This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you'll ever read - We Are The Mighty
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This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

The 1983 US-Soviet “war scare” is one of the most controversial episodes of the Cold War.


Now we finally know it was also one of the most dangerous, thanks to a February 1990 reportpublished by the National Security Archive at George Washington University this week after a 12-year Freedom of Information Act battle.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The US and Soviets were dangerously close to going to war in November 1983, the bombshell report found, and the Cold War-era US national-security apparatus missed many warning signs.

That 1983 “war scare” was spurred by a large-scale US military exercise in Eastern Europe called Able Archer that the Soviets apparently believed was part of allied preparation for a real war.

The Soviet military mobilized in response.

US-Soviet relations had definitely plunged in the early 1980s, but since then experts have debated how close the US and Soviets had come to the abyss during Able Archer.

Had the Soviets really believed Able Archer was preparation for a preemptive strike? Was the intensifying rhetoric of high-ranking Soviet leaders in the run-up to Able Archer meant for domestic consumption, or was it a reflection of actual fears? Was the 1983 Soviet military mobilization intended as internal and external political messaging, or as sincere preparation for war?

Most important, would the Soviets ever have struck first — and were their conditions for a first strike close to being satisfied during Able Archer?

We now have some of the answers.

On October 24, the National Security Archive published the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board report on the war scare. The 1990 study is the US intelligence apparatus’ final word on just how close the world came to war in 1983, and how aware American decision-makers were of the state of play.

Its conclusions are chilling, even 32 years later.

It turns out the Soviets believed the US wanted to launch a nuclear first strike. The US fell victim to the inverse error and didn’t think the Soviets were serious about preparing for war, partly because they didn’t think the Soviets thought the US wanted to launch a nuclear first strike. As a result, US military and intelligence decision-makers didn’t believe that anything out of the ordinary was happening during Able Archer.

They couldn’t have been more wrong. Following are the main findings in the report.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Soviet leadership and intelligence agencies thought the US was planning to fight and win a nuclear war. In the early 1980s, in response to a US nuclear-modernization drive, “Soviet analysts calculated that the US intended [new generations of ballistic missiles] as a means for developing a first-strike force.” The Soviets may also have “calculated that NATO’s decision to field 600 Pershing IIs and cruise missiles was not to counter their SS-20 [intermediate-range missile] force, but yet another step towards a first-strike capability.”

The report documents how this fear of an American first-strike morphed into a kind of corrosive conventional wisdom. In 1981, the KGB formally sent out instructions to monitor possible NATO war preparations, noting that it is “of special importance to discover the adversaries’ concrete plans and measures linked with his preparation for a surprise nuclear-missile attack on the USSR and other Soviet countries.”

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
Photo: flickr/mightyohm

The report flatly states that “KGB bosses seemed already convinced that US war plans were real.”

“KGB officers in [Moscow] agreed that the United States might initiate a nuclear strike if it achieved a level of overall strength markedly greater than that of the Soviet Union. And many agreed that events were leading in that direction,” the report added.

In reality, the US was never contemplating a first-strike. One of the more worrying aspects for the Able Archer incident, in the report’s view, is that “Soviet leaders, despite our open society, might be capable of a fundamental misunderstanding of US strategic motives.”

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
Photo: Department of Defense

The Soviets realized they were becoming weaker and thought they’d probably lose the nuclear war they believed the US might be planning. Once the Soviets started thinking in terms of a possible nuclear war, they began to realize they didn’t stand much of a chance of winning it.

As the report states, “There was common concern that the Soviet domestic situation, as well as Moscow’s hold on Eastern Europe, was deteriorating, further weakening Soviet capacity to compete strategically with the US.”

Moscow was in a seemingly weak position for a number of reasons, including an economic slowdown, political unrest in Soviet-dominated Poland, the deployment of the Pershings to Eastern Europe, and the diplomatic fallout from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

Intriguingly, the report describes a Soviet computer system that analyzed thousands of strategic variables to determine the Soviet Union’s strength relative to the US. The Soviet leadership would reportedly consider a preemptive nuclear strike if the computer ever found that Soviet power had fallen to 40% or below of US power. It reached 45% at points during the run-up to Able Archer.

The Soviets also determined that growing US missile strength would decimate the Soviet nuclear capabilities in a first strike to the point that a second strike would soon become ineffectual or even impossible. As this chart from the report demonstrates, the adversaries’ nuclear strike capabilities were drifting ever further apart:

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
Photo: National Security Archive

 

The Soviets responded by moving to cut the launch preparation time of second strike nuclear platforms like submarines and battleships from several hours to just 20 or 30 minutes. After a point, second-strike nuclear missions became the primary focus of Soviet bomber-crew training, according to the report. In the conventional realm, the Soviets began calling up reservists, sending Spetsnaz paramilitaries to the Eastern European front line, deploying nuclear-capable artillery pieces in Eastern Europe, and even converting tractor factories for tank production.

In the psychological realm, Soviet leaders grew paranoid, realizing the balance of power that had defined their country’s entire strategic outlook would soon be a thing of the past.

It was in this context that the US’s Able Archer exercise began in November 1983.

There were some odd things about Able Archer, and the Soviets’ response to it.The Soviets’ concern about Able Archer is understandable, at least in the context of their lager paranoia. Able Archer included the airlift of tens of thousands of US troops to Central European front-line areas. The operation had a notable nuclear component to it as well.

“We are told that some US aircraft practiced the nuclear warhead handling procedures, including taxiing out of hangars carrying realistic-looking dummy warheads,” the report states.

The Soviets responded as if war was imminent. As the National Security Archive summary of the document puts it, “Warsaw Pact military reactions to Able Archer 83 were … ‘unparalleled in scale’ and included ‘transporting nuclear weapons from storage sites to delivery units by helicopter,’ suspension of all flight operations except intelligence collection flights from 4 to 10 November, ‘probably to have available as many aircraft as possible for combat.'”

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
Photo: US Archives

In the US, everybody missed everything. The Soviets were serious about preparing for a possible impending nuclear war, and the US didn’t even know it.

Soviet activities around the “war scare” didn’t make a single presidential daily briefing. The US military realized the Soviets were at a higher state of alert but didn’t change their defense posture in response. Two later intelligence community reports on the incident also misinterpreted Soviet actions.

Indeed, one of the heroes of the war scare is Lt. Gen. Leonard Perroots, the US Air Force’s assistant chief of staff for intelligence in Europe during Able Archer. Perroots did nothing to change the US military’s alert status or readiness even as the Soviets were acting on a deep-seated fear of a possible US first strike. This, of course, was because Perroots wasn’t receiving any intelligence suggesting this fear was underlying Soviet mobilizations. The US had missed just about every clue.

The report calls Perroots’ inertia “fortuitous, if ill-informed.” Had the US military changed its operating procedure in Eastern Europe, it would only have escalated tensions and enhanced the chances of an accidental war.

The phrase “fortuitous, if ill-informed” sums up the entire 1983 war scare. The two sides misunderstood the other’s intentions, actions — indeed, their entire worldview — so badly that war nearly broke out.

The superpowers created a situation where simply doing nothing was an unwitting and perhaps civilization-rescuing act of courage.

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Navy F-35C landed so precisely, it tore up a runway

Before seven of the Navy’s carrier-variant F-35 Joint Strike Fighters embarked aboard the carrier USS George Washington for a third and final round of developmental testing, they completed a required ashore training period, practicing landings at Choctaw Naval Outlying Field near Pensacola, Florida.


The landings went well — maybe a little too well.

“They were landing in the same spot on the runway every time, tearing up where the hook touches down,” Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, head of Naval Air Forces, told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. “So we quickly realized, we needed to either fix the runway or adjust, put some variants in the system. So that’s how precise this new system is.”

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
U.S. Navy photo by Dane Wiedmann

The new system in question is called Delta Flight Path, a built-in F-35C technology that controls glide slope and minimizes the number of variables pilots must monitor as they complete arrested carrier landings. A parallel system known as MAGIC CARPET, short for Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies, is being developed for use with the Navy’s F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers. Together, these systems may allow carriers to operate with fewer tankers, leaving more room for other aircraft, Shoemaker said.

Military.com reported on the implications of this new landing technology from the carrier George Washington earlier this week, as the first operational pilot-instructors with Strike Fighter Squadron 101, out of Oceana, Virginia, began daytime carrier qualifications on the aircraft. On Thursday, Shoemaker had an update on the ongoing carrier tests.

Of about 100 F-35C arrested landings were completed on the carrier, he said, 80 percent engaged the No. 3 wire, meaning the aircraft had touched down at the ideal spot. As of Monday, there had been zero so-called bolters, when the aircraft misses an arresting wire and must circle the carrier for another attempt.

“I think that’s going to give us the ability to look at the way we work up and expand the number of sorties. I think it will change the way we operate around the ship … in terms of the number of tankers you have to have up, daytime and nighttime,” he said. “I think that will give us a lot of flexibility in the air wing in the way we use those strike fighters.”

Tankers, or in-air refueling aircraft, must be ready when aircraft make arrested landings in case they run low on fuel during landing attempts. Fewer bolters, therefore, means a reduced tanker requirement.

“Right now, we configure maybe six to eight tankers aboard the ship,” Shoemaker said. “I don’t think we need … that many. That will give us flexibility on our strike fighter numbers, increase the Growler numbers, which I know we’re going to do, and probably E-2D [Advanced Hawkeye carrier-launched radar aircraft] as well.”

The F-35C’s last developmental testing phase is set to wrap up Aug. 23. MAGIC CARPET is expected to be introduced to the fleet in 2019, officials have said.

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US General thinks Iran is behind the missile attacks on US Navy near Yemen

US Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of US forces in the Middle East, said on Wednesday that he believes Iran was behind missile strikes on US Navy ships fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen.


“I do think that Iran is playing a role in some of this. They have a relationship with the Houthis, so I do suspect there is a role in that,” said Votel at the Center for American Progress, The Hill’s Kristina Wong reports.

Also read: Another US Navy ship dodges a rebel missile off of Yemen

Iran does have a history of harassing US ships in the Persian Gulf. In January, Iran even went to the extreme length of taking US sailors captive after their ships broke down in Iranian national waters.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
Guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG-94) steams through the Atlantic Ocean. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeremy L. Grisham

While experts have indicated to Business Insider that Iran likely supplied the Houthis with the missiles used in three separate attacks on US Navy ships, Votel’s comments mark perhaps the first time a US official has laid the blame on Iran.

After the US struck the radar sites used by the Houthis, an armed uprising battling the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi,Iranian vessels rushed to the waters off of Yemen under the premise of protecting “trade vessels from piracy.”

If Iran does prove to be behind the missiles attacks, it’s possible that the US’s limited and defensive strikes have not addressed the larger problem.

Jonathan Schanzer, of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider that the Obama administration “doesn’t want to get dragged into another Middle East conflict, but [it’s] also an administration that is phobic of clashing with Iran-sponsored actors,” as it tries to preserve the fragile nuclear deal with Iran.

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Here are 10 things everyone experiences in jump school

The U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia is where U.S. military members of all branches go to become military parachutists. The school is three weeks of intense physical drills, training on towers, and of course, “jumping out of a perfectly good airplane” five times to earn the coveted silver parachute badge (also known as “jump wings”).


Here are 10 things Airborne students will encounter when going through Jump School:

1. Black Hats

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
Airborne Instructors in 1977

An Airborne instructor’s nametag may read “Jones” but students will address him or her as “Sergeant Airborne.” New Airborne trainees are received by the school’s instructors known as “Black Hats,” because of their headgear, a simple black baseball cap with their rank and wings display on the cap.

The instructors are mostly Army personnel, but the Marine Corps Air Force, and Navy also provide instructors since the school is open to all eligible DOD service members. Black Hats are skilled parachutists who are responsible for training Airborne students, and they do with ‘tough love. They will make their students repeat physical drills and exercises over and over until they get it right.

No matter how exhausting, they won’t stop until a student gets it right. They are doing it for the trainees own well-being.

2. The Airborne Shuffle

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
Army 2nd Lt. Nelson Lalli runs with an Airborne School classmate to report in after his first jump.

Not to be confused with the popular dance the ‘Cupid shuffle’ or the Chicago Bears Super Bowl shuffle, the Airborne shuffle is not a dance nor is it fun. This shuffle refers to the pace or speed of a formation run during Airborne school. It is typically about a 9-minute mile.

The shuffle is meant to build stamina, not speed. At Airborne School, trainees run everywhere especially in combat boots or with their equipment. The Airborne shuffle is also commonly known for the short choppy steps students take on the aircraft before the jump out, just like the cadence “Stand up, Hook up, Shuffle to the door.”

3. Wearing Helmets all day

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

At Jump School, aspiring paratroopers will wear their helmet everywhere they go. Students will run and train with it on every day. The chin strip and helmet pads will reek so bad after the first week of training that a squirt of Febreze is simply not enough to contain the smell of sweat and bacteria.

4. Falling all day

Airborne students will spend a lot of time hitting the ground during Jump School. Learning how to properly fall during a parachute landing is a core fundamental taught at the Basic Airborne Course. This is especially true when doing parachute landing fall (PLF) drills. Trainees will jump off platforms of different heights into large pits over and over until they get it right. Airborne students can expect to do hundreds of PLFs before they leave the school.

Along with PLFs, trainees will jump from tall towers like the 34-foot tower to learn proper aircraft exiting techniques and the iconic 250-foot tower, although not all Airborne class get to do the tower.

Just remember to “keep your feet and knees together!”

5. The smell of Bengay in the morning

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
Week one, ground week, focuses on the proper landing fall techniques, emphasizing the importance of keeping feet and knees together during a landing to prevent injuries. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kuande Hall)

Before long, the smell of Bengay, the over-the-counter analgesic cream used to relieve muscle and joint pain, will fill the barracks each morning to help students with their joint and muscle pain.

6. Swing Landing Trainer

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
A student practices proper landing techniques on the Swing Landing Trainer.

The Swing Landing Trainer is not fun. Students are strapped into a harness to step off a platform and swing back and forth. The discomfort experienced on this device when swinging, especially for male students, is terrible. Students will continue to swing on the harness until they are released by the Black Hats. Trainees must perform several proper PLFs to pass this stage of training.

Most hit the ground like a stack of potatoes.

7. “Hurry up and wait” goes to a whole new level

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
Airborne Students wait to board an aircraft.

Finally, it’s jump week… but the wait isn’t over. Students will wake up early, run to the chute shed, rig up, and just wait and wait for many hours. Students are not allowed to sleep or talk as they wait. It’s the ultimate example of “hurry up and wait.”

8. A mix of emotions

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

Time to jump! There’s certainly level of excitement and fear at this point, as jumpers hook up to the static line and prepare to jump. Some people question their judgement at this point, as butterflies flutter in their stomachs and thoughts of “why the hell am I doing this” circle in their head. For others, this is the best moment of their life!

9. Jumping Out

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
Paratroopers with 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division (Advise and Assist Brigade), exit a C-130 aircraft Feb. 12, 2010, at Al Asad Airbase, Iraq, as part of the largest airborne training exercise conducted by U.S. forces in Iraq since the beginning of the war. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod)

Probably the two most common reactions: “This is awesome” or “Holy Shit!”

10. Pinning of the Wings

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
After completing five parachute jumps, Lt. Col. Kay Wakatake has her wings pinned on by Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Richardson at Fort Benning, Georgia. (Photo by Captain Greg Peterson)

The pinning of parachute wings is the crowning achievement of three weeks of training. The badge is pinned (or slammed) on the graduate’s chest. This rite of passage solidifies an individual as a member of the Airborne family. The best part of all of this: You’re no longer a leg!

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SECNAV orders Marines to remove ‘man’ from job titles

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
Lance Cpl. Jessica Craver carries a .50-caliber machine gun receiving group for mounting onto an MK48 Logistics Vehicle System | US Marine Corps


Two separate memos from Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to the Marine Corps ordered the Marine Corps to fully gender-integrate training for entry-level Marines, as well as making job titles less gender specific.

“No later than January, 15, 2016, submit to my office a detailed implementation plan that addresses the gender integration of officer and enlisted basic training,” Mabus wrote in the memo.

In the past, the Marine Corps expressed that some roles should remain closed to women.

“As we achieve full integration of the force … this is an opportunity to update the position titles and descriptions themselves to demonstrate through this language that women are included in these MOSs (Military Occupation Specialties),” Mabus wrote in a second memo.

“Please review the position titles throughout the Marine Corps and ensure that they are gender-integrated as well, removing ‘man’ from the titles and provide a report to me as soon as is practicable and no later than April 1, 2016.”

This step may seem a huge change, that would alter age-old axioms like “Every marine is a rifleman first,” but only certain titles will be changed.

A Navy official told the Marine Times that only titles where the word “man” appears as a separate word will be changed. Therefore, titles like “infantryman” and “rifleman” will go unchanged.

Whereas, “reconnaissance man” or “field artillery sensor support man” will simply have the word “man” removed.

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The crippled USS Yorktown traded its life for victory at Midway

The USS Yorktown (CV-5) was heavily damaged at the Battle of Coral Sea, but it pushed on to join other Navy forces at the Battle of Midway, where the valiant actions of the crew helped ensure a U.S. victory despite the loss of the ship.


The Yorktown was one of America’s eight active carriers when the country formally entered World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was based in the Atlantic at the time of the attack, but was soon equipped with additional anti-aircraft weapons and sent to the Pacific where it became the flagship of Task Force 17.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
The USS Yorktown sailing in 1937. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

On May 7, 1942, Task Force 17 found itself in a historic battle that would affect the direction of the war. During the Battle of the Coral Sea, a Japanese task force tried to invade the capital of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby.

From May 7-8, the American and Japanese fleets clashed in the Pacific in the first naval battle where the two fleets couldn’t see each other. American planes sank the light carrier Shoho along with some smaller ships and damaged two other carriers. But Japanese forces sank the Lexington and heavily damaged the USS Yorktown.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
Sailors view the damage to the USS Yorktown after a bomb hit suffered during the Battle of the Coral Sea on May 8, 1942. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The ship and air wing losses on each side would be important because Japan was planning an attack at Midway Atoll that could tip the balance of power in the Pacific or accelerate a Japanese victory in the war. Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz knew he needed his carriers ready to go.

And so the Yorktown, suffering from a penetrating bomb strike and eight near-misses, was far from combat ready. Its radar was out, there was a hole in the flight deck, an elevator was damaged, and she was leaking fuel and oil across the surface of the ocean.

An estimate by Rear Adm. Aubrey Fitch stated that it would take 90 days to repair the ship. Nimitz gave the ship three days before it had to ship out to Midway.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
The USS Yorktown returns to Pearl Harbor on Feb. 6, 1942, after a series of raids. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

About 1,400 repairmen worked around the clock to patch up as much of the ship as possible, and on May 30 the Yorktown steamed towards its rendezvous near Midway.

Thanks to codebreaking efforts, the U.S. was able to ambush the Japanese fleet heading to Midway. And even with the Yorktown present, America was outnumbered in all ship types. The Japanese had brought about 124 ships including six carriers against America’s 40 ships including only three carriers.

Spoiling for a fight

The first hours of the fight went horribly for the U.S., as land and ship-based torpedo planes went in waves against the Japanese carriers only to be cut down by Zeroes. Many of the planes couldn’t even get their torpedoes fired before they were shot down. Of the torpedoes that were launched, all either failed to hit or to explode.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
Japanese Type 97 B5N bombers attack the USS Yorktown during the Battle of Midway. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

But after six attacks from Wake Island and from the other carriers, two flights of Navy Dauntless dive bombers zeroed in on the Japanese carriers. The first flight came from the USS Enterprise and followed a Japanese destroyer to find the enemy carrier. The second flight came from the Yorktown.

The two flights rained dive bombs onto the Japanese carriers Kaga, Akagi, and Soryu. Recently fueled and re-armed Japanese planes on the decks went up in fireballs next to hoses and weapons strewn about the decks.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
The deck of the USS Yorktown after it suffers three bomb strikes during the Battle of Midway. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

What followed was probably the most damaging few minutes of the war for the Japanese. Three carriers and much of their air arms were completely destroyed and sent to the bottom of the Pacific, largely thanks to the Yorktown which had limped into combat and still scored a staggering blow.

Another Japanese carrier, the Hiryu, was sank by other forces.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
The USS Yorktown burns after three Japanese bomb strikes during the Battle of Midway. (Photo: U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class William G. Roy)

But the Japanese fleet survived and managed to exact its revenge on the Yorktown. The Hiryu’s planes found the American ship and hit it with three bombs. The already crippled ship lost its boilers and listed in the water. Navy Capt. Elliott Buckmaster ordered the Yorktown abandoned.

Despite the leaks and the list, the ship continued to float and a salvage crew was sent back to see what could be recovered. It was during that salvage trip that the Japanese submarine I-168 fired a spread of torpedoes that finally doomed the stalwart Yorktown as well as the destroyer USS Hammann.

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This once-classified film was used to train American bomber pilots how to survive enemy flak

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
B-17 taking flak during bombing run over Germany. (Photo: Army Air Corps Archives)


As the allies moved east after the D-Day invasion, air power was used to soften Germany’s defenses and eliminate the Third Reich’s ability to make the tools of war. The American Army Air Corps and the British Royal Air Force bombed around the clock, with the Americans covering the daylight hours.

Losses were high. Over 100,000 allied bomber crews were killed over Europe during World War II. And casualties would have been even higher had the pilots not adjusted their tactics along the way. This film was used to train replacement crews on how to survive enemy air defenses. Because of the level of detail — specific tactics and techniques — it was highly classified during the war.

So imagine you’re a newly B-17 winged pilot on your way to England for your first combat tour. This is one training session you’re going to pay attention to.

Watch this flick:

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The story of Waterloo, one of the most epic battles in history

The Battle of Waterloo changed the course of history.


On June 18th, 1815, Napoleon suffered his final and most crushing defeat. For over a decade, the French emperor had conquered or invaded much of Europe, using his seemingly super-human charisma, leadership, and strategic thinking to threaten Europe’s conservative, monarchical order.

Even his defeat and exile in 1814 couldn’t stop him. By mid-1815, Napoleon had returned to mainland Europe and raised an army. And so had his enemies.

Waterloo was one of the most massive single-day battles in modern history, with an estimated 60,000 total casualties. Today, “Waterloo” is shorthand for a pivotal confrontation — or for massive defeat.

Here’s the story of one of the most important battles of all time.

Napoleon abdicated as emperor of France on April 6, 1814, after troops from the Sixth Coalition entered Paris. The French monarchy was restored to power a quarter-century after the French Revolution began — and Napoleon, who had once conquered much of Europe, was exiled to Elba, an island off the west coast of Italy.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

He didn’t stay there for long. On February 26, 1815, Napoleon left the island. His goal: to depose the French monarchy and regain his position as emperor.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

Napoleon landed on the European mainland on March 1st, 1815, with 1,000 men at his command. By the time he reached Paris on March 19th, the king had fled. By June, Napoleon had nearly 250,000 troops at his command.

War was inevitable when Napoleon reclaimed power in Paris. The winners of the last war were already planning what Europe would look like without him: at the Congress of Vienna, which began in November of 1814, diplomats from European monarchies were busy redrawing the continent’s borders after Napoleon’s 1814 defeat. Napoleon was a dangerously charismatic figure capable of raising enormous armies and dead-set on overturning Europe’s anti-republican order. He had to be stopped.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

By early June, the “Seventh Coalition,” consisting of Prussia, Austria, the United Kingdom, Spain, and others had 850,000 soldiers at its command. In a March 25th, 1815 treaty, the major European powers agreed to dedicate 150,000 troops each to Napoleon’s defeat. The march to Waterloo — to a final confrontation, all-out between Napoleon and his enemies — had begun. In this map, the Coalition countries and their overseas holdings are shaded in blue. Napoleon and his lone major ally, the Kingdom of Naples, are shaded green.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

Outnumbered by the Seventh Coalition and realizing it was only a matter of months until the allies would march into France, Napoleon decided on an offensive strategy. He calculated that quick victories against a nascent and disorganized coalition would force them to sign a peace agreement that left him as ruler of France. He sent his armies into Belgium, parts of which had a sympathetic French-speaking population, in early June.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

The Seventh Coalition mobilized in response. Their leaders included Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, who at 46 was the same age as Napoleon and had led troops into battle in India and throughout Europe. Waterloo turned him into one of Britain’s greatest military heroes, and he later served as Prime Minister. He was voted the 15th-greatest Brit of all time in a 2009 BBC poll.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

Gebhard von Blucher, who had defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Lepzig two years earlier, commanded the Prussian army.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

Prince William II of the Netherlands commanded the 1st allied corps.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

It rained the evening before the battle. Napoleon had a slight numerical advantage. He commanded 72,000 troops. The allies had 68,000. And Wellington once said that Napoleon’s “presence on the field made the difference of 40,000 men.”

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

Wellington chose to meet Napoleon behind a ridge in a valley, which offered his troops protection from direct artillery fire. It also gave him a defensible position where he could hold out until Prussian reinforcements arrived.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

Wellington was in a defensive crouch and the Prussians were still far from the battlefield. But Napoleon delayed the start of the battle for 2 hours. He thought the ground was too muddy from rain to effectively deploy cavalry and artillery. This pause benefited the allied troops by allowing the Prussian reinforcements to draw nearer.

A day earlier, Prussian general Blucher’s army had been forced into retreat at Ligny, south of Brussels, in a battle that would prove to be Napoleon’s final victory. But rather than retreat into Prussia, as Napoleon had anticipated, Blucher was determined to reinforce Wellington’s position. His troops’ presence was decisive to the Seventh Coalition’s success.

Napoleon opened with a wave of attacks on Hougoumont farm, one of the most heavily-defended British positions. Napoleon thought that he could overwhelm Wellington’s army, spread its defenses for attacks on other fronts, and knock out one of Wellington’s strongholds. The British held the position throughout the day in the face of a French onslaught that nearly succeeded.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

Napoleon sent wave after wave of troops at the center of Wellington’s line, hoping to break it before the Prussians arrived. He nearly succeeded around midday of the battle — but the Prussians finally arrived. They had gained crucial high ground as the French closed in on the British positions.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

When Napoleon’s feared cavalry finally charged, the British let loose with musket fire and grapeshot.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

The muskets of the day were extremely inaccurate and slow to reload. To ensure an effective volley of fire, the troops stood in a line and fired all at once.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

A single cannonball would routinely rip through an entire file of troops. At close range, cannons fired grapeshot, or a bag of hundreds of musket balls which would spray like a shotgun blast.

British battlefield tactics were key to the battle’s outcome. They formed “infantry squares,” lined with soldiers pointing their muskets outwards. The horses would not dare to charge at a wall of blades, and the French were forced to file between the squares. As a result, Napoleon’s army was slowly picked off.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

As the battle turned, Napoleon deployed his famous Old Guard, a regiment entirely composed of war veterans that was famous for never retreating. When the Old Guard was repelled, the French army lost heart.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

The battle was decided by nightfall. Napoleon, one of Europe’s most prolific conquerors and a leader who had irrevocably changed the face of the continent, had been defeated for good. Over a decade of war in Europe were over.

The allied victory made a hero out of Wellington, who went on to serve as Prime Minister. It allowed Prussia to reclaim the lands Napoleon had once annexed.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

But the immediate result of the Battle of Waterloo was absolute carnage. The French suffered a staggering 41,000 casualties, while the Seventh Coalition had around 24,000 casualties.

A cowed Napoleon returned to Paris. Realizing total defeat was looming, Napoleon abdicated as emperor on June 22nd. Considered an outlaw and wanted dead or alive by the Prussians, Napoleon thought about fleeing to the US — but eventually surrendered to the commander of the British frigate Ballerophon on July 15th.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

The Battle of Waterloo led to the final surrender of Napoleon, the end of the Napoleonic Wars which had started in 1803, and the Emperor’s exile to the island of Saint Helena, where he ultimately died in 1821.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

Saint Helena is still one of the most isolated places in the world. The allies didn’t want to risk a repeat of the Hundred Days and sent Napoleon as far away as humanly possible.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

Here’s what Jamestown, the island’s largest settlement, looks like today:

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

… and here’s the house where Napoleon lived in exile for the last 5 years of his life. He was kept in an especially cold and windy part of the British-controlled island, under constant watch to ensure that he wouldn’t try an escape.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

Napoleon’s ushered in a resurgence of conservatism throughout Europe, chiefly through the Russian-led Holy Alliance of Austria, Prussia, and Russia, which focused on restraining republicanism on the continent.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

For European monarchs, Napoleon had embodied a dangerous wave of political change and an existential threat. At the Congress of Vienna, an agreement signed nine days before the Battle of Waterloo set the post-Napoleon borders of Europe and formed the basis of superficially stable monarchical and conservative order in the continent. But the Congress of Vienna was arguably a catastrophic long-term failure, since the regimes it preserved came apart disastrously in World War I, less than 100 years later.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

In the medium term, though, these alliances and agreements and Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo led to nearly four decades of relative peace throughout Europe — a quiet spell that ended with the republican revolutions that swept Europe in 1848, and the Crimean War in 1853.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

To commemorate the battle that vanquished Napoleon and changed Europe, King William I of the Netherlands had the Lion’s Mound built at Waterloo in 1826. The hill, created from soil from the battlefield, captures the momentousness of what took place at Waterloo — but it also changed the physical geography of the historic battlefield.

Today, “Waterloo” is a byword for epic confrontation, or, more specifically, for overwhelming defeat. Napoleon “met his Waterloo” 200 years ago — an event that set the stage for the next century of European history.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

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NOW: This Powerful Film Tells How Marines Fought ‘One Day Of Hell’ In Fallujah

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This is what happened to the soldiers from ‘Platoon’

The Vietnam War was a tough time in American history. The country was divided over the conflict, and protesters spoke out against the government in all sorts of ways.


Many veterans of the conflict returned home and were forgotten. But in the 1980s, a raft of new movies about the conflict hit the silver screen. One of the most successful was Oliver Stone’s “Platoon.”

While it made a huge impact at the time, did you ever wonder what happened to the brave soldiers from Platoon?

Well, we looked into it, and here’s what we found.

Related: Here’s what the Marines of ‘Full Metal Jacket’ are doing today

FYI. This is strictly fan fiction.

Chris Taylor

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
(Source: Orion)

This young and naive kid who gave up a bright future in college to join the Army infantry had an interesting time after the war. He had some trouble with the law, his vision went to sh*t, and he changed his name to Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn. But he also learned that he could throw a mean fastball.

After getting out of jail for grand theft auto, Vaughn made the Cleveland Indians baseball team and helped win them a pennant.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

Due to his overwhelming popularity, Vaughn turned to partying and excessive drinking. He checked himself into rehab and stayed for so long, he left as a certified anger management therapist.

True story.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

Sgt. Elias

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
(Source: Orion)

Now, everyone thinks that Sgt. Elias was killed when he gunned down in the Vietnam jungle — not true. That was just a government cover-up for a secret experiment he doing.

Elias’ real name is Norman Osbourne. Yes, the founder of Oscorp. He was testing a chemical that could turn humans into superhumans. Once the first round of human testing was possible, he quickly faked his death before heading to New York.

Unfortunately, the testing didn’t go as planned and he turned himself into freakish Green Goblin.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

Sadly, he attempted to take down one of the many superheroes who protect The Big Apple, and he met his doom.

Sgt. O’Neill

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
(Source: Orion)

All this tired soldier wanted to do was take some much-needed RR to avoid a massive third act firefight. Well, O’Neill eventually made it back to the states after seeing fierce combat in the Vietnam jungle.

He decided the Army wasn’t for him anymore and was discharged. O’Neill became a sports writer but got beaten up by an Italian football coach during an interview.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

After collecting an undisclosed monetary settlement, O’Neill curled his hair and went on to become an Internal Medicine doctor at Sacred Heart Hospital.

He changed his name to Perry Cox and was placed in charge of all the medical residents.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

The frustration he feels every day causes him to get nasty bloody noses which he treats with shock therapy.

Also Read: 7 life lessons we learned from the grunts in ‘Platoon’

Sgt. Barnes

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
(Source: Orion)

Soon after Chris shot him in the chest, combat medics arrived on the scene and patched Barnes up in time. After a few years of therapeutic healing and some facial plastic surgery, Barnes made a full recovery.

His recovery was considered nothing short of a miracle, and he managed to fulfill a lifetime dream of becoming a major league baseball catcher.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

He eventually made amends with “Wild Thing” after informing him that Elias was actually a crazy f*cker. The two played alongside one another for a few seasons before Barnes became the ball club’s manager.

In the offseason, Barnes moonlights as a Marine Corps sniper and travels deep into enemy territory taking out high valued targets.

But don’t tell anyone we said that — Op Sec and all.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

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Homes for our Troops builds homes while rebuilding lives

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
Sgt. Mendes in his new Homes for our Troops home.


On a chilly May morning, the city of Murrieta, CA dispatched a firetruck to a new home. Dozens of men, women and children congregated the driveway. The sounds of  Rolling Thunder could be heard in the distance. As if on cue, the wind picked up and the huge American flag streaming from the ladder of the firetruck began to wave. American Legion Riders escorted wounded Army veteran Sgt. Nicholas Mendes to his new specially adapted home, and the community was there to welcome him.

This is the work of Homes for our Troops.

HFOT builds mortgage-free, specially adapted homes across the United States for those who have been severely injured in theater of combat since September 11, 2001. The non-profit’s purpose is to assist wounded warriors with the complex process of integrating back into society.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
Army Sergeant Nicholas Mendes, who was a gunner with the 10th Mountain, 3rd Brigade, is one of 214 veterans to thus far be living in one of these homes. On April 30, 2011, an IED detonated beneath his vehicle in Sangsar, Afghanistan. The explosion, set off by a 1200-pound command wire device, caused multiple fractures to his vertebrae and rendered him paralyzed from the neck down. Mendes had previously served in Iraq in 2008.

After being presented with the key to his new home, Mendes’ wife held the microphone up to his mouth so he could address the audience of well-wishers.

“Bear with me, I didn’t write anything down – because my arms don’t work.” Mendes joked. “It’s just crazy looking back on everything, this all started with a Google search, and then putting in an application to a foundation that I didn’t know if they’d ever write me back…”

Not only did they write him back and build him a home, Homes for our Troops is working with Mendes to allow him to reclaim his independence. The adapted features in his home remove much of the burden from his wife and family and allow him to focus on recovery and his plans to  pursue a career in real estate.

“These men and women are not looking for pity. They’re looking to rebuild their lives.” said Bill Ivy, Executive Director of HFOT.  “We have an extremely talented group of men and women who are either in homes or that we are building homes for. The whole idea is to get them back going to school, back into the work force, raising families. Since 2010 we’ve had over 100 children born to families living in our homes. So it is about the next generation and moving forward. We have a tremendous amount of successes out there.”

Homes for Our Troops lays a foundation for these men and woman to continue on after their injuries. Although their way of life has undergone major changes, their spirit and desire to serve remains. Many of these home recipients are able to rehabilitate to the point where they enter the workforce and give back to their community as teachers and counselors.

Two HFOT recipients started a non-profit together called Amputee Outdoors.  Another recipient, Joshua Sweeny is an American gold medal sledge hockey player and Purple Heart recipient who competed in 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia. Four recipients participated in the recent Invictus games, and one even spent a month in a tent to raise awareness for veteran homelessness.

“There’s duty, there’s honor and self sacrifice. Death nor injury does not diminish those qualities in our soldiers. It is a testament to the love of this country” said David Powers of Prospect Mortgage – one of the key ceremony speakers. “Duty is the mission, the lesson is the sacrifice for our country, and for our freedom.”

For more information visit the Homes for Our Troops website.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
HOFT Executive Director, Bill Ivy raising a flag outside Sgt. Mendes’ new home.

 

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This is the new body armor soldiers are getting in a few years

Plastic may sound like a terrible idea for stopping bullets and shrapnel, but this plastic is lightweight, modular, and affords all the same protection of current gear. The Army’s Program Executive Officer (PEO) Soldier, the office responsible for cost and scheduling in DoD acquisitions for soldiers’ equipment and protective gear, has been field testing armor weighing only 23 pounds. This new lightweight armor is known as the Torso and Extremities Protection System and is 25 percent lighter that current body armor.


This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
Image from PEO Soldier

The key is Polyethylene. The plastic is also replacing kevlar in soldiers’ personal protective armor and in replacing helmets. Furthermore, manufacturers of ceramic plates are also refining the process of making the plates, which will drive the weight down even more.

“The Army is constantly trying to make soldiers’ loads lighter,” Lt. Col. Kathy Brown told Stars and Stripes. Brown is a program manager for Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment at Program Executive Office Soldier. “We are looking at further developing the system,” she said. “We think we can lose more weight.”

The new armor will cost less to produce and will allow troops to wear more or less armor, depending on mission risk and requirements. The new flexibility also offers the wearer increased mobility. For missions with less risk involved, soldiers can wear a “ballistic combat shirt,” a soft armor which protects the upper back, check, neck, and arms under their jackets. Ceramic plates can be added for increased protection.

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read

The new armor has been field tested at Army and Marine Corps units across the U.S. for the last two years and has received a 95 percent positive feedback rating from troops who tested it. In addition, the Army tried to take into account all the previous efforts to make armor more comfortable for female wearers. So this armor is designed to be unisex and all-encompassing for both male and female soldiers.

The new armor is expected to be available for Army-wide soldier use in 2019.

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Boeing’s new laser fits in suitcases and shoots down drones

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
Photo: Youtube/Boeing


Boeing’s High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD) fires a beam of concentrated light that can disable anything from drones in flight to incoming mortar shells.

Lasers are already in use on military trucks and Navy ships, but Boeing premiered a new version that can fit inside a suitcase earlier last week in New Mexico, Wired reports.

HEL MD works by shooting a 10 kilowatt beam of focused light at light speed towards airborne targets.

The beam will then quickly heat the surface of the target until it bursts into flames. Boeing claims the laser works with “pinpoint precision within seconds of [target] acquisition, then acquires the next target and keeps firing.”

Potentially these lasers could serve to defend against hypersonic missiles, which fly too fast for conventional missile defense.

Wired reports that the laser is accurate within a few inches, and it can disable or destroy the flying foe depending on what the situation calls for. So an incoming mortar can be detonated from a safe distance.

The laser also has the benefit of being totally electronic, so no dangerous projectiles will be fired, and as long as the electricity flows, the machine can fire indefinitely. For that reason, the HEL MD system is a rare instance of a high tech defense product having a low operational cost.

Boeing hopes to have the system available for purchase within a year or two, according to Wired, who also report that Boeing will add sound effects to the silent machine.

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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The Air Force spends a lot of time and effort destroying rape-preventing lip balm

This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever read
(Photo: Air Force Times)


On the evening of Dec. 16, 2015, members of the Joint Base Elemendorf Richardson community received an odd email. As part of their outreach efforts, the Alaskan base’s Sexual Assault and Prevention office – commonly referred to by the acronym SAPR – had given away tubes of lip balm.

They had to be destroyed.

“It has come to our attention that approximately 400 ‘SAPR lip balm’ promotional items … contain trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),” the public address read, referring to the active ingredient in the drug marijuana. “The Sexual Assault Response Coordinator office has ceased the distribution of the lip balm … and requests that you dispose this product, if you received one of these items.”

Both the Pentagon and the Air Force – the lead service at the base – ban personnel from ingesting any substances that contain hemp seed or oil from those seeds. The flying branch specifically worries the small amounts of THC could trigger a positive result during random drug screening.

On Dec. 14, personnel from the 673rd Air Base Wing had sent the vendor a “heads up” email explaining the situation for future reference, according to records We Are the Mighty obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. Earlier, the Wing had reached out to the Office of Special Investigations for advice on how to proceed.

The next day, Global Promotional Sales responded by pointing out that the lip balm did not contain any THC, along with at least two follow-up messages asking to chat with base staff. They ultimately sent along a 2001 scientific study from Leson Environmental Consulting that concluded hemp oil would never have enough THC to register in a drug test. At the same time, Wing staff and the SAPR office were debating what to do with the tubes of fruit-flavored moisturizer.

Citing personal privacy exemptions, censors redacted the names of all Air Force personnel in the records. However, they did not remove the name of the Global Promotional Sales representative.

“I’ve been told that lip balm made from Hemp [sic] will not result in a positive for THC,” an unnamed colonel in the 673d’s commander’s office wrote in one Email. “How many have you handed out?”

While the colonel’s position is widely accepted, rules are rules. “Because of the regulations banning any use of hemp products we understand that the product must be disposed of,” the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator shot back.

After untold hours working on the issue, the base leadership decided to send out the public address and ask personnel to voluntarily trash the items. In total, the SAPR office had purchased 1,600 “Fruity Lip Moisturizers” at a cost of over $1,580, according to an invoice.

The Joint Base Elemendorf Richardson public affairs office told We Are the Mighty in an email that they were unsure what had happened to the more than 1,000 tubes of lip balm that the SAPR office had not handed out. They didn’t know whether the vendor reimbursed the cost or offered credit on a future order.

What we do know is that for at least three days, both the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and the 673d’s staff were actively involved dealing with a problem that took away from their core mission in more ways than one. Emblazoned with the SAPR logo and the text “Consent, Ask, Communicate,” the lip balm itself seems to have served an unclear purpose.

“I mean, just the weight of those emails … the weight of coordination spent on pursuing swag and trinkets,” Tony Carr, a retired Air Force officer and outspoken critic of many of the flying branch’s policies, told We Are the Mighty in an Email after reviewing the documents. “This is what SARCs are doing while the issue of sexual assault continues to hover somewhere between confused and irresolute.”

Legislators, celebrities, and others have repeatedly criticized the Pentagon failing to improve the situation. While the services have focused on education, accountability seems to be the real factor holding back progress on the issue.

The Pentagon was forced to admit that “sexual assaults continue to be under-reported” when they released their latest sexual assault prevention strategy on May 1, 2014. The new policy cited a need to pursue offenders regardless of rank and make sure that accusers did not suffer retaliation from their superiors, who were often the attackers.

Retired Air Force Col. Christensen, who worked in the military legal system for more than two decades, said the incident highlighted the Pentagon’s “very simplistic” responses to very difficult problems, like rape. Christensen is now President of Protect Our Defenders, a Washington, D.C. based non-profit advocacy group that focuses on sexual violence in the U.S. military.

“They think they can powerpoint their way out of it,” Christensen lamented, describing seemingly endless briefings and courses on the ills of sexual assault. He specifically singled out the bystander training as “pretty much ridiculous,” adding that he was not aware of anyone being punished for not speaking up on behalf of a victim.

Of course, both Carr and Christensen were quick to note that these sorts of responses were not necessarily limited to one particular crisis. “It reinforces the ‘leadership by harassment’ approach of inventing and then enforcing rules with no valid military necessity,” Carr said. “I’m amazed at the extent to which this continues happening.”

Christensen compared the idea of handing out lip balm, mints, and other novelties as a solution to sexual assault to the much maligned fluorescent yellow belts troops have wear in many situations. Instead of really delving into how to prevent people getting killed while running or doing other activities at night, the Pentagon simply decreed that everyone had to wear the reflective wraps nearly everywhere, nearly all the time, he said.

But this sort of response is especially galling when it comes to sexual violence. Gimmicks like the lip balm “trivializes the impact of sexual assault” and contribute to troops generally “tuning out” the messages, Christensen added.

To really start fixing the problem, Christensen says the Pentagon and its critics both need to recognize that it will be impossible eradicate sexual assault from the military entirely. Instead, the focus needs to be on treating servicemen and women like adults who know it’s a crime, empowering investigators and prosecutors to go after attackers and instill an overall sense of accountability up and down the ranks.

Until then, SAPR offices will easily find themselves spending precious time dealing with promotional missteps than actually advocating for a healthier climate within the services.

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