Jacob Miller was shot in the head at the Battle of Chickamagua on 19 September 1863. Never heard of it? The most significant Union defeat in the Western Theater of the American Civil War, the battle resulted in the second-highest number of casualties after the Battle of Gettysburg. Everyone in Miller’s unit assumed he was one of them.
The Union soldier ended up living for another 54 years. His survival was nothing short of miraculous. Why’s that? Because he had a giant bullet hole in his forehead. Left for dead on the battle field, Miller regained consciousness hours later. His firsthand account of the battle was published by The JolietDaily News in 1911. It’s a riveting read.
When I came to my senses some time after I found I was in the rear of the confederate line. So not to become a prisoner I made up my mind to make an effort to get around their line and back on my own side. I got up with the help of my gun as a staff, then went back some distance, then started parallel with the line of battle. I suppose I was so covered with blood that those that I met, did not notice that I was a Yank, (at least our Major, my former captain did not recognize me when I met him after passing to our own side).
The wound never really healed, but it’s pretty safe to assume it saved his life. What happened next?
I suffered for nine months then I got a furlough home to Logansport and got Drs. Fitch and Colman to operate on my wound. They took out the musket ball. After the operation a few days, I returned to the hospital at Madison and stayed there till the expiration of my enlistment, Sept. 17, 1864. Seventeen years after I was wounded a buck shot dropped out of my wound and thirty one years after two pieces of lead came out.
Let that sink in for a moment. Miller walked around with a bullet in his forehead for 31 years. Was he bitter? Hardly.
Some ask how it is I can describe so minutely my getting wounded and getting off the battle field after so many years. My answer is I have an everyday reminder of it in my wound and constant pain in the head, never free of it while not asleep. The whole scene is imprinted on my brain as with a steel engraving. I haven’t written this to complain of any one being in fault for my misfortune and suffering all these years, the government is good to me and gives me $40.00 per month pension.
Notice how he’s wearing a Medal of Honor? It has nothing to do with the hole in his head. Miller was awarded the medal in recognition of his gallantry in the charge of a “volunteer storming party” on 22 May 1863. Pretty inspiring stuff.
The British monarchy has a long tradition of military service, but there has only been one woman from the British royal family to ever serve in the Armed Forces. That’s right, Queen Elizabeth II served in WWII.
When WWII ravaged Europe, nearly everyone stood up to defend their homeland. Men, women, farmers, and businessmen did their duty alike. This includes then-Princess Elizabeth. Like her father, who served in WWI, she enlisted on her 18th birthday despite being in the line of succession for the throne and her father’s reluctance.
Princess Elizabeth enrolled in the Women’s Auxilary Territorial Service (ATS), similar to the American Women’s Army Corps, where many women actively served in highly valuable support roles. Responsibilities of the ATS included serving as radio operators, anti-aircraft gunners and spotlight operators, and, her occupation, as mechanics and drivers.
It wasn’t a lavish position, but despite the grit and grime, she didn’t symbolically change a single tire and call herself a mechanic. She took her duties very seriously and she was spectacular. She took great pride in her work and loved every moment of it. Collier’s Magazinewrote at the time that “one of her major joys was to get dirt under her nails and grease stains on her hands, and display these signs of labor to her friends.”
She learned to drive every vehicle she worked on, which includes the Tilly light truck and ambulances. On VE Day, The Princess Elizabeth slipped away with her sister to cheer with the crowds. The war was finally over and no one recognized the Princesses as they walked through the crowds incognito.
Less than a decade later, she would be crowned the Queen of England. Her independent spirit has endured to this day, as she isn’t a fan of being chauffeured around when she can drive herself.
To watch some archival footage of Her Most Excellent and Britannic Majesty, Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of Her Other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith in her younger, WWII days, watch the video below:
Three years after the first prototype for the Black Hawk aircrew trainer was set up and implemented as a training aid at Fort Bliss, Texas, that technology has been enhanced.
A team from System Simulation, Software and Integration Directorate, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Aviation & Missile, also known as AMRDEC, has developed the Collective Aircrew Proficiency Environment. Crew chiefs and gunners can train in a realistic setting where they see and hear the same things simultaneously.
Because there was no funding, Joseph P. Creekmore Jr., S3I aviation trainer branch chief and BAT Project director, said BAT team members used borrowed or discarded materials to work on the CAPE during breaks between scheduled projects.
It paid off.
“Design began over a year ago at a somewhat frustratingly slow pace for the BAT Team but, week by week and part by part, the CAPE device took shape and became the device we have today,” Creekmore said.
Manuel Medina, assimilated integration technician with Systems Simulation and Software Integration Directorate, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Aviation Missile, demonstrates the capability Collective Aircrew Proficiency Environment.
(Photo by Evelyn Colster)
The singular focus of the Army’s modernization strategy is making sure the warfighter and their units are ready to fight, win, and come home safely. As the head of the BAT Project, Creekmore said he believes the Army needs the CAPE to contribute to and ensure readiness in aircrews.
“Because we are a nation that has been continuously at war since 9/11, all the BAT Projects’ Army aviators have experienced combat overseas,” Creekmore said. “They all went into combat as part of a trained team.
“They all survived combat because they fought as a team. All the BAT Project’s former and retired Army aviators know to their very core that, to fight and win America’s wars, the Army must train as it fights and that includes training as a full aircrew,” Creekmore explained. “So, from Day 1, the BAT Project dreamed and planned for an opportunity to demonstrate an excellent whole-crew trainer that would contribute to the readiness of all U.S. Army Air Warriors.”
CAPE and BAT are linked using an ethernet connection. Creekmore said the nine locations with fielded BAT devices only need a tethered CAPE to provide Army aviation units with a way to train a complete UH-60 aircrew.
Manuel Medina, S3I assimilated integration technician, said he was blown away when he was first introduced to this technology. “Back when I was in, we didn’t even have anything like this… If we had the flight hours and the maintenance money to train, we would.”
According to Jarrod Wright, S3I lead integrator who built the BAT, many aircraft incidents are a result of some type of aircrew miscommunication.
Manuel Medina, assimilated integration technician with Systems Simulation and Software Integration Directorate, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Aviation Missile, demonstrates the capability Collective Aircrew Proficiency Environment that is tethered to the Black Hawk Aircrew Trainer.
(Photo by Evelyn Colster)
“What we’re trying to do here is … teach that crew coordination to allow pilots and crew chiefs to train like they would in combat with two devices tethered to each other,” said Wright, who spent more than eight years as a crew chief.
“In combat, no UH-60 breaks ground without its full complement of two rated aviators, a non-rated crew chief/door gunner and a second door gunner,” Creekmore explained. He said this type of equipment and training is necessary to maintain the high performance level and proficiency that exists in our Warfighters.
“This environment allows you, not only to train, but to evaluate potential crew chiefs and door gunners,” Wright posited. “You’re not throwing someone in there and saying, ‘I hope he gets it’.”
Medina, also a former gunner and crew chief, said this technology can benefit the Army in many ways. Not only can maintenance costs, flight hours, fuel, and training dollars be reduced, but the BAT and CAPE systems focus on considerations like spatial orientation or disorientation, response to changes in gravity, and susceptibility to airsickness. These devices mimic conditions crews see in flight and can identify adverse reactions while minimizing inherent risks.
The BAT Project team has high hopes for the CAPE.
“It is my hope that … the Army invests in further development of the CAPE and then fields it as BAT mission equipment so we can get this critical training capability in the hands of UH-60 aircrews throughout the Army,” Creekmore said.
Wright said the potential exists to use this technology to train complete crews in rescue hoisting and cargo sling load — any scenario they might encounter in any type of combat or rescue situation. He even sees the possibility for the BAT and CAPE to be used as preparation for hurricane relief or similar missions.
The Aviation Missile Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.
On June 6, 1944, hundreds of Army leaders waited tensely for a moment that they’d been preparing for four long years: their graduation ceremony. During that ceremony, an Army general took the podium and confirmed to them that another long-awaited moment had come that same morning: the Allied invasion of Fortress Europe.
The cadets, crammed into lines of chairs inside a large building, included Cadet John Eisenhower, the son of D-Day commander, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. When Eisenhower is called to the stage to receive his diploma in the video above, the crowd erupts into a burst of applause.
West Point graduates, typically commissioned into the Army on the same day they graduate, in 1944 knew that they would be involved in the final long, slow push to Berlin. Indeed, Eisenhower would go on to serve in Europe in World War II and fight in Korea before going into the Army Reserve and eventually retiring.
By the time the sun rose over West Point, the news was well-known. But, the three-star confirming the invasion was probably still a welcome confirmation for many. After all, there were false reports of an invasion only three days earlier when a BBC teletype operator accidentally hit the wrong key.
An E-4B Nightwatch aircraft flies over the U.S. Navy Blue Angels F-18s during the 2009 Defenders of Freedom Open House and Air Show, Aug. 29 – 30, 2009. (U.S. Air Force/Josh Plueger)
The U.S. Air Force is delaying the official solicitation for its E-4B Nightwatch replacement, citing a new acquisition strategy approach.
In an update last week, the service said it recently classified its Survivable Airborne Operations Center, or SAOC, Weapon System program — intended to replace the infamous nuclear command-and control aircraft commonly known as the “Doomsday” plane — as an Acquisition Category 1D program.
That category covers major procurements, typically costing billions of dollars. The “D” classification requires a defense acquisition executive, who reports to the defense or deputy defense secretary, to oversee the program.
Because of the change, the request for proposal “originally planned for release in December 2020 is delayed,” according to the presolicitation notice. The service said additional timeline details would be forthcoming.
Last December, Congress authorized .6 million for the SAOC’s research and development.
The E-4B, also known as the National Airborne Operations Center, can be used by the president and defense secretary to execute operations in the event of a nuclear war; the E-6B “looking glass” aircraft serves as an airborne communications relay between the Pentagon’s National Command Authority and U.S. nuclear submarine, bomber and missile forces.
The Navy keeps 16 E-6B aircraft, which are based on a commercial Boeing 707 and began flying in the early 1990s. The Air Force has four E-4Bs, which are modified versions of the Boeing 747 and have been in service since the 1970s.
Traditionally used by defense secretaries for transport around the world, the aging Nightwatch had to ditch that secondary mission because too many E-4Bs required maintenance, according to a report from DefenseOne. The website noted that the E-4B and the two planes used by the president are among the oldest 747-200s still flying.
Small fleets are a drain on the service because they drive up operational costs, according to a 2019 report, “The Air Force of the Future: A Comparison of Alternative Force Structures,” by Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“[The problem] that the Air Force has right now, which is making its operating costs so much higher, is because they have so many small fleets,” he said.
The E-4B was built to withstand an electromagnetic pulse in the event of a nuclear blast. The Air Force is hoping for the same hardened architecture in its replacement.
“In case of national emergency or destruction of ground command control centers, the SAOC aircraft will provide a highly survivable command, control and communications platform to direct US forces, execute emergency war orders, and coordinate actions by civil authorities,” according to the service’s initial notice, posted last December.
On January 7, 1970, Lt. Cdr. Michael Hoff flew his Sidewinder A7A Corsair off the USS Coral Sea on an armed reconnaissance mission over Laos. After completing a strafing run near the city of Sepone, he came under heavy enemy automatic weapons fire and went down. An observer reported seeing a flash, which may have been the ejection seat leaving the aircraft, but search teams located neither a parachute nor a survivor.
Lt. Cdr. Michael Hoff was pronounced MIA that same day, promoted to commander while missing, and, sadly, was declared dead on November 16, 1978. His grieving wife, Mary Hoff, wanted the world to know that he and every other troop captured or declared missing in action would not be forgotten.
Who says randomly cold-calling the right people to get what you want never works?
Soon afterward, Mary Hoff joined the National League of POW/MIA Families, an organization founded by two wives of POW/MIA troops, Karen Butler and Sybil Stockdale. The group was quickly gaining traction in Washington, fighting for the U.S. government’s recognition of the importance of returning troops listed as either prisoners of war or missing in action.
As the group grew larger, Mary noticed that they were missing a symbol — something easily identified and immediately understood. She had an idea: a flag. Instead of going through the proper channels, she simply cold-called Annin Flagmakers, the oldest and largest flag-making corporation in the United States.
As prominent as the flag is in military culture, it only took two revisions from the original to get the version we know today.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)
The vice president of sales at Annin, Norm Rivkees, had no clue who the League of Families were at the time. During the phone call, Hoff explained everything, from who they were to what the flag should look like. Rivkees was impressed by her dedication and brought it up to the president of the company who immediately gave the idea the green light.
Rivkees contracted the job of designing the flag to Hayden Advertising who gave the task to graphic artist Newton F. Heisley. Heisley was an Army Air Corps veteran himself who flew a C-46 twin-engine transport during World War II. He drafted several designs, all in black and white, of a man’s profile with guards behind him.
His son, Jeffery Heisley, was serving in the Marine Corps and had recently returned home on leave. The younger Heisley had unfortunately been struck with hepatitis and was looking very sickly. The elder Heisley turned the misfortune into a positive as his son would make the perfect model for his design. The frail male profile that adorns today’s flag is that of Jeffery Heisley.
Newton, as a pilot, remembered his own fears from his flying days. He added the famous words, “You are not forgotten,” to the flag, to offer the reassurance he wished he had while serving. The design was then ready for approval.
That also makes the POW/MIA flag the only non-national flag to ever fly over a nation’s capitol building.
(Official White House photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Mary Hoff and the League of Families loved the design and adopted it in 1972. Keep in mind that at this point, the flag was only intended to be used for the organization. Its prominence quickly grew within the military community throughout the 1970s and, by 1982, it was flown over Ronald Reagan’s White House.
The flag became an official national symbol through the 1998 Defense Authorization Act, which requires that the flag be flown outside most major government buildings, all VA medical centers, and all national cemeteries on POW/MIA Recognition Day, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, the Fourth of July, and Veterans Day.
Dream Foundation was founded in 1994 with a mission to serve terminally ill adults and their families by providing end-of-life dreams that offer inspiration, comfort, and closure. In September 2015, the organization introduced Dreams for Veterans – a program for terminally ill veterans.
“For 21 years we’ve had the privilege of fulfilling over 25,000 final dreams for terminally ill individuals, including veterans of all ages,” said Kisa Heyer, Dream Foundation’s CEO. “Given the number of dream requests we’ve received from the military community has jumped exponentially in recent years, we felt compelled last year to create Dreams for Veterans, a program designed to address the specific needs of our nation’s heroes and their families. Our team is working to double the number of terminally ill veterans we serve in the next three years.”
Dream Foundation has fulfilled 829 dreams specifically for veterans since it was founded in 1994, and since the launch of their Dreams for Veterans program they have fulfilled 111 dreams for veterans. Their motto is: “If you served, you can dream.”
Veteran Joe Hooker who served in Vietnam passed away last summer, but not before he was able to fulfill a promise he had made 40 years ago. On his way back from the war, he made a stop in Honolulu, Hawaii. That visit inspired a lifelong desire to go back to Hawaii “to honor the men and women that gave their life at Pearl Harbor,” as he put it. In his application to Dream Foundation he wrote that he wanted to “learn, touch and understand what happened there.”
The foundation approved this application and sent him along with his brother and sister-in-law on a VIP tour of Pearl Harbor. Although he was suffering from cancer and heart disease, he was able to pay his respects to his fellow brothers and sisters in arms.
Carl Johnson and Lucinda “Cindy” Niggel have also had their final dreams fulfilled by Dream Foundation.
Floreville, Texas resident Carl Johnson, 92, is World War II Army veteran who landed on the sands of Normandy on D-Day. Johnson earned two Bronze Stars, a Silver Star and a Purple Heart. He now has lung disease and has been told by doctors he only has a couple of months to live. He hadn’t seen Ronnie, his disabled son who lives upstate New York, in eight years.
“I always said I wanted to give Ronnie a hug before I got laid down beside my wife,” Johnson said. His caregiver contacted Dream Foundation, and in February he was able to wrap his arms around his son one last time.
“I spent a whole day with him and on top of that, [I got to see] lot of my wife’s relatives – she has a quite a few!” Johnson said. “They say you can’t win them all, but when you win them all, it’s a miracle.”
Lucinda “Cindy” Niggel, 59, is Navy veteran with terminal breast cancer. Aside from trips to the doctor or hospital, Niggel has spent most of her time confined in her home, on constant oxygen. When Lucinda told a friend she wanted to get out of her house and visit someplace tropical, that friend suggested she look into Dream Foundation.
Dream Foundation provided Cindy and a companion with a vacation to Captiva Island, complete with airfare and funds for food and transportation. “They’re true to their word, and the application process is not hard,” Niggel said. “The trip was amazing. I felt like I was in paradise.”
To learn how you can support Dream Foundation click here.
Mel Gibson has returned to the director’s chair after a 10-year hiatus with the WWII epic “Hacksaw Ridge.”
The film tells the tale of real-life Army medic Desmond Doss. Torn between his conscientious objection to violence and his desire to serve his country in its time of greatest need, Doss joined the Army as a medic but refused to carry a weapon.
Despite suspicion and contempt from his fellow soldiers, Doss repeatedly braved danger and even disobeyed orders to make sure his countrymen made it home alive. Doss received the Medal of Honor for his actions, one of only three conscientious objectors to ever do so.
Gibson is no stranger to the classic American war film, having previously starred in “We Were Soldiers” and “The Patriot.” “Hacksaw Ridge” is the actor’s first directing outing since 2006’s “Apocalypto,” but that film and 1995’s “Braveheart” proved Gibson is right at home capturing epic battles on film.
“Hacksaw Ridge” is now playing in theaters nationwide. Watch the trailer below.
Within a day of a second failed attack on the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87), the USS Nitze (DDG 94), a sister ship, has launched strikes against three radar sites in Yemen. The strike came less than a day after the Mason had defeated the second attack.
According to a report by The Washington Examiner, three BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired at the sites in Yemeni territory under the control of Houthi rebels. The Houthi rebels are believed to have been responsible for the Sunday and Wednesday attacks on Mason, but also the attack on HSV-2 Swift, a former U.S. Navy vessel now owned by a civilian firm in the United Arab Emirates.
“The strikes — authorized by President Obama at the recommendation of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford — targeted radar sites involved in the recent missile launches threatening USS Mason and other vessels operating in international waters in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandeb,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in an official statement, also noting that the targeted radar sites were destroyed in the strikes.
The BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile comes in a number of varieties, including nuclear (BGM-109A), anti-ship (BGM-109B), conventional land-attack (BGM-109C), cluster munitions for land attack (BGM-109D), and a “Tactical Tomahawk” that is equipped with a TV camera (BGM-109E).
The land-attack and “Tactical Tomahawk” missiles have a maximum range of 900 nautical miles, and are armed with a unitary warhead (usually a thousand-pound high explosive warhead, based on those used on the AGM-12 Bullpup missile). The BGM-109D delivers a dispenser with 166 BLU-97 bomblets up to 700 miles away.
The Tomahawk has a top speed of 550 nautical miles per hour, and flies in at a very low altitude to evade radars. To date, a total of 2,267 missiles have been fired.
Here’s official U.S. Navy footage of the Tomahawk launch:
Adm. John Richardson, the Chief of Naval Operations, released the following statement in the wake of the most recent events in the waters off of Yemen:
“The U.S. Navy remains on watch in the Red Sea and around the world to defend America from attack and to protect U.S. strategic interests. These unjustified attacks are serious, but they will not deter us from our mission. We are trained and ready to defend ourselves and to respond quickly and decisively. The team in USS Mason demonstrated initiative and toughness as they defended themselves and others against these unfounded attacks over the weekend and again today. All Americans should be proud of them.”
It’s been more than 150 years since Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Army Commander Ulysses S. Grant at Wilmer McLean’s Appomattox home, but the legacy of the Civil War still lingers.
From the recent controversies over Confederate memorials to the tens of thousands of hobbyists who dress in grey and blue every summer to reenact key battles, Americans continue to wrestle with the causes and ramifications of the War Between the States.
These nine films, which cover the conflict from the hallways of Congress to the scorched earth of Bleeding Kansas, are packed with insights and (usually) authentic historical details. Just as importantly, they’re guaranteed to entertain.
Widely considered one of the greatest films of all time, this four-hour epic won 10 Academy Awards, broke box office records, and introduced the myth of the Lost Cause to generations of moviegoers. For the role of Scarlett O’Hara, producer David O. Selznick considered nearly every leading lady in Hollywood–from Katharine Hepburn to Tallulah Bankhead to Lana Turner–before settling on Vivien Leigh, a relatively unknown English actress. Her iconic performance immortalized the character of the spoiled, strong-willed Southern belle.
To cast Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, Selznick had to delay production and give away half his profits. In return, Gable got the most famous exit line in movie history: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Hewing closely to Margaret Mitchell’s bestselling novel, the screenplay features insightful period details (Confederate blockade runners, Carpetbaggers bribing freed slaves for their votes, etc.) and an epic recreation of the burning of Atlanta. While Gone with the Wind has been rightly criticized for misleading viewers about the horrors of slavery, its emotional impact and sweeping scale make it a must-see for anyone interested in the legacy of the Civil War.
Denzel Washington won his first Academy Award for his portrayal of a runaway slave turned soldier in this captivating drama about the 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry, the first all-black regiment in the history of the US Army. Matthew Broderick stars as Robert Gould Shaw, the white officer who commanded the 54th.
The Confederate Army had recently announced that any captured black Union soldier would be enslaved or killed alongside his white officers, and Shaw had doubts about the unit’s chances for success. But he was impressed by the soldiers’ grit and determination in the face of relentless discrimination and eventually joined their protest to be paid the same as white soldiers.
Tasked with the impossible mission to take Fort Wagner in Charleston Harbor, Shaw and the men of the 54th fought with incredible courage. Their sacrifice is memorialized in a bronze statue in Boston Common, which inspired screenwriter Kevin Jarre to pay tribute to their story.
Daniel Day-Lewis spent a full year researching Abraham Lincoln’s life in preparation for his Oscar-winning turn as the 16th president of the United States. The result is a tender, lived-in portrayal of the man behind the myth–from his slumped shoulders and high-pitched Illinois twang to his unwavering sense of conviction.
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner draws on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography Team of Rivalsto dramatize the political machinations involved in the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Lincoln knew that the permanent abolition of slavery was necessary to the nation’s survival but had to race against the clock to get the bill passed before the South could negotiate peace.
By revealing the drama and intrigue behind one of Congress’s most significant pieces of legislation, director Steven Spielberg offers a civics lesson as thrilling as it is necessary.
Originally planned as a TV miniseries, this four-hour epic based on Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Killer Angelsstars Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, and Martin Sheen. Director James Maxwell convinced the National Park Service to allow him to film on the actual Gettysburg battlefield, and thousands of Civil War reenactors came from all over the country to recreate crucial moments in the three-day campaign, including the assault on Devil’s Den and Pickett’s Charge.
The film, like the novel, focuses on the decisions and actions of key players including General Robert E. Lee (Sheen), Lieutenant General James Longstreet (Berenger), and Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Daniels). Daniels, in particular, delivers a rousing performance as the commander of 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment, whose stout defense of Little Round Top against repeated Confederate assaults helped to turn the tide of the battle and the war. With its massive scale, brilliant cinematography, and rigorous attention to historical detail, Gettysburg does justice to the deadliest battle in US history.
When it was first broadcast on five consecutive nights in September 1990, this documentary miniseries drew an average of 14 million viewers per night–the largest audience in the history of PBS. Over the course of nine episodes, director Ken Burns and his team of researchers, video editors, historians, and actors unspooled the full story of the Civil War, from John Brown’s uprising at Harper’s Ferry to Lincoln’s assassination and the capture of John Wilkes Booth.
Inspired by Matthew Brady’s photographs of the conflict, Burns used a panning and zooming technique (thereafter known as the “Ken Burns effect”) to bring to life roughly 16,000 still images. Excerpts from the letters and diaries of Robert E. Lee, Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglass, and less-known historical figures such as Mary Chestnut and George Templeton Strong provide an intimate perspective on large-scale events like the Battle of Gettysburg and Sherman’s March to the Sea.
The Civil War reignited popular interest in America’s bloodiest conflict and helped to pave the way for bingeable TV documentaries such as The Jinxand OJ: Made in America.
Based on Charles Frazier’s blockbuster novel of the same name, this Anthony Minghella-directed epic is the story of W.P. Inman (Jude Law), a Confederate deserter trying to make his way home to North Carolina in the final months of the Civil War. Gravely wounded in the Battle of the Crater and recovering in a field hospital, Inman decides to leave the war when he reads a letter from his beloved, Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman), imploring him to do just that.
While Inman and the other Cold Mountain men have been off fighting, Ada has been struggling to work her deceased father’s farm. Eventually she’s helped in her efforts by Ruby Thewes (Renée Zellweger in an Oscar-winning performance), an unlettered woman well-versed in the hardscrabble life of a subsistence farmer.
The film brilliantly interweaves Inman’s encounters with all manner of desperate characters–from ribald preachers to villainous Confederate Home Guards –and scenes of Ada and Ruby learning to fend for themselves. Natalie Portman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Brendan Gleeson, Donald Sutherland, and Jack White round out the all-star cast of this story of war-torn country and lovers.
Starring Tobey Maguire, Skeet Ulrich, Jewel, and Jeffrey Wright, this underrated film is based on Daniel Woodrell’s novel Woe to Live On. Maguire stars as young Missouri farmer Jake Roedel, who joins the Bushwhackers, a pro-Confederate guerrilla force, when his German immigrant father is killed by pro-Union Jayhawkers from Kansas.
Alongside his best friend Jack Bull Chiles (Ulrich), Roedel roams the border between Kansas and Missouri, skirmishing with Union regulars and irregulars. But when the Bushwhackers, led by militiaman William Quantrill (John Ales), raid Lawrence, Kansas and massacre 150 unarmed men and boys, Roedel must ask himself where his loyalties truly lie.
Jeffrey Wright delivers a stellar performance as a freed slave who fights for the South, and director Ang Lee brings deep sensitivity and impressive historical accuracy to this searing portrayal of a largely forgotten chapter of the Civil War.
This John Ford-directed Civil War Western is loosely based on the real story of Grierson’s Raid, a daring Union cavalry incursion some six hundred miles into hostile territory that set the stage for the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi.
John Wayne stars as Colonel John Marlowe, a railroad construction engineer who leads his men on a mission to destroy a railroad and supply depot in Newton’s Station, Mississippi. When a Southern belle overhears the brigade’s plans, Marlowe is forced to take her and her slave, Lukey, captive. Legendary tennis ace Althea Gibson, the first black woman to win a Grand Slam title, was cast as Lukey but objected to the character’s scripted stereotypical “Negro” dialect. Ford had the dialogue changed at her request.
With Ford’s dynamic visual style and a well-matched rivalry between Wayne’s colonel and William Holden as a regimental surgeon haunted by the horrors of warfare, The Horse Soldiers captures the drama and audacity of one of the war’s most brilliant campaigns.
Inspired by real-life rumors of lost Confederate gold, this epic spaghetti Western follows three gunslingers across a southwestern landscape ravaged by the Civil War. Clint Eastwood is Blondie (The Good), a lone-wolf bounty hunter with a sense of justice; Lee van Cleef is Angel Eyes (The Bad), a cold-blooded mercenary who never lets a contract killing go unfulfilled; and Eli Wallach is Tuco (The Ugly), a voluble Mexican bandit wanted for a long list of crimes.
As these drifters cross and double-cross each other in pursuit of 0,000 in buried treasure, Union and Confederate forces clash for control of the New Mexico Territory. In director Sergio Leone’s vision of the Civil War, neither side fights with honor. Greed, violence, and stupidity rule the day. With brilliant cinematography and an iconic score by Ennio Morricone, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is one of the 20th century’s most unique and influential films.
Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team started arriving in Europe this week for a nine-month rotation as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
The 2nd ABCT’s rotation is the fifth one by an armored brigade in support of Atlantic Resolve, which started in 2014 to show US commitment to Europe’s defense after Russia’s interference in Ukraine.
But the unit is the first “in recent memory” to use the port of Vlissingen in the Netherlands, where soldiers, Army civilians, and local workers started unloading the first of three shipments of equipment early on Oct. 11, 2019.
A 2nd ABCT soldier directs an M1A2 Abrams tank as vehicles are offloaded at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 11, 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
Armored units deployed for Atlantic Resolve rotations are typically stationed in Germany or elsewhere in Eastern Europe and have in the past arrived at ports closer to their bases.
But the 2nd ABCT’s arrival at Vlissingen — like that of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team at the nearby port of Antwerp last spring — is part of an Army effort to practice navigating Europe’s bureaucratic and geographic terrain.
NATO has been trying to operate out of more ports in Europe since around 2015, according to Ben Hodges, who led the US Army in Europe between 2014 and 2017.
There was a need to “to reestablish capabilities in all these ports” and “to demonstrate that we could come [into Europe] at a variety of different places,” Hodges, who is a retired lieutenant general, told Business Insider in 2018.
Vlissingen is the “first main juncture point” for the 2nd ABCT’s current deployment, and its troops and gear will arrive at ports in Poland, Latvia, Belgium, Greece, and Romania throughout October, the Army said in a release.
First Lt. Quanzel Caston, a unit movement officer with the 2nd ABCT, examines M1A2 Abrams tanks at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 11, 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
In total, the unit will deploy about 3,500 soldiers, 85 tanks, 120 Bradley fighting vehicles, 15 Paladin self-propelled howitzers, 500 tracked vehicles, 1,200 wheeled vehicles and pieces of equipment, and 300 trailers.
Massing forces across the Atlantic Resolve area of operation “displays the US Army’s readiness, cross-border military mobility and speed of assembly,” the release said.
The Army’s 598th Transportation Brigade will move the 2nd ABCT’s gear a variety of ways, including by “low-barge, rail-head, line-haul and convoy operations.”
It’s the first time the Army has used a low-barge inland cargo ship to transport tracked armored vehicles across Europe for Atlantic Resolve.
“The significance of using the low-barge is it enhances readiness in the European region by introducing another method of movement to the Atlantic Resolve mission,” said Cpl. Dustin Jobe, noncommissioned officer in charge of lifting provisions for the 647th Expeditionary Terminal Operations Element.
Sgt. Julian Blodgett, a senior mechanic with the 2nd ABCT directs an M1A2 Abrams tank for loading on a low-barge cargo ship at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 12, 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
‘Better than it was’
The US Army in Europe shrank after the Cold War. Since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014, however, the Army has beefed up its presence with exercises along NATO’s eastern flank and back-to-back rotations of armored units.
But returning to Europe in force has highlighted NATO’s problems getting around the continent, where customs rules and regulations, insufficient infrastructure, and shortages of transports for heavy vehicles inhibit movement.
These obstacles would present issues for any peacetime mobilization effort and led NATO to conclude in a 2017 internal report that its ability to rapidly deploy around Europe had “atrophied since the end of the Cold War.”
A local contractor attaches lift chains to an M1A2 Abrams tank for lowering into a low-barge ship at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 12, 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
European countries, working through the European Union and NATO, have sought to reduce or eliminate the hurdles.
A new NATO command based in Germany now oversees the movement of alliance forces in Europe, and the EU has set up Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, to address security issues by “integrating and strengthening defence cooperation within the EU framework.”
The logistical skills of the US and its NATO allies will face their biggest test yet next year, during Defender 2020 in Europe — the US Army’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years. It will range across 10 countries and involve 37,000 troops from at least 18 countries.
The point of Defender 2020 “is to practice the reinforcement of US forces in Europe for the purposes of collective defense of the alliance,” Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the head of US Army Europe, said on Monday during a panel hosted by Defense One at the Association of the US Army’s annual conference in Washington, DC.
A 2nd ABCT M1A2 Abram tank is raised over the pier at Vlissingen to be lowered onto a low-barge ship for transportation to another location in Europe, Oct. 12, 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
“That’s something that requires practice, because you’re moving large forces great distances through complicated infrastructure and across a variety of different national lines,” Cavoli added.
“We call this strategic readiness, the ability to strategically deploy and to project a force,” he said. “It’s a significant concatenation of small things that have to go right in order to do this well.”
Asked about Europe’s railways, which vary in rail size and have differing regulations, Cavoli said there were procedural and infrastructural issues that had to be addressed.
“Procedurally, we’ve made a great deal of progress across the alliance. Some countries, they’ve relaxed some of their restrictions, shortening the notification times required,” Cavoli said. “We, as an alliance, have gotten much more practice scheduling and moving and loading rail, and we’re able to move very, very quickly across great distances.”
US Army Reserve Cpl. Dustin Jobe watches a 2nd ABCT M1A2 Abram tank as it’s raised over the pier to be lowered onto a low-barge ship for transport elsewhere in Europe, at Vlissingen, Netherlands Oct. 12, 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
But infrastructural problems remain, Cavoli said, pointing specifically to a difference in rail gauge between Poland and Lithuania. But Lithuania plans to buy dual-gauge rail cars for heavy equipment, Cavoli added.
“In addition to that, across the alliance, there’ve been some challenges with bridge classification, with the strength of rail heads … can it take a tank driving off a train there?” Cavoli said. “The EU has really stepped in using prioritized … shopping lists, prioritized by NATO, and it has been investing throughout the alliance in mobility infrastructure.”
Cavoli said recent exercises had exposed challenges to mobility but had also prompted NATO members “to get after those challenges. So I think we’re in a fairly good place right now.”
Asked to assign the alliance a letter grade for mobility, Cavoli demurred, saying only that it’s “better than it was previously.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In July 2019, President Trump signed into law the Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service Act – the LEGION Act. In brief, the legislation says the United States has been in a period of constant warfare since Dec. 7, 1941, the day the Japanese Empire bombed Pearl Harbor and brought the United States into World War II.
What this means for other areas of the law is up for other people to debate. What this means for veterans is that servicemen and women who were killed or wounded in previously undeclared periods of war are now eligible for expanded benefits.
The most apparent benefit of the new LEGION Act legislation is that now every veteran who served since the bombing of Pearl Harbor is eligible to join the American Legion. This will affect some 1,600 veterans who were killed or wounded during their service, which just so happened to be during a previously undeclared period of global conflict. The American Legion says this act honors their service and sacrifice.
“This new law honors the memories of those veterans while allowing other veterans from those previously undeclared eras to receive all the American Legion benefits they have earned through their service,” said American Legion National Judge Advocate Kevin Bartlett.
This also means the eligibility window will run until the U.S. is no longer at war, which – historically speaking – may never happen.
The war in Afghanistan alone has outlasted two uniform designs.
Veterans with an interest in joining the American Legion still need to meet the other requirements of membership, such as having an honorable discharge. Joining the Legion means more than finding cheap drinks at the local post. The American Legion is not only a club for veterans, it’s also a powerful lobby in Congress and offers its membership benefits like temporary financial assistance, scholarship eligibility, and even help in getting VA disability claims through the system.
By expanding its network to include thousands of new veterans, the American Legion is better able to leverage its membership with members of Congress as well as state and local elected officials and legislative bodies – after all, it was the American Legion who drafted the first GI Bill legislation and helped to create the Department of Veterans Affairs.
So feel free to stop by for more than just a cheap beer.
When the war in Vietnam kicked off, the Navy’s special warfare operations weren’t exactly the same as we know them today. During World War II and the Korean War, the Navy’s special operators were mostly “Frogmen,” members of the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT).
Within months of the start of the Vietnam War, the Frogmen were carrying rifles and became experts in special operations tactics. The Navy SEALs were about to be reborn and tested in the jungles of Vietnam.
The Navy SEALs, as we know them today, were established in 1962 in a commitment from the Kennedy White House to develop America’s unconventional warfare capabilities. The SEALs were descended from the World War II-era joint “Scouts and Raiders” and the Navy’s UDTs used extensively throughout that war.
Although they kept a low profile throughout the Korean War, the UDTs’ Frogmen perfected many of their operations along the North Korean coastline (even moving inland in many cases) and honed their commando abilities against a real-world enemy.
But Vietnam was the first war in which the Navy SEALs were fully funded and fully developed, graduating three classes of SEALs from the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Course (BUD/S) every year.
By 1967, the number of BUD/S classes increased to five per year. Before the mid-1960s, SEALs in Vietnam were being used to reconnoiter beaches and landing sites, survey waterways and train South Vietnamese commandos. The CIA began to use SEALs in its Phoenix Program, an effort to undermine the Viet Cong in South Vietnam through counterterrorism and counterintelligence operations.
In the late 1960s, the Viet Cong, the guerrilla forces of the North Vietnamese communist government, had created an entire shadow government of its own in North Vietnam. The bread and butter mission of the U.S. Navy SEALs was to deploy into the jungle and take down VC leaders.
Most of these leaders were mid-level, and the SEALs would deploy in nine-man teams, with two of those being South Vietnamese commandos and one being a Navy SEAL officer. The team would head out into the jungle for a couple of days, complete the destruction of a VC official, and then head back to base.
These direct action, search-and-destroy missions were a far cry from the SEALs earliest days of carrying demolition explosives to a specific structure and destroying it before leaving the area. On top of killing the enemy, SEALs also had to gather intelligence in Vietnam. This meant they had to actually capture enemy troops and interrogate them.
Sometimes, this meant learning to speak Vietnamese. The SEALs had truly come into their own as a complete, well-rounded special operations force. For the duration of the war in Vietnam, there were at least eight full platoons of Navy SEALs in the country.
The elite status of the special operators also included the look they’re still known for to this day: relaxed uniform and grooming standards. One of the favorite items among Vietnam-era Navy SEALs, were Levi’s blue jeans – because the government-issued camouflage just didn’t hold up against the dense jungle foliage.
For all the trouble SEALs had at the start of the war, including high casualty rates, public anger over the Phoenix Program, and internal Navy division over the relaxed grooming and uniform standards, the SEALs proved they were worth the trouble. They were willing to do what other units weren’t willing to do, in the face of overwhelming odds.
And the Navy SEALs still do it, almost 60 years later.