These days it’s hard to think of a veteran who could have served from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. It’s happened, of course.
But imagine a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War fighting in the Civil War. That’s a span of more than 60 years — much longer than the 24 years that separated the beginning of WWII and the Vietnam War. Then again, during the 20th century, pivotal battles weren’t literally in our front yard.
An average 69-year-old might be happy to ride out his golden years from a rocking chair.
See, Burns already lived twice as long as the average American of the time and was ready to do more for his country. But Gettysburg was much further north than the Confederates could ever attack – or so he thought.
Burns was considered “eccentric” by the rest of the town. That’s what happens when you’re fighting wars for longer than most people at the time spent in school.
When Confederate Gen. Jubal Early captured the town, Burns was the constable and was jailed for trying to interfere with Confederate military operations. When the Confederates were pushed out of Gettysburg by the Union, Burns began arresting Confederate stragglers for treason.
His contributions to the Union didn’t end there.
On the morning of July 1, 1863, Burns watched as the Battle of Gettysburg began to unfold near his home. Like a true American hero, he picked up his rifle – a flintlock musket, which required the use of a powder horn – and calmly walked over to the battle to see how he could help.
He “borrowed” a more modern musket (now a long-standing Army tradition) from a wounded Union soldier, picked up some cartridges, then walked over to the commander of the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry and asked to join the regiment.
Herbst Woods was the site of the first Confederate offensive of the battle. Burns, sharpshooting for the Iron Brigade, helped repel this offensive as part of a surprise counterattack.
John Burns was mocked by other troops for showing up to fight with his antiquated weapon and “swallowtail coat with brass buttons, yellow vest, and tall hat.” But when the bullets started to fly, he calmly took cover behind a tree and started to shoot back with his modern rifle.
He also fought alongside the 7th Wisconsin Infantry and then moved to support the 24th Michigan. He was wounded in the arm, legs, and chest and was left on the field when the Union forces had to fall back.
He ditched his rifle and buried his ammo and then passed out from blood loss. He tried to convince the Rebels he was an old man looking to find help for his wife, but accounts of how well that story worked vary. Anyone fighting in an army outside of a uniform could be executed, but the ruse must have worked on some level–he survived his wounds and lived for another 9 years.
The Battle of Gettysburg was a major turning point in the Civil War. The Confederates would spend the rest of the war – two years – on the defensive.
“So raged the battle. You know the rest. How the rebels, beaten and backward pressed, Broke at the final charge and ran. At which John Burns — a practical man — Shouldered his rifle, unbent his brows, And then went back to his bees and cows.”
Burns became a national hero after the battle. When President Lincoln stopped in the Pennsylvania town to deliver the Gettysburg Address, he asked to speak with Burns and met the veteran at his home.
He was photographed – a big deal at the time – and a poem was written about his life. A statue of Burns was erected at Gettysburg National Military Park in 1903, where it stands today.
The base reads “My thanks are specially due to a citizen of Gettysburg named John Burns who although over seventy years of age shouldered his musket and offered his services to Colonel Wister One Hundred and Fiftieth Pennsylvania Volunteers. Colonel Wister advised him to fight in the woods as there was more shelter there but he preferred to join our line of skirmishers in the open fields when the troops retired he fought with the Iron Brigade. He was wounded in three places. – Gettysburg report of Maj.-Gen. Doubleday.”
Army scientists, working with officials from the National Football League, have developed a wearable device that helps reduce head and neck injuries.
The Rate-Activated Tether, is a flexible strap that connects a helmet to shoulder pads or body armor, said Shawn Walsh of the Weapons and Material Research Directorate at Army Research Laboratory.
“What happens is if that when head is exposed to adverse acceleration, this RAT strap will basically transition into a rigid device that will transmit the load to the body, and it has been proven to significantly reduce acceleration,” Walsh told defense reporters at a recent roundtable discussion sponsored by Program Executive Office Soldier.
Over the years, the Defense Department has partnered with the NFL and the National Collegiate Athletic Association to research brain injuries. For example, the Army beginning in 2007 put blast sensors into tens of thousands of helmets to monitor head injuries from roadside bombs in Afghanistan. And the Pentagon and NCAA in 2014 announced a joint study into concussions.
Army scientists are not sure if the device will eliminate Traumatic Brain Injury or concussions, but “we can say with some confidence that there is some benefit to reducing adverse acceleration,” Walsh said.
The device could help to prevent head injuries sometimes experienced by paratroopers, Walsh said.
“It is a known fact that paratroopers do experience head injuries,” he said. “They are trained to land very carefully, but sometimes at night, in the rain or in irregular terrain and something goes just a little off, they can land on their head,” he said. “There is some very real Army applications associated with that as well.”
Army officials also discussed more long-term science and technology initiatives such as a project to design robots that could one day deploy shields to protect soldiers in a firefight.
“Part of our job at the research center is to kind of try to push the Army out of its comfort zone,” Walsh said. “One of the things we are exploring now is robotics.”
An effort known as Robotic Augmented Soldier Protection is designed to shadow soldiers and deploy a protective shield when an attack occurs, Walsh said.
“A lot of people associate robotics with lethality, but what we are looking at is can we use robotics in a purely protective mode?” Walsh said. “Can we use these robotics to deploy protective mechanisms … that can work to protect a human?”
What is lacking right now is the science, Walsh said, adding that the Army is trying to work with the academic community on the effort.
Army officials that develop soldier requirements at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia are also interested in the concept, said Col. Curt “Travis” Thompson, director of the Soldier Division at Training and Doctrine Command’s Capability Manpower – Soldier.
“We are the closest touchpoint to the soldiers who are out in the field … but that doesn’t mean that we are the closest touch point to the realm of the possible or where we should be going,” he said. “We absolutely rely on ARL to kind of inform us to what is possible.”
The service’s leadership has shown interest in the effort, Walsh said.
“The Army is encouraging us; we were actually down at Fort Benning,” Walsh said. “They want to see more prototyping. They want to be introduced to these concepts as soon as possible.”
While still a fledgling effort, ARL does have a working prototype, he said.
“We are not saying that every soldier would have one,” Walsh said. “This is only useful in certain scenarios.”
If there’s such a thing a revenge served warm, the story of Robert Smalls best describes it. Smalls was born into slavery in 1839 in Beaufort, South Carolina. He was hired out by his master in Charleston by the age of 12, working the hotels, docks, and wharves of Charleston Harbor.
It was while he was working in the hotel he met his wife, Hannah Jones, whom he married in 1856. She had a daughter already, and the two had a son and daughter. At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Smalls was pressed into service on board the CSS Planter, a Confederate transport. This is where he would make history.
While the Planter’s three white officers were ashore, the seven slave crewmen decided to make a break for the Union blockade. The slave escape wasn’t just a spur-of-the-moment decision. They planned the escape meticulously, even picking up their families, who were hiding near the southern wharf.
He brought the ship and its cargo of cannon and ammunition to the Union, as well as the Confederate Navy’s code book and the map of Charleston’s harbor defenses.
President Lincoln and the U.S. Congress would award the prize money for the capture of the Planter to Smalls and his crew. Smalls’ bravery and skill became the instrumental argument for allowing black troops to fight for the Union.
“My race needs no special defense, for the past history of them in this country proves them to be equal of any people anywhere,” Smalls said. “All, they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.”
Smalls himself enlisted with the Union as a Naval pilot, eventually ending up back on the Planter, now a Union transport, as a free man. He piloted the USS Keokuk during a major attack on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.
When the Keokuk’s skipper wanted to surrender during the failed assault, Smalls took command and got the ship to safety. For this, he was promoted to the Keokuk’s captain. When the war ended, Smalls took the Planter back to Charleston for the ceremonial raising of the American flag at Fort Sumter.
He returned to Beaufort, S.C. as a free man during Reconstruction. He opened a store for newly freed slaves and purchased his old master’s house.He eventually allowed his old master’s wife to move back into the house shortly before her death. The house still stands.
Smalls went on to serve in the South Carolina House of Representatives and Senate as well as the South Carolina militia as a major general. He was eventually elected to represent South Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives and served for four years before his death in 1915.
The US Navy has some of the world’s most advanced ships with electronics and automated systems that handle much of the manual tasks involved in the millenias-old craft of sailing — but that same technological strength may be its downfall in a fight against Russia or China.
“Reliance on digital technologies is particularly acute in the realms of communications, propulsion systems, and navigation and has produced a fleet that may not survive the first missile hit or hack,” Panter writes.
Panter’s comments follow a 2017 incident that saw two US Navy destroyers suffer massive collisions with container ships. These ships are among the world’s best at tracking and defending against incoming missiles flying at hundreds of miles an hour, yet they failed to steer well enough to avoid getting hit by a relatively slow container ship the size of a small neighborhood.
“Navigation and seamanship, these are the fundamental capabilities which every surface warfare officer should have, but I suspect if called to war, we’ll be required to do a lot more than safely navigate the Singapore strait,” US Navy Capt. Kevin Eyer, former skipper of the cruisers Shiloh, Chancellorsville, and Thomas Gates said in December 2017. Eyer was speaking in reference to the USS John McCain’s crash with a container ship in the Singapore strait, as Breaking Defense noted at the time.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Gavin Shields)
“If our surface forces are unable to successfully execute these fundamental blocking and tackling tasks, how can it be possibly be expected that they are also able to do the much more complex warfighting tasks?” Eyer asked.
The Navy responded to the two major crashes by replacing the commander of its Pacific fleet, but concerns about its reliance on mutable, fallible electronic and automated systems remains an issue. Additionally, the Navy has begun teaching navigation based on the stars to its sailors in an effort to mitigate over-relaince on technology.
Navigation, that quiet background endeavor without which missiles cannot be launched or guns fired, is similarly teetering one casualty away from disaster. For a loss of GPS, you switch to another; for a loss of a VMS console, you switch to another. But what happens in a total loss-of-power casualty? Wait until the 30-minute batteries on the GPS and VMS wind down, then switch to a laptop version—also battery-powered. The assumption, of course, is that help will be on the way.
Russia operates a more analog fleet than the US in both at sea and in the air, and China’s sea power is concentrated near its own shores where ground assets can back it up.
Through electronic warfare and a misstep in US Navy strategy, the world’s biggest, most powerful Navy could lose its next war as its strengths turn to weaknesses in the face of technological over-reliance.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The F-15 Eagle – an air-superiority fighter that has dominated the dogfight arena sine it was introduced into service, then later emerged as a superb multi-role fighter.
The Su-27 Flanker– Russia’s attempt to match the Eagle.
Which is the deadliest plane? To decide that, we will look at combat records, their avionics systems, their armament, as well as their performance specs to see who’d come out on top.
1. Combat Records
There’s no better way to judge a plane then how it has done in combat. Forget the specs you see on a sheet of paper, forget what it looks like. Just judge it by its record.
An F-15 Eagle departs during the mission employment phase exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Dec. 7, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brett Clashman)
The F-15 has seen a lot of action. Perhaps the most important number is: “zero.” That is how many F-15s have been lost in air-to-air combat. This is an incredible feat for a plane that has been in service for 40 years and seen action in wars. In fact, the F-15 has shot down over 100 enemy planes with no losses.
The Su-27 family has seen much less action. Su-27s flown by the Ethiopian Air Force that saw combat in the 1998-2000 war with Eritrea scored at least two and as many as 10 air-to-air kills. The Flanker has also seen action over Syria, Chechnya, and Georgia, scoring one confirmed kill over Chechnya in 1994.
Advantage: F-15 Eagle
In the modern age of aerial combat, the plane’s electronics matter. Radar serves as eyes and ears, while electronic countermeasures (ECM) try to keep the other side deaf and blind.
The F-15 uses the AN/APG-63(V)3, an active electronically scanned array, or AESA, radar. This highly advanced system gives the Eagle a pair of very sharp “eyes” that locate targets up to 100 miles away and direct its radar-guided AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles. The Eagle also has the AN/ALQ-135 ECM system, which is very useful against opposing radars, whether on missiles or aircraft.
The avionics suite inside an Su-27 Flanker. (Photo from Wikimedia)
The Su-27’s avionics center around the N001 Mech radar, capable of tracking bomber-sized targets at 86 miles. For a target the size of the F-15, though, the range is only 62 miles. That is a difference of 38 miles – almost two-thirds of the Mech’s range. The Flanker doesn’t have internal jammers. Instead, there is the option to use two Sorbtsiya pods.
Advantage: F-15 Eagle
The F-15 can carry up to eight air-to-air missiles. The usual load is four AIM-120 AMRAAMs and four AIM-9X Sidewinders. It also carries a M61 20mm Gatling gun with 900 rounds of ammunition. The AIM-120D now in service has a range of 99 miles, while the AIM-9X can reach out to 22 miles. The AMRAAM is a “fire and forget” missile.
The Su-27 carries six R-27 (AA-10 “Alamo” missiles), which have a range of up to 80 miles. These missiles use semi-active guidance, meaning the Flanker has to “paint” its target to guide the missile. That means flying straight and level – not the best idea in aerial combat.
The Flanker also carries up to four R-73 missiles (AA-11 “Archer”), which has a range of up to 19 miles, and has a GSh-30 30mm cannon.
Advantage: F-15 Eagle
The F-15 has a top speed of Mach 2.5, a combat radius of 1,222 miles, and can maneuver in a dogfight, pulling up to 9 Gs.
With three 600-gallon drop tanks and two 750-gallon conformal fuel tanks (Fuel And Sensor Tactical, or “FAST” packs), the F-15’s range is 3,450 miles. In short, this plane has long “legs” and it can be refueled in flight by tankers.
The Su-27 has a top speed of Mach 2.35, a range of 2,193 miles, and is capable of some amazing aerobatic feats, notably the Pugachev Cobra. Like the F-15, it can pull 9 Gs in a maneuver. The Flanker can carry drop tanks and be refueled while flying.
So, who wins? While the F-15 Eagle is an older design, its advantages — particularly avionics — put the Su-27 at a huge disadvantage. Russia has other planes in the Flanker family (the Su-35), but they are few and far between.
So, how might the engagement between four United States Air Force F-15s and four Su-27s from BadGuyLand go?
Well, the F-15s would probably detect the Su-27s first. Once in AMRAAM range, the Eagle pilots will open fire, most likely using two missiles per target. The Flankers would be obliterated.
If it got to close range, though, the engagement is likely to be a lot less one-sided. Here, the AA-11 and AIM-9 are equal, and both planes can pull 9 Gs.
The skill and training of the pilots will be decisive. In this case, we will assume that BadGuyLand’s dictator, Sleazebag Swinemolestor, hasn’t quite trained his pilots well, and some were selected for their political liability. In this mix-up, the Eagles shoot down three Flankers for the loss of one fighter – the first F-15 lost in air-to-air combat.
Either way, though, it is a safe bet that the F-15 still comes out on top.
Over the past two decades, the strategic landscape has changed dramatically. While the fundamental nature of war has not changed, the pace of change and modern technology, coupled with shifts in the nature of geopolitical competition, have altered the character of war in the 21st century.
Advancements in space, information systems, cyberspace, electronic warfare, and missile technology have accelerated the speed and complexity of war. As a result, decision space has collapsed, and we can assume that any future conflict will involve all domains and cut across multiple geographic regions.
Today’s strategic landscape is also extraordinarily volatile, and the nation faces threats from an array of state and nonstate actors. Revisionist powers such as China and Russia seek to undermine the credibility of our alliances and limit our ability to project power. North Korea’s efforts to develop a nuclear-capable, intercontinental ballistic missile now threaten the homeland and our allies in the Pacific. Iran routinely destabilizes its neighbors and threatens freedom of navigation while modernizing its maritime, missile, space and cyber capabilities. Violent extremist organizations (VEOs), such as the so-called Islamic State (IS) and al Qaeda, remain a transregional threat to the homeland, our allies and our way of life. These realities are why some have called today’s operating environment the most challenging since World War II.
At the same time, the U.S. military’s long-held competitive advantage has eroded. Our decisive victory in Operation Desert Storm was a wake-up call for our enemies; they observed that our operational source of strength is the ability to project power where and when needed to advance U.S. interests and meet alliance commitments. This spurred dramatic tactical, operational and strategic adaptations and accelerated modernization programs to asymmetrically counter our ability to project power. All the while, budget instability and the challenges of a decades-long campaign against violent extremism adversely affected our own modernization and capability development efforts required to preserve – or in some cases restore – our competitive advantage.
(Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)
Additionally, the Joint Force lacks sufficient capacity to meet combatant command requirements. Over the past 16 years, we made a conscious choice to limit the size of the force to preserve scarce resources necessary for essential investments in immediate upgrades to critical capabilities. And requirements have not abated, as we assumed they would after major combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan ended. As a result, global demand for forces continues to exceed the inventory.
Finally, as a nation that thinks and acts globally, the United States cannot choose between a force that can address IS and other VEOs and one that can deter and defeat state actors with a full range of capabilities. We require a balanced force that can address the challenges outlined in the recently published National Defense Strategy and has the inherent flexibility to respond to the unexpected.
We must adapt to maintain a competitive advantage
Advances in technology and the changing character of war require that our plans address all-domain, transregional challenges and conflict. In the past, we assumed most crises could be contained to one region. That assumption, in turn, drove regionally focused planning and decision making processes. Today, this assumption no longer holds true. Our planning must adapt to provide a global perspective that views challenges holistically and enables execution of military campaigns with a flexibility and speed that outpaces our adversaries.
We must also be prepared to make decisions at the speed of relevance. While the cost of failure at the outset of conflict has always been high, in past conflicts there were opportunities to absorb costs and recover if something went wrong. Today, that cannot be assumed, and our strategic decision making processes must adapt to keep pace. Senior leaders require routine access to synthesized information and intelligence to ensure their ability to see the fight in real time and seize initiative.
We must manage the force in a manner that allows us to meet day-to-day requirements, while maintaining readiness and the flexibility to respond to major contingencies and the unexpected. To ensure that the Joint Force provides viable options and is in position to execute when called on, our force posture must be optimized to strategic priorities and provide strength, agility and resilience across regions and domains.
To arrest and, in time, reverse the erosion of our competitive advantage, our force development and design processes must deliver a Joint Force capable of competing and winning against any potential adversary. This future force must remain competitive in all domains, deny adversaries’ ability to counter our strengths asymmetrically, and retain the ability to project power at a time and place of our choosing.
Finally, we must further develop leaders capable of thriving at the speed of war – leaders who can adapt to change, drive innovation and thrive in uncertain, chaotic conditions. The nature of war has not changed, and, in a violent clash of wills, it is the human dimension that ultimately determines the success of any campaign.
The “how” of global integration
To address these imperatives, we are adapting our approach to planning, decision-making, force management and force design. These processes are interdependent and mutually reinforcing – intended to drive the changes required to maintain our competitive advantage. Over the past two years, we have made progress in each of these areas, but more work remains.
(DoD photo by Dominique A. Pineiro)
The National Defense Strategy establishes clear priorities for the Department of Defense, and the National Military Strategy is nested within to provide a global framework for the Joint Force to operate across regions, domains and functions. We reoriented the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan to operationalize the strategy and developed global campaign plans to provide a framework for planning an all-domain, transregional approach to the challenges outlined in the National Defense Strategy. These plans are designed to bring coherence to operations of all functional and geographic combatant commands.
The Joint Force is also improving how it frames decisions for the Secretary of Defense in an all-domain, transregional fight. This begins by developing a common intelligence picture and a shared understanding of global force posture, which then serves as a baseline to test operational plans and concepts through realistic and demanding exercises and wargames. By testing our assumptions and concepts, exercises and wargames provide senior leaders with the “reps-and-sets” necessary to build the implicit communication required to facilitate rapid decision-making in times of crisis.
Our force management processes are evolving to support the objectives laid out in the National Defense Strategy. Setting the globe begins by allocating resources against strategic priorities – optimizing the way we posture capabilities globally to support our strategy, provide strategic flexibility and ensure our ability to respond rapidly to the unexpected. Once the globe is set, we are applying the concept of Dynamic Force Employment to provide proactive and scalable options for priority missions while maintaining readiness to respond to contingencies. In a global environment that demands strategic flexibility and freedom of action, these adaptations enable the Joint Force to seize the initiative rather than react when faced with multiple challenges.
To ensure our competitive advantage, we are implementing a process for force design that provides the secretary with integrated solutions to drive the development of a more lethal force. This process begins by assessing our ability to execute the strategy and compares our capabilities and capacities vis-à-vis our adversaries. Assessment findings shape the development of comprehensive materiel and nonmateriel recommendations that inform the secretary’s priorities for investment, concept development, experimentation and innovation. This approach is designed to provide integrated solutions, across the services, which ensure competitive advantage today and tomorrow.
Finally, we are reinvigorating strategic assessments to support all these efforts. Assessments provide the analytic rigor to inform our ability both to meet the current strategy and to develop a future force that maintains our competitive advantage. A cornerstone of this process is the Chairman’s Risk Assessment, which evaluates our current ability to execute the National Military Strategy and provides a global perspective of risk across the Joint Force. And, in 2016, we published the Joint Military Net Assessment for the first time in 20 years – benchmarking the Joint Force against near-peer adversaries today and comparing our trajectory over the next five years. These assessments are essential to provide an analytic baseline for everything we do, from planning to force management and from exercise development to force design.
There is no preordained right to victory on the battlefield, and today the United States faces an extraordinarily complex and dynamic security environment. To keep pace with the changing character of war, we must globally integrate the way we plan, employ the force, and design the force of the future. If we fail to adapt, the Joint Force will lose the ability to compete.
World War I brought a new kind of fighting to the world. Wars were no longer conducted on an open field of battle with colorful uniforms in an effort to outmaneuver the opposing armies. Wars from henceforth would be mechanized factories of wholesale slaughter, fought by men covered in mud, killing each other with any means at their disposal. But in those grim early days, it was a surprise to all involved. Like most troops, however, those fighting the Great War adapted pretty fast.
One of the weapons they adapted saw the development of their entrenching tool as a weapon of war.
They had a lot to work with.
Trench Warfare was not something the troops or planners ever anticipated, so troops were sent into combat with pretty basic weapons and supplies. The primary weapons for American troops were the rifle and bayonet, even though the United States didn’t enter the war until much later. Fighting in the trenches changed the way soldiers fought the war and thought about future conflicts. Clubs and knives became common among all troops, and British troops in particular, brought maces and other medieval devices to the fight. Americans came with all sorts of ready-made weapons, including brass knuckles.
The most terrifying but effective battlefield innovation actually saw soldiers ditching their rifle-mounted bayonets in favor of a more versatile weapon that could be used at close range, over and over, with terrifying effect.
There was way more to fear than just trench shotguns.
World War I soldiers found that using their bayonets could result in their primary weapon being lodged in the viscera of an enemy troop, leaving that guy dead but them at the mercy of anyone else whose bayonet was not lodged in an enemy. To get around this, some soldiers stopped leading with the bayonet and favoring their entrenching tool as a more effective means of dispatching someone who doesn’t want to leave their own trench.
It turns out the edges of American entrenching tools could be sharpened to an almost razor-fine edge, making it the perfect melee weapon for pouring into the German lines and pouring Germans out of those lines by force. Another great bonus of using an e-tool to entrench enemy troops into their new graves was that it was much shorter than the bayonet, and could be used more effectively in close quarters combat. As the war drug on, however, the armies of the world got the hint and developed better weapons. But soldiers on the front lines in every conflict since have always developed an easier means of killing the enemy with what was at their disposal.
On Feb. 14, 1979, Adolph Dubs, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, was kidnapped at gunpoint, held hostage in a Kabul hotel, and killed in a botched rescue attempt.
Forty years on, the precise circumstances surrounding the death of the 58-year-old diplomat remain shrouded in mystery. Several questions remain unanswered, including who was behind Dubs’ kidnapping, who fired the fatal shots, and whether the Soviet Union was involved.
The death of Dubs, a former charge d’affaires in Moscow, came at a critical time during the Cold War — it was a year after communists seized power in Kabul and months before the Soviet Union sent in troops to prop up the Marxist government.
The incident prompted international shock and outraged the administration of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, which closed the U.S. Embassy in response, although it did keep a charge d’affaires. Months later, Washington began its covert support to the mujahedin, the Islamist guerrilla fighters who were battling the Kabul regime and would later fight the Soviet Army.
President Jimmy Carter.
On the morning of Feb. 14, 1979, Dubs’ car was stopped by four gunmen in Kabul as he was traveling to the U.S. Embassy. There were reports that at least one of the gunmen was dressed as a uniformed Kabul traffic policeman. Dubs’ abductors took him downtown to the Hotel Kabul, now known as the Serena Hotel.
By noon, Afghan security forces had surrounded the hotel. Soon after, Afghan forces stormed Room 117, where Dubs was being held. After a brief exchange of fire, Dubs was found dead. The ambassador had suffered multiple gunshot wounds to his head and chest.
Two of the four gunmen involved in Dubs’ abduction were also killed in the assault.
‘Suppression of the truth’
Washington protested to Kabul, saying that Afghan forces stormed the building despite a warning from the U.S. Embassy “in the strongest possible terms” not to attack the hotel or open fire on the kidnappers while attempts were being made to negotiate Dubs’ release.
Garden area of the Serena Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan.
In 1980, the State Department issued a report on its yearlong investigation into Dubs’ death, attributing blame to Afghan authorities and Soviet advisers assisting them.
The State Department said that at least three Soviet advisers had played an “operational role” during the storming of the hotel.
Moscow acknowledged that its advisers were present but said they had no control over the Afghan decision to storm the hotel room. Kabul said Soviet advisers were not present.
Washington said it was also not able to reachForeign Minister Hafizullah Amin for hours, a claim denied by Amin, who would later become the leader of the country.
The State Department report said Dubs died of “at least 10 wounds inflicted by small-caliber weapons.”
The report said physical evidence in the hotel room, including weapons, had disappeared.
Afghan officials produced for the Americans the body of a third kidnapper who had been detained by police. Kabul also provided the corpse of the fourth kidnapper, who U.S. officials did not see at the hotel.
It is still unknown whether Dubs was killed by his abductors, his would-be rescuers, or a combination of both.
The State Department said the Kabul government’s account was “incomplete, misleading, and inaccurate,” with “no mention of the Soviets involved in the incident.” The U.S. report concluded: “Sufficient evidence has been obtained to establish serious misrepresentation or suppression of the truth by the government.”
The identities of Dubs’ kidnappers were never revealed, and Washington, Moscow, and Kabul all have their own take on the incident.
Carter’s national-security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, blamed Dubs’ death on “Soviet ineptitude or collusion,” according to his memoirs. He described the Afghan handling of the incident as “inept.”
In the book Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion In Perspective, author Anthony Arnold suggested that “it was obvious that only one power…would benefit from the murder — the Soviet Union,” as the death of the ambassador “irrevocably poisoned” the U.S.-Afghan relationship, “leaving the U.S.S.R. with a monopoly of great-power influence over” the Kabul government.
(Hoover Institution Press)
In the months after Dubs’ death, Carter would dramatically draw down America’s diplomatic presence in Afghanistan and cut off economic and humanitarian aid.
In Russia, the kidnapping was blamed on the CIA, which state media said wanted to provide an excuse for U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan.
Kabul claimed the abductors were members of a small Maoist group, while officials at the time also blamed the mujahedin.
The abductors had demanded the release of “religious figures” who they said were being held by the Kabul government.
In a newly published book, Afghanistan: A History From 1260 To The Present, author Jonathan Lee writes that U.S. officials suspected the communist government in Kabul was behind the incident “either in a naïve attempt to discredit the Islamist resistance or to force the U.S.A. and NATO powers to disengage with Afghanistan.”
The US Navy announced on Oct. 25 that the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier had left the Middle East, where it was conducting operations against ISIS, and heading to the Pacific on a previously scheduled visit.
The Nimitz will join two other US aircraft carriers, the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Theodore Roosevelt, amid ongoing tensions with North Korea.
Carriers often travel in formations called Carrier Strike Groups, as seen below.
A Carrier Strike Group consists of at least one cruiser, six to 10 destroyers and/or frigates, and a Carrier Air Wing. The carriers are used for offensive operations, while the other ships defend the carrier.
The Nimitz, Roosevelt, and Reagan are all currently accompanied by a Carrier Strike Group in the Pacific.
The last time three carriers were together in the Pacific was in June, and Navy Cmdr. Ron Flanders said it was rather unusual to have three carriers in the Pacific theatre.
The Pentagon also recently said that the three carriers are “not directed toward any particular threat,” and Flanders said the Nimitz’s visit had been planned for months, as it has to cross the Pacific to reach its home port at Naval Station Bremerton in Washington state.
When asked if the Nimitz would head straight home or stay in the Pacific for any given period of time, Flanders said only that when the Nimitz travels through the Pacific, it falls under the command of the 7th Fleet.
In 2010, a standoff with police in Hoonah, Alaska, on the northeast shore of Chichagof Island led to a shootout that resulted in two officers being killed and the suspect barricading himself inside a house. Alaska State Trooper Rodney Dial responded to the call that day and came to a sobering realization — local law enforcement needed an armored vehicle. Alas, not one could be found in the entire state. After the situation came to an end, his search began for a platform that could be used to respond to similar confrontations in the future.
Rodney took it upon himself to research this category of vehicles and quickly discovered how cost prohibitive it’d be to get a modern one with all the bells and whistles better-funded departments had. That led to scouring forums and websites dedicated to surplus military vehicles that could be purchased for considerably less. After poking around the interweb for a while, Rodney found this six-wheeled beast owned by a militia member in the Midwest who had a brush with the law and was forced to sell it. Upon dropping around $22,000 for the vehicle itself, and then about another $5,000 having it shipped to Alaska, he was now the proud owner of a 1956 Alvis Saracen FV603 Mark V.
The owner fabricated a one-piece removable front cowling with extra armor and ballistic glass.
To provide a little background, the Saracen FV600 series was an armored personnel carrier (APC) produced by British manufacturer Alvis from the early ’50s up to the mid ’70s. Many of them are still in use today throughout the globe. This model of APC was often seen during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and you may have also recognized a few of them in Stallone’s Judge Dredd movie. The Mark V is an up-armored variant of the FV603 model and, according to Rodney, can withstand a 20-pound landmine as well as .50-caliber armor-piercing rounds. The factory ballistic glass is around 6 inches thick. The vehicle can hold 10 people including the driver and gunner, but it isn’t amphibious.
After taking delivery of the vehicle, it quickly became a maintenance nightmare. The startup procedure required checking dozens of fluid levels, and the amount of oil it leaked rivaled the Exxon Valdez. The recurring mechanical issues, coupled with the fact that parts had to be shipped over from Europe, consistently sidelined it. The original Rolls-Royce powertrain with its fluid flywheel system was only getting a top speed of about 40 mph — when it ran.
Some additional research, and the good fortune of being located near one of the best diesel mechanics in the state, led to swapping out the drivetrain with a Navistar DT 466 six-cylinder diesel engine with an Allison automatic transmission, which was sourced from a dump truck. With the addition of a handmade gas tank, KN custom intake, and specially made exhaust system, the performance was dramatically improved. Top speed is now about 70 mph, and mileage is up to a surprising average of 15 mpg (not bad for 11 tons).
Rodney also installed a new bumper system, reinforced deck plating on the sides, custom front armor, interior gun mounts, a ladder for the turret, additional lighting, and a police radio, among other touches. Although Rodney has retired from active duty and is currently mayor of Ketchikan, the vehicle is still available to local law enforcement if needed. Operating it is similar to driving a heavy truck, although visibility is understandably limited.
Like any heavy-duty commercial vehicle, it uses air brakes. Currently, the vehicle is only two-wheel drive but can be made 4WD — at the moment Rodney has it disconnected. The independent center wheels serve as backup to keep the vehicle stable and driving in case the others are destroyed and function on a hydraulic system that can be raised to make tighter turns. Rodney tells us it has a better turning radius than his pickup.
You might be asking yourself how it’s possible to own one of these unless your golfing buddies work for the State Department. It’s actually easier than you might think. Rodney tells us no special permitting was required to purchase it because it was shipped over as “demilitarized,” meaning the grenade launchers and guns are disabled. The main armament was originally a Browning .30 cal, but Rodney replaced the barrel with one from a 20mm Vulcan cannon, which is merely for looks. Rodney does have a .50-cal BMG that he could use in the periscope-equipped turret if needed.
“People interested in purchasing a vehicle like this should search the military forums online,” Rodney says. “There’s a few different companies that sell military surplus vehicles. It’s not easy to find one like this for sale in the country, but you can definitely find one in Europe and import it. Sometimes they have similar ones on eBay under the military vehicles section. If you buy one, you have to do one of two things: Understand that it’s something you can just drive on a limited basis because they break down periodically, or you’re going to have to modernize it with a current drivetrain and other components.”
As was the case with Rodney, owning one will require finding a specialized mechanic who knows how (and is willing) to service it, upgrade it, and can possibly fabricate parts. Given the inflated weight, if you get it stuck somewhere you better have the number for a big-rig tow truck company saved on your phone.
To comply with the formalities for street legality, Rodney had to get it inspected, pay for a surety bond, and register it as a special-use vehicle. Believe it or not, it’s insured through a well-known insurance provider and only costs him about 0 annually. “People need to make sure they get a vehicle like this titled so they can register it,” Rodney says. “Every state is different on what they’ll allow and consider ‘special use,’ but I registered it in a similar manner as companies that take old amphibious WWII vehicles and use them for tourists.”
If you’re part of the thin blue line and having trouble convincing the tribal elders why they should appropriate funds to acquire a vehicle like this, be sure and remind them about the situation that prompted Rodney to purchase his. If that doesn’t work, try mentioning Shawn Nelson, who stole an M60A3 Patton tank from a National Guard armory in 1995 and went on a rampage in San Diego, California. You could also relay the “killdozer” case of Marvin Heemeyer, who rigged up his D355A bulldozer with extra armor before deciding to go out and demolish several buildings in Granby, Colorado, in reaction to his ongoing disputes with city officials.
Rodney’s vehicle might’ve already looked familiar to you, as it’s also been featured on an episode of Doomsday Preppers. If you’re looking to get one for a SHTF situation, it’s perfectly legal (and we think commendable) for private citizens to procure a Saracen and vehicles of the same ilk. See the sidebar for used military vehicle resources. Just like having an AR, though, you’re bound to get resistance from the local yokels who want to undermine your ability to own it on the grounds that it’s impractical, threatening, and that you “don’t need it.” We’re sure you’ve heard all these arguments before. Anyone who thinks the worst examples of human nature only exist in third-world countries is clearly well on their way to Mensa membership. Think we’re immune to a failed state? Go repeat remedial world history. Go directly to remedial world history. Do not pass “Go.” Do not collect 0.
At this point Rodney estimates he has about 0,000 of his own money sunk into the Saracen, but has it out on the road regularly and might even be spotted in a local drive-thru. Something about a politician who owns an APC makes us want to reach deep into our pockets to help him with his future campaign endeavors. Hopefully, his next step is running for Congress.
Air Force Capt. Mark Harper was probably worried about the lack of network connections and other technology in 2007 when he was sent to Djibouti, Africa, to take over a staff section there. Unfortunately, his colonel hadn’t gotten the message about Djibouti’s limited network access and ordered Harper and his crew to start making weather podcasts for Djibouti.
A podcast. In 2007. For a group of people with limited internet access. The “Good Idea Fairy” had struck again.
Shocker, it had a limited listenership and the crew wasn’t happy while making it. But since the order came from a colonel, they would need at least a general to shoot it down.
Unfortunately for them, their attempts to sabotage the program in front of a visiting two-star didn’t exactly go according to plan. Check out the whole story, complete with a colonel falling asleep on a grateful captain, in the video embedded above.
But as YouTuber “Bloke on the Range” shows in the video below, it’s actually very unlikely that the enemy would gain any real advantage from the M1 Garand’s sound.
And many veterans of World War II interviewed after the wars said they actually preferred to have the sound as a useful reminder to reload.
To get a grip on the controversy, imagine being a young G.I. in combat in World War II. You’re moving up on a suspected Japanese position with a fully loaded M1 Garand. You catch a bit of movement and realize the small mounds on the ground in front of you are actually enemy helmets poking up from a trench.
You drop into a good firing position and start throwing rounds down range. With seven shots, you kill one and wound another. Your eighth shot reinforces the man’s headache, but it also causes the ping, telling the attentive third Japanese soldier that you’re completely out of ammo.
The theory states that that’s when the third soldier jumps up and kills you. But there are a couple issues with the theory.
First, in the chaos of combat, it would be uncommon for an enemy to hear the clip ejecting over the sound of the fight. Second, soldiers typically fight as a group, so the G.I. in the hypothetical should actually have five to nine other soldiers with him, and it’s unlikely that more than one or two of them would be out of ammo at the same time.
Third, as the Bloke demonstrates, it doesn’t take long for the shooter to reload, putting them back in the fight and ready to kill any enemy soldiers running to take advantage of the ammo gap.
ArmamentResearch.com found a 1952 Technical Memorandum where researchers asked veterans who carried the rifle what they thought of the ping. Out of 315 responders, 85 thought that the ping was helpful to the enemy, but a whopping 187 thought it was more useful to the shooter by acting as a useful signal to reload.
An article by a Chief Warrant Officer 5 Charles D. Petrie after he reportedly spoke to German veterans of D-Day who found the idea of attacking after a ping laughable. They reported that, in most engagements, they couldn’t hear the ping at all, and the rest of the time they were too aware of the rest of the American squad to try to take advantage of it.
I’m a Vietnam veteran. Like in any war, we had moments of extreme, close encounters and moments of boredom. We came home to a political nightmare where we were hated, spit upon, and called names. I, like many that came home, suffered from survivor’s guilt and something that we’d never heard of at the time: PTSD.
We went to Vietnam as soldiers and came home as individuals, so I lost contact from my unit. I never contacted the VA; I had enough of the military. I was young, strong, and independent. I could deal with anything at the time. I went back to school, got a job, got married, began a family with two wonderful kids. I was living the dream but I had a secret that I kept from everyone.
As I aged, my PTSD turned into “flashbacks,” nightmares, and three suicide attempts. The last was the worst. I sat on our kitchen floor at midnight, mad and scared. That’s when I contacted the VA Suicide Hotline and was convinced to go to the VA Hospital. I snuck some clothes from our bedroom. I was going to sneak out, but my wife woke up and demanded to drive me.
I got the help I needed from VA through the Prolonged Exposure Therapy Program (PE). My family now knows everything. It’s been six years and counting with no flashbacks, nightmares, or suicide attempts. My life and my family’s lives have changed. I believe I came through all this hell for a reason, and that is to help other veterans who suffer. The suicide rate among all veterans absolutely scares me, but most troubling is those who were like me: the 70% who don’t have any contact with the VA.
Get the help you need. Do it.
Watch Dave, his family and his therapist explain how Prolonged Exposure Therapy brought him back to a full and happy life.
See how treatment helped Dave enjoy walking in the woods behind his house, something he’d been avoiding for decades.
Go to AboutFace to hear more about PTSD and PTSD Treatment from veterans who have been there.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.