1. That one time the Australian Army fought a bunch of emus … and lost
Australia’s known for being a pretty badass country — a worthy reputation when your nation is populated by a bunch of outlaws on one of the world’s harshest continents. What Australia doesn’t want you to know, however, is that in between all that crocodile-wrangling and kangaroo-eating, it got its butt kicked once by a bunch of flightless birds.
The year was 1932. Australian farmers were struggling to save their wheat crops from a fierce, egg-laying pack of scavengers that had migrated into the area. And we’re not talking a pesky flock of chickens, either. This was a battalion of 20,000 emus.
Being Australian, the farmers figured they could probably take out these birds themselves. That plan quickly failed, since there were simply too many birds to handle, though one does wonder how they attempted to solve the problem in the first place (maybe some vegemite traps?).
Regardless, the crops were failing and it was decided reinforcements were necessary. Enter the Royal Australian Artillery. Major G.P.W. Meredith led two regiments of machine-gun wielding Australian soldiers against the bird infestation, figuring the issue would be taken care of in a few days.
He was wrong.
The emus proved wilier than expected. They dodged bullets with shocking finesse, weaving in and out of troops and scattering into the brush before they could be herded together. Many of the birds that were hit still got away — whether because of their dense feathers or sheer force of will, they would not not bend to the Aussie military.
Meredith decided to up the ante, organizing a surprise ambush near a dam where 1,000 emus were gathered unawares. This failed as well. Ego bruised, Meredith decided that the only way to destroy an army of demon emus is to do it yourself. In what no doubt would have made a soul-stirring slow-motion montage, Meredith climbed in the back of a truck and manned its machine gun, firing at the birds as he sped beside them.
The emus outran the truck, leading it through terrain so uneven and wild that the vehicle ended up crashing through a fence in its pursuit. As the emus disappeared into the sunset, the AA had no choice but to accept defeat.
“On 8 November, it was reported that Major Meredith’s party had used 2,500 rounds of ammunition – twenty-five per cent of the allotted total – to destroy 200 emus,” says Johnson. “When one New South Wales state Labor politician inquired whether ‘a medal was to be struck for those taking part in this war’, his federal counterpart in Western Australia, responded that they should rightly go to the emus who ‘have won every round so far’.”
In the end, less than 1,000 of the 20,000 emus were killed, and the farmers were left to weep over their wheat and gather an army of wallabies to fight back. Totally kidding — the government decided to cut out the middleman and give the farmers the ammunition they needed to finally fry the birds, taking the lives of 57,034 emus and restoring peace once and for all.
2. The time Japan deployed a new battleship and flooded Nagasaki
The saying “bigger is better” is traditionally an American mantra, but the Japanese Navy tried it on for size in 1940, and the results were pretty hilarious.
Not yet at war with the United States, Japan still wanted to assert military dominance. The plan? Build the biggest battleship it had ever commissioned, and call it the Musashi.
Now, Japan understood that an incredibly large battleship would not be impressive unless it was also outfitted with incredibly large weapons. To remedy this, the Japanese Navy decked out the Musashi with the best of the best. Amongst the weapons on board were cannons that could fire 18-inch shells over 26 miles and 9×450 mm guns — stats that were impressive for any military at the time.
What Japan did not take into account, apparently, was how much this thing would weigh. When the Japanese Navy joyously deployed the ship into the sea, the mammoth watercraft displaced so much water (63,000 tons) it caused a four foot high tidal wave, flooding the riverbank homes of Nagasaki and totally killing the mood.
The Musashi‘s wake capsized nearly all of the ships in the surrounding harbor, and did some serious damage to the shops and houses closest to the water’s edge. Frightened citizens rushed into the streets as water poured through their doors, completely bewildered by the source of the flooding.
They were quickly urged back inside their water-sogged homes by the Imperial Navy, which was too embarrassed to tell the people of Nagasaki what had actually gone down. It makes you wonder what they did blame it on…
3. A pilot ejects from his plane and watches it fly itself
Sometimes in life, things go incredibly wrong. And other times, they just go incredibly weird. 1st Lt. Gary Foust was preparing for the first scenario during a test flight in 1970, when his fighter jet began an uncontrollable flat spin. After struggling to regain control of the F-106 interceptor jet for a few moments, he did the smart thing and pressed the eject button 8,000 feet above the ground.
Or … he thought it was the smart thing. Once his chute deployed and buoyed him up in the air, Foust looked down towards the ground, expecting his plane to light up like the Fourth of July upon impact. What he saw instead was his plane cruising along, as if the spin had never happened and it was being piloted by a very casual, aircraft-savvy ghost.
One of Foust’s wingmen, Maj. Jim Lowe reportedly shouted over the radio “Gary, you better get back in it!” But Gary could not get back in. All he could do was watch with wonder as his plane flew itself in a straight line before landing gently in a snow-covered wheat field.
When police arrived on the scene, the F-106’s engine was still running. Wary of whatever had possessed this thing, the Air Force suggest the cops wait until the plane ran out of fuel, rather than attempt shutting it off. It took a while.
When the plane finally breathed its last it was collected and repaired by the Air Force, and eventually returned to active service. Freaky.
Check out the video below to hear Foust recount the events of that day:
4. Helicopter pilots nosedive into Lake Tahoe for a Facebook pic
Back in 2010, two presumably experienced and level-headed pilots from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 41 (HSM-41) were flying MH-6OR helicopters over Lake Tahoe. Everything appeared to be normal, when suddenly one of the aircrafts took a dip in the water, like a pelican trying to nab a fish.
Civilian witnesses caught the whole thing on video, and everyone wondered what the heck was going on. Had the engine failed? Were they trying to practice a mock search and rescue mission? The women in the video below seem to think its some sort of elaborate training exercise:
The answer is no. The pilots had the $33 million chopper surface-hover incredibly low over the water to try and get a cool profile picture for their squad’s Facebook page. And no, we’re not kidding.
The pilots allegedly took their hands off the controls to snap photos of one another flying the choppers. Then one helicopter began to plummet through the air, quickly losing altitude and skimming the water. The pilot was able to regain control and bring the chopper back up out of the water, but the stunt cost a cool half-a-million dollars worth in damages to the electronic flying antenna and other expensive equipment.
When they returned to base, the unnamed pair immediately lost flight status — shocker. Let it be a lesson to us all to not do it for the Vine, or the Facebook profile picture.
Army veteran Ernesto Rodriguez finished his trek from Clarksville, Tennessee, to the California coast when he walked the last few miles and onto the Santa Monica Pier.
A police motorcycle officer led the way and a crowd of supporters followed as Rodriguez strode to the end of the pier with American flags protruding from his backpack.
“I’m freaking out, I’m overwhelmed,” he told KTTV. “It’s the culmination of everything I’ve done and it’s starting to hit me. I’ve tried to stay calm pretty much up until today but I’m getting to a point where my emotions are starting to hit.”
Rodriguez, who spent 15 years in the Army, said he got the idea for the journey after hearing about a 2012 study that said there were 22 veteran suicides a day.
“I could’ve been one of those 22 back in 2011,” he told the station. “I wanted to find a way to inspire those that are having dark days like that to just keep pushing forward. So I just started walking.”
The trek began on Veterans Day 2016.
“There’s been days I’ve wanted to quit,” he said. “There’s been days that I almost died, to be quite honest. When I was out in the desert it was rough — dehydration, heat exhaustion — but there were so many people that came out. I remember something as simple as somebody driving and finding me and bringing me water or Gatorade just to make sure I wasn’t dehydrated out there.”
“I’m so grateful for the kindhearted people that helped me get through this.”
We’ve published the full answer from Quora user Jon Davis, a Marine veteran who is now a writer and blogger on military, veterans, and Middle Eastern affairs. In Oct. 2014, Davis’ answer was optioned by a Hollywood producer for a potential television series.
These are the accounts of the Second American Civil War, also known as the Wars of Reunification and the American Warring States Period.
After the breakup many wondered which states would come out in control of the power void created by the dissolution of the United States. There were many with little chance against several of the larger more powerful states. The states in possession of a large population, predisposition for military bases and a population open to the idea of warfare fared the best. In the long term we would look to states with self-sufficiency and long term military capabilities.
Here are the states that held the greatest strategic value from day one. They have the ability to be self-sufficient, economic strength, military strength, the will to fight and the population to support a powerful war machine.
Others that have many of the qualities that gave them an advantage are also listed.
For all intents and purposes Alaska and Hawaii ended well enough since they were so far removed from the center of the country that they never really suffer greatly nor benefit from the shattering.
Day 12: “It’s getting scary. My mom said we are going back to Oklahoma to stay with Grandma. The other day my dad was yelling at some men at the door. They seemed really upset. I held Jamie. She is still little. She’s scared and doesn’t understand what is going on. I am scared too. There are also some boys at school who keep picking on her and calling her an “Okie”. We were both raised here, but I don’t really think that matters. All the other families on my street have huge one-star flags hanging from their homes. I don’t want to leave my house, but Mom says we have to go. The highways are packed with people. I wish things would just go back to how it was.”The Diary of Sarah Brennan
First came a period of massive migration back to the homelands. Facing the newly invented discrimination that will be created many felt the need to go back to their own people. While the individual states retained all military assets they couldn’t control the individuals who fight. A Texas Marine stationed in California, would not fight for California. A soldier in New York would not fight against their home in Virginia and a sailor in Houston would not fight against their home state of Florida. The warriors returned to their home states and the states had to reconsider that when they measured troop strength of their new nations. Ultimately, they measured troop strength by how much of the population would return home.
After the migrations rough approximations left the states even, additionally, the balance of foreign nationals changed. At some point there was a migration of people back to their non-United States homeland. Over the next several months many from the North migrated to Canada and in the South to Mexico and South America. Millions of Latinos fled back South to the safety of their families and away from the looming danger of the war.
Day 42: “Citizens of California are advised to stay away from the Mexican Border. In response to the recent surge of immigrants back to Mexico, authorities out of Mexico City have closed entry into the country. Agents from Tijuana are now manning armed sentries posted along the border. There have been scattered reports of refugees attempting to storm the gates being shot by soldiers on the Mexican side. It has also been communicated that the No Man’s Land will be mined within the week and that Mexico will not be allowing any non-Mexican immigrants to enter the country from this point forward. Once again, we strongly advise all those wishing to leave the country to stay in their homes.”
Jennifer Aranda – Channel 14 News
The war was little more than a very tenuous peace for several months. The new nations were mostly focused on the reconsolidating of their forces and trying for quick grabs at resources that were easy to hold. Alliances were beginning to form as some of the smaller states sought to ally with known powers in the region.
The first of what we would call real battles was mostly when some of the regional powers overtook mainly unmanned installations or took over now abandoned Federal assets.
Day 63: “We are gathered here today as the inheritors of a lost legacy. Our nation has been lost to shattering and disarray. For that reason it is our duty to bring back our house to a structure undivided. When we arrived in the District we found it empty and abandoned. The monuments to our civilization watched silently over the broken halls of our once proud Capitol. We came to the District to bring back order. We have done this deed and now it is our charge to bring back the greatness of America and return her to her proud place of honor… We will do these things and we will do the others because we are a great people. We are Americans. We are VIRGINIANS!”
Inauguration speech of President Anthony Stokes
The first real occupation attempts happened when attempts were made to secure more assets.
The Republic of Texas sought to gain strategic advantages in the Central United States. To do this they sought to gain two strategic assets. The first was control of Whiteman AFB, the home of the B-2 bomber program. The base was easily secured and the most coveted military bomber in the world was now in the hands of the Republic of Texas. The next was control of Colorado and her military installations of great value. Then finally was access to the Mississippi River. Two main offenses took place to do just that. The First Battle of New Orleans involved a massive force occupying the city to claim it as a port and artery for future engagements. In Colorado they met stiff resistance as many of the Texas military were unfamiliar with Mountain warfare. Colorado’s major bases fell quickly since Colorado enjoys the smallest force to fight back the Texans, but they adapted an unconventional warfare stance that kept the Texans on edge for months. Still, at this point the mission behind taking Colorado had been achieved–control over its military bases and strategic assets. The insurgency does however slow down the growth of Texas.
New York pushed Northward. They pushed to claim all of New England and the food wealth they will need to supply their people now that resources from the Midwest are no longer available. The takeover is mostly peaceful as many of the states have large, but mostly non-military, populations. They encountered problems when large groups of refugees tried to flee to Canada and rioting ensued.
Illinois was calm. The Midwest Alliance grew steadily by seeking to secure the Great Lakes. They were able to take Ohio through a few fierce, but brief encounters. They also took on Minnesota and the headwaters of the Mississippi River.
The West coast was now controlled by the two main powers–California with its seat of power in San Francisco and The North West Union centered in Seattle. California gained support and took control of all the states West of the Continental Divide and South of the Union. The North West Union pushed as far as Wyoming.
In the South, Georgia gained strength as Alabama and South Carolina joined. The leadership of Georgia advocated a return to confederalism as fanatics gain headway among the people. The Neo-Confederacy movement takes root and spreads throughout the Old South and rekindles a sense of unity among the states who engaged on the side of the Confederacy during the First United States Civil War. Peacefully they are able to convince Mississippi and Tennessee to also join. The growth of Confederate States puts an ever-growing pressure on Florida as it slips into isolation.
Virginia took on the mantle of the Restored United States. They assumed the moral responsibility for reunification, and by taking Washington they were able to secure much of the federal assets and infrastructure available to the country before the collapse. They then commandeered many ships and weapons housed overseas that weren’t lost during the first two months of disarray. They began to gather support among the neighboring states and press their advantages– intelligence, military strength and the symbolic leadership they held by holding D.C. One strategic advantage they wished to push was their economy. While the rest of the former United States was in complete economic disarray, Virginians’ consistent use of the dollar provided a stability that others didn’t have. They wished to solidify this with control of the nation’s gold supply housed in a crossroads what was now a very desperate strategic region. After they peacefully brokered a treaty with Kentucky they received an attack on Fort Knox from forces located in Indiana.
Day 112: “When we arrived at Knox we received heavy resistance from the defenders. Their fire was, for the most part, inaccurate and they lacked unit cohesion, so we found ourselves at an advantage. Not that we are much better off. We received intel that their units were something of a haphazard array of whatever Marines, Sailors, Soldiers or Airmen came out of the woodwork and they just threw them together and called it a unit, much like our own. Still they were professional warfighters. We were lucky they hadn’t yet made it to secure the fort. Back to Knox. We were able to take the base. The fact was that the Kentucky defenders were mostly woodsmen and good-ol-boys from the South. More a militia reliving stories of the Old South than an army, but they fought like wild dogs. After a few hours their main line broke and they retreated back towards the center of the state. About halfway through the day we were able to break into the main buildings where the gold was supposed to be stored. Easily, it would be safe to say we were surprised at what we found. We arrived to find bloodstains in the main hallways and leading into the vault room. The trail faded and we see that the vaults are all completely empty. Every last bar, every last ounce is gone. All that is left are red stains all over the room and bullet holes riddling the walls that look like they could have happened months ago. Those hicks didn’t even know they were guarding a giant empty building. Now the big question is…’So where is the gold?'”
Log of Lt Col. Thomas Scott 2nd Raider Battalion Midwestern Alliance.
At that time the nations were coming together in larger groups. They had access to larger populations to support military strength, economic power to reach out and fund the state, food sources, and leadership.
In the West, states along the coast received the most fighting. Washington began bombing San Francisco from the air to try and decapitate what had become the center of California’s leadership. Retaliation strikes from combined naval and air forces severally weakened Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle. California launched a two-pronged attack by sending in land forces up Interstate Highway 5 and Marines to attack from the North. Their mission was to enter Washington through the Salish Sea and secure Mt. Vernon, preventing escape of enemy forces. The Marines were by and large undetected and completed their mission successfully. The Californian army received shelling on their movement near the town of Cresswell, Oregon. They retreated back to the nearby town of Cottage Grove and secured the Airport there. Now a temporary air base had been established and sorties began taking place allowing for the immediate deployment of troops to the defending town of Eugene. Casualties were high, but once Eugene was secured the way was open to take Portland.
Day 234: “I don’t know what the Army is doing. We have been here holding the Canadian border for days and the Army still hasn’t made it past Eugene. Just get it out. Burn the city to the ground. Mow them down. Just do your damn job. It’s us or them. Make it happen for God’s sake.”
Private First Class Anthony Sullivan – 1st Californian Marine Regiment
In the East the Restored United States was desperately in need of sound military strategy and allies. They had now become completely surrounded by enemy states. Such a solution came through the plan brought about by one General David Meznick. The Meznick Doctrine called for the destruction of strategic economic assets in the North to weaken their ability to make war. The greatest of these were the attacks on the infrastructure of the Great Lakes’ shipping system. With the locks destroyed and the Erie Canal in ruins, shipping between Chicago and the outside world had ended. New York was also cut from its most valuable resource which was the hope of once again shipping America’s goods to the rest of the world after the war. This maneuver had massive consequences to the region. Now deprived of many of their shipping lanes, the Midwest Alliance began to break as food and other supplies were unable to reach its people. Riots in Chicago began to erupt as the people accused the government of corruption, which for all purposes was true. Seeing the coming of the end, much of the Chicago legislature slipped out in the night and booked passage to Montreal on private planes. Left without leadership and provisions, the Alliance crumbled. Its resources became split between the Texas Republic and Restored United States with what was now known as the New England Union claiming Ohio.
In the South, tensions between Florida and the Neo-Confederates had reach their zenith. Troops had taken Tallahassee and were dug in along the Jacksonville-Gainesville Line. Florida was desperate. In a deal made in Houston, Florida agreed to join Texas if it was free to maintain its sovereignty in exchange for military support. With this, Florida and the forces staged in New Orleans attacked. The Jacksonville-Gainesville line was pushed back. Floridian forces moved with speed to besiege Atlanta as Texas occupied the city of Montgomery, Alabama. Texas and Florida forces converged on Atlanta and the siege went on for another month. No one really knows what led to the succeeding events, but a fire broke out in the city. Reports blame Texas shelling or Floridian sabotage, but most official accounts believe that it originated in an apartment complex where a family had been prying up floorboards to burn for heat. The fire spread to the rest of the neighborhood and, lacking their emergency infrastructure, parts of the city were overcome as the rest began to go into disarray. Texas forces secured the major areas of the city while Florida troops took charge of the relief effort for escaping refugees.
The next hundred days were among the most peaceful of the war.The lines between the Republic of Texas and the Californian Union of Democratic States were now amassing troops and solidifying their positions. The Northeastern cites were in the processes of being rebuilt after California gained control as were the cities of Montgomery and Atlanta. Old forces of the losing states’ armies were redistributed to victor nations. Texas held a tenuous peace with the Restored United States as they erected fortifications along the 36th parallel and western side of the Mississippi. California and Texas began building in unison a mass of fortifications on either side of the Continental Divide. Texas also enjoyed use of the river as shipping lanes now connected everything from the Midwest to the Carolinas. This eased the growing concerns of food shortage and redeployment of men.
Most of the fighting was centered between the Restored United States (RUS) and New England Union (NEU). Control of Ohio and Pennsylvania changed hands a few times as the region sought stability. The war reached a turning point when a New York based flotilla made a decisive push to take Washington D.C. In response, a nuclear device was used on the fleet and all the ships, sailors and Marines on that mission were lost. The first active use of a nuclear weapon in more than half a century sent waves through the warring nation states. Other nations of the world grew terrified as they waited for the NEU’s strategy. The worst fears came to pass when a weapon was exploded in Washington D.C. bringing down the powerbase of the Restored United States. Alarms across the world rang out as the RUS gathered itself and prepared to launch retaliatory strikes along the Eastern Seaboard. Before this came to pass a message from New York City came initiating their surrender. The device had been set by a rogue general from New York. Fearing its own impending annihilation, New York City seceded from the Northeast to become its own independent city-state. The rest of New England issued their surrender and joined the Restored United States without incident. The Capitol was moved to Philadelphia.
Day 647: “I can’t believe Washington’s gone. I mean, what are we even fighting for? There is nothing left that was the same. I swear I am starting to feel like all we are animals trying to survive, fighting over the scraps of our fathers. We all knew it was over when D.C. got smoked, but at least that didn’t happen. Many of the men are still sure that NYC planned this out. Leave the rest to fight over the charred out ashes while they run from it all. I just don’t know what to think. Now we are inheriting the Northeast and all its problems. They better be ready. Now Texas has us to the West and South along Carolina. Two years this has been going on and for what? I don’t know how long we can keep this going.”
Log of Col. Thomas Scott 1st Marine Regiment Restored United States.
During the next year the war reached a standstill. Maneuvers and deployments mounted the full force of all three nations. Tensions mounted as the borders grew more and more defended.Texas forces were spread thin. They held the most land, the longest borders and the least population to support their land. It was composed of the elite Texas troops, highly militant neo-confederates, thousands of independent militias and partisans as well as millions of individuals ready to fight their own private backwoods battles.
The Restored United States was a broken nation. Much of it was the remains of conquered other nations. The former state of New York was now missing its greatest assets, income from the the Midwest and international access from New York City. The Capitol had been lost. Their people were now disheartened and disillusioned. The nation they lived in was nowhere near what they were experiencing, yet they still had to survive. A new national identity was forming.
California was doing well relatively speaking. Though there was damage done to the major cities, they enjoyed a good deal of time to rebuild. Their troops were stationed along the divide. Border tensions began to build until a small town skirmish in Wyoming escalated the war to its peak.
Wyoming was now effectively existing on two sides of the divide. Many of the services and resources were split between a small segment of the Western end of the state and the rest of Wyoming. The distance from California was too great for support from San Francisco to offer the Western segment of the state. In many ways they were fending for themselves. Near the division line were two towns, Green River and Rock Springs. Green River lay on the Western side of the state. They also held the only viable water resource between the two. Since the war began, they were able to share, but after rationing was instituted by the Republic, Rock Springs began to need more of the water. Though neither truly identified as Texan or Californian, they were now forced to abide by their laws. Rock Springs was in demand of water. Green River was forced, however, not to abide. Officers from California were sent to enforce the policy to not aid the enemy in any form. After frequently being denied, leadership of Rock Springs went to the town and make a formal request with the officers at Green River. The officers had taken over the mayoral office of the town. The officers denied again Rock Springs’s request. One young man, Jeffery Irving, protested violently. A scuffle began in the office before the officers drew their side arms. Two of the men were shot and Jeffery was killed in the office of the Green River courthouse. The next day citizens from Rock Springs came to the city and stormed the mayor’s office. The two officers were barricaded in the office and requested for support from a nearby base. An hour later troops arrived in the town. They discovered the office broken into and the officers murdered. The order was given to track down the perpetrators. California troops made their way to Rock Springs.
While in town they barricaded the main road where they began searching passing vehicles and taking people in for questioning. A crowd began to build. Taunts and screams let out from the crowd. The crowd became violent. A rock was thrown at the soldiers. A rifleman knocked a man to the ground with the butt of his weapon…
A gun shot sounded from one of the windows on Main Street. The soldier fell down beside the man on the ground. The crowd was silent and a moment of stillness seemed to roar throughout the valley.
A soldier began firing on the window; others fired at the crowd. In a moment the entire crowd was under fire. They ran for the nearest building and anywhere for cover. As the firing stopped the lives of dozens of men, women and children lay frozen on the street. The detachment gathered themselves and left the town before a battle began between themselves and the townspeople. This was the Massacre of Rock Springs.
Day 812: “When we arrived most the bodies had been carried away. Some were lined along the street covered in sheets of white stained crimson. The town was in shock as our troops began filling the streets. Mothers were screaming with anguish as old men roared for action. There was talk of many of the men leaving an hour before we arrived to handle things themselves. I don’t think they know what they’re getting themselves into. We won’t be able to assist them. I feel for these people. I am shocked with them. They are Texas citizens now and we let this happen. It won’t go unavenged for long though. I haven’t seen this many troops gathered like this since we took Atlanta. This is definitely going to be the big push we have all been waiting for to take California. All Hell is about to break loose. God protect us as we march on California.”
Journal of Sgt. Alexander McAnally 33rd Texas Infantry Regiment
A massive invasion force gathered at Rock Springs. Six divisions of the Texas Army and the 1st and 3rd Marines were mobilized for the battle. In the morning B-2s from Whiteman AFB in Missouri began strategic bombing sorties against a number of Californian Union air bases. Conventional bombing missions were also launched. Suffering the greatest were bases near Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Air defense was launched from bases in San Diego, LA and Sacramento with relief forces in the North. Next came what was known as the battle over Nevada. Fighter squadrons met over the desert in many numerous engagements to gain air superiority. Texas was equipped with superior aircraft since they were the only power still investing heavily in improving their local manufacturing capabilities and advancing military technology. They also had the advantage of more experienced warfighters from the wars in the East. California was heavily invested in passive defense systems scattered throughout the desert. Their missile defenses tore heavily into the Texas planes. The air battle was by far the largest air battle in history with thousands of planes involved and hundreds lost to the skies. The fighters from Texas were able to protect bombers in raising the remaining defenses in Salt Lake and Las Vegas while severely damaging others in Los Angeles, San Diego and China Lake.
The Battle of Salt Lake began the Land War. With the region softened, Texas mobilized forces invaded Northern Utah by way of the Forward Operating Base Rock Springs and following Interstate 80. They met fierce resistance in Salt Lake city. Sniper and rifle teams were thoroughly entrenched along with machine-gun nests. Five battalions of thoroughly entrenched Californian infantry were able to hold the city for three days against the overwhelming Texas forces while the air war continued over the sands of the Great American Desert. On the fourth day of courageous fighting the Californians retreated as relief troops arrived. The Texans were now dug into the hollowed-out shell of the former capital of Utah. From this point the Siege of Salt Lake lasted another three weeks.
The battle continued. Texas reinforcements joined on day six. The battle intensified. Texas was the first to escalate. M.O.A.B. bombs were dropped and cleared away a great deal of California defenders. Texas movements quickly divided and overwhelmed the Californians. 6000 were lost and the Californians retreated back to Sacramento. Once Salt Lake was secured Republic forces moved on to Las Vegas. Vegas was easily secured after the battle of Salt Lake. Republic forces gathered in the desert city preparing for the push to Los Angeles. As the army moved out they destroyed the Hoover dam to prevent Las Vegas from becoming a strategic point again. This caused a surge in the Colorado river that destroyed the Davis, Parker and Imperial Dam systems as well. The region would become by modern standards a completely uninhabitable desert again.
It was then that something unexpected happened. The Restored United States attacked in an unsuspected maneuver designed to strike when the Republic and Californian Union were entangled and spread thin. General Meznick again planned out a massive attack to take out the knees from under the Republic forces. His plan was to take out the port at New Orleans and land a decisive series of blows against Texas. As Republic troops moved out to Southern Nevada, covert agents blew the dikes holding back the flood waters from the Gulf. The city, its troops, its ships and resources were all flooded and in disarray. Air strikes and land forces were also made on the stations and bases along the Mississippi River, including Whiteman and the B-2’s stationed there. Transport boats carried thousand to secure the bases along the river down to Baton Rouge. From there bombers cleared a path through to Beaumont, Texas, and on to Houston. Texas Defense forces scrambled to meet the invasion. With eyes to the West, few were prepared for an attack in the heart of Texas. Reserves from Dallas and Austin raced to Houston. The battle intensified. After the destruction of New Orleans, naval forces stationed in the Atlantic maneuvered to support the Texas invasion. Without the support of the New Orleans ships at port, the Republic Navy was overcome. Naval bombardment was laid down on the defenders in Houston, paving the way for the surgical team of RUS soldiers and the wave of troops following the river. The defenses were hindered by the sea of terrified citizens fleeing Houston. As shells rained down from the sea, chaos ensued. The city was going to be lost.
With the loss of Houston imminent, Republic soldiers spread thin on two fronts, and the country severed down the spine of the Mississippi, Texas made a last desperate strike.
It is believed the first city to fall was Chicago. Boston and Philadelphia came shortly after. At the same time, San Francisco and Seattle were lost. Retaliatory strikes claimed Austin, Houston, Atlanta and Oklahoma City. It is believed that many other cities were targeted for destruction, if not for the intervention of some unknown power.
Four high-altitude nuclear devices were detonated over the former United States. These weapons showered the region with energized electrons that shorted the circuits of electrical devices in their target radius. Below is a graphic representation of what this blast did to the United States.
Most of the country fell into regions of 50 to 80% damage, however considering overlap, historians assume that the damage was at least 90% to all of the continent and all its coveted luxuries were reduced to plastic and glass. This of course didn’t stop at the devices themselves, but everything networked into the infrastructure was brought down as well.
The four devices together were seen from various parts of the country. Their effects brought down all major computer systems, information networks, communication relays, and nearly all circuit-based technology on the continent. There is no official record of who fired the weapons. Any logs created were probably lost in the very blast they created. Many believe that it was a last ditch effort to limit the destruction of the United States in the event of Atomic Holocaust. Some believe it was due to international intervention. The world’s final discipline upon them for what they were doing. Many of the religious groups who would come from this era believe it was the work of God, though they cannot agree whether it was a sign of his mercy or punishment upon a sinful nation. Whoever was responsible, the truth is that the devices probably stopped more bombs than actually went off that day, but they didn’t protect anyone from the next five years. America was dark.
Day 842: “I was out on the porch catching fireflies with Jamie on the night the lights went out. We had caught a whole jar full when I saw a bright light come from the sky way far off in the North. Daddy screamed and jumped on us and he held me really close as we fell to the ground. The light grew really bright and then all of a sudden this wind crashed the field. The wind whooshed through like it was going to carry Daddy, me, and Jamie away. Then it went away. I looked up and the light in the sky faded away. I watched it dim until it turned to nothing. Then I looked around and realized I couldn’t see anything. All the lights in the house went off. All the other houses did too. All the street lights were off and the whole town was dark. I asked Daddy what had happened. “I don’t know,Sweetie. We need to get back into the house before it gets too cold.” I looked hard and tried to find a path back to the porch. Then I saw the light flicker on Jamie’s cheek. The jar in her hand began to flicker and I could see the fireflies coming back to life. It wasn’t much, but they were the only lights for miles and Jamie was all I could see.”
The Diary of Sarah Brennan
Day 846: I don’t know which is worse, the casualties we suffered at Salt Lake or the retreat back through the Sierra Nevadas. We lost the vehicles and had to go the rest of the way on foot once we reached the California border. All the trucks stopped dead and everything’s gone silent. We have lost all contact with San Francisco. I am trying to keep the men going, but I honestly don’t know if I am going to be able to keep any of us alive. The snow is thick and is keeping us moving at a crawl. Foraging is not providing us the food we need. We have already lost as many men trying to get back to the base as we did in the battle. My greatest fear is that the men will begin to realize where we are. I don’t know why God would put me in this situation in the middle of the Donner Pass. Please don’t let the men know what happened here and start to get any ideas. We are no longer being pursued. Perhaps they know how desperate we are. Please Lord, just let us make it out the pass.”
Log of Lt. Joseph Ramirez, 3rd California Infantry Regiment
After the collapse came the period historians remember as the American Dark Age.
Five years passed. With all the infrastructural losses came a loss in leadership. The cities were evacuated due to no water, food, or power coming in. Towns like Ardmore, Oklahoma became overnight metropolises taking in the flood of humanity escaping from cities like Dallas and the ruins of Oklahoma City. A local Indian casino to the South from before the war became a refugee camp for more than 60,000 people. The Oklahomans welcomed them warmly as now there was no war. There was no Texas, nor California and certainly no America. Now everyone was simply a survivor of the 2nd American Civil War.
In the chaos of the collapse, micro-wars sprang up. With no government protection, towns and villages attacked one another. Local Sheriffs declared themselves Generals of fifty-man armies. Much of the former United States fell into a feudal bid for power waging county against county and town against town. They fought battles over salt mines, water from a local creek, or farmland.
In the South a plague swept through the countryside. Many reputable reports indicate that it happened when the controls at the CDC in Atlanta were destroyed after the bombing or from the EMP. Genocides and ethnic cleansing also scarred the landscape in Chicago, Alabama, Miami and Los Angeles.
It was towns like Ardmore, Oklahoma that finally brought us out of the dark. They rebuilt the agricultural backbone and got people back to work now that peace was assured through the destruction of the capacity to make war by the large nation-states. Veterans gathered to provide a unified defense force for the new agrarian cultures that built themselves out of the ashes. New farms were established and refugees built homes all along the landscapes. As food became less of an issue for the people, factories began to rise again. The infrastructure began returning as power was restored, transformers were replaced, networks were brought back online. As the towns became secure and prosperous again people moved back into the
cities. Dallas, Sacramento, Columbus, and Richmond rose to become important regional powers again. The eyes of the nation looked to these cities as fears of the rekindling of the Unification wars began to surface. Old hatreds began to echo.
It was from Dallas that a movement started. One young girl led a peace movement from the heart of the former Republic of Texas.
Day 2871: “This girl in Texas is calling for us to formally end the hostilities. I don’t know if I could ever trust someone from Texas again, but she was just a girl when this whole thing started. It’s not like she is to blame for anything, but it is just hard to get behind someone from down there. We are tired, there isn’t anything left worth fighting for. If there is anything left it would have to be that this has to end before it all happens again.”
Sgt. Anthony Sullivan – California Civil Restoration Administration
Day 2912: “Give this girl your support. What we did was criminal. As a people we destroyed what took great men hundreds of years to bring together. It took us less than two years to bring each other to the brink. We lost our greatest cities and our best people. Now there is one of our own calling for repentance and recompense. Pray for her strength and success.”
Pastor Joseph Ramirez
Day 2945: “There’s going to be a peace conference in New York City. They’re back up and running for the most part. Hopefully we can do something good there. I will be part of the delegation from the RUS. We haven’t thought of ourselves as that for years. Still, we have to go and let it be known that Columbus doesn’t want anymore fighting. We are more than this collection of third-world city-states that are built on the breakdown of our legacies. I hope this little girl from Dallas is more than hopes and dreams.”
Mayor Thomas Scott of Columbus
Day 2953: As the much talked-about New York City peace accords prepare to open, all the attention of the country is on this girl from Oklahoma. She was one of the early people to flee with her family from Texas. She, with her father, mother and young sister, lived with family on a small farm in Southern Oklahoma. There they survived the conscription notices for service, the bombings, The Dark and the two-year winter.
She took up work in an old cookie factory, now shelling pecans from local harvests. After the Dark she administered relief efforts at a local Indian casino for refugees fleeing Texas after the they lost power and feared their own annihilation. She was able to gain respect and was eventually made responsible for finding the refugees work on the local farms. Thousands knew her for work and generosity. She built up relief shelters to gather together aid to the refugees and give them jobs. While still barely in her 20’s she was one of the main people responsible for the rebuilding of vital resources in Oklahoma City. When the lights came back online and grocery shelves were stocked again in Dallas, she was there. Pushed into local politics she was a unifying force for the region.
While in Dallas she championed a peace movement. Dallasites and Texans began to question if the war should continue, if their safety could be secured with the history of the war and Texas’ role in it. She was the voice of reason in a sea of fears. She gained support from those she helped and her message spread across lands owned by the Republic and all the way to Columbus and Sacramento.
Now leaders from across America are going to New York City and are meeting for the first time since the break-up of the United States to discuss a resolution to the failed Wars of Reunification. In her honor, the much talked about Brennan Treaty will be presented to the delegation, ratified and hopefully pass within the week. Here’s to hope and to Sarah Brennan.
Lyndon B. Johnson had only been in office for a few months following the assassination of President Kennedy when he found himself on the campaign trail, mired in election year politics as he fought to stay in office.
His opponent was Arizona Governor Barry Goldwater, a staunch conservative who fancied himself as representing the values of the “good ol’ days,” unimpressed by the social changes looming across the country. Goldwater focused on the spectre of the Soviet Union and the associated spread of Communism. More than once from the stump he railed that he would make North Vietnam into a “mud puddle” once he was commander-in-chief. Goldwater also decried the scourge of the “welfare state,” saying that the proliferation of entitlement programs would be the end of America as good, law-abiding Americans knew it.
Johnson, meanwhile, staked his campaign on what he called the “Great Society” — a series of programs designed to reduce poverty. He was also very determined to improve civil rights.
This political ad was designed to paint Goldwater as a loose cannon — one with an itchy nuke trigger finger.
The ad worked. Johnson’s victory over Goldwater in the national election remains the most lopsided in terms of popular votes (43 million to 27 million) and the sixth-most lopsided in terms of electoral votes (486 to 52). Johnson won all but six states (Arizona, which was Goldwater’s home state) and the Bible Belt from Louisiana to Georgia (primarily due to LBJ’s civil rights efforts).
Although Goldwater was embarrassed by the election results, his politics did become the framework for the current Conservative movement as well as the Libertarian Party.
The Pentagon office in charge of outfitting America’s secret warriors is asking industry for new technologies that will allow commandos to target and track bad guys through goggles or a head’s up display in their weapon sights, see colors at night and fly small surveillance drones that are nearly undetectable.
The new technologies sound like something from science fiction, but the spec ops gear buyers want to see what industry has in the works that could get to troops behind enemy lines in places like Syria, Iraq and Libya.
According to an official industry solicitation, U.S. Special Operations Command will hold a so-called “Military Utility Assessment” at Camp Blanding, Florida, in mid-November to see what capabilities are out there to enhance special operators’ ability to see the enemy in adverse conditions, surveil bad guy positions at great distances and tag and track targets without detection.
Current night vision equipment either enhances available light like stars or the moon or uses thermal imaging to see heat. Both technologies can be digitally modified to present the images in limited color, but the detail is usually poor.
The special operations community wants to see if there are options out there that help commandos identify objects and people in the dark with better resolution.
The command is looking for night optics “that aid in target discrimination, mobility, combat identification, identify friend or foe, or situational awareness via a natural appearing manner.”
“The need is from clear sky no moon to daylight conditions,” USSOCOM says. “A capability that allows true color at higher illumination and switch or transition to black and white at the lowest illumination is of interest.”
The special operators will consider systems that either attach to existing goggles, scopes or optics or entire new night vision equipment that can replace them. The key is keeping down the weight and increasing battery life, the command says.
SOCOM also wants to see if there are options out there for passive targeting scopes that will allow commandos to move a cursor to their target and share that data with other assaulters and snipers. They even want to be able to call in air strikes using the embedded targeting capability.
Clearly, unmanned aerial vehicles have become an important part of warfighting these days, and SOCOM wants to see how it can take advantage of the bleeding edge of technology for unmanned systems. The command has asked industry if it can field drones that are unseen and unheard above a target and can see details like vehicle license plates or the types of bombs loaded on a parked plane.
The special operators want “technologies that can be programmed to orbit or perch and stare at an area or object of interest,” it said. “Technology should be visually and acoustically undetectable by persons or systems resident at an observed area or object of interest, while providing users VNIIRS 9 or better video quality in real time.”
SOCOM is asking for technology proposals that are either on the drawing board or have prototypes ready for field testing.
Just before America’s official involvement in World War II, Fido was born. It took a while for Fido to be ready to serve, though. Only 4,000 were fielded – down from a planned 10,000 — largely because Fido was so effective.
For Fido, though, the mission was a one-way trip.
Now, you dog lovers out there, don’t go flying off the handle. Fido wasn’t some poor canine conscripted for use in war to be blown to bits while killing the enemy. No, this “Fido” — as the sailors who used it against enemy subs took to calling it — was purely machine. A torpedo, to be exact.
Okay, technically Fido’s designation was as the Mk 24 Mine, but this torpedo was unique in that it could sniff out enemy submarines.
According to UBoat.net, Fido’s “nose” consisted of four hydrophones placed at equidistant points around the body of the Mk 13 aerial torpedo. These gave the torpedo steering directions as they detected the skulking submarine and guided the torpedo to a direct impact on the hull. That’s when a 100-pound high-explosive warhead would do its job. The result should be a sunken enemy submarine.
Fido could go at a speed of 12 knots and its batteries would last for 15 minutes. It could be dropped from up to 300 feet high by planes going as fast as 120 knots. Submarines could increase their speed to try to outrun it, but their batteries would run out very quickly, forcing them to the surface, where they’d be sitting ducks to American guns. If they didn’t go fast, the torpedo would catch them.
Fido was used on anything from a TBF Avenger to the PBY Catalina. It took a little less than a year and a half for Fido to make it from the drawing board to its first enemy kill. Fido claimed 33 Axis submarines in the Atlantic (32 German, one Japanese), and four more in the Pacific (all Japanese).
Fido was, in one sense, the progenitor of today’s advanced air-dropped anti-submarine torpedoes, the Mk 46, the Mk 50 Barracuda, and the Mk 54 MAKO. Such is the legacy of a torpedo that sniffed out Axis subs.
The position is appointed by the president, and does not require a lengthy confirmation hearing from the Senate.
Here are five possible candidates that may become the next national security adviser to Trump:
Peter Jacobs contributed to this report.
Retired Gen. David Petraeus
Retired Gen. David Petraeus’ career includes 37 years of service in the US Army and a role as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
In addition to commanding the entire coalition force in Iraq, the four-star general headed US Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees all operations in Middle East.
Petraeus was briefly considered for Secretary of State by the Trump administration.
Stephen J. Hadley
Stephen Hadley served as the National Security Adviser to President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009.
He served on several advisory boards, including defense firm Raytheon, and RAND’s Center for Middle East Public Policy. Together with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, he helps head the international strategic consulting firm, RiceHadleyGates LLC.
He also wrote the “The Role and Importance of the National Security Advisor,” which, as the title implies, is an in-depth study of the National Security Adviser’s role.
Retired Gen. Keith Kellogg
As the interim National Security Adviser filling in for Michael Flynn, retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg was the chief of staff for the Trump administration’s National Security Council (NSC).
Prior to that, he worked in the Joint Chiefs of Staff office and was part of computer software giant Oracle’s homeland security team.
Tom Bossert, a cybersecurity expert, serves as the Homeland Security Adviser in the White House.
The former Deputy Homeland Security Adviser to President George W. Bush co-authored the 2007 National Strategy for Homeland Security, the government’s security policies established after the 9/11 terror attacks.
In a 2015 column in The Washington Times, Bossert seemed to defend the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by writing, “To be clear, the use of military force against Iraq and Afghanistan was and remains just … The use of force in Iraq was just and, at the time, necessary, even if Mr. Obama disagrees with how things went.”
Retired Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward
Retired Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward is a US Navy SEAL and the former Deputy Commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM).
He served as the commander of SEAL Team 3 and was the Deputy Commanding General of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Harward also served on the National Security Council as the Director of Strategy and Policy for the Office of Combating Terrorism, and is also the CEO for Lockheed Martin in the United Arab Emirates.
The conclusion featured an underwater game of cat and mouse between the Red October (a modified Typhoon-class submarine manned by a skeleton crew), the Los Angeles-class submarine USS Dallas (SSN 700), and the Sturgeon-class submarine USS Pogy (SSN 647) on one side against the Alfa-class submarine V.K. Konavolov.
As any fan of Tom Clancy novels knows, the Red October made it, and the Konavolov ended up on the bottom. But what would happen today?
Let’s start by updating the ships in question. Let’s replace the Typhoon with Russia’s new Borei-class SSBN. In one sense, we still get a very quiet, hard-to-detect vessel. While much smaller than the Red October (24,000 tons to 48,000), the Borei features pumpjet propulsion. This system has been used on British and American submarines for decades.
But the American submarines also will improve. Instead of a Flight I 688 like USS Dallas (now destined for the “Nuclear Ship-Submarine Recycling Program” – a fancy way of saying scrapyard), we’ll use a Virginia-class SSN (let’s go with USS Illinois (SSN 786) for the sake of discussion. We’ll replace the Pogy (already “recycled”) with USS Connecticut (SSN 22), a Seawolf-class submarine.
Now, what do we replace the Alfa with? Back in 1984, the Alfa was a mystery. It was known to have high speed and a titanium hull. Today, we know two things about this alleged super-submarine.
First, the Alfa was louder than a teenager’s stereo system playing Metallica. Second, its sonars, like those on most Russian combat vessels, were crap. The successor to the Alfa was the Sierra-class submarine. While not as fast, it did feature a better armament suite (four 650mm torpedo tubes and four 533mm torpedo tubes compared to six 533mm tubes for the Alfa). It also was somewhat quieter (given the Alfa’s noise level, that’s easy to do).
How might that final confrontation go? Given what we know about the (lack of) performance Russian sonars were capable of, it is highly likely that the 2016 version of the Hunt for Red October would be far less, shall we say, novel-worthy. It’s highly probable that the Sierra would not even pick up the Borei-class Red October and her escorts. Perhaps, at most, USS Connecticut would fire a decoy or two – sending the Sierra on a wild goose chase.
Thus, the Soviets would never even know America had the Red October.
At a cost of $70 billion a year, Russia has the world’s third-largest defense budget. For that, the state boasts 845,000 troops, 22,550 tanks and 1,399 combat aircraft.
Though perhaps not considered the superpower that it once was, since President Vladimir Putin’s re-election in 2012 Russia’s armed forces have gone through a significant transformation. The army is being split into smaller, more dynamic brigades. The focus is on new technologies rather than brute manpower. (For instance, this Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft system is basically a tank with a load of extra cannons sticking out of it.)
Here’s a review of some of Russia’s more menacing military machines:
Bora-class guided missile hovercraft: This ship is actually a catamaran with a skirt that turns it into a hovercraft. Armed with 8 Mosquito missiles and 20 anti-aircraft missiles, the ships have a crew of up to 68 sailors each. It has a cruising speed of 100km an hour.
The Pantsir-S1: A combined short-to-medium range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft missile system. The system consists of 12 surface-to-air guided missiles and two 30-mm automatic guns effective against planes, helicopters, ballistic and cruise missiles.
The Mig-35 multirole jet fighter: Effective both in air-to-air combat and precision ground strikes. Capable of reaching speeds of up to 2,400 km per hour despite being 30% larger than its predecessor, the Mig-35 is able both to dogfight and destroy sea and surface targets from long range, as well as conducting air reconnaissance missions.
The BUK-2 missile system: This is the battery that allegedly brought down that Malaysian airliner over Ukraine. Its 9M317 missiles can reach 46,000 feet at Mach 3, carrying 154-pound warheads.
The RS-24 Yars: A thermonuclear intercontinental ballistic missile system that can carry multiple independently targetable nuclear warheads with a range of 10,000 miles. Designed to replace Topol-M ballistic missiles it has been operationally deployed since 2010. Each missile has the power of 100 “Little Boys” — the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945.
“The Russian Concorde”: The Tupolev Tu-160 is the world’s largest supersonic combat aircraft. It was designed by the Soviet Union in the 1980s. It boasts the most powerful engines ever on a combat aircraft and has can hold 40,000kg of weaponry. There are currently 16 in service.
The T-90: The most advanced battle tank currently in use in the Russian armed forces. Its main weapon is a 125 mm smoothbore gun with anti-tank capabilities but it also boasts a remote-controlled anti-aircraft heavy machine gun.
At 14,700 tonnes, Borei-class nuclear ballistic missile submarines are slightly smaller than their predecessors, the massive Typhoon-class. But with a capacity of 16 Bulava ballistic missiles, each carrying 6-10 warheads with a range of 8,300km, they are still a force to be reckoned with.
The Russian Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopter: This is the go-to attack helicopter for the Russian Air Force and Army. Its basic armament is a 30mm Shipunov underslung auto-cannon and wingstubs that can carry up to four anti-tank missiles, rocket pods or gun pods.
Authorities say unexploded bombs from what was known as the “Highway of Death” in the 1991 Gulf War have been uncovered in Kuwait.
On July 5, Kuwait’s Public Authority of Housing Welfare said a military bomb squad would defuse the ordinance found along Kuwait’s Highway 80, which connects Kuwait City to the Iraqi border.
Construction crews working on a $950 million housing project in the area found the bombs. The state-run Kuwait News Agency said “finding explosives on the site is not surprising” and contractors had been warned they could be there.
The “Highway of Death” got its name when U.S.-led coalition aircraft bombed a convoy of fleeing Iraqi forces, killing hundreds and leaving behind hundreds of burned-out vehicles.
While fighting in western Syria seems to have turned in favor of dictator Bashar Assad and his allies in Iran and Russia, US-led coalition strikes on ISIS continue in the eastern part of the country.
The terror group’s oil infrastructure remains a prime target, and a November 25 airstrike near Abu Kamal, close to the Iraqi border, went after several oil wellheads and a pump jack, an important piece of equipment for getting oil out of the ground.
The US-led coalition launched three strikes near Abu Kamal on November 25, destroying four oil wellheads and an oil pump jack.
That same day, slightly west of Abu Kamal in Dayr Az Zawr, two strikes reportedly destroyed three pieces of oil-refinement equipment, three oil-storage tanks, and an oil wellhead.
ISIS has relied heavily on oil revenue to finance its operations, and the US-led coalition has put special emphasis on attacking the infrastructure needed to get that oil out of the ground and to the market.
A few weeks after the November 25 airstrikes, coalition aircraft destroyed 168 oil-tanker trucks on the ground near Palmyra, in central Syria. That destruction cost the terrorist group about $2 million in revenue, according to Operation Inherent Resolve officials.
While the coalition has been able to target ISIS’ oil infrastructure, fighting positions, and other resources from the air, progress against the group on the ground in eastern Syria has been somewhat halting.
While efforts by Kurdish militants and their Arab partners in Syria to recapture Raqqa, ISIS’ capital city, have been bogged down in recent weeks, the coalition announced on December 12 that Syrian Democratic Forces had liberated 700 square miles of ISIS-controlled territory, retaking dozens of villages around the city, and were starting the next phase of their operation to isolate Raqqa.
These developments come after Syrian government forces, backed by Iran and Russia, retook the northwestern city of Aleppo, parts of which had been held by rebels for years.
That victory appears to have buoyed the outlook in Moscow, Tehran, and Damascus.
The recently reported outline of a deal being discussed by Russia, Iran, and Turkey would divide Syria into zones of influence for those countries, leaving Assad in power as president for at least a few years.
The purported deal appears after numerous fruitless attempts by the US and other western powers to broker a peace in Syria’s bloody, over five-year-long civil war — and may in part be inspired by Moscow’s desire to reassert itself on the world stage.
“It’s a very big prize for them if they can show they’re out there in front changing the world,” Sir Tony Brenton, Britain’s former ambassador to Moscow, told Reuters. “We’ve all grown used to the United States doing that and had rather forgotten that Russia used to play at the same level.”
The British evacuation at Dunkirk during WWII was a turning point for the island nation. Unable to go on the offensive against the Germans with their conventional Army, the British turned to more unconventional methods. “Enterprises must be prepared, with specially-trained troops of the hunter class, who can develop a reign of terror down these coasts [of occupied Europe],” stated Prime Minister Winston Churchill in a minute to General Ismay, “first of all on the butcher and bolt policy…leaving a trail of German corpses behind them.” This butcher and bolt policy was carried out by British Commandos, forerunners of the modern Royal Marine Commandos, Special Boat Service and Special Air Service.
The elite soldiers of the SAS are well-known in popular culture thanks to their daring exploits and their depiction in media. SAS soldiers famously ended the Iranian Embassy Siege in London in 1980 and have operated in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries during the War on Terror. They have been depicted in video games like Call of Duty and movies like 6 Days. Even the rom-com Love Actually referred to the SAS as, “ruthless, trained kilers,” and so they are.
More so than regular Army units, the SAS is expected to kill, and kill well. Embracing this mission, members of the SAS have taken to donning a Punisher skull badge after their first kill in combat. This affinity for the Punisher skull was allegedly adopted from the U.S. Navy SEALs who wore the symbol extensively whilst operating alongside the SAS in Iraq and Afghanistan. Though the practice is not dissimilar from fighter pilots painting the flag of the enemy on their aircraft after making an air-to-air kill, it came under scrutiny from Army officials.
In 2019, it was revealed that Army officials banned the wearing of the Punisher skull. The move was driven by the claim that the symbol was too similar to the Death’s Head symbol worn by Nazi SS soldiers. This order was reportedly issued after a visit to the SAS Regiment’s Herefordshire base by Army chiefs. Unsurprisingly, the change was not received well by the SAS. One source within the regiment noted that the “order to remove it has gone down really badly.” They elaborated on what the symbol means to a soldier when he earns it. “It’s in recognition for the work he has done – it’s not a celebration of taking a life but more to do with putting himself in a position where his own life has been put at risk.”
The order received plenty of backlash since its issuance. Former Sergeant and Military Cross (the third-highest British Military Award) recipient Trevor Coult called the move, “politically correct nonsense and ludicrous.” Enough dissension was raised that the Army reversed the decision in May 2021. The reversal also comes with a new Director Special Forces who said that he has no problem with troops wearing the badge. He reportedly wore the Punisher skull himself while operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. The MoD did not comment on the reversal.
The return of the Punisher skull was welcomed by the SAS. “When the badge was initially banned, there were many in the regiment who thought that the unit was going to fall victim to political correctness. But fortunately, someone has seen sense,” a source said. “The special forces are often sent on very dangerous missions which often involve killing people – that is a fact of life.” The SAS continues to undertake highly classified and extremely dangerous operations around the world.
People say “chivalry is dead” like that’s a terrible thing.
In the popular imagination, chivalry seems to harken back to some mythical era when armored knights rode about the land going on quests, saving maidens, and fighting evildoers.
But chivalry is really a word “that came to denote the code and culture of a martial estate which regarded war as its hereditary profession,” Maurice Keen writes in “Chivalry.”
He argues that medieval chivalry had a major part in molding “noble values,” and, as a result, has had an impact felt long after troubadours and jousting tournaments fell out of fashion. The romantic notion of the daring, pure-hearted knight errant lingers on, even today.
It’s difficult to speak broadly about the medieval era in Europe, given that it encompasses several centuries and an entire continent. Generally speaking, however, in many cases, knights and medieval warriors served as a local lord’s private military. That meant that sometimes, regional conflicts set a group of armed toughs tearing through the countryside and doing whatever the heck they wanted.
Codes of chivalry didn’t take hold in vacuum. There was no uniform “code of chivalry,” and those codes that existed were often far more religious in nature than our modern concept of “hold the door for ladies.” They also cropped up in part to keep knights and warriors from acting on their worst impulses and attacking or extorting weaker individuals.
Starting in the late 900s and lasting till the thirteenth century, a movement known as the Peace and Truce of God rose in Europe. Basically, the Church imposed religious sanctions in order to halt the nobility from fighting among themselves at certain times and committing violence against local noncombatants. You can think of these as rules for knighthood.
One 1023 oath, suggested by Bishop Warin of Beauvais for King Robert the Pious and his knights, gives us a good sense of some of the unexpected rules warriors might be asked to adopt, in response to their often violent behavior.
It includes some rather unusual injunctions and “illustrates the kind of oath that parties were expected to swear after having been caught breaking the peace,” according to Daniel Lord Smail and Kelly Gibson, who edited the sourcebook “Vengeance in Medieval Europe.” A main idea behind the movement was to use spiritual sanctions to give people a break from all the conflict and fighting that plagued certain areas at some points during the Middle Ages.
With that in mind, here are some of Bishop Warin of Beauvais’ proposed rules for knights, which indicate some truly bad and largely unchivalrous behavior on the part of medieval warriors:
1. Don’t beat up random members of the clergy
Bishop Warin of Beauvais barred knights from assaulting unarmed clerics, monks, and their companions, “unless they are committing a crime or unless it is in recompense for a crime for which they would not make amends, fifteen days after my warning.”
Gunald of Bordeaux also condemned anyone who “attacks, seizes, or beats a priest, deacon, or any other clergyman who is not bearing arms — shield, sword, coat of mail, or helmet — but is going along peacefully or staying in the house,” according to Fordham University’s medieval sourcebook.
Instead of formally cursing the offenders, Gunald vowed to excommunicate any attackers “unless he makes satisfaction, or unless the bishop discovers that the clergyman brought it upon himself by his own fault.”
2. Don’t steal livestock or kill farm animals for no reason
The oath includes an injunction against making off with bulls, cows, pigs, sheep, lambs, goats, donkeys, mares, and untamed colts.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons
It also came out against seizing mules and horses at certain times of the year: “I will not exact by extortion mules and horses, male and female, and colts pasturing in the fields from the first of March to All Souls’ Day, unless I should find them doing damage to me.”
However, the bishop of Beauvais allowed that knights could kill villagers’ animals if they needed to feed themselves or their men.
In Gunwald’s proclamation, he also announced that any knight who robbed a poor person of a farm animal would be formally cursed.
3. Don’t assault, rob, kidnap, and torture random people
This rule should have probably gone without saying, but Bishop Warin of Beauvais felt that he needed to include it in the oath.
The bishop wanted knights to swear against mistreating male and female villagers, sergeants, merchants, and pilgrims. This abuse he cited included robbery, whipping, physical attacks, extortion, and kidnapping for ransom.
4. Don’t burn down or destroy houses unless you have a good reason
Arson was a big no in the bishop of Beauvais’s oath — for the most part.
Exceptions were made in the event a knight discovered “an enemy horseman or thief within” a certain house.
That sounds harsh, but Kaeuper writes that, while wrath was a sin, “vengeance is a cornerstone of the chivalric ethos, the harsh repayment justly given for an dimunition of precious honor.”
“Nocturnal fire” by Egbert van der Poel (1621–1664)
Knights were also warned against plundering and stealing from the poor, even “at the perfidious instigation” of a local lord.
Kaeuper cite’s Alan of Lille’s declaration that knights achieved the “highest degree of villainy” by supporting themselves by looting from impoverished people.
5. Don’t assist criminals
Knights had a bad rap in certain parts.
Kauper writes that Alan of Lille once said that knights had the “cruel nature of marauders” and that “soldiers have been made the leaders of pillaging bands; they have become cattle-thieves.”
Considering such a borderline criminal element, it’s not surprising that the Bishop Warin of Beauvais wanted knights to swear not to harbor and assist any “notorious public robber.”
He allows that, if a criminal comes to a knight for protection, that the knight should either make amends for the wrongdoer, force him to make amends within fifteen days, or deny him protection.
6. Don’t attack women — unless they give you a reason
The oath included a stipulation telling knights not to assault noblewomen traveling without their husbands. It also expanded protection to those attending them, along with widows and nuns, in general.
However, this shield was revoked if a knight “should find them committing misdeeds against” him.
7. Don’t ambush unarmed knights from Lent to Easter
A major part of the Peace and Truce of God movement was declaring that fighting should not take place during certain parts of the year.
Photo from Public Domain
Yale Law School’s Avalon Project features a 1085 decree from Emperor Henry IV, which declares that peace should be observed every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, on apostles’ feast days, and from the ninth Sunday before Easter until the eighth day after Pentecost, among other times.
In a similar vein, Bishop Warin of Beauvais ordered medieval warriors not to attack unarmed knights “from the beginning of Lent until the end of Easter.”