One of the best performances to emerge from the run of military unit music videos a few years back was this one by the ‘Sun Kings’ of VAW-116. Who says that fighter guys have all the fun?
If the Empire ever makes it here from its galaxy far, far away, America is going to be in a tough pickle.
And the Empire has already had a long time to get here. So what would it look like if the Empire landed one of its most feared vehicles — the All Terrain Armored Transport — in the plains of the midwest?
Surely, the Air Force would be hard-pressed to take them out, but here are five strategies that the beloved A-10 should try first:
Strategy 1: Punch out the walker’s teeth
The AT-ATs armor is too thick for firing at it center mass, but aiming at the crew cabin in the “head” will give the A-10 pilots a good chance of hitting the laser turrets mounted around it. These weapons have only light armor and the barrels are largely exposed.
This won’t take down the walker entirely, but it would turn it into a stomping reconnaissance tool instead of a lethal, anti-armor and anti-bunker monster.
Strategy 2: Low flying pass to hit the Imperial walker’s fuel slug
The walkers use a solid “slug” of fuel kept in a tank in the belly of the beast. This is the same type of fuel that powers starfighters, and everyone knows how spectacularly they blow up.
To hit this tank, the A-10s will need to conduct flights at near ground level and should approach from the walker’s 1, 5, 7, or 11 o’clock to avoid its limited skirt armor. Pilots should launch the TV-guided AGM-65 Maverick missile with its 300-pound, shaped-charge warhead and a delayed fuze.
Even if the missile doesn’t make it to the fuel tank before it explodes, the blast should cut through some of the drive mechanisms for the legs, granting a mobility kill and possibly causing the AT-AT to topple.
Strategy 3: Cripple its feet
Speaking of mobility kills, the AT-AT relies on ankle drive motors and terrain scanners in the “feet” to keep it balanced and moving forward. But the metal supports around these feet aren’t particularly strong.
In at least two occasions, Sith and Jedi have cut the feet off of a walker.
While A-10s don’t have a plasma saber to cut through the leg, the shaped charges in the AGM-65 with a contact fuse could slice deep enough for the remaining support to snap under the massive weight of the AT-AT.
Alternatively, the pilot could fire the Maverick missile against the foot itself in an attempt to cut through the armor to disable the sensors and motors inside, increasing the chances that the foot will trip on the terrain, similar to the effect in the GIF above.
Strategy 4: Wait for it to discharge troops and fill it with 30mm
The AT-AT is a troop transport, and patient A-10 pilots could wait for it to attempt and discharge its stormtroopers and speeder bikes. When the walker opens to release its deadly cargo, pilots would have only a short window to attack through the open armor panels.
This is a job for the GAU-8 Avenger. Pilots should fire a sustained stream of 30mm through the opening. Don’t get shy, the crew compartment is connected to the transport area only through a thin tunnel. Even with high-explosive rounds, the A-10 needs to get a lot of ammo into the troop transport section to guarantee that at least a few bits of shrapnel bounce through the cabin.
Strategy 5: Cut its head off
In the Battle of Hoth, snow speeders managed to get a mobility kill on an AT-AT by wrapping its legs up in a tow cable. Before the walker crew could escape, a flight of snow speeders fired on the AT-AT’s flexible neck section, the tunnel between the crew cabin and the troop transport area.
Just two blasts to the neck section set off a massive explosion that destroyed the walker and rained debris for hundreds of meters. While it isn’t known what in the neck caused the massive, second detonation, there’s no reason to think that an A-10’s GAU-8 Avenger couldn’t punch through this vulnerable section.
To hit it, pilots should conduct nearly vertical attacks from high altitude, sending the 30mm rounds into the neck joint perpendicular to the armor.
In the winter of 1795, a French cavalry regiment captured 14 Dutch ships and 850 guns without a fight. How’d they do it? They simply trotted across the ice. Universally regarded as one of the strangest victories in the history of warfare, the Battle of Texel is the only documented occurrence of a “naval” skirmish between warships and cavalry.
Capture of the Dutch fleet by the French hussars, Léon Morel-Fatio | Public Domain
Why were the French at war with the Dutch?
By 1792, Revolutionary France was looking to pick a fight with Europe’s monarchist powers. On 20 April, the Legislative Assembly declared war against the King of Bohemia and Hungary (meaning the Hapsburg Empire). Their plan worked. They ignited a twenty-three year conflict between France and the rest of the continent. In January 1795, the French Revolutionary Army invaded the Dutch Republic. They were met with little resistance.
What went down during the battle?
The winter of 1794-5 was particularly brutal. Stationed near the village of den Helder, the Dutch fleet was immobilized when the Zuiderzee bay froze overnight. It didn’t take long for the French commander to take stock of the situation—all the calvary had to do was gallop across the ice. The Dutch admiral was left with the embarrassing task of surrendering his ships to a handful of soldiers on horseback. A.G.M. Macdonell describes the French advance in his book Napoleon and his Marshals:
“The ragged men carried the Three Colours and sang the terrible song of Marseilles from Fleurus to the Rhine, and captured the fortresses of Flanders and the fortresses of Holland and Brabant…and entered Antwerp and Rotterdam and the Hague, and thundered on their horses across the ice to capture with naked swords the battlefleet of Holland.”
What happened afterwards?
The United Provinces of the Netherlands became the Batavian Republic. The French puppet state lasted until 1806, when it was replaced by the Kingdom of Holland after Napoleon decided to put his brother Louis on the throne.
The Nazis concocted all sorts of weird military technology, but the Me 323 Giant was certainly one of the biggest.
With six engines over a 181 foot wingspan and the ability to haul 95,000 pounds of gear, the Giant was an incredible aviation feat. Doors in its nose opened up and allowed tanks, artillery, and personnel to hop inside and be transported up to 675 miles away. But it was also a big, slow, flying elephant with wings.
The Me 323 was helped answer a question plaguing the Germans early in the war: How do we get a bunch of tanks, troops, and artillery across the English channel and take London?
As Tyler Rogoway details at Foxtrot Alpha, in 1940 the Luftwaffe gave aircraft manufacturers Junkers and Messerschmitt just 14 days to come up with a proposal for an aircraft that could pull off such a feat. Junkers had a tough time coming up with a usable design and Messerschmitt was eventually chosen to spearhead the concept, which became the Me 321.
Though the Germans ultimately cancelled their planned invasion of Britain, called Operation Sea Lion, the Me 321 was used extensively on the Eastern Front. But the large cargo glider was riddled with problems, though it did see some success when used in Russia.
In 1941, German transport pilots were asking for something better than the Me 321. Only 200 of them were built, and while a bunch were scrapped, at least a few were upgraded to what would become the Me 323. It was the largest land-based transport aircraft of World War II, according to the Daily Mail.
From Foxtrot Alpha:
The final production configuration of the Me323 had a high wing made of wood and fabric that was braced near the center of the wing and fuselage. The fuselage was built out of a tubular metal skeleton with wooden cross-beams and fabric covering. The cockpit sat high atop the aircraft’s bulbous nose, which was a clam-shell door design, allowing it to open wide for outsized cargo to be loaded and unloaded. The cargo hold was cavernous for the time, measuring 36 feet long, 10 feet wide and 11 feet high, which is very roughly the size of a first generation C-130’s cargo hold. All said, the Me323 could carry a wide variety of items. For example, it could haul a pair of four ton trucks or 52 drums of fuel or 130 fully outfitted combat troops.
Just because it could lift a lot didn’t mean it could do so quickly. The Giant’s maximum speed was a paltry 135mph at sea level, and that figure got only worse as it climbed. This was helped somewhat by replacing wooden propellers on early models with metal variable pitch propellers on later ones. A crew of five was used on most missions, which included two pilots, two engineers and a radioman. During flights through areas that were of high risk, the radioman and the engineers could man three of the aircraft’s five MG 131 machine guns, although dedicated gunners were often carried for these higher-risk missions, allowing the crew to concentrate on flying and navigating, while still employing all five guns against Allied fighters. The Giant’s five .51 inch machine guns were located on the aircraft’s upper wings and in the nose and tail.
So how did the Giant fare? Not so great, as it turned out. In 1943, a fleet of Giants was dispatched to airlift supplies to German troops in Tunisia, since the sea lanes were littered with Allied ships. Hitler didn’t really think this one through, since a gigantic bullseye of a target flying at 135 mph wasn’t exactly the best solution.
Sure, the Me 323 had gun ports with machine guns and some German fighter escorts to defend against attacks, but that didn’t seem to matter on April 22. According to World War II Today, of the 27 Me 323 aircraft that attempted the hop from Sicily to Tunisia, 22 were shot down in the Mediterranean.
The good news, of course, was that the crashed planes made really awesome diving spots about 70 years later. But the bad news: The fleet of Giants got so beat up that none were capable of flying around summer 1944, according to Foxtrot Alpha. No intact Me 323 survives today, although the German Air Force Museum has a main wing on display.
Here are some more photos of what it was like:
SAPI plates, hundreds of rounds of ammo, and as much water as you can haul is just a fraction of the gear our ground troops carry on their back as they move through their objectives every day.
Not too long ago, WATM ran a story featuring a TV show host who wanted to know what it felt like to carry the typical combat load a Vietnam War GI would haul. If you didn’t get a chance to see it, click here: This is why grunt gear isn’t for the average man
Many members of our loyal audience took the opportunity to chime in after reading the article and commented about what the heavy equipment they had to lug around during their time serving “in the suck” and here’s what they had to say.
1. The veteran grunt
2. The motivated Corpsman
3. The usual checklist of gear for this grunt was…
4. The proud and seasoned machine gunner
5. Packing some major heat
6. He’s down to do it all over again
7. Ready for just about anything
What gear did you carry? Comment below.
When you think of artillery, you’re probably thinking of something like the M777-towed 155mm howitzer or the M109A6 Paladin self-propelled gun. But in the Civil War, artillery was very different.
Back then, a gun wasn’t described by how wide the round was, but how much the round weighed. According to a National Park Service release, one of the most common was the 12-pounder Napoleon, which got that name from firing a 12-pound solid shot. The typical range for the Napoleon was about 2,000 yards. Multiply that by about twenty to have a rough idea how far a M777 can shoot an Excalibur GPS-guided round.
Another round used was the shell, a hollowed-out solid shot that usually had about eight ounces of black powder inserted. This is pretty much what most artillery rounds are today. The typical Civil War shell had a range of about 1,500 yards — or just under a mile.
However, when enemy troops were approaching, the artillery had two options. The first was to use what was called “case” rounds. These were spherical rounds that held musket balls. In the case of the Napoleon, it held 78 balls. Think of it as a giant hand grenade that could reach out as far as a mile and “touch” enemy troops.
When the enemy troops got real close, there was one last round: the canister. In essence, this turned the cannon into a giant shotgun. It would have cast-iron shot packed with sawdust. When enemy troops got very close, they’d use two canister rounds, known as “double canister” (in the 1993 movie, “Gettysburg,” you can hear a Union officer order “double canister” during the depiction of Pickett’s Charge).
To see what a canister round did to enemy troops, watch this video:
The Internet is currently losing its collective cool over the King penguin promoted to brigadier general. While this is cute, it can sting for enlisted troops to learn that an animal has been promoted above them.
Well, it gets worse, guys and girls, because Brigadier Sir Olav isn’t the only adorable animal who outranks you. Olav has five American counterparts from history who held a military rank of sergeant or above:
1. Brigadier Sir Nils Olav
Brigadier Sir Nils Olav is one of the only animal members of a military officer corps or royal nobility.The penguin resides at the zoo in Edinburgh, Scotland and serves as the mascot of the Royal Norwegian Guard. The first penguin mascot of the guard was adopted in 1972. The name “Nils Olav” and mascot duties are passed on after the death of a mascot.
The Royal Norwegian Guard comes to the zoo every year for a military ceremony, and the penguin inspects them. Before each inspection, the penguin is promoted a single rank. The current penguin is the third to hold the name and has climbed from lance corporal to brigadier general. He is expected to live another 10 years and so could become the senior-most member of the Norway military.
2. Chief Petty Officer Sinbad
Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Sinbad served during World War II on a cutter that fought submarines and enemy aircraft in both the European and Pacific theaters of war.
Sinbad served 11 years of sea duty on the USCGC Campbell before retiring to Barnegat Light Station. During the war, he was known for causing a series of minor international incidents for which the Coast Guard was forced to write him up.
3. Staff Sgt. Reckless
Staff Sgt. Reckless the horse was known for her legitimate heroics in Korea at the Battle of Outpost Vegas where she carried over five tons of ammunition and other supplies to Marine Corps artillery positions despite fierce enemy fire that wounded her twice.
She was promoted to sergeant for her heroics there and was later promoted twice to staff sergeant, once by her colonel and once by the then-Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Randolph Pate.
4. Boatswain’s Mate Chief Maximilian Talisman
Boatswain’s Mate Chief Maximilian Talisman was a mascot aboard the USCGC Klamath who was officially assessed numerous times and always received a 3.4 out of 4.0 or better on his service reviews. He crossed the International Date Line twice and served in the Arctic Circle and Korea, according to a Coast Guard history.
5. Sgt. Stubby
Stubby was a dog who joined U.S. soldiers drilling on a field in Massachusetts in 1917. He learned the unit’s drill commands and bugle calls and was adopted by the men who later smuggled him to the frontlines in France. An officer spotted Stubby overseas and was berating his handler when the dog rendered his version of a salute, placing his right paw over his right eye.
The officer relented and Stubby served in the trenches, often warning the men of incoming gas attacks and searching for wounded personnel. He was promoted to sergeant for having spotted and attacked a German spy mapping the trench systems.
He was officially recognized with a medal after World War I for his actions, including participation in 17 battles, by the commander of the American Expeditionary Force, Gen. John Pershing.
6. Chief Boatswain’s Mate Turk
In an undated update from the Coast Guard, Turk held the rank of chief boatswain’s mate and was still on active service. But, he joined the Coast Guard in 1996 and so has likely retired and moved on by now. Hopefully, he was rewarded well for his service at Coast Guard Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, where he promoted life preserver use and stood watch with his fellow Coast Guardsmen.
On an especially cold winter afternoon in 2016, in the dark depths of the Syrian war, Yazen was quietly playing in Al-Bab, Syria, when a bomb ripped through his family home.
More than 80% of his tiny body caught flame and melted, including his lungs, propelling the child into a coma, from which he did not awake for six months. Yazen lost his ability to speak and requires a machine to help with his breathing.
But it was the traumatic plane ride from Istanbul to Los Angeles several years ago that gave Yazen and his mother, Kawthar — a schoolteacher from the Syrian city of Homs — their first glimpse into the generosity of America’s front-line medical workers.
The breathing machine voltage was not compatible with the aircraft. Thus, very quickly, Yazen’s tracheotomy filled up with fluid and he could not breathe. The airline staff made an emergency announcement appealing to any doctors on board. An American anesthesiologist came forward, and a Jordanian nurse volunteered to translate to the petrified mother. The doctor requested that the deeply distraught Kawthar move to a different part of the plane so she could not see the horrors that soon unfolded.
The doctor put a tube in Yazen’s trach hole and sucked all the saliva himself and spat it out continuously so that the boy’s airway would not be blocked. He did this for the entire 13-hour flight, as the passengers prayed and cheered for the child in his fragile fight for life.
“The way we were supported, immediately I knew that we were in the right place,” Kawthar said softly. “People are kind to us when we walk in the streets. Nobody stares at my son like he is different.”
Like many Syrian war survivors, Kawthar requested that only her first name be published due to security concerns.
As Yazen was immediately whisked away to a hospital upon landing, the heroic doctor remained anonymous. Social media posts by the Burnt Children Relief Foundation (BCRF), which brought Yazen and many others to the US for emergency surgery, have fallen on deaf ears.
Yet this doctor remains akin to an angel. He saved Yazen’s life. Dozens of surgeries later, the 10-year-old boy — doll-like with his delicate features and wide ebony eyes — is full of light and wisdom. Without a voice, he makes a heart shape when asked about his experience so far in the US.
Then there is Hamama, who came to the US for a second lease on life in 2016.
The first thing you jarringly notice is her face — roasted raw, unrecognizable. A gaping hole where her nose used to be; prosthetic eyes that cannot weep when emotions engulf her. But what you remember most is the softness of her hands — a glimpse of the innocent girl that existed before a bomb descended on her family’s home in the Homs countryside around five years ago.
In an instant, Hamama’s entire family, her memories, her eyesight, and her face were gone. But since coming to the US several years ago, the former shell of a human being has learned to put back together the pieces of a broken existence — one shard at a time.
Under the guidance of US-based, all-volunteer advocacy group the Burnt Children Relief Foundation, or BCRF — with the support of the US State Department to maneuver the visa complexities — more than a dozen Syrian children have had the opportunity to come to the US for lifesaving surgical care. Some live in Texas where they are treated at Shriners Children’s Hospital in Galveston, and others reside on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Each child is a window into a world of front-line medical workers and a kind of generosity that they never knew was possible.
BCRF was formed in 2014 as the war in Syria escalated to unfathomable levels. Hospitals became the target of the bombing campaign led by the Bashar al-Assad regime and his Russian counterparts. According to the nongovernmental organization Physicians for Human Rights, there have been at least 595 attacks on more than 350 separate medical facilities. Some 930 medical personnel have also been confirmed killed in the brutality. And the bloodletting continues inside the once beautiful country — the so-called “Cradle of Civilization.”
This March marked 10 years since pro-democracy protests filled the streets of the southern Syrian city of Daraa. Those initially peaceful demonstrations, and their demands for democratic reforms, rapidly led to a harsh and violent crackdown by the regime. Outside agendas also swarmed into the theater of war, igniting one of the modern world’s worst humanitarian crises: a dire situation further exacerbated by the international community’s inability, or unwillingness, to act.
The past decade has been characterized by cruelty, death, destruction, displacement, and poverty. Chemical weapons have crushed medical facilities and civilians. Sexual violence, torture, and war crimes have permeated almost every inch of the wracked land.
But as so often with wars, it is civilians — especially children — who are most tragically caught in the crossfire. Indeed, terrible burns have become analogous with Syria’s conflict as bombs indiscriminately target schools and homes.
According to the UN, the war has either killed or wounded hundreds of thousands of Syrian children. UNICEF reported that the number of children showing manifestations of psychosocial anguish doubled last year as they continue to endure the shock and horror of combat, and living amid tangled buildings and the tattered tents they now call home.
For most Syrians, who were merely trying to get by and feed their families when adversity struck, there is a painful sense that they will never see justice or accountability for what was done to them. International tribunals are notoriously arduous, bloated bureaucracies that seldom prosecute. Yet coming to America for critical surgery marks a small victory against the tyrants that tore their lives apart.
Manal, now 14 and undergoing a multitude of surgeries in California, views herself as one of the lucky ones.
“I didn’t feel anything until I woke up,” she recalled. “And then everyone told me I was burned.”
But if given a choice to turn back the clock and not be caught in the hail of bombings that ravaged her homeland, Manal said she wouldn’t do it.
“I’ve learned a lot. It is making me more brave and made me feel other people’s pain, a feeling only people in this situation would know. I feel their pain and I want to help them,” she said politely, her body stoic and erect. “This has made me more determined to achieve my goals in life. I want to be the voice for other people. I want to be a doctor to help the society.”
But it is when she starts to reflect on the calamity that is Syria that Manal’s resilient face gives way to a plethora of deep-rooted angst. She weeps for the children left behind who can’t get the help she has enjoyed; the burned stumps where her hands used to be scoop up tissues as the weeps turn to guttural sobs.
“There are so many children like me,” Manal continued, grief catching in her throat. “And no one is helping them; please help them because they deserve a better life.”
Her mother, Nisreen, cries for what this war has become.
“I used to want to stay in my country,” she whispers between silent whimpers, her body trembling. “But I don’t want to be there anymore. I am so happy to be here. No one could help us in Syria. But whatever I can say now about my country, it means nothing. It is a drop. The situation is a disaster and no one can help with that.”
While unfathomable numbers of children have been horribly seared in Syria, BCRF can only accommodate the most relentless burn cases. And of the severe, the file is large — more than 1,650 linger on the list. Not a single day passes in which BCRF chairwoman Susan Baaj isn’t flooded with new cases, desperate pleas, and requests.
“I used to watch all the videos and images of the bombs falling and hospitals decimated,” recalled Baaj, a Syrian American businesswoman and philanthropist in Southern California. “I just started to feel helpless, and I am a results person. I need to see results, and I wanted to see something happening here.”
And Musa, whose charred face is wrapped in a plastic shield and his skin sheathed in a suit and gloves, appears far too tiny for his 8 years. He speaks in a tempered staccato, the elastic moment of silence in between sentences punctured by the haunting sound of this small child’s heavy breathing.
“I like America better,” he said. “There are more toys here.”
Musa was just 4 when he was hit from the skies in the Syrian city of Raqqa; his skin cooked in such a way that doctors have since questioned if the bomb was laced with some form of phosphorus or a similar chemical. Musa’s baby sister was immediately killed. According to Musa’s mother, Sabrine, the boy’s injuries were a result of an old diesel heater exploding as the bomb landed.
“The situation for children in Syria is very dire,” Sabrine said, her eyes darting to the heavens as she speaks. “We’re all just very tired of this.”
Still, Musa wants to go home someday. He wants to go back to school, which was reverted to online learning at the outset of the global pandemic more than a year ago. And he already knows what he wants to be when he grows up.
“A policeman,” Musa enthused, a smile contorting his flushed face.
Similarly, Anwar — who is also 8 — wants to be a police officer. He highlights that he met some men in blue in Texas. Anwar, who hails from the once ISIS-ridden parcel of De-Azor, was just 3 when his body was blistered into oblivion. He has no memories of Syria or the beloved siblings he left behind in the throes of conflict.
“I am a burn victim,” he uttered when asked what he wants to share about himself. “And thank you to the American people.”
Baaj also views BCRF’s visa policies as an important model, especially during a time of large-scale debates over immigration, refugee numbers, and Americans’ needs.
Contrary to most other resettlement programs, the foundation permits only one family member — which must be a woman — to travel with the burned child. The US government does not grant them permanent residency, only a visa for the needed treatment period — which usually ranges from six months to two years. After the visa expires, the child must be repatriated with their surviving family abroad, most often to Turkey or Syria.
Yet for the mothers who accompany their children for treatment, the journey still comes at a high personal cost — leaving behind their loved ones and the rest of their children for months, sometimes years.
In the case of Anwar’s mother, Khatoon, she has seven other children with whom she has had to part for an unknown period. But she vividly remembers the morning her baby boy was burned. She remembers leaving the house on a frosty morning to attend a funeral, only to return to find the house a mere pile of smoldering ruins.
Her husband had already rushed the injured Anwar to the Turkish border, and for three months she wandered the war-wracked streets until they were reunited.
“He used to cry a lot, and he wasn’t able to look at himself in the mirror. Sometimes he still gets sad, but he never complains,” Khatoon said, her eyes wet. “I miss my other children, but I had to come here for Anwar. I would tell any parent in this situation, don’t give up on your children.”
The mothers leaned in, quietly confessing that culturally there is still a lot of stigma surrounding severely wounded children in their homeland. Sometimes they are deemed too costly for struggling families, and abandoned. Then there is the fear of ostracizing due to their appearances — which many of them shared when coming to the US. But they experienced the exact opposite.
“I thought it was going to be weird and scary. At first, I was scared with everyone looking at me,” noted Ayesha, who just turned 9 and was scorched when she was just 4 in Idlib. “But I learned here, never judge a book by a cover. Be kind and don’t judge.”
Ayesha’s memories of Syria are fractured. She relives a feeling of constant exhaustion, of feeling unsafe, and then those moments before the injury. Her thoughts shift to the aftermath, the vision of displaced persons flooding over Turkey’s border and back into Syria, even while the conflict peaked.
“Never give up,” she added while scrolling through her toddler photographs — evidence of the life “before.”
“Even when you think hope is lost, it is going to be back in you.”
Veteran actor and former Marine Corporal Joe Lisi gives us a no-holds-barred interview about his life before the Corps, times on the streets with the NYPD and what he holds true to today about his service. We Are The Mighty spoke with Lisi on growing up in NYC, serving there as a police officer in elite units and then moving on to show business based on his childhood dream.
Lisi was born in Brooklyn and raised in NYC by a native-born family of the city. His father was Italian, his mother was Irish and both were in the Navy during World War II. His dad came back home from the Navy and had married his mom during the war. The Lisi family settled in Queens and Lisi went to a parochial elementary school. The family was a household of eight. As siblings they played in the neighborhood with kids of Irish, Italian, Jewish, Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage. His family then sent him to public high school which he graduated from in June 1968. In August of that year, he went to work for NYPD. There were a lot of Vietnam Veterans in his academy class in ’68 and they were early veterans of the war. Lisi was officially hired into the police trainee program.
Lisi joined the department as a civilian employee in his trainee capacity. He shared, “The only thing that kept us from being cops was we were 18 where you had to be 21 to be a cop. We were cocky then too.” He did clerical work and met an administrative aid that only had one leg. The disabled individual was dependable, low-key, didn’t have much of an ego and was driven. Lisi found out he was a Vietnam veteran and a Marine and his name was John Devine. Lisi said, “I just admired him and the way he composed himself. I decided I wanted to be like him and I had to get permission from the police commissioner to enlist in the reserves.” There was a noticeable difference between Lisi before and after. “I was told by an NYPD Sergeant that the difference was stark, where before I went to Parris Island and after where the sergeant couldn’t believe the change in me. The Sergeant was impressed with my work ethic and character even more so upon my return.” The NYPD Sergeant was a World War II veteran as well.
Lisi went to boot camp that was only eight weeks long because of Vietnam. He was promoted to PFC out of boot camp and his MOS was as a Radio Relay Operator since he was joining the 11th Communications Battalion in NYC. It is currently the 6th Communications Battalion in the Marine Corps Reserves. He went to radio school at the original Montford Point, worked in the motor pool for 8th Marines in CLNC on vehicles and drove Marines around the base. He stated, “I remember walking around Manhattan in my Alphas and having people spit at me. Thankfully, that has changed due to President Reagan reinstilling pride in the military.” Lisi stayed in the Reserves for three years.
He was called to active duty for the 1970 Postal Strike, “We protected the mail and did an outstanding job. My Marine friends call me the postal warrior.” There was a point where Lisi had to do undercover work for the NYPD and ran into an issue with the Marine Corps Reserve. “I had to do an undercover assignment and needed to keep my long hair, where the Marines said that wasn’t going to be allowed and they honorably discharged me. I got a letter from my police commanding officer asking my battalion commander for lax grooming standards.” He goes on further, “I also offered to go to drills in my civilian clothes to keep my hair long for police work and keep the honor of the Marine uniform. The battalion commander said no and the Marines needed to downsize post the war anyways.”
Lisi said, “I wanted to be an NYPD officer and an actor when growing up. I was inspired by The Untouchables TV series with Robert Stack as Elliot Ness. We used to play The Untouchables in the street as kids where I was the only kid that wanted to be Elliott Ness.” He stated, “I asked my father for his blessing to be a cop where I told him, ‘If I don’t become a cop then who will?’ He understood that and gave me his blessing.”
Many values carried over from his service in the Corps to the NYPD. He stated, “Honor, courage and commitment are hallmark traits that go in hand with integrity, perseverance, honesty and always doing the right thing. Even if no one is looking at you. Be goal-oriented as well.” Lisi goes into troop welfare with, “The most important thing is to take care of your Marines first. I ran my undercover units the same way, I took care of my officers. I grew the unit based on being tough, fair and taking care of my officers where I credit the Corps with those standards.” He ran the undercover unit for the NYPD for a while and the special projects unit in the narcotics division. He grew the unit from five officers to over forty officers. He believes his reputation was as a “tough and fair boss based on (his) Marine Corps training.”
His first acting role came in the stage play Arsenic and Ole Lace and he auditioned for a role. He got the part of a small role of a uniformed cop. Lisi didn’t know much about acting and he learned a lot from being part of the production. He said, “I had such a great time and loved it so much. My wife at the time encouraged me to be an actor because of my experience.” He studied acting at the HB Studio, Stella Adler and with Bill Esper at the Neighborhood Playhouse. He would go to an audition during lunch and run lines with a fellow detective while driving to the appointment. Lisi was a Captain in the NYPD in 1989 and was cast as a Captain in a police TV show set in NYC at the same time. The show was called True Blue. He said, “I had a lot of responsibility as a police officer running different divisions to include a narcotics unit where I made more money in a day playing a TV cop than I did in a week as a real police officer.”
Lisi was given his break by a fellow police officer and retired detective Sonny Grosso as he hired Lisi on his first job which got him his SAG card. Grosso is most known for being the basis for, and an advisor, on the book turned film The French Connection. Grosso was a Korean War veteran and worked on The Godfather as an advisor and he then turned to producing in his later career. Lisi met Sonny in the 1970s before Lisi had started moonlighting as an actor and then they reconnected in the 1980s when Grosso was producing TV and he was acting.
He said, “Being on set and working with the crew you become close. It has similarities to a unit or my time in the Corps.” Lisi said his favorite projects include The Sopranos, Third Watch and Take Me Out, for which won the Tony Award for Best Play, in London and on Broadway. Lisi shared that the most fun project he has worked on was Almost Home on 32nd street written by a Marine named Walter Anderson. It was about a Marine coming home from Vietnam. “I played the alcoholic father and a World War II veteran. It was a wonderful play with great reviews.”
He shared about hiring veterans if given the opportunity: “Absolutely, running police department units I definitely wanted veterans, especially Marines where they already had a leg up. I knew veterans were dependable and we could count on them. I had a bunch of Marines in my unit in the department. One of my best detectives was an Army Airborne Vietnam veteran. We know they know how to be part of a team. Veterans are more reliable and responsible where even if things go awry you will get the truth from them in most cases.” He further elaborated, “Veterans are also usually loyal people who are truthful. If the boss needs to know something you have to tell them the tough news. Marines are definitely like that with the boss and will tell them the real deal even if it’s not pretty.” He shared emphatically, “If the differentiator is military or not, you have to go with the veteran. On Third Watch, my stand-in John on the show was a Vietnam veteran where he was the first guy in and last guy out. A stand-in job can be very tedious where he was the best.”
He is very proud of his continued friendship with fellow veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, Colonel Jack Jacobs, U.S. Army (ret.). He stated, “Jack hangs out with a lot of Marines. He loves Marines and comes to all of our dinners. I recommended he be made an honorary Marine. It went up to all the channels and came back denied, unfortunately.” Lisi has now been retired from the NYPD for over 30 years and he still keeps in touch with some of his friends from the department, especially the veterans. He also speaks with the local officers at a station that is right on his block. A lot of Marines are on the local station’s force and he has relationships with them.
Lisi believes we need more Marines in show business and publications. He shared, “Marines need to write their stories and do the veteran writing workshops. Fordham University offers a veteran writing workshop. Today there are more ways to get it out than ever before. Once you have a story, it needs to get sent to a studio or development house by an agent. Marines have to learn how to write, write with them or for them where it’s all about exposure. There are a lot of military shows and special ops shows that need Marine writers.” He said about hosting an Iwo Jima dinner every year in Queens, “We get about 85 Marines there and we still have a few Iwo Jima survivors. I got to tell you, these Iwo Jima survivors come in hunched over and using canes where we have two Marines helping them to their table. Once they are in the presence of those young Marines for about 10 minutes, they turn back to being 20 years old again. You get to see them come to life!” He said, “The young Marines are like in awe of them.”
He shared about his next goals with, “I never want to retire from acting. I am going to be 70 in November and want to just keep working.” Lisi talked about his new business venture with, “My current entrepreneurial pursuit outside of acting is where I am involved in a cocktail lounge that serves pizza named Bar Dough in NYC. The opportunity was offered to me while driving back from Camp Lejeune North Carolina with Pete Fitzpatrick who was a corporal of Marines.” Fitzpatrick was in Beirut when the barracks were bombed. He shared, “Pete says we’re gonna open a bar and I said, ‘Okay.’”
He stated, “A lot of Marines go there where we had a two-star Marine General come in who enjoyed the place.” Lisi is thrilled about the restaurant and the clients it attracts, “I am getting fan mail from people that remember Third Watch‘ and The Sopranos where they are sending the fan mail to Bar Dough, so it’s kind of a revival! I am getting three or four letters a week with some of it coming from overseas.” He shared about the bar’s charitable work as well with, “We sent 500 pizzas to USNS Comfort while in port, we sent pizzas to Sloan Kettering and the Army units in town staying in the hotels, we sent pizzas to the Army mortuary soldiers at Bellevue dealing with like 300 deaths a day. A lot of friends and fellow Marines made those donations possible.”
The Corps made a strong imprint on Lisi’s mind, body and soul — it has made a lasting overall effect on his life and for those around him.
During World War II, there were many ingenious and courageous raids, but only one would come to be known as “The Greatest Raid of All” – the British raid on St. Nazaire.
Since the beginning of hostilities, the German Navy had wreaked havoc on shipping in the Atlantic. With the fall of France, the Nazis had ample facilities on the Atlantic to service their fleet, well away from areas patrolled by the Royal Navy. The British wanted to take this away and force them through the English Channel or the GIUK (Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom) gap, which they heavily defended. To do this, they devised a daring raid that would put the port of St. Nazaire out of action.
The plan, codenamed Operation Chariot, was to assault the port with commandos supported by a converted destroyer, the HMS Campbeltown. The British planned to load the Campbeltown with explosives and then ram it into the dry docks where it would detonate. The commandos would also land and destroy the port while up-gunned motor launches searched for targets of opportunity.
The raiding force consisted of 265 commandos (primarily from No.2 Commando) along with 346 Royal Navy sailors split between twelve motor launches and four torpedo boats.
The raiders set out from England on the afternoon of March 26, 1942, and arrived at the target just after midnight on March 28. At that point, the Campbeltown raised a German naval ensign to deceive German shore batteries. However, a planned bombing by the Royal Air Force put the harbor on high alert, and just eight minutes from their objective they were illuminated by spotlights.
A gun battle between the approaching ships and the Germans ensued. At one mile out, the British raised their own naval ensign, increased speed, and drove through the murderous German fire. The helmsman of the Campbeltown was killed, his replacement wounded, and the whole crew blinded by searchlights. At 1:34 a.m., the destroyer found the Normandie dry dock gates, hitting with such force as to drive the destroyer 33 feet onto the gates.
As the commandos disembarked, the Germans rained small arms fire on the raiders. Despite suffering numerous casualties, they were able to complete their objectives, destroying harbor facilities and machinery.
The commandos on the motor launches were not so lucky. As the boats attempted to make their way to shore, most of them were put out of action by the German guns. Many sank without landing their units. All but four of 16 sank.
The motor launches were the means of egress from the port for the commandos already ashore. The image of many of them burning in the estuary was a disheartening sight.
Lt. Col. Newman, leading the Commandos on shore, and Commander Ryder of the Royal Navy realized evacuation by sea was no longer an option. Ryder signaled the remaining boats to leave the harbor and make for the open sea. Newman gathered the commandos and issued three orders: Do the best to get back to England, no surrender until all ammunition is exhausted and no surrender at all if they could help it. With that, they headed into the city to face the Germans and attempt an escape over land.
The Commandos were quickly surrounded. They fought until their ammunition was expended before proceeding with their only remaining option: surrender. Five commandos did manage to escape the German trap though and make their way through France, neutral Spain, and to British Gibraltar, from which they returned to England.
As the Germans recaptured the port, they also captured 215 British commandos and Royal Navy sailors. Unaware that the Campbeltown lodged in the dry dock was a bomb waiting to explode, a German officer blithely told Lt. Commander Sam Beattie, who had been commanding the Campbeltown, the damage caused by the ramming would only take a matter of weeks to repair. Just as he did the Campbeltown exploded, killing 360 people in the area and destroying the docks – putting them out of commission for the remainder of the war.
The British paid dearly for this success. Of over 600 personnel involved, only 227 returned to England. Besides those taken prisoner, the British also had 169 killed in action. The raid generated a large number of awards for gallantry, one of the highest concentrations for any battle. Five Victoria Crosses, Britain’s highest award for gallantry, were awarded, two posthumously. There were a total of 84 other decorations for the raiders ranging from the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal to the Military Medal.
Close up of HMS Campbeltown after the raid. Note the shell damage in the hull and upper works and the German personnel on board the vessel.
The raid infuriated Hitler and, along with other raids by commandos, caused the Germans to spread troops all along the coast to defend against future raids or invasions. More importantly, the destruction of the St. Nazaire port denied the Germans repair facilities for large ships on the Atlantic coast. Due to the daring nature of the operation and the high price paid for success, the action came to be called “The Greatest Raid of All.”
Late yesterday afternoon Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Ca., added an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would require female American citizens to register for the draft when they reached 18 years old. The amendment passed in the House by a vote of 32-30. Ironically, Hunter voted against his own amendment, saying that he added it only to force a debate about the issue.
“A draft is there to put bodies on the front lines to take the hill,” Hunter said. “The draft is there to get more people to rip the enemies’ throats out and kill them.”
But it looks like the Marine Corps veteran lawmaker’s plan may have backfired in that the measure actually passed and seems to have the support of many of his colleagues.
“I actually think if we want equality in this country, if we want women to be treated precisely like men are treated and that they should not be discriminated against, we should be willing to support a universal conscription,” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Ca., said.
Another veteran congressman, Rep. Martha McSally, who flew A-10s in combat and recently went after the Air Force over their close air support budgetary priorities, suggested that Hunter’s rhetoric was long on emotion and short on fact, pointing out that draftees aren’t all sent to the front lines but also used to fill support billets.
The legendary defense of the Spartans at the “hot gates” of Thermopylae has gone down in military history as one of the greatest last stands.
But what if 300 Marine infantrymen, along with a couple thousand other fighters, had to repeat what Leonidas, 300 Spartans, and their Greek allies did in 480 B.C. against a modern foe?
First, the battlefield at Thermopylae in 480 B.C. was very friendly to defenders. The mountains pressed close to the sea, leaving only a thin gap of land through which Xerxes could press his army. This gap was further constricted by the Spartans when they repaired a low wall.
For the modern Marines, the gap could instead be narrowed with fighting holes, barbed wire, machine gun positions, and mines. Similarly, the fatal back path that Xerxes marched his “Immortals” through to doom Leonidas and his men could be blocked the same way, forcing an attacker to pay for every yard in blood.
Unfortunately for the Marines, their enemy can afford a few bloody engagements. While the Marines would boast 300 infantrymen and 6,000 other combat arms Marines, their enemy would number somewhere around 100,000.
The first thing the Marines would want to do against an enemy attack is copy the advantage that the Spartans used at Thermopylae, greater infantry range and stronger defenses. The Greek Hoplite carried a spear with slightly better range than the Immortal’s swords, and Hoplite armor was constructed of bronze strong enough to protect from Persian arrows.
The Marines would need to reach back in their armories for a similar range advantage. While the M4 has an effective firing range of 500 meters, the same as the AK-74 and other common infantry weapons, the M16 has a 550-meter range against a point target, a 10 percent boost. And the Marines’ body armor and defensive fortifications would give them an advantage over attackers similar to the Hoplites’ bronze armor.
Unfortunately for the Marines, modern warfare isn’t limited to infantry fighting infantry, and so they would need to reckon with enemy artillery and air assets.
While the U.S. faces an artillery range gap in relation to Russia and China, the Marines defending the pass could use the mountains on their west to place their guns at greater altitude. This would give their guns greater range and force the enemy to come within the envelope of the U.S. cannon to try to take out Marine artillery positions.
Air defenders would also need to position themselves up the mountains to provide an effective screen to protect their troops from enemy air attacks.
Luckily for the Marines, the Corps is one of the few military organizations that has invested heavily in short takeoff, vertical landing aircraft — meaning that Ospreys and Super Stallions can deliver supplies to the besieged Marines while F-35s and Harriers provide air support either from small, forward refueling and rearming points near the front or from a nearby ship.
All of this adds up to a Marine force enjoying much of the same successes during the early days of the battle as the Spartans did. Enemy infantry and cavalry would be forced to maneuver into a narrow gap and be cut down by Marine rifles and missiles.
Even better, their artillery could force the enemy guns to fire from afar and break up forces massing for an attack, advantages that the Spartans lacked.
But, like the Spartans before them, the Marines would eventually be overcome by their numerical limitations. Even with approximately 6,000 other Marines, the 300 infantrymen simply could not hold out forever.
Enemy assaults would make it deeper into the pass each time as engineers whittled away at the Marines’ defenses and artillery crews braved American guns to get rounds onto the defenders’ heads.
After a few days, the Marines would have amassed a stunning body count, possibly even as high as the 20,000 Persians credited to Leonidas and his forces, but they would be burned out of Thermopylae.
But if they could buy enough time, it’s unimaginable that the Navy and Marine Corps would not be able to get follow-on forces to Greece. And, using the Marine Corps’ amphibious capabilities, reinforcements could be rushed to the beaches just south of the battle.
Meanwhile, the Navy could press its jets into the fight, ensuring air superiority and providing a reprieve for the defenders.
Thanks to the mobility of America’s sea services and Thermopylae’s location on a coast, the battle could end much differently for the Marines standing where the Spartans once fell.
On the morning of Oct. 6, 2010, three villages in the Arghandab River Valley of Afghanistan were filled with insurgents and dozens of IEDs.
A few hours later the villages were gone as if they’d never existed at all, destroyed by over 25 tons of U.S. Air Force bombs.
Artillerymen with the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment had taken numerous casualties in the months they spent trying to clear the surrounding fields on foot. Special Forces soldiers turned back after they ran out of explosives attempting to blow the IEDs in place. Mine-clearing line charges were fired, opening up lanes into the town but leaving soldiers without “freedom of maneuver” in a heavily-contested area.
The ground commander, Lt. Col. David Flynn, took another look at the problem. He talked to the local elders and told them that his plan to clear the villages could cause extreme damage to the buildings. The elders said that was bad but acceptable as long as the nearby pomegranate trees survived.
Flynn then turned to the U.S. Air Force and requested that Lower Babur, Tarok Kolache, and Khosrow Sofla be destroyed. Surveillance was conducted to be sure that there were no civilians in the area, only insurgents. The mission was approved, and the bombing campaign began.
The Air Force dropped 49,000 pounds of bombs on Tarok Kolache alone, leveling it. The other two villages were completely destroyed as well.
No civilian casualties were reported, though the pomegranate fields were severely damaged and had to be replanted. (USAID planted 4,000 trees, but they take five years to bear fruit.)
Many of the bombs in the area were destroyed by the operation, and soldiers with the 1-320th were able to set up 17 small bases and outposts in the valley, gaining security around the 38 remaining villages. Mine clearance operations had to continue though as not all the explosives were destroyed in the bombing.
Two years later, the Army erected new buildings, but they were weak concrete structures that the villagers refused to live in. Even worse in a war designed to win hearts and minds, local Afghan police chiefs reported that the bombings switched the loyalties of the villages who went on to become supporters of the Taliban.