A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable - We Are The Mighty
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A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

A top defense strategy think tank recently released a report hat looks at the implications of a possible war between the U.S. and China. The news is almost universally bad, but the assessment of a full-scale war between the U.S. and China in 2025 paints a dire picture of the aftermath of a conflict between the world’s two biggest superpowers.


While a war today would be costly for the U.S., China’s increasing anti-access, area denial arsenal as well as its growing carrier capability and aircraft strength could make it impossible for the U.S. to establish military dominance and achieve a decisive victory in 2025, the report by the RAND Corporation says.

“Premeditated war between the United States and China is very unlikely, but the danger that a mishandled crisis could trigger hostilities cannot be ignored,” RAND says. “Technological advances in the ability to target opposing forces are creating conditions of conventional counterforce, whereby each side has the means to strike and degrade the other’s forces and, therefore, an incentive to do so promptly, if not first.”

Instead, the two sides would fight until its home populations got fed up and demanded an end to hostilities, something that may not happen until the body counts get too high to stomach.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
Soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army 1st Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Division prepare to provide Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen with a demonstration of their capabilities during a visit to the unit in China on July 12, 2011. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

RAND declined to state a number of expected casualties in any potential war, but it estimated the loss of multiple carriers and other capital platforms for each side. Nimitz-class carriers carry approximately 6,000 sailors and Marines on a cruise. The loss of a single ship would represent a greater loss of life and combat power than all losses in the Iraq War.

The study predicts a stunning display of technological might on both sides, which isn’t surprising considering what each country has in the field and in the works. The paper doesn’t name specific weapon systems, but it predicts that fifth-generation fighters will be able to shoot down fourth-generation fighters with near impunity.

The U.S. recently fielded its second fifth-generation fighter, the F-35 Lightning II. America’s other advanced fighter, the F-22 Raptor, has been in service since 2005. China is developing four fifth-generation fighters — the J-20; the J-32; the J-23; and the J-25.

The J-20 and J-32 will likely be in the field in 2025 and would potentially rival America’s fighters.

By 2025, China could have two more aircraft carriers for a total of three. It currently owns one functional carrier purchased from Russia and is manufacturing a second.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
The Navy’s Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford is moved from one shipyard to another in 2013. When launched, the Ford-class carriers will be the largest aircraft carriers in history. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aidan P. Campbell)

Despite America’s greater numbers of both fifth-generation fighters and total aircraft carriers, China’s growing missile arsenal would force America to act cautiously or risk unsustainable losses, RAND argues.

Outside of the conventional war, cyber attacks, anti-satellite warfare, and trade disruptions would hurt both countries.

Both belligerents have anti-satellite weapons that are nearly invulnerable to attack, meaning that both countries will be able to destroy a substantial portion of each other’s satellites. The destruction of the American satellite constellation would be especially problematic for the rest of the world since nearly all GPS units connect to American satellites.

Cyber attacks would cripple vulnerable grids on both sides of the Pacific, likely including many of the computer servers that maintain public utilities and crucial services like hospitals.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
Photo: Airliners.net CC BY-SA 4.0

Trade disruptions would damage both countries, but China would be affected to a much greater extent, RAND says.

A lot of American commerce passes through the Pacific, but China does a whopping 95 percent of its trade there and is more reliant on trade than the U.S. For China, any large Pacific conflict would be very expensive at home.

While it’s very unlikely that China could win a war with the U.S., RAND says the fighting would be so bloody and costly for both sides that even average Americans would suffer greatly. Service members and their families would have it the worst.

“By 2025, U.S. losses could range from significant to heavy; Chinese losses, while still very heavy, could be somewhat less than in 2015, owing to increased degradation of U.S. strike capabilities,” RAND says. “China’s [anti-access weapons] will make it increasingly difficult for the U.S. to gain military-operational dominance and victory, even in a long war.”

There are two pieces of good news. First, leaders on both sides are hesitant to go to war. Even better, RAND’s assessment says that neither country is likely to risk nuclear retaliation by firing first, so the war would likely remain a conventional affair.

The bad news is that increasing tension could trigger an accidental war despite political leaders best intentions. RAND recommends that leaders set clear limits on military actions in the Pacific and establish open lines of dialogue.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
The Chinese Navy frigate Hengshui fires its main gun at a towed target during Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Photo: Chinese Navy Senior Capt. Liu Wenping)

The American and Chinese military do participate in some exercises together. The Chinese hospital ship Peace Ark and the Chinese frigate Hengshui took part in the Rim of the Pacific exercise, but continued Chinese espionage against America and reported cyber attacks prevent a happy relationship.

Hopefully the U.S. and China can come to friendly terms because a war tomorrow would be catastrophic and a war in 10 years could be crippling for everyone involved.

The full report from RAND is available as a PDF for free here. It can also be purchased as a paperback. A Q A with the lead study author is available here.

Articles

This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable


Way back in the early ’90s, when I was a U.S. Navy lieutenant serving as the editor of Approach magazine (Naval Aviation’s Safety review), I was invited by NASA astronaut Bill Shepherd to come down to Houston for a hands-on tour. Along with suiting up in full astronaut gear and flying the shuttle simulator in all regimes of flight, I had the opportunity to ride in NASA’s “reduced gravity aircraft,” better known as the “vomit comet” (because of its tendency to cause passengers to throw up during the zero-G missions).

In those days NASA used a couple of KC-135 Stratotankers as the Vomit Comets, which were big ol’ beasts relative to the contract Airbus 300s and 727s they used later. We launched out of Ellington Field at headed over the Gulf of Mexico. There were about a dozen passengers in the compartment with me, mostly engineers who were testing exercise equipment for future use on the space station.

There was a crew chief who was charged with making sure nobody got hurt, and he explained during his safety brief that the main way to avoid injury was to make sure you had a hand on the padded floor during the transition from zero-G back to 1-G.  He said that passengers had sprained ankles and wrists or twisted neck muscles by getting disoriented while weightless and hitting the deck in an awkward fashion once G came back on the airplane.

The pilot announced “starting the pull,” which meant he was commencing a 1.8 G pull until the aircraft’s nose was pointed 45 degrees up. At that point he pushed the nose forward until the aircraft was right at zero G and held it there until the aircraft was pointed 45 degrees nose down, which resulted in about 30 seconds of weightlessness. At that point he’s start another 1.8 G pull back to 45 degrees nose up into another zero G pushover . . . over and over again.  Each cycle was known as a “parabola,” and a mission consisted of 40 of them – 20 headed eastbound and 20 headed back to the base, westbound.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

My host Navy Captain Bill Shepherd, a SEAL by warfare specialty who later broke the record for days on the International Space Station, had done the Vomit Comet missions many times. He’d admitted before the mission that he’d become airsick every time and predicted he’d do so on that day’s mission as well.

I was a Tomcat Radar Intercept Officer with more than 1,000 tactical jet hours under my belt at the time, so high-G flight was nothing new to me.  In fact, the parabola profile seemed pretty mild compared to the way a fighter maneuvered during a dogfight. But the engineers weren’t as experienced, and Capt. Shepherd instructed me to watch them as the flight went along.

“Everybody will do the first 10 parabolas very giddy,” he said.  “They’ll flip around and laugh and high five each other.”

The next ten parabolas would have fewer spins and less laughter, he predicted.  The 10 after that would consist of people fighting the urge to throw up. And the last 10 would be a bunch of miserable people wishing the flight would end as they floated for 30 seconds at a time after getting sick.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

And that’s pretty much what happened. At some point in the flight everybody’s joy wore off as their inner ears said “WTF?” with all the gyrating and weird sensations. Along with Capt. Shepherd the majority of those in the compartment got airsick, and about three-quarters of the way through the mission all of the engineers were so incapacitated that they were unable to test the fitness equipment.  According to former Reduced Gravity Research Program director John Yaniec, anxiety contributes most to passengers’ airsickness. The stress on their bodies creates a sense of panic and therefor causes the passenger to vomit.

The crew chief noticed that I seemed to be doing okay, so he asked if I would jump in and try out the reclined bicycle and the stepper. I did, and we were able to flag that the stepper had a tendency to stick on the down-stroke during zero G.

I’d experience zero G many times before that, but never for 30 seconds at a time. The sensation of being weightless for that long was very cool, relaxing even. Although those suffering airsickness among us certainly didn’t feel the same way, before I knew it we’d done 40 parabolas and we were back on deck at Ellington Field.

My flight on the Vomit Comet was among the most memorable experiences of my 20-year Navy career, and I’m glad I got to do it before the “reduced gravity” program was cancelled in 2014, another casualty of NASA’s dwindling budget.

Now: 17 Signs That You Might Be A Military Aviator

And: 10 Things That Will Remind You About NASA’s Amazing Legacy

MIGHTY CULTURE

23 memes to help you survive ‘Back to School’ in 2020

We brought you the best COVID-19 memes on the internet… and just when we thought we couldn’t make any more memes, or laugh at them for that matter, we realized the absurdity of trying to homeschool and work and exist and teach and cook and Zoom and do it all for the foreseeable future.

May the odds be ever in your favor, homeschooling parents. We’re sending you all our virtual vibes. And drink of choice.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

1. I dunno

Fake it ’til you make it, bud.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

2. All the options

Sometimes there are no good options.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

3. Scribble scrabble

Wear masks. But maybe not outside at recess. But maybe at recess. But not if you’re eating at your desk. But what if you’re eating at recess?

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

4. Hold your breath

You’ll probably only lose your voice though if the kids stay home.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

5. Poor Billy Madison

Nah, just put on Hamilton.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

6. Screen time 

To be fair, Netflix has some great educational programs. I mean how else would you teach business practices other than letting your kids watch Narcos?

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

7. Schedules are important

7:00: Kids console crying parents.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

8. Dwight!

No really, everything is fine!

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

9. ​90s kids 

To be fair, Zack Morris practically babysat us.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

10. Biology 

Hilarious but DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

11. Pics

At least this kid has on pants.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

12. Wishes for fishes

Pour all your money into the fountains, people.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

13. Milton

Make sure your kids have a red stapler…

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

14. Smile!

We’ll never forget 2020. As much as we’d like to.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

15. Karma

Be careful what you make fun of!

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

16. Bart

There’s that growth mindset…

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

17. Fire

Nothing to see here.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

18. Gump

Where’s Jenny when you need her?

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

19. Plans

Homeschooling parents: Really putting the “win” in wine.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

20. Lisa

It’s been a long five months. No judgement here, Marge.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

21. Tiger King

We wanted to love it. We really did.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

22. *Shrugs*

But to be fair… who does?

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

23. Teachers

Well at least your kids will learn something about science as they watch you age…

Whether you’re sending your kids back in person in full PPE or prepping for virtual learning, we’re wishing all of your kids (and all of our teachers!) a great school year… and fast internet, well-lit makeshift classrooms and lots of patience. Here’s to you, parents and educators!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia has to worry about the non-NATO members of historic war games

Trident Juncture officially started Oct. 25, 2018, with some 50,000 troops from all 29 NATO members and Sweden and Finland preparing for drills on land, sea, and in the air from the Baltic Sea to Iceland.

As a NATO Article 5 exercise, Trident Juncture “will simulate NATO’s collective response to an armed attack against one ally,” the organization’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said in October 2018. “And it will exercise our ability to reinforce our troops from Europe and across the Atlantic.”


NATO has increased deployments and readiness in Europe since Russia’s 2014 incursion in Ukraine, as countries there have grown wary of their larger neighbor.

Stoltenberg has said the exercise will be “fictitious but realistic.” But Russia has still taken exception.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit prepare for a cold-weather training hike in Iceland, Oct. 19, 2018

(US Marine Corps photo)

“NATO’s military activities near our borders have reached the highest level since the Cold War,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Oct. 24, 2018, adding that the exercise will be “simulating offensive military action.”

But Moscow may be most piqued by inclusion of two non-NATO members, Finland and Sweden, who work closely with the alliance.

Those two countries are “very important NATO partners,” US Navy Adm. James Foggo, the commander of US naval forces in Europe who is overseeing the exercise, said in October 2018 on his podcast, “On the Horizon.”

“I was just talking to the Swedes last month, and they’re pretty excited about it. They’ve confirmed their participation … and have committed their advanced military and highly professional forces,” Foggo said. “So we look forward to having them on board.”

Sweden and Finland, both members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace, have joined NATO exercises in the past and invited NATO members to their own exercises.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

US and Swedish marines check out Swedish mortars during a practice amphibious assault as part of Exercise Archipelago Endeavor on the island of Uto, Harsfjarden, Sweden, Aug. 30, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

At the end of 2017, 19,000 Swedish troops were joined by NATO members in the Baltic region as well as France and the US for Aurora 17, Sweden’s largest exercise in 23 years.

In May 2018, Finland hosted Arrow 18, an annual multinational exercise, in which US Marine Corps tanks participated for the first time.

Russian officials have also warned both of them.

Shoigu, the defense minister, said in 2018 that a deal between Stockholm, Helsinki, and Washington to ease defense cooperation would “lead to the destruction of the current security system, increase mistrust and force us to take counter-measures.”

Moscow has specifically reproved Finland, with which it shares an 830-mile border and a history of conflict. In mid-2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested he could move troops closer to the border if Finland joined the alliance.

“Do you guys need it? We don’t. We don’t want it. But it is your call,” Putin said at the time.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

US Marines review the scheme of maneuver for a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 16, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

Russia has said “if you guys join, we will take military measures … to take into account that you two are in the alliance,” said Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security.

Moscow has carried out “cyberattacks and threatening aircraft maneuvers around Sweden as well,” added Townsend, who was deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy during the Obama administration. “Both those nations have been bullied by the Russians and warned by the Russians not to do something with NATO.”

But both Sweden and Finland have mulled NATO membership with varying intensity in recent years.

Ahead of Sweden’s general election in early September 2018, the four main opposition parties all backed membership — which Stoltenberg seemed to welcome, saying in January 2018, “If Sweden were to apply to join, I think there would be broad support for that within NATO.”

Public sentiment in Sweden has shifted toward membership, but support rarely tops 45%. (A January 2018 poll put it at 43%.) There would also be political and administrative hurdles. A month and a half after the election, leaders in Stockholm are still struggling to form a government, which is already a record.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

Swedish military personnel taking part in Aurora 17, Sept. 13, 2017.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Anthony Housey)

Finns are much cooler on membership. A poll at the end of 2017 found just 22% of them supported joining, while 59% were opposed; 19% didn’t give a response. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has said membership is a possibility, and an endorsement from him may change many minds.

Sweden and Finland, both wary of their larger neighbor, have sought to boost defense spending and upgrade their forces.

They’ve made plans to increase defense cooperation with each other, and at least one NATO official has said the alliance has an obligation to come to their defense, as their non-membership increases the likelihood of aggression against them.

“Those two are probably the closest partners that NATO has in the Partnership for Peace. You see that in Trident Juncture, where they’re part of that NATO Article 5 exercise,” Townsend said.

“It used be that those nations wouldn’t take part in a major exercise if it was about Article 5, because that was just too close to NATO,” he added. “Now they’re taking part not just in the Article 5 exercise, but they’re taking part in one of NATO’s largest exercises in many years.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been called many things — crazy, mad, insane, and “rocket man” — because of his program to build nuclear bombs and missiles capable of launching the weapons to the U.S.


But experts say he is not crazy to want a nuclear arsenal. And Kim doesn’t necessarily want nukes because of a desire to use them on the U.S. or any other country, contrary to what bellicose political rhetoric might suggest.

“He is not crazy — he has consolidated control over that country in a very effective and ruthless manner,” Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear-policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told Business Insider. “He’s just willing to do really terrible things to protect himself, which I think tells us something about the credibility of their nuclear threat.”

Such a threat is the purpose of the weapons, Lewis says, but almost certainly not their goal.

“If I were Kim Jong Un, I would want nuclear weapons, too,” added Lewis, who also publishes Arms Control Wonk, a site about nuclear arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
Kim Jong Un New Years speech (Image KCNA)

Here are the most likely reasons Kim wants a nuclear arsenal.

The U.S. has a track record of breaking its word with rulers

A watershed moment for U.S.-North Korea relations occurred during the Bush administration in the mid-2000s: the six-party talks, initiated after questionable accusations that North Korea was cheating on an agreement not to pursue the production of nuclear materials led to its collapse.

“They very sincerely tried to put Humpty Dumpty back together again,” Lewis said.

But one of the problems the Bush administration ran into was the U.S.’s track record with Iraq, formerly led by Saddam Hussein.

“How do you assure the North Koreans, when they sign a deal, that they don’t end up like Saddam? Because Saddam had actually given them the WMDs, and we still went ahead and said he had them, and we still went ahead and invaded,” Lewis said, using the abbreviation for weapons of mass destruction.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
Kim Jong-un next to the newest and most powerful missile in the North Korean arsenal, Hwasong-15. (Photo from Rodong Sinmun)

The Americans “realized they had to find a way to convey to Pyongyang that if they went ahead and gave up their nuclear program, we wouldn’t invade them,” Lewis added.

So, Lewis said, the Bush administration pointed to how the U.S. had held up its end of a disarmament agreement with Libya and its ruler at the time, Muammar Gaddafi.

“I know why they did it at the time — it was the right decision,” Lewis said. “But we had a disarmament deal with that guy. We told the North Koreans to go look at how well things had worked out with Libya, and then we turned around and toppled the Libyan government.”

These foreign policy decisions happened during the rule of Kim Jong Il, the father of Kim Jong Un. But his son has not forgotten them.

“Kim Jong Un, I think, is fearful of ending up like Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi,” Lewis said. “He is terrified that we will do to him what we did to them and has decided that nuclear weapons are the best way to ward that off.”

Also Read: This is how SEAL Team 6 could stop North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un

It’s unlikely North Korea has nuclear and thermonuclear weapons as reliable as those in the U.S.’s arsenal, if North Korea has deliverable weapons at all. But Lewis says this doesn’t really matter in the big picture.

“Every military system has developmental problems and issues, and maybe not work as well as it should,” Lewis said. “But they have all of the skills and expertise in place, and they’ve demonstrated the vast majority of things.”

He added: “If tomorrow they were going to put a nuclear weapon on a missile and fire it at my house, and you asked me, ‘How do you like your odds?’ I would say, ‘I don’t like my odds at all.’ … This is now a serious-enough capability that we have to start assuming, on a bad day, a lot of their stuff is going to go well.”

But nuclear weapons as a stick against the U.S. is not the only reason North Korea wants them.

A risky play for better diplomacy?

Some reports suggest Kim wants to use nuclear weapons to strong-arm South Korea into reunifying with North Korea. Lewis doubts this is true, though he says Kim is “insatiable” for power.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
Kim Jong Un in a nuclear facility in North Korea. (KCNA)

“I am sure if given the choice between controlling North Korea or North Korea and South Korea, he would clearly prefer to control everything,” Lewis said. “I don’t think, though, that this explains their nuclear behavior.”

That may be because Kim’s ability to take over South Korea — at least not as a smoldering crater — is virtually nil. Lewis also says North Korea isn’t building the kinds of nukes “that would be consistent with that goal.”

What is possible, if not likely — and perhaps surprising to many Americans — is that North Korea sees obtaining nuclear weapons as a way to improve its relations with other countries, including the U.S.

Lewis, who has studied the history of China’s nuclear-weapons program, says it has many similarities to North Korea’s path toward nuclearization.

China set off its first nuclear device in 1964 during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, and two years later it launched a live nuclear warhead atop a missile to prove the capabilities of its program. The U.S.’s view of these events during the Cold War was grim. But over time, something shocking transpired.

“If you had gone into Lyndon Johnson’s office in October 1964 and said, ‘The Chinese are about to test a nuclear weapon,’ he would have said, ‘That’s terrible,'” Lewis said.

Also Read: This top-ranking Pentagon general wants to stick with the Iran nuke deal

“But if you would have then said, ‘No, no, no, it’s great — this is really going to improve Chinese security, and as a consequence of that, China is going to reorient its foreign policy, and they’re going to become anti-Soviet and pro-American, and we’re going to have a diplomatic relationship with them,’ Johnson would have asked you: ‘Really? What president is going to go to China and meet with Mao Zedong?’ And you would have said, ‘Richard Nixon.’ Then he would have thrown you out of its office and said you were an idiot.”

But that is exactly what happened: When China’s proven nuclear capabilities deterred U.S. military action and opened the door for increased local aggression or international diplomacy, China chose the latter.

“The reason it happened is because the people who wanted nuclear weapons in China also wanted a better relationship with the United States,” Lewis said.

His point is that North Korea’s motivations, notwithstanding its accusations of horrifying human-rights abuses, may not be so nefarious as rhetoric and propaganda suggest when it comes to nukes. In fact, it could be that North Korean nuclear scientists see themselves more as doves than hawks.

But the country’s direction is ultimately up to its leader.

“It is possible that the North Koreans will take the security they are given by these weapons and spend it on being awful — sinking more South Korean ships, shelling more South Korean islands, initiating more crises,” Lewis said. “It will depend on how the North Koreans choose to act now that they have this capability. They could be easier to get along with; they could be worse.”

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
North Korea’s Hwasong-14 missile. (Photo from KCNA)

Instead of always assuming the worst, we should practice being “more neutral” about how having nuclear weapons might change North Korea, Lewis said.

“I don’t want to be optimistic, because it could really, truly go either way — North Korea could become more aggressive; North Korea could become less aggressive,” Lewis said. “But we should wait and see.”

He added: “You don’t want to prejudge something like that and foreclose what could be a chance at peace.”

But this likely isn’t the U.S.’s current thinking. President Donald Trump has expressed hopes to expand nuclear-weapons capabilities, and American military forces appear to be quietly training to face a conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

Articles

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life

Sailing saved Ronnie Simpson’s life. He was an 18 year old high school senior in Atlanta, Georgia when the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began in March 2003. Drawn to service by the events of September 11, Ronnie joined the Marine Corps Infantry the day after the war started.


Less than a year later in March 2004, he deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines.

“I was a .50 cal gunner on top of a Humvee,” he recalls. “Four months into my deployment, we were ambushed during a night-time convoy, and an RPG hit the ground near my Humvee. The rocket bounced up and exploded in the air one meter from me. I had broken ribs, detached retinas, a bleeding brain which created sub-retinal fluid, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a blown-out left lung and my tongue was blown into my airway. I was temporarily knocked unconscious. Because I wasn’t breathing and was unresponsive, Marines in my truck thought I was dead. It was actually a textbook blast injury. The Corpsman in my Humvee, Doc David Segundo, was injured too but he got up, cleared my airway, and saved my life.”

Simpson, now 30 years old, spent a lot of time recovering both physically and mentally. Most of his TBI symptoms weren’t permanent (he credits the helmet technology for that). Despite having burns over 10 percent of his body, many of those scars aren’t visible.

“It fucked me up pretty good,” he says. “Unless you knew me though, you’d never know I’m hurt. I have no visible scars unless I take my shirt off. Then I have many.”

Simpson is legally blind and can’t obtain a driver’s license. Though his body healed, his mental state took much longer. He reevaluated his life and experiences through a 9,000-mile bike trek across Europe and Asia in 2009 and more than 50,000 miles at sea, both healing counterpoints to his experiences in Iraq.

“My time in theater and my travels have shaped my perspective,” Simpson says. “There’s a lot of good and beauty in this world, and I want to add to that. Our program is about helping the men and women that are coming back – the veterans – the people we should be looking out for. We in the veteran community have these experiences and while we may interpret them differently, this shared experience can bring us together. We can come together to create profound and impactful programs to help the veterans from these two wars as well as something permanent and sustainable for veterans of future conflicts.”

Sailing is the catalyst for Simpson’s initiative. Not only his love for sailing but how he changed his life and how he aims to change the lives of others.

“I joined the Marines at 18, was injured in combat at 19, my dad died four months after I got hurt, and by 20 I was medically retired,” Simpson says. “By 22 I was a lost soul. I had reached my deepest, darkest point. I’m fearful of what would have happened if I hadn’t flipped the script. I broke off an engagement, sold my house, and moved from Texas to California. That move was my re-birth as a new person.”

On the California coast, he found his calling. After living so recklessly, he became completely focused on becoming a racing sailor and making the most of his life. Seven years later, Simpson now travels the world as a professional sailor and sailing writer.

“It helped me heal,” Simpson says. “These adventures help you positively adrenalize yourself in a sustainable manner. Guys who come back from places like Fallujah have experienced adrenaline like most will never know, and again need to achieve that heightened state of existence. But where will they find it? Drugs, alcohol, or doping the pain away with pills? I can put you on the helm of a racing sailboat in the middle of the night and it will rock your world. This is a healthy way to get that fix.”

It’s not just about giving people the fix of adrenaline they were accustomed to while in combat. For Simpson and his sailing nonprofit – Coastal and Offshore Recalibration Experience, or CORE (www.medicinalmissions.com/CORE), that community of veterans is the most important result.

“Because that’s what it is: a Community,” he says. “On a sailboat you can put anyone into a job they can do, regardless of their injury. It’s a sport that doesn’t care if you have arms or legs. That’s a big part of it. Everyone has an assigned, defined role. There’s a chain of command, a defined mission, teamwork is critical and constant risk management is all part of the game. The parallels between racing sailboats and combat are incredible. When you combine that with the peacefulness and serenity of heading to sea with your brothers and sisters, it’s a powerful experience.”

Simpson and his best friend Army veteran Walter Kotecki, created a sailing program within an existing wounded-veteran nonprofit, raised $50,000 through yacht clubs and private donors, and gave a sailing experience to 30 veterans over the course of four clinics in 2012 and 2013.

“There’s always a steep learning curve when you start your own thing. We flew vets to San Francisco,” he says. “They had the whole range of injuries from PTSD to multiple amputees to blindness. We used sailing, surfing, yoga, nature walks, kayaking, art and more to help these guys look past their injuries and realize that anything is possible, no matter their injury, while re-establishing that sense of camaraderie and community that so many have lost since leaving the service.”

It was so successful and the veterans so responsive Simpson and Kotecki decided to strike out on their own earlier this year, forming CORE.

“I had a Vietnam vet hook me up with a racing sailboat and an opportunity,” says Simpson. “He passed that torch to me and told me to pay it forward. Here’s my chance to hook somebody else up. Let’s re-build that community and keep that torch going.”

CORE is seeking veterans of the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to participate in more sailing clinics throughout California, with the first being in San Francisco in October of this year. They will be accepting applications until August 31. For 2016, CORE is planning six to eight clinics up and down the California coast.

The most ambitious plan for CORE is participating in the 2017 Transpacific Yacht Race – where they will train a full crew of combat-wounded veterans to sail from Los Angeles to Honolulu, the first time ever that such a crew would be assembled.

“Our goal is to help reduce the rate of veteran suicide in this country. Sailing is one of the tools that we use,” he says.

Simpson is now featured in a series of short films produced by Craftsman, We Are The Mighty, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), showing how IAVA empowers veterans as they transition back to civilian life.

“It’s admirable for companies like Craftsman to reach out to veterans groups to benefit the guys and girls that are coming back,” Simpson says. “I see a positive shift in awareness about issues that affect veterans, how we can improve the care of veterans, and how we can achieve a more holistic healing approach instead of pumping them full of drugs.”

Craftsman is donating $250,000 to IAVA and from May 25 – July 4, for every new follower of @Craftsman on Instagram, Craftsman will donate an additional $1 to IAVA (with a minimum donation of $5,000).

“I am honored to be part of this and stoked that a big corporation is out to make a difference of stemming the tide of 22 veterans a day,” Simpson says. “I’m excited that they believe in what we’re doing, and to work on this next mission of saving lives by reaching out to the veteran community.”

Now: Artist takes his craft to war and back again

Articles

GoRuck: Inside the seriously grueling challenge run by Special Forces soldiers

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton/Released)


After he parked and got out of his car, he didn’t introduce himself or offer any welcome. The unnamed instructor just said, “okay everybody get over here and sign your death waivers.”

This was my first introduction to a GoRuck Challenge, a team endurance event run by former U.S. military special operators. It was the 83rd challenge to take place in Dec. 2011 — running around Tampa, Fla. with 24 people. Since then, it’s grown to more than 2,500 events that now comprise various skill levels.

GoRuck Challenges usually attract a certain demographic of people: Former military personnel, law enforcement, and fitness enthusiasts. Especially with the ominous intro from our instructor, a former Green Beret, anyone taking part in a GoRuck event knows it will be rough, to say the least.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
Members of the 97th Air Mobility Wing carry a telephone pole across the base in a GORUCK Light challenge, Oct. 18, 2014. The team carried the pole from the south end of the flight line to the track. The Airmen completed the challenges as a team while carrying weighted rucksacks or backpacks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class J. Zuriel Lee/Released)

“We want to promote the sport of rucking,” Kit Klein, partnership manager for GoRuck based in Jacksonville, Fla., told The Tampa Bay Times. “We’re trying to put it on the map.”

The “sport of rucking” that GoRuck promotes now consists of “GoRuck Light,” a four to five hour challenge that covers seven to 10 miles, “GoRuck Tough,” a 10 to 12-hour challenge covering 15 to 20 miles, and “GoRuck Heavy,” a much more demanding 24-hour-plus challenge that can cover more than 40 miles.

But those times and distances can vary, as one of the company’s mottos is to “under-promise, over-deliver.” (For the GoRuck Tough challenge I was on in Tampa, we did roughly 23 miles over 15 hours).

“Your class is led from start to finish by a Special Operations Cadre whose job is to build a team by pushing you to overcome, together,” reads the description of the challenges on the GoRuck website. “You stay with your class the entire time aka a true team event, never in any way confused with a road race or a mud run. And no, your Cadre is not a drill sergeant and no, this is not bootcamp. That stuff belongs to the military, this is simply an event about your team.”

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
Benjamin Evers, Air Force Personnel Center Outdoor Recreation operations specialist, hold the United States flag July 12, 2014, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Evers held the flag for participants while they performed challenges and obstacles during the GORUCK Light/Team Cohesion Challenge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton/Released)

Founding GoRuck

All of the challenges require participants to carry around weights or bricks in a backpack, which is why these events exist in the first place.

In 2008, GoRuck was a new company making rugged backpacks designed to withstand the rigors of military combat. Founded by former Special Forces soldier Jason McCarthy, he sent his bags to friends in the field to test out and he quickly realized selling backpacks may not be his only business.

From Men’s Journal:

McCarthy spent two years developing the bags that make up most of GoRuck’s product line (four styles, starting at $195). Early on, he battle-tested his prototypes, literally – sending them to Green Beret buddies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Then he grew concerned about sending unproven gear to men in danger, so he established another proving ground: the GoRuck Challenge. In these team-oriented endurance runs, which are led by combat veterans and incorporate Special Forces training, participants carry a GoRuck sack loaded with rocks or bricks.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
Part of the class from GoRuck Tough Challenge 083 in the water in Tampa, Fla on Dec. 10, 2011. (Photo: Paul Szoldra/WATM)

“The original intent was very nearsighted,” McCarthy told The Cincinnatti Enquirer of starting his first challenges. “I had a bunch of inventory and wanted people to know about our bags.”

People did learn of GoRuck, and more: “People kept describing this as a life-changing event,” McCarthy told the Enquirer. “I got more and more and more requests to host events.”

An Iraq war veteran, McCarthy began the events in 2010 while attending business school at Georgetown University, according to The Washington Post. Beyond marketing his bags, he told The Post, his goal is “to build better Americans” with his challenges. He does this by promoting leadership, teamwork, and honoring the sacrifices of military service members.

“It’s spiritual, emotional experience they take away,” Derek Zahler, a GoRuck cadre and former Special Forces soldier, told News4Jax. “They get to learn a lot more about themselves. Especially their goals and what they perceive their ability to achieve those goals are.”

The company has moved beyond backpacks and challenging events, however. It now sells apparel, fitness items, and even firearms gear, which it developed in 2014. In that year, the company had $10.8 million in revenue — nearly 30 percent more than the previous year’s figures.

Check out more on GoRuck at its website here.

OR READ: The definitive guide to US Special Ops

Humor

11 memes that will remind you how boot you were

Newbies who first enter the military typically have a pretty tough time. They are continuously reminded that they suck by their superiors and are treated like children 99% of the time.

Now, fast forward in your military career a few years and, hopefully, you’re an NCO by now. You look upon the boots who’ve just joined and probably say to yourself, “I hope I was never that bad…”


The truth is, you probably were — if not way worse. Need a refresher? Scroll down the page and get transported back to your boot days.

Note: This article will make you feel f*cking old. Enjoy!

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

(NavyMemes.com)

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ships are getting hellfire missiles

The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship will be armed and operational with deck-launched HELLFIRE missiles by 2020, a key step in a sweeping strategic move to expand the attack envelope across the entire fleet of surface ships, senior service officials said.


Current HELLFIRE LCS testing and development, described as an integral part of the ship’s Surface-to-Surface Missile Module, has resulted in 20 successful hits out of 24 total attempted missile shots, Capt. Ted Zobel, Program Manager, PEO LCS, said recently at the Surface Navy Association symposium.

Testing and integration, which embarked upon LCS 5 in August of 2017, is slated to continue this year as a lead into to formal production; The complete procurement of SSMMs will complete in 2023, Zobel said.

Integrating the HELLFIRE onto the LCS is a significant strategic and tactical step for the Navy as it accelerates its combat posture transition toward the prospect of near-peer warfare.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
The littoral combat ship the future USS Omaha (LCS 12) passes underneath the Coronado Bridge as the ship transits the San Diego Harbor to the ship’s new homeport, Naval Base San Diego. Littoral Combat Ship the future USS Omaha (LCS 12) arrives at its new homeport, Naval Base San Diego. Omaha will be commissioned in San Diego next month and is the sixth ship in the LCS Independence-variant class. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Miranda Williams/Released)

This kind of confrontation, naturally could span a wide envelope of mission requirements for the LCS, calling upon littoral, coastal patrol, surveillance and countermine mission technologies as well as anti-submarine operations and a fortified ability to wage “blue” or open water maritime warfare with longer-range strike weapons.

While not quite the scope of the now-in-development over-the-horizon missile currently being fast-tracked for the emerging Frigate and, quite possibly, the LCS – a HELLFIRE offers a much wider offensive attack range to include enemy aircraft, helicopters, drones, small boats and even some surface ships.

Furthermore, the HELLFIRE, drawing upon Army-Navy collaboration, is engineered with different variants to widen potential attack methods. These range from blast-frag warheads to high-explosive rounds or even missiles with an augmented metal sleeve for extra fragmentation.

While the LCS does not have Vertical Launch Systems, Navy officials tell Warrior Maven that the HELLFIRE fires from canisters beneath the surface of the ship.

Often fired from helicopters, drones and even ground-based Army Multi-Mission Launchers, the Longbow HELLFIRE can use Fire-and-Forget millimeter wave radar with inertial guidance; millimeter wave seeker technology enables adverse weather targeting. Many HELLFIREs also use semi-active laser homing targeting.

It is accurate to call it a short-to-medium-range weapon which can reach relevant combat distances beyond the most close-in threats – while stopping short of being an over-the-horizon weapon.

Its targeting options open up various airborne interoperability options, meaning an MH-60R ship-based helicopter – or even a drone – could function as a laser designator for the weapon should it seek to target enemy ships on-the-move.

Also Read: McCain takes aim at Littoral Combat Ship, wants new fleet

The Navy has made particular efforts, in fact, to integrate HELLFIRE technology, sensors and fire control with other assets woven into the LCS. Not only could an MH-60R offer a laser spot for the ship launched weapon, but the helicopter can of course fire the HELLFIRE itself.

A ship launched variant, however, would need to further integrate with ship-based layered defense technologies to optimize its attack options against enemy aircraft and ships, particularly in a maritime combat environment potentially more difficult for helicopters to operate in.

LCS-launched HELLFIREs are engineered to operate as part of a broader ship-wide technical system connecting things like variable-depth sonar, deck guns, vertical take-off drones such as the Fire Scout and small boat mission capabilities such

as 11-meter Rigid Inflatable Boats, or RIBs.

As part of this, the LCS is equipped with a 57mm gun, .50-cal Machine Guns and a defensive interceptor missile called SeaRAM.

Arming the LCS to a much greater extent is also likely to bear upon the longstanding discussion regarding the ship’s survivability. While many advocates for the LCS champion its 40-knot speed and technical attributes such as its integrated mission packages, adding more substantial weapons clearly impacts the debate by massively increasing the ship’s survivability and combat capability.

The anti-submarine mission package includes an MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter, light weight towed torpedo decoy system, Multi-Function Towed Array and several kinds of submarine-hunting sonar. The LCS utilizes waterjet propulsion and a combined diesel and gas turbine engine.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 approaches the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard during flight operations. Bonhomme Richard, commanded by Capt. Daniel Dusek, is the lead ship of the only forward-deployed amphibious ready group and is currently operating in the 7th Fleet Area of Operations.

Some of the features and technologies now being developed for the Navy’s new Frigate could be back-fitted onto the existing LCS fleet as well; these include an over-the-horizon offensive missile as well as a survivability-enhancing technique called “space armor,” which better allows the ship to function if it is hit by enemy firepower.

A strengthened LCS, as well as the new Frigate of course, offer a key component of the Navy’s widely discussed “distributed lethality” strategy, which aims to better arm the fleet with offensive firepower and position the force to be able to defeat technologically-advanced near-peer adversaries.

This includes an emphasis upon open or “blue” water combat and a shift from some of the key mission areas engaged in during

the last decade of ground wars such as Visit Board Search and Seizure, counter-piracy and counter-terrorism.

Many LCS are already in service, and the platform is cherished by the Navy for its 40-knot speed, maneuverability and technological versatility.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Dunford talks about how to keep US ahead of China, Russia

Near-peer competition and the United States retaining its military competitive edge were among the issues the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed in an interview with Washington Post associate editor David Ignatius.

The interview — broadcast as part of the Post’s “Transformers” series — looked at the ways warfare and security are changing.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford addressed the challenges coming from Russia and China first off, using the Russian seizure of Ukrainian boats off Crimea as an example. “What took place in the Sea of Azov is consistent with a pattern of behavior that really goes back to Georgia, then Crimea and then Donbass in Ukraine,” he said.


Russia is stopping short of open conflict, the general said. Instead, he explained, Russian leaders push right to the edge. “What the Russians are really doing is testing the international community’s resolve in enforcing the rules that exist,” Dunford said.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

Army Sgt. Samuel Benton observes and mentors soldiers during the Bull Run V training exercise with Battle Group Poland in Olecko, Poland, May 22, 2018.

(Army photo by Spc. Hubert D. Delany III)

In this case, he said, clear violations of sovereignty and signed agreements have taken place. The international community “has got to respond diplomatically, economically or in the security space,” he added, or Russia “will continue what it’s been doing.”

No discussion of military response

The chairman stressed there has been no discussion about a military response to the Sea of Azov incident. The United States has assisted Ukraine in defending its sovereignty, he said, and will continue to do so.

Russia is in material breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed in 1987, and the United States will withdraw from the treaty if Russia does not get into compliance with it, Dunford said, noting that the arms-control treaties negotiated starting in the 1980s have provided strategic stability.

“In a perfect world,” he said, “what I would say would be best is if Russia would comply with the INF, it would set the conditions for broader conversations about other arms-control agreements, to include the extension of [the Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty].”

Ignatius asked Dunford about China, and more specifically, how China is challenging U.S. military dominance. America’s greatest military advantages are its network of allies and the ability to project military power worldwide, the chairman said. Both China and Russia understand that, he added, and Russia is seeking to undermine NATO while China is seeking to undermine America’s network of allies in the Indo-Pacific region.

On the military side, China is working on capabilities that would stop American power projection capabilities in the Pacific in all domains: sea, land, air, space, and cyberspace. “China has developed capabilities in all those domains to challenge us,” Dunford said. “The outcome of challenging us in those domains is challenging our ability to project power in support of our interests and alliances in the region.”

China’s clear aspirations

Reading China is tough, he acknowledged. The nation has been “opaque” with what it spends on defense, the chairman said, but Chinese leaders have not been opaque with their aspirations. “[Chinese] President Xi [Jinping] was very clear last year … where he wants China to be a global power with global power-projection capability,” Dunford said. “Among the capabilities they are developing is aircraft carriers, which would certainly indicate a desire to project power beyond their territorial waters.”

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China’s technological advances concern U.S. officials. China has sunk enormous sums into artificial intelligence research, and Dunford said the nation that has an advantage in AI will have an overall competitive advantage. Speed of decision is key in today’s warfare, he said, and a usable man-machine interface would give the country that perfects it an advantage.

The U.S. competitive advantage has reduced over the past decade, the chairman said. “I am confident in saying we can defend the homeland and our way of life, we can meet our alliance commitments today, and we have an aggregate competitive advantage over any potential adversary,” he said. “I am equally confident in saying that if we don’t change the trajectory we are on, … whoever is sitting in my seat five or seven years from now will not be as confident as I am.”

The U.S. military depends of private firms to provide the military advantage. Today, that means getting the best in the world to get behind artificial intelligence research. Yet, employees at Google — arguably the best in the world — protested and backed away from engaging with the Defense Department. Ignatius asked Dunford what he would say to those employees.

“If they were all sitting her right now, I would say, ‘Hey, we’re the good guys,'” he said. “It is inexplicable to me that we would make compromises to make advances in China where we know that freedom is restrained, where we know China will take intellectual property from companies and strip it away.”

The United States has led the free world since the end of World War II, and even with some failings, the values of the United States infuse the free and open world order today, the general said, and if the United States were to withdraw, someone would fill that gap. “I am not sure that the people at Google would enjoy a world order that is informed by the norms and standards of Russia or China,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Intel

These are the veteran stars of the GI Film Festival

The GI Film Festival is an annual event that introduces new and established filmmakers that honor the stories of the American Armed Forces.


“From the very beginning, it has been about fostering a positive image for men and women in uniform,” said Brandon Millet, co-founder and director of the GI Film Festival. “We’ve expanded that image to also connecting service members to society given that only one percent serve. We want people to come to the event and be highly entertained and walk away with a greater sense of appreciation for what are men and women in uniform do for us on a daily basis and if we accomplish those two missions we’re happy.”

The GI Film Festival is open to filmmakers of every level, from first-timers to veteran directors and producers. Here’s a short video featuring some of the directors, actors, and producers at the GI Film Festival this year:

NOW: The 18 funniest moments from ‘Generation Kill’

OR: Brad Pitt is starring as Gen. Stanley McChrystal in ‘War Machine’

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

A black Medal of Honor recipient is rediscovered after 130 years

Dec. 26, 1872, the day after Christmas — the weather in Norfolk was bitter cold, with sleet and a gale-force wind. Aboard USS Powhatan, a sidewheel steamer commissioned in 1852, it was particularly unpleasant, with a wet, slippery deck and a dangerous pitch.


Then came a cry of, “man overboard!” Boatswain Jack Walton had fallen from the fo’c’sle into the choppy, freezing water below. He had minutes — maybe seconds — before he either drowned or succumbed to hypothermia.

Seaman Joseph Noil didn’t hesitate, didn’t stop to think of the danger or the risk to his own life. He came running from below deck, “took the end of a rope, went overboard, under the bow, and caught Mr. Walton — and held him until he was hauled into the boat sent to his rescue,” his commanding officer, Capt. Peirce Crosby, wrote. “Mr. Walton, when brought on board, was almost insensible, and would have perished but for the noble conduct of Noil.”

Noil received the Medal of Honor the following month.

Then, he slowly faded from history.

Coming to America

Noil was black and was probably from Liverpool, Nova Scotia, although various records also mention Halifax, the West Indies, New York, and Pennsylvania, said Bart Armstrong, a Canadian researcher dedicated to finding some 113 Medal of Honor recipients connected to that country.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
The distinguished Medal of Honor — Navy version. (Image from U.S. Navy)

“During the early days, it was not uncommon for a Soldier or Sailor to fake their residence or place of birth, date of birth or marital status.”

No one knows just what brought Noil to the U.S. or what inspired him to enlist in the Union Navy, Oct. 7, 1864. According to Armstrong, many Canadian black men who traveled south to fight in the Civil War did so to help free the slaves.

Canada was the terminus for the Underground Railroad, and many citizens, particularly in the black community, would have seen or heard of the pitiful, dehumanizing conditions escaped slaves endured.

Noil was from a coastal area, and the Navy may have been a natural fit. Enlistment papers indicate his occupation was carpenter. Dr. Regina Akers, a historian who specializes in diversity at the Navy’s History and Heritage Command, noted that he also served as a caulker and would have helped keep his ship watertight – “a very important job.”

Black sailors

Many free black Sailors had some type of ship or shipyard experience, whether it was as a crewmember on a merchant or whaling ship, as a fisherman or as a dockyard worker, Joseph P. Reidy, a history professor at Howard University in D.C. and the director of the African-American Sailors Project, wrote in “Prologue,” a publication of the National Archives.

According to Akers and Reidy, African-American Sailors had always been, if not precisely welcome in the Navy, at least not institutionally discriminated against. They had served honorably in the Revolution and in the War of 1812, and some 18,000 black Civil War Navy veterans have been identified by name.

Also read: This was the first African American to receive the Medal of Honor

Unlike the Army, the Navy in the 19th century did not segregate black servicemen. They pulled the same watches, slept in the same bunks — hammocks in those days — and ate in the same galleys as their white counterparts.

Although their ranks were limited to enlisted, there were few, if any, rating restrictions for skilled, experienced men of any color, said Akers. They served in almost every billet, from fireman to gunner, although Reidy wrote that service ratings, such as cook or steward, were the most common.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
United States Navy poster featuring Medal of Honor recipient, Joseph Noil. (Naval Historical Center Online Library)

“If they could qualify or were able to learn that skill set and fill that rating, just like today, many commanding officers would allow them to do so,” Akers said, noting that the background of the ship’s commander and crew could affect the treatment African-American Sailors received.

Noil eventually became captain of the hold, a petty officer in charge of the men assigned to a storage area. He would probably have been responsible for ensuring barrels and containers were properly stowed and locating the appropriate barrels when needed, according to the Navy History and Heritage Command. However, he wouldn’t have had any authority over white Sailors.

Related: This was the only living African-American from WW2 to earn MoH

Conditions were worse for escaped slaves, Reidy pointed out. By classifying escaped or captured slaves as contraband, the Union could legally consider them spoils of war and put them to work. Contrabands served in the Navy. They fought in the Army. They built fortifications. They cooked. They did laundry. Both men and women served in various capacities. In fact, nearly three men born into slavery served for every black man born free.

Contrabands’ naval ratings and pay tended to be the lowest and least skilled, with most classified as boy or landsman, Reidy explained. They scrubbed, painted, and polished ships. They also served in large numbers on supply and ordnance ships, where they provided manual labor. By the late 1800s, the ratings available to all African-American Sailors became extremely restricted.

Noil’s service

Noil, who had given his age as 25 when he enlisted in 1864 and his height at 5 feet, 6 inches, transferred to USS Nyack, a wooden-hulled screw gunboat, in January 1865. Nyack was then part of the blockade off of Wilmington, North Carolina, and Noil was likely present for her involvement in the capture of nearby Fort Anderson the following month.

His next posting is listed as the steam sloop USS Dacotah in March 1866, although Navy records indicate the ship put out to sea that January on a tour that took her to Funchal, Maderia, Portugal; Rio de Janerio, Brazil; Montevideo, Uruguay, the Strait of Magellan, and Valparaiso, Chili.

Noil was discharged, March 18, 1867. Perhaps he found it difficult to make a living or perhaps he simply missed the sea, for he re-enlisted, Dec. 18, 1871, giving his age as 30. Presumably, he went straight to Norfolk and USS Powhatan, then part of the North Atlantic Squadron and one of the Navy’s last, and largest, paddle frigates.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
USS Powhatan

The ship’s conduct book noted Noil was “always 1st class and on time.” Upon receiving the Medal of Honor, Noil followed in the footsteps of eight African-American Sailors who received the medal during the Civil War. Akers noted that no African-American Sailor has received the Medal of Honor since the Spanish-American War.

Shipmates

For Noil and the others, their actions showed that valor transcended color, that black, brown, white, it didn’t matter — shipmates came first.

Shipmate comes without definition. It’s not because you’re white, because you’re black, because we come from the same state, because you’re in the same rating — It doesn’t stop when the orders stop. Your shipmates are your shipmates. I mean, that’s your family.” – Dr. Regina Akers

Related: These were America’s first African-American paratroopers

Noil’s story, Akers continued, also “reminds us of – the importance of Sailors’ readiness, their physical and mental fitness, the training. Drill, drill, drill. Drill them down to the point where they can think almost unconsciously about what to do. So, man overboard. – There’s just certain procedures that pop into place. Now, the environment makes it that much worse. But it doesn’t change the routine or the requirements or the plan for what to do if someone falls overboard.”

Over the next few years, Noil was discharged and re-enlisted twice. His next ship was USS Wyoming, a wooden-hulled, 198-foot screw sloop of war. The Wyoming arrived in Villefranche, France, near Nice, Christmas Eve 1878, and spent the next two years in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

Hospitalized

She returned to Hampton Roads, Virginia, May 21, 1881. It was her final cruise. It was Noil’s as well. It must have been a difficult one, for that month, he was admitted to the naval hospital in Norfolk and quickly transferred to the Government Hospital for the Insane in Washington, D.C.

“For many months,” his admission paperwork reads, “it has been noticed that the patient’s mind was failing, that he was losing his locomotive powers. … Early in April last, he had an epileptic attack, and another on the 13th of May. For two days after latter attack he was speechless, though able to walk and eat. As he has been in the U.S. Naval service for the last seventeen years, it is natural to infer the disease originated in the line of duty.”

No one knows exactly what condition Noil suffered from, whether it was what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder, some form of depression, or something else, said Jogues Prandoni, Ph.D., a volunteer historian and former director of forensic services at the hospital, now called St. Elizabeth’s.

“There could be so many reasons. Back in that era, so little was known about mental illness that sometimes certain disorders that were clearly neurological and brain-based were attributed to other causes.” – Jogues Prandoni, Ph.D.

More reading: First African-American Marines finally get their own monument

There also wasn’t much 19th-century medicine could do for Noil, Prandoni continued, noting that although the hospital was the premier treatment facility for servicemen and veterans – as well as local civilians – only six medical doctors were on staff to treat roughly a thousand patients.

“What you had, basically, was moral therapy,” he explained. “The concept was that if you could remove people from the stresses of day-to-day living, put them in a homelike atmosphere with beautiful surroundings and caring individuals that would assist them in recovering.”

Noil’s wife, Sarah Jane, was terribly worried about her husband. With two daughters to support, she couldn’t afford to visit him, but she wrote to his doctor regularly: “I was sorry to hear that my husband was so sick and out of his mind. – Doctor do you think that I had better come on and see him? I am very poor with two children to look after,” she wrote in July 1881, later telling the doctor that her “poor little children are always talking about their papa and it makes me feel bad to hear them.”

“Doctor I am glad to think he has had good care. … Doctor if my husband should die I tell you I have not got the means to bury him,” she added that November.

Lost then found again

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
Chief of Navy Reserve Vice Adm. Robin Braun observes the wreath presentation by Sailors assigned to the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard at the headstone ceremony April 29, 2016 for Medal of Honor recipient Joseph B. Noil at St. Elizabeths Hospital Cemetery. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood)

Her husband did pass away, March 21, 1882. “He was a relatively young man,” said Prandoni. “He died within nine months. That really raises questions about what kind of disease process was going on. It certainly sounds like more than just a psychiatric disorder.”

“The loss of my poor husband has been quite a shock to me. – My friends assure me that time will reconcile me to my great bereavement,” Sarah Jane wrote after learning of his death. “Yet time and the great consolation that I have in meeting in a better world where parting will be no more, will I trust enable me to bear my sorrow.”

Unfortunately, Noil’s name was misspelled on his death certificate and subsequently his headstone. For more than a century, he lay lost in Saint Elizabeth’s graveyard under the name Joseph Benjamin Noel until a group of historians and researchers connected with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and the Medal of Honor Historical Society, including Armstrong, finally tracked him down.

Noil finally received a new headstone spring 2017, one with not only the correct spelling of his name but also recognizing him as a Medal of Honor recipient.

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable
American and Canadian flags are placed at the newly erected headstone of Medal of Honor recipient Joseph B. Noil. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood)

Your shipmate is not simply someone who happens to serve with you. He or she is someone who you know that you can trust and count on to stand by you in good times and bad and who will forever have your back. – We are [Noil’s] shipmates and 134 years after he passed, we have his back.” – Vice Adm. Robin Braun, Chief of Navy Reserve
MIGHTY TRENDING

Los Angeles blazes a trail for transitioning service members thanks to veteran leadership

When military members and their families begin contemplating retirement locations after active service, LA doesn’t typically come up as a possibility. But the veteran led leadership of the city is aiming to change that. 

Retired Navy Captain Larry Vasquez was originally from New York before becoming a pilot for the Navy. After spending half of his 30 years in service stationed in California, there was nowhere else he wanted to be. 

Inspired by the movie Top Gun, Vasquez knew he wanted to be a pilot in the Navy from an early age. He received his commission in 1988 and retired in 2018. “I was the first in my family to graduate from college and next thing you know, I am in Navy flight school. It was hard and a tough couple of years but I was able to qualify to be helicopter pilot,” Vasquez said. He also shared his vivid memories of responding after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011 and the impact it had on his life and service going forward. 

Vasquez currently serves as the Director of Military and Veteran Affairs within the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office. What sets this office apart is that Mayor Eric Garcetti was an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserve. His deputy Mayor is still serving in the Navy Reserves. “This opportunity presented itself but I don’t know if I would be here if my mayor was not a veteran,” Vasquez explained. He was brought onto the team in 2018. “It demonstrates to me that he is committed to veterans…for me this is really about understanding the veteran space and I didn’t know before I got here that we have the largest concentration of veterans in the country.”

In 2013 the mayor created the Office of Veteran Affairs, the first for the city since World War II. The goal of the office is to work collaboratively with other government agencies and organizations in order to strongly advocate for veterans and their needs. “I don’t think I have it all right and I don’t think anyone ever will,” Vasquez shared. But with leadership commitment and an established council of military veterans advising the mayor and his administration, they are on their way to bridging the divide and creating meaningful solutions for veteran related issues. 

Since the Mayor has taken office, his administration has been able to house 11,000 homeless veterans. This is done through a range of partnerships and programs aimed to support the veterans in wrap-around care they desperately need for success. By working directly with the VA they were able to coordinate a 14,000 bed housing facility for veterans. 

The city and its administration is also committed to tackling issues like employment, where they are working with the Call of Duty Foundation to build on the mayor’s promise to connect 10,000 veterans with employment. They met that goal in 2017 and will aim for 22,000 by the end of the mayor’s term in 2022. With the Super Bowl and Olympics coming to LA, the administration is admanent that veterans benefit from it. “We want to make sure that veterans have a voice, especially veteran-owned small businesses,” Vasquez explained. 

For those who are skeptical about California having high ratings from being veteran friendly, they’d be surprised. Irvine was number two in WalletHub’s list of big cities, which is a neighboring city to Los Angeles. High ratings in health care, employment and quality of life were among the reasons for the rating. 

When asked what the biggest lesson learned from the military was, Vasquez was quick to answer. “Never quit,” he stated. “One thing the military taught me and the mindset to have is that it is a can’t fail mission…You have to be able to pivot, flex and go to other options.” He went on to explain that a misconception of veterans is that they are rigid, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Vasquez highlighted the fact that veterans are lifelong learners and will always give you 100 percent, all they need is to be valued and have a shared mission. 

Vasquez with World War II veteran Sidney Walton on his 100th birthday

For veterans looking to settle down and transition out of military service, Los Angeles wants you. The mayor and his administration want your talent, values and commitment to excellence as a citizen and resident of their city. In return, Vasquez and the others on the team remain dedicated to ensuring that the heroes that are ready to come home, have everything they need to do it well.