The fighting in the South Pacific during World War II was vicious. One of the big reasons was how evenly-matched the two sides were. One plane called the Black Cat, though, helped the Allies gain a big advantage – and was an omen of ill fortune for the Japanese navy.
According to the Pacific War Encyclopedia, that plane was a modified version of the Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina. This flying boat was a well-proven maritime patrol aircraft – sighting the German battleship Bismarck in time for the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal to launch the strikes that crippled the Nazi vessel in May, 1941.
The PBY had also detected the Japanese fleets at the Battle of Midway.
The Catalina had one very big asset: long range. It could fly over 3,000 miles, and was also capable of carrying two torpedoes or up to 4,000 pounds of bombs. The PBY drew first blood at Midway, putting a torpedo in the side of the tanker Akebono Maru. But the long legs came with a price in performance. The PBYs had a top speed of just under 200 mph – making them easy prey if a Japanese A6M Zero saw them.
The planes also were lightly armed, with three .30-caliber machine guns and two .50-caliber machine guns. In “Incredible Victory,” Walter Lord related about how two PBYs were shot up in the space of an hour during the run-up to the Battle of Midway by a Japanese patrol plane. One “sea story” related by Morison had it that one PBY once radioed, “Sighted enemy carrier. Please notify next of kin.”
Planner found, however, that flying PBY missions at night helped keep them alive. During the the Guadalcanal campaign, the first PBY-5As equipped with radar arrived and the first full squadron of “Black Cats” intended for night operations arrived later that year. According to Samuel Eliot Morison’s “The Struggle For Guadalcanal,” the “Black Cats” were a game-changer.
These Black Cats did a little bit of everything. They could carry bombs – often set for a delay so as to create a “mining” effect. In essence, it would be using the shockwave of the bomb to cause flooding and to damage equipment on the enemy vessel. They also attacked airfields, carried torpedoes, spotted naval gunfire during night-time bombardment raids, and of course, searched for enemy ships.
Morison wrote about how the crews of the “Black Cats” would have a tradition of gradually filling out the drawing of a cat. The second mission would add eyes, then following missions would add whiskers and other features.
Japan would try to catch the Black Cats – knowing that they not only packed a punch, but could bring in other Allied planes. Often, the planes, painted black, would fly at extremely low level, thwarting the Zeros sent to find them.
Name a war, revolution, or revolt during the Cold War that involved the British Commonwealth, Western European nations or their allies and you’ve also named a conflict that had combatants fighting with the Fabrique Nationale FAL.
No wonder the FAL earned the nickname “the right arm of the free world” and became a symbol of the struggle against Communism.
In many ways, it was the West’s answer to the Kalashnikov, albeit one chambered to fire the heavier 7.62 x 51 mm NATO round instead of the AK-47’s 7.62 x 39 mm intermediate round.
Created in the years immediately after World War II, FN eventually produced 2 million FALs (Fusil Automatique Léger or “Light Automatic Rifle”) that were used by the militaries of more than 90 nations.
At one time, the FAL was even the official battle rifle of most NATO-member countries. It was even considered for the role as the United States’ main battle rifle.
Frankly, the FAL was everywhere. For example, consider the Six-Day War in 1967.
A common misconception is the 9mm Uzi was the weapon of choice for the Israeli Defense Forces. Actually, Israeli soldiers carried more FALs than Uzis when facing Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian troops.
Then, there was the 1982 Falklands War. The Argentine Army carried the full-auto version of the FAL; British troops had the semi-auto L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle model of the FAL.
When captured Argentine troops piled their weapons, British infantry and Royal Marines often walked over to the stack and retrieved the full-auto FAL so they could spray more lead at the enemy.
In Argentina, thousands of FALs underwent armory rebuilds in 2010, a sure sign that nation will continue to put the weapon in the hands of its troops.
How the FAL saw the light of day is a story that combines the tactical realities that emerged out of World War II and the politics of who would lead who during the Cold War.
The success of the innovative Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle convinced ordnance officers and weapons designers that era of the bolt-action battle rifle was dead and gone. Lighter cartridges in select-fire assault rifles captured the imagination of weapons designers.
Only the United States fielded a heavy caliber semi-auto battle rifle, the well-regarded M1 Garand .30-06 weapon that Gen. George S. Patton called “the greatest battle implement ever devised.” But the future was one that fired full auto – and the Garand did not.
Caliber was also an issue. As weapons designers on both sides of the Atlantic toyed with prototype battle rifles the British tested a 7 mm (.280-caliber) round in the new FAL and liked it.
In the United States, the Army wanted to stick with the .30-caliber round, flatly stating that no other cartridge could hold its own on the battlefield.
With the formation of the new NATO alliance in 1949, generals and civilian planners both talked of the necessity to standardize equipment, weapons and supplies.
“The laudable aim was one that had been much in the minds of many forward-looking military thinkers for a long time,” writes David Westwood, author of Rifles: An Illustrated History of their Impact. “For experience had shown that the United States and Britain often fought side by side, and commonality would be to the benefit of all including soldiers in the field.”
One thing was certain: the British were impressed with the FAL and were willing to choose it over other weapons.
It was deemed the superior firearm to competitors because it was easy to maintain, field strip, and clean. It reassembled without special tools and it was a select-fire weapon – but it fired the lighter round.
The “gravel belly” U.S. generals would accept nothing but a .30-caliber weapon, insisting on the superiority of a prototype called the T25, a forerunner of the M14 that was nothing more than a glorified Garand.
Soon, there was a “Battle of the Bullets” that went as high as the White House and 10 Downing Street. Pres. Harry Truman and Prime Minister Winston Churchill even held a mini-summit, where rumor has it they struck a quid pro quo – the U.S. would adopt the FAL as its main battle rifle if Britain backed NATO adopting the 7.62 x 51 mm round.
NATO relented and adopted the round. However, the U.S. reneged, developed the M14, which fired the NATO 7.62 mm cartridge, and adopted it as the American military’s main rifle.
In the end, it didn’t matter to FN because NATO countries (including Britain) began snapping up the FAL chambered for the NATO round.
Many consider that combination of weapon and cartridge the quintessential pairing of battle-rifle and bullet during the 20th Century – the FAL went into production in 1953 and FN continued to produce the rifle until 1988. The M-14 fell by the wayside as the main U.S. battle rifle within a few years, replaced by the M-16.
“Regardless of the political activity that went on before its adoption, the 7.62 x 51 mm NATO turned out to be an excellent, powerful military cartridge,” writes Robert Cashner, author of The FN FAL Battle Rifle. “With millions of FALs manufactured and internationally distributed, the rifle played a large part in making the 7.62 x 51mm NATO the success that it was.”
Vietnam is one often overlooked place where the FAL also proved a success. The weapon arrived there in the hands of Australian troops who fought as allies of the United States under the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO).
More than 60,000 Aussies would serve in the Vietnam War from 1962 to 1972, including the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. More commonly known as 1RAR, soldiers in the regiment fought in many significant battles during the war’s escalation in the mid-1960s.
During those the engagements, they often faced well-equipped Viet Cong who carried new AK-47s supplied by the Communist Chinese and East Bloc nations.
Despite its weight and size (the FAL is one of the longest battle rifles of the 20th Century), 1RAR’s troops considered their weapon suited for jungle warfare.
The powerful NATO round would punch through thick foliage, killing their concealed VC opponents. It was also a far more reliable weapon than the early version of the M-16 issued to U.S. forces – the FAL rarely jammed or misfired, two problems that plagued the M-16 for years.
There’s not a lot a veteran won’t do for his buddies, especially if they’re still in the service and the veteran is out. This is particularly helpful for troops who are deployed because their buddy back home knows exactly what they need. And you know what people fighting a war could use more than anything else? A beer.
John “Chickie” Donohue set out to get a few beers to his best Army buddies — while they were fighting in Vietnam. That’s one hell of a beer run.
In 1967, the war in Vietnam was heating up. Unbeknownst to the U.S., the Tet Offensive was still to come, but that didn’t mean the fighting was inconsequential. More than 11,000 American troops would die in the fighting that year. The largest airborne operation since World War II happened in February, 1967, the 1st Marine Division was engaged with the Army of North Vietnam, and the U.S. Army was chasing down Viet Cong south of the DMZ — in short, it was a busy year.
M113 armored vehicles advance in Vietnam during Operation Junction City, 1967.
Donohue had already served four years in the Marine Corps and was working as a sandhog — a kind of miner — for the city of New York. He was a native of Inwood, a Manhattan neighborhood at the very northern tip of the island. As 1967 progressed, he saw many, many funerals of Inwood natives who were killed in Vietnam. Meanwhile, he grew sick of antiwar protestors who criticized troops who were sent there.
One day, Chickie Donohue was at his local watering hole when the bartender remarked that troops over in Vietnam deserved a pat on the back and a cold beer. Donohue agreed. He agreed so much that he took a gig as a merchant seaman on a ship taking supplies and ammunition to Vietnam. He packed a bag and a supply of beer and set sail.
Chickie Donohue worked as an oiler aboard the Drake Victory steamer.
The trip took two months and Donohue actually drank all the beer he brought along. But he grabbed more upon arrival and set out to find a half dozen of his old friends who were stationed in country. His first stop was actually where his ship docked, Qui Nhon harbor, where his friend Tom Collins was deployed with the 127th Military Police Company.
“I said, ‘Chickie Donohue, what the hell are you doing here?'” Collins told the New York Times. “He said, ‘I came to bring you a beer.'”
That wasn’t his last stop. He journeyed throughout the country to bring cold ones to his old friends fighting a war that Americans back home were increasingly hostile toward. His friends, who sometimes just happened to bump into Donohue on his trek to see them, were amazed.
Beer run recipients in Quang Tri Province, 1968.
Donohue even took fire from the enemy a few times.
For his friends, Chickie was a sight for sore eyes. A New York Times reporter documented their reactions to the retelling of Donohue’s story when they were interviewed for the book about Chickie’s biggest beer run. It even helped some of them get through the war and work on their post-traumatic stress.
“Seeing Chick gave me a lot of encouragement that I was going to make it back,” said Bob Pappas, who was a communications NCO in Long Binh. Pappas was demoralized after hearing about the deaths of longtime Inwood friends. Donohue’s cold one gave him a little hope.
But even local residents of Inwood who knew Chickie Donohue his whole life couldn’t believe the story of his beer run. For decades after, New Yorkers and fellow sandhogs alike told him he was full of it. But in March, 2017, he released his book about the trip, “The Greatest Beer Run Ever: A True Story of Friendship Stronger Than War,” and held a book signing with recipients of the beers present.
“For half a century, I’ve been told I was full of it, to the point where I stopped even telling this story,” he said. But still “I didn’t have to buy a beer for a long time in Inwood.”
Friday the 13th is more than just a classic movie series. It’s estimated that 17-21 million people are affected by Paraskevidekatriaphobia, the fear of Friday the 13th. This fear has its roots in biblical history, referencing the thirteen people present at Jesus’ last supper on the 13th day on the night before his death on Good Friday. Another legend links the superstition to the liquidation of the Knights Templar by French king Philip IV.
No matter its origin, in Western culture, the 13th day of the month falling on a Friday has been an unlucky day for at least 200 years. Around the Western world, businesses take an estimated $800-900 million hit on Friday the 13th. A 1993 study in the British Medical Journal even revealed “a significant level of traffic-related incidences on Friday the 13th as opposed to a random day.” Maybe it’s just superstition, maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy, maybe it’s not a bad idea to stay in bed. Warfighters aren’t exempt. These five events added more than a few warriors to the ranks of the paraskevidekatriaphobic:
1. The Aztecs get pwned by Cortes
Stubbing your toe on Friday the 13th is bad luck. Losing your entire empire is literally the end of the world. At least, YOUR world. Losing your empire despite outnumbering a bunch of foreigners 200 to 1 is almost tragic.
On Friday the 13th, 1521, Conquistador Hernán Cortés captured Tenochtitlán with 1,500 Spaniards against 300,000 Aztecs after a two month siege. They chained the Emperor of the Aztec Empire and then tortured the city’s aristocracy, looking for hidden treasure. They held him as a slave for four years before executing him. Bad luck.
2. Robert E. Lee accidentally loses the Civil War
One of the famed general’s officers wrapped a copy of Lee’s Special Order 191, the secret instructions for the invasion of Maryland, around three cigars in his camp. The order was a detailed, ten-part instruction for units involved in the rebel invasion. Somehow, the paper was dropped in an abandoned campsite and spotted by a Union scout, who picked it up on Friday, September 13, 1862 and sent it up the chain. It would affect every Confederate invasion of the North for the rest of the war.
Knowing the entire set of instructions, Union forces were able to beat the Confederates at the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single battle of the entire war, and the bloodiest day in American military history. It ended Lee’s first invasion of Union territory. It allowed President Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which would be instrumental in keeping foreign powers out of the war, and set the stage for Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg.
3. The King of England gets a up-close view of WWII
Nazi Germany was relentlessly bombing London during the Blitz, a period of intense aerial attacks on Britain where the Nazis dropped 100 tons of high explosives on the city. Just a week after the Blitz began, King George VI and Elizabeth the Queen Mother (not the current Queen Elizabeth, but rather her mom) were having tea when the Luftwaffe dropped bombs on Buckingham Palace. Elizabeth recalled “battling” to remove an eyelash from the King’s eye, when they heard the “unmistakable whirr-whirr of a German plane” and then the “scream of a bomb”.
The King and Elizabeth only had time to look foolishly at each other before the bombs exploded nearby. The King and his wife were as stiff-lipped as the rest of the British people, refusing to flee London, which won them the respect of the British people. The bomb destroyed a glass ceiling and the palace chapel.
4. Japanese admiral decides to have an actual “Battle of Friday the 13th”
Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto led a 39-ship task force against the small American presence around Guadalcanal on Friday, November 13th, 1942. The idea was to land 7,000 Japanese troops on the island and retake the strategically-located Henderson Field (though that’s probably not what the Japanese called it).
Yamamoto lost two battleships, three destroyers, a heavy cruiser, and seven fully-loaded troop transports sunk and four destroyed on the beach. The Japanese also lost 64 aircraft and nearly 2,000 killed. The Americans lost seven destroyers, two light cruisers, 36 aircraft and more than 1,700 men, including Admirals Daniel Callaghan and Norman Scott, the highest ranking officers to die in combat during the war. The American win cemented the Guadalcanal campaign in U.S. favor.
5. The Cold War in the Baltic teeters on becoming ballistic
Soviet Fighter planes shot down a Swedish military C-47 Dakota cargo plane over international waters on Friday, June 13, 1952. The plane was unarmed and all eight crewmen died in the attack. The Swedes send out two PBY Catalina aircraft to search for the missing plane. One of those is intercepted and shot down as well. The crew of the rescue plane survived, but Moscow denied the incident until 1991.
After the incident, Swedish authorities discovered a life raft with remnants of a Soviet shell. The Swedes would later admit the first plane was conducting signals intelligence. The name of the rescue plane lent itself to color the name of the event, which became known as the “Catalina Affair.” In 2003, both aircraft were located in the Baltic Sea and when the first plane was raised from the ocean, the bullet holes showed the it was shot down by a MiG15. The clock in the cockpit read the exact time the plane went down and all eight crewmen’s remains were recovered.
An Australian Army soldier from 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, moves across the ‘battlefield’ in the early hours of the morning during Exercise Hamel 2016, in Cultana training area, South Australia, on 6 July 2016. | Commonwealth of Australia
It’s summer and it seems like the perfect season for nations to begin training their troops with major operations. Australia is no exception as it launches its annual Army training, Exercise Hamel.
Named after The Battle of Hamel at France in 1918, the exercise takes its roots from its successful attack on German positions by Australian forces in conjunction with American units — paving the way for an allied victory of World War I.
Keeping up with this spirit, the Australians will host over 8,000 troops during its trilateral exercise in South Australia — including US Marines and soldiers, and the New Zealand Army.
Check out the photos of what went down down-under.
US Marines move to their first objective point during Exercise Hamel at Cultana Training Area, South Australia, Australia.
US Marines move to their first objective point during Exercise Hamel at Cultana Training Area, South Australia, Australia. Cpl. Mandaline Hatch/US Marine Corps
An Australian Army soldier moves across the mock battlefield in the early hours of the morning.
A platoon sergeant looks at a map of Cultana Training Area in order to complete his objective.
US Marine officers pass information by radio.
Marines press forward for patrol.
Troops found themselves moving in and out of rocky trenches.
A rifleman scans the area outside of the objective.
A US anti-tank missileman looks for activity from the trenches.
An infantry unit leader sights in to look for enemy forces across the cliff.
US Marines clear trenches in the harsh terrain of South Australia.
A New Zealand Army soldier drags a “wounded” enemy soldier to safety during the clearance of the township of Iron Knob, South Australia, as part of Exercise Hamel.
A New Zealand Army infantry soldier patrols the perimeter of an internally displaced persons camp.
A Combined Anti-Armor Team HMMWV moves into a screening position in the foliage.
Australian Army soldiers identify mock enemy positions during the clearance of the township of Iron Knob, South Australia.
Australian Army soldiers push forward through the town using cover.
A United States Army soldier engages the enemy forces scattered throughout the town.
An Australian Army Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter takes off from the Battlegroup Griffin position at Port Pirie, South Australia.
US Marines set a 360 degree security for a simulated aircraft wreck site.
US Marines prepare for a possible attack in the cover of darkness.
Hours after former U.S. drone operator Brandon Bryant testified in front of the German parliament, two USAF officer arrived at his mother’s house in Missoula, Montana to warn her she was on ISIS’ “hit list.”
Is this a coincidence? Does the terror group have a hit list targeting mothers of service members in Missoula, Montana? Why would the Air Force frighten a civilian like this for no reason?
Bryant was testifying on the how the U.S. Air Force’s Ramstein Air Base in Germany contributes to the unmanned aerial vehicle program. He served six years in the Air Force, racking up a staggering kill count of more than 1,600 people — a number that he said sickens him. He rejected a reenlistment bonus of more than $100,000.
Bryant with a UAV during his time in the Air Force
Ramstein Air Base is one of the main hubs of the U.S. drone program. A high-tech satellite relay station there allows drone operators to run their aircraft in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Africa, or the Middle East from Nevada (or elsewhere) via the Germany-based installation. A major problem with this revelation is Europeans in general abhor the American military’s use of drones and the program itself may be a violation German law, which makes the use of drones via Ramstein a violation of the agreement that allows the U.S. to use the base. As a result American personnel at Ramstein could be subject to prosecution under German law.
“The U.S. government has confirmed that such armed and remote aircraft are not flown or controlled from U.S. bases in Germany,” said spokesperson Steffen Seibert, a delicate statement that employs semantics to present non-damning facts without contradicting Bryant’s testimony.
The Air Force officers who visited Bryant’s mother informed her that her personal information might have been acquired by ISIS in the days after the recent Office of Personnel Management hack. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations vehemently denied any accusation of whistleblower intimidation. They told Bryant’s lawyer, Jesselyn Radack (who also represents whistleblower Edward Snowden), it was their “duty to inform” Bryant’s mother.
Bryant has been slamming the Air Force since he separated, and the Air Force has been denying his claims just as long. Bryant sent Air Force Times a certificate from the Air Force confirming his kill count. Radack believes the Air Force is attempting to silence Bryant by “delivering death threats from ISIS.”
Bryant told The Intercept that without Ramstein the U.S. would either have to find another relay base in the area or operate the drones in country, which would require deploying more operators and create greater risk to personnel than is currently faced with U.S.-based operations.
To put it bluntly, the M113 armored personnel carrier looks like a big box on tracks. It’s equipped with a primary weapon that’s over 75 years old that isn’t particularly effective against its modern contemporaries. And yet it’s served with the United States Army for nearly sixty years and, even when it’s retired, it’ll stick around for a long time.
When it entered operational service in 1960, it was intended to haul 11 troops into battle. It had a crew of two: A driver and a vehicle commander who handled the vehicle’s primary weapon, the M2 “Ma Deuce” heavy machine gun.
M113s lead the way for troops in South Vietnam.
The M113 saw a lot of action in the Vietnam War, where it proved very versatile. Some versions were equipped with the M61 Vulcan, a 20mm Gatling gun, and were used as effective anti-aircraft vehicles. Others were outfitted with launchers for the BGM-71 TOW missile.
Some M113s were modified to carry mortars, like this one with a M120 120mm mortar.
(U.S. Army photo by SPC Joshua E. Powell)
Other variants quickly emerged, including a command vehicle, a smoke generator, an ambulance, and a cargo carrier. Two mortar carriers, the M106 (which carried a 107mm mortar) and the M125 (packing an 81mm mortar) also served, paving the way for the introduction of the M1064 (equipped with a 120mm mortar). The M113 chassis also carried the MIM-72 Chapparal surface-to-air missile and the MGM-72 Lance ballistic missile.
The M113 could carry 11 troops — two more than the M1126 Stryker.
Versions of this vehicle have served with nations across the world, including Canada, Norway, Egypt, and Italy. Over 80,000 M113s of all variants have been produced, which means it’ll be around for years with one nation or anything long after the U.S. retired it.
Learn more about this senior citizen of armored vehicles in the video below.
Most people think of Navy SEALs as superheroes who work together like a real-life Avengers team.
The SEALs are undeniably remarkable, but for a different reason, says retired four-star Gen. Stanley McChrystal in his book “Team of Teams,” co-written with Tantum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussell. McChrystal led the US war in Afghanistan before stepping down in 2010.
“Americans enjoy the exciting, cinematic vision of a squad of muscle-bound Goliath boasting Olympian speed, strength, and precision; a group whose collective success is the inevitable consequence of the individual strengths of its members and the masterful planning of a visionary commander,” McChrystal writes, before adding that this is the wrong lens to view them in.
What makes Navy SEALs remarkable, he says, and what their grueling training is meant to ingrain in them, is their intense, selfless teamwork that allows them to process any challenge with near telepathy.
He uses the example of when SEALs rescued captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates in 2009, as dramatized in the 2013 film “Captain Phillips.”
To the public, McChrystal writes, that three SEAL snipers picked off three pirates holding Phillips hostage at night and at sea from a distance of 75 yards is what was truly impressive; the thing is, those shots within the scope of military history may have been difficult but were not “particularly dazzling.” What was worthy of attention, he says, was that each of the snipers fired simultaneously at their targets, each recognizing the exact moment when they had their shot.
“Such oneness is not inevitable, nor is it a fortunate coincidence,” McChrystal writes. “The SEALs forge it methodically and deliberately.”
Nearly every SEAL candidate is physically capable of handling all training challenges. Only the best learn how to work as an intimate team.
This unity is built into the brutal six-month training program BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training), which primarily tests drive and teamwork rather than physical fitness like most people think.
The Navy reports that of the “160-some students in each entering class, around 90 will drop before the course ends, most in the first few weeks.” Only about 10% drop out because they’re physically unable to progress. Those who succeed do so because they have the required mental toughness and dedication to teamwork.
Charles Ruiz, who serves as the officer in charge of the first phase of BUD/S, tells McChrystal that his primary job is “taking the idea of individual performance out of the lexicon on day one.”
On day one candidates are split into “boat teams” of five to eight people who will work together for the next six months. These teams learn to work together through non-verbal communication in exercises like simulating explosive detonations in pairs miles out at sea at night, with one candidate holding a watch and the other a compass.
No candidate can do anything without a “swim buddy,” meaning that no one can travel by himself, even if it’s just to the dining hall. Anyone caught without a swim buddy usually gets the punitive order to “get sandy”: run into cold water and then rapidly cover himself in sand on the shore.
As McChrystal notes, the result of this training is a collection of super teams, not super soldiers.
This is because situations SEALs find themselves in are not conducive to a traditional hierarchy. There would simply not be enough time to get things done with a rigid chain of command in a situation like a SEAL deciding to enter a storeroom of a target house that wasn’t in the floor plan his team studied, McChrystal says.
He writes that he learned to take this same approach to management as the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command in the early 2000s, since Al Qaeda’s organization was far too complex and adaptable to be fought with a traditional hierarchy.
It’s also this SEAL approach to team building that he teaches through his corporate consulting firm, the McChrystal Group.
“SEAL teams offer a particularly dramatic example of how adaptability can be built through trust and a shared sense of purpose, but the same phenomenon can be seen facilitating performance in domains far from the surf torture of BUD/S,” McChrystal writes.
President Donald Trump is preparing to lift restrictions on surplus military equipment that can be passed on to local law enforcement agencies in spite of past concerns that armored vehicles and other gear were escalating confrontations with protesters.
Documents obtained by The Associated Press indicate Trump was preparing to sign an executive order undoing an Obama administration directive that restricted police agencies’ access to grenade launchers, bullet-proof vests, riot shields, firearms, ammunition, and other surplus military equipment.
Trump’s order would fully restore the program under which “assets that would otherwise be scrapped can be re-purposed to help state, local, and tribal law enforcement better protect public safety and reduce crime,” according to the documents.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions could outline the changes during a August 28 speech to the national conference of the Fraternal Order of Police in Nashville, Tennessee, a person familiar with the matter said. The person insisted on anonymity to discuss the plan ahead of an official announcement.
The changes would be another way in which Trump and Sessions are enacting a law-and-order agenda that views federal support of local police as a way to drive down violent crime.
National police organizations have long been pushing Trump to hold to his promise to once again make the equipment available to local and state police departments, many of which see it as needed to ensure officers aren’t put in danger when responding to active shooter calls and terrorist attacks. An armored vehicle played a key role in the police response to the December 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.
In 1990, Congress authorized the Pentagon to give surplus equipment to police to help fight drugs, which then gave way to the fight against terrorism.
Groups across the political spectrum have expressed concern about the militarization of police, arguing that the equipment encourages and escalates confrontations with officers. President Barack Obama issued an executive order in 2015 that severely limited the surplus program, partly triggered by public outrage over the use of military gear during protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Police responded in riot gear and deployed tear gas, dogs, and armored vehicles. At times they also pointed assault rifles at protesters.
Obama’s order prohibited the federal government from providing grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, and firearms and ammunition of .50-caliber or greater to police. As of December, the agency overseeing the program had recalled at least 100 grenade launchers, more than 1,600 bayonets, and 126 tracked vehicles — those that run on continuous, tank-like tracks instead of wheels — that were provided through the program.
Trump vowed to rescind the executive order in a written response to a Fraternal Order of Police questionnaire that helped him win an endorsement from the organization of rank-and-file officers. He reiterated his promise during a gathering of police officers in July, saying the equipment still on the streets is being put to good use.
“In fact, that stuff is disappearing so fast we have none left,” Trump said.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund said in a statement August 27 that it is “exceptionally dangerous and irresponsible” for the administration to lift the ban.
“Just a few summers ago, our nation watched as Ferguson raised the specter of increased police militarization. The law enforcement response there and in too many places across the country demonstrated how perilous, especially for Black and Brown communities, a militarized police force can be,” the LDF said.
“The President’s decision to make this change in the wake of the tragedy in Charlottesville and against a backdrop of frayed relations between police and communities of color further reflects this administration’s now open effort to escalate racial tensions in our country,” the organization said.
The documents, first reported by USA Today, say Trump’s order would emphasize public safety over the appearance of the heavily equipment. They describe much of the gear as “defensive in nature,” intended to protect officers from danger.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the expected move.
Most police agencies rarely require military equipment for daily use but see a need to have it available, said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum.
“It is hard to imagine any situation where a grenade launcher or bayonet would be something that a major police department would need, but defensive shields and armored vehicles kept on reserve will be welcome,” he said.
Sessions has said he believes improving morale for local law enforcement is key to curbing spikes in violence in some cities. The plan to restore access to military equipment comes after Sessions has said he intends to pull back on court-enforceable improvement plans with troubled police departments, which he says can malign entire agencies and make officers less aggressive on the street.
Consent decrees were a hallmark of the Obama administration’s efforts to overhaul certain law enforcement agencies, sometimes after racially charged encounters like the one in Ferguson.
The Barrett M82, known by members of the U.S. military as the M107 .50-caliber semi-automatic rifle, is one of the military’s most beloved weapons in use today. Its service history is as storied – and as American – as the history of its inventor, Ronnie Barrett.
Before his name became synonymous with American military supremacy, Barrett was a professional photographer in his home state of Tennessee. He never studied science or engineering in college – in fact, he didn’t go to college at all. He went to Murfreesboro High School before going out and starting a photography studio.
That all changed during the course of his usual work.
And many, many U.S. and allied troops are better off for it.
In 1982, Barrett was snapping a photo of a river patrol gunboat during a military exercise on the Stones River near Nashville, Tenn. Mounted on that boat were two M2 Browning .50-caliber machine guns. The size of the ammunition cartridge got Ronnie Barrett thinking. He was “wowed” by the Ma Deuce, but he wanted to know if the .50-caliber cartridge could be fired from a shoulder-mounted sniper rifle.
He was out on the water that day to snap promotional photos for the Browning Firearms Company, but he ended up starting a rival firm, one that would become as closely-linked with the U.S. military as Browning.
The photo also won a first-place award from the Tennessee Professional Photographers Association. No joke.
(Photo by Ronnie Barrett)
Barrett went home and began work on a 3D sketch of what would soon become the Model 82A1 – M107. Within just seven years, Barrett was able to sell his powerful sniper rifle to the Swedish military and eventually the United States Marine Corps, then the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force.
Not bad at all for someone with no college education, but a whole lotta vision. Welcome to Ronnie Barrett’s America, folks.
More U.S. troops are headed to Iraq where they will be occupying an airfield that was just recently wrested from ISIS control.
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced the new deployment of 560 service members, bringing the total to 4,647, during a surprise visit to Iraq. The Syrian rebels benefitted from a recent troop plus-up as well, climbing from 50 U.S. special operators to 300.
The future arrivals in Iraq will head to Qarayyah Airfield, which sits 25 miles south of Mosul and will serve as the staging area for coalition efforts to retake the important city. Qarayyah was retaken from ISIS during fighting on Jul. 9-10, 2016.
According to reporting in CNN, the U.S. forces will primarily provide logistics support but could also assist with intelligence tasks or provide advice to Iraqi commanders.
Iraqi forces have retaken Fallujah, Ramadi, and Tikrit in just over year and the fall of Mosul would provide another major victory for Iraqi forces. Meanwhile, Syrian rebels and government forces under Bashar al-Assad have squeezed the terror group from the other side.
Retaking all of ISIS’s ground will not end the threat the group poses, but it should degrade it. ISIS relies heavily on income that would be challenging to keep flowing without territory.
It’s nearly impossible to sell large quantities of black market oil without oil fields. And while they could still take donations or blackmail individuals, they can only tax entire cities if they control the cities.
Acting as a double agent can be a dirty, confusing game of keeping one’s stories straight. But in a time of war, it can be a necessary gig that top spies hold proudly. Where they’re playing two sides of the system for one common goal. In other words, it’s a spy who works for two countries, but only holds loyalties to one.
This is exactly what Spanish spy, Juan Pujol García, did during World War II. Only with a twist. Garcia tried to work for the British, but his job queries were rejected. Therefore, he took matters into his own hands and worked from afar. He first got the idea to work from afar after seeing political extremism during the Spanish Civil War. Wanting to offer something “for the good of humanity,” he began looking into career options as a spy.
In whole, the story is more of an embarrassment on the Germans’ part, failing to fact check. However, it also offers a unique and rare piece of history.
After he was turned down by the Brits, Garcia took a new approach. He got a job with Hitler’s soldiers and flubbed his information. To fulfill his orders, he made up data, even entire movements, and sent it back to the Germans.
How he got the gig — false reports
Pujol created a false version of himself as both a member of the British government and a closet Hitler supporter. He was also able to obtain a false passport. The combo did the trick and Germany quickly hired him as a spy. His first orders were to travel to Britain and “flip” fellow spies to join the movement. Instead, Pujol moved to Lisbon, Portugal and began sending up completely falsified reports. He pulled “data” and said he gathered from tourist guides, train schedules, movie shorts, and print ads.
Notably, the information was filled with social faux pas and blatant mistakes, as Pujol didn’t know much about British culture. Most notably, he reported that Scottish were avid wine drinkers. In fact, Scotland is known for its whiskey and, at the time, served little wine. He also made mention of a liter/litre, unknowing that the U.K. did not operate on the metric system.
However, his superiors failed to check his information and put full trust into his word.
Soon into his gig, Garcia began adding subordinates to his operation. This helped his case in two ways — 1) he could blame the fictional employees of false information and 2) to appear as if his efforts were growing with more spies under his wing.
For perhaps his biggest win for the Brits, Pujol invented an entire convoy. He told the Germans about the Brothers of the Aryan World Order, a Welsh fascist movement. To counter a “planned attack,” Hitler sent a large defense system against this fake event.
The event caused Britain to finally accept Pujol on their side. He was then moved to Britain and offered a job with M15. He and his boss continued to expand the fake network of spies throughout the war.
At its largest point, the Germans were paying 27 fake spies brought on by Pujol, who operated under the codename Garbo.
Lasting effects of WWII
Pujol is perhaps the only participant of WWII to receive honors from both sides. He was awarded an Iron Cross from the Germans, which required authorization from Hitler himself. He also became a member of the Order of the British Empire, with King George VI doing the honors.
Overall, he’s cited with helping win Operation Fortitude in deceiving Hitler’s forces when Allies were landing at Normandy. His efforts convinced them that the main attack would be at an alternate location and time.
After the war
Fearing retribution from Hitler, Pujol, with the help of M15, moved to Angola to fake his death of malaria. He then moved to Venezuela where he ran a bookshop.
In the 1970s and 80s, he was heavily researched by war thriller writer, Nigel West. After 12 years of hunting for Garbo’s real name, the two met up and collaborated on a book. In 1987 the pair released Operation Garbo: The Personal Story of the Most Successful Spy of World War II.