In one of the lesser known facts of history, in 1937 two Japanese officers named Toshiaki Mukai and Tsuyoshi Noda held a contest over who could kill 100 people with his sword (Magoroku) first?
Mukai and Noda were two young second lieutenants in the Katagiri Regiment’s Toyama Battalion and their contest was held during the Japanese invasion of China. The winner was announced on Dec. 10, 1937, only a couple of days before the Japanese Army entered Nanking (now Nanjing). Nanking, then the capital of the Republic of China (now of the Jiangsu province), was captured by the Japanese army on December 13, 1937 and in six weeks over 200,000 residents were murdered and thousands of women were raped. It would become known as the Nanking Massacre and Rape of Nanking.
It didn’t stop then, on the day when the winner was announced to who had the most kills, they both agreed to take the contest up to a 150 people.
“Incredible Record” In The Contest to Cut Down 100 People
Mukai 106, Noda 105
Both Second Lieutenants Go Into Extra Innings
Toshiaki Mukai and Tsuyochi [sic] Noda, the two daring second lieutenants in the Katagiri Regiment who started an unusual contest to “cut down 100 people” before entering Nanjing, have—amidst the chaos of the battle to capture Purple Mountain on Dec. 10th—recorded their 106th and 105th kills respectively. When they met each other at noon on Dec. 10th, they were both carrying their swords in one hand. Their blades had, of course, been damaged.
Noda: “Hey, I got 105. What about you?” Mukai:”I got 106!”…Both men laughed. Because they didn’t know who had reached 100 kills first, in the end someone said, “Well then, since it’s a drawn game, what if we start again, this time going for 150 kills?” They both agreed, and on the 11th, they started an even longer contest to cut down 150 people. At noon on the 11th, on Purple Mountain, which overlooks an imperial tomb, while in the midst of hunting down the remnants of the defeated [Chinese] army, 2nd Lt. Mukai talked about the progress of the drawn game.
“I’m happy that we both exceeded 100 kills before we found out the final score. But I damaged my ‘Seki no Magoroku’ on some guy’s helmet when I was cleaving him in two. So, I’ve made a promise to present this sword to your company when I’ve finished fighting. At 3 AM, on the morning of the 11th, our comrades used the unusual strategy of setting Purple Mountain on fire, in order to smoke any remaining enemies out of their hiding places. But I got smoked out too! I shot up with my sword over my shoulder, and stood straight as an arrow amidst a rain of bullets, but not a single bullet hit me. That’s also thanks to my Seki no Magoroku here.”
Then, amidst a barrage of incoming enemy bullets, he showed one of the reporters his Magoroku, which had soaked up the blood of 106 people.”
The competition was featured four times in the wartime Japanese newspapers Osaka Mainichi Shimbun and Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shimbun from Nov. 30 to Dec. 13, 1937. The newspapers reported their kill records and celebrated both officers for their achievements. The contest was far from heroic. The officer’s victims weren’t killed in action but rather murdered. Tsuyoshi Noda admitted in a speech:
Actually, I didn’t kill more than four or five people in hand-to hand combat… We’d face an enemy trench that we’d captured, and when we called out, ‘Ni, Lai-Lai!’ (You, come on!), the Chinese soldiers were so stupid, they’d rush toward us all at once. Then we’d line them up and cut them down, from one end of the line to the other. I was praised for having killed a hundred people, but actually, almost all of them were killed in this way. The two of us did have a contest, but afterward, I was often asked whether it was a big deal, and I said it was no big deal…
After World War II had ended, a written record of the contest was acquired by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, which resulted in the two officers being turned over to China. They were tried by the Nanking War Crimes Tribunal and on January 28, 1948, both Mukai and Noda were executed for war crimes.
The Marine Corps is accepting delivery of its first new Amphibious Combat Vehicle that can fire stabilized weapons, maneuver in littoral areas and launch faster, more survivable ship-to-shore amphibious attacks from beyond-the-horizon.
Referred to by Corps developers as ACV 1.1, the new vehicle is engineered to replace the services’ current inventory of Amphibious Assault Vehicles, or AAVs – in service for decades. There is an existing effort to upgrade a portion of its fleet of AAVs to a more survivable variant with spall liner and other protection-improving adjustments such as added armor.
Nevertheless, despite the enhancements of the AAV Survivability Upgrade, or AAV SU, the Corps is clear that it needs a new vehicle to address emerging threats, Kurt Mullins, ACV 1.1 Product Manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“ACV 1.1 gives us the ability to operate throughout the range of operations. The current AAV is limited because of its survivability. The new vehicle will be significantly more survivable than a standard AAV,” Mullins said.
The Corps is now in the process of acquiring a number of Engineering, Manufacturing Development vehicles for further testing and evaluation from two vendors – SAIC and BAE Systems. Mullins said the Marine Corps plans to down-select to one manufacturer by 2018 and have an operational new ACV 1.1 by 2020.
Marine Corps fleet plans call for more than 200 of the new vehicles to support attacking infantry battalions. They are building both personnel and recovery variants, he explained.
The ACV 1.1 will serve alongside and improve upon the upgraded portion of the existing AAV fleet. The Marines have operated a fleet of more than 1,000 AAVs over the years ; some will “sunset” and others will receive the survivability upgrade.
Stabilized .50-cal machine guns and Mk 19 grenade launchers will make the new ACV for lethal and accurate in attacks against enemies; engineers are building in an up-gunned weapons station operating with Common Remotely Operated Weapons Systems, or CROWS, able to allow attackers to fire weapons from beneath the protection of the vehicle’s armor.
Unlike the tracked AAVs, the new ACV 1.1 is a wheeled vehicle designed for better traction on land and operations involving enter and egress from Amphib ships.
“Wheeled vehicles are more reliable, when operating across the range of military operations.”
Given that the new vehicle is being built for both maritime and land combat operations, requirements for the emerging platform specify that the platform needs to be better equipped to defend against more recent threats such as IEDs and roadside bombs. This, at least according to BAEs offering, includes the construction of a “V” shaped hull in order to increase the vehicle’s ground clearance and deflect blast debris away from the crew compartment.
“It needs to be able to provide significant armor and stand-off distance from the ground to the bottom of the hull,” Mullins added.
An ability to better withstand emerging threats and new weapons likely to be used by enemies is said to be of crucial importance in today’s evolving global environment; enemies now have longer-range, more precise weapons and high-tech sensors able to find and target vehicles from much further distances.
Accordingly, emerging Marine Corps amphibious warfare strategy calls for an ability to “disaggregate” and spread approaching amphibious vehicles apart as necessary to make the much more difficult for enemies to target. They are also being engineered operate more successfully in ground combat environments wherein approach vehicles need to advance much further in from the shoreline.
The new ACVs are also being designed to work seamlessly with longer-range, more high-tech US Navy and Army weapons as well. As US Navy weapons and sensors operate with a vastly improved ability to detect and destroy enemy targets – on land and in maritime scenarios – amphibious assault strategy will adjust accordingly.
BAE Systems ACV 1.1
The first BAE Systems ACV 1.1 vehicle has been delivered to the Marine Corps for additional assessment and testing, company officials said.
In a special interview with Scout Warrior, BAE weapons and platform developers explained that their offering includes a number of innovations designed to best position the vehicle for future combat.
BAE’s emerging vehicle uses no axl but rather integrates a gear box for each wheel station, designed for better traction and mission such as driving up onto an amphibious vehicle or rigorous terrain on land.
“It has positive drive to each of the wheel stations so you don’t have gear slippage and have positive traction at all times. All eight wheels are driven at the same time,” Swift said.
The absence of an axl means engineers can create greater depth for the vehicle’s “V-shaped” hull, he added.
Their vehicle is built with a 690-horsepower engine, composite armor materials and can travel up to 12 nautical miles with a crew of 13; also, the BAE ACV 1.1 can travel 55mph on land, and six mph in the water, BAE developers said.
Blast attenuated seats where seat frames are suspended from the ceiling are another design feature aimed at further protecting Marines from attacks involving explosions underneath the vehicle.
Fuel tanks on the new ACV 1.1 are stored on the outside of the vehicle as part of a method of reducing damage to the crew and vehicle interior in the event of an attack.Finally, like many emerging platforms these days, BAE’s offering is being engineered with an often-used term called “open architecture” – meaning it is built for growth such that it can embrace and better integrate new technologies as they emerge.
The Marine Corps awarded BAE a $103 million deal in November of last year; the company has delivered its first of 16 prototypes planned to additional testing.
The Marine Corps’ Future of Amphibious Attack
The Marine Corps future plan for amphibious assault craft consists of a nuanced and multi-faceted plan involving the production of several more vehicles. Following the ACV 1.1, the Corps plans to engineer and produce a new ACV 1.2 variant with increased combat and technical mission abilities.
“We are working on requirements for ACV 1.2, which will be informed by our ACV 1.1 experience,” Mullins said.
However, this next ACV 1.2 will merely serve as an interim solution until much faster water-speed technology comes to fruition, a development expected in coming years.
Meanwhile, Corps weapons developers from the advanced Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory are already in the early phases of preparation for when that much faster water speed exists. A future mission ability or vehicle of this kind, to be operational by 2023, could involve a number of different possible platform solutions, Mullins explained.
“Some sort of high-water speed capability that may not be a single vehicle solution. It could be a high-water speed connector that gets that vehicle to shore,” he said.
The Marine Corps is revving up its fleet of 1970s-era Amphibious Assault Vehicles to integrate the latest technology and make them better able to stop roadside-bombs and other kinds of enemy attacks, service officials said.
The existing fleet, which is designed to execute a wide range of amphibious attack missions from ship-to-shore, is now receiving new side armor (called spall liner), suspension, power trains, engine upgrades, water jets, underbelly ballistic protections and blast-mitigating seats to slow down or thwart the damage from IEDs and roadside bombs, Maj. Paul Rivera, AAV SU Project Team Lead, told Scout Warrior.
“The purpose of this variant is to bring back survivability and force protection back to the AAV P-variant (existing vehicle),” he said.
The classic AAV, armed with a .50-cal machine gun and 40mm grenade launcher, is being given new technology so that it can serve in the Corps fleet for several more decades.
“The AAV was originally expected to serve for only 20-years when it fielded in 1972. Here we are in 2016. In effect we want to keep these around until 2035,” John Garner, Program Manager for Advanced Amphibious Assault,” said in an interview with Scout Warrior last year.
The new AAV, called AAV “SU” for survivability upgrade, will be more than 10,000 pounds heavier than its predecessor and include a new suspension able to lift the hull of the vehicle higher off the ground to better safeguard Marines inside from being hit by blast debris. With greater ground clearance, debris from an explosion has farther to travel, therefore lessening the impact upon those hit by the attack.
The AAV SU will be about 70,000 pounds when fully combat loaded, compared to the 58,000-pound weight of the current AAV.
“By increasing the weight you have a secondary and tertiary effects which better protect Marines. We are also bringing in a new power train, new suspension and new water jets for water mobility,” Rivera said.
A new, stronger transmission for the AAV SU will integrate with a more powerful 625 HP Cummins engine, he added.
The original AAV is engineered to travel five-to-six knots in the water, reach distances up to 12 nautical miles and hit speeds of 45mph on land – a speed designed to allow the vehicle to keep up with an Abrams tank, Corps officials said.
In addition, the new AAV SU will reach an acquisition benchmark called “Milestone C” in the Spring of next year. This will begin paving the way toward full-rate production by 2023, Rivera explained.
The new waterjet will bring more speed to the platform, Rivera added.
“The old legacy water jet comes from a sewage pump. That sewage pump was designed to do sewage and not necessarily project a vehicle through the water. The new waterjet uses an axial flow,” Rivera said.
The new, more flexible blast-mitigating seats are deigned to prevent Marines’ feet from resting directly on the floor in order to prevent them from being injured from an underbelly IED blast.
“It is not just surviving the blast and making sure Marines aren’t killed, we are really focusing on those lower extremities and making sure they are walking away from the actual event,” Rivera said.
The seat is engineered with a measure of elasticity such that it can respond differently, depending on the severity of a blast.
“If it’s a high-intensity blast, the seat will activate in accordance with the blast. Each blast is different. As the blast gets bigger the blast is able to adjust,” Rivera said.
In total, the Marines plan to upgrade roughly one-third of their fleet of more than 900 AAVs.
The idea with Amphibious Assault Vehicles, known for famous historical attacks such as Iwo Jima in WWII (using earlier versions), is to project power from the sea by moving deadly combat forces through the water and up onto land where they can launch attacks, secure a beachhead or reinforce existing land forces.
Often deploying from an Amphibious Assault Ship, AAVs swim alongside Landing Craft Air Cushions which can transport larger numbers of Marines and land war equipment — such as artillery and battle tanks.
AAVs can also be used for humanitarian missions in places where, for example, ports might be damaged an unable to accommodate larger ships.
American intelligence isn’t the only one who goes around “sheep dipping” its elite military members for clandestine service. The term means taking a military member out of uniform to do work for an intelligence agency, so as not to commit an act of war. The CIA is well-known for doing it, but we now know Israel does, too.
Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, creates some of the best spies in the world. So when they have a really well-placed operative, it doesn’t make sense to risk blowing their cover on a risky, high-profile assignment. That’s where the Caesarea branch comes in.
Caesarea, named for the ancient town (now ruins) in Israel built by King Herod the Great, is one of the most closely guarded areas of Mossad’s inner workings. It was founded in the 1970s by famed Israeli spy Michael Harari and quickly became one of its important operations because the world was a very different place for Israelis back then.
The main problem was that terrorism was proliferating in the world, which included the kidnapping and murdering Israeli citizens. Mossad and the Israel Defense Forces would rescue them if possible. If not, Caesarea would be the ones to avenge them. Using a specialized task force inside Caesarea called “Kidon” (or “bayonet”), which is made up of former IDF special operators, they would be Israel’s assassination squad.
With possibly hundreds of spies in place throughout the Arab world, they could easily identify and reconnoiter possible targets. When not actively working on an assassination plan, Caesarea collects information and conducts surveillance on possible enemy targets. Kidon is then sent in to end the threats or enact biblical justice.
Of course, given the incredibly secretive nature of Mossad and its operatives, not much about the organization can be confirmed beyond the fact that it exists. A number of prominent journalists have written about various targeted killing operations allegedly conducted by Caesarea and Kidon but the sources for those stories are unknown.
It’s alleged that the unit began in the wake of the 1972 Munich Massacre, in which Palestinian terrorists from the group Black September took the Israeli Olympic team hostage at the 1972 Summer Games in West Germany. Mossad Operatives took revenge on the planners and perpetrators of the attack through targeted assassinations. The Israelis dubbed the mission Operation Wrath of God.
Kidon was also assumed to be involved in the 1997 attempt to kill Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Amman. There, they used a unique poison sprayed into the terror leader’s ear. The operatives were chased down by Meshaal’s bodyguards, who turned them over to Jordanian authorities.
In this incident, Meshaal was saved only by the intervention of King Hussein of Jordan, who threatened to withdraw from its peace treaty with Israel unless the Israelis provided the antidote to the poison, which they quickly did. Kidon is also said to have participated in similar targeted killings during the two Palestinian intifadas, which saw massive unrest among Palestinians and numerous terror attacks inside Israel.
Kidon and Caesarea are so secretive, even the domestic Israeli news agency Haaretz describes it as “the Mossad within Mossad.” The secretive nature also lends itself to a number of Israeli and international conspiracy theories, including hiring Monica Lewinsky to embarrass President Bill Clinton and killing Princess Diana.
The one thing anyone outside Mossad knows is that Kidon exists. And that’s all anyone may ever know for certain.
Featured image: IDF Special Forces soldiers, November 2019, Source: Israeli Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Unit
This is not an idle thought. On March 26, 2010, the Pohang-class corvette ROKS Cheonan was torpedoed and sunk by a North Korean mini-sub firing a 21-inch torpedo. So, the concern is what one of these subs could do to a carrier.
Let’s look at what these subs are. The North Koreans have two front-line classes of mini-sub, according to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World. The Yono — the type of sub believed to have fired the torpedo that sank the Cheonan — is about 110 tons and carries two 21-inch torpedoes. The Sang-O is 295 tons and also has a pair of 21-inch torpedo tubes.
North Korea also has Romeo-class submarines, which have eight 21-inch torpedo tubes (six forward, two aft), with a total of 14 torpedoes. North Korea also has some mini-subs built to a Yugoslavian design with two 16-inch torpedoes, but those are believed to be in reserve.
That said, American aircraft carriers are very tough vessels. In World War II, the carriers USS Yorktown (CV 5) and USS Hornet (CV 8) took a lot of abuse before they sank. The carrier USS Franklin (CV 13) had one of the great survival stories of the war, despite horrific damage.
But today’s carrier are much larger.
In fact, the Russians designed the Oscar-class guided-missile submarine to kill America’s Nimitz-class carriers – and those have 24 SS-N-19 “Shipwreck” missiles, plus four 21-inch torpedo tubes and four 25.6-inch tubes meant to fire torpedoes with either massive conventional warheads or even nuclear ones.
This points to a North Korean sub being unable to sink a Nimitz-class carrier on its own.
But two torpedoes will still force a carrier to spend a long time in the body shop. And the escorts are more vulnerable as well.
A U.S. carrier could take a couple of hits and in a worst case scenario, she’d have to fly her air wing to shore bases.
After the littoral combat ship USS Freedom sustained major engine damage July 11 because a seal malfunction allowed seawater to seep in, the commander of Naval Surface Forces quietly ordered all LCS crews to observe a stand-down, halting operations to review procedures and engineering standards.
“Due to the ongoing challenges with littoral combat ships, I ordered an engineering stand-down for LCS squadrons and the crews that fall under their command,” Vice Adm. Tom Rowden said in a statement. “These stands down allowed for time to review, evaluate and renew our commitment to ensuring our crews are fully prepared to operate these ships safely.”
The reviews were completed by Aug. 31, Navy officials announced Monday, adding that every sailor in each LCS crew with a role in engineering will observe retraining.
The training, officials said, will take place over the next 30 days. During that time, leadership of the Navy’s Surface Warfare Officer’s School in Newport, Rhode Island, will review the current LCS training program and recommend any other changes they see fit.
The school’s engineers will also supervise current and future training efforts. They will develop a knowledge test and specialized training for LCS engineers, to be deployed to them by Oct. 5. A separate, comprehensive LCS engineering review is being conducted by the commander of SWOS, Capt. David A. Welch, and is expected to take between 30 and 60 days.
“From there, more adjustments may be made to the engineering training pipeline,” officials with Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in a statement.
The Freedom, the first of its class made by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Marinette Marine, returned to its San Diego homeport Aug. 3 to address the damage it sustained to one of its diesel propulsion engines, which Navy officials said will require an engine rebuild or replacement.
It remains unclear what caused another LCS, the USS Coronado, to be sidelined with damage to one of its flexible couplings assemblies Aug. 29.
Upon its return to Pearl Harbor Sept. 4, the Coronado was met by a group of maintenance experts sent by Rowden to inspect the ship, officials said. The experts investigated the ship’s engineering program, but no information has been released about the cause of the problem or whether it might be related to previous engineering casualties.
“A preliminary investigation will provide an initial assessment and procedural review of the situation, and any shortfalls will be addressed quickly to get the ship fixed and back on deployment,” officials said.
The Coronado, so far the only trimaran-hulled Independence-variant LCS made by Austal USA to suffer an engineering casualty, had been just two months into its maiden deployment.
The Freedom and the Coronado are the third and fourth littoral combat ships to experience engineering casualties inside a 12-month span.
Last December, the LCS Milwaukee broke down during a transit from San Diego and Halifax, Nova Scotia when a clutch failed to disengage when the ship switched gears. The ship had to cut short the transit in order to be towed to Joint Base Little Creek, Virginia, for repairs.
In January, the LCS Fort Worth was sidelined in Singapore when it broke down in what officials said was a casualty caused by engineers failing to properly apply lubrication oil to the ship’s combining gears. After eight months in port in Singapore for repairs, the Fort Worth departed for its San Diego homeport in August.
It’s another weekly episode of Star Trek: The Original Series: The title – “Bread and Circuses.”
This time, Capt. Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy beam down to Planet 892-IV, a planet identical to Earth in almost every way – except Rome never fell.
Along with scantily clad space babes and gladiatorial games there are gun-toting Roman legionnaires. Not only did Rome never fall in this story, but apparently Denmark rises to become supplier of submachine guns to the empire, and a pretty badass submachine gun at that.
They are toting the Madsen M-50 9-millimeter submachine guns by Dansk Industri Syndikat. Its simplicity and ease of maintenance are stellar even if its popularity back on Earth was somewhat limited.
The M-50 is an open bolt, blowback submachine gun that fires only in full-auto at a cyclic rate of 550 rounds per minute. It has a 32-round box magazine and is slightly more than 30 inches long with the stock unfolded.
However, it’s most unusual feature is the way the operator field-strips the weapon. A barrel nut holds two halves of the hinged sheet metal receiver together – when the operator closes the stock and removes the barrel nut, he can open the receiver like it is clamshell housing, exposing the inner parts of the gun.
All the parts such as the bolt, operating spring and guide, and the barrel easily remove for cleaning. When finished, the person cleaning the weapon just reverses the process and snaps the sides of the receiver shut and replaces the barrel nut.
Besides, it looks exotic and foreign – probably one of the reasons movie and television armorers loved using it.
In the original Planet of the Apes films the M-50 was mocked-up in a futuristic shell to make the gun look even more alien – perfectly suited for a world where apes carried the guns and made the laws.
Also in 1968, the film Ice Station Zebra portrayed Soviet paratroopers carrying the gun, no doubt because of its foreign look.
Even legendary cinematic Italian crime families packed the gun. In The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, Corleone “made men” are carrying M-50s as they provide security around the various family compounds depicted in the movie.
But “movie gun” was not what the Madsen’s manufacturer intended. In a world full of cheap, mass-produced World War II submachine guns like the M-3 “Grease Gun” or the Sten, the Madsen put up with a lot abuse without jamming.
The Special Forces Foreign Weapons Handbook describes it as a “well-made weapon” that “incorporates low-cost production features, sturdiness and simplicity of disassembly seldom found in weapons of this type” and that it possessed a stock that was “one of the most rigid types available and the weapon can be fired as easily with the stock folded as it can with the stock unfolded.”
Latin American military and police units used it widely. During the 1950s, Dansk Industri Syndikat sold thousands of M-50s to Latin American countries including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, and Venezuela.
Brazil also purchased the gun, but then produced its own licensed version called the M-953 or the INA – for Industria Nacional de Armas of Sao Paulo. The Brazilian makers of the INA originally chambered the weapon in .45 ACP, a caliber popular with most of their nation’s armed forces and police.
However, during the early 1970s Brazil’s defense ministers decided that 9-millimeter Parabellum would be a better choice in ammunition. They eventually ordered a massive conversion program to re-chamber the weapons in 9-millimeter as well as add a select-fire modification.
Special Forces and CIA operators during the Vietnam War frequently carried the M-50 or armed the “indigs” with the gun.
In South Vietnam, Green Berets frequently placed the weapon in the hands of the montagnards, the indigenous hill people who defended villages against the Viet Cong and served as rapid response forces alongside special operators.
Small enough to be secreted inside their woven pack baskets, M-50s gave the montagnards real firepower as they scouted hills and trails for Viet Cong activity.
Despite obvious interest in the M-50, sales of the weapon were good but not great. Its biggest competition was the veritable flood of surplus submachine guns from World War II that inundated the military market during the 1950s.
So, it became a movie gun – whether it was in “space, the final frontier” (at least as it was portrayed on television) or in dozens of movies on the big screen.
Howard Banks is a WWII veteran who was injured while protecting Old Glory. Not in Europe or the Pacific, but in front of his Texas home.
The 92-year-old Banks is legally blind, but could spot someone trying to tear down the American flag posted in front of his house in Kaufman, Texas. When he went out to see what was happening, he was pushed to the ground.
Banks didn’t stay down for long. Just the previous year, vandals took down his U.S. flag, shredded it and then tore up his Marine Corps. Still holding on to the railing, Banks stood back up, ready to meet his attackers.
But they ran off. Banks was left with a twisted knee and some other bruises, but his flags were intact. Neighbors moved to help the 92-year-old, whose flags were still there. Banks attributed his dedication to the flag as more than just defending his property and his Marine Corps heritage.
“We’ve honored our flag all that time and doggone it, with our political climate the way that it is, we need something to rally around and that’s our flag,” Banks told the local Fox affiliate. “Once a Marine, always a Marine. I try to live that way.”
In the days since, Banks was surprised with a gift from Honor Flight, whose mission is to help older veterans by flying them to Washington, D.C., free of charge so they can visit their war’s memorial.
Banks’ neighbors moved in quickly to assist him. He now has security cameras in place to monitor his flags.
Gary Villalobos left his civilian life to join the United States Army. By 2005, he found himself in Tal Afar, Iraq, as Sgt. First Class Villalobos. It was there he learned the true meaning of fear — and what it takes to overcome that fear to try and save one of his own.
“What I think about when I think about my four deployments in Iraq, I’m glad I was part of it,” Villalobos says. “I took part in something greater than myself, something significant. But most importantly, you know what I think about is the hundreds of people, the hundreds of soldiers that I connected with at a different level. Shared hardships really bring people together.”
(Courtesy Gary Villalobos)
Now-Master Sgt. Gary Villalobos came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1970, moving into a small shack near the beach behind his grandmother’s house in California. By the time he graduated from high school, he had a job that wasn’t going anywhere. It was just after the 1991 Gulf War and young Gary watched as that war’s heroes were greeted triumphantly upon their return to the U.S.
So, he went to an Army recruiter. Twelve years later, the United States invaded Iraq and, in 2005, Villalobos was in Tal Afar for only a month before he found himself directing Iraqi soldiers with the U.S. Army’s 3rd Armored Cavalry to take on an insurgent group and capture their leaders.
Villalobos and Army officer Lt. Col. Terrence Crowe took 14 Iraqi Army troops on a patrol to capture those leaders, stepping into an alleyway — an alleyway that was also an ambush killzone.
The Army officer took the full brunt of at least four AK-47s, not one shot hitting above his waist. .
Villalobos tried to suppress their fire but the incoming sounded like it was coming from all sides. Gunfire poured in on Villalobos and the patrol as he tried to make sense of the ambush. He suddenly realized he had an edge and chucked his only grenade as hard as he could into the ambush. The firing stopped and he was able to pull his officer out.
The enemy melted away.
Back to FOB Sykes, Villalobos learned Col. Crowe didn’t make it.
Crowe and Villalobos went on numerous patrols together and became quite close. They went on nearly every mission together. Crowe was a native of Upstate New York and was a talented carpenter in his civilian life.
“He treated me with dignity and respect,” Villalobos says. “Part of the reason I feel guilty is because I was not in the front, where I should have been. He should have been in the rear, or at least the middle… but not point man.”
Villalobos was awarded the Silver Star for making sure he pulled Crowe out of the ambush. To him, it’s the most important award, representing the sacrifice that Colonel Crowe made.
“I don’t see it as something I earned… I just wanted to get Colonel Crowe out of there,” he says.
You can run, but you can’t hide – especially the age of satellites, hand-held GPS devices, Google Earth and inexpensive, camera-bearing drones.
So with easy surveillance tools in the hands of a technologically unsophisticated enemy, how does a unit hide its command post?
During the recent Large Scale Exercise 2016, I Marine Expeditionary Force experimented with a new tent setup for its command post, or CP, that included big swaths of tan-and-drab camouflage netting draped over hard structures and tents.
The idea, of course, was to disguise – if not hide – the presence and footprint of the command post that I MEF Headquarters Group set up for the exercise, a de facto MEF-level command wargaming drill that ran Aug. 14 to 22. During a similar exercise in February 2015, its top commander acknowledged the large footprint occupied by his field command post, then set up in a field at Camp Pendleton, California, but without any camo netting.
It was, frankly, large and obvious that the tents and structures were something important to the battle effort. And that makes it a big target, whether seen on the ground from line of sight or from the air from drones, aircraft or satellite imagery, officials say.
This year, intent on better concealment, headquarters group Marines looked at ways to hide the lines and structures of the CP. They came up with a new camo netting design and refined it with some bird’s-eye scrutiny.
The Leathernecks went “back to basics,” one officer said.
“We flew a drone over it. Now, it’s a little bit more ambiguous,” Col. Matthew Jones, the I MEF chief of staff, said last week as the command worked through the exercise’s final day from its CP set up in a dusty field. “It’s just camouflaged, it’s a lot better concealed.”
MEF officials declined to reveal the secret sauce of the new CPX camo set they used. “This is the state of the art right now,” said Jones.
Still, he acknowledged camouflage netting has some limitations, saying, “I won’t say it won’t look like a hard military installation.”
“The fact is, it’s clearly visible from space,” he added. “You can’t mistake it. Even if it’s camouflaged. … It’s big enough to be worth shooting at.”
In fact, camouflage and concealment are as basic to warfighting – whether on the offensive or defense – as weaponry.
It’s all about deception – hiding your capabilities and your location, which taken together might help spell out your intentions, unintentional as that may be. Deception like camouflage can mask your true force strength, combat power and, more so these days, technological capabilities. But a collection of tents and structures, and the presence of radio antennas, satellite dishes, power generators and containers, can spell out the obvious presence of an important headquarters.
“If you can be seen, you will be attacked,” Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, told a Center for Strategic and International Studies audience on Aug. 6.
Neller relayed I MEF’s experience with camouflaging the field CP, which despite netting efforts still had the vulnerability of detection from light shining off concertina wire that encircled the facilities. He wants Marines to get back to the basics of fieldcraft, like “digging a hole, preparing a defensive position, and camouflaging that, living in the field, and not going back to a [forward operating base] overnight to check your email.”
That will be more relevant, top leaders have noted, as more Marines deploy and operate in the dispersed, distributed battlefield of the near future.
And it’s not just the physical look that I MEF and the Marine Corps wants to change. Trendy gadgets and new technologies make it easier to detect and interfere with electronic signals. Such electronic surveillance poses real threats to military command networks and command and control.
“We are working really hard on our electronic signatures … that would make it easier for the enemy to detect you,” Jones said. It’s especially critical if U.S. forces get into a fight against a peer or near-peer adversary with similar surveillance capabilities, so “maybe we need to be thinking of other ways.”
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
SURABAYA, Indonesia (Aug. 5, 2015) U.S. Navy Sailors assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 3 and Indonesian Kopaska naval special forces members practice patrol formations during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Indonesia 2015.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 4, 2015) Sailors prepare for flight operations on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3).
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class I. J. Fleming helps stretch out the emergency crash barricade during drills on the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).
Marines and Navy Corpsmen, assigned to various units in the 1st Marine Division, conduct tactical combat casualty care training during the Combat Trauma Management Course, taught by instructors with the 1st Marine Division Navy Education and Training Office, at the Strategic Operations facility, California.
An M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank crew with Company A, 4th Tank Battalion, fires its 120 mm main gun during the company’s pre-qualification tank gunnery at Range 500, Aug. 4, 2015. The live-fire exercise tests tank crews on their ability to work together on target acquisition and accuracy.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Martin, a maritime enforcement specialist at Coast Guard Port Security Unit 313 in Everett, Wash., along with other security division members, set up security zones on the pier alongside the Coast Guard Cutter Henry Blake, while conducting an exercise at Naval Station Everett.
Petty Officer 2nd Class David Burns, a Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak aviation survival technician, walks across the flight deck of the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley during practice hoist operations while at sea.
A security forces Airman plunges into the combat water survival test at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo.
Lt. Col. Todd Houchins, the 53rd Test Support Squadron commander, signals before the final takeoff of the last QF-4 Aerial Target on Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.
Members of the 23rd Component Maintenance Squadron Propulsion Flight perform maintenance on a TF-34 engine July 27, 2015, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The 23rd CMS supplies the 74th and 75th Fighter Squadrons with TF-34s in support of Moody AFB’s A-10C Thunderbolt IIs.
paratroopers, assigned to 82nd Airborne Division, rig their rucksacks during a Basic Airborne Refresher course at the United States Army Advanced Airborne School, Fort Bragg, N.C.
An Army pilot, assigned to the 185th Theater Aviation Brigade, watches a MV-22 Osprey land during a personnel recovery training exercise in Southwest Asia.
Marjorie Morrison isn’t a veteran, and she’s not from a military family. She is, however, a psychologist who cares deeply about veterans and members of the military community.
Just over a decade ago, Morrison was a Tricare provider working in the San Diego area. In her time practicing mental health, although she treated many veterans and active duty personnel she had no real familiarity with the military or specific training for dealing with military patients.
“I didn’t know anything,” Morrison says. “In 2006, I started doing some short term assignments with active duty, and then in 2007 I went over to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. I was able to see recruits go from boys to men and to see the differences in the culture.”
One patient after the next, she noticed the significant circumstances and experiences that define life in the military as distinct from the civilian world.
Morrison realized the military was facing a mental health crisis and that the system designed to provided services was broken. She was determined to change that. That’s what inspired her acclaimed 2012 book, The Inside Battle: Our Military Mental Health Crisis.
“I was invited over to Camp Pendleton to work with the 1st Marines,” she recalls. “They gave me 1,600 Marines to interview and get to know. I was working with a lot of transitioning Marines that were leaving the service, transitioning into civilian life. I saw how difficult that process was for them.”
Morrison began to train providers to work with the military — to give them the training she lacked when she first started. She wanted to ensure mental health providers didn’t have to go through the same struggles she did, and she was committed to seeing them get it right for their patients.
“I felt like I knew what they needed to know or could at least give them some foundation,” Morrison says. “When I did that, companies started calling me and asking to help train and educate them on veteran employees and PTSD issues.”
That’s how PsychArmor, a fast-growing and highly-respected nonprofit that Morrison established and now leads got its start. PsychArmor’s mission is to bridge the civilian-military divide by providing free education and resources to help civilian individuals and businesses engage with veterans.
“I was given a million dollar gift to build it,” she says with a humble smile.
Not surprisingly, a lot of thoughtful contemplation went into the design and structure of PsychArmor.
“I knew that it wasn’t going to work live and in-person,” Morrison explains, acknowledging that in the 21st-century workplace, programs and services need to be delivered efficiently, using 21st-century technology. “It started out with training healthcare providers and employers. We now train caregivers and families, educators, and volunteers as well.”
PsychArmor recruits nationally recognized subject matter experts to create and deliver online courses about issues relevant to the military and veteran communities. The courses are self-paced and designed for anyone who works with, lives with, or cares about veterans. Even veterans in special circumstances take PsychArmor classes.
“People need to know what they need to know,” she says. “But if you have to travel to take a two-day course that covers everything, you might never do it. With PsychArmor, if you have an employee with PTSD-related sleep issues, you can come and learn about that on your own time.”
Morrison adds that other subjects can likewise be explored at any time, simply by logging on to PsychArmor’s platform “so we serve people where they live while allowing people to learn what they need.”
In its first year alone, the PsychArmor training center has seen such success and acquired such substantial expertise that it’s attracted enough funding to offer these courses for free.
“The response to PsychArmor’s work tells me the need is there,” Morrison says. “I think the general American really wants to help and do something. You can’t just throw money at it. What we offer are real solutions.”
What Morrison loves most about her work and her organization is its collaborative nature. She acknowledges she doesn’t know everything about the military mental health space and relies on partners to help develop PsychArmor curriculum. In addition to meaningfulcooperation from the military service branches and the VA, a visit to PsychArmor’s website reveals an extensive array of partners from the nonprofit, philanthropic, corporate, and academic sectors.
SAN DIEGO – Raul Romero salutes the national colors during a Vietnam War 50th anniversary commemoration in San Diego March 29, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Caitlin Bevel)
In the end, it will take a lot more than PsychArmor to bridge the civilian-military divide, but Morrison’s leadership — along with the contributions of so many partners who believe in her vision — is having a notable and impressive impact.
“I know enough to know that I’m not going to be able to do it alone. It’s going to take all of us to rewrite that narrative,” she says. “For now, I feel like we are giving people an action item. PsychArmor is proof there is a need for that and there is so much more work that we have to do.”
Thanks to Marjorie Morrison, bridging the gap together just got a bit easier.
Long before the United States was an independent nation, the people of the British Empire were constantly on guard for anything that might disrupt their way of life. This, in part, meant witches, and lots of them. Literally thousands of alleged witches were hunted down and executed under a series of witchcraft laws that made it nice and legal.
Eventually, Parliament had to step in and say enough was enough. In 1735, it passed the Witchcraft Act that made it a crime for a person to claim that any human being had magical powers or was guilty of practicing witchcraft. Surprisingly, it worked in Britain and eventually people stopped invoking the law.
That doesn’t mean the law was no longer on the books. Almost 200 years later, a self-professed medium named Helen Duncan was convicted under the Witchcraft Act of 1735, amid fears that she might actually be able to divulge intelligence about upcoming operations of World War II.
In November of 1941, Duncan held a seance in England where she claimed the ghost of a sailor aboard the HMS Barham visited her. The Barham was in the Mediterranean in 1941, fighting Axis ships attempting to cut off the resupply of the island of Malta. She was actually sunk off the coast of Egypt earlier that year. A German U-boat torpedoed the battleship, taking most of the crew down with it.
The problem was Helen Duncan wasn’t supposed to know that. The Royal Navy wouldn’t announce the sinking until 1942. The only people who were told were naval personnel and the families of those killed aboard the Barham. It caught the ears of naval intelligence, who decided to keep a close watch on Duncan the medium.
She was later arrested in January 1944 under the Witchcraft Act, an act that many believe happened because military leaders were concerned she might actually be able to talk to spirits. Some of her followers contended that superstitious military officers were afraid that, through her ghosts, she might be able to reveal the secret plans for Operation Overlord, the D-Day invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe.
That might have been the case, but the nail in the coffin for Helen Duncan did come in 1944. In January of that year, two Royal Navy officers attended one of Duncan’s seances. Duncan attempted to spook one of the men by “manifesting” first his deceased aunt, and then his deceased sister. The officer’s aunts and sisters were all still very much alive.
He reported Duncan to the police, who raided one of Duncan’s later seances. They found a hat band from a sailor’s uniform supposedly manifested from the HMS Barham. But the medium’s lack of uniform regulations did her in. The hat bands of British sailors at the time only read “HMS” and not the name of the vessel on which they served.
Duncan was tried and convicted of claiming to perform fraudulent spiritual activity, defrauding people of their money and generally being a public nuisance.
The real reason for Duncan’s arrest was likely the revelation of the sinking of the HMS Barham and her sources of information. Intelligence authorities weren’t worried about her getting information from ghosts, they were worried about the very real person from which she gained classified information. Most importantly, they were concerned about how she was spreading that information.
On Memorial Day, U.S. citizens from coast to coast will pay tribute to the nation’s fallen military members who died in service to their country. Many will participate in parades, visit cemeteries to place flowers on grave sites, and attend memorial services in honor of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States.
Memorial Day weekend is also widely considered the unofficial start of the summer season. Many will take advantage of the long weekend to relax from a hectic work schedule and spend some time with their families. Americans will be heading to the beach, firing up the grill, and kicking back with a cold one. American capitalism will be in full force as businesses advertise sales and consumers hit retail stores looking for a great deal. Memorial Day sales have been part of American society for decades.
In recent years, however, there’s been an increase in shaming those who partake in any leisure activities at a time designated to honor America’s fallen heroes. Memes with imagery of grieving widows and children fill social media sites attempting to make people feel guilty people about enjoying themselves.
While the purpose of the meme may be to aid the public’s understanding of the true meaning of the holiday, it also tends to rub people the wrong way.
Veterans have the ability to change the conversation – and their voices need to be heard. Veterans have the perspective to understand the sacrifice of military service and may have a personal connection understanding the loss of a comrade during his or her time in uniform.
The civilian-military divide is well documented. Most Americans don’t have a personal connection with someone in the military, let alone someone who has died in a war. The efforts of veterans shouldn’t increase this divide.
The American people work hard. In fact, many reports show Americans work more hours than any other nation in the industrialized world. There is nothing wrong with enjoying some time off. Disgracing our fellow citizens by posting these memes regardless of the intent only serves as a cheap shot and doesn’t do any good to remember the fallen.
This Memorial Day weekend, veterans should honor their fallen brothers and sisters in arms by celebrating them and sharing their stories, both online and off, with others who may not have an affiliation with the military or don’t understand the meaning of the holiday. Whether you’re a veteran, active member, or military family member, this weekend should be about educating, not shaming our fellow citizens.
Those who died in service to the nation did so in the course of protecting our country’s way of life for generations to come. And, yes, that way of life includes poolside BBQs on the last Monday in May. Our fallen heroes wouldn’t have it any other way.