This raid was one of America's first overseas military operations - We Are The Mighty
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This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations

A daring raid launched to recover or destroy a captured ship 212 years ago marks the most celebrated episode of the United States first overseas military operations. Lieutenant Stephen Decatur and a small group of volunteers composed mostly of U.S. Marines covertly entered the port of Tripoli and successfully burned the captured USS Philadelphia.


This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
Stephen Decatur, American Naval Officer, badass.

Corsairs from what were known as the Barbary States, composed of of Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli, had been ravaging the Mediterranean for centuries, capturing merchant vessels and enslaving or ransoming their crews. Some estimates place the number of Europeans sold into slavery between the 16th and 19th centuries by the Barbary pirates at well over a million.

American shipping had traditionally relied on British naval protection, but following the American Revolution the British let the Barbary States know that U.S. vessels were fair game. In 1785 Dey Mohammed of Algiers seized several American vessels and held their crews for ransom. The weak U.S. government at the time could not raise the money or the naval power to get the sailors back.

Though the U.S. managed to successfully conclude a treaty with Morocco, it wasn’t until until 1795 that an agreement to pay exorbitant tribute to Algiers, Tripoli, and Tunis bought the captured sailors back. These tributes and later payments eventually began to consume up to 10 percent of the national budget.

Due to the situation with Algiers, Congress had authorized the construction of the first six ships of the U.S. Navy. When Tripoli declared open season on U.S. ships in 1801 over late payments of tribute, newly elected President Thomas Jefferson dispatched a small fleet to enforce a blockade of Tripoli and sent envoys to Sicily in order to secure a base to operate from.

After several skirmishes the U.S. Navy was largely able to maintain the blockade, its ships unchallenged at sea. But in October of 1803 the brand-new frigate USS Philadelphia ran aground a reef while patrolling the port of Tripoli. The captain and crew were captured and taken ashore for later ransom, and the Philadelphia was anchored in the harbor.

In order to deny the use of the Philadelphia to Tripoli, Lt. Decatur, commander of the schooner USS Enterprise, came up with an elaborate plan. A small vessel from Tripoli had recently been captured and rechristened as the USS Intrepid. Decatur would disguise the Intrepid as a regular merchant ship, enter the harbor at night, and lead a small force of mostly U.S. Marines to recapture or burn the Philadelphia. The USS Syren would stand by to offer fire support.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
Philadelphia burning in Tripoli harbor.

On the night of Feb. 16, 1804, the plan was a go. Sicilian volunteers who could speak Arabic functioned as pilots for the Intrepid, and they called out in Arabic as the Intrepid entered the harbor to allay the harbormasters suspicions. Decatur and his men were disguised as Maltese seamen and Arabs.

When the Intrepid pulled alongside the Philadelphia, they took the Tripolitan guards completely by surprise with swords and boarding pikes. Without the loss of a single man they recaptured the ship, killing many of the guards and sending the rest overboard, but the Philadelphia was in no condition to return to sea. After the raiders set the Philadelphia on fire, they reboarded the Intrepid and made their escape as the Syren and Tripolitan shore batteries exchanged fire. The operation had been a spectacular success and was widely celebrated back home.

The U.S. ransomed the crew of the Philadelphia back in 1805, and Decatur went on to have a distinguished career through the War of 1812, and as fleet commander led a second operation against the Barbary States in 1815. After defeating the Dey of Algiers, Decatur negotiated a series of treaties that ended the Barbary threat to U.S. ships for good, and marked the end of one the first overseas operations by the United States.

 

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7 POWs who were total badasses after being taken captive

War prisoners are expected to just survive day-to-day. But some prisoners say screw that and find ways to make the prison easier for their peers and more frustrating for their enemies.


1. A Navy officer saves his camp from both Japanese and U.S. attacks.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
Photo: US Navy

The Japanese in World War II considered surrender dishonorable and expected Americans to fight to the death. So, when they started taking American prisoners, they were exceptionally cruel. Cmdr. Richard Antrim was in a prison camp when a guard began savagely beating a prisoner. Antrim tried to convince the guards to discuss the man’s case, but they couldn’t understand one another.

The camp commander ordered 50 lashes for the offending prisoner. When the prisoner collapsed only partway into the lashing, Antrim asked that he be allowed to take the rest of the punishment. The camp commander ceased the punishment instead and gained respect for the naval officer.

He allowed Antrim to begin overseeing prisoner work details. Antrim used this new trust to redraw the pans for trenches for the prisoners, creating the letters “US” in the sand so that Allied bombers would know to avoid those trenches during bomber raids. Antrim was awarded the Medal of Honor for risking his life for his fellow prisoner and a Bronze Star for redrawing the trenches.

2. Special Forces officer beats up his executioners and escapes with the help of his beard.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
Photo: US Army

Then-1st Lt. James N. Rowe was the military advisor to a group of South Vietnamese civilian irregulars who stumbled into an ambush in 1963. Rowe was captured in the fighting and spent the next five years in captivity.

He attempted escape three times, but was recaptured each time. The North Vietnamese decided to execute him, and took him into the jungle on New Year’s Eve in 1968. Luckily, an American helicopter came by at that moment and Rowe beat up his guards. He flagged down the helicopter whose pilot initially thought he was an enemy fighter until he saw Rowe’s beard and decided it looked American.

Rowe went on to play a key role in the development of the Army training program that prepares soldiers to evade the enemy and survive captivity.

3. Senior officer in “Hanoi Hilton” beats himself with a stool and cuts his scalp and wrists to resist North Vietnamese propaganda attempts.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
Photo: US Navy

Vice Adm. James Stockdale was leading his carrier group back to the USS Oriskany after a bombing run over North Vietnam. He was downed by anti-aircraft fire, broke his back and dislocated his knee, and was sent to the infamous prison camp known as the “Hanoi Hilton.” There, as the senior officer he took over efforts to build morale and resist Vietnam efforts to create propaganda.

When the Vietnamese attempted to use him in a parade for foreign journalists, Stockdale slashed his own scalp and beat himself with a stool, bruising himself so severely that he was useless for propaganda purposes. Later, he learned that another prisoner had been tortured to death and slashed his own wrists to convince his captors that Americans would rather die than give up information. The captors then ceased their torture. For his efforts, Stockdale was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1976, three years after his release.

4. Double amputee begins his escape attempts while his second prosthetic leg was still damaged.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
Photo: Royal Air Force photographer Devon S A

Douglas Bader had to fight his way into the cockpit in 1939 since he left the Royal Air Force in 1931 after a crash that took both of his legs. He spent the first 18 months of the war commanding formations of RAF fighters before he was downed and captured. One prosthetic was damaged in the incident, but Bader still attempted to escape the prison on the damaged leg. After the Nazis — who saw Bader as a celebrity — allowed him a replacement leg air dropped by the British, he made a few more attempts and was sent to the “inescapable” Colditz Castle.

Bader didn’t spend all of his time in prison attempting to escape. He would also regularly bait the guards until they aimed their pistols at him, just to hurt their morale. He once refused to go to roll call saying, “My feet would get cold in the snow.”

5. French general escapes an inescapable prison to celebrate Hitler’s birthday.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Records of the Office of War Information

French Gen. Henri Giraud was experienced at escaping German prison camps, having slipped out of one in North Africa during World War I. When he was captured in World War II, he faced more challenging conditions at Konigstein Castle, which sits 240 meters above the surrounding valley and had thick stone walls.

Giraud spent two years planning and preparing for his escape. He convinced the guards to teach the prisoners German, smuggled in the clothing worn by the local populace, and spent a year creating a 150-foot rope from thin twine. He slipped down the rope, out of the prison, and onto a train on April 17th, 1942, over Hitler’s birthday weekend. Hitler ordered him assassinated, but he escaped to North Africa and rejoined the war.

6. Holocaust survivor escaped his Korean War prison camp every night to forage for food for fellow prisoners.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Hungarian-American Tibor Rubin was a Korean War hero before he was captured, once holding a hilltop for 24 hours on his own against determined Chinese attacks. When he was captured in a later engagement, the Chinese offered to send him home to Hungary instead of keeping him prisoner. Rubin had been saved from a concentration camp when he was a child by American troops, and decided to stay in the prison.

He began sneaking out of the camp every night and back in every morning, stealing food and medical supplies from Chinese soldiers and local farms. His actions were credited with saving the lives of 40 other prisoners and he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

7. Czechoslovakian draftee escapes prison hundreds of times to visit his girlfriend.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
A thin but defiant Horace Greasley stares down Heinrich Himmler during a prison inspection. Photo: Wiki Commons

Horace Greasley was a British soldier taken prisoner by the Germans early in World War II*. While that is a horrible start to a love story, Greasley managed to turn it around by wooing the daughter of the quarry manager at the camp. A year later, he was transferred to another camp. Rather than let the romance die, he began sneaking out of his camp to visit the young Rosa Rauchbach.

He would visit his girlfriend overnight and then sneak back into his own camp. The arrangement ended with the war when the pair separated and Greasley returned to Britain. In the above photo, Greasley stares down Heinrich Himmler like it’s no big deal.

*Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article stated that Greasley was Czech. Though he was called up after the invasion of Czechoslovakia, he was called up by his own native country, Britain, to serve in its army. The post has been corrected.

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5 things to know about Air Force Secretary nominee Heather Wilson

According to a report by the Washington Examiner, President Donald Trump today announced that former New Mexico Republican Rep. Heather Wilson is his pick to serve as Secretary of the Air Force.


“Heather Wilson is going to make an outstanding Secretary of the Air Force,” Trump said in a release. “Her distinguished military service, high level of knowledge and success in so many different fields gives me great confidence that she will lead our nation’s Air Force with the greatest competence and integrity.”

Here are a few things to know about her:

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
Official portrait of Congresswoman Heather Wilson. (US House of Representatives)

1. She is the President of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

Wilson took the post in June 2013 after two failed senate races. According to a release from the school, it was listed among the most veteran-friendly schools throughout her tenure as president of that institution.

2. She was a Rhodes Scholar

According to her official biography at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Heather Wilson’s graduate studies were at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. She earned both a master’s degree and a Ph.D from the institution in 1985.

3. She would be the first Air Force Academy Graduate to serve as SECAF

According to the Air Force Times, Wilson is the first graduate of the United States Air Force Academy to be nominated for this position. Wilson was among the first women to attend the Air Force Academy and received her commission in 1982. She served for seven years mostly as a defense planner to NATO and the U.K. She separated as a captain and became an advisor to the National Security Council under President George H. W. Bush.

4. She is an instrument-rated private pilot

Congresswoman Wilson’s official bio at the home page of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology reveals she is an instrument-rated private pilot. We don’t know if that means she gets to fly any of the Air Force’s planes, though. We hope it does.

5. She served just over 10 years in Congress

Wilson first won a special election in 1998 to replace a congressman who lost a battle with cancer. According to the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, she served until 2009, when she stepped down after losing a senate primary the previous year. She served on the Energy and Commerce and Select Intelligence Committees, according to the 2008 Congressional Directory, and also served on the House Armed Services Committee.

“America and our vital national interests continue to be threatened,” Wilson said in a statement after her nomination. “I will do my best, working with our men and women in the military, to strengthen American air and space power to keep the country safe.”

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70-year-old man raising money for fellow veterans by running up the Empire State Building

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
(Photo: Big Mac via Wikipedia)


On February 3rd, a 70-year-old veteran will be taking the stairs — 1,576 of them.

Jerry Augustine of Middletown, Connecticut is set to participate in the Empire State Building Run-Up, the world’s oldest and most famous tower race. He will join an elite group of runners selected from thousands who vied for a spot in the event.

This will be the ninth time the Vietnam vet has run up the iconic New York City landmark’s 86 flights of stairs. He is running for Team Red White and Blue, a not-for-profit with the mission to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.

The former Army Spec. was tasked with search and destroy missions, recovering bodies, and ambush patrols during his 1966-1967 deployment to Vietnam. The Hartford Courant recently detailed one of his more harrowing missions:

One day, while performing this duty, Augustine fell into a human trap known as punji pit, a camouflaged hole with sharpened bamboo stakes at the bottom. The stakes might be tipped with excrement to cause infection. Augustine was lucky. He said the pit was old and the stakes had rotted and merely collapsed under his weight.

Augustine said another close call came when he was “point man” on ambush patrol. Approaching a clearing, he said, he was spotted by a guerrilla fighter who fired an RPG. The mortar round struck a tree a few feet away. “It bounced off and landed right next to my boot,” Augustine said. He dove for cover, but the round failed to detonate.

“I still think about how close I was to death,” he said. “When, you’re young you don’t think about, but it hits me now.”

He said one of the worst experiences was when his company was sent to recover the bodies of fallen comrades in the aftermath of a three-day battle in fall 1966. “My platoon had the duty of carrying 30 bodies to the choppers to be put into body bags and sent back to friendly lines,” Augustine said. “It was just horrible.”

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
Jerry Augustine (center) in Vietnam. (Photo: Augustine personal collection via The Hartford Courant)

After the war he struggled with what is now known as ‘post traumatic stress.’ In 1992, his doctor prescribed Prozac, but it made him lethargic. A friend suggested he drop the meds and hit the pavement.

“My son had a paper route on a bicycle at the time, so I started running along with him delivering papers, a couple of miles a day,” Augustine told The Hartford Courant. “Pretty soon I was entering races, and doing pretty well. I became one of the best in my age group. Running made me feel great.”

Augustine won the ESB Run-Up race in the 50s division in 2001. His last race was 2007.

“When I turned 70 this year, I wanted to see if I could still do it,” he told the Courant. “I’d be really happy to get a time of 20 minutes this time. Maybe even 25 minutes. It’s a lot harder now.”

If you would like to get into ‘run-up-the-stairs-of-a-102-floor-building-in-25-minutes-or-less’ shape, here is Jerry’s simple routine:

  • Sprint up the stairs of a 12 story building: 3 times in a row, 3 times a week.
  • 110 squats and 110 push ups: every night.

For more on Team RWB go here.

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The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 28 edition)

Here are the things you need to know about right now to be the “smart one” in your unit:


Now: Here’s what would happen if every US state declared war on each other

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The Army is deactivating its last long-range surveillance companies (again)

The Army is officially closing down the last of its long-range surveillance companies with the three active duty units slated for closures in January and the four National Guard companies shutting down in 2018.


This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
Soldiers with Delta Company, 52nd Infantry Regiment (Long Range Surveillance) conduct their unit’s deactivation ceremony Jan. 10, 2017 inside the III Corp building at Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jory Mathis)

The move comes amid changing Army priorities and a series of computer simulations that decided the units were high-risk, low-reward.

This is the second time the Army has deactivated all of its company-sized, long-range reconnaissance units. It previously removed LRRP companies in 1974 before bringing them back as LRS units in 1981.

According to a Stars and Stripes article, the current deactivations came after Total Army Analysis computer models said that LRS units weren’t in high demand by command teams.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
Indiana Army National Guard 1st Sgt. Joseph Barr rolls up the colors of Company C, 2nd Squadron, 152nd Cavalry Regiment during the unit’s designation ceremony to Company D, 151st Infantry Regiment, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Lowry)

But not everyone is happy with the Army’s decision.

Retired Army Special Forces Brig. Gen. John Scales protested an earlier LRS drawdown when he found that computer models claiming that LRS units were at high risk in combat were improperly written. The model unrealistically assumed that any infantry unit that spotted the enemy would engage that enemy force, pitting six-man LRS teams against entire enemy formations.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
David Blow front, left, and another U.S. Soldier were members of a long-range reconnaissance team that conducted cross-border operations in Cambodia and Vietnam in 1971. Blow, a Special Forces soldier, served in Vietnam until the end of U.S. involvement in 1973. (Courtesy photo: U.S. Army)

While the new assessments use different coding that Scales was not privy to, he has voiced concerns that getting rid of LRS units isn’t the best idea.

Scales told the Stars and Stripes about the current LRS drawdowns that, “I worry based on my experience with the model that [long-range surveillance units are] getting shortchanged, and the Army is getting shortchanged.”

This isn’t the first time that the Army has tackled this question, and an earlier batch of LRS deactivations that also resulted from a Total Army Analysis were done against the protest of ground commanders.

From then-Maj. Mark R. Meadows’ 2000 master’s thesis titled “Long-Range Surveillance Unit Force Structure in Force XXI“:

The decision to deactivate these intelligence collection units was not based on a change of doctrine or a change in the mission requirements for LRS. The decisions were not made by one of the two proponents of LRS in order to protect another unit or asset. Quite the contrary, both proponents recognize the importance of HUMINT on the battlefield and support LRS employment and training. As discussed in chapter two, the decision to deactivate all heavy division LRSDs and two of four LRSCs was made over the objection of both proponents and units, by the office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations as a result of the Total Army Analysis (TAA) process. Consequently, under the current force structure, there are not adequate numbers of LRS units to effectively execute the potential future missions the Army will face.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
Internationally, long-range reconnaissance is still in high demand. German army Upper Cpl. Andre Schadler, a native of Aulendorf, assigned to Recon Platoon, Jager Battalion 292, scans the battlefield for threats with a thermal sight during the first day of training at the Great Lithuanian Hetman Jonusas Radvila Training Regiment, in Rukla, Lithuania, June 10, 2015. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. James Avery, 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

While satellites and drones can cheaply provide detailed imagery in an open desert, they struggle to watch the movements of enemy forces through heavily forested and urban areas like those troops would face in a war with China or Russia where enemy units could be dispersed under cover and camouflage.

This is something that Eastern Europe armies know well, leading them to invest in the types of reconnaissance units that the U.S. Army is backing away from.

For instance, in November Lithuania hosted the U.S. Army’s Reconnaissance and Surveillance Leadership Course for the first time in the course’s history.

The European Union is investing more heavily in ISTAR — Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance — units.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
A Romanian IAR 330 Puma helicopter employs perimeter defense while it extracts a joint team of forces from both the 1st Squadron, 131st Cavalry, Alabama Army National Guard, and the 528th Light Reconnaissance Battalion, Romanian Land Force, as they complete a long range surveillance training mission for Operation Red Dragon on June 18, 2015, near Babadag Training Area, Romania. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Shanley)

Indeed, the Swedish Army maintains a force of only 6,000 available soldiers but keeps one ISTAR battalion available.

This wouldn’t be the first time the Army got rid of its dedicated long-range reconnaissance companies. In 1974, it deactivated the last of the old Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol companies. Just four years later, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, Lt. Gen. Edward C. Meyer, ordered a classified study to ascertain, among other things, who could conduct the LRRP mission moving forward.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
A paratrooper with Delta Company, 52nd Infantry Regiment (Long Range Surveillance), looks out of a window of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter before exiting at Rapido Drop Zone Sept. 1, 2016 at Fort Hood, Texas. This was the last jump before the unit’s deactivation ceremony, which occurred Jan. 10, 2017. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Tomora Clark)

By 1979, the Army was writing doctrine for the new “Long-Range Surveillance Units” which were nearly identical to the extinct LRRP companies. But some division commanders saw the need for human eyes on the battlefield as too vital to wait for Department of the Army.

The 9th and 3rd infantry divisions and the 82nd Airborne Division all stood up LRRP units to provide critical intelligence to battlefield commanders. The 82nd divisional LRRP platoon was deployed to Operation Urgent Fury.

Operational commanders may find that they have to again construct their own long-range surveillance units if they still want the capability. The last of the LRS companies are scheduled to deactivate in August 2018.

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White House is trying to free Pakistani doctor who helped bin Laden raid

The Trump administration is trying to facilitate the release of a Pakistani doctor who was jailed for helping the CIA locate Osama Bin-Laden, The Wall Street Journal reports.


The doctor, Shakil Afridi, started a fake vaccination program to both locate bin Laden and attempt to get his DNA. The Pakistani government was particularly displeased with the U.S. for not notifying them of the Navy SEAL raid which killed bin Laden, and jailed Afridi a month after the May 2, 2011, raid. He has been held and sentenced on a series of dubiously legal charges since.

Pakistani officials reportedly want better relations with the U.S. and may even consider giving Afridi a presidential pardon.

“We are trying to accelerate the legal processes,” one official said. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster reportedly raised the matter during a late April visit to Pakistan where Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. expressed the country’s desire “to find a solution.”

Afridi’s lawyer told reporters in 2016 the best hope for his release was U.S. pressure, but that the Obama administration had not shown their support. His lawyer continued that Afridi has languished for much of his sentence in solitary confinement.

“I have no hope of meeting him, no expectation for justice,” he said.

Congress has voted every year since 2011 to withhold millions of dollars in badly needed U.S. aid to Pakistan.

Trump pledged on the five year anniversary of bin Laden’s death that he would get the doctor released “in two minutes,” which drew sharp Pakistani criticism. “Contrary to Mr. Trump’s misconception, Pakistan is not a colony of the United States of America,” Pakistan’s interior minister said in a statement after Trump’s comments. He continued that Afridi’s future would be decided “by the Pakistani courts and the government of Pakistan and not by Mr. Donald Trump, even if he becomes the president of the United States.”

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Chinese troops are reportedly patrolling in Afghanistan

Chinese troops are reportedly operating in Afghanistan, but it is unclear what they’re doing there.


There is evidence that China has security forces operating inside eastern Afghanistan, and the Pentagon is reportedly very aware of their presence. “We know that they are there, that they are present,” a Pentagon spokesman revealed to Military Times, without going into specifics.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
China is worried that increasing instability in Afghanistan will stir unrest in Xinjiang Province, which is home to the Uighurs, a Muslim minority which maintains a rocky relationship with the Chinese government. (Photo: U.S. Military)

Late last year, India’s Wion News Agency released photos of suspected Chinese military vehicles in Little Pamir. Franz J. Marty at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute claimed in February that “overwhelming evidence,” including “photographs, an eyewitness account and several confirming statements of diplomats and observers, among them a Chinese official familiar with the matter,” indicated the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is conducting joint drills in Afghanistan.

The governments of Afghanistan and China have both denied reports of joint patrols. Towards the end of last month, China conceded that security forces have been conducting counter-terrorism operations along the shared border. Ren Guoqiang, a PLA spokesman, intimated that “the law enforcement authorities of the two sides have conducted joint law enforcement operations in border areas to fight against terrorism,” adding that, “Reports in foreign media of Chinese military vehicles patrolling inside Afghanistan do not accord with the facts.”

Ren also denied that there were non-military patrols being carried out in Afghanistan, further adding to the mystery of exactly what China is doing in the region.

Although Beijing denies engaging in military operations in Afghanistan, there was a strange, albeit unconfirmed, Chinese media report claiming Chinese soldiers in Afghanistan rescued U.S. special forces. While the story is likely untrue, it suggests that there may be more to Chinese activities in Afghanistan than meets the eye.

China has made its counter-terrorism concerns, particularly in Afghanistan, known numerous times. The Asian powerhouse is worried that increasing instability in Afghanistan will stir unrest in Xinjiang Province, which is home to the Uighurs, a Muslim minority which maintains a rocky relationship with the Chinese government. Beijing fears that Afghanistan will become a base of operations for militant Uighur separatists, specifically the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

China has been working with Afghanistan on countering this threat for several years now.

Afghanistan assured China in 2014 that “it would never allow the ETIM to take advantage of the Afghan territory to engage in activities endangering China, and will continuously deepen security cooperation with the Chinese side.” China agreed to “continue to offer training and material assistance to Afghan military and police” to “strengthen cooperation in aspects such as anti-terrorism, the fight against the East Turkistan Islamic Movement and transnational crimes.” The following year, Afghanistan turned several captured Uighur militants over to Beijing. China provided tens of millions of dollars to support Afghanistan’s security forces.

In recent weeks, Beijing has been putting increased pressure on Uighur militants at home. Last Monday, around 10,000 Chinese troops marched on Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, in a massive show of force against terrorism. That same day, Uighur militants fighting with the Islamic State threatened to return to China and “shed blood like rivers,” giving China a reason to step up its involvement regional counter-terrorism activities.

Furthermore, the withdrawal of coalition forces has created an eroding security situation in Afghanistan which could facilitate the rise of dangerous militant groups along China’s western border.

Beyond security concerns, China also has significant commercial interests in the war-torn region. China’s massive Silk Road Economic Belt will span parts of Central Asia and the Middle East, possibly including Afghanistan.

China has motive for increased involvement, but it is unclear what China is doing in Afghanistan. China may have soldiers, armed police, security personnel, or some combination of the three in the area. Beijing has, so far, not been particularly forthcoming about its activities and intentions in Afghanistan.

Some observers suggest that Chinese involvement in Afghanistan might actually be beneficial for both the U.S. and China, arguing that China might be considering taking on a greater security role in the region after the U.S. and its allies withdraw; however, Chinese troops are unlikely to push far beyond the shared border as long as the U.S. coalition forces maintain a presence in Afghanistan.

There is also the possibility that China is training its military under the guise of counter-terrorism operations, just as it has used peacekeeping and anti-piracy missions to enhance the capabilities of its armed forces in the past.

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Marine gets arrested for throwing drunken foam party in Air Force hangar

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
FILE PHOTO: Foam suppression system being tested on Scott Air Base. (Credit: Staff Sgt. Paul Villanueva II/US Air Force)


Mix one U.S. Marine with alcohol and throw in the possibility of a huge foam party and you get an alcohol-related incident on Kadena Air Base.

That’s according to Navy Times, which reported on Tuesday that Air Force officials were investigating how a drunk Marine entered an aircraft hangar on Kadena on May 23 and turned on the fire suppression system at around 1:45 a.m., releasing flame retardant foam close to at least one aircraft.

“The details of the incident are currently under investigation,” 2nd Lt. Erik Anthony told Stars and Stripes in an email. “Kadena’s capabilities and readiness have not suffered.”

The unnamed Marine was arrested shortly after the incident, but details on the Marine’s level of intoxication, his or her unit, or who made the arrest, were not released.

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Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

There’s a nasty villain who’s holed himself up in a compound somewhere in BadGuyLand. Both the United States and Russia want to nab this guy – and get him bad. Then, there is a need to rescue some hostages being held at a second compound.


The United States will send elements of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta, better known as “Delta Force.” Russia will send elite spetsnaz troops. Who do you send where?

Let’s put the movies starring Chuck Norris aside (even if they were pretty awesome – and where can I get that motorcycle?). The real Delta Force is filled with very deadly operators.

Founded in 1977, and taking over for an interim unit known as Blue Light. Some Delta operators have risen to great heights: Gen. Peter Schoomaker became Army Chief of Staff, while Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin rose to command Army Special Operations Command and the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center.

Delta operators are recruited from across the military, but the 75th Ranger Regiment seems to be a primary source, according to a 2006 statement during a Congressional testimony.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
Delta Force is part of Joint Special Operations Command, which targets high value individuals and terrorist groups. (Photo from U.S. Army)

Delta was primarily a counter-terrorist group, but has since evolved to carry out a variety of missions, including the capture of high-value targets.

One such operation in 1993 turned into the Battle of Mogadishu. The unit was also involved in the capture of an ISIS chemical weapons expert this year, and reportedly also helped capture the Mexican drug lord known as “El Chapo” this past Janaury.

During Operation Just Cause, Delta operatives rescued Kurt Muse from one of Noriega’s prisons. Delta also carried out a major raid on an ISIS prison in Oct. 2015 that freed seven prisoners. Sergeant 1st Class Josh Wheeler was killed in the raid.

Russia’s spetsnaz were created for a different purpose.

Founded by the Soviet Union, they worked for the Main Intelligence Directorate, known as the GRU. Their mission was to track down and destroy American tactical and theater nuclear systems like the MGR-3 Little John and the MGM-31 Pershing missile.

But their mission evolved into hunting other targets.

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, spetsznaz took out the Afghan president. Spetsnaz have also seen action in Russia’s intervention in the Ukraine, the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, and the Syrian civil war. Russia trained a lot of them – according to Viktor Suvarov, a defecting Soviet officer, there were 20 brigades and 41 companies of spetsnaz in 1978.

That number went up after the invasion of Afghanistan.

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Russian Spetsnaz in small arms training.

Spetsnaz and Delta each boast the usual small arms (assault rifles and pistols). The spetsznaz have some unique specialized gear, like the NRS-2 survival knife that can fire a pistol round, and the VSS Vintorez sniper rifle that is capable of select-fire. The large size of spetsnaz – 12 formations of brigade or regimental size in 2012 – means that they are not as selective as Delta.

So, who do you send where? Since the spetsnaz are almost mass-produced, it makes more sense to send them after the high-value target. If the guy lives to be turned over to people like Jose Rodriguez and James Mitchell who can… encourage him to talk, fine.

But Delta Force will be needed for the hostage rescue mission, since they have performed it very well in the past.

Articles

22 wild images of North Korea’s insane Special Forces training

It’s no secret North Korea has a pretty big chip on its shoulder. They have to do everything bigger, more ridiculous, and more grandiose than every other country on the planet.


In an effort to prove their superiority to the world (but mostly to themselves), they put everything into that external image. Nowhere is this more apparent than in their armed forces. If we’re comparing armies to cars, the Korean People’s Army is pretty much the Pontiac Aztek of the world’s fighting forces. That doesn’t stop them from peacocking their insane special forces on the internet.

Related: That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home

The following gifs are from a video released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the most trusted news source North of the 38th parallel.

Feel free to play this song as you watch.

Crouching Actor, Flying Commie …

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stimmekoreas, YouTube

And you hated planking at PT.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
stimmekoreas, YouTube

You can’t really see if that hand comes off or not. Just sayin’

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
stimmekoreas, YouTube

Four inches lower would do the world a favor.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
stimmekoreas, YouTube

Extreeeeeeeeeeeme Tai Chi.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
stimmekoreas, YouTube

At this point they’re just training for the training.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
stimmekoreas, YouTube

Even if that other guy was acting, there’s no way that didn’t hurt.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
stimmekoreas, YouTube

In case you ever need to clear a shelf of bricks.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
stimmekoreas, YouTube

This is your Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
stimmekoreas, YouTube

This reminds me: North Korea needs a Street Fighter character.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
stimmekoreas, YouTube

Sponsored by Excedrin… Or would be if they could get medicine there.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
stimmekoreas, YouTube

This one is all about the follow-through.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
stimmekoreas, YouTube

This would literally only hurt your hands in an annoying way.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
stimmekoreas, YouTube

I really don’t see what’s wrong with wearing gloves.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
stimmekoreas, YouTube

This is exactly like the bench of twine exercise, but with bricks.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
stimmekoreas, YouTube

So is this one.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
stimmekoreas, YouTube

I wonder if North Korean rebar is even made of steel.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
stimmekoreas, YouTube

They’ve found a defense against U.S. rebar weapons?

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
stimmekoreas, YouTube

U.S. troops feel this when they eat MREs.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
stimmekoreas, YouTube

Instead of building houses, this is what they do with lumber.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations
stimmekoreas, YouTube

Watch the full video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKR_gC_yBPU
Articles

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

A former Southern California Marine has been handed a 21-month federal sentence for faking a Purple Heart and lifting from another Marine’s combat story to get disability benefits and a free house.


In a rare prosecution under the 2013 Stolen Valor Act, a 35-year-old Iraq war veteran will also have to pay back more than $300,000 to the U.S. government and a Texas charity.

Brandon Blackstone served with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment out of Twentynine Palms in the Mojave Desert in 2004. He deployed to Iraq in August, during a period of fierce fighting on the Syrian border.

This raid was one of America’s first overseas military operations

So did Casey Owens, another 1/7 Marine.

But that’s where the similarities in the two Marines’ stories end — and where Blackstone’s fabrications began.

Prosecutors and fellow Marines say Blackstone fashioned a tale of blast injuries and combat stress based on a horrific explosion that nearly killed Owens and cost him both of his legs.

Owens was in a Humvee that triggered a double anti-mine bomb while responding to a downed U.S. serviceman in September 2004.

Blackstone was in the area and likely witnessed the event. But he wasn’t injured in that attack — or in any other combat incident — according to people who were there, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Texas, and Blackstone’s own lawyer.

In fact, he was evacuated from Iraq after a month with appendicitis.

Also read: This is how the Pentagon had over 120,000 extra Purple Heart medals

But starting at least in 2006, Blackstone began spinning a story of suffering traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder after his Humvee hit a mine in Iraq.

He even fabricated two witness statements to support his claim for U.S. Veterans Affairs Department disability benefits that he received from 2006 to 2015, prosecutors said.

Worse, in the eyes of his fellow Marines, he began showing the photograph of Owens’ mangled Humvee as part of his story about how he was wounded.

“This scumbag lied to try to get s–t. You don’t do that. It’s not honorable. It’s not how we are. It’s personal for me, especially, as a friend of Casey’s,” said Andrew Rothman, a 1/7 Navy corpsman who was a key player in exposing Blackstone’s fraud.

“This kid essentially stole from all of us. And the honor part is bigger to us than the money and the house.”

Blackstone was awarded a 100 percent disability rating and, by claiming to have a Purple Heart, his application for a mortgage-free house was granted by Texas-based Military Warriors Support Foundation.

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The Purple Heart is one of the most recognized and respected medals awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces. (Photo: AP)

Meanwhile, Owens tried to make the best of his life with a double leg amputation and brain injuries, among other medical complications. He moved to Aspen and competed as a Paralympics skier.

But Owens was still in pain. He did national TV interviews describing how he struggled to get the care he needed for his mental and physical wounds. His right leg required additional surgeries that took more of it away.

In October 2014, Owens used a gun to kill himself.

But things for Blackstone were going well. He became a mentor at a Missouri-based veterans charity, Focus Marines Foundation. He even started his own nonprofit group, called The Fight Continues, with two other post-Sept. 11 veterans.

But those brushes with others in the veterans community led to his downfall. His story, including video testimonials he was giving about his combat injuries, didn’t sit right with other 1/7 Marines who dedicated a Facebook thread to discussing it.

Related: Not all PTSD diagnoses are created equal

Eventually, Rothman tipped off the Warriors Support charity that was poised to grant Blackstone the deed to the donated house.

Blackstone pleaded guilty in September to one count of wire fraud and one count of fraudulent representation about the receipt of a military decoration for financial gain.

At his sentencing last month, a federal judge in Texas called Blackstone “shameful,” but gave him credit for accepting blame for his actions. Sentencing guidelines limited his incarceration to 27 months or less, according to news reports. His was given credit for time served since February, so he will serve 18 more months.

Blackstone’s defense lawyer, Justin Sparks, said his client was diagnosed with PTSD and suffered a head injury in Iraq — but not in combat.

The head wound happened when a superior roughed him up in the barracks and he hit his head on a dresser. There were other injuries while in uniform that weren’t related to combat but required surgery, Sparks said. While in the hospital, a higher-ranking Marine informally gave Blackstone a Purple Heart medal to acknowledge his pain — but it wasn’t an official award.

There’s no explaining why Blackstone lied about the Purple Heart or applied for the free home, knowing he wasn’t qualified, the former Marine’s lawyer told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“There’s not really a good answer for that. He was in a very, very tough time in his life and reached a pitfall there,” Sparks said this week.

Sparks said his client seemed to lose his grasp on reality as the story spun on.

There’s a symptom of PTSD where you are living your life in the third person. You’re always convincing yourself about what is reality,” he said. “It’s almost a coping mechanism.”

Sparks said his client is still rated at 70 percent disabled by the VA.

The lawyer disagreed that Blackstone was appropriating Casey Owens’ story.

“Brandon never claimed his lost his legs,” Sparks said. “The only common elements in the two stories are PTSD, the Purple Heart, and head injuries. There must be at least 1,000-plus soldiers who have those three things.”

Blackstone’s fellow troops don’t buy the PTSD explanation for his behavior. Several of them also were disappointed by his sentence.

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A Marine salutes the memorial stand for his fallen brother. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“He was in the grip of his own lies,” said Eric Calley, a former Marine who used his own money to start The Fight Continues with Blackstone.

“That judge should be ashamed. I think (Blackstone) deserves a life sentence for what he did to our veterans.”

Lezleigh Owens Kleibrink, Owens’ sister, said her family was hoping for closure from a tougher sentence but didn’t get it.

Kleibrink said she has no doubts that Blackstone was trying to at least bask in the association with her brother’s reputation.

“He was a thief and Casey’s story was a means to get what he wanted,” she told the San Diego Union-Tribune this week.

Further reading: Here are the criteria that entitle a service member to the Purple Heart

“What Brandon doesn’t understand is that it’s ripped open our wounds once again,” Kleibrink said. “Anyone who makes my mother cry like this … He may have joined the Corps, but he was no Marine.”

The Military Warriors Support Foundation said it was the charity’s first brush with stolen valor in awarding more than 750 homes to combat-wounded veterans.

“This was an unusual case, in that even official VA documentation was inaccurate,” said spokesman Casey Kinser. “That said, we are constantly reviewing our processes to vet our applicants more accurately and efficiently.”

The Fort Worth-area house that Blackstone nearly owned has been awarded to another Marine family.

Articles

That time American and Russian tanks faced off in a divided Berlin

Continuing tensions with Russia over its annexation of Crimea, backing of separatists in Ukraine, dealing weapons to the Taliban, and the hacking of the U.S. elections have led to many people on both sides of the divide saying that current U.S.-Russian tensions are worse than they were in the Cold War.


Apparently, those people have forgotten that U.S. and Russian troops killed each other a few times, conducted a standoff with tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba, and stared each other down in armed tanks in divided Berlin.

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This is one of the most boss photos on this site. (Photo: Central Intelligence Agency)

The incident started on Oct. 22, 1961, when America’s senior diplomat in West Berlin, E. Allan Lightner, Jr., attempted to cross the newly-erected Berlin Wall at a major checkpoint, Checkpoint Charlie. He was stopped by East German authorities who wanted to see his papers, but Lightner insisted that only the Soviets had the authority to check his papers.

He eventually turned back from the border, but Gen. Lucius Clay ordered that the next U.S. diplomat who needed to cross the border would be accompanied by military police in armed Jeeps. The next diplomat did cross the border with the Jeeps.

But Clay still wasn’t satisfied. He sent M48 tanks to the checkpoint and had them rev their engines. The Soviet commander requested permission to call an equal number of tanks out in response and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev approved it.

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American tanks at Checkpoint Charlie in October 1961. (Photo: Central Intelligence Agency)

So T-55 tanks pulled up to the opposite end of the street and, approximately 82 yards away from each other, the two sides threatened each other for 16 hours from Oct. 27-28, 1961.

News crews rushed to the scene and the world watched with bated breath to see if this would be the flame that set off the powder keg and descended the world into nuclear war.

But neither country wanted to fight World War III over paperwork in Berlin. President John F. Kennedy ordered back channels to be opened to reach a negotiation. Khrushchev agreed to a deal where the countries would take turns withdrawing a single tank at a time.

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Soviet tanks withdraw from Checkpoint Charlie at the end of the crisis. (Photo: Central Intelligence Agency)

The Soviets withdrew a T-55 and, a few minutes later, America pulled back an M48. The process continued until Checkpoint Charlie and its Soviet counterpoint had returned to their normal garrisons of a few soldiers on either side.

Today, the intersection has a replica checkpoint and a number of historical exhibits. Aside from the Cuban Missile Crisis the following year, Checkpoint Charlie may be the closest America and Soviet Russia came to blows in open warfare.