The operation — which involved U.S. special operations troops along with Kurdish and Iraq forces — took place in northern Iraq’s Kirkuk province in the town of Hawija, according to CNN. At around 3 a.m., the area was bombed by coalition air power in support of two helicopters used to land in the vicinity of the makeshift prison, The Guardian reported.
The Pentagon released this statement regarding the operation:
The U.S. provided helicopter lift and accompanied Iraqi Peshmerga forces to the compound. Approximately 70 hostages were rescued including more than 20 members of the Iraqi Security Forces. Five ISIL terrorists were detained by the Iraqis and a number of ISIL terrorists were killed as well. In addition, the U.S. recovered important intelligence about ISIL.
One U.S. service member was wounded during the rescue mission acting in support of Iraqi Peshmerga forces after they came under fire by ISIL. He subsequently died after receiving medical care. In addition, four Peshmerga soldiers were wounded.
Rakan Saeed, the deputy governor of Kirkuk, told The Washington Post that US and Peshmerga forces freed 70 prisoners, extracted them on helicopters, but could not offer any more details.
“We deeply mourn the loss of one of our own who died while supporting his Iraqi comrades engaged in a tough fight,” Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command, told the BBC.
The soldier’s death marks the first time a U.S. military member has been killed in combat fighting against ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh), which the Pentagon refers to as Operation Inherent Resolve.
Officials have not yet released the identity of the soldier killed in the raid, as it is standard to notify family members before any public notification. The Pentagon has planned a briefing on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. Eastern.
Any time someone sets out to make a war film, he or she risks getting swept up into the action, the combat, the inherent drama that comes with the subject. The truly great war movies recognize the smaller elements, the ironies and subtleties of life during conflicts. Day One, a short film from U.S. Army veteran turned filmmaker Henry Hughes, is such a movie.
“We’re not having a lot of success in getting telling the soldier experience story,” says Hughes, an American Film Institute alum. “I don’t think we’ve changed much how we look at war and the stories that come out of it. Troops are portrayed as either victims or heroes. We still think war is ironic, that we go in and we’re surprised by the things that we find in war. Maybe there’s some bad things about it, and we’re like ‘oh that’s a surprise!’ But it’s not a surprise. War is a very mixed bag, but it can be spiritual and it can be fun and it can be dangerous and it can be morally wrong at times and it can also be one of the things you’re most proud of because you do some really good things.”
Day One is based on Hughes’ own experience with his translator while he was an infantry officer in 173d Airborne Brigade Combat Team. The movie follows a new female translator’s first day accompanying a U.S. Army unit as it searches for a local terrorist in Afghanistan. Her job brings up brutal complexities as gender and religious barriers emerge with lives hanging in the balance.
“Having a female interpreter definitely changed my perspective of fighting, particularly having been on two deployments,” Hughes says. “The first time, it feels very new and romantic and exciting. The second time, you aren’t seeing a lot of impact in the way you would like and so you start wondering if you’re doing the right thing. In this instance, I had this Afghan-American woman with me at all times, and she was the person I communicated with locals to and she had access to the Afghan women in a way that I have never had before.”
“In my first deployment we didn’t even look at the women,” Hughes continues. “I remember that was a thing we did as a company. When we were on a trail and a woman came by, we would clear the trail, turn out, and allow them to walk by. Now all of a sudden, I mean I’m not face to face with these women but my interpreter would tell me she just spoke with a woman that would give us a very different perspective from what we would usually get. It’s interesting in that way.”
Hughes’ Army perspective spans more than just his time as an Army officer. He was also a military brat, following his dad with the rest of the family, living in Germany and Texas. As an officer in the 173d, he went to Airborne and Ranger School, Armor School, and Scout Leaders Course to prepare for his time in Afghanistan during 2007 and 2008 and then again in 2010.
“I’m very interested in exploring the military stuff because it is such a hyperbolic life.” He says. “Things are just so condensed and so strange and powerful. It’s like the meaning of life is life hangs in balance sometimes. You get that moment in the military and most people don’t ever work in those types of absolutes.”
Hughes has always been the artistic type. He went to a high school that had a TV studio, which inspired the creative side of his personality. He’s also come to believe that the military is the perfect place to start a filmmaking career.
“You take so many lessons from your military experience and apply them into filmmaking because it is so team-oriented and team-based. The ability to communicate and draft up a single clear mission or objective. Those skills that I learned as a young officer are paying massive dividends now, being creative.”
Hughes also believes a good storyteller must step out of his or her comfort zone to empathize with the characters and relate them to the audience.
“With trying to express yourself artistically, you have to be a little bit more vulnerable. ‘What is actually at play here,’ as opposed to ‘How do I accomplish this?’ I think you have to be a little bit more introspective whereas in the military, we’re very external and action-driven. It’s just analysis but we all do tons of analysis in the military too. I think it’s a good thing.”
There’s increased incidence of ALS — also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease — among veterans of all wars, from the Vietnam War to the Gulf War to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
This week, Marine Corps veteran Roger Brannon reached the two-year anniversary of a life-altering amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis, a milestone that many in his position will not live to see. ALS is an incurable, neurodegenerative disease that progresses rapidly.
(Courtesy of the Brannon Family)
Over 80 percent of those diagnosed die within two to five years. Military veterans are two times more likely to develop ALS than those who’ve never served. It was once thought that increased incidence of ALS was limited to veterans of Vietnam and the first Gulf War, but it’s now striking Enduring Freedom vets who served in Afghanistan at the same rates. Despite this, there’s a surprisingly low amount of awareness of the disease among the veteran community.
Roger Brannon and his wife Pam are on a mission to change this. Up to to 95 percent of veterans who develop the disease are diagnosed with sporadic ALS — which means there is no family history of the disease and doctors unable to precisely pinpoint a cause.
(Courtest of the Brannon Family)
“They can’t tell us why we have it, what we did to get it, and that’s very unnerving because you can’t tell any other veteran or friend what to do to not get ALS,” Roger says.
What Roger and Pam are doing is sharing what they know: resources, coping strategies, and VA benefits. Veterans actually have far greater available to them than the average ALS patient in America. For example, Radicava, the first drug treatment specifically for ALS approved since 1995, was made available to VA hospitals before more widespread distribution – and the Department of Veterans Affairs has automatically assumed, since 2008, that a veteran’s ALS is service-connected.
ALS is a terminal disease but early diagnosis can slow its progression and knowing about it increases the likelihood of identifying it quickly. All veterans and their families can do is arm themselves with the best information on how to deal with what lies ahead. With a pre-teen and teen at home, the hardest thing for Pam Brannon is not knowing if they will ever live out the family’s dreams.
“Will there be a next birthday? A next anniversary? Will Roger live to see a graduation?” Pam asks. “At the end of the day, there’s no book for when you’re diagnosed with a terminal disease.”
Much has been written about the threat of Islamic State militants’ use of unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, commonly known as drones, over the embattled city of Mosul.
IS was quick to weaponize UAVs with small improvised explosive devices.
On Jan. 24, they released a video showing up to 19 different aerial attacks by commercially purchased UAVs — the kind of drone you can buy in any shopping center. Iraqi forces have followed suit by attaching modified 40mm grenades with shuttlecock stabilizers onto their larger UAVs to drop on IS positions.
A crude inaccurate way of killing terrorists, its effectiveness is questionable. Weaponized IS UAVs have mainly been used to target Iraqi military commanders and troops congregating in the open near the front line.
It’s a low-end, low-altitude attack that can be thwarted by keeping in hard cover.
But both sides use the UAV’s more effectively as a means of providing Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance, known as ISR.
Islamic State UAVs in the air, once identified, are the warning that something is about to happen — either mortar fire, which is typically one hastily fired inaccurate round — before coalition air superiority can locate and target the firing point.
Or, more devastatingly, the launching of a Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device, an SVBIED.
Since the Battle for Mosul officially started on Oct. 16, 2016, hundreds of SVBIEDs have been launched.
Recently, Sky News’ Special Correspondent Alex Crawford and cameraman Garwen McLuckie faced a number of SVBIEDs during their reporting from West Mosul’s front line.
Each time a small UAV was hovering high above. One occasion two were spotted.
Chief Correspondent Stuart Ramsay, cameraman Nathan Hale and Producer Haider Kata were also targeted by a SVBIED. On this occasion the UAV filmed the SVBIED (an armored Fronting Loader) to its intended target, a tank.
Later, the video was posted on Islamic State websites.
Due to the built-up urban area and the ever-changing nature of the battle, IS drivers of the SVBIEDs are believed to be hiding in garages with their heavily armoured explosive-laden vehicles. Modified with armor at the front and cameras on the wing mirrors, they provide militants with a 360-degree view of the battlefield and are notoriously difficult to stop.
They wait as the Iraqi forces move slowly forward, seizing ground and minimizing the driving distance to strike.
If they launch too early, the SVBIED will be exposed to air strikes or anti-tank fire, the only two real ways of neutralizing the vehicle.
But hidden IS drivers may not know the exact location of the moving Iraqi forces or be familiar with the streets and or access routes to their targets.
This is where the UAV is the key component to the attack.
The operators of the UAV act as navigators for the suicide driver; guiding him by radio or cell phone through battle-worn streets, they can help deliver the driver to his intended target with greater efficiency and accuracy.
This is a deadly combination.
The coalition has attempted to blanket all of Mosul in a red no-fly zone for commercially purchased UAVs, but this has been thwarted by either smart software adjustments to the unit or by placing aluminum material over the GPS.
Other methods have included the Battelle Drone Defender gun (hand portable beam type weapon) and the Spynel infrared camera, which is used to locate incoming UAVs. Both have been very limited, as UAV use is usually confined within a few hundred meters at the very front of the fight where these systems are not always deployed.
If an IS UAV is sighted, the immediate response by Iraqi forces is to engage it with small and heavy weapons, a difficult shot when aiming at a high flying fast moving object of no more than a meter wide.
After the firing has stopped, all attention shifts to street level as experienced operators know the next thing coming will be more deadly.
Many harmless recreational drones have now become deadly tools of war.
The various developers of these off-the-shelf UAVs probably never envisaged that their products would be used in a lethal cat and mouse hunt through Mosul’s war-torn streets.
“China respects and upholds the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, which countries enjoy under international law, but firmly opposes any country’s attempt to undermine China’s sovereignty and security in the name of the freedom of navigation and overflight,” said Geng Shuang, a spokesman China’s Foreign Ministry, according to CNN.
Indeed, China’s military doctrine even goes as far as permitting a first strike against threats to China’s sovereignty, but the USS Carl Vinson has been operating in the South China Sea for decades.
But the move to promote freedom of navigation in the South China Sea comes as China has all but nailed down the region as firmly within its control. China owns a series of artificial islands, which satellite images show it has militarized with missile launchers and radar outposts.
The US takes no side in the dispute between China and six other nations over who owns what in the region but has repeatedly expressed interest in preserving freedom of navigation in an area with vast oil reserves and about $5 trillion in annual shipping.
At an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit on Sunday, leaders from the region tried to develop a framework for a code of conduct in the heavily contested South China Sea, but found the process “has become virtually moot and academic,” former Philippines National Security Adviser Roilo Golez told ABS-CBN news
“I expect China to still resist the finalization and approval (of a code of conduct) so that China can further militarize the artificial islands with the placement of offensive medium-range and long-range missiles,” said Golez.
Navy SEALs writing books about their craft is a common trope shared within the military community, and apparently it’s not too far from the truth.
In the wake of former SEALs Matt Bissonnette and Robert O’Neill sharing details of their involvement in the Osama bin Laden raid, the special operations elite have a spotlight on them. And while it doesn’t look like any other military unit is going to come close to that level of attention, a search of books published about special operations forces shows that SEALs indeed take the top prize.
“A critical tenant of our Ethos is ‘I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions.’ Our Ethos is a life-long commitment and obligation, both in and out of the service. Violators of our Ethos are neither teammates in good standing, nor teammates who represent Naval Special Warfare,” reads recent letter from Naval Special Warfare.
But that certainly hasn’t stopped the presses.
Using the non-scientific method of Amazon.com book search for common terms to describe America’s elite units, we found the tallies for books by or about:
To be clear, there is plenty of room for error here. “Delta Force” sometimes shows up when searching for “Special Forces” and vice versa. And books with “Navy SEAL” can have anything from a firsthand account of a mission to a cheesy romance novel.
But the numbers certainly show one thing: Recon Marines really need to step it up with their writing.
The veteran community has always shared a general sense of the positive elements of what they brought to their communities as a result of their experiences in uniform, and now a new report has quantified the value of them.
The 2015 Veterans Civic Health Index, created by Got Your Six and a handful of other veteran-focused organizations, was released to the public today at an event at The National Press Club featuring Secretary Robert A. McDonald of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Got Your 6 managing director Chris Marvin, and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D – Hawaii). Key findings include the following:
Veteran volunteers serve an average of 160 hours annually – 25 percent more than non-veteran volunteers.
Veterans are more likely than non-veterans to attend community meetings, fix neighborhood problems, and fill community leadership roles.
7 percent of veterans are involved in civic groups compared to just 5.8 percent of non-vets.
48 percent of veteran always vote in elections – 16 percent more than non-veterans.
62.5 percent of veterans trust their neighbors compared to 55.1 percent of non-veterans.
The report defines “civic health” as “a community’s capacity to work together to resolve collective problems” and goes on to say that it impacts local GDP, public health, upward income mobility, among other benefits that strengthen communities.
VA Secretary McDonald wasn’t surprised by the report’s positive findings and attributes the results to veterans’ sense of respect for others over themselves.
“Deep down we all feel a sense of inadequacy which we deal with by associating with others we respect,” he said. “And among veterans there’s always someone who commands more respect than ourselves. If you’re a clerk it’s the infantryman. If you’re an infantryman, it’s the combat veteran. If you’re a combat veteran, it’s the wounded warrior. And if you’re a wounded warrior, it’s the fallen soldier.”
Got Your 6 officials said they released this study as part of their ongoing effort to combat common misconceptions about veterans, while highlighting the civic strength of America’s returning servicemen and women.
“The civilian population has a misconception that veterans are ‘broken,’ disconnected, and unable to cope with civilian life,” Got Your 6 managing director Chris Marvin said. “The reality is much more complex.”
The public perceives that veterans are unemployed, homeless, and undereducated, but the report claims that over the past eight years, veterans have consistently earned more than their non-veteran counterparts, that veterans only comprise 8.6 percent of the current homeless population, and that veterans who participate in the GI Bill program complete their degree programs at a similar rate to the general population’s traditional postsecondary student.
“As a combat wounded veteran I’ve experience many different reactions to my service,” Marvin said. “The ones that rub me the wrong way are ones that focus on my deficits or treat me like a charity case. The ones that resonate the most are the ones that challenge me.”
An infographic of the entire report can be seen here.
As far back as documented history goes, war has crushed civilizations and built new empires. Regardless of era, military leaders and warlords have long sent visual (or “FU”) messages to their enemies in hopes that emotions, not tactics, take over the battlefield.
With both sides desperate for a victory, the art of mind manipulation can trigger a response that just might reduce the enemy’s will to fight.
1. Tossed in a gutter
ISIS controls many areas in Iraq, but that doesn’t stop members of the Iraqi forces from showing their own progress.
According to Fox News, Iraqis toss the dead bodies of ISIS members in the street gutters as a form of intimidation to ISIS sleeper cells and their supporters.
2. Drawn and Quartered
Most of us are familiar with William Wallace’s legacy, especially if you’ve seen Mel Gibson’sBraveheart. What the award-winning filmmaker didn’t show was what King Edward did after the end credits rolled.
According to duhaime.org, the King of England ordered his soldiers to cut Wallace’s body into four pieces and post them at the four corners of Britain. Wallace’s head was stabbed with a spike and set on London Bridge for an epic “screw you” message.
3. Capture the flag of your enemies
Those who have had the opportunity to fight in a Taliban-infected area probably noticed the white flags flapping in the wind over extremist strongholds.
Marines love flags, too — especially their own, which wave high above American positions. They also enjoy taking the Taliban flags and putting them on display for the bad guys to see.
4. A good slicing
Around 500 B.C., a war between the State of Yue and the State of Wu in China broke out.
Gou Jian, the King of Yue, was unsure of his victory over the Wu. To try to gain an element of surprise, Jian ordered 300 of his men to stand in front of the enemy, remove their swords and cut their own throats before the battle began.
The Wu were so completely stunned, Jian was able to send in his attack on the unsuspecting army and defeat them.
It’s never too early to start up Oscar talk, and after watching the trailer for “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” you’ll know what I mean.
Director Ang Lee’s (“Life of Pi,” “Brokeback Mountain”) latest movie looks at the victory tour of 19-year-old soldier Billy Lynn after an intense tour in Iraq. The film shows what really happened over there through flashbacks and contrasts that with the perception of Billy and his squad back home.
It’s based on the universally praised 2012 novel of the same name by Ben Fountain, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. For that and Ang Lee’s name alone, it’s sure to get a lot of attention.
Shot in 3D, the movie is certain to be visually stunning. But it also looks like it has the emotional weight to carry it to award season.
The film stars Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Vin Diesel, Steve Martin, and newcomer Joe Alwyn as Billy Lynn.
Watch the trailer below. The movie opens in November.
Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We’ll feature all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.
The branches of the U.S. military are like a very large family. They deal with one another because they have to, not because they always get along.
The differences don’t stop at uniforms. Each branch has its own goals, mission, and its own internal culture. At the upper levels of the services, they compete for funds and favor from civilians in DoD. In the lower ranks, they compete for fun and favor from civilians in bars and strip clubs (especially in North Carolina). The branches are like siblings, competing for the intangible title of who’s “the best” from no one in particular.
“The Soviets are our adversary. Our enemy is the Navy.” —Gen. Curtis LeMay, U.S. Air Force
Of course, when it comes to joint operations downrange, a lot of that goes out the window. But when the op-tempo isn’t as hectic and frustration has time to build, the awesome Army platoon who saved your ass last month become a bunch of damn stupid grunts who steal everything you don’t lock down and leave their Gatorade piss bottles everywhere. Parsing out the best and worst of our services isn’t hard if we’re honest with ourselves.
Here’s how the other branches hate on the Navy, how they should actually be hating on the Navy, how the Navy hates on the Navy, and why to really love the Navy.
The easiest ways to make fun of the Navy
Sailor harassment has its roots in the age-old reality that since man first decided to put military power to sea in ships, those aboard those ships were forced to spend weeks and months underway before being afforded a few days of downtime in a foreign port. As a result of this ratio, sailors may have had a tendency for exuberance while on liberty over the years. And that exuberance may have caused a scuffle or two that caught the attention of bar owners and other locals who may have developed impressions that were less than positive.
Over time these locals spread rumors that these sailors couldn’t hold their liquor and tended to burn through what little cash they had in a short time. Word of these phenomena returned stateside, which gave birth to the saying, “spending money like a sailor on liberty.”
Because sailors spend time on the water, service members from other military branches wanted to give them a nickname that was both sufficiently pejorative and germane. Naturally marine life came to mind. “Sharks” was too cool and tough and “guppies” was too cute, so they settled on “squids.” So if you want to make fun of a sailor call him or her a “squid.” They really hate that because squids are spineless and ugly and otherwise devoid of personality. (They can swim fast, but nobody really cares about that.)
Because SEALs. In the wake of the Bin Laden raid, SEALs have managed to morph from silent professionals to the warfare specialty that is quick to tell all to land book and movie deals.
Because Top Gun. No other military movie in history has done more to give the public the wrong idea about what it means to serve. And it’s got a lot of homoerotic imagery, which leads to . . .
. . . The quickest way to strike a squid’s nerve is to make “gay” jokes. Yes, you know the kind, “100 sailors go out, 50 couples come back,” or “it ain’t gay if it’s under way,” and many, many more. It also doesn’t help that sailors are a popular gay fantasy.
Henri Belolo created the Village People around macho male stereotypes that gays fantasize about. The cowboy, cop, construction worker, leather-clad biker, Indian, and the sailor. The band became popular, moved into the mainstream and took the sailor in the cute Crackerjack uniform along with it. Yes, we said “cute.” Admit it, the sailor dress uniform has more in common with the Japanese school girl uniform than with the other service branches.
Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay, of course. This is, after all, the post-DADT world.
Because nuclear power. While the introduction of this science gave Navy ships the ability to sail a long, long time without refueling, the existence of it also created a zero-tolerance culture that has raised the bar of fun suppression to heights that can never be lowered. And this ability to sweat the load has crossed over into other warfare specialties and other branches of the military. Thanks, Nukes . . .
Why to actually hate the Navy
Every service tries to imitate the Marine Corps when it comes to celebrating its birthday, and the Navy’s history makes this in many ways the biggest joke (which is a polite way to say “the biggest lie”). While the Navy uses October 13, 1775 as the birth date, they leave out the fact that the first version of the U.S. Navy was dismantled completely after the Revolutionary War because the ragtag bunch of vessels they managed to assemble on the fly did little to protect ports or disrupt the British in any way.
And this anti-Navy sentiment in and around DC lasted a while after that. Thomas Jefferson hated the idea of a standing Navy and few in Congress thought any differently about it. It wasn’t until early Navy badass Stephen Decatur decided to take a couple of ships to Tripoli to raise some Yankee hell against the Barbary Pirates. His successes made lawmakers take notice and actually warm to the idea of a standing Navy, and one with an over-the-horizon outlook.
So the real birth date of the Navy would be somewhere around 1810 when Decatur took the USS United States up and down the east coast to show the American public what they had in terms of seagoing capability.
Hate SAPR training and the CYA leadership atmosphere you’re currently serving under? Blame the Navy.
All the mechanisms that surround using the military as a social experiment and other morale-sapping things that get labeled as “politically correct” started with the Tailhook Scandal in the early ’90s. Of course, sexual battery, never mind harassment, is a bad thing that should never be tolerated, but Navy leadership over the years has done little to stop agenda-based over-corrections that have marginalized the culture in undesirable ways (in the eyes of those who intimate they know about warfighting and such).
So, regardless of your branch, if you feel like you’re serving in a nanny state, blame the Navy.
Because Jimmy Carter. He’s a Naval Academy grad and a submariner, but he never really acted like it when he was Commander-in-chief. His “man is inherently good” naivete made for some very bad foreign policy, most notably in how he de-fanged the CIA and emboldened the Iranian government to take Americans hostage for 444 days. And the Desert One rescue attempt was a disaster. Basically his time in the White House made the country very happy to see Ronald Reagan.
And because the Navy is the absolute worst when it comes to changing uniforms. Remember aviation greens? How about service dress khaki? No? Well, here’s one for you: aquaflage. What are you hiding in, the water? And if a sailor is in the water don’t you want to be able to see him or her? We rest our case.
Because they wrecked most of what was cool about the band Godsmack and made them corporate sellouts.
Because sailors don’t have to eat MREs when they deploy. Ships are built with mess decks and Navy cooks (and supply officers) generally take pride in serving the crew good food.
Why to love the Navy
Because Navy SEALs. They popped OBL and the Somali pirates and many more high value bad actors since 9-11. Their warfighting skills are second to none.
Because Hollywood remains enamoured by Navy life, it keeps teeing up Navy-themed shows like “The Last Ship,” and as a result, the general public has a favorable opinion of the military.
Because strike warfare. As has been the case throughout history U.S. Navy carriers and surface combatants were the first on the scene after 9-11, and because of that we were able to take it to the enemy a mere three weeks after the homeland was attacked.
Because the U.S. Navy really is, as the commercials state, “a global force for good.” From Hurricane Katrina to the Haitian earthquake to the tsunami in Thailand, when a country needs humanitarian assistance, the Navy has always been first on the scene.
Because the Navy continues to fight “the war between the wars.” The Navy goes to potentially hostile places like the littorals of Yemen and Chinese-claimed islands to prove to those nations that we’re willing to protect the sea lanes to keep goods moving safely to and from our shores.
The Pullman Palace Car Company, a railway car manufacturer, was located in Pullman, Illinois. The company owned the houses, the stores, the land, the churches — everything.
The company was not named after the town; the town was named after Pullman Car Company owner George Pullman. It was designed around housing his workers and their families – but the cost of everything they needed for survival was deducted from their paychecks.
So the Pullman workers only had about $6 to live on (roughly $150, adjusted for inflation). One worker, who said he earned $.02, had his check framed (that’s 51 cents in 2016). The next year, Pullman’s workers joined the American Railway Union and decided to strike.
Soon, rail workers all over the country would not operate lines that used Pullman cars out of solidarity with the workers in Illinois. Boycotts and strikes against lines and the Pullman company caused complete paralysis in national transportation. The New York Times called it “the greatest battle between labor and capital that has ever been inaugurated in the United States.” The Chicago Tribune called it an “insurrection.”
The General Manager’s Association called for the use of Federal troops to end the strike.
President Grover Cleveland was happy to oblige. His Attorney General, Richard Olney, worked for the railways before coming to the White House. He and Cleveland concluded that if strikers were not put down in Chicago, it could spread to the rest of the country. He decided it was imperative to restore federal authority.
The Attorney General banned all labor strikes. The workers were unmoved, and over the protests of Illinois’ governor, U.S. troops marched on Chicago.
Up until this point, the strike was relatively peaceful. Union leader Eugene V. Debs maintained that violence would only play into the hands of their employer. When the Army came in, “the very sight of a blue coat aroused their anger.”
Both Debs and Army leader Gen. Nelson Miles worried the confrontation would spark a new Civil War. It didn’t, but the violence that started on July 4, 1894, spread across the country like wildfire. Nearly 14,000 troops – funded by the railroads – occupied Chicago while workers called each other out to meet them and destroy railroad property.
Eventually, the blockade on Chicago was broken by sending in trains full of U.S. troops to clear the lines. Within two weeks, freight movement was on the rise, Debs was in jail, and the military controlled the city.
All told, 30 people died and the railways suffered an estimated $80 million in damage.
As state militia replaced Federal troops, Pullman began to rehire its workers as soldiers looked on.
While the union workers were dedicated to a lasting victory through legal means, the illegal use of force made that kind of victory all but impossible. In the long run, the workers were happy to prove that a joint effort could upturn the deeply-entrenched social order.
Six days later, President Cleveland designated Labor Day as a federal holiday to reconcile national sentiment between business and labor.
In the years immediately following World War II, based on the idea that the war was over and the world was a more peaceful place, Capitol Hill and the White House were putting pressure on the Pentagon by reducing the defense budget. President Truman believed the military could cut costs by taking redundant efforts across all the branches and combining them into unified commands. The most radical of these ideas was taking the Department of War and the Department of the Navy and placing them under a new command known as the Department of National Defense.
The Army had actually teed up the idea of the Department of National Defense, yielding to the fact that they were about to lose the Army Air Corps, which was morphing into the U.S. Air Force, a branch of its own. The Navy fought the notion of the Air Force having service branch status, pointing to the fact that they’d just won a world war and everything was just fine as it was. The Navy had no desire to be anything other than completely independent from the Army, and the idea of a new branch with cognizance over air power made the admirals paranoid that they’d lose control of their sea-based air power in time.
But military technology was changing fast, particularly that designed to conduct nuclear warfare, and Air Force leaders actively socialized an agenda that conventional assets — like aircraft carriers and other surface combatants — were increasingly irrelevant on the battlefields of the future.
For its part, the Navy’s leadership believed that wars could not be won by strategic bombing alone, with or without the use of nuclear weapons. The Navy also held a moral objection to relying upon the widespread use of nuclear weapons to destroy the major population centers of an enemy homeland. The Navy’s signature platform for sea service relevance in wars to come was the USS United States (CVA 58), a new generation of aircraft carrier that could launch airplanes that weighed as much as 100,000 pounds, the kind that would be able to carry the nuclear payloads of the day.
The Navy had an ally in the form of the first Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal, who had previously been Secretary of the Navy. He authorized production of the United States class of carriers with a run of five ships. But when Truman got elected in 1948 he immediately replaced Forrestal with Louis Johnson, who had previously been an assistant secretary of War and, more importantly, perhaps, had been a major fundraiser for the Truman campaign.
Johnson did little to calm the ever-growing inter-service rivalries when he said this:
There’s no reason for having a Navy and Marine Corps. General Bradley tells me that amphibious operations are a thing of the past. We’ll never have any more amphibious operations. That does away with the Marine Corps. And the Air Force can do anything the Navy can do nowadays, so that does away with the Navy.
Johnson canceled the construction of the United States class of carriers without any warning to the Navy or Congress. The blow to the morale of the Navy was substantial. The Secretary of the Navy, John Sullivan, and several high-ranking admirals resigned in protest. A few days later, Johnson shocked another branch of the military by announcing that Marine Corps aviation assets would be transferred to the brand-new U.S. Air Force. (The Marines flexed their own congressional muscles, and the measure was quietly reversed.)
Johnson continued to provoke the Navy, replacing Sullivan as SecNav with former USO director and fellow Truman fundraiser Francis P. Matthews, who admitted the closest thing he had to maritime experience was “rowing a boat on a lake.”
One Navy leader took to the press. Rear Admiral Daniel Gallery wrote a series of articles for the Saturday Evening Post, a popular weekly magazine, the last of which was titled “Don’t Let Them Scuttle the Navy!” That article angered Johnson to the point he called for a court-martial for Gallery on the grounds of gross insubordination. The court-martial never happened, but Gallery was passed over for another star and retired.
Meanwhile, Congress decided they had had enough of the inter-service bickering. The House Armed Services Committee held hearings in an attempt to get to the bottom of the tension, but the lawmakers’ attempt to settle the feud threatened to make it worse. During the hearings, the Navy admirals gathered accused Secretary of Defense Johnson of favoring the Air Force’s procurement of the B-36 bomber over the new aircraft carriers because he had previously been on the board of directors of Convair, the manufacturer of the B-36.
The previously anonymous author of the original paper accusing Johnson of a conflict of interest was called to testify. That author, Cedric Worth, a retired commander and a staffer to an undersecretary of the Navy, provided uncompelling testimony against Johson and was ultimately fired from his position, which further embarrassed the Navy.
A second set of hearings focused on the cancellation of the United States class of aircraft carriers. The Army and Air Force commanders testified that naval aviation should be used to reinforce the Air Force, but could not be used for sustained actions against land targets.
The new Secretary of the Navy, Francis Matthews, announced that no Navy man would be censored or penalized for the testimony he offered at the hearing. The naval officers called to testify were expected to support Secretary Matthews, but instead, they all testified that the Air Force reliance on the B-36 was inadequate and that the entire strategy of atomic bombing was misguided. The Navy leaders who came before the committee were basically a World War II all-star team: King, Halsey, Nimitz, and Spruance, along with a captain named Arleigh Burke, later the father of undersea ballistic missiles and other Navy-based nuclear deterrent capabilities.
Burke testified that the Navy had done successful tests that showed their F2H Banshee bomber could launch off of an aircraft carrier, reach 40,000 feet and destroy a bomber. He also assumed the Soviet Union had such an airplane, and therefore U.S. Air Force bombers like the B-36 would need Navy fighter escort since they didn’t have an airplane that could perform like that.
The congressional committee disapproved of Johnson’s “summary manner” of terminating the United States and his failure to consult congressional committees before acting. The committee stated that “national defense is not strictly an executive department undertaking; it involves not only the Congress but the American people as a whole speaking through their Congress. The committee can in no way condone this manner of deciding public questions.”
The committee expressed solid support for Truman’s plan for budget reduction by effective unification, but stated that “there is such a thing as seeking too much unification too fast” and observed that “there has been a navy reluctance in the inter-service marriage, an over-ardent army, a somewhat exuberant air force . . . It may well be stated that the committee finds no unification Puritans in the Pentagon.”
The Navy icons from World War II were bulletproof with respect to the ire of Secretary of the Navy Matthews, but some of the lower ranking admirals paid for their candid testimony with their careers. Matthews attempted to block the promotion of Burke, but his reputation as a fast-track innovator had made it all the way to the White House, and Truman himself stepped in and put him back on the list.
In spite of the keen inter-service rivalry at the time, the arguments were ultimately settled by history. The Soviet threat underwrote the funding of the Air Force’s nuclear arsenal along with the requisite platforms to deliver it. At the same time, the Korean War demonstrated that the threat to the United States was not singular, as some Air Force leaders had asserted, and that carrier air power was still an important part of America’s defense capability. The Navy moved on to the Forrestal class, the first line of supercarriers, and since that time the first question every Secretary of Defense has asked during a time of crisis is, “Where are the aircraft carriers?”