How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world's strongest forts - We Are The Mighty
Articles

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts

Belgium’s Fort Eben-Emael was the crown jewel of the country’s defense from invasion, boasting huge gun emplacements, defensive ditches and canals, and hundreds of artillery troops, all to protect the heartland and capital.


And the whole thing fell to 87 German paratroopers after barely a day of fighting from May 10-11, 1940.

The fort was built in the early 1930s to prevent the exact situation it faced in 1940: an invasion of the country from the east. It had large guns to sweep fire across three key bridges that would be vital to an invasion. The bridges were also wired for demolition in case the defenders and the fort couldn’t keep the enemy from them.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
The defensive canals at Fort Eben Emael were massive but the Germans simply flew over them. (Photo: German Bundesarchiv CC BY-SA 3.0)

Defensive canals, barbed wire, and anti-tank ditches made a land assault nearly suicidal, especially since the thick steel and concrete walls could shrug off most munitions launched by artillery or tanks of the day.

A few anti-aircraft guns were present on top of the fort and cupolas — guns with large domes to protect the crews — could fire across the top and kill any attackers who landed there.

Also read: 5 of the most badass snipers of all time

But the fort was vulnerable to airborne assault. It had been constructed by digging into an existing large hill, and the miles of tunnels and thick walls made it tough to assault on foot, but did almost nothing to protect it from the sky.

And that’s how the Germans got in. A special force of 420 paratroopers trained for six months in absolute secrecy to take the three bridges and the fort. The highly complex operation was risky but could save the German Army weeks or months of fighting if successful.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
A German Gotcha Go-242 glider in flight. (Photo: U.S. War Department)

Three assault forces would hit the bridges and attempt to take them from the defenders while a fourth would hit the fort and prevent the guns from firing on the others. The assault force hitting the fort was carrying a new weapon of war to cut through the defenses, shaped charges.

But, the highly trained and well-armed commandos at the fort would be outnumbered nearly 10 to 1.

The Germans landed on the fort in gliders specially modified to stop in the short space, and German paratroopers rushed out to hit the defenders. Belgian gun crews, who knew a probable assault was coming, quickly opened fire — but they didn’t have the canister shot that could quickly decimate the paratroopers.

Instead, the paratroopers were able to rush improperly maintained machine guns as they misfired and other gun crews as they reloaded. One of the defensive guns was taken out when a paratrooper threw a stick of dynamite through a small opening. Two others were destroyed by the special shaped-charge explosives. One crew was killed by a flamethrower.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
The defensive works at Fort Eben-Emael were impressive, but were not well situated to deal with an airborne assault. (Photo: U.S. Army Master Sgt. Crista Mary Mack)

And there were less defenders than there should have been. The fort relied on conscripts to flesh out its ranks, and many had finished their period or been pulled away to positions in the Belgian Army. Other troops were sick or on leave.

The fort was supposed to have 1,200 men but was being defended by closer to 750.

Within the first 10 minutes, the paratroopers had taken out nine defensive positions and forced many of the defenders to go underground behind barriers. Within 15 minutes, the Germans had neutralized the major defenses that threatened the fort attackers, as well as many of the guns that could hit the bridges.

The Belgians didn’t accept this laying down, of course. Soon after the attack began, the fort commander ordered nearby artillery to fire on the fort, killing some of the German attackers.

But the Germans sheltered in the wrecked cupolas and other positions and rode out the worst of the artillery.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
(Photo: Public Domain)

As the Luftwaffe sent planes to silence the Belgian guns, the paratroopers used their shaped charges and other weapons to seal off exits from the fort and to wreck the few remaining positions that could fire outside.

And the bridge crews had successfully captured two bridges intact and one more that was damaged but repairable. Only 28 hours after the start of the attack, the road into Belgium was open.

The paratroopers had suffered six dead and 15 wounded by the time that the Belgian troops began surrendering.

The attackers all received high awards for valor and Hitler captured the country soon after.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Coast Guard joined the fight in Vietnam 50 years ago

“I want to make sure that the Coast Guard people in Vietnam know that I am hearing about them often and that I am pleased with what I hear.”
–General Wallace Greene, Jr., commandant, U.S. Marine Corps, 1967

As indicated in the quote above, the Coast Guard played a vital role in the Vietnam War, but the service’s combat operations in South East Asia remain unknown to most Americans.


On April 29, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed a “Memorandum for the President” that required “U.S. Coast Guard operating forces assist U.S. Naval Forces in preventing sea infiltration by the communists into South Vietnam” stating “…that the U.S. Coast Guard has operating forces which are well-suited to the mission…” The same day Johnson signed his memorandum, the service announced formation of Coast Guard Squadron One (RONONE). The squadron consisted of 26 “Point”-class 82-foot patrol boats. In five years, RONONE patrol boats cruised over four million miles and inspected over 280,000 vessels. The 82-footers, which were designed for search-and-rescue and law enforcement, were operational approximately 80 percent of their time in theater.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
Fireman Heriberto Hernandez, who was killed in action, posthumously received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals, and is the namesake for one of the service’s Fast Response Cutters.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

In early 1967, the Navy requested that the Coast Guard provide five high-endurance cutters for duty with the Navy’s Coastal Surveillance Forces. On April 24, Coast Guard Squadron Three (RONTHREE) was formed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and, in May, the high-endurance cutter Barataria fired the first RONTHREE naval gunfire support mission of the war. In February 1968, cutters Winona and Androscoggin engaged enemy trawlers and destroyed them with the aid of Coast Guard and Navy patrol boats while cutter Minnetonka drove off another. This action was the largest naval engagement of the Vietnam War.

Coast Guard cutters made a vital contribution to the Navy’s effort to limit coastal infiltration, forcing the communists to use the Ho Chi Minh Trail to sustain the insurgency in the South. Wartime statistics show that Coast Guard cutters boarded a quarter of a million junks and sampans and participated in 6,000 naval gunfire support missions causing extensive damage to the enemy. Of the 56 cutters that served in Vietnam, 30 were turned over to South Vietnam and Coast Guardsmen trained their Vietnamese crews to operate the vessels. Former cutters and the Vietnamese who crewed them formed the nucleus of the South Vietnamese Navy for the remainder of the war.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
Coast Guard pilots Jack Rittichier and Lonnie Mixon received medals for their role in flying helicopter rescue missions in Vietnam.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Port Security and Waterways Details and Explosives Loading Detachments (ELDs) also proved important to the war effort. On Aug. 4, 1965, the U.S. Military Assistance Command in Vietnam requested a Coast Guard Port Security Officer for the Port of Saigon and two Coast Guard ELDs. The Coast Guard sent the officer to Saigon and two ELDs, assigning one to Nha Be and the second to Cam Ranh Bay. These ELDs were highly trained in explosives handling, firefighting, port security, and small boat operations and maintenance. The ELDs were authorized to do anything necessary to enforce regulations. ELD personnel also taught U.S. Army and Vietnamese personnel in small boat operation, port firefighting, pier inspection, and proper cargo handling and storage.

In 1966, the Military Assistance Command in Vietnam requested a Coast Guard buoy tender to install, maintain and service aids-to-navigation (ATON) in South Vietnam. Soon, a buoy tender arrived to set petroleum buoys for offloading fuel. In all, five buoy tenders marked South Vietnamese channels and maintained lighthouses along the South Vietnamese coast. Buoy tender duties included marking newly-dredged channels and coral reefs, positioning mooring buoys, and training the Vietnamese in ATON duties. Vietnamese lighthouse service personnel were assigned to temporary duty aboard Coast Guard buoy tenders that reactivated and automated all South Vietnamese lighthouses.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
An aerial photograph of the LORAN station located at Tan My in Vietnam.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The service built and manned Long Range Aids to Navigation (LORAN) stations allowing mariners and aviators to accurately fix their positions. LORAN’s original purpose was to provide electronic aids to mariners and aviators in areas where surface aids were nonexistent, waters relatively uncharted, or skies frequently overcast. Under Operation “Tight Reign,” LORAN stations were established at Con Son Island and Tan My in Vietnam; and at Lampang, Sattahip and Udorn in Thailand. Tight Reign continued until April 29, 1975, a day before the fall of South Vietnam, when the station at Con Son Island discontinued operations.

The escalation of the Vietnam War meant that supplies had to be transported by ship, which increased the need for merchant vessels under Military Sealift Command (MSTS) contracts. Merchant officers and shipping companies complained about the lack of a Coast Guard Merchant Marine Detail and, in August 1966, MSTS requested a Merchant Marine Detail. By December, a marine inspection officer was assigned to Saigon. Merchant Marine Detail personnel kept merchant vessels in theater moving by providing diplomatic, investigative and judicial services. Coast Guard officers assigned to Merchant Marine Details had the authority to remove sailors from ships, order violations corrected, or stop a ship from sailing.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
A Coast Guard aids-to-navigation expert works on a range marker for ship navigation in Vietnam.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Coast Guard aviators participated in the Coast Guard-Air Force Aviator Exchange Program. Two Coast Guard C-130 pilots took part in the program, but the rest of the aviators were HH-3 helicopter pilots. In the spring of 1968, the service assigned the first of many Coast Guard helicopter pilots to the Air Force’s 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Da Nang. The resulting honors and awards presented to Coast Guard aviators included four Silver Star Medals, 15 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and 86 Air Medals.

Today, over 50 years after the service joined the fight in Vietnam, we commemorate the Coast Guardsmen who went in harm’s way, several of whom paid with their lives in a land far from home shores. In all, 8,000 Coast Guardsmen served in Vietnam. Their efforts curtailed maritime smuggling and enemy infiltration, saved hundreds of lives, and proved vital to the war effort in Vietnam.

This article originally appeared on the United States Coast Guard. Follow @USCG on Twitter.

Humor

7 phrases old school veterans can’t stop saying

Old school veterans are easy to spot; just look for the guy or gal wearing their retired military ball cap or that dope leather vest covered in customized patches.


If you ever get a chance to speak with one of them, we guarantee you’re in for a pretty good story.

Related: This legendary Navy skipper sank 19 enemy ships

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts

With pride streaming from their pores and a sense of realism in their voice, most vets don’t hesitate to speak their mind — and we love them for it.

The next time to get the chance to hear their tales of triumph, count how many times they say a few these phrases:

1. “We had it harder.”

For some, levels of accomplishments of service is a d*ck measuring contest. Don’t be offended, but let’s face it, you probably should be.

2. “Keep your head and your ass wired together.”

If you have a mom or dad that’s a vet, you’ve probably heard this at one time or another when you’ve made an immature mistake. The human ass is considered the body’s anchor point; keep your head wired to it and you’ll have fewer chances of losing it.


3. “Back in my day…”

A lot has changed over the years; we have fast internet, text messaging, and first world problems now. Many older vets are don’t rely on the pleasures of technology to help them with their daily lives. They tend to stick with they know best for them.

You may hear this line when a former service member fumbles with his credit card while paying for an item at the checkout counter or just sitting with one as they recall a moment from the good ole’ days.

4. “It’s a free country. You’re welcome.”

Face it, they can be grumpy old men too.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
Clint Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a disgruntled Korean War veteran in 2008s Gran Torino and plays him well. (Warner Brothers)

5. “I miss killing Nazis.”

Mostly spoken by WWI and WWII vets — let’s hope anyway.

6. “Baby-wipes? We only had sand paper.”

Being deployed these days, you can still have many of the comforts of home, including a music player, a laptop, and video games. We even receive care packages from home containing candy, snacks, and baby wipes.

Baby wipes are man’s second best friend when fighting in any clime and place. The soft sanitizing sheets can clean just about anything — or at least feel and look clean.

Back in the day, grunts packed a few extra smokes and a photo of their hometown girlfriend, Barbara Jean, and then had to wipe their butts with what came folded and cramped in their MREs, which was a piece of coarse, square paper.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
Standard issue toilet paper. One size wipes almost all.

Although wet naps debuted in the late 1950s, it wasn’t until 2005 when wet/baby wipes came on the market as the more bum friendly product we know today.

7. “If it ain’t raining, we ain’t training.”

Probably the most common phrase in a vet era. This phrase is usually spoken in a sarcastic tone to inform others how much of a p**** they are if they want to quit an outdoors activity when the rain starts coming down.

A little rain never hurt anybody.

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

Articles

5 times ‘outdated’ weapons saved the day

Soldiers and commanders are usually stuck with whatever equipment the procurement officers and civilian leaders are willing to buy for them, sometimes forcing troops to go into combat with outdated and inferior equipment.


But sometimes, those “outdated” weapons are actually just perfect for the fight. Here are five times that a supposedly obsolete weapon system saved the lives of its users:

1. Bayonets in Afghanistan and Iraq

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
A British soldier with fixed bayonet. (Photo: U.K. Ministry of Defence)

Bayonets, most often associated with fighting in the Civil and Revolutionary Wars, actually played a key role in battles during the modern Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

The most famous probably came in 2004 when 20 British troops were trying to push insurgents from a series of trenches. The fire from the U.K. vehicles was doing little and ammunition was running low, so the commander ordered his men to dismount and fix bayonets.

The British killed approximately 20 of the enemy with their bayonets at a cost of three men injured. Overall, the enemy lost 28 men in the fight.

2. Mortars in World War I

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
Mortars are still a thing, as are hand grenades. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Timothy Jackson).

It may sound insane today since mortars are still common weapons, but naysayers in the first years of World War I thought that the mortar was relatively unimportant and was no longer necessary. It was already hundreds of years old and had seen reduced deployments in western militaries in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

But Germany had seen mortars and grenades used in the Russo-Japanese War and stockpiled them before the war as a way to break French defenses. The Allies had to play catch up, developing their own mortars as the war continued. A British design, the Stokes trench mortar, was highly portable and lethal and gave rise to the modern mortar system.

3. OV-10 Bronco

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
An OV-10G+ operated by SEAL Team 6. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The OV-10 Bronco is an observation and ground attack plane that first flew in 1965 and served in the U.S. military from Vietnam through Desert Storm before accepting a quiet retirement in 1995. Boeing, the plane’s manufacturer, touts its historical performance in counter-insurgency, forward air control, and armed reconnaissance missions.

Well, the OV-10 Bronco flew out of history and into the fight against ISIS when CENTCOM deployed two of them in anti-insurgency reconnaissance and ground attack missions. The planes performed 132 sorties in 2015 with a whopping 99 percent completion rate, including 120 combat missions.

4. Pretty much anywhere the A-10 has ever fought

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
The A-10 shows off its non-BRRRRRT related talents. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Bob Sommer)

The A-10 Warthog (or the Thunderbolt, if you’re into that) has been “outdated” since 1973 when the Yom Kippur War saw low and slow close air support platforms like the A-4 Skyhawk slaughtered while fast and high-flying planes like the F-4 Phantom largely survived.

But the A-10, a low and slow platform, made its operational debut in 1976, three years after the Yom Kippur War supposedly closed the books on them. Despite that, the A-10 has fought and survived in a number of contested environments, most notably Iraq where it has twice been a key part of American forces breaking the back of armored and anti-aircraft ground forces.

In Afghanistan alone, A-10 pilots saved a Special Forces team from five ground assaults against them; conducted forward air control and numerous attack missions to ensure the success of an 8-hour, no notice mission to capture a senior enemy officer; and prevented an accidental fratricide event before annihilating Taliban forces at Jugroom Fort.

5. The Night Witches and their plywood biplanes

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
The Po-2 bomber was woefully outdated in World War II, but the women of the 588th made it work. (Photo: Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 Douzeff)

The women of Soviet Russia’s 588th Night Bomber Regiment, the Night Witches, flew in plywood and canvas biplanes through the best defenses that Nazi Germany had to offer, conducting multiple bombing missions per night to break up attacks against Soviet ground forces.

Their planes, the Polikarpov U-2 biplane, were underpowered and outgunned compared to the Luftwaffe’s modern air force. But the Night Witches used the biplanes to fly over German defenses nearly silently and drop bombs — they could only carry two at a time per plane — on Nazi positions.

They conducted 30,000 missions during World War II and dropped 23,000 tons of bombs.

Articles

The 5 weirdest books on Osama Bin Laden’s bookshelf

On 1 May 2011, the President of the United States announced the death of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.  On 20 May 2015, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence announced the release of a partial list of documents, software, books and other material recovered from the residence where Osama Bin Laden (UBL) was killed.   There was the expected collection of Jihadist letters and propaganda which one would typically find in the hands of guys like UBL.  However, there were some unexpected things on that list.  I typically advise against judging people solely off their book collections – I know I have some really off the beaten titles in my collection – but UBL had some real oddities in his library.  Below are the five oddest things in his collection with some brief comments.


Related: 7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

1)  ‘Bloodlines of the Illuminati’ by Fritz Springmeier: This is definitely my favorite book of UBL’s collection. The author dropped out of West Point in his second year (Senator Bob Dole gave him his appointment), went to a Bible College in Ohio, and has been peddling conspiracy theories ever since. This book, in its third edition due to its popularity in Japan of all places, accuses the Illuminati of pretty much everything.  The Catholic Church, the Jews, Salvation Army, Robert E Lee and Walt Disney are all part of the Illuminati conspiracy – best part is the chapter on how Prince Charles is a vampire!  I have this mental image of UBL in his underwear smoking some really powerful mutant kush from Waziristan while eating this book up.

2)  ‘Grapplers Guide to Sports Nutrition‘ by Dr. John Berardi: It is a damn shame that UBL never realized his dream of becoming a world champion Cage Fighter. I would have paid a year’s wage to see Rhonda Rousey and UBL in the Octagon.  It would have been poetic.

3)  ‘Delta Force Xtreme 2 Game Guide’ by Novalogic: It is clear from the 2/5 score on metacritic that UBL’s taste in video games sucked. Plus, come on dude, only sixty year old losers and twelve year boys buy the strategy guides for games.  It would be major cool points if had been playing Sony’s SOCOM: US NAVY SEALS video game series.  You couldn’t buy that kind of irony.

4)  “Website Claims Steve Jackson Games Foretold 9/11”: Okay, this one is actually kind of scary. Steve Jackson games, one of the more popular table top game companies, game out with…wait for it…the Illuminati Card Game!  One of the playing cards in the 1995 edition bears a really eerie resemblance to a certain event which happened six years later.  Coincidence?

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts

5)  U.S. State Department Form, Application for Passport: We could have made it really easy guys…just saying.

Bonus:  ‘Lots of Porn’ (Not in the ODNI list, but come on, you know it was there):  Anybody that ever interacted with the Iraqi or Afghan security forces or checked out stuff found on terrorists and insurgents we captured knows that Middle-Eastern men are world class porn-hounds.  I am not even joking; every single guy I talked to over there would eventually feel compelled to shove a cell phone in my face with some utterly raw video where you just feel really bad for the people involved.  The not so weird thing was the more religiously devout the guy was, the more deviant the material.  I imagine that UBL’s collection wasn’t good clean wholesome American stuff.  Instead, it was probably the nasty Eastern European industrial porn – the kind where you have the sit in the shower with your clothes on for four hours, sobbing bitterly under the water while listening to Natalie Merchant albums till you feel better.

Tell me I’m wrong.

Articles

Air Force says F-35A ready and waiting to be unleashed on ISIS

A U.S. Air Force Operational F-35A may soon attack ISIS over Iraq and Syria, fly to the Baltics as a deterrent against Russian aggression or deploy to the Pacific theater as part of a key force posture build-up, service leaders said.


“We have a global force management process. The F-35 move into the Middle East is scheduled further down the road. If a combatant commander needed it sooner they would ask for it,” Gen. Herbert J. “Hawk” Carlisle, Commander of Air Combat Command, told reporters last year.

Related: Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

While actual combat deployment could be imminent orseveral years away, declaring the new stealth multi-role fighter operational means Combatant Commanders around the globe do now have the ability to request the F-35A when mission demands require its abilities, he explained.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
The F-35 doesn’t sleep. It waits. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer

This means that the operational aircraft is now ready for combat and could soon be called upon to meet mission requirements in the ongoing air campaign against ISIS. Although the US-led coalition already enjoys air superiority over Iraq and Syria, the F-35 could be useful firing laser-guided air-to-ground weapons or drop GPS-guided bombs on identified ISIS targets.

This would involve the additional combat deployment of Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs. Precision and laser-guided air-to-ground weapons such as the Paveway II, a dumb munition converted into a precision-guided missile which made up more than one-half of the air-ground precision weapons fired during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The weapon has already been sucessfully test fired from an F-35.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts

Alongside the Middle East and Europe, Carlisle also addressed the prospect of moving F-35s to the Pacific Theater, explaining that groups of F-35s could go to the region as part of what the Air Force calls “Theater Security Packages.”

“These small deployments of about four ships are dispatched rapidly to global hotspots when needed. It’s kind of like providing the Combat Air Forces on tap. It’s possible that the F-35A’s first combat deployment will be in one of these TSPs,” Benjamin Newell, spokesman for Air Combat Command, told Scout Warrior.

Also read: This is how the F-35 is being tested against Russian and Chinese air defenses

Carlisle explained the potential deployment of F-35s to Europe and other strategic locations in terms of a prior move to deploy the F-22 to Europe as a deterrent against Russian aggression.

“When you send F-22s to the European theater last fall, it was great messaging that goes along with that.

Sending an F-35 would reassure friends and allies. It is a deterrent to potential adversaries. I don’t think it is provocative at all,” Carlisle said.

He went on to describe the stealth F-22 Raptor as the best air-to-air platform in the world and the F-35 as the best air-to-ground fighter in the world.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
F-35s and F-22s. Dream team? | US Air Force photo

In addition to functioning as a deterrent in key global locations, the F-35 could readily be called upon to perform the widest possible range of missions, Carlisle added.

“When you have airplanes you have pre-planned strike missions, interdiction offensive counter air, defensive counter air and air superiority. Many of these are missions I could use it for. It would depend upon the threat environment,” he said.

For instance, should the F-35 attack ISIS, it would be in a position to use both high-altitude precision-guided air-dropped bombs and also use its 25mm gun and other weapons to perform close-air support missions.

The Air Force is now preparing to increase its number of operational F-35s in order to better refine tactics, techniques and procedures, or TTPs.

“The F-35A is fully combat capable now, and can perform missions as requested by combatant commanders. Our next hurdles are to ramp up the forces to provide an adequate number of aircraft to create a working fleet, on which we build TTPs, test new weapons and most importantly, train adequate numbers of Airmen who are the experts in their assigned platform,” Newell explained.

In order to make this happen, the service would need 2 full fighter wings consisting of 144 aircraft and 6 squadrons.

Articles

’13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi’ captures courage while avoiding politics

When the trailer for 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi dropped, netizens were quick to dub it “Bayghazi,” a portmanteau of the location of the now-infamous embassy attack and the name of director Michael Bay. But the film deserves more credit than that for a number of reasons, but mostly because it manages to celebrate the human elements of an otherwise overly-politicized event.


“We all think we know Benghazi,” Bay says. “But we all only really know so much. There was a great human story in Benghazi that was never told. It’s an inspirational movie, even though it’s tragic.”

The movie is a faithful retelling of the events on the ground during that day in the Libyan port city, as written in journalist Mitchell Zuckoff’s book 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, which he co-authored with the surviving security contractors who were on the ground. The way Zuckoff writes the story in the book lends itself to Michael Bay’s directing style.

“The book, when I read it, it was an amazing human experience,” Michael Bay says. “It’s my most realistic movie. I think it opens eyes to what they really go through. It’s a collection of 36 Americans coming together, figuring out how the hell to survive. It starts at 9:42 and we follow the waves and the adrenaline and the ebbs and flows for 13 hours.”

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
(Paramount Pictures)

The movie is rife with commentary, damning of the military’s failure to act in support of the CIA annex in any way. Fighter planes remain motionless on flightlines while bureaucrats make late night phones calls to plan meetings, but the movie is inspirational, thanks to its exceptional cast. With the help of the real military veterans-turned CIA security contractors who were on the ground in Benghazi that night, they all deliver exceptional performances.

“There’s such a responsibility in this particular story,” says John Krasinski, who plays Jack Silva, one of the CIA contractors and former Navy SEAL. “Not only because it’s so highly politicized, but also because it’s so intense and is a story not really being told. For me, there was a great responsibility to make sure we told it right, especially since it’s about these six guys who are the definition of heroes.”

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
(Paramount Pictures)

The real-life defenders of the Americans in Benghazi, the members of the annex security team who were on the ground, are unanimous in what they hope audiences will take away from the film: The truth.

“They got it right,” says Marc “Oz” Geist, one of the contractors at Benghazi. “When you watch the movie, you’re seeing the guys, you’re seeing the team,” Kris “Tanto” Peronto adds. “They did an excellent job. That shows a lot of work.”

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts

“You have a group of people who overcome what most would consider insurmountable odds,” Geist continues. “There are positives that comes from that. It’s not a negative thing. You’re gonna have troubles, you’re gonna have things go bad. We lost four people and that’s tragic, but that’s not the defining moment. The defining moment is that we never lost because we never quit.”

The film has all the hallmarks of its director’s signature style: slow shots of dialogue between characters contrast fast-paced action with explosions; a weak leader gets usurped when the “right thing to do” becomes apparent, even though it isn’t “by the book;” and what starts as a rescue turns out to be an epic battle for survival. Yet all of it is a faithful retelling of the Benghazi story, seconded by the guys who were there that night, right down to the funny one-liners of comic relief (called “Tantoisms” by the Benghazi team).

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
(Paramount Pictures)

The portrayals of the team are realistic and intense. Anyone who’s ever met Navy SEALs, Marine Scout Snipers, Army Rangers, or any other special forces operators will recognize the personalities portrayed on screen by Krasinski, James Badge Dale (“Rone”), Pablo Schreiber (“Tanto”), David Denman (“Boon”), Max Martini (“Oz”), and Dominic Fumusa (“Tig”).

“It’s about the human spirit and the will to win,” the directors said. “No one ordered them to go. They volunteered and they volunteered at the drop of a hat. At a time when there’s so much crap going on in the world, you are appreciative that people like this exist.”

 

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is in theaters today. Follow the film on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

Articles

Royal Navy bringing Dreadnought back to their fleet

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
HMS Dreadnought. (Photo: Ministry of Defense)


Bringing back classic names has been discussed before, and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced that an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer will be named for John Basilone this past August. Now, the Royal Navy has gone to a traditional name for the first of its new class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. According to a release from the Ministry of Defense, the lead ship’s name will be HMS Dreadnought.

The new Dreadnought will be the tenth to bear that name – and the last two were both groundbreakers for the Royal Navy. The eighth was the first all-big gun battleship – so influential that all battleships from then on became known as dreadnoughts. The ninth was the Royal Navy’s first nuclear attack submarine – which served for 17 years.

The new submarine will be almost ten feet longer than the Vanguard-class submarines currently in service with the Royal Navy and will displace 1,300 more tons. The sub will have new features not seen before in submarines, including a dedicated gym, a “dedicated study space” for the crew, and quarters for female crewmembers.

The Dreadnought will carry 12 UGM-133 Trident II ballistic missiles – albeit these missiles use warheads of a British design with a maximum yield of 100 kilotons (about six times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima). The Vanguard-class subs they will be replacing carried 16. The subs will also have torpedo tubes to carry the outstanding Spearfish torpedo for self-defense.

The first Dreadnought-class submarine is expected to enter service in 2028. The Vanguard-class submarines they are replacing entered service in 1993.

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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:


NAVY

KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii (July 14, 2015) LT Christopher Malherek, assigned to the “Golden Eagles” of Patrol Squadron (VP) 9, prepares to land a P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft during a routine training flight for the squadron’s advanced readiness program.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amber Porter/USN

MIAMI, Fla. (July 14, 2015) Steel Worker 1st Class Jesse Hamblin, assigned to Underwater Construction Team 2 (UCT-2), makes a vertical fillet weld on a half inch steel plate.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Blake Midnight/USN

MARINE CORPS

Lance Cpl. Chance Seckenger with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, rides in a Combat Rubber Raiding Craft during launch and recovery drills from the well deck of the USS Green Bay, at sea, July 9, 2015.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
Photo: Lance Cpl. Brian Bekkala/USMC

FOG BAY, Australia – Australian Army soldiers, assigned to 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, and U.S. Marines, assigned to Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, work together during an amphibious assault exercise during Talisman Sabre 2015 at Fog Bay, Australia, July 11, 2015.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
Photo: Sgt. Sarah Anderson/USMC

COAST GUARD

Cutter Cypress sits front and center during a practice session for the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
Photo: USCG

Two adults and two children were found alive following an extensive search by Coast Guard crews off the coast of South Carolina. The four did not return as scheduled from a fishing trip, and were found this morning clinging to an ice cooler. More on this case: http://goo.gl/GCRulc

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
Photo: USMC

 AIR FORCE

C-17 Globemaster IIIs assigned to the 437th Airlift Wing await training missions at Joint Base Charleston, S.C.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Barry Loo/USAF

An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot assigned to the 555th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Aviano Air Base, Italy, waits as Airmen from the 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron complete a final check of the aircraft’s weapons before taking off on a combat sortie from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, July 14, 2015.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford/USAF

An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 80th Fighter Squadron, Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, takes off at Jungwon Air Base ROK, during Buddy Wing 15-6.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
Photo: Staff Sgt. Nick Wilson/USAF

ARMY

Army engineers, assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division (Iron Brigade), employ a M58 Mine Clearing Line Charge (MICLIC) during a breaching exercise, at Udairi Range Complex, Kuwait.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
Photo: Spc. Gregory T. Summers, 3rd Armored B/US Army

A soldier, assigned to 4th Squadron, 2D Cavalry Regiment, fires a Polish RPG-7D rocket-propelled grenade alongside a Polish paratrooper from the 6th Airborne Brigade during live-fire training, part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, at Nowa Deba Training Area, Poland.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
Photo: Capt. Spencer Garrison/US Army

U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers, assigned to the 416th Theater Engineer Command, conduct night land navigation during a Sapper Leader Course prerequisite training exercise on Camp San Luis Obispo Military Installation, Calif., July 15, 2015.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
Photo: Master Sgt. Michel Sauret/US Army

NOW: More awesome military photos

OR: Watch civilians mangle the official title of the Afghanistan War

 

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9 true facts about the ‘Nuclear Club’

The “Nuclear Club” is a term used informally in geopolitics for the group of nations who possess nuclear weapons. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968 was designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and limit the Nuclear Club to five members. A few countries declined to sign the treaty and have since joined the club.


Though the NPT restricts weapons tech, it does reserve the right of the peaceful uses of nuclear technology for any country, for things like energy production and medical and scientific advancements.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
A lot of energy.

Here are 11 more interesting facts about the world’s most exclusive (and potentially destructive) club.

1. There are eight, maybe nine, members controlling at least 15,600 warheads.

The list of confirmed countries with nuclear weapons includes the United States, Russia, France, China, United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Israel may or may not have nukes, as they have a policy of making their weapons capabilities purposely ambiguous to the rest of the world.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts

The first five are permanent members of the UN Security Council. The NPT treaty recognizes these states as weapons states. The latter four aren’t signatories to the NPT.

2. Five other countries host foreign nuclear weapons.

Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, and Turkey host American nukes under NATO agreements. 30 other states use nuclear technology to generate energy under the terms of the NPT.

3. South Africa is the only country to dismantle its nuclear arsenal.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
Bomb casings at South Africa’s abandoned Circle nuclear bomb production facility near Pretoria. These most likely would have accommodated a gun-type nuclear package for air delivery

From the 1960s through the 1980’s, apartheid South Africa pursued nuclear weapons. It was able to assemble six weapons with (alleged) help from Israel. Soviet spies discovered their capabilities, which the South Africans denied. When the apartheid government fell and the African National Congress (led by Nelson Mandela) was set to take power, South Africa dismantled its stockpile. It remains the only country ever to destroy its entire WMD program.

4. 59 other nations have the ability to construct nuclear weapons.

Apart from those already in the Nuclear Club, South Africa, Argentina, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Vietnam, Japan, Uzbekistan, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, and Ukraine all have the technology and material needed for a weapon. Iraq, Libya, Syria, Brazil, South Korea, and Taiwan have all had weapons programs in the past but openly shelved their efforts.

5. Maintaining the worldwide arsenal is a trillion-dollar business.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts

Even twenty years after the end of the Cold War, the thousands of nuclear weapons cost the world more than $1 trillion per decade in upkeep costs.

6. By 2020, Pakistan will have the world’s third largest stockpile.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts

An August 2015 report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center revealing Pakistan was ramping up production, with numbers as high as 20 per year. The report estimated that by 2020, Pakistan would have 350 warheads. The Pakistanis also tested a ballistic missile in December 2015 with a 560 mile range.

7. Nuclear nonproliferation success far outnumber failures.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts

India and Pakistan developed nuclear warheads in 1998. In 2003, North Korea withdrew from the NPT and has since tested a number of weapons. At the time of the NPT signing, it was estimated that 20-30 countries would have nuclear weapons by 1985. Despite some proliferation setbacks, only three (maybe four) developed them.

8. Only two countries possess worldwide nuclear capabilities.

Only the United States and Russia have the ability to strike anywhere in the world, either through Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles or from submarine-based weapons. India and Pakistan have regional strike capabilities. The range of Israel’s and North Korea’s weapons are unknown.

9. Three countries actually inherited nuclear weapons.

Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine inherited stockpiles following the fall of the Soviet Union. They returned the weapons to Russia and signed on to the NPT.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The origins of the moon’s ‘sunburn’

Every object, planet or person traveling through space has to contend with the Sun’s damaging radiation — and the Moon has the scars to prove it.

Research using data from NASA’s ARTEMIS mission — short for Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun — suggests how the solar wind and the Moon’s crustal magnetic fields work together to give the Moon a distinctive pattern of darker and lighter swirls.


The Sun releases a continuous outflow of particles and radiation called the solar wind. The solar wind washes over the planets, moons and other bodies in our solar system, filling a bubble of space — called the heliosphere — that extends far past the orbit of Pluto.

Magnetic Bubbles on the Moon Reveal Evidence of “Sunburn”

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Here on Earth, we’re largely protected from the damaging effects of the solar wind: Because the solar wind is magnetized, Earth’s natural magnetic field deflects the solar wind particles around our planet so that only a small fraction of them reach our planet’s atmosphere.

But unlike Earth, the Moon has no global magnetic field. However, magnetized rocks near the lunar surface do create small, localized spots of magnetic field that extend anywhere from hundreds of yards to hundreds of miles. This is the kind of information that needs to be well understood to better protect astronauts on the Moon from the effects of radiation. The magnetic field bubbles by themselves aren’t robust enough to protect humans from that harsh radiation environment, but studying their structure could help develop techniques to protect our future explorers.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts

Research using data from NASA’s ARTEMIS mission suggests that lunar swirls, like the Reiner Gamma lunar swirl imaged here by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, could be the result of solar wind interactions with the Moon’s isolated pockets of magnetic field.

(NASA LRO WAC science team)

“The magnetic fields in some regions are locally acting as this magnetic sunscreen,” said Andrew Poppe, a scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, who researches the Moon’s crustal magnetic fields using data from NASA’s ARTEMIS mission along with simulations of the Moon’s magnetic environment.

These small bubbles of magnetic “sunscreen” can also deflect solar wind particles — but on a much smaller scale than Earth’s magnetic field. While they aren’t enough to protect astronauts by themselves, they do have a fundamental effect on the Moon’s appearance. Under these miniature magnetic umbrellas, the material that makes up the Moon’s surface, called regolith, is shielded from the Sun’s particles. As those particles flow toward the Moon, they are deflected to the areas just around the magnetic bubbles, where chemical reactions with the regolith darken the surface. This creates the distinctive swirls of darker and lighter material that are so prominent they can be seen from Earth — one more piece of the puzzle to help us understand the neighbor NASA plans to re-visit within the next decade.

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The Browning Automatic Rifle cut down enemies from WWI to Vietnam

It was one of the most beloved and abused weapons in the history of warfare. The Browning Automatic Rifle was the weapon of choice for infantrymen, vehicle crews, and even gangsters from its debut in World War I, through two World Wars and Korea to the jungles of Vietnam.


The BAR was invented by its namesake, John Browning, in 1917 for use in World War I. The Army, newly arrived in Europe to fight on the Western Front, was told that machine guns were the way to go in the new war, and America agreed.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
Army 2nd Lt. Val Browning stands with the Browning Automatic Rifle designed by his father. (Photo: Army Heritage and Education Center)

One of the first soldiers to carry the BAR into combat was Browning’s own son, 2nd Lt. Val Browning. Browning and his men employed the weapon at the Meuse-Argonne offensive to good effect just like thousands of other soldiers in the war.

In the mud-filled trenches of World War I, the rifle was known for its reliability despite the conditions. When troops hit an enemy trench line, they could be reasonably sure that the rifle would spit its 20-40 rounds of .30-06 per magazine without jamming or overheating.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
A group of U.S. Marines patrol Okinawa in 1945. The Marine on point is carrying the Browning Automatic Rifle. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Just as important, the BAR was very accurate for such a light automatic weapon. It was employed in a counter-sniper role by shooters firing quick bursts at known or suspected enemy positions, suppressing or killing the enemy.

Rounds from the BAR hit with enough force to pierce up to .375 inch of steel plate, meaning it could penetrate the armor on most French light tanks stolen by the Germans.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
A U.S. Marine fires the Browning Automatic Rifle in World War II. (Photo: U.S. Archives)

In World War II, the attributes that made the BAR so great for trench-fighting also made it great for sweeping Nazis and Japanese soldiers from bunkers. It was mostly chambered in .30-06 that left the barrel at 2,682 feet per second.

It was so respected in World War II that, according to War Is Boring, soldiers “acquired” extra BARs to give themselves more firepower than their units were allotted — a single BAR per squad.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts
A U.S. infantryman uses a Browning Automatic Rifle to fire on Chinese troops during the Korean War. (Photo: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

While the Browning was able to reprise its World War II infantry role in Korea, the 1957 debut of the M60 machine gun forced the BAR from the top spot in Vietnam. Still, it was a valuable asset for special operators and as a weapon for vehicle crews.

For instance, the BAR was one of the weapons Underwater Demolitions Team-13 members used to fight off Viet Cong guerillas during a riverine ambush.

But that was the swan song for the BAR in American service. The M249 was introduced into the American arsenal in 1984, nine years after the Vietnam War ended. When the Invasion of Panama took place in 1989, it was M60s and M249s that sprayed lead downrange in the BAR’s stead.

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 craziest ways you could fight in the World Wars

The two World Wars were some of the first true industrial wars, forcing leaders to innovate so they would lose fewer troops and have a chance at victory. While some were slow to change, some leaders figured out truly novel ways of using everything from bicycles to railroads to artists. Here are just seven of the crazy jobs that were created:


How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts

German bicycle troops in World War I.

Bicycle troops

Believe it or not, bicycles were a huge part of World War I. France and Britain has about 250,000 troops in bicycle units by the end of the war, and most major combatants had at least a couple thousand. This included bicycle couriers, reconnaissance cyclists, and bicycle infantry, all of which were exactly what they sounded like.

But there were also more surprising applications. Some bicycles were welded into tandem, side-by-side configurations that allowed cyclists to create silent, mobile machine gun platforms, ambulances, and even vehicles with which to tow small artillery.

American motorcycle Corps Train

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Motorcycle tank repairman

Want to work on two wheels but don’t want to pedal so much? Fair enough, maybe the motorcycle corps was for you. Motorcycles were used for everything that bicycles were, and occasionally even pressed into service as anti-tank weapons. But the craziest way to use motorcycles was definitely tank recovery.

See, before a random tank operator thought to convert some tanks into recovery vehicles, the Army used motorcyclists to deliver tools and spare parts to tanks under fire on the battlefield. While this was fast, it meant that a motorcycle rider had to tear through No Man’s Land under fire that had just crippled or bogged down a tank.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts

A fake M4 Sherman, an inflatable decor, sits on the ground in World War II.

(U.S. Army)

Fake Army/city creator

On both sides of World War II, artists were put to work creating decoy forces or, in the case of Britain, decoy cities to draw away attackers and waste the enemy’s resources. The most famous of this is likely America’s “Ghost Army,” a collection of mostly inflatable military hardware complete with fake radio traffic that caused the Germans to overestimate the enemy they were facing and even got them to think D-Day was a feint.

But perhaps the most ambitious program was in England where engineers created entire fake cities and landing strips, complete with lights, ammo and fuel dumps, and planes. They were able to convince German bomber crews at night that they had reached their targets, resulting in thousands of tons of bombs dropping on fake targets.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts

British Chindits, guerrilla fighters from Britain who fought in Burma, discuss operations in a captured town.​

(Imperial War Museum)

Guerrilla warfare fighter/trainer

For major combatants with lots of territory to fight over, it’s always easier if you can put a small number of troops or trainers into position and force a much larger enemy force to remain there to fight them. That’s what America achieved with guerrilla trainers like Detachment 101 and the British achieved with guerrilla units like the Chindits.

In both cases, sending in a couple dozen or a couple thousand men tied down entire Japanese divisions and inflicted heavy losses. The situation was similar in Europe. A Marine guerrilla warfare unit of just six men provided support to French resistance fighters and killed so many Nazis that the Germans assumed they were an entire battalion. And they achieved this despite losing two Marines on the jump into France.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts

“Mad” Jack Churchill leads his troops off the boats during a training exercise while preparing for D-Day. He’s the one with the sword at far right.

(Imperial War Museum)

Bagpiper/swordsman/bowman

Granted, these jobs only came up under one commander: Jack “Mad Jack” Churchill, a British officer who led his men onto the beaches of Normandy while carrying a claybeg (basically a smaller claymore) and a longbow. And he did use the weapons in combat, at one point riding through France on a bicycle with his quiver hanging from the frame.

And, on D-Day, British soldier Bill Millin, a personal piper to Lord Movat, was ordered to play his bagpipes as his unit hit the sands of Normandy. The Millin wasn’t shot and asked a group of Nazi prisoners of war why no one hit him since he was such an obvious target. The German commander said “We thought you were a ‘Dummkopf,’ or off your head. Why waste bullets on a Dummkopf?

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts

Poison gasses float across a battlefield in World War I.

(Public domain)

Chemical warfare operator

The first large-scale deployment of chemical weapons came at Ypres, Belgium, in 1915, but, luckily, was largely outdated by changes in international law before World War II, so there were just a couple of years in history where offensive chemical warfare operators were a real thing.

That first attack required hundreds of German soldiers to bury 6,000 steel cylinders over a period of weeks, but allowed them to break French lines across an almost 4-mile front. But it was hard to exploit gaps from chemical attacks since, you know, the affected areas were filled with poison.

How 87 paratroopers captured one of the world’s strongest forts

U.S. sailors fire a 14-inch railway gun in France during World War I.

(U.S. Navy)

Railway gun operator

If you’ve never seen one of the railway guns from World War I and II, then just take a look at the picture. These weapons were massive with 14-inch or larger caliber guns mounted on railway carriages. When the U.S. joined the war, they immediately sent five naval railway guns across the Atlantic.

Railway artillerymen were usually outside of the range of enemy fire, so it was relatively safe. But expect some serious hearing loss and even brain damage. Massive amounts of propellant were required to launch these huge shells.