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Step into an 82nd Airborne operation with this awesome 360-degree video

Kaj Larsen with VICE News went on an airborne operation with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team and filmed a 360-degree video of what it’s like to climb onto the plane and conduct a jump from 1,000 feet.


Check it out below. Computer users can click and drag in the video to look around. Phone users should play the video full screen and then turn their phone to look in different directions.

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The service histories of 7 famous cartoon veterans

Some of the world’s favorite cartoon characters are veterans of World War II. When America entered the war at the end of 1941, Walt Disney, Looney Tunes, and other companies sent their casts to war.


Here are the wartime biographies of 7 characters who answered the call:

1. Donald Duck the Paratrooper

Gif: Youtube/Donald Duck Cartoon

Donald Duck served in a number of ways. He was a soldier in World War II who tried to become a pilot but was tricked into becoming a paratrooper by a sergeant who didn’t like him. He was decorated for serving behind enemy lines in commando missions and destroying a Japanese base single-handedly.

Decades later in 1987, he returned to service as a sailor in the Navy, but there is little evidence of what he accomplished there. He gave up care of three of his nephews to enlist.

2. Daffy Duck

Photo: Youtube/NewAndImprovedToons

Donald wasn’t the only one slipping behind enemy lines to disrupt enemy activity. Daffy Duck destroyed Nazi infrastructure and assassinated enemy leaders, primarily through wacky hijinks like time bombs and wooden mallets.

In a particularly daring raid, Daffy flew into a rally of Nazi party members and struck Adolf Hitler on the head with a large hammer.

3. Superman

Gif: Youtube/Public Superman

In World War II, the cartoon Superman hunted down saboteurs and other threats to Metropolis on the home front as well as assisted in war games to train troops.

In the comic book, Clark Kent attempted to enlist but received a medical deferment when he accidentally read the eye chart in the next room with his X-Ray vision. Despite being medically deferred Superman helped out on the war front from time to time, sinking battleships, steering bombs to targets, and tying cannon barrels into knots.

4. Private Pluto

Photo: Youtube/TresorsDisney

Pluto was a military working dog before it was a thing. He served as an Army private who attempted to keep Army equipment safe from saboteurs and small rodents. He had trouble with the second mission, as the chipmunks Chip and Dale used Army howitzers to crack open acorns despite Pluto’s best efforts.

Pluto also served a short period with the Navy, guarding ship supplies from rats. Like the battle against Chip and Dale, this effort did not go well for Pluto.

5. Popeye the Sailor

Gif: Youtube/Pat Hawkins

America’s favorite sailor entered the Navy in 1941, but had previously served in the Coast Guard from 1937 to 1941. As a Navy sailor, Popeye processed incoming draftees, served as a boatswain’s mate, and even helped the Army perfect its tank program.

Unfortunately, Popeye did get in some trouble when he ran afoul of an uptight captain. Popeye later defeated an enemy fleet attacking the ship, and so was returned to normal duty. He was allowed to serve until 1978 when he returned to civilian life.

6. Bugs Bunny

Photo: Youtube/TheWallStudios

Bugs single-handedly captured an island from the Japanese Imperial forces after he washed up on it, and later disrupted the Nazi headquarters. It isn’t clear though that he was in a military force or acting on official orders at the time.

He used a combination of direct assault and subterfuge to achieve his objectives.

7. Porky Pig the doughboy

Photo: Youtube/8thManDVD.com Cartoon Channel

Porky Pig, famous for his stutter and shyness, became an unlikely presenter of American propaganda after enlisting in the U.S. Army. He served primarily on the homefront, selling war bonds and explaining the newest and best military technology for the benefit of the American people.

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The Army proved semi-auto sniper rifles could kick ass in Vietnam

With the Army’s decision to adopt the Heckler and Kock G28 as the Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System to be the replacement for the M110, it seems as if semi-automatic sniper rifles are a new thing.


Nope. In fact, during the Vietnam War, the Army was proving a semi-auto could be a very lethal sniper rifle. They took a number of M14 rifles — which were being phased out in favor of the M16 rifle — and added a scope.

I hope you like gun-speak — there are some sweet (technical) nothings coming your way…

The M21 Sniper Weapon System. (US Army graphic)

The M14 had a lot going for it. It fired the 7.62x51mm NATO round — the same one as the M60 machine gun and the M40 sniper rifle the Marines used. But there were two huge differences between them that made the M21 a much more lethal rifle.

The M40 is a bolt-action rifle that carries five rounds in an internal magazine. The M14/M21 rifle is a semi-auto that has a 20-round detachable box magazine. The baseline M14 was deadly enough — Chuck Mawhinney is said to have used an M14 rifle to take out 16 of the enemy in one incident during the Vietnam War.

Once a Redfield scope (the three-to-nine power Adjustable Ranging Telescope) was added to the rifle and match-grade ammo was added to the M14, Army snipers had a real weapon.

Adelbert Waldron would use that rifle to become America’s top sniper with 109 confirmed kills. For the record, that’s 16 more kills than Marine Corps legend Carlos Hathcock has – and Hathcock was the third-best Marine sniper, behind Mawhinney (103 confirmed kills) and Eric England (98).

Specialist Fourth Class (SFC) Theodore Amell scans the horizon with an M21 sniper weapon system for threats while on patrol near Mosul, Iraq. (Dept. of Defense photo)

The M14 also saw action in Grenada for the Army. Inexplicably, after proving the M21 was an awesome system, the Army chose to go back to the outdated bolt-action with the M24.

But the War on Terror soon saw the M21 making a comeback. The M24 is still sticking around, now upgraded to the M2010 configuration, but was also slated to be replace by the M110.

In short, the Army is re-proving what they proved almost five decades ago — that a semi-auto rifle can be an awesome sniper rifle.

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5 military technologies that are way older than people think

Modern wars are defined by a number of technologies like guided missiles, helicopters, and submarines.


Except all three of those technologies have been in service for hundreds of years. Here’s the story behind 5 modern weapons that have been in service for hundreds of years.

1. Submarines

Photo: Wikipedia/Kyriaki

The ink had barely dried on the U.S. Declaration of Independence when an American launched the first submarine attack in history. Ezra Lee piloted the submarine, dubbed the Turtle, against the HMS Eagle but failed to sink it.

The Turtle was sent against a number of other ships but never claimed a kill before sinking in 1776.

2. Drones

A BQ-8 takes off. Photo: US Army Air Force

The first drone missions were conducted in World War II and President John F. Kennedy’s older brother was killed in one. These early drones were modified bombers taken into the air by a pilot who then bailed out. The plane would then be remotely operated by a pilot in another bomber.

The drones were all suicide vehicles that would be steered into enemy targets. The program had its roots in a World War I program that created the first guided missiles.

3. Guided missiles

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

That’s right, the first guided missiles were tested in World War I. Orville Wright and Charles F. Kettering invented the Kettering Bug, a modified plane that used gyroscopes to monitor and adjust its flight to a pre-designated target.

Once the Kettering reached it’s target, its wings would fall off, the engine would stop, and the craft would fall to the ground with a 180-pound explosive. But the missile had a lot issues and the war ended before it saw combat.

4. Hand grenades

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Daderot

When grenades became a staple of World War I trench warfare, it was actually a revival of the weapon. They had already made a big splash in the 700s when soldiers in the Byzantine Empire figured out they could pack Greek Fire into stone, glass, and ceramic jars.

5. Helicopters

Photo: US Coast Guard

An iconic weapon of the Vietnam War actually saw combat in World War II. The first helicopter rescue was in Burma in Word War II and the Germans flew a number of helicopter designs. The British had flying cars that used helicopter-type rotor blades to stay in the air.

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North Korea threatens pre-emptive strikes after ‘madcap joint military drills’

North Korea has threatened its own pre-emptive strikes in response to recent drills for “decapitation” strikes by U.S. and South Korean special operations forces aimed at taking out the leadership in Pyongyang.


The simulated strikes reportedly targeted the upper echelons of the North Korean regime, including leader Kim Jong Un, as well as key nuclear sites.

They also involved the participation of the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team 6 — the outfit famed for killing al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011, the Asahi Shimbun reported earlier this month. Media reports said a number of U.S. special operations forces also participated, including U.S. Army Rangers, Delta Force and Green Berets.

North Korea recently launched satellite-carrying Unha rockets, which is the same delivery system as North Korea’s Taepodong-2 ballistic missile, which was tested successfully in December 2012 and January 2016. (Photo: Reuters/KNCA)

In a statement released March 26 by the Korean People’s Army (KPA), a spokesman said the “madcap joint military drills” would be met with the North’s “own style of special operation and pre-emptive attack,” which it said could come “without prior warning any time.”

The statement, published by the official Korean Central News Agency, said the U.S. and South Korea “should think twice about the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by their outrageous military actions.

“The KPA’s warning is not hot air,” the statement added.

In mid-March, several U.S. Marine F-35B stealth fighter jets conducted bombing practice runs over the Korean Peninsula as a part of the joint exercises, the South’s Yonhap news agency reported Saturday.

The dispatch of the fighters, based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture, was the first time they had been sent to the Korean Peninsula. The fighters returned to Japan after the drills wrapped up.

Pyongyang has stepped up efforts to mount a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile over the last year and a half, conducting two atomic explosions and more than 25 missile launches — including an apparent simulated nuclear strike on the U.S. base at Iwakuni.

In the event of conflict on the Korean Peninsula, U.S. troops and equipment from Iwakuni would likely be among the first deployed.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is in the midst of a policy review on North Korea, and has said all options, including military action, remain on the table.

But this review could be bumped up Trump’s list of priorities in the near future.

U.S. and South Korean intelligence sources, as well as recent satellite imagery, has shown that the North is apparently ready to conduct its sixth nuclear test at any time, media reports have said.

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The Air Force wants to fly the B-2 Bomber into the 2050s

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joel Pfiester.


Air Force pilots of the 1980s-era stealthy B-2 Spirit bomber plan to arm the B-2 with new weapons and upgrade the aircraft to fly the aircraft on attack missions against enemy air defenses well into the 2050s, service officials said.

In coming years, the B-2 will be armed with with next generation digital nuclear weapons such as the B-61 Mod 12 with a tail kit and an Long Range Stand-Off weapon or, LRSO, an air-launched, guided nuclear cruise missile, service officials said.

U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick Wilson

The B-61 Mod 12 is an ongoing modernization program which seeks to integrate the B-61 Mods 3, 4, 7 and 10 into a single variant with a guided tail kit. The B-61 Mod 12 is being engineered to rely on an inertial measurement unit for navigation.

In addition to the LRSO, B83 and B-61 Mod 12, the B-2 will also carry the B-61 Mod 11, a nuclear weapon designed with penetration capabilities, Air Force officials said.

The LRSO will replace the Air Launched Cruise Missile, or ALCM, which right now is only carried by the B-52 bomber, officials said.

Alongside its nuclear arsenal, the B-2 will carry a wide range of conventional weapons to include precision-guided 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, 5,000-pound JDAMs, Joint Standoff Weapons, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles and GBU 28 5,000-pound bunker buster weapons, among others.

The platform is also preparing to integrate a long-range conventional air-to-ground standoff weapon called the JASSM-ER, for Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Extended Range.

The B-2 can also carry a 30,000-pound conventional bomb known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, Maj. Kent Mickelson, director of operations for 394th combat training squadron, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“This is a GBU-28 (bunker-buster weapon) on steroids. It will go in and take out deeply buried targets,” he said.

“It is a dream to fly. It is so smooth,” Mickelson added.

In a special interview designed to offer a rare look into the technologies and elements of the B-2, Mickelson explained that the platform has held up and remained very effective – given that it was designed and built during the 80s.

Alongside his current role, Mickelson is also a B-2 pilot with experience flying missions and planning stealth bomber attacks, such as the bombing missions over Libya in 2011.

“It is a testament to the engineering team that here we are in 2016 and the B-2 is still able to do its job just as well today as it did in the 80s. While we look forward to modernization, nobody should come away with the thought that the B-2 isn’t ready to deal with the threats that are out there today,” he said.  “It is really an awesome bombing platform and it is just a marvel of technology.”

The B-2 is engineered with avionics, radar and communications technologies designed to identify and destroy enemy targets from high altitudes above hostile territory.

“It is a digital airplane. We are presented with what is commonly referred to as glass cockpit,” Mickelson said.

The glass cockpit includes various digital displays, including one showing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) information which paints a rendering or picture of the ground below.

“SAR provides the pilots with a realistic display of the ground that they are able to use for targeting,” Mickelson said.

The B-2 has a two-man crew with only two ejection seats. Also, the crew is trained to deal with the rigors of a 40-hour mission.

The cockpit of the B-2 Spirit | US Air Force photo

“The B-2 represents a huge leap in technology from our legacy platforms such as the B-52 and the B-1 bomber. This involved taking the best of what is available and giving it to the aircrew,” Mickelson said.

The Air Force currently operates 20 B-2 bombers, with the majority of them based at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. The B-2 can reach altitudes of 50,000 feet and carry 40,000 pounds of payload, including both conventional and nuclear weapons.

The aircraft, which entered service in the 1980s, has flown missions over Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. In fact, given its ability to fly as many as 6,000 nautical miles without need to refuel, the B-2 flew from Missouri all the way to an island off the coast of India called Diego Garcia – before launching bombing missions over Afghanistan.

“Taking off from Whiteman and landing at Diego Garcia was one of the longest combat sorties the B-2 has ever taken. The bomber was very successful in Afghanistan and very successful in the early parts of the wars in Iraq and Libya,” Michelson added.

The B-2 crew uses what’s called a “long-duration kit,” which includes items such as a cot for sleeping and other essentials deemed necessary for a long flight, Mickelson explained.

B-2 Mission

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — A B-2 Spirit drops 32 inert Joint Direct Attack Munitions Aug. 27 at the Utah Testing and Training Range here.

As a stealth bomber engineered during the height of the Cold War, the B-2 was designed to elude Soviet air defenses and strike enemy targets – without an enemy ever knowing the aircraft was even there. This stealthy technological ability is referred to by industry experts as being able to evade air defenses using both high-frequency “engagement” radar, which can target planes, and lower frequency “surveillance” radar which can let enemies know an aircraft is in the vicinity.

The B-2 is described as a platform which can operate undetected over enemy territory and, in effect, “knock down the door” by destroying enemy radar and air defenses so that other aircraft can fly through a radar “corridor” and attack.

However, enemy air defenses are increasingly becoming technologically advanced and more sophisticated; some emerging systems are even able to detect some stealth aircraft using systems which are better networked, using faster computer processors and able to better detect aircraft at longer distances on a greater number of frequencies.

The Air Force plans to operate the B-2 alongside its new, now-in-development bomber called the Long Range Strike – Bomber, or LRS-B. well into the 2050s.

B-2 Modernization Upgrades – Taking the Stealth Bomber Into the 2050s

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kenny Holston

As a result, the B-2 fleet is undergoing a series of modernization upgrades in order to ensure the aircraft can remain at its ultimate effective capability for the next several decades, Mickelson said.

One of the key upgrades is called the Defensive Management System, a technology which helps inform the B-2 crew about the location of enemy air defenses. Therefore, if there are emerging air defenses equipped with the technology sufficient to detect the B-2, the aircraft will have occasion to maneuver in such a way as to stay outside of their range.

The Defensive Management System is slated to be operational by the mid-2020s, Mickelson added.

“The whole key is to give us better situational awareness so we are able to make sound decisions in the cockpit about where we need to put the aircraft,” he added.

The B-2 is also moving to an extremely high frequency satellite in order to better facilitate communications with command and control. For instance, the communications upgrade could make it possible for the aircraft crew to receive bombing instructions from the President in the unlikely event of a nuclear detonation.

“This program will help with nuclear and conventional communications. It will provide a very big increase in the bandwidth available for the B-2, which means an increased speed of data flow. We are excited about this upgrade,” Mickelson explained.

The stealth aircraft uses a commonly deployed data link called LINK-16 and both UHF and VHF data links, as well. Michelson explained that the B-2 is capable of communicating with ground control stations, command and control headquarters and is also able to receive information from other manned and unmanned assets such as drones.

Information from nearby drones, however, would at the moment most likely need to first transmit through a ground control station. That being said, emerging technology may soon allow platforms like the B-2 to receive real-time video feeds from nearby drones in the air.

The B-2 is also being engineered with a new flight management control processor designed to expand and modernize the on-board computers and enable the addition of new software.

This involves the re-hosting of the flight management control processors, the brains of the airplane, onto much more capable integrated processing units. This results in the laying-in of some new fiber optic cable as opposed to the mix bus cable being used right now – because the B-2’s computers from the 80s are getting maxed out and overloaded with data, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.

The new processor increases the performance of the avionics and on-board computer systems by about 1,000-times, he added. The overall flight management control processor effort, slated to field by 2015 and 2016, is expected to cost $542 million.

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This company will build new skin for soldiers burned by IEDs

A New Zealand-based startup that works on regenerating human tissue has signed a development agreement with the U.S. Army to help treat troops who’ve sustained severe burns.


The Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, or CRADA, between Upside Technologies and the Army’s Medical Research and Materiel Command includes the company’s engineered skin product to treat wounds from IEDs and explosions.

“This U.S. Army input will be hugely valuable to Upside and will fully assist us in successfully progressing our product to the benefit of all burn sufferers, including U.S. warriors,” said Upside Chief Executive Officer Dr. Robert Feldman.

A graphic showing the new lab-made skin next to true human skin. (Photo from Upside Technologies)

Upside’s technology enables a small sample of unburnt patient skin to be grown in the laboratory into large areas of full-thickness skin. The lab-grown skin can be used as skin grafts in patients.

The Upside skin is said to be produced faster than that of any competitive product and has handling characteristics preferred by surgeons.

The Army “is pleased to provide guidance to Upside Biotechnologies as it navigates the U.S. FDA approval process for a novel skin replacement product,” said Susan Taylor, product manager for the Tissue Injury and Regenerative Medicine Project Management Office at the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity.

Burn wounds from explosions and IEDs continue to plague troops in war zones and account for a large portion of America’s casualties, statistics show.

“This product may provide a critical solution in the treatment of service members who have sustained severe burns,” Taylor added. “Our goal is to help Upside move this product as quickly and as safely as possible through the regulatory process, so it is available to our wounded service members.”

 

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The first battle of WWII featured one of the last cavalry charges ever

On August 23, 1939, German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov signed a non-aggression pact between their two countries. Contained within the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, was a secret protocol for the division of Poland and the Baltic states between German and Soviet “spheres of influence.”


Just eight days later, German operatives disguised as Polish saboteurs carried out a false flag operation against at German radio station at Gleiwitz. On September 1, without a formal declaration of war, German forces invaded Poland in an operation that many historians agree was the opening battle of World War II in Europe.

Nazi Armor moves through Poland in 1939.

Polish planning did not anticipate an attack from Germany before 1942, so the Poles were still building up and modernizing their military. Without much of a defense, Warsaw relied on its British and French allies for protection in the event of an attack.

The audacity of the Nazi invasion caught everyone by surprise, and the Poles were left to fight the Germans with anything they had at hand – including World War I-era horse cavalry.

Despite the dawn of the mechanized era of warfare, the Polish army included horse-mounted cavalry based largely on its experience during the Polish-Soviet war, where it decimated Soviet lines at the Battle of Komarów. But as technology advanced, the Poles learned that cavalry could be used as mounted infantry armed with the latest weapons and able to quickly move within the battlespace. To this end, Polish cavalry carried machine guns and anti-tank rifles but still retained their sabers on the chance that they might be useful in a typical cavalry fight.

Polish cavalry in Sochaczew (1939).

On the first day of the Nazi invasion — 77 years ago today — the Polish cavalry met the Germans at the battle of Tuchola Forest. The Germans caught the Polish army off guard and were advancing quickly through what defenses Poland could muster. In an effort to save the main Polish force, the 18th Pomeranian Uhlans – a cavalry unit – were deployed to cover the retreat.

At the Tuchola Forest, the Polish cavalry spotted German infantry in a clearing. Polish commander Col. Mastalerz ordered a charge in hopes of taking the Nazis by surprise and dispersing the German unit. He ordered the 1st squadron commander, Eugeniusz Świeściak, to lead two squadrons in the charge.

Wielding modern weaponry along with their sabers, the cavalrymen surprised the Nazis and were soon in close combat. The Germans were quickly overwhelmed.

The Polish victory was short-lived. As the German infantry retreated, armored cars mounted with machine guns appeared from the woods and opened fire on the Uhlans. Caught in the open with no time to deploy their heavy weapons, the cavalrymen rushed for cover. Świeściak was killed and Mastalerz later fell to the German guns trying to rescue his comrade.

German armored cars at Tuchola Forest in 1939.

Despite suffering numerous casualties, the 18th Pomeranian Uhlans completed their mission and stalled the German advance in their sector. This allowed other Polish units to fall back to a secondary defensive line. The Uhlans’ cavalry charge on horseback would be one of the last cavalry charges in history.

When reporters surveyed the battlefield the next day, they saw numerous dead horses and cavalrymen — with their sabers — and German armor still nearby. This led one Italian journalist to the incorrect conclusion that the Poles had charged German tanks with nothing but swords and lances. German propaganda quickly took this version of the story and used it as a means to convey the superiority of the German army and its technology.

The myth was then perpetuated further by the Soviets after the war to show the ineptitude of Polish commanders. The myth continued long after the war, with some Poles even retelling it as a story of the gallantry of the Polish military.

Polish Cavalry during World War II .

Ultimately, the 18th Pomeranian Uhlans would only hold out for three more days before ceasing to exist as a fighting unit. Poland would continue to resist, though once the USSR joined the Nazi operation on September 17 to claim their portion of the country, it was all but over. Most Polish resistance was finished by the end of the month, but a brave few held out until October 6 before finally surrendering.

Many other units, as well as the Polish government, managed to escape the Nazis and take up the fight from abroad in other Allied nations. Polish troops would later return to help liberate Europe, taking part in such famous battles as Operation Market-Garden. Unfortunately, Poland would never regain most of the territory seized by the Soviet Union during 1939, greatly reducing the land area of Poland to this day.

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D-Day: The story behind the largest amphibious assault in history

With more than 6,000 ships and 150,000 troops involved, along with nearly 12,000 aircraft, D-Day stands as the largest amphibious assault in history. The Allies pulled together every resource available to breach Hitler’s Fortress in Europe, but they had to do so without America’s experts in amphibious warfare. The U.S. Marine Corps was busy pushing back the Japanese in the Pacific, island by island. Here’s how Eisenhower and his generals did it.


Planning for D-Day pits allies against each other

Photo: US Army Signal Corps

The demands of D-Day caused fights for resources. The Americans and British fought over when to make Normandy the priority while the Army was pitted against the Navy for resources, according to historical essays from “Command Decisions.”

The stress between the American and British leadership centered on an American belief that the British wanted to spend more time consolidating gains in the Mediterranean rather than pivot to France and open the new front in the war. The Americans thought that British leadership wanted to spend more time in Southern Europe to gain political power there, while British planners thought the focus should remain in the area a little longer to force Germany to move more reinforcements away from Normandy.

For the Army and Navy, the fight was over how shipbuilding assets should be used. The Army wanted more landing craft while the Navy needed shipbuilders focused on repairing and rebuilding the deepwater fleet that had been diminished by Pearl Harbor, submarine warfare, and escort duties for convoys.

Both problems were settled at the Cairo-Tehran conferences in 1943. British leaders assured the U.S. that they were committed to crossing the English Channel in 1944. The issue of new landing craft was settled due to two factors. First, the Navy had reduced need for new ships as German submarines were sinking fewer craft. Second, Churchill decried the shortage of landing craft, pledging his country would focus on constructing ships for the landing if the Americans would increase their effort as well.

Heavy German defenses force the Allies to do the unexpected

Photo: US Army History Museum

The obvious points for an Allied force to invade Normandy in the 1940s were the large port at Pas-de-Calais or the smaller ports at La Havre and Cherbourg. German defense planners reinforced these zones to the point that invaders would either fail to reach the beaches or be immediately pushed back upon landing. Instead, the Allies created a plan to land at a beach instead of a port.

The final plan was to land between Le Havre in the east and Cherbourg in the west. The invading forces would spread from there while airborne troops would jump ahead onto key objectives, securing bridges, destroying artillery, and wreaking havoc on the enemy communications. The plan faced numerous challenges, though two stood out.

First, German leadership knew of the Allies use of landing craft in Sicily and assessed the beaches as vulnerable, likely targets. Second, the Normandy coast was famous for bad weather and extreme tides, up to 21-foot changes in a day.

This would leave the Allies with relatively lightly-defended beaches, but a huge logistics problem once they had landed. Large ships would have no deepwater piers to pull up to and no cranes to remove supplies from cargo holds.

The Allies would ultimately get around this through the construction of “Mulberry Harbors,” prefabricated, floating piers protected by sunken World War I ships and caissons. The first piers were operational by June 14 and allowed vehicles and supplies up to 40 tons to drive from deepwater ships to the shore.

Weather delays D-Day but also saves it

The movement of supplies and soldiers to Britain had taken place over two years, culminating in a massive troop buildup in 1944. But the day of the invasion had to be set for small, three-day windows centered on proper tides and moonlight. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, set the invasion date for June 5, 1944 and trusted British Capt. James Stagg to make the weather decision for proposed invasion dates.

Stagg and the British meteorologists found themselves in disagreement with the Americans as to the weather for June 5. Stagg recommended delaying the invasion due to storms the British predicted, while the Americans thought a high pressure wedge would stave off the storms and provide blue skies. Luckily, Eisenhower only heard directly from Stagg and accepted his recommendation. D-Day was pushed to June 6.

The Germans, meanwhile, also predicted the storms but thought they would last for at least a week or more. With this weather forecast, the German high command went ahead with war games and pulled its troops away from the coastal defenses so they could practice defending the coasts. The head of German land defenses, Gen. Erwin Rommel, left to give his wife a pair of birthday shoes. The beaches would be more lightly defended and lack key leadership when the Allies arrived.

June 6, 1944: D-Day

Though the weather wouldn’t clear for hours, Stagg recommended to Eisenhower that he go ahead with the June 6 invasion. Just after midnight, the invasion of Hitler’s Fortress Europe began.

Prior to the beach landings, 23,000 American, British, and Canadian paratroopers dropped through heavy cloud cover to begin securing what would become the flanks of the main force at the beaches. They also struck at key logistics and communications hubs, allowing for the eventual push from the beach while also weakening the Germans’ ability to organize their counter attacks. Allied bombers struck targets on the beaches, preparing the objectives for the main force.

The landings on the Normandy coast began at 6:30 a.m. with the 8th Regimental combat team under Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt at Utah Beach. Soldiers at Utah experienced a successful, relatively light invasion. Over the next few hours, Allied troops were landing at Gold, Juno, Sword, and Omaha Beaches.

At Omaha, bombing and naval fire had been relatively ineffective and many floating tanks were sunk due to the weather. Troops landed at heavily defended beaches where engineers had trouble clearing obstacles. The first wave took cover behind enemy anti-ship defenses and was bogged down. Follow-on troops helped assault the enemy defenses, climbing cliffs under fire to reach objectives. All four Medal of Honor awardees from D-Day fought on Omaha Beach.

Photo: US Army

“As our boat touched sand and the ramp went down, I became a visitor to hell,” said Pvt. Charles Neighbor, a veteran of Omaha Beach. By nightfall, the other four beaches were held with forces pushing between two and four miles inland. At Omaha, Allied soldiers continued to fight against pockets of resistance.

D-Day cost the lives of 4,413 Allied soldiers and between 4,000 and 9,000 Germans. The remaining pockets of resistance on Omaha Beach were conquered on June 7, and the Allies began the long push to Berlin. The War in Europe would rage for nearly another year before Victory in Europe Day, May 8, 1945.

NOW: Listen to Reagan’s chilling speech about soldiers who scaled cliffs under heavy fire on D-Day

OR: 12 rare and amazing photos from the “War to End All Wars’

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Report finds VA suicide hotline lets many crisis calls go to voicemail

The Veterans Affairs Inspector General found calls at the main VA suicide hotline center in Canandaigua, New York allowed calls to go to voicemail, and that some are never returned due to inadequate training and an overloaded staff.


The hotline was the subject of the 2014 Academy Award-winning documentary “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1,” which profiles several Veterans’ Crisis Line counselors who work the 24-hour service to provide support and guidance to active and retired servicemen dealing with emotional, physical and financial troubles.

“We substantiated allegations that some calls routed to backup crisis centers were answered by voicemail, and callers did not always receive immediate assistance,” said a VA report filed in February 2016.

The VA estimates every sixth call is going to the backup center, where callers listen to Muzak while they wait for an operator. The VA has no information on how long the callers wait or how many give up because the backup centers are not monitored by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Since the suicide hotline was created in 2007, it has received more than two million calls and intervened on 53,000 separate occasions. The new report recommends obtaining and analyzing data on hold times, implementing call monitoring for the crisis line staff, more rigorous training with a rigorous quality assurance process.

 

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7 gifts for the moto veterans in your life

Christmas is right around the corner and time is running out to get something great. Here’s a quick primer for anyone still shopping for that special veteran.


1. Toys

GIF: Youtube/RCSparks Studio

You can take a second to pretend your grown, bad-ss service member doesn’t love toys if you need, we’ll wait. All done? Cool. On the upper end of the price spectrum there are remote-control tanks that fire pellets while on the lower side model A-10 Warthogs are available.

2. Vintage gear

Any World War II gear could be cool, but a motorcycle would win Christmas. Photo: Wikipedia/Terry Whalebone

Most vets embrace the history of their unit, making vintage military items a great gift. Soldiers and Marines may appreciate this antiqued compass or sailors could go for a telescope. Airmen can try the classic bomber jacket.

3. Military movie memorabilia

Photo: Youtube screenshot/MBS-MoviesBestScenes

Speaking of bomber jackets, Maverick’s jacket from Top Gun is available for movie buffs and movie weapons can be fun. Of course, getting the actual movies can be a great gift too.

4. Rucks and other bags

Photo: US Army National Guard Master Sgt. Paul Wade

Former soldiers and Marines hate their heavy rucksacks while they’re marching around the desert, but love gear bags for everything from camping to running around town.

Surplus stores will usually have the real deal while good military-inspired bags are available all over the place. Make sure to match camouflage patterns to the service member. Marines don’t want to wear Army digital, soldiers don’t want to wear MARPAT, and no one wants to wear aquaflage.

This is especially important if the veteran is still in the service. The military branches usually only allow black bags or those with matching camouflage to be worn while in uniform.

5. Books

Photo: Courtesy Adam and Brian Makos

Bookworms always have a lot of great options from the military. The new novel “Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War” generated a lot of buzz this year, and Marine Phil Klay’s “Redeployment” is a brilliant collection of short stories. Former paratrooper Michael MacLeod’s memoir, “The Brave Ones” follows a 41-year-old enlistee in the War on Terror from recruitment through two deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

WATM has previously covered quadruple amputee and 82nd Airborne Division veteran Staff Sgt. Travis Mill’s new book, “Tough as they Come” as well as history writer Adam Makos’ “Devotion,” the true story of a Medal of Honor recipient who crashed his plane behind enemy lines in Korea to try and save his best friend.

6. Swag

Photo: NavyChief.com

Troops love them some stickers, t-shirts, and other swag so that everyone knows how cool they are. Nearly all units and branches are represented at shops like cafepress.com, but check first to see if the service member’s unit sells items directly.

Purchases made from a unit typically support that unit’s morale fund, helping them pay for events at home and overseas. There are also vet-owned companies that make awesome military gear like Grunt Style, Ranger Up, and Article 15.

7. Weapons

Photo: Public Domain/Nicolas von Kospoth

Uncle Sam’s gun clubs love their weaponry, both in the professional sphere and at home. Obviously, match the gift to the vet. If they don’t already have a knife or gun, maybe get something else off the list.

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These special Army cyber teams are hacking ISIS comms

Soldiers in new cyber teams are now bringing offensive and defensive virtual effects against Islamic militants in northern Iraq and Syria, according to senior leaders.


An embedded expeditionary cyber team performs surveillance and reconnaissance of various local networks during the Cyberspace Electromagnetic Activities support to Corps and Below pilot at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., Aug. 10, 2016. Cyber senior leaders recently announced that cyber Soldiers are now employing offensive and defensive cyber effects against Islamic militants in northern Iraq and Syria. (Photo Credit: David Vergun)

“We have Army Soldiers who are in the fight and they are engaged (with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant),” said Brig. Gen. J.P. McGee, the Army Cyber Command’s deputy commander for operations.

Once the cyber mission force teams stand up, McGee said they’re going straight into operational use.

“As we build these teams, we are … putting them right into the fight in contact in cyberspace,” he said at a media roundtable last week.

The general declined to discuss specific details, but said the majority of the effort is offensive cyberspace effects that are being delivered from locations in the United States and downrange.

The Army is responsible for creating 41 of the 133 teams in the Defense Department’s cyber mission force. Of the Army’s teams, 11 are currently at initial operating capability with the rest at full operational capability, according to Brig. Gen. Patricia Frost, director of cyber for the Army’s G-3/5/7.

She expects all of the Army teams to be ready to go before the October 2018 deadline, she said.

The teams have three main missions: protect networks, particularly the DOD Information Network; defend the U.S. and its national interests against cyberattacks; and give cyber support to military operations and contingency plans.

This spring, Army cyber also plans to continue the Cyberspace Electromagnetic Activities support to Corps and Below pilot, which is testing the concept of expeditionary CEMA cells within training brigades.

The 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team is slated to take part in the pilot’s sixth iteration, being held at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California.

In the training, Soldiers discover how to map out cyber and EM terrain in a simulated battlefield in order to defeat the enemy.

“Where are the wireless points, cell phone towers? What does that look like? How do you figure out how to gain access to them to be able to deliver effects?” McGee asked.

In one example, McGee said that a CEMA cell could be used to shut down an enemy’s internet access for a period of time to help a patrol safely pass through a contested area. The internet access could then be turned back on to collect information on enemy activities.

“We’re innovating and trying to figure this out,” he said.

McGee also envisions cyber Soldiers working alongside a battlefield commander inside a tactical operations center, similar to how field artillery or aviation planners give input.

“A maneuver commander can look at a team on his staff that can advise him on how to deliver cyber and electromagnetic effects and activities in support of his maneuver plan,” he said.

Until then, the Army has created a cyber first line of defense program, which trains two-person teams to actively defend the tactical networks of brigades, Frost said. Each team consists of a warrant officer and NCO who are not specifically in the cyber career field, but who can still help brigades operate semi-autonomously in combat.

“[We] look at putting two individuals that will come with cyber education and tools to be that first line of defense,” Frost said. “It allows a brigade commander to be able to execute mission command.”