No war in recent memory can compare to the meat grinder of World War I. Europe still bears the scars of the war, even almost a century later. The gruesome and terrifying type of warfare typical of the Great War had a lasting impact on those who witnessed and experienced it. It also created such carnage on the land where it was fought that some of those areas are still uninhabitable to this day.
The uninhabitable areas are known as the Zone Rouge (French for “Red Zone”). They remain pock-marked and scarred by the intense fighting at places like Verdun and the Somme, the two bloodiest battles of the conflict.
During the Battle of Verdun, which lasted over 300 days in 1916, more than 60 million artillery shells were fired by both sides – many containing poisonous gases. These massive bombardments and the brutal fighting inflicted horrifying casualties, over 600,000 at Verdun and over 1 million at the Somme. But the most dangerous remnants of these battles are the unexploded ordnance littering the battlefield.
Immediately after the war, the French government quarantined much of the land subjected to the worst of the battles. Those areas that were completely devastated and destroyed, unsafe to farm, and impossible for human habitation became the Zone Rouge. The people of this area were forced to relocate elsewhere while entire villages were wiped off the map.
Nine villages deemed unfit to be rebuilt are known today as the “villages that died for France.” Inside the Zone Rouge signs marking the locations of streets and important buildings are the only reminders those villages ever existed.
Areas not completely devastated but heavily impacted by the war fell into other zones, Yellow and Blue. In these areas, people were allowed to return and rebuild their lives. This does not mean that the areas are completely safe, however. Every year, all along the old Western Front in France and Belgium, the population endures the “Iron Harvest” – the yearly collection of hundreds of tons of unexploded ordnance and other war materiel still buried in the ground.
Occasionally, the Iron Harvest claims casualties of its own, usually in the form of a dazed farmer and a destroyed tractor. Not all are so lucky to escape unscathed and so the French and Belgian governments still pay reparations to the “mutilée dans la guerre“– the victims of the war nearly 100 years after it ended.
To deal with the massive cleanup and unexploded ordnance issues, the French government created the Département du Déminage (Department of Demining) after World War II. To date, 630 minesweepers died while demining the zones.
An estimated 720 million shells were fired during the Great War, with approximately 12 million failing to detonate. At places like Verdun, the artillery barrages were so overwhelming, 150 shells hit every square meter of the battlefield. Concentrated barrages and driving rains turned the battlefield into a quagmire that swallowed soldiers and shells alike.
Further complicating the cleanup is the soil contamination caused by the remains of humans and animals. The grounds are also saturated with lead, mercury, and zinc from millions of rounds of ammunition from small arms and artillery fired in combat. In some places, the soil contains such high levels of arsenic that nothing can grow there, leaving haunting, desolate spaces.
Though the Zone Rouge started at some 460 square miles in size, cleanup efforts reduced it to around 65 square miles. With such massive amounts of explosives left in the ground, the French government estimates the current rate of removal will clear the battlefields between 300 and 900 years from now.
As the B-1, call sign Hawk 91, approaches the airport, air traffic control asks how many people and how much fuel is onboard. The response is four airmen and enough fuel for roughly four hours of flight time.
The B-1 is then assigned a runway.
“Approach, Hawk Nine-One, airfield in sight, cancel IFR [instrument flight rules], we are going to be making a long, straight-in approach,” one of the crew says. IFR is a set of Federal Aviation Administration rules requiring civil aircraft to use instrument approach procedures for civil airports. Approach procedures are different for military pilots and aircraft.
The tower tells the crew to maintain visual flight rules (VFR) instead. Once the B-1 lands, the crew tells the control tower it will be “emergency ground egressing.”
In July 2018, then-Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Robin Rand awarded Distinguished Flying Cross medals to the crew, including Maj. Christopher Duhon, Air Force Strategic-Operations Division chief of future operations at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and an instructor pilot with the 28th Bomb Squadron; Capt. Matthew Sutton, 28th BS weapons system officer instructor; 1st Lt. Joseph Welch, student pilot with the 28th; and 1st Lt. Thomas Ahearn, a weapons system officer assigned to the 37th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota.
“Thank you for showing us how to be extraordinary. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your sacrifice. I have never been prouder to wear this uniform than I am today because of you four,” Rand said during a July 13, 2018 ceremony honoring the airmen.
U.S. Air Force Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, left, takes a group photo with the B-1B Lancer aircrew during a Distinguished Flying Cross medals presentation, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, July 13, 2018. Rand formally recognized the heroism and exceptional professionalism of the B-1B aircrew members involved in the May 1, 2018, in-flight emergency and resulting emergency landing in Midland, Texas.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Emily Copeland)
Officials said in a release that it was the first-ever successful landing of a B-1B experiencing this type of ejection seat mishap.
Weeks preceding the ceremony, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed speculation that the Dyess B-1 had to make an emergency landing over an ejection seat malfunction.
The B-1 crew “were out training,” she said during a June 18, 2018 speech at the Defense Communities summit in Washington, D.C.
When the crew tried to eject, “the cover comes off, and nothing else happens,” she said, referring to the weapons systems officer’s ejection hatch. “The seat doesn’t fire. Within two seconds of knowing that that had happened, the aircraft commander says, ‘Cease ejection, we’ll try to land.’ “
The incident occurred around 1:30 p.m. May 1, 2018. Local media reported at the time the non-nuclear B-1B was not carrying weapons when it requested to land.
Images surfaced on Facebook purporting to show a burnt-out engine from the incident. Photos from The Associated Press and Midland Reporter-Telegram also showed the B-1B, tail number 86-0109, was missing a ceiling hatch, leading to speculation an in-flight ejection was attempted.
While the B-1s returned to normal flying operations, both Foreign Policy and The Drive reported that the ejection seat issue may be more widespread than previously disclosed.
“While specific numbers will not be released, not all B-1Bs were affected by these egress system component deficiencies,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told Military.com in a statement on July 19, 2018, following the news reports.
“The Air Force has 62 B-1Bs in the fleet. All B-1Bs are cleared for normal flight operations. We always apply risk management measures for flights based on the aircraft, the flight profiles, and crew experience,” Stefanek said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Parachutes, manufactured and packed en masse during World War II to accompany Allied aviators on missions, had a very important job to do: open.
Lucky for me, my grandfather’s did. He was a 23-year-old US Army Air Corps pilot shot down over France a month before D-Day. He bailed out over central France, after his seven crewmates and moments before their B-24 Liberator exploded in the sky.
They all hit the ground on better terms than their plane, thanks to their parachutes (and, in a longer story, they all survived their respective journeys through occupied France, thanks largely to French patriots and resistants who helped them).
And last May, I traveled to his crash site in Mably, France, for a beautiful 75th anniversary commemoration event. A Frenchman came up to me and explained that he’d been a baby in a village near the crash site during the war, and that his mother recovered one of the airman’s parachutes and made it into a swaddle and carrier for him.
He recalled converting the material into a hammock — a swing he played in even after the war, when shortages and hardship from the devastation of the battles, air raids, and Nazi occupation persisted throughout Europe. This is one of many examples of how people made use of the life-saving silk, canvas, and nylon canopy contraptions falling from the sky during World War II everywhere from France and Yugoslavia to Japan and the Philippines.
Here are more ways parachutes’ function and form extended beyond the time they hit the ground.
Hilda Galloway and Robert Ellsworth Wickham at their wedding on October 14, 1945. Ellsworth Wickham flew 22 missions, including one bail out over France in January 1945. He gave pieces of his parachute to the doctors and nurses who helped him after he jumped.
Albert Williamson was a radio operator/gunner with the 384th BG/545th Bomb Squadron. On December 15, 1945 he married his longtime sweetheart, Ruth Glendinning, who walked down the aisle in this gown her cousin sewed using a parachute Williamson brought home.
So began a wave of wedding wear constructed from chutes brought back from war, including ones that fellow American women and men had sewn on the homefront and that had saved their and their enemies’ lives.
There was the commodity in and of itself, along with the meaning and specialness behind it. Used and surplus World War II parachutes were “a wonderful gift to pass along,” Kiser says.
The dapper young Hungarian revolutionary named József Tibor Fejes holding a captured AK-47 in what is believed to be the first widely distributed photo of the weapon. (Public domain photo.)
Sixty years ago the weapon that became a symbol of Cold War guerrillas and current day insurgents made its debut in a most unlikely way.
The AK-47, arguably the most widely used assault rifle in the world, first appeared in the hands of both Communist troops and Hungarian revolutionaries during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The revolution against the nation’s communist government began on October 23 but was ruthlessly crushed by Hungarian secret police and Soviet troops by Nov. 10.
In particular, one photo from the revolution gained worldwide attention – and it is arguably the first time the Kalashnikov entered the public consciousness.
C.J. Chivers, former Marine Corps infantry captain and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, wrote in his book The Gun that nobody knows which Hungarian revolutionary first picked up a captured AK-47.
But a LIFE Magazine photographer snapped a picture of József Tibor Fejes – “22-years-old, fresh-faced, sharp-eyed, purposeful, and seemingly unafraid” – whose costume as an insurgent always included a bowler hat. “The Man in the Bowler Hat” was also hefting an AK-47, making Fejes the first known revolutionary carrying what became widely known as a revolutionary’s weapon.
“The AK-47 was destined to become a symbol of resistance fighters almost everywhere, a weapon with innumerable spokesmen,” Chivers wrote. “Fejes had nonchalantly assumed the requisite pose and begun to flesh out this historical role. He did so before Fidel Castro, before Yasir Arafat, before Idi Amin. He was years ahead of the flag of Zimbabwe, which would expropriate the AK-47 as a symbol. He was ahead of Shamil Basayev and Osama bin Laden, who would convert the product of an atheist state into a sign of unsparing jihad. József Tibor Fejes was the first of the world’s Kalashnikov-toting characters, a member of a pantheon’s inaugural class.”
Although the Soviet Union had first publically acknowledged the rifle’s existence in 1949, firearms experts and military intelligence analysts in the West knew little about the weapon.
In fact, it was not until 1956 that the Army’s Technical Intelligence Office issued a classified report about the AK-47 – a report that mistakenly labeled the rifle a submachine gun and led to Pentagon brass dismissing the effectiveness of the weapon.
Eventually, the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, and a host of Soviet satellites and licensees manufactured more than 100 million AK-47s. First encountered by U.S. fighting men during the Vietnam War, the robust construction of the weapon and its reliability soon made believers out of Americans who faced it in the hands of their enemies.
To this day, U.S. soldiers and Marines continue to face adversaries armed with some version of the Kalashnikov.
As for József Tibor Fejes, his fate was sealed. Charged with the execution of a State Security Forces officer by gunning him down in the streets of Budapest, a Hungarian court found Fejes guilty and sentenced him to death.
Despite an appeal, authorities hanged Fejes on April 9, 1959, his punishment for what the court said was an attempt to overthrow the Hungarian people’s republic, the murder of a police officer, and the theft of state property – namely an AK-47 assault rifle.
Every spring caterpillars shed their cocoons, emerging as butterflies. This timeless symbol of change is now being applied to enhanced chemical detection for our nation’s warfighters. Researchers from the military service academies, funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department, are using butterflies to detect trace amounts of chemical warfare agents with increased precision and speed.
Managed by DTRA CB’s Brian Pate, Ph.D., researchers at the U.S. Air Force Academy demonstrated that analyzing light reflected from the scales of a butterfly wing may fill a critical capability gap for our service members. Currently, only expensive, non-portable instrumentation exists for the required sensitivity of certain CWA. Other tools, such as colorimetric and nanomaterial methods show promise, however, they pose challenges for long-term field use such as inadequate sensitivity or sensor poisoning.
Highlighted in the ACS Omega article, “Sensing Chemical Warfare Agent Simulants via Photonic Crystals of the Morpho didius Butterfly,” researchers tested both naturally occurring and synthetic photonic crystals for CWA vapor detection. Using the reflective properties of the butterfly wings, researchers were able to identify changes in the refractive index or distance between structure layers.
When exposed to water, methanol, ethanol and simulants for mustard gas, researchers found that vapors could be detected at parts per million concentrations in under one minute. Offering an innovative, low-cost and rapid means of threat agent detection, this sensing technique may offer significant advantages for deployed warfighters. The portable technique only requires a small photonic crystal, a visible light source and a fiber optic cable. Further, this method could potentially be used as a long-term, continuous, passive sensor.
While promising, these sensing agents present some challenges such as generating a synthetic butterfly wing to increase vapor sensitivity and selectivity towards chemical agents. Ongoing efforts are underway at the Air Force Academy to address this issue.
Collectively, these efforts highlight the capability of the service academies to contribute to the chemical and biological defense enterprise’s mission of protecting our force from threat agents, while fostering critical thinking and technical excellence in the next generation of military leaders.
In 1839, England went to war with China because it was upset that Chinese officials had shut down its drug trafficking racket and confiscated its dope.
Stating the historical record so plainly is shocking — but it’s true, and the consequences of that act are still being felt today.
The Qing Dynasty, founded by Manchurian clans in 1644, expanded China’s borders to their farthest reach, conquering Tibet, Taiwan and the Uighur Empire. However, the Qing then turned inward and isolationist, refusing to accept Western ambassadors because they were unwilling to proclaim the Qing Dynasty as supreme above their own heads of state.
Foreigners — even on trade ships — were prohibited entry into Chinese territory.
The exception to the rule was in Canton, the southeastern region centered on modern-day Guangdong Province, which adjoins Hong Kong and Macao. Foreigners were allowed to trade in the Thirteen Factories district in the city of Guangzhou, with payments made exclusively in silver.
The British gave the East India Company a monopoly on trade with China, and soon ships based in colonial India were vigorously exchanging silver for tea and porcelain. But the British had a limited supply of silver.
Starting in in the mid-1700s, the British began trading opium grown in India in exchange for silver from Chinese merchants. Opium — an addictive drug that today is refined into heroin — was illegal in England, but was used in Chinese traditional medicine.
However, recreational use was illegal and not widespread. That changed as the British began shipping in tons of the drug using a combination of commercial loopholes and outright smuggling to get around the ban.
Chinese officials taking their own cut abetted the practice. American ships carrying Turkish-grown opium joined in the narcotics bonanza in the early 1800s. Consumption of opium in China skyrocketed, as did profits.
The Daoguang Emperor became alarmed by the millions of drug addicts — and the flow of silver leaving China. As is often the case, the actions of a stubborn idealist brought the conflict to a head. In 1839 the newly appointed Imperial Commissioner Lin Zexu instituted laws banning opium throughout China.
He arrested 1,700 dealers, and seized the crates of the drug already in Chinese harbors and even on ships at sea. He then had them all destroyed. That amounted to 2.6 million pounds of opium thrown into the ocean. Lin even wrote a poem apologizing to the sea gods for the pollution.
Angry British traders got the British government to promise compensation for the lost drugs, but the treasury couldn’t afford it. War would resolve the debt.
But the first shots were fired when the Chinese objected to the British attacking one of their own merchant ships.
Chinese authorities had indicated they would allow trade to resume in non-opium goods. Lin Zexu even sent a letter to Queen Victoria pointing out that as England had a ban on the opium trade, they were justified in instituting one too.
It never reached her, but eventually did appear in the Sunday Times.
Instead, the Royal Navy established a blockade around Pearl Bay to protest the restriction of free trade … in drugs. Two British ships carrying cotton sought to run the blockade in November 1839. When the Royal Navy fired a warning shot at the second, The Royal Saxon, the Chinese sent a squadron of war junks and fire-rafts to escort the merchant.
HMS Volage‘s Captain, unwilling to tolerate the Chinese “intimidation,” fired a broadside at the Chinese ships. HMS Hyacinth joined in. One of the Chinese ships exploded and three more were sunk. Their return fire wounded one British sailor.
Seven months later, a full-scale expeditionary force of 44 British ships launched an invasion of Canton. The British had steam ships, heavy cannon, Congreve rockets and infantry equipped with rifles capable of accurate long range fire. Chinese state troops — “bannermen” — were still equipped with matchlocks accurate only up to 50 yards and a rate of fire of one round per minute.
Antiquated Chinese warships were swiftly destroyed by the Royal Navy. British ships sailed up the Zhujiang and Yangtze rivers, occupying Shanghai along the way and seizing tax-collection barges, strangling the Qing government’s finances. Chinese armies suffered defeat after defeat.
When the Qing sued for peace in 1842, the British could set their own terms. The Treaty of Nanjing stipulated that Hong Kong would become a British territory, and that China would be forced to establish five treaty ports in which British traders could trade anything they wanted with anybody they wanted to. A later treaty forced the Chinese to formally recognize the British as equals and grant their traders favored status.
More war, more opium
Imperialism was on the upswing by the mid-1800s. France muscled into the treaty port business as well in 1843. The British soon wanted even more concessions from China — unrestricted trade at any port, embassies in Beijing and an end to bans on selling opium in the Chinese mainland.
One tactic the British used to further their influence was registering the ships of Chinese traders they dealt with as British ships.
The pretext for the second Opium War is comical in its absurdity. In October 1856, Chinese authorities seized a former pirate ship, the Arrow, with a Chinese crew and with an expired British registration. The captain told British authorities that the Chinese police had taken down the flag of a British ship.
The British demanded the Chinese governor release the crew. When only nine of the 14 returned, the British began a bombardment of the Chinese forts around Canton and eventually blasted open the city walls.
British Liberals, under William Gladstone, were upset at the rapid escalation and protested fighting a new war for the sake of the opium trade in parliament. However, they lost seats in an election to the Tories under Lord Palmerston. He secured the support needed to prosecute the war.
China was in no position to fight back, as it was then embroiled in the devastating Taiping Rebellion, a peasant uprising led by a failed civil-service examinee claiming to be the brother of Jesus Christ. The rebels had nearly seized Beijing and still controlled much of the country.
Once again, the Royal Navy demolished its Chinese opponents, sinking 23 junks in the opening engagement near Hong Kong and seizing Guangzhou. Over the next three years, British ships worked their way up the river, capturing several Chinese forts through a combination of naval bombardment and amphibious assault.
France joined in the war — its excuse was the execution of a French missionary who had defied the ban on foreigners in Guangxi province. Even the United States became briefly involved after a Chinese fort took pot shots at long distance at an American ship.
In the Battle of the Pearl River Forts, a U.S. Navy a force of three ships and 287 sailors and marines took four forts by storm, capturing 176 cannons and fighting off a counterattack of 3,000 Chinese infantry. The United States remained officially neutral.
Russia did not join in the fighting, but used the war to pressure China into ceding a large chunk of its northeastern territory, including the present-day city of Vladivostok.
When foreign envoys drew up the next treaty in 1858 the terms, were even more crushing to the Qing Dynasty’s authority. Ten more cities were designated as treaty ports, foreigners would have free access to the Yangtze river and the Chinese mainland, and Beijing would open embassies to England, France and Russia.
The Xianfeng Emperor at first agreed to the treaty, but then changed his mind, sending Mongolian general Sengge Rinchen to man the Taku Forts on the waterway leading to Beijing. The Chinese repelled a British attempt to take the forts by sea in June 1859, sinking four British ships. A year later, an overland assault by 11,000 British and 6,700 French troops succeeded.
When a British diplomatic mission came to insist on adherence to the treaty, the Chinese took the envoy hostage, and tortured many in the delegation to death. The British High Commissioner of Chinese Affairs, Lord Elgar, decided to assert dominance and sent the army into Beijing.
British and French rifles gunned down 10,000 charging Mongolian cavalrymen at the Battle of Eight Mile Bridge, leaving Beijing defenseless. Emperor Xianfeng fled. In order to wound the Emperor’s “pride as well as his feeling” in the words of Lord Elgar, British and French troops looted and destroyed the historic Summer Palace.
The new revised treaty imposed on China legalized both Christianity and opium, and added Tianjin — the major city close to Beijing — to the list of treaty ports. It allowed British ships to transport Chinese indentured laborers to the United States, and fined the Chinese government eight million silver dollars in indemnities.
The Western presence in China became so ubiquitous, and so widely detested, that an anti-Western popular revolt, the Boxer Rebellion, broke out in 1899. The hapless Qing Dynasty, under the stewardship of Dowager Empress Cixi, first tried to clamp down on the violence before throwing its support behind it — just in time for a multi-national military force of U.S., Russian, German, Austrian, Italian, French, Japanese and British troops to arrive and put down the rebellion.
It then spent an entire year looting Beijing, Tianjin and the surrounding countryside in reprisal.
‘Century of Humiliation’
It’s hard to over-emphasize the impact of the Opium Wars on modern China. Domestically, it’s led to the ultimate collapse of the centuries-old Qing Dynasty, and with it more than two millennia of dynastic rule. It convinced China that it had to modernize and industrialize.
Today, the First Opium War is taught in Chinese schools as being the beginning of the “Century of Humiliation” — the end of that “century” coming in 1949 with the reunification of China under Mao. While Americans are routinely assured they are exceptional and the greatest country on Earth by their politicians, Chinese schools teach students that their country was humiliated by greedy and technologically superior Western imperialists.
The Opium Wars made it clear China had fallen gravely behind the West — not just militarily, but economically and politically. Every Chinese government since — even the ill-fated Qing Dynasty, which began the “Self-Strengthening Movement” after the Second Opium War — has made modernization an explicit goal, citing the need to catch up with the West.
The Japanese, observing events in China, instituted the same discourse and modernized more rapidly than China did during the Meiji Restoration.
Mainland Chinese citizens still frequently measure China in comparison to Western countries. Economic and quality of life issues are by far their main concern. But state media also holds military parity as a goal.
I once saw a news program on Chinese public television boasting about China’s new aircraft carrier Liaoning— before comparing it to an American carrier. “They’re saying ours is still a lot smaller,” a high school student pointed out to me. “And we have only one.”
Through most of Chinese history, China’s main threat came from nomadic horse-riding tribes along its long northern border. Even in the Cold War, hostility with the Soviet Union made its Mongolian border a security hot spot. But the Opium Wars — and even worse, the Japanese invasion in 1937 — demonstrated how China was vulnerable to naval power along its Pacific coast.
China’s aggressive naval expansion in the South China Sea can be seen as the acts of a nation that has succumbed repeatedly to naval invasions — and wishes to claims dominance of its side of the Pacific in the 21st century.
The history with opium also has led China to adopt a particularly harsh anti-narcotics policy with the death penalty applicable even to mid-level traffickers. Drug-trafficking and organized crime remain a problem, however. The explosion of celebrity culture in China has also led to punitive crackdowns on those caught partaking in “decadent lifestyles,” leading to prominent campaigns of public shaming.
For example, in 2014 police arrested Jaycee Chan, son of Jackie Chan, for possessing 100 grams of marijuana. His father stated he wouldn’t plead for his son to avoid imprisonment.
Past history does not always determine future actions. Chinese sentiments toward the United Kingdom today are generally positive despite the Opium Wars. The escalating military confrontation over the South China Sea is a reality of our times, but that doesn’t mean China’s leaders will forever be committed to a strategy of expansion and confrontation.
Nonetheless, fostering better relations requires that we understand how China’s current foreign policy has it roots in past encounters with the West.
“I was fortunate. My cancer was in the early stages and surgery offered me a cure. The prep was not that bad. The sedation made me wonder, ‘Is that all there is to it?’ The moral of my story is if I had waited until I had symptoms, it would have been too late.”
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S. It is also the second leading cause of cancer deaths, behind lung cancer. The yearly death toll from colorectal cancer in America exceeds the total number of American combat deaths during the entire Vietnam War.
The Veterans Health Administration recommends screening for colorectal cancer in adults age 50 through 75.
The decision to screen for colorectal cancer in adults age 76 through 85 should be an individual one, taking into account the patient’s overall health and prior screening history.
Six out of ten deaths could be prevented
In the past decade, colorectal cancer has emerged as one of the most preventable common cancers. If all men and women age 50 and older were screened regularly, six out of ten deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented. Screening is typically recommended for all between the ages of 50 and 75 years. VA diagnoses some 4,000 new cases of the disease each year in veterans.
Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum. It’s as common in women as it is in men. Most colorectal cancers start as a growth called a polyp. If polyps are found and removed before they turn into cancer, many colorectal cancers can be prevented.
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: A perfect time for veterans to get screened.
World War I pilots began by simply waving at each other in flight, greeting their adversary as each pilot headed to his own reconnaissance mission. But as World War I quickly became brutal—and the pilots themselves saw friends die on the ground by the thousands and in the air by the dozens—they quickly sought out ways to kill each other.
And one of the pioneers who pulled it off was Roland Garros, a daredevil pilot who barely escaped Germany with a night flight into Switzerland at the war’s start.
French Pilot Roland Garros in a plane with a canine.
Garros was a French pilot who had already made a name for himself as a daredevil and aviation expert by flying across the Mediterranean in 1913. But when World War I broke out, he was in Germany and made his unscheduled night flight into Switzerland to get away, quickly joining the Storks Squadron, a group of aviators who would be the highest ranked French air-to-air combatants in the war.
And Garros led the way. Fighter combat in the air began with pilots carrying pistols to shoot at enemy aviators and darts to drop on hostile troops on the ground. But most pilots were looking for some way to mount machine guns on their planes.
But pilots usually looked through propeller blades while flying, and that was the most logical place to mount a gun for pilots to control. But, obviously, shooting through their own propeller would inevitably cause the pilot to shoot down himself. One of the early fixes was to mount the machine gun above the propeller blades, but that pointed the gun into a weird angle, and no one was able to shoot anyone down with that configuration.
Garros figured out another way. He mounted his gun right in front of his seat so he could look down the barrel to aim. To get around the problem of destroying his propeller, he simply armored the wooden blades with a metal sheath and trusted them to deflect those rounds that would’ve downed him while the rest of the rounds flew toward his target.
It is sometimes counted as the first known aerial victory, though it’s important to note that “aerial victory” today is often used to refer to shooting down an enemy plane, not forcing it to run. That feat was first accomplished Oct. 5 by another French pilot.
An illustration of aerial combat in World War I.
But Garros would go on to down five enemy planes in March 1915, causing the American press to dub him an “ace,” one of the first times that term was used. He also may have been the first pilot to achieve five kills.
Either way, his bravery, and ingenuity helped put France at the forefront of the changing face of aerial warfare. Unfortunately, air combat was a risky business, and Garros would not survive the war. In April 1915, he was shot down and crashed behind German lines.
The Pentagon is considering sending an additional 1,000 conventional troops over the next few weeks into Syria, ahead of an upcoming offensive against the ISIS capital of Raqqa.
The troops would likely come from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit — currently on its way to the region — and the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, which recently made its way to Kuwait, according to a report in The Washington Post by TM Gibbons-Neff.
The proposed increase in conventional forces would follow similar deployments in recent weeks that have supplemented special operations forces, of which roughly 500 have been on the ground for some time.
A convoy of US Army Rangers riding in armored Stryker combat vehicles was seen crossing the border into Syria last week to support Kurdish military forces in Manbij. The convoy, identified by SOFREP as being from 3rd Ranger Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, was the most overt use of US troops in the region thus far.
The Ranger deployment was followed soon after by a contingent of US Marines from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine regiment, which left their ships to establish a combat outpost inside Syria that is apparently within striking distance of Raqqa.
“For the base in Syria to be useful, it must be within about 20 miles of the operations US-backed forces are carrying out,” the Post wrote.
Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for OIR, told Business Insider previously that the moves into Syria were to pre-position US forces so they can provide logistical and fire support to “Syrian partnered forces” who will eventually assault Raqqa.
The Marines and Rangers will provide the “commander greater agility to expedite the destruction of ISIS in Raqqah. The exact numbers and locations of these forces are sensitive in order to protect our forces, but there will be approximately an additional 400 enabling forces deployed for a temporary period to enable our Syrian partnered forces to defeat ISIS,” Dorrian told Business Insider.
He added: “The deployment of these additional key enabling capabilities allows the Coalition to provide flexible all weather fire support, training and protection from IEDs, and additional air support to our Syrian partners.”
Meanwhile, US special operations forces, who are said to be taking a training and advisory role with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, were quietly given more latitude to call in precision airstrikes and artillery. As the AP reported in February, advisors are now able to call in airstrikes without seeking approval from an operations center in Baghdad.
Additionally, advisors were embedded at lower echelons of Iraqi security forces at the brigade and battalion level, rather than division — meaning that US forces are increasingly getting closer to direct combat.
The presence of additional US ground troops inside Syria — even miles from the frontline — would bring with it considerable risk. Combat outposts often draw rocket and mortar fire, in addition to small arms. Last March, a Marine outpost established to support the operation to retake Mosul, Iraq came under rocket attack by ISIS militants, killing Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin.
A total of nine American service members have been killed in OIR combat operations, while 33 have been wounded, according to Pentagon statistics.
There is also additional risk from the US’ partnership with Syrian Kurdish fighters known as the YPG, or People’s Protection Units. Though the Pentagon seems to believe the YPG would be the most effective force in the Raqqa fight, the unit is considered a terrorist group by Turkey.
Turkey has so far refused to compromise, insisting the US use a different Syrian rebel group, Reuters reported.
“Our soldiers will not be fighting together with people who shot us and killed our soldiers and are trying to kill us,” one senior Turkish security official, briefed on recent meetings between Turkish and U.S. strategists, told Reuters.
Congress is offering the Defense Department the option to purchase Turkey’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and giving the defense secretary discretion to spend up to $30 million to store the fifth-generation jets until a plan for their use is formalized, according to the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2020.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper has been given the green light to spend funds “to be appropriated for fiscal year 2020 for the Department of Defense to conduct activities associated with storage, preservation, and developing a plan for the final disposition of such F-35 aircraft and Turkish F-35 aircraft equipment, including full mission simulators, helmet-mounted display systems, air system maintenance trainers, and ancillary mission equipment,” the bill states.
That money would fund storage for up to six jets and associated materials. F-35 deliveries to Turkey had originally been slated to occur between late summer and the end of this year.
(photo by Tom Reynolds)
Lawmakers will not allow the F-35As once destined for Turkey to be transferred unless that country gets rid of its S-400 surface-to-air-missile systems and associated equipment and promises never to purchase or use the Russian-made weapon again, according to the bill.
“Turkey’s possession of the S-400 air and missile defense system adversely affects the national security of Turkey, the United States, and all members of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance,” lawmakers said.
In a joint statement provided with the bill Tuesday, Congress said it would “support” the U.S. purchase of all jets originally meant for Turkey. The aircraft have been stationed at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where international pilot training is conducted.
“The conferees also encourage the Secretary of Defense to maximize the procurement quantity of Turkish F-35A aircraft associated with Lots 12, 13, or 14 during fiscal year 2020 using the additional funds authorized in section 4101 of this Act,” according to the statement.
Esper has 90 days from the bill’s passage to provide congressional defense committees a report outlining a long-term plan for Turkey’s F-35s, “which includes options for recovery of costs from Turkey and for unilateral use of such assets,” the bill states.
Hill Air Force Base F-35A Lightning IIs fly in formation.
(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
Despite months of efforts to sway the NATO ally from purchasing the S-400, known to Moscow as the “F-35 killer,” Pentagon officials have been steadily phasing Turkey out of the JSF program.
The Pentagon in July officially booted Turkey from participating in the program over its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 and asked students — pilots and maintainers — attending F-35 training in the U.S. at Luke and at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, to leave.
The DoD also began phasing out aircraft parts manufactured by Turkey. Turkish industries produce 937 parts for the F-35, including items for the landing gear and fuselage.
“We’re on the path to March 2020 to transition all of those parts out. … The U.S. absorbed about a 0 million bill for that,” Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said in October.
Lord at the time said top brass estimates that Turkey’s surface-to-air missile systems will be ready to track aircraft in the region by the end of 2019.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
A flight from Pyongyang to Hanoi is just 13 hours and 15 minutes. But no one wants to sit on a plane that long, least of all Kim Jong Un, Marshal and Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army. He prefers the 70-hour train ride, just like his father and grandfather before him – although for vastly different reasons.
Who doesn’t enjoy a good smoke break?
Kim’s grandfather was Kim Il-Sung, architect of the Korean War and still-ruling President of North Korea, despite being dead for more than 25 years. Kim Il-Sung first caught a taste for train travel during the Korean War, when every hardened structure he ever set foot in was probably bombed to smithereens within hours of the UN forces realizing there were still structures to bomb in North Korea.
Even after the war ended, he enjoyed the security of a private, armored train and built his palaces to be accessible only by rail. The grandfather Kim even toured all of Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe via rail. It doesn’t hurt that the North Korean railway system is the most reliable way to get around, either. How else are you going to randomly give advice to farmers when you know nothing about growing wheat?
“Look at all this magnificent grain we photoshopped in.”
His son and Kim Jong Un’s dad, Kim Jong-Il had a different reason. Kim Jong-Il was deathly afraid of flying and never traveled anywhere via air. Kim, the father, had a luxury armored train with some 22 different cars, each carrying an important detail, including equipment to allow for the train to travel on different countries’ railway gauges.
Kim’s trains ran in groups of three: the first train ran twenty minutes ahead of the others to ensure the safety of the rail line and maybe take the brunt of an assassination attempt. The second carried the Dear Leader and his closest entourage, along with everything he might need, including lobsters and Hennessey. The last train had his communications, his staff, and the things he actually needed to run the government.
Which is probably just more cases of Hennessy.
For Kim Jong Un, much of his new life has been maintaining his grip on power. In this respect, he has decided to emulate his grandfather in many ways that are recognizable to the North Korean public – from the way he dresses, to the hats he wears, to the way he visits farmers for his “on the spot guidance.” His father was never as popular as his grandfather. Kim Jong-Il came to power after the fall of the Soviet Union when subsidies to the North Koreans ended and created a famine. Life for the average North Korean suffered under Kim Jong-Il.
So it’s no surprise he makes his visits to the populace via rail, just like Kim Il-Sung did.
Kim Jong Un comes in to Hanoi like a very, very slow wrecking ball
The trains still reportedly travel in groups, with many on the train reporting no loss in luxury from when his father was alive, despite an increase in international sanctions. The train’s armor means it can only crawl from one stop to another, at a maximum speed of 37 miles per hour.
Which is why the leader took 70 hours to arrive at his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump to talk denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
In retrospect, Germany’s decision to attack merchant ships and carry out unrestricted submarine warfare seems incredibly stupid. They knew – or should have known – that killing citizens of a neutral country (specifically the United States) even unintentionally was a damn good way to get America in the war on the side of the Allies.
Well, it turns out that Germany was relying on submarines to throttle British commerce. When the war started, the Germans had their submarines play by what had been the accepted rules of warfare when it came to merchant ships.
You approached them, you got them to stop, and you allowed the passengers and crew to abandon ship before you sank the ship. When it came to warfare, it was reasonably civilized, given that you were sending those people from a relatively safe merchant vessel and into open lifeboats and rafts, with only oars and the ocean current for travel and not that much in the way of supplies.
As you might imagine, the folks on those merchant ships didn’t want to go through that kind of ordeal of they could avoid it. So, the British started by arming merchant ships. Soon the submarines were being fired on as they surfaced. The invention of the Q-ship made following the rules for submarines even more hazardous – and a good way for the sub to be sunk. When subs sank, the casualty rate amongst the crew often was 100 percent.
German sub commanders didn’t want to have that sort of end-of-life experience. Nor did their crews, for that matter. So, the Germans decided to carry out unrestricted submarine warfare where they shot the merchant ships on sight. And thus began the chain of events that would bring the United States into World War I on the side of the Allies.
Though a select few get most of the credit, a lot of countries were involved in the Allied efforts of World War II. There were so many moving parts that it’s easy to forget that certain groups, including our own U.S. Coast Guard, were actively involved. While we might make jokes about Canadians being overly polite today, we must certainly not forget that they kicked some serious ass in Europe. However, there’s another country that played a significant role in the global conflict that many seem to gloss over outside of discussing the Zimmerman Telegram: Mexico.
There was no real shortage of volunteers during WWII, but more help was always appreciated. That’s where Mexico comes in. Pissed about losing oil ships in the Gulf, Mexico declared war on Axis powers in 1942. Shortly thereafter, Mexico became one of the only Latin American countries to send troops overseas.
The most widely recognized group to deploy was the Mexican Army’s Escuadrón 201 — the Aztec Eagles. Here’s what you should know:
(U.S. Air Force)
The 201st Fighter Squadron was formed in response to German submarines sinking two oil tankers, the SS Potrero del Llano and the SS Faja de Oro. These dudes were obviously pissed and wanted to hop into the war to kick some ass, just like the rest of us. So, they got 30 experienced pilots together with 270 other volunteers to be ground crew. After their formation, they were sent to Texas in July of 1944.
The Aztec Eagles trained at Randolph Field in San Antonio as well as Majors Field in Greenville, Texas. The pilots received months of training in weapons, communication, tactics, as well as advanced combat air tactics, formation flying, and gunnery. They held a graduation ceremony in February, 1945, and received their battle flag, which went down in history as the first time Mexican troops were trained by to fight a war overseas.
A P-47D sporting insignias of both the Army Air Forces and Mexican Air Force.
(U.S. Army Air Force)
In March, 1945, following their transformation into hardened warriors, the 201st Fighter Squadron was sent to the Philippines attached to the Army Air Force’s own 58th Fighter Group to participate in expelling Japanese control. In June of that same year, they flew two missions per day using U.S. aircraft. By July, they received their own P-47D Thunderbolts, with which they fought plenty.
During their time in the Philippines, the 201st flew at least 90 combat missions and, throughout those, lost eight pilots. They also flew 53 ground support missions for the Army’s 25th Infantry Division, four fighter sweeps over Formosa, and dive bombing missions. All the while, they also had no provision for replacements, which made each pilot loss especially painful.
Former 201st Fighter Squadron members salute during a ceremony at Chapultepec Park in Mexico City, March 6, 2009.
(Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump)
By the end of it, the 201st had put down 30,000 Japanese troops, destroyed enemy buildings, vehicles, anti-aircraft and machine gun emplacements, and ammunition depots. General Douglas MacArthur gave them recognition, and they were awarded the Philippine Legion of Honor, complete with rank of Legionnaire, in 2004.