PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand - We Are The Mighty
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PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand

This time, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known as PETA, didn’t have to create gruesome imagery of animals secretly being hurt or mistreated to get people’s attention. The Pentagon’s public affairs apparatus did it for them. And there’s nothing secret about it.

Every year, United States Marines and Thailand’s Marines take part in a blood-drinking ritual as part of the annual Cobra Gold joint training exercise. Thai troops conduct a ceremony in which a king cobra snake is beheaded and its blood is shared among the participants.  

The photos prompted members of PETA to protest the treatment of king cobra snakes in front of Thailand’s embassy to the United States in Washington and in front of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s house. 

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
PETA: The same people who found a problem with this guy (Wikimedia Commons)

Drinking the cobra’s blood is more than just a source of cool photos of United States Marines, it’s taught to the Marines by the Thai armed forces as part of its jungle survival training. The blood of the cobra, they say, can be used as an alternate source of hydration when water isn’t available or isn’t clean enough for drinking. 

PETA has been protesting the use of cobras (and geckos, chickens and insects) in the exercise ever since it discovered that the exercise existed. Cobra Gold is the largest military training exercise in Southeast Asia, and the joint U.S.-Thai exercise covers interoperability, disaster response and other military operations between the two countries. 

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
Multi-National Forces march in formation after the conclusion of the official opening ceremony of Cobra Gold 2017 (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Marc Castaneda)

The 39-year-old exercise is conducted in and around Thailand, but often has many other partners and observer nations. The coming exercise will include live-fire exercises, land-mine reduction, and other simulated war games. 

It’s not just an important military exercise, it’s also a partnership-building exercise. Many different nations have joined Cobra Gold, either as participants or observers. China became an observer in 2015 and Burma joined the exercise for the first time in 2016. 

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
Lance Cpl. Dakota Woodward, from Brandon, Florida, drinks cobra blood Feb. 8 during exercise Cobra Gold 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Isaac Ibarra/Released)

But PETA isn’t targeting the exercise itself, just the part where the Thai soldiers tame, kill and drink the blood of a king cobra and other wild animals as part of the exercise. The organization calls it unnecessary, and a zoonotic disease vector “on par with COVID-19.”

PETA also has a problem with the way Marines and Thai troops are taught to kill the animals they eat for survival, claiming the method of killing chickens isn’t approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association, and that geckos should be killed by blunt force trauma, among other issues. 

Photos of the Cobra Gold exercise and of United States Marines drinking cobra’s blood have been public since long before PETA first learned about the event in 2020. That seems to bother the organization just as much.

“The fact that the general public was able to see footage of our U.S. Marines taking part in something so cruel set this apart,” said PETA Associate Director Ashley Byrne, who may not have ever actually met a Marine. “I don’t think that this reflects the values that we want associated with our country.”

On top of the protests, PETA filed a petition for rulemaking with the Department of Defense to eliminate the unnecessary killing of animals as part of Cobra Gold. In the petition, the organization offers an alternative to Thailand’s jungle survival training, which includes “instructional books and videos created by former military survival instructors, interactive video programs, and a focus on non-animal sources of sustenance.”


Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony

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Labor Day exists because US troops busted a strike

Imagine your boss at work controlled every aspect of your life – housing, money, food … everything – all in an effort to keep you constantly working and on the edge of survival.


It may sound a little like the military, but without the higher purpose. But this is how some of American industry used to work at the turn of the 20th century.

In 1893, an economic depression led to widespread wage cuts and layoffs, which resulted in workers’ strikes. One strike was so severe, the President had to send in the U.S. military.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
Pullman strikers outside Arcade Building in Pullman, Chicago. The Illinois National Guard can be seen guarding the building during the Pullman Railroad Strike in 1894.

The Pullman Palace Car Company, a railway car manufacturer, was located in Pullman, Illinois. The company owned the houses, the stores, the land, the churches — everything.

The company was not named after the town; the town was named after Pullman Car Company owner George Pullman. It was designed around housing his workers and their families – but the cost of everything they needed for survival was deducted from their paychecks.

So the Pullman workers only had about $6 to live on (roughly $150, adjusted for inflation). One worker, who said he earned $.02, had his check framed (that’s 51 cents in 2016). The next year, Pullman’s workers joined the American Railway Union and decided to strike.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand

Soon, rail workers all over the country would not operate lines that used Pullman cars out of solidarity with the workers in Illinois. Boycotts and strikes against lines and the Pullman company caused complete paralysis in national transportation. The New York Times called it “the greatest battle between labor and capital that has ever been inaugurated in the United States.” The Chicago Tribune called it an “insurrection.”

The General Manager’s Association called for the use of Federal troops to end the strike.

President Grover Cleveland was happy to oblige. His Attorney General, Richard Olney, worked for the railways before coming to the White House. He and Cleveland concluded that if strikers were not put down in Chicago, it could spread to the rest of the country. He decided it was imperative to restore federal authority.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
The Pullman Strike of 1894

The Attorney General banned all labor strikes. The workers were unmoved, and over the protests of Illinois’ governor, U.S. troops marched on Chicago.

Up until this point, the strike was relatively peaceful. Union leader Eugene V. Debs maintained that violence would only play into the hands of their employer. When the Army came in, “the very sight of a blue coat aroused their anger.”

Both Debs and Army leader Gen. Nelson Miles worried the confrontation would spark a new Civil War. It didn’t, but the violence that started on July 4, 1894, spread across the country like wildfire. Nearly 14,000 troops – funded by the railroads – occupied Chicago while workers called each other out to meet them and destroy railroad property.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand

 

Eventually, the blockade on Chicago was broken by sending in trains full of U.S. troops to clear the lines. Within two weeks, freight movement was on the rise, Debs was in jail, and the military controlled the city.

All told, 30 people died and the railways suffered an estimated $80 million in damage.

As state militia replaced Federal troops, Pullman began to rehire its workers as soldiers looked on.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand

While the union workers were dedicated to a lasting victory through legal means, the illegal use of force made that kind of victory all but impossible. In the long run, the workers were happy to prove that a joint effort could upturn the deeply-entrenched social order.

Six days later, President Cleveland designated Labor Day as a federal holiday to reconcile national sentiment between business and labor.

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Now the White House has to respond to a petition calling for Navy ratings reversal

A petition lobbying the White House to reinstate the official Navy rating titles removed in late September gained more than 100,000 signatures on We the People, a website created by the Obama administration to allow large groups of Americans to directly request changes to public policy.


Petitions that cross the threshold are guaranteed an official response from the administration, but activists are not guaranteed that it will be a “yes” response.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand

Ratings were essentially job titles in the Navy and they were incorporated into the method of address for most enlisted leaders. Some of the ratings, like those for gunner’s or boatswain’s mates, have remained the same since the Continental Navy instituted them over 240 years ago. Other rates, such as special warfare boat operator, are newer.

Navy officials say that they removed the rating structure to allow sailors to more easily cross-train between jobs or switch career tracks entirely. This increased flexibility in job choices would also, according to comments given to the Navy Times, make it easier for sailors to get specific duty stations.

But the move was deeply unpopular with sailors. The petition to bring that dissatisfaction to the attention of the White House gained 102,614 signatures. The petition description highlights the tradition and history of the rating system.

For 241 Years Navy personnel have been identified by their Job specialty, known as a “Rating.” The oldest rates such as Boatswain Mates, and Gunners Mate predate the founding of this country. Being known by your job title was a sense of pride. A sign of accomplishment. The Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations just senselessly erased this tradition.

While the White House promises an official response to successful petitions, it does so by putting the petition in front of the proper policy makers. According to the program’s “about” section:

With We the People, you can easily create a petition online, share it, and collect signatures. If you gather 100,000 signature in 30 days, we’ll review your petition, make sure it gets in front of the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.

In this case, that could mean that the petition would land on the desk of Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus or someone on his staff. But Mabus and his staff were the ones who made the decision to get rid of Navy ratings in the first place.

The petition could encourage senior Navy leadership to take sailor feedback more seriously moving forward and possibly even find a plan that accomplishes the leadership’s goals while preserving Navy tradition.

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Army Special Operations switching tactical kit from Android to iPhone

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers from the 3rd Special Forces Group patrol a field in the Gulistan district of Farah, Afghanistan. | US Army photo by Spc. Joseph A. Wilson


U.S. Army Special Operations Command is dumping its Android tactical smartphone for an iPhone model.

The iPhone 6S will become the end-user device for the iPhone Tactical Assault Kit – special-operations-forces version Army’s Nett Warrior battlefield situational awareness tool, according to an Army source, who is not authorized to speak to the media. The iTAC will replace the Android Tactical Assault Kit.

The iPhone is “faster; smoother. Android freezes up” and has to be restarted too often, the source said. The problem with the Android is particularly noticeable when viewing live feed from an unmanned aerial system such as Instant Eye, the source said.

When trying to run a split screen showing the route and UAS feed, the Android smartphone will freeze up and fail to refresh properly and often have to be restarted, a process that wastes valuable minutes, the source said.

“It’s seamless on the iPhone,” according to the source. “The graphics are clear, unbelievable.”

Nett Warrior, as well as the ATAC and soon-to-be-fielded iTAC, basically consist of a smartphone that’s connected to a networked radio. They allow small unit leaders to keep track of their location and the locations of their soldiers with icons on a digital map.

They are also designed to help leaders view intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance sensor feeds such as video streams from unmanned aerial systems.

The Nett Warrior system uses a Samsung smartphone worn in a chest-mounted pouch and connected to networked radio General Dynamics AN/PRC-154A Rifleman Radio. Nett Warrior evolved from the Army’s long-gestating Land Warrior program. Army officials began working on that system in the mid-1990s and over the next decade struggled with reliability and weight problems.

The special operations forces’ ATAC and iTAC use a smartphone connected to a Harris AN/PRC 152A radio.

Both radios are part of the Joint Tactical Radio System, but the PRC-152A allows operators to automatically move across different waveforms to talk to units in other services. The Rifleman Radio does not have this capability, the source said.

This is a problem, the source said, because SOF units can communicate with conventional soldiers using Nett Warrior, but it’s only one-way communications. Nett Warrior-equipped soldiers can only receive communications from SOF; they cannot initiate or answer SOF units with the Rifleman Radio, the source said.

Military.com reached out to Program Executive Office Soldier’s Project Manager Soldier Warrior to talk about this problem and to see if it was considering changing to the iPhone and possibly trading in the Rifleman Radio for the PRC-152A.

We received the following mail response:

“PEO Soldier has no response to the questions” posed by Military.com, according to PEO Soldier officials.

The Army does have plans to move the AN/PRC-159 radio as a fix to the one-way communications problem, but that is not supposed to happen until 2020 at the earliest, the source said.

As a short-term fix, the Rapid Equipping Force is looking at fielding Harris PRC-152A radio to units such as the 82nd Airborne Division that make up the Global Response Force, the source said.

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China to deploy its first home-built aircraft carrier

China has quietly been reaching a naval milestone: They floated their first indigenous aircraft carrier on April 23, 2017. The vessel is sort of a half-sister to their current aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.


The Liaoning was once the Varyag, Russia’s second Kuznetsov-class carrier. If you’ve followed WATM, you probably have heard about the Kuznetsov’s many problems. The splash landings, the hellacious accommodations, and the need for oceangoing tugs to sail along because the engines are shit are just the tip of the iceberg for the Kuznetsov. During that carrier’s first-ever combat deployment in 2016, the Russians flew the Kuznetsov’s air wing from shore bases. Or course, their video tribute glossed over all those realities.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
The Liaoning. (JMSDF photo)

And the Chinese decided to copy this less-than-successful vessel – which probably should be hauled away to the boneyard.

According to DefenseNews.com, the new vessel, reportedly named Shandong, is almost a copy of the Liaoning. The big difference is in the arrangement of phased-array radars. But it has the same limited capacity (roughly 36 planes). Appropriately, the carrier has been designated as he Type 001A, while the Liaoning was designated Type 001.

The Liaoning has made some trips to sea. Japan took photos of the Liaoning and some escorts near the South China Sea, one of the biggest maritime flashpoints in the world, last year.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
China’s carrier Liaoning

The Shandong, though, may be the only ship in her subclass. The DefenseNews.com report notes that China is no longer testing the ski ramp – and instead has been trying to build catapults for launching aircraft. According to GlobalSecurity.org, China is planning to build two Type 002 aircraft carriers, followed by a nuclear-powered design, the Type 003.

The Type 002 carriers are slated to include catapults – which are far better at launching planes than the ski jump on the Kuznetsov-class design, and displace anywhere from 70,000 to 80,000 tons. The Type 003 will displace about 100,000 tons and be comparable to the Nimitz and Ford-class carriers.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand

China has stated a goal of having 10 aircraft carriers by 2049.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Tips for embracing new culture with an OCONUS Move

Moving OCONUS (outside contiguous United States) can be one of your biggest duty station changes yet. From overseas options, to Hawaii, Alaska, or other U.S. territories like Guam, there is no shortage of far away — and fun — bases. In fact, some are so sought after that some military families chase them their entire career.

And when considering all the fun that’s to be had, it’s no surprise as to why. New experiences, varied climates, interesting fruits and veggies — and that’s only the beginning!


But that’s also why, once getting one of these coveted OCONUS moves, you should take full advantage of all they have to offer. Embrace the culture, the food, and everything in between for a unique, life-altering experience for the entire family.

As military families, we are given the unique opportunity to live in different places, and to take what we’ve learned with us to create more-rounded, better understanding people. Use the opportunity to move and grow in your favor by embracing change whole-heartedly.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand

Ask the Locals

Obviously one of the best places to get insider info is from those who’ve been there the longest. They will not only know the best spots and events, but they’ll have insider info you can follow. Take their tips to heart for better overall experiences, and an idea of when and where to be for all things local.

Be friendly with the natives from day one for a fully immersed experience in your new culture and all it has to offer. After all, you never know what life-changing event they might introduce you to!

Try Everything Twice

One bad experience could be a fluke; to get a better understanding of an event, it’s best to give everything a second chance. Doing so will give you better insight toward food or local traditions. However, if you simply don’t like the event, a do-over is enough to call it quits.

Don’t avoid an experience, even if it sounds strange. Consider embracing all that comes your way, and to give it a second chance… even when not completely reaching your expectations.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand

Eat All the Foods

Do it! Try them. Order them. Ask restaurant workers what they recommend and if you can sample. You’ll never know what new foods you might be exposed to, and testing them out is the only way to learn if you might have a new favorite.

How often will you have the chance to eat such exotic dishes? When outside of a restaurant, ask others what they’ve had there and loved. Explore food markets and grocery stores, or even locals’ dishes if invited to eat.

Don’t Say No

This is the easiest thing to plan for, yet the hardest thing to do. When planning an OCONUS move, make up your mind to try anything and everything. Go do all the things. All of them. When something sounds foreign or strange to us, it’s so easy to stop the situation in its tracks. Saying no or simply planning on not going keeps you from the strangeness of it all, sure. But it also prevents you from learning something you didn’t know, from testing a new food to learning a new skill.

You never know what might come your way, or what you might readily enjoy! Embracing a new culture from the very get-go is the only way you can find new interests and be a good steward of your country and culture toward others.

Are you looking forward to an OCONUS move? What are you looking forward to trying most?

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This generous billionaire dedicated his life to taking care of the military and their families

The Fisher Family is an American dynasty. They started as a family of contractors and would eventually build a real estate firm that came to shape the iconic Manhattan skyline.


Zachary Fisher started in construction when he was just 16 years old. The company he and brothers, Martin and Larry, would form came to be worth some $1.6 billion dollars today, by Forbes’ estimate, and owns an incredible five million square feet of space.

Theirs is an amazing story of the American Dream — but what they chose to do with their wealth is an even more amazing story.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
Zachary Fisher after creating the Intrepid Museum in New York.

Fisher could not join the Marines in World War II because of a leg injury. Instead, put his best skills to work on the home front, assisting in building coastal fortifications in the United States. He was a strong supporter of the Armed Forces, the people protecting the American Dream that allowed him to become the man he did.

He never forgot his love for the military and the people who serve. He once said he began giving to the Armed Forces to pay a debt he owes them.

“There is nothing more important than someone giving their life for me,” he told the New York Daily News in 1998. “Here I am living in this free country because someone is giving their life for me. I feel grateful, and I always will.”

By the 1970s, his philanthropy within the Armed Forces culminated in saving the USS Intrepid from the scrap heaps. Instead of losing the storied aircraft carrier that fought in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, Fisher’s work and patronage allowed for the construction of the USS Intrepid Museum in New York City in 1982, now the largest naval museum in the world.

That same year, he founded the Zachary and Elizabeth M. Fisher Armed Services Foundation.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
The USS Intrepid in New York City.

When the Marine barracks in Beirut were bombed in 1983, it was Fisher’s Foundation that sent a $10,000 check to every single family of the 241 Marines who died that day. It wouldn’t bring back their loved ones, but it would take care of the necessities of life while the families grieved.

It wasn’t only those Marines who received help from the Fishers. The families of servicemembers killed in military accidents also found a small bit of solace as they mourned their losses. Notably, the families of sailors killed in a turret explosion aboard the USS Iowa also received financial help in the form of $25,000 each.

The Fishers kept giving these extra funds for more than 20 years, because they considered the government’s death benefits for those on Active Duty to be too low. Through the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, they paid an individual benefit for every family until the government significantly increased the amount it gives.

The Fishers even provided more than 700 scholarships to military members and their families who couldn’t afford a higher education.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher.

It was in 1990 that the Fisher family began the legacy that would make them immortal in the hearts of military families: The Fisher House.

Fisher heard about a service woman who was hospitalized while undergoing medical treatment. He was told her husband couldn’t afford a hotel for the entire time, so he slept in his car for the duration of her hospital stay. Fisher learned the military had no plans for supporting military families in those circumstances, so he decided to solve the problem himself.

Fisher Houses were born.

The Fisher House is a program dedicated to building comfort homes for the families of hospitalized veterans and military personnel. The homes come with common kitchens, dining rooms, and recreational areas so that no one has to be alone during some of the most trying times of their lives.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
Zachary Fisher with President William J. Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his lifetime of philanthropic work for military members and their families.

“I thought maybe it would help people financially,” Zachary Fisher once said. “But I didn’t count on the way families console one another. No one has to be alone in a motel room anymore. It just became a tremendous thing and had blessed my life in many ways.”

Fisher was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998 from President Bill Clinton for the wide range of support he provided the military and its families over his lifetime. Fisher didn’t just provide financial assistance — he also sat on the board of influential organizations like the Navy League and established awards promoting excellence in military medicine.

Zachary Fisher died on June 4, 1999, unable to to be present when President Clinton signed Public Law 106-161, which made Zachary Fisher an honorary veteran of the United States military.

Even the spirit of his love for the military continues with those who run the Fisher House today. During the 2013 government shutdown, Congress wavered over paying death benefits to families of servicemembers killed in action. When word got to Fisher House, they immediately pledged that they would make those payments where the government failed.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
Joseph Krebs Marine Corps veteran of the Korean War salutes a bust of Zachary and Melissa Fisher that adorns this and every Fisher House foyer.

Today, his legacy lives on at each of the 72 Fisher Houses in three countries, still taking care of the families of wounded and disabled veterans under the VA’s care. The Fishers provided more than six million nights of lodging, $17 million in scholarships, and 58,000 airline tickets — all for the families of wounded, ill, or disabled veterans.

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Our 8 most shared articles of 2016

Now that 2016 is coming to a close, we wanted to recap the year with the most shared articles. From the deaths of notable veterans to the weapon that shoots 1 million rounds per minute, here are the posts that flew around your social media feeds:


1. Marine who raised first flag on Iwo Jima dies at 94

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
Raising the First Flag on Iwo Jima by SSgt. Louis R. Lowery, USMC, is the most widely circulated photograph of the first flag flown on Mt. Suribachi.Marine Corps Maj. John Keith Wells, who as a first lieutenant led the platoon that helped take Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima and which raised the first American flag from the mountain’s summit, died in February.

He was awarded the Navy Cross and the Purple Heart for his actions on Iwo Jima after he continued leading his men up the mountain despite grievous wounds.

2. That day a lone Gurkha took out 30 Taliban using every weapon within reach

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand

British Royal Gurkha Rifle Sgt. Dipprasad Pun was pulling guard on top of a two-story outpost in Afghanistan when he investigated a noise and found two insurgents burying an IED.

As he went to engage them, the Taliban triggered a complex attack that Pun beat off by expending all of his ammo, throwing some grenades and mines, and hurling a machine gun tripod at the enemy.

3. 11 things a military buddy would do that a civilian BFF probably won’t

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
Workout with a buddy, but don’t actually carry them unless you are taking turns. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michelle Kapica)

A funny look at the differences between military buddies, who would check out your rash or save you in a firefight, and your civilian buddies, who might help you put together furniture or something.

4. How long the US military would last in a war against the rest of the world

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
(Photo: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago)

What would happen if the militaries of the entire rest of the world attacked the U.S. all at once? Not just our enemies, but our traditional allies like France and Britain as well? We’d stomp them. Here’s how.

5. Oldest American WWII veteran dies at 110

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
Photo: www.Facebook.com/MrOvertonDoc

Frank Levingston was 110, making him the oldest American and the oldest World War II veteran, when he died in May. He was known for his colorful commentary.

6. The Metal Storm gun can fire at 1 million rounds per minute

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
(Photo: YouTube)

This weapon features rounds stacked inside dozens of barrels and electric charges can fire all the rounds stored in the weapon at once or in multiple volleys. At its maximum fire rate, this equates to 1 million rounds per minute.

7. Here’s how a little girl who lost her Marine dad taught the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff the full cost of war

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
Lizzy Yaggy greets Gen. Dempsey during TAPS Good Grief Camp. (Photo: Erin Yaggy)

Most general officers struggle with the deaths caused by their decisions in war, but all that came home like it never had before for Army Gen. Martin Dempsey when he met the then-four-year-old Lizzy Yaggy, the daughter of a Marine aviator lost in a plane crash.

The two became close friends and Dempsey even asked Yaggy to introduce him at his retirement ceremony.

8. CENTCOM dusts off Vietnam-era aircraft to fight ISIS

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
Image: NASA Lewis Research Center Hangar and OV-10 Airplane

As the world struggled with the rapid and surprising rise of the Islamic State, an old airplane was quietly pressed back into combat service, the OV-10 Bronco.

These small planes served in combat from Vietnam to Desert Storm with the U.S. Marines before they were retired in 1995. But the plane flew over 100 sorties against ISIS, including 120 combat missions.

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The ‘Chosin Few’ gather to dedicate a monument to Korean War battle

It’s a measure of the men who are the “Chosin Few” that they all stood when the Marine Corps color guard trooped in with the American flag.


Now all well into their 80’s, as young Marines and soldiers they fought in one of the toughest and most iconic battles in American history — the Chosin Reservoir Battle in North Korea in 1950.

There was a row of wheelchairs and walkers for these men as they gathered to dedicate the Chosin Few Battle Monument in the new Medal of Honor Theater in the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Yet, when the flag trooped in, they struggled out of their chairs and steadied themselves on their walkers in respect to the flag. Not one remained seated.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford speaks to South Korean media before the dedication of the Chosin Few Battle Monument at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va., May 4, 2017. (DoD photo by Jim Garamone)

‘The Toughest Terrain’

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke of that dedication in his remarks. Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford knows the story of the battle, as all Marines do. The 1st Marine Division, two battalions of the Army’s 31st Infantry Regiment and British Royal Marines from 41 (Independent) Commando were attacking north, chasing a defeated North Korean Army up to the Yalu River, when an estimated 120,000 Chinese Communist troops attacked and surrounded the force around the Chosin Reservoir.

Also read: These 7 Korean War atrocities show how brutal the fighting really was

It was a battle “fought over the toughest terrain and under the harshest weather conditions imaginable,” Dunford said, and Marines since that time have been living up to the example the Chosin Few set in 1950.

“It is no exaggeration to say that I am a United States Marine because of the Marines who served at Chosin,” Dunford said. “In all sincerity, any success I have had as a Marine has been as a result of attempting to follow in their very large footsteps.”

One set of footprints belonged to Joseph F. Dunford, Sr. who celebrated his 20th birthday while carrying a Browning Automatic Rifle with the Baker Bandits of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines in the ridges over the reservoir Nov. 27, 1950.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
This blown bridge at Funchilin Pass blocked the only way out for U.S. and British forces withdrawing from the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea during the Korean War. Air Force C-119 Flying Boxcars dropped portable bridge sections to span the chasm in December 1950, allowing men and equipment to reach safety. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“He spent the night in close combat as three regiments of the Chinese 79th Division attempted to annihilate the 5th and 7th Marines,” the general said.

Growing up, Dunford’s father never discussed how he spent his 20th birthday. “He never spoke of the horrors of close combat or the frostbite that he and many Marines suffered on their march to the sea,” he said. “I was in the Marine Corps for seven years before we had a serious conversation about his experiences in the Korean War.”

The Legacy of Chosin

Still, even as a youngster, the general knew what pride his father felt in being a Marine and a member of the Chosin Few and vowed to join the force. “I am still trying to get over the bar that he set many, many years ago,” Dunford said.

So, his father was his reason for joining the Marine Corps, but it was another Chosin veteran that was responsible for him making the Corps a career.

Also read: 14 amazing yet little-known facts about the Korean War

Dunford served as the aide to Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Stephen Olmstead on Okinawa, Japan, in the early 1980s. Olmstead was a private first class rifleman at Chosin in G Company 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. “I would say that to a young lieutenant, there was something very different about General Olmstead — his character, his sense of calm, a father’s concern for his Marines, a focus on assuring they were well-trained, well-led, and ready for combat. He knew what they might have to experience.”

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
Marines at Hagaru perimeter watch Corsairs drop napalm on Chinese as Item Company 31/7 moves around high ground at left to attack enemy position. (Photo: US Marine Corps)

Olmstead’s example was a powerful one for young Lieutenant Dunford, and he started to think about making the Marine Corps a career. “I wanted to serve long enough to be a leader with the competence, compassion, and influence of General Olmstead,” he said.

The Chosin Few have this effect on the Marine Corps as a whole, Dunford said. Their real legacy is an example of valor, self-sacrifice, and camaraderie that units hand down as part of their DNA, he said.

The battle was a costly one, with U.S. forces suffering more than 12,000 casualties — including more than 3,000 killed in action. The nation awarded 17 Medals of Honor, 64 Navy Crosses, and 14 Distinguished Service Crosses to Marines and soldiers for heroism in that battle. 41 Commando received the same Presidential Unit Citation as the Marines of the 1st Marine Division.

Young Marines all learn about the battle, from recruits in boot camp to those striving to be officers at Quantico.

Now they have a monument to visit.

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This is the latest on the sunken World War II graveyards in the Java Sea

The situation surrounding a number of Allied ships sunk in a series of desperate battles around what is now Indonesia 75 years ago is a mixed bag, a new report finds. Late last year, advocates worried that many of the wrecks had been looted by modern-day grave robbers, forever altering important monuments to World War II history.


PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
At Tjilatjap, Java, Feb. 6, 1942, seen from USS Marblehead (CL-12), which was passing close aboard. Houston’s colors are half-masted pending return of her funeral party, ashore for burial of men lost when a bomb hit near her after eight-inch gun turret two days earlier during a Japanese air attack in Banka Strait. (US Navy photo)

According to a report by USNI News, recent sonar surveys show the wreck of the heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA 30) is still in good shape, while there is inconclusive data on the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth.

Past surveys have revealed that other wrecks, including the Dutch destroyer HNLMS Kortenear, the British heavy cruiser HMS Exeter and the British destroyers HMS Encounter have been stripped by looters.

The British destroyer HMS Electra, also sunk in the battles around Indonesia, has been “picked over,” while the Dutch cruisers HNLMS Java and HNLMS Dr Ruyter have had large portions of their wrecks removed. In one special case, the submarine USS Perch (SS 176), scuttled by her crew, has also been salvaged.

Reports last November claimed that all three Dutch wrecks were completely looted.

According to the United States Navy’s Naval History and Heritage Command, only 368 personnel survived the sinking of USS Houston when she sank as a result of gunfire from the Japanese cruisers HIJMS Mogami and HIJMS Mikuma. Of those 368, only 291 survived roughly three and a half years in captivity.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
At Darwin, Australia, probably on 15 or 18 February 1942. The destroyer astern of Houston may be USS Peary (DD-226). Among the ships in the background, to the left, are HMAS Terka and the SS Zealandia. (US Navy)

In a release, the Naval History and Heritage Command noted that the survey, conducted by the Australian National Maritime Museum and the National Research Centre of Archaeology Indonesia was the first survey to provide a full view of USS Houston’s wreckage, thanks to the use of remotely operated vehicles and multi-beam sonar scanning.

Past surveys had focused on sections of the ship, using underwater video cameras and still cameras to assess the status of the wreck.

“We’re grateful to the Australian National Maritime Museum and Indonesia’s National Research Centre of Archaeology for sharing this information with us,” Naval History and Heritage Command Director Sam Cox said in the release. “We take very seriously our obligation to remember the service of American and allied Sailors who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of freedom.  We’ll do everything we can, and work with everyone we must, to safeguard their final resting places.”

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Defense Secretary Mattis explains what war with North Korea would look like

Asked on Thursday by Rep. Tim Ryan of the House Appropriations Committee to explain why the US doesn’t just go to war to stop North Korea from developing the capability to hit the US, Secretary of Defense James Mattis painted a grim scenario.


“I would suggest that we will win,” Mattis said. “It will be a war more serious in terms of human suffering than anything we’ve seen since 1953.

“It will involve the massive shelling of an ally’s capital, which is one of the most densely packed cities on earth,” Mattis said of Seoul, South Korea, which boasts a metro-area population of 25 million.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
North Korea recently launched one of the nation’s largest military exercises, displaying a deadly barrage of artillery. (Photo from North Korean news service)

“It would be a war that fundamentally we don’t want,” Mattis said, but “we would win at great cost.”

Mattis explained that because the threat from North Korea loomed so large and a military confrontation would destroy so much, he, President Donald Trump, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had all made a peaceful solution a top priority.

Mattis said the topic of North Korea dominated Trump’s meeting in April with President Xi Jinping of China, North Korea’s only ally, and that the US intended to make China understand that “North Korea today is a strategic burden, not a strategic asset.”

China argues it has limited influence on Pyongyang, but as one expert explained, Beijing could at any moment cripple North Korea through trade means, forcing it to come to the negotiating table.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand

Mattis made clear that the US was nearing the end of its rope in dealing with North Korea, saying: “We’re exhausting all possible diplomatic efforts in this regard.”

North Korea recently taunted Trump by saying it was capable of hitting New York with a nuclear missile, but Mattis said a war today would hurt our Asian allies.

“It would be a serious, a catastrophic war, especially for innocent people in some of our allied countries, to include Japan most likely,” Mattis said.

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US Army weapons acquisition just got a much-needed kick in the pants

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
A paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team passes before the rising sun during a patrol into a village May 4, 2012, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan. The equipment on his back is used to block remotely detonated improvised explosive devices. | US Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod


On Wednesday, the US Army announced the creation of the Rapid Capabilities Office to “expedite critical technologies to the field in an effort to counter urgent and emerging threats.”

Essentially that means the Army now has an office with the authority to fast track technologies through the hulking, bloated, wasteful defense acquisition system that tried and failed three times to pick out something as simple as a new handgun.

Even vital systems can take 10 years to reach the field, which has greatly hamstrung the Army and made their tactics stale, predictable, and therefore vulnerable.

“Russia goes into the Ukraine and Russia goes into Syria [and] we realize that they’ve been watching us and learning from us and adapting. So we see some areas where we want to have a more pronounced ‘overmatch,”‘ Army Secretary Eric Fanning told Bloomberg News in an interview.

Fanning told Bloomberg’s Anthony Capaccio that the office would focus on “improvements to cyber operations, electronic warfare, survivability and GPS-enabled positioning, navigation and timing.”

As Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said of the US armed forces in 2015, “our greatest advantage is the vibrant technological community in the United States, and the vibrant technological communities in our defense industrial base.”

However, as Daniel Gouré, Ph.D., of the Lexington Institute points out, with the current lag between technology’s inception to its deployment on the front lines, adversaries like Russia and China could gain technological supremacy over the US in as little as five years.

“There’s no denying we have a troubled acquisition past,” Fanning told Bloomberg. “We are bringing all elements of the Army together,” he said of the Rapid Capabilities Office.

“We’re serious about keeping our edge, so we need to make changes in how we get soldiers the technology they need,” Fanning said in a US Army release. “The Army Rapid Capabilities Office is a major step forward, allowing us to prioritize cross-domain, integrated capabilities in order to confront emerging threats and advance America’s military dominance.”

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Here’s how Navy SEALs take down a hostile ship

Command of the seas sometimes means taking control of a non-complaint ship by forceful means, and, as they’ve demonstrated a number of times in recent years while dealing with pirates off the coast of Somalia, U.S. Navy SEALs possess a specific set of skills required to get the job done. This mission is known as “vessel boarding search and seizure” or “VBSS.”


Here’s how VBSS missions generally go down:

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

Mission planning begins between all the players in the intelligence center aboard the strike group’s aircraft carrier. Elements beyond the SEALs are members of the ship’s crew who need to know where to position their vessels and aviators from the air wing. HH-60 pilots will carry the SEALs to the target ship, and Super Hornet pilots will fly high cover in case things get sporty and more firepower is required.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
Super Hornet launches off of Cat 4. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The Super Hornets launch first, armed with precision guided bombs and a nose cannon. They’ll establish a combat air patrol station high overhead in order not to tip off the bad guys.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel M. Young)

HH-60s — the special ops configured variant of the Seahawk — launch with the SEAL team aboard.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel M. Young/Released)

Generally a pair of HH-60s is enough for the average VBSS. The helos transit a very low altitude and approach the target ship from off of the stern.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

At the last second, the HH-60s pop over the target ship’s fantail . . .

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

. . . and deliver the SEALs by fast rope.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Corwin Colbert)

On deck, the SEALs make best speed for the superstructure.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

Out of the open area, the team consolidates for the assault on the control points, usually the bridge of the ship.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl Kelsey J. Green)

The trick is maintain the element of surprise and to get to the bridge undetected. If that happens, neutralizing the bad guys is an easier proposition. If it doesn’t happen then the SEALs are ready to deal, armed with M-4s, 9mm pistols, concussion grenades, and knives.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

Once maintaining the element of surprise is no longer a factor, the H-60s can close in . . .

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel M. Young/Released)

. . . and provide cover in the event the SEALs missed something that was hiding on the way to the bridge.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographers Mate 1st Class Tim Turner)

After any threat is neutralized, the SEALs can inspect the ship to see if there’s any contraband aboard.

PETA declares war on US Marines drinking cobra’s blood in Thailand
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Corwin Colbert)

With tasking complete, the SEAL team gathers on the bridge for a quick “hot wash up” of the mission and to call for pickup back to the carrier.

Now: The most famous Navy SEALs

OR: This crazy first-person footage shows Korean Navy SEALs taking down Somali pirates

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