5 mind-blowing facts about the US military - We Are The Mighty
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5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

1) The United States Military is one of the world’s largest providers of international aid and disaster relief.

I enjoy this fact because so little is it remembered. Not only is the US military usually involved with most global conflicts, but they are also present in the time of need for almost every international natural disaster in which aid is needed. I love advertising this fact because so often I hear about all the evils of the United States, but not once have I ever heard the phrase, “Hey America. Thanks a bunch for the assist. Tsunamis really suck.”


As well as this the military also makes regular deployments to disenfranchised and impoverished developing nations to provide immediate health and medical support during times of non-violence or disaster. These services are free to the people of those nations and supported entirely by United States taxpayer dollars.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

This is the USNS Mercy. She is a massive hospital ship and, along with her sister ship the USNS Comfort, has the proud and distinguished mission to sail around the world to places in desperate need of medical aid and support. Officially, their primary mission is to:

provide rapid, flexible, and mobile acute medical and surgical services to support Marine Corps Air/Ground Task Forces deployed ashore; Army and Air Force units deployed ashore; and naval amphibious task forces and battle forces afloat.

Secondarily, they provide mobile surgical hospital service for use by appropriate US Government agencies in disaster/humanitarian relief or limited humanitarian care incidents to these missions or peacetime military operations.

Looking at the record though, you’ll find that the Mercy and Comfort have been quite busy with “secondary” missions. Here is a list of some of the Mercyand Comfort‘s “secondary” missions:

  • 1987 – (USNS Mercy) Over 62,000 outpatients and almost 1,000 inpatients were treated at seven Philippine and South Pacific ports during training in 1984 through 1987.
  • 1990* – (USNS Mercy) Admitted 690 patients and performed almost 300 surgeries. (USNS Comfort) More than 8,000 outpatients were seen, and 700 inpatients. 337 surgical procedures were performed. Other notable benchmarks include: more than 2,100 safe helicopter evolutions; 7,000 prescriptions filled; 17,000 laboratory tests completed; 1,600 eyeglasses made; 800,000 meals served and 1,340 radiographic studies, including 141CT scans.
  • 2001 – 9/11 – (USNS Comfort) The ship’s clinic saw 561 guests for cuts, respiratory ailments, fractures and other minor injuries, and Comfort‘s team of Navy psychology personnel provided 500 mental health consultations to relief workers.[5] Comfort also hosted a group of volunteer New York area massage therapists who gave 1,359 therapeutic medical massages to ship guests.
  • 2003 * – (USNS Comfort) 590 surgical procedures, transfused more than 600 units of blood, developed more than 8,000 radiographic images and treated nearly 700 patients including almost 200 Iraqi civilians and enemy prisoners of war.
  • 2005 – Indian Ocean Tsunami – (USNS Mercy) Combined, provided 108,000 patient services, rendered by members of the Department of Defense, Project Hope, and the United States Public Health Service.
  • 2005 – (USNS Comfort) Comfort deployed on September 2, 2005, after only a two-day preparation, to assist in Gulf Coast recovery efforts after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Starting in Pascagoula, Mississippi and then sailing to New Orleans, Comfort personnel saw 1,956 patients total.
  • 2007 – (USNS Comfort) Central and South America. In all, the civilian and military medical team treated more than 98,000 patients, provided 386,000 patient encounters and performed 1,100 surgeries. Dentists and staff treated 25,000 patients, extracting 300 teeth, and performing 4,000 fillings, 7,000 sealings, and 20,000 fluoride applications. In addition to treating patients, bio-medical professionals fixed about a thousand pieces of medical equipment at local health facilities. The ship’s crew also delivered nearly $200,000 dollars worth of donated humanitarian aid.
  • 2008 –  (USNS Mercy) Over the course of one deployment, Mercy would treat 91,000 patients, including performing 1,369 surgeries.
  • 2010 – (USNS Mercy) Treated 109,754 patients and performed 1,580 surgeries in Southeast Asia.
  • 2010 – (USNS Comfort) Haiti Earthquake disaster. Between January 19 and February 28, 2010, the ship’s staff treated 1,000 Haitian patients and performed 850 surgeries. Also, the mission saw the ship’s first on-board delivery, of a 4-pound, 5-ounce premature baby named Esther.
  • 2011 – (USNS Comfort) – The ship deployed for five months providing medical services to locations in the Caribbean and Latin America.

It is important to remember that all this is done, by only two ships. Beyond these two ships the United States Navy takes part in many humanitarian service missions each year. Several ships are deployed with missions other than warfare to provide free aid and medical support.

There are also ongoing operations such as the Pacific Partnership. The Pacific Partnership is an annual deployment of forces from the Pacific Fleet of the United States Navy (USN), in cooperation with regional governments and military forces, along with humanitarian and non-government organizations.

The deployment was conceived following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, as a way to improve the interoperability of the region’s military forces, governments, and humanitarian organizations during disaster relief operations, while providing humanitarian, medical, dental, and engineering assistance to nations of the Pacific, and strengthening relationships and security ties between the nations. Between 2006 and 2010, Pacific Partnership has visited 13 countries, treated more than 300,000 patients, and built over 130 engineering projects.

The MEU to the Rescue.

Within the United States Marines there exist elements that specialize in being the first into a war zone. Most of the offensive parts of the Marine Corps are built around this idea, but particularly there is one capability that is most crucial to this. The Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU for short) is capable of deploying troops to virtually any location on Earth within reach of a shoreline within 48 hours.

What they also do though, is deploy troops to major disaster areas as well. Being that the MEUs are literally patrolling every ocean in the world for signs of danger and disorder, they are already equipped with a large supply and armament for potentially long-term hostile engagements and specialized in reaching and operating with little to no infrastructure in hard-to-reach places. This sucks for them, but makes them uniquely capable of doing something else pretty special. It makes them adeptly able to address and adapt to the needs of millions of people throughout the world in need of immediate emergency assistance. They are able to move so quickly that they outpace more formal relief organizations by days or weeks.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
Colombo, Sri Lanka (Jan. 10, 2005) – A U.S. Marine Corps amphibious vehicle prepares to bring Marines and Sailors aboard an awaiting Landing Craft Utility (LCU) at the end of the day’s relief efforts in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Helicopters from USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and Marines and Sailors assigned to 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit are supporting Operation Unified Assistance, the humanitarian operation effort in the wake of the Tsunami that struck South East Asia. The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group is currently operating in the Indian Ocean off the waters of Indonesia and Thailand. U.S. Navy photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph Ward (RELEASED)

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
A U.S. Navy doctor treats patients from tsunami-devastated villages in Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia, on Jan. 6, 2005. Helicopters from the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group are providing humanitarian assistance to areas devastated by the Dec. 26, 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami. The strike group is operating in the Indian Ocean off the coasts of Indonesia and Thailand in support of Operation Unified Assistance. DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd class Tyler J. Clements, U.S. Navy. (Released)

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
Medan, Indonesia (Jan. 4, 2005) – Marines assigned to 3rd Transportation Support Battalion, 3rd Force Service Support Group, help distribute humanitarian relief supplies at Palonia Air Field in Medan, Indonesia. Helicopters from USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and Marines assigned to 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit are supporting Operation Unified Assistance, the humanitarian operation effort in the wake of the Tsunami that struck South East Asia. The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group is currently operating in the Indian Ocean off the waters of Indonesia and Thailand. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andreas A. Plaza (RELEASED)

More recently, after the devastation from the 2010 Haiti Earthquake disaster, soldiers from the United States Army were deployed to assist in delivering badly needed supplies, such as food, water and other necessities to the region.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
Soldiers prepare food and water for Haitian victims of the Earthquake.

I’m going to lay it out straight. I am willing to bet almost no one knew before reading this answer about the scale of the United States’ disaster relief history. You probably had no idea of the depth of support that the United States military contributes to the world each time a major disaster strikes somewhere on the planet Earth. You know that help was sent, but did your ever really ask who it was or what form it took? You may have heard of 150 doctors that went, but were you aware of the tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors and Marines that were there before even the news journalists were present?

Sure, many people will rattle off statistics about what monsters we are. They will talk about all the people that the military kills and all the dead people out there that the United States military are responsible for each year, which is odd since such things are essentially what the military, all militaries, are designed to do.

They will cite things that the Americans are responsible for doing wrong, but no one in the history of the world can declare that they have made such great strides in providing aid and relief like the Americans.This should ring especially significant since we have absolutely no real obligation to do so if previous major world powers are to be our example. You could compare us to the Raubwirtschaft (plunder economies) of Germany, Japan and Russia during their time in power.

You could also look at “aid” the European people provided the African colonies during their time as superpowers. Even better… look at what they are doing for the world right now. Where is their great big white boat with doctors and dentists? Where are their Marines after an earthquake or hurricane? At home, on their porch sipping on a cup of self-righteousness as they lecture the world about the virtues of pacifism and the horrors of the American military. It’s hypocritical and it’s ignorant.

While many find that the superstructure that is the US military is a bloated and imperialistic beast, it’s still the largest and most efficient source in the world to get help where help is needed. That help happens whether that be in calming a diplomatic hot spot, giving food to a devastated rural village or providing dental care to children in a part of a country that has never seen a dentist. Would I like to see other, more pacifist organizations do the job? Sure I would, so far the world is more content to complain than do anything.

The US military doesn’t suffer from that handicap. Say what you want about us, but without that aid provided by hundreds of thousands of American service people and hundreds of millions of taxpayers, millions upon millions of people who have been fed, vaccinated, operated on, given shelter, given homes, bathed, birthed, and listened to would now be dead. Many more would not experience the quality of life they now experience. Sure it’s easy to gauge the military on violent metrics, but how do you measure the value of those we have helped? That’s a philosopher’s discussion, not one for the Marines. Yeah, the Americans and their military have their faults, but if you’re one of them you ought to be pretty proud right now. [2]

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

 

That is such a pretty medal isn’t it? About that…

2) The uniforms are not provided by tax payer dollars. They are paid for by the troops themselves.

 

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

Neat how I segued from the Humanitarian Service Medal to my point on how much uniforms cost huh? See this beautiful example of a human being above? People who can read his rack (the medals on his chest) know this man is truly a boss. I’ll list a few of the really cool ones. He’s stellar: Two Navy Commendation Medals, Three Navy Achievement medals and a few Good Cookies. He’s also a badass: Two National Defense Medals (two different periods of war), several combat action ribbons, two devices known throughout the Corps as the recon combo and the crème de la crème, the enemy accuracy medal better known as the Purple Heart. Plus this flower looking thing I can only assume means he’s awesome (or Canadian?) not to mention at least 13 different pieces of insignia I don’t care to mention.

Do you know how John D. Taxpayer thanks the honorable Gunnery Sergeant Awesomesauce? By making him pay for each and every damn thing you see… even down to the buttons on his stinking coat. Did I mention those medals are gold plated?

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

 

These are the Uniforms of the USMC. [3] I will make the caveat that it is true that military personnel are provided with one piece of every item they need when they first enter boot camp. What most don’t know is that these also come out of their paycheck. It is sort of a hidden cost since we are more involved in boot camp than watching our finances. We all know it happens, but just have to get it done.

It is assumed that this uniform item is supposed to last throughout their enlistment which could last 30 years. And those medals you earn? You’re given one when earn it. It’s like the Humanitarian Service Medal above. It isn’t the gold plated version and basically, you have no uniform you are allowed to wear it in. For all the medals you actually wear, you have to pay between $13 and $60. Interesting huh? This is made easier by a stipend military folks receive that is around $200 every year for replacement of uniform items. Let’s look closer at that.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

I am going to go over an estimated cost of what is shown by the Gunnery Sergeant in this picture. Mind you I am only showing you the parts visible in the picture, which themselves are only one of many Marine Corps regulation uniforms.Section A: Cover

Total Cost of “Cool Hat”: $83.40

Section B: Medals

Total cost of “Bling” – $296.33

Section C: Other Devices

Extra Doo-Dads – $30.12

Section D: The Blues Coat

Total for the Coat: $423.80

Total for everything visible:

$833.65

Plus Tax!

[4]

I’ll remind readers that this is just what is visible in that image. Not shown, but simply must be there are $83 pants, $99 shoes, a $50 belt buckle, service stripes, blood stripes and at least four other trinkets I can think of off the top of my head. Let’s not forget that that guy doesn’t look like a seamstress so add in tailoring. Also, this is all still just one uniform of the six that Marines are required to upkeep at all times not to mention multiple sets of pristine camouflage utilities.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

You might not realize this from the outside, but military troops’ uniforms come at a very high cost. Not only is there the cost of earning the right to wear it, but the sacrifice of time and money to upkeep it. As I have said, we receive the few items we are issued (bought) at boot camp. We are issued one cheap version of the medals we earn, but aren’t really allowed to wear (because it’s the cheap version). We also receive a regular pittance to upkeep it. I hope I have shown that that is hopelessly not enough for all the gear and uniform items we are expected to maintain.

I could go on about how many pairs of combat utilities I went through on my two Iraq deployments and my many training missions and how the two they gave me just didn’t make it. I could go on about how if one of those gold medals got scratched… it was worthless and you had to get a new one. Did you know that gold is one of the most malleable metals on Earth? You will once you replace a $22 medal because Corporal saw a scratch on it. I could go on about the countless inspections to ensure that our uniforms were perfect… perfect. But I won’t do into detail on those. What I will say is that they are important to us.

We work exceptionally hard to make sure that they are pristine and represent all the greatest qualities we can put into them. They are trying to convey an image and ideal of respectable men and women that instill courage and a sense of pride and security in the people they serve.Of course this is also why we write answers like this Nick Layon’s answer to What is the fashion trend you dislike the most? or go ballistic when we see celebrities do this:

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

Or when we see comments like this we want to simply choke someone:

So what you don’t like is when the citizens you protect wear the uniform you wear while preserving our freedom? And for this you raise your voice at them? Are you aware sir, that the taxes those people pay on the clothes you don’t like them wearing are what pays your salary?

Yes. In case you didn’t know. Military personnel can easily spend more than a third of their after tax disposable income a year on uniform items. They do this out a sense of pride. They do this out of a sense of honor and respect to the uniform and what it represents. They do this so that when you see them you can gain a sense of pride and feel safe knowing that when all hell breaks lose, a professional is ready to meet it. They do this to not be yelled at during inspections. They do this because it proves that they are special.

What I hope you take away from this, if nothing else, is that your tax dollars are a drop in the bucket for what military personnel pay every year for their uniforms. Also, don’t be surprised to receive a knife hand to the temple if you expect praise, gratitude, fealty or admiration because you were so generous to pay your damned taxes this year. Military people don’t owe you anything just because you pay taxes and you didn’t put those medals on our chests. We look good because we paid for the right to. [5]

3) Our Navy Started off Basically as Pirates.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

Ok, I know I just made the biggest deal about how the United States military has relatively unheard-of aspects that include noble and virtuous service to disaster-stricken regions and that our uniforms mark us as some of the proudest and most professional military personnel on the planet. So why on Earth would I say that we started off as pirates? Because someone who reads the facts and has a vague understanding of military practices has some hard truths to deal with.

There are some colorful factoids hidden in sunken chests down under the sea that paint a picture few have ever really seen. There was some downright swashbuckling going on back then. I’ve taken a pretty liberal historical licence, but there is, as is the case with everything else, much more to the story than what made it to our history books. Let’s take a look.

Take a look at this flag. What do you see? Anything familiar?

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

You guessed right! It’s the flag of the British East India Company! How smart you are! Doesn’t look at all like anything else after all…Notice again some of the elements of the flag. The first thing we need to know is that this was a Naval flag and all the elements have important Naval meanings. It was colonial practice to place the mother nation’s standard at the top corner against the mast. Here we see the Union Jack present as it appeared at the time. What is also important was the red field.

In those days, such a flag would denote the ensign of the trade navy. It would look like this. This meant that it was an official trade ship flying under the protection of the crown of England. The red color also meant that it was a civilian ship and that its only mission should be one of trade.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

So alright, well still the stripes are a big deal though. It’s hard not to see those stripes, right?

Yes. It is hard.  That’s why many of the major shipping companies of that era made special marks on their flags by simply sewing white stripes across the field. Don’t think of it as red and white stripes, but as a red field with white stripes on it. In fact there was one such company that made a remarkable effort to emulate the Colonial Flag, nearly 70 years before we ever flew it. They were the East India Trading Company, and had been waving a flag virtually identical to the Grand Union Flag for the better part of a century before the Revolutionary War.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

Now it’s just me, but if I was a British ship just looking over and see a flag that looked like that I probably wouldn’t think of some navy that no one has heard of yet… of course I bet that was the intention. Some might call that a case of mistaken identity, clever use of unconventional warfare while others might go as far as to say that it is downright piracy. Still some might just say it is one big convenient coincidence.

On Marines

A few things that you should know about the Marine Corps. One of the first facts that every good Marine knows, myself being among that population, is where the Marine Corps was born. Do you know? It was Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, Pennsylvanian. Yep, at a bar. The proudest and most lethal fighting men in the planet are the ancestors of a bunch of rowdy drunks. Well, for better or worse little has changed.Our first recorded battle was the Battle of Nassau, led by Captain Samuel Nicholas, which consisted of 250 Marines and sailors who landed in New Providence and marched to Nassau Town. There, they wreaked much damage and seized naval stores of shot, shells, and cannon, but failed to capture most of the desperately needed gun powder. The forts at Nassau and Fort Montagu were raided and stripped of their armaments, while Marines occupied the town of Nassau for a lengthy stay. While in Nassau the Marines “relieved” them of some of their unwanted burdens as well. Governor Browne complained that the rebel officers consumed most of his liquor stores during the occupation, and also wrote that he was taken in chains like a “felon to the gallows” when he was arrested and taken to the Alfred.Since then, for the most part, we have cleaned up our act a bit. For those early days, however, it is my belief that the Continental Marines’ use of “unconventional warfare” to complete their goals at the time might warrant a closer look at our views of their history or at least just reveal them as the colorfully exuberant fellows of cheer and good character that they were.

The Father of the American Navy

Switching back to the Navy, meet John Paul “Jones” and the Continental Navy. After combing the web for information on John Paul, on his best day, he was a jerk. Let’s begin. This man is often times cited as one of the founding fathers of the U.S. Navy. His sarcophagus even rests to this day in the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. Pretty cool, but let’s check his resumé.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

  • Began work on a slave-trade ship.
  • Next, worked on a brig (prison ship) where his first mate and captain conveniently died of disease, leaving him the de facto captain of the ship.
  • He later captained his own ship where he savagely flogged two of his sailors for disciplinary actions, one to death.
  • After this he killed one of his sailors for mutiny by stabbing him in the chest.
  • Following this incident he fled the Royal Navy and went to Virginia.
  • He also added the surname “Jones”.
  • By his account it was an act of self-defense, but no one I know runs to a non-extradition country and changes their name for self-defense. Just saying, I don’t think he was all-in-all a stand-up guy.

Following this John Paul Jones was recruited to the Continental Navy. His successful exploits with the Royal Navy made him a prime candidate for a new navy starving for officers, even psychos. He then captained one of the vessels bound for Nassau in the Bahamas. The small fleet of ships captured the city, several ships and supplies, the whole time waving what was believed to be the Grand Union Flag.

From this point on, John Paul Jones led many other raids on naval shipping and port towns. He was successful enough that he was given the go-ahead to become a curse on English shipping. After touching base in France he actually sailed up to the coast of England and Ireland and started attacking British merchant shipping. In his career he captured many ships and a vast amount of supplies for the Colonial cause. All this while routinely facing problems from his crew who, as his journal accounts “‘Their object,’ they said, ‘was gain not honor.’ Among other actions his men were famed for raiding villages and conducting arson attacks on the English towns. In another report, Jones stated that at one point he wanted to leave, but his crew wished to “pillage, burn, and plunder all they could”. Now this is just me talking, but I am surprised that a man who once beat his sailors to death would be having such discipline problems. Just sayin’.

Now I know that not everyone is a fan of 18th century naval warfare, but his tactics were conducive to a rather different form of naval warfare than his famed Bon Homme Richard where he is famed for his saying, “I have not yet begun to fight!” No, this was a different form of naval practice. If you haven’t pieced it together yet…John Paul Jones and much of the Colonial Navy were pirates. [6]

4) The United States Military is one the Most Educated Industries in the World.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

The United States military boasts some of the most educated warfighters in the world, not to mention in the history of warfare. All US service members must have at the time of their enlistment a high school diploma or the general equivalency diploma. To be more clear, more than 99% of those enlisted have a high school education comparable to about 60% that you will find in the general population. Also compared to the population of the United States, more service members have also attended some college compared to their typical 18- to 24-year-old counterparts. They have all also passed a standardized test on  English proficiency, mathematics, science and government. This test also serves as a placement exam for military jobs. [7]

To top this most MOS schools or Military Occupational Specialty schools boast world-class educational training. First you have to be good enough to get into the school you want, which can have very high scores required to get in. No, we don’t have the greatest recreational facilities and the dorms suck. It isn’t the Ivy League, but the education level is beyond par.

While stationed in 29 Palms California, a hole in the middle of the California desert, I received two years worth of the most rigorous training in Computer Science, Data Network Administration and Information Systems Maintenance. I say two years except that I only had six months to do it. And the training is taken very seriously. While typically civilians are allowed to pass with virtually any grade so long as they beg enough, every test in a military school is a fail if scored under 80% and if you fail you can be booted from the program.

The United States Marine Corps even has an amazing secret that few on the outside know anything about. We have a correspondence college which is a universal part of nearly every Marine’s military experience. It is called the Marine Corps Institute (MCI for short). It was started when Major General Lejeune issued a Post Order establishing three new schools: Automobile Mechanics, Music, Typewriting and Shorthand. Special Order No. 299 announces that 11 new schools will open January 5, 1920.

Of course we have courses you won’t find at Stanford, Harvard, or UCLA or any state school for that matter. There doesn’t seem to be a need for 0321B The M240G Machine Gunner, 0090A Pistol Marksmanship, or 0365 Antiarmor Operations there, but what you might be surprised by what would be the other courses one wouldn’t expect to see by the barbarian warmongers that are the United States Marine Corps: 0119H Punctuation, 0120 Basic Grammar and Composition and 1334 Math for Marines.

Perhaps that’s where Marines figure out what it takes to re-calculate the trajectory of an object traveling at 3,110 ft/s for a three-inch change in elevation at 5 times the length of a standard football field when factoring in for wind speed and direction as well as differences in elevation?” Actually that’s not true. Marine recruits do in that in week six of their basictraining.

One more shocker regarding the nerdiness of the US Military? How about this, the Marines have a book club. Now this isn’t Oprah’s Book Club. It’s the Commandant’s Reading List [9]. On this list are books and documents intended to both encourage the martial spirit in the minds of young warriors and inspire the intellectual capabilities of scholarly warfighters. What follows are some of the more impressive works that appear. This is by no means a complete list.

You will obviously find on the list titles such Marine Corps classics as:

Also listed are many other works on warfare such as:

Books on Moral Codes and Ethics:

Books on Leadership, Management Philosophy and Administration:

Works on military history:

As well as important world studies for the military minded:

There is even one on environmentalism!

Even books that show the importance of a civilian leadership and the consequences when they don’t do a good job.

And there is even a nerd section. You know that new movie Ender’s Game? You know it was first a book written by Orson Scott? You know that it has been on the reading list for decades?

 

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

Most importantly, there are two other works which are required reading. These are works that cement what it is that every military person stands for and what they fight for. They are the clear definition of the values of their nation. When you see what else is on this list… you’ll wonder why no one else is required to read them as well besides members of the US military.

 

5) You’ll be fine in it.

Many assume that the only people who would want to join the military are those who want to die from some car bomb in Iraq. Just as many assume that the majority of us have seen more than we actually have. There is also this myth that we are all just “the lucky few” who survived four years in the middle of some never-ending artillery barrage. The truth is, while there are plenty of risks, which are widely known, you are far safer in the United States military than most would believe possible.

For example, what if I told you that there is less than a one in a thousand chance that you might actually be killed if you even go to war when you go with the Americans? The risk of death in the United States military during the most recent decade is less than .1% while the risk of being wounded in action is a sizable amount less than 1%.

We have currently about 2,518,542 people in the United States military. Since 9/11, estimates would safely place the number of people who have served in some branch to be about 6 to 7 million people, probably more. The total people who died as a result of action in either Iraq or Afghanistan since then is about 6,660. which means that fewer than about 0.088% of the people who have enlisted have been killed as a result of that decision. If you consider wounded, then the number increases to about 0.738% percent. For the those not blessed with the ability to conceptualize such things, here’s a tasty pie.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

To better answer this question I also wanted to address these statistics reflected when considering only those who actually participated in a combat deployment. I asked the question How many US troops have been deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001? to gain a better picture of just that question. From that Daniel Kearns produced this document (Page on Senate) which is a brief and simple, but important piece of information on the Iraq War.

From that we have a best estimate of 1.5 million warfighters deployed to war in Iraq during the war. Taking this with earlier data we see total killed accounted for .29% of those deployed while wounded accounted for 2.15%. So, to be clear, of those deployed to the hottest combat zone in recent American military history, the highest chance of death was .29% for deployed troops and risk of violent injury was still only 2.15%. [6]

This trait, however, isn’t anything new. The US military, at least since the dawn of the 20th century and perhaps because of the carnage of our own civil war, have adapted a mentality and strategy that ensures our military does not easily sacrifice its own. We simply have values that don’t allow us to experience heavy troop losses and a wealth that affords the ability to win without them.

In truth we live today in a time-period where we have proven that experience matters more than assets and that a troop’s life is almost always more valuable than the patch of Earth they are fighting for. That’s why modern warfare doesn’t allow for high losses. Take a look at the figures for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, pulled from Wikipedia. This doesn’t include the insurgency years that followed, but showcased the last time we fought a full-on war with an advanced national military.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
That last statistic is significant.

The Coalition’s troop strength before the battle was 265,000 troops, mostly from the United States and the UK. The Iraqis’ troop level was 1,119,000, more than 4x that fielded by the Coalition. The end result, however, was that through great strategic, technological, and logistical superiority, the American lead Coalition was able to inflict as many as 261 times as many casualties as the Iraqi were capable of delivering in return. That’s more than 250 Iraqi killed for every Coalition death. A more lopsided battle has never been fought.

Perhaps it is just that we don’t fight that much or stay safely behind our big walls. We just send out the evil drones and high powered missiles, snipers, and other cowardly means of fighting a war. Well, given the option… wouldn’t you? I know these guys certainly would if given a second chance.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

A grim look through history will show that American military doctrine has focused on a few key tenets throughout at least the last century. We focus on augmenting our troops through overwhelming technology rather than creating a culture that loves war. The facts are that Americans deeply hate conflict. We will do whatever we can to avoid it on an interpersonal level, regardless of whatever you think about our foreign policy. This is reflected in our demographics. Today, after 13 years of war, and with a sizeable portion of our Vietnam-era veterans still alive, US veterans still only number 22 million individuals and account for less than 7% of the total population.

Note, that is veterans, not active service members. The Department of Veterans Affairs projects that that number is set to decrease, not only in percentages, but in real value. They project that by 2043 we will only have 14 million veterans alive for a total percentage of the population at only 3.5%. The decreasing number of veterans means a country culturally disconnected from the realities of its wars because of the peacefulness of the daily lives of its citizens.

And that’s how we want it. The alternatives are thus: during the Second World War, you saw very different social military philosophies come head to head. Among these were the Americans and the Japanese. The Japanese were fantastic engineers and created marvelous machines. One such was the Zero fighter. It had a turning capability and climb that was far superior to other fighters. It was more agile and a deadly threat.

The trade-offs? It’s aluminum coating was brittle and the plane offered no armor for the pilot, engine or other critical points of the aircraft. Its light construction also made it prone to catching fire and exploding during combat. Add this to the practice of Japanese fighters on the ground routinely combating US Marines with suicidal “Banzai” charges, the human-wave attack and we see a culture which adopted an ancient form of warfare: the military death cult. Death and the warrior were at that time so intertwined through a perversion of the Samurai Bushido culture that the leadership of Japan could order hundreds of thousands of Japanese to their deaths without the Japanese people resisting at all.

This culminated in the ultimate corruption of bravery and honor; the creation of the Kamikaze pilot and the “Baka” Bomb.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

This is the Japanese Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka (“cherry blossom”), a rocket-powered parasite aircraft used towards the end of the war. The U.S. called them Baka Bombs (“idiot bombs”). They called it this, because the only intended purpose of the aircraft was to be guided by a pilot to impact directly with an enemy ship by a pilot who had reserved himself to die in the effort. The Kamikaze (Divine Wind) is named for the legendary holy force which protects the Japanese from invasion by outsiders, namely because of a storm which swallowed up tens of thousands of Mongol invaders hundreds of years ago before they ever set foot on Japanese soil.

The Kamikaze myth was resurrected for the creation of a force of airmen who volunteered and trained for a mission in which they would surely die, once again, like a storm from Heaven protecting Japan from foreign invaders. So committed were these soldiers and those who commanded them to this idea of a glorious death for their nation and their emperor,  they even attended a ceremony before their mission which could only be described as their funeral.

In contrast, the American philosophy emphasized an entirely different approach. We preferred to keep our warriors alive, if for no other moral reason than to pass on their experience and be useful on a better day. We engineered fighter aircraft with more power that could give us the strength and survivability to keep fighting. Add to this the individual support given to the individual troop. While the base soldier thrown away during a Japanese suicide charge was said to be worth less than $10 by their own admiralty, the United States Marine, the most underfunded of the military branches, would deploy with supplies of everything from ammunition, food, water, and bandages, to paper and pencils and glass eyes of every imaginable size and color… just in case.

This excerpt from Flags of Our Fathers displays in the days and weeks leading up to the Battle of Iwo Jima the American philosophy, strategy, and implementation of sending every man with all the gear to have a dominating edge, and the greatest chance possible of coming home.

… the movement of over 100,000 men, Marines, Navy support personnel, Coast Guard units across 4,000 miles of ocean for three weeks is a triumph of American industry galvanizing itself in a time of great national peril. At the outset of the war, Japan’s naval strength was more than double that of America’s, but across the American continent, the idling factories steamed and sparked to life. Most of the vessels came splashing off the industrial assembly lines in the six months before this assault…

… And it has not just been a matter of hardware. The civilians of America have mobilized behind these fighting boys. Behind each man on board the ships are hundreds of workers. In the factories, in the cities and towns, on the heartland farms; Rosie the Riveter, boy scouts collecting paper and metal, the young girl who would become Marilyn Monroe, sweating away in a defense plant.

Here is some of what those mobilized civilians have generated for this tremendous force: For each of the seventy thousand assault troop Marines 1,322 lbs of supplies and equipment. Some of it sounds weirdly domestic: dog food, garbage cans, light bulbs, house paint. Some of it suggests an island business office: duplicating machines, carbon paper, movie projectors. Some sounds like kids’ camping gear: toilet paper, socks,  shoelaces, paper and pencils, flashlights, blankets. Some begin to suggest a sterner mission: flares, plasma, bandages, crucifixes, holy water, canisters of disinfectant to spray on corpses. And some of it gets exactly to the point: artillery, machine guns, automatic rifles, grenades and ammunition. The transport ships carry six thousand five-gallon cans of water, enough food to feed the population of Atlanta for a month or the assaulting Marines for two months. The Marines brought along one hundred million cigarettes.

This isn’t to say our strategy made us invulnerable. We endured great losses to be sure, 19,000 at the Battle of the Bulge, 16,293 at Normandy, 12,513 in Okinawa, and countless other battles throughout the war, totaling around 405,000 dead Americans. While that number is appalling, it pales compared with others. Soviet Union – up to 13,000,000 military dead, Germany – up to 5,500,000, Japan – 2,120,000. These figures do not include civilian dead, of which the United States had virtually none.

That said, we dominated the Japanese in World War II once we steadied ourselves from the attack on Pearl Harbor. We suffered 1/24th their total losses in a war they began. The same can be seen in Iraq or Afghanistan and can be seen as well in any major conflict we have been a part of in the last one hundred years. This is because our philosophy wins wars in this modern age. War isn’t won by weapons; it is won by warriors. Make the warrior a weapon and give him the tools to succeed and come home, and no other force on Earth can defeat him.

Jon Davis is a three time Quora Top Writer. He is a Marine, honorably discharged in 2008. Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, small business owner, teacher, writer and Christian.

* Anyone who looks closely will see that these are periods when the US military was actively engaged in combat action, so this can’t count as a peacekeeping mission. However what you will notice is that during the deployments many more patients were treated than casualties received by Americans. This means that the rest of those treated were civilians and enemy POWs.

[2] If for no other reason than because all those who judge you haven’t done a fucking thing to help anyone. 😉

[3] The center image is pictured with gear and a weapon. The gear is provided, but I couldn’t find an image that fit with the others showing only cammies. Also not pictured are Desert BDUs.

[4] I know I shouldn’t be posting this because that is probably some Marine at a funeral or something. I feel like such a dick, but it is just such a perfect picture. Forgive me Chesty.

[5] I hope no one takes from this that I or other military people are complaining too heavily about this or consider it any act of severe injustice. The point of this section was just to deliver what in my mind was a “mind-blowing fact about the military” that I believe few are aware of. Beyond that I wanted to give a more clear picture of what some of the “sacrifices” that people hear so much about actually look like. We don’t all die or get shot and people know that and assume that that means that military people don’t deserve respect unless they actually died for your freedom. In this case I hope that people can at least look at those uniforms and know how much work and financial sacrifice went into making them look the way they do, let alone the price of earning the right to wear them.

[6] I know that I have taken a very liberal stance on historical interpretation here. What is important to know is that much of the Navy and Marine Corps’ actions were exactly what was needed to complete the mission for a Navy with no ships. They were also much more common practices for the ways that military encounters were done in those days. Still, if we were do the unforgivable and judge those of the past by today’s standard, the Colonial Navy’s actions against the British in the American Revolution might easily fall into the categories of pirate actions by unbiased observers.

[7] Curious about the rigorous qualifications required to be good enough to join the United States Military? United States Military Enlistment Standards. Good luck.

[8] Thanks to Eric Tang for sharing with me the Army’s version of the Marine Corps Reading List. I skimmed through it and found some very great reads that I’ve recently bought to put on my to-do list. You can see the Army’s Professional Reading List here: The U.S. Army Chief of Staff’s.

[9] These figures do not account for job specialty, which will skew heavily towards infantry-type units. I don’t have data for this, but as the previous statistics probably surprised many, so will those of the infantry when they become available.

Stats from:

War in Afghanistan (2001–present) – 2,173 US KIA,   23,500 Coalition WIA (Majority US)

Iraq War – 4,487 US KIA,   32,226 US WIA

Estimations based on United States Department of Defense

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, make sure to follow my others at my Quora blog Jon’s Deep Thoughts. If you would like to support the JDT, please visit: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories and Essays in Military, Science Fiction and Life.

NOW CHECK OUT: 7 things that make you stick out in the US military

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Why Russia has three nuclear footballs – and who can use them

The United States closest geopolitical rival is Russia, but when it comes to the way their militaries operate, that’s where the two countries’ similarities end. Nowhere is this more apparent than in their command and control structures for launching nuclear weapons.

It’s a well-known fact that the President of the United States has a military officer who follows his every move while carrying the nuclear “football.” This is essentially a suitcase filled with everything necessary for the president to authorize and launch a nuclear strike while he’s not in a designated command and control area, such as the White House. 

In the United States, one person, the President of the United States, has sole authority to launch a nuclear strike, either an offensive strike or in retaliation. In the Russian Federation, the president’s power is checked by the military when it comes to a nuclear launch. 

The Russian Federation’s military has three of these nuclear footballs, which follow around three very important Russian defense officials. This system is known as a “triple key” system. The first football follows the President of Russia, who is currently Vladimir Putin. The Russian president’s football doesn’t contain an actual nuclear key, but instead a system of launch codes. 

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
“Who’s got the nukes? Oh, not you? BOOM. Annexed” (Russian Presidential Press and Information Office)

But Vladimir Putin can’t initiate a nuclear strike by himself, on his own authority. It’s probably the one thing he can’t do in Russia. Instead, in a time of need, the president’s codes must be sent to the Russian Defense Minister, currently Russian army Gen. Sergey Shoygu, who has held the position since 2012. 

Once the Minister of Defense receives an order and launch codes from the president, he sends his codes and the president’s codes to the Chief of the General Staff, currently Gen. Valery Gerasimov. Once the Chief of the General Staff has all three sets of codes, then he can make the launch orders to the missile crews.

It’s estimated that the entire process, once initiated, should take about 20 minutes. This process was considered a highly-guarded state secret in the days of the Soviet Union, and a lot of misinformation still exists surrounding it. The three-step process is generally known to be true. 

One unconfirmed rumor states that the defense minister and the Chief of the General Staff must transmit their codes separately to limit unauthorized access from renegade military personnel. Another rumor says that the Chief of the General Staff actually has the president’s codes as well. This structure, it’s believed, prevents a power grab from the defense minister’s office, nipping any conspiracy against the president in the bud. 

There is also no system of transferring launch authority in place in case one of these three men suddenly becomes unable to perform their duties. The first and only time a Russian leader has ever publicly legalized a line of succession in case he was unable to act came from Boris Yeltsin shortly after the end of the Soviet Union. 

After the 1993 coup against Yeltsin, the Russian constitution codified the presidential line of succession, putting the president’s power in the hands of the Russian Prime Minister. But it does not list the line of succession if the prime minister were to be disabled or killed. 

Russia’s system of positive control of its nuclear launch capabilities is one that it came by through a number of trials and errors. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet commander in Cuba had the authority to launch a nuclear strike without Moscow’s permission, for example. Nothing was guaranteed. 

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

These days, that power rests firmly in hands of three longtime officeholders, with a rudimentary system of checks and balances to keep one from overriding the others. Probably for the best.

Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube

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This retired Navy SEAL shares 100 deadly skills

Yeah, The Official 700 Club isn’t where many people go for advice about how to defend themselves and kill others, but former Navy SEAL Clint Emerson went on the show to promote his book, “100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation.”


5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
(Book cover: Amazon)

Emerson gives a quite a few of the tips and a lot of the mentality behind those skills during an interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Again, not where we normally go for violent advice, either.

Tips run the gamut from always knowing which way you’ll run in a crisis to remembering to keep razor blades hidden nearby and carrying a steel barrel pen that can withstand multiple stabs against an opponent.

Check out the video below. For a guide you can carry around with you, check out the book linked above.

popular

This MARSOC recruiting video looks like a Hollywood movie

Every day, young men and women walk into their local Marine recruiting office with the prospect of joining the Corps. How could they not? The military knows how to make a compelling commercial or inspirational poster. The recruiter will also toss out some motivating terms like honor and respect just to wet an idealist’s beak.


But there’s one epic recruiting tool that helps give the individual that much needed push to make their final decision to sign up — the motivating recruiting video.

For MARSOC — or Marine Special Operations Command — the standard recruiting video takes it one step further. Their video comes with a unique narrative and badass soundtrack, and showcases a well-disciplined Marine rising out of the river in slow motion.

Related: This is what ‘Black Friday’ is like for new Marine recruits

Where do we sign up? (Image via Giphy)MARSOC is one of our nation’s most elite fighting forces; its members are ready to respond to any crisis, anywhere.

These small but well-trained Marine units embrace the unknown and are prepared to face any challenge. To earn a position on a MARSOC team takes a superhuman effort and the willingness to go above and beyond.

Also Read: 7 unrealistic Navy SEAL characters in the movies

Training takes place in three different phases consisting over a ten-week period. Each stage is specifically designed to expose each the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses before continuing.

The assessment and selection process mentally and physically challenges each potential team member, and completion of the course doesn’t guarantee a spot on the team. Only the best make the cut.

Once selected, team members can deploy anywhere at anytime with limited notice. Their missions are secret, as well as the identities of the members.

Check out MARSOC’s video below to see the cinematic recruiting video for yourself. We dare you not to join.

MARSOC, YouTube
popular

Being commander-in-chief is all about rocking the flight jacket

As written in the Constitution, the President of the United States is also the military’s Commander-in-Chief, and history would indicate that among the things that duty involves is wearing a flight jacket when in the company of American troops. Who pulls it off the best?


For benchmarking, here are how some of the nation’s previous presidents looked while wearing a flight jacket:

1. John F. Kennedy

 

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
JFK sailing off of Hyannisport. (Photo: White House)

 

2. Ronald Reaganpresidents

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
11/6/1986 President Reagan walking with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at Camp David

3. George H.W. Bush

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
Bush 41 sporting his Naval Aviator’s Wings of Gold on his flight jacket. (Photo: White House)

4. Bill Clinton

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
Clinton aboard the USS Independence (CV 62) .(Photo: U.S. Navy)

5. George W. Bush

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
Bush 43 at Camp David with British PM Tony Blair. (Photo: AP)

6. Barack Obama

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
Obama with his A-1 flight jacket (USAF style) during a surprise visit to Afghanistan. (Photo: White House)

 

7. President Joe Biden

presidents in flight jacket
Former Vice President, Joe Biden receives a flight jacket from the Commanding Offficer of USS Ronald Reagan Capt. Kenneth Norton

 

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America’s Patton tanks saw combat from Korea to Desert Storm

For over 40 years, some variant of the Patton family of tanks served America. From the mountains of Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, and through the deserts of the Middle East Patton tanks bested America’s enemies time and again.


In 1950, the first Patton tank, the M46, entered service. The M46 was originally based on the WWII M26 Pershing heavy tank. However, after extensive redesigns and improvements, it received its own designation and a new namesake — Gen. George S. Patton, a hero of WWII.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
A Marine checks his tank after taking Howitzer hits. (Dept. of Defense photo)

The M46 was armed with a 90mm main gun, a .50 caliber machine gun, and two .30 caliber machine guns, one mounted coaxially, the other forward-firing in the hull.

The arrival of the Patton into service was just in time as in June of that year North Korea, armed with formidable Russian T34 tanks, rolled across the 38th Parallel into South Korea. Fighting alongside WWII-era M4 Shermans and the M26 Pershings it was meant to replace, the M46 would see heavy combat in Korea.

Also read: This is what makes tankers so deadly

The first M46 tanks landed inside the Pusan Perimeter in August 1950 as part of the 6th Tank Battalion. They would prove critical in the defense. More M46s landed at Inchon with the 1st Marine Division’s 1st Tank Battalion.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
Pro tip: the paint doesn’t need to be realistic if your enemy is superstitious. (U.S. Army photo)

In an attempt at psychological warfare, the tankers of the 24th Infantry Division’s 6th Tank Battalion painted tiger faces on their tanks thinking it would demoralize their superstitious Chinese adversaries.

By mid-1951 the Patton tanks had replaced all M26 Pershings in service in Korea. However, the M46’s own shortcomings had already led to the development of a replacement — the M47 Patton.

Though the M47 was introduced in 1952, it would be too late for it to see combat in Korea. However, the M47 was important because even though it shared design features and components with the M46 Patton, it was considered America’s first all-new tank design since WWII.

The M47, though, was just an interim design while engineers completed work on its successor, the M48 Patton. The M47 would never see combat but the M48 would be a workhorse of American and allied armored units.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

Like its predecessors, the M48 also mounted a 90mm main gun; it was the last tank to do so, but had significant improvements in armor and performance.

The M48 was also introduced too late to see combat in Korea, but just over a decade later the Marines would take it to Vietnam. Soon, Army units were bringing their own Pattons to the fight.

Due to the nature of the conflict, the M48s did not often have the chance to go toe-to-toe with North Vietnamese armor. One of the few instances of tank combat came during the NVA assault on the Ben Het Camp where elements of the 1st Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment were stationed. The American Pattons easily defeated the NVA’s PT-76 tanks and BTR-50 APCs.

More often than not though, the M48s were relegated to infantry support — a role they excelled at. The Patton’s ruggedness allowed it to absorb a good amount of damage and its 90mm main gun was a welcome addition against dug-in enemies. A favorite of the troops was the Patton’s canister rounds, which acted like a giant shotgun through the jungle, cutting down man and tree alike.

A number of M48s were also converted to M67 “Zippo” tanks that mounted flamethrowers for dealing with stubborn Vietcong and NVA soldiers.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
An M67 throwing flames. No big deal. (U.S. Army photo)

The Patton was also one of the few vehicles that could withstand the landmines that were employed against American forces. As such, it was often used as a route clearance vehicle to “sniff out” the explosive devices.

While the M48 was slogging it out in Vietnam, the next in line of the Patton family of tanks was coming into service with the American military: the M60 Patton, the M48s eventual replacement.

The M60 was the final tank in the Patton family line and America’s first Main Battle Tank. It mounted a modern 105mm main gun, a .50 caliber machine gun for the commander, and a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun.

The M60 also was the basis for the M60 Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge and the M728 Combat Engineer Vehicle, both of which were deployed to Vietnam alongside the M48s.

The M60 itself would not be deployed to Vietnam, but would be a mainstay of American armored formations, particularly in Europe.

One of the more interesting developments of the M60 Patton was the M60A2. Derisively known as the “Starship” because of its overly complex technology, the M60A2 mounted the same 152mm gun/missile system as the M551 Sheridan. A redesigned turret and an abundance of new technology gave the A2 variation a distinct look. However, the design was an overall disappointment and it was quickly retired.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
An M60A2 tank driving off an amphibious landing craft. (U.S. Army photo)

Despite entering service some 30 years’ prior, the M60 Patton would not see significant combat until the end of its service history during the Persian Gulf War. Outfitting Marine tank battalions, the M60s performed admirably.

The Marines’ M60s spearheaded the assault to liberate Kuwait. In the fighting for Kuwait City, the M60 bested its original rival, the Soviet T62, time and again while sustaining only one tank lost to combat and no casualties. Marines manning Patton tanks destroyed over 100 Iraqi tanks and numerous other vehicles in the fighting.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
Marines from Company D, 2nd Tank Battalion, drive their M-60A1 main battle tank over a sand berm on Hill 231 while rehearsing their role as part of Task Force Breach Alpha during Operation Desert Storm. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Shortly after the Gulf War the M60 Patton was retired from combat service in favor of the new M1 Abrams. The last Pattons would return to Germany, the final resting place of their namesake, where they acted as OPFOR at the Combat Maneuver Training Center in Hohenfels before they too were retired in 2005.

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Today in military history: Ernest Hemingway wounded on the Italian Front

On July 8, 1918, Ernest Hemingway was wounded while serving on the Italian Front in World War I.

Hemingway volunteered as an ambulance driver for the American Red Cross when the war broke out. While handing out chocolates to Italian soldiers, Hemingway was struck by an Austrian mortar shell, taking fragments to the right foot and knee, thighs, hand, and head.

“Then there was a flash, as when a blast-furnace door is swung open, and a roar that started white and went red,” he recalled in a letter home.

Two men died in the attack, and a third was rescued by Hemingway, who, after regaining consciousness, carried the man to safe cover.

Hemingway received an Italian medal of valor for the act and later wrote about his war experiences in one of his most well-known novels, A Farewell to Arms, which explores love, war, masculinity, and femininity against the backdrop of the Italian campaign in World War I. Falling in love with his Red Cross nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky, may have helped a tiny bit with the novel’s inspiration.

He would also become the recipient of a Bronze Star for bravery in World War II, a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and a Nobel Prize for Literature.

According to Thomas Putnam for Prologue Magazine, “No American writer is more associated with writing about war in the early 20th century than Ernest Hemingway. He experienced it firsthand, wrote dispatches from innumerable frontlines, and used war as a backdrop for many of his most memorable works.”

Commenting on this experience years later in Men at War, Hemingway wrote, “When you go to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; not you…. Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose that illusion and you know it can happen to you. After being severely wounded two weeks before my nineteenth birthday I had a bad time until I figured out that nothing could happen to me that had not happened to all men before me. Whatever I had to do men had always done. If they had done it then I could do it too and the best thing was not to worry about it.”

Featured Image: (Left) Hemingway working on his book For Whom the Bell Tolls at the Sun Valley Lodge, Idaho, in December 1939; (Middle) Hemingway in American Red Cross Hospital, July 1918; (Right) Hemingway in uniform in Milan, 1918.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

Joshua T. asks: What were all those metal things you see on the beaches in pictures of the Omaha landing?

The Normandy Invasions represented one of the single largest military maneuvers in history. Beginning on June 6, 1944, the invasion was the largest amphibious assault of all time and involved what basically amounted to the collective might of a large percentage of the nations in the industrialized world working in tandem to defeat the Nazi war machine. One of the most iconic images of the invasion was that of a French beach covered in oppressive-looking metal crosses. As it turns out, those crosses were merely a small part of an expansive network of sophisticated defences the Allies managed to somehow circumvent in mere hours.


Dubbed “the Atlantic Wall” and constructed under the direct orders of Adolf Hitler himself in his Directive 40, the formidable defences stretched and astounding 2000 miles of the European coast. Intended to ward off an Allied invasion, the Atlantic Wall consisted of endless batteries of guns, an estimated five million mines (of both the sea and land variety) and many thousands of soldiers who occupied heavily fortified bunkers and fortresses along its length.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

German soldiers placing landing craft obstructions.

The wall has been described as a “three-tier system of fortifications” where the most valuable and vulnerable locations were the most heavily fortified while positions of lesser importance became known as “resistance points” that were more lightly defended but would still pose an imposing obstacle to any invasion force.

In the rush to create defences, gun batteries were haphazardly thrown together, consisting of basically whatever the Nazis could get their hands on. As a result, everything from heavy machine guns to massive cannons cut from captured French warships were utilized in the construction of fortresses and bunkers. Though they looked threatening, this “confusing mixture of sizes and calibres” proved to be an issue for the Nazis when they couldn’t scrape together the ammunition to arm them all. Still, the guns, in combination with the several other layers of defences, were believed to make the coast of Europe “impregnable”.

The largest of these guns represented the first line of defence of the Atlantic Wall and the Germans spent countless hours practise shelling “designated killing zones” experts predicted Allied ships would most likely use to invade. After this were expansive submarine nets and magnetic mines chained to the ocean floor to deter submarines and ships. In shallower water, the Nazis attached mines to sticks and buried large logs deep in the sand pointed outwards towards the ocean — the idea being boats would either be taken out by the mines or have their bows broken against the poles.

After this was a defensive emplacement known as the Belgian gate which were large heavy fences attached to steel rollers which could be positioned in the shallows. Following this were millions of mines lying just beneath the sands waiting for soldiers who managed to make it ashore.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

Czech hedgehogs.

Along with all of this, there were also those metal cross thingies — or to give them their proper name, Czech hedgehogs.

As the name suggests, the Czech hedgehog was invented in Czechoslovakia and was mostly designed to serve as a deterrent for tanks and other armoured vehicles, as well as in this particular case if the tide was right, approaching ships attempting to land on shore.

Originally designed to sit along the Czechoslovakia-Germany border as part of a massive fortification effort conducted in the 1930s, the hedgehogs never ended up serving their original purpose when the region was annexed by Germany in 1938.

It’s reported that the Czechs originally wanted to build a large wall between the two countries, but a cheaper solution was found in the form of these hedgehogs, which could be mass-produced by simply bolting together beams of steel.

So what purpose did they serve? Put simply, if a tank or other such vehicle tried to drive over one, the result was inevitably it becoming stuck on the thing, and even in some cases having the bottom of the tank pieced by the hedgehog. When used on a beach like this, as previously alluded to, they also had the potential to pierce the hulls of ships approaching the shores if the tide was high at the time.

On top of that, particularly the anchored variety of hedgehogs proved difficult to move quickly as even massive explosions didn’t really do much of anything to them.

Speaking of anchored hedgehogs, it isn’t strictly necessary for the hedgehogs to be anchored to anything normally. It turns out that tanks trying to drive over the unanchored ones had a good chance of getting themselves stuck just the same. In these cases what would usually happen was the hedgehog would roll slightly as the tank tried to power its way over, with then the weight of the tank often causing the steel I-beams to pierce the bottom of the tank, completely immobilizing it. In fact, in testing, unanchored hedgehogs proved slightly more effective than their anchored variety against heavy vehicles.

Czech Hedgehog (World War II Tech)

www.youtube.com

However, because of the tide issue in this case, to keep the hedgehogs in place, those closest to the water did have thick concrete bases anchoring them in the sand.

Using about a million tons of steel and about 17 million cubic meters of concrete, the broken wall these Czech Hedghogs created was a much more viable option than trying to create a solid wall over such a span, while also not giving the enemy forces too much cover, as a more solid wall would have done.

That said, while initially a deterrent, the hedgehogs ended up helping the Allies after the beaches were secured, as they proved to be a valuable source of steel and concrete that was repurposed for the war effort. For example, almost immediately some of the steel beams were welded to tanks, turning them into very effective mobile battering rams.

Yes you read that correctly — the Allies cut up dedicated anti-tank fortifications and welded them to their tanks to make them even more badass of weapons.

The Soviets also made extensive use of Czech hedgehogs, often using the concrete to literally cement them in place in cities and along bridges to halt German armored divisions in their tracks. As you can imagine, just one of these in a narrow street proved to be an extremely effective barrier that also left the enemy trying to get rid of it open to weapon fire.

While some Czech hedgehogs were constructed to specific factory specifications, which stipulated exact measurements (usually 1.4 meters in height) and materials (anything sturdy enough to survive around 500 tonnes of force), most were made of scavenged materials.

In the end, the hedgehogs along with the countless other fortifications proved to be a formidable, but not impassable obstacle for the Allies. In fact, thanks to a massive, concerted bombardment effort from the naval and air-based forces of the Allies, strategic commando strikes, and the bravery of the hundreds of thousands of troops who physically stormed the beaches all those years ago, all of the defences were bypassed in a matter of hours, though at the cost of several thousand lives on D-Day alone.

Bonus Facts:

  • The beaches of Normandy were shelled so heavily and so thoroughly mined that to this day it’s estimated that 4% of the beach still consists of shrapnel.
  • Czech hedgehogs are near identical in design (save for their massive size) to caltrops — a tiny metal device designed to always land with a jagged spike pointed straight into the air used extensively throughout history to hinder advancing enemy, particularly effective against horses, camels, and elephants, but also foot soldiers.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

Articles

Vietnamese farmers have been using US fuel tanks as boats for 50 years

Poor farmers and fishermen the world over need all the help they can get. Sometimes, buying a boat is just too costly, no matter how critical it is to their livelihood. So when the raw materials necessary to create exactly what is needed start raining from the sky, no one would think twice about using them. 

That’s exactly what the people of Vietnam began doing during the Vietnam War and the decades that followed. 

On Jan. 2, 1967, Col. Robin Olds was leading a flight of F-4 Phantom II fighters in a surprise raid over North Vietnam. The raid itself wasn’t a surprise; Olds wanted the enemy to see him coming and take off to intercept. The surprise was what the North Vietnamese would find once they were airborne. “Operation Bolo” was a go.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
F-4 Phantom on display in Maryland. Wikimedia Commons.

Olds and his Phantoms were outfitted with special gear that would make the enemy air base believe they would engage slower, less dangerous F-105 Thunderchief fighter bombers. By the time the communists realized they were going up against waves of nimble, faster F-4 Phantom fighters, it would be too late.

And it was. As soon as the North Vietnamese MiG-21s cleared the cloud cover, the Air Force another flight of Phantoms, led by Col. Daniel “Chappie” James were already in the area. Olds, like many other fighter pilots of his day, jettisoned his external fuel tanks and engaged the enemy MiGs. 

Air combat isn’t the only reason for pilots to jettison external tanks. Once they began to run empty, tanks were often dumped to lower the weight of the aircraft and extend the life of what fuel was remaining. Once dropped from the plane, the tanks simply fell into the countryside, landing wherever they landed.

The U.S. Air Force alone flew some 5.25 million sorties over North and South Vietnam during the American involvement there. While not all of those were fighter missions and not all of those required pilots to dump their external fuel tanks, a lot of tanks were dumped into Vietnam. 

In Vietnam, however, the tanks weren’t simply taken to some waste dump or discarded out of hand. In the 1960s, Vietnam’s rural population was comprised of mostly farmers and fishermen, many of which lived in the coastal areas of the South China Sea or near the Mekong River. When the F-4s dropped fuel tanks, they were dropping materials that could be repurposed.

F-4 Phantoms carried three external fuel tanks, a large 600-gallon tank in the center under the fuselage, along with two 370-gallon tanks under its wings. This means tens of thousands of drop tanks were potentially dropped into Vietnam’s jungles and farmlands throughout the war. 

While dropping empty aluminum from thousands of feet in the air would likely cause a lot of damage to them, enough survived to where Vietnam’s population was able to upcycle them for a new purpose: river canoes. 

Today, visitors to Vietnam’s rural areas along the rivers can see potentially dozens of  repurposed Air Force drop tanks being used as canoes by the locals. Many are cut in half, others have been refitted to look more like canoes, carry an onboard motor, or hold fish and other supplies.

Featured image: Guns.com

popular

13 tips for dating on a US Navy ship

Aside from the doom and gloom, sometimes the hormones act up, your sailor goggles come on, and the natural thing happens when you’re cooped up for months at a time with members of the opposite sex. It just happens. Yes, it’s stupid, and yes, you should know better. But, if you know better, and you’re still doing it, the following tips will help you and your “boat boo” from visiting the goat locker:


1. Forget about dating on a small ship.

 

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
Photos: US Navy

It’s easier to conceal your well deck escapades on larger ships, such as carriers and amphibious vessels.

2. Keep your distance

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Josh Cassatt/US Navy

Keep it professional, don’t make it obvious. No flirting in your shop. Avoid eye contact altogether.

3. Never date in your division.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Timothy Schumaker/US Navy

Keep it secret from your division buddies. One thing is for sure, as soon the wrong person catches wind, prepare to be teased or worse.

4. If the person you’re seeing is in the same division, volunteer for TAD (Temporary Additional Duty).

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bradley J. Gee/US Navy

Yes, everyone hates it, but volunteering to crank in the galley might save you from getting caught. Once you’re called back to your division, it’s your partner’s turn to reciprocate.

5. Share no more than one meal per day.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Giovanni Squadrito/US Navy

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

6. Pass notes like you’re freakin’ teenagers.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
Photo by Ivan Samkov from Pexels

You’ve been there before, so take a page from your high school days. Also, if you have a network of trusted friends to pass along your letters, seal your notes with candle wax for an extra layer of protection. It sounds medieval, but it’s effective.

NOTE: Don’t be stupid; don’t save your notes. The goats – Navy speak for chiefs – will use them as evidence if you get caught.

7. Visit common spaces together.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
Photo: YouTube

The library is a great common space to meet and pass notes.

8. Have a buddy in supply or any division with access to storage spaces.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
Photo: Wikimedia

This one is extra risky, but if you feel the urge to take it to the “next level,” your best friend is your buddy in supply. Supply personnel have access to storage spaces, which could be used to lock you in for an hour or two. Beware, you risk not showing up for emergency musters, such as GQ or man overboard. You’re at the mercy of your supply buddy since storage spaces are locked from the outside.

9. Wait for “darken ship” to meet at the bottom of ladder wells and corners.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
Photo: Capt. Lee Apsley/US Navy

10. Volunteer for roving watch and rendezvous on the fantail.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amanda S. Kitchner/US Navy

… or a dark catwalk.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dylan McCord/US Navy

 

11. Find another couple to provide you with a shore-buddy alibi.

 

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military
USAF photo

12. Go out in groups.

13. Have an open relationship. (And good luck with keeping that from getting messy.)

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

Acronym cheat sheet:

  • HM1: Hospital Corpsman, E6 pay grade
  • HM3: Hospital Corpsman, E4 pay grade
  • DRB: Disciplinary Review Board
  • CMC: Command Master Chief

WATM editor’s note: Let’s be clear, you should never date on a Navy ship. There’s too much to risk, such as being demoted, or even worse: getting the boot. For clarification, read the Navy’s Fraternization Policy.

Thanks to all the members of the Royal Order Of The Shellbacks and Shipmates Who Served Aboard The U.S.S. The Kitty Hawk CV 63 Facebook groups for helping us put together this post.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Gerard Butler totally gets why troops hate military movie mistakes

There’s nothing more irritating to troops and veterans than sitting down and watching a military film only to be distracted by inaccuracies. We’re not just talking about uniform infractions or other minor goofs — everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes, however, the scripts are just so fundamentally flawed that us veterans can’t help but start chucking things at the screen.

Thankfully, for every stinker that insists on ignoring the on-set military advisor, there’s a great film that gets it right.

The team here at We Are The Mighty recently got a chance to sit down with Gerard Butler, star and producer of the film Hunter Killer, to discuss the production crew’s commitment to portraying the lives of U.S. sailors as accurately as possible in the upcoming thriller.


5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

The wardrobe department pulled off some outstanding attention to detail. From the bottom of our hearts at We Are The Mighty, BZ, ‘Hunter Killer’ wardrobe department! BZ!

(Summit Entertainment)

There really isn’t any better way for filmmakers to faithfully capture the essence of military life than by deferring to those who serve — and that’s exactly what Gerard Butler and the crew of Hunter Killer did throughout pre-production and rehearsal.

Butler spent three days aboard a real Virginia-class submarine, carefully watching every detail and nuance of actual submariner life to better tell their story. Even the tiny details — like the order in which commands are given — were analyzed, written down, and implemented when it came time to shoot. And when they put theory into practice, the authenticity was immediately apparent.

That extra step helped put all the actors into the frame of mind they needed to truly portray submariners in the heat of combat. Butler told us,

“We actually wrote [the details of submariner life] into the script and we realized it was a whole other character in the story. And when we started — the difference that it made!”

Butler knows full-well that the devil’s in the details when it comes to military movies. He told us about his time aboard the USS Houston, when he sat down to watch a much-beloved naval film with the sailors. It was the eye-opener to say the least.

“When I sat to watch… with the submarine crew, and they’re all like taking ownership of the movie and they’re like, ‘that’s bullsh*t!’ while the captain is like, ‘That’s sh*t! You think that’s good, but that’s bullsh*t! He’d never wear that hat! What are those stripes? He wouldn’t say that!'”

Needless to say, Butler and the rest of the Hunter Killer crew recognized how important these details are for us and our community.

Be sure to check out Hunter Killer when it’s released on October 26th.

MIGHTY MOVIES

What ‘Game of Thrones’ – and Nagasaki – taught us about war

Warning: Contains spoilers from the series finale of Game of Thrones

In the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen unleashed her weapon of mass destruction dragon on the army of her enemy — as well as thousands of civilians in King’s Landing. She deliberately and extensively burned thousands of innocent women, children, and elderly civilians alive.

In the series finale, she justified her actions by saying that Cersei Lannister had intended to use those innocent lives as a shield. Instead, Daenerys Stormborn turned that shield to ash.

And then…all was well in the realm?


5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

A few people closest to Daenerys decided not that she must be held accountable for her actions, but that she must actually be put down for them — so Jon Snow murdered her. We could spend a lot of time discussing the merits to bringing a war criminal to trial, but let’s just accept that Jon felt the only way he could truly end Dany’s war was to literally stab her in the heart after telling her he’d be loyal and kissing her and how could you do that to Khaleesi Jon she needed a therapist.

And then…it really was done.

Everyone left standing was so weary of bloodshed that they calmly gathered together, laid down their arms, and invented a new form of government.

Which, honestly, is the only way men actually end their wars (maybe not the new government part — although…sometimes that works too — and actually while we’re here can we re-examine Plato’s philosopher king theory it could be cool maybe?).

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

“Democracy is nothing more than mob rule.”

In war, we butcher the enemy until someone can’t take it anymore. It is unimaginable to comprehend the casualties from conflicts like the World Wars (in World War I alone, the estimate is around 40 million civilian and military personnel injured or killed — 40 million). In World War II, the estimate is double.

Millions and millions (and millions) of people were dying horrific deaths and yet the fighting continued.

The United States dropped an atomic bomb on a city of innocents and yet the fighting continued.

It wasn’t until the U.S. dropped a second bomb that Japan finally surrendered.

Also read: Was this ‘Game of Thrones’ episode a metaphor for the Iraq War?

Eventually, men do lose their taste for war, which is the only way it can truly end. Unfortunately, humanity’s collective threshold for egregious harm, torture, and suffering is so high that it takes something like two atomic bombs — or a metaphorical dragon — to put an end to it all.

Which could explain why, after 17+ years, the United States is still fiddle f***ing around in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a mercy that no one is going nuclear in those AORs, but unfortunately, our own wheel keeps turning, delivering death by a thousand cuts.

Anyway, congratulations to Bran Stark.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what could happen if India and Pakistan have a nuclear war

Pakistan and India have fought three wars over Kashmir, a disputed territory to which both nations lay claim. Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, recently suggested the countries could be headed toward another.”

There is a potential that two nuclear-armed countries will come face to face at some stage,” Khan said at the United Nations annual summit in September 2019, referring to the Kashmir conflict.

Together, India and Pakistan possess 2% of the world’s nuclear arsenal: India is estimated to have around 140 nuclear warheads, while Pakistan is estimated to have around 160. But they’re in an arms race to acquire more weapons.


By 2025, India and Pakistan could have expanded their arsenals to 250 warheads each, according to a new paper that predicts what might happen if the two nations entered into a nuclear war.

In that extreme scenario, the researchers write, a cloud of black soot could envelop the sky, causing temperatures to fall dramatically. Key agricultural hotspots would lose the ability to grow crops, triggering a global famine.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

Truck-mounted Missiles on display in Karachi, Pakistan.

“It would be instant climate change,” Alan Robock, an author of the study, told Business Insider. “Nothing like this in history, since civilization was developed, has happened.”

His paper estimates that up to 125 million people could die.

Nuclear weapons are becoming more powerful

Robock said the situation outlined in the paper isn’t likely, but it’s possible. So to determine the hypothetical consequences of a nuclear war between Pakistan and India, the researchers sought the advice of military experts.

“We clearly don’t want to burn cities and see what would happen,” Robock said. “Most scientists have test tubes or accelerators. Nature is our laboratory, so we use models.”

The paper doesn’t speculate as to which nation is more likely to initiate a conflict. But it estimates that if India wanted to destroy Pakistan’s major cities, the nation would need to deploy around 150 nuclear weapons. The calculations assume that some of these weapons might miss their target or fail to explode, so the model is based on the explosion of 100 weapons in Pakistan.

If Pakistan attacked India’s major cities, the researchers estimated, about 150 nuclear weapons would likely go off.

If all of those bombs were 15-kiloton weapons — the size of the “Little Boy” atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan — the researchers predict that 50 million people would die.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

“Little Boy” atomic bomb.

(Public domain)

But Robock said the US’ nuclear weapons today are around 100 to 500 kilotons, so it’s likely that India and Pakistan will have acquired more powerful weapons by 2025, the year in which his simulation takes place. If the nations were to use 100-kiloton weapons, the study suggests, that conflict could kill about 125 million people.

A nuclear war between India and Pakistan could wreck Earth’s climate

Nuclear explosions produce sweltering heat. Structures catch on fire, and then winds either spread those flames or the fire draws in the surrounding air, creating an even larger blaze known as a firestorm.

Either way, enormous amounts of smoke would enter the air, the researchers write. A small portion of this smoke would contain “black carbon,” the sooty material that usually comes from the exhaust of a diesel engine. That substance would then get pumped through the troposphere (the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere) and into the stratosphere. Within weeks, black carbon particles could spread across the globe.

It would be “the biggest injection of smoke into the stratosphere that we’ve ever seen,” Robock said.

Smoke particles can linger in the stratosphere for about five years and block out sunlight. In Robock’s simulation, that could cause Earth’s average temperature to drop by up to 5 degrees Celsius. Temperatures could get “as cold as the Ice Age,” he said. With less energy from the sun, the world could also experience up to 30% less rain.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

An Indian Agni-II intermediate range ballistic missile on a road-mobile launcher.

The researchers estimate that it would take more than a decade for temperatures and precipitation to return to normal. In the meantime, farmers around the world — especially in India, China, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, tropical South America, and Africa — would struggle to grow food.

Entire marine ecosystems could also be devastated, which would destroy local fishing economies.

In sum, the authors write, a nuclear war could trigger mass starvation across the globe.

“As horrible as the direct effects of nuclear weapons would be, the indirect effects on our food supply would be much worse,” Robock said.

This isn’t the first time Robock has modeled this type of scenario: In 2014, he contributed to a paper that predicted what would happen if India and Pakistan deployed 50 weapons apiece, each with the strength of a “Little Boy” atomic bomb.

Even that “limited” nuclear-war scenario, he found, would cripple the ozone layer, expose people to harmful amounts of ultraviolet radiation, and lower Earth’s surface temperatures for more than 25 years. But those explosions wouldn’t release nearly as much black carbon as the scenario in the newer model, so the cooling effect wouldn’t be as severe.

‘We’ve been really lucky’

Robock said this type of global climate catastrophe has happened before, but has never been created by humans. He compared the nuclear conflict modeled in the recent paper to the asteroid crash that triggered the extinction of dinosaurs 66 million years ago. That explosion released billions of tons of sulfur into the atmosphere, causing global temperatures to plummet.

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after the dropping of Little Boy.

Robock emphasized that unlike that disaster, nuclear war is preventable.

“There are all kinds of ways that something like this could happen, but if nuclear weapons didn’t exist, then it wouldn’t produce a nuclear war,” he said.

A key takeaway of the paper, he said, is that when nations threaten to nuke one another, they threaten their own safety, too. A nuclear war between two countries would “affect everybody in the world, not just where the bombs were dropped,” he added.

“We’ve been really lucky for the last 74 years” since Hiroshima, Robock said. “Our luck might run out sometime.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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