Dorothy “Dot” Cole was one of the earliest female Marine reservists to enlist following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Initially wishing to join the Navy, Dot was turned down because of her height. Standing just 4 feet 11 inches tall, Dot’s other nickname was “Half-Pint” according to her daughter, Beth Kluttz. Dot turned 107 on September 19, 2020 and was widely celebrated as the oldest living Marine. Sadly, on January 7, 2021, Kluttz confirmed that Dot passed away.
Undeterred by the Navy’s rejection, Dot set herself a new goal: to fly for the Marine Corps. However, becoming a flying leatherneck was an even greater challenge since the Marines only allowed enlisted females to perform clerical duties until 1942. In July, as the war intensified and more personnel were needed, President Roosevelt signed the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve into law. This opened the door for women to serve in administrative, training and supply roles.
Still pursuing her dream of flight, Dot was busy earning her private pilot’s license. She accumulated 200 hours in a Piper Cub when she enlisted with the Marines on July 12, 1943, becoming one of the first volunteers. Dot attended 6 weeks of boot camp at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and earned her Eagle, Globe and Anchor. Despite her experience in the air, Dot was assigned to clerical duties after boot camp. “They put me behind a typewriter instead of an airplane,” Dot told the Independent Tribune of Concord during an interview for her 107th birthday last September.
Still, Dot served with enthusiasm. “I loved the hats we were wearing,” Dot told Marine Corps Times, also in September. “It was fun when I got the first complete Marine outfit. I loved it very much and felt right at home with it.” She spent her two years of service at a firing range in Quantico, Virginia. Her duties focused primarily on typing correspondence for officers. “It was kind of a tough time and we were not welcomed too well by many of the men in the service,” Cole recalled in the Marine Corps Times interview. “But they got over it.”
Dot met her future husband, Wiley Cole, in Washington, D.C. When the war ended in 1945, Dot was discharged in December as a Marine Sergeant. “We all left on a train,” Cole said in her Independent Tribune interview, “and many of us ladies were singing.” She moved to San Francisco with Wiley where they got married. In 1953, the couple had their daughter. Both Coles worked at the Ames Research Center, (which later became part of NASA) until Wiley’s death in 1955. Dot never remarried.
Kluttz moved from California to North Carolina in 1976 and Dot followed three years later. According to her daughter, Dot was living well into the 100th year of her life. “We could still go to Walmart and I could actually leave her alone and she’d go down her own way. And I can remember having a hard time finding her because she was so short, she was shorter than…the clothes racks…so I had a hard time locating her and a lot of times it scared me trying to find her,” Kluttz told the Charlotte Observer. Dot’s health started to deteriorate after she turned 105.
It was her daughter who started the process to determine that Dot was the oldest living Marine. Around the time Dot turned 103, Kluttz began to research who the oldest Marine might be. She suspected that it could be her mother, but couldn’t prove it. “So I just put it out there through them that ‘my mother as of this date is this age, and if anybody else is out there, please step forward’ pretty much is what I did,” Kluttz said. “I think some other Marines from the Marine Corps League, when she was getting ready to turn 107, they got in touch with headquarters up by the Pentagon there in Washington, and they were able to do the research, and they said, ‘Not only is she the oldest female Marine, but she is actually the oldest Marine as of September 2020.’”
Dot was awarded lifetime membership in the Marine Corps League Cabarrus Detachment 1175 in September 2020. Despite never being able to fly for the Marines, Dot is pleased to see the progress that women in the Corps have made. “The girls now, they have an open field with what they can do,” she said, “so it’s gotten better.” Dot’s service and determination is sure to inspire future Marines just like her.
Did the retired Marine general say these things or did the rapper say these things?
On the surface, the two have nothing in common. The rapper-actor out of Queens, NY started his career selling drugs at age 12 during the crack epidemic. On the other hand, Mattis began his career as an enlisted Marine during 1960s.
As their careers progressed, 50 Cent left drug-dealing to pursue a music career. He quickly gained a reputation for being a shrewd businessman, becoming an actor, opening an apparel line, and eventually becoming an investor.
“Mad Dog” Mattis had a different path. He graduated to the officer ranks during the 1970s and became known as the “Warrior Monk” because of his bachelor life and lifelong devotion to the study of war. “Saint Mattis of Quantico, Patron Saint of Chaos” is the current secretary of defense.
Besides their different walks of life, the two seem to have a similar outlook. We gathered some of their most famous quotes to make this quiz. Can you guess who said what?
It’s been said that if you look at an infantryman’s eyes you can tell how much war he has seen. Stare into the eyes of many of the fighting men portrayed by World War II combat artist Tom Lea and you can tell his subjects have seen Hell – and then some.
Muralist, illustrator, war correspondent, portraitist, landscape artist, novelist, and historian, the multi-talented Lea covered World War II for “Life” magazine, a publication that pioneered photojournalists’ coverage of combat yet still showcased his drawings and paintings of warfare. Now, the public has a rare opportunity to view some of Lea’s best work at a single impressive exhibit.
There are also interpretative displays, audio-visual presentations of oral histories from World War II veterans who participated in the battles Lea portrayed, and displays of personal items that belonged to Lea such as his drawing table, brushes and an easel.
Even though World War II is frequently remembered as a time when the combat photographer came into his own, Lea’s work as an artist was relevant during World War II because it was extremely dynamic and caught the imagination of service members’ families and other civilians back home, said Larry Decuers, the exhibit’s curator.
“His images provided everyone on the home front with a realistic — if haunting— view of combat unfolding overseas,” Decuers said. “Lea’s works also represented a unique aspect of wartime journalism because they were so detailed in design.”
Thomas Calloway “Tom” Lea III, who died in 2001, said his mission as an artist and journalist was straightforward: “I did not report hearsay; I did not imagine, or fake, or improvise; I did not cuddle up with personal emotion, moral notion, or political opinion about War with a capital W. I reported in pictures what I saw with my own two eyes, wide open.”
A native of El Paso, Texas, Lea was one of the first civilian artists hired by “Life” as a correspondent during World War II. His work in numerous theaters of operation required him to travel more than 100,000 miles during the war.
Lea risked his life to document combat ranging from convoy battles involving destroyers in the North Atlantic to the bloody beach assault during the Battle of Peleliu. His subjects ranged from admirals and generals to ordinary servicemen, but he felt a particular affinity for the men below decks and the Marines who faced some of the most ferocious combat of the entire war.
His paintings ultimately became full-color spreads in 10 issues of “Life,” reaching more than 30 million readers and providing a chilling perspective on the war.
Among the art displayed in the exhibit is perhaps Lea’s most famous – and haunting – wartime painting, “That 2,000-Yard Stare.” It has become one of the most iconic images of the effects of war on the human psyche.
“He left the States 31 months ago,” Lea wrote about his subject, a combat Marine at Peleliu. “He was wounded in his first campaign. He has had tropical diseases. He half-sleeps at night and gouges Japs out of holes all day. Two-thirds of his company has been killed or wounded. He will return to attack this morning. How much can a human being endure?”
But the display also includes drawings and sketches of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines engaged in the day-to-day and behind-the-scenes jobs that made the fighting possible.
And then there is his painting of U.S. Navy chaplain John J. Malone experiencing combat for the first time as he does his best to help overwhelmed corpsmen treating casualties. “He was deeply and visibly moved by the patient suffering and death,” Lea wrote. “He looked very lonely, very close to God, as he bent over the shattered men so far from home.”
The exhibit helps people today understand Lea’s contribution to how the public learned about World War II’s events at a time when there was no cable or satellite news and no Internet to provide instantaneous coverage.
“As it is the museum’s mission to tell the complete story of the American experience in World War II, it is critical that we share all aspects of the war – including stories about the courageous men and women who traveled overseas in order to share stories with anxious families back home,” Decuers said. “Lea’s work is a significant piece of World War II, and we’re thrilled to share it at our institution.”
For more information, call (877) 813-3329 or (504) 528-1944, or visit the museum on the Web at nationalww2museum.org.
According to DefenseNews.com, the Army is desperate to re-build its short-range air-defense capabilities. One big reason is the fact that Russia has become much more aggressive, making the need to deal with planes like the Su-25 Frogfoot close air support plane a distinct possibility.
So, here are some ideas on how America’s military can get some more surface-to-air punch.
Right now, the main system used by the Army for short-range air defense is the FIM-92 Stinger – used on the Avenger air-defense system and by grunts who carry it by hand.
1. The MIM-146 ADATS
This system was looked at by the Army in the 1980s, but at the end of the Cold War it got cancelled. Designation-Systems.net notes that Canada did buy 34 systems.
With a speed of Mach 3, and a range of six miles, ADATS has more reach than the Stinger. Canada deployed it on a M113 chassis – the U.S. Army has lots of those – and also tested a new version on the LAV III, their version of the Stryker, according to the Rheinmetall Defense web site.
2. NASAM and 3. HUMRAAM/CLAWS/SLAMRAAM
The AIM-120 AMRAAM has been a bedrock of American air-to-air capability for the last 25 years. However, Designation-Systems.net notes that Norway lead the way in developing a version used as a surface-to-air weapon.
The Marines tried out a Humvee-mounted version many called HUMRAAM, but was known as CLAWS, for Complimentary Low-Altitude Weapon System. Army-Technology.com reported that the United States Army was looking at a system, of its own called SLAMRAAM. It would seem to be a quick way to get systems in service.
While originally purchased to defense bases in Iraq and Afghanistan against mortars and rockets, C-RAM is based on the Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System, or “CIWS,” that was intended to kill missiles like the Russian AS-4 Kitchen. Aircraft and helicopters might not be a problem for the system to track, either.
5. RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile
Also a Navy point-defense missile system, the RIM-116 is another option for short-range air defense. According to a Navy fact sheet, it weighs about seven tons, has a 7.9-pound warhead, and is supersonic. Designation-Systems.net notes that it has a range of five nautical miles and infra-red guidance. This would be an excellent complement to the SLAMRAAM or CLAWS.
6. MIM-115 Roland
This is a missile that was widely used by adversaries and allies alike, including France and Germany and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Designation-Systems.net reported that the U.S. tried it out in the 1980s, but never really deployed it. Army-Technology.com adds that the latest version, the VT1, has what amounts to a range of just under seven miles and a speed of almost 2,800 mph. This is probably the most “off-the-shelf” system to purchase — and it would help our allies by lowering the per-unit cost.
Air Force scientists and weapons developers are making progress developing swarms of mini-drones engineered with algorithms which enable them to coordinate with one another and avoid collisions.
Senior Air Force officials have said that the precise roles and missions for this type of technology are still in the process of being determined; however, experts and analyst are already discussing numerous potential applications for the technology.
Swarms of drones could cue one another and be able to blanket an area with sensors even if one or two get shot down. The technology could be designed for high threat areas building in strategic redundancy, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Groups of coordinated small drones could also be used to confuse enemy radar systems and overwhelm advanced enemy air defenses by providing so many targets that they cannot be dealt with all at once, he said.
Zacharias explained that perhaps one small drone can be programmed to function as a swarm leader, with others functioning as ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) platforms, munitions or communications devices. He also said there is great strategic and tactical value in operating a swarm of small drones which, when needed, can disperse.
“Do you want them to fly in formation for a while and then disaggregate to get through the radar and then reaggregate and go to a target? They can jam an enemy radar or not even be seen by them because they are too small. The idea is to dissagregate so as not to be large expensive targets. In this way if you lose one you still may have 100 more,” he explained.
An area of scientific inquiry now being explored for swarms of drones is called “bio-memetics,” an approach which looks at the swarming of actual live animals — such as flocks of birds or insects — as a way to develop algorithms for swarming mini-drone flight, Zacharias added.
“It turns out you can use incredibly simple rules for formation flight of a large flock. It really just takes a few simple rules. If you think of each bird or bee as an agent, it can do really simple things such as determine its position relative to the three nearest objects to it. It is very simple guidance and control stuff,” Zacharias said.
Also, small groups of drones operating together could function as munitions or weapons delivery technology. A small class of mini-drone weapons already exist, such as AeroVironment’s Switchblade drone designed to deliver precision weapons effects. The weapon, which can reach distances up to 10 kilometers, is engineered as a low-cost expendable munition loaded with sensors and munitions.
Air Force plans for new drones are part of a new service strategy to be explained in a paper released last year called “autonomous horizons.” Air Force strategy also calls for greater manned-unmanned teaming between drones and manned aircraft such as F-35s. This kind of effort could help facilitate what Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said about mini-drones launching from a high-speed fighter jet.
In the future, fighter aircraft such as the F-35 or an F-22 may be able to control drones themselves from the cockpit to enhance missions by carrying extra payload, extending a surveillance area or delivering weapons, Air Force scientists have said.
Zacharias explained this in terms of developments within the field of artificial intelligence. This involves faster computer processing technology and algorithms which allow computers to increasingly organize and integrate information by themselves – without needing human intervention. Human will likely operate in a command and control capacity with computers picking the sensing, integration and organization of data, input and various kinds of material. As autonomy increases, the day when multiple drones can be controlled by a single aircraft, such as a fighter jet, is fast approaching.
Drones would deliver weapons, confront the risk of enemy air defenses or conduct ISR missions flying alongside manned aircraft, Zacharias explained.
The Pentagon is in the early phases of developing swarms of mini-drones able launch attacks, jam enemy radar, confuse enemy air defenses and conduct wide-ranging surveillance missions, officials explained.
The effort, which would bring a new range of strategic and tactical advantages to the U.S. military, will be focused on as part of a special Pentagon unit called the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO.
While the office has been in existence for some period of time, it was publically announced by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during the recent 2017 budget proposal discussions. The new office will, among other things, both explore emerging technologies and also look at new ways of leveraging existing weapons and platforms.
Carter said swarming autonomous drones are a key part of this broader effort to adapt emerging technologies to existing and future warfighting needs.
“Another project uses swarming autonomous vehicles in all sorts of ways and in multiple domains. In the air, they develop micro-drones that are really fast, really resistant. They can fly through heavy winds and be kicked out the back of a fighter jet moving at Mach 0.9, like they did during an operational exercise in Alaska last year, or they can be thrown into the air by a soldier in the middle of the Iraqi desert,” Carter said. “And for the water, they’ve developed self-driving boats which can network together to do all kinds of missions, from fleet defense to close-in surveillance, without putting sailors at risk. Each one of these leverages the wider world of technology.”
Meanwhile, the Office of Naval Research is also working on drone-swarming technology through an ongoing effort called Low-Cost Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Swarming Technology, or LOCUST. This involves groups of small, tube-launched UAVs designed to swarm and overwhelm adversaries, Navy officials explained.
“Researchers continue to push the state-of-the-art in autonomy control and plan to launch 30 autonomous UAVs in 2016 in under a minute,” an ONR statement said last year.
A demonstration of the technology is planned from a ship called a Sea Fighter, a high-speed, shallow-water experimental ship developed by the ONR.
Army Defends Against Mini-Drones
While swarms of mini-drones clearly bring a wide range of tactical offensive and defensive advantages, there is also the realistic prospect that adversaries or potential adversaries could use drone swarms against the U.S.
This is a scenario the services, including the Army in particular, are exploring.
The Army launched swarms of mini-attack drones against battlefield units in mock-combat drills as a way to better understand potential threats expected in tomorrow’s conflicts, service officials said.
Pentagon threat assessment officials have for quite some time expressed concern that current and future enemies of the U.S. military might seek to use massive swarms of mini-drones to blanket an area with surveillance cameras, jam radar signals, deliver weapons or drop small bombs on military units.
As a result, the Army Test and Evaluation Command put these scenarios to the test in the desert as part of the service’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
The mini-drones used were inexpensive, off-the-shelf commercial systems likely to be acquired and used by potential adversaries in future conflict scenarios.
The drones were configured to carry special payloads for specific mission functions. Cameras, bomb simulators, expanded battery packs and other systems will be tested on the aircraft to develop and analyze potential capabilities of the drones, an Army statement said.
The mini-drones, which included $1000-dollar quadcopters made by 3-D Robotics, were placed in actual mock-combat scenarios and flown against Army units in test exercises.
“Acting as a member of the opposing force, the drones will be used for short-range missions, and for flooding the airspace to generate disruptive radar signatures. They will also be used as a kind of spotter, using simple video cameras to try and locate Soldiers and units,” an Army statement from before the exercise said.
There were also plans to fit the drones with the ability to drop packets of flour, simulating the ability for the swarm to drop small bombs, allowing the drones to perform short-range strike missions, the Army statement said.
“Right now there’s hardly anyone doing swarms, most people are flying one, maybe two, but any time you can get more than one or two in the air at the same time, and control them by waypoint with one laptop, that’s important,” James Story, an engineer with the Targets Management Office, Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, said in a statement last Fall. “You’re controlling all five of them, and all five of them are a threat.”
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.
New Orleans native Burnell Cotlon has spent the last five years on a mission. He’s turning a two-story building that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (along with most of his Lower 9th Ward neighborhood), into a shopping plaza. Already, he’s opened a barber shop and a convenience store, and as of last November, is providing the neighborhood — identified as a food desert — with its first full-service grocery store in almost a decade.
The Lower Ninth Ward, which experienced catastrophic flooding during Hurricane Katrina, has had a much slower recovery than most New Orleans neighborhoods. Before Katrina, the area had a population of around 14,000 and boasted of the highest percentage of black homeownership in the country. According to the last census, however, only around 3,000 people live in the neighborhood. Many of its roads are still torn up, it lacks basic resources and the closest full-service grocery store is nearly 3 miles away in the neighboring city of Chalmette.
Burnell’s merchandise is still mostly limited to non-perishables and fresh produce, but he hopes to add poultry, bread and dairy this year.
Burnell Cotlon relies on a lot of second hand supplies, and with the right equipment, he could meet his goal of offering more food options for members of his community. Please consider making a donation and spreading the word in order to support his work.
The HMS Queen Elizabeth — the largest and most powerful carrier the Royal Navy has ever built — set sail on June 26 for the first time.
With a price tag of about $3.8 billion, it’s also Britain’s most expensive ship ever built. Still, the juice might be worth the squeeze.
“I think there are very few capabilities, by any country, that are as symbolic as a carrier strike capability,” commanding officer Captain Jerry Kyd told reporters on June 26. “These are visible symbols of power and power projection.”
Manned by a crew of 1,000 sailors, the ship is 919-feet long, weighs 65,000 tons, and can hold 40 jets.
U.S. Navy SEALs train with Special Boat Team (SBT) 12 on the proper techniques of how to board gas and oil platforms during the SEALs gas and oil platform training cycle. SEALs conduct these evolutions to hone their various maritime operations skills. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam Henderson
A veteran in Congress is calling on the secretary of defense to examine the current Navy SEAL combat training program, saying it’s less effective than a previous method and not conducive to SEAL operations.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California, former Marine officer and member of the House Armed Services Committee, sent an April 5 letter to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter requesting that Carter provide “clarity” on Naval Special Warfare’s 2011 move to replace its Close Quarters Defense institutionalized training system with Mixed Martial Arts.
“I have concerns with the process for considering and awarding the contracts that have led to the removal of CQD from SEAL training,” Hunter wrote. “NSW operators and leadership have consistently determined CQD to be the most operationally effective training to prepare SEALs for combat, evidenced by more than 11,000 positive critiques and numerous complimentary reports.”
Hunter is raising the issue as the Senate prepares to consider the nomination of Rear Adm. Timothy Szymanski to be commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, which oversees all Navy SEAL teams.
Szymanski, currently the assistant commander of Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, would replace current NSW commander Rear Adm. Brian Losey, who was denied a second star last month amid complaints that he had engaged in whistleblower retaliation.
An official with Hunter’s office indicated the congressman had concerns about Szymanski’s fitness for the new post.
“There have been reports that Szymanski is a central player in the selection of MMA over CQD,” Joe Kasper, Hunter’s chief of staff, told Military.com. “And it’s important before any promotion proceeds that there’s clarity on that role and assurances that it was all above board.”
The letter also notes that CQD costs just $345 per SEAL compared to $2,900 for MMA training. It also refers to a 2015 Defense Department Inspector General review of NSW contracts that found about 25 percent of contracts inspected were not awarded in accordance with Federal Acquisition Regulations. While the MMA contract in question was not considered, Hunter suggested it too could contain problems.
“It is my firm belief that contracting decisions involving the transition from CQD to MMA must be thoroughly reviewed to include any personal interests and relationships that could have created conflicts of interest in the selection process,” Hunter wrote. “A review should also include all instances of open competition between CQD and alternative systems, with specific focus on NSW solicitations in 2003 and 2009. I also ask that you provide me with the full results of these competitions and any reports and documentation that were generated as a result.”
Kasper said Hunter planned to talk with members of the Senate about holding Szymanski’s nomination until the matter raised in his letter could be resolved.
Think you can hack competing as a top CrossFit athlete while on active duty? Former Navy SEAL and top CrossFit athlete Josh Bridges thinks so, too.
Bridges, who while a member of SEAL Team 3 placed second in the 2011 worldwide CrossFit championship, known as the Games, told Military.com that given enough motivation, dedication and a friendly command, an active duty athlete could have what it takes.
“As long you had the right command who was willing to be like ‘yeah, we’ll let you train’ – as long as you’re doing your job and getting all that stuff done, why not?” Bridges told Military.com during a recent interview. “I think it’s doable.”
Since 2011 when he first competed while on active duty, Games-level CrossFit competition has shifted from a field of athletes who hold full time jobs outside of the sport, to athletes who train fulltime. That change, Bridges said, would undoubtedly make it harder for an active duty service member today to make it than it was for him in 2011.
Still, he said “If you really want to be a competitive athlete and be in the military at the same time, it’s doable. You’re going to have to put in long hours, and when your friends and buddies are going out to the bars on the weekends, you’re not going to be able to. … There’s going to be some sacrifices you’re going to have to be willing to make.”
To make the Games while on active duty he said he had to get permission from his Chief to miss some training. He also had to sacrifice a lot of time at home.
“It was tough,” he said. “There were definitely days where I’d be out doing land warfare drills in 105 degree temperatures, and then on a one or two hour break in the middle of the day, I’d have to go into the gym and train. You definitely had to set your priorities right and just be like ‘this is what I have to do if I want to go to the Games. It is what it is.'”
Competing at Games level and successfully training as a SEAL share some of the same skills, Bridges said, in that sometimes you have to just “shut your brain off” about the physical demands.
“In CrossFit, at the Games, you’re going to be asked to do workouts that you’ve never done and movements that you’ve never practiced,” he said. “Being a SEAL is the same way – you almost have to shut your brain off and stop thinking. …You definitely have to be 110 percent into it.”
Bridges, 34, finished first this year in CrossFit’s California regional Games qualifier and will compete in the Games in Madison, Wisconsin August 3 to 6. Bridges left the Navy in 2015 as an E-6, and spent the last three years of his active duty time in a training command as a master training specialist while rehabbing from knee surgery for a torn ACL, PCL and MCL sustained during deployment.
Anyone familiar with CrossFit knows that thanks to the sport’s focus on movements that rely heavily on knee strength and mobility, including heavy barbell and odd weight work, getting back into competition shape after a major knee injury is no small feat. But Bridges said he keeps the fire burning by focusing on his goals.
“It’s not easy, for sure, to sit there and go into the gym day in and day out and grind, and grind and grind,” he said. “When I went to start competing I had a goal to win the Games. I fell just short. After the injury I was like ‘hey, you can have same goes, it’s just really going to be hard. … I’m a little hard-headed sometimes, that once I have that goal, I’m going to make it happen no matter what.”
Name a war, revolution, or revolt during the Cold War that involved the British Commonwealth, Western European nations or their allies and you’ve also named a conflict that had combatants fighting with the Fabrique Nationale FAL.
No wonder the FAL earned the nickname “the right arm of the free world” and became a symbol of the struggle against Communism.
In many ways, it was the West’s answer to the Kalashnikov, albeit one chambered to fire the heavier 7.62 x 51 mm NATO round instead of the AK-47’s 7.62 x 39 mm intermediate round.
Created in the years immediately after World War II, FN eventually produced 2 million FALs (Fusil Automatique Léger or “Light Automatic Rifle”) that were used by the militaries of more than 90 nations.
At one time, the FAL was even the official battle rifle of most NATO-member countries. It was even considered for the role as the United States’ main battle rifle.
Frankly, the FAL was everywhere. For example, consider the Six-Day War in 1967.
A common misconception is the 9mm Uzi was the weapon of choice for the Israeli Defense Forces. Actually, Israeli soldiers carried more FALs than Uzis when facing Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian troops.
Then, there was the 1982 Falklands War. The Argentine Army carried the full-auto version of the FAL; British troops had the semi-auto L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle model of the FAL.
When captured Argentine troops piled their weapons, British infantry and Royal Marines often walked over to the stack and retrieved the full-auto FAL so they could spray more lead at the enemy.
In Argentina, thousands of FALs underwent armory rebuilds in 2010, a sure sign that nation will continue to put the weapon in the hands of its troops.
How the FAL saw the light of day is a story that combines the tactical realities that emerged out of World War II and the politics of who would lead who during the Cold War.
The success of the innovative Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle convinced ordnance officers and weapons designers that era of the bolt-action battle rifle was dead and gone. Lighter cartridges in select-fire assault rifles captured the imagination of weapons designers.
Only the United States fielded a heavy caliber semi-auto battle rifle, the well-regarded M1 Garand .30-06 weapon that Gen. George S. Patton called “the greatest battle implement ever devised.” But the future was one that fired full auto – and the Garand did not.
Caliber was also an issue. As weapons designers on both sides of the Atlantic toyed with prototype battle rifles the British tested a 7 mm (.280-caliber) round in the new FAL and liked it.
In the United States, the Army wanted to stick with the .30-caliber round, flatly stating that no other cartridge could hold its own on the battlefield.
With the formation of the new NATO alliance in 1949, generals and civilian planners both talked of the necessity to standardize equipment, weapons and supplies.
“The laudable aim was one that had been much in the minds of many forward-looking military thinkers for a long time,” writes David Westwood, author of Rifles: An Illustrated History of their Impact. “For experience had shown that the United States and Britain often fought side by side, and commonality would be to the benefit of all including soldiers in the field.”
One thing was certain: the British were impressed with the FAL and were willing to choose it over other weapons.
It was deemed the superior firearm to competitors because it was easy to maintain, field strip, and clean. It reassembled without special tools and it was a select-fire weapon – but it fired the lighter round.
The “gravel belly” U.S. generals would accept nothing but a .30-caliber weapon, insisting on the superiority of a prototype called the T25, a forerunner of the M14 that was nothing more than a glorified Garand.
Soon, there was a “Battle of the Bullets” that went as high as the White House and 10 Downing Street. Pres. Harry Truman and Prime Minister Winston Churchill even held a mini-summit, where rumor has it they struck a quid pro quo – the U.S. would adopt the FAL as its main battle rifle if Britain backed NATO adopting the 7.62 x 51 mm round.
NATO relented and adopted the round. However, the U.S. reneged, developed the M14, which fired the NATO 7.62 mm cartridge, and adopted it as the American military’s main rifle.
In the end, it didn’t matter to FN because NATO countries (including Britain) began snapping up the FAL chambered for the NATO round.
Many consider that combination of weapon and cartridge the quintessential pairing of battle-rifle and bullet during the 20th Century – the FAL went into production in 1953 and FN continued to produce the rifle until 1988. The M-14 fell by the wayside as the main U.S. battle rifle within a few years, replaced by the M-16.
“Regardless of the political activity that went on before its adoption, the 7.62 x 51 mm NATO turned out to be an excellent, powerful military cartridge,” writes Robert Cashner, author of The FN FAL Battle Rifle. “With millions of FALs manufactured and internationally distributed, the rifle played a large part in making the 7.62 x 51mm NATO the success that it was.”
Vietnam is one often overlooked place where the FAL also proved a success. The weapon arrived there in the hands of Australian troops who fought as allies of the United States under the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO).
More than 60,000 Aussies would serve in the Vietnam War from 1962 to 1972, including the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. More commonly known as 1RAR, soldiers in the regiment fought in many significant battles during the war’s escalation in the mid-1960s.
During those the engagements, they often faced well-equipped Viet Cong who carried new AK-47s supplied by the Communist Chinese and East Bloc nations.
Despite its weight and size (the FAL is one of the longest battle rifles of the 20th Century), 1RAR’s troops considered their weapon suited for jungle warfare.
The powerful NATO round would punch through thick foliage, killing their concealed VC opponents. It was also a far more reliable weapon than the early version of the M-16 issued to U.S. forces – the FAL rarely jammed or misfired, two problems that plagued the M-16 for years.
A new monument at Arlington National Cemetery, near the U.S. capital, will honor American helicopter crews who flew during the Vietnam War.
The Military Times reports Congress has approved the monument, which will be near the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Spearheading the memorial campaign is retired Air Force Lt. Col. Bob Hesselbein, who flew AH-1 Cobra gunships in Vietnam. Hesselbein says Arlington has the greatest concentration of helicopter-crew casualties from the war.
Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin says the monument will create a “teachable moment” for people to understand the story of pilots and crew members. The U.S. relied heavily on helicopters to transport troops and provide support to ground forces near enemy soldiers in Vietnam.
The nonprofit Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association is paying for the monument.
Vice President Joe Biden appeared to be getting a little too chummy with Stephanie Carter, the wife of Ashton Carter, at the new Secretary of Defense’s swearing-in ceremony today. Biden rubbed her shoulders and whispered in her ear as her husband the SecDef gave remarks following the oath of office.
Officials later tried to explain that Biden was just trying to comfort Mrs. Carter because she was a bit shaken after falling on the ice on her way into the ceremony.
WATM’s counsel to the man who’s one heartbeat away from the presidency is this: Support the troops the right way. Don’t be that guy, Jody. It doesn’t help morale.
QUANTICO–In the Marine Corps’ rush to drop weight, one of the most beloved and storied pieces of gear could be left behind. At the service’s first Equipping the Infantry Challenge here Sept. 27, program managers said they’re looking for a lighter, more practical alternative to the iconic ammunition can.
Scott Rideout, program manager for ammunition at Marine Corps Systems Command, told industry leaders that the rectangular can, which today looks much the same as it did during World War II and Vietnam, may be overdue for an upgrade.
Marine Corps ammo comes to the warfighter, he said, “in the same metal can that it’s come in for 100 years. That metal can is one of those things that when the ammunition is brought to Marines, they take the ammunition out, distribute it however they’re going to distribute it, then throw [the can] away. The ammo can itself provides no value added to the Marine, except to help get the ammunition there.”
Some may disagree. The blog Shooter’s Log in 2013 listed 50 possible uses for the ammo can that range from improvised washing machine to anchor. Another website, Survival List Daily, topped that with 74 uses, including field toilet and cook pot.
The gear is even more central to Marine Corps identity: one of the elements of the Combat Fitness Test that all Marines must pass once a year is the ammunition can lift, in which troops are tested on the number of times they can lift a 30-pound can above their head and shoulders within two minutes.
But the calculus is simple, Rideout said: “Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain.”
Emerging technology, such as logistics drones that might be able to carry resupply items to troops in the field, may also put limits on how much a new delivery of ammunition can weigh.
The cans, which weigh anywhere between three and seven pounds depending on their make and the caliber of ammunition, can amount to a quarter of the ammo weight that Marines are carrying, Rideout said.
“If we can get that weight out of the system, that’s more ammunition that can be resupplied to Marines to allow them to do their jobs,” he said. “So we need lighter-weight packaging. Ammo is what ammo is, but there are a couple areas out there where we can reduce weight to enable Marines to do their jobs better, especially against a near-peer type competitor or distributed ops.”
Ammo cans aren’t the only area getting a look.
Rideout and Mary Flower LeMaster, chief engineer for ammunition at SYSCOM, said the brass casing that houses bullets may also be ripe for improvement.
“The brass provides no value added to the weapons system; it’s just to enable the round and the propellant to interface with the weapon to provide effect downrange,” Rideout said. “That’s where we need to attack that weight. And there is technology out there that can do that and so we’re looking for industry to help us there.”
Rideout and LeMaster provided no alternatives to these key ammunition items, and it’s unclear how the Marine Corps might move forward with service-specific improvements to items used by multiple service branches, like ammo cans and brass. But this call-out to industry is in keeping with a broader service effort to solicit revolutionary ideas to improve the way Marines fight on the battlefield. During the same Infantry Equipping Challenge event, SYSCOM Commander Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader said he wanted ideas for a meal, ready-to-eat optimized for Marine infantrymen in the field, with more efficient and practical packaging.
Currently, the ammunition managers said, they’re looking for ideas to improve five different calibers of ammo, as well as the cans: 9mm, 5.56, .762, .50-caliber, and .300 Winchester Magnum.