That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia - We Are The Mighty
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That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia

By April 1862, the American Civil War was a year old and neither side had the upper hand. The fighting was particularly brutal in Tennessee, a border state heavily divided between Union and Confederate sympathizers. Grant won a pyrrhic victory at the Battle of Shiloh in western Tennessee while Union operations in the eastern part of the state stalled.


That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia

One enterprising Union supporter — a civilian merchant, scout, and part-time spy, James J. Andrews — proposed a plan to Union Maj. Gen. Ormsby M. Mitchel that would cut off the supply lines to Chattanooga and allow Union forces to take the city. This would help Mitchel in his ultimate goal of cutting off Memphis from the Confederates.

The plan called for Andrews to lead a group of volunteers to Atlanta where they would steal a train and then race towards Chattanooga while laying waste to the railway, telegraph wires, and bridges.

Mitchel agreed to the audacious plan.

So Andrews gathered 22 volunteers from the 2nd, 21st, and 33rd Ohio regiments stationed in Nashville with Mitchel. He also recruited another civilian, William Hunter Campbell.

Andrews ordered his raiding party to arrive in Marietta, Georgia, by midnight on April 10th, 1862. They were to travel in small groups and wear civilian clothes. Bad weather caused a 24-hour delay and two members of the party were caught in transit. On the morning of April 12th, the rest of the raiders – minus two who overslept and missed the mission – boarded a train in Marietta.

It was one year to the day since the war had started.

The train stopped just outside of Marietta at Big Shanty (modern day Kennesaw) for fuel and to allow the passengers to eat breakfast. The town had no communication lines and couldn’t alert stations further down the track. While the others ate, Andrews and his team sprang into action. They uncoupled most of the cars leaving only three empty boxcars, the tender, and a locomotive called the General to make their escape.

As the train pulled away, The General‘s engineer and two other men ran after the train for two miles before commandeering a handcart and following the train on the rails.

As they went, the raiders cut telegraph lines and tore up tracks to slow down their pursuers and disrupt future travel.

But as the raiders crossed the Etowah River, Andrews made a potentially fatal decision. He and his men spotted another engine, the Yonah, on a spur track. One raider suggested they destroy the engine and burn the bridge over the river. Unwilling to start a fight, Andrews chose instead to continue on.

Although slowed by a missing rail, the General‘s engineer, William Fuller, was still in hot pursuit on a handcart when he came upon the Yonah. He commandeered it and continued the chase.

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia

Andrews and his men continued cutting telegraph lines and disrupting train traffic. When they reached Kingston, Georgia, they ran into a large traffic jam. General Mitchel did not halt his advance to wait for the raiders, so trainloads of supplies and civilians were pouring out of Chattanooga, clogging the lines. This traffic jam cost the raiders an hour — with the still intact bridge across the Etowah River allowing their pursuers to catch up.

The General departed the station just as the Yonah arrived. Andrews’ raiders stopped to cut the telegraph lines and remove another section of track. During that time, Fuller and his party abandoned their train and took one that was ahead of the traffic jam at Kingston. They took off after the Union men but were stopped by the damaged track.

Abandoning their train again they continued to pursue the raiders on foot. They commandeered a southbound train called Texas but since the Southerners didn’t have a turntable to change directions, Fuller ran the train in reverse. He also picked up a small group of Confederate soldiers to help retake the train.

In an effort to slow down their pursuers, the raiders uncoupled two of their three boxcars. When this didn’t work, they tried to use the last boxcar to burn a bridge. The car ignited but the bridge itself failed to catch. The increasingly desperate raiders watched as Fuller’s train pushed the burning boxcar off the bridge and continued the chase.

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia

By this time the General was running out of wood and water to power its boiler. Unable to proceed with the planned destruction of Tunnel Hill – which would have completely shut down the line – Andrews ordered the train stopped and the raiders to scatter just 18 miles short of their goal at Chattanooga.

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia

All the raiders, including the two men who overslept and missed the train, were captured within two weeks. Andrews, Campbell, and six Union soldiers were tried as spies and executed. The rest were interred in POW camps in the South.

Six of the raiders received the first Medals of Honor ever. Their exploits would come to be known as “the Great Locomotive Chase.”

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Coast Guard food specialists will make you want to switch branches

Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Arianna Gunn is relentless. Yes, that’s a rating in the Coast Guard. And it’s no joke to the men and women who work that job. The Coast Guard, like any force in history, runs on its stomach.

Gunn’s drive to serve fresh, delicious, inventive, bar-raising gourmet meals to the crew members of her Coast Guard Cutter, Cochito, powers that vessel as surely as the twin diesels in its engine room. As it conducts long patrols of U.S. coastal waters, searching, rescuing and advancing the mission of the Department of Homeland Security, Gunn’s role in maintaining operational morale cannot be overstated.


Like Meals Ready to Eat host August Dannehl learned when he joined the Cochito on patrol, as far as ship’s cooks go, FS2 Gunn is in a class of her own.

She’s not a recipe follower so much as a recipe pioneer. She gathers her ingredients at local markets and farm stands. She joyfully invents dishes working in a galley the size of a closet. She defines the rhythm of the Cochito’s days at sea by the anticipation and delivery of each of her remarkable meals.

“There are times during this job, during a search and rescue case off shore, we don’t sleep, it’s too rough to eat, it’s almost unbearable. And coming back into calmer waters, looking forward to that amazing home cooked meal, that just brings everybody together,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Stephen Atchley, Coast Guard Cutter Cochito.

We could wax on about the culinary virtuosity of FS2 Gunn, but instead, we’ll hit you with some optics as an appetizer.

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia
Yeah… (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia
Oh yeah… (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia
Uncle Jesse would say “Have mercy.” (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia
The Chef herself in her uncanny galley. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Watch more Meals Ready To Eat:

These military chefs will make you want to re-enlist

This veteran farmer will make you celebrate your meat

This is why soldiers belong in the kitchen

What happens when a firefighter’s secret identity is revealed

This is the food Japanese chefs invented after their nation surrendered to the Allies

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5 epic battles where the victors ended up losing the war

There’s no more unfortunate name in the annals of military history than King Pyrrhus of Epirus whose lands were on the west coast of the Hellenic Peninsula, in modern-day Greece. While he famously won a string of battles against Rome and Carthage in 281 BC, he took horrendous casualties, sometimes as high as 15,000.


That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia
You can probably guess how that turned out.

After one of his costly victories, Pyrrhus famously declared, “One more victory like that and we’re finished.”

Thus the term “Pyrrhic Victory” was born, describing any victory in warfare that cost so much to gain, the winner’s army never really recovers.

This victory may have been the first Pyrrhic one, but it certainly wasn’t the last. Here are a few more costly “wins” that nevertheless lost the war.

1. The Battle of Malplaquet

In 1700, Spain’s King Charles II died without an heir. In the power struggle that followed, France’s 90,000-strong army fought a coalition of 100,000 Dutch, Austrian, Prussian and British soldiers. Slightly outnumbered, the French sought to level the playing field by setting up obstacles and digging fortifications to stymie the coalition.

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia

It took 7 full hours to dislodge the French, and the Duke of Marlborough lost 24,000 men doing it. The rest were too tired to keep going. The French lost less than half that. Marlborough was replaced and the alliance against the French began to fall apart.

2. The Battle of Bunker Hill

In another case of superior numbers running head-on against a fortified position, 2,200 British regulars advancing on Breed’s Hill were ordered to attack the 1,000 American militiamen there. Capturing the hill would give the British the Heights overlooking Boston, so British General William Howe ordered three advances.

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia
Good luck with that.

The first two repelled the redcoats because of very accurate fire from the militiamen. Out of ammo and looking at a hand-to-hand fight for the hill, the militia abandoned the fortification and retreated on the third British advance. The British lost almost half of their attacking force while the colonial rebels lost only 400 men.

3. Napoleon at Borodino

L’Empereur’s invasion of Imperial Russia in 1812 took more than a half million Frenchmen into the heart of the Russian Empire. Napoleon chased the Russians, first under General Barclay de Tolly and then General Mikhail Kutuzov, all the way to Moscow, the Russians burning or otherwise destroying anything in their wake that might have been of use to the French. Near the village of Borodino near modern-day Moscow, Kutuzov’s army stopped to give Napoleon a fight.

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia

The Russians positioned their right wing on an ideal defensive ground while the left occupied a series of redoubts near the village. Napoleon threw 130,000 men at the redoubts, which the Russians fought bitterly to keep. The French lost 35,000 men but failed to destroy the Russian Army. Napoleon marched on Moscow but found the Russians burned the city. The French Emperor stayed for two months. When he realized the Russians would not negotiate for peace, he marched his exhausted troops home. By the time Napoleon’s Grande Armeé found its way home, there were only 93,000 survivors.

4. The Battle of the Alamo

In 1835, colonist in the Mexican province of Texas rebelled against the dictatorial regime of Mexico’s General Antonio López de Santa Anna. Texian rebels drove Mexican forces out of Texas The next year, 100 American-born Texian rebels occupied the Alamo, an old Spanish mission near modern-day San Antonio, along with legendary adventurers of the American West.

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia
Unfortunately, this is how legends of the West tend to die.

Santa Anna marched 1,500 troops into Texas to dislodge the defenders of the Alamo. After ten days of skirmishing, the Mexicans advanced on the Alamo in force and slaughtered every defender to the last man. When word reached the rest of Texas, people rushed to join the Texian Army under Sam Houston. Houston used those troops to surprise the Mexicans at the Battle of San Jacinto, winning in just 18 minutes. The Texians cut down the fleeing Mexicans and captured Santa Anna the next day, winning Texas’ independence.

5. The Battle of Chancellorsville

In 1863, General Robert E. Lee’s outnumber Confederate troops bet on a maneuver that flew in the face of military doctrine – he divided his forces, twice, and fought the Federal forces instead of retreating. This division was unique because it prevented the Union Army under General Joseph Hooker from surrounding the outnumbered rebels.

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia
Stonewall Jackson, pictured right, being unable to even.

Unfortunately, the move cost Lee 13,000 men and his best General, Stonewall Jackson, who was shot by his own men. Two months later, the South would miss those 13,000 at the Battle of Gettysburg.

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8 American military legends who were honored as foreign knights

American military heroes typically spend a lot of time fighting in other countries. The leaders of those countries can give medals or official thanks, but sometimes they induct American warriors into their chivalric orders and turn them into knights. For American citizens the honor comes without the title of “sir” or any of the official perks, but it’s still way better than a challenge coin.


1. Gen. James Doolittle

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia
Photo: Wikipedia

Medal of Honor recipient and leader of the Doolittle Raid, Gen. James Doolittle also has a number of honorary knighthoods including Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath from Great Britain, the Order of the Condor of Bolivia, and the Grand Order of the Crown from Belgium.

2. Adm. Chester W. Nimitz

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia
Photo: Wikipedia

The naval hero who commanded the fleets at the battles of Midway, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and others was named to two foreign knighthoods. First, he was appointed as Knight Grand Cross of the Military Division of the Order of Bath by Great Britain, then Knight Grand-Cross in the Order of Orange Nassau by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands.

3. Gen. “Stormin'” Norman Schwarzkopf

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia
Photo: US Army

The rockstar general who led Desert Storm, Gen. “Stormin'” Norman Schwarzkopf was appointed as a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath by Queen Elizabeth during her visit to the United States in 1991.

4. Gen. Omar N. Bradley

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia
Photo: US Army

Gen. Omar N. Bradley was a five-star general, World War II and Korean War commander, the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the first Chairman of the NATO Committee. For his years of military service, Bradley was made an honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire.

5. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia
Photo: US Army

General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower has way too many knighthoods to list here, but some highlights include: Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath from Great Britain, Grand Cordon with Palm of the Order of Leopold from Belgium, and the Grand Croix of the Legion of Honor from France.

6. Gen. Douglas MacArthur

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia
Photo: US Army Signal Corps Gaetano Faillace

Douglas MacArthur retired from the Army in 1937, but returned in 1941 after a request from President Roosevelt. Gen. MacArthur went on to become commander of occupied Japan and of United Nations Forces in Korea. For his World War II service, MacArthur was appointed as a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath of Great Britain.

7. Gen. George S. Patton

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia
Photo: Wikipedia

A veteran of the Border War with Mexico, World War I, and World War II, Gen. George S. Patton was named to numerous orders including the Order of the British Empire, the Order of Leopold, and the Order of Adolphe of Nassau, among others.

8. President George H. W. Bush

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia
Photo: George H.W. Bush Presidential Library

World War II naval aviator and former President George H. W. Bush was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace on Nov. 30, 1993.

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11 scary ghost stories, legends, and haunted military bases

The military profession can be downright scary at times, and that element has given rise to some of the best ghost stories and urban legends out there. Here are few of the most enduring classics from around the services:


1. F.E. Warren’s native tribes

Cheyenne, Wyoming is the home of F.E. Warren AFB, part of the USAF’s Global Strike Command and command of all U.S. ICBMs. But before Wyoming had the power to eradicate mankind, it had the power to eradicate Crow Creek Indians.

Fort D.A. Russell was built to help protect railroad workers from the local native tribes. They were undeniably good at it, massacring many of the Crow Creek, and for the last 100 years, people reported seeing uniformed cavalry troops patrolling the base at night to keep the natives at bay.

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia

The fun doesn’t end there. Warren is supposedly one of the most haunted places in Wyoming – maybe even America. The ghost of “Gus Quarters” is doomed to live on Warren AFB. Legend has it a man named Gus was caught in bed with an officer’s wife. To escape the angry husband, “Gus” jumped out of a second-story window, accidentally hanging himself on a clothesline – and becoming Jody for all eternity.

Troops on the base report unexplained doors and cupboards opening and closing on their own, believing it was Gus Quarters, looking for his pants after all these years.

2. Kadena Air Base’s haunted house

Building 2283 on Kadena is a single family home for field-grade officers that currently sits vacant, not because there aren’t enough O-5s at Kadena, but – legend has it – because the spectral samurai warrior that occasionally rides through the house.

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia

Other sightings at 2283 have included a woman washing her hair in the sink, a curtain opening in front of a tour group, a phone ringing despite there not being a phone line connected to the house, and lights and faucets turning on by themselves (which would surely drive the samurai ghost father of the house insane thinking about the water bill).

Residents of the house have reported bloodstains on the carpet and curtains, as well as an unearthly chill in one of the rooms, the room where a real teenage girl was stabbed to death by her stepfather. Another account alleges a Marine Corps officer bludgeoned his wife in the house.

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia

Conveniently, there’s a day care center next door, and both are across the street from an Okinawan Samurai Warrior’s tomb.

3. Fort Leavenworth’s dozens of haunted houses

Widely considered the most paranormally active site in the U.S. Army, Leavenworth has upward of 36 haunted buildings. One guardhouse, Tower 8 of the Old Disciplinary Barracks that was torn down in 2004, still stands. A soldier who committed suicide with his service shotgun inside Tower 8 will sometimes call the guard control room. Maybe for an aspirin.

After a prisoner uprising during WWII, guards executed one of 14 prisoners every hour but ran out of room on the gallows. So they used the elevator shaft in the administration building as an extension. Now soldiers report hearing screams from the elevator when no one else is around.

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia

As novel as the idea of a centuries-old, haunted, and abandoned prison might be for ghosts, the most haunted area is called the Rookery. The building was once the base commander’s quarters but was turned into family housing – and people still live there.

The rookery is said to house a number of ghosts. “The Lady in White” was supposedly tortured and killed by local tribes while the soldiers were off-post. She screams and chases people she sees in the night. You don’t have to chase us, lady. The screaming was enough.

Also in the Rookery are Maj. Edmund Ogden, who is presumably in command of all the ghosts in the building (and died in 1855), a young girl named Rose, her nanny, and a young man called Robert. Rose whistles around the house while Ogden seems to just walk around all day in spurred boots. It said that Maj. Ogden once asked a team of ghost hunters to leave his house.

4. March Air Reserve Base’s hospital-turned-dental clinic

What is today a dental clinic once housed a children’s tuberculosis clinic – and in the basement below was a morgue. Some of the staff reported seeing apparitions of small children playing in the building at night or hiding objects.

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia

 

One ghost is less than playful: A teenage girl has been reportedly seen walking around the hospital, her face sliced open, talking to herself and searching for the person who cut her.

5. The Kadena Chicken

The 18th Wing at Kadena sports a yellow patch with a chicken prominently featured with its wings in the air, seemingly surrendering. This urban legend has it that during the Korean War, the 18th Wing’s pilots abandoned their crew chiefs as the base was being overrun. The maintainers were then hung with safety wire by the enemy. The safety wire is still supposedly hanging in Osan.

This is a very old Air Force urban legend. Why would the Air Force keep the wire hanging? Aside from questionable decorations, a better reason not to believe this myth is that the patch has been around since 1931, when the 18th Wing was the 18th Pursuit Squadron.

6. Edgar Allen Poe on Fort Monroe

The famous poet died in Baltimore of a mysterious illness whose symptoms match those of rabies. While he was alive, however, he was stationed at Monroe as an artilleryman. Other ghosts said to reside at Fort Monroe include Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, and Chief Black Hawk.

Abraham Lincoln gets around in his afterlife. It’s good to stay active when when you’re 208 years old.

7. Bitburg Middle School’s ghost Nazis

The Bitburg School is run by DoD Dependents Schools-Europe. Bitburg Middle School was constructed in Bitburg Air Base’s housing in 1956, supposedly on the site of a Nazi airbase. It’s also consistently rated as one of the most haunted places in Germany, sharing that list with a pagan ritual altar and the Dachau concentration camp.

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia

As if it weren’t enough to be full of ghosts, they’re also Nazi ghosts, which is way more frightening. Lights constantly flash on and off throughout the night, windows move on their own, and oh yeah: people are heard screaming at the top of their lungs throughout the building. Only at night.

8. The USS Hornet’s 50-member ghost crew

The Hornet is the most haunted ship in the Navy. In 27 years, the ship lost 300 of her men to accidents and suicides. Tourists and sailors alike report strange voices and apparitions of sailors in (outdated) uniforms, roaming the halls of the ship. Radios and other equipment on the vessel are said to turn on and off on their own.

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia

If any reader is interested in seeing the ghost crew of the Hornet, you can now pay to sleep aboard the WWII-era ship was decommissioned in 1970. Now moored in San Francisco, people can tour its most paranormally active areas.

9. Kadena’s (yes, again) Ghostly Gate Guards

The old Gate 3 at Kadena was said to be frequented by a WWII-era soldier covered in blood, asking for a light for his cigarette. That gate was eventually closed and a new one is being built in its place. Which is crazy, because he could easily solve a manpower issue. Would you approach a gate manned by ghosts? Me neither.

He might be looking for any number of Japanese soldiers who were once said to approach the gate in the 1990s. They approached so many times, it was recorded in the 2000 book “Ghosts of Okinawa.” The gate was closed because I can only assume it’s terrifying.

10. Guantanamo Bay’s eternal officer’s club

The Bayview complex at Gitmo was originally built in 1943 as the base officer’s club. Now there are four spirits who are there for eternity to occupy the upstairs Terrace Room.

A “woman in white” is an old woman with long hair and a long white dress. She sits in a chair and looks out into the parking lot. She also switches lights on and off when no one is in the club. It is said the woman lived in an apartment in the club until she was found dead in a bathtub there.

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia

She has a decent view, though.

The wives of base commanders have also reported a man in khakis walking from the living room of the CO’s residence to the bathroom. In 2007, Paula Leary, who was in the house at the time said she believed the ghost just wanted to know there was someone else in the house. The area where the house stands was the site of Marine camps from 1901 until 1920, so it may not just be any khaki chief walking around, but a salty old Marine.

11. Helmand Province’s cursed Russian graveyard

The 2/8 Marines in Helmand reported figures speaking Russian at Observation Point Rock. They found graves at the site, a place in Helmand considered cursed by the locals because of the unending amount of bones that are constantly dug up there.

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia

The Marines’ story is now an episode of SyFy’s “Paranormal Witness.”

“The Rock,” as it came to be known, was the reported site of Afghan mujahideen executing Russian soldiers during the Russian occupation. Because of the bones and the strange sightings, it soon became known as the “Haunted OP.” But it wasn’t just the Marines seeing or hearing things. The UK’s Welsh Guards who came to the OP before the Marines reported strange noises and unexplainable lights in their night vision.

A Rundown of Rumors:

  • The ghost of an airman suicide from the 1970s haunts the RAPCON. Occasionally crying is heard by airmen, and never civilians.
  • A USAF Security Forces airman at Ramstein AB locked himself in his closet and committed suicide. Now, his ghost locks unsuspecting airmen in their closets.
  • Warren AFB’s ICBM Museum also houses a ghost named Jefferey.
  • U.S. military bases have golf courses so they can be used as mass graves in the event of high casualties.
  • The clinic at Spangdahlem Air Base houses a ghost named Erich.

Listen to our veteran hosts discuss haunted bases and urban legends in the U.S. military.

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US troops may take prominent role in attacking ISIS capital

US military forces seem poised to take a prominent role in the long-awaited battle to take down Raqqa, Syria, the capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.


Though the Pentagon has long downplayed the role of US ground troops in the fight against the ISIS terror group in Iraq and Syria, recent deployments of many more “boots on the ground” suggest they may be front-and-center in the coming months.

Earlier this week, a convoy of US Army Rangers riding in armored Stryker combat vehicles was seen crossing the border into Syria to support Kurdish military forces in Manbij. The convoy, identified by SOFREP as being from 3rd Ranger Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, was the most overt use of US troops in the region thus far.

Related: Meet the female Peshmerga fighters battling ISIS

Until this most recent Ranger deployment, the Pentagon had adamantly stuck to the line that its “regional partners” — Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga for the most part — were bearing the brunt of the battle.

But on Wednesday, another curious deployment seemed to counter that narrative. According to The Washington Post, US Marines from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine regiment had left their ships to establish a combat outpost inside Syria that is apparently within striking distance of Raqqa.

“For the base in Syria to be useful, it must be within about 20 miles of the operations US-backed forces are carrying out,” the Post wrote.

The unit, part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, recently finished conducting training exercises in Oman and Djibouti. Its new outpost inside Syria has M777 Howitzers that fire 155mm projectiles, which are likely guarded by additional infantrymen at the site, according to The Post.

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia
U.S. Marines fire artillery to break up ISIS fighters attacking Kurdish and Peshmerga forces. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, told the Fayetteville Observer last year that most US troops were in Iraq or Kuwait, though “some” were operating inside Syria.

Meanwhile, US special operations forces, who are said to be taking a training and advisory role with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, were quietly given more latitude to call in precision airstrikes and artillery. As the AP reported in February, advisors are now able to call in airstrikes without seeking approval from an operations center in Baghdad.

Additionally, advisors were embedded at lower echelons of Iraqi security forces at the brigade and battalion level, rather than division — meaning that US forces are increasingly getting closer to direct combat.

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia
Special Operations Command photo

Though the new directives were lauded by the Pentagon as “adding ‘precision’ to ground operations,” wrote The Institute for the Study of War, “it also underscores that US personnel are increasingly at the frontlines of the operation. Indicators from the new US Administration, including a proposed 10% budget increase for the Department of Defense, suggest that it may expand the level of US involvement in Iraq, beyond the Mosul operation.”

A spokesperson for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit did not respond to a request for comment.

Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for OIR, said the moves into Syria were to pre-position US forces so they can provide logistical and fire support to “Syrian partnered forces” who will eventually assault Raqqa.

Related: ISIS Fighters ordered to flee or blow themselves up

The Marines and Rangers will provide the “commander greater agility to expedite the destruction of ISIS in Raqqah. The exact numbers and locations of these forces are sensitive in order to protect our forces, but there will be approximately an additional 400 enabling forces deployed for a temporary period to enable our Syrian partnered forces to defeat ISIS,” Dorrian told Business Insider.

He added: “The deployment of these additional key enabling capabilities allows the Coalition to provide flexible all weather fire support, training and protection from IEDs, and additional air support to our Syrian partners.”

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia
U.S. Special Operations personnel take cover to avoid flying debris as they prepare to board a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. | DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Clayton Weiss, U.S. Navy

The White House is considering whether to send another 1,000 American soldiers to Kuwait to serve as a “reserve force” for the Raqqa offensive, Reuters reported Wednesday. Officials who spoke with Reuters said there were about 6,000 US troops currently deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, up from the 5,000 that was reported in January.

The presence of additional US ground troops inside Syria — even miles from the frontline — would bring with it considerable risk. Combat outposts often draw rocket and mortar fire, in addition to small arms. Last March, a Marine outpost established to support the operation to retake Mosul, Iraq came under rocket attack by ISIS militants, killing Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin.

A total of nine American service members have been killed in OIR combat operations, while 33 have been wounded, according to Pentagon statistics.

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That time the Russians rammed US Navy ships in the Black Sea

In February 1988, the American cruiser USS Yorktown was on a Freedom of Navigation mission in the Black Sea, just south of Crimea. With her was the USS Caron. Though outside of traditional sea lanes, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea allows for warships to leave sea lanes — even in another country’s territorial waters — as long as those warships were on “innocent passage.”


The Soviet Union disagreed.

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia
They usually did. (MGM/UA)

Though the Russians routinely used their own naval vessels to shadow the Americans in the region, the case of the Yorktown and Caron was different. The Russians held that the two American ships were armed with more firepower than previous treaties allowed while in their territory. They also believed that they had the authority to clear ships entering their waters.

That’s why the Soviet frigate Bezzavetnyi warned the Yorktown it would “strike their ship with own” if the Americans entered Soviet territory. Meanwhile, another Soviet frigate confronted the Caron. The Americans blew off the threat, with the Caron responding: “I am engaged in innocent passage consistent with international law.”

That time Union soldiers stole a train to wreak havoc in Georgia

That’s when the second Russian frigate slammed into the Caron’s port side aft. There was no damage except some paint scraping. The Caron pressed on and exited Soviet waters almost two full hours later.

Also in Soviet territory, the Yorktown was being shadowed by the Russian Bezzavetnyi. The Russian closed to within 50 feet of the Yorktown when it turned into the American ship, slamming into its port side. Bezzavetnyi’s anchor fell away, while Yorktown suffered minor hull damage, though with no breaches. The ship’s rear Harpoon missile launchers were damaged and unusable.

Yorktown completed her mission and left in a similar two-hour time frame.

The Russians had no intention of sinking either ship and no weapons were ever cleared for action. In after action interviews, the skipper of the Bezzavetnyi said:

“To be honest, no one in the in the command center put on his lifejacket, although the order had been given… Many members of the crew of Yorktown were on the upper deck, smiling and waving, taking pictures of us with cameras and videocameras. And the commanding officer of Yorktown, for example, appeared on the bridge in parade uniform. In a word, the Americans behaved as if they were participating in a show for entertainment.”

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“Are you not entertained?” (U.S. Navy photo)

“Our view is that unless you exercise the right of freedom of navigation, inevitably you lose it,” said then-Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the incident. “If we start backing off we will eventually lose some of the rights that are absolutely essential for our freedom of navigation.”

Freedom of Navigation missions have been a cornerstone of the US Navy mission and of American foreign policy since 1979. The resolve of the Yorktown and Caron to press on are testament to the dedication to the mission.

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4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu

Shaolin Kung Fu is one of the oldest and most intense forms of Chinese martial arts. Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and a number of other martial arts movie stars have also made Kung Fu one of the most famous forms.

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As a part of a religious order, the Shaolin monks were persecuted by Chinese Communists during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. The temple was mostly destroyed and stayed that way for years. But when Jet Li made “Shaolin Shi,” it was enough to make Mao give in: the temple was rebuilt and some much-needed tourism revenue came in as Kung Fu made a comeback.

Here are a few things you may not have known about Kung Fu and the elite Shaolin Monks.

1. The founder of Shaolin Kung Fu was from India.

Legend has it that the founder of the Shaolin order, a Buddhist monk from India named Bodhidharma, spent nine years meditating in a cave near his monastery. The legend has it that to keep him from falling asleep, the monk cut off his eyelids and threw them on the ground.

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Pre-Workout would not be invented for another 1,500 years.

Green Tea began to grow from the spot where he threw his eyelids and now Buddhist monks use green tea to maintain their focus during meditation.

2. Kung Fu is studied in a “Kwoon.”

The word “dojo” is reserved for places that teach Japanese martial arts, like Aikido. When entering a kwoon, bow at a 45-degree angle with your hands at your chest — the right in a fist, and the left open-palm.

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This represents the yin and yang and that your heart is at peace.

3. Kung Fu practitioners wear a different uniform.

Again, much of the look of the loose-fitting gi and colored belts comes from the Japanese practice. Traditional Chinese Kung Fu doesn’t use colored belt levels (though some Western teachers might use them as a teaching tool). Chinese Kung Fu uses a uniform that is tight at the ankles and sometimes even at the wrists.

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4. The most elite Shaolin monk was a werewolf.

Ok, he wasn’t an actual werewolf. In the late 19th century lived a monk named Tai Jin. The poor guy suffered from a condition known as hypertrichosis. Also known as “Werewolf Syndrome” because of the insane amount of body hair that grows on affected areas.

It might have helped his self-esteem to know that, according to legend, he was the best fighter in all of China.

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No comfort for Chewbacca here.

Tai Jin was abandoned at the monastery as a baby because of his body hair. The monks raised him and trained him. He eventually dedicated himself to one form of martial art. Legend also has it that upon meeting the 12 masters of Shaolin, the boy threw a dagger into the ceiling, killing a would-be assassin. He explained to the masters that he could hear 13 people breathing, not just 12.

For more about the Shaolin monks and their founder, check out the above episode of Elite Forces.

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This Navy SEAL was wounded during the frantic search for Bowe Bergdahl

On June 21, a former Navy SEAL testified that his military career ended when he was shot in the leg during a hastily planned mission to find Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl after the soldier left his post in Afghanistan.


Retired Senior Chief Petty Officer James Hatch told the judge that his team had about 90 minutes to plan their mission and board helicopters after receiving information about Bergdahl’s purported whereabouts shortly after he disappeared in 2009. While pursuing enemy fighters on foot, Hatch was hit by fire from an AK-47. Hatch says he survived because members of his team quickly applied a tourniquet while waiting for a medical helicopter.

“They saved me from bleeding to death for sure,” he testified during the pretrial hearing. Hatch, who entered the courtroom with a service dog and a limp, said he’s had 18 surgeries because of the wound.

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Bowe Bergdahl. Photo via NewsEdge.

Also on June 21, the military judge told defense attorneys they can ask potential military jurors about President Donald Trump on a lengthy written questionnaire. Defense lawyers have argued Trump’s criticism of Bergdahl will prevent him from getting a fair trial on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

Prosecutors want to use the injuries to Hatch and others as evidence during sentencing if Bergdahl is convicted. The judge, Col. Jeffery Nance, already ruled that the injury evidence can’t be used during the guilt-or-innocence phase of the trial scheduled for October.

A legal scholar not involved in the case, Eric Carpenter, said the decision on the injuries could be pivotal.

“This evidence has already been excluded from the guilt phase of the trial, and if it is excluded during the sentencing phase, the heart of the government’s case will be gone,” said Carpenter, a former Army lawyer who teaches law at Florida International University. “This might make the government more receptive to a deal.”

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Defense attorney Eugene Fidell declined to say after the hearing whether his client is interested in a plea bargain.

The topic also came up during the hearing. Defense attorneys asked the judge to rule that any alleged desertion ended when Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban hours after he left the remote post. They say the determination is needed so they can advise their client on how to plead to the desertion charge.

“We need to know so we can tell Sgt. Bergdahl what the consequences are,” Fidell told the judge, Col. Jeffery R. Nance.

Nance responded that Bergdahl can choose to plead guilty to the lesser offense of unauthorized absence, or AWOL, but that prosecutors could continue pursuing the more serious desertion charge if they weren’t satisfied. The judge said he would rule later on the defense’s arguments about the duration of Bergdahl’s absence.

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A U.S. Army soldier from 1st Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Black Hawk, conducts a foot patrol in the small village of Yayah Khel, March 10, 2012. DoD Photo by Sgt. Ken Scar.

The judge also said he would rule later on a motion to dismiss the misbehavior-before-the-enemy charge, which could land Bergdahl in prison for life. Defense attorneys say prosecutors chose the wrong building blocks for the offense because the actions cited in the charge wouldn’t be independently criminal, an argument that prosecutors dispute.

Later in the hearing, Nance said he would allow the defense to probe potential jurors’ feelings about Trump in a questionnaire being sent in the coming weeks. Prosecutors have objected to 17 of the approximately 40 questions, including ones asking how prospective panel members voted in the presidential election.

“I’m going to let you ask pretty much all the questions, but with some changes to address the government’s concerns,” Nance said.

Nance asked for further written arguments before the questionnaire is finalized. The judge previously said he would allow the defense wide leeway to question potential jurors, even though he rejected a motion to dismiss the case over Trump’s comments entirely in a February ruling.

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Former President Obama and Bowe Bergdahl’s parents. Photo from the Obama White House Archives.

Bergdahl left his remote post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was subsequently held by the Taliban and its allies for about five years. The military probe of Bergdahl began soon after he was freed from captivity on May 31, 2014 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners. Former President Barack Obama was criticized by Republicans who claimed he jeopardized the nation’s security with the trade.

Bergdahl, who has been assigned to desk duty at a Texas Army base, has said he walked off his post to cause alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit.

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Here’s what happens when a wounded warrior uses his arm for the first time in 10 years

A U.S. Army tanker who lost his arm to an IED attack in Iraq was able to manipulate a prosthetic arm for the first time since his 2007 injury.


Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland worked with Army Spc. Jerral Hancock to develop the Modular Prosthetic Limb, a robotic arm being built by JHU’s Applied Physics Lab. The goal of the program is to create a robotic prosthetic with all the capabilities of the human arm.

Hancock has struggled in the years since his injury to live a fully-functioning life after the attack left him paralyzed from the mid-chest down. His right arm has limited mobility, making it difficult to do even one-handed tasks.

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Army Spc. Jerral Hancock and a researcher from John Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab discusses the calibration procedures for the Modular Prosthetic Limb. (Photo: YouTube/Freethink)

The MPL features hundreds of sensors that help it accurately gauge the angles, speed, and power the arm is using. Other sensors strapped to Hancock’s body read the signals being passed through his skin to his missing limb. The device’s software then tries to replicate the movements that Hancock is imagining, syncing his commands to the robotic arm.

In one heart-breaking moment, Hancock tells the researchers that he doesn’t imagine a left hand with full mobility, but one that has the same physical limitations of his injured right hand.

In the video, Hancock teaches the software his signals for opening and closing his hand and bending his elbow. Once the software is calibrated, he can then use the arm to grab a drink from the fridge and to fire a foam dart with his daughter.

See Hancock with the arm and his family in the full video below:

Video: YouTube/Freethink

 

Hancock won’t get to use the arm just yet, but his work with researchers to refine the technology will hopefully allow people who need prosthetics to get a more functional option in the next few years. JHU currently has six MPLs that are being used for research purposes and four more in development, according to the project’s website.

The U.S. Army Brotherhood of Tankers helped link Hancock and JHU together. The USABOT is a nonprofit organization that promotes knowledge of tanker culture, history, and capabilities.

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The top 5 stories around the military right now (July 9 edition)

Good morning. Here’s the news you need to show up to morning quarters informed:


Now check this out: We asked civilians to name the highest medal awarded for bravery. Here’s what they said. 

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China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service

China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet has entered military service, according to multiple news reports.


Reuters late Thursday reported the development, citing a Chinese military report that didn’t offer additional details.

Related: How China’s stealthy new J-20 fighter jet compares to the US’s F-22 and F-35

The twin-engine fighter, built by Chengdu Aerospace Corp. for the People’s Liberation Army’s air force, first flew in 2011 and made its public debut in November when the PLAAF showed off two of the aircraft at an airshow over coastal city Zhuhai.

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China’s J-20 | Chinese Military Review

Also in the fall, China downplayed reports that the J-20 was spotted at the Daocheng Yading Airport near Tibet or that it may be deployed near the Indian border.

With a reported top speed of 1,300 miles per hour and the ability to carry short- and long-range air-to-air missiles, the jet is often compared to the twin-engine F-22 Raptor, a fifth-generation stealth fighter made by Lockheed Martin Corp. for the U.S. Air Force.

But the J-20 is believed to be far less stealthy than the F-22.

“The forward-mounted canards, poorly shielded engines and underside vertical stabilizers all limit the amount that its radar cross section — which determines how visible the aircraft is to a radar — can be reduced,” Justin Bronk, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, has written.

Even so, the apparent arrival of an operational J-20 highlights China’s growing role as a military power.

The country, the second-largest spender on defense after the U.S., is also developing with private funding the Shenyang FC-31, a twin-engine multi-role fighter that resembles Lockheed’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. A production variant of the FC-31 may fly in 2019.

U.S. lawmakers have in the past questioned Pentagon officials why the government hasn’t retaliated against China for copying the designs of its most advanced fighter jets.

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A rendering of the Chengdu J-20. | Screenshot via hindu judaic/YouTube

“What they’ve been able to do in such a rapid period of time without any RD … I understand there might be some differences as far as in the software and the weaponry and this and that,” Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, asked during a hearing in 2015. “But they’re making leaps, which are uncommon, at the behest of us, and we know this, I understand, but we’re not taking any actions against them.”

Robert Work, deputy defense secretary, at the time acknowledged that the Chinese “have stolen information from our defense contractors and it has helped them develop systems,” but he added, “we have hardened our systems.”

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Russia’s powerful new submarine nuke drone is a coastal killer

The new Cold War is in full swing and the Russians are the first out of the gate with a new superweapon.


According to the Washington Free Beacon’s Bill Gertz, Russia tested a new submarine drone, capable of carrying a nuclear payload.

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(Kanyon UUV/Artist’s rendering)

Also Read: This nuclear explosion was nearly 3 times the size anyone predicted

The Free Beacon broke the news of the sub – code-named Kanyon by the Pentagon – and the Kremlin confirmed its existence two months later. The Russians call it “Ocean Multipurpose System ‘Status-6,’ ” and Gertz’ sources in U.S. intelligence say the drone sub is designed to carry the largest nuclear weapons in existence.

Popular Mechanics’  also noted the nukes are capable of carrying a “salted bomb” payload of Cobalt-60, which is a highly radioactive isotope that easily crumbles to a fine dust.

It could render any blast site uninhabitable for a century or more.

The Pentagon also confirmed the weapon’s existence.

“Status-6 is designed to kill civilians by massive blast and fallout,” Former Pentagon official Mark Schneider told The Beacon, noting that such targeting violates the law of armed conflict. “[The sub] is the most irresponsible nuclear weapons program that Putin’s Russia has come up with.”

It was “accidentally” leaked to the public through Russian state television in November 2015. U.S. officials say the speaker offscreen was discussing missile defense while the disclosure of the drone submarine happened onscreen. Analysts say it suggests that the leak was intentional.

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Screenshot from NTV, Nov. 10, 2015.

The Russian superweapon is launched from a Sarov submarine and controlled by ships on the surface. It is self-propelled and capable of carrying a nuclear warhead up to 6,200 miles. The vehicle can submerge to a depth of 3,280 feet and travel at speeds of up to 56 knots – meaning it can outrun American homing torpedoes.

At the time of its initial disclosure, operational testing for the weapon was due to begin in 2019 or 2020. A test of the system was conducted in November 2016, which shows the Russians are way ahead of their own development schedule.