In a report to Congress last year, the Air Force estimated the cost of the new Long Range Strike Bomber (LRSB) to be $33.1 billion for the next ten years. This year, that price ballooned to $58.2 billion.
The amount of the gap is so large, it caught the attention of Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who immediately demanded answers from Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh. How does the Air Force explain the $25 billion error? It says the cost should have actually been $41.7 billion, but human error was the explanation for the discrepancy.
Welsh insists he was caught off guard as well. It was just a multi-billion dollar oopsie, people.
“We were surprised by the number when we saw it as well once it had been pointed out to us that it looked like the number had grown because we’ve been using the same number,” Welsh said.
The Air Force has a history of bait-and-switch budgeting when it comes to developing new aircraft. The Air Force’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is famously over budget (it’s the most expensive weapons program ever) and underperforming. The Air Force’s most recent fighter program, the dogfighting-optimized F-22 Raptor, produced 187 units between 1996 and 2011 at the cost of $157 million each. The Raptor wasn’t used in combat until 2014.
A member of the weather station with a slain polar bear. Photo: From the archive of Wilhelm Dege.
In September 1944, one might think that the Germans would have had better priorities than setting up a weather monitoring station in some remote Norwegian island. They did have more important things to do, but they set up a meteorological station in the Svalbard area anyway.
As the Allies were fighting their way through the Hurtgen, German troops were setting up their weather stations in Norway. They would be the last Germans to surrender after the end of World War II.
World War II didn’t go well for Norway. The Germans invaded in 1940 and with the assistance of one of history’s most infamous collaborators, fell quickly. During the war, Norway was one of the most fortified countries in Europe.
Life in the Svalbard archipelago, though, remained largely unchanged at first. It was occupied and recaptured at times, just to be occupied again. But the Germans managed to create a number of weather stations and reporting stations on the islands. Most subsequently captured or chased away.
Occupation of the archipelago started almost immediately. The Free Norwegian government in cooperation with the Soviet Union willingly destroyed their coal mines to deny their use to the Axis. After British forces destroyed German weather stations in Greenland, the German Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine set their sights on Svalbard to replace it.
Almost as fast as they could set up the station, Allied forces sailed from Scotland to dismantle it. That convoy was bombed by the Luftwaffe, but the invaders managed to eject the weather system anyway. Germany sent another weather monitoring party but the British reinforced its position and destroyed that one too.
More Norwegian troops soon landed, backed by an American cruiser. All Allied movements were monitored by the Luftwaffe, but there was little that could be done at times. The islands were occupied by both parties at times.
The final attempt at a weather station came with Operation Broadsword in 1944. The crew was landed by the submarine U-307 on Sept. 10, 1944. This time, the station was there to stay, largely because the war ended just a few months after it was established.
The German occupants of the islands knew they’d just lost the war. They were contacted by their leadership in Norway on May 8, 1945, the day Germany surrendered to the Allies. They had to stay on the island for nearly four months after the war ended. Getting a ship to the Arctic Circle to retrieve a handful of troops just wasn’t that high on the Allies end of war to-do list.
In the end, the Germans manning the weather station had to surrender to a Norwegian seal hunting ship and its crew, which arrived on Sept. 6, 1945. They were the last Germans to surrender to Allied forces after the war ended.
They weren’t the only Axis holdouts at the end of the war. Although Japan surrendered in August 1945, some Japanese troops fought on for months or even years after the war had officially ended, believing they should fight on in the absence of orders from the Imperial Japanese military.
One Japanese soldier, Hiroo Onoda, fought on until 1974. He hid out in the jungles of the Philippines for some 29 years after the surrender was signed because he couldn’t believe Japan actually surrendered. It’s unlikely the Germans on Svalbard felt the same way, knowing how the war had progressed since 1944.
Featured photo: A member of the weather station with a slain polar bear. Photo: From the archive of Wilhelm Dege.
1. The property used for Arlington National Cemetery was an estate that was forcibly acquired from the family of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in 1864.
2. The first military burial at Arlington was William Henry Christman, who died of non-combat related illness, on May 13, 1864.
3. The first African-American to be buried there was William H. Johnson, an employee of President Lincoln.
4. In December 1882, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the Lee family’s favor that Arlington had been confiscated without due process. After that decision, Congress returned the estate, and on March 3, 1883 Custis Lee (Robert E. Lee’s eldest son) sold it back to the government for $150,000.
5. President Herbert Hoover conducted the first national Memorial Day ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery, on May 30, 1929.
6. Arlington did not desegregate its burial practices until President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948.
7. Five state funerals have been held at Arlington: those of Presidents William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy, his two brothers, Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy, and General of the Armies John J. Pershing.
8. U.S. presidents are eligible to be buried at Arlington whether or not they served on active duty since they oversaw the armed forces as commanders-in-chief.
9. The Tomb of the Unknowns has been perpetually guarded by the U.S. Army since July 2, 1937.
10. Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War was interred on May 28, 1984. President Ronald Reagan presided. The remains of the Vietnam Unknown were disinterred, under the authority of President Bill Clinton, on May 14, 1998, and were identified as those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael J. Blassie, whose family had them reinterred near their home in St. Louis, Missouri. Since that time the crypt at the Tomb of the Unknowns that contained the remains of the Vietnam Unknown has remained empty.
11. The Department of Veterans Affairs currently offers 57 authorized faith emblems for placement on markers to represent the deceased’s faith.
12. Prior to 2007, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs did not allow the use of the pentacle as an “emblem of belief” on tombstones in military cemeteries. This policy was changed following an out-of-court settlement in April of that year.
13. Arlington National Cemetery conducts approximately 6,900 burials each year.
It’s the most famous aircraft in the world, a highly-visible symbol of the United States wherever it travels.
Known as Air Force One, and popularly nicknamed ‘the Flying White House’, this massive jumbo jet, decked out in a special blue, white and silver livery, ferries U.S. presidents, their families, members of the press and various staffers and Secret Service protective agents across the globe on official trips to foreign and domestic destinations.
While Air Force One itself is incredibly famous, it turns out that not a heck of a lot about this unique aircraft seems to be known in public circles. So the next time you find yourself at a party and you feel like impressing a few folks with Air Force One facts they probably didn’t know, today’s your lucky day! Here are 6 things about the President’s personal aircraft that you more than likely didn’t know:
1. “Air Force One” is technically a callsign and not the aircraft’s actual designation.
“Air Force One” is the callsign attached to any USAF aircraft the president is physically present on. The famous Boeing 747 decked out in the presidential scheme is officially designated “VC-25.” The Air Force One callsign originated in 1953 after air traffic controllers mistakenly put an aircraft carrying President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the same airspace as a civilian airliner over New York City, after confusing the presidential transport’s name and code for a commercial flight.
Ever since, every military vehicle carrying America’s head honcho is temporarily relabeled with the name of the service the vehicle belongs to, followed by “One” (e.g. Marine One).
2. Each VC-25 has its own medical suite aboard the aircraft.
You read that correctly; whenever the president is aboard, Air Force One carries a qualified military surgeon/physician along for the ride. A small medical center aboard the aircraft, fully stocked and equipped, can be converted into an operating room should the need arise. While no sitting president has had to avail of the on-board doctor’s abilities and talents, it’s still helpful to always have one nearby, just in case.
3. Both VC-25s are equipped with extensive countermeasures and defensive systems.
On any given day, the threats to the president’s life number in the hundreds, though the Secret Service does everything it can to make sure the risks are largely negligible.
The Air Force also does its part by outfitting each VC-25 with the very best in defensive systems available at the moment. It’s unknown what exactly these systems consist of, but it could be safely assumed that the VC-25 comes standard with missile jammers, flare dispensers and more. On top of that, each Air Force One flight carries a small army of well-armed Secret Service agents and Air Force security specialists to provide security for the President and the aircraft on the ground.
4. It is one of the most expensive aircraft the US Air Force has ever operated.
Not only is the VC-25 one of the largest jets flown by the USAF, it’s also one of the most expensive the service has ever flown in its entire history. At an operating cost of approximately $200,000 per hour, Air Force One flights dwarf the expenses incurred by every other military-crewed and flown aircraft like the E-4B Nightwatch, the C-5 Galaxy and the B-2 Spirit. The security measures, passenger support (for members of the press, Secret Service and White House Staff), and communications systems operations all come together to account for this sky high figure.
5. The President can seamlessly interface with the military and government while airborne.
Each VC-25 possesses a highly integrated communications suite, staffed by a team of Air Force communication systems operators. These CSOs constantly monitor the aircraft’s satellite data-links, intranets and phone lines, ensuring that all incoming and outgoing calls on each flight are secured and highly encrypted.
In the event of national emergencies, the President can interact with military units from the aircraft, or direct the government and stay appraised of the situation at hand, thanks to the communications center and its CSOs.
6. It always parks with its left side facing the crowds gathered to see its arrivals.
Though it seems almost arbitrary, Air Force One does indeed park with its left side facing onlookers crowding behind the security cordon at airports. While the exact reasons for this are unknown, as both sides of the aircraft seem identical, it could be reasonably assumed that this is done for security purposes and practicality.
Positioning the big jet in such a way masks the President’s office from sight on the right side, while it also enables the use of air stairs built into the aircraft on the left side should an external stair unit be unavailable. Air Force One never parks at an airport terminal, nor does it accept a jet bridge connection.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said he expects Iraqi forces to be successful in their assault to retake Mosul and deliver a sharp blow to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Speaking to reporters after a trip to Europe, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford listed recent gains leading up to the eventual battle to retake the key northern city. Those advances, he explained, include Iraqi forces bridging the Tigris River near Qayyarah and securing the airfield there.
“The noose is gradually tightening around Mosul,” he said.
The liberation of Mosul will “chip away” at the idea of a physical caliphate for ISIL, he said. Taking back Mosul and Raqqa, ISIL’s so-called capital in Syria, will severely limit the terror group’s capability and ability to operate in the region and beyond, he said.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Iraqi leaders and coalition trainers in the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve at Besmaya Range Complex April 21, 2016. (DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
“In my view, it’ll be a very significant blow to the Islamic State as they lose Mosul and Raqqa and they can no longer talk about holding a physical caliphate in Syria and Iraq,” Dunford said.
Iraqi leaders have identified Iraqi forces that are required for the operations to take back Mosul, the chairman said. Those forces will be ready in October, he added.
The timing of the assault, Dunford said, is a political decision that rests on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
“Our job is to actually help the Iraqis generate the forces and the support necessary for operations in Mosul and we’ll be ready for that in October,” the top U.S. general said.
President Barack Obama, after meeting with Abadi yesterday in New York, said he expects a tough fight for the city of more than two million people, noting ISIL has “embedded itself deeply” within Mosul.
Dunford told reporters that hearing about ISIL-inspired terrorist attacks worldwide further steels his resolve to defeat ISIL’s ideology and eliminate the terrorists in Mosul and Raqqa.
“What it continues to give me is a sense of urgency for getting after the physical caliphate, undermining the virtual caliphate and eliminating the ability to conduct supported, directed or inspired attacks,” he said.
This will be done through military means in cooperation with the coalition and through partners on the ground, the chairman said.
“The more aggressive we are at taking the fight to the Islamic State, wherever they happen to be, the more successful we will be in eroding their physical capability to direct attacks and support attacks,” Dunford said.
When the North Vietnamese attacked on Jan. 21, 1968, it quickly became clear that the preparations weren’t enough. The 6,000 troops were attacked by an enemy force that would eventually grow to an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 enemies, and the carefully hoarded supply of artillery and mortar rounds were 90 percent destroyed by an enemy artillery attack that hit the ammo dump.
Westmoreland convinced President Lyndon B. Johnson that the base should be held at all costs, triggering a 77-day siege that required planes to constantly land supplies on the improved airfield.
The Marines and other troops on the base sought continuously to knock the North Vietnamese off balance and to relieve the pressure on the base. The February 25 patrol aimed to find North Vietnamese and either kill them or take them captive to collect intelligence.
It was led by an inexperienced lieutenant who, after his men spotted three enemy fighters who quickly fled, ordered a full-speed chase to capture or kill them despite advice to the contrary from others.
The Marines fought valiantly, but they were taking machine gun and other small arms fire from three sides mere moments after the fight began. Grenades rained down on their position as they sought cover, concealment, and fire superiority.
Under increasing fire, Ridgeway and another Marine attempted to break contact and return to the base, but they came across a wounded Marine on their way. Unwilling to leave an injured brother, they stopped to render aid and carry him out.
As they stopped, bursts of machine gun fire hit the three Marines, wounding all three. One was killed by a grenade moments later, another died of wounds that night, and only Ridgeway survived despite the enemy shooting him in the helmet and shoulder. He was later captured when a Vietnamese soldier tried to steal his wristwatch and realized the body was still breathing.
That September, his family was part of a ceremony to bury unidentified remains from the battle and memorialize the nine Marines presumed dead whose bodies were only partially recovered.
But for five years after the battle, Ridgeway was an unidentified resident of the Hanoi Hilton, undergoing regular torture at the hands of his captors.
It wasn’t until the North Vietnamese agreed to a prisoner transfer as part of the peace process in 1973 that they released his name to American authorities, leading to Ridgeway’s mother getting an alert that her son was alive.
Five years after the battle and four years after his burial, Ridgeway returned to America and was reunited with his family. He later visited the grave and mourned the eight Marines whose names shared the list with his. A new memorial was later raised with Ridgeway’s name removed.
Modern Americans can join the military and go to war without too much fuss, since the U.S. still needs people for ongoing fights in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hotspots around the world.
But our forefathers didn’t always have a place to go if they got the martial itch. Sometimes, they really wanted to join a war that the American people didn’t want to get involved in.
That’s when truly bold Americans would just join another country’s military and get to work.
1. Polish 7th Air Escadrille
As a victor of World War I, Poland grew in size, gained a border with Russia, and quickly found itself at war with the communist Bolsheviks. American volunteers were allowed to form the Polish 7th Air Escadrille and the aviation unit engaged in fierce ground attacks against Russian cavalry from 1919 to 1920.
2. The gendarmeries and national guards of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua
U.S. Marines holding the Nicaraguan rebel leader Augusto César Sandino’s Flag. Nicaragua, 1932. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)
In the early 1900s, Marines were sent to Caribbean nations to protect American business interests and to help shore up governments friendly to the U.S. The Marines who were dispatched to the islands often ended up holding ranks in both the U.S. military and the local forces at once. For instance, then Maj. Smedley Butler was the commandant of the Haitian Gendarmerie and then Cpl. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller was a second lieutenant in the Gendarmerie.
3. Eagle Squadrons
Americans who wanted to take the fight to Nazi Germany before Pearl Harbor had few legal options, but some lied about their citizenship and risked exile from America to join the Royal Air Force in 1939 and 1940. Eight Americans took part in the 1940 Battle of Britain that saw the RAF narrowly defeat attempts by Luftwaffe to open the British Isles to invasion.
Dozens more Americans arrived after the Battle of Britain and helped the U.K. hold the line until America’s entry into the war after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Unfortunately, the fighting went badly for the American volunteers. Nearly one-third of them died in Spain and the Republic was overthrown by Fascist Gen. Francisco Franco.
5. The Flying Tigers
The Flying Tigers of World War II were a group of American pilots and ground crew who President Franklin D. Roosevelt secretly authorized to go to China and help that country fight the Japanese invasion. Despite the presidential authorization, the Americans had to resign their military positions and travel under assumed identities.
The group is passionate about supporting their own because after they came home from fighting a war their country sent them to fight, they were largely unsupported and even treated with hostility.
Vietnam vets don’t need to hear “thank you for your service” as much as, “welcome home.” So whether you know someone who served in southeast Asia or happen to pass one on your way to work, here are 9 actions you can take to give them the welcome home they never received:
1. Listen to them and learn their stories
Taking the time to learn and understand the experiences a veteran goes through helps you to understand them and appreciate their sacrifices on much more personal level.
2. Write them a letter
Giving a letter to a Vietnam veteran expressing your appreciation and support of what they sacrificed is something they can read on their own time and keep as a reminder that America ultimately cares about their era of service.
3. Give them a surprise welcome back
For extra effect, do this on the anniversary of the day they returned home from the war. Check around at local veteran organizations; you may be able to be part of a larger homecoming celebration, like the one in this video.
4. Perform community service together
Having an experience of serving together, no matter how small, is a shared experience you will both appreciate.
5. Organize a reunion for them
This may take a lot of planning, but coordinating an event that brings together Vietnam veterans who served together is going above and beyond showing how much you appreciate their service.
6. Organize their photos / records / awards into a scrapbook or shadowbox
Many vets have their memories in boxes or in storage somewhere. Ask to take them and display them so they will not be damaged but also displayed in an honorable way.
7. Give thanks by really helping them out
Ask if there is are any errands and chores you can do or to get to know them more, or see if there is anywhere you can go (museum, hike, etc.).
8. Have a memorial for the fallen
By visiting a memorial with them or having one of your own together, show them you honor the fallen and will never forget them.
9. Invite them to speak at a school class or social function
Having a veteran speak in a history class or at a social community event is a great way to educate the younger generation and your community about the services and sacrifices service members make.
Senator Daniel Inouye served in WWII and was seriously injured while attacking a German position along a ridge in Tuscany. He stood to throw a grenade into a machine gun nest, when one of the gunners shot him in the stomach. Inouye ignored the wound and killed the machine gunners with his Thompson SMG.
Instead of getting out of combat, Inouye continued the attack and destroyed a second machine gun nest before collapsing from blood loss. After collapsing, Inouye crawled toward a third machine gun nest to continue the assault. As he prepared to throw another grenade, a German RPG severed his right arm. He used his left hand to remove the live grenade from his dead right arm and tossed it into the machine gun nest.
After destroying three German positions, being shot in the stomach, having an arm severed by an RPG, and nearly being blown up with his own grenade, Inouye got up and ran around the ridge, shooting at the remaining Germans with his left hand. He continued to do so until he was shot in the leg, fell off the cliff, and was knocked unconscious at the bottom.
When he awoke in a hospital, his friends told him what he had done. He replied, “No. That’s impossible. Only a crazy person would do that.”
Going to war is never an easy choice, but the U.S. has a step-by-step guide that helps military and civilian leaders make that decision.
The sting of the Vietnam War affected America and its culture for a very long time. Not that we lost in Vietnam but it sure didn’t feel like a win, either. It was so devastating to the American psyche the public felt the stigma of the perceived loss until the success of Operation Desert Storm, almost two decades later.
The U.S. military’s failure to rescue the hostages in Iran only added to the problem — making American leaders significantly less cavalier about sending ground troops into combat. This continued even under President Ronald Reagan, whose campaign rhetoric in 1980 made voters fearful he might start World War III (but not fearful enough to keep him out of office).
Contrary to what some may have thought, Reagan’s Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger — a veteran of the Pacific War in World War II — was a careful student of the lessons of Vietnam and was wary about civilian leaders with no military experience using troops as a policy tool. He devised his own doctrine to serve as a guide for policy makers who want to send the U.S. to war:
The United States should not commit forces to combat unless the vital national interests of the United States or its allies are involved.
U.S. troops should only be committed wholeheartedly and with the clear intention of winning. Otherwise, troops should not be committed.
U.S. combat troops should be committed only with clearly defined political and military objectives and with the capacity to accomplish those objectives.
The relationship between the objectives and the size and composition of the forces committed should be continually reassessed and adjusted if necessary.
U.S. troops should not be committed to battle without a “reasonable assurance” of the support of U.S. public opinion and Congress.
The commitment of U.S. troops should be considered only as a last resort.
Weinberger specifically advised Reagan not to send Marines to Beirut in 1983 and after the barracks bombing in October, successfully lobbied against a massive retaliation against Iran. According to Weinberger:
“You have to have a mission, you have to know what you want to do; you have to use force as a last resort after everything else has failed; that when you use it, you have to use it at overwhelming strength, and win your objective and get out.”
In 1983, Maj. Gen. Colin Powell was one of Weinberger’s assistants. In 1991, though Reagan had been succeeded by President George H.W. Bush, Colin Powell was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Though in this role, he did not have operational command, he was the chief military advisor to the President and his Cabinet.
Powell updated the Weinberger Doctrine in 1992, based on lessons learned from the Gulf War, writing in a 1992 article in National Military Strategy:
Is a vital national security interest threatened?
Do we have a clear attainable objective?
Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
Is the action supported by the American people?
Do we have genuine broad international support?
The idea is, if a policy maker can answer no to any of these questions, then U.S. forces should not be committed to a conflict. If the answer to all eight is yes, then U.S. troops can and should be committed. Further, Powell adds:
“Once a decision for military action has been made, half measures and confused objectives exact a severe price in the form of a protracted conflict which can cause needless waste of human lives and material resources, a divided nation at home, and defeat. Therefore one of the essential elements of our national military strategy is the ability to rapidly assemble the forces needed to win—the concept of applying decisive force to overwhelm our adversaries and thereby terminate conflicts swiftly with minimum loss of life.”
In the years following Powell’s tenure as Chairman, the Powell Doctrine slowly lingered on in the new millennium, dying a slow death until a 2010 speech by Admiral Mike Mullen discussed how the use of U.S. troops is seen by policy makers in the post-9/11 era.
“We must not look upon the use of military forces only as a last resort, but as potentially the best, first option when combined with other instruments of national and international power.
We must not try to use force only in an overwhelming capacity, but in the proper capacity, and in a precise and principled manner. And we must not shrink from the tug of war — no pun intended — that inevitably plays out between policymaking and strategy execution. Such interplay is healthy for the republic and essential for ultimate success.”
Name a war, revolution, or revolt during the Cold War that involved the British Commonwealth, Western European nations or their allies and you’ve also named a conflict that had combatants fighting with the Fabrique Nationale FAL.
No wonder the FAL earned the nickname “the right arm of the free world” and became a symbol of the struggle against Communism.
In many ways, it was the West’s answer to the Kalashnikov, albeit one chambered to fire the heavier 7.62 x 51 mm NATO round instead of the AK-47’s 7.62 x 39 mm intermediate round.
Created in the years immediately after World War II, FN eventually produced 2 million FALs (Fusil Automatique Léger or “Light Automatic Rifle”) that were used by the militaries of more than 90 nations.
At one time, the FAL was even the official battle rifle of most NATO-member countries. It was even considered for the role as the United States’ main battle rifle.
Frankly, the FAL was everywhere. For example, consider the Six-Day War in 1967.
A common misconception is the 9mm Uzi was the weapon of choice for the Israeli Defense Forces. Actually, Israeli soldiers carried more FALs than Uzis when facing Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian troops.
Then, there was the 1982 Falklands War. The Argentine Army carried the full-auto version of the FAL; British troops had the semi-auto L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle model of the FAL.
When captured Argentine troops piled their weapons, British infantry and Royal Marines often walked over to the stack and retrieved the full-auto FAL so they could spray more lead at the enemy.
In Argentina, thousands of FALs underwent armory rebuilds in 2010, a sure sign that nation will continue to put the weapon in the hands of its troops.
How the FAL saw the light of day is a story that combines the tactical realities that emerged out of World War II and the politics of who would lead who during the Cold War.
The success of the innovative Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle convinced ordnance officers and weapons designers that era of the bolt-action battle rifle was dead and gone. Lighter cartridges in select-fire assault rifles captured the imagination of weapons designers.
Only the United States fielded a heavy caliber semi-auto battle rifle, the well-regarded M1 Garand .30-06 weapon that Gen. George S. Patton called “the greatest battle implement ever devised.” But the future was one that fired full auto – and the Garand did not.
Caliber was also an issue. As weapons designers on both sides of the Atlantic toyed with prototype battle rifles the British tested a 7 mm (.280-caliber) round in the new FAL and liked it.
In the United States, the Army wanted to stick with the .30-caliber round, flatly stating that no other cartridge could hold its own on the battlefield.
With the formation of the new NATO alliance in 1949, generals and civilian planners both talked of the necessity to standardize equipment, weapons and supplies.
“The laudable aim was one that had been much in the minds of many forward-looking military thinkers for a long time,” writes David Westwood, author of Rifles: An Illustrated History of their Impact. “For experience had shown that the United States and Britain often fought side by side, and commonality would be to the benefit of all including soldiers in the field.”
One thing was certain: the British were impressed with the FAL and were willing to choose it over other weapons.
It was deemed the superior firearm to competitors because it was easy to maintain, field strip, and clean. It reassembled without special tools and it was a select-fire weapon – but it fired the lighter round.
The “gravel belly” U.S. generals would accept nothing but a .30-caliber weapon, insisting on the superiority of a prototype called the T25, a forerunner of the M14 that was nothing more than a glorified Garand.
Soon, there was a “Battle of the Bullets” that went as high as the White House and 10 Downing Street. Pres. Harry Truman and Prime Minister Winston Churchill even held a mini-summit, where rumor has it they struck a quid pro quo – the U.S. would adopt the FAL as its main battle rifle if Britain backed NATO adopting the 7.62 x 51 mm round.
NATO relented and adopted the round. However, the U.S. reneged, developed the M14, which fired the NATO 7.62 mm cartridge, and adopted it as the American military’s main rifle.
In the end, it didn’t matter to FN because NATO countries (including Britain) began snapping up the FAL chambered for the NATO round.
Many consider that combination of weapon and cartridge the quintessential pairing of battle-rifle and bullet during the 20th Century – the FAL went into production in 1953 and FN continued to produce the rifle until 1988. The M-14 fell by the wayside as the main U.S. battle rifle within a few years, replaced by the M-16.
“Regardless of the political activity that went on before its adoption, the 7.62 x 51 mm NATO turned out to be an excellent, powerful military cartridge,” writes Robert Cashner, author of The FN FAL Battle Rifle. “With millions of FALs manufactured and internationally distributed, the rifle played a large part in making the 7.62 x 51mm NATO the success that it was.”
Vietnam is one often overlooked place where the FAL also proved a success. The weapon arrived there in the hands of Australian troops who fought as allies of the United States under the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO).
More than 60,000 Aussies would serve in the Vietnam War from 1962 to 1972, including the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. More commonly known as 1RAR, soldiers in the regiment fought in many significant battles during the war’s escalation in the mid-1960s.
During those the engagements, they often faced well-equipped Viet Cong who carried new AK-47s supplied by the Communist Chinese and East Bloc nations.
Despite its weight and size (the FAL is one of the longest battle rifles of the 20th Century), 1RAR’s troops considered their weapon suited for jungle warfare.
The powerful NATO round would punch through thick foliage, killing their concealed VC opponents. It was also a far more reliable weapon than the early version of the M-16 issued to U.S. forces – the FAL rarely jammed or misfired, two problems that plagued the M-16 for years.
The Army private responsible for a massive leak of classified documents to Wikileaks has reportedly made the short list for presidential clemency.
According to a report by The Independent, Pfc. Chelsea Manning (then known as Bradley Manning), who was sentenced to 35 years in prison, reportedly has attempted suicide twice in the last year.
Manning’s supporters believe it could be the last chance the former intelligence analyst receives for clemency for a long time. Manning had also gone on a hunger strike over the government’s refusal to provide gender-reassignment surgery.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has urged President Obama to pardon Manning, saying that “you alone” could save the 29-year-old’s life. Manning has been in solitary confinement for at least eight months, according to a column in the Guardian.
Manning was convicted of espionage in a July 2013 court-martial for handing the documents to Wikileaks. The documents pertained to the Global War on Terror, and according to a report by the Daily Caller, included diplomatic cables.
In September, the Daily Caller reported Manning was sentenced to two weeks in solitary confinement for a July suicide attempt. That report noted that Manning had provided Wikileaks with video of an attack by an AH-64 Apache against insurgents, during which two employees of the British news agency Reuters were also killed.
The September report by the Daily Caller noted that Manning could be eligible for parole after serving seven years of the 35-year sentence handed down at the court-martial.
The push for clemency, though, has its critics.
Following legal proceedings that protected PFC Manning’s rights of due process, he was ordered to pay the price for betraying his country,” Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness told WATM in a statement. “If President Obama grants clemency, he would set a problematic precedent that would have long-term consequences for national security.”
Retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis, Senior Fellow for National Defense at the Family Research Council, also was critical of the potential clemency.
“Manning is serving time for treason, giving away secrets that endangered fellow soldiers,” he told WATM. “I have no sympathy for those who betray our country by committing treason.”
“Keep in mind when president’s grant clemency to those who were convicted by Courts Martial he is undermining the military justice system,” Maginnis added.
Mix one U.S. Marine with alcohol and throw in the possibility of a huge foam party and you get an alcohol-related incident on Kadena Air Base.
That’s according to Navy Times, which reported on Tuesday that Air Force officials were investigating how a drunk Marine entered an aircraft hangar on Kadena on May 23 and turned on the fire suppression system at around 1:45 a.m., releasing flame retardant foam close to at least one aircraft.
“The details of the incident are currently under investigation,” 2nd Lt. Erik Anthony told Stars and Stripes in an email. “Kadena’s capabilities and readiness have not suffered.”
The unnamed Marine was arrested shortly after the incident, but details on the Marine’s level of intoxication, his or her unit, or who made the arrest, were not released.