The word “hero” has been overused since 9-11, but early in the Iraq War, Marine Corps First Lieutenant Brian Chontosh engaged in some bad-assery that truly merits him wearing that label. Check out the write-up on his Navy Cross citation. It reads like something straight out of Hollywood:
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the NAVY CROSS to
FIRST LIEUTENANT BRIAN R. CHONTOSH
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
for service as set forth in the following
For extraordinary heroism as Combined Anti-Armor Platoon Commander, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 25 March 2003. While leading his platoon north on Highway 1 toward Ad Diwaniyah, First Lieutenant Chontosh’s platoon moved into a coordinated ambush of mortars, rocket propelled grenades, and automatic weapons, fire. With coalition tanks blocking the road ahead, he realized his platoon was caught in a kill zone. He had his driver move the vehicle through a breach along his flank, where he was immediately taken under fire from an entrenched machine gun. Without hesitation, First Lieutenant Chontosh ordered the driver to advance directly at the enemy position enabling his .50 caliber machine gunner to silence the enemy. He then directed his driver into the enemy trench, where he exited his vehicle and began to clear the trench with an M16A2 service rile and 9 millimeter pistol. His ammunition depleted, First Lieutenant Chontosh, with complete disregard for his safety, twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack. When a Marine following him found an enemy rocket propelled grenade launcher, First Lieutenant Chontosh used it to destroy yet another group of enemy soldiers. When his audacious attack ended, he had cleared over 200 meters of the enemy trench, killing more than 20 enemy soldiers and wounding several others. By his outstanding diplay of decisive leadership, unlimited courage in the face of heavy enemy fire, and utmost devotion to duty, First Lieutenant Chontosh reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
The squadron recently completed two successful sorties where a B-52 released eight PDU-5/B leaflet bombs over the Point Mugu Sea Test Range and eight more over the Precision Impact Range Area on Edwards Air Force Base.
“We are primarily looking to see safe separation from the external Heavy Stores Adapter Beam,” said Kevin Thorn, a 419th FLTS B-52 Stratofortress air vehicle manager. “We are ensuring that the bombs do not contact the aircraft, and/or each other, creating an unsafe condition. Additionally we are tracking the reliability of the bomb functioning.”
The PDU-5/B is a new-use or variant of an older Cluster Bomb Unit. The original designation for the weapon was the MK-20 Rockeye II, SUU-76B/B, and/or CBU-99/100. The designator changes depending on the type of filler used in the bomb, said Thorn. Having leaflets as a filler designates the bomb as a PDU-5/B.
According to the Air Force, PDU-5/B canisters can deliver about 60,000 leaflets and were deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom before any Air Force munitions began hitting targets in Baghdad.
The dispenser bomb can be dropped from helicopters and fighter jets, and now the 419th FTS is trying to see if the B-52 fleet can be used as well.
“The PDU-5/B is just another tool that the B-52 uses in its vast and reliable tool box,” said Earl Johnson, the B-52 PDU-5/B project manager. “Without the capability to carry PDU-5s on the B-52 aircraft, the impending shortfall on leaflet dispersal capability will jeopardize Air Force Central Command information operations.”
Johnson said testing the PDU-5/B on the B-52 is complete for now. The program is forecasted to return at a future date to test PDU-5/B releases from the B-52’s internal weapons bay.
In his April 2017 book “Make Your Bed,” Admiral William McRaven described what it was like for him as a leader and military officer to receive the families of fallen troops — including those who died under his command.
The former SEAL officer vividly paints a scene at Dover Air Force Base, the first stop on American soil for the remains of U.S. troops killed in combat. The waiting rooms are filled with “wives with a far-off look of disbelief, … inconsolable children, … [and] parents holding hands hoping to gain strength from one another.”
A number of Navy SEALs died in 2011 when their helicopter was shot down over Afghanistan – all 38 men aboard were killed, including 30 Americans. It was the single greatest U.S. loss in the War on Terror. Then-President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and the military’s senior leadership were all present to receive the flag-draped coffins.
The admiral and his wife were there too. He writes in his book that he began to wonder if his words were any solace to the families, if they made any difference at all, or if the shock made his words incomprehensible to the bereaved. He knew what he said was never going to be enough, but he tried to empathize with them.
That’s when he noticed a then-Marine Lt. Gen. John Kelly talking to a number of the families. He could tell that what Kelly was saying was actually hitting home to those who lost their loved ones. The effect was what McRaven described as “profound.” He hugged them and they hugged him in turn.
General Kelly talked to every person in the room.
The Marine’s word hit home because they weren’t the words of comfort from a commander to his troops’ families, they were the words of a parent who lost a son in combat, just as they had.
Only General Kelly could have said anything that would mean something to those who lost their children, parents, and spouses in combat. As McRaven puts it:
“When you lose a soldier, you grieve for the families but you also fear that the same fate may one day befall you. You wonder whether you could survive the loss of a child. Or you wonder how your family would get along without you by their side. You hope and pray that God will be merciful and not have you shoulder this unthinkable burden.”
In a hypothetical war with Russia, the U.S. holds a lot of advantages. America’s Air Force and Navy are the largest in the world. The U.S. military is an all-volunteer force while Russia’s military is still reliant on conscriptions to fill out the ranks.
But there is one area of a conventional war where Russia holds a real advantage: artillery. While America has evolved into a leader in precision artillery fires, Russia has continued to build on its range and ability to deliver massed fires, which are more important factors in an artillery battle between armies.
The U.S. Army worked hard for its precision. Artillery presents a lot of natural challenges to accuracy. The arc of the round and the time of flight, anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, means that the environment gets a lot of chances to blow artillery off target.
Plus, artillery crews can’t usually see their targets or where their rounds land. A forward observer calls the guns from the frontline and reads off target data. The gun crew uses this description to fire. The observer will let them know if they hit anything, what corrections to make, and how many more rounds are needed.
Target movement makes the challenge even harder. Crews still have to rely on the observer, but against moving targets they also have to hope that the target won’t change its direction or speed in the 30 seconds to three minutes that the round is flying to the target.
But the U.S. managed to create precision fires by spending a lot of time and money on laser and GPS-guided artillery rounds that can steer during flight. It also trained its crews for maximum accuracy even when using more traditional rounds.
Because of this innovation and work, American artillery crews could engage enemy forces within a couple hundred meters of friendly troops as long as the observer agrees to a “Danger Close” mission and the crew double checks their math. Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan could drop rounds near schools and mosques while remaining confident they wouldn’t destroy any friendly buildings.
The problem is this precision isn’t as necessary in a fight against another nation state. After all, if the enemy has troops camped along a ridge, missing the center by a couple hundred feet wouldn’t matter much. The round would still hit one of the tents or vehicles. And massed fires, shooting a lot at once, would ensure that any specific target would likely be destroyed.
So instead of investing as much as the U.S. did in getting super accurate, Russia invested in getting more guns and rockets that could fire faster and farther.
Some of those new rockets and guns can fire farther than their U.S. counterparts, meaning that American artillerymen would have to drive their guns into position and emplace them while Russian artillery is already raining down around them.
Russia also invested in new capabilities like drones that pack into rocket tubes and kamikaze themselves against targets as well as thermobaric warheads that fit onto rockets and can be fired en masse. Thermobaric weapons release fuel or metal fragments into the air and then detonate it, creating a massive blast wave and flash fire.
These developments have not gone unnoticed by the U.S. Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster gave a briefing in May where he talked about the new threats from Russia’s artillery and called for America to get more serious about artillery against a near-peer adversary.
It’s not time to go running under the tables, yet. Russia’s advantage in an artillery duel is partially countered by America’s dominance in the air. Bombers could launch strikes against the most-capable of the Russian guns provided that the guns aren’t defended by Russia’s top-tier air defenses.
America also has more numerous and more capable cruise and other long-range missiles than Russia, meaning that there would be opportunities to degrade Russia’s capabilities before the two artillery forces clashed. And America does have great drone and thermobaric capabilities, just not in its artillery corps.
But if America wants an advantage in all areas ahead of a potential war, it’s time to get serious about massed fires once again.
It’s another weekly episode of Star Trek: The Original Series: The title – “Bread and Circuses.”
This time, Capt. Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy beam down to Planet 892-IV, a planet identical to Earth in almost every way – except Rome never fell.
Along with scantily clad space babes and gladiatorial games there are gun-toting Roman legionnaires. Not only did Rome never fall in this story, but apparently Denmark rises to become supplier of submachine guns to the empire, and a pretty badass submachine gun at that.
They are toting the Madsen M-50 9-millimeter submachine guns by Dansk Industri Syndikat. Its simplicity and ease of maintenance are stellar even if its popularity back on Earth was somewhat limited.
The M-50 is an open bolt, blowback submachine gun that fires only in full-auto at a cyclic rate of 550 rounds per minute. It has a 32-round box magazine and is slightly more than 30 inches long with the stock unfolded.
However, it’s most unusual feature is the way the operator field-strips the weapon. A barrel nut holds two halves of the hinged sheet metal receiver together – when the operator closes the stock and removes the barrel nut, he can open the receiver like it is clamshell housing, exposing the inner parts of the gun.
All the parts such as the bolt, operating spring and guide, and the barrel easily remove for cleaning. When finished, the person cleaning the weapon just reverses the process and snaps the sides of the receiver shut and replaces the barrel nut.
Besides, it looks exotic and foreign – probably one of the reasons movie and television armorers loved using it.
In the original Planet of the Apes films the M-50 was mocked-up in a futuristic shell to make the gun look even more alien – perfectly suited for a world where apes carried the guns and made the laws.
Also in 1968, the film Ice Station Zebra portrayed Soviet paratroopers carrying the gun, no doubt because of its foreign look.
Even legendary cinematic Italian crime families packed the gun. In The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, Corleone “made men” are carrying M-50s as they provide security around the various family compounds depicted in the movie.
But “movie gun” was not what the Madsen’s manufacturer intended. In a world full of cheap, mass-produced World War II submachine guns like the M-3 “Grease Gun” or the Sten, the Madsen put up with a lot abuse without jamming.
The Special Forces Foreign Weapons Handbook describes it as a “well-made weapon” that “incorporates low-cost production features, sturdiness and simplicity of disassembly seldom found in weapons of this type” and that it possessed a stock that was “one of the most rigid types available and the weapon can be fired as easily with the stock folded as it can with the stock unfolded.”
Latin American military and police units used it widely. During the 1950s, Dansk Industri Syndikat sold thousands of M-50s to Latin American countries including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, and Venezuela.
Brazil also purchased the gun, but then produced its own licensed version called the M-953 or the INA – for Industria Nacional de Armas of Sao Paulo. The Brazilian makers of the INA originally chambered the weapon in .45 ACP, a caliber popular with most of their nation’s armed forces and police.
However, during the early 1970s Brazil’s defense ministers decided that 9-millimeter Parabellum would be a better choice in ammunition. They eventually ordered a massive conversion program to re-chamber the weapons in 9-millimeter as well as add a select-fire modification.
Special Forces and CIA operators during the Vietnam War frequently carried the M-50 or armed the “indigs” with the gun.
In South Vietnam, Green Berets frequently placed the weapon in the hands of the montagnards, the indigenous hill people who defended villages against the Viet Cong and served as rapid response forces alongside special operators.
Small enough to be secreted inside their woven pack baskets, M-50s gave the montagnards real firepower as they scouted hills and trails for Viet Cong activity.
Despite obvious interest in the M-50, sales of the weapon were good but not great. Its biggest competition was the veritable flood of surplus submachine guns from World War II that inundated the military market during the 1950s.
So, it became a movie gun – whether it was in “space, the final frontier” (at least as it was portrayed on television) or in dozens of movies on the big screen.
US Special Operations Command is weighing the use of nutritional supplements or even performance-enhancing drugs to push the abilities and endurance of its forces beyond current human limits, according to a report from Defense News.
While special-operations forces already have access to specialized resources, like dietitians and physical therapists, SOCOM is looking to increase their ability to tolerate pain, recover from injuries, and remain physically able in challenging environments.
“If there are … different ways of training, different ways of acquiring performance that are non-material, that’s preferred but in a lot of cases we’ve exhausted those areas,” Ben Chitty, the senior project manager for biomedical, human performance, and canine portfolios at US SOCOM’s Science and Technology office, told Defense News.
While Chitty said SOCOM was exploring nutritional supplements, other substances were in consideration as well.
“For performance enhancing drugs, we’ll have to look at the makeup and safety in consultation with our surgeon and the medical folks before making any decisions on it,” he told Defense News.
One goal of the research to develop what Defense News referred to as “super soldiers” would be to expand troops’ ability to operate in places not well suited for humans — high altitudes or underwater in particular.
While the evaluation process would emphasize safety — “We’re not cutting any corners,” Chitty said — any proposal to deploy pharmaceutical substances among special-operations troops is likely to draw scrutiny, especially in light of recent revelations about a what Capt. Jamie Sands, the commander of 900 Navy SEALs on the East Coast, called a “staggering” number of drug cases among Navy Special Operations units.
Three active and retired SEALs spoke to CBS in April, with their faces masked and voices disguised, telling the network that illicit drug use among SEAL units was increasing.
“People that we know of, that we hear about have tested positive for cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, ecstasy,” one of them said.
Another active-duty SEAL described by the CBS report tested positive once in the past for cocaine, and, during a new round of testing prompted by a drug-related safety stand-down in December, tested positive againfor prescription drugs. He was being removed from SEAL teams.
While Navy SEALs are supposed to undergo regular drug tests, that doesn’t always apply when they are away from their home bases. As demand for SEALs in operations around the world has grown, they have spent an increasing amount of time deployed.
Three active-duty SEALs told CBS they hadn’t been tested in years. Sands, for his part, announced in December that SEALs would start undergoing tests while deployed.
While Chitty did not mention the frequency of operations — and the physical and emotional wear and tear related to it — as a reason for pursuing nutritional and pharmaceutical supplements, other special-operations officials have warned that their forces are being depleted by an overreliance on them.
“We’ve been operating at such a high [operational] tempo for the last decade plus, and with budgets going down, what we’ve had to do is essentially … eat our young, so to speak,” Theresa Whelan, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations, said during a House Armed Services Committee session this month.
Special-operations commanders, while acknowledging the strain increased operations have put on their units, have emphasized that they are still capable of addressing threats emerging around the world. But, Whelan told Congress, constant readiness has had and will have consequences.
“We’ve mortgaged the future in order to facilitate current operations that has impacted readiness and it’s also impacted development of force for the future,” she said. “And as the threats grow, this is only going to get worse.”
The Navy tends to be very strict when people recover items from sunken wrecks. In fact, when an Enigma machine was taken from the wreck of U-85, the Navy intervened. They even tried to grab a plane they left lying around in a North Carolina swamp for over 40 years.
According to a 2004 AP report, the plane in question was very valuable. It was the only known surviving Brewster F3A “Corsair.” Well, let’s be honest here. The F3A can best be described as a Corsair In Name Only, or CINO. Brewster’s Corsairs had problems — so much so that in July, 1944, the Navy cancelled the contract and Brewster went out of business less than a month after D-Day.
Brewster was also responsible for the F2A Buffalo, a piece of crap that got a lot of Marine pilots killed during the Battle of Midway.
According to that AP report, the story began with a fatal accident on Dec. 19, 1944, which killed Lt. Robin C. Pennington, who was flying a training mission in the F3A. The Navy recovered Pennington’s body and some gear from the Corsair, then left the wreck. Eventually, the plane was recovered by Lex Cralley in 1990, who began trying to restore the plane. A simple case of “finders keepers, losers weepers,” right?
Nope. The Navy sued Cralley in 2004 to get the plane back. After the report appeared, comments were…not exactly favorable towards the Navy at one normally pro-military forum.
Eventually, then-Representative Walter Jones (R-NC) got involved. According to a May 28, 2004 report by Hearst News Service, Jones eventually authored an amendment that settled the lawsuit by having the Navy turn the F3A over to Cralley.
The Navy usually has been very assertive with regards to wrecks. According to admiraltylawguide.com, in 2000, the Navy won a ruling in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal preventing Doug Champlin from salvaging a TBD Devastator that had survived both the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway.
The Battle of Okinawa, known as Operation Iceberg by the Allies, eventually consisted of 306,000 service members assaulting fierce defenses manned by 130,000 Japanese troops and an unknown number of local civilians, including children, drafted into the defenses.
The island was critical for the planned invasion of Japan, but the losses were enormous.
Here are 33 photos that give a look inside of one of America’s most costly battles of World War II:
1. For days before the invasion, Navy ships bombarded the island with naval artillery and rockets. This photo was taken five days before the amphibious assault.
2. A Navy Corsair fires a salvo of rockets during Operation Iceberg, the Allied effort to capture Okinawa, the largest of the Ryukyu Islands.
3. The USS Idaho shells the island of Okinawa on April 1, 1945.
4. Marines land on the beachhead already secured on the island. These infantrymen will continue pressing the attack against approximately 130,000 defenders.
5. U.S. landing ships sit beached and burning on May 4 near the mouth of the Bishi River after a Japanese air attack.
6. Famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle speaks with U.S. Marines a short time before his death on the island.
7. A long exposure photograph shows the crisscrossing lines of Marine anti-aircraft fire over the U.S. airfield established on Okinawa.
8. A May 11, 1945, morning artillery barrage kicks off an all-out offensive.
9. Japanese rockets rain down on and near U.S. positions during heavy fighting on Okinawa.
10. The infamous battleship Yamato, sent to Okinawa to attempt to beach itself and act as a shore battery until destroyed, is sank at sea on April 7 before it can reach the island.
11. Army Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., at right, surveys fighting just a few hours before Japanese artillery killed him.
12. A Sherman tank drives past a burning home. The structure was set on fire to prevent its use by snipers.
13. Marines attempt to extinguish the flames on an overturned Sherman tank. The ammo later exploded before the Army crew could be rescued.
14. Engineers construct a causeway from the island to the sea to allow supplies to be trucked from ships to shore.
15. American service members move supplies by horse in areas where the mud was impassable for vehicles.
16. Okinawan civilians hired to carry supplies line up to receive their loads.
17. A flamethrowing tank attacks Hill 60 during the Marine assault on the mound.
18. A Japanese plane goes down in flames over the ocean.
19. The HMS Formidable of the Royal Navy burns after a May 4 Kamikaze attack. Eight crew members were lost and 55 injured, but the Formidable survived the war.
20. Marine Corps infantrymen ride a tank to the town of Ghuta on April 1 to occupy it before Japanese defenders can.
21. A Marine sprints across the “Valley of Death,” a draw covered by Japanese machine guns that caused 125 casualties in eight hours.
22. Marines explode dynamite charges to destroy a Japanese cave on the island.
23. The USS Bunker Hill burns after two Kamikaze strikes in less than a minute. At least 346 sailors were killed and 43 went missing.
24. The Bunker Hill survived and returned to the U.S. for repairs. It served as a troop transport after the war before it was sent to the fleet reserve.
25. Wounded sailors are moved from the Bunker Hill to the USS Wilkes Barre.
26. Army soldiers move forward during the 82-day battle.
27. A private cuts a sergeant’s hair in the Japanese city of Shuri on the island. A medieval castle in the city survived the battle.
28. Marines rest on the side of a hill as Japanese fire prevents their further advance.
29. A tank crewmember is relocated after suffering injuries.
30. Wounded troops await transport to a ship hospital.
31. Marine Lt. Col. R.P. Ross, Jr. places an American flag on Shuri castle on May 29, 1945. Ross was under sniper fire at the time.
32. The American flag is raised over the island June 22 in a ceremony marking the end of organized Japanese resistance.
33. A U.S. servicemember visits an American cemetery. The U.S. suffered over 12,000 killed and 50,000 wounded during the battle. Japan suffered over 150,000 soldiers and civilians killed or committed suicide.
Most Americans know the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, D.C, displays the names of every servicemember who died in the war or remain missing in action. But what many may not know is that the last names on the wall were killed in an operation launched two years after the conflict officially ended.
In a hastily thrown together mission to save civilians captured in Cambodia, three Marines were left behind to die at the hands of a Khmer Rouge executioner. And though the mission occurred well after American combat forces withdrew from Vietnam, the names of those Marines were still given their place on the Vietnam Memorial wall.
The 1973 Paris Peace Accords ended U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and two months later the last U.S. combat troops left along with prisoners of war held by the Vietnamese.
But in May, 1975, Communist Khmer Rouge troops from Democratic Kampuchea (modern-day Cambodia), captured an American-flagged merchant ship, the SS Mayaguez, off its coast. And though America was trying to distance itself from the war, President Gerald Ford vowed a response, and historians acknowledge the attempted rescue by U.S. troops as the last official battle of the Vietnam war.
Aerial surveillance showing two Khmer Rough gunboats during the initial seizing of the SS Mayaguez. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Ford ordered the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea, the destroyer Harold E. Holt, and the guided missile destroyer Henry B. Wilson into the area. He also put the Seventh Air Force and contingents of Marines in the region on alert.
P-3 Orion aircraft dropped flares on the Mayaguez’ last known position, which drew small arms fire from the attackers. The Air Force continued to harass the captured ship. So the Khmer troops took the crew prisoner on fishing boats close to the nearby island of Koh Tang.
The Air Force then loaded 75 Security Forces airmen onto five HH-53 Super Jolly Green Giant helicopters and seven Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallions to retake the Mayaguez. This plan was aborted when one of the helos, call sign Knife 13, crashed on its way to Thailand, killing all 18 airmen and its five-man crew.
These 23 airmen died en route to the Mayaguez when their HH-53C helicopter crashed due to a mechanical malfunction. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The next plan called for the Air Force to stop all ships between Koh Tang and the Cambodian mainland.
Meanwhile, Marines staged for a simultaneous assault on the Mayaguez and Koh Tang Island. Delta Company of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines moved to capture the ship, while 600 troops from 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines rescued the crew from the island. The plan called for two helicopters to make a diversionary attack on the eastern beach while the rest of the Marines landed via helicopter on the western side.
Unfortunately, the ship’s crew wasn’t on Koh Tang; they were on nearby Rong Sang Lem. Koh Tang had 100 defenders who were dug in and armed to the teeth, prepared for an attack from Vietnam, not the United States. And they had enough firepower to give the Marines a real fight.
At the same time, eight helicopters began the assault on Koh Tang and immediately came under heavy automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade fire. One of the CH-53s was hit and ignited, killing six Marines, the pilot, and two Navy corpsmen. Three more Marines died from the defending machine guns. The landing troops had to calling in an AC-130 Spectre Gunship to break out of the beachhead.
Just a few minutes before the attack began, the Khmer Rouge Propaganda Minister issued a radio broadcast announcing the release of the Mayaguez crew. The Wilson intercepted the boat carrying the crew and brought them aboard. In the morning in the U.S., President Ford announced the release of the Mayaguez crew to the American public, but not that the Khmer government had released them.
The Marines were still fighting on Koh Tang when the order from stateside came to break off and withdraw. The fighting lasted 14 hours.
Two hours after the evacuation, a Marine Corps company commander discovered three of his men missing — a machine gun team who protected a helicopter evacuation from the island. The abandoned Marines included Lance Cpl. Joseph N. Hargrove, Pvt. 1st Class Gary L. Hall, and Pvt. Danny G. Marshall.
Rear Adm. R.T. Coogan would only green light a rescue if the Marines were still alive. The Navy signaled the island in English, French, and Khmer that they wanted to search the island with Cambodian permission if they received a signal.
No signal came.
A picture from an OV-10 over two helicopters shot down on the East Beach of Koh Tang Island (U.S. Air Force photo)
Ten years later, an eyewitness report told the story of Cambodian troops on patrol under fire from an M-16 the very next day. They encircled and captured an American in the incident and were ordered not to discuss the event. That American was Lance Cpl. Hargrove. He was captured and subsequently executed.
One week later, Cambodian troops noticed their food stores were raided at night with strange boot prints left in the mud. They left a trap which captured Hall and Marshall. The two were taken to the mainland and beaten to death with a B-40 rocket launcher, their remains never conclusively found.
A total of 15 men were killed during the Mayaguez rescue mission, with another three missing and presumed dead. That’s on top of the 23 airmen lost in the helicopter crash preceding the assault on Koh Tang.
The names of the dead and missing at Koh Tang were the last names to be included on the national Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the wall bearing the names of all Americans killed or missing in the war.
In the early morning hours of May 7, 1945, the remnants of Nazi Germany’s military leadership signed an unconditional surrender to Allied forces.
When the news broke the next day, soldiers and civilians around the world heralded Victory in Europe Day — the Soviet Union would mark Victory Day on May 9 — exuberant about the end of nearly six years of war that had destroyed much of Europe.
When German and Allied military officials gathered again in Berlin near midnight on May 8 to sign surrender documents, the atmosphere in the room was laden with emotional and political weight.
The Germans, characteristically severe, went through the proceedings in a mix of resignation and resentment, while the Soviets, Americans, and other Allies were relieved at the war’s conclusion.
All of them were uncertain what would come next.
Historian Antony Beevor’s sweeping history of the final months on the eastern front, “The Fall of Berlin 1945,” captured the mood in the room as victors and vanquished gathered to bring their conflict to an end:
“Just before midnight the representatives of the allies entered the hall ‘in a two-storey building of the former canteen of the German military engineering college in Karlshorst.’ General Bogdanov, the commander of the 2nd Guards Tank Army, and another Soviet general sat down by mistake on seats reserved for the German delegation.”
“A staff officer whispered in their ears and ‘they jumped up, literally as if stung by a snake’ and went to sit at another table. Western pressmen and newreel cameramen apparently ‘behaved like madmen’. In their desperation for good positions, they were shoving generals aside and tried to push in behind the top table under the flags of the four allies.”
The German delegation then entered the room — its members looking both “resigned” and “imperious.”
Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, commander of the Nazi armed forces during the final days of the war, “sat very straight in his chair, with clenched fists,” Beevor wrote. “Just behind him, a tall German staff officer standing to attention ‘was crying without a single muscle of his face moving.'”
Gen. Georgy Zhukov, a senior Soviet commander during the war’s final days, stood to invite the Germans “to sign the act of capitulation.” Keitel, impatient, gestured for the documents to be brought to him. “Tell them to come here to sign,” Zhukov said.
Keitel walked over to sign, “ostentatiously” removing his gloves to do so, unaware that the representative for the chief of Stalin’s secret police, the NKVD, was lingering just over his shoulder.
“‘The German delegation may leave the hall,'” Zhukov said once the signing was complete, Beevor wrote, adding:
“The three men stood up. Keitel, ‘his jowls hanging heavily like a bulldog’s’, raised his marshal’s baton in salute, then turned on his heel. As the door closed behind them, it was almost as if everybody would in the room exhaled in unison. The tension relaxed instantaneously. Zhukov was smiling, so was [British Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur] Tedder. Everybody began to talk animatedly and shake hands. Soviet officers embraced each other with bear hugs.”
“The party which followed went on until almost dawn, with songs and dances. Marshal Zhukov himself danced the Russkaya to loud cheers from his generals. From inside, they could clearly hear gunfire all over the city as officers and soldiers blasted their remaining ammunition into the night sky in celebration. The war was over.”
The chaos of the war had ceased, but for Soviets and Germans other hardships were to come.
Zhukov, long a confidant of Stalin, earned glory for his command during the war, but he would soon find himself on the outs with the mercurial Soviet leader.
Keitel would face war-crimes charges, including crimes against humanity. He was convicted and hanged in October 1946. Like other Nazi leaders who were hanged, Keitel’s body didn’t drop with enough force to break his neck. He dangled at the end of the hangman’s rope for 24 minutes before dying.
Germans, many of them under the yoke of the Soviet Union, would struggle to rebuild both physically from the war and emotionally from their encounter with Allies forces — Soviet soldiers in particular. Berlin, buffered by two weeks of intense urban fighting, was shattered.
The Soviet Union’s drive for political vengeance and economic advantage lead it to hobble or strip much of East Germany’s infrastructure and resources.
The M14 is one of the worst DMRs in history, and should have never been adopted by the military.
That’s a powerful statement, but a mostly objective one.
While the M14’s design originated from what General Patton dubbed “The greatest battle implement ever devised” — the M1 Garand — by the 1950s it was already outdated. Military small arms development had seen unparalleled growth throughout World War II and this growth continued into the Cold War.
Listen to the WATM podcast to hear our veteran hosts and a weapons expert discuss the M14 and its replacement:
While Russia was hurriedly developing its first true assault rifle, the AK-47, NATO was still hung up on the concept of a battle rifle. Though this makes perfect sense in retrospect.
Private 1st Class Carlos Rivera, a squad designated marksman with Alpha Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, scans his sector while providing security in the district of Spin Boldak, Afghanistan, July 30, 2012. (Photo: US Army)
Experience in WWII and the frozen hell of Korea hammered home the importance of increased firepower without sacrificing range, reliability or power. Hundreds of soldiers reported the smaller M1 Carbine and its light .30-caliber cartridge were ineffective against winter-coat-wearing Chinese and Korean human wave attacks, but the .30-06 M1 never suffered this problem. Interestingly, post-war investigations suggested the M1 Carbine’s light weight and high cyclic rate of fire were more responsible for this lack of stopping power than the cartridge itself — meaning, most soldiers simply missed their targets because of the gun’s recoil.
This is a lesson the Army forgot when it pressed a select-fire .308 rifle into service only a few years later.
Enter, the M14.
The one thing the M14 has going for it, is its method of operation. It’s a long-stroke, piston-driven action that’s very similar to the most prolific, assault rifle in history: the AK-47. Like the AK, the M14’s action can tolerate debris and fouling better than the direct-impingement M16. While the rifle’s hard-hitting 7.62x51mm NATO round is vastly superior to the M16’s 5.56mm at defeating light cover and the dense foliage found in South East Asian jungles, it also makes the rifle very tough to control.
On a side note, carrying a combat load of 7.62 isn’t much fun, and doesn’t offer the average infantryman nearly as much firepower as the same weight in 5.56 rounds.
But that’s not what makes the M14 so awful. It’s the design itself – especially for the role it has been shoehorned into: the Designated Marskman Rifle. The vaunted DMR bridges the gap between the M4 and dedicated sniping weapon systems like the M24. Infantrymen from every branch fielding a DMR in combat have nothing but praise for the guns’ performance in the vast expanses of Iraq and Afghanistan.
So, if soldiers love the gun, it must be pretty decent, right? Sure, so long as the rifle is clamped into a very heavy, expensive chassis and the soldier carrying it never drops it, or touches the handguards. Seriously, disturbing the gun’s bedding – the way it’s glued into a stock — doesn’t just shift point of impact, it reduces overall accuracy. Therein lies the biggest problem with the M14: accurizing the rifle and holding on to that accuracy.
Accuracy is a measure of consistency when it comes to rifles. Given that a DMR must, by definition, extend the effective range of a squad, its DMR needs to reliably hit targets beyond the reach of the infantryman’s standard rifle or carbine. Yet, according to military standards, acceptable accuracy from the M14 is 5.5 inches at 100 yards – a full inch larger than the M16’s standards. While the M14’s 7.62mm round is great for this, the gun is not.
Camp Perry shooters have long since abandoned the M14 because of the difficulty in accurizing the rifle compared to the M16 – and they aren’t alone. The Army noticed the problems and prohibitive costs associated with maintaining M14s in country, which lead to the solicitation of a replacement rifle to meet new specifications for the Semi-Automatic Sniper System program.
Funny thing, the Army decided the M16 was more accurate, and more easily tuned into a sniper rifle – except for the caliber. Which is why the M14 EBR’s replacement, the Mk-11, is built off an AR-10: the 7.62 big brother of the M16.
In all fairness, the Global War on Terror presented a combat theater the U.S. military wasn’t prepared to fight in. Plus, the M14 wasn’t meant to be a sniper or DMR platform when it was developed in the 1950s. Even still, Armalite had been producing civilian and military AR-10 rifles since the late 1950s, and could have just as easily been pressed into service.
Better yet, since the AR-10 shares it’s method of operation with the M16, advancements on one could likely be applied to the other. And, the guns shares the same manual of arms, so no additional training is required for soldiers transitioning from one to the other.
AFP is reporting that an American F-16 was hit by small arms fire over Paktia Province in eastern Afghanistan over the weekend. The damage to the jet was severe enough that the pilot decided to jettison all external stores (drop tanks and bombs) before returning to Bagram Air Base north of Kabul.
Although a number of rotary wing aircraft have been shot down or damaged by ground fire while operating over Afghanistan, tactical jets have been basically untouched by the enemy since the first airstrikes started in October of 2001. The Taliban don’t have much in the way of an integrated air defense system (a la Desert Storm-era Iraq), and jets can usually remain out of the reach of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles (like Stingers) and small arms fire by flying above 10,000 feet while delivering GBUs or JDAMs.
So, in order to have been hit by bullets, the F-16 pilot had to have been flying pretty low. Pilots generally fly low for two reasons: A “show of force” pass or a strafing run. Non-precision (“dumb”) bombing can cause a pilot to bottom out at low altitude, but it’s unlikely the Falcon was carrying other than smart weapons, even for a close air support mission.
The Taliban claimed to have downed the F-16 and pictures have emerged of them posing with wreckage, but the U.S. military responded with the following statement: “On October 13, a US F-16 encountered small arms fire in the Paktia Province in Afghanistan. The surface to air fire impacted one of the aircraft’s stabilizers and caused damage to one of the munitions.”