The Army and Air Force once conducted an air-to-air combat experiment between jet fighters and attack helicopters. Called J-CATCH, or Joint Countering Attack Helicopter, it was not the first of its kind but the most conclusive using modern technology.
The results showed attack helicopters proved remarkably deadly when properly employed against fighter aircraft. And it wasn’t even close.
First conducted by the Army using MASH Sikorsky H-19s, airframes developed in the 40s and 50s, the modern J-CATCH test started in 1978, as the Soviet Union expanded their helicopter forces. Of special concern was the development of the Mil Mi-24 or Hind helicopter gunship. The four phase J-CATCH experiment started in earnest with the Army, Marines, and Air Force participating in simulations at NASA’s Langley labs.
The second phase was a field test, pitting three AH-1 Cobras and two OH-58 Scouts against a Red Team force of UH-1 Twin Hueys and CH-3E Sea King helicopters and developed many new helicopter air-to-air tactics and maneuvers designed to counter the Russian Hind.
Phase Three is where the fighters came in. The Air Force chose F-4, A-7, A-10, and F-15 fighter aircraft to counter whatever the Army could muster in the exercise. The F-4 and F-15 were front line fighters with anti-air roles while the A-7 and A-10 had air-to-ground missions.
For two weeks, the helicopters trounced the fighter aircraft. The fighter pilots in the test runs sometimes didn’t even know they were under attack or destroyed until the exercise’s daily debriefing. The Army pilots were so good, they had to be ordered to follow Air Force procedures and tell their fixed-wing targets they were under attack over the radio. This only increased the kill ratio, which by the end of the exercise, had risen to 5-to-1 in favor of the helicopters.
The fourth phase of the exercise saw the final outcome of the test: fighters should avoid helicopters at all costs, unless they have superiority of distance or altitude.
America has fought in a lot of wars so it can be hard to keep track of all of them. As a quick reference guide, here is every American war, each captured in a single tidy sentence.
American Revolution: The Colonials hated King George and his taxes on tea and so fought to be ruled by President George instead.
Whiskey Rebellion: Americans hated President George and his taxes on whiskey, but Washington won a bloodless victory and kept his tax.
Quasi-War: America didn’t want to pay debts owed to France, so France started stealing ships, America recreated its Navy, and everybody fought until they realized the war was costing everyone more money than anyone was making in profit.
Barbary Wars: Americans fought two wars to navigate the waters north of Africa freely, losing the first and winning the second.
War of 1812: Mad about the British restricting American trade and capturing U.S. sailors, America declared war, lost much of her merchant fleet, watched the White House burn down, and then got what they wanted in the peace treaty anyway.
Mexican-American War: President Polk wanted to double the size of the country, so he picked a fight with Mexico and captured land from Texas to the Pacific.
Utah War: The Army made a show of force, the Mormons massacred a bunch of people, and everyone agreed to replace the Mormon Utah governor with a non-Mormon and forget the whole thing.
Indian Wars: The Native Americans owned land the settlers wanted so brief skirmishes led to full wars where Federal troops used biological warfare and everything ended badly for the Native Americans.
Civil War: The South wanted to keep their slaves and the North wanted to send them to Africa, so everyone fought a war and the South lost.
Spanish-American War: A battleship blew up in Havana and a pissed off America invaded Spanish territory in Cuba and won itself a small overseas empire.
Philippine-American War: The Philippines were violently opposed to becoming an American territory, so America killed the Filipinos until they changed their mind.
Border War: A Mexican revolution kept spilling over into America, so Gen. Pershing chased Pancho Villa and the U.S. garrisoned troops along the border.
Banana Wars: American fruit producers supported insurrections throughout Central and South America and U.S. troops backed them up when necessary to protect business interests.
World War I: After European nations fought each other for three years, America showed up, killed the survivors, and declared itself the champion of the world.
World War II: The Allies used American manufacturing, British technology, and Russian numbers to defeat the fascists and America began the Nuclear Age by obliterating two cities with atomic bombs.
Korean War: A communist government backed by the Soviet Union and China fought a democratic government backed by the U.S. and others in clashes up and down the peninsula for over three years before settling on a border in roughly the same spot as when the war began.
Dominican Civil War: America participated in another country’s civil war off and on for nearly 50 years.
Vietnam War: An armed resistance to French rule turned into a proxy war of America vs. China and Russia that some Americans still don’t admit they lost despite Vietnam now being a single communist state.
Grenada: America jumped into another country’s civil war and declared itself the winner, maybe or maybe not saving the lives of some American medical students studying there.
Panama: Panama’s civil war threatened American forces and the Panama canal, so after a Marine lieutenant was killed America invaded, dismantled the ruling government, and captured the dictator in under three weeks.
Gulf War: An anti-American, oil-rich dictator invaded the land of a Pro-American, oil-rich monarch, so America led a massive air assault followed by a ground invasion that destroyed the world’s fourth largest army in 100 hours.
Somali Civil War: America joined a peacekeeping force to try to curb clan warfare but left amid mounting casualties.
Bosnian Civil War: America joined a peacekeeping force that successfully curbed ethnic fighting in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Kosovo War: America joins an ultimately successful peacekeeping effort aimed at reducing ethnic fighting in Kosovo and demilitarizing a terrorist group in the country.
War on Terror: After suffering the worst single terror attack in history, America declared war on terrorism and has been fighting ever since, most prominently in Iraq and Afghanistan but also in smaller conflicts throughout Africa, the Middle East, and southern Asia.
White phosphorous, often known by the nickname “Willie Pete,” is possibly one of the oddest and most controversial weapons on military frontlines, including in American units. Its use as a chemical weapon is banned, but its use as an incendiary weapon is simply limited, and use as a signaling device is fine.
U.S. Air Force drops a white phosphorous bomb on a Viet Cong position in 1966.
(U.S. Air Force)
First, let’s look at why some weapons are illegal, especially chemical weapons. Chemical weapons work by interrupting human processes, some via very gruesome means. Mustard gas causes extreme respiratory irritation, sometimes to the point that those hit by it will develop fatal lung infections. Sarin gas can cause muscle convulsions, paralysis, and respiratory arrest. Both can permanently disfigure people.
In other words, gruesome ways to be wounded or killed.
As a chemical weapon, phosphorous can be released as a gas that is breathed in by the enemy, burning the insides of their lungs and killing them by cooking them from the inside out. Or, it can be introduced into enemy water supplies to poison them. It’s illegal to use phosphorous in either of these ways.
But phosphorous is a peculiar beast because, while there are no legally accepted military uses for sarin or mustard gas, there are accepted uses of white phosphorous, because it can also burn people externally or its white smoke can be used to screen troop movements or mark battlefield locations.
The chemical burns at about 86 degrees Fahrenheit. And, when burning, phosphorous emits 5,000 degrees of heat. So, it can spontaneously combust on a warm day, and it can easily sustain its own reaction once it gets going. If it’s cold outside, then even a small charge in an artillery shell can ignite the reaction.
Once it’s burning, phosphorous emits clouds of thick smoke. For infantry and other maneuver troops attacking an enemy position, that means phosphorous smoke can block the view of defenders trying to kill them. This use of phosphorous is completely legal. It can also be used to mark enemy positions which, again, is completely legal.
Shells from M777A2 155mm Howitzer cannons rain white phosphorous on a target during a four-day, live-fire exercise following the conclusion of Talisman Saber 13 in Australia on Aug 3, 2013.
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Paul Robbins Jr.)
But if you release still-burning phosphorous into the air and get that onto people, then it’s extremely dangerous. Phosphorous, again, will continue burning as long as it’s exposed to oxygen and above 86 degrees. So, if a chunk lands on a person’s shoulder, it will stay above 86 degrees and will keep releasing 5,000 degrees of heat until it runs out of fuel or is drowned in water or mud.
But even drowning phosphorous won’t work long-term in human skin, because it will re-ignite from the body heat the moment the water stops flowing. So, in Vietnam, American troops learned to cut the chunks of phosphorous out with knives if any friendlies were hit.
This use of phosphorous is legal, as long as the shooter takes “care” to prevent exposing civilians to the weapon.
And this is the thing that some groups will point to as insane. If it’s illegal to use it as a chemical weapon, how can you use the chemical as a weapon without it being a chemical weapon?
Well, first, everything is a chemical, and pretty much all weapons that aren’t iron or stone rely on chemical reactions of some kind. Bombs are explosive chemical reactions. Napalm and other incendiary weapons rely on chemical reactions that release a lot of heat, burning the flesh of enemy troops. It’s not a chemical reaction that is banned, or the release of heat. Chemical weapon laws really only apply to those weapons which directly interact with the target’s cells.
But heating the cells up, as you would with napalm, is legal.
And that’s how white phosphorous, as an incendiary weapon, works. It’s stored safely encased, then fired against an enemy, exposing it to the air and igniting it in the process. Once the burning phosphorous hits enemy troops, it sears them. A World War II test of phosphorous smoke screens found that, when fired against mock German defenders, the smoke screen would kill or seriously wound 40 percent of the defenders before the U.S. infantry arrived to fight them.
War Dept Film Bulletin 55 White Phosphorus VS High Explosive 1943 (full)
War Dept Film Bulletin 55 White Phosphorus VS High Explosive 1943 (full)
And that’s why, as long as the weapon is legal in any context, there will be an incentive for commanders to use it. Without overhead cover, 40 percent of the defenders could be knocked out by the smoke screen. By the smoke screen. High explosive mortar rounds used in the same World War II test generated only 24 percent casualties.
Remember, the point of war is to force an enemy into submission to achieve some political goal. It’s gruesome, but it always includes humans killing humans, and explosions and burning are accepted methods of killing each other in war.
And so, the question that will confront investigators looking into Israel’s actions will be, “How was the weapon used? And did it cause undue damage to civilians?” Those are the same questions they would have to look at if a bomb was dropped on a church or hospital.
Was this a valid military act, or maybe a valid act that went awry? Or was a commander deliberately harming civilians?
Twentynine Palms, Camp Lejeune, and Quantico are just a few of the Marine Corps bases that house those who’ve earned the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor. Although the various duty stations each offer their own benefits, none compare to the awesomeness that is Camp Pendleton.
In 1942, the government purchased land in Southern California from a private owner for $4,239,062. The property was soon named in honor of Maj. Gen. Joseph H. Pendleton for his outstanding service, thus creating Camp Pendleton. Some might tell you there are downsides to be stationed there, but, in general, it’s considered the best. Here’s why.
The Marine Corps Exchange located on the main side of the base. If you can’t find what you’re looking for here, it’s not Marine Corps-quality.
It has everything you need
Shopping, recreation centers, and schools are just a few amenities that make the historic property a full-scale, working city. The Camp has been designed and developed to fulfill the every need of those stationed within the gates.
There’re so many activities
The San Diego Zoo, Sea World, and Universal Studios are just a few of the places you can take your family to visit on a sunny afternoon. The drives will take you typically take around an hour or so, depending on traffic, but since you live so close, you don’t have to spend money on a hotel room — which makes sh*t cheaper.
Visit Camp Pendleton today and notice there’s not a cloud in f*cking skies!
(Photo by Marine Sgt. April L. Price)
That SoCal weather
Do you like doing PT in the pouring rain? Well, if you do, Camp Pendleton isn’t the place for you. According to U.S. Climate data, Camp Pendleton receives an average of 13.3 inches of rain per year. Compare that to the national average of 32.25 inches.
Camp Pendleton is starting to sound pretty impressive, isn’t it?
Members of the Western Army Infantry Regiment, Japan Ground Self Defense Force, and Marines with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit play a game of football on the Del Mar Beach at the conclusion of Exercise Iron Fist 2013
(Photo by Sgt. Christopher O’Quin)
It has its own beach
The beach in Del Mar has places where you can camp or rent small cottages for a few days. These private areas can get you close to the ocean enough to hear waves crash onto the shoreline while keeping you near enough to the base to hear the Marines call out their famous and well-rehearsed cadences as they run by.
For the first time since 2011, the world has spent more on troops and weapons than in the previous year, according to new data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
The researchers estimate that countries spent $1.676 trillion on their militaries in 2015, a one-percent increase over 2014. This is equivalent to around 2.3 percent of the world’s economic output.
But as is often the case with these kinds of statistics, the details are actually more interesting than the headline figures. For starters, there are stark regional differences. Only Eastern Europe and Asia and Oceania boosted their spending. The rest of the world spent less — a lot less.
Africa reduced its spending by 5.3 percent, the first reduction in 11 years. But a closer look at the data makes clear that the continent’s governments haven’t suddenly become radical pacifists. Instead, all North African countries with the exception of Morocco actually increased military spending at rates comparable to previous years. And in Sub-Saharan Africa, most countries stayed on their previous trajectories, as well.
The big outlier is Angola. The southern Africa country cut its military budget by a whopping 42 percent, the first real reduction since it embarked on a spending spree in 2002 after the government had regained control of all diamond mines and oil wells in the aftermath of the civil war.
Angola is still essentially a military dictatorship, so the spending cuts are not representative of a changing government doctrine. Instead, historically low oil prices have battered the heavily oil-dependent economy and government budget, making drastic cuts to military spending all but inevitable.
Some other oil-reliant governments across Africa also cut their spending, but more modestly than Angola did. This seems to indicate that these countries have either diversified their economy much better than Angola has …. or have much more pressing security concerns that make continued high spending necessary despite eventual financial collapse.
Overall, Africa spent 68 percent more on its militaries in 2015 than it did in 2006.
In South America, the situation is comparable to Africa, with Venezuela taking the role of Angola and cutting its military spending by 64 percent. Overall, South America and North America slightly decreased their spending, while Central America and the Caribbean increased spending by 3.7 percent.
Obviously, the United States is North America’s most prolific military spender — $596 billion in 2015, a 36-percent share of the whole world’s spending on troops and weapons.
This is actually more than 20 percent below America’s most recent spending peak in 2010, a result of troop draw-downs in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the automatic “sequestration” budget cuts.
Western and Central Europe essentially maintained their military spending, laying out 0.2 percent less than in the previous year. European spending is down 8.5 percent since 2006.
But the researchers believe that military spending could rise again in this part of the world. “For the first time since 2009, the number of countries in the subregion that increased expenditure was higher than the number of those that reduced spending.” Austerity measures are declining while the threat from terrorism — and Russia — seems to be increasing.
This brings us to the regions that have actually increased spending. All sub-regions of Asia and Oceania boosted their military budgets by at least 0.9 percent — and most individual countries did, as well.
China is obviously the most relevant in this part of the world, representing 49 percent of the regional total. Beijing boosted outlays by 7.4 percent and retained its position as the world’s second-biggest spender. The region at large increased military spending by 64 percent from 2006 to 2015, with only Fiji recording a significant decrease of 23 percent.
But no region increased spending more drastically than Eastern Europe did, at 7.5 percent, contributing to an overall 80-percent boost in military budgets over the last decade. Russia obviously drives this development, both directly by way of Moscow’s own 7.5-percent increase in spending, and indirectly by compelling neighboring countries to re-arm in order to deter Russian aggression.
Still, Russia actually lost its third place in the world rankings to Saudi Arabia. The Middle East country now spends $87.2 billion a year on its military, which actually represents only a 5.7-percent increase over 2014. Saudi Arabia placed before Russia due to the weak ruble, which made Russian military investments cheaper in dollar terms.
SIPRI’s researchers did not include estimates for the Middle East overall because too many countries in the region did not provide public military expenditure data — and independent estimates are unreliable.
Apart from Saudi Arabia, the most interesting country with sufficient data is Iraq, which stands out for its record spending increases over the last decade as it tries to rebuild its shattered armed forces. The Iraqi government increased military spending by 536 percent since 2006 and 35 percent since 2014, bringing the total in 2015 to $13.1 billion.
In contrast, Iran’s military expenditure decreasedby 30 percent since 2006, with the largest part of these cuts taking place in 2012 and 2013, after the European Union enacted economic and financial sanctions. As sanctions began to lift in January 2016, experts expect Iran’s military spending to increase in coming years.
Looking at the long-term data, military spending seems to rise and fall based more on economic cycles and long-term policy decisions than on short-term shocks and conflicts. Russia’s recent spate of foreign interventions came after Pres. Vladimir Putin boosted military spending.
Western and Central Europe seem to spend mostly in years when their overall balance sheets look good — and Saudi Arabia is decreasing its rate of spending growth despite its ongoing intervention in Yemen.
As the Navy advances plans for a 10-ship “ghost fleet,” leaders are assessing how much decision-making power to give large unmanned vessels that can operate without any humans aboard.
The Navy wants $400 million in fiscal 2020 to build two “large unmanned surface vessels.” Budget documents show service leaders plan to request $2.7 billion to build 10 of the ships over the next five years.
But with the programs still largely in the research and development phase, the plans raise questions about what the Navy is actually planning to buy, and how those ships would function in the real world. Not only is it unclear exactly what these future unmanned ships will look like, but also what capabilities they’ll have.
“Doing [research and development] and figuring out exactly the capabilities that we need, it’s critical,” James Geurts, the Navy’s assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition, recently told lawmakers. “…The real RD is in a lot of the guts: the autonomy, the decision-making, how are we going to control it, how are we going to do those things?”
James Geurts, the Navy’s assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition.
(US Navy photo)
The service has completed the first phase of testing on its large unmanned surface vessel, Geurts said, but much about those plans is shrouded in secrecy. Earlier in 2019, the Navy’s 132-foot-long medium-unmanned vessel named Sea Hunter sailed from California to Hawaii and back again, mostly without anyone aboard. Officials declined to talk to Military.com about the transit, citing operational security while it’s in development.
Rear Adm. Randy Crites, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget, told reporters March 2019 that the large unmanned surface vessels will serve “as both a sensor and a shooter.” And since they’re smaller than conventional ships, he added, the 200- to 300-foot vessels should be cheaper to produce and operate.
The Navy’s budget also requests funding for dozens of underwater drone vehicles and unmanned aircraft.
Navy leaders are pushing funding for projects like the Sea Hunter as it faces new threats at sea from more sophisticated adversaries. The service’s 2020 budget request has some in Congress questioning the decision to push an aircraft carrier into retirement early, but leaders say it’s essential to use the savings the ship’s retirement would provide on newer cutting-edge technology, such as a self-driving ghost fleet.
The unmanned prototype ship ‘Sea Hunter’ is part of the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel program.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)
“[That] led to some tough choices,” Geurts told lawmakers. “One of those is to retire that ship early in favor [of] looking at other technologies, other larger cost-imposing strategies.”
The Navy’s future aircraft carriers will include a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft and boats that can operate on the surface or underwater as the service prepares to counter more high-tech threats at sea, leaders have said.
Geurts said he expects to see the development of large unmanned vessels pick up quickly over the next year.
“It’s less about the ship design, because you could make a lot of different ship designs autonomous,” he told reporters last week. “The capabilities you would put on there could be fairly flexible and fairly mobile, so our real emphasis, and where I think you’re going to see an acceleration versus a traditional shipbuilding program, is you’re going to focus more on the autonomy technology — the capabilities you want to strap onto the ship — and less about the ship hull form.”
The Navy is proving its ability to sail unmanned vessels with the Sea Hunter transit, Geurts said.
“We learned a lot from that,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The 388th Fighter Wing set a speed record for bringing online a newly-delivered aircraft, flying a local sortie less than five hours after accepting delivery of its 68th F-35A Lightning II.
Aircraft 5261 left Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas, production facility a little after 8 a.m. Aug. 1, 2019, landed at Hill AFB at 10 a.m., and by 3 p.m. had taken off on its first combat training mission.
“The F-35A program’s production and delivery plan was designed to allow rapid aircraft induction and quick use by the customers,” said Col. Michael Miles, 388th Maintenance Group commander. “We’ve shown the enterprise it’s possible.”
This isn’t just a “gee-whiz” record. In theory, it means that F-35As could be deployed directly from the factory into combat if a large-scale conflict ever drives that need, Miles said.
Crew chiefs with the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit work on an F35A Lightning II at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, July 31, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
When a new F-35A comes off the line at the production facility, it undergoes several contract and government check flights before the Air Force accepts final delivery. These flights generate data points that are collected in the Autonomic Logistics Information System and then passed on to the gaining unit, in this case the 388th FW.
The previous timeline for inducting new aircraft was measured in days and weeks, but process and system improvements in the data collection and transfer process bodes well for the future, said Chief Master Sgt. Trey Munn, 388th Maintenance Group chief enlisted manager.
A US Air Force F-35A Lightning II of the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base in Utah after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Germany, July 23, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Emerson Nuñez)
“We’ve been working toward this goal as the program has matured and this is great step, and a testament to the work of the folks at Lockheed Martin, the Joint Program Office, and the airmen in the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings,” Munn said.
The 388th and 419th are the Air Force first combat-capable F-35 units. The first operational F-35As arrived at Hill in October 2015. The active duty 388th FW and Air Force Reserve 419th FW fly and maintain the jet in a Total Force partnership, which capitalizes on the strength of both components. By the end of this year, Hill AFB will be home to 78 F-35s.
There’s a fun fact that you can’t escape in the South: Coca-Cola used to have cocaine in it. The Coke brand is everywhere down here, and every 14-year-old will bring up the cocaine fact a couple of times a week for the first six months after they learn about it.
The fact that cocaine used to be offered in every town usually gets written off as an odd quirk of history, but it turns out the inventor had a good reason to appreciate the coca plant: He had a number of gunshot and saber wounds from the Civil War.
Coke was invented by John Stith Pemberton (the drink is named after the coca plant, not the inventor or company founder). Pemberton became a doctor at the ripe old age of 19 in 1850. He was a successful surgeon and chemist in the 1850s, but he signed up for frontline service when the Civil War broke out.
He didn’t serve as a doctor, though. He started as a first lieutenant in a cavalry unit in 1862 and climbed the ranks to lieutenant colonel. He faced his fiercest fighting when Union Gen. James Wilson attacked Columbus in 1865. Pemberton suffered multiple gunshots wounds and even a saber strike to his chest.
Union Gen. James Wilson led Union troops during the Battle of Columbus.
(Brady National Photographic Art Gallery)
Pemberton would suffer for years from the wounds he took near Columbus, and he struggled against an opium addiction thanks to all the painkillers he was given. But Pemberton was, luckily, a skilled chemist and pharmacist. He moved to Atlanta after the war and developed new chemical products.
He became aware of a new European product already popular in Italy and France, wine infused with extracts from coca leaves. After a new business partnership in 1870, he was able to purchase the equipment to develop even more complex products.
And, in 1885, he made his own version of the coca-infused wines which he called Pemberton’s French Wine Coca. One thing worth noting here, this isn’t technically cocaine in a drink. Coca leaves are a precursor to cocaine, but you have to use a solvent to extract cocaine sulfate from the leaves in order to get actual cocaine out. But Pemberton’s wine did have anesthetic effects like cocaine would.
The jump from French Wine Coca to Coca-Cola came when wine was threatened by alcohol prohibition in Atlanta and Pemberton decided to replace the sweetness from the wine with sweetness from sugar. After a few more changes to refine the taste, the product was renamed Coca-Cola and released in 1886.
It has gone through a few formula changes since, including switching fresh coca leaves out for spent coca leaves which have had the cocaine sulfate extracted. So, you know, you can’t get high from Coke anymore.
The U.S. military in World War II kept women out of many of the front line areas of World War II, limiting much of their contributions to ferrying planes or sorting the mail. But women often rose to the occasion when they were called to serve within range of the enemy guns, possibly none more so than the four women recognized for valor at the Anzio beachhead.
The American advance in Italy stalled out in late 1943, and U.S. planners needed a way to draw off German forces from the Gustav Line or lance their way into Rome directly. The proposed solution: land troops at Anzio and Nettuno, just 35 miles from Rome. The bold amphibious assault didn’t initially go well.
The Army quickly took a beachhead, and the corps commander wanted to take a hill that would allow the soldiers to sever German supply lines. He didn’t have the troops to protect his own logistics lines if he took the hills, though, so he just held the area around his beachheads.
This did threaten German lines and drew off their forces, but not enough to allow the other allied forces to break through the Gustav Line. Instead, the troops at Anzio were confined to a small area and subject to constant artillery and air bombardment. Their field hospital included plenty of female nurses and, obviously, the German fire didn’t pay much attention to the nurses’ noncombatant status.
Troops unload tanks and other gear from Navy ships at the Anzio Beachhead.
Enter First Lt. Mary Roberts and Second Lts. Elaine Roe, Virginia Rourke, and Ellen Ainsworth. In February 1944, as the Germans built up their forces to contain and then pierce the American bubble, they rendered aid to wounded soldiers even as shells rained upon them.
There were rumors that the Germans were using the Red Cross on the hospital as an aiming marker, even though it should’ve marked it as a non-target. There were rumors that the counter assault was coming any day, that the hospital was going to be evacuated, that the hospital would never be evacuated because the damage to morale would be too great.
The Allies suffered 19,000 casualties.
The nurses kept as many of the men alive as they could. On Feb. 10, Roberts was running the operating room when the surgical tent took a direct hit. Two corpsmen were wounded, and equipment was destroyed, but she rallied the medical staff and kept the surgeries going so the wounded could keep receiving treatment.
Ainsworth was working in the surgical ward that same night and moved the patients to the floor, continuing to render aid as the explosions rocked the tent. She was hit in the chest and died six days later of her wounds.
Meanwhile, Roe and Rourke were working at another field hospital on the beachhead where they continued patient care without electricity, their calm demeanors soothing the fears of the wounded. When ordered to evacuate the wounded, they organized the troops and got their 42 patients out safely despite the threat.
And if you’re curious what happened next for the larger Anzio battle, Hitler got impatient. He ordered his generals to get rid of the American presence at Anzio. But, while the Americans didn’t have the forces to threaten and hold the German lines, they had been building up their defenses.
On June 12, a Northern California high school principal issued a public apology and handed a diploma to an Army reservist who was not allowed to wear his military uniform at his graduation ceremony last week.
Liberty High School Principal Patrick Walsh apologized to a Harland Fletcher, a private first class reservist in the U.S. Army, and took full responsibility for the mishap at a ceremony where many waved American flags.
Fletcher sat out the June 9th ceremony at Liberty High School after the principal told him he would have to wear a cap and gown over his uniform if he wanted to participate.
“I made a mistake last Friday night, and I don’t mince words. I deeply regret what occurred,” Walsh said.
Walsh held a private ceremony at the high school in Brentwood, California that was attended by Fletcher’s family and about 100 people, many of them military veterans in uniform who came out to support their fellow serviceman.
Fletcher said he wants to send a message that the military shouldn’t be disrespected and that servicemen stand together. “The uniform for me means honor, respect, integrity, and it stands for America’s freedom,” he said.
The 18-year-old high school graduate said he did not want to make the ceremony about him, but rather highlight what the military is about.
“I didn’t really need the apology, but I wanted to send a message that the military is about friendship — brothers and sisters standing together, not just letting someone trample over us,” Fletcher said.
Sgt. Duane Edwards, a Vietnam War veteran, attended the ceremony with the rest of the Marine Corps League of Brentwood. He said he wanted to show his support to the graduating senior after he heard about what had happened on the news.
“What was done was completely in violation of the law,” Edwards said. California law gives Fletcher the right to wear his uniform during graduation.
Fletcher’s wife, Valentina Fletcher, and their 6-month-old son shared in the special moment.
“I think the support is tremendous,” Valentina said. “It shows how everyone is here to make sure that the uniform doesn’t get disrespected again.”
Fletcher is uncertain what he will do in the near future but said he plans to have a long career in the military.
In the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the nuclear deal signed with Iran and five other countries in 2015, Tehran has responded with one of its most frequent threats: closing the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow channel in the Persian Gulf through which roughly 30% of world’s oil flows.
“If Iran’s oil exports are to be prevented, we will not give permission for oil to be exported to the world through the Strait of Hormuz,” a Revolutionary Guards commander said in July 2018.
Coastal defenses and naval vessels would have a big role in that effort, but it would most likely revolve around one of Iran’s favorite military assets: sea mines, a vicious weapon that presents an acute challenge for a US Navy that is shifting between old and new mine-countermeasure systems.
Iran has laid mines at sea in past conflicts, and even these much less sophisticated weapons have disabled and nearly sunk US Navy warships.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter transits the Strait of Hormuz in May 2012.
(Photo by Alex R. Forster)
An asymmetric threat
“As far back as the early 1980s, Iran was mining waters in the Gulf to prevent oil tankers from coming in or out of ports in the Arab part of the Gulf — Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, etc. — and it has extensive experience in trying to also menace warships,” said Scott Savitz, a senior engineer at the Rand Corporation.
Sea mines remain “a big part of the Iranian approach,” said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
The sea mines Iran used at that time were relatively unsophisticated — the mine that almost sank the frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts in 1988 was a World War I-era device — but mines it can deploy now are more advanced and more dangerous, with some warheads weighing nearly 2,500 pounds.
As of 2012, Iran was believed to have grown its supply of sea mines from about 1,500 during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s to more than 6,000, according to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
That stockpile is not as vast as those of North Korea, China, or Russia, which also rely on anti-access or area-denial approaches to limit movement in contested areas, but it includes an array of mines, such as cheap, conventional ones and more advanced “smart mines,” which may be able to track multiple targets, discern different types of ships, and avoid detection by lurking on or near the seafloor.
Advanced mines can be triggered by sound, pressure, or magnetic influence. But even conventional ones that require contact to detonate are a threat to US warships and other commercial vessels. Iran also has an array of ships to lay them — some can even be deployed through submarine torpedo tubes.
Iran’s naval forces are no match for the US Navy, but sea mines are asymmetric weapons that a weaker side can use to foil a stronger opponent — even one with the world’s strongest navy. They can be deployed to deny access or freedom of movement and can be used to escalate tensions more incrementally than would a cruise-missile attack on an enemy warship.
“The Iranians see [mines] as a good tool for them to be able to threaten to close the strait and do it in a way that they can threaten it and you don’t know that the mines are really there,” Clark said, “and then if they do have some mines out there, the damage they’re going to inflict is going to be more in terms of preventing people from freely going back and forth rather than having to kill a lot of people to make a point.”
“You can threaten the use of mines and actually not have any out there,” Clark added. “However, a very small number of mines … in a place where someone’s likely to run into one, and then that damages a ship, and then you can say that you’ve got a much larger field, even though you may not.”
The USS Avenger off the coast of Hawaii during the Rim of the Pacific exercise in 2004.
(U.S. Navy photo)
Speed and scope
The US has previously said attempts to deploy mines would draw a military response, but the Navy also has means to counter mines.
The service keeps several of its 14 Avenger-class ships stationed in Bahrain all year.
The ships are designed for anti-mine warfare, using sonar and video systems, cable cutters, and a mine-detonating device to neutralize mines. Their hulls are made of wood covered with fiberglass for lower magnetic resonance. The engines are also designed to lower the ships’ magnetic and acoustic signatures. This is exceedingly dangerous work for these ships and their explosive ordnance disposal teams, which involves getting close to lurking mines to find and neutralize them.
The Avenger-class ships based in Bahrain are “immensely capable” and have multiple capabilities for and approaches to mine warfare, Rand’s Savitz said. They are lightly armed, however, and would require escorts.
But the Avenger class is aging, and the problem for the US Navy is that the mine threat looms as it struggles to move from those ships and the MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters that often accompany them to a newer platform that uses unmanned systems deployed aboard littoral combat ships.”
The US is in this transition from a more traditional minesweeping approach, where a minesweeper goes out and either drags minesweeping equipment behind it that physically entangles the mines or sets them off by magnetic influence,” Clark said.
“Now they’re transitioning to the use of unmanned vehicles to do a lot of this,” he added. “So they’ll have an unmanned ship drive out … sweep gear behind it to pick up mines, and they’ll have unmanned vehicles go around and hunt for mines that might be on the seafloor” or otherwise submerged.
But other cost overruns, delays, and malfunctions — like the cancellation of the Remote Minehunting System after nearly a billion dollars and almost two decades of work — have hindered the mine-countermeasure program.
Mine-countermeasure systems in general “don’t get as much attention as they need,” Clark said. “It’s not a sexy part of the Navy.” Older systems, he said, “could’ve been replaced a long time ago, or at least improved before this became an issue.”
The shift between older platforms and newer systems with limited capabilities is “a huge liability” for the Navy, Clark said.
“They’re in the middle of this transition, so they don’t have these unmanned systems really completely tested out and fully fielded, and so there’s still a lot of the traditional sweep gear and traditional approaches,” he said.
The Sea Dragon, which is the Navy’s oldest helicopter in service, was supposed to retire in 2005. But the service has yet to find a replacement for the heavy-lift helicopter, which can haul a variety of minesweeping gear and deploy anywhere in the world within 72 hours. The Avengers, introduced in the early 1990s, have also had their service lives extended, requiring upgrades.
Those ships and helicopters remain capable, but they aren’t “scalable,” meaning they “can’t ramp it up when there’s a minefield,” Clark said. Those systems aren’t necessarily a problem because they’re old, he added, they’re “just limited in speed and scope.”
The Remote Minehunting System and an AN/AQS-20 mine-hunting sonar being brought aboard the littoral combat ship USS Independence during testing of the mine-warfare mission module package in 2012.
Timelines and risks
The issues facing US mine-countermeasure systems do not mean Iran has a clear advantage, however.
“While the Persian Gulf is not wide, it’s big enough that Iran would have to cover a swath in order to prevent ships from going through it without encountering mines,” Savitz said. “So it would be challenging for them.”
Moreover, because it lacks refining capacity, Iran needs to be able to ship oil and refined products in and out.
“It would be cutting its own throat if it tried to shut down all traffic in the Gulf,” Savitz said. “If it leaves open a significant pathway, then others can potentially use it too.”
If Iranian ships start behaving in ways that indicate they’re laying mines, “that can be interdicted,” Savitz added. And the US would watch closely for any effort to reseed minefields that had been cleared.
“That’s the best mine-countermeasure solution of all, is to catch the adversary laying the mines or to detect roughly where the mines are laid,” to focus mine-countermeasure efforts, Savitz said.
A naval aircrewman preparing a Q-24 sonar side-looking vehicle to be lowered into the Persian Gulf from an MH-53E Sea Dragon during mine-countermeasure training on May 18, 2017.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Joshua Bryce Bruns)
But the scalability issue would loom over any effort to track down and clear mines from the area.
“Mine countermeasures is also typically a slow area of warfare that requires intense attention to detail, so it also entails thinking about trade-offs between timelines and risk,” Savitz said. “How quickly a water space can be opened up after … mine countermeasures have begun depends on what level of risk is acceptable.”
Former Adm. James Stavridis, who was the supreme allied commander in Europe before retiring in 2013, told CNBC in July 2018 that, should Iran try to use its military to close the Strait of Hormuz, the US and its partners “would be able to open it in a matter of days.”
That time frame is not so certain. It depends on how large the Navy and its partners believe the affected minefield to be.
“If it’s the whole Strait of Hormuz, the Navy says that could take weeks,” Clark said. While many modern tankers have features like double hulls that could mitigate some mine risks, closing or restricting access to the Gulf would upend the global economy.
Stavridis may have meant the US and its partners could clear a “very narrow channel” through a minefield during that period, Clark added, but that would slow down traffic, and each ship would need an escort. There would be “much less access than was previously available,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.