The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery - We Are The Mighty
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The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

The final resting place of presidents, bandleaders, war heroes, astronauts, inventors, civil rights leaders, Pulitzer Prize winners, boxers, Supreme Court justices and sports stars, Arlington National Cemetery stands as a memorial to the melting pot of the United States. With connections to some of our nation’s most influential people and pivotal events, its history is as interesting as its denizens.


The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery
A serene image of Arlington National Cemetery in the spring. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ingfbruno)

Arlington is situated on 624 acres overlooking the Potomac River directly across from Washington, D. C. Although today it is surrounded by the nation’s capital, at one time, Arlington was a bucolic estate with a neoclassical mansion, Arlington House. Still presiding over the grounds today, the mansion was built by George Washington’s (yes, that Washington) grandson and marks the beginning of the cemetery’s history.

Before she married George, Martha was married to Daniel Parke Custis. After he died and she wed the “Father” of our Country, George adopted her two surviving children. The oldest, John Parke Custis (JPC), died in 1781 while serving with the Revolutionary Army. He left behind four children, the youngest of which, George Washington Parke Custis (GWPC), was born only shortly before his father’s death.

Related: These ladies attend every funeral at Arlington so no one is buried alone

GWPC and one sister went to live with the Washington’s. When he became of age in 1802, GWPC inherited wealth and property from his deceased father (JPC), including the Arlington land. Hoping to build a home that could also serve as a memorial to his grandfather, George Washington, GWPC hired an architect and built a Greek revival mansion believed by some to be “modeled after the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens.”

The home was built in pieces, with the north wing being completed in 1802, and the south in 1804. These two stood as separate buildings until the central section connected them in 1818. During GWPC’s life, a portion of the mansion was reserved to store George Washington memorabilia, which included portraits, papers and even the tent Washington used while in command at Yorktown.

GWPC and his family lived and died on the property, where many of them were buried.

In 1831, GWPC’s only surviving child, Mary, married Robert E. Lee (yes, that Lee). The Lee’s lived on the property with the Custis’s where they raised their seven children. At her father’s death, Mary inherited Arlington. Robert E. Lee loved the property and once described it as the place “where my attachments are more strongly placed than at any other place in the world.”

Prior to the Civil War, Lee had attended West Point (graduating second in his class) and saw service for the U.S. in the Mexican War (1846-1848). A respected and well-liked officer, Lee struggled with his decision to resign his commission of 36 years in order to take command of Virginia’s confederate forces. When he did in April 1861, this choice was seen as a betrayal of the Union by many of his former friends including Brig. Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs.

As Arlington, on high ground overlooking the capital, was critical to either the defense or defeat of D.C., Union leaders were eager to control it. After Virginia seceded in May 1861, Union troops crossed en masse into Virginia and soon took command of the estate. The grounds were quickly converted into a Union camp.

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery
American flags adorn the graves at Arlington. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

By 1862, Congress had passed a law that imposed a tax on the real property of “insurrectionists.” Mary was unable to pay the tax bill in person, and her proxy’s attempt to satisfy the debt was rebuffed. As a result, Uncle Sam seized Arlington, and at its auction, the federal government purchased the estate for $26,800 (about $607,000 today, far below market value).

Not only a good bargain, Union leaders felt that by seizing the estates of prominent Rebels, they would, in the words of Gen. William T. Sherman: “Make them so sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to it.”

In 1863, after thousands of former slaves, freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, converged on D.C., a Freedman’s Village was established on the estate “complete with new frame houses, schools, churches and farmlands on which former slaves grew food for the Union war effort.”

As one journalist described it:

One sees more than poetic justice in the fact that its rich lands, so long the domain of the great general of the rebellion, now afford labor and support to hundreds of enfranchised slaves.

As Union casualties began to mount in the spring of 1864, Gen. Meigs suggested burying some of the dead at Arlington. The first, on May 13, 1864, was Pvt. William Christman, a poor soldier whose family could not afford the cost of a burial. Soon, many other indigent soldiers were laid to rest on Arlington’s grounds, near the slave and freedman cemetery that had already been established. Realizing the efficacy of this system, Gen. Meigs urged Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton:

I recommend that  . . . the land surrounding Arlington Mansion . . . be appropriated as a National Military Cemetery, to be properly enclosed, laid out and carefully preserved for that purpose.

Serving the dual goals of paying homage to the dead and making “Arlington uninhabitable for the Lees,” Meigs had prominent Union officers buried near Mrs. Lee’s garden. He also placed a mass grave of over 2000 unknown soldiers, topped with a raised sarcophagus, close to the house.

After the war, the Lee’s tried in vain to regain Arlington. Mary wrote to a friend that the graves: “are planted up to the very door without any regard to common decency.” After Robert E. Lee’s death in 1870, Mary petitioned Congress for the return of her family home, but this proposal was soundly defeated.

Shortly after, other monuments and structures honoring the dead were erected including numerous elaborate Gilded Age tombstones and the large, red McClellan Gate at the entrance to the grounds.

The family was not done, however, and in January 1879, following six days of trial a jury determined that the requirement that Mary Lee had to pay the 1862 tax in person was unconstitutional. On appeal, the Supreme Court concurred, so the property was once again in the hands of the Lee family.

Also read: Arlington National Cemetery is running out of room to bury America’s vets

Rather than disinter graves and move monuments, however, the federal government and Mary Lee’s son, George Washington Custis Lee, agreed on a sale. On March 31, 1883, Uncle Sam purchased Arlington from the Lee family for $150,000 (about $3,638,000 today).

Today, Arlington shelters the remains of over 400,000 souls. In addition to its famous sea of somber, beautiful white headstones, Arlington also hosts numerous monuments including the Tomb of the Unknowns, the Rough Riders Monument, the Pentagon Group Burial Marker and two memorials to the Space Shuttle tragedies Challenger and Columbia.

One of the National Cemetery’s most well known gravesites is that of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy with its eternal flame. Two of his children and Jackie Kennedy are also interred there.

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery
The eternal flame at the grave of John F. Kennedy. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Wknight94)

William Howard Taft is the only other U.S. President buried on the grounds, and he along with three other Chief Justices and eight associate justices represent the Supreme Court at Arlington.

Of course, war heroes abound and famous generals buried at Arlington include George C. Marshall (father of the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after WWII) and Omar N. Bradley.

Famous explorers interred at Arlington include Adm. Richard Byrd (the first man to fly over both poles) and Rear Adm. Robert Peary (another arctic explorer). John Wesley Powell (of Lake Powell fame) is also laid to rest at Arlington, as are several astronauts including Lt. Col. Virgil “Gus” Grissom and Capt. Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr. (the third man to walk on the moon).

Other famous Americans buried at the National Cemetery include Abner Doubleday (who, in fact, had nothing to do with baseball contrary to legend), big bandleader Maj. Glenn Miller (who went missing in action on Dec. 15, 1944, so he really just has a headstone there), boxing’s Joe Louis, inventor George Westinghouse and civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

Articles

Today in military history: America declares her independence

I hope you like fireworks because on July 4, 1776, America declared her independence from Great Britain.

The American Revolutionary War broke out the year before, but the colonies had opposed British policies since 1765. The Tea Act of 1773 became a tipping point, causing the beginning of the resistance. 

In 1776, Thomas Paine published a pamphlet called “Common Sense” that argued for independence, an idea that quickly gathered support from the Continental Congress. Thomas Jefferson and a small committee drafted the Declaration of Independence, which was approved on July 2 and formally adopted on July 4. 

For those of you who like Americana trivia, Army Commander-In-Chief George Washington did not sign the Declaration of Independence. While the Continental Congress assembled in Philadelphia, Washington and his forces were in New York. He received an official notification letter dated July 6, 1776, from John Hancock with a copy of the declaration. Three days later, on the parade grounds of Lower Manhattan, George Washington notified thousands of Continental soldiers that the country they were fighting for had declared its independence.

The Revolutionary War continued for five more years with over 230 skirmishes and battles fought. Finally in 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed and the United States of America became a free and independent nation.

Featured Image:  John Trumbull’s painting, Declaration of Independence, depicting the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence presenting their work to the Congress. The painting can be found on the back of the U.S. $2 bill. The original hangs in the U.S. Capitol rotunda.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines will soon need swimming skills to be promoted

Marines can fight from the air, the land, and the sea. But can they swim?


The commandant isn’t so sure.

During a brief visit to Marines assigned to the Corps’ crisis response force for Africa in Morón, Spain, in December, Gen. Robert Neller said he wants to make proven swimming skills a requirement or contributing factor for promotion.

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jered T. Stone)

The revelation came just days after the Marine Corps announced, at Neller’s direction, the return of the Battle Skills Test, another promotion requirement that will ensure Marines can accomplish essential tasks such as applying a tourniquet or employing a map and compass.

“I know nobody wants to have another requirement,” Neller said of the prospective swimming obligation. “[But] it’s either that or accept the fact that somebody might go into the water off a ship or off an airplane and they drown.”

In an interview, he told Military.com that the idea to implement a more rigorous swimming requirement had come to him after Marines were lost in late July 2017 when the MV-22 Osprey carrying them went down off the coast of Australia.

“We lost three Marines in that crash,” Neller said. “I don’t think it was because they couldn’t swim. But … we teach everybody basic life-saving or basic swimming at recruit training, but we never test again. So why don’t we test?”

The Marine Corps and Navy take similar approaches to swimming requirements. Both services require a basic swimming competency for all recruits at entry-level training.

Also Read: How to survive the first 4 weeks of Marine boot camp

For Marine recruits, the minimum requirement is call water survival basic. It requires Marines, clad in cammies and boots, to strip off protective gear, including body armor and a rifle, while in the water under 10 seconds; jump into the pool from a 15-foot tower and swim 25 meters in deep water; employ a floatation device made from a pack; tread water for four minutes, and complete another 25-meter pack swim. This qualification is good for two years and must be renewed when it expires.

For the Navy, the minimum third-class swim test requires that a recruit can swim 50 yards, complete a deep-water jump, do a five-minute prone float, and inflate clothing to float with. A sailor can also choose to incorporate a 500-meter swim as part of the annual physical readiness test.

For both services, there are more advanced qualifications that can be obtained. But unless Marines enter a more specialized role, such as reconnaissance, swimming qualification ends there.

For the Marine Corps, making swim skills a more regular requirement would mean ensuring that every service installation has a usable pool, and that every Marine has access to one.

“Part of the problem is, what do you do with people who are on recruiting duty or independent duty or the reserves?” Neller said in the interview. “How do you do that? So I don’t have a detailed plan yet.”

But, he added, he isn’t planning to give up on the goal just because it might require effort and money to execute.

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery
A Marine candidate with the Scout Sniper Screening Platoon, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, conducts a 500-meter swim as part of the Scout Sniper Physical Assessment Test at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 19, 2015. The 500-meter swim was the first of several physically demanding events that tested endurance, strength and speed. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul S. Martinez)

If the plan does move forward, it’s not clear yet what skills Marines will have to demonstrate or how it will be incorporated into requirements. Neller expressed interest in making swim skills part of a Marine’s cutting score, the number that signals a Marine’s eligibility for promotion to corporal or sergeant.

“If you add it to cutting score, it incentivizes it,” he said. “If you’re not qualified for promotion unless you can swim, or you’re more qualified if you’re a better swimmer … There’s a whole lot of things going on, there’s a whole list of things we’re trying to do, and we’ll have to poke on this one again to see where we are.”

One thing is clear, however: Neller wants Marines to be ready.

“If there’s a pool here and you’re not a good swimmer,” he told the Marines, “you’ve got to get your butt in the pool.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Tom Clancy used this wargame for ‘Red Storm Rising’

Tom Clancy’s 1986 novel Red Storm Rising is arguably his literary tour de force. Following on the heels of 1984’s The Hunt for Red October, it cemented Clancy’s status as the inventor of the techno-thriller genre. Despite being a massive best-seller, Clancy never won a Pulitzer Prize or Nobel Prize for his contributions to the field of literature.

In Red Storm Rising, “Dance of the Vampires” featured a Soviet attack on a NATO carrier force centered on USS Nimitz (CVN 68), USS Saratoga (CV 60), and the French carrier Foch (R99). In the book, the Nimitz was badly damaged by two AS-6 Kingfish missiles, while the Foch took three hits and was sunk.

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

There was little understanding of how new technology like the Tu-22M Backfire would play into a war.

(DOD painting)

But how did Clancy manage to make that moment in the book so realistic? The answer lies in a wargame designed by Larry Bond called Harpoon. Bond is best known as a techno-thriller author of some repute himself, having written Red Phoenix, Cauldron, and Red Phoenix Burning, among others. But he designed the Harpoon wargame, which came in both a set of rules for miniatures and a computer game. (Full disclosure: The author is a long-time fan of the game, and owns both miniature and computer versions.)

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

Alas, poor Foch, you were doomed from the start.

(U.S. Navy photo)

At WargameVault.com, Larry Bond explained that while the end result had been determined, what was lacking was an understand of two big areas: How would all these new systems interact, and what would the likely tactics be? As a result, they ran the game three times, and it was not a small affair: A number of others took part, resulting in each side’s “commander” having “staffs” who used written standard orders and after-action reports.

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

A simulated massacre of Tu-22M Backfires off Iceland also shaped the plot of ‘Red Storm Rising.’

(U.S. Navy)

Each of the three games had very different results, but the gaming helped to make Red Storm Rising a literary masterpiece of the last 20th century. Incidentally, Harpoon further shaped Red Storm Rising through a scenario called the “Keflavik Turkey Shoot” – a gaming result that convinced Clancy to include the Soviet Union taking Iceland in the early portions of the book.

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

While she sits in reserve today, at the time of ‘Red Storm Rising,’ USS Ticonderoga (CG 47) was the latest and greatest in naval technology.

(US Navy photo)

Bond released a collection of those scenarios, and some other material into an electronic publication called “Dance of the Vampires,” available for .00 at WargameVault.com. It is a chance to see how a wargame shaped what was arguably the best techno-thriller of all time.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

As North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has sought to raise his international standing, a figure seen by his side almost constantly during his meetings with world leaders is none other than his younger sister Kim Yo Jong.

Those frequent appearances have taken on a new significance in recent days, as rumors swirl that the dictator is gravely ill after a surgery. Kim Jong Un’s line of succession is hazy — he is believed to have three children, but they are too young to take control over the country, and his brother has reportedly been deemed unfit to lead.


That has prompted speculation that Kim Yo Jong is next in line, though the country has never had a female leader.

During the two summits between the US and North Korea, Kim Yo Jong was front and center during the historic show of diplomacy between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump.

She also traveled to South Korea during the 2018 Winter Olympics, becoming the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit the south since the Korean War in the 1950s.

Like her brother, and much of the rest of their family, few details are known about Kim Yo Jong and the life she lived before reaching a prime leadership role in the North Korean government.

Here’s what we know about her so far.

Like many of Kim’s family members, Kim Yo Jong’s exact age is difficult to pin down. But she’s believed to be in her early 30s, likely born in 1989.

Kim Yo Jong as a girl: this is the earliest photo we have of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, taken while she was at school in Switzerland.pic.twitter.com/LrDFgGBzdt

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She’s the youngest child of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and his consort, Ko Yong Hui, a former dancer.

She was partly educated in Switzerland at the same school Kim Jong Un attended. But she returned to North Korea in 2000 after completing the US equivalent of the sixth grade.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5c76d86b2628981e0e185319%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=327&h=f892c8a2729aafffe7a2825c410497bf48761ebcad11d2871036e6f55e3653b1&size=980x&c=3282151137 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5c76d86b2628981e0e185319%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D327%26h%3Df892c8a2729aafffe7a2825c410497bf48761ebcad11d2871036e6f55e3653b1%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3282151137%22%7D” expand=1]

The Liebefeld-Steinhölzli public school in Köniz, Switzerland.

Sandstein/Wikimedia Commons

Kim Yo Jong appeared destined for a powerful career from a young age. Kim Jong Il once bragged to foreign interlocutors in 2002 that his youngest daughter was interested in politics and eager to work in North Korea’s government.

It’s completely unclear where she was or what she was up to between 2000 and 2007.

In the following years, she conducted a lot of behind-the-scenes work for her father, Kim Jong Il, and brother Kim Jong Un. She played a particularly significant role in helping Kim Jong Un take over instead of his older brothers.

Her first public appearance was in 2011 at Kim Jong Il’s funeral.

Kim Yo Jong’s first recorded public appearance: The North Korean princess appeared among the mourners at her father’s funeral at the end of 2011.pic.twitter.com/GWPw4dgbZU

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Kim Yo Jong made headlines in 2017 after she was promoted to a top position in her brother’s government: the head of the propaganda department of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

That’s not just a fancy title — Kim Yo Jong plays a crucial role in controlling her brother’s public image.

Kim Yo Jong’s role in the North Korean regime is not just ceremonial. She’s actually working, protecting the image of her brother Kim Jong Un and making sure that everything runs smoothly.pic.twitter.com/hWsQnPIZzr

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In public, Kim Yo Jong appears to have greater freedom than other top government officials in North Korea, occasionally appearing in photographs unaccompanied, rather than constantly being in the presence of Kim Jong Un.

Some have speculated that she was promoted partly in an effort to continue Kim Jong Un’s dynasty. While she’s out of the line of succession, some believe she could take over the country’s leadership if something happens to Kim Jong Un before his kids are old enough to rule.

It wouldn’t be an unprecedented role for her, either. Kim Yo Jong once briefly took control of the country’s affairs while her brother was ill in 2014, according to a South Korean think tank run by North Korean defectors.

She stepped onto the world stage in February 2018. In a rare show of diplomacy between the two Koreas, Kim Yo Jong traveled to South Korea for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Everyone’s eyes were on Kim Yo Jong at the start of the games. She shared a historic handshake with South Korean President Moon Jae In, and both broke out in smiles.

During the opening ceremony, she sat right behind US Vice President Mike Pence, second lady Karen Pence, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Kim Yo Jong and Pence did not speak with each other.

Her interaction with South Korean leaders was a rare show of diplomacy and warmth. Given her experience in propaganda, she likely knew exactly what she was doing to try and curry favorable attention.

In April 2018, she played a crucial role in the peace talks between the two Koreas. Leaders from the two nations met at the Demilitarized Zone, and Kim Yo Jong was notably the only woman at the table.

Though she stayed well away from the spotlight, leaving that to her brother, it was clear Kim Yo Jong played a significant role in orchestrating the talks and ensuring the day ran smoothly.

She was her brother’s right-hand woman when he and Trump signed the agreement acknowledging North Korea’s intentions to denuclearize.

Kim Yo Jong sparked curiosity at one point, when she switched out the pen that was provided for the summit with her own ballpoint pen. It’s unclear why she swapped the pens, but some have speculated that it was for security reasons.

Anyone else spot this? There were two “Donald Trump” signing pens, NK official came in and shined up the one for Kim, then at the last minute Kim Yo Jong pulled out her own per to use instead of the one provided. Kim used that and back it went in her blazer. (Pool video)pic.twitter.com/dZWEK22IdF

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She made headlines in February 2019 when she was seen holding her brother’s ashtray while he smoked during their train journey to Hanoi, Vietnam.

Kim Jong Un takes smoking break on way to Summit

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Kim Yo Jong was featured prominently in the preparations for her brother’s talks with Trump, often rushing ahead to make sure everything was ready.

She even went viral at one point when she seemed to be hiding in the plants as Kim Jong Un met with the US president at the Metropole Hotel.

An incredible addition to annals of “Where’s Kim Yo Jong?” from @nknewsorg’s @chadocl.pic.twitter.com/9zZSUAnsL2

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It has become increasingly clear over the past several years that Kim Yo Jong was one of her brother’s most trusted officials, and her power in the regime was only growing.

But in the Hermit Kingdom, no one’s position is ever truly secure under the mercurial leadership of Kim Jong Un. He’s known for turning on family members quickly when they fall out of favor — and it remains to be seen whether Kim Yo Jong is an exception.

Kim Yo Jong was not listed as an alternate member of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea politburo — the party’s top decision-making body — and did not appear at any high-profile events during an important party gathering in April 2019.

She also missed a meeting between Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin later that month, fueling speculation that she had been demoted.

One theory is that Kim Jong Un ordered her to lie low after his failed summit with Trump in February 2019.

But in early June 2019, Kim Yo Jong was spotted for the first time in 52 days, suggesting she was back in her brother’s good graces.

In October 2019, North Korean media released strange photos of Kim Jong Un riding a white horse atop a mountain with historic and symbolic significance.

Experts told Business Insider that the photos are packed with political meaning — and could foreshadow a frightening military advancement.

Since then, her profile has only grown. In March 2020, Kim Yo Jong made her first-ever public statement, insulting South Korea as a “frightened dog barking” after the country condemned one of North Korea’s live-fire military drills.

“Such incoherent assertion and actions… only magnify our distrust, hatred and scorn for the South side as a whole,” Kim Yo Jong said in the statement.

The following month, Kim Yo Jong was reinstated as an alternate member of the Workers’ Party of Korea politburo, suggesting that all has been forgiven since the collapse of last year’s summit.

Given these recent developments, it’s clear that Kim Yo Jong’s power has grown tremendously in recent years, fueling speculation that no other family members besides her could take over.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

We still don’t know how many Raptors were damaged in hurricane

The U.S. Air Force is not ready to say just how many F-22 Raptors left behind at Tyndall Air Force Base sit damaged or crippled following Hurricane Michael’s catastrophic incursion on the Florida installation.

A service spokeswoman told Military.com on Oct. 15, 2018, that officials are still assessing the damage and cannot comment on the issue until the evaluation is complete.

Air Force Secretary Heather A. Wilson, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright were briefed by base officials as they toured Tyndall facilities on Oct. 14, 2018. The leaders concurred there was severe damage, but were hopeful that air operations on base may one day resume.


“Our maintenance professionals will do a detailed assessment of the F-22 Raptors and other aircraft before we can say with certainty that damaged aircraft can be repaired and sent back into the skies,” the service leaders said in a joint statement. “However, damage was less than we feared and preliminary indications are promising.”

Officials have yet to describe what kind of maintenance was taking place on the stealth jets that led officials to leave them at Tyndall instead of moving them to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where the other F-22s from the 325th Fighter Wing were evacuated to.

It is rumored that anywhere from seven to 17 aircraft may have been damaged by the Category 4 storm. Photos of F-22s left behind in shredded hangars that have surfaced on social media have some in the aviation community theorizing that a significant chunk of the F-22 fleet — roughly 10 percent — may be left stagnant for good.

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

John W. Henderson, left, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy, and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, right, look at the aftermath left from Hurricane Michael from a CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft assigned to the 8th Special Operations Squadron above northwest Florida, Oct. 14, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Joseph Pick)

The Air Force has not confirmed any of these numbers.

In the meantime, the unspecified number of F-22s that were able to escape the storm to Wright-Patterson have now been moved to Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, Air Combat Command said Oct. 15, 2018. Officials have not said how long the aircraft will remain there.

Experts say this is a perfect argument for why the Air Force should have invested more heavily in its greatest “insurance policy” in an air-to-air fight.

“This storm shows they should have purchased more,” Richard Aboulafia, vice president and analyst at the Teal Group, told Military.com in a phone call Oct. 15, 2018. “If history ever does resume, and a near-peer fight is in our future, you need to keep the skies clean.”

While some aircraft have been moved out of active status for testing purposes, the Air Force has 183 of the Lockheed Martin Corp.-made F-22s in its inventory today. More than 160 belong to active-duty units; the remainder are with Air National Guard elements. Four aircraft were lost or severely damaged between 2004 and 2012.

Production was cut short in 2009, with original plans to buy 381 fighters scaled down to a buy of just 187.

As with any small fleet, the limited number of F-22s has presented its own challenges over the years.

According to Defense News’ fiscal 2017 statistics, F-22s had a 49.01 percent mission-capable rate, meaning less than half were flyable at any given time. In 2014, more than three-quarters of F-22s were deemed mission capable.

The Pentagon wants to increase readiness rates for the F-22, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-35 Lightning II and F/A-18 Hornet to 80 percent by September 2019 — a 31 percent bump for the Raptor alone.

In July 2018, the Government Accountability Office found that the F-22 is frequently underutilized, mainly due to maintenance challenges and fewer opportunities for pilot training, as well as the fleet’s inefficient organizational structure.

But the recent misfortune does not mean the F-22 is no longer valuable. In fact, it may be the opposite, experts say.

So far, the U.S. has not seen what the F-22 is truly capable of, one defense analyst told Military.com on Oct. 15, 2018. It remains, like intercontinental ballistic missiles, a capability for assurance and deterrence. And that’s reason enough for it to be prized for any fleet.

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

Airmen build shelters at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 15, 2018, during reconstruction efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.

“Remember the example of the B-36 [Peacemaker], the bomber that was supposed to be so intimidating, no one would mess with us,” said the Washington, D.C.-based defense analyst, referencing the Air Force’s largest wing spanned strategic bomber with intercontinental range, used between 1948 to 1959.

“It was solely intended for strategic conflict, and so never flew an operational mission. Was that a success? Was it worth its money? The same kind of question can apply to the ICBM fleet,” the defense analyst, who spoke on background, said.

The analyst continued, “F-22 has yet to be in the fight it was designed for. So there’s no way to say if it’s a good value or not. You certainly don’t need it to blow up drug labs….[But] you don’t ever want to use them” for what they’re intended because that means you’re in a high-scale war.

“Until such time that it gets to perform its intended function, value is hard to evaluate. [But] that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a bad investment,” the analyst added.

Aboulafia agreed, but added now that there may be even fewer Raptors, the clock is ticking down for the next best thing. And it may not be the Pentagon’s other fifth-generation fighter, the F-35.

“I would tell the Air Force to…cut back on F-35 [Joint Strike Fighter] purchases and move forward with [Next-Generation Air Dominance],” Aboulafia said.

The service in 2016 debuted its Air Superiority 2030 roadmap, which includes the sustainment of old fighters and new jets such as the F-22 and F-35, but also outlines next-gen air dominance, defined as the use of advanced fighter aircraft, sensors or weapons — or all of the above — in a growing and unpredictable threat environment.

Officials say the Air Force’s next-generation platform may defy traditional categorization, with service leaders opting for a “family of systems” approach, but the aviation community remains eager for news of an advanced fighter.

“Either an all-new air vehicle or a hybrid,” Aboulafia said of what he’d expect from a potential sixth-generation fighter.

His reasoning? Because the F-35 may not be able to step up to the F-22’s designated role.

“The F-35 is great for situational awareness, great for ground attack. Is it the best for air-to-air [combat]? Far from it,” Aboulafia said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Exercise Keen Sword kicks off with thousands of sailors

Units from the U.S. military and Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) began exercise Keen Sword at military installations throughout Japan and surrounding waters, Oct. 29, 2018.

The biennial exercise is the latest in a series of joint/bilateral field training exercises since 1986 designed to increase combat readiness and interoperability of U.S. forces and the JSDF.

“Keen Sword will give U.S. and Japanese forces an opportunity to practice critical air, maritime and amphibious capabilities essential for Japan’s defense and for regional security,” said Lt. Gen. Jerry P. Martinez, commander of U.S. Forces Japan. “Just as important, the exercise is a visible demonstration of the strength and durability of the U.S-Japan alliance and our shared pursuit of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”


Approximately 10,000 U.S. service members from commands such as U.S. Pacific Fleet, U.S. Forces Japan, 7th Fleet, 5th Air Force, 374th Airlift Wing, 18th Wing, 35th Fighter Wing, and III Marine Expeditionary Force will take part.

Two Royal Canadian Navy ships will participate in the maritime portion of the exercise for the first time, along with observers from several other partner nations. Martinez said, “These developments are a positive sign of our shared interest in expanding partnerships and increasing multilateral cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.”

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships are underway in formation during Keen Sword 15.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chris Cavagnaro)

The U.S.-Japan alliance has been the cornerstone of regional peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region for nearly 60 years, and events like Keen Sword ensure that we will remain ready for the next sixty years,” Martinez added.

Exercises like Keen Sword provide the JSDF and U.S. military opportunities to train together across a variety of mission areas in realistic scenarios to enhance crisis response capabilities.

“On behalf of the 54,000 men and women of U.S. Forces Japan, I am proud to be a part of this alliance that is so essential to our two nations’ shared interests,” Martinez said. “We look forward to working side by side with our Japanese allies to make this important bilateral exercise a success.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the United States can avoid the next ‘dumb war’

While on the campaign trail, President Trump labeled the 2003 invasion of Iraq a “dumb war,” and the “worst decision” in American History. These statements should have received praise from Americans on both sides of the political aisle. Now, however, I’m not so certain that Trump is following through on his promises to avoid the next “dumb” war.

In May 2018, the president announced his intention to pull out of the Iran Deal, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The deal was, no doubt, flawed, but it did provide an inspections regime to limit and delay any Iranian attempts to go nuclear. Perhaps, being a creation of the Obama administration, the JCPOA was doomed from the start.


Iran is a mid-level menace. It aggressively pursues its interests through various proxy forces in the Mid-East — a sign of its weakness as much as power. The Islamic Republic has a burgeoning ballistic missile program (not covered by the JCPOA) and sometimes threatens Israel. This is all cause for concern and requires the U.S. military to balance and, perhaps, contain Iran. However, the Islamic Republic is decidedly not an existential threat to the United States. A more realist foreign policy must take this into account and avoid disastrous war.

Iran is nowhere near able to launch a (non-existent) nuclear weapon at Tel Aviv, let alone New York. Furthermore, as I have previously noted, Iran spends about as much on defense annually as the U.S. does on a single aircraft carrier. Iran’s GDP is about $427 billion, and it spent some $11.5 billion on defense in 2016. U.S. allies, like Saudi Arabia and Israel, spend $66.7 billion, and $19.6 billion, respectively. Standing behind them is the U.S., which plans to spend $716 billion on defense in 2019, or $300 billion more than Iran’s entire GDP.

Moreover, the U.S. military faces two significant problems: Iran presents a formidable obstacle to invasion, and American forces are already desperately overstretched.

Remember back when Americans were assured that the invasion of Iraq would be a “cakewalk?” We all know how that turned out. Iran is larger, more populous, and more mountainous than Iraq. It also has a fiercely nationalistic population, which, not-so-long-ago used human wave attacks to clear Iraqi minefields. Any U.S. invasion of Iran will require more troops and more years of patience than Washington or the populace have on hand.

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery
The April 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Firdos Square in in Baghdad shortly after the Iraq Waru00a0invasion.
(Department of Defense photo)

America’s formidable military is already spread thin, deployed in nearly 70 percent of the world’s countries. Our ground and air forces actively engage in combat in Niger, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The U.S. Army is also busy sending brigades to deter Russia in Eastern Europe and to shore up defenses in South Korea. Meanwhile, the Navy is patrolling the South China Sea, and ensuring access to the Persian Gulf and Red Sea. Bottom line: America’s warriors are quite busy.

The last thing Washington should do is take its eye off the ball in some seven ongoing shooting wars to start a new conflict with Iran. ISIS is not yet defeated, Iraq is far from politically stable, and — despite optimistic pleas to the contrary — the war in Afghanistan is failing. The best bet is for the U.S. military to cut its losses, avoid more counterproductive interventions, and cautiously disengage from the region.

The last thing American servicemen and women need is to fight a new, exhaustive war in Iran, with existing enemies to their rear. That would defy just about every sound military maxim on the books. Worse still, if we think Iran’s proxy forces are a problem now, imagine what will happen in the case of war, when Tehran would undoubtedly unleash them against U.S. bases and supply lines across the region.

Personally, this combat veteran trusts President Trump’s instincts more than those of his advisers. Secretary of State Pompeo and National Security Adviser Bolton are well-known Iranophobes with an ax to grind. Ditching the Iran Deal was definitely a win for these two. Still, scuttling the JCPOA does not have to mean war.

Trump eventually saw the invasion and occupation of Iraq for what it was: an unmitigated failure. Let’s hope he applies that instinct and avoids what promises to be an even more costly war with the Islamic Republic.

Mr. President, hundreds of thousands of us, overstretched veterans of 17 years of perpetual war in the Mid-East, are counting on a new deal.

One that doesn’t include a new war.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Israeli airmen and a US Marine attacked 10,000 Egyptians and won

In November 1947, the United Nations voted to partition what was then called “Palestine.” The plan called for a complete British withdrawal, separate Jewish and Palestinian states, and an international regime to control the ancient, holy city of Jerusalem. The partition plan was rejected by Arab nations in the region on the grounds that it violated the UN charter’s principles of self-determination. Before May 1948, the conflict consisted of separate Arab and Jewish fighting for supremacy and fighting to expel the British. On May 15, 1948, the Jewish people of the region declared independence as the state of Israel and the world hasn’t been the same since.


 

The Partition of Palestine passed in the UN General Assembly in November 1947. Immediately after the partition vote passed, the country descended into a civil war for control of the political and cultural hearts of the region. May 14th, 1948 was the day the British announced their intent to end their UN mandate. Shortly before midnight that day, Jewish political leader David Ben Gurion declared an independent Israel.

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery
Ben Gurion (center)with Israeli forces in the Negev during the 1948 war.

The Jewish people in Palestine didn’t just get independence handed to them. The conflict that started the day after the partition vote now exploded into a full-scale war, the day the British were to leave. The neighboring Arab states Egypt, Transjordan (now modern Jordan), Iraq, and Syria immediately invaded the territory declared to be Israel. Jewish paramilitary groups that were once considered terrorists under the British Mandate coalesced into the Israel Defence Forces. These groups were already engaged in conflict with Palestinian Arab units throughout the area, including the Arab Liberation Army and Holy War Army. The British were functionally gone anyway and the major cities of Tiberias, Jaffa, Haifa, and Acre had already fallen to the Israelis.

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

Syrian forces would invade from the North, linking up with Iraqi and Jordanians forces in Nazareth, then pushing West to take the coastal city of Haifa. The Egyptians were supposed to capture Tel Aviv from the South. The Jordanian King Abdullah I didn’t want to invade any area given to the Jewish state under the UN partition, and the plan was changed. The Egyptians, by far the largest of the invading armies, were still to invade from the South and capture Tel Aviv. Two weeks after the Israeli declaration of independence, Egyptians were knocking at the door, ready to move on Tel Aviv. The defense of the city fell to one man, Lou Lenart. Lenart would enter the history books as the man who devised and executed the IDF’s first aerial strike.

Lenart was a seasoned combat airman. He joined the Marine Corps in 1940 with the singular goal of killing Nazis. He would go to flight school later in his career, which saw him serve as air support for Marines on Okinawa and participate in bombing raids over Japan. After the war, he found out he lost 14 family members in the Holocaust. That loss galvanized his feelings on an independent Jewish state. By the time he arrived in Israel, he was an experienced combat pilot.

Lenart and three fellow pilots (Ezer Weizmann, Mudy Alon, and Eddie Cohen) flew four Czech Avia S-99 airplanes, cobbled together with the remains of Nazi Messerschmitt fighters. Armed with a machine gun and four 150-pound bombs, the four flew south to Ashdod where they’d heard the Egyptians were camped. They had no radar, no radios, and communicated with hand signals. Finding masses of Egyptian troops, trucks, and tanks, the Jewish pilots dropped low, dropped their bombs and shot up anything they could see.

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery
Avia S-99 being fitted for combat in 1948.

 

“They didn’t even know Israel had an air force,” Lenart would say later. “The Arabs had everything, we had nothing. And we still won. When I’m asked how we did it, I say: ‘We just didn’t have a choice. That was our secret weapon.'”

 

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

They encountered what turned out to be an armored column of 10,000 Egyptian troops and 500 vehicles. Cohen was killed in the attack and Alon was shot down (he would be killed later in the war). The Egyptians were stunned and scattered. By the time they recovered, Egypt had lost the initiative.

This was the beginning of Operation Pleshet. Israeli forces would then harass the Egyptians and group for a counter attack. Though that counter was not successful, Egypt’s strategy turned from offensive to defensive and to this day, the bold Israeli airstrike is credited for saving Tel Aviv. The (first) war for Israel’s existence would drag on until March 1949 but Tel Aviv would never fall to an Arab army.

Lenart died in 2015 at the ripe old age of 94. His efforts in the 1948 war were never forgotten.

Humor

The 13 funniest memes for the week of June 1st

It’s now summertime, which means hotter temperatures for physical training, longer days for working parties, and more intense nights for barracks parties. All three of those are a lot easier if you take to your medic/corpsman’s advice and drink some water.

You don’t need to change your socks as often as they claim, but doing so at least once a day is appreciated by everyone around you. If you don’t, well, you’re one nasty SOB. But you’re not here for advice, you’re here for memes.


The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

(Meme via Air Force Nation)

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

(Meme via Navy Memes)

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

(Meme via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Says)

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

(Meme via Ranger Up)

Everyone wants to do infantry stuff until it’s time to do infantry stuff.

(Spoiler alert: A lot of infantry stuff sucks if you don’t embrace it.)

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

(Meme by WATM)

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

(Meme via Military World)

“Cover me while I glue!”

“I got you covered!”

popular

The experimental rifle that almost changed World War II

In 1928, the Army asked itself how it could make its rifles, and therefore its riflemen, more lethal in case all those building tensions in Europe and Asia eventually boiled over and triggered a new world war. After years of study and design, they came up with a rifle design that some leaders thought would be capable of tipping battles, but it never saw combat.


The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery
Pedersen rifle patent

 

It started in 1928 when the Army created a “Caliber Board” to determine what the most lethal size would be for a rifle round. Their eventual conclusion would be familiar to anyone who carried an M16 or M4. While .30-caliber and larger rounds were great for hunting animals, they passed too quickly and easily through humans. The board decided that a smaller round, preferably .276 inches or smaller, would be best.

This decision was no surprise to John Douglas Pedersen, a well-known weapon designer with an experimental rifle chambered for .276-caliber that featured a delayed-blowback mechanism and a 10-round clip.

This allowed the weapon to fire reliably, and it allowed infantrymen and cavalrymen to maintain a high rate of fire. A demonstration of the weapon pleased senior Army leaders, and they asked when they could take prototypes to the field for testing.

But the Pedersen did have some drawbacks. The weapon was very precisely machined, and even small errors could throw off its operation. Also, its rounds had to receive a thin coating of wax to guarantee that they’d properly feed through the weapon. Finally, its clips could only be fed in one direction into the rifle, meaning riflemen reloading under fire would have to be careful to get it right.

So, other weapon designers thought they had a chance to win the Army’s business. Other .276-caliber designs entered competition, including the Garand.

The Garand could take a beating, was easier to manufacture, and didn’t need lubricated rounds. The Pedersen was still the frontrunner in many eyes, but the Garand posed a real threat to it.

 

Shooting a .276 Pedersen PB Rifle

An even greater blow to the Pedersen was coming. As the move to a .276-caliber continued, the Army Ordnance Department was putting up fierce resistance. The department didn’t want to have to set up the whole new supply chain, get the new tools, or prepare the new stockpiles of ammunition required to support the switch.

The Ordnance Department argued, successfully, to Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur that the change would be expensive and present logistics challenges. MacArthur ordered that any new rifle had to use the .30-caliber ammunition already in use by the Army.

Most of the competitors, including Pedersen, didn’t think they could re-configure their weapons quickly to accept the larger ammunition, but the Garand team could. They quickly swapped in new parts, and entered a .30-caliber Garand and it won the competition, going on to become the M1 Garand of World War II legend.

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery
A U.S. Marine with his trusty M1 Garand in World War II. (U.S. Marine Corps)

 

But it’s easy to imagine an alternate history where the Pedersen or the .276-Garand went into production instead. The .30-caliber ammunition and older weapons would’ve still seen action, sent forward with Free French, British, and Russian forces under the Cash-and-Carry system and then Lend-Lease.

Meanwhile, American troops would’ve carried a slightly lighter rifle and much lighter rounds, giving them the ability to more quickly draw their weapons and the ability to sustain a higher rate of fire with the same strain on individual soldiers and the logistics chain.

And, best of all, more lethality per hit. The .30-caliber rounds, the same size as 7.62mm, are more likely to pass through a target at the ranges in which most battles are fought. But .276-caliber rounds are more likely to tumble a time or two after hitting a target, dispersing their energy in the target’s flesh and causing massive internal bleeding.

So, if the 1928 Ordnance Board and the modern minds behind 5.56mm and the potential 6.8mm weapons were right, each successful rifle hit by American soldiers was more likely to cause death or extreme wounding.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea is so short on cash it’s selling electricity to China

Despite persistent power shortages, North Korea is reportedly selling electricity to China for cash.


The deal, which reportedly began on Feb. 9, 2018, will see China pay between $60,000 and $100,000 a month for power generated by a hydroelectric dam close to the border between the two countries, according to Seoul-based news outlet Daily NK.

“The Supong Hydroelectric Generator in Sakju County is providing the energy to a Chinese factory that produces fire proofing materials. The [North Korean] authorities are accepting payments in the form of cash,” a source in the local North Korean province told Daily NK.

The source also said the export project has been named “The January 8 Fund,” after the birthday of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un. His father, Daily NK reported, also had a similar project that earned foreign currency named after his birthday on Feb. 16.

Also read: China tests missile defense system after North Korean nuke test

According to Daily NK, North Korea’s usual priority is to first power “idolization sites” for the country’s two previous leaders, government organizations, and munitions factories, before civilian homes or buildings.

Fewer than one-in-three North Koreans have access to electricity, the World Bank estimates, and nighttime satellite images show what that looks like for most of the country.

 

Unsurprisingly, the Sakju generator doesn’t provide electricity for ordinary citizens, rather it reportedly usually powers a munitions factory, meaning military production could be affected by the power sale to China.

The desire to reroute electricity away from a munitions factory indicates how desperate sanctions have made Pyongyang to earn foreign currency.

Related: China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

Sanctions currently bar North Korea from exporting coal, steel, minerals, food, wood, and textiles, as well as ending the practice of sending foreign labor overseas to earn funds for the regime.

South Korea’s government currently estimates the North’s hard currency reserves, which are believed to be about $3 billion, will dry up by October 2018.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How NASA honored John Young, its most experienced astronaut

The following is a statement from acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot on the passing of John Young, who died Jan. 5 following complications from pneumonia at the age of 87. Young is the only agency astronaut to go into space as part of the Gemini, Apollo, and space shuttle programs, and the first to fly into space six times:


Today, NASA and the world have lost a pioneer. Astronaut John Young’s storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight; we will stand on his shoulders as we look toward the next human frontier.

 

John was one of that group of early space pioneers whose bravery and commitment sparked our nation’s first great achievements in space. But, not content with that, his hands-on contributions continued long after the last of his six spaceflights — a world record at the time of his retirement from the cockpit.

 

Between his service in the U.S. Navy, where he retired at the rank of captain, and his later work as a civilian at NASA, John spent his entire life in service to our country.  His career included the test pilot’s dream of two ‘first flights’ in a new spacecraft — with Gus Grissom on Gemini 3, and as Commander of STS-1, the first space shuttle mission, which some have called ‘the boldest test flight in history.’ He flew as Commander on Gemini 10, the first mission to rendezvous with two separate spacecraft the course of a single flight. He orbited the Moon in Apollo 10, and landed there as Commander of the Apollo 16 mission. On STS-9, his final spaceflight, and in an iconic display of test pilot ‘cool,’ he landed the space shuttle with a fire in the back end.

Also Read: Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space

I participated in many Space Shuttle Flight Readiness Reviews with John, and will always remember him as the classic ‘hell of an engineer’ from Georgia Tech, who had an uncanny ability to cut to the heart of a technical issue by posing the perfect question — followed by his iconic phrase, ‘Just asking…’

 

John Young was at the forefront of human space exploration with his poise, talent, and tenacity.  He was in every way the ‘astronaut’s astronaut.’ We will miss him.

For more information about Young’s NASA career, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/astronautprofiles/young  

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