That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad - We Are The Mighty
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That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad

In April 2003, Lt. Col. Eric Schwartz and his men were part of the “Thunder Run” — and armored push through the the city of Baghdad and a test of the new Iraqi resistance.


During the movement through the city, an enemy RPG pierced the fuel cell on the back of the tank and left it immobile and burning in the city streets.

The chaotic battle began as the tanks rushed into the city on its highway system. A gunner in the lead tank spotted troops drinking tea with weapons nearby and asked permission to fire. The tank commander gave it, and the fight was on.

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad
(Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon II)

While the gunner easily dispatched those first soldiers in the open, hundreds of fighters, many in civilian clothes or firing from bunkers, remained. And they put up a fierce resistance with small arms, mortars, and RPGs.

An early RPG hit disabled a Bradley, and the next major RPG hit disabled the Abrams. For almost 20 minutes, the Americans attempted to put out the flames and save the machine. But more fighters kept coming and Schwartz made the decision to sacrifice the tank wreckage to save the armored column.

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad
A scuttled M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank rests in front of a Fedayeen camp just outside of Jaman Al Juburi, Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. (Photo: Department of Defense)

The crew was moved to another vehicle and the crucial sensitive items were removed from the tank. Then the tankers filled the vehicle with thermite grenades and took off through the city. The Air Force later dropped bombs on what remained.

In the video below, Schwartz and other tankers involved in the battle discuss the unprecedented decision to abandon an Abrams tank.

The Iraqi government loyal to Saddam Hussein later claimed that the tank was killed, which would have given them credit for the first combat kill of an Abrams tank. The U.S. argued that it was merely disabled, and that it was the U.S. Army’s thermite grenades and later U.S. Air Force bombs that actually destroyed it.
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Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

A former Southern California Marine has been handed a 21-month federal sentence for faking a Purple Heart and lifting from another Marine’s combat story to get disability benefits and a free house.


In a rare prosecution under the 2013 Stolen Valor Act, a 35-year-old Iraq war veteran will also have to pay back more than $300,000 to the U.S. government and a Texas charity.

Brandon Blackstone served with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment out of Twentynine Palms in the Mojave Desert in 2004. He deployed to Iraq in August, during a period of fierce fighting on the Syrian border.

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad

So did Casey Owens, another 1/7 Marine.

But that’s where the similarities in the two Marines’ stories end — and where Blackstone’s fabrications began.

Prosecutors and fellow Marines say Blackstone fashioned a tale of blast injuries and combat stress based on a horrific explosion that nearly killed Owens and cost him both of his legs.

Owens was in a Humvee that triggered a double anti-mine bomb while responding to a downed U.S. serviceman in September 2004.

Blackstone was in the area and likely witnessed the event. But he wasn’t injured in that attack — or in any other combat incident — according to people who were there, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Texas, and Blackstone’s own lawyer.

In fact, he was evacuated from Iraq after a month with appendicitis.

Also read: This is how the Pentagon had over 120,000 extra Purple Heart medals

But starting at least in 2006, Blackstone began spinning a story of suffering traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder after his Humvee hit a mine in Iraq.

He even fabricated two witness statements to support his claim for U.S. Veterans Affairs Department disability benefits that he received from 2006 to 2015, prosecutors said.

Worse, in the eyes of his fellow Marines, he began showing the photograph of Owens’ mangled Humvee as part of his story about how he was wounded.

“This scumbag lied to try to get s–t. You don’t do that. It’s not honorable. It’s not how we are. It’s personal for me, especially, as a friend of Casey’s,” said Andrew Rothman, a 1/7 Navy corpsman who was a key player in exposing Blackstone’s fraud.

“This kid essentially stole from all of us. And the honor part is bigger to us than the money and the house.”

Blackstone was awarded a 100 percent disability rating and, by claiming to have a Purple Heart, his application for a mortgage-free house was granted by Texas-based Military Warriors Support Foundation.

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad
The Purple Heart is one of the most recognized and respected medals awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces. (Photo: AP)

Meanwhile, Owens tried to make the best of his life with a double leg amputation and brain injuries, among other medical complications. He moved to Aspen and competed as a Paralympics skier.

But Owens was still in pain. He did national TV interviews describing how he struggled to get the care he needed for his mental and physical wounds. His right leg required additional surgeries that took more of it away.

In October 2014, Owens used a gun to kill himself.

But things for Blackstone were going well. He became a mentor at a Missouri-based veterans charity, Focus Marines Foundation. He even started his own nonprofit group, called The Fight Continues, with two other post-Sept. 11 veterans.

But those brushes with others in the veterans community led to his downfall. His story, including video testimonials he was giving about his combat injuries, didn’t sit right with other 1/7 Marines who dedicated a Facebook thread to discussing it.

Related: Not all PTSD diagnoses are created equal

Eventually, Rothman tipped off the Warriors Support charity that was poised to grant Blackstone the deed to the donated house.

Blackstone pleaded guilty in September to one count of wire fraud and one count of fraudulent representation about the receipt of a military decoration for financial gain.

At his sentencing last month, a federal judge in Texas called Blackstone “shameful,” but gave him credit for accepting blame for his actions. Sentencing guidelines limited his incarceration to 27 months or less, according to news reports. His was given credit for time served since February, so he will serve 18 more months.

Blackstone’s defense lawyer, Justin Sparks, said his client was diagnosed with PTSD and suffered a head injury in Iraq — but not in combat.

The head wound happened when a superior roughed him up in the barracks and he hit his head on a dresser. There were other injuries while in uniform that weren’t related to combat but required surgery, Sparks said. While in the hospital, a higher-ranking Marine informally gave Blackstone a Purple Heart medal to acknowledge his pain — but it wasn’t an official award.

There’s no explaining why Blackstone lied about the Purple Heart or applied for the free home, knowing he wasn’t qualified, the former Marine’s lawyer told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“There’s not really a good answer for that. He was in a very, very tough time in his life and reached a pitfall there,” Sparks said this week.

Sparks said his client seemed to lose his grasp on reality as the story spun on.

There’s a symptom of PTSD where you are living your life in the third person. You’re always convincing yourself about what is reality,” he said. “It’s almost a coping mechanism.”

Sparks said his client is still rated at 70 percent disabled by the VA.

The lawyer disagreed that Blackstone was appropriating Casey Owens’ story.

“Brandon never claimed his lost his legs,” Sparks said. “The only common elements in the two stories are PTSD, the Purple Heart, and head injuries. There must be at least 1,000-plus soldiers who have those three things.”

Blackstone’s fellow troops don’t buy the PTSD explanation for his behavior. Several of them also were disappointed by his sentence.

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad
A Marine salutes the memorial stand for his fallen brother. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“He was in the grip of his own lies,” said Eric Calley, a former Marine who used his own money to start The Fight Continues with Blackstone.

“That judge should be ashamed. I think (Blackstone) deserves a life sentence for what he did to our veterans.”

Lezleigh Owens Kleibrink, Owens’ sister, said her family was hoping for closure from a tougher sentence but didn’t get it.

Kleibrink said she has no doubts that Blackstone was trying to at least bask in the association with her brother’s reputation.

“He was a thief and Casey’s story was a means to get what he wanted,” she told the San Diego Union-Tribune this week.

Further reading: Here are the criteria that entitle a service member to the Purple Heart

“What Brandon doesn’t understand is that it’s ripped open our wounds once again,” Kleibrink said. “Anyone who makes my mother cry like this … He may have joined the Corps, but he was no Marine.”

The Military Warriors Support Foundation said it was the charity’s first brush with stolen valor in awarding more than 750 homes to combat-wounded veterans.

“This was an unusual case, in that even official VA documentation was inaccurate,” said spokesman Casey Kinser. “That said, we are constantly reviewing our processes to vet our applicants more accurately and efficiently.”

The Fort Worth-area house that Blackstone nearly owned has been awarded to another Marine family.

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This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

Finances are stressful in emergency situations, and it doesn’t matter what rank you are. From an unexpected death in the family to a broken car courtesy of the deployment curse, financial emergencies happen no matter how well you plan for them.


Fortunately for service members, their spouses, and veterans, there’s a little safety net in place for each of the services to help when these things happen, dubbed the “Emergency Relief Fund.”

Army:

The Army has the Army Emergency Relief, a non-profit that helps soldiers, retirees and families with resources in a pinch. Additionally, AER provides access to interest free loans, grants, and scholarships.

The AER is endorsed and run by the Army.

National Guard:

The National Guard has the National Guard Soldier and Airman Emergency Relief Fund, which provides up to $500 to eligible households. For more information, check out the National Guard’s publication on its emergency relief fund.

Air Force:

The Air Force has the Air Force Aid Society, and it provides emergency assistance, education support, and community programs. While the AFAS is a private non-profit, it is “the official charity of the United States Air Force.”

Coast Guard:

The Coast Guard has Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, wich is a private non-profit organization that works closely with the Coast Guard to provide interest free loans, grants, and counseling.

Navy / Marine Corps:

The Navy and Marine Corps share a relief fund called the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. The NMCRS is a non-profit that, though unaffiliated with the Department of Defense, can be found on nearly all Navy or Marine Corps bases.

The NMCRS is completely funded by donations and on-base thrift stores, and it provides financial assistance and counseling, quick assist loans, education assistance, health education and post-combat support, budget for baby classes, emergency travel, disaster relief, and the on base thrift stores.

American Red Cross:

For service members, family members, and eligible veterans who are not near an installation, there is The American Red Cross. The Red Cross works alongside the above mentioned aid societies to provide assistance.

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Kurt Russell and Mark Wahlberg talk to us on the ‘Deepwater Horizon’ red carpet


We Are The Mighty was invited to New Orleans to attend the premiere of Lionsgate’s “Deepwater Horizon,” director Peter Berg’s new disaster drama. Featuring a cast of heavy hitters like Kate Hudson, Mark Wahlberg, and Kurt Russell, the red carpet was full of big names who were happy to take a moment to speak about the U.S. military.

And, hey, did you know that Kurt Russell was in the Air Force?


You can check out our more interviews with the cast and director here.

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Military officers in WWI were the masters of the word ‘f*ck’

There are a lot of words that carry a certain weight when said by the right person at the right time.


And you’ll be sure to remember it if it’s dirty enough.

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad
As proven by John Oliver on HBO’s Last Week Tonight.

Related: Patton’s famous speech was way more vulgar than the one in the movie

American troops are no exception. The only problem is that from the moment we join the service, we get indoctrinated into a world of shouting and expletives.

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad
We should all get service-connected for hearing loss. Seriously. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

It turns out World War I was no different, and it wasn’t even the beginning.

Etymologists – people who study the history of languages and trace word meanings – found it difficult to follow the lineage of the word “fuck” for a long time. The word itself is so taboo in the English language that no one would ever write it down — even for historical documentation.

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad
And they all have Inigo Montoya tattoos. (MGM/20th Century Fox)

Luckily for us, the Oxford English Dictionary started following it in 1897, just in time for the First World War.

The OED only followed the word’s history but never included it in its dictionary – it was illegal to print in publications by the Comstock Act of 1873. The law stopped absolutely no one from using it in everyday speech, least of all the military troops in the trenches.

Some of the OED’s research includes this line from John Brophy’s “Songs and Slang of the British Soldier: 1914-1918.”

“It became so common that an effective way for the soldier to express this emotion was to omit this word. Thus if a sergeant said, ‘Get your f—ing rifles!’ it was understood as a matter of routine. But if he said ‘Get your rifles!’ there was an immediate implication of urgency and danger.”

Sometimes what you don’t say really is as important as what you do.

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad
Somewhere out there, there’s a smug First Sergeant, nodding their head.

The definition of the word itself survived intact from its initial meaning, “to have sexual intercourse with,” and has been similarly pronounced and spelled since its first appearances in the 16th century.

OED found mention of the word as “fuccant” in a “scurrilous” Latin-Middle English hybrid poem, called “Flen Flyys,” about what local monks did with the wives of the nearby town of Ely, and thus why they did not get into heaven.

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Watch this huge guided missile destroyer turn on a dime

The Arleigh Burke class of guided-missile destroyers is huge – and they are some of the most powerful ships in the world.


These 9,000-ton ships are armed with a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 vertical-launch systems (with 90 to 96 cells), two triple 324mm torpedo tubes, and a 20mm Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System. Some even carry two MH-60R Seahawk helicopters.

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad
USS Gonzalez at a more sedate pace. (US Navy photo)

But sometimes, the firepower ain’t the solution. Far from it, in some cases. Say the Iranians are up to their usual… antics. That is when the destroyer will need to move.

The ship can go fast – over 30 knots, thanks to her gas turbine propulsion. She also can turn – and for a ship this big, she turns on a dime.

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad
USS Farragut (DDG 99) comes out of a high-speed turn. (US Navy photo)

Do those turns matter? You bet they can. The fast turn can help avoid one of those “fast attack craft” the Iranians use. If a torpedo is fired, the turn can also buy time once the ship’s AN/SLQ-25 Nixie goes off.

Torpedo seekers do not have a long range, so the turn at high speed can allow the ship to escape an attack.

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad
What can happen when a torpedo hits: South Korean and American officers walk past what os left the ROK Navy corvette ROKS Cheonan (PCC 772). A non-contact homing torpedo or sea-mine exploded near the ship March 26, 2010, sinking it, resulting in the death of 46 ROK Navy sailors. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Jared Apollo Burgamy)

You can see the destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) make one of these high-speed turns in this video below. Making such a turn does take practice – mostly because if the gear ain’t stowed right, there is likely to be one hell of a mess. But a mess to clean up is much better than a torpedo hit.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Vih4tGmqjs
WATCH

USS New York – the ship built with steel from the World Trade Center

Shortly after the Sep. 11 terrorist attacks, New York Gov. George E. Pataki wrote a letter to the Navy requesting to bestow the name “New York” on a warship in honor of the victims.


During the naming ceremony aboard the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in Manhattan, Pataki said, “USS New York will ensure that all New Yorkers and the world will never forget the evil attacks of September 11, and the courage and compassion New Yorkers showed in response to terror,” according to the Navy.

Read more about the USS New York, the ship built with steel from the World Trade Center here.

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It’s been 100 years since one of the biggest game-changers in military aviation history

On November 5, 1915, a plane was launched from a ship by catapult for the first time in history.


And, despite the prevailing ideas at the time that naval aviation was an outlandish endeavor, the flight was a success.

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad
Curtiss AB-2 (C-2) Aircraft being catapulted from USS North Carolina (ACR-12) on 5 November 1915. (Image: Naval History Heritage Command)

The pilot for that historic flight was Henry C. Mustin, a naval aviator who helped to found the Naval Aeronautic Station at Pensacola, Florida in 1913. Mustin, using an early catapult system, managed to launch himself successfully from the armored cruiser USS North Carolina at the naval station.

By today’s aircraft carrier standards, the USS North Carolina was a tiny ship. Of course, it was not built as a carrier, but the size differential between the North Carolina and today’s carriers still shows how far things have come in the last 100 years. The North Carolina had a total displacement of 14,500 tons, compared to the 100,020 tons of a present-day USS Nimitz-class supercarrier.

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad
Lieutenant Commander Henry C. Mustin (Image: Naval History Heritage Command)

Unlike modern carriers, which have built-in flight decks and launch systems, the launching platform built atop the North Carolina was an ad hoc endeavor. At the time, launching a plane from a ship while underway had not been attempted. The questions of whether the plane would fly, or whether it would be possible to safely abort takeoff, were still big unknowns.

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad
The first catapult launch of an aircraft from a naval vessel, on November 5, 1915. (Image: US Navy)

After that risky start in 1915 US aircraft carrier abilities quickly advanced. By 1922, the US operated the USS Langley, an aircraft carrier that could carry 30 planes.

Today’s Nimitz supercarriers can carry upwards of 62 aircraft. Still, despite their size and capacity, the Nimitz still owes one of its major functions — the use of catapults to launch planes at high enough speeds for flight from a short runway at sea — to Mustin’s original takeoff from the USS North Carolina.

Here’s what a catapult launch looks like today:

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad
Source: YouTube

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The awesome A-10 video the Air Force doesn’t want you to see

The A-10 Warthog is the only aircraft built for a close air support (CAS) mission. It was literally designed around its distinctive 30mm gatling gun. The gun is more than 19 feet long and weighs more than 4,000 pounds. The distinctive sound made by the weapon (aka the BRRRRRRRRRT – created as rounds fire faster than the speed of sound), is music to the ears of the troops on the ground, so much so, the plane sometimes called “the grunt in the air.” A-10 pilots often find themselves providing support at Danger Close distances.


“They love this airplane,” says one Air Force A-10 pilot, referring to units on the ground. “They trust us. For them to trust to do that is very gratifying.”

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad

Recently, the John Q. Public blog, run by retired Air Force officer Tony Carr, came across a video he suspects was produced by the Air Force’s Combat Camera units, lauding the A-10, its crews, its pilots, and the capabilities of its support for ground troops.

“ComCam is perhaps alone in its possession of the unique combination of access and capability to create something this close to the mission with such superior production values,” Carr writes. “A ComCam airman risked mortal danger to make this film and tell this story, getting immersed in a firefight along the way (you’ll see him drop his camera and hear him discharge his weapon in the video).”

Combining ground combat footage with access to the aircrews who run and fly the Warthogs, Carr believes the video has “unmistakeable importance,” but wonders if the video is being suppressed by senior Air Force leaders for political reasons.

The controversy stems from the Air Force’s repeated attempts to retire this relatively young fleet of aircraft. The A-10 first appeared in the Air Force arsenal in 1972 and was used with great effect in Operation Desert Storm. Comparatively, the Air Force’s B-52 fleet was first introduced in 1955 and is still in service.

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad

“It’s not a political statement,” says a pilot in the theater. “I’m not saying air interdiction isn’t important … but the benefits [of close air support] are right there.”

The Air Force aims to replace the A-10 with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a trillion-dollar weapons system that is the most expensive in history, which is extremely over-budget and experiencing an uncanny number of development setbacks. While retiring the A-10 would save many billions of dollars annually, that money would likely go to further developing the F-35. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III says the F-35 is designed “for the whole battle space” and would replace the A-10’s CAS capabilities.

But politicos and ground troops are not buying it.

“When you’re talking to a 19-year-old man with a rifle, who’s scared on the other end of a radio,” another Air Force A-10 pilot says in the video. “You know he doesn’t care about fiscal constraints, ‘big picture’ Air Force policy, the next fancy weapons system coming down the pipeline. He cares about being saved right then and there.”

The heartfelt, informative A-10 video is below, and is worth a watch for anyone with an interest in the importance of close air support.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_L_TjXXx7eQ

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad
Free to enter. 5 will win. Ends November 30, 2016

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China may be training to overtake Japan-administered islands

Concern is rising in Japan that the Chinese military may be training for a future mission in the disputed Senkaku Islands, where Beijing has been dispatching coast guard ships at increasing frequency in recent years.

Quoting the Pentagon’s 2017 survey of the Chinese military, Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun reported June 8 the People’s Liberation Army could be training for a raid of outlying areas, including the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands, also claimed by China and Taiwan.


In a section on China’s amphibious capabilities, the report from the U.S. Department of Defense states the “PLA Army focuses its amphibious efforts on a Taiwan invasion while the PLA Navy Marine Corps focuses on small island seizures in the South China Sea, with a potential emerging mission in the Senkakus.”

The Japanese military also may be concerned that, according to the report, China’s PLA Navy Marine Corps brigades conducted “battalion-level amphibious training at their respective training areas in Guangdong,” or the Southern Theater.

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Ashigara (DDG 178), foreground, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) transit the Philippine Sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers)

“The training focused on swimming amphibious armored vehicles from sea to shore, small boat assault and deployment of special forces by helicopter,” the report states.

In May, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported China’s Navy Marine Corps is in the process of building a 100,000-strong military unit.

The Pentagon report states China has used “coercive tactics, such as the use of law enforcement vessels and its maritime militia, to enforce maritime claims.”

Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty applies to the Senkakus, and the United States is obligated to defend the islands if they come under attack.

In May, four Chinese coast guard ships entered Japanese territorial waters near Okinawa and the Senkaku Islands and in 2016, more than 100 Chinese ships trespassed into Japan’s territorial waters, the second-largest annual number of Chinese ships entering disputed areas since Japan announced the nationalization of the Senkakus in September 2012.

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5 times ‘outdated’ weapons saved the day

Soldiers and commanders are usually stuck with whatever equipment the procurement officers and civilian leaders are willing to buy for them, sometimes forcing troops to go into combat with outdated and inferior equipment.


But sometimes, those “outdated” weapons are actually just perfect for the fight. Here are five times that a supposedly obsolete weapon system saved the lives of its users:

1. Bayonets in Afghanistan and Iraq

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad
A British soldier with fixed bayonet. (Photo: U.K. Ministry of Defence)

Bayonets, most often associated with fighting in the Civil and Revolutionary Wars, actually played a key role in battles during the modern Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

The most famous probably came in 2004 when 20 British troops were trying to push insurgents from a series of trenches. The fire from the U.K. vehicles was doing little and ammunition was running low, so the commander ordered his men to dismount and fix bayonets.

The British killed approximately 20 of the enemy with their bayonets at a cost of three men injured. Overall, the enemy lost 28 men in the fight.

2. Mortars in World War I

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad
Mortars are still a thing, as are hand grenades. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Timothy Jackson).

It may sound insane today since mortars are still common weapons, but naysayers in the first years of World War I thought that the mortar was relatively unimportant and was no longer necessary. It was already hundreds of years old and had seen reduced deployments in western militaries in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

But Germany had seen mortars and grenades used in the Russo-Japanese War and stockpiled them before the war as a way to break French defenses. The Allies had to play catch up, developing their own mortars as the war continued. A British design, the Stokes trench mortar, was highly portable and lethal and gave rise to the modern mortar system.

3. OV-10 Bronco

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad
An OV-10G+ operated by SEAL Team 6. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The OV-10 Bronco is an observation and ground attack plane that first flew in 1965 and served in the U.S. military from Vietnam through Desert Storm before accepting a quiet retirement in 1995. Boeing, the plane’s manufacturer, touts its historical performance in counter-insurgency, forward air control, and armed reconnaissance missions.

Well, the OV-10 Bronco flew out of history and into the fight against ISIS when CENTCOM deployed two of them in anti-insurgency reconnaissance and ground attack missions. The planes performed 132 sorties in 2015 with a whopping 99 percent completion rate, including 120 combat missions.

4. Pretty much anywhere the A-10 has ever fought

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad
The A-10 shows off its non-BRRRRRT related talents. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Bob Sommer)

The A-10 Warthog (or the Thunderbolt, if you’re into that) has been “outdated” since 1973 when the Yom Kippur War saw low and slow close air support platforms like the A-4 Skyhawk slaughtered while fast and high-flying planes like the F-4 Phantom largely survived.

But the A-10, a low and slow platform, made its operational debut in 1976, three years after the Yom Kippur War supposedly closed the books on them. Despite that, the A-10 has fought and survived in a number of contested environments, most notably Iraq where it has twice been a key part of American forces breaking the back of armored and anti-aircraft ground forces.

In Afghanistan alone, A-10 pilots saved a Special Forces team from five ground assaults against them; conducted forward air control and numerous attack missions to ensure the success of an 8-hour, no notice mission to capture a senior enemy officer; and prevented an accidental fratricide event before annihilating Taliban forces at Jugroom Fort.

5. The Night Witches and their plywood biplanes

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad
The Po-2 bomber was woefully outdated in World War II, but the women of the 588th made it work. (Photo: Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 Douzeff)

The women of Soviet Russia’s 588th Night Bomber Regiment, the Night Witches, flew in plywood and canvas biplanes through the best defenses that Nazi Germany had to offer, conducting multiple bombing missions per night to break up attacks against Soviet ground forces.

Their planes, the Polikarpov U-2 biplane, were underpowered and outgunned compared to the Luftwaffe’s modern air force. But the Night Witches used the biplanes to fly over German defenses nearly silently and drop bombs — they could only carry two at a time per plane — on Nazi positions.

They conducted 30,000 missions during World War II and dropped 23,000 tons of bombs.

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The 7 biggest ‘Blue Falcons’ in US Military history

Blue falcons, or buddy f-ckers, are a fixture of military life. Typically, they satisfy themselves with ratting other troops out for minor offenses or being overly strict on physical training tests. Some blue falcons take the art form to a whole other level, affecting full military operations or giving away needed equipment. Here are seven instances of blue falconism that literally made history.


1. One Confederate general routinely trolls another by sending away troops during key engagements.

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad
Photo: US Naval Historical Center

Lt. Gen. Edmund Smith was in charge of Confederate troops in Louisiana, Arkansas, and some of the surrounding area. He was much more cautious than a politically connected general under his command, Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor. The two butted heads and Smith would routinely take troops away from Taylor just before Taylor committed forces to seize an objective.

The worst example was in the Spring of 1864. The Union Army was moving up the Red River in Louisiana, taking territory and confiscating cotton. Taylor saw the stretched Union forces and sent his troops south to attack their weak points, ignoring orders from Smith to fall back to Shreveport.

Taylor’s advance was successful, defeating Union forces at Mansfield and Pleasant Hill before pinning them in at Alexandria. Everything was in position for Smith and Taylor to defeat the remaining enemy forces in the region. Instead Smith ordered most of Taylor’s army away, allowing 30,000 Union soldiers to escape. These troops would link up with Gen. William Sherman during his march to the sea at the end of that year.

2. George Washington tricks Congress into drastically overpaying him.

That time America abandoned an Abrams tank in Baghdad

Washington famously denied a salary as commanding general of the Continental Army, telling Congress that he would do the job if America would just cover his expenses. Not so famously, he then promptly racked up a bill of expenses worth nearly $450,000, over 28 times what a major general would have made in the same period. He even staged a massive birthday bash while his army was starving in the snow. (In Washington’s defense on this count, he was trying to get food from local sources for the men.)

Of course, some of the other generals were fine with this since they dined with Washington. His close friends tipped the scales at war’s end at over 200 pounds each. Gen. Henry Knox led the way at 280. Washington himself gained 30 pounds.

3. Eisenhower’s chief of staff places a losing $230,000 bet on his boss’s behalf without permission.

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After Operation Torch drastically increased the number of Allied forces in North Africa, Allied generals Bernard Montgomery and George Patton were racing each other to take key cities from the Germans. Eisenhower was still pressuring them to go faster and his chief of staff visited Montgomery at his headquarters. There, Montgomery asked if he could get a B-17 if he took Sfax quickly. Maj. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith told him that Eisenhower would give Montgomery whatever he wanted if he took Sfax by April 15.

Smith reportedly thought it was a joke. but Montgomery was famous for his gambling so this was a reckless assumption. Montgomery took the city on April 10 and immediately began demanding payment from the confused Eisenhower who was just learning of the wager. Eisenhower was screwed by Smith’s promise and gave up the bomber. But, Montgomery was being a bit of a blue falcon himself by demanding payment. It soured relations between him and Eisenhower and Montgomery’s boss would go on to berate Montgomery for the “crass stupidity” of his actions.

4. MacArthur continues to attack U.S. veterans even after ordered by the president to stop.

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In 1924, Congress put together a bonus package for veterans of World War I to be paid in 1945. When the Great Depression throttled the economy, veterans got antsy for the money. 15,000 of them descended on Washington, D.C. in 1932 to demand early payment. A bill to pay out early passed the House but was soundly defeated in the Senate in a 62 to 18 vote.

The veterans continued to camp and march in the city until July 28 when the police tried to force them out. The police failed to take the camp but killed two veterans in the attempt. President Herbert Hoover then ordered the Army to evict the veterans. Gen. Douglas MacArthur and his chief of staff, Maj. Dwight D. Eisenhower, worked with cavalry commander Maj. George Patton to push the marchers and campers across the Anacostia River.

Hoover ordered the Army to halt the advance, but MacArthur pushed his force forwards anyway and attacked until a fire broke out. All 10,000 people in the main camp were pushed out and two babies died. Local hospitals were overwhelmed with the injured from the camps.

5. The Continental Army gets together to blue falcon Benedict Arnold.

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Thomas Hart

Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold was, by all accounts, an outstanding general for most of his time in American service. He won a bloodless victory at Fort Ticonderoga, got France to openly support the Americans through his victory at the Battle of Saratoga, and even once won a decisive naval battle. Throughout all this, he endured multiple wounds for his country.

The whole time though, he was being passed over for promotion due to the political connections of other generals. Also, while Arnold was clinging to life in a New York hospital bed, his boss claimed credit for a surrender that belonged to Arnold. When Arnold complained to Congress that veterans and their families weren’t being fairly treated, he was brought up on charges. A court martial acquitted him of most, but he was found guilty of two counts of dereliction of duty.

6. Benedict Arnold returns the favor by screwing over America.

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Of course, Arnold’s response to this treatment set the bar for blue falcons and set it high. Arnold continued correspondence with his friend George Washington, leveraging him for appointments and preferential treatment. Meanwhile, Arnold was preparing to hand as much as he could to the enemy through British Maj. John Andre. Washington gave Arnold command of the forces at West Point, key to the defense of New York.

Arnold promptly tried to sell the fort to Andre for about $3 million in modern dollars, but the plot was discovered. Washington was personally embarrassed, the Army was shaken by the turning of a key general, and much of Arnold’s history was erased from U.S. records. Still, Arnold did get away and join the British Army as a general.

7. Bowe Bergdahl triggers massive searches.

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Photo: US Army

The exact nature of what happened in the desert will probably be known to no one but Bergdahl himself. But even if Bergdahl did just want to walk away from the war and didn’t give any information to the Taliban after his capture, he was still a blue falcon in the eyes of his fellow soldiers.

His departure caused his unit to have to go on increased patrols and missions that soldiers died on. Every operation after that had to include the additional objective of “see if you can find Bergdahl” no matter what the primary objective was. Resources needed in other fights were sent to that patch of desert to search for him.

Sure, he would’ve been hazed a little if he had refused to fight and claimed conscientious objector status, but that’s still preferable to capture by the Taliban, years of imprisonment, and putting your unit in greater danger.

NOW: 11 spies who did the worst damage to the US military

OR: That one time the Army drugged three soldiers and locked them in a room

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This was the inspiration behind ‘The Hunt for Red October’

First published in the mid-1980s, “The Hunt for Red October” by Tom Clancy quickly rose from obscurity to national bestseller lists, with even then-President Ronald Reagan calling it “my kind of yarn.”


In 1990, the book was made into a blockbuster movie starring Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin.

The hit novel tells the tale of a next-generation Soviet ballistic missile submarine — the eponymous Red October — going rogue with both the United States and the Soviet Union racing against time to find the missing sub.

While the Soviet Union, to the best of our knowledge, never had a submarine and its crew attempt to defect to the West during the Cold War, it did have two very similar incidents — both of which served as the inspiration for this famous book.

In 1961, a young Soviet Navy captain by the name of Jonas Pleskys steered his vessel, a barge turned into a submarine tender, away from a charted course to Estonia in a successful attempt to defect to Sweden.

This Lithuanian-born naval officer, a graduate of the Leningrad Naval Academy, was thoroughly dissatisfied with life in the USSR, finding it corrupt and cruel.

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An official photograph of Jonas Pleskys during his time as a Soviet Navy officer (Photo Soviet Navy)

According to Marion Boyle’s book, “Search for Freedom: The Man from Red October,” Pleskys planned his defection in advance, reaching port and protective custody in Gotland, Sweden, before the Soviet Navy was able to stop him.

In absence, the Soviet military sentenced the captain to death, though they would never have the opportunity to carry out the execution.

The CIA later hid Pleskys in South America before moving him to the US, where he lived out the rest of his years.

Years later, in the mid-1970s, a second (and considerably more embarrassing) incident involving a Soviet Navy vessel — a brand new Krivak class frigate named “Storozhevoy” — proved to be the second event that would factor into the making of “The Hunt for Red October.”

The ship’s political officer, Valery Sablin, seized control of the ship while it was berthed in a Soviet naval port, imprisoning the captain and many of the ship’s officers in compartments belowdecks. Quickly sailing the frigate out of port, Sablin aimed the ship’s bow towards Northern Europe.

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With visions of Pleskys’ earlier defection flashing through their minds, Soviet brass deployed half of their Baltic Fleet immediately upon learning of their newest warship going missing and Sablin’s intentions.

Over 60 maritime patrol and attack aircraft were deployed to find and stop the Storozhevoy… and if it came to it, sink the frigate with its entire crew aboard.

According to former Storozhevoy officer Boris Gindin in his co-written autobiography, “Mutiny,” the frigate was never meant to fall into American hands. Sablin was loyal to the Soviet Union to the very end — he just wasn’t a fan of the corruption of the Soviet government, and saw their actions as a major departure from Leninism and “true communism.”

Instead, the disillusioned political officer wanted to sail the frigate to Leningrad (now known as Saint Petersburg), where he would moor the Storozhevoy alongside an old museum ship, the cruiser Aurora, and would then broadcast a message to the Soviet people with the hopes of revealing the government’s corruption, and with sparking a second communist revolution to retake the country.

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The cruiser Aurora permanently parked in St. Petersburg. Sablin wished to moor the Storozhevoy near the symbolic Aurora during his mutiny and escape (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

As it turns out, the Soviet military wasn’t having any of that, and within a matter of hours, the Storozhevoy was found and hailed. Now less than 50 miles from Swedish territorial waters (though that wasn’t the ship’s destination), the frigate continued to sail on without heeding calls to stop.

The order was given to sink the ship.

Attack aircraft began strafing the ship with their cannons, obliterating the bridge of the Storozhevoy while pockmarking the rest of the gray warship with bullet holes. Bombs were dropped near the rogue ship, and soon, it became evident that the ship’s steering and propulsion was damaged to the point that the vessel could not go any further – it was dead in the water.

However, the Baltic Fleet had already closed in, and began firing warning shots from their deck guns. In a matter of minutes, Soviet naval commandos boarded the vessel and arrested the 200-strong crew of the Storozhevoy, regardless of who was and wasn’t involved in the mutiny.

As it turns out, during the ship’s escape from port, a number of its officers and crew, previously imprisoned for resisting the mutiny, had escaped captivity and overpowered Sablin and his bridge crew.

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A Krivak-class frigate at anchor. Storozhevoy would have looked almost identical to this ship (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

In true Soviet style, the incident was hushed up quickly, with Sablin facing a firing squad for treason against the Soviet Union. The Storozhevoy was quietly repaired in dockyard, repainted and sent back out to the fleet. By the end of the 1990s, the frigate was pulled from service and sold overseas to the wreckers.

In the early 1980s, a 37 year-old insurance salesman by the name of Tom Clancy Jr. came across the Storozhevoy’s tale in the US Naval Academy’s archives while doing research for his first novel.

Later making contact with Jonas Pleskys, and inspired by his and the Storozhevoy’s short-lived adventure, Clancy penned “The Hunt for Red October” soon afterwards, with the novel hitting bookshelves in 1984, a resounding success.