It was one of the most beloved and abused weapons in the history of warfare. The Browning Automatic Rifle was the weapon of choice for infantrymen, vehicle crews, and even gangsters from its debut in World War I, through two World Wars and Korea to the jungles of Vietnam.
The BAR was invented by its namesake, John Browning, in 1917 for use in World War I. The Army, newly arrived in Europe to fight on the Western Front, was told that machine guns were the way to go in the new war, and America agreed.
One of the first soldiers to carry the BAR into combat was Browning’s own son, 2nd Lt. Val Browning. Browning and his men employed the weapon at the Meuse-Argonne offensive to good effect just like thousands of other soldiers in the war.
Just as important, the BAR was very accurate for such a light automatic weapon. It was employed in a counter-sniper role by shooters firing quick bursts at known or suspected enemy positions, suppressing or killing the enemy.
In World War II, the attributes that made the BAR so great for trench-fighting also made it great for sweeping Nazis and Japanese soldiers from bunkers. It was mostly chambered in .30-06 that left the barrel at 2,682 feet per second.
While the Browning was able to reprise its World War II infantry role in Korea, the 1957 debut of the M60 machine gun forced the BAR from the top spot in Vietnam. Still, it was a valuable asset for special operators and as a weapon for vehicle crews.
But that was the swan song for the BAR in American service. The M249 was introduced into the American arsenal in 1984, nine years after the Vietnam War ended. When the Invasion of Panama took place in 1989, it was M60s and M249s that sprayed lead downrange in the BAR’s stead.
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first person in history to dismount a lunar space module and walk on the moon. It was then that he spoke those famous words,
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
That epic moment had millions of Americans glued to their television sets, witnessing history in the making.
The moon is positioned 240,000 miles away from Earth and, as far as we knew, Armstrong’s famous moment marked the first time a flag was ever planted into the extraterrestrial surface — a landscape pocked with inactive volcanoes, impact craters, and lava flows.
The only problem is, it wasn’t actually the first time a flag was placed on the moon. We may have beaten the Soviets by putting the first man on the moon, but they get the credit for planting the first flag.
Toward the end of the 1950s, Russia beat the U.S. by firing a satellite called Sputnik into orbit. The thought of Russia beating the United States in the “space race” left many Americans scared sh*tless. They believed that if the Soviets possessed a type of lunar technology, they might be able to fire weapons at the U.S. aimed from space.
So, when the Russians successfully put an object into orbit, the American government responded by further funding and speeding up their space program. The Soviets took notice and quickly fired a rocket toward moon, which crash-landed on its surface. That rocket, however, was carrying a Russian flag inside. Technically, the Russians had placed a flag on the moon.
It was a slick move, but the American government made sure to tell the Russians that their shady act didn’t give them any territorial rights in space.
Then-Vice President Nixon was incensed by the Soviets’ ballsy move and was sure to remind everybody that it took them four tries to even hit the moon. In 1960, Presidential nominee John F. Kennedy promised Americans that if he were elected, he would win the “space race.”
Kennedy kept that promise on the day Armstrong touched down on Lunar soil.
Since 2001, Lockheed Martin and US military planners have been putting together the F-35, a new aircraft that promises to revolutionize aerial combat so thoroughly as to leave it unrecognizable to the general public.
Detractors of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter have long criticized the program as taking too long and costing too much, though overruns commonly occur when developing massive, first-in-class projects like the F-35.
But perhaps the most damning criticism of the F-35 came from a 2015 assessment that F-16s, first fielded in the 1970s, had handily defeated a group of F-35s in mock dogfight tests.
According to Lt. Col. David “Chip” Berke, the only US Marine to fly both the F-22 and the F-35, the public has a lot of learning to do when assessing a jet’s capability in warfare.
“The whole concept of dogfighting is so misunderstood and taken out of context,” Berke said in an interview with Business Insider. “We need to do a better job teaching the public how to assess a jet’s capability in warfare.”
“There is some idea that when we talk about dogfighting it’s one airplane’s ability to get another airplane’s 6 and shoot it with a gun … That hasn’t happened with American planes in maybe 40 years,” Berke said.
“Everybody that’s flown a fighter in the last 25 years — we all watched ‘Top Gun,'” said Berke, referring to the 1986 film in which US Navy pilots take on Russian-made MiGs.
But planes don’t fight like that anymore, and comparing different planes’ statistics on paper and trying to calculate or simulate which plane can get behind the other is “kind of an arcane way of looking at it,” Berke said.
Unlike older planes immortalized in films, the F-35 doesn’t need to face its adversary to destroy it. The F-35 can fire “off boresight,” virtually eliminating the need to jockey for position behind an enemy.
Berke said dogfighting would teach pilots “great skill sets” but conflict within visual range “doesn’t always mean a turning fight within 100 feet of the other guy maneuvering for each other’s 6 o’clock.” Berke also made an important distinction that conflicts within visual range do not always become dogfights.
Also, “within visual range” is a tricky term.
“You could not see a guy who’s a mile away, or you could see a guy at 15 miles if you got lucky,” Berke said, adding that with today’s all-aspect weapons systems, a plane can “be effective in a visual fight from offensive, defensive, and neutral positions.”
“We need to stop judging a fighter’s ability based on wing loading and Gs,” Berke said of analysts who prize specifications on paper over pilots’ insights.
Furthermore, Berke, who has several thousand flying hours in four different airplanes, both fourth and fifth generation, stressed that pilots train to negate or avoid conflicts within visual range — and he said no plane did that better than the F-35.
“Just because I knew I could outmaneuver an enemy, my objective wouldn’t be to get in a turning fight and kill him,” Berke said.
Though it might be news to fans of “Top Gun” and the gritty, “Star Wars”-style air-to-air combat depicted in TV and films, the idea of a “dogfight” long ago faded from relevance in the world of aerial combat.
A newer, less sexy term has risen to take its place: situational awareness. And the F-35 has it in spades.
Just a few years ago, I was a diplomat working on the Turkish-Syrian border. My job was managing the U.S. government team responsible for delivering aid to Syrian towns and cities loyal to the Syrian opposition.
These were towns that had turned against President Bashar al-Assad when the Arab Spring swept across the Middle East and Assad ordered his army to shoot peaceful civilians protesting against him.
Now I’m retired from the Foreign Service and teaching international relations at the University of Washington in Seattle, where my students struggle to understand why the U.S. never seems to learn from past mistakes in the conduct of our foreign affairs.
With much of the civil service gone, local services like water and electricity fell apart and essential public employees fled. That left a perfect vacuum for extremist groups like IS to exploit by taking control of essentially ungoverned territory. The U.S. continues to pay the price for this avoidable decision today.
If the U.S. cuts off support for communities inside Syria that oppose Bashar al-Assad and fly the Syrian Opposition flag, and withdraws American troops from the fight against IS – as President Trump has announced – we will be making the same mistake again. We’ll be creating a vacuum our enemies can exploit.
Syrian refugees will never go back home if their towns can’t offer the basic services they enjoyed before the war.
Our simple strategy was that when peace returns to Syria, key local officials would still be on the job, ready to reconnect their communities to the national systems that provided services before the war.
Thus would begin the long, difficult process of reuniting Syria.
The money and supplies my team and I delivered helped keep important local officials on the job so they wouldn’t give up and flee their country to seek refuge in Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan, like millions of others before them. These were experienced civilians who could keep the water and power on, manage the sewers and clean the streets.
We helped them with small stipends – a portion of their former salary – because the Syrian government had stopped paying them. And we provided equipment they needed to do their jobs: garbage trucks, generators, water tanks and fire trucks. We helped teachers, doctors and local police with small stipends, supplies and equipment, too.
Nothing was more satisfying for me than seeing videos of a new garbage truck that we sent from Turkey removing piles of garbage from the streets of Saraqib or one of the new ambulances we provided tending to innocent civilians injured in the latest barrel bombing in Aleppo.
International aid paid for the rehabilitation of an unreliable electricity grid in a town near Aleppo, Syria in 2015.
It’s in everyone’s interest to keep civil service workers on the job, paid something and equipped. That will help put Syria back together again someday and deny ungoverned space for IS and other extremist groups. The last thing the U.S. and countries in the region need is for Syria to disintegrate into warring regions, like Iraq and Libya today.
Other countries joined the effort to rebuild Syria, notably the U.K., the Netherlands and Denmark. Still more countries are contributing to an international fund based in Jordan that helps the same communities; my team cooperated closely with this effort.
Stopping this funding means jeopardizing Syria’s future at the worst possible time, just as the conflict appears to be coming to an end. I believe that reuniting the country should be the priority now.
Of course, the Syrian government and its supporters, Russia and Iran, opposed our aid. The assistance we gave sustained communities that the government and its allies continue to bomb into submission and surrender, particularly in Idlib province.
Similarly, withdrawing U.S. troops sent to Syria to eliminate IS – when our own count suggests at least 1,000 IS fighters remain there – may serve short term political ends, but will likely come back to haunt the U.S. and Syria’s neighbors.
President Trump may worry about the price tag for rebuilding Syria, once the war ends. He is right to be concerned. The cost will be enormous and arguably the U.S. should not spend a dime.
The old adage – you broke it, you fix it – applies to the Syria conflict. I believe we should let Syria, Russia and Iran pay the billions it will take to fix what they broke – the infrastructure of bombed-out cities and towns.
The modest U.S. investment in local communities that the White House cut off – 0 million, not billions – could have helped prevent the collapse of communities in the future.
So, what do I tell my students in Seattle?
I remind them that they are our future leaders. I tell them that if we are not to repeat the mistakes of my generation, they should study and learn from history, and avoid short-term fixes to disentangle the U.S. from future foreign interventions.
“Silver bullets” don’t work – and usually force us to return later, at a greater cost.
Military trainers in Germany just wrapped up a four-day competition to determine the best sniper squad in Europe and a Norwegian team took first place at the end of 27 events designed to test key tasks that snipers must complete in combat.
Eleven countries sent squads to the competition, and the U.S. sent five squads including paratroopers and Marines.
The competition, hosted by the U.S. Army Europe and organized by the 7th Army Training Command, took place at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany. Participants took part in multiple shooting competitions as well as casualty evacuation, ruck marching, and other general military events.
“The competition challenged the competitors’ physical and mental toughness as well as their marksmanship proficiency,” said U.S. Army Maj. Erick Nyingi, the officer in charge of the competition.
One of the most suspenseful and distinctly sniper-oriented events was the stalking lane, where squads had to proceed as far as possible without being detected by observers.
Some high-octane events included a high-angle shot lane where snipers rode in a Black Hawk helicopter and had to engage two targets in under two minutes using three rounds or less. There was also a water shoot where the snipers engaged targets from a boat.
The sniper squad competition is the 2016 version of the annual Best Squad competition held by U.S. Army Europe. Each year focuses on a different type of squad. Last year, it was infantry squads.
No matter which type of unit is highlighted, the goal is to bring NATO members and other allies together to share tactics and engage in friendly competition so the troops can share new tactics, and training techniques.
“Overall the competition will definitely meet the objective of getting the squads to exchange ideas and [tactics],” Nyingi said. “There was a lot of collaboration after each day’s events, and I believe the greatest dividends will be realized from this exchange of ideas.”
The jet age ushered in an era of intense competition for military aircraft that pushed the envelope of design and pitted some of the country’s top engineers against the toughest problems the Pentagon could come up with.
In the end, only one could be chosen, which begs the question whether the fight would have been different had the losing designs won.
The YA-9, the YF-23, the YF-17, the X-32 — these are all planes that came up just short in competition for top-dollar military contracts.
But would they have been better choices, looking back over the years?
Let’s take a good look and see.
1. Northrop A-9
Beaten out by the A-10 Thunderbolt II (aka “Warthog”), the Northrop YA-9 did offer a higher top speed than the tank buster the Air Force eventually adopted.
Ultimately, that was one big factor in the A-10’s victory – Fairchild’s designers had used off-the-shelf systems and locked the design down.
The fact is you have to look at the results the aircraft that was ultimately delivered. The A-10 has been a legend in its ability to not only deliver ordnance on target, but to come back after being shot up.
In this case, the right call was the A-10.
2. Northrop YF-17
The F-16 has been one of the most-produced combat aircraft in recent years – over 4,500 have been built, and some orders are still coming in. There’s even controversy over handing the production line over to India.
Yet it could have been a different plane. Northrop’s YF-17 was the other candidate in what was becoming a big contest as NATO allies sought to replace their F-104 Starfighters, and Congress told the Navy that they’d be getting the winner as well.
But the YF-17 was not to be – as the Air Force went with the F-16. Aviation writer Joe Baugher notes that the difference-maker in the decision was the F-16’s proven engine, even though the YF-17 was better in some areas.
The Navy and Marine Corps would eventually modify the YF-17 into the F/A-18 Hornet, which has proven itself as a mainstay of carrier air wings since the 1990s.
Could the YF-17 have been the Joint Strike Fighter about 35 years ago? That is a very intriguing question. Still, you can’t argue with the F-16’s success, and so the F-16 was probably the right call to make.
3. Northrop/McDonnell-Douglas YF-23
Wow… Northrop’s being mentioned a lot in this piece, isn’t it? The YF-23 is yet another plane that came just short of the production nod.
Northrop named the plane the Black Widow II (as an interesting piece of trivia, Lockheed’s choice for the F-22’s name was Lightning II, now the namesake of the F-35).
According to an Air Force Museum fact sheet, Northrop made the decision to maximize the YF-23’s stealth capabilities and speed, figuring that making the plane harder to see would help it win fights.
Lockheed, on the other hand, chose to add thrust vectoring to make its design a better dogfighter. The Air Force chose Lockheed’s design.
We don’t have much combat experience to tell us how well the F-22 performs (they did carry out some strikes in Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), but the YF-23 might have made an excellent replacement for the F-4G Wild Weasel aircraft that retired in 1996.
4. Boeing X-32
We talked about this bird before. The fact of the matter is that the Boeing X-32 just missed out, arguably because of the Lockheed demonstrator’s lift-fan performance.
In this case, playing it safe potentially cost Boeing what could be the largest fighter contract in history.
That being said, the X-32B’s use of the more-proven thrust-vectoring to acquire its V/STOL capability might have cut down on the RD time – and costs – enough to get to the Marines sooner.
With Hornets falling out of the skies (a recent Hornet crash off Okinawa was fatal for the pilot), that may have been very important – even if the plane had the nickname “Monica.”
Vito Bertoldo almost didn’t make it into the Army. A former coal miner, he was exempt from the World War II draft due to his bad eyesight. Approved for limited duty after enlisting, he had to get special permission to join the infantry. It’s a good thing he did.
In December 1944, Germany launched Operation Northwind, what would become its last offensive in Western Europe. It was designed to destroy the U.S. 7th Army, whose supply lines were stretched after the Battle of the Bulge. That offensive would meet some major resistance in Hatten, France, specifically at the hands of Vito Bertoldo.
Bertoldo was assigned to protect the movement of a vital command post during a German attack. It was in good hands. As German infantry and armor advanced and the American lines began to crumble, Bertoldo moved outside of the building that housed the command post and set up a machine gun in the street.
For 12 hours, he held the entire street in full view of the advancing German infantry and tanks. Under fire from the tanks’ 88mm guns and small arms, he fought on, eventually moving back into the building. Once inside, he set his gun up on a table and fired through a window, blasting an entire group of German infantry.
As armored personnel carriers and more tanks approached, he waited for them to dismount before mowing them all down, even taking a tank shell in his position for his trouble. He simply got back up and got back to work. When the command post got a new position, he volunteered to stay behind and cover its withdrawal, staying in the building all night.
In the morning, he moved into another building and started another daylong defense, fighting off self-propelled howitzers, infantrymen, and tanks. He was hit by another 88mm round but survived. Before the Germans could finish him off, an American bazooka took out the vehicle.
Bertoldo went back to his gun, yet again, mowing down Germans as they tried to retreat. The command post was evacuated once more, this time under cover of darkness. But the Germans tried to assault the building before the evacuation could begin. This time, Bertoldo lobbed white phosphorous grenades into the massed enemy infantrymen until they broke and withdrew from the attack.
Once more a German tank round hit the room where Bertoldo was holed up, knocking him to the ground in a daze from 50 yards away. The only difference was this time, Bertoldo’s machine gun was destroyed. So he picked up his rifle and began to singlehandedly cover the movement of the command post to its new location.
This army of one secured his unit’s command post and all its movement against superior forces for a full two days without rest or relief, killing at least 40 Germans and holding back an entire enemy advance.
In the end, it wasn’t a Nazi bullet or tank round that would get Vito Bertoldo. He served through the entire war and died of cancer in 1966.
One of the best parts of the NCAA Basketball Tournament is the cheer of the crowds. The eruptions of joy, the cries of despair, the yelling at the referees, the prayers to the heavens and the cursing at how much money you lost adds to the atmosphere that we call March Madness.
This year, however, the only sounds you will hear might be the squeaking of sneakers, the yelling of a coach and the whistles of the refs.
March Madness is going to be awesome this year! (Via @lucas_hepp)pic.twitter.com/hQpeXOxEt4
Today, the President of the NCAA, Mark Emmert released a statement saying that both the Men’s and Women’s Tournaments would be played without crowds. The reason is the continued spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, throughout the United States. As of this writing there were currently 1,200 people that have been affected in over 41 states, with health officials worried that the virus’ spread will get worse. Thirty one Americans have died so far, and there are hopes that containment and quarantines will keep the death toll down.
Because of the spread of the virus, the NCAA decided that it was best to keep large crowds away from arenas in order keep people safe. However, they are still holding the games with only players, coaches and essential personnel present. While the reduced number of people would mitigate a larger spread, players and coaches traveling from destination to destination still might be at risk of infection.
As far as families of coaches and players, the NCAA will allow limited family to attend games. This will probably include parents, spouses, significant others and kids. One can assume other than referees, there will also be scorekeepers, facility operations personnel, TV and radio broadcast crews among others.
The United States has already seen several cancellations or postponements from Coachella being pushed back until October, SXSW being canceled in Austin and even the venerable Houston Rodeo being shut down.
But the NCAA Tournaments which generate over a billion dollars yearly for schools, conferences, television stations, corporate sponsors and anyone that’s not a player is the biggest event so far impacted by the coronavirus.
The NCAA did have a COVID-19 advisory panel which was monitoring the situation and keeping up to date with the spread of the virus as well as preventive measures taking place around the world.
The move by Italian officials to play Serie-A (Italy’s top soccer league) behind closed doors definitely had to play a big part in this decision. Similar moves have been taking place in the Europa tournament. Here in the United States, as conference tournaments started to be played (some teams’ way to get into the Big Dance), the Ivy league canceled their tournament outright citing fears of spreading the disease.
Referring to the advisory panel, Emmert said that, “Based on their advice and my discussions with the NCAA Board of Governors, I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance.
“While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States. This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes. We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families. Today, we will move forward and conduct championships consistent with the current information and will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed.”
The fallout of this decision is sure to send shockwaves throughout the sports community.
As we speak, baseball is in the middle of spring training with Opening Day set for the end of March. NBA and NHL teams are making pushes to the playoffs and are involved in many make or break games. While the NFL is on draft mode, the XFL’s successful first year might take a elbow drop. And depending on how long the virus lingers there is a chance (albeit small) it could have an affect on the Olympics.
From the business side of sports, the impact alone of the NCAA’s decision will be far reaching. Hopefully, the virus is contained soon and the impact on businesses won’t be as bad as many fear. However, it does show us that TV, not attendance is the new factor in how successful sports organizations are. The fact that they will still hold the tournament and televise it without crowds shows the power that TV rights deals have on the sports. We’re just thankful we’ll have something to watch if we’re quarantined.
Whatever criticism is leveled at CNN, some of the network’s international reporters are as badass as they come. They may wield a pen, pad, and camera instead of an M4 rifle, but they face danger just like many troops on the frontline — and keep going back despite the risk.
One of those war journos is Arwa Damon, a fluent Arab speaker and a senior international correspondent for CNN based in Istanbul. She’s covered the bloody civil war in Syria — a fight that’s taken the life of over 100 journalists since 2011 — and was recently embedded with Iraqi troops during their assault on the ISIS stronghold in Mosul.
It’s one thing to embed with U.S. troops in a combat zone — with its professionalism, training and sheer firepower embedding with American forces offers a lot of extra protection when the sh*t hits the fan. But when you’re staking your life on the effectiveness of a rebuilt military like the Iraqi army, it’s an entirely different danger equation.
During a patrol in Mosul late last year, Damon finds herself in the nightmare scenario many American troops knew well to avoid. A slow-moving convoy of up armored Humvees weaving through ever-tightening streets and alleys with bad guys maneuvering on all sides. An explosion disables the lead vehicle, another targets the trailing one. Grenades and rockets hit the MRAP, VBIDs stream in from the sides.
A veteran of many hairy combat situations herself, Damon can sense things are about to go pear shaped and when they do, it’s the CNN reporter who has to tell the Iraqis to take a strong point and get the hell off the “X.”
What follows is a nerve-wracking 20 hours of waiting for backup. No call for fire, no QRF, no gun runs are going to un-as$ this cluster. The only respite comes at daybreak when, under fire, the crew makes a break for it and barely maneuvers it out of the kill zone.
What she brought home, however, is a harrowing look at what it’s like to be at the mercy of ISIS in an enemy-controlled city relying on a military that’s got a long way to go before it can hold its own in a complex urban fight.
Nowadays, you can find entire sections of the internet devoted to mastering the art of “off-grid” living. There, you can find both experts and charlatans exchanging argumentative blows in the never-ending digital debates we’ve let permeate through every facet of our modern lives. Back in 1967, however, things were different.
The internet was still a long way off, as were debates about the best solar-powered showers and thousand-dollar coolers. Getting off the grid back then was a conceptually simpler exercise: you just went into the woods and made do with what you had. Of course, without much of the technology even the saltiest of outdoorsmen have come to rely on today (like modern waterproofing and insulation in our clothes), living off the land was only simple in concept.
Doing so, of course, took hard men with even harder wills; men like Dick Proenneke.
Dick Proenneke hard at work in Twin Lakes, Alaska.
(National Parks Service photo taken by Richard Proenneke and donated by Raymond Proenneke)
Proenneke joined the Navy the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He served as a carpenter, honing his woodworking skills until the end of the war. Upon leaving service, he trained as a diesel mechanic, quickly earning a name for himself that allowed him to travel around the West Coast for work before once again loaning his skills to the Navy as a civilian heavy equipment operator and mechanic at the Naval Air Station Kodiak in Alaska.
After an accident at work years later nearly left Proenneke blind, he decided to devote the remainder of his life to living it as he saw fit. A modest and responsible man, he’d saved enough by age 50 to start his retirement, though while most see retirement as an end to hard work, for Proenneke, it was just the beginning.
An avid naturalist and amateur filmmaker, Proenneke set off to build a log home in the unsettled wilderness of Twin Lakes, Alaska–far from the closest remnants of human civilization. Aside from a few tools and some waterproofing materials he utilized in the construction of his home, he built the entire cabin by hand using only what he had available in the dense Alaskan bush. While this is a feat many others have accomplished, what made Proenneke special was that he filmed the whole thing, giving us a first-hand look at how off-grid living was done back before people debated it in online forums instead of doing it for real.
Proenneke leaned hard on his days as a Navy carpenter in the construction of his home, building most of it with little more than hand saws, mallets, and a sharp ax. He even fashioned the hinges on his doors out of wood he harvested from nearby trees. In the videos he captured along the way, you can see the combination of expertise and patience guiding Proenneke’s hands, making quick work of complex tasks and, if you’re anything like me, occasionally even fooling you into thinking the work looks easy.
Proenneke remained in his modest but expertly crafted cabin for the better part of three decades before finally returning to civilization at age 82. Four years later, he passed away, leaving the cabin to the National Parks Service to be preserved for posterity, as his remote home at Twin Lakes had already become a bit of a tourist attraction for like-minded adventurers that imagined their own lives away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world.
Today, Dick Proenneke’s legacy lives on not only thanks to visitors reaching his remote cabin, but in a series of books and television specials compiled before and after his death. His footage, combined with journals Proenneke maintained over the years, offer a glimpse into the reality of embraced solitude, self-reliance, and what man is capable of if he’s willing to forgo convenience in favor of purpose.
Much of his footage can now be found on YouTube, allowing an entirely new generation of aspiring outdoor enthusiasts to see what getting “off the grid” meant back before that turn of phrase was even invented. Watching Proenneke’s films not only serves as a how-to of sorts, but it also serves as a reminder that humanity wasn’t always so tied to electricity, comfort, and recreation. There was a time when our lives were intrinsically linked to the world around us, when our survival was predicated on our wits and work ethic, and when our job was just a list of things that had to get done before sunset.
Dick Proenneke is a reminder to us all that we aren’t the consumers and couch potatoes we’ve been groomed to be: we’re powerful, capable men and women wired just like the survivors, warriors, and hunters that came before us. The only difference between Dick Proenneke and each of us is a bit of know-how and a lot of heart. These videos can help with the former, but for the latter, you’ll have to look for inside yourself.
Since President Donald Trump assumed office, there has been an intense focus on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. But eight other countries, including the US, have stockpiled nuclear weapons for decades.
A few years after the US dropped atomic bombs on Japan during World War II — the only time nuclear weapons have been used in combat — Russia began developing its own nuclear capabilities. The United Kingdom, France, and China followed soon thereafter.
By the 1960s, it was becoming apparent that a future in which dozens of countries build and test nuclear weapons would not be safe for the world. This led to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1968, which was designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and nuclear technology. A handful of countries, including Israel and North Korea, have not signed on to the agreement.
The treaty has been largely successful. But the potential use of nuclear weapons between hostile nations continues to threaten international peace.
Here’s how many nuclear weapons exist and which countries have them, according to a report from the Federation of American Scientists:
9. North Korea: 60
For years, the US tried to negotiate with North Korea to curb its nuclear weapons program. The Agreed Framework, signed in 1994 under President Bill Clinton, ultimately failed. North Korea was cheating.
In 2003, Pyongyang officially withdrew from the NPT. Three years later, the country conducted its first nuclear test. North Korea has since continued building weapons, despite efforts by Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump to slow its progress.
Today, North Korea most likely has up to 60 nuclear weapons, though that number is an estimate.
8. Israel: 80
Israel’s government will neither officially confirm nor deny it has nuclear weapons. But it’s an open secret that the Middle Eastern country has been building nuclear weapons for decades.
In 1986, Mordechai Vanunu, a former nuclear technician and whistle-blower, revealed the existence of Israel’s program.
Western allies, like the US and the UK, have supported Israel’s policy of keeping its program “secret.”
The Guardian reported that in 2009, when a reporter asked US President Barack Obama whether he knew of any country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons, “he dodged the trapdoor by saying only that he did not wish to ‘speculate.'”
7. India: 130
To put it mildly, India has a hostile relationship with its neighbor Pakistan. That tension is compounded by the fact that both countries possess nuclear weapons. For nearly two decades, however, the two nations have avoided any escalating nuclear conflict.
In 2003, India, which is not a party to the NPT, declared a no-use-first policy, meaning it vowed to never use nuclear weapons in combat unless first attacked by another country with nuclear weapons. China maintains a similar policy.
India first began developing nuclear weapons in an attempt to counter Chinese aggression in the 1960s. It has since tested multiple nuclear devices, which caused the US to impose, then later lift, various sanctions.
6. Pakistan: 140
Contrary to India’s no-first-use policy, Pakistan has not ruled out first-attack use of nuclear weapons.
The 1971 Indo-Pakistani War and the threat of India’s burgeoning nuclear weapons capabilities prompted Pakistan to start a nuclear program of its own.
In 2014, Pakistan began developing tactical nuclear weapons, which are smaller warheads built for use on battlefields rather than against cities or infrastructure. These weapons are small enough to launch from warships or submarines, which makes them easier to use on short notice than traditional nuclear weapons.
Pakistan is also reportedly nearing completion of its nuclear triad, which would give the country the ability to launch nuclear missiles from the land, air, and sea.
5. United Kingdom: 215
Like all other nuclearized countries, the UK argues that it needs nuclear weapons largely for defense purposes.
Its nuclear weapons deterrent is called Trident and consists of four Vanguard-class submarines that can carry up to 16 Trident II D5 ballistic missiles, each armed with up to eight nuclear warheads, The Telegraph reported.
From 2010 to 2015, the UK cut the number of its operational warheads by 40, to 120. It continues to work on nuclear reduction while maintaining its advocacy for minimum nuclear force — just the right amount of force to inflict devastation and achieve combat goals.
4. China: 270
Lieutenant General Ding Laihang. Photo from South China Morning Post.
China’s first nuclear weapons test took place in 1964. Like India, Beijing maintains a no-use-first nuclear policy, but some in the international community are skeptical of its intentions.
Beijing keeps its nuclear weapons count secret, so it’s impossible to determine exactly how many the country has. While the East Asian superpower is a member of the NPT, its increasingly ambitious military ventures have been a cause of concern for some countries.
Next year, for example, China plans to unveil its next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile, which will be able to strike anywhere in the world and carry up to 10 nuclear warheads. In 2016, similar long-range nuclear missiles capable of striking Guam, a US territory, were revealed, sending shockwaves through the American defense establishment.
3. France: 300
France began developing nuclear weapons during the Cold War, when President Charles de Gaulle believed it needed defense capabilities independent of the US and NATO. De Gaulle feared that neither would come to France’s defense in the event of an attack by the Soviet Union or some other enemy.
While France possesses the third-largest nuclear weapons stockpile in the world, it claims it has no chemical or biological warfare weapons. It is a member of the NPT.
In 2008, French President Nicolas Sarkozy reaffirmed that the country’s nuclear weapons were not “targeted at anybody.” Rather, they were part of a “life-insurance policy.” Sarkozy also announced a nuclear weapons reduction, cutting its stockpile to “half the maximum number of warheads [France] had during the Cold War.
2. United States: 6,800
The US ushered in the nuclear era under President Franklin Roosevelt in 1942 when the military launched the Manhattan Project, which led to the world’s first nuclear bomb detonation.
During World War II, the US forever changed the way the world would look at nuclear technology after dropping bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, instantly killing tens of thousands of civilians.
The US is a member of the NPT but has refused to sign on to a no-first-use policy.
Earlier this year, former Vice President Joe Biden doubled down on major investments to boost America’s nuclear capabilities.
“So long as other countries possess nuclear weapons that could be used against us, we too must maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal to deter attacks against ourselves and our allies,” Biden said. “That is why … we increased funding to maintain our arsenal and modernize our nuclear infrastructure.”
Quartz reported that the US would spend approximately $400 billion over a 10-year period to maintain and modernize its arsenal. Another purpose of this investment is to keep pace with Russia’s growing arsenal.
Trump has echoed Obama’s calls for a revamping of the US arsenal.
“I want modernization and total rehabilitation,” the president said. After calling for an increase in the US stockpile on the campaign trail, he said in October 2017 that would be “totally unnecessary.”
1. Russia: 7,000
The former Soviet Union began work on its nuclear weapons program in the 1940s after hearing reports of the US Manhattan Project.
After the Soviet-US arms race during the Cold War, nuclear weapons stored in former Soviet states were returned to Russia, where many were dismantled. But Russia still maintained a vast stockpile of weapons.
Today, Russia appears to be investing in nuclear weapons modernization — much like the US — and growing its arsenal. Last year, President Barack Obama criticized such efforts as impediments to global nuclear disarmament.
“Because of the vision that he’s been pursuing of emphasizing military might,” Obama said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin, “we have not seen the type of progress that I would have hoped for with Russia.”
In October, Putin said he wanted to help reduce the world’s nuclear arsenal and “will be striving to achieve that,” but he added that Russia would continue to develop its program so long as other countries continue doing so.
While Russia has the most nuclear weapons of any country, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the most powerful.
“Russia built nuclear weapons that are incremental improvements,” or weapons that would need updating every decade or so, Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk, told Business Insider.
On the other hand, Lewis said: “US nukes are like Ferraris: beautiful, intricate, and designed for high performance. Experts have said the plutonium pits will last for 100s of years.” Indeed, the US’s stocks of Minuteman III ICBMS, despite their age, are “exquisite machinery, incredible things.”
“Russia’s nuclear weapons are newer, true, but they reflect the design philosophy that says ‘No reason to make it super fancy because we’ll just rebuild it in 10 years,'” Lewis added.
Long before the development of JEEP prototypes, soldiers nicknamed a tractor that hauled guns as a JEEP because that’s all they had available to move equipment and soldiers. As the U.S. prepared to enter WWII, we were faced with a super slow logistics issue – mules, horses, and traditional battlefield movements were just too slow for the modern battlefield. Since U.S. military planners knew that eventually, the U.S. was going to have to get involved with WWII, they quickly realized that the only way to ensure a victory would be to revisit their approach to troop and equipment movement.
We had no guns or equipment
The Army was ill-equipped to handle entering a global conflict, thanks in part to neglect, budget constrictions and typical Washington bureaucracy. Remember that for our role in WWI, we had to borrow howitzers from the French because we were so underfunded and had no arsenal or weapons stockpiles. It was just about the same setting for WWII, only with a greater sense of impending doom.
Horses and mules were just too slow
Just like planners in WWI recognized that light infantry fire wasn’t going to win a trench war, planners in WWII quickly saw that the reliance on horses and mules to transport equipment was antiquated and slow.
WWI showed strategists that four-wheel trucks and motorized transports were not only faster at moving across the battlefield but could move troops and weaponry in and out with greater consistency. This not only could save lives, but it could save morale, too. After all, who wants to be stranded in the middle of a field somewhere?
A committee is formed
In true Army fashion, a committee was formed to study the “need” for light motorized transport vehicles that could support infantry and cavalry troops. The Army concluded that there were no vehicles available on the civilian market that could hold up in combat – nothing was durable and rugged enough to handle the terrain or the weight load of the equipment that needed to be moved.
The Army hoped to find a small go-anywhere recon scout car that might help deliver battlefield messages, transmit orders, and function as a weapons carrier. But the commission failed to locate a vehicle that could support the needs of the Army, so they turned to the civilian sector to see if any American companies could design this kind of vehicle from scratch.
In June 1940, 134 bid invitations were sent to companies that might be able to design the kind of vehicle that would suit the Army’s needs. The bid was on a short deadline, though, since we were fighting a war, and gave the companies just one month to come up with something. That’s tough even by today’s standards but almost impossible in 1940 before the computerization of draft work. Because of the short deadline, just two companies responded to the Army’s call – American Bantam and Willys-Overland. These were the only two companies still selling four-cylinder vehicles, and they both specialized in selling cars smaller than the (then) American standard size car. Both companies were relatively small and on the brink of bankruptcy, proving the old adage, “Necessity breeds innovation.”
Bantam gets the contract for a few weeks
The drawings submitted by Willys-Overland weren’t nearly as comprehensive as the plans provided by Bantam Car Company. So Bantam was awarded the contract, and an order for 70 vehicles was placed. However, Bantam was such a small company that the Army worried it wouldn’t be able to meet the military’s needs once the war effort ramped up. So, while they loved the concept that Bantam presented, the Army ultimately sought out Ford Motor Company and reinvented Willys-Overland to rejoin the mission.
Both companies, Ford and Willy-Overland, watched the Bantam car’s testing and were allowed to examine the vehicle and the blueprints. Then, both designed their own vehicle based on Bantam’s designs.
Testing took forever but one company emerged
All three companies submitted new designs, and their vehicles were tested over and over, with little tweaks made along the way. By the end of the trials, each company has a finalized design to submit for bidding. Ford called its vehicle the GP, Willys-Overland called theirs the Willys MA, and Bantam came up with the very original name of the BRC-40 and the MK II. In all, thousands of prototypes were built, tested, and discarded.
The prototypes shared the same military designations for a truck, ¼ ton, 4×4. No one knows precisely where the word “JEEP” comes from, but since all of the Army vehicles are General Purpose, and since soldiers love a good acronym, it’s more than likely that someone along the way slurred the GP into what we now know as JEEP.
In 1941, on being interviewed by a journalist about the type of vehicle he was driving, a soldier replied that it was a JEEP and the name stuck. Willys-Overland, whose vehicle the soldier happened to be driving, quickly trademarked the name. During the war, JEEPS were modified to operate in desert conditions, plow snow, and function as a fire truck, ambulance, and tractor. They were capable of laying cable, operating as generators, and could be reconfigured to become a small railroad engine. JEEPS were small enough to be loaded onto aircraft, could fit in gliders, and were a significant part of the D-Day invasion.
As we know them now, JEEPS are as much a part of military culture as they are part of regular driving vehicles. Who knew that their predecessors could have been reconfigured to be so useful for wartime battlefield operations?
Troops always like feeling appreciated. A simple “good job” at the right time can go a long way in improving the morale of a unit. You can even take it a step further by expressing your gratitude to troops in many different ways: by releasing them early, taking them out for chow, going a little easier on them throughout the work week — you name it.
Then, there’s the Certificate of Appreciation. Given its name, it may seem like a good thing, but if you’re the type of leader that puts a troop in for one of these after they’ve worked their ass off for an extended period of time, well, you might as well just tell them they’re garbage.
Keep in mind, the Certificate of Appreciation is different from a Certificate of Achievement. They look exactly alike, have the same acronym, and they’re often treated the same way at ceremonies — but the one for achievement is actually worth something: Five promotion points each, to be exact, for a maximum of 20 points. It’s not huge, but it’s something.
2nd Lts. handing them out is fine, because it’s the best they can do and they’re at least trying to do something nice. Company commanders and above who can argue for higher have no excuse.
The other key difference between these two certificates is the approving authority involved. A Certificate of Achievement has to go through the battalion commander for approval. The Certificate of Appreciation, on the other hand, can be signed by literally anyone in the unit because all it tells a troop is that someone appreciates them. Despite that, if you look at who most often hands them out, it’s Lieutenant Colonels in battalion commander positions.
If that troop royally f*cked up, fine. But there’s nothing more discouraging than seeing everyone else get something better while you’re stuck with a CoA.
Don’t get this twisted — not every action warrants official recognition. If a troop did something great or put forth a little extra effort, but it’s still well within the scope of their normal duties — like if a commo soldier brought the NIPR net back up at a critical moment — then it’s the right amount of reward. You can even make it a huge thing and officially let the unit know that you appreciate the hard work that a certain soldier put forth at the right moment.
This becomes a problem when the act was actually deserving of an award — like what happens to the many troops who “earn” one as an end-of-tour award. Troops who put heart into what they do get burnt out because they’ve earned far better than what they’re being given. Certificates of Appreciations like that are what sour it for the entire military. If you’re going to go through that extra effort to congratulate them, then make it actually matter.
It’s also costs the same amount of money on behalf of the unit, since the troops have to go out and buy the damn medal themselves after the ceremony.
If you actually want to show a troop they’re appreciated, let them know. Hell, you can even keep the exact same format— bring the troop in front of the formation and personally thank them for what they did. Just replace the “military’s version of a high five” with an actual high five.
But when that exact same level of effort on the leadership’s part that could be put toward something that actually matters? Please don’t insult your troops like that. Hell, an Army Achievement Medal is also approved at a battalion commander-level and that could actually make a difference on a troop’s morale by appearing on their uniform — if they’ve done something worthy of it.