9 American heroes who received France's Legion of Honor - We Are The Mighty
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9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor

Last week, French President Francois Hollande presented Airman First Class (A1C) Spencer Stone, Oregon National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos and two others with the French Légion d’Honneur, the highest decoration France can give (it is also not limited to military members). Foreign nationals are eligible to receive the medal for “serving France or the ideals it upholds.”


Stone and Skarlatos served France by preventing a Moroccan national from going on a shooting spree with an AK-47 by physically subduing the perpetrator on a Paris-bound train.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor

The Légion was established by Napoléon Bonaparte in 1802 as a way to honor those who served post-Revolutionary France without granting them titles of nobility, which France just abolished. Bonaparte always wore the medal himself.

The Légion is not just an award; it is membership in an elite group of people who have served France in outstanding ways, with five levels of honor: Stone, Skarlatos, their friend Anthony Sadler, and British businessman Chris Norman were awarded at the level of Knight for their heroics. Beyond that, there are the levels of Officer, Commander, Grand Officer, and Grand Cross, the highest that can be awarded (The President of France serves as Grand Master).

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane

Stone and Skarlatos aren’t the first U.S. servicemembers to be awarded the honor. in 2004, the French government opened it to all Allied World War II veterans with proof of service in France. A number of members of the U.S. military have received the honor for various reasons. Here are nine prominent veterans who are also part of the prestigious Légion.

Sgt. Alvin York

One of history’s most famous conscientious objectors, Sgt. York (as he came to be publicly known) was a drinker and a fighter who became a born-again Christian before the outbreak of World War I. Even though his faith demanded pacifism, he enlisted for the draft as required by U.S. law. He applied for conscientious objector status, even appealing after his first request was denied. He would come to accept his fate, believing God had a plan for him to fight and win in France. One night, he and three other NCOs led thirteen privates to infiltrate the German lines on a nighttime raid and take out the machine guns. Somewhere along the way, one machine gun opened up on York and his compatriots, killing or wounding nine of the sixteen men. York didn’t even have time to take cover. He stood his ground and picked off the whole crew.

Henry Louis Larsen

One of the U.S. Marine Corps’ finest, Larsen first served as an officer in WWI, where he participated in every major Marine Corps operation in France including Belleau Wood, which earned him a silver Citation Star on his WWI Victory Medal. In all he would earn the Navy Cross and three Silver Stars, all without ever being wounded. With the Légion d’Honneur, France also awarded him the Croix de Guerre.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur

This may seem obvious to some, but MacArthur is primarily well-known (these days) for his service in the Pacific during World War II, his masterminding the Korean War, and his public firing at the hands of President Truman. MacArthur’s career started while Teddy Roosevelt was in office. When the U.S. entered World War I in April 1917, MacArthur was a Major and would be posted in France. By war’s end, the Old Soldier was Brig. Gen. MacArthur, and his service in the 1918 Champagne-Marne Offensive earned him four Silver Stars, two Croix de Guerre, a Distinguished Service Cross, and the Légion d’Honneur.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor

Lt. Col. Mayhew Foster

Foster, then 33 and a Captain in the 36th Infantry Division, flew a Stinson L-5 Sentinel carrying more than 300 pounds of Hermann Göring’s fat ass back to Nuremberg to be tried for war crimes.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
Just you and me, Hermann.

Not once during the 55-minute flight with the former Nazi Luftwaffe commander did Foster worry about Göring trying to escape from the two-seater transport. Foster received the Légion d’Honneur in 2009 and died at age 99 two years later. Göring famously committed suicide by cyanide capsule before his scheduled execution. Foster also earned a Silver Star for his efforts fighting in France.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
Photo by Mayhew Foster

Senator Daniel Inouye

Before Inouye’s political career (which is extensive in itself — the Hawaii Democrat served in the House of Representatives before the Senate and served as President pro tempore of the Senate), he enlisted in the all-Nisei (a Japanese word used to describe second generation children of Japanese descent) 442d Regimental Combat Team (RCT).

Most of the 442d RCT came from families in Japanese internment camps on the West Coast of the United States, but would still enter the  war by 1944, earning 9,000 Purple Hearts, 8 Presidential Unit Citations, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560 Silver Stars, and 21 Medals of Honor. Inouye was one of the Medal of Honor recipients (and a Purple Heart, losing his arm in a fight at the Gothic Line). Inouye and 442d were awarded the Légion d’Honneur for their brutal fight against fortified German units at Bruyères in the Vosges Mountains.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

This should come as a surprise to no one. As Supreme Allied Commander in World War II oversaw the planning and logistics for Operation Overlord, and his decision to invade Nazi-occupied France on June 6, 1944 would lead to the complete liberation of France in less than a year.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor

Audie Murphy

The soldier the Navy and Marine Corps didn’t want became the most decorated soldier of WWII, and Murphy counts the Légion d’Honneur as one of his many decorations. He participated in the amphibious invasion of Southern France, landing at Ramateulle, where the Germans killed his best friends after faking a surrender. Murphy responded by wounding three, killing eight, and capturing eleven of them. There is oh-so-much more to Murphy’s actions in France after this (he even portrayed himself in the film To Hell and Back, about his life and service).

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor

In addition to the Légion and the Medal of Honor, in France, Murphy’s action earned the French Croix de Guerre with Silver Star, Croix de Guerre with Palm, two Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, American Campaign Medal, the European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with arrowhead device and campaign stars, the World War II Victory Medal, the Army of Occupation Medal with Germany Clasp, the French Liberation Medal, two Presidential Unit Citations, and the French Fourragère in Colors of the Croix de guerre. Murphy also earned the Medal of Honor by single-handedly holding off an entire German infantry company with a rifle in January 1945 then leading a counteroffensive while wounded and out of ammunition.

George S. Patton

Gen. George S. Patton served in France in at least two wars (if you ask him, it was three — a believer in reincarnation, Patton famously believed to be one of Napoleon’s officers who died in his service). Patton’s time in France began in world War I as a member of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), teaching early tank tactics. His time in World War II is what earned him his notoriety. After turning the North African campaign in favor of the Allies and his instrumental role in the allied invasion of Sicily, he was installed as the commander of the U.S. Third Army. After D-Day, Patton’s Third Army helped break the Normandy beachhead and then stopped the famous “Bulge,” relieving the 101st Airborne at Bastogne and then pressing on into Germany at an astonishing rate.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=67v=uYjnWXFTQkM

Colin Powell

A more contemporary awardee, General Powell’s illustrious military and public service career spans decades, from service in the Vietnam War to National Security Adviser under President Ronald Reagan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) under President George H.W. Bush, to U.S. Secretary of State for President George W. Bush’s first term. As CJCS, he was a critical adviser to President Bush (41) and Gen. “Stormin'” Norman Schwarzkopf, whose command of coalition forces against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait in 1990 included French Army and Air Forces.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
U.S. Army Photo

NOW: 27 Unsung WWII Heroes Most People Have Never Heard Of

OR: The 15 Best Foreign War Movies

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This Russian helicopter is an eight-bladed, troop-hauling, heavy-lifting beast

Russia’s Mil Mi-26 is one of the world’s largest helicopters and an absolute beast, capable of carrying 44,000 pounds, including 90 soldiers or 60 stretchers, anywhere. The 8 rotor blades are powered by two engines to generate the necessary lift.


Often called the world’s largest helicopter, it’s actually based on a prototype that was larger, the Mil V-12. The V-12 never went into full production, so the Mi-26 is the largest helicopter ever mass produced.

It was originally designed to carry heavy vehicles and ballistic missiles flown into country on large cargo planes. Now, the Mi-26 is used for a variety of military and civilian heavy-lift tasks, including sling loading large helicopters and carrying them to maintenance facilities.

Watch one of these monsters carry a Chinook in the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBP1cIh27Oo
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5 Fake Enemies US Troops Have Been Battling For Decades

The real bad guys these days are known as the Taliban, al Qaeda, ISIS, and others. But for decades, U.S. troops have been fighting wars against fictional enemies that only exist in training exercises. They usually have ridiculous-sounding names and strange back stories.


While we received plenty of help on social media and this post at Mental Floss on these opposition forces (OPFOR), to include name and which training exercise or location they operate in, some details remain murky.

If you find yourself fighting these forces in the future, here’s the basic intel you need to know.

The Krasnovians (National Training Center)

These are your hard-core fighters from a Soviet bloc country called Krasnovia. Unpredictable and a very non-traditional enemy force, the Krasnovians are known to switch up their tactics and quickly adapt, like stopping the use of radios and moving to cell phones to throw off U.S. soldiers they are fighting.

We’ve heard the key to beating them is by offering them vodka as a peace offering, or just send in this guy:

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor

The United Provinces of Atlantica (Special Forces “Q” Course)

A northern neighbor to Pineland, the UPA is a former Cold War ally of the Soviets. The Atlanticans aren’t fans of the U.S. or their neighbors. That’s especially true, since they invade and take over peaceful Pineland around eight times a year.

Fortunately, Army Special Forces candidates come in and save the day on a regular basis.

The Mojavians (Combined Arms Exercise at 29 Palms, Calif.)

Not much is known about the Mojavians, except that they like to exclusively fight against U.S. Marines during a 22-day period of combined arms training at their desert base in Twentynine Palms, California. These bad guys operate in similar fashion as insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, and will rarely engage in a real fight. Instead, they rely on hit-and-run tactics.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor

The Centralian Revolutionary Force  (The U.S. Marine Corps Basic School)

In the depths of a three-year civil war, the people of Centralia hope to have a democratic state and live in peace. But their neighbors in Montanya, and an oppressive rebel force known as the Centralian Revolutionary Force, continue to harass the local populace.

Both the CRF and the Montanyan Regular Forces continue to attack the Centralian Army and civilians in the region. Let’s all just hope those fresh Marine Corps officers are able to bring stability to Centralia, a country which has been oppressed for far too long.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
Photo Credit: Facebook/Stop The War In Centralia

Arianan Special Purpose Forces (Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La.)

A force from Ariana — an enemy nation seeking nuclear weapons and hostile to the U.S. and Israel which sounds kind of like Iran — the ASPF constantly invades its neighbor in Atropia, a key U.S. ally.

The ASPF is a threat to U.S. interests — including the consulate in Dara Lam — and it continues to support a local insurgency known as the South Atropian People’s Army. This enemy is unpredictable and employs similar tactics to enemy forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Possibly worst of all: U.S. soldiers only have 11 days to beat them and save Atropia. Good luck.

Have any more you would add to the list? Let us know the enemy force and where you heard it in the comments.

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Hitler’s nephew earned a Purple Heart with the US Navy during WWII

Imagine, it’s 1944 and the country is smack-dab in the middle of World War II. You are serving in the U.S. Navy and come across a new guy… and his last name is Hitler.


That would be jarring, right? Well, it likely happened, since Adolf Hitler’s nephew served in the Navy from 1944 to 1947, after begging the president to let him in.

Related: Thousands of Irishmen deserted their military to fight Hitler

William Patrick Hitler was a sailor during the war against Nazi Germany, fighting against his own family, something he spent years trying to achieve.

Who knew?!

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
Wikimedia Commons

Uncle Adolf

William Patrick Hitler was born in England as the first son of Adolf Hitler’s brother, Alois. He lived there with his mother after his father left to travel Europe when he was 3 years old. Alois returned to Germany and remarried, and eventually sent for William after he turned 18.

During his visit to Germany in 1929, William met his Uncle Adolf at a Nazi rally his father took him to, and in 1930 received an autographed photo of him at another rally.

However, after William returned to England, he wrote a series of articles on his uncle’s rise to power that were apparently deemed “unflattering” by the future dictator. Adolf Hitler called his nephew to Berlin and demand he retract his words, threatening to kill himself if William wrote anything else about him.

Back in England, it was clear William had also made himself famous with the articles, and a very unpopular person in England. No one wanted to hire a Hitler, and it was because of the lack of work that William Patrick returned to Germany, where he hoped his name might be accepted more easily.

Finding work

Unfortunately for William, he wasn’t wanted in Germany either. His uncle denied any family ties and his father sent him back to England.

With no other options, William gathered any evidence of a blood relation to his uncle—who was now Reich chancellor, the chief executive of Germany—he could find and returned to Germany, hoping to blackmail Hitler into giving him a job.

It worked. Hitler approved a work permit for William, who found a job at a Berlin bank and later an automobile factory. However, after a relatively calm first year, William was abruptly fired, then after insufficient reasoning as to why, was rehired, but felt increased scrutiny.

Also read: Here’s what US intelligence knew about Hitler in 1943

“I could not even go on an outing without risking a summons to Hitler,” he wrote in an article for “Look” magazine. After an intense and frightening meeting with his uncle, William knew it was time to leave the country.

Looking to serve

Back in England, William’s surname continued to haunt him, when he was denied entry in to the British armed forces due to his relation to Adolf Hitler.

Willing to share his knowledge of his uncle, William and his mother were invited on a lecture circuit in 1939 by William Randolph Hearst, a newspaperman in the United States. During their time the States, war broke out in Europe due to Hitler’s rise and reach, which prevented William and his mother from returning overseas.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
William Hitler points to Berlin. | Wikimedia Commons

Knowing his options were limited, William tried once again to join a foreign military in opposition of his uncle, and was once again denied, based on his name.

In a pleading letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, William wrote, “I am one of many, but can render service to this great cause.” After being cleared by the FBI, William Patrick Adolf was authorized to serve in the U.S. Navy, swearing in on March 6, 1944.

William served as a Pharmacist Mate during his years in the service, earning a Purple Heart, and was discharged in 1947. After the military, he changed his last name to Stuart-Houston, married Phyllis Jean-Jacques and went on to have four children before dying on July 14, 1987.

Was William simply looking for an opportunity wherever he could find it? Historians disagree on the motivations for William’s decisions, with some pointing out he was okay with his uncle’s policies if the economic climate had been to his benefit. Others point out that he could have lived and survived in the U.S. without joining the military, a decision that would suggest a clear conviction against his relative’s agenda.

William had four sons, all of whom never had children, meaning the last of Adolf Hitler’s paternal bloodline will end with them.

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Marines may expand PSYOPS with new job specialty

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
Marine Corps Information Operations Center (MCIOC), conducts training for Military Information Support Operations (MISO), at MOUT site, Quantico, Va. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexander Norred


As the Marine Corps looks to prepare for future conflicts and expand key highly skilled communities, the service will consider adding a new primary military occupational specialty: 0521, Military Information Support Operations.

A briefing document obtained by Military.com proposes expanding what is now a free, or additional MOS, into a primary MOS and increasing the total number of MISO Marines from 87 to a steady state of 322. The enlisted-only MOS would be composed chiefs of sergeants and staff sergeants, with a tapering senior enlisted leadership structure.

MISO, which has also been called psychological operations, or PSYOP, aims to influence emotions and behavior by targeted messaging and information distribution. It requires an understanding of the people and cultures with whom Marines will interact and how they are affected by various communication strategies. Humvees equipped with loudspeakers that blast messages to communities, leaflet information campaigns, and one-on-one meetings with local leaders all fall under the umbrella of MISO.

Currently, the Marine Corps deploys its small community of MISO Marines in teams of two to four aboard Marine expeditionary units and its special purpose Marine air-ground task forces for Africa and the Middle East. They also support elite operations at Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command and assist in major exercises and sometimes with larger Marine force operations.

The MISO MOS brief, prepared in October 2015 by Col. Drew Cukor, commanding officer of Marine Corps Information Operations Center in Quantico, Virginia, which contains the MISO program, notes that U.S. adversaries have seen success in exploiting the “information environment” to their own advantage.

“[Marines] may win physical battles but still lose because of failure to fight effectively in the cognitive dimension,” Cukor notes.

Creating a MISO primary MOS would allow the Corps to get more value from the investment it makes training its Marines, the brief notes. Currently, about 30 Marines a year complete a 17-week training course at Fort Bragg, N.C. at a cost of $12,000 per student, plus another $5,000 per Marine to obtain a required Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information clearance. Total training costs add up to more than $600,000, according to the brief.

However, few MISO Marines remain in the community, with 80 percent choosing to end active service following their three-year tour in the free MOS.

In an award-winning Dec. 2015 essay published by the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings Magazine, Marine Sgt. Dion Edon, a MISO Marine, said that those in his community tended to seek out other opportunities after their three-year tours because there was little incentive to stay.

“The Marine Corps loses an Army Special Operations Forces–trained Marine to the civilian contracting world, Army SOF, or the fleet, where their MISO-specific knowledge is unavailable,” he wrote. “The MISO MOS should become a primary MOS with warrant and limited-duty officer opportunities so that the Marine Corps can retain its investment in behavioral experts who can support senior-level staff with technical expertise and advice.”

Edon, who recently returned from a deployment supporting the 15th MEU as a MISO noncommissioned officer, also proposed giving MISO Marines more regionally focused and language specific training, and incorporating them further into Marine Corps planning and wargaming operations.

He quoted 15th MEU commanding officer Col. Vance Cryer, who said the addition of the MISO capability aboard the MEU had resulted in a “much more refined” approach to the integration of intelligence with operations.

“The MISO mission and support provides me [with] critical context, insight, and validation of various levels of information for use in the planning and execution phases,” Edon quotes Cryer as saying in the essay. “As a key part of a networked organization, it provides timely, value-added tools that enable asymmetric advantages to the MEU or MAGTF level of operations.”

Expanding the community would also better allow MISO Marines to meet high operational demand and increase the number of MISO personnel available to serve within each Marine expeditionary force and at MARSOC, Cukor’s brief shows.

Officials with Marine Corps Information Operations Center declined requests for an interview because the plans were pre-decisional.

But the deputy commandant of Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Lt. Gen. Mark Brilakis, told Military.com that preliminary decisions could be made as soon as this fall regarding how to develop the MISO community.

“In MISO, within those specialties and capabilities, I think those are some of the things that we’re going to be wrestling with to determine whether or not the Marine Corps needs more structure, whether it becomes a primary MOS, whether it becomes an expanded MOS, or whether it becomes a series of MOSs, depending upon the specific specialties,” he said. “So if individuals are interested in MISO and expanded realm of information operations, etcetera, then they should stand by, because I think more will come out of this.”

He noted that Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has directed Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, to conduct a study that defines where the Marine Corps needs to be in 2025 and whether the force is properly organized to address future challenges.

“One of the larger discussion areas is in cyber, information, deception, psychological operations, where is the Marine Corps with those capabilities, that structure, that capability inside the force,” he said. “So there will be a fairly robust discussion about where we sit today, and where we may want to go tomorrow.”

Brilakis declined to speculate whether the Corps could add even more MOSs, but said many decisions had yet to be made.

This push for a MISO primary MOS comes as Neller pushes to expand certain Marine Corps communities, including information and cyber warfare. He told an Atlantic Council audience in February that the Corps had two options in light of this objective: to ask for an end strength increase, or to restructure, perhaps shrinking other communities such as infantry, to realize growth in others.

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7 life lessons we learned from the grunts in ‘Platoon’

With so many war movies out there to choose from, not many come from the direct perspective of a man who personally lived through the hell that was Vietnam.


Critically acclaimed writer-director Oliver Stone (an Army veteran) took audiences into the highly political time in American history where the war efforts of our service men and women were predominantly overlooked as they returned home.

The son of a successful stockbroker, Stone dropped out of Yale in the 60s and joined the Army, becoming one of the first American troops to arrive in Vietnam.

Related: 7 life lessons we learned from watching ‘Full Metal Jacket’

Here’s what he taught us:

1. Respect is only earned, never issued.

Chris Taylor, played by Charlie Sheen, just landed in the “Nam” with a fresh shave and a stainless uniform. Before saying a word to anyone, he was automatically picked apart by war-harden soldiers passing by.

In war and in life, it doesn’t matter how you start the game — it’s how you finish it.

“Welcome to the suck, boot.” (Image via Giphy)

2. You have to keep up

Being in the infantry is one of the toughest and most dangerous jobs ever. You don’t have to be the strongest or the fastest, but you need to pull your own weight…literally.

Move it! Move it!  Move it! (Image via Giphy)

3. Staying positive

In the eyes of a “newbie,” the world can seem and feel like one big sh*t show — especially if you’re burning a barrel of sh*t with diesel fuel.

Finding new ways to approach a bad situation can boost morale — especially when you have a lot of time left in the bush.

Negativity can get you hurt, positivity can get you through it. (Image via Giphy)

4. We’re all the same

Regardless of what your race, religion, or education level — when it comes down to being a soldier in a dangerous combat zone, none of those aspects means a thing.

Preach! (image via Giphy)

5. Never quit

Sgt. Elias, by played Willem Dafoe, was intentionally left behind by Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger) with the hope the V.C. would kill him off.

Although Elias struggled to stay in the fight, after taking several AK-47’s rounds, he showed the world he’s truly a warrior.

His back must have been killing him. (Image via Giphy)

6. War changes a man

The bright-eyed bushy-tailed boy that showed up in the beginning isn’t the thousand yard staring man who stands in front of you now.

Kill! (image via Giphy)

Also Read: 7 life lessons we learned from Gunny Highway in ‘Heartbreak Ridge’

7. Brotherhood

When you break into the circle of brotherhood, there’s no better feeling.

Safe travels. (Image via Giphy)To all of our Vietnam war veterans, everyone at We Are The Mighty salutes you.

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That time Ohio and Michigan sparked an angry border war

Forget Texas and Oklahoma, Alabama’s internal division, or even the rivalry between the Army and the Navy academies. There’s only one state rivalry that ever erupted into armed conflict: the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry.


The reason? Toledo.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
Go Rockets? (photo by Maryam Abdulghaffar)

Admittedly, the war wasn’t over football. But after the 2016 Ohio State-Michigan game, the casual observer might believe that it was.

The spike in tensions was about not just the city of Toledo, but the entire area covered by a portion known as the Toledo Strip. In 1835, Michigan wanted to become a state but it had to settle ownership of Toledo first.

It may not be the city it once was (and the video below acknowledges that) but the strategic importance of the city meant control of the Lake Erie coastline and complete control of the Maumee River, a critical trade and transportation hub.

The Toledo War (as it came to be called) sparked more than just a long-lasting rivalry. Ohio’s importance as a swing state for Andrew Jackson’s Democrats led to political corruption that put the Toledo area in Ohio’s borders, even though Michigan was (technically) right.

At this point, it’s important to tell the reader that this author and the narrator of the video below are both Ohioans.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
President Trump, you’re next up to pay homage. (White House photo)

The “war” did turn into armed conflict, firing a total of 50 bullets and injuring one militiaman in the leg. And Jackson removed the governor of Michigan. At the time Michigan was a U.S. territory, so its governor was a Presidential appointee, which is how Jackson was able to sack him.

But while Ohio won the war for Toledo, Michigan gained its statehood AND its resource-rich upper peninsula as an extra point.

The record remained 1-1 for another 60 years when the states began to settle their scores through college football.

For more awesome, informative videos, check out KnowledgeHub’s YouTube page.
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That time the Navy considered flying Harriers off Iowa-class battleships

When you look at the Iowa-class battleships, in a way, you are looking at the ultimate in a surface combat platform. They are huge – about 45,000 tons — they carry nine 16-inch guns and have an array of other weapons, too, from Tomahawk cruise missiles to Phalanx close-in weapon systems.


9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor

Looking at them, could you imagine diluting that surface-combat firepower for some Harriers? Well, the U.S. Navy did.

According to the 13th Edition of “The Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet,” the Navy kicked around the idea of turning the Iowa and her three sisters into a combination battleship-carrier. The after turret would be removed, and the space would be turned into a flight deck. WarisBoring.com noted that the plan called for as many as 20 AV-8B Harriers to be carried on the ship.

There was also a consideration for adding vertical launch systems for Tomahawks and Standard surface-to-air missiles.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
USS Wisconsin fires her main battery during Desert Storm. (US Navy photo)

It wasn’t as if the battleships hadn’t operated planes before, as in World War II the battleships operated floatplanes – usually for gunfire spotting. The Iowas kept their planes in an on-board hanger in the aft section of the ship.

That section was later used to land helicopters when they were in service during the 1980s. The New Jersey even operated a UCAV, the QH-50 Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter, while blasting Viet Cong and North Vietnamese positions during her one deployment in the Vietnam War.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
Photo by Cpl. Garry J. Welch/U.S. Marine Corps

That said, the project never went forward. One big reason was at the end of the Cold War, the Iowa-class ships were quick to go on the chopping block — even as the USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin provided outstanding fire support to the Marines during Operation Desert Storm.

Another can be ascribed to history. Late in World War II, Japan was desperate for carriers. And when they tried to convert the battleships Ise and Hyuga to carrier, the effort wasn’t successful.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
HIJMS Ise – a failed battleship/carrier hybrid. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

It is open to debate whether 20 Harriers would have been a fair trade for a third of an Iowa’s 16-inch firepower. What isn’t open for debate is that the Iowa-class fast battleship has never truly been replaced a quarter-century after their decommissioning.

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The Church of Scientology has its own paramilitary Navy

Imagine a priesthood where they wear uniforms like the Navy’s, are disciplined like Marines, do as much real work to advance a mission as any nonner in the Air Force, and are worked like Army privates with none of the pay and benefits. If that sounds appealing, you’re ready for Scientology’s Sea Org, a paramilitary “fraternal organization” comprised of the most devoted Scientology has to offer.


9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
The Few. The Vowed. The Sea Org.

With a reported 6,000 members, the Sea Org is Scientology’s version of a religious order. The symbol of two palm fronds around a star is supposedly the emblem of the Galactic Confederacy seventy-five million years ago. Led by the space lord Xenu, the Galactic Confederacy killed a bunch of people with hydrogen bombs in a volcano. Or something. Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but so do a lot of religions if you think about it. We’re not here to make fun of religion, we’re here to talk about this particular one’s Xenu-damned Navy.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
And before the commenters start in on me for not believing the same things they do, lets get some perspective.

Origin Story

Where would any service be without its creation story? The wild blue yonder, the halls of Montezuma, Valley Forge, Custer’s Ranks, Last night on shore, drinking to the foam and all that. No service is complete without its mythology. Keep in mind, the Sea Org is only twenty years younger than the Air Force and probably richer, since Scientology isn’t developing a trillion dollar fighter that ignites on takeoff.

The Sea Org began in 1967 when founder L. Ron Hubbard (or LRH to his followers), science fiction writer and Navy veteran (like his father) who served during World War II, launched his own private naval force and declared himself commodore. The Church of Scientology was founded just 13 years prior, and Hubbard staffed his ships with volunteer Scientologists, reportedly looking for buried treasure from one of LRH’s previous lifetimes.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
Physical fitness was clearly not a central tenet of his new Navy.

Scientology defector Janis Grady, a former Sea Org member, told the New Yorker, “I was on the bridge with him, sailing past Greek islands. There were crosses lining one island. He told me that under each cross is buried treasure.” Hubbard commanded four ships, the Diana, Athena, Apollo, and Excalibur for eight years, cruising the Mediterranean, either existing on a diet of a lot of drugs, evading UK taxes, or looking for a safe haven for his beliefs, depending on who you ask.

Recruiting

The Sea Org actively seeks young, able-bodied individuals to fill its ranks. In her book Troublemaker, actress Leah Remini, who was born into Scientology, notes she was recruited into the Sea Org at age thirteen. According to Remini, Scientologists consider minors to be spiritual beings responsible for their own condition in life and can make decisions for themselves. As a result, many don’t go to traditional schools and instead attend Scientology schools. This might not be so bad, if a Sea Org member could retire after doing their twenty, but they don’t. Ever. Retire at all.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
999,999,983 years and a wake up!

Sea Org members don’t do just twenty years. Remember how incensed some people in basic training were complaining how their recruiters lied to them? Sea Org recruiters at least have the decency to tell you the truth when you sign a billion-year enlistment contract. Since Sea Org members are expected to reincarnate, they owe all their next lives to the Sea Org for the next billion years. Way to Blue Falcon your future selves. I hope the reenlistment bonus is worth it.

Basic Training

Trainees are sent to the Estates Project Force, or EPF, at a dumpy motel in Clearwater, Florida (called “Flag”), doing 12 hours of manual labor a day and two and a half hours of Scientology study until they complete the courses. They eat rice and beans or liquid eggs every day.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
How’s that chow sound now, trainee?

Leah Remini recalled having to steal food because she wasn’t fed enough. Twenty years later, she would admit it in a “transgression session” (which is way less fun than it sounds), and was voluntold to repay three months of custard and hamburgers to the tune of $40,000 so she could level up. So just like Uncle Sam, when you owe Scientology, they take what you owe them without mercy. It’s called a “Freeloader’s Debt.” Nothing beats a Leave and Earnings Statement (or LES — a military pay stub) with fifty cents on it.

Imagine spending three months cleaning and managing a Days Inn you don’t own with people you hate while going to night school the rest of the time and being forced to do things like “scrubbing a dumpster with a toothbrush till late at night,” then “getting up at six to do laundry.”

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
Dumpsters? That sounds so hard.

With the exception of Sea Org pay being a far cry from E-1 pay (around $50 a week), Sea Org basic training may still sound a little familiar, except it sometimes never ends. One defector describes the order as “pseduo-military butlers.

But seriously, the only reason it isn’t slavery is because they volunteered. For a billion years. The good news is there are plenty of ranks to move up to. It’s unclear just how one moves up in rank, except for the obvious Scientology method of paying a ton of money for the privilege.

Culture

Remini, like many others, say they joined the Sea Org to help “clear the planet.” Or save the world. They’re young and idealistic. They believe LRH has secrets to save the world and the Sea Org is central to those secrets and they really want to help you. They come in to the Sea Org and start learning right away. Unlike the real Navy, no one ever gets to become a “salty” NCO.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
But if the Sea Org has “boot as f*ck” recruits, this is one of them.

Since members of the Sea Org get very little in the way of education and are entirely devoted to the Church and its functions, those who leave (or “blow”) find themselves unable to manage even the most basic of adult tasks, like keeping a job or paying their bills. Many have little to no formal education or skills with which to get a job in the first place.

In her book, Remini reminisced about playing pranks on other Sea Org members. I wonder if they ever sent a recruit out to get a box of grid squares, to get some prop wash, or to find Shelly Miscavige.

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They’re fighting for A SANE PLANET, PEOPLE

Sea Org Members are not allowed to have premarital sex. They can marry but if they want to have kids, they have to leave the Sea Org, because if LRH wanted you to have a family, he would have issued you one.

They have medals

In 2004, Tom Cruise was awarded the Freedom Medal of Valor, which sounds stupid the first time you hear it. And also the second.

They have their own slang and acronyms

Scientology doesn’t have POGs, but they have their own version of it. According to Remini, Tom Cruise was once served a chipped tea cup. His response: “‘You served me tea in a chipped mug? Do you know who gets served with a mug that’s chipped? F*cking DBs.” DB, in Scientology parlance, means Degraded Being, Someone so infested with Body Thetans, evil spirits, as to be unauditable or insane.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor

Cruise’s ex-wife Nicole Kidman, and now Remini, along with many others, and probably myself now too, are called SPs, or Suppressive Persons, which is funny because in the actual military, if being openly hostile to the service or to the people with whom you serve gets you declared a social outcast, then everyone in the military would have to ignore each other for the next billion years.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
This is how they see themselves. (In a weird way, you have to respect the only guy who decided to wear enlisted stripes in the back row, all the way to the right.)

The Sea Org developed its own acronyms over the years, you know, to keep things simple. There are thing like: KSW – Keeping Scientology Working, LRH – L. Ron Hubbard, PTS – Potential Trouble Source, COB – Chairman of the Board (David Miscavige), RPF – Rehabilitation Project Force, MAA – Master at Arms, etc.

For example, if an EPF member messes up bad enough, the MAA will send them to RPF, where they’ll do MEST (Matter, Energy, Space, and Time) work. Did you find that sentence confusing? That’s what you sound like to civilians.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
The RPF  is a punitive re-education camp for spiritual rehabilitation. Like cleaning grease traps. Hallelujah!

The Fleet

The only ship left in Scientology’s fleet is the Freewinds, an asbestos-ridden heap anchored at Curacao, causing irreparable environmental damage. Unfortunately for the locals there, the Freewinds is the only place a Scientologist can learn Operating Thetan Level VIII, the highest operating level. This is where you can reportedly drop thoughts into people’s heads and talk to plants and animals.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor

It turns out most of the modern Sea Org doesn’t even serve on the ocean. When researching their training regimen, “sailing” or “seamanship” or “ships” never really came up. The only time “water” appears is when the Sea Org is trying to discipline people, they throw them into the ocean. That’s esprit de corps right there.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
Maverick sure can render a salute though.

So, potential Sea Org cadet, until we meet once more, here’s wishing you a happy voyage home… Now go clean my toilet and get me a new coffee mug, you f*cking DB, before I have you sent to Gold Base so fast you’ll wish the COB would just RPF you to death.

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This veteran is restoring the same helicopter he flew in Vietnam

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7 canceled weapons that you’ll wish were standard issue

Thousands of whiteboards owned by inventors and military contractors around the world contain designs for military technologies that could change the way that battles are fought if they’d ever see active service.


But as the U.S. military learns time and time again, these weapons don’t always work as well as hoped. Here are seven designs that would be awesome to fly, ride, or carry into battle if designers had just been able to work the kinks out:

1. XM29

 

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(Photo: U.S. Army)

While the M4 and M16 are fine weapons, the Army has tried to replace it a few times. Its sexiest candidate was definitely the Objective Individual Combat Weapon, a rifle and airburst grenade launcher hybrid that could be fired around corners. The airburst rounds were programmed to fly customized distances before exploding.

But high costs and weight problems kept the weapon from reaching its potential.

2. XM25

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(Photo: U.S. Army)

When the XM29 was canceled, its airburst grenade technology was split off as its own weapon with 25mm rounds in the XM25. The new weapon even saw combat tests in Afghanistan, but a malfunction that resulted in injury in 2013 caused the grenade launcher to be pulled from theater.

The XM25 is technically still in testing, but the program has been basically shuttered since the safety incidents. A recent inspector general report urged the Army to come to a final decision soon and said that the funds required for the XM25 could be put to better use if the program is canceled.

Would’ve been nice to fire airburst rounds though.

3. Comanche

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A RAH-66 Comanche prototype flies with an AH-64 Apache. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The Comanche was supposed to be the attack/reconnaissance helicopter to rule them all. It was quiet, featured incorporated stealth technologies, and carried a 20mm machine gun and Hellfire and Stinger missiles.

But the development process dragged on for far too long. A 1991 contract netted two prototypes in 2004, by which time the Army had put stealth helicopters on the back shelf while they hunted insurgents.

4. Arapaho

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(Photo: U.S. Army Office of the Chief of Public Affairs)

The ARH-70A Arapaho was supposed to replace the Kiowa in the reconnaissance business after the Comanche was canceled. It was a Bell 407 helicopter with a stronger engine, weapons, and sensors added. They could have been rapidly deployed around the world with two fitting aboard a C-130H Hercules transport.

And their high maneuverability would have allowed them to fly through cities and hover near buildings.

Unfortunately, the militarization of the 407 was not as smooth as anticipated. Delays and cost overruns got the program put on ice for a few months in 2007 and formally canceled in 2008.

5. Airborne Laser

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
The YAL Airborne Laser Testbed’s turret assembly. (Photo: YouTube)

The Airborne Laser was supposed to be the ultimate ballistic missile destroyer. It would fly over or near enemy territory watching for enemy ballistic missile launches. When one took off and entered the boost phase, the plane would fire three lasers. Two were for acquiring and tracking the target and the third would punch through the missile’s body and blow it up.

But the laser had a limited range and loitering capability, meaning that planes would have to spend a lot of their time flying within an enemies’ borders to actually have a shot at the missiles. Luckily, this program could get revived using a new kind of laser and flying on high-altitude, stealthy drones.

6. Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle

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(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle provided better range, better speed, and better armor than the AAV-7 Amphibious Assault Vehicle it was meant to replace. It featured two 30mm cannons and was propelled through water with jets and it operated on land using its treads.

The EFV suffered some small setbacks during testing and development and then fell victim to budget cuts across the Department of Defense in 2011. The Marine Corps has wrestled with how to best move supplies and Marines from the ships to the shore since then.

7. SL-AMRAAM

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An AMRAAM-Extended Range missile is fired from a NASAMS launcher. The missile successfully engaged and destroyed a target drone during a flight test at the Andoya Space Center in Norway. (Photo: courtesy Raytheon Company)

The Surfaced-Launched Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile would have been the Army’s premiere system for defending troops from cruise missiles, helicopters, many jets, and other low and mid-altitude aerial threats. It featured a proven Air Force missile, the AIM-120C-7, originally designed for air-to-air battles.

Norway and Spain field the SL-AMRAAM under the name NASAMS, but the U.S. Army pulled out of the program in an effort to save money and invest in counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar systems instead. Some NASAMS are in U.S. service defending Washington D.C. from cruise missile attack.

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These are the worst military decisions of each US President in one sentence

No President is 100 percent flawless in any aspect of their presidency. Even former generals can make bad calls when it comes to being the Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces. And even though their military decisions may look good at the time, history could judge the president for not having the vision to nip potential trouble spots in the bud.


1 – George Washington

His attack on the British at Long Island came while they were at their strongest and most well-armed.

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2 – John Adams

With the Alien and Sedition Acts, Adams infringed on the very rights he and the other founding fathers just finished fighting for.

3 – Thomas Jefferson

His appointment of Commodore William Bainbridge to command the Philadelphia led to the capture and enslavement of the ship’s crew.

4 – James Madison

He vastly overestimated the United States’ ability to wage war, and when U.S. troops burned York (present day Toronto), he opened the door to the burning of Washington.

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5 – James Monroe

Monroe sent Andrew Jackson to invade Spanish Florida and attack the hostile natives there, despite not being at war with Spain.

6 – John Quincy Adams

Rather than build up the Navy to project U.S. power and protect American interests, he just did nothing.

7 – Andrew Jackson

Jackson began the systematic removal of natives from American territory, while neglecting the Navy.

8 – Martin Van Buren

Van Buren continued Jackson’s anti-Native policy while continuing to neglect the U.S. Navy

9 – William Henry Harrison

Harrison died thirty days into his presidency — before he could even make a military decision.

10 – John Tyler

Built the world’s largest naval cannon, which exploded during a demonstration.

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It’s not polite to stare!

11 – James K. Polk

Micromanaging the war with Mexico took its toll on his health and eventually killed him.

12 – Zachary Taylor

He ate cholera-ridden ice milk and cherries.

13 – Milliard Fillmore

Fillmore’s worst call was not invading Cuba, despite the constant headaches it posed then and in the future.

14 – Franklin Pierce

Pierce let Kansas decide if it would be a free or slave state, which led to Kansas being flooded with zealots from both sides, who promptly killed each other.

15 – James Buchanan

He left the secession crisis for Lincoln.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
James Buchanan: No f*cks given.

16 – Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln kept McClellan in command of the Union Army for way too long.

17 – Andrew Johnson

Instead of fulfilling the vision of Abraham Lincoln’s Reconstruction, Johnson used federal forces to punish the South.

18 – Ulysses S. Grant

The former Union general worried about being perceived as a dictator, but he still used the military to enforce laws in the South.

19 – Rutherford B. Hayes

Hayes used the Army to break up workers strikes in nonessential industries, which was especially violent in Pittsburgh.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor

20 – James. A. Garfield

James Garfield’s biggest mistake was foregoing a security detail (he was assassinated).

21 – Chester A. Arthur

Arthur hired political cronies to overhaul the Navy, which angered Congress, who withheld much of the funds.

22 – Grover Cleveland

Cleveland vetoed pensions for Civil War veterans.

23 – Benjamin Harrison

Harrison ordered the Massacre at Wounded Knee.

24 – Grover Cleveland

Cleveland broke up a rail workers strike with the Army because he wanted them to deliver the mail.

25 – William McKinley

Instead of giving the Philippines its independence, he subjugated the population.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
They’ll love being American!

26 – Theodore Roosevelt

The man’s been dead for almost a hundred years and I’m still afraid to criticize him (no comment).

27 – William Howard Taft

Taft kept U.S. troops as occupiers of Latin American countries, sowing mistrust and discord in the Western Hemisphere that continues to this day.

28 – Woodrow Wilson

Wilson was more concerned with his Fourteen Point peace plan than noticing Germany was being beaten up in the WWI armistice, one of the major causes of World War II.

29 – Warren G. Harding

Harding removed U.S. troops from Cuba instead of annexing it, which would give the U.S. a lot of trouble in the coming decades.

30 – Calvin Coolidge

Silent Cal neglected to maintain the Navy because World War I was over.

31 – Herbert Hoover

Hoover ordered a young General MacArthur to disperse the Bonus Army by force.

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32 – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Roosevelt put a lot of misplaced trust in Stalin, who promptly used that trust against the U.S.

33 – Harry S. Truman

Truman thought the Chinese wouldn’t intervene in the Korean War even if MacArthur conquered the entire peninsula.

34 – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Ordered the CIA to overthrow Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran and put the Shah back in power.

35 – John F. Kennedy

Kennedy greenlit the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and then neglected to give them air support.

9 American heroes who received France’s Legion of Honor
Well, we were done with it, no matter what happened.

36 – Lyndon B. Johnson

LBJ escalated what was a civil war into a grand international conflict because he could only see Communists and didn’t understand Vietnam was fighting more for its independence from outside domination.

37 – Richard Nixon

Nixon’s scheme to get the country out of the Vietnam War started with bombing and then invading Cambodia.

38 – Gerald Ford

Ford ordered Marines back to Indochina to rescue hostages on a mission that ended with a 41 percent casualty rate, adding to the Vietnam War dead even though the war had been over for 2 years.

39 – Jimmy Carter

Carter ordered the all-too-complex Operation Eagle Claw to get hostages out of Iran, which ended disasterously.

40 – Ronald Reagan

Sent Marines to Beirut as peacekeepers, even though half the Lebanese factions fighting there were allied with Iran and lost 241 troops in a barracks bombing in 1983.

41 – George H.W. Bush

Bush’s invasion of Panama, while one of the most successful military operations in U.S. history, took a large toll on the civilian population and infrastructure.

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Related: 21 Facts about the First Gulf War

42 – Bill Clinton

Instead of bombing Osama bin Laden, he bombed a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan.

43 – George W. Bush

“Mission Accomplished.”

44 – Barack Obama

Obama drew a “red line” for Bashar al-Asad of Syria to keep him from using chemical weapons, then didn’t do anything when Asad used the weapons.

 

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6 times America went to war since 9/11

The Trump administration opened a new military front April 6 when it ordered dozens of cruise missiles against a Syrian air base, adding to a growing list of recent U.S. military forays.


A look at where the United States has fought in the 21st century:

1. Afghanistan

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U.S. Special Operations personnel take cover to avoid flying debris as they prepare to board a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during a mission in Kunar province, Afghanistan, on Feb. 25, 2012. (Dept. of Defense photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Clayton Weiss, U.S. Navy)

After al-Qaida attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. led an invasion of Afghanistan that ousted the Taliban. Though the U.S. and NATO formally ended their combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, the war — now in its 16th year — drags on.

Some 8,400 American troops are deployed in Afghanistan, where they train the country’s military and perform counterterrorism operations.

2. Iraq

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An M2A2 Bradley in action during a mission in Iraq. (U.S. Air Force)

Under President George W. Bush, the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 and toppled Saddam Hussein. Bush’s successor, President Barack Obama, pulled U.S. troops out of Iraq in 2011 after failing to reach an agreement with Baghdad to leave a residual U.S. force behind.

But the U.S. sent troops back three years later after the Islamic State group, a successor to al-Qaida in Iraq, seized Iraqi territory and sought to declare an Islamic caliphate.

3. Drone Wars

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Predator drone strike.

Under Obama, the U.S. dramatically increased the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, to launch counterterrorism strikes without the need for a large U.S. military presence on the ground. The CIA and Defense Department have launched strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, some of them covert.

Intense criticism from civil liberties advocates led Obama to create legal parameters for drone use that he hoped future presidents would respect. At least 117 civilians were killed from 2009 to 2016 by drone strikes outside of traditional warzones, the U.S. intelligence community has said. Other estimates place the toll higher.

4. Libya

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A quick reaction force with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response prepares to depart Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, in support of a military assisted departure from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Maida Kalic)

The U.S. and European allies launched an air campaign in Libya in 2011, aiming to prevent atrocities by strongman Moammar Gadhafi against Arab Spring-inspired opponents. The bombing campaign toppled Gadhafi, but Libya slid into chaos and infighting. The Islamic State group later gained a foothold.

The U.S. has continued to carry out airstrikes in Libya that Washington says has diminished the number of IS extremists operating there.

5. Islamic State Group in Iraq and Syria

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U.S. Marines with Task Force Spartan, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), on Fire Base Bell, Iraq, fire an M777A2 Howitzer at an ISIS infiltration route March 18, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis)

After IS captured a wide swath of Iraq and Syria in 2014, Obama announced the U.S. could target the group “wherever they are.”

The U.S. started sending small numbers of military advisers to help Iraq’s weakened military fight IS. The number has crept up to around 7,500 U.S. troops. IS has lost much of its former territory.

In Syria, the U.S. has conducted airstrikes against IS since 2014. More recently, the U.S. has dispatched growing numbers of special operations forces to assist Kurdish and Arab forces fighting IS. Roughly 500 U.S. fighters are in Syria, plus additional, “temporary” forces that rotate through.

6. Syria

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The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) is one of the two warships to fire 59 BGM-109 Tomahawks at the Syrian airfield on April 6, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo)

Even while fighting IS in Syria, the U.S. has avoided wading into Syria’s civil war by directly confronting Syrian President Bashar Assad — until now. On April 6, U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea launched some 60 Tomahawk missiles at an air base in response to a chemical weapons attack blamed on Assad’s forces.

The strikes mark the first direct U.S. attack on Syria’s government, which has waged a six-year civil war against opposition groups. It also puts the U.S. into a de facto proxy battle with Russia’s military, which is on the ground in Syria and has propped up Assad.