Hans Island is a tiny speck of rock that lies almost exactly halfway between Canada and Greenland in the Nares Straight, a thin body of Arctic seawater between the two countries. Denmark and Canada both claim the island as sovereign soil.
For over 95 years, they’ve been fighting the world’s most gentlemanly military struggle by sending their navies to claim the island using sarcastic signs, national flags, and bottles of Danish brandy and Canadian whisky.
The island was mapped in 1920 and has been a spot of contention between between Canada and Denmark ever since. Since the .5-square-mile island has no resources, inhabitants, wildlife, and hardly any soil, the island has limited value in itself.
But, its location makes it a prime spot for managing sea traffic going into and out of the Arctic, something that is becoming more important with each bit of sea ice that melts. So, the two countries sat down and settled most of their border disputes in 1973 but were unable to come to terms on Hans Island.
Sometime in the 1980s, the bottles began appearing on the island. Denmark upped the ante sometime in the early 2000s when they placed a large flag on the island and a sign that said, “Welcome to Denmark,” with the liquor. Canada answered back with its own flag, sign, and liquor in July 2005.
The conflict has edged into more serious territory a few times. A visit to the island by the Canadian Defense Minister in 2005 drew angry comments from Denmark as did a 2004 increase in Canadian defense spending increase that cited Hans Island as a factor.
2015 was a good year for movies. Anticipated series continuations from franchises like Terminator, Jurassic Park, and James Bond met with mixed success. Star Wars came back in a big way, as did the Avengers. Marvel’s Ant-Man was a surprise hit while The Fantastic Four saw even the most die-hard Marvel fans struggle to stay in the theatre for the duration of the movie.
But it was a good year for military movies the world over. The world’s best war and conflict films from the past year are at your fingertips. A few movies are a great way to recover from New Years’ Eve.
1. Beasts of No Nation
Netflix made a foray into conflict films this year with its critical hit Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba as a warlord recruiting child soldiers to fight in a civil war in Liberia. The government falls as the warlords forces attack a village under international protection. A young boy named Agu flees after his father is shot and is captured by the NDF, rebel guerillas.
The film captures the brutality of life as a child soldier, with rampant drug use, rape, and murder of civilian noncombatants. The powerful film holds a 93% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
2. Cartel Land
This is a film about vigilante groups fighting drug cartels in the Mexican Drug Wars. The most shocking part of Cartel Land is that its a documentary, and you can see the characters and events unfold as they did in the real world.
The brutal film was shot in Mexico and Arizona. It garnered a 94% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is currently shortlisted for an Academy Award nomination.
3. Kilo Two Bravo
Released in 2014 in Europe as Kajaki, Kilo Two Bravo is the story of a small group of British soldiers stationed near the Kajaki dam in Afghanistan.
Though set during the modern day Afghan War, Kilo Two Bravo is more horror-thriller than a traditional set piece war film. The outcome is a realistic, critical success with a 100% Rotten Tomatoes critical rating.
4. Krigen (“A War”)
Danish Army Company commander Claus Michael Pedersen and his men are stationed in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. During a routine mission, the soldiers are caught in heavy Taliban crossfire. In order to save his men, Claus makes a decision that ultimately sees him return to Denmark accused of a war crime.
Claus’ wife Maria is trying to hold everyday life together with a husband at war and three children missing their father. This film is remarkable for its depiction of what life is like for the wife and children of deployed troops. The war hits those at home every bit as much as it affects the men who fight it. The film also uses real Danish Army veterans.
5. April 9th
2015 saw a lot of WWII films produced the world over. April 9th, also from Denmark, depicts the Nazi invasion of Denmark as bicycle and motorcycle companies are deployed to hold off the German Blitzkrieg until reinforcements arrive.
Denmark, of course, couldn’t resist the Nazi onslaught and fell in only six hours.
In the last full year of World War II, the Eastern Front was the most brutal battleground in the world. This Estonian film depicts the 1944 Battle of the Tannenberg Line through the Battle of Tehumardi. The war for Estonia was very different, as it bordered both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, each with mutually exclusive ideologies.
More than ideology, its location forced Estonians to choose sides during the war, pitting Estonians in the Wehrmacht against Estonians in the Soviet Red Army. The film shows the war from both sides.
7. Baahubali: The Beginning
This film is a Telgu and Tamil film. It’s the fictional story of two ancient brothers at war. One prince returns to free his mother the queen who was wrongfully usurped by his elder brother.
The two-part blockbuster is also the most expensive Indian film ever made. It took a full year of preproduction, 25 artists made 15,000 storyboards, there were 380 shooting days over three years, 2,000 stuntmen worked on it, and thousands of weapons and props were used.
8. Hyena Road
This Canadian film is eagerly anticipated outside of Canada. It’s the story of Canadian forces building a road deep into Taliban territory, creating a dirt track that can only be driven in armed convoys protected by snipers. The road is strategically crucial to defeating the Taliban.
The theme of war being bad while those who fight are inherently good continues in Hyena Road but the depiction of the deployed life and combat by Canadian Forces by Canadian writer Paul Gross is authentic and realistic.
9. The Battle for Sevastopol
When the Nazis invade the Soviet Union in 1941 a young girl, Lyudmila, joins the Red Army. She turns out to be a natural sniper, and her impressive skills impress those around her. Her wounds keep her from fighting on, so she travels to the United States to press for a second front.
This film is actually about a real Red Army sniper, Lyudmila Pavlichenko, one of WWII’s deadliest snipers. The movie hero fights in the Battles of Odessa and Sevastopol. She racks up 309 confirmed kills, she is sent to the US to campaign for American support. She meets Eleanor Roosevelt, just as the real Pavilchenko did. This joint Russian-Ukrainian project is like the Mockingjay on steroids but, you know, real.
The makers of China’s new J-20 stealth fighter revealed the combat mission of the aircraft, and one of its key tasks would most likely see it getting shot down by decades-old US and European fighter jets.
The J-20 has impressed observers with its advanced design and formidable weapons, but the jet’s actual combat mission has remained somewhat of a mystery.
But Andreas Rupprecht, a German researcher focused on China’s air power, recently posted an informational brochure from the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, the J-20’s maker, laying out its mission.
It described the J-20 as a “heavy stealth” fighter that’s “renowned” for its dominance in medium- and long-range air combat and first lists “seizing maintaining air superiority” as its core missions.
But the J-20s purported air-superiority role is likely to raise more eyebrows.
J-20 stealth fighter jet.
(Flickr photo by emperornie)
J-20 loses the old-fashioned fight for the skies
Justin Bronk, an aerial-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that for the J-20, fighting US or European jets for control of the skies represents a losing battle.
The J-20 is “certainly likely to be more capable as an air-superiority platform than anything else the People’s Liberation Army Air Force” — China’s air force’s official name — “is currently operating,” Bronk said.
“With a powerful radar and multiple internal air-to-air missiles as well as long range, it certainly shouldn’t be dismissed as an air-superiority machine,” he continued.
But just because it’s China’s best doesn’t mean it can hold a candle to Europe’s Typhoon fighter or even the US’s F-15, which first flew in 1972.
“In terms of thrust to weight, maneuverability, and high-altitude performance, it is unlikely to match up to the US or European air-superiority fighters,” Bronk said.
China’s J-20 made a solid entry into the world of stealth fighter aircraft and became the only non-US stealth jet in the world. It’s designed to significantly limit the ability of US radar to spot and track the large fighter, but the stealth mainly works on the front end, while the J-20 is flying straight toward the radar.
Tactically, experts have told Business Insider, the J-20 poses a serious threat in the interception and maritime-strike roles with its stealth design, but so far the jet has yet to deliver.
China has suffered embarrassing setbacks in domestically building jet engines that would give the J-20 true fifth-generation performance on par with the F-35 or the F-22.
Bronk said China still appears years away from crossing this important threshold that would increase the range and performance of the jets.
“The engines are a significant limiting factor” in that they require inefficient use of afterburners and limit high-altitude performance, Bronk said.
An F-15C Eagle preparing to refuel with a KC-135R Stratotanker.
(US Air Force photo)
What air superiority looks like
As it stands, the J-20 couldn’t match the F-15 or the Eurofighter Typhoon, or even get close to an F-22, Bronk said.
“Against the F-15C and Typhoon, the J-20 has a lower radar cross section but worse performance, and its air-to-air missiles are unlikely to yet match the latest [US] series and certainly not the new European Meteor,” Bronk said.
Bronk said that China had made great strides in air-to-air missile development and was testing at an “extremely high” pace, so the capability gap could close in a few short years.
But how does the J-20 stack up to the greatest air-superiority plane on the planet today, the F-22?
“The F-22 likely significantly outperforms the J-20 in almost every aspect of combat capability except for combat radius,” Bronk said, referring to the farthest distance a loaded plane can travel without refueling.
Undoubtedly, the J-20 represents a significant leap in Chinese might and poses a serious and potentially critical threat to US air power in its ability to intercept and launch deep strikes.
But in the narrow role of air superiority — beating the best fighters the other side can offer to gain control of the sky — the US and Europe could most likely beat down China’s J-20 without much trouble.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A California patrolman’s radar apparently flipped out on an empty stretch of highway in March 2019, which was odd because there wasn’t another car in sight, but then an F-16 Fighting Falcon came flying low and fast past his location.
A video taken by Officer Chris Bol and shared by California Highway Patrol station in the California desert suburb of Bishop shows the F-16 making a pass — not the first, as the officer filming has his camera ready to catch the fighter flying by his Ford Explorer.
The video, first reported by Popular Mechanics, was captioned: “When the radar in your patrol car is going crazy but you don’t see any cars on the road, look up!”
When the radar in your patrol car is going crazy but you …
An F-16 can fly at speeds greater than Mach 2, more than two times the speed of sound. That means the fighter jet can hit in excess of 1,500 mph. The fighter in the video, however, was not going that fast.
These low-altitude flybys occur regularly in the area where the video was taken and are often picked up on radar. One California Highway Patrol officer at the Bishop station told Business Insider his radar once read out at more than 300 mph.
As for the video posted on March 9, 2019, Bol’s radar was going in and out, but it read 250 mph at one point. Several F-16s flew past his spot repeatedly while he was out there.
Popular Mechanics said that while the video was taken in Bishop, the aircraft in the video may have originated from the Arizona National Guard or Utah’s Hill Air Force Base, although it is hard to know for sure because there are a number of air bases nearby that use the area for training.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
U.S. prosecutors have arrested a Russian woman who cultivated ties with American conservative politicians and groups and charged her with acting as a covert agent for the Russian government.
In U.S. court filings in Washington late on July 16, 2018, prosecutors said Maria Butina, 29, entertained and cultivated relationships with U.S. politicians and worked to infiltrate U.S. political organizations, particularly the National Rifle Association, the powerful gun lobbying organization, while reporting back to a high-ranking official in Moscow.
The U.S. complaint says Butina in an e-mail in 2015 described the gun association as the “largest sponsor” of congressional elections in the United States and said Russia should build a relationship with it and the Conservative Political Action Conference, a top backer of Republican political campaigns, to improve U.S.-Russia relations.
The U.S. case against Butina, a founder of the pro-gun-rights Russian advocacy organization Right to Bear Arms, was announced just hours after the conclusion of a summit in Helsinki between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump in Helsinki.
The complaint portrays Butina as active in promoting Russian interests in U.S. politics, including an easing of sanctions imposed on Moscow in 2014, in the year leading up to Trump’s election as president in 2016.
In a video posted on YouTube from the FreedomFest, a conservative political event in Las Vegas in July 2015, Butina is seen asking then-candidate Trump if he would continue to support sanctions against Russia if he were elected president.
Reuters, citing an anonymous source, reported that Butina was a Trump supporter who bragged at parties in Washington that she could use her political connections to help get people jobs in the Trump administration after the election.
According to the complaint, Butina reported back to a top government official in Moscow, who is not named in the court papers. But the official was described as “a high-level official in the Russian government who was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank.”
That description fits Aleksandr Torshin, whom Butina has previously been affiliated with. She is pictured with Torshin in numerous photographs on her Facebook page.
Aleksandr Torshin (right)
Torshin, who became a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association in 2012, was among a group of Russian oligarchs and officials targeted with sanctions in April 2018 because of their ties with Putin and their roles in “advancing Russia’s malign activities.”
Court papers filed in support of Butina’s arrest accuse her of participating in a conspiracy that began in 2015 in which the senior Russian official “tasked” her with working to infiltrate American political organizations with the goal of “reporting back to Moscow” what she had learned.
In addition to seeking out meetings with U.S. lawmakers and candidates, the complaint says Butina attended events sponsored by private lobbying groups, including the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual event in Washington that attracts leading conservative politicians.
Butina allegedly organized Russian-American “friendship and dialogue” dinners in Washington and New York with the goal of developing relationships with U.S. politicians and establishing “back channel” lines of communication, as well as “penetrating the U.S. national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation,” the complaint says.
Court papers say that an unnamed American who worked with Butina in an October 2016 message claimed to have been involved in setting up a “private line of communication” ahead of the 2016 election between the Kremlin and “key” officials in a U.S. political party through the National Rifle Association.
Butina was arrested on July 15, 2018, and charged with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian government under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, a decades-old law that until recently was rarely enforced.
In a statement, Butina’s attorney, Robert Driscoll, called the allegations “overblown” and said prosecutors had criminalized mundane networking opportunities.
Driscoll said Butina was not an agent of the Russian Federation but was instead in the United States on a student visa, graduating from American University with a master’s degree in international relations.
“There is simply no indication of Ms. Butina seeking to influence or undermine any specific policy or law or the United States — only at most to promote a better relationship between the two nations,” Driscoll said.
“The complaint is simply a misuse of the Foreign Agent statute, which is designed to punish covert propaganda, not open and public networking by foreign students.”
Court papers charging Butina with conspiracy to inflitrate U.S. political organizations include several e-mails and Twitter conversations in which she refers to the need to keep her work secret or, in one case, “incognito.”
Prosecutions under the U.S. foreign-agent law picked up in 2018 amid growing concern in Washington about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the case against Butina was connected to U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian election meddling. The charges against her were brought by a different Justice Department office: the U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C.
Among the most prominent people to face charges under the foreign-agents law is Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who was charged by Mueller in 2017.
Years of complex operations and the ongoing demands of units in the field have left the armed forces struggling to maintain both operational capacity and high levels of readiness, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office.
“After more than a decade combating violent extremists and conducting contingency operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and most recently Syria, [the Defense Department] has prioritized the rebalancing of its forces in recent budget requests to build and sustain the capabilities necessary to prevail across a full range of potential contingencies,” the report states.
“However, DoD has acknowledged that unrelenting demands from geographic commanders for particular types of forces are disrupting manning, training, and equipping cycles,” it adds.
Each of the service branches has had some success in addressing readiness issues, but problems remain in some areas for each.
For the Marine Corps, as of February, about 80% of aviation units didn’t have the minimum number of aircraft ready for training. The Marines also had a significant shortage of aircraft ready for wartime requirements.
A high pace of operations has also hindered the Navy’s maintenance efforts. The service bases its readiness recovery on deployment and maintenance schedules. “However, GAO reported that from 2011 through 2014, only 28 percent of scheduled maintenance was completed on time and just 11 percent for carriers.”
Like the Navy, the Air Force has seen continued operations with a shrinking pool of resources and little time for repair and recovery, citing Air Force reports that less than 50% of its forces are at acceptable readiness levels.
Photo courtesy of USAF
The service branch also says it is short of 1,500 pilots and 3,400 aircraft maintainers.
Air Force leaders are looking at several options to address these personnel issues, including heftier retention bonuses and stop-loss policies.
While the Army has seen readiness improvements in recent years, as GAO notes, it continues to have important deficiencies that put it at a disadvantage compared to other countries.
“For example, the Army reports that two thirds of its initial critical formations — units needed at the outset of a major conflict — are at acceptable levels of readiness, but it cautions that it risks consuming readiness as fast as the service can build it given current demands,” the report says.
The Army has also gotten withering criticism of its unit readiness from within the service itself.
According to Capt. Scott Metz, who until recently was a observer/controller/trainer at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, “many of our multinational partners are more tactically proficient at company level and below than their American counterparts.”
US troops from the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment call in their location in the back woods of the mock village they are taking over during Saber Junction 17, a field-training exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center on May 15, 2017, at Hohenfels, Germany. (US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard Frost)
“In fact,” Metz wrote in a paper published this spring, “several of them are significantly better trained and more prepared for war than we are.”
Metz recounted how unit commanders arriving at the JMRC would caution him about their unit’s lack of preparation and the minimal training done at their home stations. In his role as the opposition-force commander during exercises, he could see how this manifested itself in potentially fatal mistakes in the field.
US soldiers prepare to engage a multinational force while during an exercise at Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Germany, March 25, 2017. US Army photo by Sgt. William Frye.
The opposition-force commander “knows from past experience that the Americans will probably stay on or near the roads,” Metz writes, adding:
“They will stop for long periods of time in the open with minimal dispersion. They will not effectively use their dismounted infantry and will likely leave them in the back of vehicles for too long, allowing them to be killed with the vehicle. They also will probably make little use of tactical formations and will not use terrain to their advantage.”
All units make mistakes during their time at the JMRC, according to Metz.
The shortcomings evident in units that visit the facility come rather from deficiencies in training they do at home.
“The problem is that they are making mistakes because they have not trained as a platoon or company,” Metz states.
A multitude of factors outside the control of commanders limits the time and resources they can devote to small-unit training.
This has resulted in the longstanding problem of a “deluge of requirements,” Metz writes, citing a 2015 report that “makes the case that the Army overtasks subordinates to such a level that it is impossible for Army units and Army leaders to do everything they are tasked to do.”
US Army paratroopers finish boarding an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft loaded with a heavy-drop-rigged Humvee for a night jump onto Malemute Drop Zone, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Photo courtesy of the US Army.
The problem is a deep-rooted one and will take some time to correct, requiring a cultural change starting at the highest levels of the Army’s leadership, Metz writes.
Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, told the Senate this month that the Army, like the Air Force, is also suffering from a lack of personnel.
He told the Senate Appropriations’ defense subcommittee that the service’s portion of US defense strategy, the Army needs an active component of 540,000 to 550,000. That active component is now 476,000.
A US soldier, left, and a US Army Interpreter look over a map with an Iraqi army soldier before starting a cordon and search in the Ninewa Forest in Mosul, Iraq, June 8, 2008. US Army/Pfc. Sarah De Boise
Though the US armed forces maintains definite advantages over peers and other forces in technology, training, and capabilities, years of operations and, according to many officials, reductions in funding have imperiled the US military’s ability overcome opponents and fulfill its missions.
“In just a few years, if we don’t change our trajectory, we will lose our qualitative and quantitative competitive advantage,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee earlier this June.
‘Sniper: Assassin’s End’ is now available on Blu-ray & Digital!
One of the most popular war movie characters ever created is back: Master Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Beckett. Tom Berenger will reprise his role as Beckett in the upcoming movie
Sniper: Assassin’s End — the eighth in the Sniper series. Now the series is a kind of “Fast & Furious” of war movies, bringing together a family of characters familiar to viewers and fun to watch.
Sniper was released in 1993, at a time when the United States had few enemies in the world. But what the original Sniper did was begin a series of films that were both true to the spirit of those who serve in the U.S. military while pointing out some of the biggest issues of our time.
Here are 8 things for anyone to love about the
1. ‘Sniper’ uses the same cast when they bring characters back
What’s unique about every subsequent Sniper film is that the original players come back to reprise their roles when called. They may not be in every Sniper movie, but there isn’t some low-rent version of Tom Berenger trying to be Beckett. Speaking of which, now 70 years old, Tom Berenger still rocks a ghillie suit.
Later in the series, Chad Michael Collins joins the family as Beckett’s son Brandon and Dennis “Allstate” Haysbert reprises his role as “The Colonel.” In Sniper: Assassin’s End, actor Lochlyn Munro joins the cast – but for how long?
2. The series depicts real-world sniper stories
In the original Sniper, Thomas Beckett takes down an enemy sniper tracking his team with a well-placed shot through the enemy shooter’s own scope. While this has been depicted on-screen in later movies, Sniper was the first.
This kill was originally scored in real life by sniper and Marine Corps legend Carlos Hathcock. Hathcock may not have the most confirmed kills or the longest shots, but he’s legendary for feats like this. While hitting a sniper through his own scope may sound unbelievable, Hathcock’s story has been confirmed by two others on the scene.
3. “Sniper” has love for the spotter
Unlike so many low-thought, low-effort movies, the Sniper series doesn’t depict a “lone wolf,” gung-ho type who’s fighting the entire world on his lonesome. Beckett is rarely seen without a spotter, and even acts as a spotter for other snipers.
4. Beckett struggles with PTSD
One of the recurring motifs throughout the Sniper series, is one that wasn’t really addressed way back when or even in time for Sniper 2 in 2002: post-traumatic stress disorder. In the first Sniper movie, Beckett and Miller talk about the emotional distress of killing on the battlefield. In the sequel, Beckett is recruited because his PTSD keeps him from living a normal civilian life.
They even use the word “transition” in 2002.
Beckett (also a Vietnam veteran), even finds some catharsis from a visit to Ho Chi Minh City (called “Saigon” during Beckett’s time there), a real thing Vietnam vets do to find some inner peace.
5. They fought real-world bad guys
In 1993, the snipers were on the front lines of the drug war, trying to keep the Panama Canal Zone (still American then) in good hands. Next, they took on ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, still fresh from the Balkan wars of the 1990s. From there, they took on Islamic terrorism, Congolese militias, ISIS, and organized crime syndicates.
6. There’s a lot of love for Marines
It features a Master Gunnery Sergeant. How many Master Gunnery Sergeants have you ever seen in war movies? Thomas Beckett was likely given that rank by the film’s creators because they wanted to establish just how extensive his knowledge is – and why he wouldn’t just revert to being a paper pusher later on.
Beckett also uses his Ka-Bar knife to good effect while hunting a sniper on his trail. If you’re an old-school Marine who misses the days of EGAs printed on woodland BDUs and tightly-bloused pants tucked into black-on-green jungle boots, strap in for some nostalgia.
7. The violence is uncharacteristic of other war movies
The original Sniper movie was designed to end the cartoonish depiction of war violence in action movies — meaning violent movies were supposed to depict violence on screen. Movies like Rambo III showed death and destruction, but even Rambo’s decimation of the Red Army in Afghanistan showed a surprising lack of blood.
Sniper didn’t have that problem. By design.
Subsequent iterations of the Sniper series have been fairly true to that vision, pulling no punches and attempting to show just how brutal and up-close violence can be.
8. Thomas Beckett reminds us of a really good NCO
There’s something comforting about a non-commissioned officer who’s genuinely interested in your success and is there to not only be a great leader and teacher but really wants to help you. We really like that Beckett is there to point out where other characters mess up but it’s really cool when he also praises them for what they do well – and he does it throughout the series.
More than that, he always shows up like a badass to take care of business and do things the right way. Thomas Beckett is always out of bubblegum.
Sniper: Assassin’s End OFFICIAL TRAILER – Available on Blu-ray & Digital 6/16
1. A POW escaped prison to have an affair with the daughter of a Nazi worker
When Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia on September 1, 1939, 20-year-old British hairdresser Horace Greasley was drafted into the British Army.* Unfortunately, the aspiring barber was better with scissors than he was with a rifle, and he was captured and sent to a Polish POW camp almost immediately. Most people would be too devastated by this turn of events to even think about scoping out potential romantic opportunities, but Horace Greasley is not most people.
A few days into his imprisonment he met Rosa Raubach, the beautiful daughter of the camp’s quarry director, and the two began a secret affair that lasted for nearly a year before he was transferred to a different prison. But the story doesn’t end here — instead of giving up on his prison girlfriend, Horace decided he was up for a challenge, and continued the relationship under the Nazis’s noses. With the help of his friends he would crawl under a section of barbed wire fencing to escape back into his old prison and reunite with his lady love, rather than search for a way to neutral territory.
The pair kept up this forbidden rendezvous about three times a week for five years. Amazingly, Horace and Rosa were never found out by the Nazis — the only thing that stopped the couple was the liberation of Poland at the end of the war, when they went their separate ways.
2. This Civil War couple cross-dressed and became Union outlaws to defy the Confederacy
Keith and Linda Balock loved the Union just as much as they loved each other, so when their home state of North Carolina sided with the Confederacy, they knew it was time to take drastic measures. Realizing that Keith would have to enlist in the Confederate army or risk imprisonment (and probably worse), the husband and wife swore to stay together — even on the front lines. Linda donned men’s clothes and posed as “Sam” Balock, Keith’s fictitious brother, and the pair entered the army together, planning to defect to the Union as soon as they reached Northern territory.
Before they could cross Union lines, however, Linda’s true identity was discovered, and she was forced to leave. Unwilling to be apart from his wife, Keith decided he would get himself discharged too. The next day he went out to the forest, stripped naked, and rolled around in poison ivy until he could convince Confederate doctors that he had an incurable disease. Once released, the pair fled to the Appalachian mountains, where they lived as Union raiders for the rest of the war and worked to sabotage Confederate military efforts.
3. Two Jewish resistance leaders met in a concentration camp, fell in love, and planned their escape together
When 24-year-old Marla Zimetbaum was arrested and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau because of her Jewish heritage, she vowed to do whatever it took to bring her Nazi oppressors down. What she didn’t realize at the time, however, was that she wouldn’t have to do it alone. While working as a prison interpreter, she met fellow inmate Edward Gilenksi, a young Polish man who was plotting his escape from the camp. She began crafting the escape plan with him, and the two young people, who were both rumored to have been part of Jewish resistance groups, fell in love.
In June of 1944, Gilenski disguised himself as an SS guard and Zimetbaum as a male prisoner, and they made it outside of the camp’s perimeter gate. Once there, Zimetbaum changed out of her men’s clothes and the pair pretended to be a Nazi and his girlfriend out for a walk. They swore to stay together no matter what happened, and lived together in freedom for four days before Zimetbaum was discovered buying groceries and arrested. Keeping his promise, Gilenski turned himself in, and the two were tragically executed on the same day. Before their deaths the two reportedly rallied their fellow prisoners to continue the resistance against the Nazis, and became symbols of Jewish resistance against the Nazi regime.
4. 60 years after Stalin banished her family to Siberia, this Russian woman reunited with her husband
Only three days after his marriage to Anna Kozlov in 1946, Boris Kozlov had to return to fight with his Red Army unit in Communist Russia. The couple kissed goodbye and waved as Boris returned to his post, expecting to see each other again in a few weeks. They had no idea that they would not be reunited until 60 years later. After Boris left, Anna and her family were banished to Siberia during Stalin’s purges, and they were unavailable to leave word for any of their family or friends. When Boris returned home, expecting to be greeted by his beautiful young bride, he was crushed — she was nowhere to be found. Desperate, he scoured the town for news of her disappearance, but found nothing.
Meanwhile, Anna considered suicide, convinced she would never again see the love of her life. After a while and at the pressure of their families, they both reluctantly moved on and remarried, resigned to the fact that their marriage was not meant to be. Half a century later however, after the fall of the Soviet Union and the deaths of both their spouses, Anna returned to her hometown — and ran into Boris. She saw him getting out of his car while she walked about her old street, and the two miraculously recognized each other. They married each other again days later — finally leading the life they had dreamed of as young newlyweds.
5. 20-year-old Olga Watkins infiltrated Dachau to find her Jewish fiance
Olga Watkins was leading an ordinary, happy life when her fiance Julius Koreny was arrested by the Gestapo in 1943 and taken away. Devastated, she ignored the pleas of her family and friends to give up on Julius — who had surely been killed by the the Nazis — and instead set out to find him herself. Her quest led her on a 2,000 mile journey from Zagreb through Nazi-occupied Europe, to the gates of Dachau and finally Buchenwald, one of The Third Reich’s most notorious concentration camps.
Terrified but determined to free Julius, Olga asked for a job as a secretary in the camp offices and began searching for clues amongst the Nazis who captured her lover. Finally, with the American liberation only days away, Olga got her hands on Julius’s documentation — only to find he’d been transferred to Buchenwald. Only half-hoping he’d be alive, Olga rushed to the now liberated and nearly desolate camp — and against all odds — found Julius, who was recovering from typhus. A few days later, the remaining survivors of the camp joined together to help throw them a wedding, and the star-crossed lovers were married.
6. “Stonewall” Jackson’s last words were for his beloved wife
Most people know Confederate General Thomas Jackson, AKA the notorious “Stonewall” Jackson, for his often ruthless battle tactics and dauntless leadership. Few, however, know of his passionate love for his wife. A devout Christian, Jackson was incredibly devoted to his marriage to the love of his life, a woman named Mary Anna Morrison. Though he was smitten with her from the beginning, they hit some obstacles when they first began courting — Mary Anna had sworn she would never marry a soldier, Democrat, or a widower, and Jackson was three for three. She soon got over these concerns, however, and the two were married in 1857.
The couple was inseparable, and Jackson was overjoyed when Mary Anna gave birth to their baby daughter, Julia, in 1862. Sadly, he was wounded in friendly fire at the Battle of Chancelorville just a few weeks later, but Mary Anna raced to his location and was with him as he drew his last breath. Before he closed his eyes for the last time, Jackson whispered to his wife, “Let us pass over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.” Mary Anna chose to dress in mourning black for the rest of her life to honor her beloved husband, and never remarried.
Editor’s note: An original version of this post contained wording that made it sound like Horace Greasley was drafted by the Czech Army. Though he was called up after the invasion of Czechoslovakia, he was a Briton called up by the British Army for service. The wording updated to make this more clear.
Multiple media outlets are reporting that the largest non-nuclear bomb in the United States arsenal has made its combat debut.
According to a report by CNN, the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast, also called the Mother of All Bombs, was used to hit a cave and tunnel complex used by the Afghanistan affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.
Designation-Systems.net notes that the GBU-43 weighs 21,700 pounds – almost 11 tons – which includes 18,700 pounds of high explosive. It has a 40-inch diameter and is 30 feet long. The bomb is often used by the MC-130, a special operations variant of the C-130 Hercules.
One DOD official told FoxNews.com, “We kicked it out the back door.”
The GBU-43’s GPS guidance allows it to be dropped from high altitudes from as far as three miles away – out of the reach of some air defenses, and also allowing planes to avoid being caught in the bomb’s blast radius. The London Daily Mail noted that the bomb can leave a crater almost a thousand feet wide.
The GBU-43 replaced the BLU-82 Daisy Cutter, a Vietnam-era bomb that weighed in at 15,000 pounds, and saw action in the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and Operation Enduring Freedom, with a similar delivery method. Designation-Systems.net notes that the bomb’s explosive was 12,600 pounds of a mixture of ammonium nitrate, polystyrene, and aluminum powder. The last BLU-82 was dropped in 2008.
Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said the Defense Department spent $94 million on a proprietary camouflage pattern — known as HyperStealth Spec4ce Forest — for Afghan army forces “without determining the pattern’s effectiveness in Afghanistan compared to other available patterns.”
The effort resulted in $28 million in excess costs to the US taxpayer and, if unmodified, Sopko said, this procurement “will needlessly cost the taxpayer an additional $72 million over the next 10 years.”
Sopko’s investigation also found that the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, or CSTC-A, could not identify the total amount of direct assistance spent on Afghan uniforms — nor could it account for the total amount of uniforms actually purchased due to poor oversight and poor recordkeeping.
“These problems, Madam Chairwoman, are serious. They are so serious that we started a criminal investigation related to the procurement of the [Afghan National Army] uniforms,” Sopko told the committee.
As a result of the investigation, he added, “I am going to announce today that we believe it is prudent to review all of CSTC-A’s contracts related to the procurement of organizational clothing and individual equipment in Afghanistan.”
The investigation’s embarrassing findings recently prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to scold the Pentagon bureaucracy, describing the episode as emblematic of an attitude in the Pentagon that allows poor spending decisions to be excused, overlooked, or minimized.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler, the Missouri Republican chairwoman for the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, asked how the forest camouflage pattern was selected over other more economical patterns that are owned by the Defense Department.
Sopko said Afghanistan’s minister of defense was never shown any Defense Department-owned camouflage patterns.
“He was basically shown only the patterns owned by one company,” Sopko said. “The only options we gave the minister of defense were the proprietary patterns. The bigger problem is no one ever did an assessment as to what type of camouflage is best in Afghanistan.
“Basically, what we were told by CSTC-A, and we are researching this right now, is the minister of defense liked this color, so he picked it,” he said.
Peter Velz, director for Afghanistan Resources and Transition for the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, agreed with Sopko’s report, saying that a “DoD organization with expertise in military uniforms should conduct an analysis of whether there might be a more cost-effective uniform design and camouflage pattern that meets operational requirements.”
“We believe this is the best way to determine the merits of the report’s claim that DoD may have spent as much as $28 million over 10 years on uniforms that may be inappropriate for Afghanistan’s operational environment,” Velz said.
The appropriate Pentagon experts have begun developing a plan for the study, which is expected to begin in the coming weeks, he added.
It’s unclear if Velz’ office is aware that the US Army conducted an exhaustive camouflage study, which featured an operational evaluation of multiple camouflage patterns — including HyperStealth, in Afghanistan. The effort resulted in the Army selecting Crye Precision’s MultiCam pattern in 2010 as the service’s official pattern for Afghanistan.
Since then, the Army has adopted its new Operational Camouflage Pattern, a government-owned pattern that closely resembles MultiCam.
Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., asked what else the subcommittee can do to help prevent these types of mishandled contracts.
Sopko said that holding these types of hearing is important, but so is making sure “tough, hard questions are asked.”
“One question you could ask, and I think the full committee should ask, is how many people identified by my office, by the DoD office, or by [the Government Accountability Office] have actually lost their jobs because of wasting taxpayers’ dollars,” Sopko said.
“Send that letter to the Department of Defense … I bet you no one. We identify these problems; no one is held accountable,” he said.
Tolkien premieres today, a movie that looks at the horrors that legendary author John Ronald Reuel Tolkien endured in World War I and how it may have informed his writing of The Lord of the Rings and other fantasy novels. But while it’s easy to see some elements of World War I combat in the author’s novels, it’s pretty much certain that some elements won’t make it on to the big screen.
(Also, for what it’s worth, the Tolkien Estate has disavowed the movie ahead of its release, so go ahead and assume it’s not a terribly accurate picture of his life.)
Soldiers with the Royal Irish Rifles at Somme in 1916.
(Public domain, British Army)
Human waste overflowed and spread parasites
Yeah, Tolkien’s novels aren’t known for their graphic descriptions of waste management and disease prevention, so it’s unlikely the movie will have to address it much. But the sanitation challenges of trench warfare were overwhelming. Everyone poops, and millions of soldiers pooping in a line generates a lot of waste.
Soldiers in a shell hole receive a message from a dog in World War I.
(National Library of Scotland)
Buried under exploding dirt
Troops in the trenches were generally below the level of the surrounding terrain. (It’s the whole reason they dug those trenches.) That protected them from machine gun rounds and reduced the threat of artillery, but it also meant that large artillery shells could move tons of dirt onto them, burying soldiers.
World War I wounded leave the battlefield at Bernafay Wood in 1916.
(Ernest Brooks, Imperial War Museums)
Treating the wounded
Tolkien likely has the guts to show hospitals in World War I, but the author wasn’t a medic, and so there would be little reason to depict it. But World War I hospitals in the front were terrifying. They had rudimentary sanitation procedures in place and were often overwhelmed by the sheer number of casualties.
During major battles, like when Tolkien took part in the Battle of the Somme, medical personnel couldn’t keep up with the number of wounded. Harold Chapin was assigned night duty in May 1915, but as he described it, that had no real meaning. The medical personnel worked almost 24 hours a day and still couldn’t keep up. One bombardier described waiting three days to get the shrapnel in his leg treated, not an uncommon wait.
Mind-numbing boredom and spotty communications with home
That meant news of a sick relative in a letter might actually be already dead by the time the letter made it to the front. An overwhelmed lover lamenting the separation might have already written their Dear John follow up. And there was no guarantee that the soldier would be kept busy enough to prevent them from dwelling on potential catastrophes at home.
So, in addition to the horrors of battle, troops were left in a prison of their own mind, wondering what parts of their life back home survived.
A sergeant in a flooded out trench in World War I France. Floods like these spread disease.
(National Library of Scotland)
The movie might show a little water in the trenches, but most directors are happy with some wet ankles and splashes of mud. That is not what troops in World War I endured. No, they could be so wet for so long that their flesh rotted off. And the water could easily be a foot or more deep, too deep for soldiers to get dry just by dropping some wood into the trench or cutting a little shelf into the dirt walls.
Karah Behrend’s tattooed arms and wild blue hair aren’t the only reasons she stands out on the rugby field. It’s a relatively new hobby for Behrend, though her practiced technique paints a different picture. She performs with the intensity, coordination, and endurance of an experienced athlete.
And she does it all from the seat of her wheelchair, facing an opponent that the crowd cannot see.
“In 2015, a doctor handed me a sticky note with seven small life-changing letters on it,” the retired Senior Airman and Air Force Wounded Warriors Program member said. Those letters were CRPS/RSD.
She was diagnosed with a disease know as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome — a rare, largely untreatable and widely unknown neurological disease. According to the McGill Pain Index, it is the most painful chronic form of agony known to modern medicine.
“It rates above amputations, phantom limb and natural childbirth,” Behrend said. “It’s a lot to handle on the good days.”
But no one could see Behrend’s pain. It was hidden inside of her body, sending incorrect nerve impulses to her pain receptors. She said her invisible wound even damaged her way of thinking.
U.S. Air Force retired Senior Airman Karah Behrend, a member of the Air Force Wounded Warriors Program, poses for a photo at the Tactical Fitness Center on Joint Base Andrews, Md., Nov. 16, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alyssa D. Van Hook)
“I was very sick and tired of feeling like I constantly had to prove myself, and prove the existence of this [disease],” said Behrend. “Everything was breaking down but you could not see it.”
After nearly two years of dealing with excruciating pain, Behrend decided to attend her first Air Force Wounded Warrior CARE event.
“Before that event, I was a recluse. I wasn’t functioning,” said Behrend. “But that first CARE event taught me to value myself and see past my disease and disability.”
Behrend said the introduction of adaptive sports guided her back to happiness. She decided she would no longer sit back and play defense in her own life.
She said she started participating in as many sports as possible, from basketball to shooting, and even won a gold medal at the Warrior Games. Wheelchair rugby, however, quickly became her passion.
“Adaptive sports gave me my life back,” she said.
At first, Behrend wasn’t wheelchair-bound — she still had the ability to walk, but in Wounded Warrior events, basketball and rugby competitors play in wheelchairs regardless of their mobility. It didn’t take long before Behrend found both success and enjoyment in the activity.
Wheelchair rugby combines elements of basketball, rugby, and handball. Devoting herself to the offensive position of “high pointer,” Behrend said she used her aggression to excel. Off the field, she constantly had to endure the unpredictable ebbs and flows of debilitating, chronic pain. On the field, she had an opportunity to reclaim some brief control in her life — in the form of attitude and effort.
Senior Airman Karah Behrend, Air Force Wounded Warrior, poses for a portrait with medals she won during the Wounded Warrior Trials in Las Vegas, NV March 13, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)
And much of that progression happened in spite of a huge obstacle — in June 2018, Behrend lost her ability to walk. It happened as a result of a car accident injury, which caused her disease to creep its way to her spinal column and confine her to a wheelchair permanently.
Making matters worse, the spreading of her CRPS also affected her ability to fully control her hands. That makes all her athletic endeavors all the more difficult.
Despite near impossible odds, Behrend presses on.
“I take my life 10 seconds at a time,” she said. “It helps me get through the pain, the frustration and the thoughts of not wanting to go on. It’s okay to have those thoughts and feelings. Allow them, accept them, and embrace them. Allow them to motivate you to do something bigger and badder, just to prove to yourself that nothing can ever stop you.”
“When I’m playing, it’s the only time I’m free and feel like myself again,” Behrend said. “No limitations, just free.” Through AFW2, Behrend not only found her release through sports, but was welcomed into an irreplaceable support network of coaches, fellow wounded warriors and team leads.
One member of that support network, Ilyssa Cruz, said she witnessed Behrend’s resilience firsthand.
“I started my job at the end of April ,” said Cruz, a team lead for the Air Force North West Warrior CARE Event. “My first event was Warrior Games with the Air Force, and that’s where I met Karah. From the first time I met her till now, she has really progressed. She’s been kicking butt the past couple months, participating in event after event.”
This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDSHub on Twitter.
Defense Secretary James Mattis put out his first all-hands message to everyone in the Department of Defense on Friday, and it tells you everything you need to know about how he intends to lead.
Mattis, a retired Marine general revered by his troops, probably made a good first impression among the roughly three million men and women who make up the active duty, reserve, and civilian force. That’s due to the notable language he used in his first sentence (emphasis added):
“It’s good to be back and I’m grateful to serve alongside you as Secretary of Defense.”
As many who served under him can attest, Mattis has always been a humble warrior who led Marines from the front — not from an air conditioned bunker. And the language that he used — serve alongside you, as opposed to lead, or manage you — shows that Mattis will likely bring his beloved leadership style of the Marines with him into the civilian post.
“He’s a leader by example,” retired Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Carlton Kent told Business Insider in December. “He’s not the type that’s ‘do as I say, not as I do.’ He’s out there doing it.”
Mattis kept his message short and sweet, praising the people who make up the DoD, calling America a “beacon of hope,” and pledging that he would do his best as Defense Secretary.
Here’s the full letter:
It’s good to be back and I’m grateful to serve alongside you as Secretary of Defense.
Together with the Intelligence Community we are the sentinels and guardians of our nation. We need only look to you, the uniformed and civilian members of the Department and your families, to see the fundamental unity of our country. You represent an America committed to the common good; an America that is never complacent about defending its freedoms; and an America that remains a steady beacon of hope for all mankind.
Every action we take will be designed to ensure our military is ready to fight today and in the future. Recognizing that no nation is secure without friends, we will work with the State Department to strengthen our alliances. Further, we are devoted to gaining full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense, thereby earning the trust of Congress and the American people.
I am confident you will do your part. I pledge to you I’ll do my best as your Secretary.