That time a Confederate regiment was ordered to guard bat guano - We Are The Mighty
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That time a Confederate regiment was ordered to guard bat guano

There are bad guard details, horrible guard details, and then guard details where you and the bulk of your regiment are ordered to guard caves filled with bat shit.


That time a Confederate regiment was ordered to guard bat guano
(Photo: National Park Service, Nick Hristov)

Gunpowder is made up mostly of saltpeter, a chemical powder generally mined from deposits on cave walls or extracted from urine and bat guano. When the South found itself under naval blockade early in the war, it had to find a way to make many of its necessities.

To make the saltpeter necessary to manufacture gunpowder, the Confederacy turned to large bat guano deposits near Austin, Texas. One deposit area was later estimated to contain at least one-thousand tons of guano.

The Confederate government ordered the deposits guarded to ensure wartime production was secured, but it’s unclear how much saltpeter was actually manufactured before the end of the war. The caves were later put back into production during World War I.

Modern ammunition uses cleaner-burning propellants, but the nitrates in guano are still valuable for fertilizers. The descendants of the bats that provided the guano are now famous in Austin. Spectators line up on bridges to watch the bats depart for their nightly feeding.

NOW: That time a US Navy aircraft carrier was shut down by a race riot

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Navy vying to be the most inked service with new tattoo policy

That time a Confederate regiment was ordered to guard bat guano
(Photo: U.S. Navy by MC3 Timothy Shumaker)


Sailors have a long history of sporting tattoos, and now the sea service is taking it to the next level with some major mods to the tattoo policy. The new rules, which take effect April 30, will allow sailors to:

  • Have multiple or large tattoos below the elbow or knee, including the wrists and hands, effectively allowing sleeve tattoos that can be seen even while wearing short sleeve uniforms.
  • Have one tattoo on their neck, which includes behind the ear, and it may not exceed 1 inch in length or height in either or both directions.
  • Sailors with visible tattoos will now be eligible for recruiting duty or leading recruits at boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois. These tough assignments often give sailors a leg up to make rank.

The rules do not change the Navy’s content guidelines that apply to body art “anywhere on the body,” the policy says, which means that “tattoos that are obscene, sexually explicit, and or advocate discrimination based on sex, race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin” are still banned.

“In addition, tattoos that symbolize affiliation with gangs, supremacist or extremist groups, or advocate illegal drug use are prohibited — waivers will not be given for tattoos with prohibited content,” the service said.

“We just got to the point where we realized we needed to be honest with ourselves and put something in place that was going to reflect the realities of our country and the needs of our Navy,” Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens told Navy Times in a March 30 interview. “We need to make sure that we’re not missing any opportunities to recruit and retain the best and the brightest because of our policies.”

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22 female war heroes you’ve never heard of

Women war heroes prove that bravery and endurance are not reserved for male military personnel. Many women have served on the front lines, in the resistance, behind the wheel of convoys, in the cockpits of outdated planes, and in hospitals patching up the injured with little more than a standard first aid kit. Women and the war effort have always – and will always – go hand-in-hand.


The Night Witches of the Soviet Union took old clunker crop dusters and confounded the German air force. Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester found herself in the middle of an orchestrated attack in Iraq and turned the firepower back on the insurgents. The White Rose of Stalingrad took down numerous enemy aircraft and flew into legendary status.

Female war heroes also include the Dahomey Amazons, wives of the king who shocked their enemies with fierceness and audacity. Or the Vietnamese warriors of legend like the Trung Sisters and Lady Trieu, who thwarted the Chinese army.

The role of women in wars hasn’t always been clear or easy. Cathay Williams changed her appearance and fought in the Union Army as a man until her gender was discovered. But for a while, she fought in the Civil War along with other freed slaves. Then there’s the Polish spy who may have inspired two of Ian Fleming’sBond girls.

As we look at women in military history, there are myriad ways they serve. Women at home were working in factories making products for the war effort, but there were brave women who saw war up close. Some were able to share their experiences and become historians, teachers, instructors, colonels, and generals. Others faced poverty and lack of recognition for their war efforts.

There are millions who have served. This list of women war heroes sheds a little light on a few.

22 Badass Female War Heroes You’ve Never Heard About

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This is the best Navy life at sea video you’ll see today

A new YouTube channel dubbed “White Scope Media” shows what life is like for sailors in an EA-18G Growler squadron.


But it’s not like your typical Discovery Channel documentary or MTV “Cribs” special.

These Navy videos don’t have voice over narration. With only music and footage, they paint an intimate, true-to-form sailor experience.

Related: 37 Awesome photos of life on a US Navy carrier

While this is everyday life for active-duty sailors, veterans will get a prideful sense of nostalgia — especially after watching the second one, “Chapter 2: Meet the Patriots.”

It’s the type of intimate footage you’d expect from a family gathering. It’s why some veterans consider their shipmates their second family.

Like family, these sailors do everything together, from washing the birds, to relaxing, to preparing for war. But unlike family, this is every day, not just during a family picnic or reunion.

Life on a carrier is not the same as life on a cruise liner. Sailors don’t get the awesome hotel-style living quarters. Instead, they live in berthings with up to 100 other sailors — sometimes even more. But that’s okay because the friendships forged on deployment are way deeper than any cruise liner could ever deliver.

Watch:

White Scope Media, YouTube
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Step into an 82nd Airborne operation with this awesome 360-degree video

Kaj Larsen with VICE News went on an airborne operation with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team and filmed a 360-degree video of what it’s like to climb onto the plane and conduct a jump from 1,000 feet.


Check it out below. Computer users can click and drag in the video to look around. Phone users should play the video full screen and then turn their phone to look in different directions.

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US Coast Guard makes a big change for ethical animal treatment

U.S. Coast Guard medics have stopped using military contractors who intentionally injure sedated animals so that medics can practice treating combat wounds.


Spokeswoman Lisa Novak said in a phone interview on April 27 that the practice was suspended in January. A working group will decide if the training will continue.

The so-called “live tissue training” involved anesthetized goats.

That time a Confederate regiment was ordered to guard bat guano
Here, the Army and Navy immunize a goat, which is much nicer. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Roger S. Duncan)

Novak said she didn’t know what led to the suspension. In 2012, activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, released a video of a goat’s legs being removed with tree trimmers during what it said was Coast Guard training.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, a California Democrat, wrote in The Hill newspaper on April 27 that she had raised concerns with the Coast Guard.

She said most Americans are against the practice.

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New Army body armor is lighter, more flexible than before

The average Generation II Improved Outer Tactical Vest weighs about 26 pounds. But the new “Torso and Extremity Protection System” or TEP, under development now at Program Executive Office Soldier, sheds about five pounds of weight and also adds a wide degree of scalability that commanders can make use of depending on threat level and mission.


That time a Confederate regiment was ordered to guard bat guano
The Torso and Extremity Protection System

The TEP is part of the new “Soldier Protection System” under development now at PEO Soldier. The SPS includes both the TEP and the Integrated Head Protection System.

The TEP can replace the IOTV, at less weight and greater scalability, depending on the mission. It includes the “Modular Scalable Vest,” the “Ballistic Combat Shirt,” the “Blast Pelvic Protection System,” and a “Battle Belt,” which is aimed at getting weight off a Soldier’s shoulders and onto the hips.

With the TEP, commanders can require Soldiers to go with full protection — which provides the same level of protection as a fully-loaded IOTV — or go all the way down to wearing soft armor under their uniforms for missions that require less protection.

“It’s about giving commanders on the battlefield the ability to use the modularity capability of the equipment to fit their particular mission profile or protective posture level,” said Lt. Col. Kathy Brown, the product manager for Personal Protective Equipment at PEO Soldier, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

The IOTV sometimes required Soldiers to wear the Deltoid Auxiliary Protection — cumbersome parts that snapped on to the IOTV and protected their shoulders. Soldiers might have also been asked to wear the smaller, easily-lost collars that also snapped on to the IOTV. Both are gone with the TEP. They’ve been replaced by the Ballistic Combat Shirt, which is a shirt with breathable fabric and which also includes those smaller ballistic protection parts built in. Soldiers would wear the BCS under the TEP’s Modular Scalable Vest.

“We have tested it,” Brown said of the Ballistic Combat Shirt. “Soldiers like it. There is 95 percent Soldier acceptability of it. What we are working on now is tweaking the sizes.”

The TEP also includes the Blast Pelvic Protection System, which is designed to protect a Soldiers thighs and groin against ballistic threats and burns. The BPPS is meant to replace the current combination of the pelvic undergarment and the pelvic outer-garment, or “PUG” and “POG.” The PUG has sometimes been referred to as “ballistic underwear.”

Brown said the BPPS “provides the same level of protection” as the PUG and POG combined, including both burn and fragment protection. She said Soldiers have reported that it feels more like it is “part of the pants.”

The “Battle Belt” included with the TEP is part of a weight management system, but it also offers some protection as well.

“It’s designed to remove the weight from your shoulders and put it on your hips,” Brown said. Whereas Soldiers might strap a radio or other gear onto their IOTV in the past, the Battle Belt can now take that gear and move the weight onto a Soldier’s hips.

Brown said that after successful ballistic testing, production of the TEP will begin in probably May of this year, and that Soldiers could see it in 2018 or 2019.

Another part of the Soldier Protection System is the Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS. In its full configuration, it looks similar to a motorcycle helmet.

The IHPS consists of a base helmet, similar to the polyethylene “Enhanced Combat Helmet” that some Soldiers are already wearing. The IHPS also includes add-ons for the base helmet, including a visor, a “mandible” portion that protects the lower jaw, and a “Ballistic Applique” that is much like a protective layer that attaches over the base helmet. The complete ensemble is known as the “high threat configuration.”

Brown said that eventually all deploying Soldiers will get the IHPS with the base helmet, which is the standard configuration. Other Soldiers, vehicle gunners in particular, will also get the mandible portion and the ballistic applique as well, known as the turret configuration.

The IHPS currently has a Picatinny rail mounted on the side for attaching gear, and will also provide for attaching head-mounted night vision goggles.

The visor portion on the IHPS provides ballistic protection to a Soldier’s face, but doesn’t provide any protection against the sun. So Soldiers wearing it will need to wear darkened sunglasses underneath the visor if they are in bright environments.

Maj. Jaun F. Carleton, also with PEO Solider, had a pair of new sunglasses that are authorized for use by Soldiers if they want to buy them, or if their commanders buy them for them.

The sunglasses, which also come in a face mask version as well, start off as un-darkened — offering no protection against the sun. But with the press of a button, LCD modules that adhere to the lenses darken and provide protection against the sun. That happens in less than a second.

“The benefit is that using one pair of protective eyewear, you wouldn’t have to switch from a clear goggle to a dark goggle — you’d have one protective eyewear for all conditions,” Carleton said.

Brown said the goggles will be available for units to be able to requisition as part of the Soldier Protection System.

“If we are able to drive the price down, the Army could eventually make a decision to include that on the list of items that we carry for deploying Soldiers,” Brown said.

Brown said the IHPS will likely be available to deploying Soldiers sometime between 2020 and 2021.

As part of extensive human factors evaluations, Brown said that PEO Soldier has used Soldiers, extensively, to evaluate the new gear.

“We had a massive scale of Soldiers to evaluate the equipment, usually over a three-week to month-long timeframe, where they would perform their different mission sets, where they will execute basic rifle marksmanship, and ruck marches,” she said.

Afterward, she said, those same Soldiers were asked what they think of the gear through a qualitative evaluation methodology (Soldier survey).

“They would give us the good, the bad, the ugly,” Brown said. “It’s extremely important to get Soldiers’ input. First, Soldiers are brutally honest and they are going to tell you exactly how they feel about the equipment. Second, why buy equipment Soldiers won’t wear? And third, who’s better to give us the best answer about how the kit should be designed than the Soldier who will actually wear the equipment?”

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Air Force announces first 30 enlisted drone pilots

The first 30 board-selected enlisted airmen will begin training to fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, the Air Force announced Wednesday.


The service’s inaugural Enlisted Remotely Piloted Aircraft Pilot Selection Board picked two senior master sergeants, five master sergeants, nine technical sergeants, 14 staff sergeants and five alternates from about 200 active-duty applicants from various job assignments, according to a release.

Related: 6 ways to use those retired Predator drones

“These 30 Airmen join the Enlisted RPA Pilot program along with the 12 other Airmen from the Enlisted Pilot Initial Class, four of whom started training in October 2016,” it states. “The Air Force plans for the number of enlisted RPA pilots to grow to 100 within four years.”

That time a Confederate regiment was ordered to guard bat guano
Tech. Sgt. William, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing sensor operator, flies a simulated mission June 10, 2016, at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. The 432nd WG trains and deploys MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper aircrews in support of global operations 24/7/365. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christian Clausen/Released)

The selection board met in February to deliberate and choose from 185 active-duty enlisted airmen who made it past an initial qualifying phase of the program. Airmen holding rank from staff sergeant through senior master sergeant and having six years of retainability from course graduation date were considered for the board, the release said. Those considered also had to complete the Air Force’s initial flying class II physical examination, plus a pilot qualification test.

Two airmen from the board are expected to begin the Initial Flight Training program at Colorado’s Pueblo Memorial Airport by April, Air Force Personnel Center spokesman Mike Dickerson told Military.com last month. Subsequently, two enlisted airmen will be part of each class thereafter throughout this fiscal year and into early next fiscal year, Dickerson said.

Also read: Here’s how bad the Air Force’s pilot shortage really is

The Air Force announced in 2015 it would begin training enlisted airmen to operate the unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft.

That time a Confederate regiment was ordered to guard bat guano
U.S. Air Force photo

The AFPC said in November that 305 active-duty enlisted airmen had been identified to apply for the selection board. The center saw a surge of interest from potential RPA airmen during the application process that began last year, AFPC said at the time. It received more than 800 applicants, compared to a typical 200 applicants.

The Air Force said its next call for nominations for the 2018 enlisted RPA pilot selection board is scheduled for next month, the release said.

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Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

Fifty-one years after saving a squad of U.S. Marines from walking into an ambush by Viet Cong, Don Medley walked into a surprise gathering organized to honor him.


Members of the squadron Medley saved May 12, 1966, gathered Friday at Stone Hearth restaurant in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, for a surprise dinner. Medley, a former U.S. Army Warrant Officer, had believed he and his wife, Dianne, were meeting one of the Marine veterans, Earl Davis, and his wife, Claudia, for dinner.

In reality, three other men Medley saved, along with their wives, were waiting to meet him. Those honoring him traveled from South Carolina, Missouri, Georgia and Tennessee.

“I told my wife that one day I’d like to meet some of the guys on the ground that I helped,” Medley said. “This is the day.”

Medley, of Hodgenville, appeared stunned and overwhelmed by the handshakes, hugs and greetings he received as he stood near the doorway of the room reserved for the occasion.

“Thank you, for my wife and kids,” one man said.

The words “thank you” repeatedly resounded in the room that held a dining table adorned with a centerpiece of white flowers highlighted with small U.S. flags. Placemats also were emblazoned with U.S. flags.

“This is such an honor for me,” Medley said, his voice wavering as he received gifts of gratitude. “It’s unbelievable.”

Like other members of Bravo Company of 1st Marine Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Earl Davis had wondered over the years who the Cessna pilot who saved them was. After an article was published in Vietnam magazine last year, Medley’s identity became known.

Davis received contact information for Medley on Dec. 26. He decided to coordinate the surprise gathering.

During the gathering, Medley recounted the day he was flying his Cessna over a rice paddy and noticed Marines advancing toward a trench line holding enemy forces. He dropped a smoke grenade on which he had scrawled a brief message warning the Marines, but they continued to advance.

He soon noticed there were more enemies in a tree line, making the number much larger. He dropped a second smoke grenade warning them and included the words, “I’m calling Arty,” referring to notifying artillery. His message saved them, the men said.

“We’ve been looking for this guy for over 50 years,” Ray Maurer said. “I just broke up when I saw him.”

Maurer and his wife, Bernadette, made the trip from Georgia.

Carl Whipple of Tennessee attended the gathering with wife, Myrtle Ruth.

“We all wanted the opportunity to meet him,” he said.

Whipple described the experience as heartfelt and said it was “a God thing” that sent Medley to fly over the squad 51 years ago.

“We’re indebted,” he said.

Dan Ferrell of Missouri said the gathering was a much-needed opportunity to express his thanks to Medley.

“I’ve never been able to put this behind me,” said Ferrell, who has post-traumatic stress disorder.

Medley was presented with a watch that was set at 10:30, the approximate time he dropped the first smoke grenade. He also was given mementos including a framed collection of items, among which was a signed letter of thanks.

Choking up in the process, Davis read the letter during the presentation. Later, he said the emotion he felt at that time summed up what he was feeling and how special the occasion was.

“It means a whole hell of a lot,” he said.

Similarly, Medley visibly was moved during the gathering and said the items he received will be displayed with honor in his den.

“It’s overwhelming,” Medley said. “This vindicates my whole year in Vietnam.”

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UK scrambles fighters in response to nearby Russian nuclear-capable bombers

The Royal Air Force had to scramble Typhoon fighter jets in response to nearby Russian nuclear-capable Tu-160 bombers on Thursday.


The bombers came from the North East past Ireland, ITV News reports. A UK Ministry of Defense spokesperson told ITV “at no point did the Russian aircraft enter UK territorial airspace.”

However, some of the Tu-160 bombers carry long-range nuclear capable cruise missiles which can pose a threat to the UK even outside of its own airspace. It is not clear right now which Tu-160 variants were intercepted.

That time a Confederate regiment was ordered to guard bat guano
Russian Tu-160 bombers fly in formation. | Flickr

Russia has recently been holding snap air force exercises, with a directive from Russian President Vladimir Putin himself apparently instructing the force to prepare for a “time of war.”

Russian planes frequently skirt or breach NATO and US allies’ air spaces. When detected, the standard operating procedure for most countries dictates scrambling jets to intercept the intruders.

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4 other ways the US could shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile

There’s been a lot of talk about North Korea’s nuclear missile potential, as recent tests have worried officials that Pyongyang could lob a nuke at the American homeland.


But the U.S. has some tools to shoot down a potential ICBM streaking toward CONUS. A lot of the anti-missile focus has centered on the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system.

One battery of six launchers – each with eight missiles – is being deployed to South Korea to protect that ally from a North Korean missile that either goes astray or is deliberately fired at South Korea.

But are there other options? The good news is that not all of America’s missile-defense eggs are in the THAAD basket. Here are some of the other options out there.

That time a Confederate regiment was ordered to guard bat guano
A Patriot Air and Missile Defense launcher fires an interceptor during a previous test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The latest configuration of the system, called PDB-8, has passed four flight tests and is now with the U.S. Army for a final evaluation. | Raytheon

1. MIM-104 Patriot – including Patriot PAC-3

This system has been doing the anti-missile thing since Operation Desert Storm.

Batteries in Saudi Arabia and Israel intercepted numerous versions of the SS-1 Scud fired by Saddam Hussein’s regime. An official DOD report from 1996 noted an 80 percent success rate in Saudi Arabia and a 50 percent success rate in Israel using the MIM-104C versions. Designation-Systems.net notes that the MIM-104E version has been in service since 2002, while the PAC-3 version came into service in 2003.

That time a Confederate regiment was ordered to guard bat guano
Japan Flight Test Mission 1, marked the first time that an Allied Navy ship has successfully intercepted a ballistic missile target with the sea-based midcourse engagement capability provided by Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense. The JFTM-1 test event verified the new engagement capability of the Aegis BMD configuration of the recently upgraded Japanese destroyer, JS KONGO (DDG-173).

2. RIM-161 Standard Missile SM-3

The Navy’s SM-3 system is probably one of the most reliable missile killers in the inventory. According to a Missile Defense Agency fact sheet, the SM-3 has hit its target in 27 out of 34 tests. That is a 79.4 percent success rate.

Furthermore, this system has one advantage over THAAD and Patriot: Being ship-based, it can be moved to a more ideal intercept position. The system is also very capable – Designation-Systems.net credits the RIM-161A missile with a range of over 270 nautical miles – and the RIM-161D is being tested now.

The system forms the basis of “Aegis Ashore.”

According to the Missile Defense Agency website, Aegis Ashore is being deployed in Romania and Poland. With the proven Aegis system, it would not be surprising to see more Aegis Ashore complexes built.

That time a Confederate regiment was ordered to guard bat guano
As part of a joint Missile Defense Agency/U.S. Navy missile defense test, an AQM-37C cruise missile target was launched from an aircraft July 31 west of Kauai, Hawaii. The USS John Paul Jones, positioned west of Hawaii, detected, tracked and launched a SM-6 Dual I missile, resulting in a third successful target intercept This was the third event in a series of joint Missile Defense Agency/U.S. Navy missile defense tests.

3. RIM-66 SM-2 and RIM-174 SM-6 Standard Missiles

These missiles, while primarily intended to kill aircraft, have gone six-for-six in tests anti-missile tests, according to the Missile Defense Agency. While not as capable as the SM-3, they can still take out an incoming missile before it does damage.

Both systems, it should be noted, could also be used from Aegis Ashore systems — in essence, creating a very powerful air-defense network in addition to defending against ballistic missiles from North Korea.

That time a Confederate regiment was ordered to guard bat guano
A Ground-Based Interceptor is transported to its silo. (Missile Defense Agency photo)

4. Ground-Based Interceptor

This system adds a way to thin out incoming missiles as well. According to the Missile Defense Agency, 30 of these missiles are deployed between Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. A fact sheet from the Missile Defense Agency notes that the system’s shown a 52.97 percent success rate in 17 tests.

There are two problems with the GBI, of course: There are only 30 deployed, and none are on the East Coast.

The Missile Defense Agency website notes they are looking into new technologies, as well, especially for what they call Early Intercept.

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These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle

That time a Confederate regiment was ordered to guard bat guano
Merrill’s Marauders trudging through the Burmese jungle. (Photo: Life Magazine)


When it comes to sheer hardship under appalling combat conditions, it is hard to match what the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional), better known as Merrill’s Marauders, endured in the China-India-Burma campaign.

When the Japanese had overrun and taken Burma from its colonial master Great Britain in 1942, it had cut the only real overland route for military supplies heading to Chinese forces fighting the Japanese in mainland China. The famed Allied air transport route “over the hump” of the Himalayas was no substitute for a reliable road considering the amount of supplies needed.

U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided at a conference in August 1943 to form special American units for infiltrating Burma, modeled after the British Army Chindits, a long-range penetration unit that had already operated in Burma under Brigadier Ord Wingate. The plan was to disrupt Japanese communications and supply lines and capturing key points, the reopening of the Burma Road could be accelerated.

An Army-wide call for those interested in volunteering was put out under presidential authority, drawing about 3,000 recruits from stateside units. Many were specifically drawn from soldiers who already had experience in jungle fighting from earlier in the war. After assembly in India, they received months of intensive training in jungle warfare under the instruction of Wingate, including extended exercises with the Chindits. The 5307th was placed under the command of Brig. General Frank Merrill, the source of the name ‘Merrill’s Marauders’ eventually given to the unit by the press.

Conceived as a mobile raiding force, the Marauders were lightly equipped by conventional infantry standards, with no heavy weapons beyond light mortars, bazookas, and machine guns. Dense jungle and mountains made ground vehicles impossible, so supplies were to be carried by the soldiers themselves and hundreds of mules and horses. Resupply was limited to airdrops and whatever the unit could forage off the countryside in trade with indigenous locals.

Embarking on Feb. 24, 1944, the Marauders mission began with 2,750 men marching over a thousand miles through the Patkai region of the Himalayas, in order to get behind Japanese lines in Burma. Operating with indigenous Kachin scouts and Chinese forces, they began a series of raids against Japanese patrols, supply lines, and garrisons. Their ultimate goal was to capture the strategic Burmese town of Myitkynia, which had an important airfield and was along the route for an alternate road to China.

That time a Confederate regiment was ordered to guard bat guano
Brig. Gen. Merrill accepts a goat from village elders. (Photo: Nat’l WW2 Museum)

The Marauders were almost always outnumbered and outgunned by the Japanese 18th Division, which formed their primary opposition. Lacking artillery and out of range of any serious air support, they had to rely on surprise, training, and mobility to outfight the Japanese regulars, and they often found themselves on the defense because they were ill-equipped for fighting against larger forces.

But their greatest enemy, which inflicted more damage than even superior Japanese forces could, was the jungle. Malaria, amoebic dysentery, and typhus took an awful toll, inflicting more casualties than Japanese fire did. Soldiers shaking from fever and tormented by diarrhea had to force themselves through dense jungle and intense close quarters combat. Torrential rains, stinging insects, and snakes only added to their misery.

The issued K-rations were relatively light and compact, but at 2,900 calories per day were wholly inadequate for heavily loaded men marching, sweating, and fighting in the jungle. Even for men facing hunger, many components of the rations were so widely detested that they were often thrown away, and failed air drops only made the situation worse. Malnourishment and its accompanying weakness and exhaustion made the troops more vulnerable to already endemic diseases, and many of them were reduced to little more than walking skeletons.

Despite the enormous challenges, the Marauders managed to inflict far greater casualties on the Japanese then they suffered, and used their mobility and seeming ability to strike anywhere to throw Japanese forces into confusion. After dozens of skirmishes and several major actions, the 5307th managed to take the airfield at Myitkynia in August 1944 alongside elements of the Chinese Army, and the town itself after reinforcements arrived.

So decimated were the Marauders by disease and combat that only 200 men of the original task force were still present at the end of the campaign. Frank Merrill, who suffered a heart attack before being stricken with malaria by the end of the mission. Every last member was evacuated to hospitals to recuperate from months of hunger, disease, and exhaustion.

The 5307th was disbanded shortly thereafter, and in a very rare distinction every single member of the commando force received the Bronze Star for staying and fighting. They fought five major actions and dozens of smaller ones while marching over 750 miles through enemy territory, all the while fighting a different but even more deadly battle against hunger and disease. The unit was eventually redesignated as the 75th Infantry Regiment, from which today’s 75th Ranger Regiment descended.

 

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These are the differences between Airborne and Air Assault

Short answer: One is still used as a tactically viable way of getting troops into the fray and the other is more ceremonial.


Benjamin Franklin once said “Where is the prince who can afford to cover his country with troops for its defense, so that ten thousand men descending from the clouds might not, in many places, do an infinite deal of mischief before a force could be brought together to repel them?”

Both of these troops fit that bill over two hundred years later.

Out of all of the current military rivalries, this one still ranks pretty high on the list. As someone who’s Air Assault and let his personal rivalry simmer a bit, there’s no reason to keep it up. The differences between the two just keeps growing with each conflict.

That time a Confederate regiment was ordered to guard bat guano
(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Sean McCollum, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

By World War II, many forces developed their own form of Airborne infantry that soared into combat. Allied forces captivated folks back home with the tales of jumping into the European theater. Over the years, airborne operations can be performed in essentially two ways: static jumps (think of the age-old cadence “Stand up, Hook up, Shuffle to the door! Jump right out on the count of Four!”) and HALO/HAHO, or High Altitude, Low Opening and High Opening (free-falling).

Air Assault rose in the Cold War and became more prominent in the Vietnam War. There are usually two means for getting troops into combat, FRIES, or Fast Rope Insertion/Extraction, where you grab a piece of rope and slide out of a hovering helicopter and just Air Insertion, where the helicopter lands on the ground and troops hop out. Technically, there’s also Sling Load operations, where you attach things underneath a helicopter, but that’s more of a special task that’s assigned to Air Assault qualified troops.

That time a Confederate regiment was ordered to guard bat guano
There’s several more ways of leaving a helicopter. Like SPIES and Helocasting, as seen above (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Codie Mendenhall)

But in the wars since 9/11, you can count on one hand the number of combat jumps performed by US troops. They were done twice in Iraq and once in Afghanistan — and all three to command and control airfields.

Making a combat jump authorizes you to wear a Combat Jump Device. It’s a gold star that adorns the Parachutist Badge and is often referred to as a “mustard stain.” Finding one of these bad asses outside of Jump School is like finding a CW5 — you know they have to exist somewhere because you’ve seen the badges at the PX, but it still sounds as plausible as any other barracks rumor.

There isn’t as comprehensive list on total Air Assault missions because it’s far more common. It’s just another way to get around.

Many combat arms guys can tell you that they never went to Air Assault school, but still do Air Assault operations in country. The only Air Assault task restricted to someone who actually went to the school is the previously mentioned sling load operations. Even that has its “volun-told” feel to it. Sling loading has a risk to it that could be deadly if not done properly. Only Airborne school qualified personnel are allowed to complete airborne jumps (because of the weeks they spend just learning how to fall properly).

That time a Confederate regiment was ordered to guard bat guano
(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston)

Sure. We have our disagreements and will probably flame each other in the comment section. They’re both ways to get men out of a perfectly good aircraft.

We both deal with a heavy amount of prop / rotor wash that training can never prepare you for. And both of our badges are still highly sought after by badge-hunters — usually a staff lieutenant or junior NCO. And they both will probably correct you by saying “well actually, according to Army regulation…”

Wear your blood wings proud, my brothers and sisters.

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