When one considers those pioneers whose command of air power strategy led to an independent U.S. Air Force after WWII, General Carl A. Spaatz is usually among those names. Spaatz would come to command the overall Army Air Forces in Europe, design the strategy for bringing down Hitler’s Luftwaffe, and cripple Nazi war production. Dwight Eisenhower as Supreme Allied Commander remarked Spaatz (along with Omar Bradley) was one of two men who contributed most to the victory in Europe.
So when it comes to how he views the people who serve in the military, you might be apt to consider his advice.
After V-E Day, Spaatz held a victory party at a chateau near Paris. The guest list included a who’s who of who would come to found the modern Air Force such as Hoyt Vandenberg and James Doolittle. It also included one Major: triple ace Robin Olds (pre-mustache). Spaatz was a friend of the Olds family, and he invited Robin to his party after he learned Maj. Olds would stay in the Army after the war.
Olds recounted the advice he received from Spaatz in his memoirs, Fighter Pilot, more than sixty years later:
” … In the military, they mostly divide themselves into four major categories. There are the ‘Me-Firsters,’ the ‘Me-Tooers,’ the ‘Deadwood,’ and the ‘Dedicated.’ You are among the minority, the Dedicated. Stick with them, search them out, and work hard to be worthy of their company. You won’t be popular with a lot of your bosses who act dedicated but really aren’t and that can make life difficult at times. Beware of the Deadwood. Most of them mean well and, in their own way, try hard, are loyal, and are even useful. But too often they’ll botch things up and get you and your outfit in trouble.”
“Watch out for the Me-Tooers. These guys will tell you whatever they think you want to hear. They borrow thoughts and ideas from others and present them to you as though they were their own. They are the opportunists who look for every avenue to advance themselves without sticking their own necks out. They ride someone’s coattails and try to make themselves indispensable to the boss. Believe me, they are not to be trusted. You don’t want yes-men around you, but you can’t always avoid them.”
Spaatz went on to warn: “The worst and most dangerous are the Me-Firsters. Most of them are intelligent and totally ruthless. They use the service for their own gain and will not hesitate to stick a knife in your back at the slightest indication you might stand in their way. They seem arrogant, but don’t be fooled. They are really completely lacking in true self-confidence.”
Footage obtained by the British paper The Guardian shows the intense battle that claimed the life of U.S. Navy SEAL Charlie Keating IV.
Keating was part of a quick-reaction force that moved in to relieve another group of U.S. advisors supporting the Kurdish Peshmerga when ISIS broke through the Peshmerga’s lines with a massive assault using 20 technicals, car bombs, and a bulldozer.
The efforts of Keating and the other SEALs were successful and the other U.S. advisor team survived, but Keating himself was shot. Though he was medevac’d out, he died of his wounds.
U.S. airstrikes and Peshmerga fighters succeeded in killing 58 of the attacking ISIS fighters, destroying many of the vehicles, and reclaiming the lost territory over the next 14 hours.
As the video below shows, Keating and his warrior brothers rushed to save others despite intense fire against them:
The Islamic State is “dead set” on using chemical weapons attacks, including sulfur-mustard gas, to endanger U.S. troops and blunt or delay the long-planned offensive to retake Mosul in northwestern Iraq, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.
“I think we can fully expect, as this road toward Mosul progresses, ISIL is likely to try to use it again,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said, using another acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. “They are dead set on it.”
Last week, ISIS fighters fired an artillery shell near U.S. troops at the Qayyarah West airfield, about 40 miles southeast of Mosul, that was initially suspected of having traces of sulfur-mustard blistering agent. There were no deaths or injuries in the incident.
In a briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon last Friday, Army Col. John Dorrian, the spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said that first test of an oily substance on shell fragments was positive, a second test was negative, and a third was inconclusive.
“We have no conclusive evidence” that mustard gas was used, Dorrian said. He said more tests were being conducted.
However, Kurdish peshmerga forces participating in the “shaping operations” for the Mosul offensive said last year that ISIS fired mortar shells suspected of containing mustard gas at their positions about 20 miles east of the Qayyarah airfield. ISIS is also suspected of using chlorine gas in Syria.
Earlier this month, U.S. and coalition aircraft carried out strikes against a former pharmaceutical factory in Mosul that ISIS was suspected of having turned into a chemical weapons complex.
At the Pentagon, Davis said ISIS “would love to use chemical weapons against us and against the Iraqis as they move forward, and we are making every effort to make sure we are ready for it.”
U.S. troops in Iraq have access to gas masks and Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear to protect against chemical attacks.
In the 2003 invasion of Iraq, troops carried masks and MOPP suits with them at all times and frequently had to don them as alarms went off on the possibility that chemical weapons were in the area.
Later U.S. inspections and reports found that Iraq had stopped producing and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction before the invasion.
“We fully recognize that this is something that ISIL has done before,” Davis said of the possibility of chemical attacks. “They have done it many times, at least a couple of dozen that we know of, where they have launched crude, makeshift munitions that are filled with this mustard agent.”
“That is not something we view as militarily significant, but obviously it is further evidence that ISIL knows no boundaries when it comes to their conduct on the battlefield,” he said.
In addition to U.S. troops having access to gas masks and MOPP gear, Davis said the U.S. has distributed more than 50,000 kits of personal protective gear for Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
In the Mosul offensive, American advisers are expected to move closer to the battlefront. The Defense Department has authorized U.S. commanders to place advisers with the Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish peshmerga at the battalion level.
In his briefing last Friday, Dorrian said eight to 12 brigades of the Iraqi Security Forces were “ready to go” against Mosul, where ISIS has had nearly two years to build up defenses. The U.S. estimates that the group “no longer is able to mass enough forces to stop the advance” on the city, and its fighters are experiencing “flagging morale” from the loss of territory and the unrelenting coalition airstrikes, Dorrian said.
U.S. airstrikes recently destroyed an estimated 29 ISIS boats on the Tigris River and also blew up a bridge over which the group’s vehicles were attempting to escape, he said.
To defend Mosul, ISIS has built “intricate defenses,” including elaborate tunnel networks and interconnected layers of improvised explosive devices along likely “avenues of approach” to the city, Dorrian said.
The U.S. has also seen reports that ISIS has dug trenches and filled them with oil to be set on fire once the offensive begins. “They’ve built a hell on earth around themselves,” he said.
A CIA K-9 unit left “explosive training material” on a school bus in Virginia after a routine training exercise last week, according to a statement posted on the agency’s website.
In a monumental error, the bus was used to transport children on Monday, March 28th, and Tuesday, March 29th, with the explosive material still sitting under the hood, according to the statement.
The CIA and the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office stressed that the children were not in any immediate danger.
“The training materials used in the exercises are incredibly stable and according to the CIA and Loudoun County explosive experts the students on the bus were not in any danger from the training material,” the Loudon County Sheriff’s office told The Washington Post.
The CIA placed the explosive material — a putty — under the hood of the school bus and in locations around a local school to test a dog’s ability to sniff it out. The dog successfully found the material, but some of it fell deeper into the engine compartment and became wedged beneath the hoses. The material was found when the bus was taken in for a routine inspection, after ferrying 26 children to school, reports The Washington Post.
The CIA said it will take “immediate steps to strengthen inventory and control procedures in its K-9 program,” and “conduct a thorough and independent review” of its procedures, according to the statement.
“We’re all very upset by what happened, but we’re going to review everything that did happen,” Wayde Byard, the Loudon County schools spokesman told The Washington Post. “Obviously we’re concerned. The CIA really expressed its deep concern and regret today, and it was sincere.”
American Presidents are civilians by design, some with little or no military experience at all – and are unlikely to ever serve in a combat role while in office (unless they’re in office while aliens attack Earth). In the voters’ minds, military experience always seems to be a plus when considering who would be the next Commander-In-Chief. It probably helps when they actually take the office.
But not every veteran POTUS saw action. Eisenhower was a great logistical planner but never served in a direct combat role. George Washington’s combat record as a junior officer is spotty, but his decision-making capacity, strategic vision, and ability to inspire those around him were infinitely more essential to his legacy and to the history of the United States.
And then there were those whose service would affect the outcomes of battles, of entire wars, and of the nation itself. Here are 8 presidents who actually saw combat in a big way:
1. Andrew Jackson (War of 1812, Indian Wars)
No president ever held a grudge like Andrew Jackson. This was a guy who fought 103 duels before he was ever elected President. Yet he only killed one man (in a duel, I mean).
When he was 13, he served as a messenger for a militia unit in the Revolutionary War. When captured, he refused to shine the boots of a British officer, who then used his saber to give the Young Jackson the scars that would be on his face for the rest of his life. That sort of thing stays with a young man.
As a general, his most famous military success was at New Orleans during the War of 1812. The British threatened the city under Jackson’s command. Jackson pulled together Army regulars, militia, sailors, Marines, citizens, Choctaw warriors, and a band of pirates under Jean LaFitte, to a force of 4,700 men. They held off 11,000 British troops and the Royal Navy fleet in a battle that couldn’t be won.
His victory would (eventually) put Jackson in the White House, where Old Hickory would be the first US President anyone tried to assassinate. An unemployed house painter pulled two pistols on Jackson but they both misfired, allowing Jackson to beat the would-be killer with his cane.
2. William Henry Harrison (War of 1812, Indian Wars)
Harrison was the commander of American forces at Tippecanoe, architect of Shawnee leader Tecumseh’s defeat, and gave the United States its first victory against violent religious extremists. Not bad.
Tecumseh and his brother, a “prophet” called Tenskawata, began using visions and magic to incite Natives in the Indiana territory against American settlers. In 1810, Tecumseh met then-Governor Harrison with 400 warriors to demand the rescission of a treaty. When Harrison refused, Tecumseh ordered his warriors to kill Harrison, who responded by drawing his sword. A Potawatomi chief intervened and Tecumseh’s warriors left for the time being.
When the war came, Harrison assaulted the tribes repeatedly – most notably at Tippecanoe, where the magical forces were defeated by actual forces.
Guns over Magic. Every time.
Tecumseh made a comeback in the War of 1812, backed up by the British. Harrison quickly captured Detroit (for better or worse) and then invaded Canada. He defeated the British and got some vengeance against Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames. Tecumseh was killed, the Americans burned a local settlement (built by pacifists probably to avoid getting their settlement burned down), and then went back to Detroit.
Harrison delivered the longest inaugural speech in American history without a coat on a cold, wet day, which resulted in the shortest presidency in American history.
3. Zachary Taylor (War of 1812, Indian Wars, Mexican-American War)
Taylor also cut his teeth fighting Tecumseh during the War of 1812, famously holding Fort Harrison with 20 men against 600 under the “inspiring” battle cry “Taylor Never Surrenders!” Turns out, he was pretty good at checking native tribes. He also fought them in the Black Hawk War and Seminole War.
By the time war with Mexico broke out, Taylor was a general and was widely known as “Old Rough and Ready.” He lost only 37 men against an army that vastly outnumbered his own, marched on the “impregnable” city of Monterrey, and captured it in four days. This wasn’t even his biggest victory.
President Polk deliberately gave all but 4,650 of Taylor’s troops to General Winfield Scott to capture Veracruz in an effort to check Taylor’s growing popularity back home. Having learned of Taylor’s weakened army, Mexican General and dictator General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna sent his entire army of 15,000 to annihilate him.
As Taylor’s army turned the Battle of Buena Vista into a complete rout of the numerically superior Mexicans, his order “Double-shot your guns and give ’em hell” was used as a campaign slogan to catapult Taylor to the presidency.
He was so popular, he was elected as the Whig Party candidate despite disagreeing with almost every issue for which the party stood.
4. Franklin Pierce (Mexican-American War)
Franklin Pierce was so itchy to fight for his country, he turned down President Polk’s nomination as Attorney General. For this he gets a lot of respect. The first part of his military career, however, was less like Zachary Taylor’s and more like Ernest goes to Mexico.
He volunteered to join the Army as soon as war with Mexico broke out in 1846, despite the lack of New England regiments actually existing. When Congress authorized those regiments, he was appointed the Colonel in command and sent to Veracruz.
When he arrived in Mexico, he was promoted to Brigadier General and linked up with General Winfield Scott at the Battle of Contreras. Everything was okay until his horse was startled, causing his saddle to jam his groin as hard as possible. The horse then fell into a crevice, pinning Pierce under it and forcing someone else to take command. He injured his knee the next day and fell so far behind his men, the battle was over by the time he caught up.
General Scott wasn’t going to let Pierce command his brigade at the Battle of Churubusco the next day, but he eventually did. But Pierce’s wounded leg hurt so much, he passed out on his horse in the middle of the battle.
5. Ulysses S. Grant (Mexican War, Civil War)
Grant famously became the general the Union needed to win the Civil War. He was forced to resign from the Army for drunkenness before the war. But when the South seceded, he raised a regiment of volunteers that he used to take the fight to the Confederates in the West.
Eventually, he commanded friend and General William T. Sherman to burn the South to the ground.
He always showed this level of doggedness in his military career. During the Mexican War, he led cavalry charges despite only being a quartermaster. As a messenger, he braved the sniper-lined streets of Monterrey while hanging off the side of his horse, using it as a shield.
At the Battle of Chapultepec, he carried a howitzer to the top of a church steeple, a move essential to the final assault on Chapultepec Castle and to winning the war itself.
6. Rutherford B. Hayes (Civil War)
Not much is really said about Rutherford B. Hayes these days, but the former President has probably one of the most active war records of any Chief Executive. He was a Union officer during the Civil War, volunteering after Fort Sumter fell and serving in an active combat role until the Confederate surrender at Appomattox.
In September 1862, Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was advancing northward into Maryland. The Union Army under General George B. McClellan met the divided Confederates in a series of three pitched battles. At the head of the lead regiment was Lieutenant Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes.
As Hayes’ 23d Ohio charged an entrenched Confederate position, a bullet tore through his arm, shattering the bone. After tying a handkerchief tourniquet around it (and presumably rubbing some dirt on it), he continued the attack.
While most Civil War veterans would lose an arm to such an injury, Hayes probably didn’t get an infection because gangrene was afraid of him. Instead, he spent the next two years skirmishing with Confederate forces in Tennessee and Virginia.
He had his horse shot from under him Battle of Kernstown, where he was then shot in the shoulder. He was also struck in the head by a spent round at Cedar Creek in 1864, the year he was promoted to Brigadier General and Brevet Major General.
He was elected to the Presidency by sheer force of will in 1876, despite not winning a majority of electoral or popular votes.
7. Theodore Roosevelt (Spanish-American War)
Colonel Roosevelt was an adventurer, explorer, scholar, author, historian, boxer, cowboy, big game hunter, and elected official. Teddy, as he hated being called, was also fearless and nearly indestructible even before he went to war.
Unfortunately for Spain, when the USS Maine was sunk in Havana harbor, Roosevelt resigned as Assistant Secretary of the Navy to go and liberate Cuba. He and Colonel Leonard Wood raised the 1st Volunteer Cavalry Regiment – known to this day as the “Rough Riders.”
They distinguished themselves at the Battle of San Juan Hill. During the fight for nearby Kettle Hill, he lead the charge as the only man on horseback. Roosevelt moved from position to position as his men advanced up the hill, over open ground, against an entrenched enemy. When his horse was stopped by barbed wire, he walked the rest of the way.
The Americans reached the top of the hill fighting hand-to-hand to dislodge the Spaniards. In Spain’s defense, there’s no shame in getting dropped by a punch the face from Teddy Roosevelt.
Roosevelt would be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for that action (he is still the only President with one), blocked at the time for political reasons – the most likely being that he was Theodore Roosevelt and everyone else was not.
8. Harry S. Truman (World War I)
Truman was initially denied enlisting into the Missouri National Guard because of poor eyesight – well past the standard for legal blindness. Not one to let not being able to see keep him from killing Germans, he secretly memorized an eye chart and passed the vision test. He was even elected to be the lieutenant of his unit.
By the time he arrived in France, he was the captain of an artillery company. He was unpopular at first… until his unit was overrun by the Germans in the Vosges Mountains. His men started to break and run but Truman let rip a string of profanity so awful and venomous his men were actually more afraid of him than the Germans – and they stayed to fight.
His time in the mud didn’t stop there. At the start of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in 1918, Captain Truman observed German artillery setting up to attack a unit out of his area of responsibility. An animal lover, Truman waited until the Germans moved their horses before lighting them up.
Seven NavyF-35 Joint Strike Fighters spent Monday morning in a round robin off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, completing a tight succession of take-offs and arrested landings as pilots with Strike Fighter Squadron 101 completed carrier qualifications on the aircraft.
The dozen instructors with the squadron each completed the required 10 traps and two touch-and-go maneuvers in less than two days. But thanks to an advanced landing system in the fifth-generation aircraft that limits the variables pilots need to monitor when they catch the wire, officers with the squadron said they could have gotten the practice they needed in much less time.
“What has traditionally been required for initial qualifications … that can probably be reduced, because the task becomes mundane after a while,” said Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Kitts, officer in charge of the testing detachment aboard this ship. “You can make corrections so easily.”
The system that makes the difference is Delta Flight Path, developed by Lockheed Martin Corp. with input from Naval Air Systems Command. That system is one of more than a half-dozen F-35C features that are being tested in this third and final round of carrier exercises.
During a 20-day developmental testing period aboard the George Washington that will conclude Aug. 23, pilots will test the aircraft’s ability to fly symmetrical and asymmetrical external weapons loads, execute aircraft launches at maximum weight and against crosswinds, try out a new helmet software load designed to improve visibility in dark conditions, test the capabilities of Delta Flight Path and the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System, and take out and replace an entire F-35C engine to simulate major maintenance aboard a carrier.
At the conclusion of these tests, officials believe the F-35C will be substantially ready for initial operational capability, a milestone the aircraft is expected to hit in 2018.
But success of the built-in carrier landing technology may have even wider-reaching effects.
Like the Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies, or MAGIC CARPET, system now being tested on the Navy’s legacy F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, Delta Flight Path gives the aircraft the ability to stay on glide slope automatically and minimize the number of corrections the pilot must make.
“All pilots are trained, we make corrections for glide slope with the throttle. We practice it when we get to our fleet trainers, and we practice it a bunch each and every time before we come out to the boat,” Kitts said. “So what you’re able to do when you come out here is hopefully spend less time practicing, because the workload on the pilot is extremely reduced.”
That’s important, Kitts said, because time spent in the field and on the carrier practicing landings is time in which pilots are becoming less tactically proficient because they can’t develop and drill other skills.
The commanding officer of VFA-101, Capt. James Christie, said pilots are collecting data as they complete their required takeoffs and landings that could be used to inform a prospective proposal to reduce carrier training and qualification requirements.
“We’re not going to move too quickly; we’re going to ensure it’s the right thing to do,” Christie said. “But as soon as we have the empirical evidence that shows we can safely reduce those numbers, I’ll be all for submitting that to leadership.”
So far, the data looks good. In this round of testing, there have so far been no bolters, when an aircraft unintentionally misses the wire, and no landing wave-offs attributed to aircraft performance or safety issues, said Lt. Graham Cleveland, landing signal officer for VFA-101.
Cleveland said this new technology might enable the Navy to cut ashore training from 16 to 18 field carrier landing practices to between four and six. He said he also envisioned cutting carrier qualification requirements from ten to six traps in the future.
“That’s going to save money, that’s going to save fuel, that’s going to save aircraft life, basically,” he said.
The future aside, getting out to the carrier for the first evolution of testing to involve operational pilots as well as test pilots was its own milestone for many at the fore of efforts to ready the F-35C for the fleet.
“It’s incredibly gratifying to see them come out and really make this aircraft real from the perspective of the fleet,” said Tom Briggs, acting chief test engineer for the Navy. “This is going to be a viable program, a viable aircraft that’s really going to do what it’s designed to do… watching them come out here and do this, it’s goose-bumpy.”
On December 3, Brian’s mother posted a video of him reciting his poem on her Facebook wall. At the time of this writing, the video had been shared over 103,700 times. The video was intended to be shared with friends and family, but it had such a powerful effect that it was published to YouTube in order to mitigate comments to her Facebook account.
Brian delivers a powerful and sincere peek into his scars of war that were inspired by a grocery bagger’s clueless comments.
Clearly upset, he took to poetry to express his experience.
Military planners spend years putting training exercises together and the political ramifications can be steep, such as with the annual Foal Eagle exercise on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea has a history of shelling South Korean islands and firing missiles into the Sea of Japan whenever the U.S. and South Korea come together to train. Calling them “maneuvers” or “war games” is an oversimplification. The long-term consequences could be life or death.
There are times the U.S. will even conduct joint training operations with rivals and allies, such as the annual Cobra Gold exercise in Thailand, where Chinese forces were allowed to join in the humanitarian part.
2o16 marked the tenth year of Iron Fist, an exercise where soldiers of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force trained with U.S. Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to refine their amphibious landing abilities. The 11th MEU trained with the Japanese for five weeks at Camp Pendleton and Twentynine Palms, California. Their focus was on small unit combat and amphibious landings.
The above video of the Marine-Japanese training exercise was produced by Gunnery Sgt. Robert Brown of the 11th MEU. It’s a compilation of the kinds of maneuvers our Marines and allied troops make during war games.
The United States Navy carried out a significant cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase in response to the use of chemical weapons by the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
According to media reports, 59 BGM-109 Tomahawks were fired from two destroyers against Shayrat Air Base in western Syria, with a Pentagon statement saying they targeted, “aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars.”
Foxnews.com reported that the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Porter (DDG 78) and USS Ross (DDG 71) carried out the strike on the base, which is where the planes that carried out the attack were based. USS Porter was the vessel buzzed by Russian aircraft this past February.
Both destroyers are armed with a single five-inch gun, two Mk 41 Vertical Launch Systems (one with 29 cells, the other with 61 cells), Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems, and various small arms. The Mk 41 can fire the BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile used in the strike.
Designation-Systems.net notes that the BGM-109C Tomahawk TLAM-C Block III carries a 750-pound blast-fragmentation warhead and has a range of 870 nautical miles, while the BGM-19D Tomahawk TLAM-D carries 166 BLU-97 bomblets – which are also used in the CBU-87 cluster bomb – and has a range of 470 nautical miles.
The Tomahawk is able to hit within 30 feet of its target. Both the TLAM-C and TLAM-D variants were likely used in the attack.
According to Scramble.nl, Shayrat Air Base houses one squadron of MiG-23MF “Flogger B” and MiG-23MLD “Flogger K” fighters and two squadrons of Su-22 “Fitter K” ground attack planes. The Su-22s were the planes likely to have been used in the attack. The MiG-23s are optimized more for the air-to-air role.
“Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many,” Trump said, also declaring that Assad had used “banned chemical weapons.”
“Initial indications are that this strike has severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat Airfield, reducing the Syrian Government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Defense Department spokesman, said in a statement released late in the evening of April 6.
The US Coast Guard rescued a Navy pilot whose jet crashed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida Keys.
Lt. Russ Chilcoat said in a news release the pilot ejected and was rescued in early August with no apparent injuries. The crash happened some 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Key West. The pilot, whose name wasn’t released, was the only person on board.
A US Navy Northrop F-5N Tiger II assigned to Fighter Squadron Composite 111 “Sun Downers” launches from Boca Chica Field of Naval Air Station Key West, Florida. (US Navy photo)
Chilcoat says parts of the F-5N were recovered but the rest is under about 3,000 feet (900 meters) of water. He says the Navy has no immediate plans to recover the aircraft.
The pilot is attached to Fighter Composite Squadron 111, the “Sun Downers,” based at Naval Air Station Key West. Officials say the jet was conducting training operations and the cause of the crash wasn’t immediately known.
On Aug. 30, 1918, American Capt. (later Col.) Arthur L. Conger, with French support, deceived the Germans into believing an Allied attack near Belfort, France, was imminent.
In what would become known as the Belfort Ruse, the Allies drew German forces away from the actual upcoming offensive near St. Mihiel, France, planned for September.
Directed to devise and execute a plan to mislead the Germans as to the true location of the planned American attack, Conger, a Harvard graduate and German linguist, “traveled to Belfort, a hot bed of German sympathizers and spies, where he dropped hints to local inhabitants and conveniently left ‘confidential’ papers in plain sight. He arranged for reconnaissance flights over enemy lines, sent borrowed French tanks to drive around open fields and dispatched agents to scout rail lines, roads and hospital facilities. Signal units set up large antennas and proceeded to dispatch a flurry of messages,” according to an article from the U.S. Army.
Throughout the execution of his deception plan, Conger expressed pessimism on its chances for success, doubting “that the enemy takes this reconnaissance very seriously; … [he won’t] be deceived by a mere ‘paperwork’ demonstration or reconnaissance of officers, unaccompanied by actual preparations of guns, munitions, materiel and subsistence….” And he was right. German intelligence officers doubted the legitimacy of the information they received out of Belfort but felt it was too important to ignore completely. After all, Belfort might very well have been the true site of the upcoming attack and the American preparations at St. Mihiel the ruse. — Lori S. Tagg
The extent to which the trick was successful is debatable. German forces did divert to the Belfort region, but those in the St. Michael salient withdrew, allowing the American Expeditionary Force to control the area relatively uncontested.
It was the first significant operation of the war under U.S. command and while it may have had little impact on the offensive at Mihiel, it was successful enough to encourage U.S. commanders to request additional deception operations throughout the war.
Appearing May 3 before the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, Shulkin told lawmakers the VA had compiled a list of 1,165 vacant or underused buildings that could be closed, saving the federal government $25 million annually.
Shulkin didn’t specify which facilities would close and local VA officials didn’t return messages seeking comment that afternoon.
Shulkin, a deputy holdover from President Barack Obama’s administration whom Congress then unanimously approved to run the VA earlier this year, said Congress needs to determine how the facilities would be closed. He suggested the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure — or BRAC — process might be a good model.
But Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R- Nebraska, urged him to never “use the term BRAC because it brings up a lot of bad memories” and sets up the VA “for a lot of controversy.”
President Donald Trump seeks $78.9 billion in discretionary funding for the VA, a 6 percent increase from the 2017 fiscal year level. Trump’s budget plan requests $3.5 billion to expand the Veterans Choice Program, which enables veterans to receive certain kinds of treatment outside of the VA system.
If enacted, Trump’s proposal also would add $4.6 billion in funding to spur better patient access and greater timeliness of medical services for the agency’s more than 9 million patients.
Shulkin said the VA authorized 3.6 million patient visits at private-sector health-care facilities between Feb. 1, 2016 and Jan. 31, 2017 — a 23 percent boost compared to the previous year.
With more than 370,000 employees, the VA has the second-largest workforce in the federal government. Shulkin said it must become more efficient at delivering services to veterans. Some of the most entrenched problems are in the appeals process for veterans who have lodged disability claims following their military service.
Currently, the VA has nearly 470,000 such cases pending appeal. For cases awaiting action by the Board of Veterans Appeals, the typical wait time is six years for a decision. The ranking Democrat on the subcommittee that hosted Shulkin on May 3, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, termed the appellate system an “absolute mess.”
Shulkin conceded that it “undoubtedly needs further improvements” and urged Congress to legislate reforms and streamline the process into a “modernized” system. The longer Capitol Hill waits to fix the process, he said, “the more appeals will enter the current broken system.”
Czechoslovaks carry a national flag past a burning soviet tank in Prague. (CIA.gov).
On Aug. 20, 1968, two hundred thousand Soviet troops and five thousand tanks invaded Czechoslovakia.
Czechoslovakia was firmly democratic for decades before World War II, but German forces partially occupied it during World War II and, in 1948, it was conquered by the Soviets. The Communists had supporters in the working class and a stranglehold of government leadership, but students and academics kept fomenting the seeds of unrest.
In 1964, Czechoslovakia began to trend towards liberalization, despite tight Soviet control over the government. Students, intellectuals and activists began vocalizing support for democracy, freedom of speech and religion and the abolition of censorship.
The response was joyous and Czech culture began to flourish. By April of 1968, the population began to enjoy what became known as “Prague Spring.”
The Soviet Union wasn’t having any of it. Alarmed by a potential collapse of Communism in the country, Czechoslovakia was invaded by Eastern Bloc members of the Warsaw Pact. Widespread protests and demonstrations were quelled by an overwhelming show of military force while much of Czechoslovakia’s educated elite fled.
Communist rule was reinstated by force and held until 1993, after the fall of the Soviet Union, when the country separated into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.