Around Veterans’ Day, 2002, a crack team made its way towards a high-value target located in a farm near Gambrillis, Maryland.
They’d gone in mufti, and waited until the coast was clear before they carried out their plan. In a few minutes, the daring personnel carrying out this special operation had succeeded: “Bill the Goat” was now a prisoner of the United States Military Academy.
A New York Times report shortly afterwards quoted a Navy academy spokesman as saying, “I can confirm that one of our goats is missing. However, we would be surprised that a West Point cadet is involved, given that we have had an agreement for a number of years that mascots will not be stolen.”
The Naval Academy soon got a photo showing an Army cadet next to Bill. The cadet was in uniform – albeit he had hidden his identity with a ski mask.
“It behooves us to keep a low profile until the game, but we’re trying to keep this lighthearted and not get in anyone’s face,” the anonymous cadet told the New York Times. “And we want to assure Navy that we’ve been treating our guest with utmost deference. In fact, he’s been putting on weight.”
Bill was later returned to the Navy. Plans to shave an “A” for Army on him were not implemented, and the cadets were given amnesty in exchange for coming forward and revealing where they had stashed Bill the Goat.
He was returned before the Army-Navy game. That year, Navy beat Army, 58-12. Since then, the Navy has not lost to Army in the annual game.
That said, since then, the Navy has twice been victimized by operations aimed at this high-value target. In 2007, the Washington Examiner reported that Army cadets again pulled off this masterpiece of pranks, posting the video on YouTube (it was called “Operation Good Shepherd”).
In 2012, unidentified individuals snatched Bill and left him tied to a pole near the Pentagon, according to the Navy Times.
Past kidnappings also included the first in 1953, which prompted an order from President Dwight D. Eisenhower for the animal’s return. In 1960, the Air Force Academy captured Bill and flew him to a Colorado farm. An A-26 Invader was used as the getaway plane. A 1995 operation by Army cadets resulted in the capture of all three Navy mascots.
It’s African-American History Month and a fitting time to recall the black soldiers of the New York National Guard’s 15th Infantry Regiment, who never got a parade when they left for World War I in 1917.
There were New York City parades for the Guardsmen of the 27th Division and the 42nd Division and the draftee soldiers of the 77th Division.
But when the commander of the 15th Infantry asked to march with the 42nd — nicknamed the Rainbow Division — he was reportedly told that “black is not a color of the rainbow” as part of the no.
Children wait to cheer the Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment as they parade up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home. More than 2,000 Soldiers took part in the parade up Fifth Avenue. The Soldiers marched seven miles from downtown Manhattan to Harlem.
But on Feb. 17, 1919, when those 2,900 soldiers came home as the “Harlem Hell Fighters” of the 369th Infantry Regiment, New York City residents, both white and black, packed the streets as they paraded up Fifth Avenue.
“Fifth Avenue Cheers Negro Veterans,” said the headline in the New York Times.
“Men of 369th back from fields of valor acclaimed by thousands. Fine show of discipline. Harlem mad with joy over the return of its own. ‘Black Death hailed as conquering hero'” headlines announced, descending the newspaper column, in the style of the day.
“Hayward leads heroic 369th in triumphal march,” the New York Sun wrote.
“Throngs pay tribute to the Heroic 15th,” proclaimed the New York Tribune.
“Theirs is the finest of records,” the New York Tribune wrote in its coverage of the parade. “The entire regiment was awarded the Croix de Guerre. Under fire for 191 days they never lost a prisoner or a foot of ground.”
Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment parade up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.
For that day, the soldiers the French had nicknamed “Men of Bronze” were finally heroes in their hometown.
In the early 20th Century, black Americans could not join the New York National Guard. While there were African-American regiments in the Army there were none in the New York National Guard.
In 1916, New York Gov. Charles S. Whitman authorized the creation of the 15th New York Infantry to be manned by African-Americans — with white officers — and headquartered in Harlem where 50,000 of the 60,000 black residents of Manhattan lived in 1910.
When the New York National Guard went to war in 1917, so did the 15th New York. But when the unit showed up in Spartanburg, South Carolina, to train, the soldiers met discrimination at every turn.
New York City residents cram the sidewalks, roofs, and fire escape to see the Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment march up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.
To get his men out of South Carolina, Col. William Hayward, the commander, pushed for his unit to go to France as soon as possible. So in December 1917, well before most American soldiers, the men from Harlem arrived in France.
At first they served unloading supply ships.
But the French Army needed soldiers and the U.S. Army was ambivalent about black troops. So the 15th New York, now renamed the 369th Infantry, was sent to fight under French command, solving a problem for both armies.
In March 1918, the 369th was in combat. And while the American commander, Gen. John J. Pershing, restricted press reports on soldiers and units under his command, the French Army did not.
Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment parade up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.
When Pvt. Henry Johnson and Pvt. Needham Roberts won the French Croix de Guerre for fighting off a German patrol it was big news in the United States. A country hungry for war news and American heroes discovered the 369th.
The 369th was in combat for 191 days; never losing a position, never losing a man as a prisoner, and only failing once to gain an objective. Their unit band, led by famed bandleader James Europe, became famous across France for playing jazz music.
When the 369th arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey, on Feb. 10, 1919, the New York City Mayor’s Committee of Welcome to the Homecoming Troops began planning the party.
On Monday, Feb. 17, the soldiers traveled by ferry from Long Island and landed at East 34th Street.
Sgt. Henry Johnson waves to well-wishers during the 369th Infantry Regiment march up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.
They marched up Fifth Avenue and passed a reviewing stand that included Gov. Al Smith and Mayor John Hylan at Sixtieth Street. The official parade route would cover more than seven miles from 23rd Street to 145th Street and Lennox Avenue in Harlem.
“The negro soldiers were astonished at the hundreds of thousands who turned out to see them and New Yorkers, in their turn, were mightily impressed by the magnificent appearance of these fighting men,” the New York times reported.
“Swinging up the avenue, keeping a step spring with the swagger of men proud of themselves and their organization, their rows of bayonets glancing in the sun, dull-painted steel basins on their heads, they made a spectacle that might justify pity for the Germans and explain why the boches gave them the title of the “Blutdurstig schwartze manner” or “Bloodthirsty Black men,” the Times reporter wrote.
Wounded Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment are driven up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.
Lt. James Reese Europe marched with his band, the New York Tribune noted, while Sgt. Henry Johnson, who had killed four Germans and chased away 24 others, rode in a car because he had a “silver plate in his foot as a relic of that memorable occasion.”
“He stood up in the car and clutched a great bouquet of lilies an admirer had handed him,” the Tribune wrote about Johnson. “Waving this offering in one hand and his overseas hat in the other, the ebony hero’s way up Fifth Avenue was a veritable triumph.”
“Shouts of ‘Oh you Henry Johnson’ and ‘Oh you Black Death,’ resounded every few feet for seven long miles followed by condolences for the Kaiser’s men,” the New York Times reported.
Along the route of the march soldiers were tossed candy and cigarettes and flowers, the newspapers noted. Millionaire Henry Frick stood on the steps of his Fifth Avenue mansion and waved an American flag and cheered as the men marched past.
When the 369th turned off Fifth Avenue onto Lennox Avenue for the march into Harlem the welcome grew even louder, the New York Sun reported.
Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment parade up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.
“There were roars of welcome that made all the music of the day shrink into itself,” the Sun reporter wrote. And although the 369th Band had 100 musicians nobody could hear the music above the crowd noise, the reporter added.
People crammed themselves onto the sidewalk and into the windows of the buildings along the route to see their soldiers come home.
“Thousands and thousands of rattlesnakes, the emblem of the 369th, each snake coiled, ready to strike, appeared everywhere, in buttonholes, in shop windows and on banners carried by the crowd,” the New York Times reported.
“By the time the men reached 135th Street they were decorated with flowers like brides, husky black doughboys plunking along with bouquets under their arms and grins on their faces that one could see to read by,” the Sun reported.
At 145th Street the parade came to its end and families went looking for their soldiers.
“The fathers and mothers and wives and sweethearts of the men would no longer be denied and they swooped through police lines like water through a sieve,” the Sun wrote.
“The soldiers were too well trained to break ranks but when a mother spied her son and threw her arms around his neck with joy at getting him back again, he just hugged her off her feet,” the paper wrote.
The color guard of the 369th Infantry Regiment parades up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.
With the parade over, the men were guided into subway cars and headed to the Park Avenue Amory, home of the 71st Regiment, for a chicken dinner and more socializing. The regimental band, which had begun playing at 6 a.m. and performed all day, finally got a break during the dinner and the men lay down to rest.
The New York Times noted that the band boasted five kettle drums presented to the unit by the French Army “as a mark of esteem.” They also had a drum captured from a German unit that had been “driven back so rapidly that they lost interest in bulky impedimentia.”
The New York Times estimated that 10,000 people waited outside the armory and “all the spaces about the Armory were packed with negro women and girls.” The soldiers inside ate quickly and came back out to find their families.
“I saw the allied parade in Paris and thought that was about the biggest thing that had ever happened, but this had it stopped,” Lt. James Reese Europe, the band’s commander, told the New York Sun reporter as the party ran down.
Dale Dye is a veteran of the Vietnam war, accomplished actor, author, and entrepreneur, but most of the filmmaking world knows him as Hollywood’s drill sergeant. In a wide-ranging interview with Dye at his home, we spoke on a variety of topics, but one that really caught my interest were his thoughts on the military draft.
Before he became the legendary technical advisor that helped shape everything from “Born on the Fourth of July” to “Saving Private Ryan,” Dye served three tours as a Marine on the ground in Vietnam, and was a three-time recipient of the Purple Heart and recipient of the Bronze Star (with combat “V”) award for heroism. While conventional wisdom maintains the “all-volunteer force” of the modern U.S. military is the best approach, Dye thinks that ending the draft was a “terrible mistake.”
“There is a difference between a wartime draft and a peacetime draft,” Dye told WATM, in an interview at his home north of Hollywood. “Wartime draft, you take whatever shows up. Whatever comes, you know. Peacetime draft you can be more selective because of selective service pools in the neighborhoods and so on, so you get good guys. The reason I like it is this: with the all-volunteer force, and with the advent of social media and a number of other things, what’s happened is that we have become a ‘Me Generation.’ Its me, me, me. Its all about the sun rises and sets on my ass.”
The 70-year-old combat veteran — who volunteered to join the Marine Corps in 1964 and retired in 1984 — uses a colorful expression and doesn’t mince words. In his view, the draft brings people together to appreciate service to something higher than themselves.
“Now enter the military, and that rapidly changes. Our way of looking at it is that yours and mine is the antithesis of that. You worry about me, I worry about you. And then we both worry about the mission. Our personal crap is secondary. Nowadays, personal crap is primary, and it’s because there is no view of a larger mission. There is nothing bigger than me. [Veterans] know there is something bigger than us. And that is the country, our nation, and our Corps, and each other. And that is bigger than either one of us personally and we know that from our military experience.”
In Dye’s view, if people were drafted into the military, if would have a “huge beneficial effect” that would take people away from ‘me first’ into an ‘us first’ viewpoint — something that might close the civilian-military divide.
But he also sees military service as a way of bringing people together working toward a common goal, and building relationships from the shared experience. He continued:
“Point two, which is perhaps even more important, you know we are seeing deteriorating social relationships. Why? Well, I don’t have to talk to you, I can email your ass and never meet you. And furthermore, if I’m a white guy from Southeast Missouri, and you’re a black guy from Trenton, New Jersey, we would never run into each other and wouldn’t want to. Why would we? Nothing in common. So you give the nation a common denominator. That black guy from Trenton, New Jersey and the Hispanic guy from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the white guy from Missouri and you shuffle them together in a military experience, and for the first time you find out that black guy is a human being just like I am. And all these prejudices and nonsense are just that, nonsense. And you learn about the Latino guy, and the Latino guy and the black guy learn about you. And what happens is, you lose some of these preconceptions. This nonsense, and I saw it happen when the draft was there. And its wonderful for the country. We are no longer living in little cliques. [Military service members] have been there. We’ve been in the military … we know the black guys are the same as the white guy, and the white guy knows that the Latino guy is the same as he is. And I think that is exceedingly valuable. And that’s point two, and we lost it when we got rid of the draft.”
After serving in Vietnam as an infantryman and a combat correspondent, Dye served for a number of years before he retired from the Marine Corps and moved to Los Angeles with the idea of bringing more realism to Hollywood films. Despite the door being shut in his face plenty of times, his persistence paid off when Oliver Stone took him on as a military technical advisor for “Platoon.”
In the latest episode of Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen has finally done it. She’s managed to pull off her version of one of “Mad Dog” Mattis’s signature moments — albeit after some serious military blunders and at least one close call.
Early on in the episode “Eastwatch,” Daenerys gave a speech that boiled down to “I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you f#ck with me, I’ll kill you all.”
Well, Randyll Tarly and his son Dickon f#cked with the Mother of Dragons and became crispy critters as a result. The demonstration was effective – in essence, the Breaker of Chains is telling Westeros that they can have “no better friend, no worse enemy” than her.
Not so well-known, though is the fact that Jon Snow is obeying another teaching from “St. Mattis of Quantico.”
In 2010, Mattis famously said:
In this age, I don’t care how tactically or operationally brilliant you are, if you cannot create harmony — even vicious harmony — on the battlefield based on trust across service lines, across coalition and national lines, and across civilian/military lines, you need to go home, because your leadership is obsolete. We have got to have officers who can create harmony across all those lines.
Jon Snow has demonstrated this multiple times throughout the series. He’s managed to stitch together numerous alliances over six-plus seasons – to the point that he now has a coalition of Northerners, Free Folk, Knights of the Vale, and is now carrying out a special operation with the Westerosi version of the “Dirty Dozen.”
Now, for a case of the stupids.
Arya Stark is falling for an “AF is low on water” gambit being run by “Littlefinger” Baelish. Unless Arya can keep calm and ask why Littlefinger wants her to have that specific document, it looks like the Stark girls are headed for trouble – and we could see a fight between Brienne and Arya that is for real.
This past weekend marked the 71st anniversary of the Allies’ D-Day landing at Normandy, France, which ultimately led to the liberation of France from Nazi control.
But what if the Allies had never launched their seaborne invasion, leaving Europe in the hands of Hitler and Nazi Germany?
Amazon Studios provides the answer with “The Man In The High Castle,” a new original series that was recently greenlit by Amazon for a full season after becoming the most watched show since Amazon’s original-series development program began. The show is smart, fun, and polished, and it sports a five-star user rating.
Produced by Ridley Scott, the show is based on a 1962 Philip K. Dick novel about a world in which the Nazis and the Japanese won World War II. Of all of Dick’s classics, it was the only one to win science fiction’s preeminent Hugo Award. Scott, who directed another Dick adaptation in “Blade Runner,” started developing in 2010 what would surprisingly be the book’s first screen adaptation.
It takes place in 1962 in a conquered America that has been divided into the Greater Nazi Reich, from the Atlantic to the Rockies, and the Japanese Pacific States, on the Pacific Coast.
The opening scene shows a propaganda film about life in America, which chillingly demonstrates how Americans might come to accept Nazi overlords.
“It’s a new day,” the narrator says. “The sun rises in the east. Across our land men and women go to work in factories and farms providing for their families. Everyone has a job. Everyone knows the part they play keeping our country strong and safe. So today we give thanks to our brave leaders, knowing we are stronger and prouder and better.”
Only the end of the film explicitly references the Nazi takeover:
“Yes, it’s a new day in our proud land, but our greatest days may lie ahead. Sieg heil!”
Here’s a look at Nazi Times Square:
Here’s Japanese San Francisco:
As the propaganda film suggests, aspects of life in Nazi/Japanese America are not bad, even as the overlords brutally repress all resistance. The winners of the war — particularly the Germans, who in the show’s alternate history developed the first atomic bomb — are living in a technological and economic boom as great as anything America saw in the real postwar era.
Given this rosy portrayal, it’s all the more shocking when there’s a reminder of how inhuman the Axis powers could be. In one scene, a volunteer for the resistance is driving through the middle of the country for the first time. He is talking with a Nazi police officer, who helped him change a flat tire, when ashes began falling like snow.
“Oh, it’s the hospital,” the cop says. “Tuesdays, they burn cripples, the terminally ill — drag on the state.”
Military brochures are colorful and glossy, full of awesome pictures showing service members doing some really cool stuff. These pictures usually feature troops flying in helicopters, firing weapons, riding in amphibious assault vehicles, jumping from aircraft, and traveling the world.
There is no question a military career can be very exciting. However, just like any other profession, there can be some mundane tasks that seem unusual and flat-out odd. This is especially true in the military. Here are 7 pictures you won’t see in a military recruiting brochure.
1. Area Beautification (Operation Clean Sweep)
This detail is very common throughout U.S. military bases around the world. One of the most well-known area beatification events happens in the home of the U.S. Army Airborne and Special Operations at Fort Bragg, N.C. Each May, thousands of personnel take part in “Operation Clean Sweep,” an extravagant term simply meaning a post-wide clean-up effort in preparation for the 82nd’s Airborne All-American Week, a week-long celebration of the famed division.
During Clean Sweep, Soldiers don their PT belts, grab their rakes, and gas up the lawn mowers to bring the “fight” to overgrown weeds, nasty cigarette butts, spit bottles and other items that would make your grandma blush. You can see why these images don’t make for exciting marketing products.
2. Cleaning the Barracks (GI Party)
This is one party you don’t want to be invited to. Service members living in the barracks are used to hearing the expression “G.I. party,” a term originally used during World War II to clean up the living quarters.
This detail has service members cleaning the hell out of the barracks in preparation for an inspection. So grab the buffer, gather the Simple Green, and get the trash bags, it’s party time!
3. Painting Things
1st Lt. Edwin Roman paints steps in barracks 4295 at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., Nov. 25, 2014. Staff noncommissioned officers and officers of Marine Air Control Group 28 cleaned and renovated the barracks in an effort to give back to the Marines during the holiday season. The Marines worked on various projects including, painting, landscaping and fixing furniture. Roman is a communications officer with Marine Air Support Squadron 1.
Put a paint brush in the hands of a military member and they will paint anything. Whether it is painting rocks, trees, the walls at the barracks, or curbs on the road, military commands always have tons of paint cans around, keeping the good folks at DuPont very happy.
4. Chute Shake
Remember all the fun you had as a child, shaking the rainbow colored parachute during gym class. While this is not that kind of parachute shake, “shaking chutes” is one of the worst details in the Airborne community. It can sometimes take an entire night, where personnel spend their time in a tower hanging hundreds of chutes, untangling lines that are in massive knots, and taking out weeds and debris caught on the parachute after dragging a Paratrooper across the drop zone. This detail makes you appreciate your childhood.
5. Swabbing the Deck
Arrr matey! This detail is straight up old-school going back hundreds of years. This is probably not what new Sailors had in mind when they were told the Navy would “accelerate their life.”
6. Kitchen Patrol or KP
KP duty at the mess hall or galley consists of duties such as food preparation, dish washing, sweeping and mopping floors, wiping tables, serving food on the chow line, or anything else that needs to get done.
Just make it get done or the mess sergeant will go all Gordon Ramsay on you!
In January 1961, the U.S. Army suffered its only nuclear accident and the only fatal nuclear accident in the United States. The accident was caused by the manual removal of a control rod in a nuclear reactor in Idaho. The resulting explosion killed two Army specialists and a Navy Electrician’s Mate. One of the Army specialists, Richard McKinley, was so irradiated that his body had be interred in a lead-lined casket, covered in cement and placed in a metal vault before burial.
The special grave is now at Arlington National Cemetery where it is under special watch, unable to be moved without permission from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.
That’s not really what we think of at Arlington National Cemetery.
The official cause of the explosion was ruled an accident, although some suspect it might have been a suicide due to the nature of the accident. In the nighttime hours of Jan. 3, 1961, three enlisted men working the reactor at an experimental Idaho-based Reactor Testing Station were killed when one of the nuclear core’s control rods were removed manually.
That is to say one of the men removed the uranium-235 control rod 50 centimeters – with his hands. Just 40 centimeters was enough to send the reactor to critical.
And it did send the reactor critical, immediately unleashing 20,000 MW in .01 seconds, causing the nuclear fuel to melt. The melted uranium began to interact with the water in the reactor and produced a violent explosion of steam that caused part of the core to rise three meters in the air.
In the late 1970s, it was even alleged that the incident was an intentional murder-suicide.
Army Specialist John Byrnes and Navy Electricians Mate Richard Legg were also killed in the incident, the first and only deadly nuclear incident on U.S. soil. They were buried in their hometowns. Specialist Richard McKinley would have to be buried elsewhere – somewhere his irradiated body could not harm anyone else.
When the specialist removed the control rod by hand, he had already absorbed enough radiation to kill him a few times over but the resulting steam explosion sent the rod flying through his body, contaminating it with long-life radioactive isotopes.
He was placed in a lead casket, covered in concrete and sealed in a metal container. His body now rests in Arlington National Cemetery. Along with delivery of the body came the orders from the Assistant Adjutant General of Arlington Cemetery:
“Victim of nuclear accident. Body is contaminated with long-life radio-active isotopes. Under no circumstances will the body be moved from this location without prior approval of the Atomic Energy Commission in consultation with this headquarters.”
The April 2 attack in Garissa, Kenya, was the deadliest and most heinous atrocity the Somali terrorist group Al Shabaab has ever committed.
Gunmen from Al Qaeda’s affiliate in the Horn of Africa stormed a university campus in the city, killing 147 people after an hours-long siege. It’s the deadliest terrorist attack in Kenya since the 1998 Al Qaeda bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi in which 224 people were killed.
The terrorist attack demonstrates an ongoing security threat in one of the most stable and prosperous countries in sub-Saharan Africa — and it shows how jihadist groups can remain dangerous even as they lose territory and leadership.
On Twitter, Colby College political science professor Laura Seay noted the extraordinary sacrifice it requires for a family to even send someone to college in a place so much closer to Kenya’s arid and impoverished eastern desert frontier than it is to just about any of its major cities.
“Today’s loss is immeasurable,” she tweeted.
Al Shabaab didn’t just choose the softest of targets; it attacked a place where it could wipe out as many young, promising, and educated people as it possibly could.
In the Westgate Mall attack in September of 2013, Shabaab struck at the heart of Kenyan business and trade, attacking Nairobi’s famed status as east Africa’s cosmopolitan crossroads. The Garissa attack was even deadlier and perhaps even grimmer in its messaging. Shabaab struck Kenyan society where they knew it would hurt the most.
The Garissa attack is shocking for yet another reason. Al Shabaab has repeatedly struck outside of its safe haven in southern Somalia over the past year, carrying out a series of gun attacks around the coastal town of Mpeketoni, Kenya, that killed over 60 people during the summer of 2014.
It’s retained its external attack capabilities and command structure despite suffering what would seem to be a series of debilitating setbacks. In January, the former head of Shabaab internal intelligence, who had earlier surrendered himself to Somali authorities, publicly denounced terrorism and urged his former colleagues to lay down their arms.
A September 2014 drone strike killed Ahmed Godane, Shabaab’s domineering leader and one of the most-wanted terrorists in Africa. Another drone strike on March 18 killed Adnan Garaar, the head of Shabaab’s external operations and the mastermind of the Westgate attack.
But Shabaab has forged a new model for how declining terrorist groups can remain dangerous, as analyst Clint Watts argued in a World Politics Review article published just before the Garissa massacre.
Shabaab has done nothing but splinter, vacate territory, and lose top leadership since ruling over most of Somalia and nearly all of its capital, Mogadishu, in 2010. Even so, Watts observes that “a sizeable military coalition is still fighting in the Horn of Africa more than four years after the group’s zenith,” a reference to an ongoing African Union military mission in Somalia in which Kenya is a longtime participant.
Shabaab has kept itself intact by retreating into the southern Somali wilderness and refocusing its efforts around large-scale attacks rather than holding or governing massive swaths of territory. Just a week before the Garissa attack, Shabaab killed over 20 people during a raid on a hotel in Mogadishu, including a Somali diplomat.
Even after years of decline, Shabaab has a remote safe haven that’s preserved its ability to pull off large-scale attacks in multiple countries in consecutive weeks.
More worrying is Shabaab’s deep network in neighboring Kenya, which is home to a sizable Somali minority as well as refugees from Somalia’s devastating famine, which had killed over a quarter-million people by 2013 and was greatly exacerbated by Shabaab’s refusal to allow aid groups into areas it controlled.
As Caroline Hellyer wrote for Al Jazeera two weeks before the Garissa attack, Shabaab’s relationship with a “hardline underground group” called al-Hijra gives it a ready-made network in Kenya and Tanzania, allowing it to recruit extremist elements well beyond Somalia.
One grim upshot of the Garissa attack is that it demonstrates Shabaab’s broad operational capabilities in Kenya, East Africa’s cultural, economic, and political leader and a US strategic ally. The region doesn’t have to deal with a Shabaab-ruled Somalia — but it may have swapped that problem for a Shabaab that has even greater ambitions to strike outside of its diminished Somali safe haven.
On a cold afternoon in early January, 1948, control tower operators at Godman Army Airfield in Fort Knox, Kentucky, became aware of the presence of a mysterious object floating in the skies of the base. Reports from nearby highway patrol officers who also saw the unidentified flying object were enough to prove to the controllers that they weren’t just seeing things.
After a number of senior officers, including the base’s commanding officer, were called up to the tower in an attempt to make sense of what they were seeing, though none were able to actually clarify what exactly they saw through their binoculars. Military personnel at bases in southern Ohio were also able to see the UFO, which remained hovering over a spot before descending to the earth and the rapidly rising out of sight.
Around the same time of the UFO sighting, a four-ship flight of F-51 Mustangs led by Capt. Thomas Mantell of the Kentucky Air National Guard were on their way to Godman. Mantell, a decorated former Army Air Corps transport pilot with combat time during D-Day in 1944, was notified by the control tower about the UFO, and was soon ordered to fly over and identify the peculiar floating object.
Three of the four Mustangs in the flight banked towards the UFO, while one returned to base thanks to a low fuel readout. Pushing their throttles forward, the three F-51 pilots with Mantell in the lead raced to the object.
One F-51 had to break off the pursuit, due to low oxygen levels. The second remaining F-51 pilot from the flight was also unable to continue with the chase, ending his run at 22,500 ft before returning to base. Mantell doggedly carried onwards, punching through the clouds.
Controllers attempted to communicate with the 25-year-old fighter pilot, but to no avail. Mantell’s Mustang was last seen in a death spiral, dropping from the clouds like a rock until it impacted earth, shattering into pieces. The young captain was killed on impact, his wristwatch stopped at precisely the time of his demise.
The Air Force’s investigation into the incident was immediate. The UFO had disappeared, and a fighter pilot had been killed — the general public was already frenzied at the prospect of malignant extraterrestrials from other worlds attacking the one they lived in.
Initially, investigators theorized that Mantell was killed “trying to reach the planet Venus.” As crazy as that sounds, the theory held some weight. F-51 pilots had been fooled into thinking that the planet Venus, unusually bright in the night sky at that time of year, was a UFO and had given chase just weeks prior to the Mantell incident.
Though this was the official explanation after Mantell’s crash, astronomers at the Ohio State University disproved this hypothesis in the years after, as the sky was still too bright and hazy in the day for Venus to be clearly observed and followed by the four F-51s of the Kentucky air guard.
A second, more plausible theory, was put forward. Mantell might have actually been pursuing a Navy Skyhook weather balloon. At the time, the Skyhook was part of a highly-classified observation program which neither Mantell and his fellow F-51 pilots nor the Godman airfield controllers would have been read into.
The shape, size and general look of a Skyhook with sunlight glinting off its surfaces would have been similar to what the controllers and pilots saw that fateful day in 1948. Mantell’s loss was partially blamed on his inexperience with the Mustang, though he had accumulated over 2,000 flight hours during his service as a military pilot.
His unwillingness to give up chasing the UFO, even when faced with the potential for oxygen deprivation and starvation in the unpressurized cockpit, caused the pilot to black out after experiencing hypoxia. Only one F-51 in his flight was equipped with an oxygen system – Mantell’s lacked such gear. His Mustang then fell back to earth without him in control.
As plausible as the official statement on Mantell’s untimely passing was, the general public took what happened with a massive air of suspicion. Details on the F-51’s crash didn’t add up, and the fact that the UFO was visible from other military bases and surrounded locales and roadways led many to believe that it was part of a government cover-up.
Though the Air Force’s official explanation for the Mantell incident has remained unchanged over the years, many still question it today, and have since viewed the service’s mad dash to come up with answers as a sign of the military hiding the existence of alien life forms.
The Arctic is full of mineral and oil resources, and international sea lanes are opening up there as global warming melts more of the ice.
Though ownership of the resources has been largely settled for years, rising international tensions between Russia and most of the other countries with Arctic claims could lead to a confrontation in the ice. The U.S. and four of its NATO allies have rights to Arctic shipping and minerals. Russia has probed the defenses or otherwise threatened each of them in recent months. (Iceland, Norway, Denmark, and Canada.)
Russia’s maps of the Canadian Arctic are better than Canada’s, according to The Globe and Mail. While the U.S. Navy rarely sails surface ships there and maintains limited submarine patrols, Russia spent the Cold War under the Arctic ice. Their military still has many of the maps and other documents on how the Soviets learned to operate, and Russia still conducts large exercises like the one described above.
The cold waters of the Arctic can wreak havoc on ships. Part of the reason the Titanic sunk was that its hull become too brittle at cold temperatures. For the Navy to protect its ships from a similar problem in the much colder Arctic, the ships would need to be “ice hardened,” but that process costs as much as 33 percent of the price of buying a completely new temperate ship.
While the Coast Guard’s limited Arctic capabilities allow it to conduct limited rescue missions on the ice, neither it nor the Navy can park any ships that far north due to a complete absence of American deepwater ports. This increases reaction times for any emergency or military operation.
The Navy isn’t even planning on being fully Arctic-capable until 2030
While the Navy understands its problems in the Arctic, budget constraints and other missions keep it from being able to pivot north. The long-term plan for the Arctic doesn’t even call for full operational capability there until 2030, though they want more sailors trained and prepared by 2020.
Secretary of War Henry Knox was a hero of the American Revolution, the father of the American artillery corps and the namesake of a major U.S. base.
Too bad he was a huge blue falcon, otherwise known as a “buddy f-cker.”
Veterans of the Revolutionary War were promised large land bounties in exchange for their service, but crazy rules were placed on the land bounties that limited soldiers’ abilities to actually settle on it or farm. Most vets were forced to sell the land cheap to speculators.
Martin and others who’d been blue falconed by Knox went bankrupt. Martin later testified that he had, “no real nor personal estate, nor any income whatever, my necessary bedding and wearing apparel excepted, except two cows, six sheep, one pig.”
In Henry Knox’s defense, some of the lands the veterans were living on belonged to his wife’s family before the war. Knox’s father-in-law was a land speculator and loyalist who wanted America to stay a part of Britain. When the Revolution turned against him, he and his family — but not Knox and his wife — fled the colonies. Knox’s wife then inherited much of the land and Knox enforced her claims.
But, other land was purchased out from under veterans and Knox didn’t hesitate to kick his former soldiers out.
And this wasn’t the only time Knox had “b f-ed” his troops.
The Criminal Investigation Command is often known as CID and its special agents carry CID badges. This is a tie to the unit’s history as the command was originally formed as the Criminal Investigation Division in 1918 by the commander of the American Expeditionary Force, Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing.
Agents from the CID go in anytime the Army is — or might have been — a party to a major crime. This includes violent crimes like murder and rape as well as white-collar infractions like computer fraud.
Approximately 2,000 soldiers are assigned to CID, 900 of which are special agents. These soldiers investigate the crime on their own or in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies. Agents can build cases, request arrest warrants, and detain suspects the same as other federal law enforcement officers.
The Army CID gives commanders an option for investigating major crimes on their installations or at deployed locations, but the agents do not fall under their installation’s chain of command. The CID units report up the chain to the CIC commanding general who, in turn, reports directly to the Army Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Army.
This allows CID agents to conduct their investigations with less fear of repercussions from senior leaders on base.
A U.S. Army reserve agent practices clearing a corner as part of responding to an active shooter training during Guardian Shield, Aug. 1, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Audrey Hayes)
During times of war, CID can be called upon to investigate war crimes. Massacres, the use of illegal weapons like chemical and biological agents, and many crimes against humanity would fall within their purview.
But CID agents do more than just investigate crimes. The 701st Military Police Group (CID) contains the U.S. Army Protective Services Battalion. The Protective Services Battalion is tasked with guarding key Army leaders, the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Staff.
They also provide security for other leaders when tasked, including the senior leaders of allied militaries.
Agents for all CID positions are recruited largely from within the Army, though there is a direct accessions program that allows civilian college graduates to join.
“No one left behind” is an often-heard mantra in military units. Popularized by feats like the ‘Black Hawk Down’ operation, it enhances esprit de corps in a unit. It also emboldens warriors to perhaps go a step further during combat, assured that they wouldn’t be left alone in case things turn sour. But how far would a unit go to recover one of its own?
Helmand Province, Afghanistan, January 15, 2007.
Royal Marines Commandos from Z Company of 45 Commando launch an assault on a Taliban fort. The 200 Commandos enjoy armor and 155mm artillery support. Overhead, U.S. B-1 bombers and British Apache Longbow AH-64 helicopters provide a silent assurance with their potent arsenal and infrared cameras.
The Jugroom Fort, a strategically vital position in Garmsir, Southern Helmand, overlooks the Helmand River. Today, it’s packed with Taliban fighters.
The Marines ford the river in their Viking APCs and assault the fortified structure. Heavy combat ensues. Despite their overwhelming firepower, the Commandos are forced to withdraw. Once back in their launching position, a muster goes around, and a grim discovery is made: Lance Corporal Mathew Ford is missing.
Using its infrared camera, one of the AH-64 Apaches spots a lone figure pulsing with a weak heat-signature tucked away in a corner of the Fort. The Taliban all around seem impervious to its existence—but for how long?
A rescue operation must be shift before the insurgents realize what’s going on.
The Commando officers argue for a ground rescue operation, but the higher-ups back in Camp Bastion waiver fearing more casualties. Meanwhile, LCpl. Ford’s brothers-in-arms fume. They decide to take the situation into their own hands. Alongside some of the Apache pilots, they devise a bold rescue plan. Four Commandos strap themselves to the wings of two of the Apaches. A third chopper will follow and try to suppress any Taliban.
The Army Air Corps’ pilots fly their Apaches just 20ft above the ground, at 60mph.
The British Commandos land within the Fort’s walls. The Commandos jump from the wings and begin searching for the missing comrade. A few of the pilots join them armed with their personal sidearms.
They find LCpl. Ford—he is unconscious.
Recovering their fallen comrade, they re-mount the choppers and safely fly back to their positions.
It was later discovered that the 30-year-old Ford was dead when the rescue force arrived. But the grimmest discovery came in the autopsy. Ford had been zipped by friendly-fire. It later became known that one of his buddies mistook a hand-grenade flash close to Ford’s position for gunfire and shot him.
Despite rumors of a court-martial for their actions, the whole rescue team was honored. Two of the Apache pilots received the Distinguished Flying Cross, one of the highest military awards. The rest of the pilots alongside the four Commandos received the Military Cross.
So, if you find yourself alongside Royal Marines Commandos or any British Apache pilots, you can rest assured that they won’t leave you behind.