The Joint Chiefs of Staff is the body of the most senior uniformed leaders within the Department of Defense. These eight men advise the president of the United States, the Secretary of Defense and the Homeland and National Security Councils on military matters. The chair, General Mark Milley, was appointed by President Trump in 2018.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff, in keeping with their creed of service, is not a political entity, and today, they issued a rare joint memo to remind the force of exactly that. The memo, signed by all eight members of the body, condemned last week’s riot at the Capitol building and affirmed President-elect Joe Biden as the next Commander in Chief. The memo was addressed to the joint force, which is comprised of approximately 1.3 million active-duty service members and more than 811,000 National Guardsman and reservists.
The text of the memo says:
MEMORANDUM FOR THE JOINT FORCE SUBJECT: MESSAGE TO THE JOINT FORCE
The American people have trusted the Armed Forces of the United States to protect them and our Constitution for almost 250 years. As we have done throughout our history, the U.S. military will obey lawful orders from civilian leadership, support civil authorities to protect lives and property, ensure public safety in accordance with the law, and remain fully committed to protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
The violent riot in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021 was a direct assault on the U.S. Congress, the Capitol building, and our Constitutional process. We mourn the deaths of the two Capitol policemen and others connected to these unprecedented events.
We witnessed actions inside the Capitol building that were inconsistent with the rule of law. The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection.
As Service Members, we must embody the values and ideals of the Nation. We support and defend the Constitution. Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath; it is against the law.
On January 20, 2021, in accordance with the Constitution, confirmed by the states and the courts, and certified by Congress, President-elect Biden will be inaugurated and will become our 46th Commander in Chief.
To our men and women deployed and at home, safeguarding our country-stay ready, keep your eyes on the horizon, and remain focused on the mission. We honor your continued service in defense of every American.
Mark A. Milley General, U.S. Army Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
John E. Hyten General, U.S. Air Force Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
James C. McConville General, U.S. Army Chief of Staff of the Army
David H. Berger General, U.S. Marine Corps Commandant of the Marine Corps
Michael M. Gilday Admiral, U.S. Navy Chief of Naval Operations
Charles Q. Brown, Jr. General, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff of the Air Force
John W. Raymond General, U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations
Daniel R. Hokanson General, U.S. Army Chief of the National Guard Bureau
There’s aren’t many military-themed new releases for December, so take a dive deep into the Netflix catalog for some fascinating catalog titles.
1. The Longest Day
Producer Darryl F. Zanuck was determined that his movie was going to be the definitive movie about D-Day and it probably was before the release of “Saving Private Ryan.” While “Ryan” focused on the personal stories of men on the ground, “The Longest Day” aims to tell the WHOLE story. There’s a massive cast that includes Henry Fonda, Sean Connery, John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Rod Steiger, Richard Burton, Peter Lawford, Gert Fröbe, Eddie Albert and Curd Jürgens. If you’re under 40, you might wonder how anyone could watch a 3-hour movie with so much talking, but “The Longest Day” is the greatest generation’s most ambitious tribute to itself. (1962)
“Kagemusha” (a/k/a “Shadow Lord”) was a worldwide success for Japanese director Akira Kurosawa in 1980. It won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival and the Oscar for Best Foreign film, but it’s of interest here for its epic battle scenes. The plot revolves around a street criminal hired to imitate a medieval war lord and fool enemies in battle. If you can deal with subtitles, this movie features staggering swordplay. (1980)
3. Von Ryan’s Express
Frank Sinatra (and his hairpiece) were almost 50 years old when he played a World War II Army Air Corps pilot shot down over Italy. He ends in a POW camp with a bunch of Brits and takes over as their commanding officer, because he’s a colonel. And American, full of American leadership. After the Italians surrender, the newly-freed POWs are chased by the Germans. The good guys highjack a train and try to escape to Switzerland. There are heroics and some heroic deaths. Are there better WWII movies? Sure, but the Chairman is determined to prove he can carry a war movie by himself and he’s always fun to watch when he’s angry. (1965)
4. The Enemy Below
Film noir star Dick Powell tried to make a move into the director’s chair in the late ’50s, but it was bad luck that his first gig was “The Conqueror” starring John Wayne. Early scenes from that (terrible) movie were shot in Utan downwind from nuclear bomb test sites and almost half of the cast developed cancer over the next twenty years and Powell was gone by 1963. The only other movie he directed was this WWII “KILLER-SUB versus SUB KILLER” movie starring Robert Mitchum as a Naval reserve captain hunting a German U-boat commanded by a Curd Jürgens. We’re supposed to feel sympathy for the German because he’s not enamored of his Nazi leaders, so this one’s about the mutual respect that warriors feel in battle. It’s surprising to see Hollywood moving on from Evil Nazis so soon after the conflict ended. (1957)
5. Last Days in Vietnam
This PBS documentary details the American withdrawal from Saigon in April 1975. As the North Vietnamese army closed in, the U.S. military had to evacuate 5,000 Americans and made efforts to rescue a large number of Vietnamese who had supported the U.S. during the war. (2014)
6. Inglourious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino’s alternate history of World War II stars Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine, who leads a squad of Nazi hunters who successfully carry out a plan to assassinate Hitler and his top brass in a movie theater. It’s profane and funny: Tarantino is more interested in paying tribute to the low-rent drive-in war movies he saw as a kid than exploring the history of WWII. (2009)
7. Black Hawk Down
Ridley Scott’s drama is based on a real-life 1993 raid in Somalia to capture faction leader Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The 75th Rangers and Delta Force go in and things quickly go south, the troops face down enemy forces in a brutal battle and 19 men (and over 1,000 Somali citizens) are killed before the mission is complete. Scott brings a compelling visual style to the material and the cast features a host of young actors who went on to great success, including Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Hardy, Orlando Bloom and Eric Bana. Sam Shepherd and Tom Sizemore also play key old-guy roles. (2001)
8. Hell is for Heroes
Steve McQueen gets to work the moody anti-hero magic in a World War II flick directed by Don Siegel of “Dirty Harry” fame. Pop singer Bobby Darin and Bob Newhart round out a cast that also features tough guys Fess Parker and James Coburn. Sticklers for accuracy will be quick to notice where the production cut corners and McQueen’s struggles with a balky M3 in the final reel. Still, it’s all about his performance and he’s fantastic. The whole think clocks in at 90 minutes, so you’re not committing your entire night to the experience. (1962)
9. Bravo Two Zero
Former SAS commander Andy McNab is sort of the UK version Chris Kyle. He’s had a successful career writing military thrillers. Sean Bean plays McNab in this 2-hour BBC TV film detailing an SAS mission McNab led to capture Iraqi SCUD missile launchers aimed at Israel during the first Gulf War. There aren’t many movies about that conflict and this one serves as a reminder that we’ve been fighting alongside the Brits in almost every war for the last 100 years.(1999)
10. The Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story
This PBS documentary begins with Navy frogmen in World War II and does a fascinating job of detailing the evolving mission and eventual official creation of the SEAL units. There are extensive interviews with the men who served and a lot of filmed footage you haven’t seen endlessly recycled on those History and Military (sorry, “American Heroes”) channel programs. (2014)
On the morning of Oct. 6, 2010, three villages in the Arghandab River Valley of Afghanistan were filled with insurgents and dozens of IEDs.
A few hours later the villages were gone as if they’d never existed at all, destroyed by over 25 tons of U.S. Air Force bombs.
Artillerymen with the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment had taken numerous casualties in the months they spent trying to clear the surrounding fields on foot. Special Forces soldiers turned back after they ran out of explosives attempting to blow the IEDs in place. Mine-clearing line charges were fired, opening up lanes into the town but leaving soldiers without “freedom of maneuver” in a heavily-contested area.
The ground commander, Lt. Col. David Flynn, took another look at the problem. He talked to the local elders and told them that his plan to clear the villages could cause extreme damage to the buildings. The elders said that was bad but acceptable as long as the nearby pomegranate trees survived.
Flynn then turned to the U.S. Air Force and requested that Lower Babur, Tarok Kolache, and Khosrow Sofla be destroyed. Surveillance was conducted to be sure that there were no civilians in the area, only insurgents. The mission was approved, and the bombing campaign began.
The Air Force dropped 49,000 pounds of bombs on Tarok Kolache alone, leveling it. The other two villages were completely destroyed as well.
No civilian casualties were reported, though the pomegranate fields were severely damaged and had to be replanted. (USAID planted 4,000 trees, but they take five years to bear fruit.)
Many of the bombs in the area were destroyed by the operation, and soldiers with the 1-320th were able to set up 17 small bases and outposts in the valley, gaining security around the 38 remaining villages. Mine clearance operations had to continue though as not all the explosives were destroyed in the bombing.
Two years later, the Army erected new buildings, but they were weak concrete structures that the villagers refused to live in. Even worse in a war designed to win hearts and minds, local Afghan police chiefs reported that the bombings switched the loyalties of the villages who went on to become supporters of the Taliban.
Model Kate Upton, born in 1992 and in 2011 voted as “Rookie of the Year” for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, took to Instagram to share a special photograph! “Feeling pretty lucky to be able to experience a P-51 Mustang flying over Wrigley field! #chicago #wrigleyfield #bucketlist #selfie,” she captioned the photo.
Not only did she take a beautiful selfie, she also recorded a video of the three other escorting P-51 Mustangs for you to enjoy. “Thank you to all those that have served! #veterans #p51mustang #wrigleyfield @WWIImuseum,” Kate Upton wrote.
Editorial Note: Don’t blame me.. It’s all candy to the eye!
Marines in turn-of-the-20th-Century Peking found themselves outnumbered and surrounded in the foreign diplomatic section of the capital. Anti-foreign Chinese Boxers threatened to overrun their position and kill everyone inside: troops, diplomats, and civilian refugees. One Marine Corps officer, Capt. John T. Myers, added to the USMC’s steadfast reputation of attacking in the face of insurmountable odds by leading a daring counterattack with American, British, and Russian Marines that would save the garrison.
John T. Myers was born into a family with an impressive legacy of military service. His great-grandfather John Twiggs served as a militia general during the American Revolution. One of John Twiggs’ sons, General David E. Twiggs – known as the “The Bengal Tiger” for his fierce temper – forged a reputation for stubbornness and bravery during the antebellum period until his death in 1861. Another son, Major Levi Twiggs, was a Marine officer killed while storming the castle of Chapultepec during the Mexican-American War. Myers’ father Abraham fought in the Seminole and Mexican Wars. Abraham married the “Bengal Tiger’s” daughter in 1853 and served as Quartermaster General for the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Abraham fled to Germany after the South collapsed in 1865. John T. Myers was born there in 1871 and returned to the U.S. with his family at age six. Ten years later, he attended the Naval Academy at Annapolis. He graduated in 1892, after suffering from a lingering illness and outlasting his tendency for poor behavior.
Myers served in the Navy Engineer Corps before being transferring to the Marines in September of 1895. He first “saw the elephant” – an American expression of the time, meaning he gained experience at significant cost – during the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection. In March of 1899, the Marines promoted him to captain for his service during the Spanish-American War. The apex of his career came when the Navy sent him to Peking (modern-day Beijing) to protect the American Legation from violent anti-foreign sentiment brewing in China.
On May 31, 1900, he led 48 Marines and two officers of the USS Oregon and USS Newark from Tientsin to Peking. He and his Marines fought behind stacked sandbags and barricades alongside British, Austrian, Italian, French, German, Japanese, and Russian troops to beat back numerous attempts to overrun the garrison.
“It was all a matter of ‘sitting tight’ behind a barricade, constant vigilance night and day and firing promptly at such of the Chinese as had the temerity to expose themselves,” Myers wrote.
“There was scarcely an hour during which there was not firing on some part of our lines and into some of the legations, varying from a single shot to a general and continuous attack along the whole line,” as U.S. Minister Edwin Conger described it.
On July 2, Myers discovered that “during the preceding night and day the Chinese had succeeded in building a wall into and across the bastion and were then busily engaged in erecting a tower directly on my left flank, the fire from which, when completed, would reach all parts of our position.” The English and Russian ministers and military officers inside the Legation Quarter gave Myers the go-ahead to storm the enemy’s barricade and drive them from the menacing tower.
Myers reinforced his 14 U.S. Marines with 16 Marines from Russia and 25 from Britain for the counterattack. It was set for July 3rd.
“These men arrived between 2 and 3 a.m., and as the Chinese had almost finished their tower and were amusing themselves throwing stones into our barricade, I at once made the dispositions for the advance.” With sword unsheathed, Myers led the multinational detachment into the enemy’s barricade in a surprise assault.
During hand-to-hand fighting, Myers received a severe wound from an iron-pointed Chinese spear below the right knee but refused to leave the field. He reluctantly handed over command once his force pushed the Chinese Boxers back from their barricade.
Despite downplaying the severity of his wound, Myers could not return to the front line. He was moved to the Russian Legation to recuperate but continued to issue orders to his men from this position. At some point septicemia set in, and “considerable quantity of pus discharged from counter-opening made about 4 inches below original wound,” forcing him to hand over command of the U.S. Marines to his deputy. Not until the end of July was he was “able to hobble about with aid of crutch.” He soon fell victim to a bout of typhoid fever.
Eventually, the European defenders of Peking were relieved by a multinational column on August 14 after a 55-day siege. Captain Myers returned home to a hero’s welcome in January 1901. He served the U.S. military for another 34 years and rose to the rank of Major General until placed on the retired list in February of 1935 at the mandatory age of 64-years-old. He died in April 1952 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
John Twiggs Myers’ counterattack was immortalized by Charleton Heston 11 years later in the 1963 film “55 Days at Peking.”
As the battle against ISIS continues to rage, the various Kurdish militia groups have proven to be the most effective ground force at stemming the militant tide.
Seeking to turn back the jihadists, a small but growing number of US veterans have traveled to Iraq and Syria to join the fight, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Two US veterans that the WSJ identified who fought in Syria and returned are former Army Ranger Bruce Windorski and Marine combat veteran Jamie Lane.
Although Windorski, 40, and Lane, 29, had different reasons for joining the fight against ISIS, they followed a similar route to the front lines.
Both veterans flew into Sulaymaniyah, Iraq via Turkey. Once in Sulaymaniyah, the two veterans met with members of the Kurdish YPG which drove them through Iraqi Kurdistan to a Kurdish military training camp in northern Syria. The YPG, more than any other Kurdish faction, has successfully managed to court foreign fighters for their operations against ISIS.
“The quickest route to the front lines is the YPG, which has drivers in Iraq ready to pick up Westerners,” the WSJ notes.
“Its Lions of Rojava Facebook page, named after a Kurdish region the fighters are trying to claim, appeals: ‘Welcome to our Family Brothers and Sisters. Join YPG…and send ISIS terrorists to Hell and save Humanity.'”
After a brief stint in a military training camp, the YPG proceeded to move Lane and Windorski — along with other foreign fighters from Greece, England, Australia, and France — to the front lines. Before combat, the YPG allowed the fighters to choose their own weapons and ammunition. Although, the WSJ noted that there was a lack of body armor available to any fighters in the organization.
This general makeshift approach to supplies among the YPG was also apparent in the structure of the YPG forces itself. US citizens can fight alongside the YPG as the US government has not designated it terrorist or enemy organization. However, the YPG’s sister organization, the PKK, is a designated terrorist organization and US citizens who fight alongside the PKK can have legal action brought against them upon return to the US.
This legal distinction by the US of the two organizations poses challenges for US citizens fighting in Syria against ISIS.
“There often seemed little to distinguish the ‘terrorist’ PKK and America’s YPG friends, Westerners who fought alongside the Kurds say,” the WSJ notes. “PKK militants would become YPG fighters by changing fatigues.”
Ultimately, after arming and training, Windorski and Lane engaged in a night long battle against ISIS. The two barely survived the encounter and both soon after returned to the US. Although the two took part in the same battle, they differed on their ultimate beliefs about whether US citizens should take it upon themselves to fight ISIS alongside the Kurds.
Whereas Windorsky would encourage willing individuals to join the Kurds, Lane said he would tell others not to go.
“It’s not what you’re thinking,” Lane told the WSJ. “You’re not going to fight ISIS. You’re fighting for the revolution of Rojava.”
Lane’s assessment matches a bitter truth about the YPG on the ground. Although the Kurds have been on a roll pushing back ISIS across swathes of northern Syria, the group has also been accused of seizing non-Kurdish land in an attempt to alter the demography of the area to better suite a future Kurdish state.
Such actions, which the YPG deny, would ultimately only help prolong conflict in the area and could feed into ISIS recruiting strategies.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
The guided-missile destroyer USS Carney departs Mayport for its new homeport of Rota, Spain, Sept. 6.
An F-22 Raptor pilot from the 95th Fighter Squadron based at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., gets situated in his aircraft prior to taking off from Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Sept. 4, 2015.
Airman 1st Class Stefan Alvarez, a 3rd Combat Camera Squadron photojournalist, loads 5.56 mm ammunition into an M4 magazine in preparation for the next drill during Advanced Weapons and Tactics Training Sept. 4, 2015, in Converse, Texas.
A Critical Skills Operator with U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command uses a torch to cut through a metal door to gain entry on a building during Marine Special Operation School’s Master Breacher’s Course at Stone Bay aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Aug. 5, 2015.
1st Lt. Keith G. Lowell administers OC spray during the OC Spray Performance Evaluation Course on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, Aug. 27, 2015. This course is part of the Non-Lethal Weapons Instructor Course, which is only offered once a year to all service members on Okinawa.
U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego ASTs run pilots and aviation crews through Shallow Water Egress Training at Naval Base Point Loma. The training is conducted in a controlled environment to prepare flight crews on how to safely exit an overturned helicopter in the water.
Military jobs all seem pretty similar from the outside. Everyone shoots at the range, everyone gets compensated according to the same pay tables, and everyone gets yelled at by the people with fancier symbols on their uniforms.
But some military jobs have hidden perks that just come with the territory. For example, if the mission requires that a soldier have access to the internet, then that soldier can usually use the internet for other stuff as long as they don’t abuse the privilege. So here are six jobs with hidden perks that help make life a little more bearable:
1. Corpsmen/medics usually have fridge access for medicines.
There are only a few groups of people who regularly had access to refrigeration during a deployment to the burning hot desert. The cooks (more on them later) and the medical folks — at smaller bases, this means Navy corpsmen and Army and Air Force medics.
The medical personnel need refrigeration to keep certain medicines from going bad. But whatever area of the fridge that’s left over is usually divvied up by the medics to keep drinks cold, a rare luxury on some bases.
2. The cooks also have refrigerators … and spare food.
The cooks have even greater access to fridges than the medics, and they can sometimes grab extra food and energy drinks to trade or share. Most forward operating bases with dining facilities feed hundreds of soldiers and Army recipes are usually written for batches of 100 servings.
It’s basically impossible to make and order the exact amount of food needed for any meal, so there’s always some spare servings of something left over — sometimes cooked and sometimes waiting to be cooked. Cooks will trade away those unused 15 servings of ribs or chicken to others for special favors.
3. Public Affairs has usually has Facebook access even when the rest of the base is on blackout.
The gatekeepers of the unit Facebook page, meanwhile, have their own great perk. When the rest of the base is put on communications blackout, public affairs troops are still required to keep the unit’s social media pages going to reassure family members back home and to keep up normal appearances.
This requires that the PA shop always has access to Facebook and Twitter, meaning its soldiers can exchange messages with family and update their own pages even when the base was otherwise blacked out.
4. Pilots and flight line folks have the best trading opportunities.
Anyone who is intimately involved in flight operations knows how to trade with people from other bases, ships, whatever, and they’ll take advantage of it. See, the economy on a deployment is limited to what goods are actually useful on the base. Pay sits in bank accounts while most people are trading the limited supply of available chewing tobacco and Girl Scout cookies.
But flight operations people have access to goods and services that are housed in another Navy ship or on another base. That means that they can trade items that only Kandahar Air Field or Sigonella has.
5. Combat camera is basically military tourism.
Look, combat camera is full of brave people who wade into battle to document it and share stories with the American public and military leaders. This isn’t to disparage them or the work they do, but they’re basically military tourists.
If some unit is doing a cool training operation on the beaches of Italy or special operators are breaking into a Taliban fortress, there’s a decent chance that some combat cameraman is getting flown out there to document it. And they leave the service with their own collection of unclassified photos, making them some of the only people with multimedia support for their war stories.
6. Signal guys get admin access to the computers.
This one may sound less than impressive, but it’s actually amazing. See, military computer networks have a lot of user restrictions, but the IT guys within the communications shops are in charge of implementing those user restrictions, so they get admin logins.
That means that they have more access to whatever they want on the internet even when deployed, provided that they don’t abuse the privilege. So, they’ll have Facebook access even when public affairs is locked out and can set their own internet to have priority access when bandwidth gets tight.
The words “Pearl Harbor” evoke images and emotions only rivaled in American history by “The Alamo,” and “9-11.” As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt put it in the wake of the surprise attack, December 7, 1941 is “a day that will live in infamy.” Here’s WATM’s brief look at how it went down.
The Japanese task force was comprised of six carriers — Akagi, Kaga, Sōryū, Hiryū, Shōkaku, and Zuikaku — carrying a total of 408 airplanes (360 bombers, 48 fighters).
The attack on Pearl Harbor came in two waves. The first wave of 183 planes (six failed to launch because of maintenance issues) crossed into American airspace on December 7, 1941 at 7:48 local time. Ironically and tragically, as the first wave approached Oahu, it was detected by the U.S. Army SCR-270 radar at Opana Point near Oahu’s northern tip. The operators reported a target, but their superior, a newly assigned officer at the thinly manned Intercept Center, presumed it was the scheduled arrival of six B-17 bombers from California.
The Japanese fighters shot down several American airplanes on the way in.
The first wave bombers were supposed to take out ‘capital ships’ — aircraft carriers (famously not in port) and battleships, while the Zeros strafed Ford Field in an effort to keep American fighters from launching.
The famous message, “Air raid Pearl Harbor. This is not drill,” was sent from the headquarters of Patrol Wing Two, the first senior Hawaiian command to respond.
Despite this low alert status, many American military personnel responded effectively during the attack. Ensign Joe Taussig Jr., aboard the USS Nevada, commanded the ship’s antiaircraft guns and was severely wounded, but continued to be on post. Lt. Commander F. J. Thomas commanded Nevada in the captain’s absence and got her under way until the ship was grounded at 9:10 a.m. One of the destroyers, USS Aylwin, got underway with only four officers aboard, all ensigns, none with more than a year’s sea duty; she operated at sea for 36 hours before her commanding officer managed to get back aboard. Captain Mervyn Bennion, commanding the USS West Virginia, led his men until he was cut down by fragments from a bomb which hit USS Tennessee, moored alongside.
The second wave of 171 planes (four others didn’t get airborne) came shortly after the first had egressed and focused on the airfields at Hickham, Kanehoe, and Ford (right in the middle of Pearl Harbor), taking out hangars and strafing airplanes on flight lines. The second wave also went after the battleships that had survived the first wave.
In total, 2,403 Americans died and 1,178 were wounded. Eighteen ships were sunk or run aground, including five battleships. All of the Americans killed or wounded during the attack were non-combatants, given the fact there was no state of war when the attack occurred. (The attack was later ruled a war crime because occurred without a declaration of war from Japan.)
In the wake of the attack, 15 Medals of Honor, 51 Navy Crosses, 53 Silver Stars, four Navy and Marine Corps Medals, one Distinguished Flying Cross, four Distinguished Service Crosses, one Distinguished Service Medal, and three Bronze Star Medals were awarded to the American servicemen who distinguished themselves in combat at Pearl Harbor.
The following day President Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan, and Congress obliged an hour later.
On December 11, Germany and Italy — honoring their treaty with Japan — declared war on the U.S., so Congress issued a declaration of war on them in return.
The United States was now fully involved in World War II.
The current NATO force structure in Eastern Europe would be unable to withstand a Russian invasion into neighboring Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, a new think tank study has concluded.
After conducting an exhaustive series of wargames wherein “red” (Russian) and “blue” (NATO) forces engaged in a wide range of war scenarios over the Baltic states, a Rand Corporation study called “Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank” determined that a successful NATO defense of the region would require a much larger air-ground force than what is currently deployed.
In particular, the study calls for a NATO strategy similar to the Cold War era’s “AirLand Battle” doctrine from the 1980s. During this time, the U.S. Army stationed at least several hundred thousand troops in Europe as a strategy to deter a potential Russian invasion. Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that there are currenty 30,000 U.S. Army soldiers in Europe.
The Rand study maintains that, without a deterrent the size of at least seven brigades, fires and air support protecting Eastern Europe, that Russia cold overrun the Baltic states as quickly as in 60 hours.
“As currently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members. Across multiple games using a wide range of expert participants in and out of uniform playing both sides, the longest it has taken Russian forces to reach the outskirts of the Estonian and/or Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga, respectively, is 60 hours. Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options,” the study writes.
“AirLand” Battle was a strategic warfighting concept followed by U.S. and allied forces during the Cold War which, among other things, relied upon precise coordination between a large maneuvering mechanized ground force and attack aircraft overhead. As part of the approach, air attacks would seek to weaken enemy assets supporting front line enemy troops by bombing supply elements in the rear. As part of the air-ground integration, large conventional ground forces could then more easily advance through defended enemy front line areas.
A rapid assault on the Baltic region would leave NATO with few attractive options, including a massive risky counterattack, threatening a nuclear weapons option or simply allowing the Russian to annex the countries.
One of the limited options cited in the study could include taking huge amounts of time to mobilize and deploy a massive counterattack force which would likely result in a drawn-out, deadly battle. Another possibility would be to threaten a nuclear option, a scenario which seems unlikely if not completely unrealistic in light of the U.S. strategy to decrease nuclear arsenals and discourage the prospect of using nuclear weapons, the study finds.
A third and final option, the report mentions, would simply be to concede the Baltic states and immerse the alliance into a much more intense Cold War posture. Such an option would naturally not be welcomed by many of the residents of these states and would, without question, leave the NATO alliance weakened if not partially fractured.
The study spells out exactly what its wargames determined would be necessary as a credible, effective deterrent.
“Gaming indicates that a force of about seven brigades, including three heavy armored brigades—adequately supported by airpower, land-based fires, and other enablers on the ground and ready to fight at the onset of hostilities—could suffice to prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states,” the study writes.
During the various scenarios explored for the wargame, its participants concluded that NATO resistance would be overrun quickly in the absence of a larger mechanized defensive force posture.
“The absence of short-range air defenses in the U.S. units, and the minimal defenses in the other NATO units, meant that many of these attacks encountered resistance only from NATO combat air patrols, which were overwhelmed by sheer numbers. The result was heavy losses to several Blue (NATO) battalions and the disruption of the counterattack,” the study states.
Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia could be likely Russian targets because all three countries are in close proximity to Russia and spent many years as part of the former Soviet Union
“Also like Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia are home to sizable ethnic Russian populations that have been at best unevenly integrated into the two countries’ post-independence political and social mainstreams and that give Russia a self-justification for meddling in Estonian and Latvian affairs,” the study explains.
While the Pentagon’s European Reassurance Initiative calls for additional funds, forces and force rotations through Europe in coming years, it is unclear whether their ultimate troop increases will come anywhere near what Rand recommends. Pentagon officials would not, at the moment, speculate as to whether thoughts and considerations were being given to raising forces levels beyond what is called for in the initiative.
At the same time, the Pentagon’s $3.4 Billion ERI request does call for an increased force presence in Europe as well as “fires,” “pre-positioned stocks” and “headquarters” support for NATO forces.
Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that more solidarity exercises with NATO allies in Europe are also on the horizon, and that more manpower could also be on the way.
“We are currently planning the future rotations of units through Europe. The heel-to-toe concept will increase how often they’re here for the Armored BCT mission, but it won’t increase how many are here at once — that will remain just one at a time. We currently have some aviation assets on a rotation here but plans aren’t yet firm on what that looks like going forward. We’ve requested additional funding for National Guard and Reserve manpower which may come in the form of full or partial units or even individuals,” Cathy Brown Vandermaarel, spokeswoman for U.S. Army Europe told Scout Warrior in a statement.
Increased solidarity exercises would be designed to further deter Russia by showing allies cooperation along with an ability to quickly deploy and move mechanized forces across the European continent, Vandermaarel added.
The Rand study maintains that, while expensive, adding brigades would be a worthy effort for NATO.
Buying three brand-new ABCTs and adding them to the U.S. Army would not be inexpensive—the up-front costs for all the equipment for the brigades and associated artillery, air defense, and other enabling units runs on the order of $13 billion. However, much of that gear—especially the expensive Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles—already exists,” the study says.
The Russian Military
Russia’s military maneuvers and annexation of the Crimean peninsula have many Pentagon analysts likely wondering about and assessing the relative condition of the former Cold War military giant’s forces, platforms and weaponry.
Russia has clearly postured itself in response to NATO as though it can counter-balance or deter the alliance, however expert examination of Russia’s current military reveals it is not likely to pose a real challenge to NATO in a prolonged, all-out military engagement.
Russia’s economic pressures have not slowed the countries’ commitment to rapid military modernization and the increase of defense budgets, despite the fact that the country’s military is a fraction of what it was during the height of the Cold War in the 1980s.
While the former Cold War giant’s territories and outer most borders are sizably less than they were in the 1980s, Russia’s conventional land, air and sea forces are trying to expand quickly, transition into the higher-tech information age and steadily pursue next generation platforms.
Russia’s conventional and nuclear arsenal is a small piece of what it was during the Cold War, however the country is pursuing a new class of air-independent submarines, a T-50 stealth fighter jet, next-generation missiles and high-tech gear for individual ground soldiers.
During the Cold War, the Russian defense budget amounted to nearly half of the country’s overall expenditures, analysts have said.
Now, the countries’ military spending draws upon a smaller percentage of its national expenditure. However, despite these huge percentage differences compared to the 1980s, the Russian defense budget is climbing again. From 2006 to 2009, the Russian defense budget jumped from $25 billion up to $50 billion according to Business Insider – and the 2013 defense budget is listed elsewhere at $90 billion.
Overall, the Russian conventional military during the Cold War – in terms of sheer size – was likely five times what it is today.
Overall, the Russian military had roughly 766,000 active front line personnel in 2013 and as many as 2.4 million reserve forces, according to globalfirepower.com. During the Cold War, the Russian Army had as many as three to four million members.
By the same 2013 assessment, the Russian military is listed as having more than 3,000 aircraft and 973 helicopters. On the ground, Globalfirepower.com says Russia has 15-thousand tanks, 27,000 armored fighting vehicles and nearly 6,000 self-propelled guns for artillery. While the Russian military may not have a conventional force the sheer size of its Cold War force, they have made efforts to both modernized and maintain portions of their mechanized weaponry and platforms. The Russian T-72 tank, for example, has been upgraded numerous times since its initial construction in the 1970s.
Analysts have also said that the Russian military made huge amounts of conventional and nuclear weapons in the 80s, ranging from rockets and cruise missiles to very effective air defenses.
In fact, the Russian built S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft air defenses, if maintained and modernized, are said to be particularly effective, experts have said.
In the air, the Russian have maintained their 1980s built Su-27 fighter jets, which have been postured throughout the region by the Russian military.
Often compared to the U.S. Air Force’s F-15 Eagle fighter, the Su-27 is a maneuverable twin engine fighter built in the 1980s and primarily configured for air superiority missions.
While many experts maintain that NATO’s size, fire-power, air supremacy and technology would ultimately prevail in a substantial engagement with Russia, that does not necessarily negate the Rand study’s findings that NATO would be put in a terrible predicament should Russia invade the Baltic states.
A US Blue Angels jet has crashed in Smyrna, Tennessee.
According to local ABC affiliate WKRN, citing the fire chief of the neighboring town of La Vergne, the crash took place around 3pm local time. The Blue Angels were scheduled to perform in Tennessee this weekend.
The Blue Angels are the US Navy’s flight demonstration team. Aviators in the Blue Angels come from both the Navy and the Marines and fly F/A-18 Hornets.
The crash of a Blue Angel comes on the same day that a US Air Force Thunderbird also crashed after completing a flyover at the US Air Force Academy commencement.
Going to war is not about the ideologies of the left or the right, it’s about becoming a man.
“I’m a journalist,” said Sebastian Junger – Oscar-nominated documentarian and best-selling author – in an interview with War is Boring. “I don’t put any political agenda into my work. I think the right wing tends to idolize soldiers – you can’t talk about them critically in any way. The left wing went from vilifying them in Vietnam to seeing them as victims of a military-industrial complex.”
For young men, however, war is much simpler than a political agenda. Modern society doesn’t describe what manhood is and much less, what it requires. Joining the military fills that void by finding a peer group and purpose to their lives, according to War is Boring.
This generation has a track record for delaying the rituals of adulthood. They’re taking longer to finish school, achieve financial independence, marry and have children, compared with their parent’s generation, according to a New York Times article about millennials. Perhaps it’s a financial decision as the article explains, after all, we did just go through the great recession, or it’s young men devising their own rites of passage.
Junger tells War is Boring that tribal societies have clear rituals and expectations of adulthood:
There’s a lot of initiation rites for young men around the world that involve torturing young men,” he explains. “So that young man can then demonstrate that he’s willing to undergo an enormous amount of pain in order to achieve adult status.
They could actually live untested lives, if left to their own devices,” Junger says. But “they don’t want 30-year-old males wondering about their manhood.”
But initiation rites help define the line between childhood and the adult world, and they define what manhood is. “We don’t have anything like that,” Junger says. “But I think it’s wired in us. It’s certainly wired into our language when we talk about, ‘C’mon, be a man about it,’ or ‘Man up.'”
The way Junger sees it, young men choose to fight, “Okay, if I go to war, surely I’ll come back a man.” When he asked why they joined, the common response was the terrorist attacks on 9/11, military family tradition, and the thought of becoming a man. Check out the full article on War is Boring.
Sebastian Junger is famous for his award-winning chronicle of the war in Afghanistan in the documentary films Restrepo
(2014), and his book WarWAR
(2010). Here’s the official trailer for Korengal:
It may surprise modern admirers of Finland that the Nordic country did not fight against the Axis during World War II. But their alignment with Hitler wasn’t for territory, ideology, or the persecution of certain ethnicities.
The Finns had one reason for siding with Germany: killing Russians.
And as the war dragged on and the eventual Soviet advance into the Baltics took its toll, the Finns developed a daring strategy of shadowing Russian bombers that had a devastating effect on Moscow’s ability to swallow its western neighbor.
In 1939, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact – the nonaggression agreement between the Nazis and the Soviet Union – contained a secret clause that put Finland in the Soviet sphere of influence. Shortly after, the USSR started negotiating for critical pieces of Finnish territory. A month later, the Russians shelled its own village to make it look like the Finns escalated the conflict.
The Russians then invaded Finland, sparking the so-called “Winter War.”
While the Finns fought the Red Army with tenacity, it was simply too much for the small country. When Russian Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov demanded huge concessions of land and surrender to the exhausted Finnish Army, they had to capitulate.
Finland didn’t stop during the interim peace from March 1940 to June 1941. The Nazis knew what was coming and sent troops to Finland to help them rearm and prepare. When Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of Russia, the Finns moved with German forces. Stalin counterattacked with air raids on Finnish cities, but the Finns were on the offensive.
After the German defeat at Stalingrad, Finland was rebuffed by the Red Army and pushed back to its 1940 positions. In February 1944, the Russians launched an air raid against Helsinki, the most heavily defended capital at the time (which is saying a lot).
In three waves, Russian bombing runs dropped 20,000 explosives on the capital. Only 3 percent of those actually hit the city. Finland had no night fighters and couldn’t intercept the bombers, even though they knew the Russians were coming.
The Finns had four squadrons of bombers with older, experienced pilots. Finland’s intelligence knew where the Russian bombers were flying from, their radio communication, how Red Army pilots operated, and all their tactics.
In February 1944, Finnish aircraft covertly slipped into Russian bomber formations flying under blackout conditions over the Gulf of Finland. The Finns had very different planes than the Russians, but even when the Russians turned on their navigation lights when they entered friendly airspace, the Finns just played along.
No one noticed.
A Finnish Air Force Dornier DO-17 Bomber from the era. Finland fielded 5 of these during WWII.
One by one, the returning Soviet bombers landed at Levashovo airfield. As the last squadron – the Finns – approached, they opened their bomb bays instead of their landing gear and dropped 80 bombs on the unsuspecting Russians.
The attack was such a success that the tactic was repeated on subsequent Soviet bombing runs. Finland’s pilots joined returning Russian formations and right before landing, hit the airfield with everything they could. For months, these attacks decimated the Russian airfields along the Finnish border and night raids slowly began to dwindle as the tactic took its toll.
While the RAF was known to attempt this tactic with single fighters, no one in World War II ever attempted to join enemy bomber formations in such numbers or with such access as Finland had against the Soviet Union.