The U.S. Olympic team’s stars – Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky and Simone Biles – stole the show during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, performing record-breaking feats on the world stage.
But what if the Olympics featured elite athletes crawling under barbed wire or running with an 80-pound rucksack for 5, 10, or even 20 miles? Our men and women in uniform could be winning gold if the following military activities were official competitions:
1. Obstacle course
During a team-building challenge, 1st Lt. Alan Roy (right), a platoon leader from Strawberry, Minn., and Sgt. Luis Garcia, a squad leader from Bryant, Texas low-crawl through an obstacle course. The two Soldiers teams endured six other events after completing the obstacle course. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Travis Zielinski)
Obstacle courses are a full body workout consisting of running, climbing tall structures, jumping over walls, and (of course) crawling in the mud under barbed wire. These courses are mental as much as they are physical, testing courage and willpower. Obstacle courses would make up for some interesting drama if it was an Olympic event – add live fire for a fun twist.
2. Drill and Ceremony
Drill and Ceremony teams have to be disciplined, precise, and work as a single unit. Timing and repetition are vital for a successful routine. DC routines are sort of like synchronized swimming — without the water and shiny outfits.
3. Log drills
Usain Bolt may be the fastest man in the world, but what if the Jamaican track and field star was carrying a large log on his shoulder instead of holding a baton?
Military members are no strangers to doing PT with a large wooden log that could weigh in excess of 150 pounds or more. From overhead presses to squats and running with the heavy log, this exercise tests the strength and cardiovascular endurance of service members. This event would sure make for an interesting 4x100m relay in Rio.
4. Ruck marching
The Olympic marathon is one of the original events of the modern Olympic Games that started in 1896. The 26.2-mile race is definitely a grueling event but at least the runners do not have to carry a heavy rucksack on their back, wear boots and full military uniform. U.S. service members would certainly have an advantage if rucking was an Olympic competition.
The Javelin throw is a track field event where a competitor throws a long spear for distance. But why throw a spear when you can fire an FGM-148 Javelin – an anti-tank missile – for both distance and accuracy? Now that’s must-watch TV.
What military training do you think would make interesting Olympic events? Write your thoughts in the comments.
The Constant Phoenix jet touched down at the air base in Okinawa on April 7, the Nikkei newspaper reported.
The aircraft was scheduled to arrive earlier, on March 24, but engine problems resulted in its delay.
The WC-135 jet has been deployed before to Japan and has been carrying out missions in the region since October 2006, when North Korea conducted its first nuclear test.
The aircraft previously found radioactive debris consistent with a North Korea nuclear test during previous missions.
North Korea continues to allocate more than 15 percent of its national budget to defense expenditures, according to Pyongyang’s Workers’ Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun.
“In order to handle the critical situation of the nuclear threat and endless war provocations of the United States and its followers, we will apportion 15.8 percent of all spending to defense expenditures, in order to strengthen the self-defense and pre-emptive capabilities centered around our nuclear armed forces,” Pyongyang stated April 12.
But North Korea also revived its foreign affairs committee during a meetings of its Supreme People’s Assembly the second week of April, a possible sign Kim Jong Un may be willing to take a step back from escalating tensions with the United States.
Your grandparents and great grandparents fighting in World War II were hit with just as much safety rules as troops are today, it’s just those rules rarely make it to the history books.
But they weren’t always given their safety rules in boring briefings. When the 1940s War Department and Department of the Navy really wanted to drive safety rules home, they made snazzy safety videos and posters.
The Navy used “Ensign Dilbert,” a soup-sandwich who always breaks safety rules, to highlight the grisly results of incompetency in aviation.
And Dilbert does some truly stupid stuff. He mishandles his weapons, tows aerial targets into ground crews, and even accidentally kills a civilian his first flight of the day. And the Navy isn’t afraid to show the (PG-13) bodies of his victims.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is taking new steps to use technology to improve access to health care for veterans across the country, including in rural areas.
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin says the initiatives include using video technology and diagnostic tools to conduct medical exams. Shulkin says veterans will also be able to use mobile devices to schedule, reschedule, or cancel appointments with a VA doctor.
Shulkin says the new programs will make it possible to provide medical care to veterans wherever they are, whether they’re in their homes or are traveling.
The new programs are in addition to existing “telehealth” programs that Shulkin says provided care to more than 700,000 veterans last year.
The U.S. Army is investigating allegations by a military researcher that the late Command Sgt. Major Basil Plumley — a legend in the airborne and infantry communities — wore unauthorized combat and valor awards that exaggerated the wartime achievements that made him famous.
Plumley, who died Oct. 10, 2012 from cancer at the age of 92, was a major figure in the 1992 book, “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young,” coauthored by Joseph L. Galloway and retired Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore.
The book was moving account of the November 1965 Battle of Ia Drang Valley in the Vietnam War and the heroic fight that 450 soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, put up against a superior force of 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers at LZ X-Ray.
Brian Siddall, an independent researcher whose father and uncle served during World War II — the latter as a paratrooper who was killed during the D-Day invasion of Europe — leveled the allegations against Plumley after an extensive study of his service records. He said he has been doing research for his website for the last decade.
“It’s been a lifelong thing for me,” he told Military.com. “My uncle was killed on June 6, 1944. He was a paratrooper in Company B of the 307th Airborne Engineers.”
Siddall added, “Even as a kid, I used to ask my father — because it was his kid brother — what happened to him, and he didn’t have an answer. And by the way, my dad was a navigator on a B-17 in World War II.”
His research into Plumley’s famed exploits in the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II later prompted him to write two online articles in 2015 that show discrepancies between Plumley’s service records and the awards and actions he took credit for.
According to Siddall, who obtained Plumley’s service records, Plumley inflated his heroism in battle by wearing two Silver Stars and Bronze Star medals for valor in combat instead of wearing the single Silver Star he was awarded in Vietnam.
Plumley also exaggerated the number of Combat Infantry Badge awards he was authorized, Siddall maintains. The CIB is a sacred award only bestowed upon infantrymen for engaging in direct combat with the enemy.
In light of Siddall’s research, officials at Fort Benning, Georgia, are investigating the allegations and are considering Siddall’s request to have the information on Plumley’s headstone corrected.
AN AIRBORNE LEGEND
In “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young,” Plumley is described as “a two war man and wore master parachutist wings with five combat-jump stars,” referring to Plumley’s service in World War II and the Korean War.
“Plumley had survived all four combat jumps of the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II: Sicily and Salerno in 1943, and then in 1944, D-Day at Normandy, and Market-Garden in the Netherlands,” according to the book. “For that matter, he also made one combat parachute jump in the Korean War, with the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment.”
In the 2002 Hollywood movie “We Were Soldiers,” Actor Mel Gibson, playing then Lt. Col. Moore, gave a similar description of Plumley, who was played by actor Sam Elliott.
Siddall argues Plumley’s records show that he served in 320th Glider Field Artillery Battalion as a scout. Plumley was Glider, meaning he was an 82nd Airborne Division gliderman, not an 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper, Siddall writes.
As a scout, Plumley’s job was to search out locations for emplacements for the 105mm guns, according to Siddall.
The 320th participated in two glider assaults in the European Theater, Siddall writes. Plumley’s first was on June 6, 1944, during the invasion of Normandy, he writes. Plumley’s second was for Operation Market Garden on Sept. 18, 1944, he writes. Plumley was shot in the hand the same day, according to copies of Army records in Siddall’s articles.
Glider operations in WWII were extremely dangerous. The plywood Waco and Horsa gliders presented larger targets to enemy ground fire and often crash landed, resulting in heavy casualties, according to historical sources.
Plumley was authorized to wear the glider badge and master parachutist wings, according to Army records. Plumley graduated a jump school set up by the 82nd Airborne Division in 1943, Plumley’s records show.
But Plumley never served in Korea during the Korean War, so he couldn’t have participated in one of the two combat jumps of that conflict, according to Siddall’s research.
“When you look at his overseas assignments it speaks for itself,” he wrote. “Look where Plumley was between 1951 through 26 February 1953, Ft. Campbell, Kentucky then he went to Germany,” he wrote, adding that Plumley’s service records show him serving in Korea in 1972-73.
“When I spoke with him in July of 2011, he never claimed to have jumped out of an airplane in combat in WWII or any other wars,” Siddall writes. “He did talk briefly about that he jumped out of helicopters but never an airplane in wartime.”
Talking to Military.com, Siddall said, “We talked for seven minutes on Skype. I asked him about the four jumps and he laughed and said ‘no'” he had never jumped from a plane in combat.
The reason he got really interested in doing research on Plumley was after he noticing Galloway’s obituary on Plumley contained the same exaggerations about Plumley’s career, Siddall said.
The best-selling book and the Hollywood movie elevated Plumley to celebrity status long after his retirement from the Army in 1974.
A May 2010 photograph of Plumley appearing at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in an Army Dress Blue uniform shows him wearing a Combat Infantry Badge with two stars — which means three CIB awards — one for WWII, one for the Korean War and one for the Vietnam War, Siddall maintains.
Plumley’s service records show he was only authorized to wear one CIB for his service in Vietnam, Siddall argues.
“When Plumley retired December 31, 1974 on his DD 214 he had 2 CIBs listed not three,” Siddall wrote. “When Plumley was interviewed by Galloway for the book he said he had three CIBs by that time (early 1990s). The Awards and Decorations Branch has Plumley listed as one, not three CIBs. Plumley didn’t meet the criteria for WWII and wasn’t in Korea so his first and only CIB was in Vietnam.”
Among the many documents Siddall provides in his research is an Oct. 2, 2015, letter from Army Lt. Col Wil Neubauer, chief of Awards and Decorations Branch, confirming that Plumley was authorized to wear one CIB and states that “we are unable to verify” the Combat Infantry Badge with “one star” listed on Plumley’s DD Form 214.
Click here to see the Army’s Oct. 2, 2015, memo on Plumley’s awards.
In that same photo, Plumley wore valor awards he did not earn, Siddall wrote. Plumley wore a Silver Star with a bronze oak leaf cluster, which indicates a second Silver Star. Plumley also wore a Bronze Star with a V device for valor and one bronze oak leaf cluster for two awards.
The October 2015 letter from the Army states Plumley was authorized only one Silver Star and the Bronze Star with one oak leaf cluster, not two OLCs. The letter also states that Plumley was not authorized to wear the V device with his Bronze Star medals.
What’s indisputable is that Plumley did earn a Silver Star for courage and valor he showed during the Battle of Ia Drang Valley.
In the early-morning hours of Nov. 16, 1965, the command post of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, fell under heavy attack.
“The command post was being savagely attacked by an unknown number of Viet Cong,” according to a copy of Plumley’s Dec. 27, 1965, Silver Star Citation.
Enemy automatic weapons fire was pouring into the forward command post and aid station area, which was located about 150 meters behind the “line of contact,” it states.
“At approximately 0500 at the height of the savage attack, a flare, still burning landed in an open box of fragmentation hand grenades in the pile of small arms, mortar and other ammunition less than 10 meters from the battalion command group,” according to the document.
“Sergeant Major Plumley, voluntarily and unhesitatingly, rose up in the face of intense small arms and automatic fire, dashed to the burning flare, lifting it with his bare hands out of the box of grenades and threw it. He extinguished the flare with his feet as well as other small fires which it had ignited around the ammo area,” it states.
Plumley’s brave action, it goes on, “performed under fire with complete disregard for his own personal safety, undoubtedly prevented the complete ammunition supply from exploding.”
In his research, Siddall acknowledges that “Plumley received the Silver Star Medal for what he did, and it was important,” Siddall writes. But, he adds, “that wasn’t enough for someone like Plumley. Plumley had to build himself up even more. For Plumley to be seen wearing the Combat Infantryman’s Badge with the 3 CIB Badge at West Point in 2010 was disgusting.”
Military.com contacted Galloway about Siddall’s research and why Plumley’s service records contradict what Galloway, the only journalist present at LZ X-Ray, wrote about Plumley. Military.com sent Galloway Siddall’s two articles, which contained hyperlinks to Plumley’s service records.
Galloway wrote the following response by email:
“I don’t know a thing about Mr. Siddall and his research that slanders a fine old soldier who died four years ago and can’t speak for himself.
“My co-author Lt. Gen. Hal Moore vouched for CSM Plumley when we were working on the books. I read the Plumley biography when Moore and Plumley received the Doughboy Award quite a few years ago. It sure looked official to me and matched details I had been told about his service. I have no interest in commenting on this any further.”
The Doughboy Award is presented annually to recognize an individual for outstanding contributions to the United States Army Infantry. The award is a chrome replica of a helmet worn by American Expeditionary soldiers during World War I and the early days of World War II.
Siddall sent his findings to Fort Benning in late 2015 and asked if the information on Plumley’s headstone was going to be corrected.
Fort Benning officials eventually referred Siddall to Army Human Resources Command’s Awards and Decorations Branch.
Military.com contacted Benning on May 4 about Siddall’s request.
Col. Andy Hilmes, the garrison commander for Fort Benning, said his office is reviewing the request and that it’s possible Plumley’s headstone will be corrected.
The issue is the information in question on Plumley’s headstone — which reads “Silver Star with OLC” and “BSM W/V 2nd OLC” — comes from Plumley’s DD 214, the Army’s separation of service form.
Hilmes acknowledged Siddall’s research of Plumley’s records shows several discrepancies and that Plumley’s DD 214 does not match the official letter from the Army’s Awards and Decoration Branch stating there is no verification that Plumley is authorized more than one Silver Star or the Bronze Star Medal with V Device for Valor with a second oak leaf cluster.
“I want to do the right thing,” Hilmes said. “I have looked at how do we go about changing the headstone. … I can’t change the DD 214 at Benning; that is really up to the Department of the Army.”
Fort Benning reached out to Plumley’s daughter, who is currently looking through her father’s records.
Among the records she sent to Benning is a diploma from the 82nd Airborne Parachute School, stating that Plumley became a qualified parachutist on March 11, 1943. The document is signed by Maj. Gen. James M. Gavin, commander of the 82nd Airborne during World War II.
The documents she sent, however, contain no mention of any combat jumps in WWII or the Korean War.
The plan is to forward all of Plumley’s personal records to Army Human Resources Command for a further review, according to Benning officials.
Military.com tried to contact retired. Lt. Gen. Harold Moore, who commanded the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, in the Battle of Ia Drang Valley, but he “suffers from advanced dementia and is unable to discuss this matter,” according to his son Dave Moore in an email to Military.com.
“Having read the allegation and scanned portions of Mr. Siddall’s extensive research, it is clear that discrepancies exist,” Dave Moore wrote the email. “The fact that the DoD could not verify all of the CSM’s awards is not surprising given the lack of rigor in the maintenance of records in the 1940s. I am confident that my father wrote the truth as he knew it, and that Mr. Galloway accepted that truth. I am confident there was no willful intention to deceive readers.”
Steve Moore, another son of Lt. Gen. Moore’s sons, said even his own father was the victim of poor record-keeping when he was being added recently to Fort Leavenworth’s International Hall of Fame.
“As part of that process, they coordinated with the family to obtain [Moore’s] bio and other material,” Steve Moore wrote in an email. “One of the items they shared with us was the current bio the General Officer Management Office (GOMO) had for Dad. We were horrified. It showed him with a CIB with 2 stars and added an extra award of the BSM/V and other medals.
“Apparently, the clerk who assembled the list years ago did not know that an oak leaf cluster represented the 2nd and subsequent award. So “CIB(2Awd)” on Dad’s DD214 became a CIB with 2 stars, added extra BSM/V … Thank goodness we fixed this before there were any stolen valor accusations.”
Siddall says he just wants the record about Plumley to be corrected.
“I just want the correct information out there because there are so many people that are really heroes, and it is so frustrating when they give the hero status to someone who was anything but,” he said.
Military.com also reached out to Doug Sterner, curator for Military Times Hall of Valor, for his insight into this story. Sterner, who has been compiling and digitizing military awards for more than 20 years, has exposed many individuals for stolen valor, or wearing unauthorized military awards.
Sterner said he doesn’t see the point in bringing up the discrepancies about Plumley, a man he calls a “genuine hero” because he earned a Silver Star in battle. He said he knows of hundreds of cases in which soldiers have been awarded Silver Stars or other valor awards and the records cannot be found.
“I don’t see the point in trying to be so historically accurate we destroy a genuine hero,” Sterner said.
Finland is facing the possibility that Russia will eventually come for some of its territory like it seized South Ossetia from Georgia and Crimea and sections of Donbass from Ukraine.
To prepare for their own possible conflict, the Finnish armed forces and other agencies are holding exercises to prepare for Putin’s hybrid warfare.
Russia’s forays into Ukraine and, to a lesser extent, Georgia, relied on cyber warfare, special operations forces, and an aggressive information campaign.
But Europe has gotten to see Russia’s playbook in action, and Petri Mäkelä of Medium.com reports that Finland is preparing to counter it with everything from their own special operators to firefighters and airport administrators.
In 14 photos, here’s how Finland is doing it:
1. First, by looking cool as they run through smoke. (Ok, that’s probably not the training objective, but come on, this looks cool.)
2. Finland held three major training events in March, each of which required that federal and local security forces worked together to counter specific threats.
3. For instance, response teams converged on an airport that was under simulated attack, seeking to eliminate the threat as quickly and safely as possible.
4. This allowed security forces to practice operating in the high-stress environment and also allowed administrators to see how they can best set up their operations to keep passengers safe in an attack.
5. The exercises required soldiers and police to fight everything from angry individuals to enemy sniper and machine gun teams.
6. Of course, no training exercise is complete without practicing how to treat the wounded.
7. That’s where the firefighters and paramedics got involved.
8. In field hospitals, medical professionals treated simulated injuries sustained in the fighting.
9. Police forces assisted in re-establishing order and protecting the local populace.
10. But the exercises also allowed the military to practice conventional operations.
11. Finnish forces took on enemy elements in the woods and snow.
12. Helicopters ferried troops to different areas. They also helped move reservists, police, and other first responders when necessary.
13. The conventional exercises included some pretty awesome weaponry.
14. Of course, even with increased conscription, new equipment, and tailored training, Finland would face a tough fight with Russia. The Russian military is one of the largest in the world and it has been training for this and other fights.
When taking a physical fitness test (PFT), you may recall giving all you have to max out the pushups, only to stop half-way up, shaking violently. No matter how hard you try in the next few seconds of the test, you are not going to get another pushup. That is muscle fatigue.
Here is a question about how to avoid muscle fatigue during fitness tests.
Stew – it does not matter on what exercise I am on, I can never keep going until the entire two minutes of the PFT is complete. On a good day, I might manage 1:30 of pushups or situps. I usually just shake and drop to my knees uncontrollably. Don’t even ask how my bad days look. I would really like to score better on the PT test. I am a runner so the 1.5 mile run in 7 min mile pace is no problem. Jake
Jake – There are a few things that could be contributing to your fatigue or lack of muscle endurance (aka stamina) during the pushups and sit-up test.
1. Lack of Training
You need to up your training volume. I highly recommend doing pushups, sit-ups, pullups, and other core exercise (planks, etc.) three days a week. For example, if you have never done 100 pushups or sit-ups in an entire workout, you will never get 100 reps in two minutes. Try to build up over time to 2-3 times your goal maximum score during a workout. For instance, if your goal pushups max is 50 in 2 minutes, shoot for 100-150 during a normal workout. (See workout ideas for every OTHER day: PT Pyramid, PT SuperSet, Max Rep Sets). Also, stretch out your sets to 1-2 minutes in length on Max Rep Set Days.
2. Pace Yourself
Too many times people start out way too fast on these exercises only to burn out in the first minute. Pacing your running makes sense to you, right? You do not start the run in a sprint of your first lap (1/4 mile) — you have a set pace. The same holds true for exercises like sit-ups. Too many people start off in the first 30 seconds getting 30-35 sit-ups and fail to match that in the next 1:30. If you are stuck at 60 due to this, you can increase your score near overnight by dropping your pace to 20 reps in the first 30 seconds and push closer to 80 reps in 2 minutes. For pushups — that is a different animal, as you have gravity slowly eating away at your reps the slower you go. I recommend you let gravity take you down and exert fast on the up movement. Don’t waste energy going down when gravity will do that for free. Keep working your pace in the workouts and you will find that you have the stamina to go the full 2 minutes after a few weeks.
3. Fuel and Fatigue
Half of fatigue is in your mind, as your brain will tell you that you are finished before you really are. The other half of fatigue is in your fuel. Did you eat well the day before or the morning of the fitness test? Are you hydrated? Having your body well fueled will help you with PT tests — that means nutritious foods. However, when you start to shake at the end of your pushup timed set, you are going to waste a lot of energy fast, as that is a central nervous system breakdown (or the beginning of it). It is actually best to call it quits and not try to get that last pushup in, versus staying there and shaking for 10-15 seconds. You have to remember that you still have to do the 1.5 mile run next, and you will need that energy your body just dumped failing at pushups.
Practice taking the fitness test once every week or two just so you can also mentally say to yourself, “this is just another workout.” Getting rid of some of the PFT Anxiety might help you perform a little better as well. Eat well and workout regularly, so that 1-2 minute sets become easy instead of an impossibility. Check out the PFT Bible if you are interested in a program that is specifically designed for the most common PFT in the world.
World War 1, or the Great War, was a 20th-century war fought with 19th-century tactics. The result led to the advent of war machines the world had never seen. The fearsome weapons employed sent men to the trenches and created a meat grinder of a conflict. We saw the rise of nerve gas, machine guns, tanks, and submachine guns. We also saw the rise of trench weapons.
Infantrymen at the time were armed with long, bolt-action rifles designed for warfare at a distance. These rifles were clumsy and slow to handle in close quarters combat, and when you were taking a trench, it was nothing but close-quarters combat. Trench weapons started as weapons made by soldiers who were actively fighting in the trenches. Eventually, the military forces caught on and began issuing their own.
These weapons were fielded in various designs by both sides and used to take trenches and eliminate sentries, while offering some degree of protection in the close quarters of the bloody trenches.
The most famous trench weapons of World War 1 were trench knives. Soldiers had bayonets, but they were often more of a short sword than a knife. They proved unwieldy in the tight trenches, and soldiers began making knives meant primarily for fighting in cramped spaces, where stabbing was a more feasible technique than slashing. The Germans, French, Canadians, Americans, and others all eventually had their own versions of the trench knife.
Some were push daggers, sometimes made from stakes used to pin barbed wire down or whatever else a soldier could scrounge up that was sharp and pointy enough. These little blades made it easy to launch yourself into an opponent, deal serious damage, and move on. Eventually, military forces caught up and rushed out knives for soldiers, including the famed American M1917 and Mk 1 trench knife, that could do the same job.
This knife combined brass knuckles with a blade to deliver a brutal dual-purpose weapon for close-quarters use. Speaking of brass knuckles…
Brass knuckles were a popular trench weapon brought into battle by individual Joes. Knuckle dusters have been around forever in one form or another. In the American Civil war, they were a popular choice in the trenches, and that tradition lived on as Americans headed to the fight in Europe.
Brass knuckles, or knuckle dusters in general, we made from a wide variety of materials. They offered an extra sting to your punch that could break bones by focusing the force of your punch into a smaller area. It also offered some degree of protection for the wearer’s hands during a scuffle. Breaking a knuckle in a war zone is never a good time.
You could put them on and basically forget about them. You can still wield a rifle or pistol while wearing them, albeit clumsily. However, when you came over that trench and started swinging the knuckles, some steel reinforcement could save your life.
Clubs, and not the dance type, were used to great effect by trench raiding parties. A club-like weapon is super easy to use and can deliver an extreme amount of damage. It doesn’t require any special training, and you could quickly disable or even kill a soldier with just a swing or two of a club trench weapon.
Soldiers most commonly wielded short, single-handed trench clubs made from everything and anything they could get their hands on. They used clubs as simple as heavy pieces of wood, or as ornate as custom-made maces. Some mixed in nails, bullets, and barbed wire to make their clubs even more effective.
A common adornment to the club was a lanyard to make sure your enemy never took it from you in a fight, and you could hang it from your wrist as you climbed or shot your rifle. In an instant, it can come to your hand for a fight. Similar lanyards can still be found on everything from pocket knives to flashlights used in combat today.
Spears made a bit of a comeback in World War 1 trenches. As the war started, every major force mounted lance men, but the lancemen and cavalry were put down quickly by the Maxim gun, an early recoil-operated machine gun. While lancemen on horseback didn’t prove effective in the Great War, lances and short spears still made an impact in the trenches.
These pole weapons became favored for fending off enemy soldiers who were raiding trenches. The Brits, in particular, utilized pikes to repel attackers from entering the trenches they occupied. Their long reach, lightweight design, and simplistic nature made them handier than even rifles equipped with bayonets.
I imagine this type of trench weapon was perfect for fending off men coming over the top of your trenches. They could slow an assault and allow men to use guns to kill the attack’s momentum.
Tools Turned to Weapons
Finally, soldiers turned their common everyday tools into effective trench weapons out of creativity or sheer desperation. Your basic hand tools could be quite fierce in the trench. A simple Entrenching tool could dig into the dirt but also slam into an enemy’s face with great effect.
Since World War 1 e-tools, as they tend to be known, have always been a last-ditch weapon. Even today’s infantrymen often joke about their desire to get an ”e-tool kill.” Soldiers also turned simple hammers and hatchets into trench weapons. Sometimes simplicity fits the bill, and basic tools make fearsome weapons. Plus, after you hit the bad guy, you could make handy dandy repairs. To me, that makes it a multitool.
Trench Weapons and War
World War 2 is a war we look at with some form of romanticism in our eyes. It’s harder to find bad guys worse than the Nazis, after all. Wars are always brutal, but one in which soldiers are wielding homemade knives, brass knuckles, clubs, and the like is exceptionally violent in a very personal way, even when compared to the widespread destruction of the Second World War.
Killing an enemy from thousands of feet above or hundreds of miles away is a heavy undertaking, but doing so with in the muddy trenches of World War I, armed with nothing but a shovel and your will to survive, is something else entirely.
By now, everyone who follows the fight against terrorism will know that there was an unsuccessful VBIED attack on Aug. 30 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in which a suicide bomber attempted to ram the embassy gates before detonating. This attack only managed to kill one person – the bomber – though it wounded several others. In the past year, Kyrgyzstan’s authorities have successfully foiled multiple alleged plots and an estimated 500 of its citizens are believed to be in territory controlled by ISIL. Whether or not ISIL eventually claims credit for this attack, it will likely have been carried out by ethnically Uighur separatists from Western China – a population that not only has a presence in ISIL’s ranks, but also is actively being trained for attacks on Chinese targets by Dutch jihadi Israfil Yilmaz.
The ongoing conflict between East Turkestan separatists/Uighur jihadists and the Chinese government has been at a low-broil for decades. Strict movement controls, an intense intelligence collection apparatus with an emphasis on big data analysis, and a heavy occupying presence in Muslim majority areas of China will largely continue to prevent successful mass casualty attacks against prestige targets. However, small-scale incidents, such as stabbings and rudimentary IED attacks, continue to affect cities in Western China from time to time – probably more than is possible to independently verify, given the inability of Western journalists to report in these areas.
In the meantime, at risk of sounding cliché, China is rising. President Xi Jinping has embarked on a well-known effort to modernize China’s oversized, lumbering, corrupt, Cold War-era military into an efficient, combat-ready force ready for contingencies wherever they occur – from the South China Sea to the transportation infrastructure in its Western near-abroad known as the New Silk Road. This “Silk Road” seeks to modernize the ancient trade route of the same name and will undoubtedly re-orient Central Asian economies towards China.
These Central Asian countries, run by aging autocrats, are universally known as some of the least free nations in the world and are potential tinderboxes. They clamp down heavily on religion (the local religion is largely Sunni Islam). They rely on trade with Russia and high energy prices – and energy prices have been low for a while now. They have restive and young populations. Saudi Wahhabis fund unemployed youths’ spiritual journeys, and some of these very youths are already trained and combat-experienced from battlefields in Syria, Iraq, Chechnya, and Afghanistan. Expect more attacks against Chinese targets where and when possible.
So what does this imply for the United States? Several things, but it does not mean a straightforward area of potential military and diplomatic cooperation. China will likely reluctantly find itself more combat-experienced than it currently is (it last fought a war in 1979 against Vietnam – it did not go well for China). It will bring China to the world stage like never before as it picks up the slack it previously left for the US alone. However, China has signaled strongly that is not aligned with US counter-terrorism policy. When the heartbreaking video of wounded Syrian child Omran Daqneesh emerged, Chinese state-media ridiculed it as faked, saying that he was “eligible for an Oscar.” The People’s Liberation Army has instituted a training mission for Syrian forces (taking place safely in Mainland China). In other words, China is stepping up – and will continue to step up – but it will do so in a manner more aligned with Russia and Iran than with the United States and NATO.
Many Western analysts believe that for a country of its size, China really ought to do more to stabilize the world. Given what we know about the Chinese government and Xi’s modus operandus, and given the pressure China will be under from its nationalist netizens should a more successful attack against Chinese interests occur, we should be careful what we wish for. China stepping up will not mean closer partnership with the United States.
A new video that called US forces “perverted animals,” and portrayed them under attack was uploaded on a YouTube account run by North Korean propagandists.
In the video published on Saturday, still photos of an aircraft carrier, reportedly the USS Carl Vinson, and a B-1B bomber can be seen in simulated flames, a patriotic speech was recorded over the footage, under North Korea’s characteristically stern tone.
Additionally, photos of US and South Korean forces were displayed, presumably in their annual joint military exercises that take place this time of year.
The narrator in the video declared that “a knife will be stabbed into the throat of the carrier,” and that “the bomber will fall from the sky after getting hit by a hail of fire,” Japan Times reported.
The still photos used in the video resemble photo packages produced by professional news organizations, such as Reuters. Further, there also seems to be an image that bears some semblance to real-time strategy video games.
The same propaganda network was scrutinized in 2013 for a video that placed virtual crosshairs over the US Capitol building and portrayed simulated attacks on New York and Washington.
The video was uploaded shortly after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to South Korea for the first time as the US’s top diplomat, and saying that “the threat of North Korea is imminent.” Much to North Korea’s chagrin, annual military exercises involving 17,000 US troops and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system are also being conducted in South Korea.
Though the video’s rhetoric may sound inciteful, North Korea has a storied history of using inflammatory verbiage in their broadcasts, often targeting their southern counterpart and the US.
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.
Phil Ruddock had trouble adjusting when he returned home to rural Louisiana, disabled by a traumatic brain injury he received during an Air Force tour of duty during Desert Storm. He had all the classic symptoms of PTSD: “I drank all the time, I couldn’t get along with anyone, I kept checking every room in the house to make sure it was clear every time I came home, I got up and checked the locks on the doors and windows too many times to count, I was always depressed and pissed at the world, and I never slept. I drove my family so crazy that they wanted to leave,” he says with a country twang. “I still do some of those things,” he adds, “but it’s getting better.”
Sit. Stay. Lie down. They’re the words that helped him through his recovery.
Ruddock’s now assisting other veterans afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan the same way he survived his night terrors and flashbacks — with service dogs. His nonprofit Brothers and Sisters in Arms is a boot camp of sorts based out of central Louisiana, where he’s teaching veterans to train their own service dogs, all adopted from shelters. The repetitive learning of commands works like physical therapy for disabled vets and gives them something to work towards. Once they’ve completed the program, they gain a loyal companion and a sense of accomplishment, “a pride that you can’t imagine,” Ruddock says.
“When a soldier is deployed or on base, they feel secure because they have all the other soldiers there watching their back. But when they are out of the military, when their spouse goes to work, their kids go to school and they’re left alone, they have nobody watching their back,” Ruddock says. “It makes them very anxious, paranoid. A dog turns out to be their battle buddy and watches their back. It never leaves them, it never judges them, it never asks questions that they don’t want to answer. It gives them unconditional love,” Ruddock explains.
A program connecting veterans and rescue dogs may sound cutesy, almost saccharine, but for Ruddock, it’s serious — vital even. He asks the veterans to list Brothers and Sisters in Arms as the primary contact associated with the animal’s microchip, rather than the owner’s home phone. “The suicide rate for veterans is 22 per day,” Ruddock says, about 8,000 every year. “If that dog would show up at a shelter and they ran the microchip, chances are that veteran is not going to answer his phone.”
Ruddock started the nonprofit in November 2012 after his personal experience with an abandoned pit bull. Following a nervous breakdown, he lost his job as lead clerk at the local VA outpatient clinic. His spent his days walled alone up on his remote property, until a friend arrived with a pit bull for him to train. “She was as beat up and as messed up as I was,” he remembers of his white-faced, brown-eared dog, Mia. “She kind of rescued me.” The dog sat in the passenger seat of his truck on rides into a nearby village and eventually gave him confidence to travel farther.
Within the past couple months, Ruddock logged more than 20,000 miles in his sojourns across the Sugar State, from Slidell, a town across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans that butts up against Mississippi, all the way out west to Fort Polk, an Army installation near the Texas border. Last year, he certified 31 service dogs, which are specially licensed after 120 hours in public, and 15 companion dogs.
At the pound, Ruddock seeks out the calmest dogs. “We look for dogs with a good disposition. We don’t want the ones that jump and bark and get with the other dogs,” he says. He generally avoids puppies — too much added stress — and certain breeds like German shepherds that can become overprotective if they’re not socialized regularly, but otherwise he’ll take every breed from a 20-pound Jack Russell terrier to a 200-pound mastiff.
Training sessions run one hour a week for roughly eight weeks, though he’s come to expect a few absences. “A veteran may have problems one day. Some demons may come up and he may not be able to show up. It may take a little longer,” he says.
Besides the essentials — what Ruddock calls good citizenship for canines (think: table manners for children) — the service dogs learn three main commands that are unique for handlers who still carry wounds from the battlefield. The dog learns to “block,” inserting itself into the space between the owner and somebody else so that a person keeps their distance. “Cover” sends the pup to its owner’s back or side, facing away as a kind of lookout that allows a vet to relax at, say, a counter or cash register. The last is “grounded.” If the soldier faints or has a nightmare, the dog lays on top of the owner and licks his face, prompting a welcome (if wet) return to reality.
Brothers and Sisters in Arms is different from many other groups that provide service dogs. For one, Ruddock doesn’t charge for his services or the animal. His operation is funded entirely by donations; the bill from other groups can run as high as $25,000. (“These guys get out of the military, and they’re just above poverty level. They can’t afford that,” he says.) His classes are all one-on-one, making it easier for vets who can be skittish around crowds, nervous about competition and failure. And every instructor is a former soldier, because, as Ruddock says, “There’s no better therapy than a veteran talking to another veteran.”
Ruddock wants to see the program expand across Louisiana. He’s already processing five to 10 applications a week, and he’s starting to get referrals from VA psychiatrists who can’t officially recommend a service dog but still send warriors his way. “It’s not about the fame or fortune. It’s about that feeling you get when you help somebody. The warm fuzzies, the goosebumps, whatever you want to call it,” he says of his motivations. “It’s about doing what’s right.”
It’s for the men and women, his brothers and sisters, that Ruddock keeps trekking across the bayous, working with soldiers, like the young man he met last month. “You can tell he’s had it rough,” Ruddock says. “He couldn’t even stand the sound of a loud car going by. He kept moving around and shaking. He couldn’t look you in the eye. He constantly looked down, and if he did catch your eye, it was a white stare like he could see right through you.” The man expressed no emotion, until Ruddock brought out a puppy. As if he was emerging from a daze, the man started petting the dog. He smiled, and Ruddock knew another soldier was safe.
The RCS, a predecessor to the Coast Guard, responded by forming a unit of volunteers who traveled 1,600 miles from Dec. 1897 to Mar. 1898, buying reindeer along the way and herding them to Alaska where the sailors were trapped. They arrived with 382 reindeer just in time for most of the survivors. Three people died of starvation, but the rest were rescued during the spring thaw.
2. Army PSYOPS troops pretended they were vampires
American psychological operations soldiers were sent to the Philippines in 1950 to help destroy a Communist rebellion in the country. When the commander learned that the local fighters were superstitious and believed in a shapeshifting vampire known as the “asuang,” he came up with a Scooby Doo-esque plan.
First, he had friendly locals spread a rumor that an asuang was living in the hills. Then, the Americans and their allies set up an ambush in the hills, waited for the last man in a patrol to pass them, and abducted him. They poked two holes in his neck, drained him of his blood, and put his body back on the trail. The rebels bought the ruse and fled the area, allowing government forces to reclaim it.
3. Four Royal Marines rode Apaches into a Taliban fort
Long story short, a British attack on the Taliban base of Jugroom Fort went bad quickly, and British forces quickly withdrew. But, they accidentally left wounded Royal Marine Lance Cpl. Mathew Ford behind. With the Taliban in the fort already on high alert, a daring plan was needed to recover him.
4. The Air Force used actual bears to test ejection seats
The Air Force struggled in the late 50s and early 60s with a simple but challenging problem. Crew who had to eject from supersonic planes were subjected to extreme and sometimes lethal strain. So the Air Force began testing experimental ejection devices — on bears.
The pod was proven safe and nearly all of the test animals returned to the ground safely. Unfortunately, the Air Force needed to check for potentially hidden injuries and ordered autopsies on all animal subjects.
5. Union soldiers stole a train and wreaked havoc across Georgia and Tennessee
What’s the best way to cut off your enemy’s lines of communication? Apparently, in Apr. 1862 Georgia, the answer was to steal on train and go on a GTA: V-type crime spree with it. The operation was led by a civilian but was conducted with the help of 18 Union soldiers.
The men were eventually caught. Eight of them were executed and the rest lived out the war as POWs.
6. American troops used a payphone to call for air support in Grenada
During the invasion of Grenada in 1983, the American communication network was so bad that almost no one on the island could talk to any fighters from another branch. This led to the legend that U.S. troops called for fire support using a credit card and a payphone.
Vice President Dick Cheney heard the story while he was a Congressman and was told that an Army officer could see naval artillery out at sea but couldn’t get them on the radio. So he pulled out his credit card and used a payphone to call the Pentagon who relayed his request.
The Navy SEALs have their own version of the story that said the frogmen were holed up in the governor’s mansion and used a credit card to call the Pentagon and get help from an Air Force AC-130.
7. American and Nazi troops teamed up to defeat an SS attack during World War II
In the closing days of World War II, a group of American and German troops teamed up and fought side-by-side against a murderous SS battalion. The Americans had accepted the surrender of the Germans just before both sides saw the slightly drunk and very fanatical group of SS soldiers climbing the hill towards them.