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Recounting the death of Osama bin Laden, five years later

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. | Official White House Photo by Pete Souza


Five years ago, I watched in the Situation Room along with President Obama, Vice President Biden, and members of the President’s national security team to see if U.S. Special Operations Forces could deliver the justice that every American had been waiting for for a decade.

In the three-plus months leading up to the operation, the White House’s National Security Council staff organized over two dozen inter-agency meetings to oversee preparations and consider all of the attendant issues: the evaluation of the emerging intelligence, possible operational courses of action, the consequences and implications of both success and failure.

What struck me most about that process was the absolute attention to operational security, discretion, and secrecy. Very few individuals beyond the most senior officials were involved in the policy piece of this operation. Extraordinary measures were taken to limit information flow, and those involved maintained an incredibly high degree of discipline.

President Barack Obama talks with members of the national security team at the conclusion of one in a series of meetings discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden, in the Situation Room, May 1, 2011. | Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

All possible options and potential courses of action were considered, analyzed and debated at the very highest levels. All of the potential issues were reviewed: impact of an operation on our relationship with Pakistan and with our other allies, possible reaction by al Qaeda and the potential for retaliatory action against U.S. interests, steps needed to prepare for possible retaliatory attacks, and next steps in the wake of an operation whether it was successful or unsuccessful.

Reflecting on the lead up to the raid, Director on National Intelligence Clapper said:

“As is always the case in intelligence, it wasn’t complete. Right up until the last minute, we couldn’t confirm he was there. Some argued we needed more time.” Nonetheless, he never doubted the advantages of a raid compared to alternatives, “At least with a raid, you’d have people on the ground who could make judgments.”

It was apparent that the President’s paramount concern was the safety and security of the operators. On a number of occasions, the President provided very pointed guidance to the Department of Defense and to Admiral Bill McRaven to make that very clear.

On the day before the operation took place, Saturday, April 30, President Obama placed a secure call to Admiral McRaven. The President was in the midst of his preparation for his scheduled appearance that evening at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. I had the privilege of staffing the President for that phone call, which the President conducted from the Oval Office. When I came in, the President’s speechwriters were asked to step out.

In that call, the President inquired if McRaven believed the force was ready to proceed and if they had everything they needed to carry out a successful operation. McRaven affirmed that they did, and the President wished McRaven and the forces under his command Godspeed.

A very brief call, but one that would prove historic.

President Barack Obama makes a point during one in a series of meetings in the Situation Room of the White House discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon is pictured at right. | Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

During the raid itself, I clearly recall the role that Admiral McRaven played from Jalalabad, Afghanistan. In addition to carrying out his command and control function with his team, he was piped in via secure video conference (SVTC) to provide updates to the CIA and the assembled officials at the White House Situation Room, including the President. As the Department of Defense operators would move down their checklist, we heard McRaven’s voice as each operational or geographical mark or milestone was hit.

As Director Clapper said:

“There was a lot of tension, and then as it became clear that we were reasonably sure that yes, it was Osama bin Laden, there was, if I can use the phrase, not only emotional closure, but functional closure, in that the operation illustrated the effectiveness of what an integrated intelligence and operational community could accomplish.”

The amazing part to me was that McRaven’s voice — at least to my memory — never changed inflection, never conveyed concern or excitement or any sense that there was something dramatic happening, and never intimated anything other than calm professionalism. That included those incredibly tense moments when things did not go according to plan with the helicopter assault. You would never have known that anything was amiss if all you were going by was his voice doing the play-by-play.

Even when U.S. Special Operations Forces successfully took out Osama bin Laden.

President Obama delivered the news to the nation on May 1, 2011.

Watch:

 

After the operators safely returned to base, McRaven noted that one way in which they had potentially confirmed bin Laden’s identity was by determining that he was in fact as tall in stature as we in the Intelligence Community knew him to be. He told the President they had had one of their taller SEAL operators, about 6’3″, lie down on the ground in the hangar at Jalalabad next to the remains and they assessed he was roughly the same height as the recovered body.

The President then noted over the SVTC with McRaven that they had all those millions and millions of dollars of Defense equipment but they didn’t have a tape measure, which obviously got a good laugh from all around the table and on SVTC. And when McRaven ultimately did visit the President in the Oval Office some days after the raid, President Obama did in fact “gift” McRaven with a tape measure from Home Depot mounted on a ceremonial plaque in case it was ever needed again.

I was recently down at Fort Bragg and saw that the gift remains prominently displayed in the Commander’s Conference Room at the Joint Special Operations Command.

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the Green Room of the White House following his statement detailing the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011. | Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

When it was all over, I still remember my shock and surprise when I walked outside of the West Wing basement across the street to return to my office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, shortly after the President had concluded his address to the nation.

I was amazed to see (and hear) the streets surrounding the White House complex were filled with what seemed like thousands of people celebrating the fact that justice had finally been done, even though it was after midnight on a Sunday night — normally about as quiet and peaceful a time on the streets of Washington as you would ever see.

Director Clapper noted the enormity of the situation:

“It is hard for me to recall a single vignette that carried with it so much importance, and so much symbolism for this country. As an intelligence professional that has spent 50 years in the business, I cannot remember an event that would approach that raid and its success in my memory.”

The most meaningful moment came days later, when President Obama visited Fort Campbell to meet with some of the operators involved in the mission. A number of senior staff members, including myself, were privileged to attend a meeting and briefing with members of the assault force. The President heard firsthand many of the details of the operation and offered his admiration and gratitude for the work that had been done.

The enormous degree of respect that the President had for the Special Operations Forces was apparent to anybody who attended.

The bravery of these men, the justice they delivered, and the legacy they leave behind — that will be remembered by all of us.

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This is the best aerial footage of a raging Swedish fighter you’ll see today

It doesn’t matter if you’re on a speeding boat, jumping off a building, or zooming through the air on a fighter; Gyro-stabilized Systems (GSS) makes some of the best gear for action film shoots.


The common stabilizing system for aerial filming is made to withstand speeds up to 135 knots and usually helicopter-mounted. But when Swedish aerial specialist, Peter Degerfeldt at Blue Sky—one of Scandinavia’s premier aerial filming companies—challenged GSS to build something that could withstand at least 300 knots, aerial filming took a giant leap forward.

GSS’s calling came when Saab Defense and Security required a film shoot from a Gripen fighter.

“Our philosophy is to push boundaries in everything we do,” said Jonas Tillgren, Brand and marketing manager at Saab, according to the film’s description. “In this case, we needed to do both still photography and footage at the same time to maximize outcome. One advantage of this system is that we can fly in speeds where Gripen flies more naturally.”

Here is the result from the unprecedented shoot:

Video: Peter Degerfedt Blue Sky Aerial, Vimeo

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13 lessons you learn while traveling in the US military

Military travel: it’s like civilian travel with more red tape. Here are 13 things every constant military traveler knows.


1. The Defense Travel System is arguably the most frustrating thing ever made.

2. The overly moto guys will wear civilian clothes but completely fail to hide that they’re in the military.

3. Your military ID and TSA Precheck can make security a breeze.

4. Getting your gear through security can be more challenging, so you learn to make friends with security.

5. Government rate hotels are not always the nicest.

6. Someone will get lost but swear he isn’t. This is especially annoying when he outranks you.

7. Someone in your group can’t handle foreign food.

8. Take a minute to get to know the staff duty driver every night, just in case.

9. You will run into someone from an old unit. You probably will not be excited about it.

10. The DoD is paying for the rental car and mileage, so find somewhere to go every day off.

11. No matter how many phone numbers, email addresses, and instant messaging usernames you exchange, someone will be impossible to keep track of for accountability. It’s probably a senior officer.

12. Every base exchange is filled with tackier, more expensive versions of local stuff you can buy off post.

13. Despite all the frustrations, you will want to leave again 15 minutes after you return to your home base.

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77 years later, WWII vet shares memories at Marine graduation

theChive


Last weekend, we got to spend time with a hero named Walter Jorgensen. Mr. Jorgensen is one of the oldest living U.S. Marines to survive the bloody battles in the Pacific Theater during World War 2.

Alongside a group of fellow veterans, Mr. Jorgensen attended the graduation of our youngest Marines at the USMC Recruit Base.

This is the same place Mr. Jorgensen went through boot camp and graduated at in 1939. Seventy-seven years ago. From here, he would prepare for America’s entry into WW2.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, his path into war would send him and his buddies to the islands of the Pacific to battle the Japanese Empire.

There he would fight in 3 of the deadliest conflicts: Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Saipan. During these battles, Mr. Jorgensen served as a Company Commander with the 2nd Division, 2nd Battalion from the 6th Marines.

theChive

The following photos are just a glimpse of the horrors Mr. Jorgensen experienced as a leader of the legendary “Easy Company”.

The battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands began on August 7th of 1942.

The Marines were tasked with securing airfields for our aircraft to take-off from for both aerial defense of our Navy’s ships and ultimately to send bombers to the main land of Japan. This was the objective of America’s “Island hopping” campaign.

Unlike the battle at Normandy (D-Day), this beach landing was uneventful…however, holding the airfield at Lunga Point would cost thousands of lives.

In total, 1,600 were killed with 4,200 wounded along with 24,000 Japanese soldiers killed during the first island destination of the Pacific Campaign.

Bullets weren’t the only killers during these campaigns. Malaria ran rampant in parts of the Pacific.

The next island would be one of the costliest battles for the Marines of “Easy Company”. This was War; this was the battle for Tarawa.

“There were 180 of us from Easy Company that hit the beach that morning. No more than 40 of us walked off the island.” — Marine Schultz Miller

“Early on the morning of Nov. 20, 1943, the order came: ‘Hit the beach with everything you’ve got’. It was the first day of the assault on Betio Island – the struggle would come to be known as the Battle of Tarawa.”

“Easy Company was a bonded group. I was part of a replacement unit, which was reinforcing Easy after the battle for Guadalcanal,” the 79-year old veteran recounted. “If there was one thing that was easy about Easy Company, it was that they really took all the younger fellows in. They didn’t treat us bad like some other units did with their new guys.”

“We were taking machine gun fire from both sides of us as we came up to the beach,” he said. “Easy was one of the first companies to assault the island. Soon after that, all of our officers were dead.”

With the absence of commissioned leadership, Schultz described how the non-commissioned officers took over the company and carried on with the mission.

“At one point the highest ranking person was a sergeant. However, we were trained well and every man knew the job of the guy above him. If a machine-gunner went down, the guy behind him picked up the weapon and kept moving forward,” Schultz said.

It was all close combat as we took the island, Schultz said. Japanese were deeply entrenched in concrete and metal pillboxes with machine guns, cutting down Marines with raking fire right and left.

“I saw a few Marines make suicide runs, sprinting into the pillboxes with grenades or satchel charges,” he said. “After losing so many Marines, it was a last (recourse).”

 

 

The next destination was Saipan in the Mariana Islands.

 

In Saipan a total of 3,426 Americans died with 10,364 others wounded.

Like the horrors on our side, 29 thousand Japanese soldiers died with an additional 22,000 civilians lost (many from suicide).

Walter Jorgensen said little about what he experienced during the first 3 battles. He simply told me the following: “We began those campaigns with 29 Commanding Officers, all of them died on the battlefield.”

The loss of leaders would result in the following for Mr. Jorgensen, he would become a leader of his men at the battle for Okinawa. His new title was Executive Officer of the 6th Div., 3rd Battalion with the Marine’s 29th Regiment.

Like the first 3 battles, the numbers lost were unimaginable. The totals are so high that it becomes an estimate.

That estimate ranges from 77-110,000 Japanese killed. Along with the men from multiple Divisions of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps., the Marines battled for this final runway.

America’s total lost at Okinawa was 55,162 wounded and Thirty-Two Thousand, Seven Hundred and Fifteen men killed in battle.

 

Back to the Marine’s graduation.

That morning we got to watch the band play as they raised the flag on base.

While driving into the base, Mr. Jorgensen pointed to a small building which he said, “that use to be the main entrance to the base”. The building in front of us, during the raising of the flag, was “new”.

After the band played, we introduced Mr. Jorgensen to Brigadier General Jurney, the Commander of Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. Their conversation would later be called out during the up-coming graduation.

After the soon-to-be United States Marines marched onto the grounds, Brigadier General Jurney asked any Vietnam Vets to stand in the crowd followed by calling out any Veterans from the Korean War.

Finally he said, “We have a guest in the crowd. This man fought as a Marine in Guadacanal, Tarawa, Saipan and Okinawa. Please stand Walter Jorgensen”.

The pride and power of his memories were both unmistakable.

 

 

 

This is what a 95 year old United States Marine looks like…this is “Easy Company” Commander Walter Jorgensen.

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5 basic things you should know about the thrift savings plan


Retirement planning can be stressful, but figuring out how to finance it takes a great deal of the stress away. Enter the government’s Thrift Savings Plan, or TSP. The first step in understanding TSPs is answering five basic questions: who, what, where, when, and why.

Who: The thrift savings plan is available to federal employees and members of the uniformed services. It is managed by BlackRock, a financial planning and investment firm headquartered in New York City.

What: TSP is a retirement savings plan similar to a private sector 401(k). Federal employees and military personnel can contribute up to a certain percentage of their base pay to their TSP. BlackRock assigns a broker to manage TSP accounts. Brokers are not held to the same standards as fiduciaries in that a broker has no vested interest in your funds; rather a broker’s only job is to invest money in suitable securities.

When: If you are a federal employee who joined your agency after 2010, you’re automatically enrolled in TSP with 3 percent of your base pay sent to your TSP; your agency matches this contribution automatically. If you joined your agency before 2010, an automatic 1 percent of your base pay is sent to TSP; your agency matches your additional contributions above the 1 percent. Military members must set up their own contributions and there is no matching contribution from the military.

Where: Military members can set up contributions to TSP through MyPay. Which type of funds you decide to invest in will determine when you can access the funds from that investment. There are L Funds, which are “lifestyle funds” that you can withdraw from at a predetermined time. Then there are G, F, S, C, and I funds, which rely on you to make your own investment decisions with a broker, according to the government’s TSP summary.

Why: A thrift savings plan gives you the ability to participate in a long-term retirement savings and investment plan. Additionally, you can choose between a regular TSP and a Roth TSP. Traditional TSP is tax free as you contribute, but you’ll pay taxes when you withdraw the funds. A Roth TSP allows you to pay taxes upon investment, and withdraw at a later date tax free. The upside to utilizing the government’s TSP is that you won’t pay fees to invest, and you’ll have a broker to manage the funds.

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Turkey enters war on ISIS just in time to steal victory from the Kurds

Five years into the Syrian Civil War and two years after the rise of ISIS, Turkish troops finally entered the fight on August 24th, with Operation Euphrates Shield.


Turkish military officials say their artillery and rocket launchers fired 224 rounds at 63 targets in two hours. Turkish Air Force planes also struck targets in the ISIS-held town of Jarablus, which Turkish troops captured later that day.

It was ISIS’ last stronghold along the Turkish border.

By 18:10 local time FSA troops, backed by the Turkish Armed Forces, controlled 90 percent of Jarablus. (Turkish Military photo via Twitter)

With tanks, warplanes, and special operations forces, Turkey also seeks to stem the territory and influence captured by the Kurdish fighters in Northern Syria. American air strikes are assisting Turkish forces.

The operation aims to clear the Turkish-Syrian border of “terrorist groups” to increase border security. Unfortunately, the Turkish government considers the Kurdish YPG, the most effective force fighting ISIS in Syria, a relative to a terrorist group – the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK. Turkey has been fighting the PKK for 30 years.

The 62-mile border area targeted by the Turks puts the NATO ally and its Syrian rebel forces on a collision course with U.S.- backed Kurdish and Arab fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces. Skirmishes between the two groups have already started south of the town of Manbij, just 21 miles from Jarablus.

The area held by Turkey (purple) is expected to expand into the areas held by ISIS (black) and Kurdish fighters (yellow). (SyrianCivilWarMap.com)

Turkey gave the Kurdish fighters who captured Manbij from the Islamic State a week to leave the town and retreat East of the Euphrates River. The United States is backing its Turkish ally on the issue, and the Kurds are complying.

More than 300 Kurdish and Arab-allied fighters died taking Manbij from ISIS, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Twitter account for the official spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led Coalition against the Islamic State said the move was to prepare for the eventual liberation of Raqqa, the de facto ISIS capital.

Soon after the YPG withdrew past the river, Turkish media reported Turkish artillery firing on YPG forces south of Jarablus.

Turkish Armed Forces shells a group of YPG terrorists in the west of Jarablus. (Turkish military photo via Twitter)

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How Navy Special Ops Survive Training Missions In Freezing Water

During Navy Special Ops training, candidates complete exhaustive missions under extreme stress, limited sleep, and in freezing water conditions.


For the last 25 years, the US military has used an ingestible thermometer pill to monitor the core body temperature of service members during physically demanding missions.

CorTemp pill (HQ, Inc.) was developed in the mid-1980’s by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and the Goddard Space Flight Center. The sensor technology was first used on astronauts to detect hypothermia and hyperthermic conditions during space flight.

Courtesy of HQ,Inc.

Here is how the pill works:  Soldiers swallow a 3/4-inch silicone-coated capsule which contains a microbattery and a quartz crystal temperature sensor. Within two hours, the quartz crystal sensor vibrates at a frequency relative to the body’s temperature and transmits a harmless, low-frequency signal through the body.

Team personnel can wirelessly monitor the core body temperature of multiple subjects in real time. There are several options and configurations for tracking temperatures, including the most simple method of holding the data recorder near the small of the back. The pill safely passes through the digestive system after 18 to 30 hours.

The $50 pill is used at Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC) training facility in Coronado, Calif. where candidates swim in open sea ranging from frigid 48 degrees Fahrenheit to 72 degrees Farenheit.

“For SWCC personnel, the pill is used to monitor body core temperature and is used only in training. Its use ensures candidates can understand the impact of cold water and allows medical and training cadre staff to ensure safety parameters for training are observed,” wrote Navy Lt. Ben Tisdale via email.

The ingestible capsules are also used by the NFL, various European militaries, and fire departments in the United States and in Australia, according to Director of Sales Marketing, Lee Carbonelli.

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Military Defense. Copyright 2014. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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This is who would win if the USS Midway took on the Admiral Kuznetsov

Two carriers whose service overlapped by about a year and a half going head to head.


In one corner, we have USS Midway (CV 41), the first of America’s post-World War II aircraft carriers, which served for 46 years and flew everything from the F4U Corsair to the F/A-18 Hornet.

(Photo from Wikimedia Commons) The USS Midway. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In the other corner, the Russian Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov, which just made her first combat deployment. To borrow a phrase from the Spike network’s Deadliest Warrior: “Which is deadliest?”

The Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov (the ship previously had the names Riga, Leonid Brezhnev, and Tblisi) is a 61,000-ton ship. The Kuznetsov-class carrier can carry about 45 aircraft, including Su-33 Flankers, MiG-29 Fulcrums, and Ka-27 Helix helicopters.

The usual air group is about 15 Su-33s, to grow to 20 MiG-29KR fighters. But the Kuznetsov carries an “ace in the hole” — a dozen P-700 Granit (NATO codename: SS-N-19 Shipwreck) anti-ship missiles, with a range of 388 miles and a top speed of Mach 2.5.

The Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. (Photo from Wikimedia)

For self-defense the Kuznetsov carries 6 AK-630 Gatling guns, 8 Kortik close-in defense systems (with twin 30mm Gatling guns and SA-N-11 missiles), and 24 eight-round launchers for the SA-N-9 Gauntlet short-range surface-to-air missiles.

The Midway, came in originally at 45,000 tons but grew to about 64,000 tons. At the time the Kuznetsov entered service, her normal air wing consisted of three squadrons of F/A-18 Hornet multi-role fighters (12 planes each), two squadrons of A-6 Intruders (15 planes each), a squadron of E-2C Hawkeyes (four planes), a squadron of EA-6B Prowlers (four planes), and a squadron of SH-3H Sea King anti-submarine helicopters (six helicopters). Originally equipped with 18 five-inch guns, the Midway’s self-defense armament in 1990 was a pair of Mk 29 Sea Sparrow launchers and a pair of Mark 15 Close-In Weapon Systems.

In terms of reliability, the Midway takes the edge, given her 46 years of service that saw a slew of awards, including the Presidential Unit Citation, 17 awards of the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and a combat record that included three deployments during the Vietnam War and service during Desert Storm.

The Kuznetsov, though, has an edge when it comes to on-board weapons. The SS-N-19 battery gives it an extra anti-ship punch that the Midway just doesn’t have.

The Midway, however, has a decisive advantage when it comes to her air wing. The Kuznetsov’s maximum total of 24 multi-role fighters is dwarfed by Midway’s 36 F/A-18s and 30 A-6 Intruders.

But that doesn’t begin to outline the advantages.

While the Kuznetsov’s Su-33s would probably be the best fighters in the engagement, the American Hornets would have the advantage of support from the Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft and the EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare planes. The Midway’s Intruders, though, would provide a much stronger anti-ship punch with AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles; AGM-123 Skipper laser-guided missiles; AGM-62 Walleye television-guided missile; and GBU-10 laser-guided bombs.

Then there is the situational awareness. The EA-6B electronic warfare aircraft would be jamming the sensors on the Su-33s, while the E-2s would be able to direct the Hornets to carry out their attacks.

The Kuznetsov has no such assets available. This means the Midway’s air wing now only has more raw power, it has two uncontested force multipliers.

To paraphrase Andrew Dice Clay, “Hey, Kuznetsov! Wake up and smell the toast.”

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The 9 day jobs of brutal dictators

Everyone has to start somewhere. It’s not as if a young boy from Tikrit woke up one day and decided he would be known as “the Butcher of Baghdad.” It’s far more likely such a boy would just become a butcher. (And for the record, Saddam Hussein was trained to be a lawyer.)


Dictators at the Syrian Arab Summit, arguing about the most efficient ways to kill their own people. The winner was Hafez al-Asad, who decided to bulldoze the city of Hama, killing people and burying them at the same time.

Dictators are just like the rest of us (at least, at first). If they’re not born into powerful families, they will likely need to help their families make extra cash to survive or just make a living on their own until circumstances afford them the chance to take hold of the state’s coffers while stomping on the necks of their enemies real and perceived.

Here are the ways a few brutal dictators made ends meet while waiting for their big breaks:

Ho Chi Minh – Baker

The leader of the Vietnamese independence movement that liberated his home country from colonial France, as well as the figurehead for the North Vietnamese who fought the United States during the 1960s and 1970s also brought a brutal form of Communism to Vietnam. 50,000 to 100,000 people are thought to have been killed in his rise to power. He once said: “Anyone who does not follow the line determined by me will be smashed.”

Ho Chi Minh in 1921 (French National Library photo) Ho Chi Minh in 1921 (French National Library photo)

Before that, he claimed to be a baker at the Parker House Hotel while living in Boston in the early years of the 20th Century. He also spent time living in New York City, working in a series of menial labor jobs.

Pol Pot – Teacher

Born Saloth Sar, Pol Pot studied a number of disciplines as young man, but proved as capable a student as he was a capable leader, which is to say, not at all. He failed as a student in both France and his native Cambodia. When he came back, he taught at a school in the capital of Phnom Penh until he was forced out by the government.

Pol Pot’s students of life. (via Flickr User totalitarism)

In response, he changed his name to Pol Pot and took charge of the Khmer Rouge, ousting the government and installing himself as leader in 1975. He ruled for four years, presiding over the deaths of a million Cambodians after implementing disastrous economic, agricultural, and cultural reforms. Luckily for the average Cambodian, Vietnam invaded in 1979 to overthrow the regime.

Adolf Hitler – Artist

The boy who was all set to become a priest dropped out of the seminary in 1903 to be come a professional painter. His works were exact, unremarkable, unemotional landscapes that “was ripe for instruction he never received.” He moved to Vienna in 1908 and struggled there as a poor artist while the city’s culture incubated his racist and anti-Semitic ideas.

Hitler’s German Service Photo (Wikimedia Commons)

He left Vienna to dodge the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s draft for World War I. He was deemed unfit for service later anyway. He did volunteer in the Bavarian Army as a dispatch runner.

François Duvalier – Doctor

Haiti’s 40th president was a democratically elected black nationalist and classically trained doctor, which made him an excellent butcher of 30,000-60,000 Haitians. His education also earned him the nickname “Papa Doc.”

Papa Doc with Nelson Rockefeller (Center for Latin American Studies)

The 41st President of Haiti was his son, Jean-Claude Duvalier, who was handed the name “Baby Doc,” despite not being a doctor at all. Baby Doc fled Haiti after a 1986 rebellion toppled the government.

Benito Mussolini – Author

Many dictators penned books. Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book is one of the bestselling books of all time. Hitler wrote Mein Kampf. Mussolini wrote romance novels. That’s right, romance novels.

Mussolini at the March on Rome (Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain)

The Cardinal’s Mistress tells the tragic story of,a 17th-century Catholic clergyman and his mistress. Lines like “cast a ray of your light into my darkened soul,” do much toward explaining why he was made to take the other fork in the career road, the one marked “dictator.”

Bashar al-Asad – Opthalmologist

(Kremlin Photo)

A graduate of Damascus University, Asad spent time as a doctor in his father’s (Syrian “President” Hafez al-Asad) army. He studied ophthalmology at London’s Western Eye Hospital. He returned to Syria when his brother Bassel was killed in a car crash to be groomed to take over for his father as “President” of Syria. Before ascending to leadership, his only administrative role ever, was head of the Syrian Computer Society.

Than Shwe – Mailman

The man who shipped almost a million Burmese people off to jungle gulags and work camps led one of the most repressive, autocratic regimes in the history of Earth. The military junta led by Than Shwe even executed Buddhist monks by the hundreds, dumping their bodies in the wilds and countrysides of Burma.

Shwe is rumored to have colon cancer that can’t metastasize fast enough. (Government of Thailand photo)

As a younger man, fresh from school, Than Shwe worked at the Meikhtila Post Office as a postal clerk before enlisting in the Burmese Army and becoming an officer who would later be Prime Minister.

Muammar Qaddafi – Goat Herder

No one knows exactly when Qaddafi was born, but it’s widely known his family comes from a Bedouin tribe of nomads who were illiterate and didn’t maintain birth records. His father was a camel and goat herder who wanted his son to attend school.

Obviously no longer a goat herder.

Qaddafi would seize power in 1969 while the pro-Western King Idris was away on state business. Qaddafi increased the Libyan quality of life at the cost of mass political repression and extrajudicial killings. In the early days of the Civil War that would lead to his overthrow and death, he ordered his army to starve the citizens of his own cities and kill any government troops who surrendered to the rebels.

Stalin – Weatherman

Joseph Stalin, the brutal Russian dictator and one of the deadliest dictators in history was actually born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, a Georgian seminary student with webbed toes. He dropped out of the seminary and worked as a meteorological clerk before joining Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik Movement. He started using the name Stalin around 1912.

Also he was apparently a god-damned hipster 70 years before it was a thing.

The estimated number of people killed by Stalin’s regime and its policies range between three and sixty million Soviet citizens, with the higher victim estimates being more common among experts.

 

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This is proof that Mattis knows exactly how to talk to the troops

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is well known for having delivered some controversial quotes in the past, and he uttered yet another during a speech last week to sailors at Naval Base Kitsap in Washington.


During a short speech on August 9 followed by a question-and-answer period, Mattis thanked the sailors of the USS Kentucky for being in the Navy, saying they’d never regret that service.

“That means you’re living,” Mattis said, according to the official Pentagon transcript.

DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr

“That means you’re not some p–y sitting on the sidelines, you know what I mean, kind of sitting there saying, ‘Well, I should have done something with my life.’ Because of what you’re doing now, you’re not going to be laying on a shrink’s couch when you’re 45 years old, say ‘What the hell did I do with my life?’ Why? Because you served others; you served something bigger than you.”

The Navy reversed its policy of only allowing males to serve aboard submarines in 2010, according to the US Naval Institute. A spokesman for Submarine Group 9 confirmed the USS Kentucky does not currently have any female sailors assigned to it.

Mattis went on to say that he wished he were young enough to go out to sea with the Kentucky’s crew, though the retired general joked, “there’s a world of difference between a submariner and a Marine, you know what I mean?”

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This is the most powerful sidearm ever issued by the US military

In 1846, American firearms legend Samuel Colt teamed with Capt. Samuel Hamilton Walker to produce the most powerful sidearm ever issued to the U.S. military – the Colt Walker 1847.


Walker, a Texas Ranger (no joke) and officer in the militaries of both the Republic of Texas and the United States when Texas entered the Union, served in the American West’s many armed conflicts. He fought the Indian Wars and the Texian War of Independence as well as the Mexican-American War.

After he was discharged from the Texas Rangers, Walker self-funded a trip to New York to meet Colt. The duo based their design on the five-round Colt Paterson revolver. Walker and Colt would add a sixth round to the chamber, along with a stationary trigger and guard. With that, they created the most powerful black powder handgun ever made.

With a 9-inch barrel and .44 caliber round, this weapon had an effective range of 100 yards and the muzzle energy of a .357 Magnum. At only 4.5 pounds, the Colt Walker 1847 was the most powerful U.S. military sidearm ever issued and the most powerful pistol until the introduction of the Magnum .357 in 1935. Walker himself carried two of his own pistols into Mexico during the war with the U.S. mounted rifles.

When one of his troops killed a Mexican soldier with the pistol at Veracruz, a medical officer reportedly remarked that the hand cannon shot hit with equal force and range as a .54-caliber Mississippi Rifle.

(Warner Bros.)

There were some drawbacks to the design, including that sometimes the cylinders blew up in the shooter’s hand due to the amount of powder used — which was twice the amount used in similar weapons of the time. Colt recommended using 50 grains of powder, instead of the prescribed 60. Lard was sometimes used to keep all the cylinders from exploding at once.

Walker was killed leading troops through Huamantla, Mexico, during the Mexican-American War. Colt, who was bankrupt when he met Walker, rebuilt his business and reputation beginning with the Colt Walker 1847.

The Colt Walker’s legacy lives on in the hearts of firearms enthusiasts and American historians. In 2008, an original model, with original powder flask, fetched $920,000 at auction. That model was sold by Montana’s John McBride, whose great-great uncle was a Mexican War veteran.

Watch below as two European enthusiasts load and shoot a reproduction of the Colt Walker 1847.

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5 real-world covert operations in FX’s “Archer”

If FX’s Archer is known for anything, it’s historical accuracy while inventing daring, new bar drinks. Between Charles Fredric Andrus references and round after round of Green Russians, the top spy at the International Secret Intelligence Service (no, not that ISIS), Malory Archer, and her employees drop casual references to her covert operations in days gone by, revealing just how much experience she has in the world of international intrigue.


1. Operation Ajax – Reinstalling the Shah of Iran

In season 1, episode 2, a young Archer receives news from Woodhouse that a message from “Mommy and Uncle Kermit” said Ajax was successful and “Tehran is ours.”

In 1953, the elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, attempted to nationalize the Iranian oil industry, at that time, dominated by what is today BP Oil. The Shah dismissed Mossadegh but soon fled Iran after the popular politician’s supporters flooded the streets. The CIA, led by Kermit Roosevelt, organized a fake Communist revolution, which galvanized the Iranians (instigated by the CIA and CIA-controlled elements in the Iranian Army) to beating back the Communists. Mossadegh turned himself in to the government while a former Iranian General assumed the Prime Minister’s office. The Shah returned with more absolute power than ever before until he was deposed by the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

*gasp* Just like the old gypsy woman said!

2. Operation Paperclip – Recruiting the best of Nazi Germany

In season 2, episode 9, Cyril discovers Dr. Krieger grew up a German-speaking boy in Brazil. When confronted, Cyril corners Krieger in the bathroom and finds out his father was a Nazi scientist, even though Krieger attempted to cover his past. But you can’t hide who you really are.

When Cyril rats Krieger out to Malory, she informs him of all the things Nazi scientists invented after WWII: Microwaves, Rockets, and Tang. She also informed Krueger he might be a clone of Hitler, describing a scenario from the film The Boys from Brazil, which hints at Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele being Kreiger’s father.

104 former Nazi scientists pose for a photo in Texas (NASA photo)

Operation Paperclip was an initiative of the Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the CIA, where 1,500 former Nazi scientists were brought to the U.S. after WWII to work the U.S. and deny Nazi research and expertise to the Soviet Union.

3. Operation Gladio – Preparing for the Soviet Invasion of Europe

In season 3, episode 8, Malory enlists ISIS’ help to hide the body of the Italian Prime Minister after he is killed during kinky sex, tied to a chair.The PM was a target because he was a NATO “stay behind” agent she met during Operation Gladio.

Damn, dog. That’s inappropes. Totes inappropes.

Gladio was supposed to prevent a Communist take over of Western Europe after WWII, though it wasn’t revealed in Italy until 1990. The project covered arms caches, paramilitary organizations, secret bases, and shadow governments in fifteen European countries.

4. Operation PBSUCCESS – Ousting Guatemalan democracy

Wait… I had something for this…

In season 4, episode 6, Archer is bitten by Caspian Cobra while on a mission to Turkmenistan. During the venom hallucination a cut-rate James Mason takes Archer back to his sixth birthday, waiting for his mom to come back because “Guatemala’s democratically elected government wasn’t gonna overthrow itself.”

Do you want child soldiers? Because this is how you get child soldiers.

In 1954, the CIA ousted the government of Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz and installed a U.S.-friendly dictatorship under Carlos Castillo Armas, the first in a long line. Árbenz was elected in 1950 and continued land and social reforms enacted by his predecessor, which the U.S. government saw as Communist redistribution. A CIA-funded force invaded Guatemala, backed by U.S. propaganda and the threat of a U.S. invasion. The Guatemalan Army refused to fight the 480 CIA trained troops which led to the Guatemalan Civil War, which lasted from 1960 to 1996, and the death of democracy in the country.

5. Iran-Contra Affair – Guns for cash, cash for rebels, maybe hostages

In season 5, the crew dumps the international espionage work and attempts to sell cocaine to restart their business and/or retire forever. Throughout the season the gang tries and fails to sell cocaine, eventually stumbling onto a CIA operation. In a plot to increase its own yearly budget, the CIA paid mercenaries from Honduras to fight San Marcos’ legitimate government to force its President to trade cocaine for arms the CIA purchased from Iran, implying the Archers were in on it from day one. Sounds crazy and overly complex, right?

This is the same kind of deal members of the Reagan Administration made with Iran and rebel groups in Nicaragua in 1985 (with Archer selling cocaine added in). The Boland Amendment, passed by Congress in 1984 limited the support the U.S. government could give Nicaraguan contras. To circumvent the law, the CIA sold arms to Iran via Israel. (This was during the Iran-Iraq War, and the Middle East picture was slightly different then.) The CIA would use this money to fund the Nicaraguan contras. In exchange for the weapons sales, the Iranians would pressure Lebanese militants to release American hostages held there. President Reagan had no knowledge of the operation but 14 members of his administration were indicted for their actions, eleven were convicted.

And with a knife hand I give you plausible deniability. (Thanks, Ollie!)

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These US aircraft carriers will be the first to launch unmanned tankers

The Navy has announced the first carriers that will operate the MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial vehicle. The carriers will be receiving data links and control stations in order to operate the UAVs.


According to a report by USNI News, the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) have been selected to be the first to be upgraded to operate the MQ-25A. The George H. W. Bush served as a testbed for the X-47 experimental aerial vehicle in 2013.

X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator (UCAS-D, a previous name for the MQ-25a) launches from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in 2013. | US Navy Photo

The addition of the MQ-25 could happen as early as 2019. The Navy is eager to get the Stingray on carriers in order to take over the aerial refueling mission and to free up F/A-18E/F Super Hornets for combat missions. As many as 30 percent of Super Hornet sorties are used for tanker missions, a huge source of virtual attrition.

The changing role of the MQ-25 Stingray has been in the public eye. Under the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program, the Stingray had been designated RAQ-25, to reflect a reconnaissance and strike role. A 2016 report from USNI News noted that the Navy was going to seek the tanker version in order to try to address a growing strike-fighter shortage.

A F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 115 conducts a touch-and-go landing on Iwo To, Japan. Field carrier landing practice helps prepare pilots to land aboard the USS Ronald Regan while out at sea. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James A. Guillory/Released)

Later versions of the MQ-25 could be used for the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance mission or for strike missions. The X-47 was equipped with weapons bays capable of holding about 4,500 pounds of bombs.

The Navy had been short of aerial refueling assets since the retirement of the S-3 Viking and the KA-6D Intruder. Other options for the aerial refueling role, including bringing back the S-3 or developing a version of the V-22 Osprey, were discarded in favor of the MQ-25.