All about the chemical agent VX that allegedly killed Kim Jong Nam - We Are The Mighty
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All about the chemical agent VX that allegedly killed Kim Jong Nam

The death of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, in the Kuala Lampur Airport, was apparently due to the use of the deadly nerve agent VX.


According to a report by the London Telegraph, the Malaysian police do not believe that anyone else is at risk, but teams are sweeping the airport to decontaminate areas where the suspected killer may have been. The Associated Press reported that four individuals who Malaysian police are interested in have fled the country, including a North Korean diplomat and a worker with the regime’s state-run airline.

An M55 rocket being disassembled at Umatilla Chemical Depot. This was one delivery system for VX, a very deadly nerve agent. (US Army photo)

VX was first developed by British scientists in the 1950s as an insecticide. The deadliness of the agent caught everyone by surprise, and it soon found its way into American arsenals. The telegraph notes that those who are hit may feel one of two opposite initial reactions: Giddiness or nausea. Shortly afterwards come the convulsions as the nervous system shuts down.

A victim’s one chance for survival when exposed to VX is a rapid administration of atropine. That drug counters the effect by blocking nerve receptors that VX seeks to overwhelm. The Telegraph notes that Western intelligence agencies believe that North Korea has about 5,000 tons of this nerve agent.

DOD graphic showing the effects of various chemical agents, including VX. (DOD graphic)

The United States had VX in stock, with one delivery system being the BLU-80 “Bigeye” chemical bomb, according to Designation-Systems.net. After the 1996 Chemical Weapons Convention, the United States discarded all of its VX – and other chemical weapons.

(YouTube screen grab from John Mason)

The nerve agent was used as a plot point in the 1990s action movie “The Rock,” which starred Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery. The details surrounding it were not accurate technically.

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QUIZ: Who said it, Tupac or Patton?

General Patton and Tupac are two very different historical figures. One is a legendary World War II hero, while the other is hip-hop royalty. Patton is immortalized in stories of military exploits and Tupac’s songs transcend time — he’s like the Elvis of the Hip-Hop genre.


Despite their differences, they both have a similar outlook on life. We gathered some of their most famous quotes to make this quiz. Did the Hip-Hop martyr or the World War II general say these things?

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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

It’s a Friday tradition or something. Here are 13 more hilarious military memes:


1. Oh … reflective belts finally make sense.

(via Devil Dog Nation)

It’s because lasers. Got it.

2. No one ever wants to play catch with us.

(via Air Force Nation)

Oh well, there’s always next season.

SEE ALSO: 5 real-world covert operations in FX’s ‘Archer’

3. Better hope land nav is held in the playground.

Too boot to even tie his own.

4. Oooh, four shapes at once.

This guy is good.

5. Just stay silent …

(via Air Force Memes and Humor)

6. Finally, a Navy spirit cake (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Pretty sure it tastes like boatswain tears.

7. Like budget problems would explain this photo (via Coast Guard Memes).

What, every part of the vacuum works except the handle?

8. Do not mistake their courtesies for weakness(via Military Memes).

The most polite allies that America has.

9. Accelerate your life (via Pop Smoke).

10. Semper Fidelis-ish (via Devil Dog Nation).

11. We can make it. We can make it. We can …

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

… nope.

12. Sometimes, your brain is a douchebag (via The Salty Soldier).

First two weeks back from deployment is nothing but false alarms.

13. They need your help.

Remember to tag your LTs so that you can find any that wander off.

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Russians buzz USS Porter multiple times in the Black Sea

The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) was buzzed multiple times by Russian aircraft on Feb. 10.


The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) stands watch in the Indian Ocean during a 2007 deployment. The Porter was conducting Maritime Operations (MO) in the 5th Fleet area of operations with the USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG). (US Navy photo)

According to a report by the Washington Free Beacon, the Porter was operating in international waters in the Black Sea after taking part in Sea Shield 2017 when the series of flybys occurred. One incident involved an Ilyushin Il-38 “May,” a maritime patrol aircraft similar to the P-3 Orion. The other two incidents involved Sukhoi Su-24 “Fencer” strike aircraft.

“These incidents are always concerning because they could result in miscalculation or accident,” Navy Capt. Danny Hernandez, a spokesman for United States European Command, told the Free Beacon, who also noted that the Porter’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Andria Slough, considered the Russian actions to be “unsafe and unprofessional.”

The Free Beacon reported that the Russian planes did not respond to messages sent by the destroyer, nor were they using their radars or transponders.

Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft fly over USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) April 12, 2016. Fencers carried out a similar buzzing of the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78). (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Last April, Russian Su-24s buzzed the Porter’s sister ship, the guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75). The Daily Caller also noted other incidents where Russians buzzed American warships. The Free Beacon also noted that this past September, a United States Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft had a close encounter with Russian fighters.

Tensions with Russia have increased since Vladimir Putin’s government seized the Crimean peninsula from the Ukraine in 2014. Incidents involving American ships in the Black Sea have happened before.

The Soviet Krivak I class guided MISSILE frigate Bezzavetny (FFG 811) impacts the guided missile cruiser USS Yorktown (CG 48) as the American ship exercises the right of free passage through the Soviet-claimed 12-mile territorial waters. (US Navy photo)

In 1986, the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Yorktown (CG 48) and the Spruance-class destroyer USS Caron (DD 970) exchanged messages with a Krivak-class frigate while sailing an “innocent passage” mission within six miles of the Soviet coast.

In 1988, the Yorktown and Caron were involved in another incident, with the Yorktown being “bumped” by a Krivak-class frigate, and Caron being “bumped” by a Mirka-class light frigate. All four ships suffered what was characterized as “minor” damage.

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This is why the M1911 was America’s favorite pistol

From the punitive expedition to Mexico before World War I to the mountains of Korea, American service members relied on one iconic pistol above any other, the Colt M1911. In fact, some special operators still carry modified and reworked versions of the same sidearm today.


The famous pistol came, like many of the best weapons, from an urgent battlefield necessity. Soldiers and Marines fighting the Spanish in the Phillippines during the Spanish-American War ended up in combat with a rebel group that had been active in the islands for years, the Moro.

A U.S. Marine with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s maritime raid force fires an M1911 .45-caliber pistol at a range in Jordan June 9, 2013. (Photo: U.S. Department of Defense)

The Moro fighters were known as fanatics and used opiates to keep going even if they were hit. The troops engaged in combat with them found out quickly that their pistols, .38-caliber weapons, often needed a few hits to bring down a fighter. This gave attacking Moro fighters time to get an extra couple knife swings or trigger pulls in before they were killed.

Soldiers reached back to their last sidearm, the Colt Model 1873 Revolver which fired a .45-caliber round. The .45 got the job done, and the Army put out a call for a modern weapon that fired it, preferably with semi-automatic technology and smokeless powder.

Army psychological operations soldiers train with the M1911 pistol in 1945. (Photo: U.S. Army)

After a long competition, the winner was a Colt pistol from famed designer John Browning. It was a semi-automatic weapon that fired the desired .45-caliber cartridge packed with smokeless powder, allowing troops to defend themselves with lots of firepower on demand without giving away their position.

The Army designated the weapon the M1911 for the year it was adopted and got it out to the field. The gun got a trial with the Punitive Expedition to Mexico in 1916 where it performed admirably, but it cemented its place in troops’ hearts in 1917 when the American Doughboys carried it with them to Europe.

In World War I, the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps carried the weapon. Army Cpl. Alvin C. York was part of an attack through German lines to destroy or capture some enemy machine guns. The initial attack was successful but everything went sideways and York was the highest ranking of the survivors.

Army Sgt. Alvin C. York was awarded the Medal of Honor for killing dozens of Germans and capturing 132 of them as a corporal after an American assault was partially broken up. (Photo: U.S. Army)

In a famous move, York managed to kill many of the Germans and capture 132 of them nearly on his own. During the engagement, he killed six Germans in six shots with his M1911 and it was that pistol that he pointed at the German commander’s head when he demanded and received their surrender.

Army Lt. Frank Luke, Jr., another Medal of Honor recipient, used the pistol after he was shot down in an attempt to fight off the German infantry trying to take him prisoner. While Luke was eventually killed, he took seven of the infantrymen with him.

Love for the M1911 spread to America’s allies. Great Britain, for instance, bought the guns for the Navy and the Flying Corps. In World War II, the Colt M1911 was once again the pistol of choice and Americans were lucky enough to get it as standard issue.

(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Joshua W. Brown)

Through Korea and Vietnam, the M1911 was the standard sidearm and a favorite of troops who cited its stopping power, ergonomics, and reliability.

But the weapon’s .45-caliber ammunition made it less operable with NATO allies and when the U.S. encouraged standardizing weapons and ammo across the alliance, it was sent to the chopping block. In 1992, the military branches transitioned to the Beretta M9 and its smaller 9mm ammunition.

But some M1911s are still floating around as special operations units reworked the M1911A1 variant introduced in 1926, allowing them to use the .45-caliber ammunition.

In fact, the Marine Corps ordered 12,000 new M45A1s from Colt. The M45A1 is basically a modernized M1911 that, of course, fires the .45-caliber round. But the 1911’s days might be numbered as Marine special operations troops are scheduled to ditch their .45s and pick up Glocks over the next several years.

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This was America’s first true aircraft carrier

When people talk about the aircraft carriers of World War II, some names jump out right away. Maybe the USS Enterprise (CV 6), both versions of the USS Yorktown (CV 5 and CV 10), or the USS Hornet (CV 8)?


But one carrier that was present at the start of World War II and survived throughout the war isn’t that well known. Meet America’s first purpose-built aircraft carrier, the USS Ranger (CV 4).

USS Ranger (CV 4) at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 1939. (US Navy photo)

The Ranger, like many pre-war American ship designs, was heavily influenced by the Washington Naval Treaty. This limited aircraft carriers to 27,000 tons per ship, and the United States Navy’s carrier force could have a total displacement of 135,000 tons. The conversion of the under-construction battle cruisers Lexington (then-CC 1) and Saratoga (then-CC 3) to CV 2 and CV 3 put them both at 33,000 tons.

As such, the Ranger was limited to 14,500 tons – and the U.S. wanted to cram as much as it could on this ship. She received eight 5-inch, 25-caliber guns, as well as a host of M2 .50-caliber machine guns. She also could carry around 75 aircraft.

Nine Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighters and five Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless dive bombers are visible on the flight deck of USS Ranger (CV 4) prior to Operation Torch. Note Ranger´s distinctive stacks in the left foreground. (US Navy photo)

When World War II broke out, the USS Ranger was in the Atlantic as part of the Neutrality Patrol, along with the carrier USS Wasp (CV 7). According to the “Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships,” the Ranger was sent to patrol the South Atlantic. After returning for repairs, the Ranger then was tasked with delivering P-40 Warhawks to Africa. She made two runs in the spring and summer of 1942, delivering 140 of those planes – some of which were destined to reinforce the Flying Tigers.

In November of 1942, the Ranger took part in Operation Torch, launching 54 F4F Wildcats and 18 SBD Dauntless dive bombers. Her planes sank or damaged two French warships, and also gave the landings fighter cover.

After Torch, the Ranger was overhauled, then delivered 75 more P-40s — this time for the North African Theater of Operations. She carried out training missions during most of 1943, until she was attached to the Home Fleet.

In October, 1943, the USS Ranger joined the British Home Fleet, and carried out a number of strikes on German naval forces around Norway. After that, she again served as an aircraft ferry, delivering 76 P-38 Lightning fighters to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations.

After making that delivery, the Ranger finally went to the Pacific, where she was a training carrier until the end of the war. After the war, the USS Ranger was decommissioned and sold for scrap.

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Here’s how Michael Bay involved veterans in ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’

We Are The Mighty was invited to check out an early screening of “Transformers: The First Knight” — and we just couldn’t resist.


Michael Bay kills it when it comes to directing action scenes, which makes it even more exciting when he portrays military assets looking sh*t hot (A-10 Warthogs in the original “Transformers,” anyone?).

“Michael Bay is a big fan of veterans,” Alan Pietruszewski told We Are The Mighty. A U.S. Navy Commander turned filmmaker and actor, Pietruszewski has an invested interest in veterans in the entertainment community.

He has also witnessed first-hand how much the blockbuster director respects the military — Pietruszewski was one of the vets sought out by Bay to work on the “Transformers” films. Bay goes out of his way to hire and cast veterans on his sets, in front of and behind the camera.

There’s a big difference between the military and the depiction of the military onscreen, but with Hollywood’s tendency to perpetuate military myths, it’s nice to know that big directors like Bay are leading the way in including the military in their films.

And it shows. “Transformers: The Last Knight” had some great military moments, including some fantastic F-35 Lightning II action.

Check out how they shot it in this video of Josh Duhamel on set at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona:

 (Transformers: The Last Knight | YouTube)

Catch Transformers: The Last Night in theaters June 21, 20017 — and keep an eye out for World War II Bumblebee, which should just become the next film in the franchise.

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


ARMY:

Soldiers, assigned to KFOR Multinational Battle Group-East’s Task Force Hurricane, made up of Soldiers from The National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve, hiked to the peak of Mount Ljuboten in southern Kosovo, Aug. 23, 2015.

Photo by 1st Lt. Krista Yaglowski/US Army

Soldiers, assigned to U.S. Army Africa, work with French Armée de Terre service members to offload a Puma helicopter from a United States Air Force C-17 in support of Operation Barkhane at Camp Kossei in N’Djamena, Chad, Aug. 23, 2015.

Photo by Morgan Salingue/US Army

NAVY:

ARABIAN GULF (Sept. 1, 2015) The Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8) participates in a night underway replenishment (UNREP) with Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2).

Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr./USN

ARABIAN GULF (Sept. 1, 2015) Sailors aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) conduct a night replenishment-at-sea (RAS) with the Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8).

Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Liam Kennedy/USN

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Aug. 31, 2015) U.S. Marines assigned to 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion observe the approach of amphibious assault vehicles (AAV) during well deck operations aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25).

Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Vladimir Ramos/USN

AIR FORCE:

An F-15C Eagle flies over East Anglia, England, Aug. 27, 2015, during a flyover event at Royal Air Force Lakenheath. The F-15C, assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing, circulated until it flew in unison with the U.K. Avro Vulcan XH558 to mark the first and last time these aircraft will fly together.

Photo by Senior Airman Trevor T. McBride/USAF

Staff Sgt. Saber Barrera, with 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron firetruck and refueling maintenance, works with a co-worker to replace an engine starter in Southwest Asia, Aug. 27, 2015.

Photo by Racheal E. Watson/USAF

Chief Master Sgt. Wayne Stott, the 90th Medical Group superintendent, splashes through muddy water Aug. 29, 2015, during the second annual mud run at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. The run attracted more than 100 Airmen and their families.

Photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Valle/USAF

MARINE CORPS:

An M1A1 Abrams main battle tank, from 2nd Tank Battalion, hides in the brush during a defensive maneuver on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Aug. 26, 2015.

Photo by Cpl. Ryan Young/USMC

Marines with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, practice loading and unloading rounds during sustainment training on Aug. 21, 2015. The CAAT, composed of heavy machine gunners and anti-tank missilemen, is used to combat hardened targets as well as provide security.

Photo by Sgt. Paris Capers/USMC

A Marine assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, climbs a rope as part of the Dark Horse Ajax Challenge aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Aug. 20, 2015. The eight-mile course tested the Marines’ and Sailors’ endurance and leadership skills with trials spread across the San Mateo area.

Photo by Cpl. Will Perkins/USMC

COAST GUARD:

Leading the way in maritime drug interdiction, the USCG Cutter Adelie interdicted an estimated 2,900 pounds of marijuana Saturday. This is the second interdiction of illegal drugs by Washington-based patrol boats within the last week.

Photo by USCG

The 47ft motor lifeboats were conducting approaches to one another for training.

Photo by USCG

NOW: More awesome military photos

OR: The 13 funniest military memes of the week

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The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time

We here at WATM love putting together lists and rankings, so it makes sense for us create one for non-fiction books. We read quite often, and not surprisingly considering we’re a bunch of military veterans, those books often deal with military topics.


These are our picks for best military non-fiction books of all-time. (If you’d like to see our picks for fiction, click here.) The books below are numbered but not in rank order. All of these are great reads.

1. “The Forever War” by Dexter Filkins

If you want to gain an understanding of America’s war with radical Islamists, look no further than “The Forever War” by journalist Dexter Filkins. As a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, Filkins begins his book as the Taliban rises to power in Afghanistan, writes of the aftermath following the Sept. 11th attacks, and then continues through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Told from ground level by the only American journalist who reported on all of these events, Filkins does not write a neat history lesson. Instead, he tells individual stories of people — from ordinary citizens to soldiers — and how they are affected by the incidents that happen around them. He does it using beautiful prose, and with little bias.

2. “The Pentagon Wars” by James Burton

Former Air Force Col. James Burton gives the inside account of what it’s like when the Pentagon wants to develop a new weapons system. Having spent 14 years in weapons acquisition and testing, Burton details his struggle during the development of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle with those above him who were often more interested in supporting defense contractors instead of troops in the field.

Burton spends much of the book writing of the small band of military reformers who worked hard trying to fix the problems of Pentagon procurement from the 1960s to the 1980s, and he suffered professionally for “rocking the boat” as a result. For example, after suggesting that the Bradley’s armor should be tested against Soviet antitank weaponry, the Army — knowing it would never hold up — tried to get Burton transferred to Alaska. The very serious book also inspired a very funny movie made by HBO:

3. “Black Hawk Down” by Mark Bowden

Most people have seen the movie, but this is one of those times when you should definitely read the book. This brilliant account by journalist Mark Bowden tells the story of the Oct. 3, 1993 battle of Mogadishu, Somalia, when hundreds of elite U.S. Army soldiers fought back against thousands of militants when a routine mission went wrong.

With remarkable access, research, and interviews, Bowden recreates the battle minute-by-minute and perfectly captures the brutality of the fight and the heroism of those who fought and died there.

4. “One Bullet Away” by Nathaniel Fick

This book gives an inside look at the transformation that takes place from civilian to Marine Corps officer. A classics major at Dartmouth, Fick joins the Marines in 1998 an idealistic young man and leaves a battle-hardened and skilled leader after serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

At times very personal and unpleasant, Fick’s book recounts plenty of combat experiences. But that is not the real draw. His wonderful detailing of the training, mindset, and actions of Marine officers on today’s battlefields makes this a must-read.

5. “Band of Brothers” by Stephen Ambrose

Historian Stephen Ambrose’s account Easy Co. in “Band of Brothers” is quite simply, an account of ordinary men doing extraordinary things. The book — which later became a 10-part miniseries on HBO — takes readers from the unit’s tough training in 1942 all the way to its liberation of Hitler’s “Eagles Nest” in 1945.

Band of Brothers illustrates what one of Ambrose’s sources calls ‘the secret attractions of war … the delight in comradeship, the delight in destruction … war as spectacle,’ writes Tim Appelo in his review.

6. “We Were Soldiers Once… And Young” by Harold Moore and Joseph Galloway

One of the first significant engagements between American and Vietnamese forces in 1965 was also one of the most savage. The Battle of the Ia Drang Valley is told by Lt. Col. Moore and Galloway, a reporter who was there, and it serves as both a testament to the bravery and perseverance of the 450 men who fought back after being surrounded by 2,000 enemy troops.

While the book was later made into a movie, it’s well-worth reading if only for the stories of Rick Rescorla, the platoon leader featured on the cover of the book whose nickname was “Hard Core.”

Rick Rescorla

7. “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu

More than 2,000 years old and still relevant today, “The Art of War” is a must-read book on military theory and strategy. But its maxims can be applied by those far outside the combat arms. Tzu offers advice relevant to everyone from Army generals to CEOs.

“Absorb this book, and you can throw out all those contemporary books about management leadership,” wrote Newsweek.

8. “Flyboys” by James Bradley

There have been many contemporary accounts written of World War II, but “Flyboys” manages to bring to light something that had remained hidden for nearly 60 years. James Bradley tells the story of nine Americans who were shot down in the Pacific off the island of Chichi Jima.

One of them, George H.W. Bush, was rescued. But what happened to the eight others was covered up and kept secret from their families by both the U.S. and Japanese governments. Bradley, who wrote “Flags of our Fathers,” conducted extensive research and uncovered a story that has never been told before.

George H.W. Bush

9. “1776” by David McCullough

Written in a compelling narrative style, David McCullough’s “1776” retells the year of America’s birth in wonderful detail. McCullough is an incredible storyteller who puts you right there, feeling as if you are marching in the Continental Army.

From the Amazon description:

In this masterful book, David McCullough tells the intensely human story of those who marched with General George Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence—when the whole American cause was riding on their success, without which all hope for independence would have been dashed and the noble ideals of the Declaration would have amounted to little more than words on paper.

10. “Generation Kill” by Evan Wright

As a reporter for Rolling Stone magazine, Evan Wright rode with the Marines of 1st Recon Battalion into Iraq in 2003. Embedded among the men, Wright captures the story of that first month of American invasion along with the grunt mindset, how the Marines interact, and captures the new generation of warriors that has emerged after 9/11.

Soldiers today are “on more intimate terms with the culture of the video games, reality TV shows and Internet porn than they are with their own families,” Wright told Booklist (One 19-year-old corporal compares driving into an ambush to a Grand Theft Auto video game: “It was fucking cool.”)

11. “The Outpost” by Jake Tapper

A monster of a book at 704 pages, journalist Jake Tapper tells a powerful story of an Afghan outpost that was doomed to fail even before soldiers built it. Beginning with the decision to build a combat outpost in Nuristan in 2006, Tapper reveals a series of bad decisions that would ultimately lead to a battle for survival at that outpost three years later — one that would see multiple soldiers earn the Medal of Honor for their heroism.

Known as Combat Outpost Keating, the story of the base is one that is worth reading. With its bestseller status, rave reviews by critics, and most importantly, the soldiers who fought there, it’s safe to say “The Outpost” gets it right.

12. “On Killing” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman

Found on many military reading lists, Grossman’s “On Killing” is a landmark study of how soldiers face the reality of killing other humans in combat, and how military training overcomes their aversion to such an act.

A former West Point psychology professor, Grossman delves into the psychological costs of war and presents a compelling thesis that human beings have an instinctual aversion to killing. With this, he also shows how militaries overcome this central trait through conditioning and real-world training.

13. “The Guns of August” by Barbara Tuchman

This Pulitzer-Prize winning book is a masterpiece of military history. Delivering an account of the first month of World War I in 1914, Tuchman tells not just a war story, but an event that would upend the modern world.

“This was the last gasp of the Gilded Age, of Kings and Kaisers and Czars, of pointed or plumed hats, colored uniforms, and all the pomp and romance that went along with war,” reads the publisher’s description. “How quickly it all changed, and how horrible it became. Tuchman is masterful at portraying this abrupt change from 19th to 20th Century.”

14. “The Good Soldiers” by David Finkel

Embedded among the soldiers of 2-16 Infantry as part of President Bush’s last-chance “surge” in Iraq, journalist David Finkel captures the grim reality as troops face the chaotic, and often deadly, streets of Baghdad. The book often follows the overly-optimistic Col. Ralph Kauzlarich (motto: “It’s all good”).

But Finkel excels at capturing everyone up and down the chain-of-command, and tells their stories incredibly well. His book is less about big-picture surge strategy, and more about the soldiers on the ground who fought it. That is a very good thing.

Those are our picks. Did we miss one that you loved? Leave a recommendation in the comments.

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This Marine just retired after 54 years of service

In 1963, the youngest B-52 was less than a year old. The ABC network soap opera “General Hospital” started airing. The nuclear attack submarine USS Thresher (SSN 593) sank in an accident.


One other thing happened: a young man from Emporia, Virginia, by the name of Frederick Grant enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.

“I had stopped going to school. I was looking for excitement and the Marine Corps recruiter really impressed me. He told me I would be able to trust the Marines beside me, and he was right. I also joined to see the world,” Grant said during a Marine Corps interview. “When I first came in, I was a normal infantry guy and then I became a communicator.”

Retired Lt. Col. Frederick Grant addresses guests during his retirement ceremony, at the Camp Courtney Theater, Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 27, 2017, after 54 years of continuous service to the Marine Corps. Grant served as the director of the Tactical Exercise Control Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, after 38 years of service as an enlisted Marine and officer. Grant, from Emporia, Virginia, enlisted Oct. 2, 1963, and served as an infantryman in Vietnam in addition to various other enlisted and officer billets. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Bernadette Wildes)

Grant would end up spending 38 years in the Marine Corps, eventually becoming first a warrant officer, then a commissioned officer. He retired on Sept. 1, 2001 as a lieutenant colonel. His service included at least one tour in Vietnam.

“It was a small-unit war full of patrolling. Most of the time, I was in pretty safe areas,” he said. “I’m reluctant to talk too much on it because there were so many that had it so much worse than I did. It was just very hard to describe.”

After retiring from the Marine Corps, Grant got a job running the Tactical Exercise Control Group, which handled the simulations for III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa. He did so for 16 years, until his retirement in January.

Retired Lt. Col. Frederick Grant retired Jan. 27, 2017, after 54 years of continuous service to the Marine Corps. Grant served as the director of the Tactical Exercise Control Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, after 38 years of service as an enlisted Marine and officer. Grant, from Emporia, Virginia, enlisted Oct. 2, 1963, and served as an infantryman in Vietnam in addition to various other enlisted and officer billets. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Bernadette Wildes)

“I never thought of it as a job. I never consider myself going to work,” he said. “Obviously there are dangerous times; there are exciting times; there are fun times, and I just feel very fortunate. The environment was great; it still is.”

He added that life as a civilian contractor was different than life as a Marine.

“I don’t have to do a Physical Fitness Test anymore although I’m always willing to work out with the Marines,” he said. “There isn’t much difference, and that’s because I choose it to be so. I could take the easy way out, but I don’t want to take that path.”

And after 54 years of service, what does Lt. Col. Grant intend to do?

“I’m going to relax. I mean, it has been 50 some years, so I’m going to golf or something. I’m a big runner, so I’ll run in the Southern California sunshine,” he said. “I guess the primary goal will be to reciprocate to my family all the support they’ve shown me throughout the years.”

Semper fi, Marine, and well done.

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How a new generation of Air Force pilots flew a mission for a fallen WW2 brother

On Dec. 23, 1944, 2nd Lt. Charles E. Carlson was killed in action when Nazi planes shot down his P-47 Thunderbolt. Carlson would be missing for almost 73 years until he was identified and buried with full honors at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Pennsylvania on Aug. 4, 2017.


When the “missing man” formation was flown, it was done by four F-35s.

The F-35s belonged to the 62nd Fighter Squadron, one of 23 assigned to the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, according to the wing’s official webpage. The 56th operates both F-35s and F-16s.

But long before it had the mission to train pilots on the Air Force’s newest multi-role fighter, the 56th Fighter Wing was a combat unit, as was its predecessor, the 56th Fighter Group.

2nd Lt. Charles E. Carlson, who was killed in action when his P-47 Thunderbolt was shot down on Dec. 23, 1944. (USAF photo)

A July 28 release by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency noted that Carlson’s remains had finally been identified. It noted that Carlson’s wingman had believed that the pilot got out, but German officials had claimed his remains had been recovered near the crash site.

The release stated that Carlson would be returned to his family for burial. So, how did the F-35s end up flying the missing man formation?

Back in World War II, the 56th Fighter Group was known as the “Wolfpack,” which included the 62nd Fighter Squadron. Among the pilots who flew with that unit was the legendary Robert S. Johnson, a 27-kill ace who later wrote the book, “Thunderbolt!”

Four F-35’s participated in a missing man formation fly-over during 2nd Lt. Charles E. Carlson’s funeral in Pennsylvania more than 70 years after being shot down over Germany in World War II when he was assigned to the 62nd FS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jensen Stidham)

According to an Air Force News Service report, it was because Carlson had been a member of the 62nd when he was killed in action. Squadron commander Lt. Col. Peter Lee had been browsing Facebook when he noticed the patch for the 62nd Fighter Squadron.

“I clicked on the link and that’s how I found out. It started with something as simple as a Facebook post…and next thing you know we’re flying four airplanes over and talking with the family,” he said.

F-35 Lightning II fighters fly the missing man formation during the funeral of 2nd Lt. Charles E. Carlson. (Youtube Screenshot)

The F-35s flew the missing man formation for Carlson, led by Capt. Kyle Babbitt, who said, “If it had been me on the other side, I would really appreciate this for my family. It’s definitely an honor to take on this responsibility.”

You can see a video about this mission by the 62nd Fighter Squadron below.

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Army lab integrates Future Soldier Technology

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Lighter weight protective body armor and undergarments, newer uniform fabrics, conformal wearable computers and integrated sensors powered by emerging battery technologies — are all part of the Army’s cutting-edge scientific initiative aimed at shaping, enhancing and sustaining the Soldier of the Future.

The U.S. Army has set up a special high-tech laboratory aimed at better identifying and integrating gear, equipment and weapons in order to reduce the current weight burden placed on Soldiers and give them more opportunities to successfully execute missions, service officials said.

A main impetus for the effort, called Warrior Integration Site, is grounded in the unambiguous hopef reducing the weight carried by today’s Army infantry fighters from more than 120-pounds, down to at least 72-pounds, service officials explained.In fact, a Soldier’s current so-called “marching load” can reach as much as 132-pounds, Army experts said.

“We’ve overloaded the Soldier, reduced space for equipment and tried to decrease added bulk and stiffness. What we are trying to do is get a more integrated and operational system. We are looking at the Soldier as a system,” Maj. Daniel Rowell, Assistant Product Manager, Integration, Program Executive Office Soldier, told Scout Warrior in an interview during an exclusive tour of the WinSite facility.

Citing batteries, power demands, ammunition, gear interface, body armor, boots, weapons and water, Rowell explained that Soldiers are heavily burdened by the amount they have to carry for extended missions.

“We try to document everything that the Soldier is wearing including weight, size and configuration – and then communicate with researchers involved with the Army’s Science and Technology community,” he added.

The WinSite lab is not only looking to decrease the combat load carried by Soldiers into battle but also identify and integrate the best emerging technologies; the evaluation processes in the make-shift laboratory involve the use of computer graphic models, 3-D laser scanners, 3-D printing and manequins.

“This is not about an individual piece of equipment. It is about weight and cognitive burden – all of which contributes to how effective the Soldier is,” Rowell said.

U.S. Soldiers assigned to 3rd Platoon, Fox Company, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment provide security during a village meeting near Combat Outpost Mizan, Zabul province, Afghanistan. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nathanael Callon

The 3-D printer allows for rapid prototyping of new systems and equipment with a mind to how they impact the overall Soldier system; the manequins are then outfitted with helmets, body armor, radios, water, M-4 rifles, helmets, uniforms, night vision, batteries and other gear as part of an assessment of what integrates best for the Soldier overall.

In addition, while the WinSite is more near term than longer-term developmental efforts such as the ongoing work to develop a Soldier “Iron Man” suit or exoskeleton, the Army does expect to integrate biometric sensors into Soldier uniforms. This will allow for rapid identification of health and body conditions, such as heart rate, breathing or blood pressure – along with other things. Rapid access to this information could better enable medics to save the lives of wounded Soldiers.

Lighter weight fabrics for uniforms, combined with composite body armor materials are key elements of how the Army hope to reach a notional, broad goal of enabling Soldier to fight with all necessary gear weighing a fraction of the current equipment at 48-pounds, Rowell explained.

WinSite is primarily about communication among laboratory experts, scientists and computer programmers and new Soldier technology developers – in order to ensure that each individual properly integrate into the larger Soldier system.

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This is why ‘General Butt Naked’ was the most feared warlord in Liberia

To oust a dictator as terrible as Liberia’s Charles Taylor, some warlords committed even more heinous crimes. Taylor is now serving a 50-year sentence in the UK after being convicted of 11 war crimes in the Hague in 2013.


Joshua Milton Blahyi went by a different name when he controlled the streets of Liberia’s capital of Monrovia during its 14-year civil war. Going into urban combat wearing nothing but sneakers and a crazed look, he earned the title “General Butt Naked.”

Warlords in the streets of Liberia from 1989-2003 were given names based in popular culture. It spawned such nicknames as “General Bin Laden” and “General Rambo.”

While “General Butt Naked” may sound laughable as a nom de guerre, the warlord’s methods were anything but funny. Of the 250,000-some Liberians killed in the conflict, Blahyi estimates he is responsible for at least 20,000.

The crimes he freely admits to don’t stop there. He recruited children to act as his street enforcers, teaching them that killings and mutilations were all part of a game. And so they would also fight naked in the streets of Monrovia. Blahyi himself was a teenager when the conflict broke out.

Anecdotal evidence of the atrocities committed by “General Butt Naked” is numerous and graphic.

When Taylor was finally ousted in 2003, the man once known as “General Butt Naked” began a new life as a pastor. These days, when he isn’t preaching, he visits the families of his victims and begs for forgiveness — complete forgiveness. He doesn’t want lip service; he wants the biblical forgiveness that comes from the victim’s heart.

Those victims don’t want any part of it. Only 19 of the 76 families he has visited heard him out. The remainder goes about as well as one might expect.

Blahyi built a mansion where he houses former child soldiers. It’s a place where he says he teaches them skills like farming and bricklaying. According to German newspaper Der Spiegel, he also feeds them.

At least one former soldier will attest to the work of Blahyi’s NGO, “Journeys Against Violence.” Luke Barren told Reuters that he earned his job as a mason because of Blahyi’s effort. Other say Blahyi’s whole enterprise is a farce combined with a cash grab.

The former warlord walks free where Taylor is imprisoned because of jurisdictional rules in The Hague. The court can only prosecute war crimes committed after its founding in 2002. There was never a special tribunal for prosecuting war crimes in Liberia, as there was from Rwanda, Cambodia, and the former Yugoslavia.