This must-read essay explains the military's discomfort with 'Thank you for your service' - We Are The Mighty
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This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

When a stranger says “Thank you for your service” to a veteran, it’s often an awkward — and short — conversation. For some veterans, being thanked for their job seems odd: I didn’t really do much, some may think. You’re thanking me for something you don’t even understand is another thought that may come to mind.


When I hear it, I cordially say thank you back. In my opinion, it takes some guts for a random stranger to approach and express that appreciation. But I sometimes think it may be the wrong sentiment. Sadly, “Thank you for your service” has become the end of the conversation, not the beginning. It’s a phrase that has become a punchline in military circles — thought as empty and overused — and takes away from what could be a chance for civilians to ask questions and really understand what troops have done.

Air Force veteran Elizabeth O’Herrin responds in a similar way, saying “my pleasure” in response. But was it really? As she explains in a wonderful essay at the website Medium, the exchange of pleasantries can take a quick turn:

Upon returning home, being thanked for my service became something I found awkward. My experience was not that traumatic. It was not that dangerous. It didn’t truly feel like a sacrifice. Other people certainly deserved a thank you, but not me. Not when I remembered leaning over a guy who had just lost his leg, scrubbing blood from his hands, attempting a conversation to soothe him when he was incoherent, doped up on morphine. Digging through his bag to find his Purple Heart because he became panicked when he couldn’t remember where they put it. I dug through the normal shit he packed in his bag earlier that day, back when he had two legs, like bubble gum. “Thank you for your service.”
I didn’t deserve much thanks for anything.

O’Herrin, who helped fuse bombs on jets that were later dropped on the bad guys, is and should be proud of her service. Like many of the post-9/11 military generation, she volunteered at a time of war and performed an essential job that most certainly resulted in saved lives on the ground.

In her essay, she recalls seeing a wounded veteran on the D.C. metro, and making eye contact with his mother. She struggles in that moment with wanting to tell the mother — who has no idea she is a veteran — that she understands at least some of what she’s going through. She wants to empathize with her, and tell her that she feels her pain.

“But I knew I couldn’t say something without sounding vapid and empty, swiping at some semblance of shared experience and missing entirely,” O’Herrin writes.

In this experience, she learns an important point, and one that perhaps all veterans should take to heart. While “thank you for your service” can sometimes sound like an empty phrase, just remember in that time before you heard it, that person had to work up the courage to approach when they were not obligated in any way. Far from the awful homecoming of our Vietnam veterans who were sometimes cursed by those who never served, this generation of veterans should accept that phrase and embrace it.

“They wanted me to know they felt something, and chose to say it,” O’Herrin writes in her closing. “And I feel grateful for their words.”

Now read the entire thing over at Medium

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

It may sound crazy, but an organization suffered worse losses in World War II than the Army, the Marine Corps, or even the Navy that was in charge of guarding it: The Merchant Marine, the sailors who crewed ships carrying goods from U.S. factories to European battlefields, lost nearly 4 percent of its members in the war.


This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

Merchant Marine officers and crew members were in high demand in World War II, but it was a dangerous and largely thankless service.

(National Archives and Records Administration)

The Merchant Marine was never designed for front-line combat on the battlefield or on the ocean. It’s made up of mostly civilian members who conduct almost any type of maritime trade in peacetime, from fishing tours to oil shipping. During a war, the federal government can make these sailors into an auxiliary of the U.S. Navy.

And during World War II, these men went through light training before crewing ships that had to brave not only the seas and storms, but German U-boats that were organized into wolfpacks and ordered to hunt the Merchant Marine.

This forced these men into the worst of the fighting, despite their largely non-combat role. And it made sense for both sides. Logistics moves supplies and, along with the industry that creates those supplies, wins wars. Germany had a weak industrial base and needed to keep American industry out of the war as much as possible. But one of America’s greatest roles in the war was that of “Arsenal of Democracy,” and it couldn’t afford to keep the Merchant Marine at port.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

German U-boats sank ships flying under Allied colors and didn’t have the ability to recover and rescue the people imperiled by the sinking.

(Willy Stower, public domain)

And so German U-boats patrolled the American coasts, sinking ships — sometimes within view of their ports. Whenever possible, German U-boats operated on the surface, drawing oxygen to run their diesel motors and attacking with deck guns that could punch holes in ships’ hulls and doom them. When that was too dangerous, they would hunt underwater and attack with torpedoes.

For the sailors of the Merchant Marine, this was terrifying. They were under threat of German attack from the moment they left the range of the shore guns until they reached European ports. American waters were actually some of the most dangerous as U-boats hunted the coast at night, looking for U.S. ship silhouettes blocking out lights from shore. Once they had the target, the subs could attack and disappear.

Counting the waters around the American Philippines, Alaska, and the Gulf of Mexico, the Merchant Marine lost approximately 196 ships in U.S. waters. Meanwhile in the Caribbean, our backyard, we lost another 180 ships. Officially, the U.S. lost 1,554 ships in the war. Approximately 8,000 to 12,000 Merchant Marine sailors were killed.

A ship sinks during World War II.

And the situations during the sinkings were terrifying. When ships were struck, sailors would have only minutes or seconds to get off the boat and to safety. Fires and the twisted hull could block passageways and make escape impossible. Jump into the water too early from too high and you could die from striking the water. Wait too long and the suction of the ship would pull you under to drown. Sharks, oil fires, and starvation could kill even those who made it out safely.

And, oddly enough, since the crews were often still technically civilians even when under Navy control, their pay stopped whenever they weren’t actively serving on a ship. That included when the ships were sunk under them and they had to spend weeks trying to reach a safe port.

The worst year, by far, was 1942, when approximately 500 ships were lost or captured in a single year. When the U.S. and the Axis Powers exchanged declarations of war in December 1941, U.S. ships sunk or otherwise lost skyrocketed from an average of 1 per month from January to November to about 55 in December, not counting Navy warships destroyed at Pearl Harbor.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

“Victory” and “Liberty” ships under construction during World War II. These ships allowed American arms and supplies to be shipped en masse to Africa, Europe, and the Pacific.

(War Shipping Administration)

The U.S. rushed the convoy system from World War I back into service. Merchant ships were encouraged to sail in planned convoys with U.S. and British naval escort, and ships that took part were much safer than those who went it alone. Less than 30 percent of U.S. and allied ships lost to U-boat attacks were in a convoy while they were sunk.

This was due to a number of factors, the darkest of which was that, even when U-boats had the edge against Navy vessels, they needed to remain underwater. Since they couldn’t use their deck guns without surfacing, that meant they could only sink as many ships as they had torpedoes.

But British technological advances and the large American industrial base began giving potent sub-hunting weapons to the U.S. and Allied navies and, suddenly, the U-boats had a lot more to worry about when facing convoys than just their limited arsenals. By May, 1943, sonar, radar, improved depth charges, and other tools had tipped the battle in the Atlantic and across most of the oceans.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

An illustration of the sinking of the Lusitania commissioned by the London Illustrated News. The ship was sank by U-boats, leading to America’s direct involvement in World War I.

(London Illustrated News)

Subs were on the run, and the Merchant Marine could sail with less worry. Still, the Merchant Marine lost between 9,000 and 12,000 sailors during the war, depending on whose numbers you use. The National World War Two museum puts the number of dead and presumed dead at 11,324, a loss rate of almost 4 percent. Meanwhile, the Marines took losses of almost 3.7 percent with 24,500 killed out of 669,000 people who served throughout the war.

Yes, joining World War II as the crewman on a merchant ship was more dangerous than joining as a Marine, and the Marines had it the worst of all the Department of Defense branches in the war, suffering 10 percent of all U.S. casualties despite being only 5 percent of the total force.

Articles

SOCOM and Marine Corps move closer to Ma Deuce replacement

There’s a lot going on behind closed doors in the ground services as planners see an opportunity to fundamentally change the mix of infantry weapons given bigger defense budgets and a command more receptive to change.


WATM earlier reported on moves in the Army to quickly outfit soldiers with an interim battle rifle capability with available 7.62 NATO chambered rifles to replace some standard-issue 5.56 M4s in the infantry squad and platoon. It now seems the service is set to issue an Urgent Needs requirement for over 6,000 battle rifles for soldiers in the fight now.

But in a move that analysts say could fundamentally transform the lethality of small units on the front lines, U.S. Special Operations Command and the Marine Corps have teamed up to find ways to replace some of their M2 .50 caliber machine guns and M240 machine guns with a new one chambered in an innovative round developed primarily for long-range precision shooters in the civilian market.

WATM reported in March that the services were taking a hard look at the Lightweight Medium Machine Gun developed by General Dynamics that fires the .338 Norma Magnum round — a relatively new cartridge that’s seen few military applications until now. According to sources in close touch with military planners, the .338 NM machine gun is 3 pounds lighter than the M240B and has double the range and lethality of the 7.62 round.

On May 11, SOCOM and the Marine Corps issued a so-called “Sources Sought” message to industry asking for a LWMMG that weighs less than 24 pounds, with a rate of fire between 500-600 rounds and which includes a suppressed and un-suppressed quick-change barrel.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’
This slide from a recent industry briefing shows the LWMMG and its .338 NM round potentially reach targets beyond the .50 cal M2 range. Stats show an incredible 5x energy at 1,000 meters compared to the NATO 7.62 round. (Photo from General Dynamics)

The LWMMG should have the capability to accurately engage point targets out to 2,000 meters, SOCOM and the Marine Corps says.

The request is in answer to worries by military planners that the enemy in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other potential battlefields have widely-available small arms capabilities that can target U.S. troops at ranges Americans can’t reach with most weapons. Additionally, the M2 is extremely heavy and cannot be wielded by a single operator like the LWMMG can.

Documents show the 75th Ranger Regiment and Marine special operations units have successfully evaluated four LWMMGs and 16,000 rounds of .338 NM ammunition and want more.

The Sources Sought notice also includes a request for .338 NM ammunition with a polymer case rather than a brass or steel one — an effort to cut down on the overall weight of the system and allow more rounds per shooter. General Dynamics is well on its way to fielding a polymer-cased .338 round (less than 13 pounds for a 500-round box), and the Marine Corps is moving forward with outfitting its forces with polymer-cased .50 caliber rounds.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’
The technology to develop lightweight rounds that can handle the heat and pressure of automatic fire is progressing rapidly. (Photo from General Dynamics)

“In my opinion, adoption of this capability is the single greatest small arms capability enhancement to the US military in the last century,” said one military small arms expert on the industry website SoldierSystems.net. “It offers the ability to deliver accurate sustained fire at ranges out to 2000m in a package which can be employed by one operator.”

Articles

A Green Beret reported killed during the Vietnam War may have been found alive 44 years later

U.S. Army Master Sergeant John Hartley Robertson, a Green Beret, was in a helicopter shot down over Laos in 1968. His body was never found and was presumed dead. His name is on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. and the Army officially lists him as Killed In Action.


This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’
John Hartley Robertson in Vietnam, 1968.

In 2013, a fellow vet named Tom Faunce claimed to have traced the men killed in the crash to those taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese Army around the same time. The men were taken prisoner and tortured, but Faunce claims the men all survived. The claims sparked renewed interest in finding and repatriating possible POWs remaining in Vietnam for so long after the war.

In a documentary film called Unclaimed, Faunce teamed up with Emmy-winning director Michael Jorgenson to find a man they thought to be Robertson, then 76-years old, 44 years after the crash. The missing Green Beret was supposedly living in a village of south-central Vietnam. The man had no memory of being Robertson, had no memory of his children, his own birthday, or even the English language.

https://vimeo.com/90875597

Master Sgt. Robertson’s family believed he could have survived the event and even claimed to have supporting documentation that he had been held in an NVA prison. Jorgenson maintained the U.S. government has had proof of Robertson’s survival since 1982, but did not do anything with the information.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

Still, the filmmaker was skeptical and went to Vietnam with Faunce believing they would uncover a hoax. The man who would be Robertson, now calling himself Dan Tan Ngoc, said he was held, beaten, and tortured but eventually released into t he care of a local nurse, whom he married and with whom he later had children.

The Army fingerprinted Dan Tan Ngoc at a U.S. Embassy, but said it was not enough to prove Dan Tan Ngoc was indeed John Hartley Robertson. The film shows a reunion of the man who would be Robertson meeting a fellow vet he trained and Robertson’s own sister, Jean, who said “There’s no question. I was certain it was him in the video, but when I held his head in my hands and looked in his eyes, there was no question that was my brother.”

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’
Jean Robertson in the film Unclaimed

Except, he may not be.

In 2014, DNA testing proved Dan Tan Ngoc could not be John Hartley Robertson. Robertson’s niece, Cyndi Hanna, called the result “very disappointing.” Yet, the Robertson family still believes Ngoc is their missing loved one. Gail Metcalf, daughter of Robertson’s sister, Jean bases this on a oxygen isotope analysis performed on the man’s tooth. The family set up a Go Fund Me page to help raise money for DNA testing and Master Sgt. Robertson’s repatriation. Salt Lake City’s IsoForensics Inc., performed the test for the filmmakers and came to the conclusion  it is “very likely” Ngoc grew up in U.S., a result the family takes to heart.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’
Robertson (far left) in 1968, the year he went missing in Vietnam

“We only want to do right by my Uncle John,” Metcalf told Stars and Stripes. “If that means exploring the possibility that the U.S. government has made a mistake or that the man claiming to be my uncle is actually another lost American and doesn’t know who he is, we intend to seek the truth on our own terms.”

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’
Ngoc/Robertson in the film Unclaimed

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Popeye the Sailor was based on a real person – and this is what he looked like

Cartoonist E.C. Segar created Popeye the Sailor in 1919 after taking a correspondence course on drawing from a guy in Cleveland. Segar’s hometown of Chester, Ill. was chock full of characters that Segar easily adapted to print. Dora Paskel, the owner of a local general store, was unusually tall and thin, wearing her hair in a loose bun at the nape of her neck. J. William Schuchert was the local theater owner who had a voracious appetite for hamburgers.

And Frank Fiegel was a one-eyed, pipe-smoking brawler who never turned down a fight.


This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

Frank Fiegel died in 1947 and was originally buried in an unmarked grave. Popeye fans rectified this in 1996.

Fiegel was more likely to down a few bourbons instead of a can of spinach to get his super fighting prowess, but the rest of his caricature fit the Sailor Man to a T. He had the same jutting chin, built frame, and trademark pipe as his cartoon counterpart. But kids were rather scared of Olive Oyl’s real-world inspiration, as she was more apt to stay inside her store. Wimpy’s rotund figure was based on Popeye creator E.C. Segar’s old boss at the local theater. When Segar wasn’t lighting lamps, he was sent out to pick up burgers for the owner.

Popeye’s real-life inspiration is sometimes attributed to a photo of an old sailor who really does resemble Popeye the Sailor Man, but this is just internet folklore.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

(Imperial War Museum)

The sailor in the above photo is really a sailor, but he’s a British sailor. His name is lost to history, but the Imperial War Museum lists him as “A Leading Stoker nicknamed ‘Popeye,'” with 21 years in service and fighting aboard the HMS Rodney in 1940. Fiegel would have been at least 70 years old when this photo of the battleship sailor was taken.

Frank “Rocky” Fiegel was actually a bartender and not any kind of sailor, but he did love the kids around Chester, and they used to love to play pranks on the old barfly. Fiegel would impress them with his feats of strength as well as his telltale corncob pipe – something young Segar would never forget. “Popeye” was an homage to an unforgettable man who lived to know his image was soon in 500 newspapers nationwide, the symbol of sticking up for the little guy.

Articles

The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

Is Russia really flying combat missions from the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov? That is a question percolating as recent satellite photos caught some of the planes that are known to operate from the carrier at a land base, as opposed to operating directly from the carrier.


According to a report by IHS Jane’s, a satellite photo from Airbus Defence and Space shows eight Su-33 “Flanker D” fighters on the ramp of Humaymim Air Base.

That airbase, located near the coastal city of Latakia, has become Russia’s main center of operations during its intervention in Syria. Russia also has a naval facility in Tartus, roughly 45 miles to the south of Latakia, that has been used since 1971 under an agreement by the Soviet Union with the regime of Hafez al-Assad.

While it is not uncommon for carrier-based planes to operate from land bases (the n Cactus Air Force at Guadalcanal, which featured planes from the air groups of damaged carriers, is perhaps the most famous instance), this is a sign that Russia’s carrier is less than it seems. In essence, while the Russians are claiming that the Kuznetsov is carrying out a combat deployment and launching sorties, this ship really was more of a glorified aircraft ferry. This is the purported flagship of the Russian Navy.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’
Sukhoi Su-33 launching from the Admiral Kuznetsov in 2012. | Russian MoD Photo

The Kuznetsov displaces 61,000 tons, and usually carries 15 Su-33 Flankers, but is also capable of carrying up to 20 MiG-29s. One of the MiG-29s crashed earlier this month due to issues with the carrier’s arresting gear combined with an engine failure on the modern multi-role fighter.

The pilot ejected and was recovered, a very unexpected hiccup in Russia’s efforts to showcase the carrier, which has had a reputation for breaking down while on deployment. Since the crash, the MiG-29s have apparently been grounded.

Russia has used the conflict in Syria to test out new weapon systems like the Su-35 “Flanker E” and the SS-N-27 Sizzler. Russia also has deployed the S-400 surface-to-air missile system to defend its bases in Syria.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia has to worry about the non-NATO members of historic war games

Trident Juncture officially started Oct. 25, 2018, with some 50,000 troops from all 29 NATO members and Sweden and Finland preparing for drills on land, sea, and in the air from the Baltic Sea to Iceland.

As a NATO Article 5 exercise, Trident Juncture “will simulate NATO’s collective response to an armed attack against one ally,” the organization’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said in October 2018. “And it will exercise our ability to reinforce our troops from Europe and across the Atlantic.”


NATO has increased deployments and readiness in Europe since Russia’s 2014 incursion in Ukraine, as countries there have grown wary of their larger neighbor.

Stoltenberg has said the exercise will be “fictitious but realistic.” But Russia has still taken exception.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit prepare for a cold-weather training hike in Iceland, Oct. 19, 2018

(US Marine Corps photo)

“NATO’s military activities near our borders have reached the highest level since the Cold War,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Oct. 24, 2018, adding that the exercise will be “simulating offensive military action.”

But Moscow may be most piqued by inclusion of two non-NATO members, Finland and Sweden, who work closely with the alliance.

Those two countries are “very important NATO partners,” US Navy Adm. James Foggo, the commander of US naval forces in Europe who is overseeing the exercise, said in October 2018 on his podcast, “On the Horizon.”

“I was just talking to the Swedes last month, and they’re pretty excited about it. They’ve confirmed their participation … and have committed their advanced military and highly professional forces,” Foggo said. “So we look forward to having them on board.”

Sweden and Finland, both members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace, have joined NATO exercises in the past and invited NATO members to their own exercises.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

US and Swedish marines check out Swedish mortars during a practice amphibious assault as part of Exercise Archipelago Endeavor on the island of Uto, Harsfjarden, Sweden, Aug. 30, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

At the end of 2017, 19,000 Swedish troops were joined by NATO members in the Baltic region as well as France and the US for Aurora 17, Sweden’s largest exercise in 23 years.

In May 2018, Finland hosted Arrow 18, an annual multinational exercise, in which US Marine Corps tanks participated for the first time.

Russian officials have also warned both of them.

Shoigu, the defense minister, said in 2018 that a deal between Stockholm, Helsinki, and Washington to ease defense cooperation would “lead to the destruction of the current security system, increase mistrust and force us to take counter-measures.”

Moscow has specifically reproved Finland, with which it shares an 830-mile border and a history of conflict. In mid-2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested he could move troops closer to the border if Finland joined the alliance.

“Do you guys need it? We don’t. We don’t want it. But it is your call,” Putin said at the time.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

US Marines review the scheme of maneuver for a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 16, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

Russia has said “if you guys join, we will take military measures … to take into account that you two are in the alliance,” said Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security.

Moscow has carried out “cyberattacks and threatening aircraft maneuvers around Sweden as well,” added Townsend, who was deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy during the Obama administration. “Both those nations have been bullied by the Russians and warned by the Russians not to do something with NATO.”

But both Sweden and Finland have mulled NATO membership with varying intensity in recent years.

Ahead of Sweden’s general election in early September 2018, the four main opposition parties all backed membership — which Stoltenberg seemed to welcome, saying in January 2018, “If Sweden were to apply to join, I think there would be broad support for that within NATO.”

Public sentiment in Sweden has shifted toward membership, but support rarely tops 45%. (A January 2018 poll put it at 43%.) There would also be political and administrative hurdles. A month and a half after the election, leaders in Stockholm are still struggling to form a government, which is already a record.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

Swedish military personnel taking part in Aurora 17, Sept. 13, 2017.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Anthony Housey)

Finns are much cooler on membership. A poll at the end of 2017 found just 22% of them supported joining, while 59% were opposed; 19% didn’t give a response. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has said membership is a possibility, and an endorsement from him may change many minds.

Sweden and Finland, both wary of their larger neighbor, have sought to boost defense spending and upgrade their forces.

They’ve made plans to increase defense cooperation with each other, and at least one NATO official has said the alliance has an obligation to come to their defense, as their non-membership increases the likelihood of aggression against them.

“Those two are probably the closest partners that NATO has in the Partnership for Peace. You see that in Trident Juncture, where they’re part of that NATO Article 5 exercise,” Townsend said.

“It used be that those nations wouldn’t take part in a major exercise if it was about Article 5, because that was just too close to NATO,” he added. “Now they’re taking part not just in the Article 5 exercise, but they’re taking part in one of NATO’s largest exercises in many years.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

10 epic ships that changed naval warfare forever

A great navy is key to any great military. It’s what allowed Brittania to rule the seas for decades, France to establish vast colonies around the world, and Japan to assert itself over European powers in Asia in the early 1900s. But navies are, obviously, made up of dozens or hundreds of individual ships, and not all of them are created equal.

So we’ve dug through the history to find out top 10 picks for ships that, either because of revolutionary designs or because their crews made a new technology work where all others had failed, changed naval combat overnight:


This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

The 64-gun warship Vasa was built in the tradition of the Mars, the first great artillery-focused naval warship.

(Jorge Lascar, CC-BY 2.0)

Mars

The Swedish warship Mars was the test platform for a bold new strategy in the 1560s: Elevate naval artillery from from a weapon used to hurt enemy ships to one that can actually sink enemy ship. The Swedish king was obsessed with the concept, and commissioned the Mars with five decks, two of them dedicated to naval artillery carrying massive cannons.

And the Mars was successful, reportedly sinking the enemy ship Longbark with concentrated artillery fire on its first day in combat. Unfortunately, the ship was so large and powerful that the opposing Lubeck fleet concentrated on it the next day, setting it on fire and causing a massive explosion and sinking the ship in 250 feet of water.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

The USS Nautilus was the first nuclear-powered vessel in history.

(U.S. Navy)

USS Nautilus

As America wrestled with the implications of nuclear power after World War II, naval planners had a question about the new-fangled reactors: Can they give our ships unlimited range? The USS Nautilus was proof that, for submarines at least, the nuclear reactor could achieve nearly infinite range.

The Nautilus set speed and range records. It even conducted an entire cruise where it surfaced only once, rising to the open air only to transit the Panama Canal. It also completed the first transit of the ship across the North Pole, conducting the crossing underwater on August 3, 1958. Now, the entire U.S. submarine fleet is nuclear-powered.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

The first-nuclear powered carrier and first nuclear-powered surface vessel in history, the USS Enterprise set range and speed records thanks to its powerful fuel source and engines.

(U.S. Navy)

USS Enterprise

The USS Enterprise of World War II was the most decorated ship of the war, and the Navy brought the name back to commission its first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in 1960. That USS Enterprise would, like the USS Nautilus, set speed and range records. It also led the Navy’s first and only all-nuclear task force, sailing around the world with USS Long Beach and USS Bainbridge, a cruiser and frigate.

The ship launched planes during that cruise and also took part in the blockade of Cuba during the missile crisis, launched fighters into combat in Vietnam, and sent up jets in support of troops fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Sinop and Chesma

Russian torpedo boats Sinop and Chesma were pretty forgettable warships except for one exchange in January 1878, when they launched the first successful self-propelled torpedo attack in naval history. The torpedo they used had been invented in England in 1866, but no navy had successfully used it in combat yet.

But 12 years later, the Russians ships were trying to take out larger and better-armed Turkish ships, and their torpedo attacks had failed repeatedly. The Sinop and Chesma went after the armed steamer Inibah, using their speed to avoid the Inibah’s fire before launching two torpedoes from less than 100 yards away. Both slammed home and sunk the enemy ship in less than a minute, proving the torpedo boat concept and leading to the torpedo’s prominence in World War I.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

HMS Cobra and Viper

Without getting too technical, there’s a difference between steam-piston engines and steam-turbine engines. Steam turbines are much more powerful, and the HMS Viper and HMS Cobra were British torpedo destroyers commissioned at the same time in order to take advantage of the additional speed turbines gave.

Both ships were capable of flying across the surface at almost 40 mph (about 34 knots for the actual sailors out there). They were over 10 percent faster than most other warships of the day, and they helped prove the steam turbine technology. Today, steam turbines powered by nuclear reactors propel the new Ford-Class carriers.

H.L. Hunley

The H.L. Hunley was named for its inventor, and it was an ill-fated but game-changing submarine of the Confederate Navy and famously was the very first submarine to sink an enemy ship. There were drawbacks to its designs, though.

It sank three times during testing, killing the crews each time and its inventor in one incident. Still, the Confederate Navy raised it one more time and sent it on its successful mission where it rammed the Union Housatonic with a mine attached to the spar in 1864. But the blast also killed the crew and sank the sub a fourth time. Obviously, submarine became a potent weapon of war, partially thanks to the Hunley, but the design was overhauled so crews would stop dying.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

The Union referred to the CSS Virginia as the Merrimack, the name originally given to her by the Union, throughout the war.

USS Monitor and CSS Virginia

At the Battle of Hampton Roads, the clash of two American ships changed naval warfare overnight. The CSS Virginia, a Confederate ship captured from the Union, attacked the northern fleet at Hampton Roads on March 8, 1862, and the Union ironclad USS Monitor showed up the next day to protect the rest of the fleet.

The Virginia mounted ten guns and the Monitor had two, more advanced cannons, but neither ship could deliver a decisive blow against the other despite fighting at close range for hours, ending in a stalemate. Immediately, it was clear to naval experts that wooden ships would become obsolete as the iron behemoths were created in larger quantities and new configurations.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

Napoleon

The Napoleon was a 90-gun warship that was launched in 1850 and soon changed the way steam-powered ships operated. Prior to the Napoleon, steam was used to power paddle wheals on one side of a warship. Sails provided primary power, and the wheel helped the ship maneuver quickly during fights.

But the paddles were enormously vulnerable and blocked parts of the hull from being able to mount cannons, huge shortcoming in combat. But the Napoleon introduced screw propulsion, moving the action under the water, making it less vulnerable and more lethal. The ship fought in the Crimean War in 1852, and countries lined up to get their own screw-powered ships.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

HMS Furious

The HMS Furious was originally laid down as a battlecruiser in 1915 and slated to receive epic, 18-inch guns. Instead, it became the first aircraft carrier to conduct a successful raid, launching Sopwith Camels against German zeppelins in July 1918. The small planes successfully set a hangar ablaze and burnt two zeppelins to the ground, but most of the pilots were forced to ditch their planes at sea or in neutral Denmark.

The Furious had all sorts of shortcomings as a carrier, most notably the short flight deck that made landings extremely hazardous. It underwent multiple redesigns and refits between World War I and II, eventually becoming a full flat-top carrier.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

HMS Dreadnought

Any naval buffs out there saw this one coming. While there are plenty of game-changing ships on this list, as well as dozens more from history that we could have chosen, the Dreadnought was such a game-changing ship that the entire world sought to copy its design and methods of construction, leading to the “Dreadnought Era” followed soon after by the “Super Dreadnought Era.”

The behemoth could throw 3 tons of steel and explosives in a single broadside and featured armor that could survive nearly anything available when it was launched. And, it was built quickly, launching in 1906 after just a year of construction. Germany raced to keep up with Britain’s new navy, building Dreadnought copies as fast as it could.

When the German and British fleets clashed at the Battle of Jutland in 1916, 50 battleships built in the Dreadnought’s image traded blows in a 250-ship fight that is, by some metrics, still the largest naval battle ever fought.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Mattis says US needs to up its game in the Arctic

The United States needs to “up its game” in the Arctic, which is an increasingly important region as global warming opens up new sea lanes and makes oil and mineral resources there more readily available, the U.S. defense secretary has said.

The Arctic, which lies partly within the territories of Russia, the United States, Canada, and a handful of other countries, by some estimates holds more oil and natural gas reserves than Saudi Arabia and Russia, and Moscow has been intensifying its energy development there.

Russia has also embarked upon its biggest military push in the Arctic since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, beefing up its military presence and capabilities.


Under President Vladimir Putin, Moscow is moving to re-open abandoned Soviet military, air, and radar bases on remote Arctic islands and build new ones as it pushes ahead with a claim to almost half a million square miles of the Arctic.

“Certainly America’s got to up its game in the Arctic. There’s no doubt about that,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters in Alaska before leaving on a trip to Asia.

Part of that would be an increased Coast Guard presence, with more icebreakers and other specialized vessels needed in the Arctic, he said.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’
U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutteru00a0POLAR STAR (WAGB-10)

Mattis said the Pentagon already relied on Alaska as a base for operations in the Pacific, and the interceptor missiles the United States maintains there already constitute the cornerstone of the U.S. homeland defense.

But he said that the warming of the Arctic had spurred a new rush for resources in the region that the United States has been reluctant to join.

“So the reality is that we’re going to have to deal with the developing Arctic… It is also going to open not just to transport but also to energy exploration,” Mattis said.

The United States and Russia have both expressed interest in boosting Arctic drilling, but Russia has gone further in developing its Arctic resources. Currently, the United States prohibits oil drilling in wildlife refuges in its Alaskan Arctic wilderness areas and most offshore areas.

Beyond the competition between Russia and the United States, early 2018 China outlined ambitions to extend President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative to the Arctic by developing shipping lanes that have been opened up by global warming.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’
President Xi Jinping
(Photo by Michel Temer)

China also has been helping Greenland, whose territory covers a major portion of the Arctic, develop its vast, mostly untapped mineral resources.

China itself has no Arctic territory or coastline, so its increasing interest in the region has prompted concerns from Arctic states over its long-term strategic objectives, including whether that includes military deployment.

Alaskan Senator Dan Sullivan, standing alongside Mattis, said there was bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress to view the Arctic in more strategic terms.

“I agree with the secretary, I think we’re behind, but I think we’re finally starting to catch up,” Sullivan said.

Studies show that much of the oil and gas resources in the Arctic is concentrated in Alaska, which the United States purchased from the Russian Empire in 1867 for $7.2 million. It became the 49th U.S. state in 1959.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Drone footage shows leveled compound where ISIS leader died

New drone footage shows what remains of the Syrian compound where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died as US Delta Force commandos raided the secret lair on Oct. 26, 2019.

Turkish state-run news outlet Anadolu Agency released the footage Oct. 28, 2019. It shows the compound in Barissa, Syria, completely leveled, with people milling about in the rubble.

US fighter jets fired six rockets into the building after the kill team left, in order to prevent the building from turning into a shrine for the terrorist leader.


Watch the full video below:

Drone Video Shows The Devastated Compound Where Al-Baghdadi Died | NBC News

www.youtube.com

Earlier this month, Trump announced he was removing American troops from northern Syria, causing Turkey to invade the region, which may explain why it was a Turkish news outlet that got to the scene first to take the drone video.

Trump said Al-Baghdadi fled into an underground network of tunnels when the raid started, wearing a suicide vest and bringing three children with him.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

Drone footage of the compound, bottom right, was taken by a Turkish state-run media outlet.

(Anadolu Agency)

When he reached the end of the tunnel, Trump said the most wanted terrorist in the world ignited the suicide vest, killing himself and all three of the children.

The explosion caused the tunnel to cave in, so US forces weren’t able to completely remove Baghdadi’s body. But they got enough of it to conduct DNA testing to confirm that the man was indeed the head of ISIS.

US forces stayed on the scene for about two hours, recovering highly sensitive information on the group.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

Historic hikes: 4 must-visit trails for history buffs

Almost any hiking area has some sort of history tied to it, but sometimes a historical connection makes a hike even more special. When we walk over old trails, we see what others saw and get a sense for their universe.

History is never far from the surface of our world, and as much as I love a good historical text, hiking in a historic area is a more personal encounter. Here are four historic hikes for nerds who love to be outdoors.


This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

Las Medulas ancient Roman mines, UNESCO, Leon, Spain.

(Adobe Stock photo/Coffee or Die)

1. El Camino de Santiago, Spain

For over 1,000 years, pilgrims have travelled to Santiago along El Camino, or The Way of Saint James. The route reached its greatest popularity in the high Middle Ages, between about 1000 and 1300, and only came back into heavy use in recent decades.

Along the way, pilgrims and secular travelers experience medieval architecture combined with stunning vistas of the countryside of northern Iberia. Unlike most modern trails, however, El Camino has nearly infinite variations, though the classic route to Santiago runs from the French border near Roncevaux, site of the mythical battle in “The Song of Roland.”

A hiker can walk The Way of Saint James alone or with others, though trail camaraderie typically makes the experience more enjoyable. Whether or not you hike with others, El Camino takes you through a region of tremendous history. Churches, little towns, and even the roads have long stories here.

Stunning Stone Monuments of Petra | National Geographic

www.youtube.com

2. Petra, Jordan

For thousands of years, people have lived in the Jordanian desert near Petra. Whether you choose to explore the ancient Nabatean Treasury building featured in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” or a lesser-known area like the Byzantine Church, Petra will not disappoint.

History is rarely linear, and Petra makes this point eminently clear. Layers upon layers of history converge in a single place. The Nabateans, a mysterious pre-Roman people, first built tremendous structures into the sandstone. Then the Romans came, and the site expanded further. The Romans evolved into the Byzantines, then the Islamic world absorbed the area.

With each iteration, another layer of history and architecture was added, only increasing the grandeur of Petra. You can hike in areas with seemingly incongruous Greco-Roman influence, only to remember later how vast those empires were.

The Byzantine monastery is another piece of history left behind in rural Jordan. The Byzantines actually made this building from recycled remnants of older structures. Much of the area still remains buried under time and sand.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

Handrian’s Wall west of Caw Gap.

(Copyright Mike Quinn and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License)

3. Hadrian’s Wall, England

One of Britain’s finest UNESCO World Heritage sites, Hadrian’s Wall has stood for nearly 2,000 years, a stone line across the north of England. Built on the order of the Roman Emperor Hadrian as part of his effort to shore up a deteriorating military situation, his wall was meant to deal with Pictish threats to the north of the Roman province of Britannia.

The wall failed, of course, as the Angles, Jutes, and Saxons that finally invaded and conquered Roman Britain had ships.

A modern hiker can walk the 73 miles of wall in just over a week, and the walk itself is fairly easy. The terrain of Northumbria is mostly gentle, rolling hills and farmland.

Best part of this historic hike? You get to sleep in a bed each night if you’d like to.

#FindYourPark Along the Lewis and Clark Trail – The Hunt

www.youtube.com

4. Lewis and Clark Trail, Montana

Between 1803 and 1806, the Corps of Discovery paddled, walked, and rode across North America, led by captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Though the Lewis and Clark Trail stretches over most of our country, the most spectacular part is in Montana, where the captains and their group experienced the most difficulty.

Today, a hiker can paddle the Missouri River or trek over the daunting Lolo Pass. Cross the Continental Divide near Salmon, Idaho, where Lewis became the first member of the expedition to see west of the Divide. You can even horseback ride over the Bitterroot Mountains, as the Corps did after purchasing Shoshone horses in 1804.

The grandeur of the American Rockies is on full display in Montana, and every bit is worthwhile. Stephen Ambrose’s well-researched and -written book “Undaunted Courage” offers a beautiful portrait of the expedition from the perspective of Lewis himself, who kept a detailed journal.

Despite two centuries of industrialism and destruction, the Northern Rockies remain much as Lewis saw them, albeit with less snow and smaller glaciers.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

A longtime Pacific ally that’s key to confronting China is tearing up a major military agreement with the US

The Philippines, a Pacific ally that has been on the front lines of US efforts to confront and deter China, especially in the contested South China Sea, notified the US on Tuesday that it was officially terminating a bilateral agreement on the status of US troops rotating in and out of the country for military exercises.


Finally following through on a threat he has made many times, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, a critic of the alliance and a proponent of a foreign policy independent of the US, said he would end the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement.

“It’s about time we rely on ourselves,” the president’s spokesman said, according to Reuters. “We will strengthen our own defenses and not rely on any other country.”

Teodoro Locsin Jr., Duterte’s foreign secretary, tweeted late Monday that the Philippines was unilaterally terminating the agreement. The pact will end 180 days after the country notifies the US.

The US Embassy in the Philippines confirmed in a statement Tuesday that it received notice of the Philippines’ intent to end the agreement from its Department of Foreign Affairs, CNN reported.

“This is a serious step with significant implications for the US-Philippines alliance,” the statement read. “We will carefully consider how best to move forward to advance our shared interests.”

The US and the Philippines continue to be bound by the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, but hundreds of US military exercises with the Philippines, such as the large-scale Balikatan exercises, could be in jeopardy.

Terminating the VFA also puts US counterterrorism support, deterrence in the South China Sea, and other forms of security assistance at risk.

The Philippines has been central to the US’s efforts to counter China’s growing power. Subic Bay gives the US Navy a port to repair and resupply ships that patrol the contested South China Sea, and Air Force A-10 Thunderbolts and Marine F/A-18 Hornets have used the nearby Clark Air Base for training. US special operations troops have also assisted the government’s campaign against terror networks in the country’s south for roughly two decades.

The move to end the VFA followed the US’s decision to cancel the visa of Philippines Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, a key player in Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, the extrajudicial killings of which have resulted in the deaths of thousands of suspects and civilian bystanders.

“I’m warning you … if you won’t do the correction on this, I will terminate” the agreement, Duterte said in a televised address in late January, according to The Associated Press. “I’ll end that son of a b—-.”

While the VFA is only one part of a collection of security agreements, Philippine officials have expressed concerns that terminating it could have a domino effect.

“If the VFA is terminated, the EDCA cannot stand alone, because the basis of the EDCA is the VFA, and if the VFA is terminated, the EDCA cannot be effective,” Philippine Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon told reporters before Tuesday’s announcement, according to CNN.

Drilon added that if the visiting forces agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement “are no longer effective,” the Mutual Defense Treaty “would be inutile and would serve no purpose.”

Duterte has previously threatened to end the other bilateral agreements and called for the removal of US troops from the Philippines, often in response to American criticisms of his drug war or concerns about US efforts to push the Philippines to confront China.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Border troops will not receive hazard pay

More than 5,000 troops stationed along the U.S.-Mexico border will not receive additional compensation for working in a dangerous environment, known as “danger pay,” a Pentagon official said on Nov. 6, 2018.

Army Col. Robert Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said troops do not qualify for the special pay unless they are on duty “in foreign areas, designated as such because of wartime conditions, civil war, civil insurrection, or terrorism.”


“Members who are deployed in support of the Department of Homeland Security’s border mission are not eligible for imminent-danger pay,” he said in a statement on Nov. 5, 2018.

Nor will troops receive hostile-fire pay, which is given to service members in close proximity to a firefight or exposed to a barrage of fire from an enemy combatant. The border mission is considered non-combative, Manning said.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)

“Our military will not receive combat pay or hostile-fire pay as they are not deploying to a combat area, nor are they expected to be subject to hostile fire,” he said, adding that they will be eligible for a separation allowance.

“Members with dependents, including those in support of the border mission, who are deployed away from their dependents (and their permanent duty station) for more than 30 days, are eligible to receive family separation allowance retroactive back to the first day of the separation at the rate of 0 per month,” Manning continued.

President Donald Trump tweeted that the caravan of migrants traveling toward the U.S. border could be taken down by lethal force.

“The Caravans are made up of some very tough fighters and people,” he tweeted Oct. 31, 2018. “Fought back hard and viciously against Mexico at Northern Border before breaking through. Mexican soldiers hurt, were unable or unwilling to stop Caravan.”

The next day, he said troops should take action if the migrants threw rocks at them.

“We’re not going to put up with that,” Trump said during a White House press conference. “[If] they want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back. We’re going to consider it — and I told them, ‘consider that a rifle.’ When they throw rocks like they did at the Mexico military and police, I say ‘consider it a rifle.’ “

He revisited his remarks, saying he never said U.S. forces would shoot migrants.

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)

“What I don’t want is these people throwing rocks. … What they did to the Mexican military is a disgrace,” Trump said. “They hit them with rocks. Some were very seriously injured, and they were throwing rocks in their face. They do that with us, they’re going to be arrested, there are going to be problems. I didn’t say shoot.”

Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, head of U.S. Northern Command, reaffirmed that “everything that we are doing is in line with and adherence to Posse Comitatus,” a congressional act dating to 1878 prohibiting the military from participating in domestic law-enforcement activities.

Trump has said he could request a deployment of as many as 15,000 troops to the border in support of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

Manning on Nov. 5, 2018, told reporters that troops would not patrol with CPB and are there in a mission-support role only.

“There is no plan for DoD personnel to interact with migrants or protesters,” he said, as reported by Military Times. “We are absolutely in support of [Customs and Border Patrol].”

The Pentagon in November 2018 announced it would deploy roughly 5,200 active-duty troops to support the mission in Texas, Arizona and California, dubbed Operation Faithful Patriot.

The units include military police, communications and logistics support, medical personnel, combat engineers, planners, an assault helicopter battalion, and public affairs specialists.

That number could reach 7,000 in weeks to come, The Associated Press reported.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.