Russia announced today that they are pulling most of their forces out of Syria because Russian air and missile strikes there over the last six months have allowed the Syrian government to push back rebels in many key areas.
“I hope that today’s decision will be a good signal for all parties to the conflict,” Putin said on state television. “I hope that this will considerably increase the level of trust between all parties of the Syrian settlement and will contribute to a peaceful resolution of the Syrian issue.”
Russia will keep forces at its new air force base in Latakia, Syria. The base was carved out of Bassel Al-Assad International Airport in 2015 and has been the central hub for Russian air operations in Syria. Russian forces will also remain at the Cold War-era naval base in Tartus, Syria.
The Syrian government was teetering on the edge of collapse before the Russians intervened, but now it has forces surrounding the rebel stronghold of Aleppo. In February, government forces took sections of the city before their supply lines were cut by ISIS attacks.
Putin’s announcement that Russian forces were withdrawing came the same day that peace talks resumed in Geneva, Switzerland. Earlier talks had resulted in a shaky ceasefire but the Syrian government was accused multiple times of breaking the terms of the deal. The timing has led to speculation that Putin’s announcement was timed to place pressure on President Bashir Al-Assad to seek a peace deal.
Any deal would not directly affect operations against ISIS as the terror group is not party to the negotiations. But, a truce between government forces and moderate rebels would allow both groups to focus more resources and manpower against ISIS.
Saucier has said he merely wanted service mementos. But federal prosecutors said he was a disgruntled sailor who compromised national security and then obstructed the investigation by destroying a laptop and camera.
The news was announced by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee at a briefing March 9, 2018. It is only Trump’s second pardon, after the president pardoned Joe Arpaio, an ardent Trump supporter and former Phoenix sheriff who was convicted of criminal contempt in August 2017.
The investigation began in March 2012, when Saucier’s cellphone, with pictures of the submarine still on it, was found at a waste-transfer station in Connecticut. Saucier was charged with taking photos of classified spaces, instruments, and equipment in July 2015 and pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized possession and retention of national defense information in May 2016.
In addition to a year in jail, he was given an “other than honorable” discharge from the Navy.
Trump referenced Saucier’s case numerous times during his campaign — in one speech, Trump referred to Saucier, a 22-year-old sailor at the time the photos were taken, as “the kid who wanted some pictures of the submarine.”
Vice President Mike Pence also said during an October 2016 debate that a service member who handled classified information the way Clinton did would “absolutely” face court-martial, though The Washington Post found it was far from clear that would happen. Saucier’s lawyer also compared the six photos his client took to the 110 classified emails the FBI found were on the private email server Clinton used while she was secretary of state.
The judge in the case appeared to dismiss the comparison, as well as the argument that Saucier was being treated differently, saying “selective enforcement is really not a good argument” that didn’t “really carry much water.”
Saucier was released to house arrest at the end of summer 2017 and said later that year he thought “punishment isn’t doled out evenly” and that he hoped Trump would “make right by it.”
On March 10, 2018, hours after Huckabee said the president was “appreciative” of Saucier’s service to the country, Trump tweeted his congratulations to the former sailor, calling him “a man who has served proudly in the Navy.”
“Now you can go out and have the life you deserve!” Trump said.
Military designers and the countries they work for have always sought to outdo one another on the battlefield, and creating massive artillery pieces has been no exception. Though there have been many extremely large artillery pieces manufactured, and some that are even larger than the ones listed here, these are the only ones that were actually used in combat.
1. Schwerer Gustav and Dora
The Schwerer Gustav and its sister gun Dora were the two largest artillery pieces every constructed in terms of overall weight (1350 tonnes) and weight of projectiles (15,700 pounds), while it’s 800mm rounds are the largest ever fired in combat. The guns also had a range of over 24 miles. The guns were originally designed to be deployed against the French Maginot Line though the Blitzkrieg rendered that mission obsolete. Instead, the guns were deployed to the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union. The Schwerer Gustav entered combat during the German siege of Sevastopol in June 1942. The gun was manned by a crew of over 1400 men, 250 to assemble the weapon, two anti-aircraft battalions to protect it, and the rest to load and fire the weapon. Dora was set up to be deployed against Stalingrad, though it cannot be confirmed whether it fired against its target or not. Both guns remained on the Eastern Front but were not used in combat again. They were destroyed in Germany to avoid capture by the advancing allied armies.
Another product of Germany, the Karl-Gerät was a massive self-propelled mortar. Though it was capable of its own propulsion, its massive size made this an inconvenience, so it was usually disassembled and reassembled when it arrived at its firing position. The Karl-Gerät was designed as a siege weapon in particular to attack the Maginot Line. Its 21 man crew could fire a 600mm heavy bunker-busting shell nearly 3 miles at a rate of about 6 per hour. A total of 7 of these weapons were produced, one test piece and 6 others that saw extensive combat on both fronts. The Karl-Gerät made its combat debut when a 3 gun battery shelled the fortress at Brest-Litovsk during the opening phase of Operation Barbarossa in June 1941. The following year, a battery of Karl-Geräts took part in the siege of Sevastopol in June and July of 1942. Though it was planned for use in other operations on the Eastern Front, the threat of being captured by Soviet forces kept it out of the fight until 1944 when in August, one and then several other guns were sent to Warsaw to assist in quelling an on-going uprising against the German occupiers. The Karl-Gerät fired its last shots of the war during the Battle of Remagen in an attempt to destroy the Ludendorff Bridge.
3. Obusier de 520 modèle 1916
The Obusier de 520 was a railroad gun developed by the French during World War I. However, due to a delayed procurement process, the first gun did not reach trails until late 1917 during which a round exploded prematurely and destroyed it. The second gun was completed in 1918 but did not finish trails before the war ended after which it was put in storage. The Obusier de 520 modèle 1916 fired a 520mm round weighing over 3600 pounds to a range of over 8 miles. When Germany invaded France in 1940, the remaining gun was being renovated for battle where it was captured, still in the workshop, by the Germans. Germany, with a penchant for enormous artillery, pressed the Obusier de 520 into their own service where it participated in the siege of Leningrad in 1942 before also being destroyed by a round prematurely exploding in the barrel in January 1943.
4. Type 94 naval gun
The Japanese 18.1 inch naval gun was the largest gun ever to see combat at sea, being mounted on the Japanese Yamato-class battleships. The guns could fire a 1.5 ton shell over 26 miles and when mounted in their turrets, the entire piece weighed as much as a conventional destroyer of the time. Though the Yamato and Musashi were in operation for the entire war, neither used their Type 94 guns until near the time of their demise. Musashi’s sole use of her Type 94’s was in an anti-aircraft role, using the specially designed Sanshikidan “beehive” rounds attempting to stop the onslaught of American aircraft trying to sink her. She was unsuccessful and after taking 17 bomb hits and 19 torpedo strikes, she sank in October 1944. Also, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Yamato used her guns for the only time in combat and sank the American escort carrier USS Gambier Bay before being forced to retire. The Yamato was finally sunk during the Battle of the Philippine Sea in April 1945.
5. BL 18 inch Mk I naval gun
The British 18 inch Mk I was originally designed and built during World War I, mounted on the HMS Furious. However, the Furious was converted during construction and two of its three turrets were emplaced on two Lord Clive-class monitors. Though the Mk I was slightly smaller than the later Japanese Type 94, its shell weighed more – 3320 pounds. The guns saw action very late in the war with the first bombarding a railway bridge in August 1918 while the other fired ahead of advancing troops in October 1918. A third gun was also built but did not see action during the war.
6. Big Bertha and Gamma Mörser
The Big Bertha and Gamma Mörser were both developments of a 420mm siege howitzer designed by Krupp for Germany leading up to World War I. Big Bertha was a mobile artillery piece while the Gamma had to be emplaced before firing, though they were moved by rail for operations in different areas. Both weapons fired a nearly 1 ton shell though the Gamma Mörser could fire the shell nearly 9 miles, a mile farther than the Big Bertha. Both types of weapons were deployed against Belgium during the opening stages of the Great War in 1914. Big Bertha guns were successful in destroying numerous forts in Belgium and France and gained a reputation on both sides for their power. The Gamma Mörsers were also used during destruction of the fort at Liege but due to their limited mobility did not see action again until the attack on Verdun in 1916. Most of the guns were destroyed or captured, though Krupp managed to hide one Gamma in a workshop. It survived to be repaired and used again during World War II where it saw action at the Siege of Sevastopol alongside other massive German artillery pieces.
While typically used in medieval warfare, tunnel bombs have made a comeback over the last few years, especially in Syria. This video shared on Twitter on July 16 by researcher Hugo Kaaman shows just how powerful these bombs can be, and this time, in Afghanistan.
Tunnels have seen a resurgence in “popularity” in the last few years, after being a very effective means of warfare utilized throughout history. They are exactly as they sound: bombs placed in sub-terrain under enemy forces. We’ve seen them in every major conflict, but in the middle east, they took a bit of a back burner to the more frequently used roadside IED. There’s an excellent history of the tunnel bomb here.
To see the “inside look,” watch this video uploaded to social media.
A sailor from the amphibious assault ship Boxer is believed to have tested positive for the new coronavirus disease just nine days after military family members visited the ship at sea.
This marks the first coronavirus, or COVID-19, case for a sailor who was aboard a Navy ship. The person is now quarantined at home, Navy officials said in a Sunday night news release. The sailor’s test result for the sometimes-fatal virus is considered presumptive positive, pending confirmation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This will likely be a new challenge for the sea service, since infections and viruses can spread quickly among crew members who live in close quarters. That has been the case for several civilian cruise liners, which has resulted in widespread cancellations for the industry.
Sailors and their family members watch an AH-1W Super Cobra, attached to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 267, take off on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) during a family day cruise (FDC).
The San Diego-based Boxer on March 9 held a family day cruise, allowing military families to visit the crew on the ship in the Pacific Ocean, according to official Navy photos. Civilians can be seen riding a Landing Craft Utility vessel into the Boxer’s well deck and standing on the ship’s flight deck observing Marine Corps helicopter takeoffs at sea.
Navy officials did not immediately respond to questions from Military.com about whether one of those family members is believed to have unwittingly exposed the crew member to the coronavirus. It’s not immediately clear how many family members were on the ship as part of the event or how many sailors and Marines were onboard.
Personnel who came in close contact with the sailor have been notified and are in self-isolation in their homes, according to the Navy news release. None of those people are currently onboard the ship.
Military health officials are working to determine whether any additional personnel were at risk of exposure, the release adds.
“Depending on the results of that investigation, additional mitigations may be taken,” it states.
Navy ships are routinely cleaned to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.
“USS Boxer is taking appropriate preventative measures and conducting a thorough cleaning in accordance with specific guidance from the CDC and Navy-Marine Corps Public Health Center,” the release says.
The service closely coordinating with state, federal and public health authorities to ensure the wellbeing of Navy personnel and the local population, officials said.
As the intrigue surrounding the US-North Korea summit gains momentum, theories on where it will be held have prompted an additional question: How will North Korean leader Kim Jong Un travel to it?
While a summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in is expected to be held at the truce village of Panmunjom on the border of North Korea and South Korea on April 27, 2018, the location and date for Kim’s meeting with US President Donald Trump has yet to be announced, though reports indicate it could be as soon as May 2018.
It’s possible that Trump and Kim could also meet at Panmunjom, but some analysts have questioned whether Trump may prefer a different setting, like Switzerland, Iceland, or Sweden.
But an international destination may pose a problem for Kim.
As North Korea’s leader, Kim has taken only one international trip, to neighboring China, via train. Some experts told The Washington Post that Kim may not have an aircraft capable of flying nonstop over long distances.
“We used to make fun of what they have — it’s old stuff,” Sue Mi Terry, a former CIA analyst, told The Post. “We would joke about their old Soviet planes.”
Joseph Bermudez, an analyst at the US-based think tank 38 North, added: “They don’t have an aircraft that can fly across the Pacific — most are quite old.”
The analysts suggested that stopping by another country mid-journey to refuel could highlight the limitations of North Korea’s aircraft — and, by extension, its struggle to keep up with technological advances.
Some aviation experts, however, think North Korea’s fleet may include aircraft that can safely make international trips.
Air Koryo, North Korea’s state-owned airline, has two Tupolev jets — similar to the Boeing 757 jetliner — with a 3,000-mile range, the aviation journalist Charles Kennedy told The Post, adding that they have an “excellent safety record.”
Should North Korea’s aircraft pose limitations, Kim would still have other options, said Victor Cha, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“In terms of his traveling anywhere, it would not be a problem — the South Koreans or the Swedes would give him a ride,” Cha, who’s also a Korea analyst for MSNBC, told The Post. “But it would be embarrassing.”
The commanding officer and the executive officer of the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain were relieved of duty and reassigned to different posts for “loss of confidence,” according to a US Navy statement on October 11.
Commanding officer Cmdr. Alfredo Sanchez and executive officer Cmdr. Jessie Sanchez came under scrutiny after the McCain’s collision with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters in August. Ten sailors died and five were injured.
The collision tore a hole in the destroyer’s left rear hull, where several sailors were inside sealed compartments on the vessel, the Associated Press reported at the time.
Although the investigation is ongoing, the Navy called the collision preventable and said “the commanding officer exercised poor judgment, and the executive officer exercised poor leadership of the ship’s training program.” The Navy’s strict adherence to customs and traditions dictate that commanders be relieved of duty when superiors lose confidence in their leadership.
The McCain incident followed another collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a commercial container ship in June, which killed seven sailors. The Fitzgerald’s executive officer and senior enlisted sailor were also dismissed in that case.
US Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the three-star commander of the US 7th Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan, whose command oversaw the USS McCain and Fitzgerald, was also relieved of duty in August following the series of deadly ship collisions. Four accidents involving ships have occurred in the western Pacific since February, according to The New York Times.
The U.S. Space Force will allow the Defense Department to deliver space capabilities and results faster, better, and ahead of adversaries, Pentagon officials said March 1, 2019.
Officials spoke with reporters on background in advance of the announcement that DOD delivered a proposal for establishing the sixth branch of the armed forces to Congress. The proposal calls for the U.S. Space Force to lodge in the Department of the Air Force.
“What underpins the entire discussion is the importance of space to life here on Earth,” an official said. “Space truly is vital to our way of life and our way of war, and that has really been increasing over time.”
The Space Force will allow the department to face down the threats of great power competition in space, officials said.
Today, the United States has the best space capabilities in the world, they noted, but they added that this is not an entitlement. “Our adversaries have recognized that, and they recognize what space brings to the United States and our military,” an official said. “As a result, they are integrating space into their forces, and they are developing weapon systems to take away our advantages in a crisis or conflict.”
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dalton Williams)
Space has changed the character of war. “Space is not just a support function, it is a warfighting domain in and of its own right where we really need to be prepared to compete, deter and win,” he said.
The Space Force is a strategic step forward that will bring greater focus to people, doctrine, and capability needed to wage a war in space, officials said.
If Congress approves the proposal, the new service will grow incrementally over the next five fiscal years. Planners already are discussing the culture of the organization and what people they would like to see populate it. “We’re going to try to establish a unique culture — the special training, the care for promotions, development of doctrine,” another official said.
Pending passage, DOD will begin transferring personnel from the Air Force to the new service in fiscal year 2021 — most of the personnel in the U.S. Space Force will come from the Air Force. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps personnel will be affected in later years. Civilian employees will come to the new service under the auspices of the Department of the Air Force, just as civilian employees of the U.S. Marine Corps work for the Department of the Navy.
(Photo by Ryan Keith)
Building a culture
On the military side, the service will look for individuals who will build the culture of the new service. “We want people to be recruited into the Space Force as similar to the way the Marine Corps recruits Marines,” a senior official said. “We don’t recruit [Marines] into the Navy — they go after the specific kind of people with a vision that is necessary to build that culture.”
It will take some time for Space Force service members to build that culture. “When you grow up in your service, you are a part of a culture and that is your mindset and focus,” a senior military officer said. “The Air Force includes space, but the personnel still grow up in an Air Force culture today. I would argue that if you ‘grow up’ in a Space Force where you are solely focused on the space domain, your ability to think clearly and focus on that domain will get after the problem set much more effectively.”
The force will look for people with a technical background to apply toward warfighting. “We need people who, at their core, understand what warfighting is and how to do those things that bring together that capabilities from across all services to pursue strategic objectives as part of the joint force,” another officer said.
If Congress approves, the U.S. Space Force will have about 15,000 people — the smallest U.S. armed force. “It is a small, but mighty group,” a senior official said. “As we look forward to the importance of space to our country and national security, it is really elevating it.”
After the Huffington Post publicly identified five military service members and two Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets as part of a well-known white nationalist organization early March 2019, military officials say they’re investigating the allegations, and broadening the probe to see whether other troops might be involved.
In a March 17, 2019 story, the publication named an Air Force airman, two Army ROTC cadets, two Marine reservists, an Army reservist and a member of the Texas National Guard as members of Identity Evropa, which has been labeled a white nationalist organization by the Anti-Defamation League.
Huffington Post reported that it had linked the troops to the organization through online chat logs.
So far, military officials say they are not ready to punish or process out any of the troops named in the story, but they continue to investigate.
The Office of Special Investigations at the 39th Air Base Wing at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, is still investigating Airman First Class Dannion Phillips, who was identified as being involved with Identity Evropa.
A Qatari C-17 taxies down the runway at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Lenhardt)
Lt. Col. Davina Petermann, a spokeswoman for U.S. Air Forces Europe-Africa, could not say what actions the service has taken in regard to Phillips.
The U.S. Air Force has not found any other airmen tied to the alt-right extremist group, officials said.
The service “has not been made aware of any other members tied to this group,” spokesman Maj. Nick Mercurio told Military.com on March 27, 2019.
The National Guardsman allegedly linked to the group was identified as 25-year-old Joseph Kane, the Huffington Post said.
“We can confirm that Joseph Ross Kane is a member of the Texas Army National Guard, assigned to the 636th Military Intelligence Battalion,” Texas Guard spokeswoman Laura Lopez said in a statement March 26, 2019. “He joined the Texas Guard in June 2016. We are looking into this matter and remain committed to excellence through diversity.”
“Participation in extremist organizations and activities by Army National Guard personnel is inconsistent with the responsibilities of military service,” added Master Sgt. Michael Houk, a National Guard Bureau spokesman. “It is the policy of the United States Army and the Army National Guard to provide equal opportunity and treatment for all soldiers without regard to race, color, religion, gender, or national origin.”
The Huffington Post story also identified Army reservist Lt. Col. Christopher Cummins as a physician who allegedly bragged about putting up Identity Evropa posters in southern states. The Reserve did not respond to Military.com’s request for additional details by press time.
Army reservist Lt. Col. Christopher Cummins.
Maj. Roger Hollenbeck, spokesman for Marine Forces Reserve, said the service’s investigation into Lance Cpl. Jason Laguardia and Cpl. Stephen Farrea — both identified by the Huffington Post — was still underway as of March 27, 2019.
“The Marine Corps is investigating the allegations and will take the appropriate disciplinary actions if warranted,” Hollenbeck said in an email. “Because the investigation is ongoing, it would be premature to speculate and further comment on the outcome or the timeline.”
He continued, “Should an investigation substantiate that any Marine is advocating, advancing, encouraging or participating in supremacist, extremist, or criminal gang doctrine, ideology, or causes, including those that advocate illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex (including gender identity), religion, ethnicity, national origin, or sexual orientation, or those that advocate the use of force, violence, or criminal activity, or otherwise advance efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights, then they will have violated the Marine Corps Prohibited Activities and Conduct Order.”
Anyone in violation of those rules “would be subject to criminal prosecution and/or administrative separation,” Hollenbeck said.
He did not say whether the investigation has identified other Marines with ties to Identity Evropa.
The Army identified one of the ROTC cadets as Jay Harrison of the Montana Guard, but did not offer additional information. Huffington Post identified the other cadet as Christopher Hodgman, a member of the Army Reserve.
Police matched fingerprints from Identity Evropa flyers to Christopher Hodgman, an ROTC cadet and a member of the Army Reserve.
The individuals named in the article were looking to connect with other group members or spreading anti-Semitic speech or other racial or derogatory content, according to the published logs.
The news comes as U.S. officials and experts who track violent extremism have seen an upward trend in white nationalism and its rhetoric in the U.S. and overseas, including the military.
Earlier in 2019, the Anti-Defamation League said that domestic extremism killed at least 50 people in the U.S. in 2018, up from 37 in 2017, The Associated Press reported.
According to the survey, roughly 22 percent of service members have witnessed white nationalist behavior while on duty. Roughly 35 percent of those surveyed in the fall of 2018 said they believed white nationalism poses a significant threat to the country and national security, Military Times said in February 2019.
Coast Guard Lt. Christopher P. Hasson, who previously served in the Army National Guard and the Marine Corps, was arrested Feb. 15, 2019, on drug and gun possession charges, and was accused of plans to “murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country.”
According to documents filed in Maryland District Court, Hasson created a targeted list of media personalities, as well as prominent lawmakers such as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts; Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey; and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California.
Hasson appeared to blame “liberalist/globalist ideology for destroying traditional peoples, especially white. No way to counteract without violence,” he allegedly wrote, according to the documents.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The upcoming summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae In could result in a historic announcement, with the sides declaring an end to the 68-year long war on the peninsula, according to a report.
Newspaper Munhwa Ilbo cited an unnamed South Korean intelligence source as saying the coming Kim-Moon summit on April 27, 2018, the first time the leaders will meet face-to-face, may result in a peace announcement.
The news follows weeks of planning between the South and North that kicked off with a thawing of previously tense relations during the Winter Olympics.
Since then, Kim has expressed an unprecedented willingness to talk to the South, a desire to talk about denuclearization with the US, and traveled outside his country for the first time since assuming power in 2011 to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.
During the thaw, North Korea has seen an influx of South Korean visitors, including diplomatic delegations and Korean pop bands, with Kim himself sitting in on a performance that he reportedly loved.
North Korea has also opened up the Kim family to publicity, sending his sister Kim Yo Jong to the games and upgrading the status of Ri Sol Ju, the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, from “comrade” to “revered first lady” in a potential bid to create a cult of personality around her.
The US maintains a wait-and-see attitude toward the talks, and has vowed to stay tough on North Korea by not letting up on sanctions or military pressure. But the customary military exercises that take place with the US and South Korea have been delayed and toned down since 2017.
Experts remain skeptical that North Korea would actually go through with its promises to denuclearize, as it has entered into negotiations in the past only to have them fall apart when it came time to inspect their nuclear sites.
But South Korean diplomats repeatedly say Pyongyang has stuck to its promise of denuclearization, and even laid out specific plans for implementation.
In any case, the relations between North Korea and the world have markedly turned since 2017, when President Donald Trump threatened the country with presumably nuclear “fire and fury” and Pyongyang spoke of firing missiles at US forces in Guam and detonating nukes in the sky.
The US’s F-35, from the Joint Strike Fighter program, is the most expensive weapons system of all time and a fighter jet meant to revolutionize aerial combat, but Turkey, a US NATO ally, looks poised to let Russia destroy the program from within.
Turkey, a partner in the F-35 program, has long sought to operate the fighter jet and Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile-defense system at the same time.
But experts have told Business Insider that patching Russia through to NATO air defenses, and giving them a good look at the F-35, represents a shocking breakdown of military security.
On March 5, 2019, US Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the head of US forces in Europe, told a Senate Armed Services Committee that the idea was as bad as it sounds.
“My best military advice would be that we don’t then follow through with the F-35, flying it or working with an ally that’s working with Russian systems, particularly air-defense systems, with what I would say is probably one of most advanced technological capabilities,” Scaparrotti said.
“Anything that an S-400 can do that affords it the ability to better understand a capability like the F-35 is certainly not to the advantage of the coalition,” NATO Allied Air Commander Gen. Tod Wolters said in July 2018.
NATO worries about “how much, for how long, and how close” the F-35 would operate near the S-400s. “All those would have to be determined. We do know for right now it is a challenge,” he continued.
Retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula told Business Insider that NATO countries “don’t want to be networking in Russian systems into your air defenses” as it could lead to “technology transfer and possible compromises of F-35 advantages to the S-400.”
Russia wouldn’t just sell Turkey the radars, batteries, and missiles and then walk away, it would actively provide them support and training. Russian eyes could then gain access to NATO’s air defenses and also take a good look at the F-35.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The F-35’s fate in Turkey’s hands?
Because NATO is an alliance formed to counter Russia, allowing Russia to learn information about its air defense would defeat the purpose it and possibly blunt the military edge of the most expensive weapons system ever built.
But the US has little choice now. Turkey has pivoted away from democracy and has frequently feuded with its NATO allies since a 2016 attempted coup prompted the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to consolidate power.
Turkey holds millions of Syrian refugees and has helped stem the number of refugees entering Europe. Turkey has expressed fury at the White House for years over the US support of Kurds in Syria and Iraq during the fight against ISIS. Turkey brands the militant Kurdish units “terrorists.”
The F-35 holds advantages besides stealth, including a never-before-seen ability to network with other fighters, but the S-400 remains a leading threat to the fighters.
Russia, if it spotted an F-35 with its powerful counter-stealth radars, would still face a steep challenge in porting that data to a shooter somewhere that could track and fire on the F-35, but nobody in the US military wants to see Russia looped in to the F-35’s classified tactics and specifics.
The true story of Garlin Murl Conner’s heroism in the face of a Nazi onslaught might have gone to the grave with the soft-spoken Kentucky farmer if not for a chance phone call from another military man trying to piece together the last days of his uncle’s life.
That call — and the heartbreaking developments that followed — left Richard Chilton with no answers, but gave the tenacious former Green Beret a cause: Seeing that Conner, who on one day in 1945 killed 50 German soldiers and saved his storied battalion on the front lines in France, is recognized with the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty.
“This man may have been the greatest soldier of our time,” said Chilton, whose bid to get Conner the Medal of Honor began in 1998, wended its way through a series of military panels and federal courts, and now stands closer than ever to fruition. “I owe it to him to fight like hell to make damn sure the Army gives him what he earned.”
After a series of denials that led Chilton and advocates including retired Air Force Col. Dennis Shepherd, an attorney for the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, to turn to the federal courts for help, the effort took a leap forward last week. The Army Board for Correction of Military Records bucked its own staff and ignored a federal judge’s ruling that the statute of limitations barred consideration and recommended Conner for the award, which can only be bestowed by the president.
The bravery of Conner, who died in 1998 at the age of 79, is well-documented. The first lieutenant, who was wounded seven times, earned an incredible four Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars, seven Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross for his World War II heroism. But it was what he did on Jan. 24, 1945, near Houssen, France, that elevated his courage to mythical status.
And the story would have remained in obscurity, alive only in Conner’s mind and packed away in a cardboard box near his Albany, Ky., home, were it not for Chilton.
Chilton, a veteran of the Korean War who later trained Israeli fighters during the Gulf War, wanted to learn more about his uncle, Army Pfc. Gordon Wesley Roberts. All he knew was that the brave man he remembered from his boyhood had served in the 3rdInfantry Division and had never made it home from World War II. It was 1995, and Chilton, now 82, started tracking down men from the division, which included movie star Audie Murphy – himself a Medal of Honor recipient – and which lost more men than any other in the war.
“I’d called about 200 men, and no one really was able to tell me much about my uncle,” Chilton recalled. “I was ready to give up but I tried one more. I left a message with Garlin Murl Conner.”
A few days later, Chilton got a cryptic message on his answering machine.
“I knew your uncle,” Conner said. “I was with him the night he died. He died from small arms fire. More to follow.”
But that was the last Chilton heard from Conner. When he finally mailed a letter to him, Conner’s wife, Pauline, wrote back to say her husband had had a stroke days later and could no longer speak. Chilton, who lives in Genoa City, Wis., drove more than 500 miles to Conner’s home in the desperate hope that a face-to-face meeting might yield information.
But it did not. As a dejected Chilton was walking out the door of the Conner home, Pauline suggested he look through her husband’s records. Maybe there would be a clue about his uncle there, she said. She emerged from a back room with a box full of medals, commendations, yellowed newspaper clippings and faded photographs.
Chilton found nothing on his uncle, but his amazement grew as he spent the next few hours digging through the box.
“I discovered the most decorated soldier I’d ever heard of,” Chilton said. “I was blown away. I’ve never seen a man with four Silver Stars.”
Through the pictures, medals and testimony of Conner’s superior officers, including legendary Maj. Gen. Lloyd Ramsey, the story of Conner’s heroic actions more than 50 years earlier in France came back to life. Earlier that day, Conner, who had been badly wounded in the hip, sneaked away from a field hospital and made his way back to his unit’s camp. His commanding officer was seeking a volunteer for a suicide mission: Run 400 yards directly toward the enemy while unreeling telephone wire all the way to trenches on the front line. From that point, the volunteer would be able to call in targeting coordinates for mortar fire.
Conner grabbed the spool of wire and took off amid intense enemy fire. He made it to the ditch, where he stayed in contact with his unit for three hours in near-zero-degree weather as a ferocious onslaught of German tanks and infantry bore down on him.
“My God, he held off 600 Germans and six tanks coming right at him,” Chilton marveled. “When they got too close, his commander told him to vacate and instead, he says, ‘Blanket my position.'”
The request meant Conner was calling for artillery strikes as he was being overrun, risking his life in order to draw friendly fire that would take out the enemy, too.
Circumstances conspired to thwart Chilton’s initial effort to have Conner awarded the Medal of Honor, which 471 men received for their efforts in World War II. His commander did not fill out necessary paperwork, an oversight he later apologized for. Records, which included testimony from fellow soldiers, were lost with millions of others in the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. But perhaps most of all, Conner never told his story.
Chilton’s application in 1997 on behalf of Conner was rejected. An appeal supported by the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs three years later was similarly nixed. But Shepherd and his team, with the help of Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., managed to find duplicate documents in which soldiers attested to Conner’s exploits in the National Archives.
Shepherd’s team took those papers and the recommendation of Ramsey, now 96, to federal court in 2009, seeking to have the Army re-examine the application. District Judge Thomas Russell rejected the motion, noting the seven-year Statute of Limitations had passed since the last appeal. But his reluctance was clear in his decision, in which he said a technicality should not diminish Conner’s “extraordinary courage and patriotic service.” Shepherd said Russell’s words helped set the table for an appeal to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In a dramatic proceeding in the Cincinnati court, the three-judge panel heard all the testimony about Conner’s actions, and the courtroom was stunned when Assistant U.S. Attorney Candace Hill told the judges her own father served with Conner.
For Shepherd and Chilton, the difficult part is getting someone to listen to the evidence.
“Anytime I’ve been able to put the facts regarding Garlin Conner in front of someone, we get results,” said Shepherd. “As soon as these judges saw what he had done that day, they didn’t care about the statute of limitations.”
The 6th Circuit ordered both parties into mediation, which led to last week’s ruling by the Army Board for Correction of Military Records. That recommendation will likely carry weight with the Senior Army Decorations Board, though it could take “several months” for a decision.
If the decorations board recommends the award, the Senate Armed Services Committee takes up the case and makes its own recommendation to the president.
If the words written by Ramsey, who went on to serve in Korea and Vietnam, where he commanded the Americal Division, when Conner’s bravery was fresh in his mind, hold sway, Conner’s ailing wife and numerous supporters could yet help repay an American hero.
“I just sent one of my officers home,” Ramsey, then a lieutenant colonel, wrote to a colleague in Kentucky in 1945, when Conner was discharged. “I’m really proud of Lt. Conner. He probably will call you and, if he does, he may not sound like a soldier, will sound like any good old country boy, but, to my way of seeing, he’s one of the outstanding soldiers of this war, if not THE outstanding.”
If you don’t think East-West relations have come very far in the past few centuries, consider the fact that James Puckle’s flintlock revolver fired two types of ammo: round shot for use against Christians, and square shot for use against Muslims. The square shot was supposed to hurt more, convincing Muslims of the superiority of Christian life.
Invented in 1718, his “Puckle Gun” is the first weapon to be called a “machine gun,” even if it doesn’t fit the modern definition of the word. The Puckle Gun was tripod mounted, intended for use on ships but had field uses as well. The cylinders revolved manually, firing 32mm shot through a 3-foot barrel and loaded while detached from the main gun.
The main problem was that instead of shooting a series of shots, the chamber had to be unscrewed before the handle could revolve the ammo, then screwed in again to seal the breech to the barrel. In demonstrations, the Puckle Gun could fire nine rounds per minute, tripling the output of disciplined troops, whose rate was three rounds per minute.
The armed forces of Britain didn’t respond favorably to the weapon. As a result, neither did the investors of the time. Only two models of the Puckle Gun exist today, at the homes of members of the Montagu family, the only people to ever buy Puckle Guns with the intention of using them.
Montagu, while acting as Britain’s Master-General of the Ordnance, purchased this first machine gun for use on a doomed expedition to capture St. Vincent and St. Lucia. It’s unknown if they were ever used in combat.