5 surprising facts you probably didn't know about the French Foreign Legion - We Are The Mighty
Articles

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

1. Legionnaires are instilled with a “fight to the death” attitude. Giving up is not really an option.

In April 1863, a battle between the French Foreign Legion and the Mexican army showed how effective and ballsy legionnaires really could be. With a total of just 65 men, the legionnaires fought back against a force of approximately 3,000 at the Battle of Camarón. Despite the overwhelming odds, the small patrol of legionnaires inflicted terrible losses on the Mexican forces and they refused to surrender.


Instead, their French officers actually called on the larger Mexican force to surrender multiple times. Holed up inside of a hacienda, only five men remained able to fight (most were killed or wounded) — and incredibly — mounted a bayonet charge against the opposing force, until they were ultimately surrounded and forced to surrender.

“Is this all of them? Is this all of the men who are left?” a Mexican Major said at the time, according to the book Camerone by James W. Ryan. “These are not men! They are demons!”

The Legion still celebrates and commemorates the battle today — and the wooden hand of their slain commander, Capt. Danjou, is the most prized possession at the Legion’s museum in Aubagne, writes Max Hastings.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

2. Legionnaires who are wounded are granted automatic French citizenship.

Though troops serving the Legion hail from 138 different countries, they can become French citizens eventually. After serving at least three years honorably, they can apply to be citizens. But they also have a much quicker path: If they are wounded on the battlefield, they can become citizens through a provision called “Français par le sang versé” (“French by spilled blood”), according to The Telegraph.

The French government allowed this automatic citizenship provision in 1999.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

3. More than 35,000 foreigners have been killed in action while serving with the Legion.

Throughout its history, the French Foreign Legion — and the fighters who make up its ranks — were seen as expendable. The foreigners who continue to join do so accepting the possibility of their death in a far-off place, in exchange for a new life with some sense of purpose. But meaningless sacrifice has gradually become a virtue in itself, according to a Vanity Fair article about the Legion.

“It’s like this,” an old legionnaire told William Langeweische of Vanity Fair. “There is no point in trying to understand. Time is unimportant. We are dust from the stars. We are nothing at all. Whether you die at age 15 or 79, in a thousand years there is no significance to it. So f–k off with your worries about war.”

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

4. The Legion used to accept anyone — criminals and misfits especially — with no questions, but now there is a thorough screening process.

Since its founding in 1831, the Legion has become the one place of escape for those with haunted pasts. Men with criminal records, shady business dealings, or deserters from their home country’s armies were accepted into the ranks, with no questions asked. Stripped of their old identity and given a new one, the new legionnaires are able to begin their new life with the slate wiped clean.

The legion will still accept deserters and other minor miscreants, but it’s not as easy as it once was. New recruits are given a battery of physical, intelligence, and psychological tests before they even get any kind of training. Later on in the process, recruits are screened for “motivation” in order to weed out those who don’t have the drive to make it in the ranks.

Some of the process was detailed by Simon Bennett at Vice:

Finally, after countless hours spent lingering in uncomfortable conditions, the only thing standing between us and a spot with the Legion was what was referred to as the “Gestapo.” Rumor had it that at this point, the Legion knew everything about you. The word Interpol is thrown around a lot—any financial, criminal, family, and employment background information is supposedly fair game. Call it a hunch, but I think that’s bullshit. Make no mistake, I believe someone, somewhere has access to all of that information. But a sweaty, apathetic French administration in a run-down, quasi-bureaucratic shithole in suburban Marseille isn’t that someone or somewhere. In any case, they called me in for an interrogation.

While they may not necessarily be running from their past when they join the Legion these days, all new legionnaires are still stripped of their old identities and given new ones, which they maintain for at least their first year of service.

“Legionnaires begin a new life when they join,” a legionnaire named Capt. Michel told NBC News. “Each and every one of them is allowed to keep his past a secret.”

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

5. The pay is terrible, and so are the benefits.

Legion recruiters could easily steal the infamous U.S. Marine Corps recruiting poster with the slogan, “We don’t promise you a rose garden.” The pay is terrible, as are the benefits, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Despite the promise of a very rough life and the possibility of being sent to fight anywhere, thousands continue to show up each year.

Legionnaires can expect deployments to austere environments and/or see plenty of combat. The Legion is currently in Afghanistan and Mali, for example.

Their starting pay is roughly $1450 per month for at least the first couple of years in. That’s a pretty small paycheck compared to the lowest-ranking U.S. Army soldier making $1546, which is guaranteed to go up to $1733 after being automatically promoted six months later (if they don’t get in trouble of course).

There is at least one bonus to the Legion if you fancy yourself a drinker: There’s plenty of booze. Even in a combat zone, legionnaires are drinking in their off time, and their culture of heavy drinking would make any frat-boy blush.

Articles

9 of the most important tweets in military history

Undaunted by the need for a proprietary algorithm and the fact that Twitter wasn’t founded until 2006, a group of military historians were able to dig up these tweets under the third ‘O’ of the HOLLYWOOD sign (just above WATM’s headquarters) after receiving a tip from the ghost of Jimmy Stewart in the American Legion Post 43’s men’s room. Like all important artifacts, these 9 tweets shed light on history (in this case in 140 characters or less):


1.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

2.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

3.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

4.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

5.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

6.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

7.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

8.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

9. 

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

(H/T to WATM’s Logan Nye for helping with these.)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard buoy bells are being stolen all over Maine

Expensive brass gongs and bells are being stolen from navigational buoys off the coast of Maine, and the Coast Guard is asking for help to track down whoever is pilfering them.

The sounding devices are used by ships and sailors to navigate, especially in low-visibility conditions. The sounding devices are attached to buoys and “play a vital role in the safe passage of ships and mariners,” the Coast Guard said in a release.

Six buoys have been hit over the past six months, according to Lt. Chellsey Phillips, spokeswoman for the South Portland Coast Guard Station.

“If a buoy doesn’t have all of its components, it can cause problems,” Phillips told the Portland Press Herald.

Lt. Matthew Odom, Waterways Management Division chief for Coast Guard Sector Northern New England, said the thefts reduce the reliability of the navigation-aid system and endanger lives.


5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
The space in which a sound-signaling brass bell typically hangs on this offshore buoy is empty after the bell was stolen, off the coast of Maine.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

“They also create a burden and expense to the taxpayer for the buoy tenders and crews responsible for maintaining the aids,” Odom said in a statement.

The Coast Guard suspects the “high-dollar devices” are likely being sold to novelty stores or scrap-metal yards.

Federal officials are working with local police, retailers, and scrap yards to suss out those involved in the thefts.

Tampering with the navigational aids is a federal crime that can be punished with up to a year in prison and fines of as much as $25,000 a day.

The Coast Guard is seeking help from the public, asking anyone with knowledge about the missing sounding devices to contact Coast Guard Sector Northern New England.

Anyone with information that leads to a conviction could get up to half the value of the fine imposed, the Coast Guard said.

This is not the first time the Coast Guard has had to address the public about its buoys in New England.

In April 2017, the Coast Guard in Rhode Island asked people to stop shooting at buoys there. At the time, one Coast Guard crew found a buoy that had been peppered with 20 bullet holes and sunk, creating a navigation hazard.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

This is why dropping “Sunni Arab allies” into Syria is a terrible idea

Five years into the Syrian Civil War, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced its readiness to send ground troops into Syria to fight Islamic State forces.


5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

“The kingdom is ready to participate in any ground operations that the coalition (against Islamic State) may agree to carry out in Syria,” Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, the spokesman for the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen, told the Saudi government-owned al-Arabiya TV.

Related: The 10 worst armies in the world

Just days after that announcement, the United Arab Emirates announced its readiness to join the fight.

“Our position throughout has been that a real campaign has to include a ground force,” the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said at a news conference in Abu Dhabi, adding “U.S. leadership on this” would be a prerequisite for the UAE.

Big surprise there.

For those keeping track, the UAE is also part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the religious-political faction of Houthis in Yemen, a Shia insurgent group who captured the Yemeni capital of Sana’a in 2014 and forced the fall of the Saudi-backed government five months later. Saudi Arabia’s nine-member coalition has since failed to dislodge the Iran-backed Houthis or restore the government. Meanwhile, just under one-third of the country has fallen to the resurgent al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

Maybe Saudi Arabia and the Arab allies aren’t everything American politicians have said they are during the 2016 election debates. Forget for a moment how bad they are at fighting a decisive war (they can’t even capture the capital city with air superiority and and more than a year to get it done), the idea of airlifting a coalition of Sunni Arab troops into Syria is not only overly simplistic, it’s a terrible one. Saudi Arabia and Iran are expending resources to wage an all-out proxy battle in the region, and Iraq and Syria are the primary battlefields.

By now, it should come as no surprise to Westerners that there is an huge, problematic divide between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam. The main actors in this ideological conflict today are Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran. Yemen isn’t the first example of Saudi intervention. At the height of the Arab Spring, Saudi troops crossed the King Fahd Causeway into Bahrain to put down Shia protests there.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
The most ironic peace sign ever.

The Saudi sphere of influence extends throughout the Arabian Peninsula while the Iranian sphere extends from Iran’s border with  Afghanistan to the East and pushes West through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The conflicts in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon are extensions of this greater conflict. When told the Saudis and Emiratis were ready to deploy to Syria, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem gave a very expected response: “I regret to say that they will return home in wooden coffins.”

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

Sectarianism is only increasing and is becoming the primary reason for conflict. Until recently, major non-state paramilitary organizations on either side of the divide publicly defined their mandates in terms of either anti-imperialist, anti-Israel, and/or anti-American terms. They did not openly define themselves in terms of Shia vs. Sunni. That is changing.

In 2013, Islamic extremist violence intensified, fueled by sectarianism in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Pakistan. The rise of anti-Shia resistance, combined with the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime, led to the ideology behind the rise of the Islamic State, now the most aggressive and extreme group, with transnational roots in Nigeria, Libya, and Afghanistan. The sectarianism is only spreading.

When the Asad regime looked like it would fall, the Gulf states smelled the blood in the water and acted quickly to take advantage of the situation. Kuwait is now the leading source of funds for al-Qaeda-linked terror organizations in Syria. Qatar is a major funder of the al-Qaeda-allied Sunni al-Nusra Front there, and Qatari officials tell The Atlantic that ISIS is “a Saudi project.”

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
A Saudi project like a crane at the Grand Mosque in Mecca. That kind of project.

Iran funds, trains, and equips paramilitary forces throughout the Middle East, including the Lebanese political-militant group Hezbollah, and has for decades. Iraq’s government has been dominated by Iran-backed Shia parliamentarians since the ouster of Saddam Hussein by the 2003 U.S. invasion. Syrian President Bashar al-Asad’s regime is propped up by the Iranian government, who are reinforcing the Asad government against rebels, ISIS, the Kurdish YPG, and the other thousand groups vying for power there. The government’s legitimacy relies on the support of the Alawite minority in Syria, a Shia group whose followers control the top tiers of Syrian society.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

Sunni militant groups, financed by Gulf states like Kuwait, are seeing a rise in recruiting numbers and directing their ideology and violence toward other Muslim communities instead of Western targets. In response, Shia groups gain in strength and numbers to confront the  perceived threats posed by the Sunni groups. The war in Syria is no longer a fight for control of the country but a battle in a greater ideological proxy war.

The U.S. has so far managed not to take a side. The Obama Administration’s original plan for fighting ISIS, for example, involved both Sunnis and Shia, but accomplished little in the way of real, lasting stability or security in the region. It called for air support and advisors for Iraqi troops (sometimes led by Iranian advisors and in conjunction with Iraq’s Shia militias) while training and equipping “moderate” rebels in Sunni Saudi Arabia. We know how that turned out.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

Related: General briefs Congress fight against ISIS is a total mess

At the onset of the Syrian War, thousands of fighters left their homes in Syria for various Sunni or Shia militias. Foreign fighters soon began to flood in with professional jihadis from Chechnya and Afghanistan coming to reinforce Sunni groups while Shia militias from Iraq and Lebanese Hezbollah shored up the Asad regime. At the end of 2013, there were an estimated 1000+ armed groups in Syria. Since then, the rebel groups have only fractured.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Map of Syrian Civil War as of February 2016

Knowing all of this, imagine how would it look to the average Shia militia if the United States began flooding a traditional Shia state with Sunni troops. The war in Syria will last at least another five to ten full years and the U.S. should be prepared for that. The U.S. only has to look at recent history when deciding how best to serve our national interest while helping bring the conflict to its conclusion.

The Lebanese Civil War ended only after the infighting exhausted itself. By the signing of the 1989 Taif Agreement that ended the war in Lebanon, the streets of Beirut looked remarkably similar to how the streets of the Syrian city of Homs look today.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZRLvbgaIHs

That war had was much more akin to today’s Syrian conflict than other Arab Spring-related uprisings. Massacres, assassinations, and a large number of belligerents fueled the conflict for 15 years. In the end, the Taif Agreement ceded Lebanon to Syrian influence. Even so, the Taif Agreement only came about because of an anti-Saddam mindset between the Iranians and Saudis. U.S. military power was not a significant factor.

In 1983, the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut were bombed by Shia militias. The attacks killed 241 U.S. military members. Three months later, then-President Ronald Reagan withdrew all U.S. troops from the country. That turned out to be the right call. In trying to score political points, American politicians could call it a “cut and run.” Yet, in a 1991 biography of Reagan, one of the 20th century’s most brilliant military minds, Gen. Colin Powell, labeled the American intervention in Lebanon a misadventure from the start.

“Beirut wasn’t sensible and it never did serve a purpose,” Powell said. “It was goofy from the beginning.” The reversal of a bad military course, once decided, seems impossible 33 years later, considering the level of political rhetoric on the use of force against ISIS. It might even be political suicide.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Would you to tell this man he was wrong?

Yet, the same U.S. involvement that was a mistake in Lebanon in the early 80’s is a leadership necessity in Syria today. Why? It’s not because of ISIS. In Lebanon, President Bachir Gemayel was assassinated and Palestinian refugees were slaughtered in camps by Christian Maronite militias. Those events didn’t influence Reagan to keep Marines in the country for an indeterminate period of time. Once it became clear that U.S. actions would have repercussions, the President decided the nature of the mission weighed against the potential cost wasn’t in U.S. interests and left the multi-national force … and it was the right call.

American intervention and use of military force should involve a clear strategy to reach a set goal, with rules of engagement to match. A policy of dropping Sunni troops into a Shia country is misguided. It will only fuel the Syrian war and the sectarian divide. The U.S. will win the hearts and minds of neither Shia nor Sunni and will pay the cost in security across the globe.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Check out these amazing uncovered photos of the great Ernie Pyle

On April 18th, 1945, war correspondent Ernie Pyle was killed by enemy fire on Iejima* during the Battle of Okinawa. At the time of his death, Pyle, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, was well-known for his intimate and personal storytelling that highlighted the experiences of the “average” soldier. Pyle was able to tell the stories of enlisted men because he embedded himself in their day-to-day lives; he didn’t just observe their work, he lived, traveled, ate, and shared foxholes with them.

In remembrance of Ernie Pyle, the Unwritten Record presents photographs and motion pictures that highlight his work as a roving war correspondent during WWII.


Marines

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
PFC. Urban Vachon of Laconia, NH, and Columnist Ernie Pyle, rest by the roadside on the trail at Okinawa.
(Photo by Barnett)


5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
(Photo by TSgt. J. Mundell)

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Mr. Pyle is shown here talking to Division Commander, Major General Graves B. Erskine. It is Ernie’s first trip into the Pacific. Previously he wrote about GI Joe from the European Theater of Operations. From left to right: Major General Erskine, Lt. Comdr. Max Miller, Col. Robert E. Hogaboom, Ernie
(Photo by Tsgt. Mundell)

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Columnist Ernie Pyle rests on the roadside with a Marine patrol.
(Photo by Barnett)

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Ernie Pyle, noted columnist, on the trail with a group of Marines. He is fourth from the left. Okinawa.
(Photo by Barnett)

Navy

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Ernie Pyle being transferred by breeches buoy from the USS Cabot (CVL-28) to the USS Moale (DD-693) / Date: February 23, 1945

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Ernie Pyle, war correspondent, interviewing Joe J. Ray S1/c and Charles W. Page S1/C on board the USS Yorktown (CV-10) / Date: February 5, 1945

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Ernie Pyle visiting with Marines aboard USS Charles Carroll (APA-28) while enroute to Okinawa /u00a0Date: March 20, 1945

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Ernie Pyle watching Marine play Casino aboard USS Charles Carroll (APA-28) while enroute to Okinawa / Date: March 29, 1945

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Ernie Pyle and sailors listening to war reports over loud speaker aboard USS Charles Carroll (APA-28) while enroute to Okinawau00a0/ Date: March 29, 1945

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Ernie Pyle with troops listing to PFC Johnny Maturello play accordion aboard USS Charles Carroll (APA-28) while enroute to Okinawa / Date: March 1945

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Caption: L to R; Edward P. Krapse, Lt. Arlington Bensel Jr., Ernie Pyle, and Cpl. Edward M. Wrenne.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Ernie Pyle center leaning on a Marine’s shoulder.

Army

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Bomb that hit PRO today also hurt some of the war correspondents, among whom was Ernie Pyle. He suffered a slight cut on the face and is here looking at his bed from which he had just left to watch the bombing, when the roof fell on it. Nettuno Area, Italy.
(Photo by Blau)

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Cpl. Jesse Cooper (of Powell Station, TN), Ernie Pyle, and Pvt. Willian Bennet (of Dunn, NC) at muzzle of a 155mm rifle. Fifth Army. Anzio Beachhead area, Italy.
(Photo by Bonnard)

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
At Nettuno, Italy, Ernie Pyle, war correspondent, and Major General Lucian Truscott, stand in front of Corps Headquarters.
(Photo by Blau)

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Ernie Pyle, preparing to cover the Pacific war front, gets a preview from enlisted men who have returned from the front. From left to right u2013 T/4 Al Levy (of Albany, NY), T/5 William Gharrity (of Chippewa Falls, WI), and Ssgt. Richard W. Bridenbaugh (of Toledo, OH)/ Date: January 1945.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Correspondent, Ernie Pyle, of Scripps-Howard Newspapers, Washington DC, interviewing Sgt. Ralph Gower (of Sacramento, CA), Pvt. Raymond Astrackon (left, of New York City), and 2nd. Lt. Annette Heaton, ANC (of Detroit, MI), attached to an evacuation hospital. North Africa / Date: December 2, 1942.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
The body of Ernie Pyle, who lost his life while serving with first line troops on Ie Shima, was laid to final rest on July 19th in the new Punchbowl Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Oahu. Pall bearers are pictured removing Ernie Pyle’s flag draped casket before the burial ceremonies / Date: July 1

Jack Lieb Collection

Jack Lieb was a newsreel cameraman who covered the end of the war in Europe (D-Day to Germany). Pyle appears in the following videos, which document preparations for the D-Day invasion in England and France.The records presented above were found in the following series:

The records presented above were found in the following series:

*Iejima is often referred to as Ie Shima. Additionally, at the time of Pyle’s death, some news outlets referred to Iejima as Ie Island.

Special thanks to Audrey Amidon, who provided links and context to the films included in this blog post.

Lists

These crazy photos show 30+ ton tanks in flight

With crews of four men, thick armor, and enough firepower to level a village, tanks weren’t designed to fly. But the laws of physics never stopped tankers from trying:


1. Like this baby taking flight:

 

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

 2. Can you say tankapult?

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo: Mitch.10.Ryan/Instagram

 

3. Seriously, this is what life as a US Army tanker is all about. Shooting, jumping and blowing stuff up, you know: tank stuff.

 

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo: Military_Challenge/Instagram

 

4. We hear that the newer Polish tanks will have an easier time getting off the ground than this one.

 

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo: Military_Challenge/Instagram

 

5. Is this a Russian separatist tank? Those guys have lots of fancy gear.

 

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo: Anoshin_A/Instagram

 6. No, this is not photoshopped.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo: tankerboy/tumblr

7. Boomshakalaka!

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo: Lifeofmice/Instagram

8. Here’s how the Indonesian Marines do it.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo: fnhfal/tumblr

9. This photo proves that trying to fly tanks isn’t a new phenomenon.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo: infinite_stash/Instagram

11. They even tried to make it into a sport.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo: davechoppers/Instagram

11. Forget calling in air support, call your craziest tank crew instead.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo: koko-hekmatiaru/tumblr

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

B-2 stealth bombers are learning new tricks, sending message to Russia

Three US Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers, airmen, and support equipment from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri arrived in the United Kingdom on Aug. 27, 2019, for a Bomber Task Force deployment.

It’s not the first time B-2s have flown out of RAF Fairford, the Air Force’s forward operating location for the bombers.

The presence is a “continuation” of what the US military and European partners have done since Russia seized Crimea in 2014, said Jim Townsend, adjunct senior fellow in the Transatlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. “It’s a matter of just continuing to show that we can operate at any level, whether it’s with a B-2 or it’s a lower level, [and] then we can operate where we need to in Europe, including in the Arctic.”


But within days of arriving the B-2s had done several new things that may have been as much about sending a message to rivals as they were about testing pilots and crews.

“B-2s and bombers have always been as much about the signaling as the capability,” said Christopher Skaluba, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

See what the B-2s have been up to and for whom their message is meant.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

Airman 1st Class Austin Sawchuk, a crew chief assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing, marshals in a B-2 on the flight line at RAF Fairford, Aug. 27, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

A B-2 Spirit stealth bomber lands at Keflavik Air Base in Iceland, Aug. 28, 2019. It was the B-2 bomber’s first time landing in Iceland.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

A day after arriving in the UK, a B-2 landed in Iceland — the bomber’s first time there.

Using “strategic bombers in Iceland helps exercise Keflavik Air Base as a forward location for the B-2, ensuring that it is engaged, postured and ready with credible force,” US Air Forces Europe said in a caption on one of the accompanying photos.

Despite that phrasing, “Iceland is not considered a forward operating location similar to RAF Fairford,” US Air Forces Europe said in an emailed statement.

“Training outside the US enables aircrew and airmen to become familiar with other theaters and airspace and enhances enduring skills and relationships necessary to confront a broad range of global challenges in support of the National Defense Strategy,” the statement said.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

509th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuel-distribution operators conduct hot-pit refueling on a B-2 bomber at Keflavik Air Base, Aug. 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

US Air Force fuel-distribution operators conduct hot-pit refueling on a B-2 at Keflavik Air Base, Aug. 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

Astride sea lines between the North Atlantic and the Arctic, Iceland also likely provides “geographical advantages in terms of things we’re worried about the Russians doing,” Skaluba said. “There’s probably, for certain missions or certain mission sets, a little bit of an advantage to use [Keflavik] over UK bases.”

Russian forces are increasingly active in the North Atlantic, the North Sea, the Arctic, the Norwegian Sea, and in the GIUK Gap, which refers to the waters between Greenland, Iceland, and the UK — “so in and around Iceland with their own kind of high-end capabilities including nuclear subs and advanced fighters,” Skaluba said.

“So I think that this is a signal that the US, the UK, [and] NATO, are watching Russia closely, in clearly a little bit of, ‘Hey, we can match you with high-end capabilities in this geography,'” Skaluba said.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

A B-2 Spirit stealth bomber taxis at Keflavik Air Base, Aug. 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

The message may not only be for Russia.

“There’s a lot of Chinese investments,” Skaluba said. “There’s a big Chinese embassy in Reykjavik. I think that it’s in the first instance about the Russians, but there’s clearly some broader signaling going on, and I don’t think it’s a mistake that there’s a big Chinese presence in Reykjavik and that we landed the bombers there.”

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

UK F-35B Lightning fighter jets fly with US Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers for the first time, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)

A day after the Iceland landing, B-2s flew along the English coast with Royal Air Force F-35Bs. It was the first time the stealth bomber had flown with the British Joint Strike Fighter — and with any non-US F-35.

Source: The Aviationist

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

A US Air Force B-2 Spirit flies above the English countryside near Dover with two RAF F-35 jets, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

Two US Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers fly alongside two RAF F-35B Lightnings near the White Cliffs of Dover, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

A US Air Force B-2 Spirit flies along the English coast near Dover with two RAF F-35 jets.

(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)

Like the B-2, the F-35 is a stealth aircraft, meant to evade air-defense systems like the ones stationed around Europe, particularly Russian systems across Eastern Europe.

Russia’s Baltic exclave, Kaliningrad, bristles with anti-access/area-denial, or A2/AD, weaponry, and Moscow has added such A2/AD systems to Crimea since its 2014 seizure.

Russian “A2/AD capability [runs] from the high north through Kaliningrad, down to Crimea and all the way down into [Russia’s] base at Tartus in Syria,” Ben Hodges, former commander of the US Army in Europe, told Business Insider in late 2018, creating what he called “an arc of A2/AD.”

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

A US Air Force B-2 bomber over the English countryside near Dover, Aug. 29, 2019.

(Royal Air Force)

The first-of-its-kind joint flight also came at a time when the US-UK special relationship might not be in the best shape, Skaluba added.

“This is kind of a reminder that the UK is the US partner of choice in security and defense, and frankly the UK is one of the few militaries globally that can…operate with the US at the high-end of the capability spectrum,” Skaluba said.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

A B-2 Spirit approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker to receive fuel over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

A B-2 Spirit approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker for refueling over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

The US has been more active in the Arctic in recent years, largely out of concern about competition in the region, particularly with Russia and China, as climate change makes it more accessible.

In October 2018, a US aircraft carrier sailed above the Arctic Circle for the first time since the Cold War.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

A B-2 Spirit approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

The B-2s first Arctic flight may have been made possible by changing conditions there. “But really it’s about the signaling,” Skaluba said.

The US, NATO, and Arctic countries are concerned “that Russia is being more aggressive on the security front in the Arctic,” and China has sought a larger role in the region. “We’re seeing competitor moves into the Arctic in different ways,” Skaluba said.

Russia shares an Arctic border with Norway, Sweden, and Finland, and all three countries are close to the Kola Peninsula base that is home to both Russia’s Northern Fleet and nuclear weapons storage and test facilities.

Norway is the only one of the three that is a member of NATO, but all the Nordic countries have kept a close eye on Russian missile tests in the region and on its Arctic combat forces.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

A B-2 Spirit approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

“There was a time right after Crimea when the Obama administration didn’t want to do anything to provoke the Russians,” Townsend said.

“So just sending B-52s over the Baltic was something that had to be cleared at a pretty high level,” Townsend said, adding that there has always been recognition of not wanting to provoke Russia by sending bombers close to its borders. “For whatever reason, the feeling must’ve been that was worth doing this time around.”

Skaluba also pointed to a recent speech by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a meeting of the Arctic Council, in which Pompeo said the Arctic had “become an arena of global power and competition.”

Within the eight-member Arctic Council, which includes Russia, “there’s still a lot of practical cooperation … but I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that Pompeo got everybody a little bit upset … talking about [how] we need to talk security issues, and then the US sends some big-time military assets up into the region.”

“So I think this a bit of a banging of the drum or pounding on the table from the US that we need to think about the Arctic in security terms, and on our own we’re going to do that, no matter what anybody else does. But it’s a clear signal to the Russians and the Chinese, no doubt.”

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

A B-2 stealth bomber takes off from Lajes Field in the Azores, Portugal, Sept. 9, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Ricky Baptista)

The B-2s have continued to train around Europe in September, including a trip to the Azores where the bombers conducted hot-pit refueling, in which ground crew refuels an aircraft while its engines are running, allowing it to get back into the air as quickly as possible.

“As a fulcrum point of the Atlantic Air Bridge, Lajes Field provides the US Department of Defense and allied nations a power-projection platform for credible combat forces across Europe and Africa,” US Air Forces Europe said in a release.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

A B-2 performs a touch-and-go at RAF Fairford, Sept. 11, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

The bombers also performed touch-and-go drills at Fairford, during which the bombers land and take off again without coming to a complete stop, allowing pilots to practice many landings in a short period of time.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear

After more than a year of speculation, the word comes straight from the commandant of the Marine Corps: Grunts, including those outside the squad, are getting the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle — and a whole lot of other goodies to boot.


Military.com first reported in November 2016 that the Marine Corps was eyeing the idea of fielding the weapon more broadly within the infantry, and had issued M27s to members of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, the service’s experimental infantry battalion, to observe how it improved their effectiveness.

With the battalion’s deployment to the Pacific at an end, Marine leaders are considering a list of 41 different recommendations generated by the unit, and M27s are at the top of the list.

In an interview with Military.com in late December, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller confirmed that a decision had been made to move forward with fielding the M27 more widely within the infantry.

Every Marine in an infantry squad, he said, will receive the high-end rifle. And while not every Marine in a grunt battalion will carry the IAR, others outside of the squad will also be issued one.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

“I don’t think mortars and javelin guys need the M27,” Neller said. But, he added, artillery forward observers, fire support teams, and even engineers might be good candidates for the weapon.

“I’m going to wait and see,” he said. “It’s not that much [money].”

The exact number of weapons needed has yet to be determined. In February, the Marine Corps put out a request for information for 11,000 new infantry automatic rifles, enough to equip every squad. But in August, the service published a pre-solicitation for up to 50,800 M27s, to ensure that manufacturer Heckler Koch was up to the task of meeting an order that large.

Neller has in the past expressed reservations about investing in new weapons and technology for Marine grunts. The IAR, based on the Heckler Koch HK416, offers a longer effective range and better accuracy than the M4 carbine currently fielded to infantrymen, but it also has come with a steeper price tag: about $3,000 a piece compared to less than $1,000 for the M4.

That may no longer be the case.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade, the gunner for 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, told Military.com that competition and economies of scale have pushed the cost of the M27 down significantly.

“The price for that rifle is comparable to what we paid for the M4s the riflemen currently have,” he said. “These companies are competing against each other. And we now have bought the finest infantry rifle for the same price the current infantry rifle is.”

Kitting out the grunts

But with major Marine Corps investments for new rotary-wing and fixed-wing aviation platforms well underway, cost may not be the obstacle it once was for the service. The commandant signaled his plan to invest heavily in the infantry when speaking with deployed Marines during his yearly Christmas tour.

The Marines’ new 5th-generation fighter, the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, costs roughly $100 million per copy, Neller told troops at one of a dozen town hall-style addresses he gave in the span of seven days in late December.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Magpul’s 60-round drum is currently undergoing range tests by the U.S. military. (Image via Magpul)

“I could kit out every grunt in the Marine Corps with the coolest s*** head-to-toe for $100 million,” he said. “And I intend to do that.”

For what else may be coming for the infantry, look to the “Über Squad,” an experiment started this year by Wade.

This summer, the 13-Marine unit from 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, was kitted out with M27s, suppressors, and high-tech Ops-Core helmets borrowed from Marine Corps Special Operations Command that feature built-in hearing protection, but also magnify other sounds to improve situational awareness.

The Marines used light MARSOC body armor and advanced AN/PVS-31A night vision devices. They also got 60-round Magpul drums, allowing them to increase the amount of ammunition they carried.

Wade said that the high-end night vision equipment had proved its worth recently during a nighttime exercise at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center 29 Palms, California.

“That rifle squad moved faster at night than the live fire-safety chaperones,” he said. “The Über Squad moved too fast for them to keep up because they had better night vision goggles.”

Also Read: Marine ‘Uber Squad’ will get suppressors, M27s, commando gear

The squad is expected to deploy to Europe sometime this spring to continue testing out gear, but Wade is already working on requirements documents as a starting point to get some of the equipment to every infantry squad.

He said he’s ready to begin writing requirements for a helmet with all the features of special operations gear, including hearing enhancement, communications infrastructure and ear protection.

Suppressors and scopes

Early efforts to pursue suppressors are also underway.

In September, the Marine Corps published a request for information about a commercially available suppressor that could be used on the M4, the M4A1, and the M27– effectively covering all service weapons used by the infantry. While an early effort, the document instructed prospective suppliers to be ready to supply in large numbers.

“Future procurement quantities of suppressors could span between 18,000 and 194,000,” the RFI reads.

Wade said he’s not yet happy with the suppressor currently in use by the Marine Corps for specialized jobs. He plans to start tests on a flow-through design that reduces signature, he said.

Add to all that one more key piece of gear: a variable power optic that, combined with the M27 and a suppressor, would essentially kit out every Marine in the squad as a designated marksman. Wade said he wants to equip infantry squads from different platoons with various optics and compare their performance to make the case for more powerful equipment.

Currently, Marine grunts carry a 4X power rifle scope; Wade said the idea capability would be a 1-8X power scope.

An RFI published in September described such a scope, the “squad combat optic,” that would work on the M4, M4A1, and M27, and be able to identify and acquire targets at a range of 600 meters or more.

Some of this gear carries with it a sizable price tag. The AN/PVS-31A NVGs, for example, cost about $13,000, compared with about $4,000 for the AN/PVS-14 NVGs currently in use. And all of it isn’t guaranteed to end up with the squad.

But Neller said he’s likely to approve a lot of it, and soon.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
U.S. Marine Cpl. Chris Bastian with Marine Rotational Force Europe (MRF-E) uses a suppressor to conduct live-fire range in preparation for exercise Joint Viking, in Porsangmoen, Norway, March 2, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Victoria Ross)

“The money to buy all that other stuff, the suppressors, the ear protection enhancement, the different helmets, it’s not a lot of money in the aggregate,” he told Military.com. “So I’m just waiting for them to come back, and I’m ready to say yes.”

And it’s possible all these items are just the start of a full-court press to equip the infantry for future fights.

In an address to Marines with the Black Sea Rotational Force in Romania, Neller hinted at future developments.

“Helmets, [ear protection enhancement], lighter body armor, boots, utilities, everything on the infantry from head to toe is probably going to get changed,” Neller said. “Every Marine’s a rifleman, but not every Marine’s a grunt.”

The infantrymen in the room roared.

Articles

The US military took these incredible photos this week

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


AIR FORCE:

Staff Sgt. Andre Hayes, a 374th Civil Engineer Squadron journeyman, holds his daughter during the holiday tree lighting ceremony at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Nov. 24, 2015. The lighting of the tree signals the beginning of the holiday season.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo by Airman 1st Class Delano Scott/USAF

Members of Florida Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 265th Air Defense Artillery Regiment play members from Florida Air National Guard’s 290th Joint Communications Support Squadron in a friendly “Turkey Bowl” football game at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 26, 2015. The Army National Guard team won the game 42-35. The 1-265th is from Palm Coast, Fla., and the 290th JCSS are stationed at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo: USAF

Members from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron perform prefight checks before leaving to refuel F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Royal Norwegian Air Force and the Republic of Singapore air force over Southwest Asia in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Dec.1, 2015.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb/USAF

ARMY:

A soldier, assigned to the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, fires an M240B machine gun while conducting battle drills, part of Operation Atantlic Resolve, at Pabrade Training Area, Lithuania, Dec. 2, 2015.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Behlin/US Army

A soldier, assigned to the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, conducts airborne operations during the U.S. Army Civil Affairs Psychological Operations Command (Airborne)’s Operation Toy Drop at Drop Zone Nijmegen on Fort Bragg, N.C., Dec. 3, 2015.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo by Pfc. Darion Gibson/US Army

A soldier, assigned to 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, conducts a team live-fire training event at Fort Bragg, N.C., Dec. 3, 2015.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Freeman/US Army

NAVY:

Burial at sea: WATERS SOUTH OF JAPAN (Nov. 28, 2015) Cmdr. Joseph Coffey, a chaplain aboard the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), leads a prayer during a burial-at-sea ceremony. Ronald Reagan and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan McFarlane/USN

Replenishment-at-sea: WATERS SOUTH OF JAPAN (Dec. 1, 2015) Sailors organize cargo pendants on the flight deck of the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) during an ammunition offload with Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Wally Schirra (T-AKE 8). Ronald Reagan and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan Burke/USN

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Dec. 1, 2015) Sailors exercise in the seaside gym aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Dwight D. Eisenhower is currently underway with embarked Carrier Air Wing 3 conducting the Tailored Ship’s Training Availability (TSTA) and Final Evaluation Problem (FEP) phase of their pre-deployment schedule.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Casey S. Trietsch/USN

MARINE CORPS:

Cpl. Taylor Giffard, a ground signals operator with Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command, acts as an opposition force during a mission readiness exercise for 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Nov. 24, 2015.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo by Sgt. Owen Kimbrel/USMC

On the prowl: Cpl. Marvin M. Ernest, a power plant mechanic assigned to Marine Tactical Electronic Squadron 2, performs a turn-around inspection on an EA-6B Prowler on Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, Dec. 1, 2015.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo by Lance Cpl. Jered T. Stone/USMC

COAST GUARD:

Chief Petty Officer Ty Aweau, a rescue swimmer at U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego, jumps into the beautiful southern California water from his MH-60 helicopter during training.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo by Petty Officer Rob Simpson/USCG

Petty Officer 1st Class Daryk Brekke offloads toys from an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter at Kalaeloa Airport in Oahu, Hawaii, as part of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. The USCG works with Marine Corps Recruiting every year to deliver presents to disadvantaged children for the holidays.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle/USCG

Articles

This foundation exists because the financial needs of vets aren’t being met

“Very simply, the PenFed Foundation exists because there are real financial needs facing America’s veterans and their caregivers that, frankly, are not currently being met,” says James Schenck, PenFed Credit Union and PenFed Foundation President and CEO


The PenFed Foundation has four key programs to assist with veteran financial well-being:

  • Military Heroes Fund – Focused on keeping a medical emergency from becoming a financial one
  • Asset Recovery Kit -Offers interest-free loans and financial counseling to break the cycle of payday lending
  • Dream Makers – Providing closing cost assistance and other help to allow vets to realize the American dream of home ownership
  • Defenders Lodge -Safe, no-cost hotel for outpatient veterans and their caregivers at Palo Alto, CA’s VA Med Center

Watch:

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the nerve agent used on a former Russian spy

Sergei Skripal, the former Russian double agent, and his daughter Yulia are fighting for their lives in a Salisbury hospital after being exposed to nerve agent.


While officials did not specify the type of nerve agent used, a well-placed source told the BBC it was likely to be extremely rare.

Nerve agents are extremely toxic chemicals that effectively shut down communication between the brain and muscles — in other words, they stop the body from working. They are also very hard to make.

Here’s what you need to know about the deadly substances.

What are nerve agents?

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Molecular illustration of the nerve agent, Sarin.

Nerve agents can take the form of gas, aerosol, or liquid, and enter the body through inhalation, the skin, or the consumption of liquid or food contaminated with them, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said.

Symptoms include restlessness, loss of consciousness, wheezing, and a running nose, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Depending on the amount and method of administration, symptoms can take minutes or hours to occur, Sky News science correspondent Thomas Moore said. When administered in high doses, nerve agents can suffocate victims to death within a couple of minutes, the OPCW said.

Also read: North Korea accuses White House of assassination plot

It’s not clear when the Skripals were exposed to the chemicals and how much was administered to them.

A witness at Zizzi, the restaurant where the Skripals were eating before they collapsed, told the BBC that the elder Skripal “seemed to lose his temper” and “just started screaming at the top of his voice, he wanted his bill and he wanted to go.”

Another witness who saw the stricken Skripals later on said Yulia “looked like she had passed out” and Sergei “was doing some strange hand movements, looking up to the sky.”

What was used on the Skripals?

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
CCTV image showing Skripal buying groceries and scratch cards near his Salisbury home five days before he collapsed. (ITV News)

The type of nerve agent used on the Skripals remains unclear. Investigators have identified it but are not making it public at this point, the BBC reported.

A source close to the investigation told the BBC the nerve agent was likely rarer than sarin gas, which is believed to have been used in the Syrian war and used to kill 13 people in a Tokyo subway in 1995.

The source also said the substance used was not VX, which was used to assassinate the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2017.

The Sun previously reported military scientists on the case as saying the pair might have been poisoned with a “hybrid” kind of thallium, a hard-to-trace heavy metal commonly found in rat poison and insecticides. Detectives originally thought former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with thallium in London in 2006.

How easy is it to make nerve agents?

The raw materials for nerve agents are relatively inexpensive and easy to procure, the OPCW said. However, the chemical weapon itself is difficult to make.

Victor Madeira, a senior fellow at The Institute for Statecraft who testified to Parliament about Russian covert interference in Britain, told Business Insider: “Nerve agents are rare, tightly-controlled synthetic substances that do require specialised knowledge to manufacture, store and use safely.

More: Chances are the hot model that added you to her social feed is a Russian spy

“However, that knowledge isn’t beyond someone with a good Master’s degree in Organic Chemistry, say, and access to a good laboratory. Very difficult, but not impossible.”

Chemical weapons expert Richard Guthrie similarly told The Guardian that manufacturing nerve agents require “fairly complicated chemistry,” and were “essentially impossible” to make at home.

“Nerve agents, such as sarin or VX, require some fairly complicated chemistry using certain highly reactive chemicals,” Guthrie said. “Small quantities could be made in a well-equipped laboratory with an experienced analytical chemist. To carry out the reactions in a domestic kitchen would be essentially impossible.”

Does this point to Russia?

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Vladimir Putin.

Experts appear to differ over whether Russia was responsible.

Matt Tait, a former GCHQ officer, said the method of attack seemed “designed to project that this is a nation-state that’s doing it.”

He told The Atlantic: “This is a very extreme form of killing in a way that is designed to project that this is a nation-state that’s doing it. Nobody can be under any sort of illusions that this is some sort of run-of-the-mill killing. […]

Related: These 9 weapons are banned from modern warfare

“The clear message that they’re sending to both people who currently work for their intelligence agencies and also people who used to work for their intelligence agencies … they will make an example of you.”

Madeira disagreed. Just because nerve agents are rare doesn’t necessarily mean a state actor did it, he said.

“Simply using a ‘very rare’ nerve agent against Col. Skripal wouldn’t necessarily indicate Kremlin (or Russian) involvement,” he told BI. “This is why DSTL Porton Down [the UK Ministry of Defence’s science lab] and partner agencies are racing to ‘fingerprint’ the agent used, which will then allow them to narrow the list of potential sources right down.”

Rob Wainwright, executive director of Europol, told CNN that attacking an ex-spy with a nerve agent in Britain was an “outrageous affront to our security in Europe and our way of life.” He warned, however, that people should “exercise caution before jumping to any conclusions.”

The Kremlin has vehemently denied any involvement or knowledge of the case.

popular

These are 4 of the most underrated American military commanders ever

We’ve all heard about military leaders from American history who totally rock. Washington, Stonewall Jackson, and Ike are certainly among them.


But it’s worth noting some military commanders who didn’t get the accolades, but really should have.

Some, you may know a little bit about, and some you might never have heard of until now.

Let’s take a look at who might need some more compliments for their military prowess.

1. Raymond A. Spruance

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Raymond A. Spruance, the victor of Midway. (U.S. Navy photo)

 

Samuel Eliot Morison called Raymond Ames Spruance “the victor of Midway” in his “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II.”

Morison noted in that Spruance, upon reviewing the text, requested that “the victor of Midway” be changed to “who commanded a carrier task force at Midway.” Morison declined to make the change, but it shows the modest character of Spruance, who was arguably America’s best naval combat commander in the Pacific Theater.

Look at his results.

At Midway, Spruance smashed and sank four Japanese carriers. During the Battle of the Philippine Sea, his fleet pulled off the Marianas Turkey Shoot, and later sank a carrier and two oilers (American subs sank two more carriers). Here’s how thoroughly Spruance beat the Japanese: At the start of the battle, CombinedFleet.com noted the Japanese had 473 aircraft on their carriers. After the battle, WW2DB.com noted the Japanese carriers had 35 planes total among them.

In the Navy, it is an honor to have a ship named after you. When your name goes on the lead ship of a class of destroyers, it speaks volumes about how you did.

Spruance’s name was on USS Spruance (DD 963), the first of 31 Spruance-class destroyers. An Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer (DDG 111) also bears his name.

2. John Buford

Sam Elliot gave a memorable performance of this general in “Gettysburg.”

 

We may very well owe the fact that the Union won the Civil War to John Buford. Everything that happened at Gettysburg was due to Buford’s actions on June 30 and July 1, 1863. An excerpt from a U.S. Army training manual notes, “Buford’s deployment and delaying tactics blocked Confederate access to Gettysburg while gaining time for reinforcing Union columns to arrive on the battlefield.”

He identified the terrain that mattered, he then bought time for the Union Army to arrive, and to eventually regroup on Cemetery Ridge. The U.S. Army manual says that, “[H]is morning actions ensured that the Army of the Potomac secured the high ground. Over the next two days, General Lee’s army would shatter itself in repeated attacks upon these heights. The battle of Gettysburg very much reflected the shaping influence of Buford’s cavalry division.”

3. Ulysses S. Grant

 

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Mathew B. Brady

 

Butcher. Drunk. Those are common perceptions of Ulysses S. Grant, but they miss the point.

If Robert E. Lee’s biggest fault was the failure to keep in mind the comparative strengths and weaknesses of the two sides in the Civil War, Grant was someone who keenly grasped them. Yes, Union troops suffered heavy casualties at battles like Cold Harbor or the Wilderness, but where other generals pulled back, Grant pressed forward.

Edward H. Bonekemper noted at the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable that in the Overland Campaign, “Grant took his aggressiveness and persistence beyond the levels he had demonstrated in the Western and Middle Theaters.” Bonekemper also expressed his belief that had Petersburg not held, Grant’s campaign would have won the war in two months.

Eventually, he broke Lee’s army, and with it, the Confederacy.

4. Daniel Callaghan

 

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

 

Like John Buford, Callaghan really had one big moment. But what a moment it was.

Against overwhelming odds, Daniel Callaghan saved Henderson Field from a massive bombardment, making the ultimate sacrifice in doing so. Yet far too many historical accounts, like Richard Frank’s Guadalcanal (see pages 459 and 460), act as if Callaghan blundered into the fight.

On the contrary, Callaghan, by forcing a melee, bought enough time that the Japanese had to postpone having a battleship bombard Henderson Field for two critical days — enough time for American fast battleships to arrive.

popular

Visiting the tombs of these 6 dictators makes a great summer getaway package

When Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died in March 2013, the government there declared its intention to have the body embalmed and put on permanent display. It was to be preserved and placed in La Planicie Barracks, a military museum near Venezuela’s presidential palace, Miraflores. Unfortunately for Venezuela’s Chavistas, the body decayed much too quickly and had to be interred instead.


No matter what people in other countries may think of Chavez, the Venezuelans mourned Chavez for seven days and staged an elaborate state funeral. His body laid in state for public visitation before being buried. The Venezuelan president was not the first world leader whose body was to be embalmed and displayed for posterity. Many have come before him, mostly dictators. You can be your own judge of whether Chavez belongs in that group while you’re planning your world tour to visit these others (who most definitely are in that group) preserved for the world to see.

1. Vladimir Lenin, Russia – Died January 21, 1924

 

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

Lenin changed the 20th century and beyond with the overthrow of Czar Nicholas II and the founding of the Soviet Union. He set Russia on the path from being beaten up by any emerging world power (looking at you, Japan) to being one of two countries to ever be considered a superpower. The “Red Terror” under his reign is estimated to have killed tens of thousands of Russians. Still, after his 1924 death, his body was encased in glass and set up in Moscow’s Red Square where it lies today.

2. Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam – Died September 2, 1969

Ho Chi Minh is the founder of the People’s Republic of Vietnam. Many in our audience may know Ho Chi Minh as a “son of a bi*ch” with “the blue balls, crabs, and the seven-year itch.” Before the war in Vietnam, however, Ho fought with the OSS against Japanese occupation in Indochina and expected an independent Vietnam after WWII. He even quoted Thomas Jefferson during his Independence Day speech to millions of Vietnamese onlookers.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

Ho is also responsible for purges of non-communist members of the Viet Minh who helped bring him to power, as well as an estimated 173,000 killings during Vietnamese land reforms. He ruthlessly put down peasant rebellions and tortured and killed political enemies. His body lies in state in a granite mausoleum modeled after Lenin’s in Hanoi.

3. Mao Zedong, China – Died September 9, 1976

The only question left about Chairman Mao is how many people really died as a result of his leadership. From the Chinese Civil War to the Long March to the Cultural Revolution to the Great Leap Forward, Mao is estimated to be responsible for upwards of 78 million Chinese deaths. Mao Zedong is literally the worst thing to happen to humanity in all of human history.

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

His remains are in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, across from the Forbidden City, which is iconically adorned with a large painting of his image.

4. Ferdinand Marcos, Philippines – Died September 28, 1989

Marcos served first in the Philippines’ House of Representatives and then in the Senate before being elected President in 1966. He was re-elected in 1969, just one year later a tide of unrest washed over the island nation. Marcos responded by declaring martial law and beginning a rule by decree. For over twenty years, Ferdinand Marcos ruled the Philippines like a king. His armed forces brutally suppressed dissent. He imprisoned tens of thousands of political opponents and Marcos himself embezzled state funds for personal use.

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A contested election in 1983 turned from a transition of power into a revolution. Supporters of opposition leader Corazon Aquino, the wife of assassinated anti-Marcos Senator Benigno Aquino, took to the streets of Manila and began to occupy government buildings and broadcasters. Marcos, under advice from the White House, fled to Hawaii, where he died in exile. His embalmed body lies in a refrigerated crypt at the Marcos Museum and Mausoleum in the Philippine city of Batac.

5. Kim Il-Sung, North Korea – Died July 8, 1994

The founder of North Korea and Korean War aggressor Kim Il-Sung died in 1994 after 46 years of unchallenged rule. Technically, he is still the president, as he was granted the title of “Eternal President” by constitutional amendment after his death. The regime even instituted a new “Juche” calendar beginning with the year 1912, the year of Kim’s birth.

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The body of late North Korean President Kim Il Sung is displayed in Pyongyang, North Korea. (KCNA Photo)

His body is draped in a Korean Worker’s Party flag at the Kim Il Sung Mausoleum in the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang. He is expertly angled so the massive, baseball-sized calcium deposit on his neck is not visible to the general public.

6. Kim Jong-Il, North Korea – Died December 17, 2011

Kim took over for his father in 1994, right after his death. North Korea thus became the first secular, Communist dictatorship with a line of hereditary succession. The younger Kim ruled for just under 20 years, dying in 2011 of a suspected heart attack while berating subordinates over the construction of a power plant.

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Kim Jong-Il’s reign oversaw some of the worst years of the North Korean regime, including the disastrous four-year famine that killed upwards of 3.5 million people. As a result, he is often depicted in North Korean artwork with waves from a stormy sea crashing on rocks, symbolic of his “stoicism” in weathering the storms. He is also at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun.

BONUS (Not a Dictator): Pope John XXIII, Vatican City – Died June 3, 1963

Pope John XXIII was not a dictator, really. Not in the accepted sense of the term, although the Pope does have nearly-autocratic rule in the Vatican (the Holy See is his religious jurisdiction, as a head of state, he oversees the Vatican City). Unlike the aforementioned dictators, this Pope has a history of liberalizing the Church, focusing on human rights and the needs of the poor. While officials were moving his body out of a Vatican crypt, they popped open his coffin and found him very well-preserved. He is now coated with a thin layer of wax and is on display at St. Peter’s Square.

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John XXIII interred in the Altar of St. Jerome.

In his early career before becoming Pope, John worked to help refugees (mostly Jewish) flee the Nazis. He intervened directly numerous times to ensure the safe passage of Jewish people out of Europe. His Papacy began on October 28, 1959 as he oversaw the Church’s recognition of the Jewish people as faithful and apologized for anti-Semitism on the behalf of the history of the Catholic Church.

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