Former soldiers and Marines hate their heavy rucksacks while they’re marching around the desert, but love gear bags for everything from camping to running around town.
Surplus stores will usually have the real deal while good military-inspired bags are available all over the place. Make sure to match camouflage patterns to the service member. Marines don’t want to wear Army digital, soldiers don’t want to wear MARPAT, and no one wants to wear aquaflage.
This is especially important if the veteran is still in the service. The military branches usually only allow black bags or those with matching camouflage to be worn while in uniform.
Bookworms always have a lot of great options from the military. The new novel “Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War” generated a lot of buzz this year, and Marine Phil Klay’s “Redeployment” is a brilliant collection of short stories. Former paratrooper Michael MacLeod’s memoir, “The Brave Ones” follows a 41-year-old enlistee in the War on Terror from recruitment through two deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Troops love them some stickers, t-shirts, and other swag so that everyone knows how cool they are. Nearly all units and branches are represented at shops like cafepress.com, but check first to see if the service member’s unit sells items directly.
Purchases made from a unit typically support that unit’s morale fund, helping them pay for events at home and overseas. There are also vet-owned companies that make awesome military gear like Grunt Style, Ranger Up, and Article 15.
Uncle Sam’s gun clubs love their weaponry, both in the professional sphere and at home. Obviously, match the gift to the vet. If they don’t already have a knife or gun, maybe get something else off the list.
The title Military Brat is used as a term of endearment within the armed forces community. Sometimes civilians misunderstand the term as something derogatory because the word brat is used to describe spoiled, misbehaving children. Their parents are often Officers or Staff Non-Commissioned Officers due to their long time in service. Regardless, a military brat is worldly, adaptable and groomed for success.
1. They quickly get over culture shock
Military brats are used to moving around when a parent changes duty stations. Some see it as an opportunity to make new friends and others consider it a curse. Either way, they experience different languages, foods, sights and cultures. By the time they reach high school age they’re used to starting over. That’s why many celebrities who were military brats are much better adapted to life on the road.
2. There is help and guidance for college
Sometimes their parents won’t use their Post 9/11 GI Bill for college because they do not have time or interest. This benefit can be passed down to a child if service member fills out the required paperwork within the time allotted. When I was in college there was a military brat who used his father’s GI Bill. It worked the same as mine with a few minor details that were servicemember specific such as restricted use of the Veteran’s Lounge. Sorry kiddo, that area is for grown ups only.
3. They have a comfortable life
When I was on active duty, service members with families lived a generally comfortable life. Spouses and children had all their basic needs met. They had access to community centers and seasonal activities. Schools are well maintained and staffed by patient educators. They function like a hybrid of a private and public school. Bases have events year-round for spouses to meet up and hang out or set up play dates. Security is taken seriously, especially since the military police have vested interest; their families live in the same neighborhoods and take part in the same activities. I grew up in what some rappers may call “the Hood” but it is nice now. It got gentrified and I whole heartily approve. When I say the grass is greener on base…its because there is actually grass.
4. They develop a thick skin
Comfortable doesn’t mean easy. Being the new kid in school sucks. Being the new kid every time your parents change duty stations or rotate to a new unit sucks even more. Kids are cruel and bully each other. No matter how many anti-bully campaigns we run, kids are kids – they’re a**holes. So, military brats cope better with stress and bullying through sheer experience. They learn to de-escalate a confrontation but will feed you your teeth if they have to.
The way I survived growing up in Jersey City was by being funny. It wasn’t by being tough. Nobody thought of me as a tough kid, except for the kids I beat up.
5. They have a good foundation to kick start their careers
Their parents set a good example and instill work ethic into their children. When you see your mom or dad wake up at zero dark thirty to go to work everyday, it imprints on your personality as well. My friends with kids who are still active duty spend every second with their children. Their mentorship is going to leave an impact. It’s much safer to navigate the sea of life when someone else points out where the rocks are.
6. There is support for children who’ve lost a family member
To say that losing a loved one during a time of war is hard is an understatement. There are countless organizations set up to help widows and children of veterans. Militaryonesource.com is a good starting point to explore what help is available. The website is run by the Department of Defense to aid the military community. Losing a loved one does not mean you lose your connection to the military family. We take care of our own.
Featured image: NORFOLK Children wave goodbye to their father, Lt. Chris Robinson, deploying aboard the amphibious transport dock USS Arlington (LPD 24). Arlington deployed as part of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Amy M. Ressler/Released)
The Littoral Combat Ship is often criticized for being under-armed. In fact, its main weapon for anti-surface warfare is reportedly a version of the AGM-114 Hellfire (after several false starts with other missiles). Now, don’t get us wrong. The Hellfire is a good missile, and it has made plenty of enemy tanks and terrorists go boom.
At this year’s SeaAirSpace Expo, Kongsberg and Raytheon have proposed a solution – using the Naval Strike Missile on the LCS. According to a U.S. Navy release from 2014, the Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) test-fired the NSM during RIMPAC 2014.
NSM offers longer range than the Hellfire (at least 100 nautical miles compare to the Hellfire’s 4.85), and a much bigger warhead (265 pounds to the Hellfire’s 20). In other words, this missile has a lot more “stopping power” against any threat the LCS could face.
But the missile is also relatively light, coming in at 770 pounds overall. The Mk 54 MAKO Lightweight Hybrid Torpedo comes in at 608 pounds. This means that the embarked MH-60R Seahawk helicopters on a littoral combat ship could also carry these – and Kongsberg demonstrated that with a model at the display.
“Helicopter sold separately,” the representative said, jokingly. But the joke could very well be on an adversary – as the helicopter extends the stand-off reach the LCS would have. The helicopter capability would also add the ability to launch from an offset – complicating the targeting for an enemy.
NSM is already in service with Norway, equipping the Fridtjof Nansen-class frigates, the Skjold-class corvettes, and is in use on Norway’s F-16 Fighting Falcons. It replaced the Penguin in Norwegian service.
Kongsberg also displayed a mock-up of the Joint Strike Missile, a slightly larger version of the NSM, featuring a range of at least 150 nautical miles. Even with the increased size, a handout provided by Kongsberg reps at SeaAirSpace 2017 indicated that the missile can still be carried internally by the F-35 Lightning II.
In one sense, this would be going “back to the future.” In the 1990s, the United States Navy equipped the SH-60B Seahawks with the AGM-119 Penguin anti-ship missile – also from Kongsberg. The Penguin also was a mainstay of Norway’s military during the 1980s and 1990s.
Look, video games are awesome and military video games are doubly so. But video game companies are not even trying to capture real deployed life. As they continue bragging about their realistic sound effects and HD graphics, here are 9 features that would actually help gamers get a real combat experience.
1. Make players rehearse a mission four times and then send them on a different one.
The player is briefed on a mission to capture or kill a high-value target. They have to watch a rehearsal on a sand table, then practice in an open field, and finally they assault some fake buildings with their squad to be sure everyone is on the same page.
They climb onto the birds but halfway to the target are diverted to capture an undefended dam before terrorists can blow it up. The player’s squad defends it for three days against nothing before returning to base. A friendly engineer squad then blows up the dam.
2. All calls for fire take at least 10 minutes and miss the first three times.
Artillery units rarely hit their target on the first try in the real world and even airstrikes have trouble getting it right a lot of times. Yet video games which allow a player to call in an airstrike always show rounds cascading down on the exact spot the player asks for.
Instead, the player should have to adjust fire over three or four iterations before actually killing anything. They should also have to wait at least 10 minutes from the first call until the fire mission is fired and rounds begin falling on the target.
3. Random mistakes by other members of your team.
Every once in a while, a squad mate should get their gear stuck on a door handle, trip on their own rucksack strap, or slip on a wet spot in the ground and fall. The player has to decide whether to help their buddy or continue firing at the enemy while attempting to stifle their laughter.
4. Include a 40-lb haptic bodysuit that punches you when you’re shot.
When the player is going into battle, they’re usually wearing a hoodie, some boxers, and a fine layer of chip crumbs. But soldiers wear 40 pounds of armor plus whatever other gear they’re carrying at that moment. So, players should be given a vest that weighs as much as the armor.
As an added bonus, motors and weights could be used to punch the player where their character was just shot. And they could carry an 8-pound controller.
5. Your inventory always includes at least 3 items you’ll never use.
The player should have a limited inventory space, some of which is taken up with “just-in-case” items that never get used. It could be gas masks, backup batteries, whatever. If the player tries to throw them away, the items show up on later patrols as booby traps.
6. Weapon misfires
Anytime the player crawls through mud or sand, it should increase the chance that their weapon misfires. Every 100 rounds without a cleaning should increase the chance of a misfire as well.
7. Can only level up after passing a PT test and reciting random facts from memory
After the player completes a few missions while exhausted from the countless rehearsals in the heavy bodysuit, overcomes misfires at critical moments, and has proven their ability to carry around useless equipment, they should be given the opportunity to level up.
To get selected for the higher level, they just have to score in at least the 80th percentile on a physical training test and recite the muzzle velocities of at least three weapons. Otherwise, the player is sent back to the tent to study. It doesn’t matter what their kill-to-death ratio is. Side note: KTD ratios are not a thing either.
Former National Security Agency contractor Harold Martin allegedly stole documents that seem far more sensitive than what has come from the Snowden leaks.
For more than two decades, Martin allegedly made off with highly-classified documents that were found in his home and car that included discussions of the US military’s capabilities and gaps in cyberspace, specific targets, and “extremely sensitive” operations against terror groups, according to an indictment released Wednesday.
Martin was arrested by the FBI at his home on August 27, 2016. Agents found thousands of pages and “many terabytes of information” there, according to court documents reviewed by The New York Times.
With the release of the indictment, it has become more clear of what was apparently in those files.
The indictment charges Martin with 20 counts of having unauthorized possession of documents from not only the NSA, but also from US Cyber Command, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the Central Intelligence Agency. While many of the documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden were top-secret, they mostly consisted of PowerPoint presentations and training materials.
Top-secret documents allegedly stolen by Martin, however, offer much more specific and damaging details to potential adversaries. Here’s a sampling (via the indictment):
A 2014 NSA report outlining intelligence information regarding foreign cyber issues, containing foreign cyber intrusion techniques
A 2009 draft of a United States Signals Intelligence Directive, which outlined specific methods, capabilities, techniques, processes, and procedures associated with [computer network operations] used to defend the United States.
An NSA anti-terrorism operational document concerning extremely sensitive US planning and operations regarding global terrorists.
With just those three documents, an adversary would have details on how the NSA stops hackers from penetrating its networks and what kind of gaps still exist, along with how the agency plans operations against terror groups. Though it’s not apparent from the indictment that Martin passed the documents along to anyone, if he did so it would be a huge setback to the intelligence community.
Soon after Martin’s arrest, his lawyers told The New York Times that he “loves his family and his country. There is no evidence that he intended to betray his country.” A US official described him as a “hoarder.”
The indictment continues (emphasis added):
An outline of a classified exercise involving real-world NSA and US military resources to demonstrate existing cyber intelligence and operational capabilities.
A description of the technical architecture of an NSA communications system.
A USCYBERCOM document, dated August 17, 2016, discussing capabilities and gapsin capabilities of the US military and details of specific operations.
A USCYBERCOM document, dated May 23, 2016, containing information about the capabilities and targets of the US military.
A 2008 CIA document containing information relating to foreign intelligence collection sources and methods, and relating to a foreign intelligence collection target.
For at least a portion of Martin’s career, he served in the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations unit, an elite group of government hackers tasked with breaking into foreign networks. Some US officials told The Washington Post that Martin allegedly took more than 75% of TAO’s library of hacking tools, a potentially massive breach of an outfit that has been shrouded in secrecy.
According to The New York Times, some investigators suspect Martin may possibly be the source of the trove of TAO hacking tools that were posted online last year by a group calling itself “The Shadow Brokers.” Those disclosures likely spurred “a lot of panic” inside the agency, according to a former TAO operator who spoke with Business Insider last year.
“The FBI investigation and this indictment reveal a broken trust from a security clearance holder,” Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the FBI’s Baltimore Division said in a statement.
“Willfully retaining highly classified national defense information in a vulnerable setting is a violation of the security policy and the law, which weakens our national security and cannot be tolerated. The FBI is vigilant against such abuses of trust, and will vigorously investigate cases whenever classified information is not maintained in accordance with the law.”
Martin faces a maximum sentence of 200 years in prison. His initial court appearance is scheduled for February 14.
We can all agree that the Nazi Party was a band of terrifyingly cruel, delusional sickos. What you may not know, however, is that Hitler’s SS minions were also sometimes really, really dumb. From failed propaganda campaigns to ridiculous assassination attempts, the Germans were not short on weird.
1. Operation Holy Hitler (aka let’s kill Pope Pius XXII)
In some ways, Hitler was kind of an understated guy. He was a vegetarian, didn’t like smoking, and wore pants like this. But mostly, as we know, he was an egotistical maniac.
One of the best examples of the Fuhrer’s self-love came about in the 1930s, when he decided that local Catholic schools had a shocking lack of Adolf Hitler memorabilia on their walls. This was quickly remedied by replacing the classroom crucifixes with pictures of his face. How no one thought this was insane is pretty damning of human intelligence as a whole, but maybe the kids were just really tired of having to look at a an emaciated Christ all day.
Once Hitler had figuratively substituted God for himself, he decided to take it a step further. And since literally pulling Christ from the sky wasn’t an option, he decided to take out the next best thing: The Pope. Did we mention this was part of a larger plan to abolish all religions and declare himself as God of Germany? Because that was also a thing.
Hitler didn’t want to nix the Pope purely for vanity’s sake, however. In 1943, Pope Pius XII started to publicly denounce the Nazi’s blatant abuses of human rights. This did not fly in Germany. Eventually, the Pope’s thinly-veiled condemnations of Hitler’s activities went too far, and it was at that point that a real plan was set into action. Hitler brought SS Gen. Karl Wolff into his office, beckoned him closer, and said “I want you and your troops to occupy Vatican City as soon as possible, secure its files and art treasures and take the Pope and curia to the North.”
So far this plan sounds like something a Bond villain would cook up: Flashy, intriguing, but not completely insane. Then phase two comes into play, and all of that goes out the window. Here’s the plan in a nutshell: Once Nazi soldiers had captured the Vatican and the Pope, a second group would infiltrate the Holy City, pretending to be a rescue party. But instead of rescuing the Pope, they would claim that the first group of Nazis were actually Italian assassins, slaughter them all and “accidentally” shoot the Pope amidst the chaos if he didn’t cooperate. If he kept his head down, they would drag Pius XII back to Germany and lock him in a castle. Then the Nazis would blame the Italians, and everything would be roses.
At least, that was the plan. Luckily, Wolff realized that this was completely psychotic and tipped off the Italians, who were rightfully pissed. He wasn’t very subtle about it either, going so far as to agree to an interview with a local Italian newspaper, the Avvenire, which is owned by the Catholic Church. The Guardian writes that in the newspaper Wolff reportedly announced, “I received from Hitler in person the order to kidnap Pope Pius XII.”
The weirdest part of this story, however, is that according to historian Robert Katz, assassinating Pope Pius XII wouldn’t have benefited Germany or the Axis powers at all. Hitler was prepared to screw up everything just out of spite. Or maybe he secretly wanted the Pope hat, who knows.
2. The “degenerate art” gallery that was actually a massive success
Before the Swastika flew over Deutschland, the soon-to-be Nazi nation was experiencing an incredible art renaissance. Dadaism and the Bauhaus movement were taking the world by storm, and the art community was looking to Germany for the best in cutting-edge modern art.
Then the book burnings began. Art now had to fit the “Nazi ideal,” upholding Aryan values and praising the brilliance and prestige of the Fuhrer. Movies and plays were censored, operas canceled, paintings confiscated. The German art scene was being completely dismantled, and people were not happy about it.
The Nazis knew that people were pissed about these new “creative restrictions,” but felt that they were just misguided. People don’t actually know what they want until you show it to them, right? This was the Nazi strategy. To redirect the poor, misguided art enthusiasts of Munich, they would first show them what they shouldn’t want — by organizing an art exhibit called “Entartete Kunst,” or “degenerate art.” The gallery was supposed to showcase why modern art was actually awful and not cool at all.
Over 650 sculptures, paintings, prints and books were confiscated from public German museums to be “shamefully” displayed in the gallery. The Nazis arranged the art pieces haphazardly to make them appear less attractive, and wrote up explanations of why they were inferior, undesirable contributions to the art world and the Nazi regime in general.
Then the Nazis simultaneously opened their own art exhibit, the “Great German Art Exhibition,” one with Aryan-approved art only. This way it would be clear to the public which was the superior art genre, and settle the matter once and for all.
This did not go well.
Unimpressed with the perfectly sculpted, tasteful bronze nudes that filled the “superior” art gallery, the German art lovers ditched the stuffy exhibit and headed to — you guessed it — the degenerate art gallery. In the end, five times as many people visited the Entartete Kunst, thrilled to finally have legitimate art on display. In only one day, 36,000 visitors flooded the taboo gallery, completing ignoring the “Great German Art Exhibition” taking place just a few minutes away. After the degenerate art gallery was closed, the featured pieces were either burned, confiscated by Nazi officials or sold to museums at auction. The pieces that were saved can be found in museums all over the world today, and the Entartete Kunst is considered by many to be one of the most culturally significant art exhibits of all time.
3. That time Hitler’s “Perfect Aryan Baby” ended up being Jewish
When you establish yourself as an extremist war-mongering regime, you need to make sure you have some killer PR to, you know, convince people that you aren’t actually an extremist war-mongering regime.
Joseph Goebbels, the head of Nazi propaganda, learned this fairly early on. So, in order to make the Third Reich appear a little more cuddly (which is ironic, since the dude looked like Dracula), he began a national campaign in 1935 to find the “perfect Aryan baby” — a child so pale and Germanic it could be the measuring stick for all infant beauty.
You would think the chosen Nazi baby would fit the white-blonde, blue-eyed ideal, but for whatever reason Goebbels selected a brunette, brown-eyed baby. Mistake number one if you’re the head of Nazi propaganda.
Goebbels then set about plastering the Nazi-Gerber baby’s picture over all of Germany. She showed up in flyers, newspapers, postcards, and propaganda posters of all kinds. Most people were pretty unfazed by the doll-faced baby that was suddenly appearing everywhere, accepting her as an unusually cute edition to the militaristic landscape of Nazi Germany.
Jacob and Pauline Levinson, on the other hand, were terrified to see the soon-to-be famous photo on the cover of “Sonne in Hause,” a Nazi family magazine. Why? The Master Race baby was their daughter — and she was Jewish.
Let’s rewind six months. The Levinsons had taken their young daughter, Hessy, to get her picture taken by photographer Hans Ballin, a prominent Berlin photographer. After the quick photo shoot they thanked Ballin, paid for their prints, and headed home, thinking that was the end of it. For Ballin, it was just the beginning. What the Levinsons didn’t know was that the talented photographer secretly hated the Nazis — a lot. Like Brad Pitt in Inglorious Basterds a lot.
So when Ballin found out that Goebbels had created a photo contest designed to find the perfect Aryan child — a child that Goebbels would personally select — he couldn’t resist the opportunity to undermine the entire thing.
“I wanted to make the Nazis ridiculous,” Ballin confessed, according to The Telegraph.
So, like the rebel artist he was, Ballin submitted the photo of little Hessy to the contest, hoping that Goebbels would bite. And as luck would have it, he did.
Unfortunately, this put the Levinsons in a lot of danger, and they ended up having to flee to Latvia. The Nazis later learned of their mistake, but never who Hessy was or where her family was hidden. In an interview with Death and Taxes Magazine last year, the 80-year-old Hessy (who now lives in the United States) confessed: “I can laugh about it now. But if the Nazis had known who I really was, I wouldn’t be alive.”
And who wouldn’t laugh? With Hessy’s picture, Ballin had effectively trolled the Nazis on an international scale. The Third Reich didn’t learn from its mistake, either: They would later choose a half-Jewish man as the premiere example of what a full-blooded Aryan soldier should be.
And people wonder why they didn’t win the war.
4. The “Lebensborn” Nazi baby factory
The Nazis really had a weird thing for babies. During Hitler’s rise to power, thousands of babies were born into “Lebensborn” programs, which were basically Nazi baby breeding factories created under Heinrich Himmler. The children were raised to be in peak physical condition and were groomed to emulate the Nazi standard of beauty. They were given a strict diet, were indoctrinated into the Nazi way of thinking and even had their hair treated with ultraviolet light if the nurses suspected it was starting to turn anything but Nazi-approved white-blonde. Seriously.
Where exactly did these babies come from, you ask? A few different places. Many of the children were the product of the government encouraging SS soldiers to “get to know” the prettiest girls in the European nations they conquered during Germany’s expansion. Then if the ladies were lucky enough to get pregnant, they would be sent to a Lebensborn house, which literally means “font of life” when translated. As in these babies would be the “font” that would kick start the Aryan population of Germany and its captured lands, ensuring a smiling, blue-eyed super race. The unwed mothers were free to stay and live with their children, so long as they complied with the home’s methods and adopted a proper Nazi lifestyle. Orphaned children were adopted out by upstanding German families.
Babies were also abducted from surrounding countries, so long as they were beautiful (Poland estimates that it lost as many as 100,000 children during the war). The darker, “less desirable” children would be sent to concentration camps with their parents. The same was true of children born in the homes; if a child was particularly non-Germanic looking, or resisted Nazi teachings once he or she was a little older, they would be sent to be gassed at a death camp. The babies that made the cut grew up to be some of an estimated 250,000 children who were Nazified under the Lebensborn program during the war.
Tragically, many parents would surrender their children to the Lebensborn program in an attempt to keep them from the horrors of the concentration camps. Most of them were simply taken, however, despite their Jewish ethnicity. Looking the part was enough for the program as long as you grew up to love Hitler and despise the Jewish race like the Nazi nurses who raised you, apparently.
When the war ended and the Allies invaded, they found several Lebensborn homes still full of children. Of the estimated hundreds of thousands of children who were part of the program, only about 25,000 were reconnected with their original families. Many of the parents had been killed during the war, but some children refused to be reunited with their real families, believing themselves to be superior and racially pure after the Nazis’ brainwashing.
Siege warfare is a military tactic in which an enemy army surrounds a castle or fortress and attempts to break in either by physical force or by starving the inhabitants into submission. In other words, it is a nasty ordeal for all involved and it often sports some diabolical tactics.
Here are three sieges from ancient history that show just how nasty things can get.
1. Battle of Jericho (late 17th or 16th centuries BCE)
The siege of Jericho is a well-known story. The Israelites marched around the walls seven times and on the seventh circuit they stopped, the Levites blew into their shofars and the next thing you know the walls came tumbling down, end of story. However, there is an alternative history that wrings more true.
The Israelite commander named Joshua used psychological terror and stealth to bring down the walls of Jericho. In other words, before Joshua mustered his forces on the days preceding the Jericho battle, he sent two men to scout out the area and the city of Jericho like any good commander would.
Once the men were in the city, they went straight to the inn. An inn is a perfect place for a pair of strangers seeking information. The men got lucky when a prostitute by name of Rahab approached them and gave them all the details about the city’s security. Afterward, both spies swore to Rahab that she and her family would be spared so long as she left a scarlet cord hanging from her window.
Once the spies returned with the goodies, Joshua assembled his forces and deployed to Jericho, where they would march around the city for seven days. There are two reasons for this. First was to terrorize the city’s inhabitants with this bizarre rounding of the city day after day.
Second, was to keep the guards along the wall occupied by watching the army. While this goes on, a number of men would break rank undetected and head to Rahab’s window and climb up the scarlet cord. This would go on for six days. After the seventh day came, the Israelite army stopped, the shofars sounded and the men shouted.
This was a signal for the uncertain amount of men staying in Rahab’s apartment to attack the city from the inside by taking the main gate and opening it for the Israelites to storm in. Once the Israelites were in, the slaughter begins.
Every man, woman, child — and even livestock — were put to the sword, except for Rahab and her family.
2. The Siege of Baghdad (1258)
In 1258, the massive Mongol army along with many foreign nations under the authority of Prince Hulegu, surrounded the city of Baghdad after conquering much of Iran and northern Iraq. Once the Mongols settled into camp, the destruction began.
On jan. 30, 1258, the Hulegu gave the order to commence the bombardment of the city walls. But there was a problem. The Mongol siege crews had no rocks. The siege train carrying the needed stones was three days journey away.
While the Mongols look for suitable projectiles to throw at the city walls, Hulegu ordered his Mongol archers to fire arrows over the walls with messages attached saying the city’s residents would be treated with kindness if they surrender.
While Hulegu sought to end this siege peacefully, Mongol engineers came up empty handed in the catapult rock search. However, not all was lost. Mongol engineers stripped foundation stones from the buildings in the suburbs and uprooted palm trees to use as hasty projectiles, battering the walls of Baghdad (James Chambers, The Devil’s Horsemen, 145).
The Caliph quickly sent ambassadors to negotiate peace but Hulegu would not hear the plea and detained them. Hulegu’s message was clear, surrender was not enough; it must be unconditional surrender.
While the Caliph continued to send envoys to Hulegu, the Mongols continued to bombard the walls — focusing on the Ajami tower, which was reduced to rubble by Feb. 1. The Mongols would finally break into the city the next day and seized a portion of the eastern wall. However, the battle was far from over and the negotiations continued for another four days. On the 6 February, the bombardment was over but the Mongols remained on the wall until the Caliph surrendered. Hulegu sent another message, this one to the armies of Baghdad. The message told them to lay down their arms and leave their posts.
Seeing the situation was unwinnable by use of arms, the Caliph’s advisors advised him to flee. But one man by the name of Ibn Alqami proposed that the best way to end this was for the Caliph to go before Hulegu. Hulegu’s terms to the Caliph were simple: turn over his daughter so that he could marry her and recognize Hulegu as the supreme authority.
If accepted, Hulegu would end the siege. The Caliph agreed and his forces marched out thinking they were going to retire to Syria. However, the forces were killed and later the Caliph and his sons were put to death. As for Baghdad, well, the hounds of hell were let loose.
Hulegu then ordered the troops guarding the walls to descend and kill the inhabitants of the city, great and small. (The Mongols) organized as though harvesting a field and cut down countless, numberless multitudes of men, women, and children. For forty days they did not stop. Then they grew weary and stopped killing. Their hands grew tired; they took others for sale. They destroyed mercilessly.
However, Hulegu’s wife, the senior Khantun (lady), named Doquz Khatun was a Christian. She spared the Christians of Baghdad, Nestorians and other denominations and beseeched her husband not to kill them. And he spared them with their goods and property.
Hulegu ordered all his soldiers to take the goods and property of the city. They all loaded up with gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, and costly garments, for it was an extremely rich city, unequalled on earth.
Hulegu himself took his share the caliph’s treasures—three thousand camel loads; and there was no counting the horses, mules and asses.
3. “Bring out your Dead!” The Siege of Kaffa (1346)
While this is a not ranking list, the Siege of Kaffa probably wins hands down for the suckiest siege. The reason is that Kaffa is ground zero for the worst plague to date to ever fall upon mankind. However, I understand the plague started elsewhere, but for Europe, Kaffa is the main source. So how did it happen?
In 1346, Mongols besieged the Genoese city of Kaffa located on the Black Sea. Before this siege, the Mongols and Genoese made an agreement in 1266 that the city would serve as a trading center between Europe and the Far East. However, the city would be taken over by the Mongols later on only to be given back. This seesaw agreement tradeoff would go on for some time.
The final straw came in 1343 when Christian locals and Muslims in the enclave of Tana inflamed. In turn, the Christians fled to Kaffa to escape the wrath of Khan Janibeg. Janibeg sent his army after them and found them hiding in the city. So what better option than to besiege the city.
In 1344, the Genoese were successful in breaking the siege by killing 15,000 of the Khan’s men and destroying their siege engines. The Khan would come back and try again in 1346, but as the Mongol besieged the city, a mysterious illness began to circulate the encampment. The Mongols, seeing their men fall ill and die, decided to use the bodies as a weapon. According to the notary Gabriel de Mussis:
The dying Tartars, stunned and stupefied by the immensity of the disaster brought about by the disease, and realizing that they had no hope of escape, lost interest in the siege. But they ordered corpses to be placed in catapults (trebuchets) and lobbed into the city in the hope that the intolerable stench would kill everyone inside. What seemed like mountains of dead were thrown into the city, and the Christians could not hide or flee or escape from them, although they dumped as many of the bodies as they could in the sea. And soon the rotting corpses tainted the air and poisoned the water supply, and the stench was so overwhelming that hardly one in several thousand was in a position to flee the remains of the Tartar army. Moreover, one infected man could carry the poison to others, and infect people and places with the disease by look alone. No one knew, or could discover, a means of defense.
Eventually, the city would surrender in 1349. But the damage had been done, and some of the Genoese took to their ships heading back for the ports in Italy. Unfortunately, some on board of those ships were infected with the bubonic plague. Gabriel de Mussis mentions this, stating:
…As it happened, among those who escaped from Caffa by boat were a few sailors who had been infected with the poisonous disease. Some boats were bound for Genoa, others went to Venice and to other Christian areas. When the sailors reached these places and mixed with the people there, it was as if they had brought evil spirits with them: every city, every settlement, every place was poisoned by the contagious pestilence, and their inhabitants, both men and women, died suddenly.
Overall, the Siege of Kaffa could be the deadliest siege ever. The outcome of the siege and the bubonic plague affected much of the world, particularly Europe, since Asia was already contaminated.
While it is possible that had the siege at Kaffa not taken place, the plague may not have infected Europe, or it may have come much later. But given that the siege did happen, it may have unwittingly resulted in the deaths of 50 million people out of a population of 80 million in Europe from 1346-1353.
This article by Stephen Carlson was originally published on Task Purpose, news and culture site for the next great generation of American veterans.
During the height of the Cold War, the U.S. Army deployed a nuclear-tipped rocket launcher that could be carried by a fire team.
Davy Crockett was a renowned frontier hero steeped in myth and legend, much of it probably based on tales invented by himself. Supposedly Crockett was such a crack shot he could split a bullet on an axe blade using a musket.
The Cold War weapon that bore his name was many things, but dead accuracy wasn’t one of them. The M28/29 Davy Crockett Weapon System was a man-portable recoilless rifle that could fire a 76-pound W54 nuclear warhead up to two and half miles, and provided the terrible power of fission in a system that could be carried and operated by three men.
Developed in the 1950s, the Davy Crockett was envisioned for use at the Fulda Gap, considered a prime invasion route for Soviet army divisions driving into West Germany and widely anticipated as where the first big battles of World War III would be fought.
Faced with overwhelming numbers of Soviet tanks, it was hoped weapons like the Crockett and the W48 shell could devastate large armored formations and keep the Soviet Union bottled up in the Fulda Gap. This even included nuclear landmines such as the Special Atomic Demolition Munition, which could also be used by Special Forces parachuting behind enemy lines to destroy key infrastructure.
By nuclear standards, the W54 warhead used by the Davy Crockett was tiny, with an explosive yield of .01-.02 kilotons, or the equivalent of 10 to 20 tons of TNT. By comparison, the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima had a yield of 15 kilotons, or 15,000 tons of TNT, nearly a thousand times more powerful.
But though a shrimp compared to most nukes, the warhead still carried plenty of bang. The largest conventional bomb fielded by the U.S. military, the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or MOAB, weighs 22,600 pounds and has a blast yield of 11 tons of TNT. The Crockett could deliver double that with a bomb .3% of the mass.
The blast was powerful enough to collapse buildings and cause third-degree burns hundreds of feet away, but the real lethality of the weapon lay in its radiation effects, which could be fatal over a quarter of a mile away. Residual fallout would contaminate the area and make it dangerous for any exposed personnel to pass through, making it a potent barrier weapon.
But the Davy Crockett had a number of problems that seem obvious in retrospect. The weapon was highly inaccurate, often hundreds of feet off target, and its limited range made it highly probable that users could be exposed to radioactive fallout. Though designed primarily to engage Soviet tank formations, the slow setup and inaccuracy of the weapon made targeting fast-moving tanks problematic.
The fact that mass use of the weapon could contaminate huge areas of land for years to come also made it dubious as a defensive weapon, since it would effectively deny territory to either side. It would also create a huge risk of escalation that could lead to a world-destroying nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union.
With its many deficiencies in mind, and perhaps a glimpse of sanity among military planners, it was phased out of use by 1971 and not replaced.
The United States nuclear stockpile has declined from its horrifying height in 1967 to a little over 70,000 today. A little over 2,000 of those are actually deployed, with the rest being held in reserve or awaiting dismantlement.
We may be past the days where the military fielded nuclear weapons on the scale seen in Western Germany during the Cold War, and the nuclear forces of the U.S. are aging and suffering from a long period of neglect from the Pentagon. But it is worth remembering that nuclear weapons were once so prevalent it was thought necessary to turn them into an infantry weapon.
Most Americans know the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, D.C, displays the names of every servicemember who died in the war or remain missing in action. But what many may not know is that the last names on the wall were killed in an operation launched two years after the conflict officially ended.
In a hastily thrown together mission to save civilians captured in Cambodia, three Marines were left behind to die at the hands of a Khmer Rouge executioner. And though the mission occurred well after American combat forces withdrew from Vietnam, the names of those Marines were still given their place on the Vietnam Memorial wall.
The 1973 Paris Peace Accords ended U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and two months later the last U.S. combat troops left along with prisoners of war held by the Vietnamese.
But in May, 1975, Communist Khmer Rouge troops from Democratic Kampuchea (modern-day Cambodia), captured an American-flagged merchant ship, the SS Mayaguez, off its coast. And though America was trying to distance itself from the war, President Gerald Ford vowed a response, and historians acknowledge the attempted rescue by U.S. troops as the last official battle of the Vietnam war.
Aerial surveillance showing two Khmer Rough gunboats during the initial seizing of the SS Mayaguez. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Ford ordered the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea, the destroyer Harold E. Holt, and the guided missile destroyer Henry B. Wilson into the area. He also put the Seventh Air Force and contingents of Marines in the region on alert.
P-3 Orion aircraft dropped flares on the Mayaguez’ last known position, which drew small arms fire from the attackers. The Air Force continued to harass the captured ship. So the Khmer troops took the crew prisoner on fishing boats close to the nearby island of Koh Tang.
The Air Force then loaded 75 Security Forces airmen onto five HH-53 Super Jolly Green Giant helicopters and seven Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallions to retake the Mayaguez. This plan was aborted when one of the helos, call sign Knife 13, crashed on its way to Thailand, killing all 18 airmen and its five-man crew.
These 23 airmen died en route to the Mayaguez when their HH-53C helicopter crashed due to a mechanical malfunction. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The next plan called for the Air Force to stop all ships between Koh Tang and the Cambodian mainland.
Meanwhile, Marines staged for a simultaneous assault on the Mayaguez and Koh Tang Island. Delta Company of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines moved to capture the ship, while 600 troops from 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines rescued the crew from the island. The plan called for two helicopters to make a diversionary attack on the eastern beach while the rest of the Marines landed via helicopter on the western side.
Unfortunately, the ship’s crew wasn’t on Koh Tang; they were on nearby Rong Sang Lem. Koh Tang had 100 defenders who were dug in and armed to the teeth, prepared for an attack from Vietnam, not the United States. And they had enough firepower to give the Marines a real fight.
At the same time, eight helicopters began the assault on Koh Tang and immediately came under heavy automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade fire. One of the CH-53s was hit and ignited, killing six Marines, the pilot, and two Navy corpsmen. Three more Marines died from the defending machine guns. The landing troops had to calling in an AC-130 Spectre Gunship to break out of the beachhead.
Just a few minutes before the attack began, the Khmer Rouge Propaganda Minister issued a radio broadcast announcing the release of the Mayaguez crew. The Wilson intercepted the boat carrying the crew and brought them aboard. In the morning in the U.S., President Ford announced the release of the Mayaguez crew to the American public, but not that the Khmer government had released them.
The Marines were still fighting on Koh Tang when the order from stateside came to break off and withdraw. The fighting lasted 14 hours.
Two hours after the evacuation, a Marine Corps company commander discovered three of his men missing — a machine gun team who protected a helicopter evacuation from the island. The abandoned Marines included Lance Cpl. Joseph N. Hargrove, Pvt. 1st Class Gary L. Hall, and Pvt. Danny G. Marshall.
Rear Adm. R.T. Coogan would only green light a rescue if the Marines were still alive. The Navy signaled the island in English, French, and Khmer that they wanted to search the island with Cambodian permission if they received a signal.
No signal came.
A picture from an OV-10 over two helicopters shot down on the East Beach of Koh Tang Island (U.S. Air Force photo)
Ten years later, an eyewitness report told the story of Cambodian troops on patrol under fire from an M-16 the very next day. They encircled and captured an American in the incident and were ordered not to discuss the event. That American was Lance Cpl. Hargrove. He was captured and subsequently executed.
One week later, Cambodian troops noticed their food stores were raided at night with strange boot prints left in the mud. They left a trap which captured Hall and Marshall. The two were taken to the mainland and beaten to death with a B-40 rocket launcher, their remains never conclusively found.
A total of 15 men were killed during the Mayaguez rescue mission, with another three missing and presumed dead. That’s on top of the 23 airmen lost in the helicopter crash preceding the assault on Koh Tang.
The names of the dead and missing at Koh Tang were the last names to be included on the national Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the wall bearing the names of all Americans killed or missing in the war.
An explosion inside an Army ammunition factory in Missouri on April 11 left one person dead and four others injured.
The Army Joint Munitions Command, which is tasked with managing military weapons and equipment, confirmed that the explosion occurred in a mixing building at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in the city of Independence, local outlet KY3 News reports.
The man killed in the explosion reportedly worked at the plant for 36 years.
Manufacturing ammunition is “dangerous work, and our employees risk their lives to protect our men and women in uniform,” said Lt. Col. Eric Dennis, commander of the plant, according to KSHB Kansas City. “This is a sacrifice they make to support our country, and I am humbled by the ultimate sacrifice this employee made today.”
An explosion injured six people at the same factory in 2011 in a construction area where the powder is loaded. All of the nearly 1,800 employees were sent home following the most recent unexpected detonation. Investigators are still trying to decipher how the explosion occurred.
Federal investigators fined the 707,000-square foot facility three times in the last decade (2008, 2011, 2012) for workplace safety violations.
The private contractor operating the plant in 2011 was initially charged $28,000 for safety issues, and paid $5,600 to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which cited “serious” problems with the handling of potentially dangerous chemicals.
The property holds more than 400 buildings, including nine warehouses. The plant primarily generates and tests small-caliber ammunition.
The treaty states: “…each Party shall eliminate its intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles, not have such systems thereafter, and carry out the other obligations set forth in this Treaty.”
According to a report by the New York Times, Russia has operationally deployed one battalion equipped with the SSC-8 cruise missile. A 2015 Washington Free Beacon report noted that American intelligence officials assessed the missile’s range as falling within the scope of weapons prohibited by the INF Treaty (any ground-launched system with a range between 300 and 3,400 miles).
The blog ArmsControlWonk has estimated the SSC-8’s range to be between 2,000 and 2,500 kilometers (1,242 and 1,553 miles) based on the assumption it is a version of the SS-N-30A “Sizzler” cruise missile.
While it looks like the Russians could be holding onto some banned systems, the U.S. scrapped three systems falling under the INF Treaty.
1. The BGM-109G Gryphon cruise missile
Forget the name, this was really a ground-launched Tomahawk that was deployed by the Air Force. According to the website of the USAF Police Alumni Association, six wings of this missile were deployed to NATO in the 1980s. Designation-Systems.net noted that the BGM-109G had a range of 1,553 miles and carried a 200-kiloton W84 warhead.
2. The MGM-31A Pershing I and MGM-31B Pershing Ia ballistic missiles
The Pershing I packed one of the biggest punches of any American nuclear delivery system and could hit targets 740 miles away. With a W50 warhead and a yield of 400 kilotons (about 20 times that of the bomb used on Nagasaki), the Pershing Ia actually was too much bang for a tactical role, according to Designation-Systems.net.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, this missile had longer range (1,100 miles), and had a W85 warhead that had a yield of up to 50 kilotons. While only one-eighth as powerful as the warhead on the Pershing I and Pershing Ia, the Pershing II was quite accurate – and could ruin anyone’s day.
According to the State Department’s web site, all three of these systems were destroyed (with the exception of museum pieces) by the end of May, 1991.