The bravery and resilience of most who survived the Luftwaffe attacks during Germany’s World War II Blitz over London is beyond reproach. But let’s face it, some people are a–holes. Gordon Cummins is one of those.
For the duration of the Blitz, the city’s populace was forced to shelter in darkness. Blackout curtains were placed over windows, smoking outside was banned in parts of the city, and the electricity was sometimes shut off to ensure no light could escape to provide German bombers a target.
For criminals with absolutely no patriotism or scruples, this was an ideal opportunity. Cummins was a Royal Air Force pilot in training in London in Feb. 1942 when something went sideways in his head and he began killing women in the blacked-out city.
The first victim was discovered on the morning of Feb. 9 in an air raid shelter in the West End area. Evelyn Hamilton was found gagged with a scarf and strangled to death. Her handbag and all her money were also stolen.
The very next day another woman was discovered. Evelyn Oatley was a prostitute and former chorus girl found in her apartment, nude, strangled, and viciously slashed across her abdomen with a can opener which was left at the scene.
Investigators didn’t find a new victim on Feb. 11, but any relief was short-lived as they found two on Feb. 13. Margaret Lowe had been missing since Feb. 10. Like Oatley, she was a prostitute and was discovered mostly nude, gruesomely mutilated, and thoroughly strangled.
The other victim found on Feb. 13 was Doris Jouannet. Jouannet was an elderly woman and prostitute. When her husband came home in the morning, he tried to enter their flat but it was barricaded from the inside. He called the police, who forced their way in to find Jouannet mostly nude, slashed with a razor, and dead from strangulation.
The London press knew of the murders and panic descended upon the city. Since three of the victims were prostitutes, it was assumed that group were the most at risk from “The Blackout Ripper.” While the blackouts protected most of the city from the worst of the German raids, it left the ladies of the night completely unprotected from Cummins.
Later that night, Cummins attempted to attack another prostitute, Kathleen Mulcahy. He solicited Mulcahy and followed her to her flat. When he attempted to kill her, she fought him off so hard and raised such a ruckus that he again had to flee into the night, this time dropping his belt. Oddly, he left an extra £5 because he may have been a serial killer, but he was also a good tipper.
Cummin’s gas mask was marked with the pilot’s serial number, so investigators proceeded to his lodging where they arrested the him. Cummins maintained his claims of innocence, but investigators found a number of mementos including a watch, a cigarette case, stockings from each victim, and more.
Cummins was tried for the murder of Evelyn Oatley on Apr. 27 and given the death penalty. Rather than try him for his other murders and attempted murders, the state executed him on Jun. 25. In a darkly humorous twist, he was executed during a German air raid.
George Lucas Hartsuff served as a Union general during the Civil War, but his first brushes with death happened years before he faced off against the Grey. On December 20, 1855, then-Lieutenant Hartsuff and a ten-man detachment of soldiers rose at daybreak and prepared to return to Fort Myers, Florida, after a routine survey mission. As Hartsuff and his soldiers made ready to break camp when a party of forty hostile Seminole Indians ambushed the camp. Four died in the initial exchange and two were wounded, including Hartsuff – a musket ball passed through his left arm and lodged in his chest. As his arm dangled at his side, Hartsuff took cover behind one of the mule-drawn wagons with three of his men.
One of the wounded soldiers loaded and handled muskets for Hartsuff to return fire with his one good arm. Another musket ball suddenly slammed into Hartsuff’s left side. He grasped his side to pinpoint the entry wound but discovered his leather holster and revolver stopped the bullet from piercing his thigh. Short on ammunition, Hartsuff ordered his men to disperse into the swamp and escape.
He tore through the dense foliage of the Everglades as his left arm dangled, limp at his side. He dripped with blood and the discomfort of his chest wound radiated with each step. Hartsuff suddenly fell into a deep lily pond concealed in tall grass. He stayed there, too exhausted to extract himself from the murky water sitting level with his neck. He remained still as one of the Seminole attackers called out in broken English, “Come out, come out.”
He stayed in the pond for three hours until alligators attracted by his blood forced him out. He stumbled toward a grove of palmettos 200 yards away and dropped there from sheer exhaustion. Hartsuff remained there until nightfall, then traveled a half a mile further under the cover of darkness, dragging his body along, too exhausted to stand upright.
Fort Myers was still fifty miles away and he was growing weaker with each passing hour. Hartsuff constructed a makeshift tourniquet to stop the bleeding and prevent an infection. He tore a page from his pocketbook and wrote his name and a brief account of the disaster on it by dipping his finger in his own blood. He pinned the piece of paper on his pant leg, and lay down, too weak to go on.
A detachment under Major Lewis Golding Arnold stumbled upon the unconscious soldier who refused to die. Arnold’s surgeon probed for the ball lodged in Hartsuff’s chest but decided that it would be best to leave the bullet. Hartsuff recovered by February of 1856 and was soon back in an active field command.
From September of 1856 to June of 1859, Hartsuff served a quiet position at the United States Military Academy. He requested to rejoin his company stationed at Fort Mackinac, Michigan, uninterested with the monotony of academia. Hartsuff left Chicago via Lake Michigan on September 7, 1860, aboard the wooden side-wheeler Lady Elgin.
The Lady Elgin held 300-400 passengers that included members of a militia unit accompanied by their wives, children, and friends. Also crammed on the vessel were fifty head of cattle stored below deck. Hartsuff was awakened by a large boom around 2:00 a.m. The 350-ton schooner Augusta, blinded in the heavy rain and shadow of the night, rammed into the side of the Lady Elgin. The bow of the Augusta penetrated the hull of the Lady Elgin below the water line. Hartsuff ran to the deck and began to pass life preservers down to the panicked passengers one-by-one.
Within fifteen or twenty minutes, the damaged ship began to break apart. Rather than go down with the ship, Hartsuff grabbed hold of a six-foot-long board and plunged into the frigid water. He paddled with all of his strength to escape being pulled under with the wreckage as so many others failed to do. Flashes of lightning revealed hundreds struggling to hold anything that could float. Hartsuff floated along until morning with the other survivors. He kept from succumbing to hypothermia by “thrashing my arms upon my breast” and by “keeping my body and limbs continually in motion.” All around him, other passengers floated on fragments of the vessel, furniture, and bloated carcasses of the cattle thrown overboard.
He paddled toward a fragment of the hurricane deck from the Lady Elgin the next morning. As it washed up aside him, he climbed onto it with four other male survivors. Hartsuff assumed a commanding role and gave specific orders to the survivors: “To avoid the similar capsizing of our frail bark, I instructed the men with me so to sit on it as to keep the edges under water; this enabled us to float faster with the tide, we passing many of the other rafts.”
Hartsuff and the others remained on the large piece of debris until it was within a half mile of the shore. The sight of land gave them a false sense of security. A wave crashed into the makeshift craft, throwing two of the survivors to their deaths. A moment later, the raft overturned. Hartsuff grabbed hold of a plank but when close to the shore, he crashed into the bluffs and was thrown into the water by the surf. He struggled to keep his head above water and was buried under the waves. Although the water was no more than three or four feet deep, after ten hours, he was so exhausted he was tossed around in the sand before he could gain his footing. Fewer than 250 passengers survived the wreck.
Hartsuff’s grit allowed him to overcome both encounters with death. He later saw extensive service as a Union general during the Civil War. In May of 1874, he contracted pneumonia, which surfaced in the scar tissue of his old wound to his chest. On May 16, 1874, Hartsuff’s providence finally ran out and he died at the age of 44. He is buried at West Point Cemetery.
President Donald Trump signed legislation Saturday that will broaden options for troubled veterans in the legal system and expand a home renovations grant program for disabled and blind veterans.
The new Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act directs the Justice Department to support the development and establishment of veterans treatment courts at the state, local and tribal levels.
At more than 400 veterans treatment courts across the U.S., vets with substance abuse issues or mental health conditions who commit nonviolent crimes may enter court-supervised medical treatment and get access to veteran-centric services and benefits in lieu of going to jail.
The law will encourage the development of a grant program to expand these courts across all 50 states.
“We’ve wanted this for a long time. They’ve been trying to get it for a long time, and now we have it,” Trump said after signing the bill, proposed in the House by Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., and in the Senate by Martha McSally, R-Ariz.
“With this new law, thousands more veterans across the country facing the criminal justice system will have an alternative to jail time, ensuring they get the treatment they need,” Crist said in a statement following the signing ceremony.
“These courts have turned veterans’ lives around in Arizona, and now they will be able to do the same for veterans across our nation,” McSally said, also in a prepared statement.
The first veterans treatment court was established in early 2008 in Buffalo, New York. After noticing an increase in the number of veterans appearing in the city’s drug and mental health treatment legal programs, Judge Robert Russell brought in veterans and Department of Veterans Affairs advisers to help create the specialty court.
Since 2011, the Justice Department has supported the development of veterans treatment courts, providing more than million to states and localities.
Trump on Saturday also signed a law that will give more veterans access to VA grants to renovate their homes to accommodate their disabilities.
The Ryan Kules and Paul Benne Specially Adaptive Housing Act of 2019 expands the program to include blind veterans and raise the maximum funding veterans can receive from ,000 to ,000. The bill also will let eligible veterans access the funds six times, instead of three, and gives them access to the full amount every 10 years — a provision that will let them change residences as their needs change.
At the start of the president’s press conference Saturday, Trump sowed some confusion about which bills he had just signed, referencing two he often mentions in stump speeches: the VA Mission Act, which he consistently refers to as “VA Choice,” and the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which became law in 2018 and 2017, respectively.
“Before we begin, I’ve just signed two bills that are great for our vets. Our vets are special. We passed Choice, as you know — Veterans Choice — and Veterans Accountability,” Trump said before extolling the benefits of those laws.
“We passed Choice … they’ve been trying to get that passed for decades and decades and decades, and no president has ever been able to do it. And we got it done so veterans have Choice,” he said. “And now you have accountability — that if you don’t love your vets, if you’re in the VA and you don’t love the vets or take care of the vets, you can actually get fired if you don’t do your job.”
The president then went on to talk about the treatment courts and adaptive housing laws before moving on to other subjects.
Trump consistently refers to the VA Mission Act as VA Choice — the program established in 2014 by President Barack Obama to widen veterans’ access to health care treatment from non-VA providers.
The legislation, the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act, was created in response to a nationwide scandal over delays veterans encountered when making medical appointments — for months and sometimes years — and secret waiting lists kept by some VA facilities to hide the scope of the problem.
The VA Mission Act, signed by Trump in 2018, replaced the Veterans Choice Program and gave more veterans access to private health care paid for by the VA.
The legislation also broadened the VA’s caregiver program to include disabled veterans who served before Sept. 11, 2001 — an expansion that will begin in October — and ordered the department to inventory its 1,100 facilities with an eye to closing or selling outdated or excess buildings.
At the end of Saturday’s press conference, a reporter asked why Trump “keeps saying [he] passed ‘Veterans Choice,'” when it was “passed in 2014.”
Trump told the reporter she was “finished,” and he abruptly ended the press conference.
In comic books and superhero movies, there’s a constant trope about average troops being given superpowers to match their immense bravery and honest heart. From a story perspective, it makes sense. And according to the bumper stickers on most military spouses’ mini-vans, not all heroes wear capes after all.
But in real life, if you manage to survive a super-soldier project, you won’t be doing much superhero work. Take a look at Captain America for instance.
1. Uncle Sam would get his money’s worth
There isn’t an exact number put to how much it would cost to become a super soldier, but Forbes estimates the cost of Captain America at $54.6 Million. There’s no way you’d get away with having that much money spent on you without constantly having to do military stuff.
You probably won’t be doing Special Ops stuff, either. Your name and face would be everywhere and that’s simply too much money to put on the line. Plus, if the Army learned you could clean an entire Connex in one minute, guess what you’ll be doing…
2. Everyone expects the best from you
Good luck trying to take it easy for a single moment.
You’re going to be constantly working. You’ll be on the move non-stop, saving everyone and doing the right thing. Even if the pressure weighs you down, you’ll have to keep saving everyone.
3. No more private life
A common theme in comic books and movies is the protagonist trying to balance their public, superhero life and a personal life. That balance wouldn’t be a thing for super soldiers.
They just don’t get the opportunity to BE civilians. If they do have a personal life, it’ll still just be doing regular military stuff.
The Mitsubishi X-2, Japan’s first foray into the world of 5th generation fighter aviation, took to the skies for its maiden flight just yesterday, lifting off with the traditional gear-down configuration from Nagoya Airfield, home of the Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation. Originally known as the ATD-X, the aircraft has been in development for over seven years, with no less than 220 domestic Japanese companies involved as program subcontractors. The flight lasted a total of 26 minutes, with the launch occurring at 0847 local time from Nagoya, and ending at 0913 local at Japan Air Self-Defense Force Gifu Airbase, escorted along the way by a Mitsubishi F-2 fighter.
The X-2 isn’t actually a fighter, however. Mitsubishi, and the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF), will instead use it as a technology demonstrator and a testbed to develop and mature concepts and hardware which they’ll eventually use on an indigenous 5th generation stealth fighter, presumably also built by Mitsubishi. The design of the aircraft is fairly similar to the broad architectural layout used on the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II, but lacks the dark gray radar-absorbent coating the latter jets utilize to further diminish their radar cross section (RCS).
The X-2 actually only around 46 feet in length, in comparison to the F-35 which is 51 feet long, and the F-22 which is 62 feet long. It’ll fly, for the moment, with one pilot though there seems to be space for a second cockpit behind the primary. It includes thrust-vectored IHI XF5-1 turbofan engines which use three paddles (per engine), probably to afford it a three-dimensional vectoring ability unlike the F-22’s two-dimensional vectoring capabilities. Mitsubishi will also be testing a “Self Repairing Flight Control Capability”, which will allow the aircraft’s onboard computers to detect malfunctions or damage to flight control surfaces, and accordingly adjust the the aircraft to achieve stabilized flight, at least until the aircraft can return to base.
The ultimate goal of the X-2 program is to develop a fighter that can best anything China has to throw at it, including the country’s new J-31 and J-20 fighter aircraft, which are supposedly on the same playing field as other fifth generation fighters in development today. The X-2 actually has the F-22 Raptor to thank for its origin, as the program began when Japan’s attempts to buy the Raptor for the JASDF were shot down by the US government, with a formal prohibition on foreign sales of the F-22. Japan plans on procuring the F-35 Lightning II for the JASDF as well.
This year has undoubtedly been a doozie. One we don’t wish to repeat any time soon. However, as the calendar dates continue to drone on, we can look into the next few months and realize that soon, we’re starting a New Year. (We can only hope 2021 can be much kinder.)
Until then, we can endure whatever the world continues to throw at us. Sit back and enjoy some of the most relatable memes that we can link back to how this year has gone.
A common misconception civilians have about the military is that we all have cool call signs, like Hawk-Eye, Maverick, or whatever. The truth is, if you’ve got a nickname, you’re either high enough rank to have earned one, you’re a pilot, you’re called by your unit’s name, or you did something so bad that it’s used to mock you.
If anyone calls you one of these in the military, look up the definition of sarcasm. You don’t want to earn any of these:
7. High Speed
This is the one dude who’s just trying way too hard. Maybe they got antsy when the Battalion Commander gave a speech on the range or they watched old Army recruitment commercials and decided to be “all that they can be.”
The military is based on “one team, one fight.” If you’re going WAAAAAAY above and beyond for extra brownie points, you’re ass-kissing.
This term is reserved for the kid who probably only got their name right on the ASVAB. It’s usually given out when someone does something monumentally stupid, like dry their boots in the communal dryer or actually bring an exhaust sample to the mechanics.
The nickname is more of a play on the phrase, “there’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity.” Put down the crayons and read a book.
Slacking off is part of the military, but this person takes things to the next level. They just vanish like they’re freaking Casper.
Most times, there’s no issue if you’re swinging by the gas station for a drink or whatever. The moment you swing by your barracks room to play a few rounds of Call of Duty, well, you might be earning the next nickname, too…
4. Blue Falcon
Whenever anyone is willing to screw over their comrades for the sake of personal interests, they’re a Blue Falcon.
Spend five minutes in the military and you’ll know that this name isn’t a reference to the Hanna-Barbera superhero. It’s a more formal way of saying that this person is a Buddy F*cker.
Just because they sell something cool at the BX/PX/NEx/MCX/cheapo surplus store, doesn’t mean you need to buy it — but chances are this guy bought that crap.
Also called “geardo,” they stick out like a sore thumb because they’re rocking so much unauthorized gear because “it looked cool.” They look more like they’re on a civilian airsoft team than in the world’s most elite fighting force.
2. (whatever) Ranger
In the Army, Rangers are some of the biggest badasses. However, if they have a qualifier, such as “Sick Call” Ranger, then you know they ride the hell out of the ability to go to sick call. PX Ranger is the guy who buys everything they can from the PX (especially if it’s unauthorized). PowerPoint Ranger is that high-speed butter bar who spent hours on a slideshow that put everyone to sleep. The list goes on.
No one thinks they’re a fraction of the badassery of actual Rangers.
1. Desert Queen
This one, is uh — to put it politely — the woman who enjoys getting the most attention while deployed. Don’t. Just don’t.
If you’re a woman who gets called this, knock a motherf*cker’s teeth out.
You’re on a foot patrol in an enemy-infested region of Afghanistan when a massive explosion detonates within just a few meters of your position. Immediately after, heavy incoming rounds penetrate the surrounding terrain. Without thinking, your brain makes one of two initial reactions:
Will you stay and fight, or run away from the stressful situation to battle it out another day?
Although we understand the dangers of battle from extensive training and, typically, volunteer to surge forward to fight once we’ve assessed the situation, our initial and default response is all thanks to a unique part of your brain called the amygdala.
Located at the end of the hippocampus (the floor of the brain), the amygdala is part of the limbic system that governs our emotions, like fear, pleasure, and anger.
When the human brain encounters intense stimuli, a significant amount of hormones and neurotransmitters flood the body to prepare you to either immediately dash away from the danger or fasten your resolve to stay in the fight.
Although the majority of all ground troops are trained to bring the fight back to the enemy, one or more of the troops’ in the squad’s initial reaction may be a “flight” response.
As the third-highest award for bravery in combat awarded to service members in the military, the Silver Star honors those who display exceptional courage while engaged in military combat operations against enemy forces.
When you see a Silver Star distinction on a license plate or on a uniform, you might wonder what the service member did to earn the distinction. Here’s everything you need to know about the Silver Star Medal but didn’t want to ask.
The Silver Star Requirements
The SSM is awarded for bravery, as long as the action doesn’t justify the award of one of the next higher valor awards (the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, the Air Force Cross or the Coast Guard Cross).
The act of bravery has to have taken place while in combat action against an enemy of the United States while involved in military operations that involve conflict with an opposing foreign force. It can also occur while serving with a friendly force engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
This medal is awarded for singular acts of heroism over a brief period, such as one to two days.
Air Force pilots, combat systems officers and Navy/Marine naval aviators/flight officers are often ineligible to receive the Silver Star after becoming an ace (having five or more confirmed aerial kills). However, the last conflict to produce aces was the Vietnam War, and during that conflict, several Silver Stars were awarded to aces.
Finely constructed details
The Silver Star Medal is a gold five-pointed star, 1 ½ inch in diameter with a laurel wreath encircling rays forming the center. A smaller, 3/16 inch silver star is superimposed in the center. The pendant is suspended from a rectangular shaped metal loop with rounded corners.
On the backside, the reserve has the inscription, “For Gallantry in Action.” The ribbon measures 1 3/8 inches wide and has a 5.6mm wide Old Glory Red stripe in the center, proceeding outward pairs of white and ultramarine blue.
Second and subsequent Silver Star awards are denoted by bronze or silver oak leaf clusters in the Air Force and Army, and gold and silver stars for the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard.
Recipients of Silver Star Medals
To date, independent groups estimate that between 100,000 and 150,000 Silver Stars have been awarded since the decoration was established. The Department of Defense doesn’t keep records for how many are issued.
The first Silver Star was awarded to Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1932, who was then awarded Silver Stars seven additional times for his actions in WWI.
Col. Davis Hackworth was awarded 10 Silver Star medals for his actions in both Korea and Vietnam. It’s thought that he has the highest number of medals issued to one single person.
Former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, Senator John Kerry, Army Gen. George Marshall and Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North all received Silver Stars.
In WWI, three Army nurses were cited with the Citation Star for their bravery in attending to wounded service personnel while under artillery fire in July 1918. However, in 2007, it was discovered that the nurses never received their awards. These three nurses were Jane Rignel, for her bravery in giving aid to the wounded while under fire, and Irene Robar and Linnie Leckrone, for their courage to attend to the wounded while under artillery bombardments.
The first woman to receive both the Silver Star and the Purple Heart was also an Army nurse – Lt. Col. Cordelia Cook. She served in WWII and later went on to have a career as a civilian nurse.
In 2005, Army National Guard Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester received the Silver Star for her gallantry during an insurgent ambush on a convoy in Iraq. In 2008, Army Spec. Monica Lin Brown received the Silver Star for her extraordinary heroism as a medic in the War in Afghanistan.
Since September 11, 2001, the Silver Star has been awarded to service members during combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Mattis said in a statement that the strike, which consisted of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles targeting the Shayrat air field on April 6, was a “measured response” to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons.
In a break from his predecessor, President Donald Trump quickly authorized strikes against the Syrian government — a first for the United States.
According to Mattis, it was meant to deter future chemical weapons use, while showing the world that the U.S. would “not passively stand by” when such atrocities are carried out.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said there could be “no doubt” that Assad’s troops carried out the attack, and autopsies have showed that sarin gas was used. The Syrian government and Russia, its ally, have vigorously denied responsibility.
Russia said that instead, the Syrian air force perhaps carried out a conventional attack that hit a chemical weapons cache controlled by the rebels.
However, as chemical weapons expert Dan Kaszeta explained to Bellingcat, sarin in storage consists of unmixed components, and dropping a bomb on them would not turn them into a nerve agent.
Meanwhile, Mattis’ statement revealed some details of a damage assessment at the air field. It said the Tomahawk strikes destroyed or damaged fuel and ammunition sites, air defenses, and 20% of Syria’s operational aircraft.
“The Syrian government would be ill-advised ever again to use chemical weapons,” Mattis concluded.
The Marine Corps wants to deploy swarms of drones ahead of troops during amphibious operations in coming years.
The concept, incorporating Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology, or LOCUST, developed by the Office of Naval Research, would bring a flotilla of weapons, including underwater drones, unmanned surface vessels and underwater mine countermeasures.
Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, the service’s commanding general for combat development, on Tuesday detailed the plan, with hopes it would not only slow down the enemy but save Marines’ lives.
“Today, we see this manned-unmanned airlift, what we see what the other services are doing, along with our partners in the United States Navy. Whether it’s on the surface, under the surface or in the air, we’re looking for the opportunity for, ‘How will Marines move ashore differently in the future?’ ” Walsh told a crowd at the Unmanned Systems Defense Conference outside Washington, D.C., hosted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
“Instead of Marines being the first wave in, it’ll be unmanned robotics … sensing, locating and maybe killing out front of those Marines,” he said. “We see that ‘swarm-type’ technology as exactly the type of thing — it will lower cost, dominate the battlespace, leverage capabilities … and be able to complicate the problems for the enemy.”
Walsh said incorporating unmanned systems within the multi-domain battlespace — in the air, on land, at sea, in space and cyberspace — would be “completely different, certainly than what we’ve done in the last 15 years in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Walsh, like many officials across the Defense Department, emphasized that multi-domain battle is how future wars will evolve — through electronic warfare, cyber attacks and drones. And he said adapting to these concepts is a must in order to match near-peer adversaries.
Marines, for example, are likely to first see the use of drones within the infantry corps.
Commandant Gen. Robert Neller last month said he wants every Marine grunt squad downrange tocarry an unmanned aerial vehicle for reconnaissance and surveillance by the end of 2017.
“At the end of next year, my goal is that every deployed Marine infantry squad had got their own quadcopter,” Neller said. “They’re like 1,000 bucks,” he said last month during the Modern Day Marine Expo in Quantico, Virginia.
Walsh on Tuesday accelerated that premise. During a talk with reporters, he said he had been ordered to equip four battalions with small UAS as an experimental measure before the end of the year, but did not specify the system.
From previous experimentation, Walsh said, “Having a small UAS — quadcopter-like UAS — that was an easy one. We’re going to do that. We probably want those across the entire force, but what we want to do, as we see this technology change so rapidly, we’re going to first buy four battalions’ worth, and see how that operates.”
Hellenic Navy frigate HN Aegean, front, and US Navy guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto in the Mediterranean Sea, July 26, 2020. US Navy/MCS3 Sawyer Haskins
In the last month, Greece and Turkey, two US and NATO allies, have repeatedly come close to a military clash over a piece of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The latest tension ignited after Turkey reserved an area in the Eastern Mediterranean to survey for underwater natural resources. But the area is within the exclusive economic zones of Cyprus and Greece (though Greece hasn’t formally declared an EEZ due to tensions with Turkey).
Turkey disputes Greek sovereignty and has deployed the research vessel Oruç Reis to the region with a fleet of warships to guard it. Greece has responded by sending its fleet.
The survey ship Oruc Reis sailing with Turkish warships. Turkish Ministry of Defense
Despite the Turkish claims, and according to international law, the area of sea in question and the seabed under it belong to Greece because of the small island of Kastellorizo.
Although the island is about 2 miles from Turkey, it is inhabited and part of Greece. Thus, according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Kastellorizo has the same rights as any other part of Greece.
Kastellorizo, Greece’s easternmost island, is just 2 miles from mainland Turkey. Google Maps
The two fleets have been circling one another as tensions simmer, threatening to explode with the slightest accident, such as one a few days ago when Turkish frigate Kemal Reis tried to overtake Greek frigate Limnos.
Due to poor seamanship, however, the Turkish vessel did not calculate its path correctly and was rammed by the Greek warship. Although the damage was not life-threatening, the Turkish ship had to go into port for immediate repairs.
The Turkish frigate Kemal Reis after colliding with Greek frigate Limnos. Hellenic Ministry of Defense
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has calculated that this is the opportune time to act. Indeed, the international stars seem to be aligned in his country’s favor.
First, the US is heading toward a heated presidential election, which has historically distracted American attention from foreign affairs.
Second, Erdogan has a close relationship with the White House and has used it to reassure its ally.
Third, Ankara is shrewdly using Germany’s current presidency of the EU Council, which rotates between EU members every six months.
Germany and Turkey share a lucrative trade partnership. According to the World Bank, in 2018, Germany exported almost .5 billion worth of goods to Turkey and imported just over billion, making Berlin third in both imports and exports among Ankara’s trading partners. There is also a significant ethnic Turkish population in Germany that influences German politicians’ decision-making.
Despite its relatively weak global voice, Berlin is a leader in Europe, mostly because of its powerful economy, and has assumed the role of an umpire in this dispute.
The Greek position is to abide by international law, which is on its side, and meet every Turkish provocation with determination and force. Meanwhile, Greek diplomacy has managed to isolate Turkey, with a host of nations — including Egypt, Cyprus, and Israel — condemning Turkey’s actions. The US and France have conducted military drills with Greece in the area as a show of solidarity. (The US and Turkey have also conducted recent exercises.)
Crucially, Greece’s chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Constantine Floros, has said that a Greek response to a Turkish attack would not be confined to a particular area, likely making Turkish officials think twice before acting.
The Turkish position is to force Greece to the negotiating table — something, interestingly, that Greece also wants and has looked for since Turkey unilaterally stopped diplomatic discussions on the issue in 2016.
Ankara understands that its position in terms of international law is weak and its allies in the region few. Thus it believes that threatening war would make Greece more amenable to an agreement that gives Turkey a slice of the natural resources pie.
Turkey does not recognize the International Court of Justice or UNCLOS, both of which would be key in settling the dispute.
Implications for the US
The implications for the US and for NATO of a conflict between two members of the alliance are hard to judge. There has never been an incident where two NATO allies came to blows.
US-Turkish relations have been steadily deteriorating in recent years. Turkey’s purchase the advanced Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system prompted the US to refuse delivery of the F-35 fighter jet. The Turkish invasion of northern Syria and targeting of the Kurds, a longtime US partner and a leader in the fight against ISIS, led to sanctions against senior Turkish officials and to tariffs on Turkish steel.
Moreover, the recent revelation that Ankara has been providing Turkish citizenship and passports to Hamas operatives is bound to further upset US-Turkish relations. The US declared Hamas a terrorist organization in 1997. The passports offer great freedom of travel to Hamas terrorists, aiding their malign activities.
US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill during an exercise with Turkish navy frigates TCG Barbaros and Burgazada in the Mediterranean Sea, August 2020. US Naval Forces Europe-Africa
The US does not want to push Turkey toward Russia or Iran, and successive US administrations have recognized the country’s value to US interests in the region, both in its general location and in the assets based there, like the nuclear missiles in Incirlik Air Base.
Yet if Turkey needs to be pushed to change its behavior — as its actions suggest it would be — then the US will have to rethink the geopolitical balance in the region.
Erdogan understands and takes advantage of his country’s strategic importance to the US, leveraging it to pursue an increasingly pugnacious foreign policy that often directly conflicts with the US’s.
If it comes to blows, the US and EU will call for an immediate end to the hostilities but probably do little more than that. It’s likely, then, that Greece and Turkey will sort it out between themselves, with the lasting geopolitical implications only becoming clear once the smoke has cleared.
Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (National Service with the 575th Marine Battalion Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.
President Donald Trump’s administration for the second time ordered a military strike on the Syrian government without asking for permission from Congress, and it could indicate the legislature has lost its ability to stop the US president from going to war.
The US Constitution, in Article I, Section 8, clearly states that the power to declare war lies with Congress, but since 2001 successive US presidents have used military force in conflicts around the world with increasingly tenuous legality.
Today, the US backs up most of its military activity using broad congressional legislation known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force. The joint resolution, which Congress passed in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, allows the president to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”
This has essentially become a carte blanche for the US president to fight terrorism wherever it rears its head.
But on April 13, 2018, the Trump administration attacked Syrian targets in retaliation for an attack on a Damascus suburb the US says involved chemical weapons. Trump ordered a similar punitive strike a year ago, in April 2017.
At Harvard’s Lawfare blog, the law professors Jack Goldsmith and Oona A. Hathaway summed up all of the Trump administration’s possible arguments for the legality of the Syria strikes in an article titled “Bad Legal Arguments for the Syria Airstrikes.”
The article concludes that the US’s stated legal justification, that Article II of the Constitution allows the US to protect itself from attacks, falls short and that other legal arguments are a stretch at best.
Rep. John Garamendi, a California Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee who spoke with Secretary of Defense James Mattis hours before the strike, told Business Insider the strikes were probably illegal.
“The bottom line is I do not believe he has legal authority to conduct those strikes,” Garamendi said.
Congress ‘derelict in its duty’ as Trump doesn’t even try to get approval
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kallysta Castillo)
Trump “could have and should have come to Congress and said these facilities and the use of poisonous gas is horrific, it is illegal based upon the international conventions, and I want to take military action,” Garamendi said, adding that he thought “a limited authorization to do that would have passed Congress in one day” if it had been written in a concise, limited way.
But Trump did not ask for permission, and it shows the incredible power of today’s US presidents to start wars.
“I think that Congress was derelict in its duty,” Garamendi said. “Congress clearly has abdicated one of its most crucial functions, and that is the power to take the US into a war. The Constitution is absolutely clear, and it’s for a very important reason.”
Fred Hof, a former US ambassador to Syria who is now at the Atlantic Council, said that while there was some reason for Congress to allow the president leverage in where and when he strikes, the two branches of government still needed to coordinate.
“Most, maybe all, in Congress would concede there are circumstances in which the commander-in-chief must act quickly and unilaterally,” Hof wrote to Business Insider. “But there are reasons why the Constitution enumerates the duties of the Congress in Article One, as opposed to subsequent Articles. I really do believe it’s incumbent on the executive branch to consult fully with the Congress and take the initiative in getting on the same page with the people’s representatives.”
Lawrence Brennan, a former US Navy captain who is an expert on maritime law, told Business Insider “the last declaration of war was in the course of World War II,” adding that Congress had “absolutely” given the president increased powers to wage war unilaterally.
Possibly illegal strikes create a ‘window’ for the US’s adversaries
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
The US missile attack had questionable legality, but it wasn’t even Trump’s first time ordering strikes against Syria’s government, as a salvo of 59 cruise missiles targeted a Syrian air base in April 2017.
Before that, the US attacked Libya’s government forces in 2011. The US is also using the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force as justification for attacking Islamist militants in the Philippines, among other countries.
Garamendi said that by neglecting to request congressional approval, Trump had “given Syria, Russia, and Iran an argument that never should have happened.” He said by opening an internal US argument over whether the strike was legal, Trump had committed a “very serious error” and “opened a diplomatic attack that could easily have been avoided.”
Trump certainly did not start the trend of presidents ordering military action without congressional approval, and he has enjoyed wide support for his actions against chemical weapons use, but the move indicates a jarring reality — that the US president can go to war with thin legal justification and without even bothering to ask Congress.