Since rotary wing aircraft were introduced during the Korean War, they’ve proved their utility in a bunch of mission areas like troop transport, reconnaissance, vertical replenishment, and MEDIVAC. But, perhaps, no other capability has changed the dynamic on the battlefield as much as the use of helicopters as attack platforms.
Here are four models that enemies have learned to fear over the years:
1. Huey Gunship
This is the one that started it all. As the Vietnam War expanded the Huey became the workhorse because of its utility in jungle environments and maintainability. The engineers added sponsons with hard points, and the Huey became a lethal gunship capable of firing rockets, grenades, and 20mm bullets.
2. Huey Cobra
As defenses got more sophisticated during the Vietnam War, the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps decided they needed a more sophisticated attack helicopter. Enter the Cobra with wing mounts that can be loaded with rockets and missiles and a chin mount that can fire at a rate of 4,000 rounds per minute. The two-man crew sits in tandem, with the pilot sitting — surprisingly enough — in the rear cockpit. The Cobra most recently proved it’s mettle during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 where it was used in urban environments very effectively.
3. Mi 24 Hind
Arguably the meanest-looking helicopter ever, the Soviets used the Hind extensively against the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan, and it was during that war that it earned it’s reputation. It was designed to be fast (it held the helicopter speed record (228.9 mph) from 1978-1986), survivable (fuselage is armored and the rotor blades are titanium), and lethal (both internal and external bombs, guns, and rockets). Most recently, Hinds have been seen in the skies over Syria carrying out attack missions against both ISIS insurgents and Syrian rebels.
4. AH-64 Apache
The Apache is the most technologically advanced of the bunch, with helmet-mounted cueing and avionics that allow it to prioritize 256 targets day or night and in all weather conditions. Like the Cobra, the two-man crew sits in tandem with the pilot in the rear cockpit. The Apache carries a mix of weapons including rockets, Hellfire missiles, and a chin-mounted 30MM chain gun. The Apache first proved its worth during Desert Storm, an environment for which it was well suited. It’s also been extensively employed in the wars since 9-11.
Time to get moto with a couple of awesome videos. First, check out this Cobra compilation:
Hollywood loves to use the military in its movies. You can’t blame Tinsel Town because they’re awesome. But on occasion, film directors and screenwriters tend not to identify the fine line between theatrical and practical.
Americans thrive on celebrating the actions of a war hero that saves the day (in slow motion of course) with the perfect Hans Zimmer underscore playing over the calibrated speakers. It’s emotionally driving.
Veterans can see through the bulls*** and know when our favorite characters go a little too far. So check out these heroic movie acts that an officer would never do (probably).
1. Rhodey finds Tony
In Jon Favreau’s 2008 “Ironman” Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is kidnapped by a terrorist group and forced to build one of his deadly signature missiles the “Jericho.” Instead, the brilliant engineer creates the Mark 1 suit, defeats the first act villain and escapes.
Then, Rhodey (Terrance Howard) just so happens to show up finding Tony walking out and about in what appears to be a very large desolate area after spending three months in captivity. That’s quite a lot of missions he’d have to fly to save his missing bestie. With the odds that this was his first search and rescue mission, he should buy a lottery ticket.
2. Leave no man behind
Owen Wilson stars as a jokester Naval aviator who gets shot down and must fight to stay alive as he’s pursued by some pretty bad boys in Bosnia. Then, Rear Adm. Reigart, played Lex Luthor (I mean Gene Hackman) risks everything — including his command — to fly out and rescue one of his men in “Behind Enemy Lines.”
That’s what we call heroic.
3. “You can’t handle the truth!”
Audiences love courtroom dramas and that’s why Hollywood continues to produce them.
In Rob Reiner’s 1992 hit “A Few Good Men,” Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and Col. Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) go toe-to-toe in the climatic third act of discovering the truth of who ordered the “code red.”
Let’s face it – real or not, it’s a freakin’ awesome scene!
4. Engage – Engage!
2005’s “Rules of Engagement” stars Samuel L. Jackson playing Terry Childers, a Marine colonel who after successfully evacuating an American ambassador and his family in Yemen from an invading crowd orders his men to turn their sights on the invaders to end the fight — which contained women and children.
Defense Department officials detected and tracked multiple missile launches out of North Korea Monday, four of which landed in the Sea of Japan, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters this morning.
Davis said the four medium-range ballistic missiles were launched from the northwest corner of North Korea, traveled over the Korean Peninsula and out into the sea, totaling about 1,000 kilometers in distance, or more than 620 miles.
The missiles landed in the vicinity of Akita Prefecture off the coast of Japan near that nation’s exclusive economic zone, he said. The EEZ is defined as a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.
“The North American Aerospace Defense Command detected that the missiles from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America,” Davis said. “This [North Korean missile launch] is very similar in terms of the path and the distance of the three missiles that flew into Japan’s EEZ in September 2016.”
He added, “These launches, which coincide with the start of our annual defensive exercise, Foal Eagle, with the Republic of Korea’s military, are consistent with North Korea’s long history of provocative behavior, often timed to military exercises that we do with our ally,”
The United States stands with its allies “in the face of this very serious threat and are taking steps to enhance our ability to defend against North Korea’s ballistic missiles, such as the deployment of a [Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense] battery to South Korea, which will happen as soon as feasible,” Davis said.
U.S. Strikes AQAP in Yemen
Also overnight, the United States made an airstrike on Yemen’s Abyan Governorate against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula fighters, bringing to 40 the strikes there in the past five nights, Davis said.
Since the first airstrike against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen on Feb. 28, “We will continue to target [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] militants and facilities to disrupt the organization’s plot and protect American lives,” the captain said.
The strikes have been coordinated with and done in full partnership with the government of Yemen with the goal of denying al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists’ freedom of movement within traditional safe havens, Davis emphasized.
The captain also confirmed the deaths of three al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula operatives in March 2 and 3 airstrikes in Yemen.
Usayd al Adani, whom Davis described as a longtime al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula explosives expert and facilitator who served as the organization’s emir, was killed in a U.S. airstrike March 2 within the Abyan Governorate. Killed with him was former Naval Air Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainee Yasir al Silmi.
Killed March 3 was al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula fighter and communications intermediary for Adani, Harithah al Waqri, Davis said.
“[Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] has taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Yemen to plot, direct and inspire terror attacks against the United States and our allies,” he said. “And we will continue to work with the government of Yemen to defeat [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula].
If your spouse has the flu, you make soup. If your friend breaks an arm, you offer to help with their chores or errands. When a loved one needs surgery, friends and family send Get Well cards and flowers. The same cannot always be said when someone is in emotional pain and takes the important step forward to improve their mental health.
Unfortunately, many people in this country don’t recognize the signs and symptoms or realize that effective mental health treatments are available. One of the challenges driving these false perceptions is the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Additionally, fear of how they may be perceived by their loved ones, friends, or colleagues can keep someone from seeking effective treatment.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and it provides us with an important opportunity to continue the national dialogue about mental health and wellness and reduce the negative perceptions associated with seeking treatment.
We Are The Mighty wants to help you play a vital role in connecting the veterans you serve with resources for leading a healthier life. Visit MakeTheConnection.net/Step4ward to discover simple ways to participate in Mental Health Awareness Month and show your support for veterans by sharing the Step Forward materials.
MakeTheConnection.net is a free, confidential resource where veterans, their family members, and friends, can privately explore such topics as health, wellness, and everyday life events and experiences.
The success of our efforts during Mental Health Awareness Month depends on your support. Visit the Mental Health Awareness Month hub on the site to watch personal stories of veterans, find resources, share social media content or find other actions that will help raise awareness and broaden this important conversation.
Make the Connection encourages veterans to seek support and mental health services when needed. If you or a veteran you are working with are in immediate crisis or having thoughts of suicide, trained responders at the Veterans Crisis Line are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year with confidential support and guidance. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net, or send a text message to 838255.
Now watch this really powerful short Public Service Announcement from the Veterans Crisis Line, titled “I’m Good”:
Everyone else is mission focused, but Carl is over there talking about fishing. Or wearing a funny prop. Or maybe even doing an accent while wearing a fake mustache. It would be hilarious back in the barracks. But since the squad is four steps away from a closed door and the fatal funnel, everyone really wishes he would focus up.
3. The Carl who won’t stop talking
Maybe it’s nerves, or maybe he was raised by overattentive parents, but this guy seems to think every moment is made better with his singing, sound effects, or commentary. Sure, some of his one-liners are pretty great, but it would seriously be better if he shut the f-ck up. For once.
The whole unit can go through four briefings and dozens of rehearsals, but it’s pretty much guaranteed that when push comes to shove, Spc. Carl is going to hit the trigger while trying to engage the safety.
5. The Carl who randomly plays with dangerous equipment
Of course, that’s why he shouldn’t be touching anything dangerous. Unfortunately, this is the military and keeping Pfc. Carl safe near an armory is like trying to keep “that” uncle sober during a distillery tour. You’re going to fail, someone is getting burned, and the locals aren’t going to want to see you again.
6. The Carl who is an expert in everything but his job
This Carl is at least moderately useful. They could be an expert in physical fitness or maybe they’re a “good” barracks lawyer (actually knows more than 25 percent of the regulations they try to quote!). But still, they know jack and/or crap about their actual job. Need someone to actually purify some water? Don’t ask Carl, he’ll reach for the hand sanitizer and eye drops.
7. The Carl who always has somewhere to be (usually the smoke pit)
Call for an extra mag or grenade during combat and you’ll understand why this Carl is the worst. You reach back for some extra firepower only to hear from one of the Joes that Carl is actually in the Humvee checking his Facebook messages or in the smoke pit puffing on a clove cigarette (yeah, he’s that guy). Hope you can still achieve fire superiority.
The decision to get out of the Navy can be just as tough as the decision to join.
Everyone’s exit experience is different, but they all have these basic elements in common:
1. It all starts with a thought.
It sure would be nice to come and go as I pleased without having to worry about liberty restrictions. *Sigh* What a fantasy.
2. You begin to research life outside of the Navy.
Some Navy jobs transfer easily into the civilian world, maybe even with higher pay. Some of your training even counts for school credit. (The key word here is “some.”)
3. You tell a friend.
4. The word gets out.
Some of your friends will think you’re stupid while others will wish they had the courage to join you in facing the insecurities of civilian life.
5. You get the CMC talk.
This is the retention talk. The CMC will paint a picture of doom and gloom of life without the support of the Navy. It’s his job; he’s protecting the Navy’s investment. It costs a lot to train, feed, and house a sailor.
6. You make it official.
This is a big deal. It’s just as nerve-racking as signing your enlistment contract. “Come to me, DD-214.”
7. You celebrate.
You live up to the Navy song (Anchors Aweigh) and drink to the foam while partying one last time with shipmates — the best friends you’ve ever had.
8. You disappoint the CMC.
The CMC feels like he failed you and the Navy.
9. The feeling you get when you’re finally out.
All this time you were providing freedom and now you know what it feels like. You will never take it for granted again.
10. You become the token military guy.
You become the unofficial spokesperson for all veterans. No matter what branch of the military you were in, you’ll get the questions. You’re now the expert in all things military, you know all the ranks in every branch, every custom, every piece of gear, every operation, etc. Our friends at Ranger Up made a video about this. Check it out.
11. You miss it.
After a few years, maybe even a few months, you begin to miss it. You miss the adventure, the awesome stuff you got to do, and most of all, the camaraderie. Congratulations, you experienced what one percent of America gets to do. When they say, “thank you for your service,” you can reply, “thank you for funding it.”
The 1943 season was a tough one for the NFL, its fans, and America. At the height of World War II, Pennsylvania’s two pro teams lost a number of players to military service. As a result, the two teams merged temporarily in order to play out the season, forming what the NFL called the “Phil-Pitt Combine.” The sports press labeled the team the “Steagles,” a name that fans quickly adopted. The season was saved.
The U.S. government fully supported the continuation of American sports to keep morale up on the homefront, but teams like the Steagles had rosters filled by players who didn’t join the war effort because they were unfit for service, received a draft deferment, or were actually serving but on leave.
But in spite of the fact that the NFL needed eight teams to have a functional season, the Steagles almost didn’t happen. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia were bitter rivals in the 1940s, and the men who would be co-head coaches hated each other.
Players received some public ridicule because of the general perception that if a player was fit enough to play football he should be fit enough to fight the Nazis. But most of the Steagles’ players were declared physically unfit for service. The teams players also worked full time war production jobs. Football was not their only gig.
Philadelphia was hometown for the team and the team wore the Eagles’ green and white colors. It was the only time in the history of the Steelers franchise that the team didn’t wear black and gold. Pittsburgh owner Art Rooney did manage to get two home games played in Pittsburgh, however, both of which they won.
After a 2-0 start, the Steagles started to fall apart and by the end of the season, their record was a mediocre 5-4-1. They still hold the record for most fumbles in a winning game, where, against the New York Giants, they lost the ball ten times but still pulled out a 28-14 win, as lopsided a win as the U.S. had against the Axis.
In 2003, the Steelers hosted the Eagles on the 60th anniversary of the Steagles’ formation and honored the surviving members who could make it. Philadelphia won that game 21-16.
Twenty-five years ago, H.R. McMaster lead Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment into battle at 73 Easting in Iraq, and kicked some Republican Guard butt.
Now, he is sounding some alarm bells.
According to an Army release, McMaster — now a lieutenant general and Army Training and Doctrine Command’s deputy commanding general for futures — gave the keynote address at a function held by the Association of the United States Army’s Institute of Land Warfare where he urged the development of new armored vehicles. The Silver Star recipient noted that Germany’s Puma, the Swedish CV90, and the British Ajax all featured more advanced technology than that on the M2/M3 Bradley.
That could put American troops at a disadvantage if the long-range precision firepower (systems like the Excalibur GPS-guided artillery round and the Joint Direct Attack Munition) is taken off the table. How might that happen? An enemy force could hide among civilians, or avoid the wide open spaces that make for easy target location.
McMaster noted that new armored vehicles might seem expensive, but in reality, they are cheap compared to big-ticket items in the Defense budget. The $362 million price tag of a Freedom-class littoral combat ship, for example, is enough to buy about 40 M1A2 Abrams tanks. This is important since in an environment where air power and naval power won’t be factors, an armored vehicle will be needed to get in close to decide the battle.
That said, it should be noted that the M1A2SEP Abrams of today is not like the tank that first entered service. The armor is even tougher than that on the tanks that served in Desert Storm (one famous incident involved main gun rounds from a T-72 bouncing off, even though they’d been fired from less than 400 yards away). The radios are better. A planned M1A3 will be about two tons lighter than current M1A2SEPs, and will feature no loss in lethality or protection.
The Bradley, though, has outlasted two efforts to replace it. First, the Future Combat Systems’ M1206 proposal got the chop for budget reasons. Then, the Ground Combat Vehicle didn’t even get a number in the M series.
McMaster notes that if nothing is done, “the Bradley and Abrams will remain in the inventory for 50 to 70 more years.”
“We are gravely underinvested in close-combat overmatch, gravely underinvested in land systems broadly, gravely underinvested in combat vehicles in particular,” he said.
By her own account, Jane Fonda’s first impression of America’s involvement in Vietnam was that it was a just cause. After all, she’d been raised by actor Henry Fonda who’d served in the Navy in World War II and forged his name in Hollywood by playing the good guys in movies. She was brought up to believe that America was good, as she said, “I grew up with a deep belief that wherever our troops fought, they were on the side of the angels.” So when she first heard about President Kennedy sending advisors to Vietnam she figured it was a necessary action.
For the first eight years of the Vietnam War Fonda was living in Paris with her first husband Roger Vadim, a film director. The two of them were surrounded by the French cultural intelligencia. (“Communists with a little ‘c,'” as she labeled them.)
The French had been defeated in their own war against Vietnam a decade before our country went to war there, so when I heard, over and over, French people criticizing our country for our Vietnam War I hated it. I viewed it as sour grapes. I refused to believe we could be doing anything wrong there.
It wasn’t until I began to meet American servicemen who had been in Vietnam and had come to Paris as resisters that I realized I needed to learn more. I took every chance I could to meet with U.S. soldiers. I talked with them and read the books they gave me about the war. I decided I needed to return to my country and join with them—active duty soldiers and Vietnam Veterans in particular—to try and end the war.
Fonda received some notoriety for her activism once she returned to the States, and in the late ’60s she threw her celebrity heft behind causes and groups as far reaching as the Black Panthers, Native Americans, and feminists.
But the anti-Vietnam movement is where she really found her voice. She started an “anti USO” troupe with Donald Sutherland and others called “FTA,” for “Free the Army” – a play on the expression “Fuck the Army,” which had come into favor at the time. FTA toured military towns on the west coast doing skits and singing protest songs and getting veterans to tell their stories of an unjust war.
About the same time she began to support Vietnam Veterans Against the War, speaking at rallies and raising money. In recognition of her efforts VVAW made Fonda their Honorary National Coordinator.
In her own blunt-force, actress-as-center-of-attention way, Fonda tried to segment the war from the warrior, something the nation at large failed to do during the Vietnam era (and for years afterwards).
It was all heady stuff for a well-bred celebrity who wanted to be known for something more than her looks. It could be said that Fonda was educated to a fault – poised and articulate – and the actions of the Nixon Administration and their South Vietnamese cronies gave her just enough talking points and associated faux logic to be dangerous on an international foreign policy stage.
And Fonda got the perfect chance to be dangerous in May of 1972 when the North Vietnamese delegation at the Paris Peace Talks invited her for a two-week visit to Hanoi.
She accepted the invitation with the intention of treating the trip like a fact-finding “humanitarian” mission. She wanted to take photos that would expose that the Nixon Administration was bombing the dikes to flood civilian areas. Ultimately the trip had a different effect.
On the last day in Hanoi Fonda allowed herself to be part of a photo op. She explains on her blog:
I was exhausted and an emotional wreck after the 2-week visit. It was not unusual for Americans who visited North Vietnam to be taken to see Vietnamese military installations and when they did, they were always required to wear a helmet like the kind I was told to wear during the numerous air raids I had experienced. When we arrived at the site of the anti-aircraft installation (somewhere on the outskirts of Hanoi), there was a group of about a dozen young soldiers in uniform who greeted me. There were also many photographers (and perhaps journalists) gathered about, many more than I had seen all in one place in Hanoi. This should have been a red flag.
The translator told me that the soldiers wanted to sing me a song. He translated as they sung. It was a song about the day ‘Uncle Ho’ declared their country’s independence in Hanoi’s Ba Dinh Square. I heard these words: “All men are created equal; they are given certain rights; among these are life, Liberty and Happiness.” These are the words Ho pronounced at the historic ceremony. I began to cry and clap. These young men should not be our enemy. They celebrate the same words Americans do.
The soldiers asked me to sing for them in return. As it turned out I was prepared for just such a moment: before leaving the United States, I memorized a song called Day Ma Di, written by anti-war South Vietnamese students. I knew I was slaughtering it, but everyone seemed delighted that I was making the attempt. I finished. Everyone was laughing and clapping, including me, overcome on this, my last day, with all that I had experienced during my 2 week visit. What happened next was something I have turned over and over in my mind countless times. Here is my best, honest recollection of what happened: someone (I don’t remember who) led me towards the gun, and I sat down, still laughing, still applauding. It all had nothing to do with where I was sitting. I hardly even thought about where I was sitting. The cameras flashed. I got up, and as I started to walk back to the car with the translator, the implication of what had just happened hit me. “Oh my God. It’s going to look like I was trying to shoot down U.S. planes.” I pleaded with him, “You have to be sure those photographs are not published. Please, you can’t let them be published.” I was assured it would be taken care of. I didn’t know what else to do. (I didn’t know yet that among the photographers there were some Japanese.)
But the photos were published, and they suggest that she was, in fact, aware that she was sitting on an anti-aircraft gun. (One shot shows her peering through the gun’s sight and smiling.)
And other facts about Fonda’s trip emerged: Like an updated version of Tokyo Rose, she’d gone on Hanoi radio and petitioned American fighting men stationed to the south to lay down their arms because they were fighting an unjust war against the peace-loving North Vietnamese. She also met with a select group of American POWs – “cooperative” prisoners who’d never shown their captors any resistance – and while those seven have unequivocally stated that they were not coerced to meet with her and tell her all about their fair and humane treatment, other hard-case POWs have said they were tortured before and after her visit.
And, of course, in spite of the self-justifying logic and parsing of details in her blog entry above, there’s an easy way to avoid the disdain and outright hatred of your fellow citizens: Regardless of how you feel about the war don’t visit another country as a guest of the leaders your country is at war with.
But were her actions treasonous? The Nixon Administration came after her in a big way but failed to get any charges to stick. It seems the war was just too unpopular for lawmakers or the general public to see the effort through.
But it wasn’t unpopular enough to keep Fonda from being shackled with the label “Hanoi Jane, Traitor B–ch” in veteran circles and among conservatives in general.
The arguments about Jane Fonda’s legacy rage to this day. And in an era where celebrities go out of their way to “support the troops” it seems improbable that one of them would show up in a video chumming around with the ISIS boys or high fiving a Taliban leader after he launches a Stinger missile at a coalition helicopter. But these are different times. Now we don’t have Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, or the draft – elements that tended to give the average American strong opinions about the war in progress.
But whatever animosities linger, ultimately America has to accept that America created Jane Fonda. And Jane Fonda’s story – before, during, and after the Vietnam War – is uniquely American.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
When the check engine light comes on… U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jeremiah Davidson with the 153rd Maintenance Group, Wyoming Air National Guard replaces a turbine overheat detector on a C-130H Hercules aircraft, Sep. 26, 2016 in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron conduct a post-flight systems check on an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System Oct. 20, 2016, following a mission supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. JSTARS uses its communications and radar systems to support ground attack units and direct air support throughout the area of responsibility.
1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division Soldiers buddy-carry a simulated casualty to a casualty collection point during training at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., Nov. 11, 2016.
4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division paratroopers evacuate a simulated casualty during training conducted by U.S. Army Alaska at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Nov. 8, 2016.
CORONADO, Calif. (Nov. 14, 2016) The brightest moon in almost 69 years sets behind the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). The ship is moored and homeported in San Diego. It is undergoing a scheduled Planned Maintenance Availability.
ARABIAN GULF (Nov. 14, 2016) An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Fighting Swordsmen of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32 launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). The ship and its Carrier Strike Group are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
An AV-8B Harrier assigned to Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 223 conducting an aerial refuel near Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, Nov. 15, 2016.
Dr. Ernest James Harris, Jr., a Montford Point Marine, received the Congressional Gold Medal on November 12.
“Anyone who knows a Marine, knows they are a Marine regardless of race, religion or creed and nowhere this is truer than in war.”
—U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz
Here is a portrait of one of our many courageous shipmates from Air Station Miami.
With tensions in the South China Sea simmering — and getting hotter (the People’s Liberation Army Navy stole an American underwater drone) — the chances that America and China could come to blows are increasing. The fight could very likely be a naval-air fight, but there could also be the need for something not really seen since the Korean War: amphibious assaults.
The United States has the world’s preeminent military force in that capacity: The United States Marine Corps.
The People’s Republic of China turns to the People’s Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps for its needs in this area. These two forces are similar in that both have a mission to deploy by sea to carry out operations on land.
The Chinese force, though, consists of two brigades in the South China Sea area, totaling 12,000 active-duty personnel, according to GlobalSecurity.org. Calling up reserves could boost the force to 28,000.
That force is arguably outmatched by the USMC’s III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), based out of Okinawa. A typical MEF has over 50,000 Marines, and features both a division and an air wing.
U.S. and Chinese Marines shoot the type-95 rifle in a joint training exercise. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jeremy J. Harper)
The Chinese Marines are equipped with armored vehicles, notably the Type 59 main battle tank and the Type 63A amphibious tank. The former is a knockoff of the Soviet T-55, carrying a 100mm gun.
The latter is an interesting design, equipped with a 105mm main gun, which holds 45 rounds, but capable of swimming to shore. China also has large stocks of Soviet-era PT-76 and indigenous Type 63 amphibious tanks in its inventory as well.
The Marines have the M1A1 Abrams tank, which is not amphibious. That said, this is a very tough tank that has deflected shells from more powerful tank guns from 400 yards. Against the Type 63A, it would easily survive a hit and then dispatch the tank that shot at it.
While the Type 63A can swim to a battlefield, it trades protection for that ability. The result is that its thin armor can be easily penetrated, and that is bad news for its crew.
The tank disparity is not all that would hamper the Chinese Marines. The People’s Liberation Army Navy did not see fit to provide the Chinese Marines with any organic aviation. III Marine Expeditionary Force has the 1st Marine Air Wing, a powerful force that includes a squadron of F/A-18D Hornets, KC-130J tankers, and AH-1Z attack helicopters. That does not include units that rotate in from the United States, including AV-8B Harriers and F/A-18C Hornets.
In short, the United States Marine Corps brings in over 240 years of tradition, as well as far greater manpower, resources and capabilities. At present, if the United States wants China off of its unsinkable aircraft carriers, the American leathernecks would, in all likelihood, succeed.
Sometimes the smallest thing can mean the difference between nations emerging triumphant or collapsing in defeat. Here are 7 moments from military history where the outcomes hinged on a minor detail:
1. A colonel didn’t read a note, and his men were slaughtered by Washington
Col. Johann Rall was the commander of Hessian soldiers in Trenton, New Jersey, on Christmas Day in 1776. Rall was partying with his officers when someone handed him a note that he shoved in his pocket without reading it. A few hours later, he and his men were effectively wiped out by Patriots fighting under Gen. George Washington.
2. A weather report and a birthday party changed World War II
Nazi and Allied planners had forecasted potential dates for a summer invasion based on tides, phases of the moon, and weather trends. The best window for the Allies was June 4 to June 6, 1944. June 4 started with clear skies but Allied meteorologists believed it would turn nasty, which was true.
Allied Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower postponed the invasion, and Nazi commanders left their coastal defenses for war games. German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel even left for home to celebrate his wife’s birthday. But the Allies had more Atlantic weather stations and found a lull in the bad weather that the Nazis didn’t know about. The invasion was launched into rough seas and winds Jun. 6, but the weather cleared early in the day.
3. World War I began because of bad driving directions
Conspirators attempted to kill the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 by attacking his car during a parade. One assassin threw a grenade but it bounced off the Archduke’s vehicle before the royal was rushed to safety.
Reports vary about whether the royal couple attempted to leave the city after the attack or continue the parade, but they definitely were driving back along the route when they were spotted by another assassin, Gavrilo Princip. The car stopped directly in front of Princip as the occupants argued about the proper directions.
Princip took two shots, killing both the Archduke and his wife, which set off the powder keg that was 1914 Europe and began World War I.
4. Germany lost the Battle of the Marne (and maybe World War I) because of a rumor
Early in World War I, Imperial Germany was marching quickly towards Paris after forcing British and French forces into a series of retreats. At the Battle of the Marne in Sep. 1914, the British and French barely stopped the Germans through a series of desperate actions like using taxis to ferry troops to the frontlines.
Germany might have won if it had the two divisions it had sent to the Belgian coast. The Germans had believed rumors that Russian soldiers were forming in Britain for an amphibious assault. This false rumor was later traced by historians to either a shipment of 100,000 Russian eggs that was noted in a train report as “100,000 Russians now on way from Aberdeen to London” or a group of soldiers from Ross Shire being misheard by local train officials.
Either way, the rumor began circulating that large numbers of Russian soldiers were entering the fight on the Eastern Front and Germany redeployed troops to deal with them. Those troops then weren’t available for fighting near Paris, and France was able to hold on, prolonging the war and allowing an Allied victory.
5. A slight time miscalculation ended the Bay of Pigs invasion
On Apr. 17, 1961, 1,400 Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs and attempted to overthrow the Castro regime. If successful, this invasion would have led to the downfall of Communist Cuba and allowed America more influence over its southern neighbor. It also would’ve cut off Soviet access to the island, preventing the Cuban Missile Crisis and giving American a stronger hand in the Cold War.
6. Nagasaki was destroyed because of a single cloud at the original target
There are two cities that are synonymous with the destruction from atomic bombs: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But, America’s target list actually included Kokura. On Aug. 6, Hiroshima was the primary target and Kokura was the backup. Since Hiroshima was clear, the bomb was dropped there.
On Aug. 9, Kokura was the primary target and Hiroshima was the backup. The B-29 crew (bomber nicknamed Bock’s Car) flew over Kokura multiple times but had orders to only drop the bomb if they could physically see the targeted weapons factory beforehand. A single cloud kept blocking their view, and so they moved on to Nagasaki, sparing the city of Kokura.
7. Constantinople fell because of an unlocked gate
Constantinople in 1453 was facing serious problems. The skilled conqueror Mehmed II was hammering at the walls with his cannons while the defenders fought among themselves about whether the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church of Byzantium was the true Christian faith.