The most famous photograph of World War II was taken 70 years ago at the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Just five days into a battle that would last a total of 35 days, Marines scaled Mount Suribachi and planted the American flag. Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal was there to capture it on Feb. 23, 1945.
It might be hard today to comprehend how a single image can become iconic, exposed as we are to streams of photographs and videos every day from our news and social media feeds. But Rosenthal’s image resonated with all who saw it and was swiftly reproduced on U.S. government stamps and posters, in sandstone (on Iwo Jima, by the Seabee Waldron T. Rich) and most famously in bronze, as the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington. The photograph won a Pulitzer Prize in 1945 and is considered one of the most famous images of all time.
Rosenthal’s image was the second raising of the flag on Suribachi that day. A few hours before the famous image was captured, a Marine photographer captured the first flag raising, which saw much less fanfare. The first, and smaller flag, was taken down and replaced since a U.S. commander thought it was not large enough to be seen at a distance, reports CNN.
According to the The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal, American military planners thought the battle would only be a few days. Instead, it dragged on for five weeks, at a cost of more than 6,800 American lives. The Japanese lost more than 18,000.
The CIA’s new chief of operations for Iran is the man who ran the CIA’s drone attack program in Pakistan, took out a high-ranking member of the Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah terrorist group, and was involved in the CIA’s interrogation program.
Michael D’Andrea has been widely credited with hampering al Qaeda since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
There also appear to be other appointments, including the selection of a new counter-terrorism chief, who reportedly wants more authority to carry out strikes.
The Trump Administration has named a number of people whose views on Iran have been described as “hawkish,” among them Lieutenant Gen. H.R. McMaster, the national security advisor. McMaster had commanded the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Tal Afar, and the New York Times notes that McMaster believes Iranian agents aiding Iraqi insurgents were responsible for the deaths of some of his men.
Trump’s CIA director, former Congressman Mike Pompeo, has also been an Iran hawk, vowing during his confirmation hearings to be very aggressive in ensuring Iran abides by the 2015 nuclear deal that was widely criticized by Trump during the 2016 campaign.
Iran has also been responsible for a number of incidents in the Persian Gulf, often harassing U.S. Navy ships and aircraft.
In the late 1980s, American and Iranian forces had several clashes, including one incident when Nightstalkers damaged an Iranian ship laying mines in the Persian Gulf, and a full-scale conflict known as Operation Praying Mantis.
You might think a third-party candidate who in some surveys is ahead of the Democrat and Republican presidential frontrunners would be included in a conversation about veterans.
You’d think that, but you’d be wrong.
Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson won’t be sharing the stage with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Sept. 7 during a nationally-televised town hall meeting. The veteran service organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is hosting the so-called “Commander in Chief Forum” on NBC and MSNBC that will focus on issues affecting the military-veteran community.
A non-scientific survey conducted in July by the influential blogger Doctrine Man showed Johnson polling at 39 percent among active duty troops, five points ahead of Trump in the same survey. Clinton garnered just 14 percent of those surveyed.
Broken down by service, only the Navy had Johnson in second place by a slim margin.
A more recent poll conducted by NBC on the eve of the Commander-in-Chief Forum showed Trump polling at 55 percent among active-duty military and veterans, 19 points ahead of Hillary Clinton. Libertarian Gary Johnson pulls in only 12 percent nationally among all likely voters.
The head of IAVA, Paul Rieckhoff said in a statement he had invited Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein for a separate Commander-in-Chief Forum to discuss military and veterans issues. It is unclear if either will participate.
Neither candidate is polling high enough nationally to qualify for the upcoming presidential debates.
Johnson has made helping vets a cornerstone of his campaign, even banging out 22 Pushups for veteran suicide awareness on the streets of Cleveland (an admittedly small feat for Johnson, an Iron Man Triathlete who also climbed Mount Everest).
“…in my lifetime I can’t think of one example of regime change making things better. And of course that’s (affecting) our military, our men and women on the front line. I get incensed over politicians that beat their chest over going out to fight terrorism at the cost of our service men and women.”
Johnson repeated that the Libertarian platform is “non-interventionist, not isolationist.”
He believes in a U.S. military response to an attack, repeating the mantra “We get attacked, we attack back,” time and again. He says he supported the invasion but does not support the extended stay — wondering if the U.S. will “stay there forever.”
“I do believe we are going to defeat ISIS, but let’s not be naive. We are going to create a void that’s going to get filled with the name of some other organization.”
4. North Korea
Johnson, in a Libertarian debate, called North Korea “the greatest threat in the world.” He says he wants to team with China to get rid of the Kim family dynasty.
According to Brian Doherty of the Hit and Run Blog, to Johnson, the move has the dual purpose of bringing down the regime and bringing 40,000 American troops off the Korean Peninsula.
5. Leadership style
“It’s not my way or the highway,” he told Military Times. “If I am presented with evidence that would say categorically, ‘this is not something we should do’ … I’ll listen. I do listen.”
Johnson also believes that combating radical Islam, like all uses of the military, is something that the chief executive should do with the collaboration of Congress.
6. Libertarian-style budget cuts
Johnson believes in a 20 percent cut in government spending. The Department of Veterans Affairs would be exempt from those cuts.
“We need to draw a line with regards to the obligation we have to those who are serving and have served,” Johnson said in Military Times. “That’s not a cut ever.”
Johnson was a part of the Base Closure and Realignment Commission in the 1990s. He recalls a Pentagon recommendation to close 25 percent more than the BRAC actually did. He would implement those recommendations. He still favors a strong national defense, but wants American allies pay for a greater share of the cost.
“I intend to honor all treaties and obligations that are in effect,” he said in the interview. “But with regard to Europe, they’ve had this free go of being able to grow their welfare programs on the back of us coming in and covering their back with our military.”
7. Nuclear weapons
The elimination of nuclear weapons is part of his plan to cut 2 percent of defense spending.
“I don’t think that anyone can argue that government is 20 percent fat in every category,” he said. “But I don’t think the military is exempt from that either.”
8. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs
“… they are taxed and they often times are not able to keep up with the demand,” the candidate said. “If that is the case, it would not be difficult to implement a health card or a health services [plan] that would go outside the VA that would make up for deficiencies.”
The Johnson campaign advocates a public-private partnership for the VA’s shortcoming, not a privatization of the department’s facilities. This means that Johnson wants to make it possible for veterans with a long wait time to see a private doctor, similar to the Veteran’s Choice program launched in 2014.
In an interview with MSNBC in May, Johnson and his running mate Bill Weld described their view of the VA in terms of the returning veterans of WWII. Where the GI Bill was a “voucher system,” using government money to pay for existing schools, the VA medical benefits were designed “the other way,” using government money, facilities, and oversight.
10. The Defense and VA secretaries in a Johnson administration
“I’ve made a career out of showing up on time and telling the truth, because if you tell the truth you admit the mistakes you’ve made,” he said. “More than anything, I’m looking for people who are qualified and have that kind of a resume similar to my own, which is being accountable.”
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died in 2015, age disputed but well into at least his 80s. His death sparked a number of stories about his life, travels, and interactions with foreign heads of state. One such “interaction” was with Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.
While still a Crown Prince, Abdullah visited the Queen’s castle in Scotland, Balmoral, in 2003 and she offered him a tour of the place. When the cars were brought around and Abdullah got in the front passenger seat, the Queen herself hopped into the driver’s seat.
Turns out the Queen knows a thing or two about bombing around in a motor vehicle. The now 91-year-old monarch served with the Auxiliary Territorial Service during World War II.
Not only did the Queen get into the driver’s seat — she didn’t even hesitate before turning the car on and rolling out. And as an Army driver during a war, she knew how to roll along Scotland’s winding roads.
The Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine’s military nutrition division is asking volunteers to take part in a six-week study during which they’ll spend 21 days eating only MREs.
They say the goal is to learn what happens to the human gut on an all MRE diet, even though the veteran and active duty communities have already voiced their opinion through hilarious memes.
They even predicted what would happen on an MRE diet:
But the Army’s study is actually serious business. The engine of the human digestive process is large colonies of bacteria in the gut, and these bacteria populations are affected by what people eat.
Army scientists want to learn how to game that system, crafting new MRE items that will make soldiers more healthy and resilient in the field. An area of particular interest is how to help the naturally occurring bacteria fight off food poisoning.
“We think we can manipulate the bacteria in a way that helps the bacteria fight foreign pathogens — things that could cause food-borne illness, for example,” the head of the study, Dr. J. Philip Karl, told Army Times. “Oftentimes, war fighters are overseas and they eat something off the local economy that can cause [gastrointestinal] distress. Potentially, what we could do by increasing the amount of beneficial gut bacteria is to help prevent some of that.”
Volunteers will have their gut bacteria populations measured on a regular basis as they proceed through the study, allowing researchers to see how the bacteria is affected. Hopefully, the researchers can then tweak the recipes and menus to make them better for troops.
As some vets still idolize the MRE lifestyle, the Army will likely have plenty of volunteers:
But they only want 60 volunteers and only ones who can travel to their facility in Natick, Massachusetts.
To learn more about the study and see how to sign up, see the original Army Times article.
The Kurdish YPG, a contingent of the US-backed forces fighting ISIS in Syria, released a video Aug. 29 showing the underground tunnels that ISIS digs to launch sneak attacks.
The video shows two rather large tunnels inside a captured, bombed-out mosque, from which the YPG claim that ISIS had been using.
“The barbaric group, aware of the YPG’s sensitivity towards people’s places of worship and other historic sites, has been using [mosques] as bases to delay the liberation of Raqqa,” text in the YPG video reads.
When you look at the results country by country, however, some interesting nuances emerge.
First, the US, most European countries, and Russia see ISIS as the foremost security concern. This was the case last year, as well.
But a growing number of people, particularly those in Africa and the Americas, are now saying that climate change is a bigger threat to them than terrorism, cyber attacks, the refugee crisis, or the economy.
In countries that are hurting economically, like Venezuela and Greece, survey respondents predictably said the condition of the global economy was their biggest concern.
People in South Korea and Vietnam both listed China’s power and influence as the main security issue facing their nations.
And while it didn’t rank as the top threat for any nation, more people now say they worry about the United States’ power and influence than in previous years before President Donald Trump took office.
Worldwide, only 22% of people said in a separate Pew survey that they have confidence in Trump, compared to 64% when former President Barack Obama was in office. Similarly, 49% now have a favorable view of the US, vs. 64% at the end of Obama’s presidency.
In order to combat versatile enemies who are not only able to acquire US weapons and vehicles but emulate tactics as well, the US military needs to take advantage of the latest advances from the defense industry.
But just as the military and its branches all have unique missions, the individual units within the military are also issued equipment geared towards fulfilling their respective jobs.
One such unit from the special forces community may very well be receiving the latest offering from SkyRunner, a company that specializes in utility vehicles and light sport aviation.
This all-terrain vehicle has the ability to take off from indigenous runways and transform into a light-sports aircraft using a parafoil wing. Reaching ground speeds of up to 70 mph and flight speeds of 40 mph, the SkyRunner can transport 2 occupants 240 miles, or 120 nautical miles, at an altitude of 10,000 feet.
The latest model of SkyRunner, equipped with a carbon-fiber body, will cost about $139,000.
After receiving FAA approval in June, a SkyRunner representative explained in an interview with Business Insider that they received interest and a verbal commitment from the US special forces community.
“The shocks [are what] won this particular group over,” said SkyRunner consultant Mike Mitchell. “Going off of a loading dock 4-5 feet tall … with such a soft landing was a big plus in their eyes.”
Rather than being offensively oriented, Mitchell explained that a military-grade SkyRunner would be primarily used for surveillance or recovery missions.
SkyRunner could not comment on what the commitment specifically entailed, or which branch of the military expressed interest in their vehicle.
As veterans, we’ve all thought about signing back up at one time or another. But what would it take to truly get us back in uniform, to don all that heavy gear and take the fight to the enemy as we’ve always done?
Though we all have to take into consideration all the formations, bull-sh*t we receive from the chain of command — and let’s not forget all those wonderful uniform inspections. Everyone loves those.
With all the crap that comes with serving, many veterans still miss some aspects of military life.
Let’s gear up and go to war! (Images via Giphy)
Check out our reasons why we would gear back up to take on the bad guys.
1. If another major terrorist attack happens
The Sept. 11 attacks stirred up patriotism in millions of Americans, and some joined the military during that period just to get a little revenge.
I represent ‘Merica! (Image via Giphy)
2. For a huge bonus check
Everyone wants to line their pockets with extra beer money.
And a case of beer! (Image via Giphy)
3. If your military family went as well
The military brother and sisterhood have a very tight bond, you f*ck with one brother or sister — you f*ck with whole while family.
You said it girl. (Image via Giphy)
4. If you just couldn’t find a good enough job that suits you
Because office work just didn’t satisfy that inner combat operator in you.
These guys were all former snipers. True story. (Image via Giphy)
5. To feel that combat adrenaline rush again
Shooting and blowing up the bad guys makes an operator feel great about themselves. It’s a morale booster.
He nailed every shot too. He’s that good. (Image via Giphy)
6. To get some adventure
Post-military life is hard to adjust too. Sometimes you just want to leave the homeland and get back into the sh*t.
Can we go with you? (Images via Giphy)To all of our military family already forward deployed — we salute you.
Can you think of any more reasons to throw those cammies back on? Comment below.
Historian Rick Atkinson has become famous as one of our greatest chroniclers of war with his World War II Liberation Trilogy, and he’s off to a strong start to his Revolution Trilogy with the 2019 best seller, “The British Are Coming.”
More than a decade before he won the Pulitzer Prize for “An Army at Dawn” (Liberation Trilogy, Book 1), Atkinson caught the attention of military history readers with 1989’s “The Long Gray Line,” a chronicle of 25 years in the life of the West Point Class of 1966.Advertisement
The book captures a shift in military culture. These young officers were born in the waning days of World War II and inevitably brought a different perspective that sometimes clashed with senior officers whose experiences were defined by that conflict.
Some of these men didn’t make it back, and others were instrumental in remaking the Army in the years after Vietnam. Atkinson uses their experiences to tell an epic story of how U.S. forces redefined their mission in the late 20th century.
Since the book was published, we’ve lived through a terror attack on U.S. soil and a pair of wars that lasted far longer than the conflict in Southeast Asia. Even though no one profiled in the book nor the author could have imagined what was coming, “The Long Gray Line” nonetheless offers a lot of perspective on why we’ve conducted the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the way we have.Advertisement
Atkinson’s Army officer father was stationed in Munich when the writer was born there in 1952. He turned down an appointment to West Point himself and built a career as a reporter at The Washington Post, winning a journalism Pulitzer for a series of articles about the West Point Class of 1966. Those articles are the basis of “The Long Gray Line.”
If you weren’t around in 1989 or weren’t listening to audiobooks back then, you probably don’t know that almost anything over 300 pages was abridged for its audio version so that it wouldn’t require too many cassette tapes. CDs helped a bit, but the unabridged audio standard didn’t hit until we started streaming and listening to books on our iPods and phones in the early 2000s.
So, here we are in 2021, and we’ve finally got an unabridged version of “The Long Gray Line.” The full 28 hours include an introduction read by Atkinson and a conversation between the author and Ty Seidule, the former head of the history department at the United States Military Academy. Narrator Adam Barr reads the book for you.
You can listen to Chapter 1 below. It’s only nine minutes long, but you are likely to find yourself hooked before it’s over.
If you’re into reading instead of listening, “The Long Gray Line” is available in ebook or paperback editions.
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Confederate Col. John S. Mosby was one of the world’s greatest guerrilla leaders, deploying cavalry against Union forces in lightning raids. In one impressive raid, he even managed to kidnap the Union general who commanded forces sent to stop him.
The engagement took place in March 1863, when Mosby was new to his command. He and his men were interrogating prisoners when a Union deserter laid out the location of the brigade’s picket lines and other defenses.
As it turned out, the Union 2nd Vermont Brigade had moved camps, but its general decided to stay at a local doctor’s house about three miles from his closest regiment. It was the 2nd Vermont that had so often sent its cavalry forces to try and catch Mosby — and Mosby saw an opportunity to end the harassment.
Mosby created a daring plan to slip through the nearby picket lines and kidnap both Brig. Gen. Edwin Stoughton, the commander of 2nd Brigade, as well as the colonel who commanded the brigade’s cavalry regiment.
Surprisingly, both the men of the 2nd Brigade and officers in nearby units had predicted that Stoughton would be captured if he didn’t move his headquarters, and Stoughton himself expressed concern about the thin manning of the picket lines.
The deserter stayed with Mosby’s Rangers for a year before he fell in combat.
Stoughton’s fall was, for obvious reasons, very quick. His capture was an embarrassment for the nation and his rank had not yet been confirmed by the Senate as a brigadier general. Lincoln withdrew his nomination. When Stoughton was traded back to Union lines two months later, he found that he had no military rank or position.
On December 3, Brian’s mother posted a video of him reciting his poem on her Facebook wall. At the time of this writing, the video had been shared over 103,700 times. The video was intended to be shared with friends and family, but it had such a powerful effect that it was published to YouTube in order to mitigate comments to her Facebook account.
Brian delivers a powerful and sincere peek into his scars of war that were inspired by a grocery bagger’s clueless comments.
Clearly upset, he took to poetry to express his experience.
The days of the United States staring down the evil empire of the Soviet Union are long passed. Today, Russia is a Wal-Mart version of its former self, and it shows. Although it may seem like a military or strategic powerhouse, it’s ability to project real power is seriously limited.
In the bygone Russian heyday, the communist threat loomed large. It was a threat that was enough to make the United States – the only other global superpower – limit its wars and interventions for fear of sparking another world war.
Today, Russia’s biggest threat comes in the form of either bungled poisonings of former Soviet-era operatives and dissidents, election interference, and hacking corporate software that allowed it to collect intelligence on government email servers.
While the SolarWinds hack was definitely threatening and potentially disastrous, it’s not really the great power struggles we’ve come to expect from an increasingly belligerent Russia. In real terms, according to the RAND Corporation, Russia isn’t really able to make a significant threat to forces on the ground… Unless you happen to be within arms reach.
In a March 2021 blog post, the RAND Corporation’s Molly Dunigan and Ben Connable wrote that Russia’s ability to project power on the ground has actually become a strategic vulnerability, and one the Biden Administration could exploit, if it chose to do so.
“It has almost no organic ability to project and sustain ground power more than a few hundred kilometers beyond its own borders. Russian strategic lift is anemic compared to Soviet-era lift. Available forces are often tied down in one of the many frozen conflicts that ring Russia’s western and southern borders,” they write.
The conflicts they are referring to are most notably the Russian intervention in the Syrian Civil War and backing separatist rebels in Ukraine.
Russia, they posit, depends on an army full of drafted Russians who are serving one-year enlistments, and that Russian President Vladimir Putin has decreed that drafted Russians will never be deployed outside of Russia. Those forces make up around half of Russia’s total ground force.
Instead of using its drafted army to project power, Russia instead uses companies that provide military services, some might call them “mercenaries” to reach its foreign policy goals in Libya, Syria, the Central African Republic, Madagascar, Mozambique, Sudan, Ukraine, Yemen, Burundi, and elsewhere.
Russia will contend that its use of mercenaries alongside its special operations and conventional forces allows it to compete with the United States, Dunigan and Connablle wrote, but that narrative is counterfactual. Such a force actually squared off against a force of United States special operators and Kurdish SDF fighters in Khasham, Syria in 2018. The fight did not go well for the Russians, their mercenaries, and their Syrian allies.
500 Russian, Syrian, and Shia Militiamen with T-72 and T-55 tanks hit a base of 40 special forces troops, backed by United States Marine Corps artillery, U.S. Air Force “Spooky” gunships, and more firepower were quickly routed in Khasham, losing a quarter of the attacking force in the firefight. It wasn’t even close.
Rather than bolstering the Russian military on the ground, the mercenaries are instead an example in the decline of the former Soviet Union’s ground force, indicative of its increasing dependence on small, special operations missions and sneaky espionage tactics. But these too are things the United States will have to learn to counter as Russia’s skills with them grow.