Nearly 20 years after America was born, an Irish architect named James Hoban began laying down the first piece of stone for what would become The White House during an elaborate Freemason ceremony.
Less than 24 hours later, the first piece of stone that was laid down vanished and no one appeared to know its whereabouts. Since then, the search for the stone continues as various participants have attempted to locate the historic piece of foundation.
Although the formation of the Freemason’s fraternity is a fiercely guarded secret, their history dates back to 1390 when they were first referenced in a Regius Poem.
A commonly accepted theory is the group emerged from the stonemasons guild amid the middle ages.
In the late 1940s during President Harry Truman’s administration, the White House underwent major renovations as crew members brought in metal detectors in hopes to locate the stone by picking up its metallic minerals and many believed they may have discovered its location.
President Harry Truman — Freemason
When Truman got wind of the search, he ordered them to halt the exploration immediately, which caught everyone off guard. In response, Truman then sent pieces of the White House to several various Freemason locations throughout the country.
Watch the History Channel‘s video to see how many have tried to unlock the mystery.
When he finished his enlistment and left the Army in 2012, Alex Ortega wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do for his post-military career.
With no specific plan for a civilian career, Ortega decided school was the best option. But he still wasn’t sure what direction to take.
While in school one of his classmates, a military veteran like him, mentioned help available through the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program.
An Easterseals employment specialist helped Ortega by guiding the former soldier through the process of crafting a plan for his post-military education and to find work in a professional field.
The specialist helped Ortega retool and improve his resume — such as translating military-specific tasks and jobs he held during his six years in the Army into similar, equivalent duties in civilian employment. With the specialist’s help, Ortega was able to detail his military experience on his resume in a way that was clearer and more relevant to potential civilian employers.
That assistance paid off. Today, Ortega works as a veteran peer support specialist at a leading university in Southern California.
“An employment specialist will help that veteran accomplish his or her goals, which is very important,” he said. “I’m very thankful for Easterseals and the employment mentorship. They provided great mentorship and guidance for me and assisted in the transition … from my military experience to my civilian job now that I’m completely happy and content in.”
Ortega said he’s grateful to the work of the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, which “is making a big difference in the lives of veterans like myself.”
Ortega is among many veterans and their spouses who have received help, guidance and resources through Easterseals and the Bob Hope Veterans Support Program. The transition assistance program gives veterans and their families some peace of mind after they leave the military and have to reset themselves or their families for a new chapter of life — whether they want to find civilian employment, pursue college or technical training, or start a small business.
Funded with a seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy, the support program was launched in 2014 and provides referrals and resources, including one-on-one support for transitioning veterans and reservists and National Guard members who are leaving active duty.
The program provides resources that fit each veteran’s interests, skills and goals. Specialists help them write resumes, sharpen interviewing skills, learn how to network and boost their confidence to help them obtain work with potential employers. The program also helps with direct referrals to partner agencies who can provide housing, legal assistance, counseling or child care.
Support is free for post-Sept. 11, 2001, veterans leaving active or reserve duty who intend to work in San Diego County or Orange County and who have received an honorable, general or other-than-honorable discharge. A veteran does not need to have a disability to be eligible for the program.
The service also is available to spouses or registered domestic partners of veterans who are unable to work due to a disability.
The transition program is part of Bob Hope’s legacy, and its impact is felt in veterans like Ortega. He follows a long lineage of military service in his family, including his father, brother and an uncle who all served in the Army like him.
Growing up, Ortega often watched videos of Bob Hope as he entertained tens of thousands of U.S. troops during his famous USO shows and worldwide tours.
“For a well-known comedian to come out like that and boost the morale of the troops in tough times, it’s a game-changer, and it really helps the veterans get through the day and deployment,” he said. “It really brings a touch of home, a piece of the United States to wherever they were.”
There’s no bigger week in sports than the one in which your team plays its most-hated, bitter rival. Every city has one — that one team that fans and players just love to hate. Sometimes, this match-up is a critical game, one that decides the fate of the entire season. But even for teams that perennially enjoy a losing record, there’s no such thing as too much preparation for those two weeks a year when they’ve got the chance to run their sworn enemy into the ground.
These games are often the most important, no matter what’s at stake for the season.
There are bitter NFL rivalries that transcend fanbases. Onlookers do not have a dog in the fight, but we’re watching because we know it’s going to be a good game. These are the grudge matches we tune in to watch year after year, because we know true colors will be shown.
8. Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers
This is the longest-running rivalry in the NFL, and it’s one you’ll likely catch on Thanksgiving every other year or so. The Lions and Packers have been division rivals since 1933, which means they’ve been butting heads for over 85 years. Games between these two teams are known for wild endings, most notably the Miracle in Motown. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers sustained a facemask penalty at the end of the game, prompting a single untimed play. Rodgers threw a 61-yard Hail Mary pass for a touchdown, giving the Packers a 27-23 win.
7. Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington Redskins
This one’s nearly as old as the Packers-Lions rivalry, but it’s known for more than just unbelievable endings. Play between the Eagles and Redskins has been known to get particularly brutal. This was on full display during a 1990 Monday Night Football game, since dubbed “The Body Bag Game” after nine Redskins players were taken out of the game with injuries. The ‘Skins got the last laugh that season, though. They came back to the same arena and beat the Eagles in the wildcard round of the playoffs, eventually making it all the way to Super Bowl XXV. They lost, but those Redskins came back the next season to win it all in Super Bowl XXVI.
These days, the two teams are in the NFC East and get to battle it out twice a year, The competition between Philadelphia and DC even bleeds in to the NHL, where there’s a bitter rivalry between the Flyers and the Capitals.
The tip that led to a Super Bowl win and cost Jim Harbaugh his job.
6. Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers
Anyone who thinks the NFL has an east coast bias has never watched the Seahawks and 49ers go at it. If you didn’t get the picture from Seattle fans who burned Richard Sherman’s jersey after he moved to San Fran, know the hatred burns just as bright. These teams have only been divisional rivals since 2002, but that doesn’t mean the hatred is young. The rivalry only got more intense when west coast college coaches, Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh and USC’s Pete Carroll, were elevated to command the two teams.
Seattle beat San Francisco in the 2013 NFC Championship, ending the 49ers streak in the game, and went on to win Super Bowl XLVIII. Seattle has won every meeting since January, 2014.
5. New England Patriots vs. Anyone
Is there any one player more loved and hated at the same time than Tom Brady? Is there any player who’s more reliable than Rob Gronkowski? Any coach more frustratingly brilliant than Bill Belichick? Do all these facts just make most of America and the cities of New York, Buffalo, and Miami hate the Patriots more and more?
Love them or hate them, the Patriots are always a contender for the Playoffs, the Super Bowl, and will at least finish with a winning season. For teams outside of their division, this means they’re going to have to play the Pats at some point — and they need to bring their A-Game to Foxborough. In the running for greatest franchises of all time, the Steelers, Cowboys, and 49ers all feel the pressure. Even the 1972 Dolphins get a sense of relief when the Patriots lose.
4. Oakland Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs
This one is particularly bitter, featuring long stretches of dominating victories for either team. The 70s and 80s were Raiders decades while the Chiefs have had much more success over Oakland ever since. Even the fans in the stands get carried away during this game, as heated fans routinely get into fistfights and brawls. One Raiders fan even sued the Chiefs organization for allowing him to receive a beatdown while security did nothing.
This meeting of these teams has kept one of ’em out of the playoffs on more than one occasion, snapped winning streaks, snapped terrible losing streaks, and kept Kansas City out of the postseason entirely between 1971 and 1986.
NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
3. Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants
America’s team had to make the list at some point. The Cowboys and Giants are two of the most storied franchises in the NFL and both have large fanbases. The NFC East rivalry isn’t as old as the Packers-Lions rivalry and isn’t as violent as the Chiefs-Raiders rivalry, you can see a lot of legendary NFL names in action by watching old Cowboys-Giants games.
It’s a pretty even rivalry, with Dallas ahead at 65-46-2, but what this game is usually good for is a watching a close finish and tough on-field play. Where else could you watch Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith beat the Big Blue while breaking rushing records with a separated shoulder? Or watch the underdog Eli Manning-led Giants knock the Cowboys out of the playoffs after losing to Dallas twice in the regular season, only to go on and win Super Bowl XLII? Or how about just watching the two teams straight-up fistfight?
2. Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears
Sports hatred burns brightly between Green Bay and Chicago. It also features some of football history’s greatest names while showcasing some of its greatest games. This series is always good for showing off real, hard-hitting football and the 200-game series is nearly tied at 97-94-6 in favor of Green Bay. The Bears-Packers rivalry is also famous for featuring the first players ever ejected from an NFL game.
It was the Bears who handed Brett Favre the first shutout in his career and broke Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone. It was the Packers who put horse manure in the 1985 Bears locker room.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the AFC North
If you’re looking for an intense football matchup, look no further than when the Steelers play one of their AFC North division rivals. It doesn’t matter what an opponent’s record is, the Steelers are a force to be reckoned with. But the football gets brutal when playing against Cleveland, Baltimore, and especially Cincinnati. The Steelers are ahead in total wins against each.
The Browns bring their best football to Pittsburgh. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger can pretty much be described as a tank, especially as far as quarterbacks go, and it takes either a motorcycle accident or a meeting with the Browns defense to keep him from starting a game. Despite the Browns’ struggles for the last few years, Pittsburgh is still at a disadvantage in Cleveland, and the Browns have more home wins vs. the Steelers.
Until recently, the Ravens-Steelers game was a particularly intense matchup, with each team’s hard-hitting defense smothering the normally high-flying offenses of the other, and each able to keep the other at home during the post-season.
When the Steelers play the Bengals, things get violent and dramatic. Long-held frustrations with the other rear their ugly heads. No matter where the game is held, you can pretty much expect overzealous play, a flurry of yellow flags, helmet-to-helmet hits, and sometimes even bench-clearing fights. Even the coaches are guilty of putting hands on each other.
When asked about why there’s so much violence between the Bengals and Steelers, QB Ben Roethlisberger’s answer was “that’s AFC North Football.”
Army soldiers count on the elite medics assigned to air ambulance crews to pull them out of combat when they are wounded. These crews, called, “Dustoff,” fly unarmed choppers into combat and provide medical care to patients en route to US field hospitals. This air medical evacuation saves lives and bolsters the confidence of soldiers in the field.
When the terrain is too rough for even a helicopter to land, hoists are used to lower medics or raise patients.
US Army Dustoff crews typically consist of a pilot, copilot, flight medic, and crew chief. Some teams, especially those on the newer UH-72A aircraft, will have a firefighter/paramedic in place of the crew chief unless a hoist operation is expected.
Flight medics will train other soldiers on how to properly transfer patients to a medevac helicopter.
When possible, the crew chief or flight medic will leave the bird to approach the patient, taking over care and supervising the move to the chopper.
This training is sometimes done with foreign militaries to ensure that, should the need arise in combat, the US and other militaries will be able to move patients together. Here, Republic of Korea soldiers train with US medics.
Medics going down on a hoist are supported by the crew chief, an aviation soldier who maintains the aircraft and specializes in the equipment on the bird.
Of course, not all injuries happen during calm weather in sunny climes. Medevac soldiers train to perform their job in harsh weather.
The crews also train to rescue wounded soldiers at any hour, day or night.
Some medevac pilots even train to land on ships for when that is the closest or best equipped hospital to treat a patient.
Dustoff crews also care for service members who aren’t human. The most common of these patients are the military working dogs.
The Dustoff helicopters are launched when a “nine line” is called. When this specially formatted radio call goes out, medevac crews sprint to ready the choppers and take off.
The medevac is eagerly awaited by the troops on the ground who request it.
The flight medics can provide a lot of care even as they move a casualty in the air. Most patients will get a saline lock or an intravenous drip to replace fluids.
Flight medics have to deal with turbulence, loud noises, and possible attacks from the ground while they treat their patients.
Another challenge flight medics often face is providing treatment in low light or no light conditions.
No light conditions require the use of NVGs, or night vision goggles.
Medical evacuation helicopters also face challenges while picking up their patients. The tactical situation can be dangerous where these birds operate.
Ground soldiers have to secure the landing zone.
When the medevac bird returns to the base, the casualty is rushed into the hospital so they can be treated.
If a soldier’s injuries are severe enough, they’ll be stabilized and prepped again for transport to hospitals outside of the deployment zone.
The mission of those under the Dustoff call sign can be challenging, but it provides great comfort to the troops on the ground.
By her own account, Jane Fonda’s first impression of America’s involvement in Vietnam was that it was a just cause. After all, she’d been raised by actor Henry Fonda who’d served in the Navy in World War II and forged his name in Hollywood by playing the good guys in movies. She was brought up to believe that America was good, as she said, “I grew up with a deep belief that wherever our troops fought, they were on the side of the angels.” So when she first heard about President Kennedy sending advisors to Vietnam she figured it was a necessary action.
For the first eight years of the Vietnam War Fonda was living in Paris with her first husband Roger Vadim, a film director. The two of them were surrounded by the French cultural intelligencia. (“Communists with a little ‘c,'” as she labeled them.)
The French had been defeated in their own war against Vietnam a decade before our country went to war there, so when I heard, over and over, French people criticizing our country for our Vietnam War I hated it. I viewed it as sour grapes. I refused to believe we could be doing anything wrong there.
It wasn’t until I began to meet American servicemen who had been in Vietnam and had come to Paris as resisters that I realized I needed to learn more. I took every chance I could to meet with U.S. soldiers. I talked with them and read the books they gave me about the war. I decided I needed to return to my country and join with them—active duty soldiers and Vietnam Veterans in particular—to try and end the war.
Fonda received some notoriety for her activism once she returned to the States, and in the late ’60s she threw her celebrity heft behind causes and groups as far reaching as the Black Panthers, Native Americans, and feminists.
But the anti-Vietnam movement is where she really found her voice. She started an “anti USO” troupe with Donald Sutherland and others called “FTA,” for “Free the Army” – a play on the expression “Fuck the Army,” which had come into favor at the time. FTA toured military towns on the west coast doing skits and singing protest songs and getting veterans to tell their stories of an unjust war.
About the same time she began to support Vietnam Veterans Against the War, speaking at rallies and raising money. In recognition of her efforts VVAW made Fonda their Honorary National Coordinator.
In her own blunt-force, actress-as-center-of-attention way, Fonda tried to segment the war from the warrior, something the nation at large failed to do during the Vietnam era (and for years afterwards).
It was all heady stuff for a well-bred celebrity who wanted to be known for something more than her looks. It could be said that Fonda was educated to a fault – poised and articulate – and the actions of the Nixon Administration and their South Vietnamese cronies gave her just enough talking points and associated faux logic to be dangerous on an international foreign policy stage.
And Fonda got the perfect chance to be dangerous in May of 1972 when the North Vietnamese delegation at the Paris Peace Talks invited her for a two-week visit to Hanoi.
She accepted the invitation with the intention of treating the trip like a fact-finding “humanitarian” mission. She wanted to take photos that would expose that the Nixon Administration was bombing the dikes to flood civilian areas. Ultimately the trip had a different effect.
On the last day in Hanoi Fonda allowed herself to be part of a photo op. She explains on her blog:
I was exhausted and an emotional wreck after the 2-week visit. It was not unusual for Americans who visited North Vietnam to be taken to see Vietnamese military installations and when they did, they were always required to wear a helmet like the kind I was told to wear during the numerous air raids I had experienced. When we arrived at the site of the anti-aircraft installation (somewhere on the outskirts of Hanoi), there was a group of about a dozen young soldiers in uniform who greeted me. There were also many photographers (and perhaps journalists) gathered about, many more than I had seen all in one place in Hanoi. This should have been a red flag.
The translator told me that the soldiers wanted to sing me a song. He translated as they sung. It was a song about the day ‘Uncle Ho’ declared their country’s independence in Hanoi’s Ba Dinh Square. I heard these words: “All men are created equal; they are given certain rights; among these are life, Liberty and Happiness.” These are the words Ho pronounced at the historic ceremony. I began to cry and clap. These young men should not be our enemy. They celebrate the same words Americans do.
The soldiers asked me to sing for them in return. As it turned out I was prepared for just such a moment: before leaving the United States, I memorized a song called Day Ma Di, written by anti-war South Vietnamese students. I knew I was slaughtering it, but everyone seemed delighted that I was making the attempt. I finished. Everyone was laughing and clapping, including me, overcome on this, my last day, with all that I had experienced during my 2 week visit. What happened next was something I have turned over and over in my mind countless times. Here is my best, honest recollection of what happened: someone (I don’t remember who) led me towards the gun, and I sat down, still laughing, still applauding. It all had nothing to do with where I was sitting. I hardly even thought about where I was sitting. The cameras flashed. I got up, and as I started to walk back to the car with the translator, the implication of what had just happened hit me. “Oh my God. It’s going to look like I was trying to shoot down U.S. planes.” I pleaded with him, “You have to be sure those photographs are not published. Please, you can’t let them be published.” I was assured it would be taken care of. I didn’t know what else to do. (I didn’t know yet that among the photographers there were some Japanese.)
But the photos were published, and they suggest that she was, in fact, aware that she was sitting on an anti-aircraft gun. (One shot shows her peering through the gun’s sight and smiling.)
And other facts about Fonda’s trip emerged: Like an updated version of Tokyo Rose, she’d gone on Hanoi radio and petitioned American fighting men stationed to the south to lay down their arms because they were fighting an unjust war against the peace-loving North Vietnamese. She also met with a select group of American POWs – “cooperative” prisoners who’d never shown their captors any resistance – and while those seven have unequivocally stated that they were not coerced to meet with her and tell her all about their fair and humane treatment, other hard-case POWs have said they were tortured before and after her visit.
And, of course, in spite of the self-justifying logic and parsing of details in her blog entry above, there’s an easy way to avoid the disdain and outright hatred of your fellow citizens: Regardless of how you feel about the war don’t visit another country as a guest of the leaders your country is at war with.
But were her actions treasonous? The Nixon Administration came after her in a big way but failed to get any charges to stick. It seems the war was just too unpopular for lawmakers or the general public to see the effort through.
But it wasn’t unpopular enough to keep Fonda from being shackled with the label “Hanoi Jane, Traitor B–ch” in veteran circles and among conservatives in general.
The arguments about Jane Fonda’s legacy rage to this day. And in an era where celebrities go out of their way to “support the troops” it seems improbable that one of them would show up in a video chumming around with the ISIS boys or high fiving a Taliban leader after he launches a Stinger missile at a coalition helicopter. But these are different times. Now we don’t have Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, or the draft – elements that tended to give the average American strong opinions about the war in progress.
But whatever animosities linger, ultimately America has to accept that America created Jane Fonda. And Jane Fonda’s story – before, during, and after the Vietnam War – is uniquely American.
The United States says it is halting deliveries to Turkey related to the F-35 fighter-jet program in response to Ankara’s decision to move ahead with the purchase of Russian air-defense system.
“Pending an unequivocal Turkish decision to forgo delivery of the S-400, deliveries and activities associated with the stand-up of Turkey’s F-35 operational capability have been suspended while our dialogue on this important matter continues with Turkey,” a Pentagon spokesperson said on April 1, 2019.
Washington has been warning Ankara for months that buying the S-400 system would jeopardize its planned purchase of the advanced fighter aircraft.
Turkey has said it is committed to a deal to buy S-400 missile-defense systems from Russia.
After nearly two decades of counter-terror operations the world over, the United States military is now shifting its focus back toward great power competition with the likes of China and Russia. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the past two decades have left the U.S. military particularly well suited for the war at hand, but not very well positioned for the wars that are feasibly to come.
During this era of counter-terror operations, China has had the opportunity to seek higher degrees of technological and tactical parity, while having the benefit of not being actively engaged in expensive combat operations on the same scale. That has allowed China’s sea-faring power to grow at an exponential rate in recent years, with an active fleet of more than 770 vessels sailing under the banners of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, their militarized Coast Guard, and a maritime miitia that takes its orders from the Chinese military as well.
Chinese Navy on parade (Chinese state television)
The addition of China’s massive ballistic missile stockpile, including hypersonic anti-ship platforms the U.S. Navy currently has no means to defend against, has further established China’s advantage in the Pacific. Even if the U.S. Navy leveraged every vessel in its 293-ship fleet, American forces would still be outnumbered by Chinese ships by more than two to one. Importantly, however, the United States likely couldn’t devote its entire fleet to any single conflict due to its global commitments to security and stability, especially regarding essential shipping lanes.
Today, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are both actively seeking ways to mitigate China’s numbers advantage, as well as the area-denial bubble created by China’s anti-ship platforms. Multiple possible solutions are being explored, ranging from hot-loading Marine Corps F-35Bs on austere airstrips on captured islands in the case of the Marines, to the Navy’s ongoing development of the MQ-25 aerial refueling drone that aims to extend the reach of America’s carrier-based fighters. Still, thus far, there has been no magic bullet. In fact, concerns about a near-peer conflict with China has even prompted several high-ranking defense officials to question the practicality of America’s fleet of super-carriers, both because of their immense cost, and because of the likelihood that they could be sunk by China’s hypersonic missiles long before they could get close enough to Chinese shores to begin launching sorties of F-35Cs and F/A-18 Super Hornets.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mohamed Labanieh/Released)
The fundamental challenges a war with China would present are clear: Finding a way to mitigate the risks posed by advanced anti-ship missiles and offsetting the significant numbers advantage Chinese forces would have within the region. In the past, we’ve discussed the possibility of arming commercial cargo ships with modular weapons systems in a “missile barge” fleet as a means to bolster American numbers and capabilities. Another feasible option that could even work in conjunction with this strategy would be issuing “letters of marque” to private operations, effectively allowing non-military forces to serve as privateers for the U.S. government.
The Capture of a French Ship by Royal Family Privateers by Charles Brooking
American Privateers or Pirates?
The concept of issuing letters of marque to American privateers was recently discussed by retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian and Brandon Schwartz in the U.S. Naval Institute’s publication, “Proceedings.” Although the idea seems almost ridiculous in the 21st Century, the legal framework outlined by Cancian and Schwartz is sound, and one could argue that their assertions about the viability and strategic value of privateer fleets are as well.
Cancian and Schwartz argue that privateering is not piracy, as there are laws governing it and precedent for the practice established in past U.S. conflicts, including the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
“Privateering is not piracy—there are rules and commissions, called letters of marque, that governments issue to civilians, allowing them to capture or destroy enemy ships. The U.S. Constitution expressly grants Congress the power to issue them (Article I, section 8, clause 11).” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
However, despite their argument being technically right, it’s difficult to dismiss how the piracy narrative would almost certainly affect public perception of the use of privateers, and potentially even the conflict at large.
While the United States could argue that privateers operate with specifically outlined rules and commissions, even the American public would likely see American privateers as pirates. And because America has found itself trailing behind nations like China and Russia in terms of manipulating public narratives, that narrative could indeed hurt not only public support for the conflict; it could even jeopardize some international relationships.
The Pride of Baltimore, left, and the Lynx, two privateer vessels, reenact a battle of the War of 1812 in Boston Harbor during Boston Navy Week 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elisandro T. Diaz/Released)
Privateers are not pirates in the literal sense only because a government is sanctioning their piracy. In the eyes of those who don’t recognize America’s authority to grant such permissions in far-flung waterways, the two terms would be interchangeable.
Regardless of vernacular, the United States has used this approach to great success in the past. Although the last time American privateers set sale was more than 200 years ago, their approach was modern enough to set precedent for a return to the concept.
“The privateering business was thoroughly modern and capitalistic, with ownership consortiums to split investment costs and profits or losses, and a group contract to incentivize the crew, who were paid only if their ship made profits. A sophisticated set of laws ensured that the capture was ‘good prize,’ and not fraud or robbery. After the courts determined that a merchant ship was a legitimate capture, auctioneers sold off her cargo of coffee, rum, wine, food, hardware, china, or similar consumer goods, which ultimately were bought and consumed by Americans.” -Frederick C. Leiner in “Yes, Privateers Mattered“
In the event of a large-scale conflict with a nation like China, that potential narrative blowback may be a necessary evil. However, the ramifications of that evil could be mitigated through a concerted narrative effort to frame privateer actions in the minds of the populous as an essential part of a broader war effort that has the American people’s best interests in mind.
In the War of 1812, privateering saw such public support (in large part thanks to the profits it drove) that some took to calling the conflict the “War of the People.” Managing the narrative surrounding American privateers could make the concept far more palatable to the American people.
As for the legal aspects of privateering, you can read a thorough legal justification for the practice in a separate piece written by Schwartz called “U.S. Privateering is legal.”
(Italian Center for International Studies)
The role of American privateers at war
China’s massive fleet of vessels in the Pacific can be broken down into their three command groups, all of which ultimately answer to China’s People’s Liberation Army. China’s maritime militia accounts for approximately 300 vessels, the militarized Coast Guard has 135 more, and the PLA-Navy itself boasts an ever-growing roster expected to reach 450 surface vessels by the end of the decade.
In the event of a war with China, the American Navy would have more than its hands full engaging with such a massive force, limiting its ability to cut China off from one of its most significant revenue sources, overseas trade. China’s reliance on shipping products to other nations has helped its economy grow rapidly, but it also represents a strategic disadvantage, as Cancian and Schwartz point out, if America can find the means to disrupt this exchange.
“Thirty-eight percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from trade, against only 9 percent of U.S. GDP. Chinese social stability is built on a trade-off: The Chinese Communist Party has told the people they will not have democratic institutions, but they will receive economic prosperity.” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
In 2018, China’s merchant fleet was already approaching 2,200 total vessels, thanks to massive external demand for inexpensive Chinese exports. America’s Navy would likely be stretched too thin to actually blockade such an expansive merchant fleet. Like with aircraft, America’s preference for large and expensive ships that are capable of fulfilling multiple roles has offered increased capability but significantly decreased numbers. At its peak during World War II, the U.S. Navy boasted more than 6,000 ships. Today, the Navy has 293 far more capable vessels, but none can be in more than one place at a time.
American Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, for instance, are too big and expensive to task with waiting out Chinese ships hiding in foreign ports, and would likely largely be assigned to Aegis missile defense operations. This is where American privateers could offer an important service.
American privateers wouldn’t be tasked with engaging the Chinese Navy or even with sinking merchant ships. Instead, they would be tasked with capturing Chinese cargo vessels, offering them a multi-million dollar bounty on each, and quickly compromising China’s ability to sustain its export sales.
“Since the goal is to capture the hulls and cargo, privateers do not want to sink the vessel, just convince the crew to surrender. How many merchant crews would be inclined to fight rather than surrender and spend the war in comfortable internment?” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
Of course, despite Cancian and Schwartz’ dismissive take on how apt Chinese crews would be to fight to maintain control of their ships, it’s important to remember that these privateers would likely be engaging in close quarters fighting with Chinese crews or security on board. As American privateers proved more costly to the Chinese government, an increased emphasis on protecting these cargo ships would almost certainly follow.
This begs an essential question: Where do you find privateer crews?
Private security contractors in Iraq (DoD photo)
Private infrastructure already exists
While the concept of American privateers seems borderline fantastical, the truth is, the United States has already leveraged the premise of using non-military personnel for security and defensive operations the world over. American security firm Blackwater (now Academi) is perhaps the highest-profile example of America’s use of private military contractors. In fact, contractors in Iraq have reached numbers as high as 160,000 at some points, nearly equaling the total number of U.S. military personnel in the region. At least 20,000 of those private contractors filled armed security roles.
So while the term “privateer” or even pirate suggests an entirely unconventional approach to modern warfare, the premise is already in play. Terminology may dictate perception to a significant degree, but in practice, privateering wouldn’t be all that different from existing relationships the United States maintains with private security outfits. Further, private security firms, including Blackwater, have already operated at sea in a similar manner to privateers, from Blackwater’s armed patrol craft policing Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa to countless armed and privately owned boats patrolling the Indian Ocean today.
In 2007, Blackwater acquired the McArther from the NOAAS. (WikiMedia Commons)
Many such organizations, with existing infrastructure and established relationships with the U.S. government, would likely seek and win contracts, or letters of marque, in the early days of a burgeoning Sino-American war, and stand up their own forces far more quickly than the United States could expand its naval force in the same volume. Rather than building ships and enlisting crews, the United States could simply authorize existing ships with existing crews to go on the offensive against China’s commercial fleets.
The American government’s experience with military contractors throughout the War on Terror means these relationships would not be as without precedent as they may seem, and the existing private military industry would make American privateers a quick and effective means to grow America’s offensive capabilities.
China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea (shown in red). A conflict with China would undoubtedly play out here. (WikiMedia Commons)
A complicated solution to a complex problem
Of course, there are many variables at play when discussing a future conflict with China. Incorporating privateers into such a strategy admittedly seems rather extreme from our vantage point in 2020, but it’s important to note that there is no precedent for what something like a 21st Century Sino-American war might look like. The massive sea battles of World War II may offer some sense of scale, but the rapid advancement of technology in the intervening decades creates a hypothetical war that is simply incongruous with the World War II models.
America does boast the largest and most powerful military in the world, but China’s rapidly expanding and modernizing force has not been growing in a vacuum. From space operations to warship construction, China has been developing its war-fighting apparatus with America specifically in mind. China isn’t interested in competing with the United States on its terms and instead has been focused on identifying potential American vulnerabilities and tailoring new capabilities to leverage those flaws.
China’s Type 002 Aircraft carrier (Tyg728 on WikiMedia Commons)
Large scale warfare between technological and economic giants would play out differently than any conflict we’ve ever seen. In order to emerge from such a conflict successfully, America has to do much more than win. Once the price of victory begins to compromise America’s ability to sustain its way of life thereafter, that victory becomes less pronounced.
In order to win in such a conflict, the United States will need to dig deep into its bag of tricks. On the home front, it would mean finding ways to rapidly expand America’s industrial base to replenish vehicles, supplies, and equipment as they’re expended or destroyed on the front lines. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Space Force will all be required to communicate and rely on one another in ways never before accomplished on a battlefield.
And China’s massive numbers advantage would have to be mitigated somehow. American privateers, or pirates as the press would surely call them, might just do the trick.
In the not-too-distant future, Marine Corps 7-ton trucks may be able to diagnose worn-out parts before they go bad, put in an order for a relevant replacement, and get the part 3D printed and shipped to their location to be installed — all without a human in the loop.
It’s an aspiration that illustrates the possibilities of smart logistics, said Lt. Gen. Michael Dana, the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for Installations and Logistics. And the process has already begun to make it a reality.
In the fall of 2016, Marines at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri equipped about 20 military vehicles, including Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacements, known as MTVRs or 7-tons, and massive tractor-trailers known as Logistics Vehicle System Replacements, or LVSRs, with engine sensors designed to anticipate and identify key parts failures.
It’s a commercially available technology that some civilian vehicles already use, but it’s a new capability for Marine Corps trucks. Testing on those sensors will wrap-up this summer, and officials with IL will assess how accurately and thoroughly the sensors captured and transmitted maintenance data.
If all goes well, the Marines then will work to connect the sensors with an automatic system that can order parts that will then be 3D printed on demand and delivered to the vehicle’s unit.
“How do we use that data and how do we link that back to our fabrication or supply network to make the system operate in theory without a person in the loop, to make sure we’re doing push logistics [versus] pull logistics,” said Lt. Col. Howard Marotto, a senior member of the Marine Corps’ logistics innovation team and the service’s additive manufacturing lead.
“Now we have the part there waiting when the vehicle gets back in from the convoy, or it’s already there a week in advance before we know we need to change it out. So that’s the concept and that’s what we’re going to try to prove with that.”
Dana, who spoke with Military.com in June, is eager to bypass maintenance supply chains that sometimes have gear traveling thousands of miles to get to a unit downrange, and inefficient logistics systems that create lag while maintainers wait for parts to arrive.
“If we had the ability to print a part far forward, which we have that capability, that reduces your order-to-ship time. And you then combine that with what we call sense-and-respond logistics, or smart logistics, which is … it can tell you with a predictive capability that this part is going to fail in the next 20 hours or the next ten hours,” Dana said.
The goal of having trucks that can do everything but self-install repair parts is in keeping with the Marine Corps’ newfound love affair with innovative technology. The Corps recently became the first military service to send 3D printers to combat zones with conventional troops, so that maintainers could print everything from 81mm mortar parts to pieces of radios in hours, instead of waiting days or longer for factory-made parts to arrive.
For Dana, it’s simply time for the Marine Corps to cash in on technologies that industry is already using to its advantage.
“You look at Tesla, their vehicles literally get automatic upgrades; it’s almost like a vehicle computer that’s driving around,” he said. “My wife’s [2006 Lexus] will tell you when it’s due for an oil change. That predictive capability exists in the private sector. Hopefully we can incorporate it on the military side.”
New events for this year’s Best Warrior Competition will come from the experiences of operational advisors deployed around the world by the Asymmetric Warfare Group, the lead organizer said Sept. 25, 2019.
The competition will take place Oct. 6-11, 2019, at Forts Lee and A.P. Hill, Virginia, with 22 competitors from the Army’s major commands and components vying for Soldier of the Year and NCO of the Year. Winners will be announced at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2019.
A small Asymmetric Warfare Group detachment at Fort A.P. Hill has been preparing for the competition since February 2019 under the leadership of 1st Sgt. Hunter Conrad.
Conrad served as an AWG operational advisor for three years, undergoing half a dozen deployments to nations such as Senegal, Uganda, Somalia and Tunisia. He also served for a year on AWG’s Leadership Development Troop, teaching brigade combat teams how to operate in a subterranean environment.
The competition’s events, though, don’t just come from his experiences; they’re based on real-world situations observed by operational advisors across all combatant commands, he said.
Spc. Hunter Olson, Maryland National Guard, dominates a water survival event involving a 100-meter swim in full uniform at the 2019 Region II Best Warrior Competition.
(Photo by aj. Kurt M. Rauschenberg)
“It’s been a team effort,” Conrad said, and that doesn’t just stop with the preparations. A team of about 15 soldiers from First U.S. Army at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, will be joining his detachment to conduct the competition.
Another 20 or so soldiers from AWG at Fort Meade, Maryland, will be going to A.P. Hill to help run the competition, he said, and a handful from the Army Medical Command will also be there.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston went to Fort A.P. Hill September 2019 for a validation and mission rehearsal of the competition. He made minor course corrections, Conrad said, based on his preference for enhanced, realistic training.
“The Best Warrior Competition is the essence of what we want to accomplish,” Grinston said. “We want to enhance Army readiness by building cohesive teams who are highly trained, disciplined and physically fit. Cohesive teams are the key to winning on any battlefield.”
In order to enhance the realism, Conrad spent hours studying after-action reports that describe recent incidents around the world that tested the combat proficiency of soldiers. Many of those incidents will be re-created for the competition.
The competition actually begins at Fort Lee with the new Army Combat Fitness Test. Then competitors depart for the operational phase of Best Warrior at Fort A.P. Hill. There they will be tested on various soldier skills as part of a fictional combatant command scenario, Conrad said.
Every year, different skill level 1 tasks are tested, he said, in order to keep competitors guessing. They don’t know ahead of time what skills will be assessed, or in what order, so Conrad said they must be proficient in all of them.
Competitors won’t be able to “just memorize the sequence of events and perform them in a sterile environment,” like they do in warrior task testing lanes at many units, he said.
Spc. Collin George, U.S. Army Reserve Soldier of the Year, reassebles an M240B machine gun with his eyes covered during a crew-served weapons class at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, Aug. 14, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Kevin Long)
“We actually try to place them in a real-world scenario and grade them on their ability to execute the same tasks in a more stressful, realistically-simulated environment,” he said.
Last year the operational phase of the competition began with a ruck march in the dark carrying 50 pounds of gear. The initial event will be different this year, but Conrad added competitors “can expect to exert themselves physically.”
Additionally, Grinston noted, as the Army continues to study ways to enhance readiness, it must better understand biomechanics and cognitive performance to quantify soldier lethality.
“We need to establish a baseline for soldier performance through the Soldier Performance Model,” he said. “We have a team who will place sensors on each competitor to measure everything from stress and fatigue, to how their bodies process nutrition during the competition.”
“This will help us collect data to evaluate the impact of those factors, and others, on soldiers, and what we can do to help them perform better,” Grinston said.
Last year, Cpl. Matthew Hagensick from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia, earned the Soldier of the Year title. Sgt. 1st Class Sean Acosta, a civil affairs specialist with the 1st Special Warfare Training Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, became NCO of the Year.
As part of its new Soldier Protection System, the U.S. Army plans to field eye protection that adjusts to daytime and night conditions so soldiers won’t have to constantly change eyewear on operations.
Senior Army equipment officials on Wednesday discussed the new body armor system with lawmakers at a hearing before the House Armed Services Tactical Air Land Forces Subcommittee on the ground force modernization budget request for fiscal 2017.
Army Lt. Gen. John Murray, Army deputy chief of staff, G-8, told lawmakers that soldiers have typically had to carry two pairs of protective eyewear over the last 15 years — one for day and one for night.
“It doesn’t sound like much, but that is a huge deal to not have to physically transition eye protection,” Murray said. “The actual lenses do it for you.”
The Soldier Protection System, or SPS, is a full ensemble that goes beyond torso protection and provides the soldier with improved protection for vital areas such as the head and face.
Rep. Niki Tsongas, a Democrat from Massachusetts, asked about the recent decision to accelerate the program and the incorporation of sensors designed to monitor a soldier’s vital signs.
The Army’s 2017 budget request shows a significant increase in research and development of the effort, from about $5 million to $16 million, she said.
“The additional funding helps to get us there sooner,” said Army Lt. Gen. Michael Williamson, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics, and technology. “Although we were looking at these systems simultaneously, the way the funding allocated wasn’t until 2019 that we could get to the integrated sensor suite.”
The integrated sensors portion of the SPS is “a really important component because what that will allow you do is not only measure things like heart rate but it will also give you feedback on things like hydration,” he said.
Eye protection is another key part of the SPS, Williamson said.
“One of the more impressive things they are doing is building transitional eyewear that allows a soldier to move from a dark environment into the light and back and forth without the disorientation that occurs because of that change in environment,” he said, adding that the new eyewear also increases the blast fragmentation protection by about 10 percent.
The new Modular Scalable Vest portion of the SPS features a more streamlined design compared to the current Improved Outer Tactical Vest.
The most noticeable feature of the SPS is the new Ballistic Combat Shirt, or BCS, which has been updated with soft armor on the neck, shoulders, high chest and high back to protect against 9mm rounds and shrapnel. The lower part of the shirt is still a breathable, fire-resistant material.
It also features the Integrated Head Protection System, which gives the soldier the ability to attach extra armor to the top of the helmet to provide additional protection against snipers shooting down on soldiers riding in an open turret, as well as the armored facemask to protect against gunfire and shrapnel.
The SPS is also part of the Army’s effort to lighten the soldiers load, Williamson said.
“The goal for the entire system is 10 to 15 percent less weight than the soldier carries today,” he said.
Marine Brig. Gen. Joe Shrader, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command told lawmakers that the Marine Corps often works with the Army on individual protection equipment programs, such as the new “Enhanced Combat Helmet that we have developed with the Army and now are final stages if fielding the first 77,000 of those.”
There have been a few developments in the stealth world in February 2018 with Russia deploying its Su-57 to Syria and China announcing its J-20 is combat ready.
With more countries now fielding and trying to market stealth jets, Business Insider spoke to Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at the thinktank CNA and fellow at the Wilson Center focusing on Russia’s military and defense, about how the Su-57 and the J-20 match up with the US’s stealth planes.
The partial transcript below has been edited for length and clarity.
Daniel Brown: What are your general thoughts on the recent deployment of the Su-57 to Syria?
Michael Kofman: They deployed them to Syria really for two reasons. One is to change the narrative that’s been going on in Syria for the last couple weeks and take a lot of media attention to the Su-57. And second is to actually demo it in the hope that there might be interested buyers, as they have deployed a number of weapons systems to Syria.
They’re always looking for more investors in that technology. Fifth-generation aircraft are expensive.
Kofman: I think it’s a stealthier aircraft than your typical fourth-generation design. I don’t think it matches the stealth capability of the F-22 or F-35, nor does it match the price tag of them. I think it’s a poor man’s stealth aircraft. I think it’ll be a very capable platform. I don’t think it’ll match or compete in the low-observation rules that US aircraft do.
On the other hand, it will definitely be a step above a fourth-generation aircraft — in terms of how maneuverable it is, Russian aircraft are always very capable, very maneuverable.
The F-22 is actually really good in maneuverability, too. The F-35 not so much, but the F-22 is actually a brilliant aircraft. We still have a lot of them. But the Su-57 is not meant to be a direct competitor to the F-22 or F-35.
Brown: That’s how Russia seems to be marketing it.
Kofman: Yeah, I’m sure some guy thinks his Honda Civic is better than my BMW.
Here’s the thing you’ve got to understand: There is a fifth-generation market out there. Where can you go to get a fifth-generation aircraft? The US is very tight on technology with the F-35. The only other people that have one in development is the Chinese.
So, here’s the real question: Is the Su-57 better than the J-20?
Kofman: Well, it’s certainly far — if not further — along in technology design.
Here’s what it’s important: At the core of every plane is the engine — it’s all about the engine. Everything else is super cool, but it’s all about the engine.
The Su-57 is not in serial production because they’ve not finished the engine for it. It is flying on an upgraded engine from the Su-35S, so it cannot be a fifth-generation aircraft yet.
Now, is it low-observable relative to the Su-35? Yes. Is it low-observable relative to F-35? No. But you know what, if it was, probably no one would be able to afford it, least of all Russia. Don’t let the best be the enemy of the affordable.
Brown: What do you think about the J-20 compared to the F-22 or the Su-57? Where does it stand?
Kofman: I suspect that the J-20 probably has great avionics and software but, as always, has terrible engine design. In fact, early Chinese low-observation aircraft designs are all based on ancient Russian Klimov engines because the Chinese can’t make an engine.
That’s where I think it stands. In terms of observation, when I look at it, I suspect it also has a lot of stealth issues.
Between May 26 and June 4, 1940, more than 338,000 Allied soldiers from England, France, Belgium and elsewhere escaped death or capture at the hands of the overwhelming Nazi blitzkrieg. Hundreds of vessels, military and civilian, crossed the English Channel to bring these men home.
The reason they had the time to evacuate from the beaches of France is that 35,000 to 40,000 French troops stayed behind to give them that time. These valiant troops held against superior numbers, firepower and air power in a delaying action that earned the respect of even their enemy commander.
After eight months of little fighting following the start of World War II, Germany finally began its invasion of the Netherlands on May 10, 1940. Before the French could respond, the German Wehrmacht had already overtaken much of the Netherlands and was moving toward Belgium. The French, along with the British Expeditionary Force moved into Belgium to meet them.
The Allied force was quickly flanked by a surprise German advance through the dense Ardennes Forest. Despite a series of counterattacks, the Allies were forced to fall back. It wasn’t long before the German Army reached the coast and swung south, threatening every French port on the coastline.
Then, when the Germans reached the outskirts of Dunkirk, they suddenly stopped, worried that the pocket containing a massive Allied ground force might try to break out. The pause gave the Allies time to form a defense and mount Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of the Allied force from the beaches of Dunkirk.
The French, meanwhile, brought five divisions to the town of Lille. Bravely meeting the German advance head on, the French were cut off from the main force at Dunkirk. Outnumbered, they fought on for four days in an effort to make the evacuation operation happen. In that time, the stalwart French defense allowed for an estimated 100,000 troops to be evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk.
Seven German divisions led by the legendary commander Gen. Erwin Rommel met the French First Army at Lille, which had by then created a substantial pocket. Rommel brought four divisions of infantry led by three Panzer divisions to the siege. But the French knew where the German army was positioned. They had captured a high-ranking German officer while on a routine patrol. They used the documents captured by the patrol to attempt a breakout of the pocket.
On two separate occasions, the French First Army valiantly attempted to break out of the pocket they’d created, and even managed to push the Germans back across the Deûle River, but were forced back across the river each time. Meanwhile, the suburbs of Lille turned into a battleground with both sides fighting house-to-house.
Only when the French supplies of food and ammunition began to run out, did individual units begin to surrender. The Germans fought back, eventually forcing a surrender of a number of smaller units. By June 4, 1940, the entire French force around Lille was forced to capitulate.
The Germans were so impressed with the French First Army’s performance that the German commander, Gen. Alfred Wäger, allowed the honours of war to the defeated French. The defenders of Lille were allowed to form up and march out of the city with drums beating and flags flying – a testament to their defense of the French homeland.
The time they bought allowed the British Expeditionary Force to escape from Dunkirk and live to fight another day – D-Day.