Ken Burns' epic 'Vietnam' documentary tackles war that 'drove a stake into the heart of America' - We Are The Mighty
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Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’

When filmmaker Ken Burns and his collaborators previously tackled sprawling documentaries about the Civil War and World War II, their first obligation, he said, was to strip away the “barnacles of sentimentality” attached to both events.


That was never a problem with his latest military epic, “The Vietnam War.”

“No such sentimentality attaches itself to Vietnam,” Burns says. “So there’s a through line to the tragedy and the the essential horror and cruelty of war that is manifested everywhere.”

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
A Viet Cong prisoner is interrogated at the A-109 Special Forces Detachment in Thuong Duc, 25 km west of Da Nang, 1967. Photo under Public Domain,

Covering 18 hours over 10 installments, the film recalls one of the most tragic chapters in American history — a conflict so divisive that, in the words of a soldier quoted in the film, it “drove a stake right into the heart of America.”

Ten years in the making, “The Vietnam War” (Sept. 17, 8pm, PBS) might be Burns’ greatest achievement yet in a career that dates back to 1981. It’s certainly his most complicated and challenging. To get to the heart of it all, he and co-director Lynn Novick relied on a wealth of archival materials, including stunningly revelatory audio recordings from inside the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations.

Most notably, they solicited accounts from more than 80 witnesses from all sides of the war’s vast social divide: soldiers who fought in the war and Americans who opposed it, as well as North and South Vietnamese combatants and civilians. It was what the filmmakers call a “bottom up” approach with a preference toward mostly ordinary people with incredible stories to tell, rather than the usual talking heads. John McCain, John Kerry, and Jane Fonda, for example, are not interviewed.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Members of the military police keep back protesters during their sit-in at the Mall Entrance to the Pentagon. Image from US Army.

Along the way, the filmmakers didn’t encounter as much reticence from their subjects as some might expect. Credit the passage of time.

“We generally found that there was enormous interest in having their story told,” Novick says. “They saw it as a chance to share experiences with the wider world that were very important to them and seminal, informative, and sometimes very, very painful.”

The result is a panoramic, immersive, intensely intimate and often heart-wrenching film experience that captures the human stories embedded within a war that claimed the lives of more than 58,000 Americans, and more than 3 million Vietnamese military personnel and civilians.

Burns, of course, realizes that many viewers will bring their “personal baggage” and hardened perspectives to the film. But he and Novick insist that they were intent on being as even-handed as possible.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Filmmaker Ken Burns. Wikimedia Commons photo from user David Hume Kennerly.

“There isn’t a single truth in the war,” Burns says. “In fact, there’s many truths that can coexist, and that might help to sort of take the fuel rods out of the division and polarization that was born in Vietnam that continues to this moment.”

The Vietnam conflict had long been on Burns’ cinematic to-do list. But early in his career he felt the wounds were too fresh. And when he finally did approach the subject, he went in thinking he knew a lot about it, only to immediately learn he didn’t.

“It was a daily humiliation,” he recalls. “And the humbleness that you have to assume in order to get through the next 10 years is just that — humbling. So we just kept our heads down and worked to get it right.”

According to Novick, one of the key discoveries they encountered along the way was the continual privately expressed skepticism from government officials that the US could prevail in the conflict, which was carried out under five presidents.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
President Lyndon B. Johnson greets American troops in Vietnam, 1966. Image fro US State Department.

“There never was a time when the people in our government who were pushing the war forward had total confidence that it was winnable,” she says. “You hear this drumbeat of doubt and lack of sureness that it can come out well, that we can accomplish our goals, that it’s sustainable. And that goes back to the earliest days of American involvement in Vietnam. … That was rather revelatory and devastating.”

It’s Burns’ hope that the film can open a national dialogue about Vietnam and get people to talk about it in a “calm way.” After all, so much of what occurred during the war resonates with the present: Images of mass protests across a deeply divided nation; a White House paranoid about leaks and at odds with the media; disagreements over American military strategy in far-off territories; acrimony over what defines patriotism…

“History doesn’t repeat itself. We’re not condemned to repeat what we don’t remember,” he says. “It’s that human nature never changes.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 of the top reasons you should know this operator

It has been said that all men are created equal. If you have spent any time in uniform, then you know that just simply isn’t true. Some of us are just better, faster, smarter, stronger individuals.


Such is the case with August O’Neil. Not only is he one of the world’s elite as an Air Force Pararescueman, he has multiple gold medals from multiple international events that he won after he lost a limb in Afghanistan.

His life is the stuff that movies are made about, literally. Here are the top five reasons you should know August O’Neil.

Related: This is the Air Force’s lowest ranking Medal of Honor recipient

5. Well, he’s literally an operator

August O’Neil joined the Air Force in 2005 and graduated from his pipeline training in 2008. If you aren’t aware of the level of elite physical ability and mental capacity you need to become a PJ, here’s a quick rundown:

First, you have to pass what was once known as the Indoctrination Course. Indoc alone has a fail rate north of 80% and that is just the door to get through to more training. That ‘more training’ equates to literal years spent learning the job.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
It doesn’t get much more operator than August O’Neil… It just doesn’t. (Photo by Matthew J. DeVirgilio)

4. First amputee to return to USAF

After suffering such an injury, many of us would go to some dark places. O’Neil has made it his complete life’s mission to get back to his team.

As of late 2017, he was medically cleared and re-certified on many of his required tasks. O’Neil will likely be the first amputee ever to return to active duty in the Air Force.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Just about back to a new normal (Photo by Taylor Curry)

3. Warrior Games

O’Neil reportedly kept his injured leg just so he could compete at the Warrior Games. He ended up winning 5 golds in various swimming events.

Yes, that’s correct. With one functional leg and the other having been through 20 surgeries, he won five different medals.

For added sh*ts and giggles, O’Neil also won gold for Kayaking at the Valor Games in 2013.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Kai has really been man’s best friend to O’Neil. (Photo by Senior Airman Justyn M. Freeman)

2. Invictus Games

The Invictus games are right up there with the Paralympic Games and were created by Prince Harry. They are coming up on their third games this year and you can be certain that amazing things will happen there, too.

The games are aimed directly at the global injured veteran community, so it should be no surprise that O’Neil participates.

Also Read: ’12 Strong’ showcases the best of America’s fighting spirit

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Just before the opening moments at the Invictus Games in 2016 (Photo by Joshua L. DeMotts)

1. Immortalized in film

A feature film, That Others May Live, about O’Neil’s life from the moment he was injured to the present, has begun to gain some real traction. It is currently in pre-production with Paramount Pictures attached.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
The proposed film will chronicle O’Neil’s life following the incident (Photo by Krista Rose)

Articles

Here’s how Iran could actually make good on the threat to close the Strait of Hormuz

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
A member of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards chants slogans after attacking a naval vessel during a military drill in the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran, February 25, 2015. (Photo: Hamed Jafarnejad/AFP/Fars News)


Iran’s talking tough again, threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz in the event of an attack. This is not the first time such threats have been made. Furthermore, when Iran mined USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) during Operation Earnest Will, the United States delivered quite the beat-down to the mullahs’ military forces in Operation Praying Mantis. But it raises the question of whether Iran could carry out its threats. Iran’s threat cannot be treated as idle, given that they did try to shut down the Strait of Hormuz during the Iran-Iraq War.

Currently, the Iranian Navy has at least five frigates, three Kilo-class submarines, fifty-four guided-missile patrol boats, and at least sixteen mini-submarines. It is a force that could be beaten by the United States Navy – much as was done in 1988 – but that task may be tougher now than it was back then. To understand why just take a look at the map.

At less than sixty miles wide for most of its length, Iran can not only count on its naval forces to attack tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, but also truck-mounted and fixed-position anti-ship missile batteries on the coast, primarily consisting of the C-802 and C-201 missiles. Iran’s control of Qeshm and Larak Islands adds further reach to shore-based missiles as well. These bases could also be protected with surface-to-air missiles like the SA-10 “Grumble” that Iran has been trying to buy from Russia for years.

With missiles flying in at 685 miles per hour, even an Aegis vessel will have some problems protecting a supertanker from being hit by an anti-ship missile. The good news is that supertankers are very big, and as a result, they are very tough. Even an 1100-pound warhead from a C-201 won’t sink a supertanker. But it will create one hell of a mess. The hit will cause a fire, and it will send oil spilling out. In the “Tanker War” that took place during the Iran-Iraq War, over 500 commercial vessels were hit.

Iran’s other traditional weapon for closing the Strait of Hormuz would be mines. The shallow depth of the Strait of Hormuz (less than 300 feet deep) makes it a prime ground for moored contact mines and bottom mines. The most insidious thing about a minefield is, to paraphrase Tom Clancy, the fact that all you really need to create one is a press release. In fact, in the last thirty years, mines damaged three of the five United States warships damaged by hostile action – and the 2000 attack on USS Cole (DDG 67) was done with a makeshift mine.

What makes Iran even more capable, though, is its submarine arm. The three Kilo-class submarines are bad enough. Capable of holding 18 533mm torpedoes, they could sink a supertanker in the Strait of Hormuz, but they also are constrained by the shallow depths of the Strait of Hormuz.

Less constrained are the 16 Ghadir-class mini-subs. These subs can carry the same acoustic homing torpedoes as a Kilo-class sub, there would be a lot of them out in the Strait of Hormuz. In essence, these are mobile minefields, and a lot more dangerous than their size would lead you to believe. A North Korean sub similar to Iran’s Ghadir-class minisubs sank the South Korean corvette Cheonan, killing 46 officers and men.

In short, Iran has a lot more options to close down the Strait of Hormuz if they want to. Re-opening that important chokepoint (through which over a third of the world’s oil production transits) is likely to be a very dangerous undertaking.

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘High-risk’ Marine colonel warmed burrito on aircraft exhaust duct

The ousted commander of a Marine Corps air station rearranged his pilots’ flight schedules to give himself more time in the cockpit and had a reputation of being a “big, angry colonel,” according to an investigation into complaints about him.

Col. Mark Coppess, the former commanding officer of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, Japan, abused his staff and officers for months “so he could achieve his personal objectives to fly,” a 351-page report into his behavior states. A copy of the investigation was obtained by Military.com on Aug 6, 2018.


Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’

UC-35D in flight

(NAVAIR)

Coppess was relieved of command June 5 by Brig. Gen. Paul Rock, head of Marine Corps Installations Pacific. Rock lost confidence in the colonel’s ability to lead, the service reported at the time.

Some believed Coppess, an AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter pilot, was aggressively trying to earn flight time in a UC-35 Cessna Citation business jet. Coppess, who could not immediately be reached for comment, requested that he be scheduled to fly three times per week, according to the investigation.

“Colonel Coppess would remove pilots from the flight schedule and replace them with himself,” one witness said, according to the documents. “… This looked like Colonel Coppess was trying to receive more fixed-wing time to set himself up for a career post-Marine Corps.”
Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’

A Super cobra flies past USS Fort McHenry during a Search and Seizure (VBSS) drill

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristopher Wilson)

One witness said Coppess put his own time in the cockpit ahead of more junior pilots, adding that the colonel once said, “the captains can fly less. I’ve done my time.”

Others cited a poor command climate under Coppess and alleged abuse of authority and undue command influence. Five pilots interviewed during the investigation reported “personally being pressured to produce certain outcomes not in accordance with orders, [standard operating procedures] and directives” for Coppess’ benefit.

“He creates an atmosphere of fear and reprisal,” a witness told the investigating officer. “He is using his position, title, and rank to get what he wants for himself.”

Coppess denied using his position to unduly influence flight operations at Futenma, but acknowledged that he’d heard about the accusations from Rock.

A former operations officer at Futenma said scheduling staff had to route the weekly flight schedule through Coppess’ office before producing the daily schedules.

“He inserted himself into the schedule writing process,” the officer said. “… There is a perception of a ‘self hook-up’ concerning Col. Coppess’ flying.”

Coppess also told his Marines there was “no rank in the cockpit.” But those under his command didn’t always find that to be the case.

The colonel showed an unwillingness to accept constructive feedback from junior personnel, one witness said, adding they feared some might be unwilling to “correct procedural deviations and potential flight safety concerns due to apprehension about retribution from Col. Coppess.”

Pilots weren’t comfortable flying with Coppess, according to the investigation, and he was identified as a “high-risk aviator.” He had a reputation for being “difficult in the cockpit,” one witness said. Others said he was not experienced flying a fixed-wing aircraft.

www.youtube.com

Coppess once “rose his flaps at a non-standard time,” according to a witness, and on another occasion “warmed a burrito on the exhaust duct of the aircraft.”

While there aren’t any Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization [NATOPS] prohibiting pilots from doing either, the witness said the acts were considered “different enough” for the aircraft commanders to raise the issue to a party whose name was redacted in the report.

Coppess did not address those incidents in the investigating officer’s documents, but did say that he supports naval aviation’s constructs for safety and standardization.

In a memo for a May command meeting, he urged other aviators to be straight with him about his aviation skills, despite his rank and position. The memo was included in the investigation, though it’s not immediately clear whether the meeting was held.

“It will help me in knowing and owning my weaknesses and seeking improvement,” Coppess wrote in the meeting memo. “… I fully intend to know and own my shortcomings as an aviator.”

Despite the deficiencies some witnesses described, several people told the investigating officer that Coppess was pressuring people in the command to make him a Transport Aircraft Commander, or TAC. One in particular said he was under “constant pressure” to make Coppess a TAC in the UC-35D.

“[He] is not ready and is a below-average copilot,” the witness said. “I was specifically told by him a few months ago that he will be a TAC, will be dual [qualified to fly both our UC-35 and UC-12], and that he will be an instructor in at least one of the planes.”

Coppess addressed those issues in an April 27 letter that was included in the investigation. Writing to a redacted party, Coppess said he recognized the standardization board’s role in nominating pilots for additional designations and qualifications. He did “not intend to influence members of the Standardization Board in their responsibilities,” he wrote.

“I apologize for the unintentional perception of undue command influence on the [board’s] role of nominating pilots for designations and qualifications,” he said. “That won’t happen again. When the [board] determines I’ve progressed in proficiency and I’m nominated, I will be ready for the TAC syllabus.”

He also invited the person to bring any fears of reprisal to his attention.

While at Futenma, Coppess racked up more flight hours than any other air station commanding officer in the Marine Corps during the same period, according to the investigation. His command did not immediately respond to questions about his current assignment.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @Militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 essential business values from a veteran-owned company

If you want something done right, you do it yourself. That’s a mantra we’ve all heard before but is it really conventional? Some may say yes, but the reality is that you can’t do everything yourself. At some point, in some fashion, you’re going to need more done than you have hours to complete and you will need to outsource some aspects of your business. However, the presence of this necessity doesn’t make the process any easier. Especially when your business is your passion. It’s hard to give up control until trust is gained.


Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Eric Mitchell with wife, Lucie.

Eric Mitchell along with his wife Lucie, who both spent several years working for successful startups in the Silicon Valley, and both being acquired multiple times, decided to pursue a new venture together in 2014. Eric wanted to give back to the community he loves, and with love of country and belief that service never ends, Eric asked Lucie to put her dreams as an aspiring educator on hold temporarily as they launched a company with longtime friend Matt Hannaford — and LifeFlip Media was born.

“We understand that everything is mission critical for our clients and we treat them exactly as that — a mission,” says Eric Mitchell, CEO of LifeFlip Media.

Built on the mission of demonstrating to the American public the value of the Warrior Class, Eric Mitchell created LifeFlip Media as a way to give back to his community. What is the Warrior Class? It’s the class of patriots that are the backbone of this country and the very ones who make this country as great as it is. It’s members of the military, their spouses and family. It’s the first responders of our communities and all of those who support them in all that they do. 

Also read: 9 incredibly successful companies founded by military veterans

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Mitchell with fellow Marine, Kirstie Ennis.

This group has often been misrepresented and stereotyped within the media, leaving many outside of the community with false pretenses of aggression, mental instability, and lack of education. LifeFlip Media set itself on a course to change that narrative. Matt Hannaford, President of LifeFlip and one of the few “civilians” on the team, agrees. “I look for us to continue to be loud as the voice of the Warrior Class. We’ve created a great team and it’s time for us to build upon it. We want to take the image of the American soldier and make it great again.”

“Over the past year, I have witnessed LifeFlip Media breach the national media market for veterans. Eric and his team have managed to get more air time for veteran-owned companies than I have seen in my professional career. It is about time that the warrior class has a voice in mainstream media,” said Samantha Brown, former COO of Irreverent Warriors.

Care about what you do

One of the most difficult and important aspects of a partnership is the ability to create and sustain an unobstructed flow of ideas and communication. Being able to understand where your clients are coming from can give you a better idea of where they are heading, which can provide powerful insight. LifeFlip has been able to streamline its process by having a small team of people who possess values that reflect the ones instilled in them from the military as well as working with clients whose values align with their own. 

“Being a veteran can be great for PR but it also comes with a lot of misunderstanding and challenges. Having a team that understands this because they come from the same community and also have experience in the PR world gives them the ability to successfully pitch myself and other veterans. This helps secure the vital exposure that allows us to not only survive but to also grow,” says Eli Crane, CEO of Bottle Breacher and former Navy SEAL.

Leanness and Efficiency 

“We have a smaller team, but we care more,” says Mitchell. In only a few short years, LifeFlip Media has been able to belly up to the table and feast on their market share with the big names in the PR space using a small but mighty team with a diverse skill set. As a Marine veteran, LFM’s Director of Digital Media, Aaron Childress, understands the power of a small cohesive unit: “We have hit on a set of skills that no other firm can touch. From top to bottom, we offer every digital media line item needed for a brand to succeed and we do all of this with a smaller team, lower overhead, and quicker turnaround than anyone can offer. It’s a lighting strike of favor and good fortune and the top leadership at LifeFlip Media has capitalized on it at the correct time.”

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
U.S. Marines Chase Millsap and Eric Mitchell at the 2017 Army-Navy game.

5 Values of LifeFlip Media

Eric Mitchell put emphasis on core values as he explains, “We hold values yet don’t look at them as ours. We look at them as belonging to our community.” LifeFlip Media has made great strides during its short time in existence and has leaped its way past other players who have been in the game for far longer. They are undoubtedly different from your run-of-the-mill PR firm but what sets them apart from their counterparts is that LifeFlip possesses values that they truly live each day.

1. Service

LifeFlip Media believes in serving their clients first so the client can serve their customers in return. Everyone at LifeFlip Media strives to have their client success speak for the team.

2. Adaptability

The team believes that no client is the same and neither should the approach be as they build and execute on strategies. In addition, when a wrench is thrown into plans, the team is agile and has the ability to adapt and overcome.

3. Discipline

Possessing a team with a diverse skill set allows LifeFlip Media to deliver to their clients the reliability and execution speed that veterans and those associated with the military expect. With the team’s ability to work as a unit and communicate while assaulting forward on strategy execution, the LifeFlip Media team’s discipline is key.

4. Innovation

At LifeFlip Media, the team’s diverse backgrounds and experience allows for innovation and thinking outside of the box. LifeFlip’s team understands how PR integrates with other aspects of a business and needs to work in partnership with marketing and sales rather than as a separate division completely.

5. Loyalty

With a team made up of Marines who live by the Semper Fi warrior ethos as well as other team members who understand that loyalty is at LifeFlip Media’s core translates directly into business success.

Articles

The US Army’s ‘Tiger Force’ took terror tactics to the Viet Cong

By 1967, the United States was firmly committed to the war in Vietnam. That year saw 485,600 American troops in country. That’s like arming the entire population of Kansas City and moving them into another country.


So yeah, they were invested.

But from the start, the Vietnam War was unlike the previous American wars. There was no real front, the enemy could be anywhere, and most importantly, they didn’t always fight like a conventional army in the mountains, jungles, or rice paddies.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’

The Americans were fighting a limited war, trying to keep North Vietnam from infiltrating or taking over the South. They were also using a data-driven (but flawed) campaign of bombing and other operations based on pursuing and exploiting the fears and beliefs of the North Vietnamese.

Enter then-Maj. David Hackworth.

Hackworth was tasked with creating an elite commando unit from the already elite Special Forces long range reconnaissance patrol units. The mission of what he would call Tiger Force was more than just intelligence gathering. As he put it, he wanted to “out-guerrilla the guerrillas.”

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’

In 1967, Hackworth was out of the unit, and it was assigned to Vietnam’s Central Highlands, where it conducted a six-month long terror campaign in the Song Ve Valley and as part of Operation Wheeler. The mission was so brutal and so deep in enemy territory, members of the Tiger Force did not expect to survive.

“We didn’t expect to live. Nobody out there with any brains expected to live,” then-Sgt. William Doyle told the Telegraph. “The way to live is to kill because you don’t have to worry about anybody who’s dead.”

In a war where the U.S. military relied on body counts as a measure of success, Tiger Force was ready to do its part. Hackworth once noted, “You got your card punched by the numbers of bodies you counted.”

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’

Tiger Force went into villages the Viet Cong relied on for support and shelter in the Spring and Fall of 1967 and drove the villagers out of their homes using brute force. They allegedly used some disturbing methods to achieve those ends.

The Toledo Blade’s Michael D. Sallah, Mitch Weiss, and Joe Mahr (right) won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for their eight months of investigation and reporting on the alleged war crimes committed by Tiger Force.

“Women and children were intentionally blown up in underground bunkers. Elderly farmers were shot as they toiled in the fields. Prisoners were tortured and executed — their ears and scalps severed for souvenirs. One soldier kicked out the teeth of executed civilians for their gold fillings.”

The three journalists say the Army commandos, far from friendly areas and left without support, routinely violated the laws of armed conflict, killed unarmed civilians, dropped grenades on women and children, and covered up the incidents during the official Army investigations.

Some members of the Tiger Force today aren’t even disputing the allegations. Doyle, along with others, claims to have lost count of how many people they killed.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’

”I’ve seen atrocities in Vietnam that make Tiger Force look like Sunday school,” Doyle told the New York Times. “Everybody I killed, I killed to survive. They make Tiger Force out to be an atrocity. Well, that’s almost a compliment. Because nobody will understand the evil I’ve seen.”

The Army investigated the allegations for four and a half years but no charges were ever filed and the men of tiger Force became some of the most decorated in the Vietnam War. They were even awarded a Presidential Unit Citation.

For its part, the Army told the Toledo Blade that, barring any new evidence coming to light, the investigations would remain closed, even after comparing the newspaper’s information with their official records.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russia is hiring mercenaries to fight in Syria

Bloomberg has reported that the Feb. 7, 2018 attack on U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters by forces aligned with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was actually conducted by Russian mercenaries, and that at least 100 of them died in the failed attack.


The attack happened just five miles east of the “de-confliction” line between the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Russian-supported Syrian government in the oil-rich Deir Ezzor region.

Some 500 “pro-Assad” fighters attempted to attack an SDF headquarters, but were repelled by American artillery and airstrikes that were called in by U.S. advisers on the ground. Russian nationals were suspected of being part of the attack, but no casualties were reported, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he did not think there were any Russian casualties.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Fighters of the Euphrates Liberation Brigade, part of the Manbij Military Council of the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the city of Manbij in northern Syria. (Wikimedia Commons photo from Kurdishstruggle.)

Bloomberg, however, reported that three Russian sources told them the attack was conducted by Russian mercenaries, and that as many as 200 Russian “contract soldiers” died in the attack.

Russia has denied that any of its forces were killed or wounded in the attack, but evidence that Russians had died have slowly begun to surface on Russian social media.

Also read: How militants shot down a Russian fighter in Syria

It is unclear who was paying the mercenaries involved in last week’s attack, or what group they were a part of, but reports of a Russian private military company (PMC) by the name of Wagner have surfaced throughout the last few years.

Reports of Wagner mercenaries in Syria

This incident is not the first time Russian mercenaries have been reported to be operating in Syria. Stratfor, an American geopolitical intelligence firm, recently reported that Wagner mercenaries had served in Ukraine, Syria, and parts of Africa.

In September 2017, two Wagner operators were reportedly taken prisoner by the terrorist group ISIS in Syria’s Deir Ezzor region, and in August 2016, Sky News interviewed Russian men who claimed to be mercenaries who fought at the Battle of Palmyra.

Related: Thousands of Russian private contractors are fighting in Syria

The independent Russian media outlet Fontanka published an investigation from 2016 that claimed that as many as 2,500 men from Wagner were operating in Syria. They reported that they had a training base in Russia’s Krasnodar Krai region, and that many of the men in the group had fought in Ukraine’s Donbas war on the side of the separatists.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’

In early February 2018, Igor Girkin, the former defense minister for the self-declared Donetsk Peoples Republic, a separatist region backed by Russia in eastern Ukraine, said Russian mercenaries operating in Syria who died in combat were cremated on sight, so as to hide the true cost of Russia’s involvement.

“‘No body, no criminal case’ — this Russian investigative principle is being creatively used in the military campaign,” Girkin said on the Russian social media website VKontakte. “It is possible to dispose of a considerable number of bodies without anyone noticing. What can I say? There has never been such cynicism in our country.”

Russian mercenaries are reportedly being used for two purposes: to achieve objectives that the poorly trained and equipped Syrian Arab Army are not capable of achieving alone, and to hide the true cost of Russia’s involvement in Syria.

The tactic is not unheard of. The U.S. employed mercenaries during its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their deaths were not reported in official counts. The U.S. continues to rely on PMCs in active warzones around the world.

If accurate, the losses sustained last week would make the number of Russian military deaths five times higher than the official count — and that does not even include previous losses sustained by Wagner.

Articles

6 reasons why it’s not a good idea to attack a Marine FOB

Being forward deployed in a foreign country has many dangers. No matter how well you fortify your Forward Operating Base, it’ll never be safe — only safer.


But for months or even years, it’s home for hundreds of service members…surrounded by an enemy on all sides who want to bring harm to them on a daily basis.

One thing Marines take seriously is making sure that while their brothers and sisters rest inside the wire — they’re safe. With different security levels in place, check out six obstacles that the enemy has to breach before even getting inside.

1. Hesco barriers

One aspect of fighting in the desert is the massive amounts of sand, dirt, and rocks that are available. Filling the natural resources in the encased barriers provides excellent protection against most types of enemy fire.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Marines from 1st CEB, fill Hesco barriers at a combat outpost in Musa Qal’eh, Afghanistan. (Photo via 1stMarDiv)

2. Heavy guns in the nest

Occupying the high ground gives allied forces the best vantage possible. Add in a few Marines with big guns waiting for the bad guys to feel froggy — that’s protection.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
The bad guys may want to rethink how they attack with these Marines on deck. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

3. Serpentine

Even if granted permission to access the FOB, entering should be difficult. Serpentine belts force incoming vehicles to slow down and maneuver through the barrier maze.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
If you don’t have permission to enter, the Marines will definitely open fire.  (Photo via Global Security)

4. Security rounds

Marines carry hundreds of rounds on their person at any given time. Carrying a full combat load on patrol can wear the body down. Inside a FOB, you can ease up on your personal security — a little.

Instead of carrying 210 rounds, they’ll have the 30 security rounds inserted in their magazine.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
(Photo via Gun Deals)

5. Surveillance

In warfare, it’s essential to have cameras positioned everywhere and that see everything.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Dear bad guys, we totally see you. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

6. Claymores

Over time, the gravel inside the Hescos will settle, causing separation between the individual barriers. When FOB security notices this interruption, they frequently place and conceal claymore mines in between the Hescos until the issue is patched up.

If the enemy tries to and squeeze through — boom!

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Lance Cpl. Timothy W. Literal sets up a claymore anti-personnel mine. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

Articles

The Marine Corps’ Security Force Regiment is an old hand at special ops

The Marine Corps is a very tough and flexible force.


But perhaps the most versatile Marine unit is the Marine Corps Security Force Regiment — a dedicated security and counter-terrorism unit that’s used for everything from guarding nukes to rescuing diplomats.

In fact, the more famous counter-terror units like Delta Force, SEAL Team Six, the Special Air Service or GSG 9 are young whippersnappers compared to the Marine Corps Security Force Regiment. Tracing its lineage to the 1920s, the Marine Security Force Regiment was around long before the SAS was a gleam in the eye of David Stirling.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Marines engage an armed objective during a room-clearing exercise at Advanced Interior Tactics training aboard Naval Support Activity Northwest Annex in Chesapeake, Va., Dec. 7. During the course, Marines were taught to identify the hands of an individual to determine whether or not they posed a threat, in order to control the scene and conduct thorough house clearings. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kayla D. Rivera)

When the Navy’s part of America’s nuclear triad is in port, it’s these Marines that defend it.

The Security Forces Marines get the task for one simple reason: America’s SSBN force may be safe when it’s out at sea, but when in port, it is vulnerable to attack. Not only that, the UGM-133 Trident II ballistic missiles are usually not on the submarines and represent a perfect target for those seeking to cripple the sea-based deterrent.

Part of that effort includes the unit’s Recapture Tactics Teams. According to Military.com, these teams specialize in recovering materials, people, and property tied to the strategic inventory.

AmericanSpecialOps.com notes that they are called the CQB Team, and they are trained to act at the squad level.

According to its official webpage, the Security Force Regiment is also tasked with providing “forward deployed, expeditionary antiterrorism and security forces to support designated commanders and protect vital national assets” and “expeditionary antiterrorism and security forces, deployable from the United States, to establish or augment security as directed by the commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command.”

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
U.S. Marines and British Royal Commandos enter a building together in the first phase of security forces training in New Castle Upon Tyne, England, Sept. 21-25, 2015. Training included various breaching techniques, close-quarters battle, live-fire ranges, training simulators with various military and the state-of-the-art training facility in Gateshead with the Northumbria Police Department. (USMC photo)

The units sent in those cases are the Fleet Anti-terrorist Security Teams, and the companies in vulnerable commands are called FAST Companies. Platoons from a FAST company could be sent to bolster an embassy or consulate that has come under attack.

In 2012, those were the Marines called on in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack according to USNI News.

To see what FAST Marines can do, check out this video:

Articles

The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing

The Pentagon has identified the two soldiers killed in southern Afghanistan earlier this week as members of the 82nd Airborne Division.


The Fort Bragg-based soldiers were part of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, deployed in support of the Resolute Support Mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Spc. Christopher Michael Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, North Carolina. (DOD photo)

Spc. Christopher Michael Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, and Sgt. Jonathan Michael Hunter, 23, of Columbus, Indiana, belonged to A Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, officials said. Jackson Springs is in western Moore County, about an hour from the All American gate of Fort Bragg.

The soldiers were part of a convoy that was attacked south of Kandahar on Wednesday afternoon, according to officials. Four other soldiers were wounded in the attack, which involved a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.

NATO officials in Afghanistan said the four wounded soldiers were receiving care at a coalition medical facility and that their injuries were not considered life-threatening.

“On behalf of the men and women of the Resolute Support Mission, I offer our deepest condolences to the families of our fallen comrades,” said Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. military officer in Afghanistan and a former commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division. “These soldiers gave their lives in service of a mission that is critically important to the United States, our allies and partners. We will honor their sacrifice with our dedication to protect our homeland and complete the mission for which they sacrificed.”

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Sgt. Jonathon Michael Hunter, 23, of Columbus, Indiana. (US Army photo)

The Department of Defense announced the names of the two soldiers killed in the attack late Thursday.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack that killed Harris and Hunter.

On Thursday, a separate attack killed another coalition soldier and injured six other personnel during a patrol near Kabul, officials said. The wounded were reported in stable condition at the U.S. military hospital at Bagram Airfield.

The patrol was struck by an IED during a partnered mission alongside Afghan soldiers.

There are about 15,500 coalition troops in Afghanistan in support of the 16-year-old war. About 8,400 of them are from the U.S. military, with more than 2,000 of that number hailing from Fort Bragg.

The 1st Brigade Combat Team alone has approximately 1,500 soldiers in Afghanistan, with troops in Kabul, Kandahar and other parts of the country. Most of the soldiers deployed in June, led by Col. Tobin Magsig and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Cobb.

The soldiers have a variety of missions providing base security, protecting high-ranking military and government officials, serving as Theater Reserve Forces and training, advising and assisting Afghan security forces.

Harris and Hunter’s battalion, the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, has been tasked with overseeing security for a tactical base in southern Afghanistan and serving as a quick reaction force to deal with nearby attacks.

“The entire Devil Brigade is deeply saddened by the loss of two beloved team members,” Magsig, the brigade commander, said in a statement released Thursday.

“Spc. Christopher Harris was an extraordinary young man and a phenomenal paratrooper,” Magsig said. “He regularly displayed the type of courage, discipline, and empathy that the nation expects from its warriors.”

“Sgt. Jonathon Hunter was the leader we all want to work for — strong, decisive, compassionate, and courageous,” the colonel added. “He was revered by his paratroopers and respected throughout his unit.”

Both of the soldiers were on their first deployment, officials said.

Harris joined the Army in October 2013 and Hunter joined in April 2014, according to the 82nd Airborne Division. Both men attended Basic Combat Training, Advanced Individual Training and Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, before being assigned to the 1st Brigade.

“Chris and Jon lived and died as warriors. They will always be a part of the legacy of the Devil Brigade and their memory lives on in the hearts and minds of their fellow paratroopers,” Magsig said. “Our thoughts and prayers are centered on the families and loved ones of these two great Americans.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This insane video of a C-130 flying just above a soldier’s head

A YouTube video emerged on May 18, 2018, showing a Saudi C-130H flying very low over a soldier’s head in Yemen, The War Zone first reported.

The video appears to show the soldier trying to slap the underside of the C-130H with an article of clothing, but it’s unclear where exactly in Yemen it was shot, and how much of it was planned, The War Zone reported.


C-130s are large transport aircraft, which are vital to Saudi Arabia’s operations in Yemen, The War Zone reported. Part of a $110 arms deal, the US sold Riyadh 20 C-130Js and three KC-130 refuelers in 2017 for $5.8 billion.

Watch the video below:

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

4 benefits of being a military brat

In most cases, the term “brat” is one of a put-down. But when it comes to military affiliation, it’s almost a term of endearment. Possibly an acronym dating back hundreds of years — short for British Regiment Attached Traveler — it’s a word that refers to military children and all that comes with it: frequent moves and a military lifestyle for much, if not all, of their childhood years.


Being a brat is often a badge of honor. Here are four benefits of growing up on the move:

Military kids are great with change

Moving? Making new friends? Adapting to a new climate and culture? Military kids can do it all. They might not like it, but they’re more than equipped to do so. Brats know how to settle in somewhere new, and how to ultimately fit in.

Kids (even adults) who have remained in one place their entire lives are lacking in these areas. Whether or not brats realize it at the time, frequent moves are creating important life skills in confidence, adaptability, social abilities, and more.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’

Military brats are more open-minded

If you’ve never lived anywhere new, it’s hard to understand how others think, let alone put yourself in someone else’s shoes. But when you’ve lived in different states, possibly even different countries, all before adulthood, that closed-mindedness simply doesn’t exist.

Because they grew up hearing different thoughts, trying new foods, and meeting new folks, military brats automatically learn to be more well-rounded individuals.

They don’t focus on “stuff”

Every decluttering program can rejoice in the lack of things that come from military moves. If you don’t need it, it’s got to go! This is a great way for kids to avoid becoming materialistic and instead, to focus on what’s important in life. With less focus on “stuff,” it frees up time to look at other things — activities, people, quality time with family, and more.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’

Brats are better communicators

Being a military brat means talking with grandma and grandpa through FaceTime. It means writing letters or sending gifts in the mail. It means learning how to talk with others from a distance. While it’s not ideal having family that’s so far away, one perk is that it teaches young kids to hold conversations and how to stay in touch, even from a young age.

Military brats can benefit from a lifestyle that keeps them moving. What’s the biggest benefit you’ve seen as a family?

Articles

North Korea claims they have a hydrogen bomb and the world shrugs

Through the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Kim Jong-Un, North Korea’s supreme leader, announced his country is “ready to detonate a self-reliant A-bomb and H-bomb to reliably defend its sovereignty and the dignity of the nation.” American and South Korean officials are dismissing the claim.


Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Confirmed North Korean Technologies: Potato Guns

“The information that we have access to calls into serious question those claims, but we take very seriously the risk and the threat that is posed by the North Korean regime in their ambitions to develop a nuclear weapon,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Confirmed North Korean Technologies: Binoculars

Kim made the announcement while inspecting an historical military site in Pyongyang. The regime first became a confirmed nuclear power in 2006 under Kim’s predecessor and father Kim Jong-Il when North Korea detonated the first of three nuclear bombs.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Confirmed North Korean Technologies: Flash Mobs

North Korea’s regime detonates nukes at “secret” underground nuclear tests sites. The announcement comes on the heels of the discovery of new nuclear testing tunnels, uncovered by satellite photos, at Punggye-ri in the northeast area of the country.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Confirmed North Korean Technologies: Phones

This is the first time the Kim regime claimed to have hydrogen bomb technology and the announcement may be a response to the recent U.S. sanctions targeting North Korea’s Strategic Rocket Force and banks involved in North Korean arms proliferation.

North Korea has a history of acting out in response to Western actions it sees as provocative. When the U.S. and South Korea performed its yearly joint Foal Eagle exercise in 2015, the North launched two scud missiles into the sea outside of South Korea. When the South conducted a combined arms exercise near Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong Islands near the maritime border with the North, North Korean artillery batteries shelled the island for an hour.

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’
Confirmed North Korean Technologies: Gloop

The North is not yet able to put a nuclear weapon on one of its rockets, but its nuclear capabilities do threaten U.S. allies in the region.

“We don’t have any information that North Korea has developed an H-bomb,” a South Korean intelligence official told the South’s Yonhap News Agency. “We do not believe that North Korea, which has not succeeded in miniaturizing nuclear bombs, has the technology to produce an H-bomb.”

North Korea claimed in 2010 that it had successfully developed fusion technology.