9 true facts about the 'Nuclear Club' - We Are The Mighty
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9 true facts about the ‘Nuclear Club’

The “Nuclear Club” is a term used informally in geopolitics for the group of nations who possess nuclear weapons. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968 was designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and limit the Nuclear Club to five members. A few countries declined to sign the treaty and have since joined the club.


Though the NPT restricts weapons tech, it does reserve the right of the peaceful uses of nuclear technology for any country, for things like energy production and medical and scientific advancements.

A lot of energy.

Here are 11 more interesting facts about the world’s most exclusive (and potentially destructive) club.

1. There are eight, maybe nine, members controlling at least 15,600 warheads.

The list of confirmed countries with nuclear weapons includes the United States, Russia, France, China, United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Israel may or may not have nukes, as they have a policy of making their weapons capabilities purposely ambiguous to the rest of the world.

The first five are permanent members of the UN Security Council. The NPT treaty recognizes these states as weapons states. The latter four aren’t signatories to the NPT.

2. Five other countries host foreign nuclear weapons.

Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, and Turkey host American nukes under NATO agreements. 30 other states use nuclear technology to generate energy under the terms of the NPT.

3. South Africa is the only country to dismantle its nuclear arsenal.

Bomb casings at South Africa’s abandoned Circle nuclear bomb production facility near Pretoria. These most likely would have accommodated a gun-type nuclear package for air delivery

From the 1960s through the 1980’s, apartheid South Africa pursued nuclear weapons. It was able to assemble six weapons with (alleged) help from Israel. Soviet spies discovered their capabilities, which the South Africans denied. When the apartheid government fell and the African National Congress (led by Nelson Mandela) was set to take power, South Africa dismantled its stockpile. It remains the only country ever to destroy its entire WMD program.

4. 59 other nations have the ability to construct nuclear weapons.

Apart from those already in the Nuclear Club, South Africa, Argentina, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Vietnam, Japan, Uzbekistan, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, and Ukraine all have the technology and material needed for a weapon. Iraq, Libya, Syria, Brazil, South Korea, and Taiwan have all had weapons programs in the past but openly shelved their efforts.

5. Maintaining the worldwide arsenal is a trillion-dollar business.

Even twenty years after the end of the Cold War, the thousands of nuclear weapons cost the world more than $1 trillion per decade in upkeep costs.

6. By 2020, Pakistan will have the world’s third largest stockpile.

An August 2015 report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center revealing Pakistan was ramping up production, with numbers as high as 20 per year. The report estimated that by 2020, Pakistan would have 350 warheads. The Pakistanis also tested a ballistic missile in December 2015 with a 560 mile range.

7. Nuclear nonproliferation success far outnumber failures.

India and Pakistan developed nuclear warheads in 1998. In 2003, North Korea withdrew from the NPT and has since tested a number of weapons. At the time of the NPT signing, it was estimated that 20-30 countries would have nuclear weapons by 1985. Despite some proliferation setbacks, only three (maybe four) developed them.

8. Only two countries possess worldwide nuclear capabilities.

Only the United States and Russia have the ability to strike anywhere in the world, either through Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles or from submarine-based weapons. India and Pakistan have regional strike capabilities. The range of Israel’s and North Korea’s weapons are unknown.

9. Three countries actually inherited nuclear weapons.

Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine inherited stockpiles following the fall of the Soviet Union. They returned the weapons to Russia and signed on to the NPT.

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This Luftwaffe hero was shot down 32 times during World War II

Han-Ulrich Rudel was the kind of pilot that every soldier wants overhead. He was a close air support and dive bomber pilot who flew 3,500 combat missions and kept getting into the cockpit even after he was shot down 32 times and wounded five times.


Rudel began his career as a reconnaissance pilot in the Luftwaffe but entered dive bombing training as soon as he was allowed. After graduation in 1941, he was transferred to a Stuka dive bombing unit and flying in German blitzkrieg attacks. He would spend nearly all of his World War II career on Germany’s eastern front fighting the Soviets.

The Soviet battleship, the Marat, was sank by Hans-Ulrich Rudel with a bomb to the ammunition magazine. Photo: Public Domain

In Sep. 1941 he was sent against Soviet naval units and successfully sank the battleship Marat. In early 1943 he celebrated his 1,000 sortie. About a month later, in Apr. 1943, he took part in an attack against Soviet amphibious landing craft while flying a Ju-87. He sank 70 boats with the bird’s two 37mm cannons.

During the war, he pioneered a tactic where attack planes would hit the tanks from the rear. The primary benefit was that the planes could fire into the relatively thin armor over the tank’s engine, but it also meant that the planes were flying towards their own lines. That made it easier for pilots hit during an attack to make it back to friendly forces before bailing out.

Hans-Ulrich Rudel, German flying ace. Photo: Public Domain

In a single day using this tactic, Rudel was able to destroy 12 Soviet tanks. In another heavy battle he set his own personal record of 17 tanks in a single day.

Rudel’s willingness to fly low and slow to take out Soviet targets left him exposed to ground fire though, and he was shot down 32 times by anti-aircraft batteries. He was also wounded both on the ground and in the air.

The Ju-87 Stuka was an ugly tank buster. Photo: Public Domain

His worst injury came while chasing a thirteenth tank kill in a fierce battle. After he fired off his final 37mm rounds, his right leg was shot off by anti-aircraft fire. Another pilot had to talk him through a crash landing and pull him out of the plane before he bled out.

Still, he got back in the cockpit after a short convalescence and kept flying on the front lines. Rudel’s return to the cockpit was against Hitler’s express orders. The Führer wanted to make sure his hero pilot survived the war, but Rudel wanted back into the fight.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FD7MvO7fww
 

Over his career, he destroyed 519 Soviet tanks, a battleship, a cruiser, a destroyer, 70 landing craft, and 11 airplanes. And he was famous for regularly landing and rescuing downed air crews. For his efforts, Rudel was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds, the second highest level of the Knight’s Cross. He was the only recipient of the award.

The only version of the award that was higher than Rudel’s was one specially made for Hermann Göring, and Göring basically got it for being head of the Luftwaffe, not for bravery.

Hans-Ulrich Rudel receives Germany’s top medal for bravery from Adolph Hitler. Photo: Public Domain

Of course, Rudel’s side thankfully lost the war and he was forced into an early retirement. His close-air support expertise was eventually pressed into the service of the U.S. American engineers consulted him about CAS while designing the A-10 Warthog, the beloved, tank-busting beast.

For anyone who is feeling pretty good about Rudel and maybe hoping he was a Rommel-type Nazi, the career military men who turned on Hitler when it became clear he was a monster, sorry. Rudel really was a hateful racist and Nazi. He spoke out regularly in support of the Third Reich and was a member of a neo-Nazi political party from 1953 to his death in 1982.

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Taiwan is arming up as China flexes its muscles in the region

Taiwan is pursuing a two-pronged upgrade to its armed forces as people on the island worry about recent shows of force by powerful rival China during a political stalemate.


Last week, the Taiwanese navy signed a memorandum of understanding with two local companies to develop submarines over the next four years. Construction of the vehicles, ideal for warfare against a stronger adversary, could reach $85.8 million, though the final price is not set, the defense ministry spokesman said.

Taiwan’s ambition to design its own submarines stems partly from China’s pressure against other governments to avoid selling the island any arms.

Last week the Taiwan president called the submarine project “the most challenging aspect” of a broader plan to foster an independent local defense industry, per a local media report.

Also Read: China’s trying to push around American bombers flying in international airspace

Taiwan now operates two Dutch-designed Hai Lung submarines, bought in the early 1980s, and two Guppy II-class submarines dating back to 1946. China has the world’s third most powerful armed forces overall, with Taiwan in 19th place, according to the GlobalFirePower.com database.

The navy has not fixed on a number of submarines to develop as part of the agreement signed Tuesday, the defense ministry spokesman said.

“Because in the past, Taiwan has the technology to build boats, we hope to make use of this domestic industry,” said senior Taiwan legislator Lee Chun-yi. “We hope we can use the construction (of submarines) to encourage domestic industries, and there’s a definite help for Taiwan’s defense sector.”

Separately, U.S. President Donald Trump may approve a sale of advanced weapons to Taiwan in the first half of the year according to media reports from Washington.

“Without speaking to any specific cases, we can say that under long-standing U.S. policy, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are … based on an assessment of Taiwan’s defense needs,” said Sonia Urbom, spokesperson for The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which unofficially represents U.S. interests in Taipei.

“Defensive arms are helpful for Taiwan’s security,” Lee said. “We hope for them and welcome them. We also all hope the United States can have a closer military dialogue and that the United States will approve this package as soon as possible and let Taiwan process it as soon as possible.”

Taiwan defense ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said Monday the government would urge Washington to make the arms sale.

The administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama stopped an arms sale to Taiwan in December. Some analysts expect Trump at least to unblock it. The United States may sell advanced rocket systems and anti-ship missiles to Taiwan in the next package, news reports from Washington say.

“I wouldn’t necessarily characterize it as urgency,” said Ross Feingold, Taipei-based analyst with an American political consultancy. “The time has come to make a decision and the Obama Administration decided to punt, and now the Trump Administration is following up in a reasonable and appropriate time frame.

“A better question would be what’s going to come next because we are simply approving things that were on the table and under discussion already,” he said.

Chinese officials fume when other countries, especially the United States, sell weapons to Taiwan. Taiwan is looking to Trump because he risked China’s anger by speaking to Tsai by phone in December and his staff has taken a tough line against Beijing’s military expansion at sea.

China temporarily cut off some exchanges with the United States in 2010 when Obama approved a $6.4 billion arms package for Taiwan. After Washington announced a $1.83 billion package in 2015, China formally protested to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

Some see Obama’s decision to stop an arms deal in December as a goodwill gesture toward China, and say approval by Trump would risk China calling off any cooperation with the United States on containing North Korea.

People in Taiwan have been particularly on guard since the Liaoning aircraft carrier, the only ship of its type in the Chinese navy, sailed around Taiwan in December and January. Taiwan is just 160 kilometers away from China at its nearest point.

This month China flew 13 aircraft east of Taiwan, near Okinawa. Taiwan’s defense ministry is also watching as Beijing builds military infrastructure in the disputed South China Sea.

“China is doing some activities in the South China Sea recently, and even though they’re not always directed toward Taiwan, in the Pacific region it’s stronger and stronger, so people in Taiwan feel that without the ability to resist we will be diminished in terms of bargaining position,” said Ku Chung-hua, a standing board member in the Taipei-based political action group Citizens’ Congress Watch.

Taiwan frets because the Communist leadership claims sovereignty over the self-ruled island despite opinion polls showing most Taiwanese oppose China’s goal of eventual unification. The two sides talked regularly from 2008 to 2015 but stopped after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took office last year.

Tsai takes a more guarded view of relations with China than her predecessor and Beijing is seen using military displays as well as diplomatic and economic measures to pressure Taiwan back into talks. China has not renounced the use of force, if needed, to reunify with the island.

Taiwan’s parliament would need to allocate money separately for a U.S. arms package, but the China threat is marshaling public support in favor, analysts say. The existing military budget for this year comes to $10.24 billion, or 2.05 percent of the Taiwan GDP.

“With the cross-Strait situation not only stagnant, but in some respects deteriorating, this is as good a time as any both to garner domestic support within Taiwan to purchase weapons and to hope for a sympathetic ear in Washington,” said Alan Romberg, East Asia Program director with American think tank The Stimson Center.

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Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

Despite North Korea’s claim its intercontinental ballistic missile launch shows it can attack targets anywhere it wants, experts say it will probably be years before it could use such a weapon in a real-world scenario.


The July 4 test demonstrated the North is closer than ever before to reaching its final goal of developing a credible nuclear deterrent to what it sees as the hostile policy of its archenemies in Washington.

But even for an experienced superpower, getting an ICBM to work reliably can take a decade.

Launching a missile under test conditions is relatively easy. It can be planned and prepared for and carried out whenever everything is ready, which makes success more likely. The real game-changer would come when the missile is considered operational under any conditions — in other words, when it is credible for use as a weapon.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

For sure, the North’s Fourth of July fireworks were a major success.

Initial analyses indicate its new “Hwasong 14” could be capable of reaching most of Alaska or possibly Hawaii if fired in an attacking trajectory. It was instead shot at a very steep angle, a technique called lofting, and reached a height of more than 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean 930 kilometers (580 miles) away.

Hwasong means “Mars.”

“If a vague threat is enough for them, they could wait for another successful launch and declare operational deployment after that, and half the world will believe them,” said Markus Schiller, a leading expert on North Korea’s missile capabilities who is based in Germany. “But if they take it seriously, as the US or Russia do, it would take at least a dozen more launches and perhaps 10 years. Mind you, this is their first ICBM.”

Schiller noted the example of Russia’s latest submarine-launched missile, the Bulava.

One of Russia’s SLBM-capable submarines, K-535 Yuriy Dolgorukiy. Photo by Schekinov Alexey Victorovich.

“They really have a lot experience in that field, but from first launch to service it took them almost 10 years (2004 to 2013),” he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “They still have troubles — one of their test launches just failed.”

The bar for having an operational ICBM is also higher for the North if the United States is its target.

An ICBM is usually defined as a land-based ballistic missile with a range in excess of 5,500 kilometers (3,420 miles). That comes from US-Soviet disarmament talks and in that context makes good sense. The distance between Moscow and New York is about 7,500 kilometers (4,660 miles).

But Narushige Michishita, a defense expert and professor at Japan’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, pointed out that although the range required for North Korea to hit Alaska would be 5,700 kilometers (3,550 miles) and Hawaii 7,500 kilometers (4,660 miles), reaching the other 48 states requires ranges of 8,000-12,000 kilometers (5,000-7,500 miles).

Screenshot from Google Maps

“In the US-DPRK context, the 5,500 kilometer-range ICBM means nothing,” he said. “We must take a look at the range, not the title or name.”

Pyongyang made a point of trying to dispel two big questions about its missiles with the test: re-entry and accuracy.

It claims to have successfully addressed the problem of keeping a nuclear warhead intact during the descent to a target with a viable heatshield, which would mark a major step forward. The Hwasong 14 isn’t believed to be accurate enough to attack small targets despite Pyongyang’s claims otherwise, but that isn’t a major concern if it is intended to be a threat to large population areas, such as cities on the US West Coast.

The reliability problem, however, remains.

“These missiles are very complex machines, and if they’re launched again tomorrow it might blow up on the pad,” said David Wright, co-director and senior scientist at the Global Security Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “You don’t want to do that with a nuclear warhead on top.”

Wright said he believes Kim Jong Un decided to start a number of different development programs for different missile systems a couple of years ago and that the frequency of launches over the past 18 months suggests those programs have moved forward enough to reach the testing stages.

“I have been surprised by how quickly they have been advancing,” he said.

Wright said the North is believed by most analysts to have a nuclear device small and rugged enough to be put on a long-range missile, or to be very close to having one.

But he said it remains to be seen if its latest missile can be further modified to get the range it needs to threaten the contiguous US, or whether that would require a new system with a scaled-up missile and more powerful engine.

An unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launch. USAF photo by Senior Airman Lael Huss.

“I suspect the latter, but don’t know yet,” he said.

The answer to that question matters because it has implications for how long it will take North Korea to really have an ICBM that could attack the US West Coast — and how long Washington has to take action to stop it.

What is Wright’s estimate?

“I would expect a couple years,” he said.

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These ‘Pin-Up’ girls entertain veterans with burlesque shows and sexy calendars

 


“It was 2006, I was working in hotel management,” Gina Elise says. “There were all these stories about the Veterans Administration struggling to treat returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. I wanted to do something to support them and to support the hospitals who treated them.”

Gina Elise is the founder of Pin-Ups for Vets, a non-profit whose mission is based on producing WWII-style pinup calendars to support hospitalized veterans and deployed troops. After four years, she quit her job at the hotel to work with veterans full time. She has produced nine annual calendars since, but her efforts don’t stop at just calendars.  Elise and her unit of celebrities and women veterans are currently on a 50-state VA and military hospital tour. To date, the pinups visited 6,000 veterans at their bedside.

“Attitude is a huge part of recovery,” says Shannon Stacy, a former Marine Corps Flight Surgeon and the 2015 calendar’s Miss April. “I think its great that an organization like this can come in really make a difference in patients lives, on top of what the doctors and nurses do.” Stacy can appreciate how attitude affects recovery, as she is also currently an Emergency Medicine Physician.

“On the surface, we’re shooting a fun, artistic calendar,” Elise says. “Under that, we’re supporting a cause that should be important to all Americans: supporting our veterans.” Most importantly, Pin-Ups for Vets buys medical equipment for VA and military hospitals and sends morale-boosting care packages to deployed American troops around the world.  So far, Pin-Ups for Vets donated more than $50,000 of state-of-the-art rehabilitation equipment to VA military hospitals nationwide.

“My grandfather was a World War II veteran,” Elise recalls. “They used to paint this art on the nose of planes to boost morale for the guys going into battle to remind them of what they were fighting for.”

“When you think about the fact these soldiers painted these women on the sides of aircraft, and it gave them the confidence to go fight,” says Jovane Henry, a former Marine Corps Photojournalist and 2015’s Miss July. “What’s more empowering than that? I think it’s great. It’s a continuation of service for me. Serving was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I’m happy to be able to continue that service through Pin-Ups for Vets.”

The spirit of Pin-Ups For Vets also promotes volunteerism at Veterans Hospitals, supports homeless Veterans in shelters, and boosts morale for military wives and female Veterans with makeovers and clothing.

The recent launch party for the 2015 calendar, the first to feature 12 veterans, was held at the American Legion in Hollywood (Post 43) and featured a burlesque show headlined by an all-veteran pinup revue.  It was the first of its kind. Jennifer Campbell, who worked a .50 cal in a US Army transportation unit participated in the show, but saw it as a family event.

“It gave us a chance to jump into a different period of time,” Campbell recalls. “My great aunt was a WWII poster pin-up girl. It was fun seeing the transition from then to now.”

The burlesque troop, “The Dollface Dames,” performed a variety of numbers. It was a vintage burlesque show, true to its 1940’s heritage, complete with dancing, feather boas, hula-hoops, singing, even a shadow silhouette erotic dance.

“There’s no hard, fast rule that says I can’t be a hard-charging Marine and a lipstick-wearing pinup,” Henry states. “So I choose to be both.”

 

Learn more about Pin-Ups for Vets and purchase the calendar at PinUpsForVets.com.

 

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13 funniest memes for the week of Oct. 7

For all of you who still have the Internet, here are the 13 funniest military memes we could find. For those of you who have lost the Internet to Hurricane Matthew, get out there and get it back. You signed for that Internet.


1. He might not be able to find where he’s supposed to put it, but he will still definitely set it off (via Devil Dog Nation).

There’s always something that needs blowing up.

2. You must reach a perfect spiritual center before you are ready to eviscerate the enemy and leave their entrails hanging from trees (via Military Memes).

3. Travel all over the planet to find new and exciting decks to sweep (via Military Memes).

You never notice how much of the Earth is water until you sail in it for months on end.

ALSO SEE: 5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo

4. This is why scratching your face is an important part of pre-formation checks, pre-formation inspections (via The Salty Soldier).

Maybe someone in 4th squad will switch spots with you.

5. Be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen (via The Senior Specialist).

Everyone needs to give up their ponchos to protect the crew-served weapons.

6. Maybe the clown can make you a good balloon rifle or sword (via Pop Smoke).

At least get yourself a nice puppy to play with on the way home.

7. Seriously, man. Skating is only funny when you’re not blue falconing your buddies (via Decelerate Your Life).

Stop being the other guy.

8. This is how you retain your humanity while fighting terrorists (via Military Memes).

You turn each artillery round into a personalized experience.

9. See, this is why it was better when a “trip to the woodline” was an actual trip to the woodline (via What the piss, trainee?).

No one had to fill out paperwork, and no one had to worry about their promotion paperwork.

10. Man, Hurricane Matthew has really expanded the port possibilities for the Navy (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Might be able to pull the sub right up to the DFAC if anyone needs chow during the tour.

11. Get them nice and sweaty, then nice and clean (via Military Memes).

Just don’t let sergeant major see you using his grass for corrective training.

12. It’s a trap! (via Team Non-Rec)

Ain’t no party like a Marine Corps party ’cause a Marine Corps party don’t stop.

13. These sticks can go anywhere (via Military Memes).

Just keep a good mental map of where each one is.

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This video shows rare footage from an actual Vietcong ambush

A former first lieutenant with the 221st Signal Company in Vietnam, Paul Berkowitz, created a website to help former unit members connect. And one day, he was surprised to receive an audio tape from former member Rick Ekstrand. It was the audio portion of film shot on Hill 724 in Vietnam where a pitched battle followed a highly successful Vietnam ambush in November 1967.


Paratroopers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team fighting on Hill 823 during the Battle of Dak To. (Photo: U.S. Army)

During the Battle of Dak To, U.S. troops maneuvered against a series of hills covered with thick jungle vegetation, including Hill 724. In this footage from Nov. 7, two American companies attempted to maneuver on the hill and were ambushed by a North Vietnamese Army Regiment.

Alpha Company, the lead regiment, was pinned down and the two companies were outnumbered 10 to 1. Rockets, mortars, artillery, and machine gun fire rained down on the men as the camera operator narrated and filmed. Check out the amazing footage below from the American Heroes Channel:

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This is how the Gadsden Flag became America’s first meme

The simple yellow flag, a coiled rattlesnake, and those four famous words have been emblazoned on everything from license plates to soccer jerseys, a Metallica song to a U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Badge, waved by classic Libertarians, Tea Party Republicans, and everyone in between.


For many, the Gadsden flag embodies the spirit of America and our willingness to fight for what we believe in.

Now, looking at the flag as a meme requires a strict interpretation of the first definition and a loose one for the second. Merriam-Webster describes it as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” Everything about the flag screams Americana. Its rebellious spirit has been carried with it since its inception and has many variations holding onto that spirit.

As for the definition of “an amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture or video) or genre of items that is spread widely online especially through social media.” That came after the internet became a thing.

Redditor DeltaHDot submitted this photograph to /r/funny and it got 6,340 points within a week. (image via Imgur)

Benjamin Franklin is often cited as starting the joke in the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1751. At the time, the Brits didn’t have Australia as a colony, so they sent their convicts to America. Franklin suggested that Americans repay the UK by sending them rattlesnakes.

He found the snake fitting. Unlike the current idiom of “snakes in the grass,” in pre-revolution America being called that was an honor — a symbol for the underdog. Something that, if stepped on, would strike back hard.

Fun fact: Franklin supported the symbol of the rattlesnake and never mentioned turkeys on the Great Seal until much later.

The rattlesnake stuck with Franklin and the Gazette years later when he created the “Join, or Die.” cartoon. It showed the rattlesnake cut into eight parts for the eight regions of the colonies. Bear in mind, New England is one segment, Delaware is considered part of Pennsylvania, and well, sorry Georgia. Historians think it’s because they were just frontier land and didn’t count back then.

I guess you could say: Georgia didn’t make the cut. (Image by Pennsylvania Gazette)

The Boston Gazette printer, Samuel Kneeland, recreated it with the phrase “Unite and Conquer” coming from the snake’s mouth. In 1774, Paul Revere modified it into the masthead of Thomas’ Boston Journal.  Already we’re seeing adaptations on what Richard Dawkins describes as memetics, or the cultural evolution that determines cultural relevance and success.

The cartoon would appear all across the colonies. Uniforms, newspapers, and Georgia put the whole “not being mentioned on the most iconic revolutionary era cartoon” aside and put it on their $20 bill.

For the traditional Gadsden flag that we all know of today, an anonymous writer to the Pennsylvania Journal by the name of “An American Guesser” penned the need for the flag.

“I observed on one of the drums belonging to the Marines now raising, there was painted a Rattle-Snake, with this modest motto under it, ‘Don’t tread on me.’ As I know it is the custom to have some device on the arms of every country, I supposed this may have been intended for the arms of America.”

The anonymous writer, who many historians believe was still Franklin, continues, “She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage. … She never wounds ’till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her.”

Colonel Christopher Gadsden designed the flag and hoisted it as the personal symbol for his Marines and his flagship. Since then, the flag has been hoisted by Marines, American revolutionaries, and patriots across the nation.

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The 9 best military movies of 2015

2015 was a good year for movies. Anticipated series continuations from franchises like Terminator, Jurassic Park, and James Bond met with mixed success. Star Wars came back in a big way, as did the Avengers. Marvel’s Ant-Man was a surprise hit while The Fantastic Four saw even the most die-hard Marvel fans struggle to stay in the theatre for the duration of the movie.


This is not The Fantastic Four from 2015. But it might as well be.

But it was a good year for military movies the world over. The world’s best war and conflict films from the past year are at your fingertips. A few movies are a great way to recover from New Years’ Eve.

1. Beasts of No Nation

Netflix made a foray into conflict films this year with its critical hit Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba as a warlord recruiting child soldiers to fight in a civil war in Liberia. The government falls as the warlords forces attack a village under international protection. A young boy named Agu flees after his father is shot and is captured by the NDF, rebel guerillas.

The film captures the brutality of life as a child soldier, with rampant drug use, rape, and murder of civilian noncombatants.  The powerful film holds a 93% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

2. Cartel Land

This is a film about vigilante groups fighting drug cartels in the Mexican Drug Wars. The most shocking part of Cartel Land is that its a documentary, and you can see the characters and events unfold as they did in the real world.

The brutal film was shot in Mexico and Arizona. It garnered a 94% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is currently shortlisted for an Academy Award nomination.

3. Kilo Two Bravo

Released in 2014 in Europe as KajakiKilo Two Bravo is the story of a small group of British soldiers stationed near the Kajaki dam in Afghanistan.

Though set during the modern day Afghan War, Kilo Two Bravo is more horror-thriller than a traditional set piece war film. The outcome is a realistic, critical success with a 100% Rotten Tomatoes critical rating.

4. Krigen (“A War”)

Danish Army Company commander Claus Michael Pedersen and his men are stationed in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. During a routine mission, the soldiers are caught in heavy Taliban crossfire. In order to save his men, Claus makes a decision that ultimately sees him return to Denmark accused of a war crime.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRkE5ZrPzs0

Claus’ wife Maria is trying to hold everyday life together with a husband at war and three children missing their father. This film is remarkable for its depiction of what life is like for the wife and children of deployed troops. The war hits those at home every bit as much as it affects the men who fight it. The film also uses real Danish Army veterans.

5. April 9th

2015 saw a lot of WWII films produced the world over. April 9th, also from Denmark, depicts the Nazi invasion of Denmark as bicycle and motorcycle companies are deployed to hold off the German Blitzkrieg until reinforcements arrive.

Denmark, of course, couldn’t resist the Nazi onslaught and fell in only six hours.

6. 1944

In the last full year of World War II, the Eastern Front was the most brutal battleground in the world. This Estonian film depicts the 1944 Battle of the Tannenberg Line through the Battle of Tehumardi. The war for Estonia was very different, as it bordered both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, each with mutually exclusive ideologies.

More than ideology, its location forced Estonians to choose sides during the war, pitting Estonians in the Wehrmacht against Estonians in the Soviet Red Army. The film shows the war from both sides.

7. Baahubali: The Beginning

This film is a Telgu and Tamil film. It’s the fictional story of two ancient brothers at war. One prince returns to free his mother the queen who was wrongfully usurped by his elder brother.

The two-part blockbuster is also the most expensive Indian film ever made. It took a full year of preproduction, 25 artists made 15,000 storyboards, there were 380 shooting days over three years, 2,000 stuntmen worked on it, and thousands of weapons and props were used.

8. Hyena Road

This Canadian film is eagerly anticipated outside of Canada. It’s the story of Canadian forces building a road deep into Taliban territory, creating a dirt track that can only be driven in armed convoys protected by snipers. The road is strategically crucial to defeating the Taliban.

The theme of war being bad while those who fight are inherently good continues in Hyena Road but the depiction of the deployed life and combat by Canadian Forces by Canadian writer Paul Gross is authentic and realistic.

9. The Battle for Sevastopol

When the Nazis invade the Soviet Union in 1941 a young girl, Lyudmila, joins the Red Army. She turns out to be a natural sniper, and her impressive skills impress those around her. Her wounds keep her from fighting on, so she travels to the United States to press for a second front.

https://vimeo.com/123744971

This film is actually about a real Red Army sniper, Lyudmila Pavlichenko, one of WWII’s deadliest snipers. The movie hero fights in the Battles of Odessa and Sevastopol. She racks up 309 confirmed kills, she is sent to the US to campaign for American support. She meets Eleanor Roosevelt, just as the real Pavilchenko did. This joint Russian-Ukrainian project is like the Mockingjay on steroids but, you know, real.

See Also: Four fearless fighting females

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Why the US military is struggling to keep up with all its responsibilities

Years of complex operations and the ongoing demands of units in the field have left the armed forces struggling to maintain both operational capacity and high levels of readiness, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office.


“After more than a decade combating violent extremists and conducting contingency operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and most recently Syria, [the Defense Department] has prioritized the rebalancing of its forces in recent budget requests to build and sustain the capabilities necessary to prevail across a full range of potential contingencies,” the report states.

“However, DoD has acknowledged that unrelenting demands from geographic commanders for particular types of forces are disrupting manning, training, and equipping cycles,” it adds.

Each of the service branches has had some success in addressing readiness issues, but problems remain in some areas for each.

For the Marine Corps, as of February, about 80% of aviation units didn’t have the minimum number of aircraft ready for training. The Marines also had a significant shortage of aircraft ready for wartime requirements.

Photo courtesy of USAF

A high pace of operations has also hindered the Navy’s maintenance efforts. The service bases its readiness recovery on deployment and maintenance schedules. “However, GAO reported that from 2011 through 2014, only 28 percent of scheduled maintenance was completed on time and just 11 percent for carriers.”

Like the Navy, the Air Force has seen continued operations with a shrinking pool of resources and little time for repair and recovery, citing Air Force reports that less than 50% of its forces are at acceptable readiness levels.

Photo courtesy of USAF

The service branch also says it is short of 1,500 pilots and 3,400 aircraft maintainers.

Air Force leaders are looking at several options to address these personnel issues, including heftier retention bonuses and stop-loss policies.

While the Army has seen readiness improvements in recent years, as GAO notes, it continues to have important deficiencies that put it at a disadvantage compared to other countries.

“For example, the Army reports that two thirds of its initial critical formations — units needed at the outset of a major conflict — are at acceptable levels of readiness, but it cautions that it risks consuming readiness as fast as the service can build it given current demands,” the report says.

The Army has also gotten withering criticism of its unit readiness from within the service itself.

According to Capt. Scott Metz, who until recently was a observer/controller/trainer at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, “many of our multinational partners are more tactically proficient at company level and below than their American counterparts.”

US troops from the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment call in their location in the back woods of the mock village they are taking over during Saber Junction 17, a field-training exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center on May 15, 2017, at Hohenfels, Germany. (US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard Frost)

“In fact,” Metz wrote in a paper published this spring, “several of them are significantly better trained and more prepared for war than we are.”

Metz recounted how unit commanders arriving at the JMRC would caution him about their unit’s lack of preparation and the minimal training done at their home stations. In his role as the opposition-force commander during exercises, he could see how this manifested itself in potentially fatal mistakes in the field.

US soldiers prepare to engage a multinational force while during an exercise at Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Germany, March 25, 2017. US Army photo by Sgt. William Frye.

The opposition-force commander “knows from past experience that the Americans will probably stay on or near the roads,” Metz writes, adding:

“They will stop for long periods of time in the open with minimal dispersion. They will not effectively use their dismounted infantry and will likely leave them in the back of vehicles for too long, allowing them to be killed with the vehicle. They also will probably make little use of tactical formations and will not use terrain to their advantage.”

All units make mistakes during their time at the JMRC, according to Metz.

The shortcomings evident in units that visit the facility come rather from deficiencies in training they do at home.

“The problem is that they are making mistakes because they have not trained as a platoon or company,” Metz states.

A multitude of factors outside the control of commanders limits the time and resources they can devote to small-unit training.

This has resulted in the longstanding problem of a “deluge of requirements,” Metz writes, citing a 2015 report that “makes the case that the Army overtasks subordinates to such a level that it is impossible for Army units and Army leaders to do everything they are tasked to do.”

US Army paratroopers finish boarding an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft loaded with a heavy-drop-rigged Humvee for a night jump onto Malemute Drop Zone, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Photo courtesy of the US Army.

The problem is a deep-rooted one and will take some time to correct, requiring a cultural change starting at the highest levels of the Army’s leadership, Metz writes.

Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, told the Senate this month that the Army, like the Air Force, is also suffering from a lack of personnel.

He told the Senate Appropriations’ defense subcommittee that the service’s portion of US defense strategy, the Army needs an active component of 540,000 to 550,000. That active component is now 476,000.

A US soldier, left, and a US Army Interpreter look over a map with an Iraqi army soldier before starting a cordon and search in the Ninewa Forest in Mosul, Iraq, June 8, 2008. US Army/Pfc. Sarah De Boise

Though the US armed forces maintains definite advantages over peers and other forces in technology, training, and capabilities, years of operations and, according to many officials, reductions in funding have imperiled the US military’s ability overcome opponents and fulfill its missions.

“In just a few years, if we don’t change our trajectory, we will lose our qualitative and quantitative competitive advantage,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee earlier this June.

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These are the insane dangers of being a combat engineer

Picture yourself standing on a football field full of green grass. Each blade is identical in length, but one of the stems is the color of rusted brass.


Your primary mission is to walk from endzone to endzone without unknowingly stepping on that brass-colored blade of grass and locate it before it locates you, or else you get blown up.

Sound similar to finding a needle in a haystack?

This is what combat engineers face every single time they step outside of the wire on a foot patrol.

Related: These were the terrifying dangers of being a ‘Tunnel Rat’ in Vietnam

Combating IEDs is difficult, but engineers use highly specialized metal detectors that are so freakin’ sensitive that they pick up the slightest amounts of metallic minerals found in rocks and other various types of soils.

This U.S. Marine carefully sweeps his Valon metal detector from side-to-side with the hopes of finding an IED before it finds his patrol. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Typically, when a squad patrols in a heavily IED-infested area, they move in a Ranger file (straight line), leaving several meters between each man.

Due to the explosive nature of IEDs, the engineer walks 15-30 meters ahead of the patrol as they scan the ground for the suspicious devices. Not only are they in danger of IEDs, but taking point may also tempt enemy snipers into taking a shot.

But since most Taliban militia members can’t shoot for sh*t, taking a shot at the engineer typically means it’s only a matter of time before allied forces locate their position and call for a mortar strike. That means bye-bye for the insurgent.

Grunts for 3rd Battalion 5th Marines — known as Darkhorse — patrol through Sangin, Afghanistan in a ranger file to combat all the IEDs they’ve encounter throughout their deployment. (Source: Dexter Saulisbury/ Screenshot)

Also Read: Here’s what it takes to be on the Marine silent drill team

Once the combat engineer locates a device, the danger’s just begun. Now, they determine if they can destroy it safely or if it’s time to call in an IED 9-line. In extreme cases, an EOD team is deployed to the location for further exam, but the process could take hours.

In most cases, the well-trained engineers examine the threat themselves using their hands, a K-bar, and a combat scythe.

A Marine and his trusty scythe will never run out of batteries. (USMC photo by Cpl. William J. Jackson)

After the engineer has dismantled the threat, the IED system is either detonated on site or taken back into friendly territory for further evaluation.

Unfortunately, many IEDs are so well-hidden, they aren’t found for a number of years, but remain active throughout.

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Genghis Khan killed so many people it was good for the environment

In an age where worldwide industry and fossil fuel use emits 6.5 billion tons of carbon into the environment, we (mostly) scramble to find unique ways to cut our global carbon footprint. In that context, it’s amazing how one man could singlehandedly cut 700 million tons of his carbon footprint. And the carbon footprints of other people. And their actual footprints. And feet.


And sometimes their heads.

Genghis Khan Temujin conquered his way into largest empire on earth between 1162 and 1227. His Mongol Army swept south through China then west through modern day Afghanistan, Iran, and onward to the shores of the Caspian Sea – 22 percent of the Earth’s surface.

This is why building a giant wall is a stupid idea. (FancyFrindle)

In that campaign, the Great Khan killed some 40 million people. The lands those people were cultivating for farmland before the Mongols made it their gravesite started to grow trees and other vegetation instead. The returning forests pulled 700 million tons of human-generated carbon out of the atmosphere, according to a Carnegie Institute study. That’s like getting rid of every gasoline-fueled car on the road.

And the drivers of those cars. And probably their families. (Picturehouse)

That same study found that deforestation is one of the major contributors to climate change. Since the Khan killed all the people chopping down trees for farmland in Central and East Asia, the Earth had a chance to heal. He’s like an ancient Lorax sent by Mother Earth — but with real consequences.

But since the people of the mid- to late-Middle Ages weren’t rolling around in cars, tanks, or John Deere tractors, the carbon removed from the atmosphere may have resulted in the first case of man-made global cooling.

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Colonel who helped capture Saddam could be next Secretary of the Army

While the selection of retired Marine Gen. James Mattis as Secretary of Defense drew a lot of attention, there are some other nominations at the Pentagon that are waiting in the wings — the service secretaries.


There is a Secretary of the Army, a Secretary of the Navy (who also is responsible for the Marine Corps, and depending on the situation, the Coast Guard), and a Secretary of the Air Force.

According to a report by the Washington Post, retired Army Col. James Hickey, is the front-runner to be Secretary of the Army. Hickey is best known as the commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, which executed Operation “Red Dawn,” the mission that lead to the capture of Saddam Hussein.

For the last two years, Hickey, who served multiple tours in Iraq, has been the senior advisor to the Senate Armed Services Committee. His awards include the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with Combat Distinguishing Device and Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Defense Superior Service Medal.

Photo: US Army

Hickey’s main competition for Army secretary is Van Hipp, a former chairman of the South Carolina Republican party who has served in a number of positions in the Pentagon.

According to his LinkedIn.com profile, Hipp has been chairman of American Defense International, Inc. since 1995.

There are two U.S. congressmen being considered for SECNAV, including Virginia Rep. Randy Forbes, the current chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.

Forbes, who was defeated for a ninth term in the House of Representatives in the 2016 Republican primary by Scott Taylor, a retired Navy SEAL who served in Iraq and who founded the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, Inc., faces competition from Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine Corps officer, according to his House web page.

Hunter, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, succeeded his father, Duncan L. Hunter, a Vietnam veteran who served 14 terms in the House of Representatives.

Oklahoma Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine is considered a likely possibility to serve as Secretary of the Air Force.

According to his campaign website, Bridenstine is a former naval aviator who flew the F/A-18 Hornet and E-2 Hawkeye in his naval service, then transitioned to the Oklahoma Air National Guard, where he flies the MC-12, an aircraft that specializes in the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.

Bridenstine was first elected to the House in 2012.