As the allies moved east after the D-Day invasion, air power was used to soften Germany’s defenses and eliminate the Third Reich’s ability to make the tools of war. The American Army Air Corps and the British Royal Air Force bombed around the clock, with the Americans covering the daylight hours.
Losses were high. Over 100,000 allied bomber crews were killed over Europe during World War II. And casualties would have been even higher had the pilots not adjusted their tactics along the way. This film was used to train replacement crews on how to survive enemy air defenses. Because of the level of detail — specific tactics and techniques — it was highly classified during the war.
So imagine you’re a newly B-17 winged pilot on your way to England for your first combat tour. This is one training session you’re going to pay attention to.
Just how many times has a nuclear bomb been detonated? The number is much higher than many people might guess.
The video below reveals a staggering total — and it is a subject that is out of mind, largely because all but two of the times that nuclear weapons have detonated were tests. Furthermore, the United States hasn’t even conducted a test since 1992.
To put that into perspective, in that year, Major League Baseball still had only 26 teams. The NFL was at only 28 teams, and Cleveland still had the original Cleveland Browns while the Los Angeles Rams were still three years away from their two-decade sojurn in St. Louis. Michael Jordan and the Bulls were two-thirds of the way through their first three-peat.
This video takes about three minutes — and after it, you should come away feeling sobered at just how many times the most powerful weapon in human history has exploded, and thankful that it has only been used in anger twice.
Two U.S. Army soldiers will finally be awarded the nation’s highest military award, nearly a century after they displayed incredible bravery during World War I.
Sgt. Henry Johnson, a black soldier assigned to the “Harlem Hellfighters” of the 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment, and Sgt. William Shemin, a Jewish soldier with the 47th Infantry Regiment, will receive the Medal of Honor (posthumously) on Tuesday. Ninety-seven years after they were denied the award due to discrimination, the pair of soldiers will finally be recognized in a ceremony at The White House.
While serving as a sentry in the Argonne Forest with another soldier on May 15, 1918, then-Pvt. Johnson came under heavy enemy fire after a raiding party of 12 German soldiers came upon his position. Despite receiving significant injuries, Johnson held off the Germans using grenades, a rifle, a knife, and even his bare hands.
“The Germans came from all sides,” Johnson told an interviewer after the war, according to The Daily Beast. “Roberts kept handing me the grenades and I kept throwing them, and the Dutchmen kept squealing but jes’ the same, they kept comin’ on. When the grenades were all gone I started in with my rifle.”
Johnson exposed himself to enemy fire and held back the German forces until they retreated, according to the U.S. Army.
On Aug. 7, 1918 in an area southeast of Bazoches, France, Sgt. Sgt. Shemin left the safety of his platoon’s trench and repeatedly crossed an open area to rescue wounded soldiers, despite the threat of heavy machine gun and rifle fire. Then after his officers and senior non-commissioned officers were wounded or killed, Shemin took command of the platoon and “displayed great initiative under fire” until he was wounded himself on Aug. 9, according to the U.S. Army.
Why did it take almost a century for Shemin to be recognized with the highest U.S. military award for valor in combat? Perhaps because of widespread discrimination in the military during that period of history; Shemin was Jewish.
“Anti-Semitism was a way of life in the Army in World War I,” said Mrs. Roth, who has been waging the campaign on behalf of her father’s honor since 2002. “They’re making a wrong right, 97 years later. The discrimination hurts, but all has been made right.”
Their recognition comes as a result of a 2002 move by Congress to review combat actions of Jewish and Hispanic veterans and ensure “those deserving the Medal Of Honor were not denied because of prejudice,” the White House explained to CNN. The act was later amended to review all possible cases of discrimination.
In March, President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to 24 soldiers who had been denied the award due to prejudice, NBC reported.
Today I found out that uniform regulation in the British Army between the years 1860 and 1916 stipulated that every soldier should have a moustache.
Command No. 1,695 of the King’s Regulations read:
The hair of the head will be kept short. The chin and the under lip will be shaved, but not the upper lip…
Although the act of shaving one’s upper lip was trivial in itself, it was considered a breach of discipline. If a soldier were to do this, he faced disciplinary action by his commanding officer which could include imprisonment, an especially unsavory prospect in the Victorian era.
Interestingly, it is during the imperial history of Britain that this seemingly odd uniform requirement emerged. Initially adopted at the tail end of the 1700s from the French, who also required their soldiers to have facial hair which varied depending on the type of soldier (sappers, infantry, etc.), this follicular fashion statement was all about virility and aggression. Beard and moustache growth was rampant, especially in India where bare faces were scorned as being juvenile and un-manly, as well as in Arab countries where moustaches and beards were likewise associated with power. It wasn’t all plain sailing for the moustache though; back home British citizens were looking on it as a sign of their boys ‘going native’ and it was nearly stamped out completely.
However, in 1854, after significant campaigning, moustaches became compulsory for the troops of the East India Company’s Bombay Army. While not in the rules for everyone else yet, they were still widely taken up across the Armed Forces and during the Crimean War there were a wide variety of permissible (and over the top) styles. By the 1860s, moustaches were finally compulsory for all the Armed Forces and they became as much an emblem for the Armed Forces as the Army uniform.
In 1916, the regulation was dropped and troops were allowed to be clean-shaven again. This was largely because such a superficial requirement was getting ignored in the trenches of WWI, especially as they could sometimes get in the way of a good gas mask seal. The order to abolish the moustache requirement was signed on October 6, 1916 by General Sir Nevil Macready, who himself hated moustaches and was glad to finally get to shave his off. While no longer in force today, there are still regulations governing moustaches and, if worn, they can grow no further than the upper lip. It is also still extremely common for British soldiers in Afghanistan to wear beards, as facial hair is still associated with power and authority in many Islamic regions.
Bonus Moustache Facts:
As alluded to, during the Napoleonic era, French soldiers were required to wear facial hair of various sorts. Sappers were required to have full beards. Grenadiers and other elite level troops had to maintain large busy moustaches. Infantry Chasseurs were required to wear goatees with their moustache. This requirement has long since died out excepting the case of sappers in the Foreign Legion, who still are strongly encouraged to maintain a full, robust beard.
Russian non-officer soldiers were required to wear moustaches under Peter the Great’s reign. On the flipside, while previously it was extremely common for Russian soldiers to wear beards, Peter the Great didn’t find beards so great and not only banned them from the military, but also for civilians, with the lone exception being that members of the clergy could wear them.
Moustache, mustache, and mustachio are all technically correct spellings to describe hair on the upper lip. Mustachio has relatively recently fallen out of favor for generically describing all moustaches, now more typically referring to particularly elaborate moustaches. Moustache is the most common spelling today in the English speaking world, though North Americans usually prefer mustache.
The English word “moustache” comes from the French word of the same spelling, “moustache”, and popped up in English around the 16th century. The French word in turn comes from the Italian word “mostaccio”, from the Medieval Latin “mustacium” and in turn the Medieval Greek “moustakion”. We now finally get to the earliest known origin which was from the Hellenistic Greek “mustax”, meaning “upper lip”, which may or may not have come from the Hellenistic Greek “mullon”, meaning “lip”. It is theorized that this in turn came from the Proto-Indo-European root “*mendh-“, meaning “to chew” (which is also where we get the word “mandible”).
Western Women tend to wax or shave their moustaches, those that can grow them anyways, but Mexican artist Frida Kahlo actually celebrated not only her ‘stache, but also her unibrow, including putting them in her very famous self portrait seen to your right.
The oldest known depiction of a man with a moustache goes all the way back to 300 BC. The depiction was of an Ancient Iranian horseman.
“De befborstel” is the Dutch slang for a moustache grown for the specific purpose of stimulating a woman’s clitoris.
The longest moustache ever recorded was in Italy on March 4, 2010, and measured in at 14 ft. long (4.29 m). The proud owner of that magnificent ‘stache was Indian Ram Singh Chauhan.
Names of the Various Styles of Moustache:
Hungarian: Extremely bushy, with the hairs pulled to the side and with the hairs extending past the upper lip by as much as 1.5 cm.
Dali: Named after artist Salvador Dali (who incidentally once published a book, with Philippe Halsman, dedicated to Dali’s moustache, titled: Dali’s Mustache), styled such that the hair past the corner of the mouth is shaved, but the non-shaved hair is allowed to grow such that it can be shaped to point upward dramatically.
English Moustache: Thin moustache with the hair on a line in the middle of the upper lip sideways, with the hair at the corner of the mouth slightly shaped upwards.
Imperial: Includes not only hair from above the upper lip, but also extends beyond into cheek hair, all of which is curled upward.
Fu Manchu: moustache where the ends are styled downwards, sometimes even beyond the bottom of the chin.
Handlebar Moustache: a somewhat bushy version of the Dali, but without the strict regulation of having the hair shaved past the side of the lips.
Horseshoe: Similar to the Handlebar, but with vertical extensions coming off the sides that extend downwards sharply to the jaw, looking something like an upside down horseshoe (think Hulk Hogan)
Chevron: thick moustache covering the whole of the upper lip (think Jeff Foxworthy)
Toothbrush: The moustache made popular by Charlie Chaplin, but whose popularity hit a sharp decline thanks to one Adolph Hitler.
Walrus: very similar to the Hungarian, except without the strict length limit on the hair overhanging the upper lip.
Contrary to a myth you may hear sometimes, there is no evidence whatsoever that Adolph Hitler decided to grow a toothbrush moustache to mimic Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin did parody Hitler in The Great Dictator and sported the now infamous moustache in that film. The toothbrush moustache was popularized in Germany by Americans and began to become extremely popular by the end of WWI. Hitler originally went with the previous most popular ‘stache in Germany, the Kaiser Moustache, which was turned up at the ends, often with scented oil. He continued to wear this ‘stache at least up to and during WWI. A soldier who served with Hitler during WWI, Alexander Moritz Frey, stated that Hitler was ordered to trim his moustache during WWI while in the trenches to facilitate wearing a gas mask; so shaved the sides off and went with the toothbrush moustache instead.
Chaplin stated that he used the toothbrush moustache as it looked funny and also allowed him to show his expressions more fully than an alternatively comical moustache that covered more of his face would have.
F-22 Raptor fighter jets from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, have joined combat air forces from across the nation for the joint, full-spectrum readiness exercise Red Flag 17-3.
Ten F-22s from the 95th Fighter Squadron are joining the exercise alongside Marine Corps F-35B and Air Force F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighters.
This is a first in Red Flag history that both variants of F-35 will take part in the exercise, officials said. The F-35B is the short-takeoff and vertical-landing version of the jet, and the F-35A has conventional takeoff and landing capabilities.
Other aircraft such as B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers, E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control aircraft, F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters, and more will also be featured and will each play an important role in the exercise theater, officials said.
The F-22 is designed to project air dominance rapidly and at great distances.
“We’re primarily an escort role,” said Air Force Capt. Brady Amack, 95th Fighter Squadron pilot. “We integrate with other aircraft, whether they’re fourth or fifth generation, and ensure they’re able to execute their mission. The amount of experience we get is huge. There is no other area, really, where we can train with so many different types of aircraft in such a large area.”
Higher Level of Training
By gathering these diverse units together, the exercise facilitates readiness training on a higher level, as each unit rings specific expertise and talents to the table, officials said. Red Flag teaches them to work together as they would in the field, possibly for the first time, before facing an actual threat, they added.
Red Flag 17-3 is exclusively reserved for U.S. military forces, which allows for specific training when coordinating fifth-generation assets, exercise officials noted, adding that Tyndall’s Raptors will be able to learn from working with both F-35 units taking part.
Both aircrafts’ stealth capabilities, advanced avionics, communication and sensory capabilities help augment the capabilities of the other aircraft, Amack said.
“Working with the F-35s brings a different skill set to the fifth-generation world,” he added. “Having a more diverse group of low-observable assets has allowed us to do great things.”
The mission of the Red Flag exercise overall is to maximize the combat readiness and survivability of participants by providing a realistic training environment and a preflight and post-flight training forum that encourages a free exchange of ideas.
The 95th Fighter Squadron benefits by learning how to completely integrate into multi-aircraft units and gaining experience from intense sorties, officials said.
“Since Red Flag 17-3, in particular, is U.S. only, we get to take the opportunity to take things to the next level,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Sadler, 414th Combat Training Squadron commander.
“This Red Flag alone gives us our singular largest fifth-generation footprint, which allows us to learn as we continue to build new ideas. As we look to be innovative and solve problems, we’ll only increase our readiness by getting smarter as a force and as joint warfighters.”
The US Navy is an institution rich in tradition with its own language and elaborate ceremonies. One of those ceremonies is the Chief Petter Officer initiation.
Ask any sailor what a newly made chief does as soon as they put on the khaki uniform and you’ll get mixed results. Responses vary from the good to the awfully absurd and usually based on a sailor’s time in service.
For example, this sailor on Facebook said that his chief completely changed when he put on the khakis for the first time:
Ask a chief and he’ll say that it’s one of the hardest and most satisfying jobs in the world:
WATM did an informal poll of sailors of all ranks to uncover the nine common things that new chiefs do when they put on the khakis:
1. Smile incessantly for about an hour.
They’ve just been made and now have the privilege to do the following eight things:
2. Get a new coffee mug that says “chief.”
A good chief’s mug will be respected and left alone. A bad chief will have their mug washed out. Apparently, chiefs have it in their mind that their unwashed coffee mugs have super caffeine powers.
3. Start calling everyone ‘shipmate.’
Everyone becomes a “shipmate” once you become a chief. It used to be that they call everyone by their rate (Navy job) and rank.
4. Start calling other khakis by their first names.
It’s now Frankie and Jane instead of Smith and Martinez.
5. Start eating like a king in the chief’s mess.
Rumor has it that the chiefs eat better than the officers aboard a ship.
6. Gain weight.
Everything has a cause and effect.
7. Pass off the ensign to the first-class.
They lose an ensign but gain a lieutenant.
8. Wait for the first person to call him ‘sir’ so he can say, “don’t call me sir, I work for a living.”
Along with the new position comes treasure trove of cliché terms that they’ve been waiting years to use. (Poor boot, he confused the chief for an officer.)
Vining’s full list of military accolades, including his DD-214, career timeline, and pictures of him serving, are included in his Together We Served profile.
Most noticeably, Vining was a 1st SFOD-D — Delta Force — operator during his three decade Army career. Under the “Reflections on SGM Vining’s US Army Service” section he comments about his decision to join Delta Force:
In 1978, I decided I wanted something more challenging, so I volunteered to join a new unit that was forming up at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They wanted people with an EOD background. The unit was 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta (Airborne). I spent the next 21 years in Delta and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), except for a year in a EOD unit in Alaska. In 1988, I transferred from EOD to Infantry. I figured I stood a better chance making Sergeant Major in Infantry, which worked out for me.
Like most who served, he also had unforgettable buddies. When asked to recount a particular incident from his service that may or may not have been funny at the time — but still makes him laugh — he said:
It would be SFC Donald L. “Don” Briere. At times he reminded me of the cartoon character Wiley Coyote. We were in New Zealand in 1980 on a joint-country special operations exercise. We were on a recon mission to scout out a target site. It was just Don and I on the recon team. We had a tall steep muddy embankment that we needed to negotiate. I looked at it and thought, no way. Don thought we could do it. As he moved across it, you could see his hands and feet sliding down. He clawed up and slid down some more. Finally he slid all the way down the slope into the water. I was rolling with laughter and said, “You want me to follow you?” I found another way around the obstacle.
Vining continues to be involved with the military and veteran community, he’s a member of several organizations, including the VFW, National EOD Association, and others, according to his profile.
After exploring his incredible career, Vining is someone we’d definitely love to have a drink with.
North Korea’s 25 million citizens live under an oppressive, totalitarian government that freely detains or even puts to death citizens that stray from official messaging in any way. Simply listening to outside media not sanctioned by the state can result in death.
But the small survey, which gives a voice to those living under unimaginable scrutiny, reveals what many in the international community believe to be true — North Koreans are unhappy with their state and risk severe punishments to cope with it in their personal lives.
“This is the first time we’re hearing directly from people inside the country,” Dr. Victor Cha, head of Korea studies at CSIS, told The Washington Post.
Beyond Parallel carried out the survey so that it would present minimal risk to those involved. Ultimately, they wound up with a small sample size that nonetheless conveyed a sentiment with near unanimity: North Koreans know that their government does not work, and they criticize it privately at extreme personal peril.
Out of the 36, only one said they do not joke in private about the government.
While it may not seem like a big deal to those in the West who enjoy free speech and can readily make jokes about their government, consider this 2014 finding from the United Nations on the state of free speech in North Korea:
State surveillance permeates the private lives of all citizens to ensure that virtually no expression critical of the political system or of its leadership goes undetected. Citizens are punished for any “anti-State” activities or expressions of dissent. They are rewarded for reporting on fellow citizens suspected of committing such “crimes”.
Beyond Parallel reports that formal state-organized neighborhood watches “regularly monitor their members” and report any behavior that deviates from what the state deems appropriate.
The picture painted by Beyond Parallel’s research paints a picture starkly in contrast with the images we see flowing out of North Korea’s state media, which usually feature Kim Jong Un smiling broadly while touring military or commercial facilities.
Last week an Oregon judge ruled that Jamie Shupe, an Army vet, can legally be considered “nonbinary.”
Up to that point, Shupe considered himself female, although he doesn’t identify with either sex.
“It feels amazing to be free from a binary sex classification system that inadequately addressed who I really am, a system in which I felt confined,” Shupe said.
Shupe was male at birth, but he started transitioning to a female in 2013, more than a decade after retiring from the military as a sergeant first class.
“Oregon law has allowed for people to petition a court for a gender change for years, but the law doesn’t specify that it has to be either male or female,” said civil rights attorney Lake J. Perriguey, who filed the petition, according to CNN.
“The law just says, ‘change.’ Historically, people have asked for a gender change from male to female and the other way around, but Jamie is the first to ask for the gender of “nonbinary,” Perriguey said.
It’s unclear what the ruling will have nationally, but it certainly has the potential to complicate the Pentagon’s already-challenging gender integration efforts. Special operators are just now adjusting to the idea of having females in their ranks. Are they ready for nonbinaries?
A U.S. Army company commander uses one of his interpreters to consult with tribal elders in a village in Paktika Province in eastern Afghanistan following an air assault. (Photo: Ward Carroll)
It was early morning, still dark at Fort Bragg when one of my teammates called from Afghanistan with bad news.
“Both Juma and Ish have been killed,” he said, without any attempt to hide the fact that he’d been crying.
It was May 2006, and the bulk of our unit was one month away from another deployment to Afghanistan. Two of our best interpreters had been stopped at a Taliban checkpoint. A fighter recognized them. He knew they’d been working with the Americans. Their bodies were found the next morning, brutally tortured and mutilated.
I went numb as the words continued through the phone. I scrambled for a note pad to try to capture all the information. It was too much to process. As soon as everyone mustered in the team room, I broke the news. The impact was immediate. To us, it was no different than losing a fellow American soldier.
Congress has authorized 8,750 visas for Afghan interpreters, but only 1,982 have been issued through December, according to the Los Angeles Times. Thousands of interpreters are in jeopardy as the State Department tries to clear the logjam of applications for the Special Immigrant Visa.
The Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, which also assists Afghan refugees, told the Times the SIV process is “prohibitively complicated, bureaucratic and opaque.” The group ran into the same problem at the end of the Iraq War when only slightly more than 6,500 out of 25,000 visas were issued to Iraqi interpreters.
As a Special Forces officer with eight deployments, I can tell you without a doubt that Afghans who have risked their lives, families and futures are going to be left behind to face horrific consequences, like Juma and Ish did, for aiding the United States.
This will have a lasting impact on future wars and U.S. strategic interests. As American forces track terrorists in the Arabian Peninsula and across the African continent, we will need local assistance at many levels, specifically interpreters. Leaving our Afghan allies to die is a clear warning to anyone who would even think about assisting the US in its foreign policy or strategy that unless you are on the Department of State or CIA payroll, you will be left to die.
Interpreters are our eyes and ears when deployed. They know the local customs, cultural norms and religion. They can see when things are out of place and they understand the nuisance of the villages and tribes. When American forces arrived in Afghanistan in 2001, we knew nothing. Our interpreters have kept us safe and even helped us fight. But they also became part of our units, teams and families.
Take Jerry for example.
Jerry (a nickname we gave him) was my personal interpreter during Operation Medusa, the largest Coalition operation in ISAF history. A 22-year-old kid, he emulated our speech, dressed in our uniform and even chewed neswar, the Afghan version of Copenhagen, like the other members of the team.
Prior to the mission, he had gotten married. We told him he could sit this operation out since we knew it was going to be very dangerous and he was a newlywed.
“I don’t think so, my brother,” he said in Pashtu.
Jerry liked to make me practice my Pashtu so that I understood what was being said in tribal meetings behind my back. I remember him smiling like a Cheshire cat, his short thick beard and black curly hair sticking out from under the Special Forces ball cap I had given him as he said, “If you go, I go. If you die, I die.”
Two months after the battle, we were maneuvering thru a village when the vehicle Jerry was riding in struck an IED. As I approached the mangled truck, the first thing I saw in the dirt was Jerry’s burned ball cap.
I turned to go call in a Medevac. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jerry struggling to stand against a mud wall. In spite of the fact that he had been blown nearly 30 feet in to the air, he was holding his broken weapon and pulling security.
His scrawny legs wobbled in misery. He was bloody and covered in dirt. He lived up to his promise to die with us. I made the commitment then and there that I would not leave him, nor the others interpreters like him behind.
Since I left Afghanistan in 2012, Jerry has been attacked in his mosque, moved his family nearly a dozen times and survived being shot three times. His last email to me was a desperate plea.
“I’m 24-hour in house not coming out like jailer, bro,” he wrote. “Thanks again for keeping asking me, brother. I wish I didn’t have my two daughters suffer if I die. I would be (in) paradise if I see you in the State with my Family. Please help us.”
I’ve written letters, emails, and made hundreds of phone calls trying to pry loose a half dozen applications of interpreters I worked with in Afghanistan. I feel betrayed by the American immigration policy and the deadly double standard it represents. We will accept immigrants who snuck across our borders illegally but not heroes who have served our nation and its cause.
Afghan Interpreters are throwing themselves at the altar of freedom only to be left to die. To State Department bureaucrats, these men are pieces of paper, but to thousands of American soldiers, they are brothers in arms.
They should be allowed to live in peace and freedom. They’ve earned it.
A key district in Afghanistan’s Helmand province that was taken by insurgents last year is now back under Afghan army control, US Marines deployed to Helmand announced July 17.
Nawa district, just west of Helmand’s capital city and regional police headquarters, Lashkar Gah, was overrun by the Taliban in August 2016, according to multiple media reports. The loss dealt a blow to hard-pressed Afghan National Army forces and raised questions about whether they would be able to maintain control of any part of Helmand.
With Nawa in enemy hands, civilian aircraft were unable to land at Bost, the airfield outside of Lashkar Gah, and the security of the city, a civilian population center, was in greater jeopardy.
But during a two-day operation that included airstrikes from US F-16 Fighting Falcons and AH-64 Apache helicopters, Afghan troops successfully wrested control of the district from the occupiers, reclaiming the district center earlier July 17, according to the release.
“The goal of this operation was to clear the Nawa district from the enemies, from the Taliban,” Col. Zahirgul Moqbal, commanding officer of the Afghan Border Police, said in a statement. “[Overall, our goal was] to retake the district from the Taliban.”
The Afghan army’s assault on Nawa, called Operation Maiwand Four, also involved surveillance from ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles owned by the ANA and other coalition unmanned systems, according to the release.
The F-16s and Apaches “set conditions, conducted air strikes, and covered the flanks of the maneuver elements to decrease the amount of friction felt by the ground forces and allowed freedom of maneuver,” the release stated.
The offensive involved multiple air strikes and bravery from the troops on the ground, who disabled more than 100 improvised explosive devices and maneuvered under fire to retake the Nawa district center, officials said.
In April, about 300 Marines from 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina deployed to Helmand province as an advisory element known as Task Force Southwest to assist local Afghan National Army units in their fight to hold the region.
Col. Matthew Reid, deputy commander of the task force, said in a statement that Operation Maiwand Four highlighted leadership and determination from Afghan troops.
“So far during this operation we have seen some significant gains in leadership and maneuver from the Ministry of Interior forces, particularly the Afghan Border and National Police,” Reid said. “The vast majority of the ABP officers are from Helmand, many from Nawa, and they are aggressively fighting to clear insurgents from Nawa district.”
But the greatest difficulties may still be ahead for the Afghan forces.
In a New York Times report published July 14, Afghan Army Corps Operations Chief Lt. Col. Abdul Latif raised concerns about whether Afghan National Security Forces would be able to keep control of Nawa if they retook it.
“It is easy for us to take Nawa, but difficult to hold,” Latif said in the story.
The biggest challenge, he noted, was the scarcity of manpower. He estimated district security would require 300 police, but said that kind of manpower was not available. The report also noted that most forces in Helmand are not local to the area, but come in from the north and east.
According to the news release, Afghan National Security Forces plan to maintain control by setting up security checkpoints throughout Nawa’s district center and on the road to Lashkar Gah.
“It was a very successful operation in Helmand,” Moqbal said of Maiwand Four in a statement. “Defeating the enemy in Nawa means defeating the enemy in Helmand.”
Seven years ago, Louie Zamperini had just concluded a presentation on a cruise ship when a man in his 60s raised his hand and said, “Mr. Zamperini, I was in your camp in 1957. And several years later, I remember what you had taught me and told me. I came to my own decision to come to the Lord, and my life has been turned around.”
Zamperini’s son, Luke, pauses as he shares the cruise-ship anecdote about Victory Boys Camp, which his late father established for troubled inner-city youths in 1952. “Then another man gets up and says, ‘Mr. Zamperini, I was in your camp in 1961.’ … We saw my father’s redemption and resilience all the time.”
For 60 years, the elder Zamperini shared his inspiring story with church groups, community organizations, and those he would meet and befriend instantly. There was even a Sunday school comic book about him: “The True Story of Capt. Louis Zamperini,” adapted from the 1956 book “Devil at my Heels,” co-authored by Zamperini and Helen Itris.
“Back in the 1950s, we couldn’t go anywhere without him being approached by somebody who knew his story and wanted to talk to him,” Luke remembers. “He was very popular back then. It got a little resurgence when CBS Sports featured him in the 1998 Nagano Olympics. That kind of re-established interest in him. And, of course, when Laura Hillenbrand discovered his story, that brought us to the state we’re in today.”
On Christmas Day, the story of Zamperini’s life – troubled youth, high school track star, Olympic runner, prisoner of war – debuts in movie theaters across the United States. Directed by Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie, the film is based on Hillenbrand’s best-selling book “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.”
For years, Zamperini fought to come to grips with his World War II experience. Surviving the crash of his bomber, the Green Hornet. Floating through shark-infested waters for 47 days. Nearly three years of torture at a Japanese prison camp.
With the end of the war and his release came a euphoria, followed by anger, depression, nightmares and alcoholism. For Zamperini, time did not not heal his wounds.
“He was still deeply troubled,” says his daughter, Cynthia Garris. “They didn’t know what (post-traumatic stress disorder) was; there wasn’t a clinical name for it back then.”
“I had a bit of a rough beginning,” she continues. “While I was still an infant, he went through his conversion under Billy Graham. And I can attest to the fact that he didn’t drink or have these nightmares as far back as I can remember.”
Sparked by his initial meeting with Graham, Zamperini’s transformation continued when he returned to Japan in the early ’50s to speak to 850 prisoners held for war crimes. He forgave and hugged his captors, including those who had tortured him. Though Zamperini wanted to meet and forgive Mutsuhiro Watanabe – “The Bird” – in person, the notoriously abusive POW camp officer declined.
Seemingly overnight, Zamperini emerged from his darkness to shine a light wherever he went. Once he forgave his captors, he said, he never again had a nightmare.
A NEW OUTLOOK
Reinvigorated and full of love, Zamperini turned his attention to raising his kids, teaching them life lessons and playing practical jokes. He was the parent who soothed the sore throats, mended the broken toys and tended to the pets – even rats.
“To me, the rats were wonderful,” Luke says, laughing. “To him, they were disgusting. I mistakenly left their cage outside one night, and in the morning, they appeared to be dead. I was heartbroken. He nursed them back to health, staying up all night and feeding them honey and sugar water. The next morning, here was this exhausted father with these rats seemingly returned from the dead. No one asked him to do that. He just knew it would make me happy.”
Zamperini would unleash his sense of humor anytime, anywhere. “One time, Mom, Luke and I were watching TV in the evening,” Cynthia recalls. “Often Dad would go downstairs to his workshop, so we didn’t think it was unusual. All of a sudden he came streaking through the TV room, and he was dressed like a sumo wrestler, with a Japanese cloth around his loins, running through the room, just to make us laugh. He had a wonderful sense of humor.”
Zamperini would engage anyone; he was always happy to hear someone’s story and, of course, to share his own.
“He would be out watering his plants in the front yard, and some jogger would be jogging by,” Luke says. “He would turn around and say, ‘Hey, I’ll race you to that mailbox up there.’ Of course, he was pretty slow in his later years. So when the other person would reach the mailbox first, he would say, ‘Well, now you can say that you beat an Olympian.’ That would usually make them stop, turn around and come back to talk. It’s just the way he would make friends.”
Zamperini stayed active, though he had to give up jogging at 87 and skiing at 91 when he cracked his clavicle.
“I’d look up and he’d be gone,” Cynthia says of their skiing trips, one of which was a perfect example of Zamperini’s outgoing nature. “Some pretty girl had fallen on the other side of the slope, and he had made a beeline over there to give her lessons on how to ski. And this is when he was in his late 80s or 90s. He just made friends wherever he went.”
While researching for her 2001 book “Seabiscuit: An American Legend,” Hillenbrand learned of Zamperini’s high school athletic exploits – how he’d set a world interscholastic record by running a 4:21 mile. Once she learned about his war experience, she says she “knew this was my next book.”
She began meeting with him. “He was always laughing, always happy, always upbeat,” says Hillenbrand, who spoke with Zamperini almost daily during the seven-year process of researching and writing “Unbroken.”
“He loved being alive. He told these stories of the most harrowing experiences and did so in an almost singsong voice because he had let it all go … the pain of it was gone for him. That was inspiring. I had never met anyone who had suffered as Louie had who could maintain an outlook … that everything is a gift. He was a wonderfully happy man.”
His sense of humor surfaced when Hillenbrand least expected it. “I called him one day and told him how far deep his plane was in the ocean,” she says. “And he responded very quickly, ‘Well, I should go down and get it.’ I just loved that. We’re talking about a plane crash that put him in these dire circumstances for years. But he could joke about it.”
Zamperini’s story is full of tragic moments, such as his captivity on the island of Kwajalein, where he contracted dengue fever and was the subject of medical experiments. “His voice became solemn when he spoke about that,” Hillenbrand says. “He would make little noises one makes when there is something hard to say. He was struggling to push through it.”
While Zamperini was able to talk about the abuses he suffered, one episode proved especially challenging to recount. “The thing he said was the most painful memory of all the war was the killing of Gaga the Duck,” Hillenbrand says. “It was sort of a pet of the prisoners of war. He said it was the worst thing – the innocence of that animal and what was done to him.”
“FULL OF LOVE”
Jack O’Connell, who plays Zamperini in the movie, met him several times before and after filming. O’Connell was most impressed with Zamperini’s decision to forgive those who had done him great harm. “The solace you gain from forgiveness eventually helps take you to a better place,” he says.
That’s what enabled Zamperini to emerge from the darkness of his postwar years and embrace life. “You would never know the torment he went through,” Cynthia says. “Many men have gone through wars like that. They are bitter and not very talkative. They can be angry. He was such a happy-go-lucky man. Just full of love, full of life.”
When making public appearances or going out to eat, Zamperini always wore his “uniform” – beige pants with the belt he wore all the way through the war, blue Olympic windbreaker and University of Southern California cap. He had a half-dozen USC caps and was rarely photographed in his last years without one. “I have one sitting on an easy chair where he liked to sit,” his daughter says. “It looks like Dad’s here.”
Zamperini died July 2 at 97.
Initially, Luke was disappointed that his father didn’t live long enough to see the completed film of “Unbroken.” But Jolie told him, “Oh, yes he did. I took my laptop to the hospital, sat on his bed with him, and we watched it.”
Thanks to the “Unbroken” book and film, Zamperini’s legacy will endure, educating millions more on his story of courage, redemption, struggle, forgiveness and faith.
The Victory Boys Club lives on, too. The family had planned to disband the camp since it’s not at a set location anymore. But earlier this year, Zamperini reached out and shared his story one last time to a troubled 20-year-old man addicted to heroin.
“We took him to see Louie, and Louie was able to finance this guy getting to a mission group in Australia that would accept him in his state and try to help him,” Luke says. “It turned this guy around. He spoke at both the private and public memorials we had for my dad. We realized we were able to help this one guy with Victory Boys Camp, so we wanted to keep this charity going to benefit the lives of young people.”
The author of this story, Henry Howard, is deputy director of magazine operations for The American Legion.
The upcoming movie “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” highlights the veteran security team who protected the U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya during the 2012 attack. Below is a list of weapons the defenders used to valiantly defend the compound:
1. Western assault rifles
Private security contractors who are alums of elite US military units often prefer the same weapons they carried in the service such as the SCAR-L or M4 assault rifles that fire 5.56mm rounds. If they want to up the caliber a little, they can go with the SCAR-H or M14, which both use a 7.62mm round.
Obviously, this results in a number of contractors carrying Kalashnikovs. This was especially prevalent in the early 2000s in Iraq when the State Department started hiring private companies for overseas security but hadn’t yet begun issuing them the needed licenses to import weapons.
3. Grenade launchers
While private military contractors are generally associated with lighter weapons, they’re sometimes authorized mass-casualty inflicting systems like M203 or M320 grenade launchers. The grenade launcher at Benghazi was one of the defenders’ most effective weapons.
Shotguns can be loaded with buckshot to cripple all enemies in a confined area or slugs to immediately shutdown a single target. They also allow contractors to quickly “unlock” doors if they need to evacuate their client.