Every military professional has his or her favorite war novel and picking the “greatest” is a tall order. But that’s what we do here at WATM. These are our picks for the greatest war novels ever written:
1. Catch 22
Written from several third person points of view with a circular dynamic centered around the paradox that is Catch-22, this Joseph Heller classic was in many ways years ahead of its time in that the wider audience didn’t relate to his reading of the military until well into the Vietnam War years. Beyond the biting satire and staccato pacing Catch-22 captures the personalities that populate the military to this day: inept commanders, opportunistic junior officers, and enlisted men staying sane by not taking anything around them too seriously. This is a must-read before every major deployment.
2. The Things They Carried
Tim O’ Brien’s Vietnam-era literary masterpiece is brimming with pathos. The novel’s strength isn’t necessarily in how it deals with war straight-on, but it lies in O’Brien’s atmospherics and states of mind and the resultant permanent scars of an ill-defined conflict carried out by a nation riven by it.
3. Mr. Midshipmen Hornblower
Most people think of Patrick ‘O Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series as the definitive historical fiction works around the heyday of warfighting sailing ships, but Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, the first book in C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series, skips getting bogged down in technical detail and instead offers timeless lessons in military leadership at sea and amazing perspective around what 17-year olds had to tackle responsibility-wise in the fledgling American Navy.
4. The Hunters
James Salter’s poetic prose elevates this Korean War-era story about Air Force pilots to timeless art as well as a definitive reading of those drawn to that particular warfare specialty. The Hunters has it all: a burned out CO, a confused chain of command, cocky junior officers, and significant others complaining about being ignored for the glory of air combat.
5. The Hunt for Red October
Tom Clancy was an insurance salesman who couldn’t interest anyone in his manuscript until the Naval Institute Press – a publisher that had never done fiction – decided to take a chance based on the story’s level of technical detail that bordered on classified. The book’s sales were relatively flat until President Ronald Reagan was seen carrying a copy, and from that point The Hunt for Red October became the title that launched a thousand technothrillers as well as Clancy’s prolific and lucrative career.
6. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Author Ben Fountain paints an all-too-accurate portrait of what “support the troops” has come to mean a decade and a half after 9-11. “Halftime Walk” is set at the Dallas Cowboys stadium where an Army unit is feted by the team’s owner and his circle of Texas fat cats who demonstrate the distance between the American population and those sent to do their fighting. More than a novel about war, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is a national indictment.
7. All Quiet on the Western Front
Remarque’s groundbreaking World War I novel was among the first to dispel any laudable mystique surrounding war through its detail about trench warfare and mustard gas attacks and the portrayal of the protagonist’s decent from idealistic recruit to member of a generation forever scarred by “The Long War.” Paul Baumer’s heartbreak is that of the hundreds of thousands of service members who followed him into battle in the decades after his war ended, many of whom certainly read the book but went anyway.
An instant classic. Phil Klay’s much heralded debut novel about the Iraq War is worthy of the praise heaped upon it. Redeployment is at once timely and timeless in capturing the nuance of the emotions and states of mind of Marines at war and back home between tours. To get to what’s honorable about service you have to face the realities of an unclear mission without end and what accepting them does to those involved. In this effort Klay emerges as the de facto spokesman for the post-9/11 cohort of warfighters.
9. Slaughterhouse Five
Kurt Vonnegut’s best-known novel if not his masterwork, Slaughterhouse Five builds off of the author’s real-life experiences as an eyewitness to the aftermath of the Dresden firebombing during World War II and adds a time-traveling protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, to create a book that deftly illustrates the pointlessness and futility of war. (Also recommended by Vonnegut: Mother Night.)
President-elect Donald Trump named three members of his national-security team Nov. 18, including his pick for Attorney General, CIA director and National Security Advisor.
According to multiple media reports, retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn was selected to be Trump’s National Security Advisor, while Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions was chosen for the Attorney General slot.
Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo was asked to serve as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo was picked to head the Central Intelligence Agency. (Official congressional portrait)
Flynn, who had been a strong supporter of Trump on the campaign train and was a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, served in a number of posts during his Army career. He took part in Operations Urgent Fury and Restore Democracy, then served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan prior to taking charge of the DIA.
Flynn’s service decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Bronze Star with three oak leaf clusters, the Meritorious Service medal with five oak leaf clusters, and the Army Commendation Medal with five oak leaf clusters.
Flynn’s tenure as DIA director was marked by controversy, leading him to retire in August 2014.
Representative Pompeo was first elected to Congress in 2010 and was re-elected to his fourth term in 2016. Prior to entering Congress, Pompeo served for five years in the United States Army, reaching the rank of captain, then went to Harvard Law School before founding an aerospace firm and becoming president of an oilfield equipment company.
Pompeo has been an advocate of a hard line with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Pompeo has served on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
Senator Sessions is in his fourth term, having first been elected in 1996. Prior to his election, he served as a United States Attorney for 12 years.
During his service as a U.S. Attorney, his 1986 nomination as a federal judge was derailed. Sessions later ran for Attorney General of Alabama serving two years before winning his seat in the U.S. Senate.
While best known for his tough positions on illegal immigration and border security, Sessions was the sponsor of the HEROES Act of 2005, which boosted the death gratuity benefit to $100,000, and upped Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance coverage to $400,000. The legislation became law later that year.
Sessions served on the Senate Committee on Armed Services, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, the Senate Committee on the Budget, and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Sessions also served in the Army Reserve from 1973-1977, reaching the rank of captain.
Both Flynn and Sessions had been reportedly under consideration to serve as Secretary of Defense in a Trump administration. Had Flynn been nominated for that post, he would have needed a special exemption from rules mandating civilian leadership of the Pentagon.
The show is hosted by former Navy SEAL Sniper Brandon Webb and Army Ranger/Green Beret Jack Murphy. They discuss foreign policy, modern warfare, terrorism, politics, and more. The podcast also features guests from the military, intelligence, and special operations communities.
The show is hosted my “Lone Survivor” Marcus Luttrell and David Rutherford. These two retired Navy SEALs are committed to teaching the “never quit” mindset by helping people face their greatest challenges.
This one is a shameless plug. It’s our weekly show about the military and pop culture that focuses on breaking cultural tropes and bridging the military-civilian divide through storytelling and entertainment. The show is hosted by the We Are The Mighty’s editorial team: Air Force veteran Blake Stilwell, Army veteran Logan Nye, benevolent smartass Tracy Woodward, and myself, Navy veteran Orvelin Valle.
Pilots assigned to the US Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, join their F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter over the Gulf of Mexico into the diamond formation while approaching Naval Air Station Pensacola.
That’s just one name out of thousands that airmen and their families submitted for the B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber, whose official name was unveiled as the B-21 Raider on Monday at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space Cyber Conference.
The moniker comes from “Doolittle Raiders,” the World War II-era bomb crews who launched morale-boosting strikes on Tokyo after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. (At this week’s Air Force Association conference, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James handed the mic to Richard E. Cole, a 101-year-old retired lieutenant colonel and last surviving “Doolittle Raider,” to announce the name of the new bomber.)
Air Force Global Strike Command in March launched a website asking airmen, their family members and retirees to suggest names for the next-generation aircraft. And airmen got creative, slightly goofy and sometimes a bit clumsy with their suggestions.
Speaking at a Center for a New American Security conference on Monday, the US Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, explained why China’s DF-21D “carrier killer” antiship ballistic missile isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
The DF-21D, an indigenously created, precision-guided missile capable of sinking a US aircraft carrier with a single shot, has a phenomenal range of up to 810 nautical miles, while US carriers’ longest-range missiles can travel only about 550 miles away.
“I think there is this long-range precision-strike capability, certainly,” Richardson acknowledged. But “A2/AD [anti-access/area-denial] is sort of an aspiration. In actual execution, it’s much more difficult.”
“The combination of ubiquitous ISR, long-range precision-strike weapons takes that to another level and demands a response,” said Richardson, adding that China’s extension into the Pacific created a “suite of capabilities” that were of “pressing concern.”
But the US Navy won’t be defeated or deterred by figures on paper.
“In the cleanest form, the uninterrupted, frictionless plane, you have the ability to sense a target much more capably and quickly around the world, you’ve got the ability, then, to transmit that information back to a weapon system that can reach out at a fairly long range and it is precision-guided … You’re talking about hundreds of miles now, so that raises a challenge.”
“Our response would be to inject a lot of friction into that system at every step of the way [and] look to make that much more difficult,” he continued.
Richardson was clear that China’s purported capabilities were only speculations.
“What you see often is a display of ‘Here’s this launcher, here’s a circle with a radius of 700 miles, and it’s solid-color black inside’ … And that’s just not the reality of the situation,” he said.
“You’ve got this highly maneuverable force that has a suite of capabilities that the force can bring to bear to inject uncertainty,” Richardson continued.
Richardson also went on to address the dual aircraft carrier deployments in the Pacific and the Mediterranean, saying that the deployments afforded a rare opportunity for “high-end war fighting and training,” as carrier groups rarely get to train with each other in realistic, not just theoretical, situations.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
The U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Retired Reese Hines poses for a portrait showing his Explosive Ordnance Disposal occupational badge prosthetic eye, during the archery competition at the 2016 DoD Warrior Games held at U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY, June17, 2016.
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro Jr. from Joliet, Ill., listens to instructions for adjusting the sight on his compound bow during the archery competition at the 2016 DoD Warrior Games held at U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., June 17, 2016.
Soldiers scan the seafloor for obstructions and take depth measurements to ensure ships can safely maneuver in the waters near the port during a logistics exercise in Alameda, Calif., June 18, 2016.
PACIFIC OCEAN (June 22, 2016) USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) Sailors clime back aboard after jumping from the USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) aircraft elevator during a swim call. Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, John C. Stennis is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled 7th Fleet deployment.
PACIFIC OCEAN (June 22, 2016) Midshipmen 2nd Class Alex Harper is transferred from the guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) to the fast combat support ship USNS Rainier (T-AOE 7) during a high line passenger transfer. Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, Chung-Hoon is operating as part of the John C. Stennis Strike Group and Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled 7th Fleet deployment.
Sgt. Anthony Lee, a reconnaissance Marine with Maritime Raid Force, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, awaits the execution of a reconnaissance and surveillance mission during the MEU’s Realistic Urban Training exercise at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, June 13, 2016. Reconnaissance and surveillance of an objective area allows the MEU commander to gain a greater understanding of the enemy’s presence and geographical details on the battlefield.
Staff Sgt. Stephen Ferguson, a crew chief with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, rides in the back of a UH-1Y Venom as it approaches a landing zone during a training exercise near Camp Lejeune, N.C., June 17, 2016. Familiarization flights familiarize pilots new to the unit with the different landing zones and flight procedures around the Camp Lejeune area.
Members of Coast Guard Sector Juneau inspections division arrive at the cruise ship Crystal Serenity moored in Juneau, Alaska, to conduct a certificate of compliance exam June 22, 2016. The exam tests the crew’s ability to react in the case of an emergency covering a range of different scenarios.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter George Cobb stand ready for a uniform inspection prior to the cutter’s change of command ceremony held at Coast Guard Base Los Angeles-Long Beach on June 16, 2016. The change of command ceremony is a time-honored tradition, deeply rooted in Coast Guard and Naval history. The event signifies a total transfer of responsibility, authority and accountability of the command.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
U.S. Air National Guard Senior Airman Jeremy Johnson, 138th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Tulsa, OK, performs routine maintenance on an F-16’s critical components, Oct. 27, 2016.
A New York Air National Guard HC-130 Combat King II assigned to the 102nd Rescue Squadron lands on a dirt landing strip at Fort Polk, La., during Southern Strike 17, Oct. 27, 2016. SSTK 17 is a total force, multi-service training exercise hosted by the Mississippi Air National Guard’s Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Miss., from Oct. 24 through Nov. 4, 2016. The exercise emphasizes air-to-air, air-to-ground and special operations forces training opportunities. These events are integrated into demanding hostile and asymmetric scenarios with actions from specialized ground forces and combat and mobility air forces.
Soldiers from 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade’s armament team, load ammunition and fuel at the forward rearming and refueling point before AH-64D Apaches conduct an aerial gunnery exercise, at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., Oct. 26.
U.S. Army Paratroopers Spc. Jordan Myer (Left) and Pfc. Justin Gilbert (Right) assigned to Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, firing rounds for training during exercise Silver Arrow Oct. 27, 2016, in Adazi, Latvia. The U.S. Army is participating in exercise Silver Arrow. Silver Arrow is a two-week long Latvian led exercise, which joins foreign Armed Forces units, in order to develop relationships and leverage Allied and partner nation capabilities preserving peace through strength. The exercise is part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a U.S. lead effort being conducted in Eastern Europe to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the collective security of NATO and dedication to enduring peace and stability in the region.
Petty Officer 3rd Class (AW) India Campbell fires a .50-caliber machine gun during a live-fire exercise on the fantail of the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). The live-fire exercise provided Weapons Department and Security Department personnel with small-arms proficiency training for the .50-caliber and M240B machine guns. Ronald Reagan, the Carrier Strike Group Five flagship, is on patrol supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
Members of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5, Platoon 503, embarked aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), descend a rope from an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter, assigned to the “Golden Falcons” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 12, onto the flight deck of the forward-deployed Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) during a fast-rope and helicopter, visit, board, search and seizure (HVBSS) exercise. Barry is on patrol with Carrier Strike Group Five (CSG 5) in the Philippine Sea supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
Marines assigned to Bravo Battery,”Black Sheep,” 1st Battalion 12th Marine Regiment, dig holes to support the recoil of an M777A2 Howitzer during a direct fire training exercise, part of Lava Viper 17.1, at Range 13 aboard the Pohakuloa Training Area, on the big Island of Hawaii, Oct. 16, 2016. Lava Viper is an annual combined arms training exercise that integrates ground elements such as infantry and logistics, with indirect fire from artillery units as well as air support from the aviation element.
Three MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, fly west above the Pacific Ocean during scheduled flight operations after departing USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), Sept. 26, 2016. VMM-262 is the Aviation Combat Element for the 31st MEU, and features a variety of fixed-wing, rotary-wing, and tiltrotor aircraft.
Coast Guard Cutter Ocracoke sits at the pier at Naval Station Newport as the sun sets on Oct. 25, 2016, during the Coast Guard 1st District Cutter Roundup held in Newport, Rhode Island. The Ocracoke is an 87-foot patrol boat based in South Portland, Maine.
Coast Guard cuttermen from units across the First District train in The Damage Control Wet Trainer “Buttercup” in Newport, Rhode Island, Monday. Oct. 24, 2016. The junior enlisted crewmembers were together in Newport for a Cutter Roundup, a week-long event to unite, train, and prepare the First District’s cutter fleet.
On June 24, Practices will hold Day of Service, offering free dental work to veterans nationwide. Nearly 450 practices across 35 states will participate as part of the Healthy Mouth Movement, Aspen sites in Bluefield and Beckley in West Virginia included.
During the appointments, dentists and their teams will focus on treating the most urgent needs of the veterans by providing fillings, extractions and basic denture repair to help relieve any pain.
This marks the fourth annual event for and is the largest single-day oral health initiative targeted at veterans. Last year, dentists and their teams offered services totaling almost $2.1 million dollars, helping over 4,000 veterans receive dental care.
Of 21 million veterans, less than 10 million are enrolled for the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health benefits. For many, this includes dental care benefits and more than 1.2 million lack health insurance altogether.
North Korea is not the only rogue state that is testing missiles. Iran recently carried out a missile test, and just like North Korea, they couldn’t get their missile up.
According to a report by the Washington Times, an Iranian midget submarine attempted to launch an unidentified cruise missile. The test, part of an Iranian military buildup, failed.
The 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World notes that that Iran has Chinese-designed C-802 missiles, as well as a home-built version of the C-802 called the Noor, as well as the C-704, and an indigenous missile called the Qader.
Combat Fleets of the World also notes that Iran has at least 16 North Korean-designed mini-subs, which are locally called the Ghadir-class. These subs each have two 21-inch torpedo tubes and a crew of 20.
One of these subs in North Korean service, which they refer to as Yono-class, is believed to have fired the torpedo that sank the South Korean corvette Cheonan in 2010.
The Washington Free Beacon has reported that Iran is carrying out a major buildup since the July 2015 nuclear deal, increasing its defense budget by 145 percent and seeking to turn the Iranian Army into a force capable of offensive operations as opposed to supporting the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The Washington Times noted that Iran has reportedly taken delivery of the S-300 surface-to-air missile system, and is seeking a license to build the Russian-designed T-90 main battle tank locally. Iran has also been building indigenous fighter and surface-to-air missile designs.
Iranian naval vessels have repeatedly harassed U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf. The most recent incident involved the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72). Over the last year, a number of other incidents occurred, including multiple attacks on the destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
A joint U.S.-Peshmerga raid on an ISIS compound in Iraq freed some 70 prisoners, killed many ISIS fighters, and captured five of them. The cost was four injured Kurdish fighters and one U.S. Delta Force operator killed in action. Some would say the price of one KIA for rescuing 70 people is a fair cost, others might say a Delta Operator is an invaluable loss. No matter which side of the debate you stand, risky raids are rarely without casualties. Here are a few of the most famous raids, with what was gained and at what cost, to help determine which were worth the risk. Some are more obvious than others.
Operation Ivory Coast (1970)
The commando raid on the Son Tay prison camp in North Vietnam was one of the riskiest missions in spec ops history. Planning for the mission began in early May 1970 after Air Force aerial photos confirmed the camp’s existence, which for years had been suspected of housing more than 60 POWs. 130 Special Forces began training at a secret base in Florida over several months. Commandos and Air Force Special Operations air crews rehearsed the raid on a scale model of the camp.
In the late hours of November 20, support aircraft including A-1 Skyraiders, F-4 Phantoms and F-105G Wild Weasels and the assault force of six Jolly Green Giant helicopters lifted off for the rescue from bases in Thailand and South Vietnam. At about 2:00am, 50 Green Berets deliberately crash landed their helicopter into the main courtyard of the prison camp guns blazing. After a methodical search of the prison barracks and multiple engagements with guards, the assault force boarded a second helicopter for its exfiltration, empty handed.
Though the mission didn’t recover any of the POWs (intelligence later found they had been moved in July), the raid was a major success, involving a host of joint service assets — including a Navy decoy mission using A-7 Corsairs and A-6 Intruders that tied up North Vietnamese air defense assets as cover for the raid.
POWs Rescued: 0
Guards Killed: 42
Cost: 2 wounded, 2 aircraft down
Israeli Raid on Lebanon (1973)
In response to the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics by the Palestinian terror organization Black September, Israeli intelligence (Mossad) launched the intelligence operation with the coolest name ever: Operation Wrath of God. Wrath of God was directed by Mossad to assassinate members of Black September and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) responsible.
On April 10, 1973, as part of Wrath of God, Israel Defence Forces (IDF) Sayeret Matkal (the Israeli equivalent to Delta Force) special operatives came ashore near Beirut and Sidon, Lebanon. They met Mossad agents on the beaches who drove them to their targets in rented cars. At the same time, paratroopers raided a building guarded by 100 militants and engaged in close-quarters battle as they cleared the structure. Two IDF troops were killed. Another paratroop unit destroyed a PLO garage in Sidon and Shayetet 13 commandos (IDF equivalent to Navy SEALs) destroyed an explosives workshop. Steven Spielberg recreated the raid in his 2005 film Munich.
All Israeli forces either returned to the beach to leave the way they came or were airlifted out by the Israeli Air Force.
Enemy Killed: 100
Cost: 2 IDF paratroopers
Raid on Entebbe (1976)
In June 1976, Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) hijacked AirFrance Flight 139 on its way from Tel Aviv, Israel to Paris, France. Two PFLP hijackers and two Germans from the German Revolutionary Cells captured 12 crewmembers, 246 mainly Jewish Israelis, and 58 other passengers. They ended up Entebbe, Uganda, which was under the control of the notorious dictator Idi Amin Dada at the time.
Supported by Amin’s troops, the hijackers moved the hostages to Entebbe’s passenger terminal, where Amin visited them everyday and promised he was working for their release. The PFLP demanded $5 million and the release of 53 Palestinians prisoners, 40 of whom were in Israel. They promised to start killing the hostages if their demands were not met in three days.
The hijackers separated the Jewish and Israelis from the rest of the passengers. 48 sick and elderly non-Jewish hostages were released. When the Israelis agreed to negotiations, the hijackers extended their deadline by an extra three days and release 100 more non-Israeli passengers. This left 106 hostages in Entebbe. When diplomacy failed to secure their release, the Israelis launched a rescue attempt.
Israeli C-130s and a Boeing 747s flew from the Sinai Peninsula over Saudi, Egyptian, Sudanese, and Ugandan territory at 100 ft to avoid detection. The landed and offloaded a Merecedes-Benz and motorcade of Land Rovers similar to Amin’s own motorcade. they drove right up to the terminal, took out two sentries and entered the terminal shouting in Hebrew and English that they were Israeli soldiers there to rescue the hostages. Three hostages and all the hijackers were killed. the remaining C-130s launched Armored Personnel Carriers (APC) to pick up the hostages and take them back to the waiting 747s. The Israelis had to shoot their way back to their planes as Ugandan soldiers descended on them, injuring five and killing one Yonatan Netanyahu, older brother to current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A hostage who was taken to the hospital in Kampala, Uganda due to illness was killed by Ugandan Army officers after the raid.
Hostages Rescued: 102
Hijackers Killed: 4
Cost: 4 hostages, 1 IDF commando killed
4 IDF commandos wounded
Desert One (1979)
This is the disastrous attempt to rescue American hostages being held by Iranians at the former embassy in Tehran. To this day, President Carter maintains the biggest mistake of his Presidency was not sending one more helicopter.
Desert One was a secret staging area in Iran set up by special operators where eight Navy helicopters and Delta Force aboard three C-130 transport planes. Three more C-130s with 18,000 gallons of fuel for the helicopters were also supposed to deploy at Desert One. The Navy helicopters would refuel and fly the Delta Forces to Desert Two, another desert area South of Tehran, conceal the helicopters and hide out during the day.
The next night Delta Force would board trucks driven by Iranian operatives, drive to Tehran, storm the U.S. embassy, free the hostages, and transport everyone to a nearby soccer field, where they would be picked up by the helicopters, who would then fly everyone to an airfield secured by Army Rangers and everyone would fly to Egypt on C-141 Starlifters after the helicopters were destroyed.
During the operation, three helicopters were unable to continue, forcing the team to abort the rescue. During the evacuation, one of the helicopters crashed into a C-130 carrying fuel and personnel, destroying both aircraft and killing eight troops, five airmen and three Marines, without ever getting close to the hostages.
Hostages Rescued: 0
Cost: 5 U.S. troops
Nord-Ost Siege (2002)
In 2002, 40 Chechen separatists besieged a Moscow theater holding more than 800 people captive for nearly a week, demanding the Russian withdrawal from the Republic of Chechnya. The terrorists killed two hostages after negotations failed. The Russians called up their elite Spetznaz Alpha Group to handle the situation.
The Russians used a specialized gas to knock out both the terrorist captors and their hostages through the theater’s air ducts. The Spetznaz then stormed the theater, killing all 40 Chechen seprtatists, their suicide vests still strapped to their torsos, but barely conscious.
Most of the hostages were rescued, but more than 130 died from suffocating from the gas. It was the first time gas was used in such a way, but likely the last, as it also injured much of the Spetznaz response team. Welcome to Putin’s Russia.
This is the SEAL Team Six raid which ended in the death of Osama bin Laden. In the early hours of May 2, 2011, 79 SEAL Team Six operators and a working dog flew from Jalalabad in specially designed stealth Blackhawk helicopters in nap-of-the-Earth style. They arrived at bin Laden’s compound in 90 minutes. The first Blackhawk experienced hazardous airflow condition caused by the concrete walls surrounding the compound (practice runs used mesh fencing), causing the helicopter to softly crash land. No one was injured.
SEALs entered the house, killing defenders (including bin Laden), securing noncombatants and gathering all the intelligence they could, all within 40 minutes. The SEALs destroyed the damaged helicopter to protect classified technology. A reserve Chinook was sent to extract the team from the crashed helicopter and (with bin Laden’s body) leave Pakistan for Bagram Air Base. Bin Laden would later be buried at sea.