Last month’s failed coup in Turkey has sparked substantial unrest, a crackdown on opposition to the Erdogan regime, and a downward spiral in relations with the United States. With the refusal (to date) of the United States to extradite cleric Fethullah Gulen and interference with operations at Incirlik Air Base (including a halt in air operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), concern centered around an estimated 50 B61 “special stores.” (Official United States policy is to neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons on an installation.)
Now, according to reports from Euractiv.com, those bombs have been evacuated from Incirlik and are now in Romania, where components of an American missile defense system for NATO is being deployed. As might be imagined, it isn’t easy to move up to fifty special stores. It’s also understandable that the security is a big deal – some variants of the B61 have yields of 340 kilotons – over 20 times the power of the device used on Hiroshima 71 years ago.
The Euractiv.com report came two days after Ibrahim Karagul, the editor of Yeni Safak, a Turkish newspaper, said that Turkey should seize the nuclear weapons at Incirlik if the United States refused to hand them over in a post on the microblogging site Twitter. Karagul also claimed that the United States was an “internal threat” to Turkey. The tweets came the day after a study by the Stimson Center claimed that the nukes at Incirlik were at risk in the wake of the failed coup.
“From a security point of view, it’s a roll of the dice to continue to have approximately 50 of America’s nuclear weapons stationed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey,” Laicie Heeley of the Stimson Center told Agence France Presse‘s Thomas Watkins. The Stimson Center’s study recommended the removal of all United States tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.
“We do not discuss the location of strategic assets. The [Department of Defense] has taken appropriate steps to maintain the safety and security of our personnel, their families, and our facilities, and we will continue to do so,” a DoD statement in response to the study said.
Standing proudly in front of a B-25 Mitchell on display for a recent airshow in the central Texas town of Burnet, retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole slowly walked up to the antique bomber and clutched one of its propeller blades.
The last surviving Doolittle Raider, who had just marked his 101st birthday a few days before, smiled as he reminisced in the shadow of the bomber — a link to his storied past.
“When we got the B-25, it was a kick in the butt,” he later said, adding that he first flew the B-18 Bolo out of flight school. “It was fast and very maneuverable, with a good, steady bombing platform. You could fly it all over.”
Seventy-plus years ago, he co-piloted a similar bomber alongside then-Lt. Col. James Doolittle during a pivotal mission April 18, 1942, that helped turn the tide for the allies in the Pacific theater of World War II.
As the final member of the famed 80-man Army Air Forces unit, Cole was chosen to announce the name of the Air Force’s newest bomber, the B-21 Raider, at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference on Sept. 19 in Washington, D.C.
“I’ve never flown in any of the modern bombers so it’s pretty hard to realize how all of the improvements have meant to aviation,” he said at the Sept. 10 airshow. “All I can say is that the B-25 was like having a Ford Model T, (and now pilots are) getting into a Mustang.”
Following the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Doolittle developed a plan to retaliate with a daring air raid on Japan. Without escort fighters, he and the other crewmembers flew 16 modified Army B-25s off an aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet, for a one-way trip that had the makings of a suicide mission. The plan called for the aircraft, which were incapable of landing back on the aircraft carrier, to bomb industrial and military targets in five cities on the Japanese home islands and then continue on to friendly airfields in China.
Forced to launch 10 hours earlier than planned, due to the task force being spotted by a Japanese patrol boat, many aircrews later had to bail out of their fuel-parched aircraft after dropping their bomb loads. Doolittle’s crew, including Cole, parachuted into China and linked up with Chinese guerillas operating behind Japanese lines who helped them escape.
“The main memory I have was when my parachute opened,” Cole said of the mission. “But that was part of the job. I’d rather be sitting here than worried about a parachute jump.”
Being alone to tell the Raiders’ story these days has been something of a paradox for Cole.
“You can’t help but be happy that you’re here but on the other side of the coin you also wish that the people who were with you were here too,” he said. “But you know that that’s not possible so you have to live with it.”
The average age of the Raiders during the mission was 22, while Cole was a 26-year-old lieutenant, according to his daughter, Cindy Cole Chal.
“Dad was older on the raid,” she said. “Nobody thought that Dad would be the last one, even though he’s been in excellent health.”
Former Staff Sgt. David Thatcher was the second to last living Raider before he died at the age of 94. He was buried with full military honors June 27 in Montana.
As a 20-year-old gunner in Flight Crew No. 7, then-Cpl. Thatcher saved his four other crewmembers when their B-25 crash-landed into the sea near the Chinese coast after it bombed Japanese factories in Tokyo. He pulled them to safety on the surrounding beach and applied life-saving medical treatment, despite having injuries himself. He later earned the Silver Star for his actions.
Meanwhile, Cole parachuted into rainy weather at night and landed in a tree located on precarious terrain.
“I was fortunate in that I never touched the ground. My parachute drifted over a tall pine tree and caught on top leaving me about 10 feet off the ground,” he recounted in a 1973 letter posted on the official Doolittle Raider website. “At daybreak I was able to see that the terrain was very rough and had I tried to look around at night; probably would have fallen down a very steep hill.”
Once the sun rose, Cole walked westward and the next day he found an outpost belonging to the Chinese guerillas, the letter states.
On April 18, 2015, Cole and Thatcher were presented the Congressional Gold Medal for the Raiders’ efforts, the highest civilian honor given by Congress.
In his speech, a playful Cole couldn’t resist a touch of humor.
“Tonight’s affair couldn’t have been planned more accurately,” Cole said. “As I remember, the mission was over, it was Saturday night on the 18th of April and about this time David Thatcher was on the beach in China saving the rest of his crew and I was hanging in my parachute in a tree.”
Also at the ceremony, Thatcher spoke candidly as he gave advice to today’s Airmen.
“Be prepared for anything you run into — we weren’t,” he said. “Learn everything you possibly can, and be good at it.”
Seven Raiders died during the mission: three were killed in action while another three were captured and executed and one died of disease in captivity.
The bombing runs did little damage but the mission rekindled the morale of the American people and struck fear into the Japanese with aircraft reaching their homeland.
“Knowing that we did the mission and did it like it was supposed to be done, we felt pretty good about it,” Cole said.
In response, the Japanese maneuvered their forces from around Australia and India to the Central Pacific, and sent two aircraft carriers to Alaska.
“The Japanese thought we were going to make more visits. But we didn’t have any equipment to do it and we had no plans for it,” Cole said. “For some reason they moved two carriers to Alaska, thinking that’s where we came from. When they did that, it evened up the number of carriers we had available for Midway.”
The Battle of Midway proved to be a major turning point in the war. Believing their Central Pacific flank to be vulnerable because of the Doolittle Raid, the Japanese launched an invasion force to secure the isolated atoll of Midway to establish a base and airfield. Unaware that U.S. Naval Intelligence had broken their naval codes and knew the date and location of the impending attack, the Japanese sailed directly into an ambush set by three U.S. carriers.
When the smoke cleared, U.S. Navy dive-bombers had sunk four Japanese carriers, the Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu, all members of the six-carrier force that had launched the attack on Pearl Harbor, and more than 3,000 men, including many experienced combat pilots. The U.S. lost one carrier, the USS Yorktown, and about 300 men. The Japanese remained on the defensive for the rest of the war.
“When the time came for the Battle of Midway, the (U.S.) Navy was able to win and that started the Japanese on the downhill,” he said.
Nowadays, Cole has shifted his focus away from the twin-engine bomber to his tractor and lawnmower. He refuses to let his age stand in the way of his daily chores. So when not traveling for events, he tends to his acreage in Comfort, Texas, about an hour’s drive northwest from San Antonio.
“People ask me if I’m getting any flying time and I say, ‘Well, I’m getting a lot of single-engine time with the lawnmower,” he said, chuckling.
To keep the memory of Doolittle and the rest of the Raiders alive, he helps sell his book, “Dick Cole’s War,” which documents not only the Doolittle Raid, but his service after that mission with the First Air Commandos in Burma. Proceeds from the book go into a scholarship fund in Doolittle’s name for students in the aviation field.
Cahl estimates her father has put in hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sales of books and signed lithograph prints into the fund to honor Doolittle, who died in 1993.
“All the time when I was flying with Colonel Doolittle, I was in awe over the fact that I was sitting next to him,” Cole said. “He put the word ‘team’ in the forefront of the English language.”
Now the sole survivor, Cole wants no part being the poster child for the historic mission.
“You did the mission. You did what you were supposed to do,” he said. “The people who were involved are all passing (away) and that’s the way it ends.
“I didn’t think any of the Raiders wanted to be singled out. We just wanted to be part of the big picture.”
Cartoon characters with machine guns, sexy pin-ups riding phallic bombs, and/or — for the more skilled — an array of Nazi Swastikas or Japanese Rising Sun flags indicating the number of aircraft or ships destroyed . . . these are just a few of the common images worn on the backs U.S. Army Air Corps pilots, bombardiers, and navigators in World War II.
Whether it was for good luck, a sense of home or belonging, or just because wearing a jacket featuring Bugs Bunny Pulling Hitler’s severed head out of a hat fueled stories for the grandkids, there’s no doubt these jackets will always be enduring icons of a hard-fought air war.
16. Props (see what we did there?) to this unit. This jacket looks pretty damn good for being hand painted:
15. After 35 bombing runs, this probably says it all. TWANNGGG:
14. Does that type look familiar? During WWII, the Walt Disney Company was much looser with its trademarks when it came to the war effort. Disney designed many of the unit and morale patches used by the Army Air Corps:
13. Native American imagery was a popular theme, not just because this imagery was born in the Western Hemisphere and is associated with the Western U.S. and Great Plains, but also because the percentage of Natives who serve in the U.S. military is disproportionately high:
12. Lady Liberty was every pilot’s best girl:
11. Not just an awesome jacket with great art, using German seems like a it would be a bigger F**k You to Hitler and the Nazis, and it’s a really funny name. Der Grossarschvogel translates to “The Big Ass Bird”:
10. John McClane preferred Roy Rogers, But the Lone Ranger is good too (Yippy Ki Yay, Motherfu**er):
9. Finally, a play on words using an aviator’s term:
8. This gets to the point faster than TWANNGGG:
7. The award for incorporating (what would become) the Air Force song:
6. The thing about being crazy is if you know you’re crazy, then you’re not crazy.
5. This way, you’d always remember your crewmen’s names.
4. Who among us hasn’t dated Ice Cold Katy at least once? This guy is a hero.
3. Nice use of the Air Corps star:
2. Ramp Tramp – n. military/aviation term for a semi-skilled or unskilled airbase flightline worker, typically a baggage handler or aircraft cleaner. Flight crew and skilled mechanics/avionics personnel would not be considered “ramp tramps.” This is a nice shout out:
1. The top spot has to go to this guy. There’s no room for scantily-clad women when you’re trying to work in 100 bombing runs, five Japanese aircraft kills, and 12 ships, one of them a battleship.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Newly-minted Air Force second lieutenants celebrate during their graduation at the Air Force Academy, Colorado, May 24, 2017. The guest speaker during the ceremony was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford.
A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle from RAF Lakenheath, England, flies alongside a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker from RAF Mildenhall following aerial refueling over Finland, May 25, 2017. Both aircraft are participating in Arctic Challenge 2017, a multinational exercise encompassing 11 nations and more than 100 aircraft.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Miller with the 101st Airborne Division holds the American flag during a graduation ceremony for Somali National Army soldiers May 24, 2017, in Mogadishu, Somalia. The logistics course focused on various aspects of moving personnel, equipment and supplies.
Members of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) perform a three rifle volley during the graveside service for U.S. Army 1st Lt. Weston C. Lee in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., May 25, 2017. Lee was interred in Section 60 with full military honors.
MANHATTAN, N.Y. (May 24, 2017) The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) passing the One World Trade Center during the 29th annual Fleet Week New York’s Parade of Ships. Fleet Week New York is an unparalleled opportunity for the citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as witness firsthand the latest capabilities of today’s military.
Sailors pose for a photo moments before attending “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” preshow as part of Fleet Week New York 2017, May 26, 2017. The service members are in New York to interact with the public, demonstrate capabilities and teach the people of New York about America’s sea services.
Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron (MWSS) 373 return from their guard post and prepare to conduct an area damage assessment as part of the base recovery after attack training (BRAAT) evolution during Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 3-17 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., May 23.
A Marine aboard the USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) salutes the Statue of Liberty during Fleet Week New York’s parade of ships May 24, 2017. U.S. Marines, Sailors and Coast Guardsmen are in New York to interact with the public, demonstrate capabilities and teach the people of New York about America’s sea services.
Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Krystyn Pecora, external affairs officer, 5th Coast Guard District, speaks with a local media member about boating safety for children on Base Portsmouth, Virginia, May 26, 2017. Pecora and her 10-month-old son, Osceola James, demonstrated how to snugly fit a small child with a proper life jacket.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Mandi Stevens and Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Parmenter, aviation maintenance technicians from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii, prepare a long range deployable drop kit to a disabled vessel approximately 80 miles off Tonga May 25, 2017. The kit includes food and water, a VHF radio and a transponder.
QUANTICO, Va. — A Marine infantry squad with its own “Star Wars” drone. A combat unit in the field making its own spare parts with a 3-D printer. A truck that tells its operators when it needs maintenance.
These are a few of the innovative concepts a panel of senior Marine Corps leaders on Sept. 27 said were being developed or considered to help the Corps operate and, if necessary, fight in a future that could include a “great power war.”
The officers also discussed broader ideas such as the Marines finding ways to help the Navy achieve sea control in a heavily contested littoral environment and developing the capabilities to fight information warfare to match the newly threatening Russians.
Spot, a quadruped prototype robot, aids Marines in clearing a room during a demonstration at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, Sept. 16, 2015.
The officials’ report to industry came on the opening day of the Modern Day Marine exposition at the historic “home of the Marine Corps.”
The focus of the report and the expo is innovation and a drive to move the Corps quickly into the future to respond to the rapid increase and global proliferation of advanced technology and an increasingly complex security environment.
Those themes will be highlighted by the unveiling of a new operating concept by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller.
The panel listed a number of efforts already underway, including a rapid capabilities office designed to reduce the prolonged acquisition process. That is tied into an innovation center that has a website eliciting revolutionary ideas from Marines at all levels. They also mentioned a 10-year experimental effort called Sea Dragon and a drive to change basic organization in the Marine Corps Force 2025 initiative.
“What we see is how technology is changing so rapidly. That excites us, but also scares us a bit,” said Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, the deputy commandant for combat development and integration.
To avoid falling behind potential adversaries, Walsh said, the Corps is changing, but “we have to go faster. The commandant is pushing us to go faster.”
Deputy Commandant for Programs, Plans and Operations Lt. Gen. Ronald Bailey noted the Russian capabilities in information warfare and warned “we have to be able to operate in that environment to be successful.”
Highlighting the need for greater use of robotic system, Bailey envisioned “every infantry squad having an R2D2,” a reference to the Star Wars drone.
Director of Combat Development and Integration Brig. Gen. Roger Turner said he is moving into phase two of the Force 2025 study that is developing the kind of Marine Corps needed for future conflicts with peer competitors or against “non-state actors” that could use asymmetric guerrilla tactics or high technology weapons.
“It is sobering to think we could be engaged in great powers war. … That is a major driver in Force 2025, that we’re not prepared to fight great power war,” Turner said.
In the emerging combat environment, Turner said, naval force will “really have to fight for sea control,” and his office is looking for ways that the Marine Air Ground Task Force deployed with an amphibious force can contribute to sea control to enable power projection in a contested environment.
Assistant Deputy Commandant for Installations and Logistics Brig. Gen. Terry Williams described efforts under way to achieve “hybrid logistics” that would reduce the burden of pushing supplies and support into isolated combat units by improving their ability to provide their own water, recharge batteries and use less fuel.
He said use of 3-D printing could allow deployed units to produce their own spare parts and “sense and response” maintenance would allow vehicle maintenance to be conducted only when needed and would avoid unnecessary work.
Marine Corps Systems Command chief Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader described a number of ways to reduce the weight of combat forces, including shifting to “active protection” systems for tactical vehicles, instead of the “passive protection” of armor plating, and changing the combat gear carried by ground units. Active protection would use small munitions to intercept anti-armor missiles.
He said other efforts were ongoing that might provide different combat equipment for the different jobs performed by Marine infantry units, such as riflemen, machinegunners or mortar crews.
There’s a very good reason Audie Murphy is one of the most decorated veterans to every wear the US Army uniform.
Murphy was born on June 20, 1925 in Texas. His family was extremely poor, partially due to having twelve young mouths to feed. When his father abandoned the family when Audie was fifteen years old, he was forced to pick up some of the slack by hunting and doing what work he could to keep food on the table. Unfortunately, his mother died just a year after his father left.
Shortly thereafter, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Audie attempted to join the various branches of the U.S. military but was turned down in each case owing to his age and diminutive stature -five and a half feet tall (1.66 meters) and weighing only about 100 pounds (45 kg).
About seven months later, just ten days after he turned seventeen, he tried again. Having gained some weight (getting up to a whopping 112 pounds / 50.8 kg) and with falsified testimony from his sister claiming he was actually 18, this time Audie was able to get into the army. He was then shipped off to North Africa and later deployed to Sicily.
Despite his small size, Murphy proved to be a phenomenal soldier. In 1944, after witnessing the death of a friend during Operation Dragoon, he charged a group of German soldiers, took over their machine guns and other weapons, and proceeded to take out the other enemy soldiers within range using their own artillery. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions that day, the first of many medals.
During another battle shortly after this, to cover retreating Allied soldiers, he jumped onto a tank that had been hit and was on fire, exposing himself to the advancing enemy soldiers. Why did he put himself in such an exposed position on a tank that could potentially explode at any minute? There was a .50 caliber machine gun on the tank.
As Private Anthony Abramski said of the event,
It was like standing on top of a time bomb … he was standing on the TD chassis, exposed to enemy fire from his ankles to his head and silhouetted against the trees and the snow behind him.
Nevertheless, over the course of the next hour, he held off six German tanks and several waves of enemy soldiers, who were all trying desperately to take out the little American who was the only thing in their way at that point. He only retreated when he ran out of ammo. Once this happened, having sustained a leg wound and completely exhausted, Audie said in his book To Hell and Back,
I slide off the tank destroyer and, without once looking back, walk down the road through the forest. If the Germans want to shoot me, let them. I am too weak from fear and exhaustion to care.
Despite the leg wound, as soon as he caught up with his retreating soldiers who had now re-formed, he turned them around and managed to reclaim a stretch of forest from German occupation. According to the official report, in that battle, he killed or severely wounding at least fifty German soldiers by himself. For this act of bravery and for “indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground [saving] his company from possible encirclement and destruction…” he was awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor.
He rose through the ranks and was a captain when he was pulled out of the war in 1945. All in all, he earned 33 awards and decorations for his exemplary service during the war. He was just 20 years old at the time and, as one movie critic later put it, knew more of death than he did of life.
When Murphy returned from the war, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that often went undiagnosed at the time. After being featured on the cover of Life magazine, he found himself in Hollywood without work, sleeping in rough conditions. He caught his big break in 1949 when he starred in the film Bad Boy. That same year, he released the aforementioned autobiography titled To Hell and Back, which topped the bestseller charts. He went on to star as himself in a movie with the same title in 1955; it was Universal’s top-grossing film for nearly 20 years until Jaws usurped it.
Acting seemed to suit him. He made no less than 44 feature films while he was in Hollywood, many of them westerns, and also filmed a 26-episode western TV series called Whispering Smith, which aired in 1961 on NBC. It was criticised for being too violent, however, and cancelled after just 20 episodes were aired.
A man of many talents, Murphy also dabbled in poetry and song-writing as well as horse breeding and racing. Thanks to his earnings from acting, he was able to purchase a ranch in Texas. He was living an incredibly comfortable life, far grander than what he had known as a child.
Yet all was not well with Murphy. Back to his post traumatic stress disorder, he became dependent on sleeping pills to combat the insomnia he experienced after the war. Realizing he had become addicted to them, he locked himself in a motel room for a week, while he worked through the withdrawal symptoms. He ended up beating the addiction and went on to break the taboo of talking about the mental disorders many soldiers suffered when they returned home. His willingness to do so opened up discussions about psychological care for veterans upon their return to the US.
Murphy ended up marrying twice, divorcing his first wife after just two years, and having two sons with his second wife. He appeared to be happy with his family, with more than enough money in the bank to keep them comfortable (though he squandered much of it on gambling in his later years); had acted in dozens of movies; and had amazing war stories to tell his grandkids about. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to get to that stage of his life.
On May 28, 1971, Murphy was in a private plane flying on a business trip from Atlanta, Georgia to Martinsville, Virginia. The weather conditions were less than ideal: rain and fog shortened the pilot’s visibility considerably, and he had a questionable instrument rating. He called in to the Roanoke, Virginia airport to say that he would be landing shortly due to poor conditions. The plane, carrying five passengers including Murphy, never landed in the Roanoke Valley. It crashed into Brush Mountain twenty miles away, close to Blacksburg. Everyone in the crash was killed. Murphy was just 45 years old. The site of the crash has since been turned into a monument, and in the 1990s, the Appalachian Trail was rerouted to go past it.
That wasn’t quite the end for Murphy, though. After a funeral in Arlington Cemetery, where his grave remains the second most visited (after Kennedy’s), he was posthumously awarded his final medal, the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor. It was presented to his last remaining sister, Nadine Murphy, on October 29, 2013 by Governor Rick Perry.
Just before four o’clock in the afternoon, British Vice Admiral David Beatty opened fire on a squadron of German ships led by Admiral Franz von Hipper nearly 75 miles off the Danish coast. At the time, the British Royal Navy outnumbered the German fleet, who concentrated their inventory on U-boat submarines.
When the Germans arrived, a British fleet of 28 battleships, nine battle cruisers, 34 light cruisers, and 80 destroyers were waiting for them.
The Battle of Jutland, known to the Germans as the Battle of Skagerrak, engaged a total of 100,000 men aboard 250 ships over the course of 72 hours. The Germans managed to retreat before an inevitable loss, but both sides suffered heavy casualties. The Allied blockade remained intact and superior for the remainder of World War I.
The Army is likely catching a lot of grief lately, after a news story reported that Pentagon data showed Joes are fatter than their brethren in other services.
But are they really?
According to the head of the new Defense Health Agency, the way the military measures obesity using the so-called Body Mass Index might be a bit behind the times.
“I know that Navy has looked at this in terms of modifying what they say is a healthy weight and a healthy body mass and I think that’s appropriate,” said Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, Director of the Defense Health Agency told WATM during a breakfast meeting with reporters Oct. 20.
“Do I have any indication that [obesity] is hurting readiness? No,” Bono added. “But I would actually say that is one of the hallmarks of being in the military is that we’re always ready.”
According to the services, a Body Mass Index of 25 or over is considered unsat (the BMI is determined by a simple calculation of height and weight). The National Institutes of Health define obesity as a BMI of 30 or over.
A 44 year-old male who weights 215 pounds and is 74-inches tall has a BMI of 27.6, for example. That’d be considered “clinically obese” to the DoD.
Some in the services argue measuring weight standards using the BMI is a blunt instrument, putting perfectly fit and healthy servicemembers on notice for not being up to snuff.
And while she’s all in favor of modifying how the level of fitness to serve is calculated, Bono is concerned about the overall trend on obesity, with the Pentagon reporting nearly 10 percent of its troops are overweight. And Bono recommended healthier choices in chow halls, regular exercise (not just for the PFT), and stopping smoking.
“My job is to make sure I’m enabling the department to have the healthiest troops possible,” Bono said. “I struggle with encouraging troops to make healthier choices — even when we activate servicemembers with health data or scary pictures of what smoking can do to you they still persist in those behaviors. I don’t know what the right answer is.”
“After years of endless budget cuts that have impaired our defenses, I am calling for one of the largest defense-spending increases in history,” the President said.
Currently, the force is at 10 carriers, all of which are nuclear-powered. The Gerald R. Ford is slated to commission later this year, to replace USS Enterprise (CVN 65), which was taken out of service in December 2012, being formally decommissioned last month. The new aircraft carrier has seen numerous delays due to problems with its advanced systems.
“In these troubled times, our Navy is the smallest it’s been since World War I. That’s a long time ago. In fact, I just spoke with Navy and industry leaders and have discussed my plans to undertake a major expansion of our entire Navy fleet, including having the 12-carrier Navy we need,” the President said.
“Our military requires sustained, stable funding to meet the growing needs placed on our defense. Right now, our aging frontline strike and strike-fighters — the whole aircraft; many, many aircraft — are often more likely to be downed for maintenance than they are to be up in the sky,” the President also said, noting the problems that have plagued Navy and Marine Corps aviation units.
The current attacks aimed at retaking ISIS-held areas in Northern Iraq are being supported by U.S. artillery fire on the ground, U.S. Central Command officials said.
Iraqi Security Forces have launched a series of offensive attacks to re-take villages from ISIS in the vicinity of Makhmour, an area south of Mosul where their forces have been preparing, maneuvering and staging weapons for a larger attack.
“The Iraqis have announced an operation in Makhmour to liberate several villages in the vicinity. The coalition is supporting the operation with air power,” Col. Steve Warren, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, told Scout Warrior in a written statement.
U.S. Coalition ground artillery and airpower can include a wide range of assets, potentially including 155m Howitzer artillery fire, F-15Es, F-18s, drones and even A-10s, among other assets.
Although its clear the Iraqis do at some point plan to launch a massive attack to take back the ISIS stronghold of Mosul, these attacks may be merely “staging” exercises, one Pentagon official told Scout Warrior.
“Staging” exercises are often used by forces to consolidate power, demonstrate and ability to make gains and solidify preparations for a much larger assault.
“We announced months ago that shaping operations for Mosul have begun. This is part of that effort. The coalition support is focused on helping the Iraqis liberate Mosul and conducted in close coordination with the Government of Iraq,” Pentagon spokesman Maj. Roger M. Cabiness II, told Scout Warrior.
Officials with U.S. Central Command explain that “shaping” exercises for a full offensive into Mosul have been underway for several weeks.
“We began the isolation of Mosul from Raqqa and central Iraq when the Peshmerga took Sinjar and Iraqi Security Forces, retook Tikrit and Bayji. Operations in the Euphrates River valley support the eventual battle inside Mosul by preventing Da’esh (ISIS) from reorienting forces to that fight, and preventing easy resupply of the fighters in Mosul,” U.S. Central Command told Scout Warrior in a written statement.
At the same time, the U.S. military has established a special, separate fire base apart from Iraqi forces in Northern Iraq designed to protect Iraqi Security Forces massing in preparation for an upcoming massive offensive attack on ISIS-held Mosul, officials said.
The outpost, called “Firebase Bell,” includes roughly a company-sized force of several hundred Marines. While U.S. military units have previously established a presence to defend Iraqi troops in other locations throughout Iraq, this firebase marks the first time the U.S. has set up its own separate location from which to operate in support of the Iraqi Security Forces, U.S. officials explained.
Armed with artillery and other weapons to defend Iraqi forces, the U.S. Marines have already exchanged fire with attacking ISIS fighters who have launched rockets at the firebase.
On March 19, ISIS forces launched two rocket attacks at the Marine Corps firebase, killing one U.S. Marine and injuring others, Warren explained while offering condolences to the family of fallen Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin.
U.S. Marine Corps counter-battery fire was unable to destroy the location from which the rockets were launched, as ISIS is known to use mobile launchers and quickly abandon its fire location.
The Marines, who are from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, are armed with 155m artillery weapons able to reach targets at distances greater than 30-kilometers. The weapons are designed to thwart and destroy any approaching ISIS forces hoping to advance upon massing Iraqi forces or launch attacks.
When it comes to the eventual full assault on Mosul, Warren did not deny that U.S. military firepower from “Firebase Bell” might support attacking Iraqi Security Forces with offensive artillery attacks, but did not confirm the possibility either – explaining he did not wish to elaborate on potential future operations.
Overall, there are roughly 3,700 U.S. troops in Iraq, however that number could rise by a thousand or two in coming weeks – depending upon how many U.S. forces are temporarily assigned to the region.
The terror attacks on September 11, 2001, shook the free world. Americans at home, abroad and our allies mourned the tragic loss of life that day. For American expats in the United Kingdom, London became the focal point of their grief.
On September 12, Queen Elizabeth II made a request that broke a 600-year-old royal tradition. For centuries, the Bands of the Household Division played music during the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace and all the other Royal Palaces and Castles. The music played during the ceremony has always been a mix of traditional British songs and popular music of the day. However, foreign national anthems are played for state visits in honor of foreign dignitaries. In an unprecedented show of solidarity, the Queen requested the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
On September 13, an estimated 5,000 people gathered outside of Buckingham Palace, many of them Americans. The Coldstream Guards, the oldest continuously serving regular regiment in the British Army, conducted the Changing of the Guard. During the ceremony, the Band of the Coldstream Guards played “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Some of the crowd sang along while the American ambassador to Britain, William Farish, stood with his hand over his heart next to Prince Andrew. Many in the crowd waved American flags with tears in their eyes.
The conclusion of the song was met with resounding applause. A two-minute silence was observed before Prince Andrew led the troops in a formal salute. The band then played a selection of somber American music including “Hymn to the Fallen” by John Williams, the song from the final credits of Saving Private Ryan. Any irony of the British Household Band playing not only a foreign national anthem outside of a state visit, but a song whose lyrics highlight American perseverance over the British during the War of 1812, was completely overshadowed by the friendship and support shown between the two nations.
The next day, a memorial service for 9/11 victims was held at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, again at the request of the Queen. Over 2,600 people filled the cathedral including the Queen, the Prince of Wales, Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Ambassador Farish. At the opening of the service, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played with the Queen singing along. In addition to the American national anthem, “Battle Hymn of the Republic” was also sung toward the end of the service.
The incredible show of support by the British people in the wake of 9/11 carried into the War on Terror. To this day, British troops stand steadfast alongside Americans to combat those who would do harm to either country or their allies.
One of the Allies’ most heroic spies was an amputee turned down by the State Department because of her leg amputation who served with both the British Special Operations Executive and the American Office of Strategic Services, coordinating resistance attacks and other operations in Nazi-occupied Europe.
Virginia Hall lost her left leg in a hunting accident while serving in the American embassy in Turkey. She ordered a wooden a prosthetic that she named “Cuthbert.” and practiced with it to ensure she could do nearly everything with it that she had done with two legs.
Despite her efforts, the State Department turned Hall down when she requested to take the oral exam needed for her to become a diplomat.
She then returned to France and, when Germany invaded Poland, joined the French Army as an ambulance driver and learned how the Nazis were treating Jewish people in Poland. When France fell to the Nazis in 1940, she escaped to London and was quickly recruited into the SOE.
The SOE sent her to France as its first female operative in the country. Hall worked from the city of Lyon as a spy posing as a writer for an American newspaper. While in Southern France, she helped establish safe drop zones for the insertion of British agents and supplies for resistance fighters.
The Gestapo began focusing on the region and had orders to hunt “La Dame Qui Boite,” the “Limping Lady.” Hall and her co-conspirators fled in 1942 over the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain. When she reported to the SOE that “Cuthbert” was giving her trouble in the mountains, headquarters told her, “If Cuthbert is giving you difficulty, have him eliminated.”
What was she supposed to do? Shoot her leg again?
Hall was arrested in Spain because she lacked papers, but a letter smuggled to the American consul there got her released six weeks later. She continued working for the SOE in Madrid but thought she was being coddled in such a safe mission.
She wrote to the headquarters, “I am living pleasantly and wasting time. It isn’t worthwhile and after all, my neck is my own. If I am willing to get a crick in it, I think that’s my prerogative.”
But in early 1944, Hall learned that America had stood up its own spy agency, the Office of Strategic Services. She immediately volunteered for OSS service in occupied France.
The Americans got her a ride into France on a British torpedo boat and she went undercover as an elderly milkmaid. She was probably the only elderly milkmaid in the country who coordinated parachute drops, reported German troop movements, and snuck across the country while transmitting Nazi military secrets via a suitcase radio.
Using supplies inserted into the drop zones she had selected, Hall trained and armed three battalions of French resistance fighters and prepared them for D-Day. When the Allies launched Operation Overlord and came across the channel, her forces launched a series of attacks to disrupt the Germans and help the liberators.
Fighters operating under Hall’s direction derailed trains, sabotaged bridges, destroyed rail and telephone lines, and killed and captured hundreds of Germans.
As the war in Europe wound to a close, Gen. Bill Donovan, head of the OSS approved the award of a Distinguished Service Cross to Hall and suggested to President Harry Truman that he pin it on her personally. Instead, Hall requested that the ceremony be kept private so that she could continue work in the clandestine service.
The administration agreed and Gen. Bill Donovan, head of the OSS, pinned the medal on her in September 1945. She was the first civilian and only American woman to receive the award in World War II.
Hall continued to serve in the OSS and then the Central Intelligence Agency until her mandatory retirement at the age of 60 in 1966.