D-Day: The story behind the largest amphibious assault in history - We Are The Mighty
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D-Day: The story behind the largest amphibious assault in history

With more than 6,000 ships and 150,000 troops involved, along with nearly 12,000 aircraft, D-Day stands as the largest amphibious assault in history. The Allies pulled together every resource available to breach Hitler’s Fortress in Europe, but they had to do so without America’s experts in amphibious warfare. The U.S. Marine Corps was busy pushing back the Japanese in the Pacific, island by island. Here’s how Eisenhower and his generals did it.


Planning for D-Day pits allies against each other

Photo: US Army Signal Corps

The demands of D-Day caused fights for resources. The Americans and British fought over when to make Normandy the priority while the Army was pitted against the Navy for resources, according to historical essays from “Command Decisions.”

The stress between the American and British leadership centered on an American belief that the British wanted to spend more time consolidating gains in the Mediterranean rather than pivot to France and open the new front in the war. The Americans thought that British leadership wanted to spend more time in Southern Europe to gain political power there, while British planners thought the focus should remain in the area a little longer to force Germany to move more reinforcements away from Normandy.

For the Army and Navy, the fight was over how shipbuilding assets should be used. The Army wanted more landing craft while the Navy needed shipbuilders focused on repairing and rebuilding the deepwater fleet that had been diminished by Pearl Harbor, submarine warfare, and escort duties for convoys.

Both problems were settled at the Cairo-Tehran conferences in 1943. British leaders assured the U.S. that they were committed to crossing the English Channel in 1944. The issue of new landing craft was settled due to two factors. First, the Navy had reduced need for new ships as German submarines were sinking fewer craft. Second, Churchill decried the shortage of landing craft, pledging his country would focus on constructing ships for the landing if the Americans would increase their effort as well.

Heavy German defenses force the Allies to do the unexpected

Photo: US Army History Museum

The obvious points for an Allied force to invade Normandy in the 1940s were the large port at Pas-de-Calais or the smaller ports at La Havre and Cherbourg. German defense planners reinforced these zones to the point that invaders would either fail to reach the beaches or be immediately pushed back upon landing. Instead, the Allies created a plan to land at a beach instead of a port.

The final plan was to land between Le Havre in the east and Cherbourg in the west. The invading forces would spread from there while airborne troops would jump ahead onto key objectives, securing bridges, destroying artillery, and wreaking havoc on the enemy communications. The plan faced numerous challenges, though two stood out.

First, German leadership knew of the Allies use of landing craft in Sicily and assessed the beaches as vulnerable, likely targets. Second, the Normandy coast was famous for bad weather and extreme tides, up to 21-foot changes in a day.

This would leave the Allies with relatively lightly-defended beaches, but a huge logistics problem once they had landed. Large ships would have no deepwater piers to pull up to and no cranes to remove supplies from cargo holds.

The Allies would ultimately get around this through the construction of “Mulberry Harbors,” prefabricated, floating piers protected by sunken World War I ships and caissons. The first piers were operational by June 14 and allowed vehicles and supplies up to 40 tons to drive from deepwater ships to the shore.

Weather delays D-Day but also saves it

The movement of supplies and soldiers to Britain had taken place over two years, culminating in a massive troop buildup in 1944. But the day of the invasion had to be set for small, three-day windows centered on proper tides and moonlight. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, set the invasion date for June 5, 1944 and trusted British Capt. James Stagg to make the weather decision for proposed invasion dates.

Stagg and the British meteorologists found themselves in disagreement with the Americans as to the weather for June 5. Stagg recommended delaying the invasion due to storms the British predicted, while the Americans thought a high pressure wedge would stave off the storms and provide blue skies. Luckily, Eisenhower only heard directly from Stagg and accepted his recommendation. D-Day was pushed to June 6.

The Germans, meanwhile, also predicted the storms but thought they would last for at least a week or more. With this weather forecast, the German high command went ahead with war games and pulled its troops away from the coastal defenses so they could practice defending the coasts. The head of German land defenses, Gen. Erwin Rommel, left to give his wife a pair of birthday shoes. The beaches would be more lightly defended and lack key leadership when the Allies arrived.

June 6, 1944: D-Day

Though the weather wouldn’t clear for hours, Stagg recommended to Eisenhower that he go ahead with the June 6 invasion. Just after midnight, the invasion of Hitler’s Fortress Europe began.

Prior to the beach landings, 23,000 American, British, and Canadian paratroopers dropped through heavy cloud cover to begin securing what would become the flanks of the main force at the beaches. They also struck at key logistics and communications hubs, allowing for the eventual push from the beach while also weakening the Germans’ ability to organize their counter attacks. Allied bombers struck targets on the beaches, preparing the objectives for the main force.

The landings on the Normandy coast began at 6:30 a.m. with the 8th Regimental combat team under Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt at Utah Beach. Soldiers at Utah experienced a successful, relatively light invasion. Over the next few hours, Allied troops were landing at Gold, Juno, Sword, and Omaha Beaches.

At Omaha, bombing and naval fire had been relatively ineffective and many floating tanks were sunk due to the weather. Troops landed at heavily defended beaches where engineers had trouble clearing obstacles. The first wave took cover behind enemy anti-ship defenses and was bogged down. Follow-on troops helped assault the enemy defenses, climbing cliffs under fire to reach objectives. All four Medal of Honor awardees from D-Day fought on Omaha Beach.

Photo: US Army

“As our boat touched sand and the ramp went down, I became a visitor to hell,” said Pvt. Charles Neighbor, a veteran of Omaha Beach. By nightfall, the other four beaches were held with forces pushing between two and four miles inland. At Omaha, Allied soldiers continued to fight against pockets of resistance.

D-Day cost the lives of 4,413 Allied soldiers and between 4,000 and 9,000 Germans. The remaining pockets of resistance on Omaha Beach were conquered on June 7, and the Allies began the long push to Berlin. The War in Europe would rage for nearly another year before Victory in Europe Day, May 8, 1945.

NOW: Listen to Reagan’s chilling speech about soldiers who scaled cliffs under heavy fire on D-Day

OR: 12 rare and amazing photos from the “War to End All Wars’

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After months of political wrangling, Congress confirms the first openly gay Secretary of the Army

Fanning at Fort Hood in September of 2015. (Photo: U.S. Army)


Sources report that the Senate Arms Services Committee has just confirmed Eric Fanning’s nomination to be Secretary of the Army. The nomination has been held up since June of 2015 when Senator John McCain, R-Az., threw a wrench in the process to protest Democratic changes to the nominations were forwarded and President Obama’s threat to veto the 2016 National Defense Authorization Bill. After that was cleared up the nomination was again thwarted by Senator Pat Roberts, R-Ks., this time over the idea that the prison at Guantanamo Bay might be closed and some of the prisoners transferred to Kansas.

Fanning, who is openly homosexual, became Air Force undersecretary in April of 2013 and served several months as acting secretary while the confirmation of now-Secretary Deborah Lee James was stuck in Congress. Before that, he was deputy undersecretary of the Navy and its deputy chief management officer from 2009-2013.

Former congressman and MSNBC television personality Patrick Murphy has been serving as acting Secretary of the Army for the last few months.

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5 awful military haircuts that would fail inspection

Service members are held to a pretty high standard when it comes to grooming practices. The military requires that work uniforms look as neat as possible, men’s faces need to be clean shaven, and haircuts fall with in regulation.


Staying within these standards can be difficult, especially if you’re deployed. But for many, it’s just a matter of heading to the local base and getting a $12 haircut at the PX or NEX. The cut may not turn out celebrity style perfect, but you will be within regs.

Grooming standards vary amongst the branches, but at least one aspect remains the same — the hairline needs to be tapered. A fellow troop’s haircut is one of the first things veterans and service members notice.

Check out our list of military haircuts that would fail inspection:

1. War Daddy

In David Ayer 2014’s war movie “Fury,” Brad Pitt plays a hard-charging tank commander with a pretty awesome hair cut. But we can’t imagine how the Army managed to get a talented hair stylist out on the German front lines to keep his hair perfectly gelled.

We guess everyone in the 1940s cut their hair like Macklemore. (Source: Sony/Screenshot)

2. American Sniper

The story of legendary Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle hit the big screen in 2014 directed by the iconic Clint Eastwood. With all the excellent production value the film had one aspect was over looked — this Marine’s sideburns.

We could mention he also needs to shave, but that’s not what this article is about — maybe next time.

We bet he just asked the barber to take a little bit off the top before attending his big brother’s wedding. (Source: WB/Screenshot)

3. Broken Arrow

Christian Slater plays Riley Hale, a military stealth pilot who needs to track down a war head, defeat the villains, and locate a pair of Osters.

We know it makes you sad to trim around the ears, but you know what else is sad? Terrorism. Now go shave.

This haircut is so freakin’ bad; he’s pointing out exactly what’s wrong with it. (Source: Fox/ Screenshot/YouTube)

4. Full Metal Jacket

Although this Stanley Kubrick film is epic on multiple levels, it’s a hard fact to swallow that these Marines stationed on a large military base in Vietnam can’t find a pair of hair clippers. We’re just saying.

Joker (in the middle) looks depressed as he waits on the base barber to show the f*ck up. (Source: WB/Screenshot)


5. Jarhead 3: The Siege

The Jarhead franchise just won’t stop making bad movies. Not only does the corporal standing on the left need a quick touch up, but he may want to consider switching out his 8-point cover before the sergeant major rips him a brand new a**hole.

Maybe they bought the cover at an airsoft store? (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)

Bonus: Basic

John Travolta plays DEA investigator Tom Hardy (not that Tom Hardy) in 2003’s “Basic.” Although the character isn’t on active duty, his backstory in the film states he’s a former soldier. So before he goes out on a mission to locate a rogue soldier, we think he should clean it up around his ears.

That look you give to your hair stylist after to see your reflection in the mirror for the first time. (Source: Fox/YouTube/Screenshot)

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

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5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

1) The United States Military is one of the world’s largest providers of international aid and disaster relief.

I enjoy this fact because so little is it remembered. Not only is the US military usually involved with most global conflicts, but they are also present in the time of need for almost every international natural disaster in which aid is needed. I love advertising this fact because so often I hear about all the evils of the United States, but not once have I ever heard the phrase, “Hey America. Thanks a bunch for the assist. Tsunamis really suck.”


As well as this the military also makes regular deployments to disenfranchised and impoverished developing nations to provide immediate health and medical support during times of non-violence or disaster. These services are free to the people of those nations and supported entirely by United States taxpayer dollars.

This is the USNS Mercy. She is a massive hospital ship and, along with her sister ship the USNS Comfort, has the proud and distinguished mission to sail around the world to places in desperate need of medical aid and support. Officially, their primary mission is to:

provide rapid, flexible, and mobile acute medical and surgical services to support Marine Corps Air/Ground Task Forces deployed ashore; Army and Air Force units deployed ashore; and naval amphibious task forces and battle forces afloat.

Secondarily, they provide mobile surgical hospital service for use by appropriate US Government agencies in disaster/humanitarian relief or limited humanitarian care incidents to these missions or peacetime military operations.

Looking at the record though, you’ll find that the Mercy and Comfort have been quite busy with “secondary” missions. Here is a list of some of the Mercyand Comfort‘s “secondary” missions:

  • 1987 – (USNS Mercy) Over 62,000 outpatients and almost 1,000 inpatients were treated at seven Philippine and South Pacific ports during training in 1984 through 1987.
  • 1990* – (USNS Mercy) Admitted 690 patients and performed almost 300 surgeries. (USNS Comfort) More than 8,000 outpatients were seen, and 700 inpatients. 337 surgical procedures were performed. Other notable benchmarks include: more than 2,100 safe helicopter evolutions; 7,000 prescriptions filled; 17,000 laboratory tests completed; 1,600 eyeglasses made; 800,000 meals served and 1,340 radiographic studies, including 141CT scans.
  • 2001 – 9/11 – (USNS Comfort) The ship’s clinic saw 561 guests for cuts, respiratory ailments, fractures and other minor injuries, and Comfort‘s team of Navy psychology personnel provided 500 mental health consultations to relief workers.[5] Comfort also hosted a group of volunteer New York area massage therapists who gave 1,359 therapeutic medical massages to ship guests.
  • 2003 * – (USNS Comfort) 590 surgical procedures, transfused more than 600 units of blood, developed more than 8,000 radiographic images and treated nearly 700 patients including almost 200 Iraqi civilians and enemy prisoners of war.
  • 2005 – Indian Ocean Tsunami – (USNS Mercy) Combined, provided 108,000 patient services, rendered by members of the Department of Defense, Project Hope, and the United States Public Health Service.
  • 2005 – (USNS Comfort) Comfort deployed on September 2, 2005, after only a two-day preparation, to assist in Gulf Coast recovery efforts after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Starting in Pascagoula, Mississippi and then sailing to New Orleans, Comfort personnel saw 1,956 patients total.
  • 2007 – (USNS Comfort) Central and South America. In all, the civilian and military medical team treated more than 98,000 patients, provided 386,000 patient encounters and performed 1,100 surgeries. Dentists and staff treated 25,000 patients, extracting 300 teeth, and performing 4,000 fillings, 7,000 sealings, and 20,000 fluoride applications. In addition to treating patients, bio-medical professionals fixed about a thousand pieces of medical equipment at local health facilities. The ship’s crew also delivered nearly $200,000 dollars worth of donated humanitarian aid.
  • 2008 –  (USNS Mercy) Over the course of one deployment, Mercy would treat 91,000 patients, including performing 1,369 surgeries.
  • 2010 – (USNS Mercy) Treated 109,754 patients and performed 1,580 surgeries in Southeast Asia.
  • 2010 – (USNS Comfort) Haiti Earthquake disaster. Between January 19 and February 28, 2010, the ship’s staff treated 1,000 Haitian patients and performed 850 surgeries. Also, the mission saw the ship’s first on-board delivery, of a 4-pound, 5-ounce premature baby named Esther.
  • 2011 – (USNS Comfort) – The ship deployed for five months providing medical services to locations in the Caribbean and Latin America.

It is important to remember that all this is done, by only two ships. Beyond these two ships the United States Navy takes part in many humanitarian service missions each year. Several ships are deployed with missions other than warfare to provide free aid and medical support.

There are also ongoing operations such as the Pacific Partnership. The Pacific Partnership is an annual deployment of forces from the Pacific Fleet of the United States Navy (USN), in cooperation with regional governments and military forces, along with humanitarian and non-government organizations.

The deployment was conceived following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, as a way to improve the interoperability of the region’s military forces, governments, and humanitarian organizations during disaster relief operations, while providing humanitarian, medical, dental, and engineering assistance to nations of the Pacific, and strengthening relationships and security ties between the nations. Between 2006 and 2010, Pacific Partnership has visited 13 countries, treated more than 300,000 patients, and built over 130 engineering projects.

The MEU to the Rescue.

Within the United States Marines there exist elements that specialize in being the first into a war zone. Most of the offensive parts of the Marine Corps are built around this idea, but particularly there is one capability that is most crucial to this. The Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU for short) is capable of deploying troops to virtually any location on Earth within reach of a shoreline within 48 hours.

What they also do though, is deploy troops to major disaster areas as well. Being that the MEUs are literally patrolling every ocean in the world for signs of danger and disorder, they are already equipped with a large supply and armament for potentially long-term hostile engagements and specialized in reaching and operating with little to no infrastructure in hard-to-reach places. This sucks for them, but makes them uniquely capable of doing something else pretty special. It makes them adeptly able to address and adapt to the needs of millions of people throughout the world in need of immediate emergency assistance. They are able to move so quickly that they outpace more formal relief organizations by days or weeks.

Colombo, Sri Lanka (Jan. 10, 2005) – A U.S. Marine Corps amphibious vehicle prepares to bring Marines and Sailors aboard an awaiting Landing Craft Utility (LCU) at the end of the day’s relief efforts in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Helicopters from USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and Marines and Sailors assigned to 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit are supporting Operation Unified Assistance, the humanitarian operation effort in the wake of the Tsunami that struck South East Asia. The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group is currently operating in the Indian Ocean off the waters of Indonesia and Thailand. U.S. Navy photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph Ward (RELEASED)

A U.S. Navy doctor treats patients from tsunami-devastated villages in Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia, on Jan. 6, 2005. Helicopters from the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group are providing humanitarian assistance to areas devastated by the Dec. 26, 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami. The strike group is operating in the Indian Ocean off the coasts of Indonesia and Thailand in support of Operation Unified Assistance. DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd class Tyler J. Clements, U.S. Navy. (Released)

Medan, Indonesia (Jan. 4, 2005) – Marines assigned to 3rd Transportation Support Battalion, 3rd Force Service Support Group, help distribute humanitarian relief supplies at Palonia Air Field in Medan, Indonesia. Helicopters from USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and Marines assigned to 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit are supporting Operation Unified Assistance, the humanitarian operation effort in the wake of the Tsunami that struck South East Asia. The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group is currently operating in the Indian Ocean off the waters of Indonesia and Thailand. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andreas A. Plaza (RELEASED)

More recently, after the devastation from the 2010 Haiti Earthquake disaster, soldiers from the United States Army were deployed to assist in delivering badly needed supplies, such as food, water and other necessities to the region.

Soldiers prepare food and water for Haitian victims of the Earthquake.

I’m going to lay it out straight. I am willing to bet almost no one knew before reading this answer about the scale of the United States’ disaster relief history. You probably had no idea of the depth of support that the United States military contributes to the world each time a major disaster strikes somewhere on the planet Earth. You know that help was sent, but did your ever really ask who it was or what form it took? You may have heard of 150 doctors that went, but were you aware of the tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors and Marines that were there before even the news journalists were present?

Sure, many people will rattle off statistics about what monsters we are. They will talk about all the people that the military kills and all the dead people out there that the United States military are responsible for each year, which is odd since such things are essentially what the military, all militaries, are designed to do.

They will cite things that the Americans are responsible for doing wrong, but no one in the history of the world can declare that they have made such great strides in providing aid and relief like the Americans.This should ring especially significant since we have absolutely no real obligation to do so if previous major world powers are to be our example. You could compare us to the Raubwirtschaft (plunder economies) of Germany, Japan and Russia during their time in power.

You could also look at “aid” the European people provided the African colonies during their time as superpowers. Even better… look at what they are doing for the world right now. Where is their great big white boat with doctors and dentists? Where are their Marines after an earthquake or hurricane? At home, on their porch sipping on a cup of self-righteousness as they lecture the world about the virtues of pacifism and the horrors of the American military. It’s hypocritical and it’s ignorant.

While many find that the superstructure that is the US military is a bloated and imperialistic beast, it’s still the largest and most efficient source in the world to get help where help is needed. That help happens whether that be in calming a diplomatic hot spot, giving food to a devastated rural village or providing dental care to children in a part of a country that has never seen a dentist. Would I like to see other, more pacifist organizations do the job? Sure I would, so far the world is more content to complain than do anything.

The US military doesn’t suffer from that handicap. Say what you want about us, but without that aid provided by hundreds of thousands of American service people and hundreds of millions of taxpayers, millions upon millions of people who have been fed, vaccinated, operated on, given shelter, given homes, bathed, birthed, and listened to would now be dead. Many more would not experience the quality of life they now experience. Sure it’s easy to gauge the military on violent metrics, but how do you measure the value of those we have helped? That’s a philosopher’s discussion, not one for the Marines. Yeah, the Americans and their military have their faults, but if you’re one of them you ought to be pretty proud right now. [2]

 

That is such a pretty medal isn’t it? About that…

2) The uniforms are not provided by tax payer dollars. They are paid for by the troops themselves.

 

Neat how I segued from the Humanitarian Service Medal to my point on how much uniforms cost huh? See this beautiful example of a human being above? People who can read his rack (the medals on his chest) know this man is truly a boss. I’ll list a few of the really cool ones. He’s stellar: Two Navy Commendation Medals, Three Navy Achievement medals and a few Good Cookies. He’s also a badass: Two National Defense Medals (two different periods of war), several combat action ribbons, two devices known throughout the Corps as the recon combo and the crème de la crème, the enemy accuracy medal better known as the Purple Heart. Plus this flower looking thing I can only assume means he’s awesome (or Canadian?) not to mention at least 13 different pieces of insignia I don’t care to mention.

Do you know how John D. Taxpayer thanks the honorable Gunnery Sergeant Awesomesauce? By making him pay for each and every damn thing you see… even down to the buttons on his stinking coat. Did I mention those medals are gold plated?

 

These are the Uniforms of the USMC. [3] I will make the caveat that it is true that military personnel are provided with one piece of every item they need when they first enter boot camp. What most don’t know is that these also come out of their paycheck. It is sort of a hidden cost since we are more involved in boot camp than watching our finances. We all know it happens, but just have to get it done.

It is assumed that this uniform item is supposed to last throughout their enlistment which could last 30 years. And those medals you earn? You’re given one when earn it. It’s like the Humanitarian Service Medal above. It isn’t the gold plated version and basically, you have no uniform you are allowed to wear it in. For all the medals you actually wear, you have to pay between $13 and $60. Interesting huh? This is made easier by a stipend military folks receive that is around $200 every year for replacement of uniform items. Let’s look closer at that.

I am going to go over an estimated cost of what is shown by the Gunnery Sergeant in this picture. Mind you I am only showing you the parts visible in the picture, which themselves are only one of many Marine Corps regulation uniforms.Section A: Cover

Total Cost of “Cool Hat”: $83.40

Section B: Medals

Total cost of “Bling” – $296.33

Section C: Other Devices

Extra Doo-Dads – $30.12

Section D: The Blues Coat

Total for the Coat: $423.80

Total for everything visible:

$833.65

Plus Tax!

[4]

I’ll remind readers that this is just what is visible in that image. Not shown, but simply must be there are $83 pants, $99 shoes, a $50 belt buckle, service stripes, blood stripes and at least four other trinkets I can think of off the top of my head. Let’s not forget that that guy doesn’t look like a seamstress so add in tailoring. Also, this is all still just one uniform of the six that Marines are required to upkeep at all times not to mention multiple sets of pristine camouflage utilities.

You might not realize this from the outside, but military troops’ uniforms come at a very high cost. Not only is there the cost of earning the right to wear it, but the sacrifice of time and money to upkeep it. As I have said, we receive the few items we are issued (bought) at boot camp. We are issued one cheap version of the medals we earn, but aren’t really allowed to wear (because it’s the cheap version). We also receive a regular pittance to upkeep it. I hope I have shown that that is hopelessly not enough for all the gear and uniform items we are expected to maintain.

I could go on about how many pairs of combat utilities I went through on my two Iraq deployments and my many training missions and how the two they gave me just didn’t make it. I could go on about how if one of those gold medals got scratched… it was worthless and you had to get a new one. Did you know that gold is one of the most malleable metals on Earth? You will once you replace a $22 medal because Corporal saw a scratch on it. I could go on about the countless inspections to ensure that our uniforms were perfect… perfect. But I won’t do into detail on those. What I will say is that they are important to us.

We work exceptionally hard to make sure that they are pristine and represent all the greatest qualities we can put into them. They are trying to convey an image and ideal of respectable men and women that instill courage and a sense of pride and security in the people they serve.Of course this is also why we write answers like this Nick Layon’s answer to What is the fashion trend you dislike the most? or go ballistic when we see celebrities do this:

Or when we see comments like this we want to simply choke someone:

So what you don’t like is when the citizens you protect wear the uniform you wear while preserving our freedom? And for this you raise your voice at them? Are you aware sir, that the taxes those people pay on the clothes you don’t like them wearing are what pays your salary?

Yes. In case you didn’t know. Military personnel can easily spend more than a third of their after tax disposable income a year on uniform items. They do this out a sense of pride. They do this out of a sense of honor and respect to the uniform and what it represents. They do this so that when you see them you can gain a sense of pride and feel safe knowing that when all hell breaks lose, a professional is ready to meet it. They do this to not be yelled at during inspections. They do this because it proves that they are special.

What I hope you take away from this, if nothing else, is that your tax dollars are a drop in the bucket for what military personnel pay every year for their uniforms. Also, don’t be surprised to receive a knife hand to the temple if you expect praise, gratitude, fealty or admiration because you were so generous to pay your damned taxes this year. Military people don’t owe you anything just because you pay taxes and you didn’t put those medals on our chests. We look good because we paid for the right to. [5]

3) Our Navy Started off Basically as Pirates.

Ok, I know I just made the biggest deal about how the United States military has relatively unheard-of aspects that include noble and virtuous service to disaster-stricken regions and that our uniforms mark us as some of the proudest and most professional military personnel on the planet. So why on Earth would I say that we started off as pirates? Because someone who reads the facts and has a vague understanding of military practices has some hard truths to deal with.

There are some colorful factoids hidden in sunken chests down under the sea that paint a picture few have ever really seen. There was some downright swashbuckling going on back then. I’ve taken a pretty liberal historical licence, but there is, as is the case with everything else, much more to the story than what made it to our history books. Let’s take a look.

Take a look at this flag. What do you see? Anything familiar?

You guessed right! It’s the flag of the British East India Company! How smart you are! Doesn’t look at all like anything else after all…Notice again some of the elements of the flag. The first thing we need to know is that this was a Naval flag and all the elements have important Naval meanings. It was colonial practice to place the mother nation’s standard at the top corner against the mast. Here we see the Union Jack present as it appeared at the time. What is also important was the red field.

In those days, such a flag would denote the ensign of the trade navy. It would look like this. This meant that it was an official trade ship flying under the protection of the crown of England. The red color also meant that it was a civilian ship and that its only mission should be one of trade.

So alright, well still the stripes are a big deal though. It’s hard not to see those stripes, right?

Yes. It is hard.  That’s why many of the major shipping companies of that era made special marks on their flags by simply sewing white stripes across the field. Don’t think of it as red and white stripes, but as a red field with white stripes on it. In fact there was one such company that made a remarkable effort to emulate the Colonial Flag, nearly 70 years before we ever flew it. They were the East India Trading Company, and had been waving a flag virtually identical to the Grand Union Flag for the better part of a century before the Revolutionary War.

Now it’s just me, but if I was a British ship just looking over and see a flag that looked like that I probably wouldn’t think of some navy that no one has heard of yet… of course I bet that was the intention. Some might call that a case of mistaken identity, clever use of unconventional warfare while others might go as far as to say that it is downright piracy. Still some might just say it is one big convenient coincidence.

On Marines

A few things that you should know about the Marine Corps. One of the first facts that every good Marine knows, myself being among that population, is where the Marine Corps was born. Do you know? It was Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, Pennsylvanian. Yep, at a bar. The proudest and most lethal fighting men in the planet are the ancestors of a bunch of rowdy drunks. Well, for better or worse little has changed.Our first recorded battle was the Battle of Nassau, led by Captain Samuel Nicholas, which consisted of 250 Marines and sailors who landed in New Providence and marched to Nassau Town. There, they wreaked much damage and seized naval stores of shot, shells, and cannon, but failed to capture most of the desperately needed gun powder. The forts at Nassau and Fort Montagu were raided and stripped of their armaments, while Marines occupied the town of Nassau for a lengthy stay. While in Nassau the Marines “relieved” them of some of their unwanted burdens as well. Governor Browne complained that the rebel officers consumed most of his liquor stores during the occupation, and also wrote that he was taken in chains like a “felon to the gallows” when he was arrested and taken to the Alfred.Since then, for the most part, we have cleaned up our act a bit. For those early days, however, it is my belief that the Continental Marines’ use of “unconventional warfare” to complete their goals at the time might warrant a closer look at our views of their history or at least just reveal them as the colorfully exuberant fellows of cheer and good character that they were.

The Father of the American Navy

Switching back to the Navy, meet John Paul “Jones” and the Continental Navy. After combing the web for information on John Paul, on his best day, he was a jerk. Let’s begin. This man is often times cited as one of the founding fathers of the U.S. Navy. His sarcophagus even rests to this day in the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. Pretty cool, but let’s check his resumé.

  • Began work on a slave-trade ship.
  • Next, worked on a brig (prison ship) where his first mate and captain conveniently died of disease, leaving him the de facto captain of the ship.
  • He later captained his own ship where he savagely flogged two of his sailors for disciplinary actions, one to death.
  • After this he killed one of his sailors for mutiny by stabbing him in the chest.
  • Following this incident he fled the Royal Navy and went to Virginia.
  • He also added the surname “Jones”.
  • By his account it was an act of self-defense, but no one I know runs to a non-extradition country and changes their name for self-defense. Just saying, I don’t think he was all-in-all a stand-up guy.

Following this John Paul Jones was recruited to the Continental Navy. His successful exploits with the Royal Navy made him a prime candidate for a new navy starving for officers, even psychos. He then captained one of the vessels bound for Nassau in the Bahamas. The small fleet of ships captured the city, several ships and supplies, the whole time waving what was believed to be the Grand Union Flag.

From this point on, John Paul Jones led many other raids on naval shipping and port towns. He was successful enough that he was given the go-ahead to become a curse on English shipping. After touching base in France he actually sailed up to the coast of England and Ireland and started attacking British merchant shipping. In his career he captured many ships and a vast amount of supplies for the Colonial cause. All this while routinely facing problems from his crew who, as his journal accounts “‘Their object,’ they said, ‘was gain not honor.’ Among other actions his men were famed for raiding villages and conducting arson attacks on the English towns. In another report, Jones stated that at one point he wanted to leave, but his crew wished to “pillage, burn, and plunder all they could”. Now this is just me talking, but I am surprised that a man who once beat his sailors to death would be having such discipline problems. Just sayin’.

Now I know that not everyone is a fan of 18th century naval warfare, but his tactics were conducive to a rather different form of naval warfare than his famed Bon Homme Richard where he is famed for his saying, “I have not yet begun to fight!” No, this was a different form of naval practice. If you haven’t pieced it together yet…John Paul Jones and much of the Colonial Navy were pirates. [6]

4) The United States Military is one the Most Educated Industries in the World.

The United States military boasts some of the most educated warfighters in the world, not to mention in the history of warfare. All US service members must have at the time of their enlistment a high school diploma or the general equivalency diploma. To be more clear, more than 99% of those enlisted have a high school education comparable to about 60% that you will find in the general population. Also compared to the population of the United States, more service members have also attended some college compared to their typical 18- to 24-year-old counterparts. They have all also passed a standardized test on  English proficiency, mathematics, science and government. This test also serves as a placement exam for military jobs. [7]

To top this most MOS schools or Military Occupational Specialty schools boast world-class educational training. First you have to be good enough to get into the school you want, which can have very high scores required to get in. No, we don’t have the greatest recreational facilities and the dorms suck. It isn’t the Ivy League, but the education level is beyond par.

While stationed in 29 Palms California, a hole in the middle of the California desert, I received two years worth of the most rigorous training in Computer Science, Data Network Administration and Information Systems Maintenance. I say two years except that I only had six months to do it. And the training is taken very seriously. While typically civilians are allowed to pass with virtually any grade so long as they beg enough, every test in a military school is a fail if scored under 80% and if you fail you can be booted from the program.

The United States Marine Corps even has an amazing secret that few on the outside know anything about. We have a correspondence college which is a universal part of nearly every Marine’s military experience. It is called the Marine Corps Institute (MCI for short). It was started when Major General Lejeune issued a Post Order establishing three new schools: Automobile Mechanics, Music, Typewriting and Shorthand. Special Order No. 299 announces that 11 new schools will open January 5, 1920.

Of course we have courses you won’t find at Stanford, Harvard, or UCLA or any state school for that matter. There doesn’t seem to be a need for 0321B The M240G Machine Gunner, 0090A Pistol Marksmanship, or 0365 Antiarmor Operations there, but what you might be surprised by what would be the other courses one wouldn’t expect to see by the barbarian warmongers that are the United States Marine Corps: 0119H Punctuation, 0120 Basic Grammar and Composition and 1334 Math for Marines.

Perhaps that’s where Marines figure out what it takes to re-calculate the trajectory of an object traveling at 3,110 ft/s for a three-inch change in elevation at 5 times the length of a standard football field when factoring in for wind speed and direction as well as differences in elevation?” Actually that’s not true. Marine recruits do in that in week six of their basictraining.

One more shocker regarding the nerdiness of the US Military? How about this, the Marines have a book club. Now this isn’t Oprah’s Book Club. It’s the Commandant’s Reading List [9]. On this list are books and documents intended to both encourage the martial spirit in the minds of young warriors and inspire the intellectual capabilities of scholarly warfighters. What follows are some of the more impressive works that appear. This is by no means a complete list.

You will obviously find on the list titles such Marine Corps classics as:

Also listed are many other works on warfare such as:

Books on Moral Codes and Ethics:

Books on Leadership, Management Philosophy and Administration:

Works on military history:

As well as important world studies for the military minded:

There is even one on environmentalism!

Even books that show the importance of a civilian leadership and the consequences when they don’t do a good job.

And there is even a nerd section. You know that new movie Ender’s Game? You know it was first a book written by Orson Scott? You know that it has been on the reading list for decades?

 

Most importantly, there are two other works which are required reading. These are works that cement what it is that every military person stands for and what they fight for. They are the clear definition of the values of their nation. When you see what else is on this list… you’ll wonder why no one else is required to read them as well besides members of the US military.

 

5) You’ll be fine in it.

Many assume that the only people who would want to join the military are those who want to die from some car bomb in Iraq. Just as many assume that the majority of us have seen more than we actually have. There is also this myth that we are all just “the lucky few” who survived four years in the middle of some never-ending artillery barrage. The truth is, while there are plenty of risks, which are widely known, you are far safer in the United States military than most would believe possible.

For example, what if I told you that there is less than a one in a thousand chance that you might actually be killed if you even go to war when you go with the Americans? The risk of death in the United States military during the most recent decade is less than .1% while the risk of being wounded in action is a sizable amount less than 1%.

We have currently about 2,518,542 people in the United States military. Since 9/11, estimates would safely place the number of people who have served in some branch to be about 6 to 7 million people, probably more. The total people who died as a result of action in either Iraq or Afghanistan since then is about 6,660. which means that fewer than about 0.088% of the people who have enlisted have been killed as a result of that decision. If you consider wounded, then the number increases to about 0.738% percent. For the those not blessed with the ability to conceptualize such things, here’s a tasty pie.

To better answer this question I also wanted to address these statistics reflected when considering only those who actually participated in a combat deployment. I asked the question How many US troops have been deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001? to gain a better picture of just that question. From that Daniel Kearns produced this document (Page on Senate) which is a brief and simple, but important piece of information on the Iraq War.

From that we have a best estimate of 1.5 million warfighters deployed to war in Iraq during the war. Taking this with earlier data we see total killed accounted for .29% of those deployed while wounded accounted for 2.15%. So, to be clear, of those deployed to the hottest combat zone in recent American military history, the highest chance of death was .29% for deployed troops and risk of violent injury was still only 2.15%. [6]

This trait, however, isn’t anything new. The US military, at least since the dawn of the 20th century and perhaps because of the carnage of our own civil war, have adapted a mentality and strategy that ensures our military does not easily sacrifice its own. We simply have values that don’t allow us to experience heavy troop losses and a wealth that affords the ability to win without them.

In truth we live today in a time-period where we have proven that experience matters more than assets and that a troop’s life is almost always more valuable than the patch of Earth they are fighting for. That’s why modern warfare doesn’t allow for high losses. Take a look at the figures for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, pulled from Wikipedia. This doesn’t include the insurgency years that followed, but showcased the last time we fought a full-on war with an advanced national military.

That last statistic is significant.

The Coalition’s troop strength before the battle was 265,000 troops, mostly from the United States and the UK. The Iraqis’ troop level was 1,119,000, more than 4x that fielded by the Coalition. The end result, however, was that through great strategic, technological, and logistical superiority, the American lead Coalition was able to inflict as many as 261 times as many casualties as the Iraqi were capable of delivering in return. That’s more than 250 Iraqi killed for every Coalition death. A more lopsided battle has never been fought.

Perhaps it is just that we don’t fight that much or stay safely behind our big walls. We just send out the evil drones and high powered missiles, snipers, and other cowardly means of fighting a war. Well, given the option… wouldn’t you? I know these guys certainly would if given a second chance.

A grim look through history will show that American military doctrine has focused on a few key tenets throughout at least the last century. We focus on augmenting our troops through overwhelming technology rather than creating a culture that loves war. The facts are that Americans deeply hate conflict. We will do whatever we can to avoid it on an interpersonal level, regardless of whatever you think about our foreign policy. This is reflected in our demographics. Today, after 13 years of war, and with a sizeable portion of our Vietnam-era veterans still alive, US veterans still only number 22 million individuals and account for less than 7% of the total population.

Note, that is veterans, not active service members. The Department of Veterans Affairs projects that that number is set to decrease, not only in percentages, but in real value. They project that by 2043 we will only have 14 million veterans alive for a total percentage of the population at only 3.5%. The decreasing number of veterans means a country culturally disconnected from the realities of its wars because of the peacefulness of the daily lives of its citizens.

And that’s how we want it. The alternatives are thus: during the Second World War, you saw very different social military philosophies come head to head. Among these were the Americans and the Japanese. The Japanese were fantastic engineers and created marvelous machines. One such was the Zero fighter. It had a turning capability and climb that was far superior to other fighters. It was more agile and a deadly threat.

The trade-offs? It’s aluminum coating was brittle and the plane offered no armor for the pilot, engine or other critical points of the aircraft. Its light construction also made it prone to catching fire and exploding during combat. Add this to the practice of Japanese fighters on the ground routinely combating US Marines with suicidal “Banzai” charges, the human-wave attack and we see a culture which adopted an ancient form of warfare: the military death cult. Death and the warrior were at that time so intertwined through a perversion of the Samurai Bushido culture that the leadership of Japan could order hundreds of thousands of Japanese to their deaths without the Japanese people resisting at all.

This culminated in the ultimate corruption of bravery and honor; the creation of the Kamikaze pilot and the “Baka” Bomb.

This is the Japanese Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka (“cherry blossom”), a rocket-powered parasite aircraft used towards the end of the war. The U.S. called them Baka Bombs (“idiot bombs”). They called it this, because the only intended purpose of the aircraft was to be guided by a pilot to impact directly with an enemy ship by a pilot who had reserved himself to die in the effort. The Kamikaze (Divine Wind) is named for the legendary holy force which protects the Japanese from invasion by outsiders, namely because of a storm which swallowed up tens of thousands of Mongol invaders hundreds of years ago before they ever set foot on Japanese soil.

The Kamikaze myth was resurrected for the creation of a force of airmen who volunteered and trained for a mission in which they would surely die, once again, like a storm from Heaven protecting Japan from foreign invaders. So committed were these soldiers and those who commanded them to this idea of a glorious death for their nation and their emperor,  they even attended a ceremony before their mission which could only be described as their funeral.

In contrast, the American philosophy emphasized an entirely different approach. We preferred to keep our warriors alive, if for no other moral reason than to pass on their experience and be useful on a better day. We engineered fighter aircraft with more power that could give us the strength and survivability to keep fighting. Add to this the individual support given to the individual troop. While the base soldier thrown away during a Japanese suicide charge was said to be worth less than $10 by their own admiralty, the United States Marine, the most underfunded of the military branches, would deploy with supplies of everything from ammunition, food, water, and bandages, to paper and pencils and glass eyes of every imaginable size and color… just in case.

This excerpt from Flags of Our Fathers displays in the days and weeks leading up to the Battle of Iwo Jima the American philosophy, strategy, and implementation of sending every man with all the gear to have a dominating edge, and the greatest chance possible of coming home.

… the movement of over 100,000 men, Marines, Navy support personnel, Coast Guard units across 4,000 miles of ocean for three weeks is a triumph of American industry galvanizing itself in a time of great national peril. At the outset of the war, Japan’s naval strength was more than double that of America’s, but across the American continent, the idling factories steamed and sparked to life. Most of the vessels came splashing off the industrial assembly lines in the six months before this assault…

… And it has not just been a matter of hardware. The civilians of America have mobilized behind these fighting boys. Behind each man on board the ships are hundreds of workers. In the factories, in the cities and towns, on the heartland farms; Rosie the Riveter, boy scouts collecting paper and metal, the young girl who would become Marilyn Monroe, sweating away in a defense plant.

Here is some of what those mobilized civilians have generated for this tremendous force: For each of the seventy thousand assault troop Marines 1,322 lbs of supplies and equipment. Some of it sounds weirdly domestic: dog food, garbage cans, light bulbs, house paint. Some of it suggests an island business office: duplicating machines, carbon paper, movie projectors. Some sounds like kids’ camping gear: toilet paper, socks,  shoelaces, paper and pencils, flashlights, blankets. Some begin to suggest a sterner mission: flares, plasma, bandages, crucifixes, holy water, canisters of disinfectant to spray on corpses. And some of it gets exactly to the point: artillery, machine guns, automatic rifles, grenades and ammunition. The transport ships carry six thousand five-gallon cans of water, enough food to feed the population of Atlanta for a month or the assaulting Marines for two months. The Marines brought along one hundred million cigarettes.

This isn’t to say our strategy made us invulnerable. We endured great losses to be sure, 19,000 at the Battle of the Bulge, 16,293 at Normandy, 12,513 in Okinawa, and countless other battles throughout the war, totaling around 405,000 dead Americans. While that number is appalling, it pales compared with others. Soviet Union – up to 13,000,000 military dead, Germany – up to 5,500,000, Japan – 2,120,000. These figures do not include civilian dead, of which the United States had virtually none.

That said, we dominated the Japanese in World War II once we steadied ourselves from the attack on Pearl Harbor. We suffered 1/24th their total losses in a war they began. The same can be seen in Iraq or Afghanistan and can be seen as well in any major conflict we have been a part of in the last one hundred years. This is because our philosophy wins wars in this modern age. War isn’t won by weapons; it is won by warriors. Make the warrior a weapon and give him the tools to succeed and come home, and no other force on Earth can defeat him.

Jon Davis is a three time Quora Top Writer. He is a Marine, honorably discharged in 2008. Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, small business owner, teacher, writer and Christian.

* Anyone who looks closely will see that these are periods when the US military was actively engaged in combat action, so this can’t count as a peacekeeping mission. However what you will notice is that during the deployments many more patients were treated than casualties received by Americans. This means that the rest of those treated were civilians and enemy POWs.

[2] If for no other reason than because all those who judge you haven’t done a fucking thing to help anyone. 😉

[3] The center image is pictured with gear and a weapon. The gear is provided, but I couldn’t find an image that fit with the others showing only cammies. Also not pictured are Desert BDUs.

[4] I know I shouldn’t be posting this because that is probably some Marine at a funeral or something. I feel like such a dick, but it is just such a perfect picture. Forgive me Chesty.

[5] I hope no one takes from this that I or other military people are complaining too heavily about this or consider it any act of severe injustice. The point of this section was just to deliver what in my mind was a “mind-blowing fact about the military” that I believe few are aware of. Beyond that I wanted to give a more clear picture of what some of the “sacrifices” that people hear so much about actually look like. We don’t all die or get shot and people know that and assume that that means that military people don’t deserve respect unless they actually died for your freedom. In this case I hope that people can at least look at those uniforms and know how much work and financial sacrifice went into making them look the way they do, let alone the price of earning the right to wear them.

[6] I know that I have taken a very liberal stance on historical interpretation here. What is important to know is that much of the Navy and Marine Corps’ actions were exactly what was needed to complete the mission for a Navy with no ships. They were also much more common practices for the ways that military encounters were done in those days. Still, if we were do the unforgivable and judge those of the past by today’s standard, the Colonial Navy’s actions against the British in the American Revolution might easily fall into the categories of pirate actions by unbiased observers.

[7] Curious about the rigorous qualifications required to be good enough to join the United States Military? United States Military Enlistment Standards. Good luck.

[8] Thanks to Eric Tang for sharing with me the Army’s version of the Marine Corps Reading List. I skimmed through it and found some very great reads that I’ve recently bought to put on my to-do list. You can see the Army’s Professional Reading List here: The U.S. Army Chief of Staff’s.

[9] These figures do not account for job specialty, which will skew heavily towards infantry-type units. I don’t have data for this, but as the previous statistics probably surprised many, so will those of the infantry when they become available.

Stats from:

War in Afghanistan (2001–present) – 2,173 US KIA,   23,500 Coalition WIA (Majority US)

Iraq War – 4,487 US KIA,   32,226 US WIA

Estimations based on United States Department of Defense

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, make sure to follow my others at my Quora blog Jon’s Deep Thoughts. If you would like to support the JDT, please visit: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories and Essays in Military, Science Fiction and Life.

NOW CHECK OUT: 7 things that make you stick out in the US military

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This U.S. Marine went to Somalia and became a warlord

Hussein Farrah Aidid left the United States Marine Corps and attempted to be a warlord like his father, Mohamed Farrah Aidid, who is a central figure in the story of Black Hawk Down.


Mohamed Aidid was the leader of the Habr Gidr clan, who vied for power in the wake of the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre’s Somali regime. Aidid not only diverted food aid and relief supplies, his fighters ambushed 24 Pakistani peacekeepers. The United Nations offered a $25,000 reward for his capture, and he was targeted by Task Force Ranger. TF Ranger’s hunt for Aidid led to the ill-fated Battle of Mogadishu that resulted in the death of 18 American troops.

Aidid had four wives. His first wife, Asli Dhubad, gave birth to five children. Hussein Farrah Aidid was the first of those five. He was born in a remote area of Somalia in 1962. At the age of 14, he emigrated to the United States at a time when Somalia was ruled by the dictator Barre whose authoritarian government was enjoying a brief thaw in relations with the U.S. Hussein graduated from high school in Covina, California two years later before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Aidid was an artilleryman, assigned to Battery B, 14th Marines at the Marine Corps Reserve base in Pico Rivera, California. He deployed in support of Operation Restore Hope, the U.S.-led task force in Somalia whose aim was to disrupt the personal army of Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The elder Aidid controlled the strongest faction in the ongoing power struggle in the country.

Three US Marines, from an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit, examine a Somali tank, a US made M47, that was captured in the raid of Somali Warlord General Aideed’s weapons cantonment area. This mission is in direct support of Operation Restore Hope. (U.S. Navy photo by PHCM Terry Mitchell)

The UN mandate was to “establish as soon as possible a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations in Somalia.” Essentially, Restore Hope aimed to protect the delivery of food and other humanitarian aid, keeping it from falling into the hands of Aidid’s personal army. The Marines deployed the younger Aidid because he was the only one in the ranks who could speak Somali.

He returned to the U.S. and became a naturalized citizen. In 1995, Aidid told his command he would miss drill for a while because he was traveling outside the U.S. He returned to Somalia and began preparing for his role in the Habr Gidr militia.

The elder Mohamed Farrah Aidid continued his struggle for power, even declaring himself President of Somalia in 1995, a declaration no country recognized. He was shot in a battle against former allied warlords in July 1996 and died of a heart attack during surgery.

Hussein was declared his father’s successor at age 33. The man who left the Marines as a corporal was suddenly a general.

The younger Aidid vacillated between being more conciliatory than his father to being as warlike as his father. Initially he vowed to crush and kill his enemies at home and overseas. He continued his father’s policies, especially the pacification of the countryside, which most saw as an authoritarian power grab. Forces loyal to Aidid were known to rob and kill civilians in their controlled territories. Other allied factions left the young leader’s camp because they did not see dedication to the peace process.

The younger Aidid eventually softened, renouncing his claim to the presidency and agreeing to UN-brokered peace agreements in 1997. An ardent anti-Islamist, he assisted the Bush Administration in tracking down the flow of arms and money through Mogadishu, gave up the sale and use of landmines, and helped Somali government forces capture the capital from the al-Qaeda-allied Islamic Courts Union in 2006. He was hired and fired as deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Interior, and Minister of Public Works. He defected to Eritrea in 2007.

Hussein Farrah Aidid as Deputy Prime Minister of the Somali Transitional Government

”I always wanted to be a Marine,” he told The Associated Press. ”I’m proud of my background and military discipline. Once a Marine, always a Marine.”

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The Lightning makes its Paris debut

When you make it in Paris, it’s big news.


While many eyes are on Paris Fashion Week, where many of the A-list stars are picking out their awards season wardrobe, the Paris Air Show is also a big deal. In fact, in 2011, over 350,000 people were at the event! By contrast, Paris’s Fashion Week has all of 5,000 attendees.

An F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is displayed in the U.S. corral at the Paris Air Show June 20, 2017 at Le Bourget, France. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

The Paris Air Show is where many planes make their big debut onto the world stage. In 1989, the Soviets not only introduced the Buran spaceplane at the Paris Air Show, but the Su-27 Flanker shocked the world with a demonstration of the Pugachev Cobra.

Paris has also seen tragedy, including a MiG-29 crash in 1989, as well as the 1973 crash of the Tu-144 “Concordeski.” B-58 Hustler strategic bombers also crashed there in 1961 and 1965.

An F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, lands after performing a flight demonstration at the Paris Air Show June 20, 2017 at Le Bourget, France. This is the first time the F-35 has performed aerial demonstrations at an international air show. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

The Paris Air Show is held every other year in an odd year. For this year, the F-35 made its flight demonstration debut. According to a European Command release, the American delegation to the 2017 Paris Air Show also included two F-16 Fighting Falcons, a CH-47 Chinook, a P-8 Poseidon, a V-22 Osprey, an AH-64 Apache, a C-130J Hercules, and a KC-135 Stratotanker.

F-35A Lighting II pilots from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, pose for a photo in the U.S. corral at the Paris Air Show June 20, 2017 at Le Bourget, France. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

The star, of course, was the F-35, which was the only fifth-generation fighter at Paris.

The plane made its first aerial demonstration there. You can see it in the video below, from takeoff to landing. It’s about six minutes and 40 seconds, but well worth is to see the F-35 make its mark over Paris.

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The founder of Delta Force was almost impossible to kill

In 1952, the Green Bay Packers drafted “Chargin’ Charlie” Beckwith from the University of Georgia. But seeing as how the Korean War was already in its second year, Chargin’ Charlie declined the offer for a different green uniform.


Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant, Charles Beckwith served a few years on the Korean Peninsula, in war and later peacetime. It was after Korea that he joined the 82d Airborne, and later, U.S. Army Special Forces.

Col. Charles Beckwith toward the end of his career.

Beckwith’s first mission was to train the Royal Lao Army in 1960 but his mission to deploy with British SAS to Malaysia as they fought a Communist insurgency is one that forever changed military history.

It was there that Beckwith came down with a mean case of Leptospirosis — a bacterial infection that causes kidney failure and pulmonary hemorrhaging. Doctors did not expect Beckwith to survive.

In fact, they called it one of the three worst cases they’d ever seen. Beckwith was given three weeks to live — and he did.

The British SAS patrol during Malayan insurgency.

He survived the infection and his time with the Special Air Service inspired him to develop the American Army’s version of such an elite unit. In 1963, he formed the specialty unit code-name Project Delta, personally selecting the men best suited to conduct long-range recon operations in Vietnam.

But his time in Delta — and on Earth — was nearly cut short in Vietnam in 1966. Beckwith was shot in his abdomen with a .50-caliber round. He was taped up, but essentially left for dead.

But death still didn’t come.

A MACV Special Operation group in Vietnam circa 1969.

Beckwith not only recovered, he continued with his military career, fighting in a series of battles from the Tet Offensive in 1968 until the end of the war in 1973.

It was in the mid-70s that Beckwith’s elite unit idea finally became a full reality. He was given the authority and formed the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta in 1977. The new elite unit focused on anti-terror and hostage recovery ops, based on the model of the British SAS.

Unfortunately for Beckwith and Delta, their first mission was Operation Eagle Claw, the doomed hostage rescue of Americans held in Iran. After the catastrophic failure of Eagle Claw, Beckwith retired from the Army.

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6 treats for the US Army on its 242nd birthday

The United States Army celebrates 242 years of defending the America against all enemies.


So, what can you get an Army that already has a $240 billion annual budget? Obviously, it will need to be one heck of an awesome gift basket.

Here’s what we’d put in:

1. A new 7.62mm battle rifle

The Army is deciding it may go back to the 7.62x51mm NATO standard round.

Whether the new battle rifle is based on the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System, the new M110A1 Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System, the M14EBR, or some other contender, the Army will want the reach and hitting power of this cartridge in the hands of more grunts.

Every rifleman a designated marksman?

U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven Colvin

2. A new scout helicopter

The Army has retired the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior, but there has been no replacement. The hot-rod that was the RAH-66 Comanche got chopped in 2004. The ARH-70 Arapahoe was killed in 2008. Then, the planned OH-58F Block II got the axe in 2014 thanks to sequestration.

Look, the Apache is not a bad helicopter, but the Kiowa worked well as a scout bird. UAVs are nice, but sometimes, you need a manned scout to do the job.

An OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter from the 1st Infantry Division takes off on a mission from Forward Operation Base MacKenzie, Iraq. It is armed with an AGM-114 Hellfire and 7 Hydra 70 rockets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Cuomo)

3. More Dragoons

The Stryker got a firepower upgrade last year in the form of a 30mm Bushmaster II chain gun. These Strykers got a new designation (M1296) and a new name (Dragoon). However, there are a lot of places the grunts could use that extra firepower.

The first prototype Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle outfitted with a 30mm cannon was delivered Thursday to the Army. (Photo Credit: courtesy of Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems)

4. Speed up the lighter Carl Gustav

Yes, the Army invoked Army Regulation 600.9 on the M3 Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System.

After Carl (Gustav) lost the weight, it came back with some new features that will make it far more user-friendly. The system is now a permanent part of infantry platoons, and gives them a weapon capable of firing anti-armor, illumination, smoke, anti-building, and anti-personnel rounds.

But let’s get those systems there faster, please.

U.S. Army Soldiers Spc. Joshua Rutledge (right) and Pfc. Austin Piette (left) perform a practice drill on how to hold, aim, and fire a Carl Gustav anti-tank recoilless rifle. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven M. Colvin/Released)

5. Bring back the W48 and merge it with the Excalibur GPS tech

ISIS has used chemical weapons a lot during its reign of terror. The United States once had the W48 round — a shell that delivers the equivalent of 72 tons of TNT (.072 kilotons).

Merging it with the Excalibur GPS guidance system would certainly have given our guys a nice option for a…decisive response to such an attack.

That’ll do some damage. (Image via Wikipedia)

6. Air-defense systems besides the M1097 Avenger

The fact that Russia is a threat again means that it is well past time to get some more air defense besides the Avenger and man-portable Stingers.

There are some off-the-shelf options that could bolster those defenses. The Bradley Linebacker might be a system to bring back, more for a 25mm gun than the missiles (it is stuck with Stingers).

So, let’s get some other missile options.

AMRAAMs mounted on a Humvee. Versions of this have been called HUMRAAM, CLAWS, or SLAMRAAM. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

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This is the fighter that was flown by the first US president to go supersonic

A number of U.S. presidents have served in the military. One, though, flew jets and broke Mach 1. That was George W. Bush, who served as a fighter pilot in the Texas Air National Guard.


Though his Air National Guard service was heavily criticized during his runs for the White House, it’s beyond dispute that Bush flew the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger when he was in the ANG.

This plane had a top speed of Mach 1.25, a maximum range of 1,350 miles, and could carry six AIM-4 Falcon air-to-air missiles and 24 unguided rockets.

F-102As over South Vietnam. (USAF photo)

In a 2004 report, NationalReview.com noted that Bush sought to get into the Palace Alert program, which involved F-102s being deployed to Vietnam. He was passed over due to a lack of experience. The F-102 provided air defense and served as a bomber escort during the Vietnam War, and 15 were lost to hostile action, including one shot down by a MiG-21.

The F-102 was a replacement for the F-89 Scorpion and other first-generation interceptors like the F-86D and the F-94, according to aviation historian Joe Baugher. Development was troubled, and while in service, the F-102 had a Class A mishap rate of 13.69 per 100,000 flight hours.

A F-102A Delta Dagger with the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, the unit George W. Bush flew with. (USAF photo)

The F-102 served from 1956 to the 1970s with the Air Force, and was with Air National Guard units until 1976. The plane also saw service with Greece and Turkey – helping protect NATO’s southern flank. A refined version of this plane became the F-106 Delta Dart.

You can see a video on the F-102 produced by the Air Force below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVlgY2DOW0w
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US could be working alongside a terrorist group in Lebanon’s assault on ISIS

Lebanon’s US-backed military is gearing up for a long-awaited assault to dislodge hundreds of Islamic State militants from a remote corner near Syrian border, seeking to end a years-long threat posed to neighboring towns and villages by the extremists.


The campaign will involve cooperation with the militant group Hezbollah and the Syrian army on the other side of the border — although Lebanese authorities insist they are not coordinating with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.

But the assault could prove costly for the under-equipped military and risk activating IS sleeper cells in the country.

The tiny Mediterranean nation has been spared the wars and chaos that engulfed several countries in the region since the so-called Arab Spring uprisings erupted in 2011. But it has not been able to evade threats to its security, including sectarian infighting and random car bombings, particularly in 2014, when militants linked to al-Qaeda and IS overran the border region, kidnapping Lebanese soldiers.

An ‘informal tented settlement’ in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley. Lebanon is housing an estimated 1.2 million Syrian refugees. Photo from Department for International Development.

The years-long presence of extremists in the border area has brought suffering to neighboring towns and villages, from shelling, to kidnappings of villagers for ransom. Car bombs made in the area and sent to other parts of the country, including the Lebanese capital, Beirut, have killed scores of citizens.

Aided directly by the United States and Britain, the army has accumulated steady successes against the militants in the past year, slowly clawing back territory, including strategic hills retaken in the past week. Authorities say it’s time for an all-out assault.

The planned operation follows a six-day military offensive by the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah that forced al-Qaeda-linked fighters to flee the area on the outskirts of the town of Arsal, along with thousands of civilians.

In a clear distribution of roles, the army is now expected to launch the attack on IS. In the past few days, the army’s artillery shells and multiple rocket launchers have been pounding the mountainous areas on the Lebanon-Syria border where IS held positions, in preparation for the offensive. Drones could be heard around the clock and residents of the eastern Bekaa Valley reported seeing army reinforcements arriving daily in the northeastern district of Hermel to join the battle.

Members of the Lebanese Armed Forces operate a Talon explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) robot with Sailors assigned to Commander, Task Group (CTG) 56.1 during Resolute Response 16 in Beirut, Lebanon. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Scott

The offensive from the Lebanese side of the border will be carried out by the Lebanese army, while Syrian troops and Hezbollah fighters will be working to clear the Syrian side of IS militants. Hezbollah has been fighting alongside Assad’s forces since 2013.

On August 8, the army’s top brass conferred with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and interior and defense ministers at the Presidential Palace to plan operations in the eastern Bekaa Valley.

The committee took the “necessary counsel and decisions to succeed in the military operations to eliminate the terrorists,” Maj. Gen. Saadallah Hamad said after the meeting.

Experts say more than 3,000 troops, including elite special forces, are in the northeastern corner of Lebanon to take part in the offensive. The army will likely use weapons it received from the United States, including Cessna aircraft that discharge Hellfire missiles.

Two AGM-114 Hellfire Missiles. Photo by 玄史生 via Wikimedia Commons.

Keen to support the army rather than the better equipped Iranian-backed Hezbollah, the US and Britain have supplied the military with helicopters, anti-tank missiles, artillery, and radars, as well as training. The American Embassy says the US has provided Lebanon with over $1.4 billion in security assistance since 2005.

But the fight is not expected to be quick or easy.

According to Lebanon’s Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, there are about 400 IS fighters in the Lebanese area, and hundreds more on the Syrian side of the border.

“It is not going to be a picnic,” said Hisham Jaber, a retired army general who heads the Middle East Center for Studies and Political Research in Beirut. “The Lebanese army will try to carry out the mission with the least possible losses.”

Jaber said the battle may last several weeks. “It is a rugged area and the organization (IS) is well armed and experienced.”

Marines with Charlie Company and Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and Soldiers of the Lebanese Army conduct a live-fire, combined arms range, May 12, 2012. Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Chad Kiehl

There are also concerns the offensive may subject Lebanon to retaliatory attacks by militants, just as the country has started to enjoy a rebound in tourism.

A Lebanese security official said authorities are taking strict security measures to prevent any attack deep inside Lebanon by sleeper cells. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said authorities have detained several IS militants over the past weeks.

Lebanese politicians say IS controls an area of about 296 square kilometers (114 square miles) between the two countries, of which 141 square kilometers (54.5 square miles) are in Lebanon.

The area stretches from the badlands of the Lebanese town of Arsal and Christian villages of Ras Baalbek and Qaa, to the outskirts of Syria’s Qalamoun region and parts of the western Syrian town of Qusair that Hezbollah captured in 2013.

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

In a televised speech last August 4, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said that once the Lebanese army launches its offensive from the Lebanese side, Hezbollah and the Syrian army will begin their attack from the Syrian side. He added that there has to be coordination between the Syrian and Lebanese armies in the battle.

“Opening two fronts at the same time will speed up victory and reduce losses,” Nasrallah said, adding that his fighters on the Lebanese side of the border are at the disposal of Lebanese troops if needed.

“I tell Daesh that the Lebanese and Syrians will attack you from all sides and you will not be able to resist and will be defeated,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the extremist group.

“If you decide to fight, you will end up either a prisoner or dead,” Nasrallah added.

Syrian brothers who are now refugees living in an informal tented settlement in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Photo from DFID Flickr.

Some Lebanese politicians have been opposed to security coordination with the Syrian army. The Lebanese are sharply divided over Syria’s civil war that has spilled to the tiny country of 4.5 million people. Lebanon is hosting some 1.2 million Syrian refugees.

Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, is opposed to Assad while his national unity Cabinet includes Hezbollah as well as other groups allied with the Syrian president.

Last week, Hariri told reporters that Lebanese authorities are ready to negotiate to discover the fate of nine Lebanese soldiers who were captured during the raid on Arsal by IS and al-Qaeda fighters in August 2014. Unlike their rivals in al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group is not known to negotiate prisoner exchanges.

“The presence of Daesh will end in Lebanon,” Hariri said, using the same Arabic acronym to refer to IS.

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A future Gulfstream executive jet could be a lot more than a plane for VIPs

When you think of the Gulfstream, you probably think of a jet that’s used by A-list celebrities and corporate CEOs – all of whom are living the high life.


Well, that is true. In fact, the Pentagon has a fleet of Gulfstream 550s dubbed the “C-37B” for the VIP transport role, including for President Trump (who owns a 757 of his own).

A model of a special-missions variant of the Gulfstream G550 for the USAF. (Photo by Harold Hutchison)

But if all you see is a cushy transport for execs, you’re missing the potential of the Gulfstream, company officials say.

In fact, the plane could do a whole lot more than fly high-rollers in comfort. The company is using the G550 as a platform for multiple missions, including for missile range instrumentation, a multi-mission version, and even for command and control. Some of these variants were being shown off by Gulfstream at a display at the 2017 SeaAirSpace Expo in National Harbor, Maryland.

An AEW variant of the Gulfstream G550. This serves with the Israeli Defense Forces. (Photo by Harold Hutchison)

The G550 has a lot going for it. It has long range, over 6,750 nautical miles, or about 12 hours of endurance. It is also reliable – the Gulfstream website notes its 99.9 percent mission-ready rate means that this plane misses one flight every five years.

Front view of the Navy’s missile-range instrumentation version of the G550 (Photo by Harold Hutchison)

This bird could very well become a larger part of the DOD inventory – proving that airframes can do much more than you might think they can at first glance.

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This is the story of US troops who think they saw Bigfoot in Vietnam

In the Kontum Province of Vietnam, near the borders with Laos and Cambodia, there were many reports from U.S. troops on patrols of a strange, not-quite-human but not-quite-ape creature the locals call Nguoi Rung, or “The people of the Forest.” In other words: Bigfoot.


Low draft number. Sorry, Bigfoot.

Gary Linderer was on a six-man patrol with the 101st Airborne’s Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols. While struggle through the underbrush, he ran into “deep set eyes on a prominent brow… five feet tall, with long muscular arms.” The creature “walked upright with broad shoulders and a heavy torso.” His battle buddies told him he just saw a rock ape, but Linderer had seen Rock Apes before. This was no Rock Ape.

First, Charlie. Now this. Unbelievable.

Like the Yeti in the Himalayas, and the Sasquatch sightings all over North America, the Nguoi Rung is a oft-told tale in the area, but despite endless the sightings and folklore attached to the semi-mythical creature, no concrete evidence exists. Linderer wasn’t the only witness, either. Army Sgt. Thomas Jenkins reported his platoon was attacked by these apes throwing stones.

Toward the end of the war, Viet Cong and NVA soldiers reported so many sightings of the reddish-brown hair-covered Nguoi Rung the North Vietnamese communist party secretariat ordered scientists to investigate.

Dr. Vo Quy, a respected ornithologist and environmental researcher from Hanoi, discovered a Nguoi Rung footprint on the forest floor and made a cast of it. The cast was wider than a human foot and too big for an ape.

In 1982, another Vietnamese scientist, Tran Hong Viet discovered more footprints, which led zoologist John MacKinnon to investigate the region. MacKinnon called the area a “tiny, pristine corner of the world unknown to modern science.”

The 1982 Footprint Cast.

In 1969, MacKinnon discovered manlike footprints in Borneo’s jungles, which the locals called Batatut. While much of the evidence surrounding the existence of these apes is anecdotal, MacKinnon, known for his discovery of new mammal species in Vietnam, believes there is a possibility the existence of a previously unknown ape species is real.

The account of Nguoi Rung meeting American GIs in Vietnam was first published in Kregg P.J. Jorgenson’s Very Crazy, GI: Strange But True Stories of the Vietnam War.

 

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It’s time for the F-35 to start blowing up old F-16s

The first QF-16 target aircraft seen at Tyndall Air Force Base in 2012. | US Air Force photo by Chris Cokeing


Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle of the US Air Force recently declared a squadron of 15 unmanned F-16s operationally capable, IHS Jane’s reports.

These drone versions of the F-16, called QF-16s, will provide targets for the Air Force as it tests out new weapons capabilities of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

“The QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Target will provide the next generation of combat training and testing for US warfighters,” a Boeing statement on the drones said.

While the old F-16s may seem like costly targets, the Air Force is touting them as a more realistic opponent than what was previously available, and they are economical to some extent because they’re made from older, retired F-16 airframes.

“The QF-16 will replace the existing QF-4 fleet and provide a higher-capability, fourth-generation aerial target that is more representative of today’s targets and threats,” the Boeing statement continued.

Having realistic targets to train against will help the F-35 pilots. F-35 Joint Program Office

“This leap forward in airframe capabilities, combined with advanced electronic pods, will allow us to properly test and evaluate our 5th generation aircraft and weapons,” Lt. Col. Matthew Garrison, the commander of the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, told C4ISRNET in an email.

In fact, an F-35 already participated in a test in which a QF-16 drone was shot down, though it did so with an SM-6 missile fired from a land-based silo.