The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together - We Are The Mighty
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The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

It all began when the entrenched British forces recognized the “Silent Night, Holy Night” Christmas carol coming from the German side. “Our boys said, ‘Let’s join in.’ So we joined in with the song,” Francis Sumpter told the History Channel.


Confused by the pleasant, yet awkward moment, the British troops didn’t know how to react to what was happening on the German side. So they began to pop their heads over the trench and quickly retreated in case the Germans started shooting.

“And then we saw a German standing up, waving his arms, and we didn’t shoot,” said Pvt. Leslie Wellington, who witnessed the moment.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together
British and German troops meeting in no man’s land during the unofficial truce. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The Germans approached the British trench calling out “Merry Christmas” in English. At first the British troops thought it was a trick, but when they saw that the Germans were unarmed, they began to climb out of the trenches. Slowly and cautiously, both sides approached each other and began to shake each other’s hands. They exchanged gifts and sang carols together, and even played soccer. For a moment, in the middle of the “Great War,” there was peace on earth.

“By Christmas 1914, every soldier knew that the enemy was sharing the same misery as they were,” Dominiek Dendooven of the Flanders Field Museum in Ypres, Belgium, told the History Channel.

The troops on both sides knew that engaging with the enemy in this manner is treason and grounds for court martial and even punishable by death. This fear alone would motivate both sides to resume fighting.

Both sides would retreat to their trenches that night wondering if they would continue to defy the war the next morning. Pvt. Archibald Stanley remembers how his officer resumed the fighting, “Well, a few of them knocking around, this fella come up the next day. He says, ‘You Still got the armistice?’ He picked up his rifle, and he shot one of those Germans dead.”

According to The History Channel’s Christmas Truce of 1914 article:

The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.

Check out the video:

MIGHTY HISTORY

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

Say what you want about President Nixon, the man knew what the greatest asset in the U.S. military was – the people who served. As a veteran himself, he could appreciate what it was like to be in the military during wartime. What Nixon couldn’t know as a vet was what it was like to be captured and tortured by the enemy. As Commander-In-Chief during the Vietnam War, he knew exactly how many Americans were held captive.

When they came home, he showed his appreciation in style.


The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

President Richard Nixon and Pat Nixon on stage at the White House Dinner for the American Prisoners of War (POW) who were returned by the North Vietnamese government. On stage with President Nixon and Mrs. Nixon are singer Vic Damone, comedian-actor Bob Hope, “God Bless America” songwriter Irving Berlin, and singer-actor-dancer Sammy Davis, Jr.

(National Archives)

It was three months after the repatriation of American POWs from North Vietnam that a huge tent was erected on the back lawn of the White House. The President and the First Lady were about to throw the largest White House dinner in the history of the American Republic. The guests of honor were every single Vietnam POW who just came home, more than 590, 34 of which couldn’t make it due to continued treatment. Along with them came a star-studded guest list that included John Wayne, Bob Hope, and Jimmy Stewart.

“President Nixon made us feel like we were the stars,” said retired Air Force Col. Robert Certain. “President Nixon is one of our heroes.” Nixon also took the time to meet every single of the POWs.”

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

“He was a hero to us. He will always be revered by us as a group because he got us home,” said retired Marine Corps Capt. Orson Swindle, who spent more than six years in a Hanoi prison camp.

Some 40 years later, the same POWs re-gathered for a reunion at the Richard Nixon Memorial Library in Yorba Linda, Calif. They brought their families along to celebrate the anniversary of their release as well as the unforgettable dinner the President threw for them, taking them from eating with their hands in a cell to eating on White House china and shaking hands with the stars.

As of the 2013 reunion, the 1973 dinner was still the largest dinner ever held at the White House.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

First Lady Pat Nixon greets touring POW families during the evening events.

The POWs were also given unfettered access to areas of the White House normally off-limits to the public. They were able to tour the historic mansion without guides or maps. One pair of veterans even told ABC news they accidentally walked into President Nixon’s private study, with the man himself seated at its desk. He told them it was alright and he would be out to greet them in a minute.

But the President could not stay up all night with the troops and retired before the evening was over, ordering the staff to let everyone stay until they wanted to go. But before leaving he told the POWs:

“I have spoken to many distinguished audiences. I can say to you today that this is the most distinguished group I have ever addressed, and I have never been prouder than I am at this moment to address this group.”
MIGHTY HISTORY

7 things you didn’t know about Wyatt Earp and his famous gunfight

No doubt about it, the Wild West is an evocative era in American history. This period of frontier expansion is synonymous with rowdy saloons, cowboys, suspenseful shootouts, and of course, the ever-present tumbleweed. Within this lawless atmosphere, the infamous 1881 gunfight at the O.K. Corral took place. Although it was a real historical event, the showdown between Wyatt Earp and the Cochise County Cowboys checks off every element of a good spaghetti western film.

Here are the basic facts: Approximately 30 shots were fired in the standoff between law enforcement and the group of outlaws known as the Cochise County Cowboys. The altercation left three cowboys dead and two lawmen wounded in the mining boomtown of Tombstone, Arizona Territory. However, the passage of time has meshed fact with legend. We’re here to set the record straight. Here are seven little-known facts about the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.


The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

1. The gunfight did not actually take place at the O.K. Corral.

Nope, the shootout didn’t happen inside or even next to the eponymous corral. Shots were exchanged in a vacant lot on Fremont Street, down the road from the corral’s rear entrance.

This common mistake can be attributed to the 1957 film, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. The movie made the shootout famous, but it was rather loose with the facts. (As for why the movie-makers decided on a location change, we’re guessing it’s because Gunfight at the O.K. Corral sounds more glamorous than Gunfight at the Vacant Lot on Fremont Street.) The corral still exists today, but instead of a business renting out horses and wagons, it’s a part of Tombstone’s historic district, where people can pay to watch reenactments of the gunfight.

2. The police may not have been the good guys.

There isn’t much room for moral ambiguity in standard depictions of the Old West. You have your bad guys (violent, lawless thieves) and your good guys (law-abiding sheriffs who try to protect the town). However, historians aren’t so sure what went down during the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

The Earp brothers and their friend Doc Holliday claimed afterwards that they were trying to disarm the cowboys, who were illegally carrying firearms when the cowboys opened fire. The surviving cowboys alleged that they were fully cooperating and had even raised their hands in the air when the lawmen started indiscriminately shooting them at point blank range. Alliances were strong in the small town–newspapers were not above taking sides, and witnesses of the scuffle gave conflicting testimony. To further complicate matters, the transcript of the ensuing murder trial was destroyed in a fire. All in all, we may never know for sure who provoked the shootout.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

3. Wyatt Earp wasn’t really the hero of the shootout.

Wyatt Earp went down in history as the central figure of the gunfight. In reality, his brother Virgil was far more experienced than him in combat and shootout situations. Virgil had served in The Civil War and had a long career in law enforcement compared to Wyatt, who had a shorter stint in law enforcement and was even fired from one position.

However, Wyatt gained fame when a biography, Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, was published in 1931, two years after its subject’s death. Riddled with exaggerations, to the point that it was more fiction that actual biography, the book portrayed Wyatt as the deadliest and most feared shooter in the Old West. Another contributing factor to his notoriety was the fact that unlike his fellow lawmen in the O.K. Corral shootout, Wyatt wasn’t injured or killed. Nor was he harmed in any of the ensuing fights. His close calls in the face of death only added to his mystique. Which brings us to our next point …

4. The gunfight at the O.K. Corral was only a small part of the long feud between the Earps & the cowboys.

Tension was simmering between the cowboys and the Earps long before gunfire erupted. Naturally, the fact that the Cochise County Cowboys made their living through smuggling and thievery ruffled a few feathers with town marshal Virgil Earp. The cowboys were implicated in several robberies and murders. The Earps promised justice, to which the cowboys responded that they were being persecuted without evidence. Death threats were exchanged.

The gunfight wasn’t the end of the enmity between these men either. The surviving cowboys were believed to have organized the assassination of Morgan Earp and a murder attempt on Virgil that left him permanently disabled.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

5. Wyatt Earp wasn’t always on the right side of the law.

And he definitely wasn’t the infallible hero later accounts made him out to be. Earp was apparently heavily affected by his first wife’s death and started acting out. Before moving to Tombstone, he faced a series of lawsuits alleging that he stole money and falsified court documents. He was also arrested for stealing a horse and escaped from jail before his trial. Later, he was arrested and fined for frequenting brothels. Rumors were abound that he was a pimp.

Earp tried to turn things around for himself and got a job on the police force in Wichita, Kansas. However, he was fired after getting into a fistfight. Luckily for him, it was pretty easy to wipe the slate clean for yourself in those days. He could simply pack his bags and head to a new town like Tombstone, where he could start with a fresh reputation.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

6. The gunfight only lasted 30 seconds.

Yup, the dramatic confrontation that left three men dead and three wounded lasted less than a minute. In that span, around 30 shots were fired. The movie Gunfight at the O.K. Corraldramatized the shootout, showing the men heavily armed and engaged in a fight that spanned minutes. In reality, each man carried only a revolver apiece and in the confusion, nobody could be sure who fired the fatal shots.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

7. Many of the townspeople sympathized with the cowboys.

You would think the people of Tombstone would regard the Earps as their heroes for driving out the outlaws. Not so. Public opinion was divided over the matter, especially after Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan testified in court that he witnessed the cowboys try to surrender peacefully.

However, even the sheriff had loyalties in this small town. Virgil Earp had clashed with Behan on several other occasions, claiming that he turned a blind eye to the cowboys’ illegal activities and was sympathetic to the criminals. Additionally, Wyatt Earp’s common-law wife, Josephine Earp, had lived with Behan for two years before entering a relationship with Earp. She left Behan after finding him in bed with another woman, but no doubt this contributed to the animosity betweens the Earps and Behan.

Also read: This Civil War vet was the real hero of the O.K. Corral shootout

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

Articles

35 technical errors in ‘Rules of Engagement’

“Rules of Engagement” starring Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones showed audiences intense military courtroom drama and the unbreakable bond that develops between two Marines in combat.


But it didn’t get everything right. While WATM has picked apart everything from “The Hurt Locker” to “Top Gun,” we figured it was worth digging into the technical errors here as well. There’s plenty this film accurately depicts. These are 35 times where they got it wrong.

Also read: 9 military movie scenes where Hollywood got it totally wrong

1:47 Why does Childers have a smoke grenade right on the shoulder he fires from? You might want to put that on your non-firing side. You can actually see him struggle a bit when he tries to put his rifle into his shoulder.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

4:30 After Hodges’ platoon hears enemy fire on Childers’ position, they just stand around in the middle of a swamp. It might be a good idea to get down behind some cover or turn outward to investigate.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

(Before we hit the next ones, let’s explain proper radio procedures. When calling up another unit over the radio, the procedure is “You, this is me, here’s what I want to say, over.” Like: “Bravo 6, this is Bravo 2, what’s your position? Over.”)

4:32 Radio operator says, “Delta two, what’s your SITREP over?” Then he says “Delta One, Delta Two, SITREP, over.” In the first transmission, he’s implying he’s Delta One, and asking Delta Two for a report. Then in the next, he calls them Delta One, and he says he’s Delta Two.

4:40 He gets a response back from the other radio operator which explains that Childers’ platoon is Delta Two, and Hodges’ is Delta One: “Two, one, contact, over.” This response also deserves the Capt. Obvious award. The other platoon might want to know where the other platoon is so they can help.

4:48 What’s the deal with this NVA soldier behind no cover in the middle of a firefight, not aimed in, just sitting there? That is up until the last moment when he decides to aim at the Americans and then he gets immediately shot.

5:30 The other platoon has literally not moved from their original position. Cover and/or concealment aren’t really a concern. Then of course, 10 seconds later the NVA starts shooting.

6:22 Hodges picks up the radio, calls no one in particular, then says “Other side of the tree line. I’m in the water unable to withdraw.” There are a lot of trees out there, brah. Can you give us a better description so we can help you?

6:28 He continues: “Unable to withdraw! I’m calling in a fire mission on this position.” Who the hell is he talking to? And how is artillery going to drop when they don’t have a grid, distance, direction, or anything other than “hey I’m by this tree line and there’s water.”

6:35 “Hurry up and drop that f—king arty!” he says, to no one in particular, to whom he’s given no information on where it should be dropped. In fairness, he’s under a bit of stress.

7:11 When Childers kills the Vietnamese radio operator with his 1911 .45 caliber pistol, it makes the same sound an M1 Garand makes when it’s out of ammo. This makes no sense.

9:38 Col. Hodges apparently is like, “screw this. I’m not getting a haircut anymore.”

9:49 Hodges puts on his garrison cap like he’s a private just learning how to wear it at boot camp. Not an officer with 32 years of service.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

10:20 Hodges’ marksmanship badges are out toward the sides. They are supposed to be centered over the pocket with only 3/4-inch space between them.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

10:37 Pretty much everyone has this problem.

11:12 Col. Childers also hates Marine Corps haircuts.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

11:47 Childers retells the story of Marine Lt. Presley O’Banion, which is pretty close to Lt. Presley O’Bannon.

14:30 The 24th MEU is on the USS Wake Island. However, the USS Wake Island (CVE-65) was a World War II escort carrier commissioned in 1943 and decommissioned in 1946.

15:09 The Wake Island’s captain wears a hat that says USS Wake Island (LHA-7). LHA-7, which is the newly-commissioned USS Tripoli, didn’t exist at the time of this movie.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

15:16 Col. Childers has a subdued American flag on his shoulder. This is an Army thing. Marines don’t ever wear this (although it’s possible a MEU commander could say otherwise).

15:45 I know this would kill the rest of the movie and courtroom drama, but why is the MEU Commander, a colonel, going on a TRAP (tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel) mission? There’s a captain in charge of the mission who is more than capable.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

18:17 The two Marine CH-46 helicopters just turned into Army CH-47 helicopters.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

19:19 After hearing the command of “lock and load” in the helicopter, the Marine closest to the camera hits his magazine first on his helmet, then jams it into his weapon, thus perpetuating the myth to future troops that this move is ever acceptable or even necessary.

22:10 Col. Childers is wearing his silver rank centered on his flak jacket under his neck. This isn’t where it is placed, and officers and enlisted alike wear black-colored rank when in the field. Unless they enjoy being shot by snipers. Then by all means, keep it there.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

22:22 The Marine Security Guards on the roof are wielding Mossberg 590 Combat shotguns to defend the embassy. What?

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

27:16 So he’s an ambassador and he likely doesn’t have any clue, but he ends up giving the worst salute ever. And it makes us laugh every time.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

29:00 After Capt. Lee and Col. Childers have their disagreement over whether there are weapons in the crowd, Capt. Lee finally relents and orders his men: “Engage! Engage! Open fire!”

They then proceed to all jump out from behind cover, take a knee, and spray and pray all over the place into the crowd. This is seconds after snipers were shooting at them from across the way.

29:05 That light machine-gun you think is an M249 SAW is actually a Korean-made Daewoo K3 light machine gun.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

29:42 Col. Childers displays great leadership by example by standing up exposed and yelling to his men, “There may still be snipers out there. Stay down!”

38:57 The general says “we’ve got a trial in two weeks” to Maj. Biggs, although previously, at 36:20, Gen. Perry tells Childers that the court-martial convenes in 8 days.

45:42 Hey, let’s have a meeting to discuss our legal case in a gym where a bunch of Marines are wrestling.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

1:35:50 As evening colors begins, a bunch of people are not standing at the position of attention, to include the Marines who are part of the color detail.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

1:38:42 When asked about his citation for the Navy Cross, Col. Childers just repeats back what is the typical ending of the award, which tells nothing more of why he received it: “for conspicuous gallantry in the face of great personal danger, reflecting great credit upon himself, the United States Marine Corps and the Naval Service.”

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

1:58:56 Earlier in the movie, Col. Hodges asks Maj. Biggs what the life expectancy was for a second lieutenant dropped into a hot landing zone in Vietnam in 1968. Biggs guesses two weeks, then at end of the movie he says one week, to which Hodges finally reveals the answer of “sixteen minutes.” Based on Vietnam casualty data, this statistic is not even mathematically possible.

1:59:21 It’s Camp Lejeune. It has big fences around it. So why is there a huge crowd of reporters standing right outside a military courtroom?

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

2:00:05 Col. Childers goes and walks right between a formation and the platoon sergeant. Thanks a lot, sir!

It gets way worse…

CHECK OUT: ‘The Marine’, which packs a record number of technical errors into the first five minutes

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy ships will get powerful lasers to zap incoming missiles

During the course of covering the five entries for the Navy’s FFG(X) program, much has been made of the light armament of the littoral combat ships. They are limited to what are essentially point-defense systems, specifically, the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile. This missile has a range of about five nautical miles, and usually comes in launchers holding 11 or 21 missiles.


Now, the RIM-116 is joined by the Mk 15 Phalanx as the major point-defense systems on U.S. Navy ships. But there are some drawbacks that one has to keep in mind with these systems: they both have a finite supply of ammo (albeit the Phalanx’s ammo issues are not as bad as the RIM-116’s), and their limited range means that the ships may take some damage when the missile is stopped by those systems (albeit not as much as it would take from a direct hit).

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

The RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile has a range of five nautical miles, but the launcher can only hold so many rounds.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gary Granger Jr.)

One of the ways that those drawbacks will be addressed is from a system called HELIOS. According to materials obtained from Lockheed at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo in National Harbor, Maryland, this sea-based directed-energy weapon could either replace both of these systems or help supplement them.

Lasers would bring the best of both the RIM-116 and Phalanx systems for just about any warship. They would offer the extended range of a system like the RIM-116 (possibly a little more), and they would have almost no limits on the ammo (just keep the juice flowing!). This is a good thing for something like the littoral combat ship.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

The Mk15 Phalanx carries more ammo than the launchers for the RIM-116, but has a much shorter range.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class William Weinert)

Lasers have been used to guide bombs in the past, and the United States tested an airborne laser on a 747 for a number of years before the plane was dismantled. Still, it may be that when it comes to beating missiles headed for ships, BRRRZAP could replace BRRRRRT or a missile launch in the near future.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines want to arm the Osprey for assault missions

The Marine Corps is now arming its Osprey tiltrotor aircraft with a range of weapons to enable its assault support and escort missions in increasingly high-threat combat environments.

Rockets, guns, and missiles are among the weapons now under consideration, as the Corps examines requirements for an “all-quadrant” weapons application versus other possible configurations such as purely “forward firing” weapons.

“The current requirement is for an allquadrant weapons system. We are re-examining that requirement — we may find that initially, forward firing weapons could bridge the escort gap until we get a new rotary wing or tiltotor attack platform, with comparable range and speed to the Osprey,” Capt. Sarah Burns, Marine Corps Aviation, told Warrior Maven in a statement.


Some weapons, possibly including Hydra 2.75inch folding fin laser guided rockets or .50-cal and 7.62mm guns, have been fired as a proof of concept, Burns said.

“Further testing would have to be done to ensure we could properly integrate them,” she added.

All weapons under consideration have already been fired in combat by some type of aircraft, however additional testing and assessment of the weapons and their supporting systems are necessary to take the integration to the next step.

“We want to arm the MV-22B because there is a gap in escort capability. With the right weapons and associated systems, armed MV-22Bs will be able to escort other Ospreys performing the traditional personnel transport role,” Burns added.

The Hydra 2.75inch rockets, called the Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS), have been fired in combat on a range of Army and Marine Corps helicopters; they offer an alternative to a larger Hellfire missiles when smaller, fast-moving targets need to be attacked with less potential damage to a surrounding area.

Over the years, the weapon has been fired from AH-64 Apaches, Navy Fire Scout Drones, Marine Corps UH-1Ys, A-10s, MH-60s Navy helicopters and Air Force F-16s, among others.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

(BAE Systems)

Bell-Boeing designed a special pylon on the side of the aircraft to ensure common weapons carriage. The Corps is now considering questions such as the needed stand-off distance and level of lethality.

Adding weapons to the Osprey would naturally allow the aircraft to better defend itself should it come under attack from small arms fire, missiles, or surface rockets while conducting transport missions; in addition, precision fire will enable the Osprey to support amphibious operations with suppressive or offensive fire as Marines approach enemy territory.

Furthermore, weapons will better facilitate an Osprey-centric tactic known as “Mounted Vertical Maneuver” wherein the tiltrotor uses its airplane speeds and helicopter hover and maneuver technology to transport weapons such as mobile mortars and light vehicles, supplies and Marines behind enemy lines for a range of combat missions — to include surprise attacks.

Also, while arming the Osprey is primarily oriented toward supporting escort and maneuver operations, there are without question a few combat engagements the aircraft could easily find itself in while conducting these missions.

For example, an armed Osprey would be better positioned to prevent or stop swarming small boat attack wherein enemy surface vessels attacked the aircraft. An Osprey with weapons could also thwart enemy ground attacks from RPGs, MANPADS or small arms fire.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

(U.S. Navy photo)

Finally, given the fast pace of Marine Corps and Navy amphibious operations strategy evolution, armed Ospreys could support amphibious assaults by transporting Marines to combat across wider swaths of combat areas.

New Osprey Intelligence System – Sustainment to 2060

Overall, the Marine Corps is accelerating a massive modernization and readiness overhaul of its MV-22 Osprey to upgrade sensors, add weapons, sustain the fleet and broaden the mission scope — as part of an effort to extend the life of the aircraft to 2060.

“We plan to have the MV-22B Osprey for at least the next 40 years,” Burns said.

While first emerging nearly two decades ago, the Osprey tiltrotor aircraft has seen an unprecedented uptick in deployments, mission scope, and operational tempo.

Other elements of Osprey modernization include improved sensors, mapping and digital connectivity, greater speed and hover ability, better cargo and payload capacity, next-generation avionics and new survivability systems to defend against incoming missiles and small arms fire.

The 2018 Marine Aviation Plan specifies that the CC-RAM program includes more than 75 V-22 aircraft configurations, identified in part by a now completed Mv-22 Operational Independent Readiness Review. CC-RAM calls for improvements to the Osprey’s Multi-Spectral Sensor, computer system, infra-red suppressor technology, generators and landing gear control units, the aviation plan specifies.

As part of this long-term Osprey modernization trajectory, the Marines are now integrating a Command and Control system called Digital Interoperability (DI). This uses data links, radio connectivity and an Iridium Antenna to provide combat-relevant intelligence data and C4ISR information in real-time to Marines — while in-flight on a mission.

In addition, the Osprey is being developed as a tanker aircraft able to perform aerial refueling missions; the idea is to transport fuel and use a probe technology to deliver fuel to key aircraft such as an F/A-18 or F-35C. The V-22 Aerial Refueling System will also be able to refuel other aircraft such as the CH-53E/K, AV-8B Harrier jet and other V-22s, Corps officials said.

“Fielding of the full capable system will be in 2019. This system will be able to refuel all MAGTF (Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force) aerial refuel capable aircraft with approximately 10,000 pounds of fuel per each VARS-equipped V-22,” the 2018 Marine Aviation Plan states.

Due to its tiltrotor configuration, the Osprey can hover in helicopter mode for close-in surveillance and vertical landings for things like delivering forces, equipment and supplies — all while being able to transition into airplane mode and hit fixed-wing aircraft speeds. This gives the aircraft an ability to travel up 450 nautical miles to and from a location on a single tank of fuel, Corps officials said. The Osprey can hit maximum speeds of 280 Knots, and can transport a crew of Marines or a few Marines with an Internally Transportable Vehicle.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

Internally Transportable Vehicle can fly on the Osprey.

(Marine Corps Photo By: Pfc. Alvin Pujols)

Corps developers also emphasize that the V-22 modernization effort will incorporate new technologies emerging from the fast-moving Future Vertical Lift program; this could likely include the integration of newer lightweight composite materials, next-generation sensors and various kinds of weapons, C4ISR systems, and targeting technologies.

Fast-moving iterations of Artificial Intelligence are also likely to figure prominently in future V-22 upgrades. This could include advanced algorithms able to organize and present sensor data, targeting information or navigational details for Marines in-flight.

While the modernization and sustainment overhaul bring the promise of continued relevance and combat effectiveness for the Opsrey, the effort is of course not without challenges. The Corps plan cites concerns about an ability to properly maintain the depot supply chain ability to service the platform in a timely manner, and many over the years have raised the question of just how much a legacy platform can be upgraded before a new model is needed.

Interestingly, as is the case with the Air Force B-52 and Army Chinook, a wide ranging host of upgrades have kept the platforms functional and relevant to a modern threat environment for decades. The Air Force plans to fly its Vietnam era B-52 bomber weill into the 2050s, and the Army’s Chinook is slated to fly for 100 years — from 1960 to 2060 — according to service modernization experts and program managers.

The common thread here is that airframes themselves, while often in need of enhancements and reinforcements, often remain viable if not highly effective for decades. The Osprey therefore, by comparison, is much newer than the B-52 or Chinook, to be sure. This is a key reason why Burns emphasized the “common” aspect of CC-RAM, as the idea is to lay the technical foundation such that the existing platform can quickly embrace new technologies as they emerge. This approach, widely mirrored these days throughout the DoD acquisition community, seeks to architect systems according to a set of common, non-proprietary standards such that it helps establish a new, more efficient paradigm for modernization.

At the same time, there is also broad consensus that there are limits to how much existing platforms can be modernized before a new aircraft is needed; this is a key reason why the Army is now vigorously immersed in its Future Vertical Lift program which, among other things, is currently advancing a new generation of tiltrotor technology. Furthermore, new airframe designs could, in many ways, be better suited to accommodate new weapons, C4ISR technologies, sensors, protection systems and avionics. The contours and structure of a new airframe itself could also bring new radar signature reducing properties as well as new mission and crew options.

Overall, the Marine Corps is accelerating a massive modernization and readiness overhaul of its MV-22 Osprey to upgrade sensors, add weapons, sustain the fleet and broaden the mission scope — as part of an effort to extend the life of the aircraft to 2060.

“We plan to have the MV-22B Osprey for at least the next 40 years,” Capt. Sarah Burns, Marine Corps Aviation spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.

While first emerging nearly two decades ago, the Osprey tiltrotor aircraft has seen an unprecedented uptick in deployments, mission scope and operational tempo.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

Articles

Lawmakers team with SecDef Mattis to help get Iraqi interpreters visa waivers

Interpreters who have been caught up in the executive order by President Donald Trump suspending immigration from seven countries have picked up some high-powered help from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and some veterans in Congress.


According to a report by the Washington Examiner, Mattis has begun to compile a list of interpreters and other Iraqis who provided assistance to the United States during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together
Sergeant Warren Sparks, squad leader, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, and a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is assisted by an interpreter to gather intelligence from a local Afghan during a mission in Helmand province, Afghanistan, May 1, 2014. (U.S. military photo)

“There are a number of people in Iraq who have worked for us in a partnership role,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told the Examiner. “They are fighting alongside us or working as translators, often doing so at great peril to themselves, and we are ensuring those who have demonstrated their commitment tangibly to fight alongside us and support us that those names are known.”

The Examiner also reported that Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a combat veteran and Marine Corps Reserve officer who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who currently serves in the Air National Guard and who received six Air Medals for service in Iraq and Afghanistan, have written President Trump in support of Mattis’s request for exemptions for the interpreters.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together
An Afghan man talks with Cpl. William Gill and his interpreter in a village in southern Uruzgan. (DoD Photo by CPL (E-5) Chris Moore Australian Defence Force /Released)

“We are concerned that, with specific application to individuals who worked with the U.S. Government on the ground, certain immigrants deserving prompt consideration are likely to be overlooked,” Hunter said in a statement. “We encourage you to make special consideration in the review process for these individuals, who are certain to face threats to their own lives as part of the broader pause in refugee and immigrant admissions.”

The Examiner noted that the Special Immigrant Visa program for interpreters and others who have aided the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan has seen a flood of applications. As many as 12,000 interpreters and family members re seeking entry into the United States from Afghanistan.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vets can get free flu shots at VA and Walgreens

During flu season, protecting your health with a flu shot is easier than ever and as close as your local VA or neighborhood Walgreens. VA and Walgreens care about your health and are partnering to offer enrolled Veteran patients easy access to flu shots.

VA and Walgreens are national partners, providing no-cost standard (Quadrivalent) flu shots to enrolled Veterans of the VA health care system.

If you are interested in finding out more about other vaccine options, especially if you are aged 65 or older, contact your VA health care team.


During the program, which runs from Aug. 15, 2018, through March 31, 2019, enrolled Veteran patients nationwide have the option of getting their flu shot at any of Walgreens’ 8,200 locations in addition to their local VA health care facilities.

No appointment is required. Simply go to any Walgreens, tell the pharmacist you receive care at a VA facility and show your Veterans Health Identification Card and another form of photo ID. (Patients will also be asked to complete a vaccine consent form at the time of service.)

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

Your immunization record will be updated electronically in your local VA electronic health record. Walgreens has the capability to electronically send vaccination information to the VA electronic health record.

The VA-Walgreens national partnership is part of VA’s eHealth Exchange project. This national program ensures that many Veterans get their no-cost flu shot at their local Walgreens, satisfying their wellness reminder because they either found it more convenient or did not have a scheduled appointment at a local VA health care facility.

Other options for immunization

VA health care facilities:

You may receive a no-cost flu shot during any scheduled VA appointment if you are admitted to one of our VA health care facilities, or at one of the convenient walk-in flu stations. For more information on locations and hours contact your local VA health care facility.

Other non-VA providers and pharmacies:

Many local retail pharmacies offer flu shots that may be covered by private insurance or programs such as Medicare. There may be a charge for your flu shot at these locations. If you do not have insurance, there will usually be a charge.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

7 awesome features JSOC wants for future vehicles

Two U.S. military commands involved in buying and fielding new gear for special operators have released a list of what features they would like to see in future military vehicles — and the list shows some serious upgrades for warfighters.


The Joint Special Operations Command and the Program Executive Office Special Operations Forces Warrior released their wish list in a Federal Business Opportunities solicitation. While some of the upgrades they’re searching for are pretty standard — such as more reliable drivetrains and cheaper brakes — these five technologies could be game changing:

1. Invisible armor on civilian vehicles

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together
American EOD sailors and Marines test a light armored SUV against a variety of munitions. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. James Frank)

The document calls for low visibility “Armor materials/panels, etc., that can be transferred and integrated from one commercial vehicle to another with minimal manpower and in a minimal timeframe.” This could allow operators to fortify a civilian vehicle for a mission. Then, if that car is compromised, quickly move the armor to a new ride for the next mission.

2. Transformer vehicles

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Jad Sleiman)

Spec ops buyers are looking for a chassis that could survive after the car body wears out. In other words, operators would have a truck or SUV that they use for some operations, and after the vehicle gets banged up, worn out, or just stops looking cool, the troops could trade out the body for a new one for cheap.

3. Engine starters and batteries that work at -50 degrees

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together
When you’re running out of the cold after hours of shoveling, you really want that heater to start. (Photo: U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. David Bedard)

Batteries and starters that work at 50 degrees below zero would give soldiers confidence that they can always make a quick getaway, even in the Arctic Circle. In addition to delivering power in extremely frigid weather, the batteries should provide electricity for a longer time between charges. This would allow users to run the heat and electronic devices in the field for longer without turning on the engine.

4. Lighter, hidden armor

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together
(Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Philip Diab)

In addition to the transferability of the armor described in the first entry, JSOC and PEO-SOF are asking for the hidden armor for civilian vehicles to be lighter. This would reduce the low gas mileage and high rollover problems associated with current vehicles using hidden armor.

5. Hybrid military dune buggies

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together
(Photo: US Army)

The solicitation calls for electric or hybrid electric vehicle technology for LTATVs. The Light Tactical All Terrain Vehicle is basically a souped-up ATV for light troops like special operators and paratroopers. Now, soldiers want an all-electric or hybrid version of the vehicle that would “increase range, reduce maintenance, and lower the audible signature.”

6. “Low Profile Antennas for Line of Sight, SATCOM, and ECMS”

This is exactly what it sounds like, a variety of antennas that work as well as current models while also being harder to detect. It would allow all vehicles — commercial and military — to be outfitted with more communications devices without drawing undue attention and enemy fire.

7. “Visual, Audible, and Thermal Signature Reduction”

The commandos want vehicles that are harder to detect, track, and target. Quieter vehicles are more difficult to hear, cooler vehicles are harder to see with IR, and better-camouflaged vehicles are challenging to pick out with the naked eye. Operators want all three upgrades.

See the full solicitation at fbo.gov (until it gets archived on Nov. 30).

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This Ukrainian tank crew made a video using the world’s most lethal selfie stick

A Ukrainian tank crew fighting Russian-backed separatists created a video diary of their experiences.


The video doesn’t show any up-close combat, but it does feature the world’s most lethal selfie stick:

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together
GIF: Youtbe/Oleh Kapral

The main gun gets in the show too:

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together
GIF: Youtbe/Oleh Kapral

Check out the video below to see the crew hamming it up on patrol, firing and loading the tank, and driving through the hostile countryside:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military investigating troops linked to white supremacy group

After the Huffington Post publicly identified five military service members and two Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets as part of a well-known white nationalist organization early March 2019, military officials say they’re investigating the allegations, and broadening the probe to see whether other troops might be involved.

In a March 17, 2019 story, the publication named an Air Force airman, two Army ROTC cadets, two Marine reservists, an Army reservist and a member of the Texas National Guard as members of Identity Evropa, which has been labeled a white nationalist organization by the Anti-Defamation League.


Huffington Post reported that it had linked the troops to the organization through online chat logs.

So far, military officials say they are not ready to punish or process out any of the troops named in the story, but they continue to investigate.

The Office of Special Investigations at the 39th Air Base Wing at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, is still investigating Airman First Class Dannion Phillips, who was identified as being involved with Identity Evropa.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

A Qatari C-17 taxies down the runway at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Lenhardt)

Lt. Col. Davina Petermann, a spokeswoman for U.S. Air Forces Europe-Africa, could not say what actions the service has taken in regard to Phillips.

The U.S. Air Force has not found any other airmen tied to the alt-right extremist group, officials said.

The service “has not been made aware of any other members tied to this group,” spokesman Maj. Nick Mercurio told Military.com on March 27, 2019.

The National Guardsman allegedly linked to the group was identified as 25-year-old Joseph Kane, the Huffington Post said.

“We can confirm that Joseph Ross Kane is a member of the Texas Army National Guard, assigned to the 636th Military Intelligence Battalion,” Texas Guard spokeswoman Laura Lopez said in a statement March 26, 2019. “He joined the Texas Guard in June 2016. We are looking into this matter and remain committed to excellence through diversity.”

“Participation in extremist organizations and activities by Army National Guard personnel is inconsistent with the responsibilities of military service,” added Master Sgt. Michael Houk, a National Guard Bureau spokesman. “It is the policy of the United States Army and the Army National Guard to provide equal opportunity and treatment for all soldiers without regard to race, color, religion, gender, or national origin.”

The Huffington Post story also identified Army reservist Lt. Col. Christopher Cummins as a physician who allegedly bragged about putting up Identity Evropa posters in southern states. The Reserve did not respond to Military.com’s request for additional details by press time.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

Army reservist Lt. Col. Christopher Cummins.

Maj. Roger Hollenbeck, spokesman for Marine Forces Reserve, said the service’s investigation into Lance Cpl. Jason Laguardia and Cpl. Stephen Farrea — both identified by the Huffington Post — was still underway as of March 27, 2019.

“The Marine Corps is investigating the allegations and will take the appropriate disciplinary actions if warranted,” Hollenbeck said in an email. “Because the investigation is ongoing, it would be premature to speculate and further comment on the outcome or the timeline.”

He continued, “Should an investigation substantiate that any Marine is advocating, advancing, encouraging or participating in supremacist, extremist, or criminal gang doctrine, ideology, or causes, including those that advocate illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex (including gender identity), religion, ethnicity, national origin, or sexual orientation, or those that advocate the use of force, violence, or criminal activity, or otherwise advance efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights, then they will have violated the Marine Corps Prohibited Activities and Conduct Order.”

Anyone in violation of those rules “would be subject to criminal prosecution and/or administrative separation,” Hollenbeck said.

He did not say whether the investigation has identified other Marines with ties to Identity Evropa.

The Army identified one of the ROTC cadets as Jay Harrison of the Montana Guard, but did not offer additional information. Huffington Post identified the other cadet as Christopher Hodgman, a member of the Army Reserve.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

Police matched fingerprints from Identity Evropa flyers to Christopher Hodgman, an ROTC cadet and a member of the Army Reserve.

The individuals named in the article were looking to connect with other group members or spreading anti-Semitic speech or other racial or derogatory content, according to the published logs.

The news comes as U.S. officials and experts who track violent extremism have seen an upward trend in white nationalism and its rhetoric in the U.S. and overseas, including the military.

Earlier in 2019, the Anti-Defamation League said that domestic extremism killed at least 50 people in the U.S. in 2018, up from 37 in 2017, The Associated Press reported.

A Military Times poll in 2018 demonstrated the uptick of extremism in the ranks.

According to the survey, roughly 22 percent of service members have witnessed white nationalist behavior while on duty. Roughly 35 percent of those surveyed in the fall of 2018 said they believed white nationalism poses a significant threat to the country and national security, Military Times said in February 2019.

Coast Guard Lt. Christopher P. Hasson, who previously served in the Army National Guard and the Marine Corps, was arrested Feb. 15, 2019, on drug and gun possession charges, and was accused of plans to “murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country.”

According to documents filed in Maryland District Court, Hasson created a targeted list of media personalities, as well as prominent lawmakers such as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts; Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey; and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California.

Hasson appeared to blame “liberalist/globalist ideology for destroying traditional peoples, especially white. No way to counteract without violence,” he allegedly wrote, according to the documents.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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Here are the best military photos for the week of Feb. 4

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

An A-10C Thunderbolt II from the 74th Fighter Squadron taxis down the runway during Green Flag-West 17-03 Jan. 23, 2017, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The 74th FS brought 12 A-10s to GFW in support of a joint, large-force, combat-readiness exercise for close air support integration training.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan

Two Air Force teams hand off their batons during the mile relay at the 27th annual Air Force Invitational at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Cadet Field House in Colorado Springs, Colo., Jan. 21, 2017. The Falcons fielded five teams, grabbing the top two positions, with the Colorado Buffs finishing in third place.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together
U.S. Air Force photo by Bill Evans

ARMY:

U.S. Army and Latvian Soldiers conduct winter survival training during Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together
Latvian Land Force photo by Normunds Mežiņš, Young Guard and Information Centre

173rd Airborne Brigade and Latvian Soldiers conduct winter survival training during Operation Atlantic Resolve, Jan. 26, 2017.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together
Latvian Land Force photo by Normunds Mežiņš, Young Guard and Information Centre

NAVY:

PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 30, 2017) Capt. Doug Verissimo, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), conducts pre-flight checks in an F/A 18E Super Hornet from the Kestrels of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 137. The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is on a western Pacific deployment as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of U.S. 3rd fleet.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Feb. 1, 2017) An E/A-18G Growler assigned to the Lancers of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 131 launches from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). The ship’s carrier strike group is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Gaines

Marines assigned to Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, fire a M252A2 81mm mortar system at Range 106 during Integrated Training Exercise 2-17, at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., Jan. 13, 2017. ITX is a combined-arms exercise which provides all elements of the Marine Air Ground Task Force an opportunity to utilize capabilities during large scale missions to become a more ready fighting force. 1/3 is currently participating as the ground combat element for this exercise.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson

Marines observe the abilities of military working dog teams during a training exercise in Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 25, 2017. The Marines are dog handlers with 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jessica Etheridge

A 29-foot Response Boat-Small II boat crew from Station Sand Key, Florida, prepares to set a safety zone before the annual Gasparilla boat parade in Tampa Bay, Florida, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. The Coast Guard partnered with multiple local agencies to ensure the safety and security of boaters during the event.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ashley J. Johnson

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew flies over the Gasparilla barge, Jose Gaspar, during the annual Gasparilla boat parade in Tampa Bay, Florida, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. The Coast Guard partnered with multiple local agencies to ensure the safety and security of boaters during the event.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ashley J. Johnson

MIGHTY TRENDING

A full explainer on how and why Russia stole Ukraine’s ships

A dusting of snow and unease fell over Ukraine one day after Russian Coast Guard vessels fired on and detained three Ukrainian military ships and their crews off the Crimean coast, igniting rioting outside the Russian Embassy and public demands for retaliation.

The Nov. 25, 2018 incident marked the most significant escalation of tensions in the shared Sea of Azov in 2018 and the first time since Russia’s unrecognized annexation of Crimea four years ago that Moscow has publicly acknowledged opening fire on Ukrainian forces.


The Ukrainian General Staff of the Armed Forces was on full combat alert ahead of an extraordinary session of parliament on Nov. 26, 2018, when lawmakers backed a decree by President Petro Poroshenko to impose 30 days of martial law in response to the skirmish.

Here’s what went down, what has happened since, and what it all could mean:

What happened and where?

The Ukrainian and Russian versions of events differ, with each blaming the other for instigating the incident.

Kyiv said the Russians’ actions violated a 2003 bilateral treaty designating the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait as shared territorial waters and the UN Law of the Sea, which guarantees access through the strait.

Russian officials said the Ukrainian ships were maneuvering dangerously, requiring the strait to be temporarily closed for security reasons. Moscow has since announced the reopening of the strait after using a cargo ship to block passage beneath a controversial new bridge connecting Russia with occupied Crimea.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

But what isn’t disputed is that a Russian Coast Guard vessel, the Don, slammed into a Ukrainian Navy tugboat as it escorted two military vessels toward the Kerch Strait in the direction of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which lies on the coast of the inland Sea of Azov. A series of dangerous events followed.

According to the Ukrainian Navy, the transfer of its vessels from the port of Odesa to the port of Mariupol was planned in advance. It said that while en route on Nov. 25, 2018, the ships had radioed the Russian Coast Guard twice to announce their approach to the Kerch Strait but received no response.

Hours later, as the boats approached the strait, they were intercepted by Russian Coast Guard vessels. A video recorded aboard the Don and shared by Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov appeared to show the chaos that ensued, including the moment that the Russian vessel collided with the Ukrainian tugboat. The tugboat suffered damage to its engine, hull, and guardrail, according to the Ukrainian Navy.

Ukrainian authorities said the Russian forces subsequently opened fire on its vessels, badly damaging them. Russia said its forces fired on the Ukrainian boats as a matter of security.

As the incident unfolded, Russia blocked the Kerch Strait — the only passage to and from the inland Sea of Azov, which is jointly controlled by Russia and Ukraine — by anchoring a freighter across the central span of its six-month-old Crimean Bridge.

At least six Ukrainian servicemen were said to have been wounded, including two seriously, a National Security and Defense Council official and a Foreign Ministry official told RFE/RL on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment officially to journalists. They said around midday on Nov. 26, 2018, that there had been no contact with 23 sailors aboard those vessels. The ships and crew were detained and brought to the Russia-controlled port in Kerch, in annexed Crimea.

Early on Nov. 26, 2018, Kerch FM, a local radio station and news site, published photographs and a video of what it claimed were the detained Ukrainian Navy vessels moored at the port in Kerch.

Захваченные украинские катера стоят в Керчи

www.youtube.com

Meanwhile, Poroshenko’s permanent representative for Crimea, Borys Babin, told the 112 Channel that at least three of six wounded Ukrainian servicemen had been transferred to Moscow for medical treatment. Russian Ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova reportedly told Ukraine’s Hromadske TV that three others were being treated at a hospital in Kerch.

Poroshenko calls for martial law. what would that mean?

From Kyiv’s perspective, the sea skirmish marked a significant escalation in a long-running conflict and perhaps the opening of a new front at sea. Until then, the fighting in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have battled Russia-backed separatists since April 2014, had been mostly a land war fought in trenches and with indiscriminate heavy artillery systems, albeit with mounting confrontations at sea as Russia bolstered its military presence there.

At an emergency cabinet meeting after midnight on Nov. 26, 2018, Poroshenko called on parliament to support a declaration of martial law to respond to Russia’s attacks and its effective blockade of the Sea of Azov. His call was heeded by parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy, who convened an extraordinary session for the late afternoon.

The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

Some are uneasy about Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s desire to introduce martial law.

With a powerful coalition in parliament supporting Poroshenko, passage was virtually assured. Even some members of parliament who frequently oppose the coalition quickly voiced support for the measure, including Self Reliance party leader and Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadoviy.

But some lawmakers expressed concern about the move. Mustafa Nayyem, a member of Poroshenko’s party who is often critical of the president, wrote on Facebook that “the president must indicate the JUSTIFICATION of the need to impose martial law, the BORDER of the territory in which it is to be introduced, as well as the TERM for its introduction.”

“In addition,” Nayyem argued, “the document should contain an exhaustive list of constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens that would be temporarily restricted.”

The proposal from the National Security and Defense Council that Poroshenko announced he had signed on Nov. 26, 2018, listed some of these things, according to a text published on the president’s official site.

The initial text called for partial mobilization, the immediate organization of air-defense forces, tightened security at borders with Russia, increased information security, an information campaign to present facts about Russia’s “aggression,” increased security around critical infrastructure, and more. It can reportedly be canceled at any time.

The text reportedly made no mention of the scheduled presidential election in March 2019, which some critics fear could be postponed. But presidential adviser Yuriy Biryukov said before the decree was published that Poroshenko’s administration would not do that, adding that there would be no restrictions on freedom of speech.

As passed by lawmakers later on Nov. 26, 2018, martial law was to be imposed from Nov. 28, 2018. The order sets out extraordinary measures including a partial mobilization, a strengthening of Ukraine’s air defenses, and several activities with broad wording — such as unspecified steps “to strengthen the counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and countersabotage regime and information security.”

Martial law will be introduced in areas of the country most vulnerable to “aggression from Russia.”

Why now?

Poroshenko and the martial law decree say it is necessary for national security. Specifically, the decree states it is “in connection with the next act of armed aggression on the part of the Russian Federation, which took place on Nov. 25, 2018, in the Kerch Strait against the ships of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

Beyond that, he hasn’t said much else about the timing or aims.

The introduction of martial law represents an extraordinary and unprecedented move. No martial law was imposed during Russia’s occupation and annexation of Crimea in early 2014 nor at any point since hostilities began a month later in eastern Ukraine — even when Ukrainian soldiers and civilians were dying at the height of fighting that summer and in early 2015.

Back then, Ukrainian officials worried publicly that a declaration of martial law could severely damage the country’s ailing economy and disrupt cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Today, the economy has seen some recovery and the IMF recently promised Ukraine another financial bailout.

There could be other reasons, as some on Ukrainian social media pointed out after the president’s proposal was made public.

Poroshenko’s approval ratings have declined dramatically in recent months. He’s now lagging far behind his highest-profile opponent, former Prime Minister and Fatherland party leader Yulia Tymoshenko. Some Ukrainian and foreign observers have suggested that Poroshenko, who has tried to capitalize on the threat from Russia with a three-pointed election slogan — Army! Language! Faith! — might benefit from playing up Russian hostilities.

Also, under martial law, some fear Poroshenko could try to cancel or postpone elections. For its part, Ukraine’s Central Election Commission reportedly stated that holding elections under martial law would be possible.

Meanwhile, in Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s own approval ratings have sunk in recent months as Russians vented anger over controversial pension reforms. Putin’s purported order to special forces to seize the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine came in March 2014, with his approval ratings sagging.

But tensions in and around the Sea of Azov have been mounting for some time, with the Ukrainian military and Border Guard Service telling RFE/RL in August 2018 that it felt like only a matter of time before the situation would worsen.

How did we get here?

Confrontation has been brewing in and around the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait for months, if not years, as RFE/RL reported from Mariupol in August 2018.

The situation began ramping up in May 2018, when Russia opened a 19-kilometer, rail-and-highway bridge over the Kerch Strait connecting mainland Russia with the annexed Crimean Peninsula. The bridge’s low height restricted the types of merchant ships that could pass, decreasing traffic to service Ukrainian ports in Mariupol and Berdyansk. For those cities, their ports are economic lifelines.

Both sides increased their military presence in the Azov region. And Kyiv accused Moscow of harassing ships bound for Mariupol and Berdyansk. Ships operated by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) have since detained more than 150 merchant vessels, holding them for up to several days, at considerable cost to the companies and the ports.

Each side has detained the other’s vessels. In March 2018, Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service detained a Russian fishing boat and impounded it in Berdyansk. In November 2018, Russian Border Guards seized a Ukrainian fishing boat and impounded it in the Russian port of Yeysk, about 60 kilometers southeast of Mariupol.

How will the international community respond?

An emergency United Nations Security Council meeting held later on Nov. 26, 2018, failed to offer any solutions.

Much of the international community, which dismissed Russia’s claim to Crimea in a UN vote in 2014, has largely sided with Ukraine.

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said free passage of the Kerch Strait was guaranteed by the 2003 treaty signed by Russia and Ukraine. “The Agreement must be respected. It is of utmost importance to avoid any further escalation in the region,” he said in a statement.

Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian foreign minister, tweeted her support for Kyiv. “Canada condemns Russian aggression towards Ukraine in the Kerch Strait,” she wrote. “We call on Russia to immediately de-escalate, release the captured vessels, and allow for freedom of passage. Canada is unwavering in its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

U.S. Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker, who has been particularly critical of what he calls “Russian aggression” against Ukraine, tweeted, “Russia rams Ukrainian vessel peacefully traveling toward a Ukrainian port. Russia seizes ships and crew and then accuses Ukraine of provocation???”

But U.S. President Donald Trump did not name either country in a brief response to a reporter’s question about the confrontation. “Either way, we don’t like what’s happening. And hopefully they’ll get straightened out. I know Europe is not — they are not thrilled. They are working on it too. We are all working on it together,” Trump said.

Statements of condemnation were welcomed in Kyiv, but some Ukrainian officials privately expressed to RFE/RL their frustration with such statements. What they would prefer, they said, is for their international partners to apply fresh, harsh sanctions against Russia over the skirmish.

What’s Russia’s next move?

With Ukraine under martial law, this is perhaps the biggest lingering question. The short answer is that no one knows.

Russia’s flagship news program claimed the Kerch Strait incident was a Ukrainian provocation ordered from Washington in a bid to sabotage an upcoming meeting between President Donald Trump and Putin at this week’s Group of 20 (G20) summit in Argentina.

If Russia’s state media provide any indication, the Kremlin might well play up the incident as a demonstration of Ukrainian aggression and perhaps a pretext for further actions against Ukraine. But what kind of actions remains to be seen.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, in a statement, offered no specifics but warned the Kyiv “regime and its Western patrons” of “serious consequences” of the skirmish at sea.

“Clearly, this is a well-thought-out provocation that took place in a predetermined place and form and is aimed at creating another hotbed of tension in that region and a pretext for stepping up sanctions against Russia,” the ministry said.

“We are hereby issuing a warning to Ukraine that Kyiv’s policy, pursued in coordination with the United States and the EU, that seeks to provoke a conflict with Russia in the waters of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea is fraught with serious consequences.”

It added: “The Russian Federation will firmly curb any attempts to encroach on its sovereignty and security.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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