Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country - We Are The Mighty
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Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

It all started with a question.

In the summer of 2012, Gen. Stanley McChrystal was wrapping up an onstage conversation at the Aspen Ideas Festival conference.


He was asked if the US should reinstate the draft.

Yes, he replied, but not to grow the size of the armed forces.

He argued that since only 1% of Americans serve their country, America lacks in shared experience — there’s almost no common background between the upper class and the middle class, the educated and the uneducated, the rural and the urban.

The solution, then, wouldn’t be mandatory military service, but national service — programs like Teach for America and City Year, but made accessible to a full quarter of a yearly cohort rather than an elite few.

Since that conversation, McChrystal has campaigned for making a “service year” a part of young Americans’ trajectories. The goal is to “create 1 million civilian national service opportunities every year for Americans between the ages of 18 and 28 to get outside their comfort zones while serving side by side with people from different backgrounds.”

In an interview with Business Insider, McChrystal, who has held positions as head of US Joint Special Operations Command and as the top commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan, explained his plan for making that happen, and the effects national service could have on American society.

Business Insider: What does the word “citizenship” mean to you, and how does national service inform it?

Gen. Stanley McChrystal: When I think of citizenship, I think of a nation as a covenant. It’s an agreement between a bunch of people to form a compact that does such things as common defense, common welfare, whatnot. The United States is not a place; it’s an idea, and it’s basically a contract between us.

BI: So if a nation is an agreement, then citizenship is putting that agreement into action?

SM: That’s exactly what it is.

BI: What does citizenship have to do with having a common experience?

SM: We’ve become a nation that’s split 50 ways.

There are fewer ties to the community today than when you lived in a small town, and everybody had to get together to raise a barn. You knew your neighbors because you had to. Grandparents tended to live in the same town as parents, and kids grew up there. Nowadays, we don’t live that way.

BI: But service programs today are unreachable for most people, so how can they serve as a common link? Teach for America, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps — these programs have acceptance rates comparable to Ivy League schools. How do you make service more accessible?

SM: What has happened is that many of our service practices have become almost elitist programs. They do it because they can, and also it protects their brand and their reputation so they can survive in tough times. But it’s not solving the problem because most of people who go do those kinds of things, I think they come out better citizens, but it’s too small a number — it’s less than 200,000 kids a year.

BI: There are a ton of social structures at work here. How do you make a change?

SM: We’ve got 4 million young people in every year cohort in America, so we think that in the next 10 years we’ve got to get to about a million kids every year to do a year of national service. That would be 25% of the year group.

Now, I can’t prove this, but our sense is that if we get to 25%, you probably get the critical mass, because what we’re trying to do is get this into the culture of America so that service is voluntary but it’s expected. Meaning if you go to interview for a job, you go to apply to a school, you go to run for congress, people are going to naturally ask, Where did you serve?

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

BI: OK, so how do you make that happen?

SM: Creating a big government agency isn’t the mechanism to do this.

We’re trying to take existing organizations like Teach for America and expand those. Then Cisco, the corporation, has donated money and helped to develop a digital platform that is going to give us a 21st-century ability to match opportunities and people looking for a service year opportunity.

I think we create a marketplace to do this that obviously starts slowly and then builds up momentum. And then once we get to the point where people really believe that service is not only a good thing to do — in an altruistic sense as citizen — but it also advantages them.

BI: There seems to be a lot of anxiety around doing “a gap year.” Are any programs already in place that take away that anxiety?

SM: There’s a program that Tufts University rolled out that’s called 1+4. And I was up there when they announced it. And what you do is, you apply for Tufts — I think there are 50 slots for the class that came in last September — but you do your first year doing national service, kind of like you’re red-shirted for football, and then you do your four years.

You’re already accepted, so the family doesn’t worry, Is Johnny going to go to college? If you’re on financial aid, Tufts pays for it. They pay for the national service. Tufts believe they get a more mature freshman. We’re pushing this in a lot of universities now because it’s a win-win for a university.

They do get a more mature person, and parents don’t worry about the vagaries of the gap year. There could be a lot of different permutations of that kind of thing, but those are the kinds of things that we see as practical steps.

BI: How will you know when the plan has succeeded?

SM: The key part of the ecosystem is the culture that demands national service. At some point, my goal is to get it so that nobody would run for Congress who hadn’t served, because they think they’d get pummeled for not having done a service year.

Also from Business Insider:

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

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Oldest living Marine, Dorothy ‘Dot’ Cole, dies at 107

Dorothy “Dot” Cole was one of the earliest female Marine reservists to enlist following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Initially wishing to join the Navy, Dot was turned down because of her height. Standing just 4 feet 11 inches tall, Dot’s other nickname was “Half-Pint” according to her daughter, Beth Kluttz. Dot turned 107 on September 19, 2020 and was widely celebrated as the oldest living Marine. Sadly, on January 7, 2021, Kluttz confirmed that Dot passed away.

Undeterred by the Navy’s rejection, Dot set herself a new goal: to fly for the Marine Corps. However, becoming a flying leatherneck was an even greater challenge since the Marines only allowed enlisted females to perform clerical duties until 1942. In July, as the war intensified and more personnel were needed, President Roosevelt signed the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve into law. This opened the door for women to serve in administrative, training and supply roles.

Still pursuing her dream of flight, Dot was busy earning her private pilot’s license. She accumulated 200 hours in a Piper Cub when she enlisted with the Marines on July 12, 1943, becoming one of the first volunteers. Dot attended 6 weeks of boot camp at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and earned her Eagle, Globe and Anchor. Despite her experience in the air, Dot was assigned to clerical duties after boot camp. “They put me behind a typewriter instead of an airplane,” Dot told the Independent Tribune of Concord during an interview for her 107th birthday last September.

Still, Dot served with enthusiasm. “I loved the hats we were wearing,” Dot told Marine Corps Times, also in September. “It was fun when I got the first complete Marine outfit. I loved it very much and felt right at home with it.” She spent her two years of service at a firing range in Quantico, Virginia. Her duties focused primarily on typing correspondence for officers. “It was kind of a tough time and we were not welcomed too well by many of the men in the service,” Cole recalled in the Marine Corps Times interview. “But they got over it.”

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country
Dot in 2020 (Beth Kluttz)

Dot met her future husband, Wiley Cole, in Washington, D.C. When the war ended in 1945, Dot was discharged in December as a Marine Sergeant. “We all left on a train,” Cole said in her Independent Tribune interview, “and many of us ladies were singing.” She moved to San Francisco with Wiley where they got married. In 1953, the couple had their daughter. Both Coles worked at the Ames Research Center, (which later became part of NASA) until Wiley’s death in 1955. Dot never remarried.

Kluttz moved from California to North Carolina in 1976 and Dot followed three years later. According to her daughter, Dot was living well into the 100th year of her life. “We could still go to Walmart and I could actually leave her alone and she’d go down her own way. And I can remember having a hard time finding her because she was so short, she was shorter than…the clothes racks…so I had a hard time locating her and a lot of times it scared me trying to find her,” Kluttz told the Charlotte Observer. Dot’s health started to deteriorate after she turned 105.

It was her daughter who started the process to determine that Dot was the oldest living Marine. Around the time Dot turned 103, Kluttz began to research who the oldest Marine might be. She suspected that it could be her mother, but couldn’t prove it. “So I just put it out there through them that ‘my mother as of this date is this age, and if anybody else is out there, please step forward’ pretty much is what I did,” Kluttz said. “I think some other Marines from the Marine Corps League, when she was getting ready to turn 107, they got in touch with headquarters up by the Pentagon there in Washington, and they were able to do the research, and they said, ‘Not only is she the oldest female Marine, but she is actually the oldest Marine as of September 2020.’”

Dot was awarded lifetime membership in the Marine Corps League Cabarrus Detachment 1175 in September 2020. Despite never being able to fly for the Marines, Dot is pleased to see the progress that women in the Corps have made. “The girls now, they have an open field with what they can do,” she said, “so it’s gotten better.” Dot’s service and determination is sure to inspire future Marines just like her.

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This video shows rare footage from an actual Vietcong ambush

A former first lieutenant with the 221st Signal Company in Vietnam, Paul Berkowitz, created a website to help former unit members connect. And one day, he was surprised to receive an audio tape from former member Rick Ekstrand. It was the audio portion of film shot on Hill 724 in Vietnam where a pitched battle followed a highly successful Vietnam ambush in November 1967.


Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country
Paratroopers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team fighting on Hill 823 during the Battle of Dak To. (Photo: U.S. Army)

During the Battle of Dak To, U.S. troops maneuvered against a series of hills covered with thick jungle vegetation, including Hill 724. In this footage from Nov. 7, two American companies attempted to maneuver on the hill and were ambushed by a North Vietnamese Army Regiment.

Alpha Company, the lead regiment, was pinned down and the two companies were outnumbered 10 to 1. Rockets, mortars, artillery, and machine gun fire rained down on the men as the camera operator narrated and filmed. Check out the amazing footage below from the American Heroes Channel:

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Boston Tea Party: How coffee became the official morning beverage of America

How does one start a revolution? It begins with a group of like-minded individuals who are bold enough to carry out an action against a superior entity, ultimately to change control of power. In the days of the American Revolution, these individuals were known as the Sons of Liberty, and their supporters — patriots like Sarah Bradlee Fulton, among others — predicated their success on secret preparation. How could they lead a rebellion against England’s powerful King George III and inspire townspeople to join their cause?

It didn’t happen overnight, but a series of events emboldened them to launch into action with an idea that was formed behind closed doors. It became known as the Boston Tea Party and is one of the most impactful political protests in history.


Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

1773: Working men disguised as Mohawks throw chests of tea into the harbour in protest against direct taxation by the British.

(Original Artist: Robert Reid. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.)

In the 1760s, the colonists living in Boston, Massachusetts, felt that the British were taking advantage of them. Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers who later penned America’s first political cartoon under the namesake “Join, or Die,” saw firsthand the strength and influence of a unified people. He shared these observations about his displeasure with the British through the written word, including poetry:

We have an old mother that peevish is grown,

She snubs us like children that scarce walk alone;

She forgets we’re grown up and have sense of our own,

Which nobody can deny, which nobody can deny.

Meanwhile, Boston’s economy thrived; they had successful taverns, the richest shipyard on the waterfront, 3,000 wooden and brick homes, and some 500 shops. The population of 16,000 were hardworking and young — half of them were teenagers. The majority in Boston were educated enough to read the ever-popular Boston Gazette newspaper and follow updates on how the British bullied and used them as pawns to fund their wartime debts (from the French and Indian Wars).

In 1765, Parliament, England’s governing body of the colonies, imposed the Stamp Act, which taxed Americans for anything made from paper after it arrived in colonial shipping ports. The Quartering Act followed, which demanded that citizens open their businesses and homes to British soldiers for housing and food. Two years later, the Townshend Act added paint, glass, lead, and tea to the list of taxable goods.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

Join, or Die. by Benjamin Franklin (1754), a political cartoon commentary on the disunity of the North American British colonies, was later used to encourage the former colonies to unite against British rule.

(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

The American colonists were naturally angry, and tensions were consolidated to an upheaval in anarchy. By this time, the secret society of rebels known as the Sons of Liberty had formed. Frontman Samuel Adams — among other members such as John Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere — held public gatherings at Faneuil Hall to gain notoriety. In secret, the future Founding Fathers also held private meetings at the Green Dragon Tavern or the “House of the Revolution,” previously located on Union Street in Boston’s North End. Samuel Adams’ individual actions had the British publicly cast him as “the most dangerous man in Massachusetts.”

Their freedoms were being infringed upon, writes Kathleen Krull in her book “What Was The Boston Tea Party?” They protested in small boycotts and skirmishes against loyalist businesses (those who sided with the British), which made the headlines in the next day’s newspaper — but, most importantly, it caught the attention of the royal tyrants. Adams encouraged other patriots who believed in their cause to act in defiance. They used intimidation, vandalism, and even defamation of tax collectors through a shameful punishment called tarring and feathering.

On Feb. 22, 1770, one of these strong-armed attempts turned violent when British customs officer, Ebenezer Richardson, fired his musket upon a group in his backyard, killing 11-year-old Christopher Seider. A month later, on March 5, 1770, Private Hugh White, a British soldier, used his bayonet against a patriot at the Custom House on King Street.

White escalated the verbal altercation to a physical one, and the angry mob countered with a volley of snowballs, rocks, and ice. Bells rang signalling a disturbance, and loyalists and patriots entered the street to see the commotion. As the riot ensued, the British fired their muskets, killing five colonists in what is today known as the Boston Massacre.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “Boston Massacre” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1870.

After these two incidents of bloodshed, the final straw was the imposition of the Tea Act, which was passed in May 1773. The Sons of Liberty had illegally smuggled tea from Holland because anything associated with the British infuriated them. Parliament countered with the enforcement of the British East India Company, the only tea that could be purchased. The once-adored tea from India and China, all 18 million pounds of it, had been outcasted by the colonists. So a group of American women began to make their own.

Women also played important if lesser-known roles in the events leading up to the Boston Tea Party. Similar to the Sons of Liberty, a group comprised of approximately 300 women was referred to as the Daughters of Liberty, and they had significant influence. Sarah Bradlee Fulton was an important figure who became known as the “Mother of the Boston Tea Party”; she later became one of the first women to come under the orders of George Washington as a spy during the American Revolution.

Fulton’s role in the Boston Tea Party wasn’t the infamous actions of dumping tea into Boston Harbor — it was more subtle, though equally important. Fulton is credited with suggesting that the patriots wear disguises during their great tea-dumping campaign to ensure that they couldn’t be recognized from a distance and would remain incognito when they ditched their outfits after the event.

Colonists also spread propaganda about British tea in the newspapers, instead valuing “Liberty Tea” made by American women in homemade batches. “Let us abjure the poisonous baneful plant and its odious infusion,” wrote one colonist. “Poisonous and odious, I mean, not on account of the physical qualities but on account of the political diseases and death that are connected with every particle of it.”

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

The Green Dragon Tavern, the meeting place where the Sons of Liberty planned the Boston Tea Party.

(Photo courtesy of The Green Dragon Tavern Museum.)

The Liberty Tea used the red root bush herb found growing on riverbanks. Red sumac berries and homegrown leaves were used to make Indian Lemonade Tea. Other recipes meticulously crafted delicious Raspberry Leaf Tea. It was declared “as good as any other tea, and much more wholesome in the end.”

While the Daughters of Liberty generally voiced their dissatisfaction with the British in quieter ways, they occasionally had to get a little rowdy. One such incident involved a merchant who was hoarding coffee, which was later dubbed the “Coffee Party.” Abigail Adams wrote about it to her husband, John, on July 31, 1777.

“There has been much rout and noise in the town for several weeks. Some stores had been opened by a number of people and the coffee and sugar carried into the market and dealt out by pounds. It was rumoured that an eminent, wealthy, stingy merchant (who is a bachelor) had a hogshead of coffee in his store which he refused to sell to the committee under 6 shillings per pound. A number of females some say a hundred, some say more assembled with a cart and trucks, marched down to the warehouse and demanded the keys, which he refused to deliver, upon which one of them seized him by his neck and tossed him into the cart. Upon his finding no quarter he delivered the keys, when they tipped up the cart and discharged him, then opened the warehouse, hoisted out the coffee themselves, put it into the trucks and drove off. It was reported that he had a spanking among them, but this I believe was not true. A large concourse of men stood amazed silent spectators of the whole transaction.”

But what happened in Boston Harbor four years prior was a pivotal moment in the fight for American independence.

On Dec. 16, 1773, an assembly was called at the Old South Meeting House, the largest building in colonial Boston. This is where John Hancock made a passionate demand: “Let every man do what is right in his own eyes!” The historic meeting amassed an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 colonists unified together against tyranny. The Boston Tea Party was put into motion to resist British oppression and to rally against taxation without proper representation.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “Destruction of the tea” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1881.

That evening, disguised as American Indians, “Adams’ Mohawks” marched toward Griffin’s Wharf carrying axes and tomahawks, wearing feathers on their caps and warpaint on their faces. The only opposition between the liberators and 342 chests of tea was a British officer who had drawn his sword. He was no match for them and simply stepped aside as he was heavily outnumbered. The men split into three groups and boarded the three ships: the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver. They ordered the crew below deck, then used ropes and pulleys to hoist 90- to 400-pound chests of tea up from the cargo area, onto the deck, and into the harbor.

A large crowd gathered on the shoreline and cheered on their patriots as they emptied the tea into the shallow harbor. With low tide, the harbor’s height was only two feet, therefore the “Indians” had to stomp the piles of overflowing tea leaves to get them to sink. Some of the raiding force tried to sneak tea into their pockets — one was even brave enough to use a rowboat to collect his stash, but these canoes were overturned. After they emptied all of the crates, enough to fill 18.5 million teacups, the “Indians” ducked into safe houses, through the help of the Daughters of Liberty, and were home by 10 that night.

John Andrews, an observer, later wrote, “They say the actors were Indians… Whether they were or not to a transient observer they appear’d as such, being cloth’d in blankets with the heads muffled and copper color’d countenances, each being arm’d with a hatchet or ax, and pair pistols, nor was their dialect different from what I conceive these [sic] geniusses to speak, as their jargon was unintelligible to all but themselves.”

To this day, due to a pledge of secrecy, it remains unclear of who was directly involved in the historic action of dumping tea into Boston Harbor. But the event — known now as the Boston Tea Party — has become one of the most iconic events of the American Revolution, igniting a revolt against British rule and the beginning of a new unified nation.

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This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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This is what it’s like to fire an 81mm mortar

Artillery is the king of the battlefield, but the big artillery pieces can’t be everywhere at once – and sometimes their response time is pretty long. Thankfully, for the grunts of today, the mortar is available. Think of this as portable artillery – capable of providing some very quick-response fire support for grunts.


The M252 Medium Weight Extended Range Mortar fits right into a vital niche, especially for lighter infantry units like the 10th Mountain Division, 82nd Airborne Division, and Marine units. According to a fact sheet from the Minnesota National Guard, this system weighs 91 pounds and is operated by a crew of three. That said, usually there will be other guys assigned to help carry additional rounds.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country
Spc. Scott Davis, mortarman with 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, adjusts the sights of an M252A1 mortar system. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joshua Petke/released)

The system can fire up to 30 rounds a minute, but you’re more likely to sustain a rate of 16 rounds a minute. A wide variety of ammo is available as well – anything from high explosive rounds to illumination flares to smoke rounds to white phosphorous. In short, this mortar, usually held at the battalion level of the light units, can do anything from concealing friendly troops to marking targets to blowing bad guys to smithereens.

As is the case with Ma Deuce and machine guns, mortar crews need proper training and plenty of practice to make the most of these systems. The procedures can be rehearsed sometimes using the M880 short-range round, but other times, you need to go out to the range and do the live-fire “full Monty.”

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country
U.S. Army soldiers fire mortar rounds at suspected Taliban fighting positions during Operation Mountain Fire in Barge Matal, a village in eastern Nuristan province, Afghanistan. (US Army photo)

You can see troops train on the M252 at the mortar range at the Grafenwoehr training area in the video below.

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QUIZ: Who said it, Tupac or Patton?

General Patton and Tupac are two very different historical figures. One is a legendary World War II hero, while the other is hip-hop royalty. Patton is immortalized in stories of military exploits and Tupac’s songs transcend time — he’s like the Elvis of the Hip-Hop genre.


Despite their differences, they both have a similar outlook on life. We gathered some of their most famous quotes to make this quiz. Did the Hip-Hop martyr or the World War II general say these things?

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A future Kentucky governor attempted biological warfare in the Civil War

Dr. Luke Blackburn was a respected medical doctor and philanthropist until he allegedly attempted to create a yellow fever outbreak targeting Northern civilians and soldiers during the Civil War. Despite widespread outrage at the time, he later won a landslide victory to become the governor of Kentucky.


Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country
Governor of Kentucky Luke Blackburn is best remembered for having fought many outbreaks of yellow fever and other diseases. (Photo: Kentucky Historical Society)

Blackburn was a native Kentuckian who began working as a physician after receiving his medical degree from Transylvania University. Early in his career, he implemented a quarantine to shut down a cholera epidemic and he later led another that successfully stopped an outbreak of yellow fever in the Mississippi River Valley. He gave an encore performance against another outbreak in 1854.

But when the tide of the Civil War started going against the South, he found that his loyalty to the Southern cause was greater than his dedication to the Hippocratic Oath.

The vaunted doctor allegedly traveled to Bermuda in 1864 when an epidemic of yellow fever broke out. During this time in the Civil War, the disease was known for striking down cities, killing thousands.

Blackburn helped treat the sick in Bermuda, but he also stole the clothing and bedding of those who died of either yellow fever or smallpox. He then sent trunks of these items to auction places in the North where they were sold and distributed among civilians.

Godfrey Hyams, an Englishman who met Blackburn in Canada, was one of the men paid to smuggle the tainted clothing and bedding into the North. He was promised $100,000 for his services, almost $1.5 million in current dollars.

Hyams was able to sell five trunks of clothing through auctioneers, but only one Union soldier death was attributed to the men and that one was circumstantial. The soldier had died from smallpox after buying clothes at a consignment store that held Blackburn clothing.

The reason that no one died of yellow fever due to Blackburn’s actions is that the disease can not be transmitted via the clothing or bedding of its victims, though no one knew it at the time. Oddly enough, the Transylvania-trained doctor would have been more successful if he had recruited more bloodsuckers into his organization. Specifically, he needed female mosquitoes.

Yellow fever is a blood-borne virus spread by certain female mosquitoes. If Blackburn had succeeded in bringing a few victims North for mosquitoes to bite, he may have succeeded in his dark quest. But it wasn’t until 1901 that a team led by Maj. Walter Reed proved the connection between mosquitoes and yellow fever, so Blackburn didn’t know in 1864 and 1865 that his plan could never work.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country
The female yellow fever mosquito spreads the disease by biting into humans. The left and center illustrations show the female. The one on the right is male. (Illustration: Public Domain by E. A. Goeldi in 1905)

But Blackburn was dedicated to his plan. He returned to Bermuda to fill three more trunks with infected clothing and bedding. He contracted a man there, Edward Swan, to send these trunks to the North the following Spring, but Swan was found out and tried.

Meanwhile, Hyams had still not been paid. Hyams finally got tired of waiting and went to the U.S. counsel’s office in Toronto to sell out his employer in early April 1865. A public trial filled the newspapers in Canada and throughout the U.S., but Blackburn was eventually acquitted on a technicality.

The trunks had been shipped to Nova Scotia before entering the U.S., and the court that was trying Blackburn did not have jurisdiction over crimes committed there. Meanwhile, the three other trunks from Bermuda were never on Canadian soil.

Blackburn, for his part, did not testify at his trial but said years later that the entire plot was too preposterous for gentlemen to even believe it existed. After his Canadian acquittal, he avoided the U.S. for a time to avoid prosecution, but he went south in 1868 to fight a yellow fever outbreak in Texas and Louisiana.

Prosecutors allowed him to work unmolested and Blackburn went on to fight yellow fever in Tennessee, Florida, and then back in his hometown of Kentucky over the following 10 years. His success fighting the outbreak in Kentucky caused his public image to drastically improve there.

In 1879, he won the gubernatorial election in Kentucky and became the governor. Much of his efforts in that position were aimed at easing prison crowding and bad conditions through pardons and the construction of a new prison. These measures proved unpopular and Blackburn failed to secure the Democratic nomination in 1883. He returned to private life and died in 1887.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets when he was shot

On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. with a .44-caliber single-shot derringer pistol to the back of the head. While Booth fled on horseback, the president was rushed to a boarding house across the street to await the surgeon general. Sadly, the 16th president of the United States died the next morning at the age of 56.

The assassination has maintained infamous throughout history for many reasons. First, the attack was public and led to a heated manhunt. Perhaps more significantly, after four years of civil war, Confederate General Robert E. Lee had just surrendered his army only five days before, effectively ending the conflict. Though Lincoln would not live to see his country recover, in death he kept the promise he made to the Union during his inaugural address “to preserve, protect and defend it.”

President Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, were at Ford’s Theater that night to attend Our American Cousin, a comedy. The Library of Congress has preserved the contents of the president’s pockets on his final night. Here’s what he had:

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Watch the video above to see details of the items in his pockets, which include a pocket knife and two pairs of spectacles. The president also carried on his person a watch fob and a linen handkerchief, stenciled with “A. Lincoln” in red. While these feel very simple, there are some more curious items as well.

First, the president carried newspaper clippings, including, according to the Library of Congress, several favorable to the president and his policies. It’s almost like the 19th Century version of checking out what Twitter had to say about the administration.

Even more curious was the fact that the only currency Abraham Lincoln carried the night he died was a five-dollar Confederate note in a brown leather wallet. “We don’t know with one hundred percent certainty but just a few days earlier, Richmond had fallen, and Lincoln did actually travel to Richmond and this was likely passed onto him as a souvenir,” shared Clark Evans, Head of Reference Services in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress.

After his death, the contents of President Lincoln’s pockets were passed onto his son, Robert Todd, and they remained in the Lincoln family for more than seventy years. They were finally placed on display at the LIbrary of Congress in 1976, where they remain the most favored of all objects within the library’s collections.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These Dutch destroyers can inflict max pain on the Russian navy

The Royal Netherlands Navy has a long tradition of naval prowess. Throughout its history, this Navy held its own against opponents ranging from England to Indonesia. Today, it is much smaller than it has been in the past, but it is still very potent. If tensions with Russia ever escalate to war, these ships could help defend the Baltic states or be used to escort convoys across the Atlantic.

Today, the centerpiece of the Dutch navy consists of four powerful air-defense vessels. While the Dutch Navy calls them “frigates,” these ships actually are really more akin to smaller guided-missile destroyers. Their armament is close to that of the Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyers. These vessels replaced two Tromp-class guided-missile destroyers and two Jacob van Heemskerck-class guided-missile frigates.


Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

While it’s primarily designed for anti-air warfare, the De Zeven Provincien-class guided missile frigates can also pack a serious anti-ship punch with RGM-84 Harpoons.

(Dutch Ministry of Defense Photo)

According to the Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, a De Zeven Provincien-class vessel comes in at roughly 6,000 tons. It is armed with a 40-cell Mk 41 vertical-launch system that usually carries 32 RIM-66 Standard SM-2 surface-to-air missiles and 32 RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles. It is also equipped with a five-inch gun, 324mm torpedo tubes, and can operate either a Lynx or NH90 helicopter. The ships are also equipped with eight RGM-84F Harpoon Block ID anti-ship missiles.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

The De Zeven Provincien-class frigates could escort a carrier or merchant ships in a war with Russia.

(US navy photo)

According to the Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, a De Zeven Provincien-class vessel comes in at roughly 6,000 tons. It is armed with a 40-cell Mk 41 vertical-launch system that usually carries 32 RIM-66 Standard SM-2 surface-to-air missiles, and 32 RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles. It is also equipped with a five-inch gun and 324mm torpedo tubes, and can operate either a Lynx or NH90 helicopter. The ships are also equipped with eight RGM-84F Harpoon Block ID anti-ship missiles.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

7 things no one wants to remember about ruck marches

Ah, the beloved ruck march. First, you get to center 35 or more pounds of gear on your back and feel the straps dig into your shoulders. Then you start walking until it becomes challenging… then it stops being fun… and then it finally becomes a great reason to never sign a contract with anyone ever again.

Here are seven miseries that are easy to forget about “advanced hiking.”


Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

Every step, those blisters get a little larger — until they pop, tear, get filled with salt from sweat, and potentially get infected.

(Photo by U.S. Combined Division Chin-U Pak)

The feeling of a blister slowly growing across your feet

The most well-known consequence of a ruck march is those vicious blisters that are sometimes shared in photos on social media. While the pain of dealing with them is well-known, there’s an acute feeling of dread you experience during the ruck march. You can feel the skin separating and the fluid-filled bulge growing larger and larger as you march until — a sudden relief followed by a wet feeling lets you know it popped.

Guaranteed, the burning and stinging will grow worse within another mile of marching.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

You think it hurts now? Just wait till you try to get out of bed like, ever again.

(Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Caitlin Conner)

The way your legs don’t quite work for two days afterwards

No matter how much water you drink and how much you stretch before and after the ruck march, your legs are going to be wobbly and uncertain for days. It’s like running a marathon. You’re going to end up in pain no matter how well you trained for it.

Just embrace it. Plan to spend a couple of days on the couch — ordering out for food — immediately following the march. Unless you have duty, then just be sad.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

There’s always a faster ruck runner.

(Photo by U.S. Army Gertrud Zach)

The knowledge that, no matter how hard you push yourself, that freak in 2nd platoon is going to beat you by 30 minutes or more

You trained, you prepared, you sucked down those stupid packets of goo, and you set a personal record of 2:37 for a twelve-miler. Congrats. You came in over an hour before the cutoff, likely made your platoon proud, and lost to Capt. Jason Burnes by only an hour. If you don’t want to compare yourself to the Air Assault School record holder, then just look to your sister platoon where some corporal is kicking himself for not breaking the two-hour mark.

Oh well. You outscored him on marksmanship. Or the ASVAB. Probably. Maybe…

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

This dude looks like he’s been waiting all morning to yell at someone for being three ounces under.

(Photo by U.S. Air Force Misuzu Allen)

The fear of over or under-packing your ruck

For a lot of military schools and unit events, the ruck weigh-in takes place after the march, meaning that you can conduct the entire march in record time and then have your finish invalidated because your scale at home said the ruck was 35.2 pounds but it was actually 34.6 pounds, making you a cheater.

This leads to every marcher standing over their scale the night before a march, agonizing over whether to pack 5 more pounds than required — guaranteeing that they’ll pass weigh-in — or pack as close to the cutoff as possible and roll the dice. Fingers crossed.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

See how he’s sweating but there’s ice on his weapon? Not fun.

(Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Vincent Abril)

Everything is soaked in sweat, even if it’s freezing outside

It’s hours of laborious walking with, generally, a full uniform on. There’s no way to finish a ruck march without being drenched in sweat.

Even when it’s freezing outside, the slow build-up of body heat guarantees a coating of sweat. Bonus: That sweat will eventually dry and leave a layer of salt on the skin, making the crotch chafing and blisters that much worse.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

“Yeah, I’ll pace you, dude. But like, on a bicycle — it’s too hot for this.”

(Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Lerone Simmons)

There’s no “good weather” for a ruck march

As we hinted above, cold weather will reduce sweat buildup, but it won’t get rid of it. And dressing for a cold-weather march means balancing the need to get through the first two miles without frostbite and the need to not die of heat exhaustion on mile 13 (pro-tip: wear as little snivel gear as you can survive the first three miles in). The best a marcher can hope for is little precipitation combined with fall-like temperatures and humidity.

Even in ideal conditions, you’ll still be hot as hell by the end of it, though. If you start in hot weather, just drink water and imagine you’re in Miami, the rainforest, or the center of the sun. Any of those would be cooler than how you’ll feel at the finish.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

“You did it! Grab some water and an orange. Your next ruck march is tomorrow.”

(Photo by U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker)

You’ve got another one coming up, probably sooner than you think

Of course, the worst part of doing a ruck march is knowing that you’ll have another one coming up, especially for people competing for school slots. Earned a coveted slot for air assault by setting a battalion record on the 12-mile? Congrats!

Remember, you’ll be verifying your performance the week before you ship to school. And you have to ruck in school. And the battalion is working on a ruck march to celebrate all the new graduates for the day after they return from school.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages

While deployed, there’s always a bit of joy that buzzes around the squad when a care package arrives. Troops gather around their squad leader as they disperse the sweets, trinkets, and amenities given by the charitable folks back home. It’s not uncommon for battle-hardened warfighters to genuinely crack an enormous smile when they receive something that reminds them of home.

Recently, certain regulations consolidated the shipping rates for packages being sent to an Army Post Office (APO), Fleet Post Office (FPO) or Diplomatic Post Office (DPO) mailing address — which only put added financial strain on those kind-willed folks sending packages. The costs can also really add up for charities who send mass quantities of care packages. Ultiltaemy, this means fewer care packages being sent to the troops still fighting overseas today.

There is a glimmer of hope. U.S. Congressman Donald Norcross of New Jersey’s First District recently introduced the “Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2019,” or H.R. 400, that aims to greatly reduce the costs and spread more cheer among the troops.


Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

The secret to make a bunch of grown badasses smile like children? Girl Scout cookies…

(Photo by Steven L. Shepard, Presidio of Monterey Public Affairs)

All shipping rates for packages that crossed different shipping zones drastically increased January, 2018. While a package going to Michigan from California saw an increase of .60, any package sent from Smalltown, USA, to troops stationed in the Middle East had to pay nearly double.

Logistically speaking, the care package left the hands of postal employees long before they were dispersed at mail call. Any package sent would arrive at a postal gateway before being given to military personnel to complete its journey to a remote destination. The added costs are mostly meaningless seeing as the package is delivered by US military personnel once it leaves the US.

Congressman Tom MacArthur of New Jersey’s Third District tried last year to reverse these increases with a similar bit of legislation — Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2018, or H.R.6231. He aimed to curtail the costs and make it much cheaper to send troops a care package. This legislation would have listed any package to (or from) an APO/FPO/DPO address as Zone 1/2, making the weight of the package a non-factor in shipping costs so long as the contents fit inside a flat-rate box. This bill, unfortunately, did not succeed and MacArthur was unsuccessful in his reelection campaign.

The cost to send care packages remains unreasonably high, and organizations like the Operation Yellow Ribbon of South Jersey have had to reduce the number of packages sent purely because of the financial red tape.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

Because our troops are still out there, and they need your support.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Meredith Brown)

Now the torch to raise the morale of troops has been passed to fellow New Jersey Congressman Donald Norcross, a chair on the 115th Congressional Committee of Armed Services.

He’s proposed “Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2019,” which aims to cut the red tape and make the price of sending a care package comparable to the cost of sending a letter.

This bill will positively affect the lives of the countless troops still in harm’s way. Please contact your representative and let them know that you support “Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2019”, or H.R. 400.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why there are shipwrecks underneath the farms of Kansas

As you may or may not know, the U.S. state of Kansas isn’t exactly a coastal state. The body of water it does have access to is the Mississippi River System and its tributaries, namely the Missouri River. It turns out the mighty river system that once provided a vital artery for American commerce is still hiding a few hidden surprises, namely steamboat shipwrecks in farm fields, far from where any ships should reasonably belong.


Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

This is way more dangerous than you think.

(Arabia Steamboat Museum)

Anyone reading at this point is likely wondering how on Earth shipwrecked steamboats are under farmers’ fields instead of at the bottom of the Missouri River. Just outside of Kansas City lies the wreck of the steamboat Great White Arabia, a ship that sunk in the Missouri in 1856. Rumors circulated for decades that just such a ship was somewhere under Kansas City, but this was written off as local legend. The locals believed it was filled with barrels of Kentucky bourbon. The truth is the ship was still there, but instead of bourbon, it was filled with champagne.

The champagne, along with all its other cargo, furniture, and provisions, were perfectly preserved by the dirt and silt beneath which it was buried. In 1987, a team of locals from Kansas City decided to see if the rumors were true and began to research where it might be – and how it got there.

They found it within a year.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

(Arabia Steamboat Museum)

It turns out that Steamboat travel along the Mississippi River and the rivers that make up the Mighty Mississipi was incredibly dangerous. Hundreds of steamboats were sunk in its powerful waters and along with their hulls, so went the lives of passengers, crews, and whatever else the boats were carrying. The Great White Arabia was carrying 220 tons of cargo and 130 passengers when it went down. The boat was hit by an errant log in the river, the most common reason for boats sinking at the time, and went down in minutes. The passengers survived. This time.

The crew who worked on unearthing the Great White Arabia has discovered another wreck, the Malta. The reason both ships ended up at the bottom of cornfields instead of the rivers is due to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It turns out the Missouri River hasn’t always been in the same place. The Army actually altered the shape of the river at the end of the 1800s. It made the river narrower, thus speeding up the river’s current and making travel times much shorter. When it moved the river, ships that were once sunk suddenly found themselves buried.

For more information about Kansas’ farm shipwrecks, check out the Arabia Steamboat Museum, which houses the ship’s perfectly preserved cargo.

Articles

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

There’s a mystique to battleships. Whenever inside-the-Beltway dwellers debate how to bulk up the US Navy fleet, odds are sentimentalists will clamor to return the Iowa-class dreadnoughts to service. Nor is the idea of bringing back grizzled World War II veterans as zany as it sounds.


We aren’t talking equipping the 1914-vintage USS Texas with superweapons to blast the Soviet Navy, or resurrecting the sunken Imperial Japanese Navy super-battleship Yamato for duty in outer space, or keeping USS Missouri battleworthy in case aliens menace the Hawaiian Islands. Such proposals are not mere whimsy.

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Built to duel Japan in World War II, in fact, battleships were recommissioned for the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. The last returned to action in 1988. The Iowa class sat in mothballs for about three decades after Korea (except for USS New Jersey, which returned to duty briefly during the Vietnam War). That’s about how long the battlewagons have been in retirement since the Cold War. History thus seems to indicate they could stage yet another comeback. This far removed from their past lives, though, it’s doubtful in the extreme that the operational return on investment would repay the cost, effort, and human capital necessary to bring them back to life.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

Numbers deceive. It cost the US Navy $1.7 billion in 1988 dollars to put four battlewagons back in service during the Reagan naval buildup. That comes to about $878 million per hull in 2017 dollars. This figure implies the navy could refurbish two ships bristling with firepower for the price of one Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. One copy of the latest-model Burke will set the taxpayers back $1.9 billion according to Congressional Budget Office figures. Two for the price of one: a low, low price! Or, better yet, the Navy could get two battlewagons for the price of three littoral combat ships—the modern equivalent of gunboats. Sounds like a good deal all around.

But colossal practical difficulties would work against reactivating the dreadnoughts at low cost, despite these superficially plausible figures. First of all, the vessels no longer belong to the US Navy. They’re museums. New Jersey and Missouri were struck from the Navy list during the 1990s. Engineers preserved Iowa and Wisconsin in “reactivation” status for quite some time, meaning they hypothetically could return to duty, but they, too, were struck from the rolls, in 2006. Sure, the US government could probably get them back during a national emergency, but resolving legal complications would consume time and money in peacetime.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country
USS Iowa (BB-61) fires a full broadside of her nine 16″/50 and six 5″/38 guns during a target exercise near Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. Photo from DoD.

Second, chronological age matters. A standard talking point among battleship enthusiasts holds that the Iowas resemble a little old lady’s car, an aged auto with little mileage on the odometer. A used-car salesman would laud its longevity, assuring would-be buyers they could put lots more miles on it. This, too, makes intuitive sense. My old ship, USS Wisconsin, amassed just fourteen years of steaming time despite deploying for World War II, Korea, and Desert Storm. At a time when the US Navy hopes to wring fifty years of life out of aircraft carriers and forty out of cruisers and destroyers, refitted battleships could seemingly serve for decades to come.

And it is true: stout battleship hulls could doubtless withstand the rigors of sea service. But what about their internals? Mechanical age tells only part of the story. Had the Iowa class remained in continuous service, with regular upkeep and overhauls, they probably could have steamed around for decades. After all, the World War II flattop USS Lexington served until 1991, the same year the Iowas retired. But they didn’t get that treatment during the decades they spent slumbering. As a consequence, battleships were already hard ships to maintain a quarter-century ago. Sailors had to scavenge spares from still older battleships. Machinists, welders, and shipfitters were constantly on the go fabricating replacements for worn-out parts dating from the 1930s or 1940s.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

This problem would be still worse another quarter-century on, and a decade-plus after the navy stopped preserving the vessels and their innards. Managing that problem would be far more expensive. An old joke among yachtsmen holds that a boat is a hole in the water into which the owner dumps money. A battleship would represent a far bigger hole in the water, devouring taxpayer dollars in bulk. Even if the US Navy could reactivate the Iowas for a pittance, the cost of operating and maintaining them could prove prohibitive. That’s why they were shut down in the 1990s, and time has done nothing to ease that remorseless logic.

Third, what about the big guns the Iowa class sports—naval rifles able to fling projectiles weighing the same as a VW Bug over twenty miles? These are the battleships’ signature weapon, and there is no counterpart to them in today’s fleet. Massive firepower might seem to justify the expense of recommissioning and maintaining the ships. But gun barrels wear out after being fired enough times. No one has manufactured replacement barrels for 16-inch, 50-caliber guns in decades, and the inventory of spares has evidently been scrapped or donated to museums. That shortage would cap the battleships’ combat usefulness.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

Nor, evidently, is there any safe ammunition for battleship big guns to fire. We used 1950s-vintage 16-inch rounds and powder during the 1980s and 1990s. Any such rounds still in existence are now over sixty years old, while the US Navy is apparently looking to demilitarize and dispose of them. Gearing up to produce barrels and ammunition in small batches would represent a non-starter for defense firms. The navy recently canceled the destroyer USS Zumwalt‘s advanced gun rounds because costs spiraled above $800,000 apiece. That was a function of ordering few munitions for what is just a three-ship class. Ammunition was simply mot affordable. Modernized Iowas would find themselves in the same predicament, if not more so.

And lastly, it’s unclear where the US Navy would find the human expertise to operate 16-inch gun turrets or the M-type Babcock & Wilcox boilers that propel and power battleships. No one has trained on these systems since 1991, meaning experts in using and maintaining them have, ahem, aged and grown rusty at their profession. Heck, steam engineers are in short supply, full stop, as the Navy turns to electric drive, gas turbines, and diesel engines to propel its ships. Older amphibious helicopter docks are steam-powered, but even this contingent is getting a gradual divorce from steam as newer LHDs driven by gas turbines join the fleet while their steam-propelled forebears approach decommissioning.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

Steam isn’t dead, then, but it is a technology of the past—just like 16-inch guns. Technicians are few and dwindling in numbers while battleship crews would demand them in large numbers. I rank among the youngest mariners to have operated battleship guns and propulsion-plant machinery in yesteryear, and trust me, folks: you don’t want the US Navy conscripting me to regain my proficiency in engineering and weapons after twenty-six years away from it, let alone training youngsters to operate elderly hardware themselves. In short, it’s as tough to regenerate human capital as it is to rejuvenate the material dimension after a long lapse. The human factor—all by itself—could constitute a showstopper for battleship reactivation.

Battleships still have much to contribute to fleet design, just not as active surface combatants. Alfred Thayer Mahan describes a capital ship—the core of any battle fleet—as a vessel able to dish out and absorb punishment against a peer navy. While surface combatants pack plenty of offensive punch nowadays, the innate capacity to take a punch is something that has been lost in today’s lightly armored warships. Naval architects could do worse than study the battleships’ history and design philosophy, rediscovering what it means to construct a true capital ship. The US Navy would be better off for their inquiry.

Let’s learn what we can from the past—but leave battleship reactivation to science fiction.

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