Two Kurdish peshmerga troops were killed in the attack, and two French special operators were also seriously wounded. One is still in critical condition. Both were whisked away back to France immediately.
Due to the rapid proliferation of drone technology and the fact that component prices have dropped significantly over the past few years, militant groups are quickly adopting drones as a new weapon.
And yet, the use of drones with explosives, much less against Western forces, is uncommon. In many cases, ISIS simply uses drones for surveillance footage to use in propaganda films.
U.S. forces in Iraq now carry the equipment to bring down these kinds of drones, such as a Battelle DroneDefender, which actually doesn’t even use bullets. Rather, the technology works by disrupting the communication line between the drone and its operator.
It’s unclear if France possesses the same counter-drone technology in the field.
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The U.S. military has considered training with DroneDefender, a point-and-shoot, electromagnetic, rifle-shaped weapon that disrupts communications of a remote-controlled drone and its operator.
The system provides a safer and more accurate alternative than other methods, such as shooting drones with a rifle. “Pull the trigger and it falls out of the sky,” said Capt. Michael Torre, an electronic warfare officer for the 29th Infantry Division.
“It reminds me of playing Duck Hunt. It’s like using a video game controller with a real-world application,” he added.
DroneDefender can target a drones’ control signal. The drone controller can be a hand-held device operated by a person or a command module attached to the drone itself.
Staff Sgt. Richard Recupero, a cyberspace electromagnetic activities noncommissioned officer with the 29th Infantry Division, shared his expertise in disrupting drone operations when discussing enemy devices currently in the Middle East.
“You know it’s working because the system is no longer responding appropriately to the operator and doing something the operator doesn’t expect it to do,” Torre said, describing multiple visual disruption indicators.
“From the time I pulled the trigger, it was almost instantaneous,” Torre added.
Operation Spartan Shield subordinate units such as the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, have also gone through the training as part of an effort to provide commanders with increased force protection options.
Anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems were stationed on Chinese outposts in the contested South China Sea, in yet another signal that China intends to cement its presence on the disputed islands.
Sources familiar with US intelligence reports said the weapons systems were installed on three fortified outposts in the Spratly Islands, west of the Philippines, according to a CNBC report.
The YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missiles would provide China the ability to engage surface vessels within 295 nautical miles of the reefs; and the HQ-9B surface-to-air missiles are expected to have a range of 160 nautical miles, CNBC reported.
“We have consistently called on China, as well as other claimants, to refrain from further land reclamation, construction of new facilities, and militarization of disputed features, and to commit to managing and resolving disputes peacefully with other claimants,” a Pentagon official said to CNBC. “The further militarization of outposts will only serve to raise tensions and create greater distrust among claimants.”
“These would be the first missiles in the Spratlys, either surface to air, or anti-ship,” Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert the Center for Strategic and International Studies told Reuters.
(Photo by Jeff Hilton)
“Before this, if you were one of the other claimants … you knew that China was monitoring your every move. Now you will know that you’re operating inside Chinese missile range. That’s a pretty strong, if implicit, threat,” he said.
China’s increased military presence in the region comes amid another maneuver, one which exacerbated concerns among the US military and its allies. US officials said that in early April 2018, intelligence officers detected China was moving radar and communications-jamming equipment to the Spratly Island outposts.
“This is not something that the US will look kindly on or think they can overlook.” Stratfor military analyst Omar Lamrani told Business Insider editor Alex Lockie, when asked about potential moves to jam communications channels. “The US will likely seek to counter this in some way,” he said.
Hotly disputed, $3.4 trillion shipping lane
Six countries, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei, are contesting at least part of the chain of islands, reefs, and surrounding waters in the South China Sea. Located between Vietnam and the Philippines, the natural resources and trade routes that pass through the Spratly Islands are a lucrative venture for the countries — around $3.4 trillion in trade is reportedly transported through the South China Sea every year.
China has been one of the most prominent claimants to territory in the South China Sea since the 1980s. It currently has around 27 outposts throughout the islands and has continued to outfit them with aircraft runways, lighthouses, tourist resorts, hospitals, and farms.
According to some experts, the creation of civilian attractions in the region signals that China is undertaking a two-pronged approach in attempts to legitimize its ownership — by arguing it has a vested interest in the region, both militarily and otherwise.
In April 2018, US Navy Adm. Philip Davidson, nominated to lead the US’ Pacific Command, said Beijing’s “forward operating bases” in the South China Sea appeared complete.
Davidson said China could use the bases pose a challenge the US and “would easily overwhelm the military forces of any other South China Sea-claimants.
“China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In the annals of Marine Corps history there are many famous units and numerous famous men. There are tales of valor and loss.
But one unit truly exemplifies these traditions through its actions and its enduring nickname: the Walking Dead.
Through nearly four years of combat in Vietnam, the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines earned its place in Marine Corps history.
The 1st Battalion first arrived in Vietnam in June 1965 as part of the troop increase and escalation that year as U.S. forces took over most combat operations from the South Vietnamese. By August they were involved in offensive combat operations as part of Operation Blastout — a search and clear mission.
More missions continued throughout 1965 and into 1966. In their first year in Vietnam the Marines of 1/9 would conduct hundreds of company-sized or larger missions. The Marines of the 1st battalion, as part of a greater effort by the 9th Marine Regiment, also developed the SPARROW HAWK concept. This was essentially a heliborne quick reaction force that could be called in to help win a fight in which Marines on patrol had found themselves. The 1st Battalion, 9th Marines then rotated out of Vietnam for a few brief months beginning in October 1966.
When the unit returned in December 1966 the operations tempo greatly increased. The 1st battalion Marines started 1967 with the anti-climactic Operation Deckhouse V. From there operations picked up in the 9th Marines tactical area of responsibility. This area just south of the Demilitarized Zone became known as “Leatherneck Square” for the high number of Marine casualties. The Marines there swore the wind, rather than blowing, made a sucking sound. It was in this area that the 1st Battalion 9th Marines became the legendary Walking Dead.
The battalion participated in three phases of Operation Prairie within Leatherneck Square. Casualties were heavy as the Marines conducted search-and-destroy missions. In less than a month through mid-1967, Marine casualties during Prairie IV were 167 killed, and over 1,200 wounded.
In July, 1/9 participated in Operation Buffalo, a clearing mission up Highway 561. On the first day of the operation, July 2, the Marines of A and B companies encountered strong NVA resistance. The fighting was bitter. The NVA used flamethrowers to burn the vegetation and force the Marines into the open. An NVA artillery round wiped out the entire company headquarters for B company.
Soon the commander of 1/9 sent in C and D companies to relieve the battered Marines. With significant support they were finally able to force the NVA to break contact. The battalion suffered 84 Marines killed and 190 wounded. The next day only 27 Marines from B company and 90 from A company were fit for duty.
A combination of the remnants of Companies A and C several days later was able to get some payback on the NVA, inflicting 154 enemy killed. By the middle of July Operation Buffalo came to an end. Almost immediately the men of the 9th Marines were back in action as part of Operation Kingfisher in the Western portion of Leatherneck Square. This operation drug on until the end of October 1967. The sporadic but intense combat saw another 340 Marines killed and over 1,400 wounded in Leatherneck Square.
January 1968 found the battalion reinforcing the infamous Khe Sanh Combat Base just south of the Demilitarized Zone and west of Leatherneck Square. The Marines at Khe Sanh not only held the base but also fought in the hills surrounding it. Just over a week before the Tet Offensive began on January 30, 1968, the North Vietnamese began laying siege to Khe Sanh. Some 6,000 Marines, including 1/9, would endure daily shelling and close-combat for 77 days before being relieved. In all, 205 Americans were killed and over 1,600 wounded defending Khe Sanh. A further 200 Marines died in the bloody fighting in the hills surrounding Khe Sanh.
The lifting of the siege was hardly the end for the Walking Dead though. Immediately upon relief of duty from the defense of Khe Sanh they began Operation Scotland II to clear the area nearby. Following the conclusion of Scotland II, the Marines of 1/9 returned to the Con Thien area and took part in Operation Kentucky. This action would last until near the end of 1968.
In early 1969, the 1st battalion, as part of the larger 9th Marine Regiment, launched Operation Dewey Canyon, the last major Marine Corps operation in Vietnam. During this time the Marines swept through the NVA controlled A Shau valley and other areas near the DMZ. In a heroic action on February 22, 1968, then-Lt. Wesley Fox earned the Medal of Honor. The Marines suffered over 1,000 casualties during the operation. The entire regiment was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for their extraordinary heroism during Operation Dewey Canyon.
The Walking Dead — along with the rest of the 9th Marines — redeployed from Vietnam in the summer of 1969 to Okinawa.
The name “the Walking Dead” was originally used by Ho Chi Minh talking about the Marines in the A Shau valley. Later, after the 1st Battalion suffered extraordinarily high casualty rates, they used the term to describe themselves. Of a standard battalion strength of 800 Marines, the battalion had 747 killed in action with many times that number wounded. They also were in sustained combat operations for just short of four years. Both of these are Marine Corps records.
The unit was disbanded in mid-2000, reactivated for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, then was disbanded again in 2015.
Roger Moore, famous for his roles on the small screen and his seven films over 12 years as James Bond, died at the age of 89 in Switzerland on May 23, 2017. His family said that he died “… after a short but brave battle with cancer.”
He had previously defeated prostate cancer.
But while Moore is most famous for his acting career, a lot of soldiers could relate with the man’s little-known military service. Moore was drafted from a blue collar family in England in 1946, married his first of four wives while he was in the military, and then returned home to so little available work that he had to move to America.
Moore was deployed to West Germany under the service ID number 372394 and rose to the rank of captain. After a short period, he was able to transfer into the Combined Services Entertainment Unit, a morale-boosting initiative that allowed some Cold War-era servicemen to complete their service obligation entertaining the rest of the military.
When he left the military after about three years, Moore returned to England to pursue acting once again. Despite his training before the service as well as his experience in the British Army, jobs were few and he wasn’t able to make much headway.
In Los Angeles, he did some modeling and bit parts before MGM signed him and put him into a series of movies, none of which were hugely successful.
Moore transferred over to Warner Brothers where he saw more success and got a role on the TV show “The Saint,” a spy series that helped lead to his being cast as the lead in “Live and Let Die,” his first James bond role.
For the next twelve years, Moore would film another six Bond movies including “The Man with the Golden Gun,” and “Octopussy.”
He continued acting after leaving the Bond role but also expanded his work in charitable causes. It was his extensive work as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF that led to his being knighted and becoming Sir Roger Moore.
Where the Iron Curtain once divided Europe with barbed wire, a network of wilderness with bears, wolves, and lynx now thrives. Commemorating 100 years since the end of World War I, people wear poppies to evoke the vast fields of red flowers which grew over the carnage of Europe’s battlefields. Once human conflict has ended, the return of nature to barren landscapes becomes a potent symbol of peace.
Abandonment of Pripyat, Ukraine after the Chernobyl disaster ushered in wildlife.
Warfare can also result in human exclusion, which might benefit wildlife under specific conditions. Isolation and abandonment can generate wild population increases and recoveries, which has been observed in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
The strange link between war and wildlife
Fish populations in the North Atlantic benefited from World War II as fishing fleets were drastically reduced. Fishing vessels were requisitioned by the navy, seamen were drafted and the risks of fishing due to enemy strikes or subsurface mining deterred fishermen from venturing out to sea.
As a result, the war essentially created vast “marine protected areas” for several years in the Atlantic Ocean. After the war, armed with faster and bigger trawlers with new technology, fishermen reported bonanza catches.
A more gruesome result of World War II allowed opportunistic species such as the oceanic whitetip shark to flourish, as human casualties at sea proved a rich and plentiful food source.
The growth of oceanic whitetip shark populations during WWII is a grisly example of how war can sometimes benefit wildlife.
Warship wrecks also became artificial reefs on the seabed which still contribute to the abundance of marine life today. The 52 captured German warships that were sunk during World War I between the Orkney mainland and the South Isles, off the north coast of Scotland, are now thriving marine habitats.
Exclusion areas, or “no mans lands”, which remain after fighting has ended may also help terrestrial ecosystems recuperate by creating de facto wildlife reserves. Formerly endangered species, such as the Persian leopard, have re-established their populations in the rugged northern Iran-Iraq frontier.
An uneasy post-war settlement can create hard borders with vast areas forbidden to human entry. The Korean Demilitarized Zone is a 4km by 250km strip of land that has separated the two Koreas since 1953. For humans it is one of the most dangerous places on Earth, with hundreds of thousands of soldiers patrolling its edges. For wildlife however, it’s one of the safest areas in the region.
Miraculously, even habitats scarred by the most horrific weaponry can thrive as places where human access is excluded or heavily regulated. Areas previously used for nuclear testing, such as the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean have been recolonizedby coral and fish, which seem to be thriving in the crater of Bikini Atoll, declared a nuclear wasteland after nuclear bomb tests in the 1940s and 50s.
War – still good for nothing
For all the quirks caused by abandonment, warfare overwhelmingly harms human communities and ecosystems with equal fervor. A review of the impact of human conflict on ecosystems in Africa showed an overall decrease in wildlife between 1946 and 2010. In war’s aftermath, natural populations were slow to recover or stopped altogether as economic hardship meant conservation fell by the wayside.
Humans often continue to avoid a “no mans land” because of the presence of land mines. But these don’t differentiate between soldiers and wildlife, particularly large mammals. It’s believed that residual explosives in conflict zones have helped push some endangered species closer to extinction.
Today’s European Green Belt traces the original route of the Iron Curtain.
However, where possible, accidental rewilding caused by war can help reconcile people after the fighting ends by installing nature where war had brought isolation. There is hope that should Korea reunify, a permanently protected area could be established within the current demilitarised zone boundaries, allowing ecotourism and education to replace enmity.
Such an initiative has already succeeded elsewhere in the world. The European Green Belt is the name for the corridor of wilderness which runs along the former Iron Curtain, which once divided the continent. Started in the 1970s, this project has sprawled along the border of 24 states and today is the longest and largest ecological network of its kind in the world. Here, ponds have replaced exploded land mine craters and forests and insect populations have grown in the absence of farming and pesticide use.
Where war isolates and restricts human movement, nature does seem to thrive. If, as a human species, we aim for a peaceful world without war, we must strive to limit our own intrusions on the natural paradises that ironically human warfare creates and nurture a positive legacy from a tragic history.
The US Marine Corps’ recent proof of concept for the F-35B short takeoff, vertical landing variant aboard the USS America produced “the most powerful concentration of combat power ever put to sea in the history of the world,” according to one F-35 test pilot.
Indeed the America is the US’s newest amphibious assault ship, designed for waging war on beaches and coastal zones with the F-35’s revolutionary technologies in mind.
Both the America-class and the F-35 programs have faced criticisms, sometimes harshly, for their departure from traditional warfare roles, among other things. But lately these programs seem to be shaping up nicely.
The America abandons well decks, or the space to launch landing vessels to take beaches, in favor of increased hangar space to haul and maintain more aircraft. In its most plane-heavy configuration, the America can carry 20 F-35Bs.
In the video below, the Marines placed 12 F-35Bs on the America to prove a concept that’s been literally decades in the making, and thereby creating a ship that’s not even technically classified as an aircraft carrier, yet one of the biggest and deadliest ships in the world.
In the tradition of Ukraine’s Lyudmila Pavilchenko and Kazakhstan’s Aliya Moldagulova and Nina Lobkovskaya, an Afghan teen girl has just taken up arms against the invaders who killed her family. Sixteen-year-old Qamar Gul decided it was time to fight back when the Taliban raided her family’s home in Geriveh, in central Ghor province.
Moldagulova and Lobkovskaya were the ninth and 10th deadliest female snipers in World War II. Pavilchenko was the deadliest female sniper ever, earning the nickname “Lady Death” for her 309 kills.
The journey of Afghanistan’s Qamar Gul is just beginning.
At 1:00 a.m. local time on Jul. 17, 2020, Taliban insurgents took to the streets of Geriveh and began to pull locals out of their homes at gunpoint. When they arrived at the doorstep of Gul’s parents, they refused to open. Eventually, the gunmen forced their way in, anyway.
The insurgents suspected Gul’s father – the village chief – of supporting the local government and of being an informant. The Taliban killed her parents and moved to kill her 12-year-old brother Habibullah. But she got to the family’s AK-47 first.
Qamar killed the two men who shot her parents and then lit up the other men who had raided her home. The Taliban tried to regroup on the street and several made an attempt to retake the house, but the 16 year old fought them all off. Her brother stayed behind her throughout the hour-long gunfight.
Soon, other villagers and pro-government militia arrived to push the Taliban out of their village. In total, it’s estimated Qamar killed up to five Taliban insurgents and more were injured by the local militia. Taliban fighters routinely raid villages to attack those who are suspected of sympathizing with the government of President Ashraf Ghani.
A photograph of Qamar Gul wearing a headscarf and holding a machine gun across her lap has even gone viral on social media.
“We know parents are irreplaceable, but your revenge will give you relative peace,” a Facebook user wrote in a comment on the photo.
Though the young girl is scarred at the loss of her parents, she is now taking care of her younger brother and has been invited to Afghanistan’s presidential palace by Ghani himself. After leaving the palace, she will not return to the village but will instead go to a safe house in the provincial capital of Chaghcharan.
This is not an idle thought. On March 26, 2010, the Pohang-class corvette ROKS Cheonan was torpedoed and sunk by a North Korean mini-sub firing a 21-inch torpedo. So, the concern is what one of these subs could do to a carrier.
Let’s look at what these subs are. The North Koreans have two front-line classes of mini-sub, according to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World. The Yono — the type of sub believed to have fired the torpedo that sank the Cheonan — is about 110 tons and carries two 21-inch torpedoes. The Sang-O is 295 tons and also has a pair of 21-inch torpedo tubes.
North Korea also has Romeo-class submarines, which have eight 21-inch torpedo tubes (six forward, two aft), with a total of 14 torpedoes. North Korea also has some mini-subs built to a Yugoslavian design with two 16-inch torpedoes, but those are believed to be in reserve.
That said, American aircraft carriers are very tough vessels. In World War II, the carriers USS Yorktown (CV 5) and USS Hornet (CV 8) took a lot of abuse before they sank. The carrier USS Franklin (CV 13) had one of the great survival stories of the war, despite horrific damage.
But today’s carrier are much larger.
In fact, the Russians designed the Oscar-class guided-missile submarine to kill America’s Nimitz-class carriers – and those have 24 SS-N-19 “Shipwreck” missiles, plus four 21-inch torpedo tubes and four 25.6-inch tubes meant to fire torpedoes with either massive conventional warheads or even nuclear ones.
This points to a North Korean sub being unable to sink a Nimitz-class carrier on its own.
But two torpedoes will still force a carrier to spend a long time in the body shop. And the escorts are more vulnerable as well.
A U.S. carrier could take a couple of hits and in a worst case scenario, she’d have to fly her air wing to shore bases.
The Sherman tank was a powerful force to be reckoned with on the battlefields in WWII; it was fast and mobile and it shelled out plenty of firepower.
It provided just enough cover for American ground troops as it stomped through the German front lines. The Sherman was designed to patrol over enemy bridges and it was easily transported on railroad cars.
When the U.S. decided to invade Europe, General Patton selected the Sherman as his particular tank of choice and wanted as many to roll off the assembly lines as possible. Nearly fifty thousand were produced between 1942 and 1945.
Weighing in at 33 tons, it sustained a speed of 26 miles per hour and housed 2 inches of armor. Many saw the image of the Sherman tank to be invincible just like the American war effort, but the brave soldiers who served as tank crew members believed that it had too many engineering flaws and was far inferior compared to the German’s Tiger and Panther tanks.
The Sherman tank was equipped with a fully-transversing 75mm turret short barrelled gun that fired a high explosive shell 2,000 feet per second. Compared to the German tanks that shot accurately at 3,500 feet per second, the enemy’s armor piercing ammo was 2-3 times more effective.
It was recommended that to defeat the Germans, the tank crew had to speed up and flank around their battlefield rivalry and get within 600 yards range to be effective.
Captain Belton Y. Cooper, author of Death Traps and a member of the 3rd Armor Division maintenance unit, recounts knowing how inferior the Sherman was after seeing its physical destruction firsthand. He knew it was no match for the Nazi’s arsenal.
“We lost 648 tanks totally destroyed in combat, another 700 knocked out, repaired and put back into action,” Cooper says. “That’s 1,348 tanks knocked out in combat. I don’t think anyone took that kind of loss in the war.”
MHSRS is a scientific meeting focused on the unique medical research needs of the U.S. armed forces and their families. Scientists from across the Department of Defense (DoD) and their partners from across industry and academia share information about current and future research initiatives designed to improve the health, readiness, and survivability of warfighters, on and off the battlefield.
Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, director, medical resources, plans and policy, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, spoke to Navy Medicine researchers about the importance of finding solutions to the challenges sailors, Marines, soldiers, and airmen face today and in battle spaces of the future.
“The next fight is going to be very different from what we’ve faced in past conflicts,” said Gillingham. “We need to look beyond the golden hour to the platinum ten minutes. What are we doing to stop the bleeding? What are we doing to ensure our hospital corpsmen have the training they need? I know you are all working on these and other fundamental issues our warfighters face. There’s a tremendous energy and enthusiasm in this room and it’s good to know people of your caliber are tackling these problems.”
Gillingham also challenged the researchers to look to alignment — with the needs of operational forces and each other. He encouraged everyone to do all they could to take advantage of the opportunity MHSRS provides to meet scientists and partners they can work with.
Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, director, medical resources, plans and policy, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, and other senior leaders speak at the general officer round-table discussion during the 2018 Military Health System Research Symposium.
“Innovation occurs through the collision and exchange of ideas,” he added. “Are we bumping into the people we can work with at this meeting?”
Echoing that sentiment was Capt. Adam Armstrong, commander, Naval Medical Research Center, whom has oversight of eight research labs located around the globe, who also spoke to the scientists gathered at the Navy breakout session.
“What I like about this meeting is that we can start conversations,” Armstrong said. “We can discuss different aspects of research and we can keep talking and exchanging thoughts. We can take advantage of the synergy in this room and bring it back to our labs and our research.”
In addition to comments from Gillingham and Armstrong, a panel of researchers highlighted a few of Navy Medicine’s current science and technology initiatives, including the use of bacteriophages for the treatment of multidrug-resistant infections, medical evacuations and en route care for injured warfighters, and treatments for motion sickness. These topics will also be presented by Navy Medicine researchers during regular breakout sessions throughout the symposium. Other topics that will be presented Navy scientists include:
Telehealth for increasing access to behavioral health care
Human performance and survivability in extreme environments
Precision medicine in critical care for the injured warfighter
Mitigating physiologic episodes in aviation
The health and readiness of military families (a new session topic this year, proposed by one of our Navy Medicine researchers)
Looking to the future and the Navy’s Indo-Pacific area of responsibility, military medical research, and development will play an important role in finding solutions to the unique challenges the Navy and Marine Corps team may face in the maritime operational setting and disaggregated operations at sea and ashore.
Navy Medicine West leads (NMW) Navy Medicine’s Western Pacific health care system and global research and development enterprise. Throughout the region, NMW provides medical care to nearly 700,000 beneficiaries across 10 naval hospitals, two dental battalions, and 51 branch clinics located throughout the West Coast of the U.S., Asia, and the Pacific. Globally, NMW also has oversight of eight research laboratories across the U.S. and overseas that deliver high-value, high-impact research products to support and protect the health and readiness of service members.
Featured image: Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, director, medical resources, plans and policy, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, and other senior leaders speak at the general officer round-table discussion during the 2018 Military Health System Research Symposium.
The attempt by the Japanese to take Midway Island and seize control of it resulted in one of the most decisive naval battles in military history, with the Japanese losing four aircraft carriers and the United States gaining the upper hand in the Pacific. But a diversionary effort by the Japanese during the campaign marked the only ground fighting on U.S. home soil during World War II.
The Japanese attack on the Aleutian islands off Alaska in June of 1942, a mere six months after Pearl Harbor and shortly after a series of disastrous U.S. defeats in Asia, was meant as a feint to draw away American forces while the Japanese invaded Midway island. It would also threaten any U.S. attempts to attack Japan using the chain as a base. The archipelago of over 150 islands reached to within just 750 miles of Japanese territory and was seen as a real threat to their homeland. The occupation of U.S. soil, even that as remote as the Aleutian islands, also served as a blow to American morale.
U.S. intelligence was alerted of the impending invasion, but despite sightings of the approaching Japanese fleet, terrible weather made tracking it impossible. The Japanese carriers with the fleet bombed U.S. positions at their Dutch Harbor island base, inflicting heavy damage. American attempts to counterattack and destroy the fleet were consistently foiled by bad weather. The islands of Attu and Kiska in the chain were both occupied by June 7, 1942, though again severe storms and fog led to canceling the seizure of other islands.
The conquest of U.S. soil, even that as remote as the Aleutian islands, came as a severe shock to the American public. There was widespread speculation that the islands would be used as a jumping off point for attacking Alaska, or more fantastically the American mainland. Much of this apprehension was relieved by the destruction of the main Japanese carrier fleet at the Battle of Midway, defeating much of the purpose of the invasion. The Japanese forces found themselves practically marooned in some of the most hostile conditions imaginable.
With no logistical ability yet available to retake the islands, the U.S. could only harass the Japanese garrisons and the convoys resupplying them. U.S. air raids and submarine attacks took a heavy toll on Japanese shipping, but it was not until March of 1943 and after the naval surface action at the Battle of the Komandorski Islands that much headway was made. After the battle, the Japanese were reduced to using submarines to resupply their troops on the islands.
When the joint U.S.-Canadian operation to retake Attu began in May 1943, the Japanese soldiers retreated to high ground rather than contest the landing. The following bloody battle, with both sides plagued by chronic supply shortages, frostbite, and disease, dragged on for over two weeks. The Japanese garrison, starving and running out of ammunition, launched a massive banzai charge that penetrated all the way to U.S. rear echelon before being stopped. Over 2,000 Japanese dead were counted afterward, along with a minuscule 28 survivors. More than a thousand Americans died in the battle.
The assault on Kiska on August 15, 1943, was much more anti-climatic. A huge American-Canadian force landed there after weeks of bombing, but after much searching found the island deserted. The Japanese had used the cover of fog to bring in ships to evacuate two weeks earlier. The bombing and infantry attack had all been against a barren rock, and the only allied casualties were from friendly fire in the fog, frostbite, and disease. The Japanese withdrawal marked the end of the first and last foreign occupation of U.S. soil since the War of 1812.
The reality was that the remote, sparsely populated volcanic islands with notoriously bad weather and terrain would never serve as a major invasion route for either side. Though the Japanese garrisons managed to maintain themselves in the harsh conditions, they had nowhere near the numbers or the support to launch an invasion onto the mainland, and their primary goals were crushed by the disaster at Midway. U.S. plans to use the island chain as a launchpad for invading Japan never materialized beyond some bombing raids on Japan’s northern Kuril islands.
In the end, the atrocious weather and remote location turned what seemed such a promising strategic theater useless for everyone.
1. The property used for Arlington National Cemetery was an estate that was forcibly acquired from the family of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in 1864.
2. The first military burial at Arlington was William Henry Christman, who died of non-combat related illness, on May 13, 1864.
3. The first African-American to be buried there was William H. Johnson, an employee of President Lincoln.
4. In December 1882, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the Lee family’s favor that Arlington had been confiscated without due process. After that decision, Congress returned the estate, and on March 3, 1883 Custis Lee (Robert E. Lee’s eldest son) sold it back to the government for $150,000.
5. President Herbert Hoover conducted the first national Memorial Day ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery, on May 30, 1929.
6. Arlington did not desegregate its burial practices until President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948.
7. Five state funerals have been held at Arlington: those of Presidents William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy, his two brothers, Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy, and General of the Armies John J. Pershing.
8. U.S. presidents are eligible to be buried at Arlington whether or not they served on active duty since they oversaw the armed forces as commanders-in-chief.
9. The Tomb of the Unknowns has been perpetually guarded by the U.S. Army since July 2, 1937.
10. Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War was interred on May 28, 1984. President Ronald Reagan presided. The remains of the Vietnam Unknown were disinterred, under the authority of President Bill Clinton, on May 14, 1998, and were identified as those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael J. Blassie, whose family had them reinterred near their home in St. Louis, Missouri. Since that time the crypt at the Tomb of the Unknowns that contained the remains of the Vietnam Unknown has remained empty.
11. The Department of Veterans Affairs currently offers 57 authorized faith emblems for placement on markers to represent the deceased’s faith.
12. Prior to 2007, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs did not allow the use of the pentacle as an “emblem of belief” on tombstones in military cemeteries. This policy was changed following an out-of-court settlement in April of that year.
13. Arlington National Cemetery conducts approximately 6,900 burials each year.