In the 1950s and 60s the U.S. Air Force tested flying rockets and ramjets powered by nuclear reactors.
If it weren’t for breakthroughs in chemical propulsion that occurred at about the same time, the nuclear missiles based throughout the U.S. and Europe could well be nuclear warheads sitting atop nuclear reactors.
At its most basic level, rockets and ramjets work by superheating air and propelling it out the back of the engine. Conventional rockets and ramjets use chemical combustion to heat the air. The nuclear engines were designed to superheat the air using a heat exchanger hooked to a nuclear reactor.
The research into the rocket engines was dubbed “Project Rover,” and the ramjet research was dubbed “Project Pluto.”
Project Rover’s initial successes allowed NASA engineers to briefly consider nuclear power for the first manned missions to the Moon, but the vibration problems were not worked out in time. Rover’s engine then got the nod for a possible mission to Mars, but the mission was canceled. Without any immediate mission requirements, Rover was declared a technical success and shut down.
The nuclear rocket engine idea has been revived a few times since then, mostly when engineers start to seriously strategize manned missions to Mars. It was also briefly revived as a method of getting the Strategic Defense Initiative ballistic missile shield into orbit.
Project Pluto was even more successful from a technical standpoint. Each ramjet test reactor achieved every one of its major goals, and a number of the tests were declared flawless.
Like the Rover, all the tests were conducted on the ground. Also like Project Rover, Pluto was shut down in favor of chemical propulsion. America had found a way to strike the Soviet Union from across the world without having to fly nuclear reactors over their own land and troops.
Both concepts and their accompanying research are mothballed, waiting for a mission to potentially revive them.
The beginning of World War II started with a brutal Nazi war crime.
On Sep. 1, 1939, German soldiers began their invasion of Poland, triggering the outbreak of World War II. The shelling of a Polish garrison at Westerplatte is commonly believed to be the first shot fired in the war, but the beginning actually happened five minutes prior, according to Deutsche Welle.
At 4:40 a.m., the town of Wieluń was bombed by the Luftwaffe as most of its 16,000 residents slept. There were no anti-aircraft, military, or economic targets of any importance, in the sleepy town just 13 miles from the German border. The target of the bombing was civilians.
Overall, 380 bombs fell on Wieluń, weighing a total of 46 tons. The first ones hit the All-Saints Hospital. 32 people died there – patients and staff. These were the first victims of the German air raids during World War II. The next target was the oldest parish church in Wieluń, St. Michael the Archangel, built in the beginning of the 14th Century. The Piarist building was the only surviving structure on the old square.
In total, as a result of the attack on Wieluń by the German air force, which lasted until 2pm, over 1200 people died. Certain sources note as many as 2,000 victims. Bombs dropped by the Stukas (Junkers Ju 87) destroyed 75% of the city. 90% of the city center was destroyed.
The people of Wieluń were the first to experience the German tactic of “blitzkrieg” (lightning) war, which was later used during the invasions of Belgium, North Africa, the Netherlands, and France. Just minutes after the bombing of the town began, the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein began its bombardment of Westerplatte.
Two days later, Britain and France declared war on Germany, and the conflict lasted for six years at the cost of millions of lives. When it was all over in 1945, it ended with the surrender of the Nazis, and the exposure of the most shocking and brutal war crime the world had ever seen.
Flying missions out of Takhli Air Force Base, in Thailand, Maj. Harold Johnson served as an Electronic Warfare Officer of an F-105 Wild Weasel, which due to its dangerous, top-secret missions had about a 50 percent survival rate.
“Everyday you were shot at very severely,” Johnson states in an interview. “I’d have a lot of the electronics there and hopefully do the job that I’m supposed to do to protect the rest of the flights.”
In April 1967 — and just seven missions shy of rotating back home — the North Vietnamese fired a heat-seeking missile that struck Johnson’s Wild Weasel. While both crew ejected safely, they were later captured.
Before being taken to a POW camp, the Vietnamese paraded Johnson through a village where the locals poked and prodded him with sharpened bamboo sticks.
“I still got scars on my legs. The kids were the worst, they could slip through the guards and get at you,” Johnson calmly admits. “I had a lot of holes in me when I got to the camp.”
After eight days of intense daily beatings, torture, and hallucinations from lack of sleep, Johnson began falsely pointing out targets on a map.
Due to Johnson being constantly isolated in his cell, he learned to secretly communicate with other prisoners using an alphanumeric tapping system. “If you can picture a box with five units that you put your letters in, one would be your first line, and then you go ABCDE,” Johnson states.
After six long agonizing years, Harold Johnson was released from the prison camp and sent back to the US.
“Well, it finally happened, when you’re being interrogated that was the thing that gave us strength was you’re gonna to have to stay here, one of these days I’m going out of here.”
When the military doesn’t want to kill anyone but really needs to make sure they stay away, they turn to nonlethal weapons. Some of these weapons are painful enough that a gunshot might seem preferable.
1. The non-lethal claymore
Two M5 modular crowd control munitions are mounted on the side of this M-113 armored personnel carrier in Camp Bucca, Iraq, in 2008. Photo: Capt. Jason McCree
The M5 modular crowd control munition is described as a non-lethal claymore. It works about the same as a normal claymore in the sense that a small explosion propels hundreds of small balls. The M5 uses 600 rubber balls instead of steel pellets, and so just hurts like Hell instead of killing people.
The Active Denial System is commonly called a pain laser, but it’s actually a pain ray that uses millimeter waves to heat water under a target’s skin. This gives a sensation of burning, like they’ve opened a blast furnace. The target usually flees immediately and no one lasts more than a few seconds. China has its own version of the weapon.
4. Plasma shield
Flashbangs are already known as a painful and occasionally lethal way to control foes. The Plasma Acoustic Shield System uses lasers to create pockets of plasma in the air and then detonates those pockets with another laser, creating a flashbang effect each time. Currently, the system can only make 10 explosions per second but the Pentagon is aiming for hundreds.
5. Shotgun tasers
Extended Range Electronic Projectiles are shotgun rounds that each contain a mini, self-contained taser. They contain a battery, microprocessor, and 10 electrodes. The rounds fly for up to 100 feet before striking a target and burying four electrodes into its skin. Six more electrodes then deploy and spread the shock over more of the body.
The rubber ball hand grenade is exactly what it sounds like. It’s thrown like a normal grenade and a small charge propels at least 100 rubber pellets at nearby targets, stinging and bruising them. It may not kill anyone, but it hurts like hell and will make anyone deaf for at least a little while.
There’s a decades-old argument about which pistol round is better that stems from a more basic argument about terminal ballistics – which is just a fancy term for what happens when bullets hit living things.
The two sides of the argument are between those who believe fast, lightweight rounds do more damage, and those who believe heavy, lower-moving rounds impart more energy and “stopping power” on the target.
Listen to the WATM podcast to hear our veteran hosts and a weapons expert discuss the M9 and why ammo matters:
Given its history of weapon adoption, it seems the Army is a proponent of the fast, lightweight department. First it swapped out the 7.62mm M14 for the 5.56mm M16, then the .45 1911 for the 9mm M9. While many agree with the first change (sorry M14 lovers) some still think the M9 should never have been adopted without changing the ammunition recipe beforehand.
Full metal jacket ammo is really great for sending rounds through paper, but its aerodynamic and hydrodynamic design makes it zip through tissue without dumping most of the energy behind it into the target. Shot placement can compensate for this by hitting harder stuff like bones or vital organs, but under the stress of returning fire, that’s damn tough for even the seasoned Delta operator to land perfect hits with a sidearm.
Ideally, a round will dump all of its energy into a target, which reduces the need for shot placement at the cost of reduced penetration. On a rifle, this is a big drawback. It means if Johnny-Jihad is hiding behind a plywood shack, the rounds will expand in the wooden walls and lose most of their power. With a sidearm, most shooters aren’t trying to blast bad guys through walls – it’s a weapon of last resort.
So when a trooper needs to draw his M9, he shouldn’t have to worry about the bullets failing to stop his attacker.
If the military wants to put the M9 on even-footing with the M1911’s fight-stopping power, it might only need to swap out the M882 round with the good stuff being issued to American law enforcement officers.
Heck, Rangers have been running heavier, jacketed hollow-points for years. This isn’t news to the brass.
In fact, one recommendation is to replace the lightweight 112gr M882 FMJ cartridges with heavier 147gr expanding hollow-point rounds like those employed by Ranger elements during combat operations. These heavier rounds don’t just expand better in their targets, they’re also subsonic.
This has two major advantageous. First, it makes them better suited to pistols and submachine guns equipped with sound suppressors. And second, it provides a more consistent flight path since the bullet doesn’t go transonic.
That all said, many agree the M9 does have some serious mechanical shortcomings. Slides cracking, junk magazines in the early days of the G-WOT, and the gun’s open-slide gobbling up sand all contribute to a pistol clearly not at home in desert warfare.
But with new magazines that work much better, reinforced slides and a proper maintenance schedule, many experts say the M9 beats the hell out of the 1911 it replaced — but only with proper ammo. Hague convention be damned, expanding ammunition isn’t designed to cruelly maim soldiers but to drop them more reliability. Plus, these same rounds are nearly always stopped by walls, putting fewer civilians at risk in adjacent rooms.
Lastly, if you’re worried about our guys getting hit with these types of rounds, don’t be. Expanding ammunition amplifies the effectiveness of body armor, since both are designed to dissipate force. So as long as Joe has his body armor on, hollow points won’t do any more than a standard pistol round.
On August 1, 1936, Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler opened the 11th Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany.
In doing so, he inaugurated what is now a famed ritual of a lone runner bearing a torch carried from the site of the ancient games in Olympia, Greece into the stadium.
“The sportive, knightly battle awakens the best human characteristics. It doesn’t separate, but unites the combatants in understanding and respect. It also helps to connect the countries in the spirit of peace. That’s why the Olympic Flame should never die,” he reportedly said.
If that sounds like PR for the Nazi Party, that’s because it was.
The relay “was planned with immense care by the Nazi leadership to project the image of the Third Reich as a modern, economically dynamic state with growing international influence,”according to the BBC.
Or, in other words, Hitler wanted the games to impress foreigners visiting Germany.
The organizer of the 1936 Games, Carl Diem, even based the relay off the one Ancient Greeks did in 80 BC in an attempt to connect the ancient Olympics to the present Nazi party.
“The idea chimed perfectly with the Nazi belief that classical Greece was an Aryan forerunner of the modern German Reich,” according to the BBC. “And the event blended perfectly the perversion of history with publicity for contemporary German power.”
And according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Hitler’s torch run, “perfectly suited Nazi propagandists, who used torch-lit parades and rallies to attract Germans, especially youth, to the Nazi movement.”
The torch itself was made by Krupp Industries, which was a major supplier of Nazi arms.
Here’s a view of one of the Olympic torch bearers:
And here’s a view of the last bearer ahead of lighting the Olympic flame:
Unsurprisingly, the 1936 Olympic Games were not without controversy.
Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals in Berlin — despite the racist ideology. | Wikimedia
Despite Hitler’s aforementioned pitch that “the sportive, knightly battle … unites the combatants in understanding and respect,” the Nazis tried to keep Jews and blacks from competing in the games.
The Nazis eventually capitulated, saying that they would welcome “competitors of all races,” but added that the make-up of the German team was up to the host country. (They added Helene Mayer, whose father was Jewish, as their “token Jew” participant. She won the silver medal.)
During the games, Hitler reportedly cheered loudly for German winners, but showed poor sportsmanship when others won, including track and field star Jesse Owens (who won 4 gold medals) and other black American athletes. According to Nagorski, he also said: “It was unfair of the United States to send these flatfooted specimens to compete with the noble products of Germany. … I am going to vote against Negro participation in the future.”
Ultimately, the most disconcerting thing about the 1936 Olympics is that the Nazis’ propaganda push was actually effective on visitors and athletes — despite all the racism and anti-Semitism.
William L. Shirer, an American journalist living in Berlin at the time, and later known for his book “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” noted his disappointment with the fact that tourists responded positively to the whole affair. And according to Nagorski, an older American woman even managed to kiss Hitler on the cheek when he visited the swimming stadium.
But perhaps the most chilling line cited by Nagorski came from Rudi Josten, a German staffer in the AP bureau who wrote: “Everything was free and all dance halls were reopened. … They played American music and whatnot. Anyway, everybody thought: ‘Well, so Hitler can’t be so bad.'”
World War II officially started a little over three years later in 1939.
In any case, it’s probably the coolest thing any movie spy was ever issued. James Bond, with his “00” designation has one, and maybe a whole handful of real-world MI6 agents do too — because they’re real.
The result was no, of course they didn’t. But what it did reveal was a look at how the intelligence agency operates, especially in regards to targeted killings. It turns out British operatives are allowed to kill their enemies.
But first they need a Class Seven Authorisation and the personal signature of the Foreign Secretary.
Richard Dearlove, the former head of Britain’s spy agency, revealed this during the inquiry. Diana and her lover, Dodi al-Fayed, were killed in a 1997 car accident in Paris. Ten more agents were required to give testimony in 2008 as the royal family faced accusations of wrongdoing from al-Fayed’s father, Mohamed.
Actually getting the Class Seven Authorisation is easier than it sounds. According to Dearlove’s testimony, once the paperwork is finished, it has to be signed off by a “senior regional official.” Then, it would have to go through the chief of the agency — in Diana’s case, it would have been Dearlove.
After that, it would have to “go down restricted channels to the Foreign Secretary.”
Socialism turns even the smallest tasks into a whole bureaucratic ordeal. I bet the process was much smoother when Maggie Thatcher was in office.
China is preparing to launch a new ballistic missile submarine that could potentially target any part of the United States by the end of 2015, Anthony Capaccio and David Tweed report for Bloomberg Business.
The deployment of the new Jin-class ballistic missile submarine will mark a substantial increase in China’s potential nuclear ability. The Jin-class submarines will be armed with the new JL-2 ballistic missile. This missile has a range of 4,000 nautical miles, which would allow the submarine to target Hawaii, Alaska, and portions of the west coast of the US from the waters off of East Asia.
Should the Jin-class submarine be capable of positioning itself to the east of Hawaii, it would be able to target the any part of the continental United States for a hypothetical ballistic missile strike, Bloomberg notes.
The Department of Defense’s 2015 report on the Chinese military notes that the JL-2 missile will function as an extremely capable nuclear deterrent against potential nuclear first strikes or invasions against the Chinese mainland. China has commissioned four JIN-class submarines, with a fifth one under construction.
Beijing is well aware of the capabilities of its new submarine and is eager to play up the Jin’s abilities. The submarine, armed with the JL-2, is “a trump card that makes our motherland proud and our adversaries terrified,” Bloomberg reports Admiral Wu Shengli, commander of the Chinese navy, as having said.
China’s deployment of the Jin and JL-2 combination comes as the country radically overhauls its ballistic missile capabilities. Beijing’s longest-range missile, the CSS-4, has the potential to target any part of the US except for southern Florida.
The missile is nuclear-capable, according to the DoD report, and is housed in silos across the Chinese countryside. Beijing is estimated to have 50 to 60 silo-based ICBMs.
Beijing also has a road-mobile nuclear-capable ballistic missile that is capable of hitting most of the western coast of the US and parts of the Midwest from China. As the missile is road-mobile, China can move it throughout the country to better target various locations and avoid possible incoming strikes.
China’s development of intercontinental ballistic missiles reflects the country’s attempts to position itself as a respected international power that is not content with merely being a regional player.
In one of the lesser known facts of history, in 1937 two Japanese officers named Toshiaki Mukai and Tsuyoshi Noda held a contest over who could kill 100 people with his sword (Magoroku) first?
Mukai and Noda were two young second lieutenants in the Katagiri Regiment’s Toyama Battalion and their contest was held during the Japanese invasion of China. The winner was announced on Dec. 10, 1937, only a couple of days before the Japanese Army entered Nanking (now Nanjing). Nanking, then the capital of the Republic of China (now of the Jiangsu province), was captured by the Japanese army on December 13, 1937 and in six weeks over 200,000 residents were murdered and thousands of women were raped. It would become known as the Nanking Massacre and Rape of Nanking.
It didn’t stop then, on the day when the winner was announced to who had the most kills, they both agreed to take the contest up to a 150 people.
“Incredible Record” In The Contest to Cut Down 100 People
Mukai 106, Noda 105
Both Second Lieutenants Go Into Extra Innings
Toshiaki Mukai and Tsuyochi [sic] Noda, the two daring second lieutenants in the Katagiri Regiment who started an unusual contest to “cut down 100 people” before entering Nanjing, have—amidst the chaos of the battle to capture Purple Mountain on Dec. 10th—recorded their 106th and 105th kills respectively. When they met each other at noon on Dec. 10th, they were both carrying their swords in one hand. Their blades had, of course, been damaged.
Noda: “Hey, I got 105. What about you?” Mukai:”I got 106!”…Both men laughed. Because they didn’t know who had reached 100 kills first, in the end someone said, “Well then, since it’s a drawn game, what if we start again, this time going for 150 kills?” They both agreed, and on the 11th, they started an even longer contest to cut down 150 people. At noon on the 11th, on Purple Mountain, which overlooks an imperial tomb, while in the midst of hunting down the remnants of the defeated [Chinese] army, 2nd Lt. Mukai talked about the progress of the drawn game.
“I’m happy that we both exceeded 100 kills before we found out the final score. But I damaged my ‘Seki no Magoroku’ on some guy’s helmet when I was cleaving him in two. So, I’ve made a promise to present this sword to your company when I’ve finished fighting. At 3 AM, on the morning of the 11th, our comrades used the unusual strategy of setting Purple Mountain on fire, in order to smoke any remaining enemies out of their hiding places. But I got smoked out too! I shot up with my sword over my shoulder, and stood straight as an arrow amidst a rain of bullets, but not a single bullet hit me. That’s also thanks to my Seki no Magoroku here.”
Then, amidst a barrage of incoming enemy bullets, he showed one of the reporters his Magoroku, which had soaked up the blood of 106 people.”
The competition was featured four times in the wartime Japanese newspapers Osaka Mainichi Shimbun and Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shimbun from Nov. 30 to Dec. 13, 1937. The newspapers reported their kill records and celebrated both officers for their achievements. The contest was far from heroic. The officer’s victims weren’t killed in action but rather murdered. Tsuyoshi Noda admitted in a speech:
Actually, I didn’t kill more than four or five people in hand-to hand combat… We’d face an enemy trench that we’d captured, and when we called out, ‘Ni, Lai-Lai!’ (You, come on!), the Chinese soldiers were so stupid, they’d rush toward us all at once. Then we’d line them up and cut them down, from one end of the line to the other. I was praised for having killed a hundred people, but actually, almost all of them were killed in this way. The two of us did have a contest, but afterward, I was often asked whether it was a big deal, and I said it was no big deal…
After World War II had ended, a written record of the contest was acquired by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, which resulted in the two officers being turned over to China. They were tried by the Nanking War Crimes Tribunal and on January 28, 1948, both Mukai and Noda were executed for war crimes.
On the evening of Dec. 16, 2015, members of the Joint Base Elemendorf Richardson community received an odd email. As part of their outreach efforts, the Alaskan base’s Sexual Assault and Prevention office – commonly referred to by the acronym SAPR – had given away tubes of lip balm.
They had to be destroyed.
“It has come to our attention that approximately 400 ‘SAPR lip balm’ promotional items … contain trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),” the public address read, referring to the active ingredient in the drug marijuana. “The Sexual Assault Response Coordinator office has ceased the distribution of the lip balm … and requests that you dispose this product, if you received one of these items.”
Both the Pentagon and the Air Force – the lead service at the base – ban personnel from ingesting any substances that contain hemp seed or oil from those seeds. The flying branch specifically worries the small amounts of THC could trigger a positive result during random drug screening.
On Dec. 14, personnel from the 673rd Air Base Wing had sent the vendor a “heads up” email explaining the situation for future reference, according to records We Are the Mighty obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. Earlier, the Wing had reached out to the Office of Special Investigations for advice on how to proceed.
The next day, Global Promotional Sales responded by pointing out that the lip balm did not contain any THC, along with at least two follow-up messages asking to chat with base staff. They ultimately sent along a 2001 scientific study from Leson Environmental Consulting that concluded hemp oil would never have enough THC to register in a drug test. At the same time, Wing staff and the SAPR office were debating what to do with the tubes of fruit-flavored moisturizer.
Citing personal privacy exemptions, censors redacted the names of all Air Force personnel in the records. However, they did not remove the name of the Global Promotional Sales representative.
“I’ve been told that lip balm made from Hemp [sic] will not result in a positive for THC,” an unnamed colonel in the 673d’s commander’s office wrote in one Email. “How many have you handed out?”
While the colonel’s position is widely accepted, rules are rules. “Because of the regulations banning any use of hemp products we understand that the product must be disposed of,” the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator shot back.
After untold hours working on the issue, the base leadership decided to send out the public address and ask personnel to voluntarily trash the items. In total, the SAPR office had purchased 1,600 “Fruity Lip Moisturizers” at a cost of over $1,580, according to an invoice.
The Joint Base Elemendorf Richardson public affairs office told We Are the Mighty in an email that they were unsure what had happened to the more than 1,000 tubes of lip balm that the SAPR office had not handed out. They didn’t know whether the vendor reimbursed the cost or offered credit on a future order.
What we do know is that for at least three days, both the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and the 673d’s staff were actively involved dealing with a problem that took away from their core mission in more ways than one. Emblazoned with the SAPR logo and the text “Consent, Ask, Communicate,” the lip balm itself seems to have served an unclear purpose.
“I mean, just the weight of those emails … the weight of coordination spent on pursuing swag and trinkets,” Tony Carr, a retired Air Force officer and outspoken critic of many of the flying branch’s policies, told We Are the Mighty in an Email after reviewing the documents. “This is what SARCs are doing while the issue of sexual assault continues to hover somewhere between confused and irresolute.”
Legislators, celebrities, and others have repeatedly criticized the Pentagon failing to improve the situation. While the services have focused on education, accountability seems to be the real factor holding back progress on the issue.
The Pentagon was forced to admit that “sexual assaults continue to be under-reported” when they released their latest sexual assault prevention strategy on May 1, 2014. The new policy cited a need to pursue offenders regardless of rank and make sure that accusers did not suffer retaliation from their superiors, who were often the attackers.
Retired Air Force Col. Christensen, who worked in the military legal system for more than two decades, said the incident highlighted the Pentagon’s “very simplistic” responses to very difficult problems, like rape. Christensen is now President of Protect Our Defenders, a Washington, D.C. based non-profit advocacy group that focuses on sexual violence in the U.S. military.
“They think they can powerpoint their way out of it,” Christensen lamented, describing seemingly endless briefings and courses on the ills of sexual assault. He specifically singled out the bystander training as “pretty much ridiculous,” adding that he was not aware of anyone being punished for not speaking up on behalf of a victim.
Of course, both Carr and Christensen were quick to note that these sorts of responses were not necessarily limited to one particular crisis. “It reinforces the ‘leadership by harassment’ approach of inventing and then enforcing rules with no valid military necessity,” Carr said. “I’m amazed at the extent to which this continues happening.”
Christensen compared the idea of handing out lip balm, mints, and other novelties as a solution to sexual assault to the much maligned fluorescent yellow belts troops have wear in many situations. Instead of really delving into how to prevent people getting killed while running or doing other activities at night, the Pentagon simply decreed that everyone had to wear the reflective wraps nearly everywhere, nearly all the time, he said.
But this sort of response is especially galling when it comes to sexual violence. Gimmicks like the lip balm “trivializes the impact of sexual assault” and contribute to troops generally “tuning out” the messages, Christensen added.
To really start fixing the problem, Christensen says the Pentagon and its critics both need to recognize that it will be impossible eradicate sexual assault from the military entirely. Instead, the focus needs to be on treating servicemen and women like adults who know it’s a crime, empowering investigators and prosecutors to go after attackers and instill an overall sense of accountability up and down the ranks.
Until then, SAPR offices will easily find themselves spending precious time dealing with promotional missteps than actually advocating for a healthier climate within the services.
Marine Corps Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis is known for his aggressive tactics and his even more aggressive quotes.
While he embraced counter-insurgency tactics with the rest of the military, his quotes put a decidedly lethal spin on “low-intensity combat.” Check out these 15 great Mattis quotes — but be warned… they’ll make you want to charge into hordes of America’s enemies with nothing but a Ka-Bar:
11. “There are hunters and there are victims. By your discipline, cunning, obedience and alertness, you will decide if you are a hunter or a victim.” (Told to troops at Al Asad, Iraq)
12. “No war is over until the enemy says it’s over. We may think it over, we may declare it over, but in fact, the enemy gets a vote.”
13. “There is nothing better than getting shot at and missed. It’s really great.”
14. “You cannot allow any of your people to avoid the brutal facts. If they start living in a dream world, it’s going to be bad.”
15. “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.” (Said during a panel discussion in San Diego, via CNN)
In 1971, Pakistan launched a preemptive air strike against 11 Indian airbases, touching off that year’s Indo-Pakistani War. The air attacks failed but dragged India into Bangladesh’s (then called East Pakistan) Independence War from Pakistan. The Indo-Pakistan War was one of the shortest wars in history, lasting less than two weeks.
The day after its surprise air attack, Pakistan moved 2,000 troops, a mobile infantry brigade, and 45 tanks to an Indian border post at Longewala. The post was manned by 120 Indian troops with an M-40 recoilless rifle – and access to strike aircraft.
The Indians were heavily outnumbered, outgunned, and surrounded. The Air Force couldn’t help until dawn because the pilots didn’t fly at night. The defenders were given the choice between abandoning the post or making a gutsy stand at their position. They decided to stay and fight. It was just after midnight, and dawn was at least six hours away.
It was going to be a long night.
Pakistan’s artillery opened up on the Indians immediately. As the enemy infantry approached the Longewala outpost, the defenders held their fire until the tanks were 40-100 feet away.
They fired on the thinly-armored tanks with the 106mm recoilless rifle, which turned out to be a devastating weapon. Advancing infantry ran into the Indian’s barbed wire and — believing they had walked into a minefield — freaked out.
The burning and exploding tanks lit the battlefield for the defenders while the smoke added to the Pakistani’s confusion on the ground. They wasted two hours waiting for sappers to clear mines that didn’t exist.
With the field lit up and a full moon overhead, the tanks attempted to encircle the defenders but found themselves stuck in the soft sand — east targets for the Indian M40.
The attackers were routed and their armored column became a turkey shoot for Indian pilots. They lost 500 vehicles, 34 of those were tanks. The infantry lost 200 troops. Indian armor soon launched their counteroffensive to relieve Longewala. The defenders lost only two men.
After two weeks, Pakistan was forced to surrender to India, which led to the formation of an independent Bangladesh. Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri was awarded India’s second highest medal for gallantry for directing the defense of Longewala. The actions of the men in at Longewala were portrayed in the (slightly stylized) Bollywood film, “Border.”
Expelled from their main stronghold in northern Iraq, Islamic State militants are now trapped in a military vise that will squeeze them on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.
Mattis arrived in the Iraqi capital on an unannounced visit August 22 just hours after President Donald Trump outlined a fresh approach to the stalemated war in Afghanistan. Trump also has vowed to take a more aggressive, effective approach against IS in Iraq and Syria, but he has yet to unveil a strategy for that conflict that differs greatly from his predecessor’s.
In Baghdad, Mattis was meeting with senior Iraqi government leaders and with US commanders. He also planned to meet in Irbil with Massoud Barzani, leader of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region that has helped fight IS. Mattis told reporters before departing from neighboring Jordan that the so-called Middle Euphrates River Valley — roughly from the western Iraqi city of al-Qaim to the eastern Syrian city of Der el-Zour — will be liberated in time, as IS gets hit from both ends of the valley that bisects Iraq and Syria.
“You see, ISIS is now caught in-between converging forces,” he said, using an alternative acronym for the militant group that burst into western and northern Iraq in 2014 from Syria and held sway for more than two years. “So ISIS’s days are certainly numbered, but it’s not over yet and it’s not going to be over any time soon.”
Mattis referred to this area as “ISIS’s last stand.”
Unlike the war in Afghanistan, Iraq offers a more positive narrative for the White House, at least for now. Having enabled Iraqi government forces to reclaim the Islamic State’s prized possession of Mosul in July, the US military effort is showing tangible progress and the Pentagon can credibly assert that momentum is on Iraq’s side.
The ranking US Air Force officer in Iraq, Brig. Gen. Andrew A. Croft, said that over the past couple of months IS has lost much of its ability to command and control its forces.
“It’s less coordinated than it was before,” he said. “It appears more fractured — flimsy is the word I would use.”
Brett McGurk, the administration’s special envoy to the counter-IS coalition, credits the Trump administration for having accelerated gains against the militants. He said August 21 that about one-third of all territory regained in Iraq and Syria since 2014 has been retaken in the last six or seven months.
“I think that’s quite significant and partially due to the fact we’re moving faster, more effectively,” as a result of Trump’s delegation of battlefield authorities to commanders in the field, McGurk said. He said this “has really made a difference on the ground. I have seen that with my own eyes.”
It seems likely that in coming months Trump may be in position to declare a victory of sorts in Iraq as IS fighters are marginalized and they lose their claim to be running a “caliphate” inside Iraq’s borders. Syria, on the other hand, is a murkier problem, even as IS loses ground there against US-supported local fighters and Russian-backed Syrian government forces.
The US role in Iraq parallels Afghanistan in some ways, starting with the basic tenet of enabling local government forces to fight rather than having US troops do the fighting for them. That is unlikely to change in either country. Also, although the Taliban is the main opposition force in Afghanistan, an Islamic State affiliate has emerged there, too. In both countries, US airpower is playing an important role in support of local forces, and in both countries the Pentagon is trying to facilitate the development of potent local air forces.
In Iraq, the political outlook is clouded by the same sectarian and ethnic division between Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish factions that have repeatedly undercut, and in some cases reversed, security gains following the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.
An immediate worry is a Kurdish independence referendum to be held September 25, which, if successful, could upset a delicate political balance in Iraq and inflame tensions with Turkey, whose own Kurdish population has fought an insurgency against the central government for decades. McGurk reiterated US opposition to holding the Iraqi Kurdish referendum.
“We believe these issues should be resolved through dialogue under the constitutional framework, and that a referendum at this time would be really potentially catastrophic to the counter-ISIS campaign,” McGurk told reporters in a joint appearance with Mattis before they flew to Iraq.
With the Iraqi military’s campaign to retake the northern city of Tal Afar now under way, Mattis has refused to predict victory. He says generals and senior officials should “just go silent” when troops are entering battle.
“I’d prefer just to let the reality come home. There’s nothing to be gained by forecasting something that’s fundamentally unpredictable,” he told reporters traveling with him over the weekend.