclear weapons since World War II.

Articles

US intelligence before World War II was basically nonexistent

U.S. intelligence before World War II was fragmented and ad hoc, comprised of numerous government and military entities all loath to share their information with each other. With the events transpiring across the globe in the 1930’s, President Roosevelt became concerned about the United States’ deficiencies in the intelligence field. Enter William Donovan.


5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule

Col. William “Wild Bill” Donovan was a well-respected lawyer and veteran of the First World War, in which he earned the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, and three Purple Hearts. Between the wars, he traveled extensively and met with many foreign dignitaries, however, his chief concern was on establishing the American equivalent of Britain’s intelligence services, MI6, and the Special Operations Executive. His extensive travel and ideas earned him the respect and friendship of President Roosevelt, and when the President established the Office of the Coordination of Information he named Donovan the director.

Donovan immediately set to work untangling the bureaucratic mess that was the American intelligence services. It was much more complicated than he anticipated. He met hostility over jurisdiction with numerous people, most notably J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI. During this time, the majority of intelligence for the Office of the Coordination of Information came from the British, as did the training for the new operatives. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, it became clear that the United States needed a greater intelligence capacity. To accomplish this, President Roosevelt issued a presidential military order on June 13, 1942 creating the Office of Strategic Services with the mission of collecting and analyzing strategic information for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to conduct special operations not assigned to other agencies. William Donovan was reactivated in the U.S. Army at his World War I rank of Colonel and put in charge of the organization.

Now that Donovan had his intelligence agency, he needed to fill the ranks. With no prior experience to draw on, he and those he recruited would be starting essentially from scratch. However, Donovan was given just the right man for the job in one Lt. Col. Garland Williams, a successful law enforcement officer and officer in the Army Reserve. Williams took Donovan’s intent to create an American intelligence service based on the British models and made it uniquely American – though he would require British help to get started. It was decided the OSS would be responsible for intelligence and counter-intelligence, psychological warfare, and guerrilla and irregular warfare, to include sabotage and most importantly coordinating resistance movements with each area of responsibility handled by a specialized branch. Once the training areas, National Parks outside Washington, D.C., were established and trainers were in place Williams set about creating a curriculum to train the new operatives.

Williams broke down the training into three phases; preliminary, basic, and advanced. Preliminary training was what Williams called a “toughening up” phase and included PT, obstacle courses, road marches, hand-to-hand combat and weapons skills that were designed to weed out the unqualified and to help identify the particular skills of those who passed for their branch assignment within the OSS. The basic phase introduced many special topics for students such as intelligence gathering, target identification, and sabotage. But most importantly, according to Lt. Col. Williams, in these phases the students “will also be physically and mentally conditioned during these two courses for the aggressive and ruthless action which they will be called upon to perform at later dates.” A park superintendent who monitored the OSS training area referred to the training as “a stomach-turning roughhouse” and was thoroughly appalled by what he witnessed.

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
Donovan conferring with OSS agents in China

Once the students had passed preliminary and basic operator training they moved on to the advanced training. This training involved what Lt. Col. Williams referred to as “schemes” – mock attacks on real targets in the U.S. Teams of students would be assigned missions against bridges, railroads, and plants in areas such as Baltimore and Pittsburgh in which they were instructed to infiltrate secure locations and plant fake explosives or to recover some kind of sensitive data. Most of these missions were completed successfully however a few teams were arrested by local police or the FBI.

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
OSS classroom training.

Throughout the operators’ training, the emphasis was always on independent thinking, initiative, resourcefulness, personal courage, and building confidence. Military discipline took a back seat to the need for candidates to become individual fighters and guerrilla warriors as opposed to soldiers who needed orders to operate. Col. Donovan even stated, “I’d rather have a young lieutenant with guts enough to disobey an order than a colonel too regimented to think and act for himself.”

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
OSS paratrooper training

Once the operatives completed training they were shipped to war zones all over the world where they conducted irregular warfare, sabotage, and direct action missions behind enemy lines in Operational Groups, a predecessor to modern Special Forces ODA’s, or in the more famous Jedburgh Teams. However, despite the support of Gen. Eisenhower, President Truman disbanded the Office of Strategic Services in October 1945 but its legacy and missions would live on.

Two years after the dissolution of the OSS, the Central Intelligence Agency was formed to take up many of its former missions and to establish their training curriculum the CIA used everything the OSS has created. A short time later the U.S. Army formed the Special Forces which took up the missions of irregular warfare and foreign internal defense. There are still visual cues that persist in the military today too such as the U.S. Special Operations Command shoulder sleeve insignia, nearly identical to the OSS patch, as well as the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife emblem on Delta Force’s shoulder sleeve insignia. Though the OSS was a fledgling intelligence service at the outset of World War II, it set the stage for the strongest clandestine services in the modern world.

Articles

Today in military history: The Blitz rains fire on Britain

On Sep. 7, 1940, the German Blitzkrieg against the city of London began.

Earlier that summer, the Nazis launched the first bombing attack on Great Britain after a defeated France signed an armistice, leaving the United Kingdom alone against the German war machine. 

Wanting to capitalize on his momentum, Hitler set his sights — and his Luftwaffe — across the English Channel. That first day, 190 German bombers and fighters struck British military targets, but the Brits fought back in what would become the first battle in history fought solely in the air.

Meaning “lightning war,” the Blitz was a bombing campaign against Britain by the German Luftwaffe. In September alone, German forces dropped 5,300 tons of explosives on the British population.

The raids persisted for 57 consecutive nights and continued frequently until May of the following year. By the time Hitler began to focus his attention on Russia, 43,000 British civilians had been killed. 

But the strength, determination, and spirit of the United Kingdom could not be diminished, and the Battle of Britain would become a decisive victory for the English, whose Royal Air Force dealt the Luftwaffe a nearly lethal blow from which it never fully recovered.

It became a turning point in the war, strategically preventing Hitler from gaining control of the English Channel or invading the British Isles. Britain became a base of operations for the American invasion of Normandy on D-Day in 1944, securing a major blow against Hitler in his waning days.

Finally, the Battle of Britain was a mark of British courage and resilience — the people of Britain are still known for their “Blitz Spirit” — and their perseverance allowed Great Britain to remain free from Nazi occupation.

Articles

ISIS is thriving on the internet ‘dark web’

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
Photo: Flickr


FBI Director James Comey made waves this week when he suggested that commercial encryption on mobile devices may prevent law enforcement from intercepting communications between Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) militants.

“The tools we are asked to use are increasingly ineffective,” Comey told a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday. “ISIL says go kill, go kill…we are stopping these things so far…but it is incredibly difficult.”

The FBI wants tech companies using end-t0-end encryption, such as WhatsApp, to give the agency backdoor access to its communications before the encryption leads us all “to a very, very dark place,” Comey argued.

But even if Comey got his way — which doesn’t seem likely given the companies’ protests — ISIS would still have an anonymous forum for procuring fighters, weapons, and cash: the Dark Web.

“ISIL’s activities on the Surface Web are now being monitored closely, and the decision by a number of governments to take down or filter extremist content has forced the jihadists to look for new online safe havens,” Beatrice Berton writes in a new report on ISIS’ use of the dark net.

“The Dark Web is a perfect alternative as it is inaccessible to most but navigable for the initiated few – and it is completely anonymous,” she adds.

Accessed via the anonymous Tor browser, the deep web — anything not searchable by Google — “is kind of like an iceberg,” Aamir Lakhani, senior security strategist at Fortinet, told Business Insider last month. “Only about 30% of it is actually visible, and some say it is around 1,000 times larger than web we use every day.”

Indeed, “since the Dark [Web] is far less indexed and far harder to come across than regular Websites are, there is the possibility that there are Websites used by ISIS of which we do not know yet,”  Ido Wulkan, the senior analyst at dark web tech company S2T, told Defense One.

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
Photo: Tor

Messages sent and received on Tor are anonymized via a process known as onion rooting. “Just as an onion has multiple layers, onion rooting on Tor protects people’s identities by wrapping layers around their communications” that are impenetrable — and thereby untraceable — by either party, Lakhani explained.

Tor browser email services such as Torbox and Sigaint are popular among the jihadis because they hide both their identities and their locations, Berton notes. Encrypyted jihadi forums and chat rooms also allow militants and sympathizers to communicate without fear of detection from law enforcement.

As a result, “the dark web has become ISIS’ number one recruiting platform,” Lakhani said.

The browser’s benefits for ISIS don’t stop at anonymous messaging: Supporters of the group from around the world can also use one of Tor’s many ilicit exchanges to transfer Bitcoins — a digital currency — directly into the militants’ accounts.

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
Photo: Youtube.com

One ISIS supporter went so far as to create a guide explaining how anyone could help fund the jihadis using Dark Wallet, a dark web app that promises to anonymize your Bitcoin transactions. Numerous dark web websites soliciting bitcoin donations for terror groups have reportedly been found.

The national security community has developed various tools to track the IP addresses and activities of those logged onto Tor — including the NSA’s XKeyscore, the FBI’s Metasploit Decloaking Engine, and the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency’s Memex project.

If the uproar over FBI director Comey’s comments are any indication, however, web monitoring programs will continue to face significant resistance from internet freedom advocates.

Meanwhile, ISIS is taking full advantage of the shadowiest parts of the web.

More from Business Insider:

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘1917’ is going to be the coolest World War I movie ever

After a century, World War I is finally getting the treatment in American cinema it so richly deserves. While some of the best war movies were World War I movies, Paths of Glory, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Lawrence of Arabia, there were also many misses. What’s surprising is that there are relatively few WWI movies, when compared to those depicting other wars.

No longer. 1917 is a new movie based on the Great War, coming in December. And it looks like it could be the definitive WWI movie.


The film takes place during the Third Battle of Ypres, where a British contingent of 1,600 men is due to walk into a German trap. Two Tommies are given the assignment to proceed on foot to warn the unit about their orders – the ones that take them directly into an ambush. Their mission takes them across the Ypres battlefields and through the deadly trench warfare that is now synonymous with the Great War.

What’s more remarkable about 1917 is that it’s based on a true story, one told to director Sam Mendes by his own grandfather, Alfred. Alfred Mendes received the Military Medal for “acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire” during the war. The Military Medal was replaced by the Military Cross in the UK armed forces in 1993, and would be the fifth-highest medal awarded by the United Kingdom today.

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule

Relentless rain, mud, and death marked the Battle of Ypres.

The elder Mendes ran through snipers, trenches, moving artillery barrages, and machine-gun fire to deliver messages for two full days during the Battle of Poelcappelle. Mendes’ grandfather was raised on the Caribbean island of Trinidad but left to join the fight against Germany, joining the British Army in 1916, at the age of 19. He saw action at the WWI Battles of Passchendaele (Ypres) and Poelcappelle. He was sent to go find survivors of a failed attack during Poelcappelle. It was a dangerous assignment, one his commander said he might not return from.

Despite encountering all of World War I’s signature death traps, he still managed to find survivors while surviving himself. He made it back to his company’s shell hole intact.

“In spite of the snipers, the machine-gunners and the shells, I arrived back at C Company’s shell hole without a scratch but with a series of hair-raising experiences that would keep my grand and great-grandchildren enthralled for nights on end,” he would later write in his autobiography.

1917 is based on Medes’ experiences on this mission. The film is set to release on Dec. 25, 2019.

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These British commandos kidnapped a German general without firing a shot

Shortly after the surviving forces of the Battle of Crete had evacuated, the British landed agents from the Special Operations Executive, also known as the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, to advise and assist the resistance and conduct intelligence gathering. Crete was heavily garrisoned and an important part of Germany’s plans both in the Mediterranean and Russia.


5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
Also, beaches in Germany don’t look like this. Trip Advisor.

 

Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller, the German general commanding the 22nd Airlanding Division and assigned as the military governor of Crete, had a reputation for brutality that earned him the nickname “the Butcher of Crete.” The British decided to hatch a plan to get rid of him. However, they wanted to do more than just kill him; they wanted to strike fear into the hearts of the Germans everywhere.

Major Patrick Leigh Fermor and Captain William Stanley Moss conceived the plan to kidnap General Müller at the Club de Chasse in Cairo in 1943. Along with two members of the Cretan resistance, George Tirakis and Manoli Paterakis, they planned to infiltrate the island, link up with other members of the resistance, abduct the general, and then get off the island. They intended to do all of this while foregoing bloodshed. They also wanted to make the Germans believe it was a British-only operation to avoid reprisals against the local Cretans.

 

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
Wikimedia Commons.

Because, as we mentioned, Müller was an a-hole… even more than your average Nazi.

Everything was set to begin on February 4, 1944. The four men took off from Cairo and flew towards Crete ready to parachute onto the German-held island and begin their mission. Unfortunately, once over the drop zone, only Major Fermor jumped because of bad weather. The rest of the team tried a dozen more times before finally deciding to attempt a landing by sea. This was finally accomplished on April 4, but during the time between when Maj. Fermor landed on the island and the rest of the team arrived, General Müller was replaced by General Heinrich Kreipe. The British forged ahead with the abduction of Kreipe.

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
The saboteurs: (left to right): George Tyrakis, Stanley Moss, Leigh Fermor, Manolis Paterakis and Leonidas Papaleonidas. Public domain.

Fermor, dressed as a shepherd, reconnoitered the general’s daily routine and finalized the plan to take the general. On the night of 26 April, the four man team, with Fermor and Moss dressed as German Military Police, set up a fake checkpoint to catch the General’s car as he returned to his quarters for the night. When the general’s car stopped Fermor and Paterakis grabbed Kreipe while Moss clubbed the driver with a baton and with the help of Tirakis, pulled him from the car. While the Cretans moved General Kreipe to the back seat Fermor and Moss took up positions in the front seat impersonating the general and his driver.

The group then headed off to make their escape, successfully passing through 22 other checkpoints. After an hour and a half, Moss, the two Cretan members of the team, and the general left the vehicle with Fermor to abandon. He left the car on a beach on the north side of the island along with documents indicating that the kidnapping had been carried out by British Commandos and that the general had already been removed from the island as well as a note indicating how sorry they were to have to leave behind such a beautiful car.

 

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
Patrick Leigh Fermor with Billy Moss in Crete, April 1944, wearing German uniforms. Public domain.

The group rendezvoused with Fermor and began their trek to the south side of the island for the extraction back to Egypt. By the next day, the Germans issued a proclamation notifying the civilians on the island that if General Kreipe was not returned in three days reprisals would begin. Meanwhile, German troops scoured the island and planes took to the air to search for the group. The group evaded the Germans and hiked across Mount Ida while Fermor and Kreipe recited the poetry of Horace. The team finally reached the southern coast and was picked up by a British Motor Launch on 14 May 1944. They returned to Egypt where General Kreipe was interrogated before being transferred to a POW camp in Canada.

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
The group hiking over Ida. Wikimedia Commons.

Major Fermor was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Moss was given the Military Cross. General Kriepe was finally released by the British in 1947. In 1950, after censorship from the war had eased, Moss released his account of the operation in a book called Ill Met By Moonlight which itself was turned into a movie in 1957. Finally, in 1972 Kreipe was reunited with his kidnappers on a Greek TV show.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch the first of these never-before-seen D-Day videos in stunning 4K

While 4K video was far from the technology of the day, the people over at AARP pulled out all the stops to get the legendary footage of history’s largest amphibious landing into the viewing technology of today. Narrated by acclaimed actor Bryan Cranston, the video series presents the personal letters and feelings of the men who landed on the beaches of Occupied France that day.


The first in the series, “Landing on Omaha Beach,” is the story of the landing through the eyes of Pfc. Dominick Bart, a 32-year-old infantryman who landed on the beach during the first wave. Cranston brings Bart’s experiences alive as he reads about the Private First Class’ experience on the beaches in Bart’s letter to his wife, Mildred.

Omaha was just one of five Allied sectors invaded that day, and one of two that would fall to the American invasion forces. Omaha’s principal challenge was the 150-foot cliffs overlooking the beach, from which Nazi guards rained death on the invaders.

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule

Some 43,000 men assaulted Omaha Beach alone that day, and by 7:30 in the morning had managed to get through the beach to the cliffs. A half hour later, 900 American GIs were at the tops of the bluffs and assaulting the entrenched enemy positions. By 9:00 a.m., U.S. troops had cleared the beach and began moving inland. An estimated 2,000 – 5,000 men were killed and wounded in the assault on Omaha Beach alone, not to mention the four other sectors engaged by British and Canadian troops.

For the Americans, it was their finest hour.

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7 surprising facts you probably don’t know about the US Army

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
Photo Credit: US Army


1. The Army is older than the country it serves.

Americans celebrate the birth of their nation as July 4, 1776, but the Army is actually the country’s “big brother.” Which makes sense, considering the Continental Army of 1775 — led by future President George Washington — needed to start beating the British in the colonies so Thomas Jefferson could finally get some time to write.

Before the Army was established, colonists were organized into rag-tag militias with no real structure or unified chain-of-command. But in the spring of 1775, most wanted to attack the British near Boston but knew they needed more structure to confront the professional soldiers on the other side. That’s where the official birth of the Army came in, on June 14, 1775, through a resolution from the Continental Congress.

The next day, George Washington was appointed as commander-in-chief of the new Army, and took command of his troops in Boston on July 3, 1775, according to the Army History Division.

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule

2. If the U.S. Army were a city, it would be the tenth-largest in the United States.

There are just over one million soldiers currently serving in the Army. Just about half of that number is on active-duty and serving full-time, while the rest make up the reserve components of National Guard and Army Reserve. To put it in perspective, a city filled with soldiers would have more people in it than San Jose, California, Austin, Texas, Jacksonville, Florida, and San Francisco, California.

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
Photo: Capt. Charlie Emmons/US Army

3. It is also the second-largest employer.

With 2.2 million people on the payroll, Walmart is America’s largest employer. But the Army maintains the second spot with more than one million active-duty and reserve soldiers. While budget cuts are going to bring the number of soldiers in uniform down substantially in 2015 to about 1,042,200, the Army still beats the next-largest employer of Yum! Brands, which has 523,000 total employees.

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Holzworth

4. Specialist is the most-prevalent rank among soldiers — by far.

There’s a reason many soldiers joke about the existence of an “E-4 Mafia.” That’s because if you want anything done in the Army, you’ll probably need a Specialist (or three) to get it done. Across active-duty and reserve ranks in 2015, there are 264,890 specialists, making up more than one-quarter of the U.S. Army.

Though the Army used to have Specialist ranks that had grades from Spec-4 to Spec-9, it eliminated that system in 1985, setting aside Specialist-4 as a junior-enlisted rank called just “Specialist” from then on. Unlike Corporals who are also E-4s, the Specialist rank isn’t considered a non-commissioned officer, which is probably why some are very good at earning their “sham shield.” 

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule

5. The service burns through nearly one billion gallons of fuel every year.

Just like any other large organization that needs energy to sustain operations, the Army needs fuel. A lot of fuel. A 2011 Army fact sheet estimated the Army used over 22 gallons every day, per soldier — much more than only one gallon required per soldier during World War II.

A 2008 Army report said the service purchased approximately 880 million gallons of fuel for mobility operations. The report is a little dated though, and the Army has been working hard to bring down its energy usage — along with the rest of the DoD — citing a reliance on fossil fuels as a major national security risk and logistical problem for troops in the field.

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

6. Among U.S. Presidents with military service, most served in the Army.

Of the 44 men who have served as President of the United States, 31 had military service. Twenty-four of them served in the Army, or in state militias (our modern-day National Guard). Though being in the military is not a requirement for the presidency, President George Washington started a trend that saw future presidents in some cases making their name as war heroes: Theodore Roosevelt received the Medal of Honor for his famous charge up San Juan Hill, and George H.W. Bush received the Distinguished Flying Cross during World War II and barely escaped after his plane was shot down.

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule

7. The Army owns so much land that if it were a state, it would be larger than Hawaii and Massachusetts combined.

Not surprisingly, the Army has a ton of infrastructure. Soldiers serve at 158 installations around the world, and the service owns more than 15 million acres of land across the U.S., which totals up to roughly 24,000 square miles. That would make the “State of Army” larger than smaller states like Maryland, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Vermont.

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Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ in dry dock in July 2015. | Christopher Michel/Flickr photo


The aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is the biggest ship in the Russian navy and the most visible symbol of the Kremlin’s military power. This October, she will travel to the Mediterranean and carry out air strikes in Syria, according to a report from the Moscow-based Tass news agency.

There is a general rule for news about Russian warships. Like most things in life — don’t believe it until you see it. The first problem is that the Tass report, which reverberated throughout the Russian and Western press, relied on a single anonymous “military-diplomatic source.”

Nor is this the first time rumors have spread about the Admiral Kuznetsovgoing to war in Syria. The Russian navy denied a 2015 report which claimed as much.

But this is not to say you should totally disbelieve it, either. Recent activity surrounding the Admiral Kuznetsov may indicate an upcoming combat deployment.

First, here are several reasons to doubt it.

Admiral Kuznetsov has never seen combat, nor would she be of much practical military use. The 55,000-ton carrier has a bow ramp, not steam catapults, requiring her aircraft to shed weight before taking off. This means her planes will go into combat with less fuel or bombs than the ground-based fighters Russia has already deployed to Syria.

This is on purpose. The Soviet Union designed Admiral Kuznetsov as a “heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser” to support a surface battle fleet, foreign policy writer Taylor Marvin pointed out.

This makes her less flexible than U.S. supercarriers, and it’s the reason she packs anti-ship missiles for sinking other vessels, but cannot launch fully gassed-up strike planes with heavy bomb loads suitable for attacking targets on land.

Worse, the conventionally-powered Admiral Kuznetsov has problems. Poor maintenance, defective steam turbines and shoddy boilers means she’s unreliable — which is why Russia sends an ocean-going tug with her, wherever she goes.

A video of one of these tugs hauling the carrier in bad weather during a 2012 voyage appeared last year. It has an utterly awesome and appropriately Russian soundtrack.

“Carrier operations, particularly high-tempo strike missions, are an extremely complex logistical and operational dance, with lethal consequences for mistakes,” Marvin wrote. “Since the USSR and Russia has had little opportunity to build these skills, and none to test them in combat, any strike missions from the Kuznetsov would be limited and mostly for show.”

Russia would take a big risk … for not much gain. This doesn’t mean the Kremlin wouldn’t take the risk. There is circumstantial evidence to suggest — although in a speculative fashion — that the Russians may be preparing to do just that.

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
British destroyer HMS ‘York’ shadows ‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ in 2011. | U.K. Ministry of Defense photo

For one, Admiral Kuznetsov is planning a voyage to the Mediterranean this fall. “It is true. There is such a plan,” Adm. Vladimir Komoyedov, chairman of the State Duma defense committee, told Tass on June 28.

Su-33 and Su-25 jets recently landed on the flattop, last spotted sailing in the Barents Sea. MiG-29Ks — a carrier-launched version of the muscular, multi-role Fulcrum — will arrive “in the coming days,” according to a July 4 reportby Interfax.

The news agency reported that the arrivals are in preparation for a “long hike” planned “roughly in the middle of October.”

The MiG-29K and its two-seater KUB variant are Soviet-era designs revived for the Indian Navy after it purchased the Kiev-class flattop Admiral Gorshkov — renamed INS Vikramaditya — in 2004. However, the planes themselves are brand new, pack advanced avionics and can drop precision-guided bombs.

The Su-33 is an air-superiority fighter, and the Su-25 is a close air support plane. Tass’ source said the carrier will go to Syria with “about 15 fighters Su-33 and MiG-29K/KUB and more than 10 helicopters Ka-52K, Ka-27 and Ka-31.”

But it gets weirder.

Russia went to war in Syria in September 2015. That month, Admiral Kuznetsov was completing a three-month maintenance stint near Murmansk.

Then in October, she appeared in the Barents Sea … for combat training.

That’s unusual, because the Russian aircraft carrier is a snowbird; she heads south late in the year. More specifically, she sails into the Mediterranean, which she did during her four previous deployments — all during winter.

October is not winter. But the Barents Sea and the carrier’s home port at Severomorsk are beyond the Arctic Circle, where flight operations are particularly dangerous beginning in mid-October due to the polar night, when there is little light.

Sergei Ishchenko, a military commentator and former navy captain, found that perplexing. “Only extraordinary circumstances could have forced training flights from the carrier during the least suitable time of the year,” he wrote for the website Svobodnaya Pressa.

“It’s obvious that the war in Syria is that circumstance.”

 Russia might not have a chance to deploy its carrier in combat again for awhile. In early 2017, Admiral Kuznetsov will head into dry dock for a two-year overhaul shortly after she returns from the Mediterranean. The war may be over by the time her repairs are done, giving the Kremlin a tiny window to signal military prowess with its flattop.

More curious is what’s happening with the MiG-29Ks.

These warplanes train at a runway with a ski-ramp in Yeysk, Russia, along the Sea of Azov. The Kremlin built this facility in 2012 as an alternative to a similar ramp runway in Nitka, Crimea — then part of Ukraine — which Russia leased. Russia captured Nitka during its February 2014 invasion, but the facility is apparently not suitable for MiG-29Ks.

And according to Ishchenko, the MiG-29K unit — the 100th Shipborne Fighter Aviation Regiment — was not fully trained as of January 2016.Admiral Kuznetsov is useless without those multi-role fighters and their pilots. “Victory in that war demands actual, not potential, power,” Ischenko wrote. “And the Admiral Kuznetsov still lacks its full combat power.”

Hence the reason why the carrier is back in the Barents Sea for the second time since last October, now with MiG-29Ks on the way … on a crash course for an upcoming combat mission.

At least, that’s the theory. We’ll find out in a few months.

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Why deadly wounds aren’t treated first in combat

Being in combat is one of the craziest experiences a person can have. Bullets are zipping by your melon and impacting the wall behind you, eyes wide and on the alert as the incoming rounds blanket your position. Sounds crazy. Because it is.


War is hell.

Well-trained military minds know, winning the battle is the most important aspect of winning the war. In combat, the rules are different than in any other situation you’ll probably find yourself. All available fingers need to be pulling triggers.

So if allied forces take a mass casualty, the guy who is hurt the worst isn’t necessarily the one who gets treated first.

Related: 6 things corpsmen should know before going to the ‘Greenside’

 

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
US Marine in Afghanistan returning fire (Source: Youtube/Screenshot)

In the civilian world, there are typically more assets and resources to treat just about everyone and every ailment or injury in the book.

By contrast, fighting an enemy in a third world country, Navy Corpsmen and medics only carry a small inventory of medical gear strapped onto their persons.

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
HM2 Lamonte Hammond and HM3 Simon Trujillo treat a Marine who was wounded during a firefight in the Nawa district of Helmand province, Afghanistan. (Photo by Cpl. Artur Shvartsberg)

Also Read: These simple sponges seal battle wounds in no time

During combat, the rules on who receives care first changes in a matter of moments. If a squad is under heavy attack and a few trigger pullers get hurt, then the unit is down a few bodies.

After the field medic takes care of their wounds, let’s say subject “A” sustained a “GSW” or gunshot wound to the chest, they are now out of the fight. If subject “B” took a bullet to their leg, they’re still considered in the fight because it’s not life-threatening.

So during wartime rules, subject “B” is supposed to be treated first to allow them the chance to get back on their weapon system and return to the fight. Hopefully subject “A” will be okay and pull through.

For more military triage information check here.

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‘Noose around the neck of ISIS’ as carrier airstrikes move south

ABOARD THE USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH, Persian Gulf — The hiss and scream of F/A-18 Super Hornets launching from the flight deck is business as usual on this city at sea, where sorties on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria have been launched a dozen or more times a day since early February.


When aircraft loaded with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and 1,000-pound bombs aren’t being catapulted into flight, training and qualification flights commence.

Constant through the action is a sort of deck ballet of positioning, as the 74 aircraft based on the ship are guided onto elevators for maintenance and storage, or moved to make room for the daily C-2 Greyhound delivery of people and Amazon packages.

The routine of life aboard the carrier is perhaps the most conventional element of the unconventional war against ISIS.

American troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria, mostly special operations and advisory elements, operate in relative secrecy, with few opportunities for journalists to observe them up close.

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown

On the carrier, by contrast, public affairs officers host three or four media visits per month, boarding them in comparatively luxurious “distinguished visitor” berthing, complete with monogrammed bathrobes, and offering them interviews with pilots and unit commanding officers.

Aboard the carrier, multiple sailors said they are on their second deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve — the coalition anti-ISIS fight — and compared the consistency of operations today favorably to the frenetic nature of the campaign when it first began in 2014.

With OIR about to enter its third year next month, the commander of the Bush carrier strike group said he is seeing progress in the fight.

Related: Iran tests advanced torpedo in Strait of Hormuz

While many strikes continue to target enemy positions in Raqqa, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq, where assaults on ISIS’s urban strongholds continue, the carrier’s fighter pilots are seeing more missions to the south, along the Euphrates River Valley. The strikes follow the path of retreating ISIS leaders, Rear Adm. Ken Whitesell said.

“Their vision of a geographic caliphate is coming to an end,” Whitesell told Military.com. “As they move and that unblinking eye stays on top of them, they will be targeted as they move down the valley.”

The number of fighter sorties launched from the carrier daily ranges from 12 to more than 20, plus several EA-18G Growler electronic warfare sorties, said Capt. Will Pennington, commanding officer of the Bush.

Pilots fly punishing eight-hour missions one to three times a week, in addition to daily training and currency flights. But the mission tempo has stayed largely steady since the carrier deployed, and the air wing has yet to be pushed to its limits, he said.

“We’re not surging to make this happen; this is a comfortable pace. We could up it and still get comfortable,” Pennington said.

The fight is proceeding carefully and deliberately from the air in large part because of the complexity of the urban ground battle. In Iraq, where a little more than half of the air wing’s sorties are tasked, the strike mission was simpler before coalition forces arrived in Mosul, he said.

“There were more targets and less complicated aerials,” Pennington said. “Now that the effort is moving forward and being successful … that operation, both from the ground and the air, needs to be carried out with much more prudence, given civilian entanglement.”

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Neo Greene III

In both Mosul and Raqqa, the ground fights have been slow-moving. Coalition troops began their first assault on Mosul in October, and began a campaign to retake Raqqa the following month. Whitesell pointed optimistically to the words of Iraqi Army Chief of Staff Othman Al-Ghanmi, who predicted earlier this month that the fall of ISIS in Mosul would be complete in just three weeks.

It’s not the first time a top official has predicted victory close at hand. But the changing nature of strike targets also gives Whitesell reason to believe the end is near.

In addition to targets including enemy personnel, vehicles and improvised explosive devices, Whitesell said pilots are being tasked with destroying a key source of the militant group’s economic survival: oil wells.

While previously aircraft would target vehicles used to transport the oil, most of those are gone, thanks to the air mission, he said. “Now we get it before it comes out of the ground.”

Whitesell contrasts today’s operational picture to that of 2014, when the Bush became the first aircraft carrier to launch airstrikes on ISIS.

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Gaines

“ISIS had made the push out of Syria and Raqqa, way down, so they had incredible geography. So this carrier was the first striking on the Iraqi assets to stop ISIS at the gates of Baghdad and start moving them back,” he said. “Fast-forward three years to where we are. We’ve got, essentially, a noose tied around the neck of ISIS.”

On a given day, a pilot might be tasked with engaging a specific target over Iraq or Syria, or with flying to a region and remaining “on call,” to be assigned a future target, sometimes with scant notice, by a controller on the ground.

Also read: Here’s how the F-16 Falcon could replace the F-15 Eagle

While pilots’ assignments can change at any time during the mission, they generally know the day’s mission set by the time they’re walking to their aircraft on the flight deck, said Lt. Cmdr. “Butters” Welles, a pilot with Strike Fighter Squadron 37, the “Ragin’ Bulls.” The squadron flies the F/A-18C Hornet.

Multiple pilots who spoke with Military.com asked that their full first and last names not be used, a subtle acknowledgment of online threats ISIS militants have made on various occasions against U.S. troops and their families.

Welles, who is on his fourth combat deployment, said he still feels the power of the moment when dropping ordnance on a ground target.

5 countries before and after they fell to authoritarian rule
U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano

It’s a sense similar to other high-stress moments, whether it’s landing on the ship at night or doing something that requires intense attention,” he said. “There’s a sense of time compression, where everything sort of slows down, but you feel like it’s still moving very quickly … it’s definitely a very intense moment.”

At that point, a pilot’s day is far from done. Still ahead are a series of tanker refueling operations, a flight back to the ship, and hours of debriefs. The workday of a pilot with a strike mission can easily stretch to 12 hours or more, the work continuing long after exiting the cockpit.

But after a day in the fight, they return to the ship, where four meals are served daily, gyms and movie channels are available for free time, and routine keeps chaos at bay.

And pilots are well aware of the contrast between the reality of the island-like carrier and that of coalition troops in the gritty, drawn-out ground battles.

“It’s a very different perspective and involvement for us to be up and somewhat detached from what’s going on down on the ground,” Welles said. “So I would say it’s a sense of pride, knowing that we contributed in some way to a very difficult effort on the ground. Because once we’re complete, and we either leave to airborne refuel, or need to go home, then the people we’re talking with are still there in the fight.”

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