For most civilians, No-Shave November is the month of the year where we allow ourselves to grow what we think is the mustache that would make Tom Selleck weep. For Airmen of the U.S. Air Force, that month is March, or more commonly known as “Mustache March.”
Mustache March is the mostly-unofficial mustache growing season in the USAF, which used to be a protest of the regulation against mustaches but became an act of defiance against dogmatic leadership. During the Vietnam War, Air Force triple ace Robin Olds decided to grow a distinctive, out-of-regs, handlebar mustache, which was later dubbed “bulletproof.”
Robin Olds is one of the United States Air Force’s most legendary Airmen. He earned his Ace status with 16 victories in World War II and Vietnam. He grew the mustache just to annoy his superior officers, referring to it as “the middle finger I couldn’t raise in PR photographs.” Once his mustache reached its peak, the popularity of growing mustaches caught on with his Airmen. They loved it and began to grow their own. Even though he came to hate the ‘stache, he kept it while he was in Vietnam, because it kept morale high.
Dismissing the irony of an officially accepted act of defiance, in 2014 Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh challenged the entire Air Force to an officially sanctioned Mustache March to honor General Olds, who died in 2007. General Welsh did not participate in 2015, due to the controversy the inherently all-male contest caused among some female Airmen; the tradition lives on among other Airmen, in the same spirit of honor and defiance of Air Force facial hair regs.
You can be sure to see a lot of Air Force personnel as they come to work on April 1 cleared of their bulletproofing. So until then, celebrate with these photos of the legendary Robin Olds in all of his middle-fingered glory.
The Department of Veterans Affairs says that it is “amending its regulation” on the copays that veterans pay for medications they receive that are not for service related conditions.
Currently, veterans pay $8 and $9 for a 30-day (or less) supply of prescriptions.
The VA says that the new system will “keep outpatient medication costs low for Veterans.”
Dr. David J. Shulkin, the VA Undersecretary for Health, said “Reducing their out-of-pocket costs encourages greater adherence to priscribed outpatient medications and reduces the risk of fragmented care that results when multiple pharmacies are used.”
The new system tossed out the old way of determining costs, which was based on the Medical Consumer Price Index.
Three classes of outpatient medications have been designed to help curb the costs.
Tier 1 is for preferred generics, and will cost veterans $5 for a 30-day or less supply.
Tier 2 is for non-preferred generics, which includes over the counter medications, and will cost veterans $8 for a 30-day or less supply.
Tier 3 is for brand name medications, and will cost veterans $11 for a 30-day or less supply.
The new system will go into effect February 27th, 2017, and only apply to medications that are not for service connected issues.
Veterans who are former Prisoners of War, catastrophically disabled, or are covered by other exceptions will not have to pay copays.
Veterans who fall into Priority Groups 2-8 will have a $700 cap on copays, at which point the copays do not apply. To find out which Priority Group you fall into, check out the VA’s list of Priority Groups in their Health Benefits tab (here).
According to 38 U.S.C. 1722A(a), the VA is compelled to require veterans to pay a minimum copay of $2 for every 30-day (or less) supply of medications which are prescribed for non-service related disabilities or connections, unless there is an exemption for the veteran. 38 U.S.C. 1722A(b) gives the VA the authority to set the copay amount higher and to put caps on the amount veterans pay.
With that in mind, a big yellow school bus has no business in a compact parking space, but that’s precisely what Lt. James H. Flatley III did when he landed the 85,000-pound behemoth on the USS Forrestal (CVA-59). He parked a bus in a compact space. And he made it look easy.
At first, he thought the assignment was a joke. “Operate a C-130 off an aircraft carrier? Somebody’s got to be kidding,” he said, according to Joseph Earl Dabney in his book “Hero of the Skies.”
But no, in fact, the orders came from the top. The Chief of Naval Operations — the most senior naval officer in the Department of the Navy — himself ordered a feasibility study to find out whether they could employ the Hercules as a “Super COD” — or Carrier Onboard Delivery — aircraft. At the time, the task belonged to the Grumman C-1 Trader, which, in the spirit of continuing the car analogy, was like driving your mom’s minivan.
The small twin-engine aircraft had a 300-mile range, which was a problem for delivering emergency items to a carrier operating in the middle of the ocean. On the other hand, the Hercules was stable, reliable, and capable of delivering large payloads over a much longer distance.
On October 8, 1963, the Navy received a KC-130F refueler on loan from the Marine Corps. Lockheed’s only modifications included the plane’s nose landing gear, anti-skid braking system, and the removal of the underwing refueling pods.
By October 30, 1963, Flatley and crew successfully proceeded to perform 29 touch-and-go landings, 21 unarrested full-stop landings, and 21 unassisted takeoffs at 85,000 pounds up to 121,000 pounds.
The result went beyond anyone’s expectations.
The test revealed that the C-130 could lift 25,000 pounds (12.5 tons) of cargo and transport it 2,500 miles and land safely on the carrier, according to the video below. Still, the Navy considered it too risky and defaulted to the smaller COD. Flatley received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his effort.
Everyone knows about John Glenn, either as an astronaut (the last survivor of the “Mercury Seven”) or politician (he was a United States Senator from 1975 to 1999).
Few know, however, that John Glenn had a lengthy combat career as a Marine aviator in both World War II and the Korean War. His decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross with three gold stars and two oak leaf clusters and 18 Air Medals.
After Pearl Harbor, Glenn first tried to sign up with the Army Air Force – but instead ended up as a Naval Aviation Cadet. He transitioned to the Marine Corps, though, and was sent to the South Pacific.
The first plane he flew after graduating training, though, was a far cry from a fighter or a rocket – it was the R4D, the Navy’s version of the classic C-47 Skytrain, accoridng to Paul Kuppenberg’s 2003 biography of Glenn.
Glenn wouldn’t be a trash-hauler forever, though.
Soon, he was flying the F4U Corsair, and took part in combat missions around the Marshall Islands — notably attacking anti-aircraft batteries on Maloelap Atoll.
After a stateside assignment, he was later assigned to VMF-218 in China, where he flew some patrols.
Between World War II and Korea, Glenn was both a flight instructor and a student at the Amphibious Warfare School. When the Korean War broke out, Glenn sought a combat assignment.
According to AcePilots.com, he would serve two tours in Korea — the first with VMF-311, flying the F9F Panther. One famous squadron mate – and wingman – was Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams.
Glenn often had his plane shot up, on one occasion bringing it back with 250 holes in it. He’d been hit five times in World War II, each time nursing his damaged plane home, according to Light This Candle, a 2005 biography of Alan Shepard.
Glenn’s second tour was with the Air Force’s 51st Fighter Wing. Glenn would get his only three confirmed kills, MiG-15s, in a grand total of 27 missions.
After the Korean War, Glenn became a test pilot, making a mark in Project Bullet, using a F8U-1P Crusader (the Navy’s pre-1962 designation for the RF-8A version of the Crusader) to cross the United States faster than the speed of sound – despite the fact he had to slow three times to refuel.
In 1959, Glenn was assigned to NASA, and from there, he went into space – and history. But his combat career is something that also deserves to be remembered.
The US Naval Institute completed a poll of its readers to determine the best warships of all time. The Naval Institute urged readers to consider vessels from ancient times to now, and with more than 2,600 votes and almost 900 written responses, they’ve developed a diverse list spanning hundreds of years.
In some cases, readers wrote in recommending whole classes of ships, like aircraft carriers or nuclear submarines, but the list below will only reflect the five specific ships that made the grade.
5. USS Nautilus
Congress authorized the construction of the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine in 1951, and in 1954 first lady Mamie Eisenhower christened it.
The Nautilus changed the game when it came to naval warfare, and it ushered in an entirely new era for submarines. This nearly silent sub could hide among the ocean floor undetected, while offering up substantial contributions to surface warfare with cruise, or even nuclear, missiles.
The nuclear sub would go on to form one-third of the US’s nuclear triad.
4. HMS Dreadnought
The HMS Dreadnought ushered in a new era of “all big-gun ships.” Unlike battleships before it, the Dreadnought only had 12-inch cannons aided by electronic range-finding equipment. For defensive, the ship was completely encased in steel.
The Dreadnought presented a suite of technologies so cutting edge that it is often said that it rendered all battleships before it obsolete.
Though the Dreadnought did not have a distinguished service record, it did become the only surface battleship to sink a submarine. It is remembered largely for shifting the paradigm of naval warfare, as opposed to its victories in battle.
3. USS Enterprise
Unlike the Dreadnought, the historians remember the USS Enterprise for its outstanding record in combat.
As the sixth aircraft carrier to join the US Navy in 1936, the Enterprise was one of the first craft to respond after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it survived major battles in Midway, Guadalcanal, Leyte Gulf, and the “Doolittle Raid” on Tokyo during World War II.
Korean Turtle Ships served with the Korean navy for centuries, first coming into play in the Seven Years’ War (1592-1598) between Korea and Japan.
The idea behind the Turtle Ship was to provide an impenetrable floating fortress optimized for boarding enemy craft. The side of the ship is dotted with holes from which the crew can fire cannons and other artillery, while the top of the ship is covered in iron spikes, making it especially dangerous for enemy sailors to board the vessel.
With up to 80 rowers pulling along the heavy craft, the Turtle Ships were brutal but effective.
1. USS Constitution
The USS Constitution, or “Old Ironsides,” as it is affectionately known, first hit the seas as one of the first six frigates in the newly formed US Navy of 1797.
The Constitution had both 30 24-pound cannons and also speed. Not only was it technologically sound for its time, but it was also simply unparalleled and undefeated in battle.
Famously, in 1812, the Constitution fought against the HMS Guerriere, whose guns could not pierce the heavily armored sides of the Constitution.
Army and Marine Corps may add a more-lethal 30mm cannon to its new JLTV to improve lethality for the emerging high-tech platform and better prepare it for large-scale, mechanized force-on-force warfare.
The Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is a new fast-moving armored vehicle engineered to take bullets, drive over roadside bombs and withstand major enemy attacks; the vehicle was conceived and engineered as a high-tech, more survivable replacement for large portions of its fleet of Humvees.
While the Army remains focused on being needed for counterinsurgency possibilities across the globe and hybrid-type wars involving groups of terrorists armed with conventional weapons and precision-guided missiles — the service is identifying, refining and integrating technologies, such as its emerging Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, with a specific mind to attacking enemies and protecting Soldiers in major-power war, service officials said.
As evidence of this approach, Lt. Gen. Michael Williamson, Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition, Logistics Technology, said the multi-year developmental effort of the new Humvee replacement has been focused on engineering a vehicle able to help the Army win wars against a large, near-peer adversary.
As part of this effort, the Army is looking at options to up-gun JLTV with more lethal weapons such as a 30mm cannon. JLTV maker Oshkosh recently unveiled a 30mm cannon-armed JLTV at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium last Fall.
In a special exclusive interview with Scout Warrior, Williamson pointed to some of the attributes of the Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV, as a platform well-engineered for large-scale mechanized warfare. Communications technologies, sensors, computers and extra add-on armor protection are, by design, some of the attributes intended to allow the vehicle to network the battlefield and safely deliver Soldiers to a wide-range of large-scale combat engagements.
Several reports, from Breaking Defense and Military.com, have said that the Army is preparing to use its JLTV for missions previously slated for a Light Reconnaissance Vehicle, or LRV. The LRV mission sets, can be met by a better armed JLTV, allowing the Army to forgo construction of a new lightweight vehicle and therefore save money.
The Army has received the first 7 “test” vehicles from by Oshkosh Defense at different sites around the force.
A total of about 100 of the JLTV “production vehicles” will be provided to the Army and Marine Corps for testing over the next year, at a rate of about 10 per month, officials said. The vehicles will undergo maneuverability and automotive testing at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, and other sites around the country. In addition to testing at Yuma, the vehicles will undergo testing for cyber integration of command, control, communications and intelligence at the Electronics Proving Ground on Fort Huachuca, Arizona, an Army statement said. The vehicles will also be tested for automotive performance at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland and the Cold Regions Test Center on Fort Greely, Alaska.
“It’s on schedule,” Scott Davis, program executive officer for combat support and combat service support, said in an article from Army.mil. “It’s doing everything we ever expected it to. It’s just incredible.”
JLTV-Prepared for Major Power War
Major, great-power war would likely present the need for massive air-ground coordination between drones, helicopters and ground vehicles, infantry and armored vehicle maneuver formations and long-range weapons and sensors. The idea is to be ready for enemies equipped with high-end, high-tech weapons such as long-range rocket, missile and air attack capabilities.
Williamson explained how the JLTV, for instance, is engineered with additional armor, speed, suspension, blast-protection and ground-clearance in order to withstand enemy fire, mines, IEDs and roadside bombs. These same protection technologies would also enable the vehicle to better withstand longer-range attacks from enemy armies far more capable than those encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The vehicle is being built to, among other things, replace a large portion of the Army’s Humvee fleet.
The JLTV represents the next-generation of automotive technology in a number of key respects, such as the ability to design a light tactical, mobile vehicle with substantial protective ability to defend against a wide range of enemy attacks.
The vehicle is designed from the ground up to be mobile and operate with a level of underbody protection equivalent to the original MRAP-ATV (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected — All Terrain Vehicle) vehicle standards. Also, the vehicle is being designed with modular armor, so that when the armor is not needed we can take it off and bring the weight of the vehicle down to drive down the operating costs, Army officials have explained.
The modular armor approach gives the vehicle an A-kit and B-kit option, allowing the vehicle to integrate heavier armor should the war-threat require that.
With a curb weight of roughly 14,000 pounds, the JLTV will provide protection comparable to the 25,000-pound M-ATV, thus combining the mobility and transportability of a light vehicle with MRAP-level protection. The vehicle can reach speeds greater than 70-MPH.
The vehicle, made by Oshkosh Defense, is also built with a system called TAK-4i independent suspension designed to increase off-road mobility in rigorous terrain – a scenario quite likely should there be a major war. The JLTV is equipped with next-generation sensors and communications technologies to better enhance Soldiers’ knowledge of a surrounding, fast-moving dynamic combat situation.
TAK-4i can be described as Variable Ride-Height Suspension, explained as the ability to raise and lower the suspension to meet certain mission requirements such as the need to raise the suspension in high-threat areas and lower the suspension so that the vehicles can be transported by Maritime preposition force ships.
Also, the JLTV will be able to sling-load beneath a CH-53, C-130 or CH-47 under standard conditions. Sling-loading the vehicle beneath a large helicopter would give the Army an ability to conduct what they called Mounted Maneuver – an effort to reposition forces quickly on the battlefield in rough terrain which cannot be traversed another way.
Oshkosh, based in the Wisconsin city of the same name, last summer won a $6.7 billion Army contract to begin to produce about 17,000 of the light-duty JLTVs for the Army and Marine Corps beginning in the first quarter of fiscal 2016, which began Oct. 1.
The services plan to buy nearly 55,000 of the vehicles, including 49,100 for the Army and 5,500 for the Corps, to replace about a third of the Humvee fleets at an overall estimated cost of more than $24 billion, according to Army officials.
When compared with earlier light tactical vehicle models such as the HMMWV, the JLTV is being engineered with a much stronger, 250 to 360 Horsepower engine (Banks 6.6 liter diesel engine) and a 570-amp alternator able to generate up to 10 kilowatts of exportable power. In fact, due to the increase in need for on-board power, the vehicle includes the integration of a suite of C4ISR kits and networking technologies.
The JLTV, which can be armed with weapons such as a grenade launcher or .50-cal machine gun, has a central tire inflation system which is an on-the-fly system that can regulate tire pressure; the system can adjust tire pressure from higher pressures for higher speed conditions on flatter roads to much lower pressures in soft soil such as sand or mud, JLTV engineers explain.
Also, instead of having a belt-driven alternator, the vehicles are built with an integrated generating system that is sandwiched between the engine and transmission in order to increase efficiency.
Army Future Strategy
As a high-level leader for the Army’s weapons, vehicle and platform developmental efforts, Williamson explained that some technologies are specifically being engineered with a mind toward positioning the service for the prospect of massive great-power conflict; this would include combat with mechanized forces, armored vehicles, long-range precision weapons, helicopter air support and what’s called a Combined Arms Maneuver approach.
Combined Arms Maneuver tactics use a variety of combat assets, such as artillery, infantry and armored vehicles such as tanks, in a synchronized, integrated fashion to overwhelm, confuse and destroy enemies.
While the Army naturally does not expect or seek a particular conflict with near-peer nations like Russia and China, the service is indeed acutely aware of the rapid pace of their military modernization and aggressive activities.
As a result of its experience and skill with counterinsurgency fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army’s training, doctrine and weapons development is sharpening its focus on armored vehicles, long-range precision weapons and networking technologies to connect a force dispersed over a wide area of terrain.
Another key aspect of the Army’s future strategy is called Wide Area Security, an approached grounded in the recognition that large-scale mechanized forces will likely need to operate and maneuver across much wider swaths of terrain as has been the case in recent years. Having a dispersed force, fortified with long range sensors, armor protection, precision weapons and networking technologies, will strengthen the Army’s offensive approach and make its forces a more difficult, less aggregated target for enemies. This strategic emphasis also incorporates the need for combat forces to operate within and among populations as it seek to identify and eliminate enemies.
The Israeli media dubbed it the “Double Miracle In Gaza” — a Hamas fighter took shots at an IDF soldier, hitting him in his cache of grenades. If life were a movie, we know what would happen next.
Luckily life is most definitely not like the movies. The soldier in question (his name was not released by the media) was operating in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge.
After the murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank, the IDF launched Operation Brother’s Keeper. The goal was for the IDF to move in and arrest Hamas leadership and the militants responsible for the killings. In response, the terror group fired a number of rockets into Israel from Gaza.
That’s when the IDF moved in on the missile sites.
The soldier’s unit was in Shuja’iyya, in the north of Gaza, where many of Hamas rockets are fired into Israel. Shuja’iyya is a major urban center and is also densely populated. Hamas fired an estimated 140 rockets from the city during the conflict.
His unit was looking for the secret tunnels Hamas uses to sneak into Israel across a blockade. As they moved, an AK-47 round hit a grenade attached to his protective vest. The grenade stopped the bullet and –miraculously – didn’t explode.
The Israelis determined that the bullet was at the end of its effectiveness range, that it was fired from very far away, and didn’t have the energy required to penetrate the vest.
As for the grenade, it’s designed that way. A series of combat incidents involving grenades hitting grenades and exploding in the IDF caused the Israeli military to revamp their grenade design.
After the incident, the IDF cleared Shuja’iyya of Hamas fighters, then bulldozed a number of buildings to collapse the illegal tunnels — tunnels used to smuggle small arms, missiles, and other weapons into Gaza. The IDF then moved on to secure other areas near Gaza’s northern border with Israel.
From World War II to today, Boeing products have been the backbone of America’s strategic bomber force. That long tradition got started, though, with the B-17 Flying Fortress, which was best known for flying the daylight bombing missions against Nazi Germany in World War II.
The ultimate form of the B-17 was the B-17G version, which had 13 .50-caliber machine guns, including a twin Bendex turret under the nose, twin turrets on the top, belly, and tail of the bomber, as well as five single machine guns, including two in the wait, two in the cheeks of the plane, and one for the radio operator.
With all that firepower and ammo, there was still enough room to carry a large bombload (up to 9,600 pounds). The B-17 also had a lot of reach, with a maximum range of 3,750 miles. With four 1,200-horsepower Wright Cyclone R-1820-97 engines, it could hit 287 miles per hour when running flat-out.
The Flying Fortress saw action from the start of the war — B-17s flying in to Hickam Field on Dec, 7, 1941 came under attack from the Japanese planes at Pearl Harbor. After that day, B-17 production was ramped up until 12,726 of all types were produced until May, 1945.
Today, only 12 of the thousands of B-17s that were built are still airworthy – with another 27 either in museums or being restored. Among those being restored is the only surviving B-17D, “The Swoose,” as well as the famous “Memphis Belle.”
Current servicemembers and veterans are some of the most remarkable individuals representing the best of our country.
The beauty of the people who serve in the military is that they hail from all across the nation, have diverse backgrounds and interesting stories about their time in service. Many of these individuals are not just warriors, but they are also storytellers.
For many military members, writing is a powerful tool. This generation’s men and women in uniform have a lot to share and writing about their service gives them the ability to discuss many subjects, display their knowledge and express ideas on current military affairs and strategies that can spark a dialogue.
Writing allows a space for people to illustrate unique perspectives and opinions on topics such as leadership, military books and history, movies and of course personal “war stories.”
Whether you are a young service member who just enlisted or a retired veteran, here are seven websites or blogs that you should definitely bookmark and follow on social media.
1. Angry Staff Officer
Writing under the persona “Angry Staff Officer,” the site’s author focuses on several topics in his blog. From historical events and foreign policy to personal experiences and an examination of current Army doctrine, Angry Staff Officer’s writing is both fun and snarky — but ultimately insightful. Along with running his own site, Angry Staff Officer serves as a contributor to several other outlets, sharing his unique view on several themes. Visit his site and you’ll get a good look at what he’s all about, but his sense of humor really shines on Twitter, so make sure to follow him @pptsapper.
2. Bourbon and Battles
If you are looking for a site that offers lessons on life, current military affairs, history and of course reviews on great bourbon, then Bourbon and Battles is for you. Hosted by U.S. Army officer Johnathon Parker, Bourbon and Battles offers readers firsthand advice on writing, his life as a graduate student, military leadership, and offers new writers a platform to have their work featured. This site is perfect for new military writers to build their prosaic chops. You can also follow Bourbon Battles on Twitter @BourbonBattles and on Facebook.
3. From the Green Notebook
The ubiquitous military green notebook has become the stuff of legend. For Army Maj. Joe Byerly, it is also a source of inspiration for his personal blog called From the Green Notebook. The site serves as a means for the combat arms officer to share his perspective about his time in service and as a way to help develop young military leaders in the digital age. The author dives into a variety of topics such as history, military leadership, and professional development that gives military personnel sound advice on how to to make it in the service. You can also follow him on Twitter @jbyerly81.
4. The Military Leader
Hosted by an Army Infantry officer, The Military Leader is a website that offers resources for both military and civilians to guide their development as leaders and help grow their organizations. From simple articles about helpful tips to help start conversations with subordinates to complex topics such as toxic leadership, the page offers great insight for people of all levels. Be sure to also follow the Military Leader on Twitter @mil_LEADER and on Facebook.
5. Military Writers Guild
A collective of writers lend their years of experience and expertise as a means to share ideas and start a dialogue. The purpose of the Military Writers Guild is to “advocate, collaborate and promote” the current crop of military thinkers. The site features writing and podcasts from brilliant military minds. The individuals who are a part of the Military Writers Guild are so smart, in high school they probably sat at the nerd table in the cafeteria. All kidding aside, this is a fantastic group of people writing about the national security space. You can also follow them on Twitter @MilWritersGuild.
6. War on the Rocks
War on the Rocks is medium for in-depth analysis, commentary, and content on geo-politics and national security. The page features articles and podcasts from a number of collaborators with years of expertise in warfare. If you want to put your thinking cap on and see where U.S. military strategy and organization should go in the next 10 or 20 years, sit back and get smarter.
7. Your Stories, Your Wall
Serving as the official blog if the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, this site features personal stories of those who served in the Vietnam conflict. The blog has great aspects of storytelling and compelling imagery that really conveys the hardships of the men and women who served as well as the family members who were affected by the death of a loved one in that war. Many of these stories on the blog are also centered on the Vietnam memorial itself. This site reminds all of us about the sacrifices of our Vietnam era servicememebrs. Check it out here: https://vvmf.wordpress.com/
1. The Polish Resistance Agent who got himself sent to Auschwitz — on purpose
Nazi concentration camps were one of the most hideous and disturbing tragedies to arise out of the second world war, but few countries were aware of their existence before the Allied liberation in 1945. Fewer still had any idea what atrocities were taking place within their gates — which is exactly why Witold Pilecki, a Polish resistance agent, decided to see the inside for himself. How’d he do it? By getting himself arrested and sent to the worst death camp of them all: Auschwitz.
He gathered intelligence inside Auschwitz and sent it to the underground Polish army for two years, enduring brutal conditions and near-starvation to detail Nazi execution and interrogation methods. When the Allies continued to put off any aid (some even accused him of exaggerating his reports,according to NPR) he broke out of the camp and escaped. Pilecki continued to gather intelligence throughout the war, and didn’t let up afterwards either, though now it was against a different government — the Soviet regime in Poland.
Sadly, Pilecki was later captured by the communists, arrested for espionage in 1948, and issued not one, but three death sentences. The communists also wiped his name from the public record after his execution, and no accounts of Pilecki’s bravery were known until after the fall of the Berlin wall.
2. The Middle Eastern soldiers of France’s Free Army
On the whole, France gets a pretty bad rap when it comes to military valor. Some of the jokes actually ring true — when France fell to the Nazi regime during World War II, Gen. Charles De Gaulle struggled to gather soldiers who were ready and willing to drive out the Fuhrer’s army … not exactly the kind of bravery you write home about. Which is exactly why a frustrated De Gaulle set his sights outside of France to raise an army, recruiting instead from French colonies in Africa. Arabic, African and Tahitian volunteers rallied to the French cause, and the French Free Army was born.
Amazingly, this rag-tag militia, many of whom had never stepped on French soil before, kicked ass in the war against Hitler, wining several battles. So why haven’t you heard of them? Sadly, the Allies weren’t too thrilled with these guys, and when The Free French Army geared up to liberate Paris, the Allies actually refused to fight with them — unwilling to go into battle with dark-skinned foreigners.
As much as this sucks, it was typical for the time — U.S. military units were still segregated between blacks and whites in the 1940s. The Allies then essentially told De Gaulle if he wanted their help, he needed to white-wash his army, which he did — by calling a bunch of Spaniards to fight and sending the original French Free Army back to Africa. The colonists who fought for their Mother country never received any military recognition, and France would later cut off their military pensions, effectively removing them from its history.
3. The Real-Life Rambo who beat the U.S. military at its own job
Sylvester Stallone graced us with one of the most iconic military characters ever when he played man-of-few-words and probable-sociopath John Rambo in “Rambo: First Blood,” and then again in “Rambo: First Blood Part II,” “Rambo III.” Well, you get the drill. Stallone may have jumped the shark with the franchise, but the story of this real-life Rambo will never get old.
Richard Marcinko, nicknamed “Demo Dick,” was a teletype operator who dreamed of transferring to UDT, or Underwater Demolitions Team — a unit that would eventually evolve into the Navy SEALs. When he kept getting rejected, Marcinko decided he would find an alternative way into the unit — by clocking some guy in the face. Just as he’d planned, Marcinko got sent to the UDT as punishment.
During his time with the UDT and later with the SEALs in Vietnam, Marcinko became so notorious amongst the Viet Cong that there was actually a 50,000 piaster reward for whoever was brave enough to bring back his head. Yikes.
Marcinko survived Vietnam but continued his testosterone-fueled lifestyle, searching out conflict in Cambodia before being asked by the U.S. military to carry out a program called Red Cell. The mission? Infiltrating American bases all around the world to find their weak spots. Not surprisingly, Demo Dick took his job a little too seriously, and ended up mock-kidnapping a lot of officers and even their families to see if they would crack under interrogation.
The U.S. military still hadn’t let go of his Red Cell shenanigans, however, and later sent Marcinko to jail for conspiracy. But Demo Dick didn’t go down without a fight, and ended up writing best-selling book “Rogue Warrior” during the year he was behind bars, detailing his escapades while in uniform and humiliating the the military. What a guy.
4. The Oskar Schindler of Japan
As the Nazi regime began tightening its chokehold on Europe, Japanese Consul-General Chiune Sugihara and his wife Yukiko watched with increasing concern as Lithuanian Jews were persecuted, driven out of their businesses, and forced away to “labor camps.” Finally, Sugihara decided enough was enough, and set out to bring the Jews of Europe onto Japanese soil and out of Hitler’s reach. The Japanese government, however, didn’t approve of the idea, and shut down Chiune’s request to issue visas for the fleeing Jews. In response — and in true Liam Neeson fashion — Sugihara essentially told them to shove it, and began to write the visas by hand.
He and his wife ended up writing what some estimate to be around 6,000 visas for Lithuanian Jews, an incredible feat that’s even more unbelievable when you compare it to Oskar Schindler’s record of 1,200 saved through his work program. The last foreign officials to remain in Kuanas, Lithuania, save for a Dutch consul, Sugihara and his wife worked round the clock, issuing close to 300 visas a day and distributing them to the refugees who gathered outside of the Japanese consulate gates.
When Sugihara was finally ordered to leave, he continued to write visas and throw them from the train as he departed, and left his official visa stamp with one of the refugees so they could continue his work in his absence. It is estimated that he saved nearly all of the people who received visas, and after arriving in Japan, the Jewish refugees called themselves the Sugihara Survivors in honor of his bravery.
So why hasn’t his story been broadcasted like Schindler’s? Unfortunately, Japan was still operating under the samurai code of honor during this time, and to defy a superior was considered unforgivable. So rather than award their comrade for his contributions to the war, he was removed from his government position and forced to live in dishonor until his death in 1986.
5. The British Lt. Col. who fought with a sword, longbow and bagpipes
Lt. Col. John Malcom Thorpe Fleming Churchill, or “Mad Jack” as he would later be known, may have been the most badass person to walk the earth. He joined the British military in 1926 at age 20, only to leave shortly after to pursue professional bagpiping and compete in the World Archery Championship in 1939 — because why not. But when WWII rolled around, Churchill was more than ready to jump back into the fray, and racked up a war record so unbelievable we’re shocked the guy doesn’t have his own movie yet.
Churchill stormed the beaches of Normandy carrying a Scottish sword, wore his bagpipes in battle and made many of his kills with a longbow he wore on his back. During a night raid on the Nazi lines, Churchill led his men to capture 136 enemy soldiers — and he himself captured 40 plus Germans at sword point. During a different battle on the Nazi-controlled island of Brac, “Mad Jack” fought until he was the last of his men standing. Then, when he ran out of ammo, he stood his ground, playing his bagpipes on top of a hill until a grenade knocked him out and he was captured by the Germans.
Churchill would later escape his POW camp and meet up with American troops, only to find out — to his profound disappointment — that two atomic bombs had been dropped, and the war was essentially over. According to Vice, Churchill reportedly complained, “If it hadn’t been for those damn Yanks, we could have kept the war going for another ten years!”
7. The Scottish soldier who went full “Braveheart” on Nazi soldiers
“Mad Jack” may have donned Scottish bagpipes to fight in WWII, but Sir Tommy Macpherson had the balls to go full “Braveheart” on the battlefield, sporting a kilt while he raised hell with the Scottish commandos. Nicknamed “The Kilted Killer,” Macpherson’s flashy battle attire and relentless tenacity earned him a 30,000 Franc bounty on his head for whichever German could kill him first.
Amazingly, Macpherson made it through the entire war despite the Germans’ determination to take him out — even orchestrating the surrender of 23,000 German troops at the Das Reich Headquarters by bluffing that the Royal Air Force would unleash hell if they didn’t cooperate. In reality, Machpherson was alone and the RAF had no idea he was there, but he still managed to convince German Gen. Botho Henning Elster to give up his men and vehicles.
Macpherson walked away from World War II as the The UK’s most decorated living soldier in history, earning the Military Cross for his escape from a Nazi prison camp in Poland, a papal knighthood and two bars for his valiant — and unusual — service.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has endorsed a bill ratifying a protocol to the 2015 agreement between Moscow and Damascus regulating the deployment of the Russian Air Force in Syria for 49 years.
The protocol signed by Russia and Syria in January 2017 regulates issues related to the deployment of the Russian Air Force on Syrian territory as well as related to Russia’s exercise of jurisdiction over its military movable and immovable assets on Syrian territory. It also covers the measures needed to maintain the operation efficiency of the Russia Air Force.
Under the protocol, the Russian Air Force are allowed to stay on Syrian territory for 49 years with an option of automatically extending that arrangement for 25-year periods after this term expires.
The document, published on the Russian official legal information website, particularly says that the Syrian government is handing over a plot of land in the Latakia province, where the Khmeimim Air Base is located, over to Russia for its free use.
The bill ratifying the protocol was signed by Putin on July 27, according to a Kremlin statement.
It was adopted by the Russian State Duma, the Lower House of the Russian Parliament, on July 14 and approved by the Senate five days later.
The Russian Air Force was deployed to Syria on September 30, 2015, at the request of the Syrian government as part of the operation aimed at fighting terrorist groups. The group was stationed at the Khmeimim Air Base.
Most Russian troops initially deployed to Syria were withdrawn in March 2016 after Putin said that the objectives of the five-month anti-terrorist operation in Syria were “generally accomplished.” At that time, Russia said it would keep a military presence at the port of Tartus and at the Khmeimim airbase to monitor the situation in the region and observe the implementation of ceasefire agreements.
Mountain vistas, Arctic panoramas, and rolling steppe are some of the locations that members of the US military can claim as their “offices.”
As members of the sister-service branches continue to work around the world, troops have seen places that the vast majority of Americans may never experience. What’s more, troops can easily claim that their offices are among the most exotic in the world.
Below, we have picked some of our favorite US military photos showing the amazing views military members have from their rotating offices.
A sailor guides an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the “Dragon Whales” of Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28 during a night vertical replenishment aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58).
U.S. Navy photo
Lance Cpl. Chance Seckenger with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, rides in a Combat Rubber Raiding Craft during launch and recovery drills from the well deck of the USS Green Bay, at sea, July 9, 2015.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brian Bekkala
U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Bradley J. Gee
Two F-15E Strike Eagles wait to receive fuel from a KC-135R Stratotanker January 23, 2015, on their way to Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, in support of Red Flag 15-1.
USAF/Airman 1st Class Aaron J. Jenne
An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 80th Fighter Squadron at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, takes off at Jungwon AB, South Korea, during Buddy Wing 15-6 on July 8, 2015. Buddy Wing exercises are conducted multiple times throughout the year to sharpen interoperability between US and South Korean forces.
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nick Wilson
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) transits the South China Sea.
A Marine engages targets from a UH-1Y Venom with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, during Composite Training Unit Exercise above San Clemente Island, California, March 20, 2015.
U.S. Marine Corps
Members of the Mongolian Armed Forces, along with their US Marine and Alaska Army National Guard instructors, hike down a valley during the survival-training course portion of Khaan Quest 2014 at Five Hills Training Area, Mongolia, June 26, 2014.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton
Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) participate in a swim call. Iwo Jima is the flagship for the Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (24th MEU), provides a versatile, sea-based expeditionary force that can be tailored to a variety of missions in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
U.S. Navy photo
A C-130 Hercules flies over Izu Peninsula, Japan, Oct. 14, 2015. Performing regular in-flight operations gives all related personnel real-world experience to stay prepared for contingency situations and regular operations.
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker
Gunnery Sgt. Eddie Myers, parachute safety officer assigned to Detachment 4th Force Reconnaissance Company, prepares to jump out of a UH-1Y Venom helicopter during airborne insertion training at the flight line aboard Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay June 10th, 2015.
U.S. Marine Corps
Aircraft land aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) during nighttime flight operations in the Arabian Sea.
Lance Cpl. Zachery Johnson prepares to engage targets from a UH-1Y Venom during Amphibious Squadron/Marine Expeditionary Unit Integration Training above San Clemente Island February 28, 2015.
U.S. Marine Corps
A Marine attached to Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment – “The Lava Dogs” fires a Javelin at a simulated enemy tank during Lava Viper aboard Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, May 29, 2015.
U.S. Marine Corps
US Marines with Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marines fire the M777-A2 Howitzer down range during Integrated Training Exercise 2-15 at Blacktop Training Area aboard Camp Wilson, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, January 31st, 2015.
U.S. Marine Corps
A Marine with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 367 sits on the ramp of a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter after completing a portion of a joint Downed Aircraft Recovery Team exercise aboard Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, July 30, 2015.
U.S. Marine Corps
US Army Soldiers, assigned to 1/25 SBCT “Arctic Wolves”, US Army Alaska, transport equipment using snowshoes and ahkio sleds during an arctic mobility squad competition in the Yukon Training Area, Fort Wainwright, Alaska.
U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. James Gallagher
An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Black Knights of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron participates in a helicopter exercise off the coast of the Hawaiian Island of Kauai during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014.
U.S. Navy photo by Ensign Joseph Pfaff
The crew of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Hampton posted a sign reading “North Pole” made by the crew after surfacing in the polar ice cap region.
US Navy photo by Chief Journalist Kevin Elliott
A naval air crewman assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 9 jumps from an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter during simulated search and rescue operations.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin J. Steinberg
The Coast Guard Cutter SPAR transiting Glacier Bay National Park Saturday, July 22, 2012, in Southeast Alaska. The SPAR is a 225-foot buoy tender stationed in Kodiak, Alaska.
Taiwan is pursuing a two-pronged upgrade to its armed forces as people on the island worry about recent shows of force by powerful rival China during a political stalemate.
Last week, the Taiwanese navy signed a memorandum of understanding with two local companies to develop submarines over the next four years. Construction of the vehicles, ideal for warfare against a stronger adversary, could reach $85.8 million, though the final price is not set, the defense ministry spokesman said.
Taiwan’s ambition to design its own submarines stems partly from China’s pressure against other governments to avoid selling the island any arms.
Last week the Taiwan president called the submarine project “the most challenging aspect” of a broader plan to foster an independent local defense industry, per a local media report.
Taiwan now operates two Dutch-designed Hai Lung submarines, bought in the early 1980s, and two Guppy II-class submarines dating back to 1946. China has the world’s third most powerful armed forces overall, with Taiwan in 19th place, according to the GlobalFirePower.com database.
The navy has not fixed on a number of submarines to develop as part of the agreement signed Tuesday, the defense ministry spokesman said.
“Because in the past, Taiwan has the technology to build boats, we hope to make use of this domestic industry,” said senior Taiwan legislator Lee Chun-yi. “We hope we can use the construction (of submarines) to encourage domestic industries, and there’s a definite help for Taiwan’s defense sector.”
Separately, U.S. President Donald Trump may approve a sale of advanced weapons to Taiwan in the first half of the year according to media reports from Washington.
“Without speaking to any specific cases, we can say that under long-standing U.S. policy, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are … based on an assessment of Taiwan’s defense needs,” said Sonia Urbom, spokesperson for The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which unofficially represents U.S. interests in Taipei.
“Defensive arms are helpful for Taiwan’s security,” Lee said. “We hope for them and welcome them. We also all hope the United States can have a closer military dialogue and that the United States will approve this package as soon as possible and let Taiwan process it as soon as possible.”
Taiwan defense ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said Monday the government would urge Washington to make the arms sale.
The administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama stopped an arms sale to Taiwan in December. Some analysts expect Trump at least to unblock it. The United States may sell advanced rocket systems and anti-ship missiles to Taiwan in the next package, news reports from Washington say.
“I wouldn’t necessarily characterize it as urgency,” said Ross Feingold, Taipei-based analyst with an American political consultancy. “The time has come to make a decision and the Obama Administration decided to punt, and now the Trump Administration is following up in a reasonable and appropriate time frame.
“A better question would be what’s going to come next because we are simply approving things that were on the table and under discussion already,” he said.
Chinese officials fume when other countries, especially the United States, sell weapons to Taiwan. Taiwan is looking to Trump because he risked China’s anger by speaking to Tsai by phone in December and his staff has taken a tough line against Beijing’s military expansion at sea.
China temporarily cut off some exchanges with the United States in 2010 when Obama approved a $6.4 billion arms package for Taiwan. After Washington announced a $1.83 billion package in 2015, China formally protested to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
Some see Obama’s decision to stop an arms deal in December as a goodwill gesture toward China, and say approval by Trump would risk China calling off any cooperation with the United States on containing North Korea.
People in Taiwan have been particularly on guard since the Liaoning aircraft carrier, the only ship of its type in the Chinese navy, sailed around Taiwan in December and January. Taiwan is just 160 kilometers away from China at its nearest point.
This month China flew 13 aircraft east of Taiwan, near Okinawa. Taiwan’s defense ministry is also watching as Beijing builds military infrastructure in the disputed South China Sea.
“China is doing some activities in the South China Sea recently, and even though they’re not always directed toward Taiwan, in the Pacific region it’s stronger and stronger, so people in Taiwan feel that without the ability to resist we will be diminished in terms of bargaining position,” said Ku Chung-hua, a standing board member in the Taipei-based political action group Citizens’ Congress Watch.
Taiwan frets because the Communist leadership claims sovereignty over the self-ruled island despite opinion polls showing most Taiwanese oppose China’s goal of eventual unification. The two sides talked regularly from 2008 to 2015 but stopped after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took office last year.
Tsai takes a more guarded view of relations with China than her predecessor and Beijing is seen using military displays as well as diplomatic and economic measures to pressure Taiwan back into talks. China has not renounced the use of force, if needed, to reunify with the island.
Taiwan’s parliament would need to allocate money separately for a U.S. arms package, but the China threat is marshaling public support in favor, analysts say. The existing military budget for this year comes to $10.24 billion, or 2.05 percent of the Taiwan GDP.
“With the cross-Strait situation not only stagnant, but in some respects deteriorating, this is as good a time as any both to garner domestic support within Taiwan to purchase weapons and to hope for a sympathetic ear in Washington,” said Alan Romberg, East Asia Program director with American think tank The Stimson Center.