Despite what many think, the Thompson submachine gun was not the first submachine gun.
But many will argue it was the best submachine gun ever put in the hands of fighting men – whether they were “good guys” or “bad guys.”
Well-made, robust, capable of firing more than 800 rounds a minute in some models and chambered for the man-stopping .45-caliber ACP round, the gun lived up to one of its original names: The Annihilator.
“I knew several soldiers who used Thompsons for special operations in Vietnam,” said Alan Archambault, a retired U.S. Army officer and former supervisory curator for the U.S. Army Center of Military History. “Even in the 1960s, the Thompson was still an iconic weapon for U.S. soldiers. Often when one soldier would rotate to the U.S., he would pass the Thompson on to another soldier in theater.”
The brainchild of Gen. John T. Thompson, a former chief of small arms for the Ordnance Department and firearms designer, the stalemate on the Western Front during The Great War (a.k.a. World War I) convinced him the ordinary infantryman needed a new weapon. Thompson wanted something he called “a trench broom.”
“Our boys in the infantry, now in the trenches, need a small machine gun, a gun that will fire 50 to 100 rounds, so light that he can drag it with him as he crawls on his belly from trench to trench, and wipe out a whole company single-handed,” Thompson wrote in a 1918 memo to firearms designers. “I want a little machine gun you can hold in your hands, fire from the hip and reload in the dark. You must use ammunition now available and I want it right away.”
Designers produced a prototype by 1919, but the first practical models were too late for the war. Still, Thompson convinced Colt to produce 15,000 M1921 submachine guns.
Early observers of the M1921 test-fired on the range were impressed by how much firepower the “little machine gun” delivered.
The problem was Thompson had no steady stream of customers, even when Thompson’s company Auto-Ordnance Corp. released the M1928 – considered by many the definitive Tommy gun model.
True, the U.S. Marine Corps purchased Thompsons and used them effectively in China and during the Latin American “banana wars” of the 1920s. The Postal Service armed its security personnel with Thompsons as well.
But the weapon was expensive – very expensive. Adjusted for inflation, its $200 price tag is roughly equivalent to $2,300 today.
To put things in perspective, consider the contemporary cost of prime, high-end arms like the Fabrique Nationale d’Herstal SCAR 17S 7.62×51 millimeter NATO – it costs about the same as a Tommy Gun did during the Roaring ’20s.
Besides, for better or worse the Thompson gained a “bad boy” reputation. A handful of criminals such as John Dillinger and George “Machine Gun” Kelly gave the weapon a bad name.
At first, potential customers such as the British government considered the Thompson “gangster weapons” and refused to purchase the submachine gun.
But by 1939, all that changed. Great Britain entered World War II starved for armaments.
The War Office eagerly purchased every M1928 it could, and the weapon was a hit with the Tommies – particularly the Commandos.
The weapon’s reliability and ability to bring devastating automatic fire to close quarters combat made the Thompson a favorite of the Commandos.
They even honored the weapon in the design of their unit recognition flash: A stylized Thompson superimposed on an anchor headed by an eagle.
There were also many American G.I.s who even relished the gangster panache of the Tommy Gun. Images of actors like James Cagney in “The Public Enemy” – easily one of the most violent movies of its time – ducking around a corner as a gangster fired on him with a Thompson were unforgettable.
“It was often seen in gangster films that were watched by impressionable young men who came of age during World War II,” Archambault said. “So, even before its use in World War II, it was an iconic weapon.”
Sure, the M-1 Garand was the basic weapon for the American infantryman. But the Thompson found its way into the hands of officers, squad leaders, paratroopers, U.S. Marines and any soldier lucky enough to grab one.
Also, G.I.s and Marines were fighting all across the globe in battlefield environments that included deserts, jungles and snow. The sheer reliability of the Thompson, particularly in its less-expensive but equally deadly M1A1 model, made it the perfect weapon to endure the lousiest battlefield conditions.
Eventually, the cost of the Thompson prompted development of the M-3 “Grease Gun,” which could be produced in greater quantities for far less money than even the M1A1.
But by the Korean War, the Army relegated the Thompson to a secondary role. By Vietnam, the first M-16s were in the hands of GIs and the military considered the Thompson obsolete.
Today, Thompson submachine guns are in high demand among collectors legally authorized to own full-auto weapons. On average, the price for a clean Tommy Gun is about $25,000.
On Nov. 21, 2010 while providing security on a rooftop in Afghanistan, then-Lance Cpl. Kyle Carpenter jumped on a grenade to save his best friend’s life, an action he later received the Medal of Honor for.
“I only remember a few moments after I got hit,” Carpenter told me previously when I interviewed him for Business Insider. “But nothing before.”
The scene was near Marjah, with Carpenter and his squad — supported by engineers, an interpreter, and Afghan National Army troops — moved south of their main base to establish a small outpost to wrestle control of the area from the Taliban. It was Nov. 19, 2010, and as Carpenter told me, they were guaranteed to take enemy fire.
That “contact” came one day later, when their small patrol base came under blistering attack from small arms, sniper fire, rockets, and grenades. Two Marines were injured and evacuated. “The rest of the day it was sporadic but still constant enemy [AK-47] fire on our post that was on top of the roof,” he said.
While the Marines took sporadic fire while setting up their new base over the next two days, it was on Nov. 21 that Carpenter would distinguish himself with his heroism.
“Enemy forces had maneuvered in close through the use of the walls of the compound across the street to the east,” according to Carpenter’s summary of action. The Taliban threw three grenades into the compound.
One landed in the center of the base, injuring an Afghan soldier. The second harmlessly detonated near the post that was destroyed the previous day. The last landed on the roof, dangerously close to him and his friend, Lance Cpl. Nick Eufrazio. He didn’t remember actually jumping on the grenade, but multiple eyewitnesses and forensics showed that was exactly what happened.
“The majority of the grenade blast was deflected down rather than up, causing a cone-shaped hole to be blown down through the ceiling of the command operations center,” the summary reads.
Carpenter was severely wounded, with injuries to his face, jaw, and upper and lower extremities. Eufrazio received shrapnel to the head. Both were immediately evacuated and survived. Eufrazio is still recovering from the attack, while Carpenter has bounced back from his devastating wounds in a fashion that’s nothing short of remarkable.
He received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, on Jun. 19, 2014.
“I mean I would grab that [grenade] and kick it right back,” Carpenter told me half-jokingly, when I asked if he had any regrets. “But besides that … I wouldn’t change anything. We’re both alive and we’re here and I’m fully appreciating my second chance.”
Here’s his full citation, courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps:
When HMS Queen Elizabeth makes her maiden deployment in 2021, she will be operating the short take-off, vertical landing variant of the F-35 Lightning II.
There’s just one catch – the planes will not be owned by the United Kingdom.
According to a report by The Register, the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy won’t have enough Lightning IIs to fill out even a reduced air wing of 12 F-35s (about the size of a squadron). To put that into perspective, plans call for a Queen Elizabeth-class carrier to have as many as 36 of the multi-role V/STOL fighters. The Brits have stood up 809 Squadron in the Fleet Air Arm and 617 Squadron of the RAF (the famous Dambusters), plus the RAF’s 17 Squadron as an operational conversion unit.
Fortunately for the Brits, the United States Marine Corps operates a similar version of the F-35Bs, and when the Queen Elizabeth deploys, some Marines with their new jets will be deploying on board the 70,000-ton carrier alongside their British brothers.
The deployment will come after a lengthy gap, since the British retired their force of GR-7 and GR-9 Harriers in 2010.
The two planes will carry some different missiles. British Lightning IIs will carry other weapons, like the Meteor air-to-air missile and the Brimstone air-to-ground missile. British combat aircraft are also able to carry the AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-9 Sidewinder, and other American-made munitions.
The Marine F-35Bs that will come to the rescue might come from one of two squadrons.
The first, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-211, is the famous “Wake Island Avengers.” That unit, with five F4F Wildcats, held the line in December 1941 against long odds, and was credited with sinking a Japanese destroyer and three other vessels, as well as inflicting other losses on the enemy. Henry Elrod received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the siege.
Throughout its history VMFA-211 operated classic planes like the F4U Corsair, the A-1 Skyraider, the A-4 Skyhawk, and the AV-8B Harrier before transitioning to the F-35B.
The other unit that could deploy aboard the British carrier is Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-121, the “Green Knights,” saw action as part of the famous “Cactus Air Force” that flew from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. The squadron was credited with 208 kills, and included Medal of Honor winner (and #2 Marine ace Joe Foss) among the pilots who flew with it.
The planes this squadron flew throughout its history prior to receiving the F-35B include the FU4, the F8F Bearcat, the A-1 Skyraider, the F9F Cougar, the A-4 Skyhawk, the A-6 Intruder, and the F/A-18D Hornet.
This joint air wing for HMS Queen Elizabeth’s historic deployment will harken back to World War II history as well. The Marines will be pulling from the “Cactus Air Force,” the polyglot force that held the line on Guadalcanal that included VMFA-121. The British will recall the “Eagle Squadrons” of American pilots who fought Nazi Germany before the U.S. entered World War II.
The official Mad Scientists of war, otherwise known as Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency employees, have crafted a way for helicopter pilots to see through dust, snow, and smoke to fly safely even when their view is blocked.
Currently, low-visibility conditions lead to crashes and collisions that cost the U.S. hundreds of millions of dollars and can lead to troops’ deaths. Brownouts, when helicopter pilots lose visibility due to dust kicked up by their rotors or sandstorms, have caused a number of crashes in the recent wars in the desert.
The system maps terrain and landing zones in brownouts or whiteouts, prevents collisions with other aircraft and obstacles, and warns of weather hazards.
When the pilot is in combat, the system will aid in identifying and acquiring targets, guiding weapons, and linking the data feeds of different aircraft.
Ideally, the system will work as a “plug and play” add-on to current and future aircraft. Everything from modern helicopters to drones to the coming Joint Multi-Role Aircraft will feature the technology.
In the decades that followed World War II, the attack on Pearl Harbor had faded somewhat in the American public’s memory.
The attacks of 9/11 changed all of that. “All those bad memories surged forward again,” said James C. McNaughton, who served as command historian for U.S. Army Pacific from 2001 to 2005. Today, he is the director of Histories Division at the Army Center of Military History.
Just weeks after the 9/11 attacks, McNaughton attended a ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. At the ceremony, he found himself among a large number of World War II veterans and Pearl Harbor survivors. Both attacks, McNaughton believes, were on all of their minds.
McNaughton attributes the fading memory of the events that transpired at Pearl Harbor 75 years ago, in part, to World War II veterans’ reticence to share their own wartime memories.
McNaughton’s own father, who served as a Marine participating in the Central Pacific campaign, was reluctant to discuss his wartime experiences.
The story of the devasting Japanese air strike on U.S. naval forces that day has been well documented, McNaughton observed — less so the Army’s role in the response.
At the time of the attack, 43,000 Soldiers were on active duty in Hawaii, where they were tasked with three primary missions, the first of which was to protect the territory of Hawaii from an invasion. (Hawaii remained a territory until statehood in 1959.)
“It was not beyond the realm of possibility that the Imperial Japanese Navy could carry out an invasion,” he explained. “They didn’t do so, but the Army could not be sure, so it deployed combat troops to defend the beaches.”
The second was to defend the fleet with coast artillery and anti-aircraft artillery. Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George C. Marshall Jr. had made it very clear to the highest ranking Army officer, Lt. Gen. Walter Short, commander, U.S. Army Hawaiian Department, that his No. 1 mission was to protect the fleet, McNaughton said.
Before 1940, the U.S Pacific Fleet had been based in San Diego. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, for his own diplomatic reasons, had ordered the Navy to re-base itself at Pearl Harbor, according to McNaughton. The move added to the Army’s defensive responsibilities.
The third mission was training, he said.
By 1940, World War II had already engulfed much of Europe and the Pacific, and Americans were beginning to realize their involvement might be inevitable. For the Army’s part, they were organizing and training units — from squad to regiment and division. They were even conducting field exercises and basic training concurrently.
Besides ground forces, the Army at that time also included the Army Air Corps. “They were trying to train flight crews and mechanics and use the limited aircraft they had on hand,” McNaughton said. “This was a fairly green Army.”
The National Guard and Organized Reserve had been mobilized as recently as 1940 and the draft, known as the Selective Training and Service Act, wasn’t instituted until Sept. 16 that same year.
In 1940, fewer than 270,000 Soldiers were on active duty. That number would climb to about 7 million by 1943.
Set up for failure
By late 1941, the Army in Hawaii was trying to juggle all three missions. “In my judgment, they couldn’t do all three,” McNaughton said. “They spread themselves too thin. Ultimately they failed.”
Coordination between the services was also poor, he said. The Army and the Navy on Hawaii had separate chains of command, and they engaged in very little coordination, at least in practical terms.
Early Sunday morning, the day of the attack, Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet based at Pearl Harbor and his counterpart, Short, were preparing for their weekly golf game, McNaughton explained. Every Sunday morning, the two flag officers would play golf, enabling them to “check the box” for joint coordination.
“Well, you need more than that,” McNaughton said. “And that’s what they didn’t do.”
In 1946, according to the Army’s official history, “Guarding the United States and Its Outposts,” the Congressional Pearl Harbor Joint Committee concluded:
“There was a complete failure in Hawaii of effective Army-Navy liaison during the critical period and no integration of Army and Navy facilities and efforts for defense. Neither of the responsible commanders really knew what the other was doing with respect to essential military activities.”
Senior Navy and Army leaders relieved Kimmel and Short of their commands within days after the attack, and they were never fully exonerated.
Early warning signs
Failure of the services to coordinate had real consequences on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
In the pre-dawn hours, a submarine periscope was spotted near Pearl Harbor, where there shouldn’t have been any submarines. At 6:37 a.m., the destroyer USS Ward dropped depth charges, destroying the submarine. The incident was then reported to the Navy chain of command.
Meanwhile, at the Opana Radar Site on the north shore of Oahu, radar operators Pvt. Joseph L. Lockard and Pvt. George Elliott detected an unusually large formation of aircraft approaching the island from the north at 7:02 a.m.
At the time, radar was experimental technology, and operators manned it just 3 to 7 a.m., McNaughton said. Usually, the radar was shut off at 7 a.m. for the rest of the day. It was only because the truck that took Lockard and Elliott to breakfast was late that the radar was still on at 7:02 a.m.
The operators had never seen such a large number of blips before, according to McNaughton. They called 1st Lt. Kermit A. Tyler, an Air Corps pilot who was an observer that morning at Fort Shafter’s Radar Information Center.
“Don’t worry about it,” Tyler told them. He had heard that a flight of B-17 bombers was en route from Hamilton Field, California, that morning.
If the Army and Navy had been in communication, McNaughton believes, they might have recognized the signs of the coming attack: the sighting of a large aircraft formation coming in from the north and the sighting of a submarine at the mouth of Pearl Harbor.
“If you put those two together, you might want to put everyone on full alert. But they didn’t,” he said. “There was no integration of intelligence from the two services. So the only warning they got was when the bombs started to fall.”
The attack commences
The first of two waves of some 360 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes began the attack at 7:48 a.m., having launched from six aircraft carriers north of Oahu.
While many of the Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft attacked the fleet, other planes attacked all the airfields on the island, including Wheeler Field next to Schofield Barracks.
Among the 2,403 Americans killed, 2,008 were Sailors, 218 were Soldiers, 109 were Marines and 68 were civilians, according to a National World War II Museum Pearl Harbor fact sheet.
Of the aircraft destroyed, 92 were Navy and 77 were Army Air Corps. Two battleships were destroyed and six were damaged; three cruisers were damaged; one auxiliary vessel was destroyed and three were damaged; and three destroyers were damaged, according to the fact sheet.
The carriers USS Enterprise, USS Saratoga and USS Lexington were out on maneuvers and were not spotted by the Japanese.
Within minutes of the attack, Navy anti-aircraft guns opened up. The guns were firing at planes in all directions. A number of stray Navy anti-aircraft gun rounds fell in populated areas of Honolulu, killing more than a dozen civilians.
However, the Army’s anti-aircraft gunners at first struggled to engage the enemy because their guns were not in firing positions and the guns’ ammunition was in a separate location, where it was under lock and key.
“You can imagine them looking for the ammunition sergeant who had the keys at 8 a.m. Sunday,” McNaughton said. “It took them a while, but some guns did eventually get into action.”
Why weren’t the Army guns in position?
Short complained afterward that he had received ambiguous guidance from Washington. He said he was instructed to be prepared to defend against an attack but not to alarm the civilian population, which setting the anti-aircraft guns in position might have done.
Even so, the Army, with four regiments of anti-aircraft artillery in Oahu, had rehearsed defense against air raids. “They knew it was a possibility,” McNaughton said. “But certainly they were caught by surprise.”
Nevertheless, Soldiers found some means to counter-attack. At Army installations, Army men fired back with machine guns and other weapons at attacking enemy dive bombers and fighters, according to “Guarding the United States and Its Outposts.”
One of the Soldiers who lived through that day at Schofield Barracks was Cpl. James Jones, who later depicted the chaos in a 1951 novel, “From Here to Eternity,” which was eventually made into a movie that garnered eight Academy Awards.
As for the Army Air Corps, they eventually got 12 aircraft in the air and shot down a few Japanese planes. Ultimately, though, the Army Air Corps was overwhelmed. The vast majority of Soldiers killed in action that day were in the Army Air Corps, McNaughton noted.
The Army Air Corps flight of 12 B-17 Fortress Bombers — the aircraft that Tyler thought the radar operators had spotted — arrived in the middle of the attack. They were unarmed and almost out of fuel.
The aircraft landed at various airfields, and one landed on a golf course. One of the aircraft was destroyed by the Japanese, and three were badly damaged, according to “Guarding the United States and Its Outposts.”
“Just imagine, it’s supposed to be a routine peacetime flight and you show up in the middle of the biggest air battle the U.S. had ever seen,” McNaughton said. “Not a good situation.”
No plan for invasion
In fact, the Japanese never planned to invade Hawaii, McNaughton said. Rather, they wanted to cripple the U.S. Pacific fleet so it could not interfere with their plans to seize European colonies in Southeast Asia.
At the time, Army and Navy signals intelligence personnel were working hard to break the Japanese code, he said. They were intercepting communications and decrypting what they could, but the communications they intercepted gave no clear warning of the impending attack.
What the Japanese misjudged was the tremendous anger of the American people, which gave President Roosevelt and Congress the excuse they were looking for to declare war against Japan as well as Germany, McNaughton noted.
In the aftermath of the attack, the Army immediately took over the territory of Hawaii, declaring martial law, which lasted until October 1944. In this unprecedented situation, all local police, courts and government operated under Army supervision. The Army, Navy and FBI placed the local Japanese-American population under close surveillance and placed many community leaders under arrest.
During the war, the Army Soldiers in Hawaii — as in various places along the coasts on the U.S. mainland — never had to fire artillery guns to repel an enemy fleet, McNaughton said. The Army eventually disbanded the Coast Artillery branch, and today it uses sophisticated air and missile defense, in coordination with the other services.
Among the lessons to be taken from Pearl Harbor attack, according to McNaughton, is the crucial importance of operating as part of the joint force. Another is that of striking a fine balance between training and readiness. “You just don’t know when your unit will be called to mobilize,” he said.
The forced internment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast in 1942, in the aftermath of the attack, was a further tragedy.
“It was really painful to the Japanese-American community at the time,” he said. “The vast majority of Japanese Americans were loyal citizens, those who had the opportunity fought for America. And many of those died for their country.”
When America sends its super-secret warriors behind enemy lines, remaining camouflaged can mean the difference between nabbing the bad guy and causing a major international incident if discovered.
But staying in the shadows means more to those types of commandos than Ghillie suits and MultiCam combat uniforms. Instead, for special operators like SEAL Team 6 commandos and Delta Force soldiers, it’s cultural camouflage that keeps them alive and on mission. When they’re on a clandestine op, that means mingling with the population unseen.
While SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force can easily get their operators looking like the natives, it’s proven to be a lot harder to get them sounding like a local in the country they’re deployed to. Learning a language is very difficult skill, and the military has been at pains to get its operators up to speed quickly.
According to most experts, it takes at least six months for Special Forces soldiers to get proficient in one of the European languages like Spanish or French, and up to a year for proficiency in languages like Arabic and Chinese.
With smaller units like those in Joint Special Operations Command, taking operators off the line for that long makes it tough to keep units fully manned.
So SEAL Team 6 has been experimenting using sensory deprivation tanks to cut language learning to a fraction of the time used in traditional methods.
“They’re able to steer operators into a state of optimum physiological and neurological relaxation and then introducing new content. … And one of the examples is learning foreign languages,” says John Wheal, the Executive Director of the Flow Genome Project which works to increase the performance of top-end athletes and business executives.
“By combining these sensory deprivation tanks with next-generation biofeedback they’ve been able to reduce a six-month cycle time for learning foreign languages down to six weeks.”
Basically, sensory deprivation tanks are pod-shaped beds filled with lukewarm salt water that delivers neutral buoyancy. An operator will float in the chamber in pitch dark to remove any distractions and wear a set of specialized sensors that measure various physical readings like heart rate and brain wave activity.
Once the SEAL has gotten into the right state of mind, then the learning starts, Wheal says.
Previously the exclusive purview of rich show business types with money to burn, the nation’s top commandos are now using cutting-edge tools like sensory deprivation tanks to get better at their jobs quicker.
Indian security officials say their troops engaged in a stone-throwing clash with Chinese forces in a disputed area of the Himalayas August 15.
The incident occurred after Indian soldiers prevented their Chinese counterparts from entering the mountainous region of Ladakh in Indian-controlled Kashmir. The confrontation ended after both sides retreated to their respective positions.
China did not immediately comment on the incident.
Indian and Chinese forces are locked in a 2-month-old standoff in a disputed area between India’s close ally, Bhutan, and China. The tensions began when Indian troops were deployed to obstruct a Chinese road-building project at Doklam Plateau. The area also known as Chicken’s Neck is hugely strategic for India because it connects the country’s mainland to its northeastern region.
New Delhi cites its treaties with Bhutan, with which it has close military and economic ties, for keeping its soldiers in the area despite strident calls by Beijing to vacate the mountain region.
The standoff is believed to be the most serious confrontation between the two Asian giants, who fought a brief war in 1962.
The idea that the American moon landings were nothing but an elaborate government hoax sits somewhere between Elvis faking his own death and FDR knowing the Japanese were about to attack Pearl Harbor.
Only wing nuts need apply.
Still die hards like Bart Sibrel think the moon landings were staged — all of them — and he’s produced four feature-length films to prove his theory. But while Sibrel has no problem telling his handful of followers over the airwaves that America never took “one giant leap,” he’d better think twice before telling one of the astronauts who actually did that it’s a fake.
After a talk at the Smithsonian Institute in 2002, Sibrel got in the face of retired astronaut, former Air Force command pilot and all-around American hero Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. That turned out to be a bad day for the conspiracy theorist because retired Cold Warriors don’t put up with that tin foil hat warble.
Sibrel chased down the retired astronaut to demand that Aldrin swear on a Bible that he landed on the moon. When the 72-year-old Aldrin tried gracefully to ignore the huckster, Sibrel turned up the heat and said some things he shouldn’t have. That’s when the eagle landed a right hook.
After a rather unexceptional outing in cop-and-robbers shenanigans, the Battlefield franchise is returning to its military warfare roots by exploring a setting that may as well be uncharted territory in the modern shooter genre.
The ‘Battlefield 1’ reveal trailer confirms existing rumors of a WWI setting, while clearly seeking to dispel concerns that the entrenched stalemates of the Great War are a poor choice for Battlefield’s signature fast-paced, vehicle-centric gameplay. After all, who wants to spend the majority of a multiplayer match ducking machine gun fire and waiting to die of trench foot?
Instead, the trailer presents a visceral montage of bi-plane dogfights, lumbering tanks, and shovel-to-shovel melee combat, accompanied by the thrumming bass of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.”
Several Naval Academy alumni have asked the alumni association to rescind an award planned for former U.S. Sen. James Webb because of his decades-old essay questioning the decision to admit women into military service academies.
Webb, who also served as Secretary of the Navy, wrote the 7,000-word essay “Women Can’t Fight” for Washingtonian Magazine in 1979.
“There is a place for women in our military, but not in combat. And their presence at institutions dedicated to the preparation of men for combat command is poisoning that preparation,” Webb wrote.
He called the dormitory Bancroft Hall “a horny woman’s dream” and quoted former male alumni arguing that attending the academy is “scarring many women in ways they may not comprehend for years.”
The essay has been described by several alumni as a “manifesto” that potentially empowered male midshipmen to harass their female counterparts.
Retired Navy Cmdr. Laureen Miklos, a 1981 graduate, wrote in an email that the decision by the Naval Academy Alumni Association to give its Distinguished Graduate Award to Webb was “a hit to the gut.” She taught at the academy from 1998 to 2001 and described Webb’s essay as a “living document” still referenced by mids.
Miklos wrote the Annapolis-based association, arguing Webb’s essay validated those who thought women didn’t belong at the academy. She recalled an upperclassmen ordering a female classmate during her time at the academy to stand at attention at meals and shout “I am not a horny woman, Sir.”
Webb plans to be be present Friday when the association holds its Distinguished Graduate Award Ceremony. The award is given to alumni who have “personal character which epitomizes the traits we expect in our officer corps” and have made “significant contributions” as officers or leaders in industry or government.
Webb, who graduated from the academy in 1968, served as a rifle platoon and company commander during the Vietnam War. He earned the Navy Cross for “extraordinary heroism” and two Purple Hearts for injuries that ended his active-duty career.
Webb released a statement to The Capital on March 27, 2017, saying he wrote a “strongly argumentative magazine article” during the intense national debate of women serving in combat.
“Clearly, if I had been a more mature individual, there are things that I would not have said in that magazine article,” he wrote in the statement. “To the extent that this article subjected women at the academy or the armed forces to undue hardship, I remain profoundly sorry.”
But Webb, who ran a brief campaign for the presidency as a Democrat in 2016, said he doesn’t regret debating the “long-term process of properly assimilating women” into the military. He said he is “deeply proud” of the contributions he made as Secretary of the Navy and a senator from Virginia. He cited the Navy-wide study he commission as secretary, which he said “opened up more positions to women than any secretary in history.”
Retired Adm. Robert Natter, chairman of the Board of Trustees for the association, said in a statement that Webb’s most recent comments “reflect how his views have evolved since that article 38 years ago.” Natter said Webb was selected by an independent selection chaired by retired Adm. Mike Mullen, a classmate of Webb’s and a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“His many years of service are a matter of very public record, and on that entire record he was selected as a Distinguished Graduate,” Natter wrote.
Retired Capt. Jack Reape, a 1984 graduate, said an upperclassmen handed him a copy of the essay as a plebe. Reape said he and his classmates didn’t “support the women at the academy” during his time but that has since apologized to several of his female classmates.
Reape said he doesn’t see the point of taking the award from Webb because he “couldn’t name anyone else on that list.” He also said the award doesn’t have a big impact.
“He wouldn’t have been on my list of people,” Reape said. “We were in the Navy, we’re used to things not going to our way and pressing on. It’s the way it goes.”
Kelly Henry, a 1984 graduate, also wrote the association with criticism of the award. Henry said Webb’s essay was highly-circulated while she was in Annapolis and it caused “harm” to many of her classmates.
“The women will tell you that article was like throwing gasoline on the fire,” she said.
Henry said she was one of the “lucky” ones during her time at the academy and was in a company that welcomed the female mids. She said she was surprised to see Webb honored with the award, since 2016 marked the 40th year of women attending the Naval Academy.
She attended the academy’s celebration in the fall.
“At that celebration I felt we were embraced in the community,” Henry said. “We are no longer seen as something that tainted it, but now to see this? It completely takes away that feeling.”
Other 2017 Distinguished Graduates
—Retired Adm. Harry D. Train II ’49 — Train served as NATO supreme allied commander Atlantic and was also commander of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet from 1978 to 1982. He retired in 1982 and became involved in civic affairs in Hampton Roads, Virginia.
— Milledge A. “Mitch” Hart ’56 — Hart is the founder/co-founder of seven companies. After serving as a Marine in Oklahoma and Okinawa, he worked with alumnus Ross Perot to found Electronic Data Systems, a information technology equipment and services company. He later co-founded Home Depot, which became the second-largest retailer in the country.
—Retired Vice Adm. Cutler Dawson ’70 — Dawson is president and CEO of the Navy Federal Credit Union and was in the Navy for about 35 years. Under Dawson, the Enterprise Battle Group conducted strikes for Operation Desert Fox in the Arabian Gulf and Operation Allied for in the Adriatic Sea. He retired from the military in 2004 and became president of the Vienna, Virginia-based credit union.
—Retired Adm. Eric T. Olson ’73 — Olson is the former commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command. He’s the first Navy SEAL to reach three- and four-star rank and the first naval officer to lead Special Operations Command. He retired in 2011 after serving for 38 years. After retiring, he founded ETO Group, an independent national security consulting firm.
While the gunner easily dispatched those first soldiers in the open, hundreds of fighters, many in civilian clothes or firing from bunkers, remained. And they put up a fierce resistance with small arms, mortars, and RPGs.
An early RPG hit disabled a Bradley, and the next major RPG hit disabled the Abrams. For almost 20 minutes, the Americans attempted to put out the flames and save the machine. But more fighters kept coming and Schwartz made the decision to sacrifice the tank wreckage to save the armored column.
The crew was moved to another vehicle and the crucial sensitive items were removed from the tank. Then the tankers filled the vehicle with thermite grenades and took off through the city. The Air Force later dropped bombs on what remained.
In the video below, Schwartz and other tankers involved in the battle discuss the unprecedented decision to abandon an Abrams tank.
The Iraqi government loyal to Saddam Hussein later claimed that the tank was killed, which would have given them credit for the first combat kill of an Abrams tank. The U.S. argued that it was merely disabled, and that it was the U.S. Army’s thermite grenades and later U.S. Air Force bombs that actually destroyed it.
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.
As soon as he wrapped up his studies in film and literature at Boston University, Henry Hughes followed family tradition and signed up for the Army. For the next five years, he took fire, dodged IEDs and grappled internally with the meaning of military service while on two tours of duty in Afghanistan with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. After Hughes returned home and earned another degree from the American Film Institute, he began making movies, including his short film,”Day One,” which tells the story of a female Army interpreter facing a moral quandary during her first day on the job: saving the newborn child of a known enemy. The film was nominated for this year’s Academy Award for best live-action short.
NationSwell spoke to Hughes, a Got Your 6 Storyteller, by phone from Los Angeles about the lingering questions from war and their portrayal on film.
What inspired you to serve your country?
For me, it was a long family tradition. We basically had someone in the Army since the [American] Revolution. I wanted to be part of that tradition.
Is there one question that you continually ask yourself about your experience?
It’s probably, “why is it not so simple?” It’s a very complex part of my life, not something that is full of simply good memories or simply bad memories: it’s a mixture of all types of life. So I always wonder why it’s not like anything else. At this point, why can’t it be simpler? Why is it so difficult for everyone to understand it?
I’m guessing that’s why did you decided to make the film “Day One?”
For sure, it’s about those questions. There’s not a reducible answer like the one I just tried to give you. So that’s why I thought I could make a movie about it instead, to kind of show the way it felt. So the movie is not a true-to-life of what exactly happened to me that one day. But the feeling when I’m watching the movie, it’s that sublime space of things that are horrible and beautiful in the same breath.
What’s the most important lesson civilians can take away from art that’s made about war?
I would say that everyone’s wartime experience is subjective. I don’t know if there’s some sort of universal experience.
What’s your favorite movie about war?
For me, it’s “The Thin Red Line.” I think it touches me because there’s no other war movie like it, that accepts the soulfulness of the warrior experience. A lot of movies don’t go that way, they kind of go along the more visceral, more experiential route.
What is the quality you most admire in a comrade?
What I actually admire most is hard to come by in our community: vulnerability. When it’s a vulnerability to look at your military experience, I really love meeting those people.
Who was the most inspirational person you encountered while serving?
I would say my interpreter on my second tour. She’s the one I based the movie on, or it’s inspired by her. She’s an Afghan-American woman, naturalized as an American citizen, but born over there. The deck was stacked against her, and she looked inside herself to find out what she thought was right and wrong. It wasn’t something that someone told her to do. She just had incredible integrity.
If you could change one thing about your service, what would it be?
I wouldn’t want one of my guys to be wounded or for any of my guys to die.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I would probably say chasing down my wife. It was a long shot, and it worked out. In 2010, after my first tour, I flew to New York without knowing she was there. We hadn’t spoken in a long time. We knew each other as children, when we were 13, and I hadn’t seen her in a number of years. I thought I could track her down, and so on Facebook messenger, I basically said, “Hey, I just landed in New York. Let’s hang out. We haven’t seen each other in a decade.” We went on one date and then a few more dates. She started me writing me a lot of letters when I was in Afghanistan again for my second tour, and we decided to be together.
How can the rest of us, as civilians, do more to support veterans?
Just look at them as people first. I feel like there’s a big divide on some level, but a lot of it is imagined. The fact of the matter is that all of those veterans are just people. I would look at them that way first and then look at their experience.
To you, what does it mean these days to be a veteran?
Well, it’s inescapable, I suppose. The definition of being a veteran is you can never not be a veteran one once you are one. And that speaks to, I think, how profound that experience is. There’s no way you can stop being a veteran.
According to a report by ynetnews.com, the package includes four frigates based on the Littoral Combat Ship, 115 M1A2S Abrams tanks, the MIM-104F Patriot PAC-3 missile system, the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, 48 CH-47 Chinook helicopters, 150 Blackhawk helicopters, and a number of other systems.
Bloomberg News reports that the deal was originally for two ships based on USS Freedom (LCS 1), which is currently in service with the United States Navy, but was increased to four, and there is an option for four more vessels. This is the first export order for the LCS hull.
The Lockheed Martin website notes that this ship adds remotely-operated 20mm cannon, the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missile, long-range surface-to-surface missiles, and the AN/SLQ-25 “Nixie,” a decoy intended to draw torpedoes away from a ship.
A separate deal could include up to 16,000 kits for the Paveway series of laser-guided bombs. These weapons are used on Saudi jets, including the F-15S Strike Eagle, the Tornado IDS, and the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Many of the weapons deals had been initiated during the Obama Administration, but had been placed on hold due to concerns about civilian casualties in the Yemeni Civil War. The Saudi Arabian military has been launching strikes against the Houthi rebels to back the Yemeni government.