These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy - We Are The Mighty
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These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy

Military heroes aren’t all the spit-and-polish types like Gen. Robert E. Lee or Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz. These five men were great leaders who also knew how to party with the best of them:


1. Fleet Adm. Ernest J. King

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
Photo: US Navy

Fleet Adm. Ernest J. King was the man who took over the U.S. Navy on Dec. 23, 1941, just a few weeks after the Pacific fleet was crippled at Pearl Harbor and while the Atlantic fleet was hard-pressed fighting against Nazi subs. King was the Navy’s Dwight D. Eisenhower, carefully selecting strategies, technologies, and commanders to win the war at sea.

But King’s reputation wasn’t nearly as clean as his land-based counterpart. King was known for visiting other officers’ wives before and during the war as well as being the “d-mnest party man” in an illegal drinking club at the Navy’s flight school during Prohibition in 1927.

2. Gen. George Washington

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
Photo: Public Domain

We’ve previously discussed Gen. George Washington’s hard-partying habits, including his epic birthday bash at Valley Forge. He had refused a $15,000 annual salary for his services in the war, asking instead that Congress simply pick up his costs. Then he racked up $450,000 in expenses, a fair portion of which was rich food and booze.

But when a general wins a war against one of the world’s most powerful empires, things like Congress-funded parties tend to get swept under the rug. Congress readily paid the bill Washington racked up, and then begged him to please serve as president. But when he took that position, Congress gave him a salary and told him to pay for his parties on his own dime.

3. Maj. Gen. Ethan Allen

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
Maj. Gen. Ethan Allen demands the surrender of Fort Ticonderoga. Photo: New York Public Library Digital Library

Maj. Gen. Ethan Allen was a huge part of America’s survival early in the Revolutionary War. He and his troops captured Forts Ticonderoga and Crown Point, allowing America to limit British movement in New York and prevent an invasion from Loyalist Canada.

But Allen’s route to heroism was an odd one. As a young man, he was kicked out of two communities, one in Conneticut and another in Massachusetts, for his hard drinking and profanity. He then settled into the Green Mountains and started a militia, the Green Mountain Boys, who knew him as much for his legendary binges as for his military leadership.

4. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Mathew B. Brady

Gen. Ulysses S. Grant entered the Civil War as a colonel but would be the General-in-Chief of the Union Army by war’s end. He won most of the battles he was in, at times through masterful strategy and tactics but occasionally by simply advancing his troops until Confederate units were overrun.

Grant’s critics claimed he was both insane and an alcoholic. It was Grant’s drinking that forced him to resign from the Army in 1854, keeping him out of uniform until the outbreak of the Civil War.

5. Winston Churchill

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
Photo: US Army Signal Corps

“The British Bulldog” in World War II cut the deals that got American equipment into the fight before the U.S. itself entered. He inspired his people and rallied them around the Union Jack and promised Hitler a vicious fight if he crossed the channel. British forces under his leadership pushed back against the Axis advance and eventually rolled into Berlin with the U.S. and Russia.

Sir Winston Churchill was an equally successful partier. When he lost re-election in 1945, he went on a consolation holiday with his doctor and daughter where the trio drank 96 bottles of champagne in two weeks. His normal drinking was rigorous too. A journalist tried to emulate Churchill’s daily regimen last year and was forced to throw in the towel after a single day.

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This prototype speedloader was inspired by ‘Tomb Raider’

The 2001 film “Tomb Raider” had a ton of acting talent, including two Oscar winners (Jon Voight and Angelina Jolie), as well as a future 007 (Daniel Craig). But it also has inspired a prototype that could find its way to U.S. special operators.


At the 2017 Armament System Forum in Fredericksburg, Virginia, hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association, We Are The Mighty met Paul J. Shaskan, the Founding Partner and Chief Innovation Officer of Torrent Loading Systems, LLC. Shaskan has devised a piece of gear inspired by the 2001 hit film – which is being rebooted.

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
The Rapid Loading System on body armor. (Screenshot from video provided by Torrent Loading Systems)

Shaskan has developed a rapid loader that holds three magazines for just about any semi-automatic pistol – including the Beretta 92FS that is the basis for the M9 currently in service and the SiG-Sauer P320 that is the basis for the new XM17 Modular Handgun System. Rather than having to fumble with the magazines and retrieve them from a pouch, the magazines are held at an angle, and the pistol is lowered on to them. Once the magazine is seated, the pistol is pulled away with the magazine in it.

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
The RLC, showing a magazine in position to reload a Glock 17 pistol. (Screenshot from video provided by Torrent Loading Systems)

“We understand that the sidearm is a secondary system for most military operations, but when it is a necessity, we also believe the operator should have the advantage even with his secondary weapon,”Shaskan told WATM in an e-mail. “The device is mountable on a MOLLE or on the belt and is completely detachable and replaceable in the field.”

In Tomb Raider, Lara Croft’s rig wasn’t spring-loaded, but it did have the magazines positioned for an easy reload. Then again, Lara Croft wasn’t using MOLLE gear.

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
The rig Angelina Jolie wore in the 2001 film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. (Youtube screenshot)

The device, which has been in development for four years, is currently undergoing a final round of testing that is expected to be completed by the end of June. In essence, special operations forces may have gear that was inspired by an Angelina Jolie film.

Below, here’s the opening scene of Tomb Raider – to see what inspired this new gear.

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A Russian engineer tricked out his car with tank tread

A Russian engineer put his tiny Lada Riva car on tank treads and called it the “Wolverine.”


Shavrin spent six months and 100,000 roubles — roughly $1,300 — to make his hybrid tank-car. At 31 mph, the vehicle isn’t fast, but it does its job of getting around snowy mountains.

Related: Russia’s new all-terrain vehicle looks like a life sized Tonka truck

Pavel Shavrin built the all-terrain vehicle to save his chickens and rabbits. He came up with the idea after some of his animals died when he couldn’t reach them one Winter. The snowy countryside of Magnitogorsk, Russia, make it difficult to travel during the season.

Behold, this Sputnik video shows the tank-car hybrid in all its glory.

Sputnik, YouTube
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SEALs punished over Trump flag

The consequences have come for Navy SEALs who flew Trump flags from their vehicles earlier this year.


According to a report from the Virginian-Pilot, the unidentified personnel, who were assigned to Naval Special Warfare Group Two, were reprimanded for flying blue Trump flags off their vehicles while they were convoying between training locations.

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
A Trump flag flying from the lead vehicle as SEALs convoy between two training locations. (YouTube screenshot)

“It has been determined that those service members have violated the spirit and intent of applicable [Defense Department] regulations concerning the flying of flags and the apparent endorsement of political activities,” Lieutenant Jacqui Maxwell told Newsline.com.

At the time, We Are The Mighty covered the incident, noting that in July, 2016, the DoD had reminded military and civilian personnel, “Per longstanding DoD policy, active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause. Members on active duty may not campaign for a partisan candidate, engage in partisan fundraising activities, serve as an officer of a partisan club, or speak before a partisan gathering.”

Video of the event spread rapidly over social media, and was picked up by a number of media outlets in addition to We Are The Mighty, including the Daily Caller. One of the videos is below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbOd-gnWLt8
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A 93-year-old WW2 vet just showed what compassion in victory looks like

Deep within the mountains of Gifu Prefecture, in a small farming village hidden away from the fast-paced city life, the family of a fallen Japanese soldier eagerly waited for the return of a precious heirloom. For the first time in 73 years, the Yasue family can finally receive closure for the brother that never came home from war.


World War II veteran Marvin Strombo traveled 10,000 miles from his quiet home in Montana to the land of the rising sun to personally return a Japanese flag he had taken from Sadao Yasue during the Battle of Saipan in June 1944.

The USMC veteran carried the flag with him decades after his time serving as a scout sniper with 6th Marine Regiment, Second Marine Division. He cared for the flag meticulously and never once forgot the promise he made to Yasue as he took the flag from him in the midst of war.

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
USMC photo by Sgt. N.W. Huertas

As a young corporal, Strombo looked up from his position on the battlefield, he noticed he became separated from his squad behind enemy lines. As he started heading in the direction of the squad’s rally point, he came across a Japanese soldier that lay motionless on the ground.

“I remember walking up to him,” said Strombo. “He was laying on his back, slightly more turned to one side. There were no visible wounds and it made it look almost as if he was just asleep. I could see the corner of the flag folded up against his heart. As I reached for it, my body didn’t let me grab it at first. I knew it meant a lot to him but I knew if I left it there someone else might come by and take it. The flag could be lost forever. I made myself promise him, that one day, I would give back the flag after the war was over.”

As years went on, Strombo kept true to his promise to one day deliver the heirloom. It was not until the fateful day he acquainted himself with the Obon Society of Astoria, Oregon, that he found a way to Yasue’s family.

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
USMC photo by Sgt. N.W. Huertas

Through the coordination of the Obon Society, both families received the opportunity to meet face-to-face to bring what remained of the Yasue home.

Sadao’s younger brother, Tatsuya Yasue, said his brother was a young man with a future to live. When Sadao was called upon to go to war, his family gave him this flag as a symbol of good fortune to bring him back to them. Getting this flag back means more to them than just receiving an heirloom. It’s like bringing Sadao’s spirit back home.

Tatsuya was accompanied by his elder sister Sayoko Furuta and younger sister Miyako Yasue to formally accept the flag. As Tatsuya spoke about what his brother meant to not only his family, but the other members of the community, he reminisced over the last moments he had with him before his departure.

Tatsuya said his family received permission to see Sadao one last time, so they went to him. He came down from his living quarters and sat with them in the grass, just talking. When they were told they had five more minutes, Sadao turned to his family and told them that it seemed like they were sending him to somewhere in the Pacific. He told them he probably wasn’t coming back and to make sure they took good care of their parents. That was the last time Tatsuya ever spoke to his brother.

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
Soldiers at the battle of Saipan. Photo from US National Archives.

As Strombo and Yasue exchanged this simple piece of cloth from one pair of hands to the next, Strombo said he felt a sense of relief knowing that after all these years, he was able to keep the promise he made on the battlegrounds of Saipan.

The reunion also held more emotional pull as it took place during the Obon holiday, a time where Japanese families travel back to their place of origin to spend time with loved ones.

Although Strombo never fought alongside Yasue, he regarded him almost as a brother. They were both young men fighting a war far from home. He felt an obligation to see his brother make it home, back to his family, as he had made it back to his own. Strombo stayed true to his word and honored the genuine Marine spirit to never leave a man behind.

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Today in military history: Burr slays Hamilton in a duel

On July 11, 1804, Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Hamilton fans — grab your second and let’s get into it.

Alexander Hamilton was born in the British West Indies before emigrating to the American colonies to study in 1772. His hard work and impassioned persona would drive him to become a key figure in the Revolutionary War, one of America’s most influential Founding Fathers, and a defender and champion of the U.S. Constitution.

Aaron Burr was born into an influential family and, though orphaned at the young age of two, he would go on to graduate from college at just 16 years old and serve with commendation during the American Revolution. He defended a free press, abolition, and women’s rights. Soon, however, Hamilton’s star would begin to outshine Burr’s, who was often seen as an opportunist with shifting allegiances.

Both men served in the Continental Army and then began their decades-long political rivalry, finally culminating in the presidential election of 1800. An unprecedented tie split Congress between Thomas Jefferson and Burr; but Hamilton’s support of Jefferson helped break the deadlock in Ol’ Long Tom’s favor.

Four years later, Hamilton campaigned against Burr and attacked his character. Defeated and bitter, Burr decided to restore his reputation by challenging Hamilton to a duel. 

There are conflicting accounts as to how the duel went down. Some say Hamilton deliberately fired into the air — an act of honor. Burr’s second claimed Hamilton shot at Burr and missed. Either way, Burr shot Hamilton in the stomach and Hamilton died the next day. 

Burr’s political career fell into ruin after that, with the nation outraged that a sitting Vice-President could brazenly shoot someone. 

202 years later, Dick Cheney asked history to hold his beer.

Featured Image: Duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. After the painting by J. Mund. Note: Possibly due to artistic license and the problems of perspective and canvas size etc, the duelists are standing at an unusually short distance from each other. However, it is known that some duels did indeed take place at very short distances such as this, though most were fought where the opponents were standing approximately 50 feet apart. The protagonists are dressed in anachronistic 18th century dress, not the common fashion of the early 19th century.

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A former Navy SEAL Team 6 officer shares the best advice he received in the military

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
Navy SEALs train in the ocean (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)


Former Navy SEAL officer Chris Fussell has spent the past four years adapting strategies he learned in the special forces to the corporate world.

He’s the chief growth officer of retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s consulting firm, the McChrystal Group, which has worked with companies like Intuit and Seagate Technologies to streamline management and communications systems.

Fussell and McChrystal wrote a book on their philosophy, “Team of Teams,” which they recently discussed on Tim Ferriss’ podcast.

Fussell explains to Ferriss that the best advice he received early in his military career stays with him to this day. One of his mentors taught him that you should always have three people that you’re paying attention to within your organization:

  • Someone senior who you would like to emulate
  • A peer who you think is better at the job than you are
  • A subordinate who is doing your previous job better than you did

This roster is always subject to change, Fussell says, and you don’t need to let the people you’re following know that you’re doing so.

“If you just have those three individuals that you’re constantly measuring yourself off of and who you’re constantly learning from,” Fussell says, “you’re gonna be exponentially better than you are.”

You can listen to the full, in-depth podcast interview at Ferriss’ website or iTunes.

More from Business Insider:

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

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Today in military history: Battle of Bunker Hill began

On June 17, 1775, the infamous Battle of Bunker Hill began.

After the Battle of Lexington and Concord, both British and Colonial forces were anticipating another fight. Colonial troops took up positions around Boston, bottling up the British Army. Although commonly referred to as the Battle of Bunker Hill, most of the fighting occurred on nearby Breed’s Hill, where Colonial forces fortified their position.

On the morning of June 17, 1775, the British discovered the rebel’s fortifications. They carried out a full-frontal assault on the fortified positions. The Colonists, who were told “don’t fire till you see the whites of their eyes” inflicted massive casualties on the British.

As the British advanced across open ground, they were mowed down by American sharpshooters. Their return volleys were ineffectual because of the American defenses. Once the British successfully stormed the redoubt on their third attempt, the Americans simply retreated, as they lacked bayonets with which to fight the redcoats.

The British ultimately took Breed’s Hill once the Colonists ran low on ammo. But the massive casualties prompted the British to change their battle tactics and no longer underestimate the ferocity of their former subjects. Furthermore, the battle provided the inexperienced Colonial forces with a confidence boost that would drive them through the Siege of Boston.

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6 times enlisted troops can rip on officers and get away with it (maybe)

It’s no secret in the military that everyone guns to rip on each other for one reason or another. Rank plays a huge part on how and when you can talk smack and get away with. Sergeants verbally disciplining their juniors in the wide open commonly happens on military bases regardless of who’s watching.


Outside of boot camp, getting ripped on happens with fellow service members you don’t even know — and lower enlisted personnel are prime targets.

So now let’s turn the tables for a change. Getting a chance to rip on an officer and get away with it is an extremely rare. So take notes and keep an eye out for one of these juicy opportunities for a little payback.

1. During PT

The military is highly competitive, so when you manage to beat your commanding officer in a push-up contest — it’s time to gloat.

“Can you do this, sir?” (image via Giphy)

2. Shooting Range

Being an excellent shot is one thing, having a tighter grouping than your commanding officer — priceless.

span class=”mce_SELRES_start” data-mce-type=”bookmark” style=”display: inline-block; width: 0px; overflow: hidden; line-height: 0;”/span(images via GIPHY)

3. At Medical

In the field, Army medics and Navy Corpsmen have the power to call the shots when it comes to taking care of their patients. Regardless of the rank the”Doc” has on their sleeve or collar, it’s their time to shine and order how things go down (but you need to earn that power).

(images via Giphy)

4. Infantry Tactics

Most infantry line officers are just starting out and are going to make mistakes — and that’s when the experienced enlisted troops can step forward and publicly correct an officer on how the mission should go.

Be slightly more professional when you address them, though. (images via Giphy)

5. Crypto

Many officers like to believe they know everything about everything — they don’t.

Crypto rollover is when the codes on your communication system are adjusted so the bad guys can’t hack them. Although it’s easy for the E-4 and below comm guys to handle the task, many officers don’t know the first thing about it even though some try very hard.

It’s okay sir, maybe you’ll get it next time. (images via Giphy)

6. Buying dumb sh*t after deployment

After months and months of saving up their money, officers — like enlisted — spend their earnings on things that don’t make sense either. They’re only human.

When you blow your money on something you don’t need, stand by for some sh*t talking.

Until the money runs low. (images via Giphy)

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U.S. general admits F-35 is actually three separate airplanes

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
Image: Lockheed Martin


The whole idea behind the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was for it to be, you know, joint. That is to say, the same basic plane would work for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps and foreign countries.

Lockheed Martin is designing the F-35 to meet all the requirements of all three U.S. military branches from the outset, with — in theory — only minor differences between the Air Force’s F-35A, the Marines’ F-35B and the Navy’s F-35C.

The variants were supposed to be 70-percent common. But Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, head of the JSF program office, told a seminar audience on Feb. 10 that the three F-35 models are only 20- to 25-percent common, mainly in their cockpits.

In other words, the F-35 is actually three different warplanes. The F-35, F-36 and F-37.

There are very few examples of plane designs that effectively meet the requirements of all three American armed services that operate fighters. The F-4 Phantom was a successful joint fighter, but only because McDonnell Douglas developed it for the Navy — and the Marines and Air Force adopted it after the fact without complicating the design process.

By contrast, the JSF’s design has taken the services’ competing, even contradictory, needs into account from the outset. The F-35A is supposed to be able to pull nine Gs. The B-model has a downward-blasting lift fan to allow it to take off and land vertically. The C-variant has a bigger wing and systems for operating from aircraft carriers. Even trying to bend each variant toward the same basic airframe resulted in a bulky, blocky fuselage that limits the F-35’s aerodynamic performance.

And the compromise didn’t result in a truly common design. It’s “almost like three separate production lines,” Bogdan said, according to Air Forcemagazine. A real joint fighter, the program boss said, is “hard” because each branch is adamant about its requirements. “You want what you want,” Bogdan said.

Bogdan declined to say whether the Pentagon’s next generation of fighters should be joint. But Lt. Gen. James Holmes, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for plans and requirements, said in mid-February 2016 that the Navy and Air Force would probably design their next fighters separately.

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13 funniest military memes for the week of May 5

Memes call! Find your favorites, share them with your buddies, or don’t. We’re not your supervisor.


1. A training video on “Abdominal Circumference” may actually help some units (via Air Force Memes Humor).

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
And Troy McClure videos would be a huge upgrade from all these Powerpoints.

2. Being outside a firefight without your rifle is worse than being in a firefight with it (Weapons of Meme Destruction).

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
Feels like death, and might be worse.

3. Allow the E4 to teach you a little about the military (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
Starting with: Never go back to the unit right away.

4. Back blast area clear!

(via Team Non-Rec)

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
Gonna be hard to explain this to the homeowner’s association the next morning.

5. It’s always embarrassing to remember that next generation’s history books will include this generation’s actions (via Decelerate Your Life).

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
At least you can write some of the histories ahead of time.

6. Will pay to see “You’re Welcome” parody with Coast Guard swimmers (via Coast Guard Memes).

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
The Coast Guard used this exact same pun two years ago while talking about teaching rescue swimmers to swim.

7. Senior enlisted problems:

(via Terminal Lance)

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
Decisions, decisions. Sorry, junior Marines.

8. Some NCO better fix that little guy’s gig line (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
Can’t tell if the label in the top right corner is from the past or future …

9. Last guy to switch from BDUs is definitely the first guy to crack a beer (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
Love the shades.

10. Your recruiter lied to you (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
Better volunteer for some cool-guy schools and get into some high-speed units.

11. Kinda hard to take the new guy on a welcome-to-the-unit bender if someone has to make him a fake ID first (via Military World).

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
Highly recommend ordering the apple juice so at least no one else in the bar can tell.

12. It’s all about composite risk management (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
Dirt raking is dangerous.

13. Remember all those grinning, proud faces when all the boots got their new uniforms?

(via Decelerate Your Life)

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy
Of course, those uniforms get pretty salty before the end of the contract.

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This is why Andrew Jackson gets our vote for ‘most badass American president’

Andrew Jackson’s future as a badass started at the tender age of 13 during the Revolutionary War. He joined the Continental Army as a courier and was taken prisoner along with his brother Robert in April 1781.


Related: Here’s what America’s 6 sailor presidents did when they were in the fleet

When a British officer ordered him to spit shine his boots during captivity, Jackson refused. Not amused by the boy’s defiance, the redcoat drew his sword and slashed Jackson’s left hand and head, which left him with a permanent scar. The brothers were released from captivity after two weeks as part of a prisoner exchange, but Robert died within days due to an illness contracted during detention. Another one of Jackson’s brothers and his mother died before the war ended, leaving him with a lifelong hatred toward the Brits.

Jackson earned the nickname “Old Hickory” because he used to carry a hickory cane, which doubled as a weapon. He dished out his most famous cane beating to Richard Lawrence, who attempted to assassinate him while Jackson was serving as President. Lawrence approached Jackson with two pistols —plan A and plan B—both of which misfired. After noticing he was out of danger, Jackson proceeded to beat Lawrence to a bloody pulp.

Jackson was known for being a serial duelist; historians estimate “Old Hickory” participate in anywhere between 13 and 100 duels. (That is too many duels by any standard.) Jackson fought his most famous duel in 1806 against Charles Dickinson, who was an excellent shot. Despite knowing about Dickinson’s pistol prowess, Jackson insisted that he fire first. This American Heroes Channel video illustrates the events leading to the duel and why he gets our vote for ‘most badass American president.’

Watch:

American Heroes Channel, YouTube

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Montel Williams is asking the presidential candidates about this Marine veteran imprisoned by Iran

These 5 military leaders knew how to win wars and party hardy


American television personality Montel Williams wants the Democratic presidential candidates to talk about a Marine veteran imprisoned in Iran, and he’s using his star power to make it happen.

In addition to questions asked by the moderators at Tuesday’s debate, CNN is soliciting questions from anyone via Facebook and Instagram, some of which will end up being asked by Don Lemon. In a video posted to his Facebook page, Williams — who served in the Marine Corps and Navy — asks about Amir Hekmati, a Marine veteran held in Iran for more than four years, the longest of any American held there.

“What will the candidates do to bring him home so that his father’s dying wish to see his son just one more time comes true?” Williams asks.

Born in Arizona to Iranian immigrants in 1983, Amir Hekmati served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps — mostly as a translator — and he was discharged in 2005 as a sergeant. In 2011, he decided to visit his extended family in Tehran, but soon after he arrived, he was arrested and sentenced to death by an Iranian court on charges of spying for the CIA, according to Al Jazeera America.

Iran later released a videotaped confession of Hekmati, where he admitted to being recruited into companies affiliated with the CIA with the goal of infiltrating Iranian intelligence.

“Allegations that Mr. Hekmati either worked for or was sent to Iran by the CIA are simply untrue,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told CNN in 2012. “The Iranian regime has a history of falsely accusing people of being spies, of eliciting forced confessions, and of holding innocent Americans for political reasons.”

Hekmati’s death sentence was later repealed in March 2012 and a new trial was ordered, though that has yet to take place. He continues to be held in prison in Tehran with little contact with the outside world, though he was able smuggle a letter out of jail, according to The Guardian. In it, in which he addressed Secretary of State John Kerry, he wrote:

For over 2 years I have been held on false charges based solely on confessions obtained by force, threats, miserable prison conditions, and prolonged periods of solitary confinement. This is part of a propaganda and hostage taking effort by Iranian intelligence to secure the release of Iranians abroad being held on security-related charges. Iranian intelligence has suggested through my court-appointed lawyer Mr. Hussein Yazdi Samadi that I be released in exchange for 2 Iranians being held abroad. I had nothing to do with their arrest, committed no crime, and see no reason why the U.S. Government should entertain such a ridiculous proposition.

The debate airs live on CNN at 8:30 p.m. Eastern.

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