In 2012, knife manufacturer Condor named a new tactical switchblade after Cpl. Samuel Toloza, one of 380 El Salvadorans who fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Corporal Toloza was part of a small force of Central Americans in Najaf, Iraq in 2004. The El Salvadoran force made their way from their main base to an outpost of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps where they suddenly found themselves surrounded by elements of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army .
Toloza’s unit was caught by surprise when the insurgents attacked. The “El Sals” withheld using their heavier guns for fear of inflicting civilian casualties, but sniper fire and RPGs were taking its toll on the small force.
They fought the Mahdi Army for hours but soon ran out of ammunition. With one dead and twelve wounded, the four remaining Central Americans tried desperately to hold on.
They moved the wounded to their truck and tried to get back to their main base. That’s when insurgents tried to kidnap one of Toloza’s wounded comrades.
The young corporal said a prayer and pulled a 3-inch pocket switchblade, his last weapon, on the attackers. Toloza stabbed anyone who came near his friends, no matter what weapons they carried. Horrified and completely surprised by the ferocity of an El Salvadoran on a stabbing rampage, the insurgent fighters backed off.
“We never considered surrender. I was trained to fight until the end,” the then-25-year-old Toloza told the Washington Times.
Toloza was able to keep knifing the insurgent fighters long enough for an American relief column to arrive. When the Americans saw how Toloza managed to save his entire unit, they awarded him the Bronze Star for valor.
But it doesn’t stop there, there’s added pressure from the other officers higher in the chain. When Chase Millsap a veteran officer of both the Army and Marine Corps infantry got to his first unit, he received a warning call from the other Os.
“There wasn’t even like a welcome to the unit,” said Millsap. “It was like, ‘you are a liability, you are going to screw this up for the rest of us. If you think you have a question, don’t ask it.’ ”
It was a well timed warning and every new officer needs that grounding advice. There’s a tremendous amount of pressure coming out of the infantry officers course and these guys are ready to fight — “they are gung-ho,” according to Millsap.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast Tim and I ask Millsap everything we ever wanted to know about Grunt officers.
Here are 10 questions we asked:
How do you get into the Naval Academy? How do you get your congressman to vouch for you?
What are some popular tattoos with grunt officers? Do you guys also get moto tattoos?
What kinds of nicknames do officers give each other?
Do experienced officers mess with new officers? Do you haze each other? Spill the dirt.
How did you know when you’ve earned the respect from the men you lead?
In the pre-dawn darkness of December 11, 1917, thirteen American soldiers died together at the same moment, hanged in a mass execution on gallows that were immediately torn back down to lumber so other soldiers wouldn’t see them. If you serve in the military today, your life is better because of that morning, and because of the debate that followed. Samuel Ansell left the Army nearly a hundred years ago, and he might save your life one day.
The men who died on December 11 were black privates and NCOs, infantrymen who served together under white officers in the segregated 24th Infantry Regiment. Earlier that year, in the spring of 1917, they had been sent to Texas to guard army facilities as the United States went to war in Europe. Posted outside Houston, the men of the 24th collided with Jim Crow laws and the social customs that went with them. By mid-August, arguments were nearly turning into fights, and a white laborer on Camp Logan stabbed a black civilian to death in the payroll line.
On August 23, two Houston police officers saw a group of black teenagers shooting craps on a city street, and tried to arrest them for illegal gambling. The teenagers ran, and the police chased them, bursting into homes in an African-American neighborhood. A black woman named Sara Travers complained, and a pair of white policemen dragged her outside, half-dressed, to arrest her. Watching white police rough up a black woman, a soldier from the 3/24 in the city on a pass stepped forward and told them to stop. They beat him and took him to jail. Soon after, an NCO from the 2/24 approached the officers and demanded an explanation for the beating and the arrest. At that point, Officer Lee Sparks pulled his revolver out and began to beat Cpl. Charlies Baltimore over the head with it – then fired at his back as he ran away, before catching up to him and hauling him away to jail, too.
It was the moment when the arguments ended and the fighting began. Back at Camp Logan, a group of about 100 soldiers stormed an ammunition tent, loaded rifles, and went into town to find the police officers who had beaten and shot at their fellow infantrymen. They found them. At the end of a running gun battle, nineteen people were dead: Fifteen of them white, including police officers, and four black soldiers.
The courts-martial that followed were a joke, mass trials meant to placate infuriated Texas politicians. Sixty-three men were tried before the first of three courts, with single witnesses casually implicating dozens of defendants and men being convicted on the strength of testimony that had flatly misidentified them in court. For their defense, they were represented by an infantry officer with no legal training. On November 29, returning guilty verdicts by the box lot, the court sentenced 13 defendants to death. Facing local pressure, the convening authority, Maj. Gen. John Rickman, approved the verdicts and scheduled the executions – on his own authority, without seeking approval from the Army or the War Department.
The 13 men were simultaneously hanged on December 11 at 7:17 a.m. local time — one minute before sunrise — in the presence of U.S. Army officers and one local official, County Sheriff John Tobin.
It was the event that kicked off the debate about military justice during World War I: American soldiers were being killed by their own army without any kind of legal review or approval by national authorities.
Incredibly, the War Department issued a general order forbidding local commanders to put soldiers to death before the Judge Advocate General and the president had a chance to review their convictions – an obvious expectation that was only imposed for the first time in the second decade of the 20th century. Imagine serving in an army that could put you in front of the firing squad or put a noose around your neck a few days after a shoddy trial, with no one checking to make sure you hadn’t just been railroaded. That was a possible feature of military experience for the first century and a half of our history.
The War Department order was just in time. While the court-martial in Texas was delivering its sentences, drumhead courts-martial at the front in France were sentencing four other privates to death. Jeff Cook and Forest Sebastian had fallen asleep on guard duty on the front line, slumped forward against the trenches, while Olon Ledoyen and Stanley Fishback refused an order to drill. All four had even less of a trial than the soldiers of the 24th Infantry. Ledoyen and Fishback were represented in their defense by an infantry lieutenant who was pulled from the line for the job. Shrugging, he told them both to just plead guilty and hope for the best. All four trials took somewhere in the neighborhood of a few minutes, with little to no testimony, argument, or deliberation.
This is where our contemporary military justice system was born. In Washington, the Army had two top legal officers. The Judge Advocate General, Maj. Gen. Enoch Crowder, was temporarily assigned to other wartime duties, so Brig. Gen. Samuel Ansell was the acting JAG; both thought of themselves as the Army’s top legal officer. The two men had completely different reactions to the trials in Texas and France, and a totally different view of the way courts-martial were supposed to work. Their argument – the “Ansell-Crowder dispute” – kicked off a full century of debate.
To Crowder, the purpose of a court-martial was discipline and good military order, and the results of a trial could only merit objections from army lawyers if blatant unfairness screamed from the record of the proceedings. Commanders needed near-absolute latitude to deliver the punishments inflicted by courts, and the JAG office had little to no reason to interfere. If the army’s lawyers objected to the death sentences in France, Crowder warned, Pershing would believe that his authority had been undermined in a critical matter involving his command.
But to Ansell, courts-martial had to be courts. They needed standards of evidence and reasonable rules about due process, and the outcome of a military trial could become illegitimate when courts broke rules. The acting JAG and the circle of reformers around him tore into the records of the courts-martial in France – finding, for example, that Cook and Sebastian had gone four days with almost no sleep at all, but their courts-martial had taken no notice of those extenuating circumstances in delivering death sentences. “These cases were not well tried,” Ansell wrote.
President Woodrow Wilson agreed with Ansell and pardoned all four men. Sebastian died in combat soon afterward, fighting with courage, and Wilson told War Department officials that he was glad to have given a soldier a chance to redeem himself.
Then the war ended, and the argument got serious. Ansell presented a long report to Congress, detailing a series of proposals for changes in the Articles of War, the pre-UCMJ law that governed the army. He especially wanted to see the law adopt some form of mandatory post-conviction legal review, creating an appellate authority that had the direct power to overturn bad convictions. But Crowder eased him out of the office, arranging a job for Ansell at a law firm before telling him that he was done in the army. As Congress prepared to vote on Ansell’s proposed reforms, Crowder – back at his regular duties as the army JAG – gave his congressional allies a set of more modest changes. In an amendment to the pending legislation, they swapped out Ansell’s reforms for Crowder’s, and the law passed.
Even as Crowder won, though, Ansell had forced a more serious set of reforms on the army than his adversaries had wanted to see. Among the changes to the laws governing the army in 1920, Congress created boards of review for the first time. A retired JAG officer, Lawrence J. Morris, calls those boards “the first step toward a formal appellate process.” Another change required courts-martial to reach unanimous agreement to impose the death penalty, where the previous Articles of War had only required a two-thirds majority vote to put a soldier to death.
Ansell began the long effort to make courts-martial into true courts, giving soldiers some degree of due process protection. And he planted the seeds for all of the debates that have followed. After World War II, when Congress and the newly created Department of Defense decided to pursue the more serious reforms that led to the creation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the person who led the effort was a law school professor, Edmund Morgan – who had spent World War I in uniform, working for Ansell in the office of the Judge Advocate General.
Injustice led to justice. Your legal rights before the military justice system today – including your right to a trial that isn’t tainted by unlawful command influence, your right to be represented by a lawyer, and your right to appeal serious convictions to real military appellate courts – were born in a field outside Houston in 1917. Arguing over the death of soldiers, Samuel Ansell and the generation of army lawyers who served alongside him began to make military justice a far better system for everyone who followed. They were patriots who served their country with honor and left it a better place.
Chris Bray is the author of “Court-Martial: How Military Justice Has Shaped America from the Revolution to 9/11 and Beyond,” published last month by W.W. Norton.
The U.S. Coast Guard, like other law enforcement and national defense agencies, has a great need for targeting optics.
The Electro-Optical Sensor System (ESS) is a turret-mounted laser that enhances camera imagery and the PEQ-15 is a kind of laser sight for rifles. Both enhance the user’s visual ability in low light, which seems like they would be really useful in say… a dark ocean-like region at night. Or when you’re trying to surprise some drug runners before daybreak.
The Coast Guard has both of these amazing technological wonders, but because the service doesn’t technically fall under the Department of Defense, its use of lasers is ruled by the Food and Drug Administration. As a result, the PEQ-15 can only be used on a low setting while the ESS can’t be used at all.
“The regulations limit the use of the ESS because the system was manufactured for DoD use, and is not in compliance with FDA standards,” Chief Warrant Officer 3 Chad Saylor, a Coast Guard spokesman, told Navy Times. “The Coast Guard does not possess the same ability as DoD to self-certify laser systems.”
In 2013, the FDA gave the Coast Guard an exemption for ESS, but then demanded they create a list of safety controls to keep it within FDA regulations. Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, wants to change all that.
“I don’t know whether they see them as medical devices or something,” Hunter told Navy Times in a phone interview. “We’re going to find out.” Rep. Hunter wrote a letter to the FDA on April 14, 2016 in an effort to give the USCG the ability to certify its own laser systems.
“The Coast Guard’s an operational military unit, it should fall under the same rules, regulations and waivers as DoD,” Hunter said. The FDA’s response is due this week.
The first-ever detonation of a nuclear weapon occurred in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945. Just ten years later, the U.S. military conducted Operation Teapot, a series of fourteen nuclear explosions approved by President Eisenhower to test a few innovations in nuclear weapons, to make them more reliable, efficient, and compact.
They tested the effects of nukes on cratering, on aircraft, and one of the explosions, dubbed Project 32.2a, was used to determine the effect of atomic explosions on everyday things. Project 32.2a studied the effects of such an explosion on commercially packaged beverages – namely beer.
It may sound silly, but the researchers believed in the event of a nuclear war, the most widespread source of potable fluids would be commercial beverages. We have to drink something after the nuclear apocalypse, after all. What is silly is that Teapot nuked the beverages twice, the first with a 20-kiloton yield and the second with a fifty percent increase.
Both soft drinks and beers in bottles and cans survived both the blast and the air pressure as close to ground zero as 1270 feet. When the packaging did shatter, it was due to debris or collapsing structures. The researchers also tested the radiation levels of the beverages. The radiation level “was not great” in either drink and determined they were both safe to drink.
Both could also be used as drinkable fluids in case of emergencies. The packaging of both drinks, however, showed much more induced radiation. The packaging actually protected what was inside.
Not The powers that be made sure some poor Joe, probably junior enlisted, took a drink just to make sure it tasted okay. Afer that, samples were sent to research labs. The taste results returned ranged from “commercial quality” to “definitely off.”
For the sodas, the radiation turned the sucrose sugar into dextrose and levulose, a change that would happen to soda sitting on a shelf for six months anyway. All beverages retained their full carbonation, so look for irradiated beer at your next craft beer fair because hipsters are getting over PBR and no one is drinking nuked beer yet.
When they finally arrived, they were greeted with cheers. The troops of the MACV Compound had just repelled an enemy surge within their walls.
“They had been through hell, and they thought we were there to save the day, but little did we know the numerical numbers of NVA there,” Ligato said in the video below.
Ligato and his ill-equipped company were walking into a deathtrap against nine battalions of highly-trained North Vietamese soldiers, outnumbering each man by a few hundred.
“Most of us thought we’d never get out,” Ligato said.
The odds were against them, but miraculously, they pulled through. Ligato sums up the company’s success with this quote:
Americans Adapt. We Improvise. The most ferocious fighting machine the world has ever seen is a 19-year-old pissed off Marine. Because you’ll take that kid from Detroit or Mississippi and you’ll train him in Marine Corps boot camp, and you’ll put him in a situation that’s foreign to him, and he will adapt and improvise and become that situation and deal with it.
Watch John Ligato tell his harrowing experience in this 3-minute American Heroes Channel video:
The White House announced the resignation of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel today — a surprise to many who’d come to respect the Vietnam-era veteran as a man of the troops. Whatever the politics, Hagel has always conducted himself with the sort of dignity that’s evident in his official message to the military that was just released through DoD channels. Here it is:
To the men and women of the Department of Defense:
I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that this morning, President Obama accepted my letter of resignation. I have agreed to continue to serve as Secretary of Defense until my successor is confirmed by the United States Senate.
You should know I did not make this decision lightly. But after much discussion, the President and I agreed that now was the right time for new leadership here at the Pentagon.
I want you to know that I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished together. We have prepared ourselves, our Allies and the Afghan National Security Forces for a successful transition in Afghanistan. We have taken the fight to ISIL and, with our Iraqi and coalition partners, have blunted the momentum of this barbaric enemy. We have come to the aid of millions of people around the world who have suffered the ravages of natural disaster and of disease. We have worked tirelessly to sustain our all-volunteer force that has given so much during 13 years of war. And we have bolstered enduring alliances and strengthened emerging partnerships, all the while setting in motion important reforms that will prepare this institution for the challenges facing us in the decades to come.
Most importantly, we have helped keep this country and our fellow citizens safe. We have sustained the blessings of liberty our ancestors secured and upheld the oath we took.
That work will continue. It must continue. The world is still too dangerous, the threats too numerous, for us to lose focus. And even as I promised the President my full support going forward, so, too, do I promise that I will work hard to support you right up until my last day in office. I owe you that.
There will be time later to say farewell. For now, please know how much I respect and admire your service and that of your families. As I gather with my own family this Thanksgiving holiday — a luxury I realize not all of you will enjoy — it will be the privilege of having worked with you these last two years for which I will be most grateful.
Thank you for all you do for this country. God bless you. Happy Thanksgiving.
In late 1944, German Pvt. Paul-Alfred Stoob was one of the many German troops quickly retreating from Allied forces. During his withdrawal, he was hit with fire from a Sherman tank and wounded in his head and leg. When he finally made it home to Germany, he learned that his father was also wounded in his head and leg in the exact same town in World War I.
Stoob was a Panther tank driver taking part in the general German withdrawal in 1944 before the Battle of the Bulge temporarily halted Germany’s loss in territory. After the Panther was destroyed by Allied fire, Stoob and the rest of his crew stole a truck and headed east towards Belgium.
They managed to scrape together bread and some eggs before lucking out and discovering a stash of delicacies abandoned by a German headquarters unit. Only a short time after they filled their truck with the fresh food, an American Sherman crew spotted them and opened fire. Stoob was hit in the head and leg, but still tried to escape.
He made for a nearby cemetery and attempted to use the gravestones as cover for his escape. Before he could get away, a French priest begged for him to stop and then went and got an American medic to tend to his wounds.
Stoob spent the rest of the war in a prisoner of war camp in the U.S. and didn’t make it home until 1947. That was when he learned that his father, a veteran of World War I, had been wounded in the same unnamed village in 1914, exactly 30 years before his son.
The Marine Corps is accepting delivery of its first new Amphibious Combat Vehicle that can fire stabilized weapons, maneuver in littoral areas and launch faster, more survivable ship-to-shore amphibious attacks from beyond-the-horizon.
Referred to by Corps developers as ACV 1.1, the new vehicle is engineered to replace the services’ current inventory of Amphibious Assault Vehicles, or AAVs – in service for decades. There is an existing effort to upgrade a portion of its fleet of AAVs to a more survivable variant with spall liner and other protection-improving adjustments such as added armor.
Nevertheless, despite the enhancements of the AAV Survivability Upgrade, or AAV SU, the Corps is clear that it needs a new vehicle to address emerging threats, Kurt Mullins, ACV 1.1 Product Manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“ACV 1.1 gives us the ability to operate throughout the range of operations. The current AAV is limited because of its survivability. The new vehicle will be significantly more survivable than a standard AAV,” Mullins said.
The Corps is now in the process of acquiring a number of Engineering, Manufacturing Development vehicles for further testing and evaluation from two vendors – SAIC and BAE Systems. Mullins said the Marine Corps plans to down-select to one manufacturer by 2018 and have an operational new ACV 1.1 by 2020.
Marine Corps fleet plans call for more than 200 of the new vehicles to support attacking infantry battalions. They are building both personnel and recovery variants, he explained.
The ACV 1.1 will serve alongside and improve upon the upgraded portion of the existing AAV fleet. The Marines have operated a fleet of more than 1,000 AAVs over the years ; some will “sunset” and others will receive the survivability upgrade.
Stabilized .50-cal machine guns and Mk 19 grenade launchers will make the new ACV for lethal and accurate in attacks against enemies; engineers are building in an up-gunned weapons station operating with Common Remotely Operated Weapons Systems, or CROWS, able to allow attackers to fire weapons from beneath the protection of the vehicle’s armor.
Unlike the tracked AAVs, the new ACV 1.1 is a wheeled vehicle designed for better traction on land and operations involving enter and egress from Amphib ships.
“Wheeled vehicles are more reliable, when operating across the range of military operations.”
Given that the new vehicle is being built for both maritime and land combat operations, requirements for the emerging platform specify that the platform needs to be better equipped to defend against more recent threats such as IEDs and roadside bombs. This, at least according to BAEs offering, includes the construction of a “V” shaped hull in order to increase the vehicle’s ground clearance and deflect blast debris away from the crew compartment.
“It needs to be able to provide significant armor and stand-off distance from the ground to the bottom of the hull,” Mullins added.
An ability to better withstand emerging threats and new weapons likely to be used by enemies is said to be of crucial importance in today’s evolving global environment; enemies now have longer-range, more precise weapons and high-tech sensors able to find and target vehicles from much further distances.
Accordingly, emerging Marine Corps amphibious warfare strategy calls for an ability to “disaggregate” and spread approaching amphibious vehicles apart as necessary to make the much more difficult for enemies to target. They are also being engineered operate more successfully in ground combat environments wherein approach vehicles need to advance much further in from the shoreline.
The new ACVs are also being designed to work seamlessly with longer-range, more high-tech US Navy and Army weapons as well. As US Navy weapons and sensors operate with a vastly improved ability to detect and destroy enemy targets – on land and in maritime scenarios – amphibious assault strategy will adjust accordingly.
BAE Systems ACV 1.1
The first BAE Systems ACV 1.1 vehicle has been delivered to the Marine Corps for additional assessment and testing, company officials said.
In a special interview with Scout Warrior, BAE weapons and platform developers explained that their offering includes a number of innovations designed to best position the vehicle for future combat.
BAE’s emerging vehicle uses no axl but rather integrates a gear box for each wheel station, designed for better traction and mission such as driving up onto an amphibious vehicle or rigorous terrain on land.
“It has positive drive to each of the wheel stations so you don’t have gear slippage and have positive traction at all times. All eight wheels are driven at the same time,” Swift said.
The absence of an axl means engineers can create greater depth for the vehicle’s “V-shaped” hull, he added.
Their vehicle is built with a 690-horsepower engine, composite armor materials and can travel up to 12 nautical miles with a crew of 13; also, the BAE ACV 1.1 can travel 55mph on land, and six mph in the water, BAE developers said.
Blast attenuated seats where seat frames are suspended from the ceiling are another design feature aimed at further protecting Marines from attacks involving explosions underneath the vehicle.
Fuel tanks on the new ACV 1.1 are stored on the outside of the vehicle as part of a method of reducing damage to the crew and vehicle interior in the event of an attack.Finally, like many emerging platforms these days, BAE’s offering is being engineered with an often-used term called “open architecture” – meaning it is built for growth such that it can embrace and better integrate new technologies as they emerge.
The Marine Corps awarded BAE a $103 million deal in November of last year; the company has delivered its first of 16 prototypes planned to additional testing.
The Marine Corps’ Future of Amphibious Attack
The Marine Corps future plan for amphibious assault craft consists of a nuanced and multi-faceted plan involving the production of several more vehicles. Following the ACV 1.1, the Corps plans to engineer and produce a new ACV 1.2 variant with increased combat and technical mission abilities.
“We are working on requirements for ACV 1.2, which will be informed by our ACV 1.1 experience,” Mullins said.
However, this next ACV 1.2 will merely serve as an interim solution until much faster water-speed technology comes to fruition, a development expected in coming years.
Meanwhile, Corps weapons developers from the advanced Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory are already in the early phases of preparation for when that much faster water speed exists. A future mission ability or vehicle of this kind, to be operational by 2023, could involve a number of different possible platform solutions, Mullins explained.
“Some sort of high-water speed capability that may not be a single vehicle solution. It could be a high-water speed connector that gets that vehicle to shore,” he said.
The Marine Corps is revving up its fleet of 1970s-era Amphibious Assault Vehicles to integrate the latest technology and make them better able to stop roadside-bombs and other kinds of enemy attacks, service officials said.
The existing fleet, which is designed to execute a wide range of amphibious attack missions from ship-to-shore, is now receiving new side armor (called spall liner), suspension, power trains, engine upgrades, water jets, underbelly ballistic protections and blast-mitigating seats to slow down or thwart the damage from IEDs and roadside bombs, Maj. Paul Rivera, AAV SU Project Team Lead, told Scout Warrior.
“The purpose of this variant is to bring back survivability and force protection back to the AAV P-variant (existing vehicle),” he said.
The classic AAV, armed with a .50-cal machine gun and 40mm grenade launcher, is being given new technology so that it can serve in the Corps fleet for several more decades.
“The AAV was originally expected to serve for only 20-years when it fielded in 1972. Here we are in 2016. In effect we want to keep these around until 2035,” John Garner, Program Manager for Advanced Amphibious Assault,” said in an interview with Scout Warrior last year.
The new AAV, called AAV “SU” for survivability upgrade, will be more than 10,000 pounds heavier than its predecessor and include a new suspension able to lift the hull of the vehicle higher off the ground to better safeguard Marines inside from being hit by blast debris. With greater ground clearance, debris from an explosion has farther to travel, therefore lessening the impact upon those hit by the attack.
The AAV SU will be about 70,000 pounds when fully combat loaded, compared to the 58,000-pound weight of the current AAV.
“By increasing the weight you have a secondary and tertiary effects which better protect Marines. We are also bringing in a new power train, new suspension and new water jets for water mobility,” Rivera said.
A new, stronger transmission for the AAV SU will integrate with a more powerful 625 HP Cummins engine, he added.
The original AAV is engineered to travel five-to-six knots in the water, reach distances up to 12 nautical miles and hit speeds of 45mph on land – a speed designed to allow the vehicle to keep up with an Abrams tank, Corps officials said.
In addition, the new AAV SU will reach an acquisition benchmark called “Milestone C” in the Spring of next year. This will begin paving the way toward full-rate production by 2023, Rivera explained.
The new waterjet will bring more speed to the platform, Rivera added.
“The old legacy water jet comes from a sewage pump. That sewage pump was designed to do sewage and not necessarily project a vehicle through the water. The new waterjet uses an axial flow,” Rivera said.
The new, more flexible blast-mitigating seats are deigned to prevent Marines’ feet from resting directly on the floor in order to prevent them from being injured from an underbelly IED blast.
“It is not just surviving the blast and making sure Marines aren’t killed, we are really focusing on those lower extremities and making sure they are walking away from the actual event,” Rivera said.
The seat is engineered with a measure of elasticity such that it can respond differently, depending on the severity of a blast.
“If it’s a high-intensity blast, the seat will activate in accordance with the blast. Each blast is different. As the blast gets bigger the blast is able to adjust,” Rivera said.
In total, the Marines plan to upgrade roughly one-third of their fleet of more than 900 AAVs.
The idea with Amphibious Assault Vehicles, known for famous historical attacks such as Iwo Jima in WWII (using earlier versions), is to project power from the sea by moving deadly combat forces through the water and up onto land where they can launch attacks, secure a beachhead or reinforce existing land forces.
Often deploying from an Amphibious Assault Ship, AAVs swim alongside Landing Craft Air Cushions which can transport larger numbers of Marines and land war equipment — such as artillery and battle tanks.
AAVs can also be used for humanitarian missions in places where, for example, ports might be damaged an unable to accommodate larger ships.
Joe Owen served as an enlisted Marine in a forward observer squad during World War II, but as the 90-year-old vet looks back on his life, it’s his Korean War experience that really stands out to him.
“I was overseas in WWII when I got selected for OCS,” Owen remembers. “I went to the old man and begged him to let me stay with my squad. He told me I was given an opportunity rare among all Americans to become an officer of Marines and if I were successful I would be leading the finest fighting men in the world. That was the end of it. As it turned out, I am extremely proud that I was able to fight as an officer of Marines. It was my privilege.”
Becoming an officer changed his world, to put it mildly.
Owen was a second lieutenant in command of a mortar platoon when the Korean War broke out in 1950. Later Owen was at the Chosin Reservoir, the site of one of the iconic battles of Marine Corps history. Seventeen Medals of Honor were earned in the battle that saw 10 divisions of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army against the 1st Marine Division. The Marines were forced to withdraw, but not before inflicting massive casualties on the Chinese.
“Our Marines beat the enemy, position by position, with no safety margin and under heavy fire because the enemy could see everything we did,” he said. “So we had to keep our guys moving in the heavy snow and cold. The fatigue factor is serious. The guys forced themselves to keep going because they had to keep going, first for survival and because that was their nature. That’s the fighting spirit of Marine riflemen. That’s how we beat them.”
“When were fighting in the cold, we couldn’t dig holes in the ground. It was completely frozen,” Owen remembers. “So we would take Chinese bodies, stack ’em up and that would be our position. The sons of bitches would come at us and keep coming and keep going down and they would be piled up, running over each other to get at us. The sons of bitches would never stop, so we had to keep on killing them. Can you imagine that?”
If not for the victory at the Chosin Reservoir, the entire U.S. X Corps, nearly 200,000 troops and civilians, would have been lost and maybe then the entire U.N. effort in Korea. The 1st Marine Division received the Presidential Unit Citation for their tenacity. The fighting was often close and brutal.
“We never figured out why, but when we go in close, it’d be a fight with grenades,” Owen said. “We had fragmentation grenades. They had concussion grenades. So we would toss frags at ’em and kill ’em and they’d throw theirs at us and stun us. I got hit by one of those things one time. It blew me up in the air and I came back down, I didn’t know where the hell I was. Well, that’s when they broke through. Fortunately, I had my bayonet on my carbine, and I just turned around and the leader of the Chinese ran right into my bayonet and I couldn’t get the thing out. The poor son of a bitch just struggled there. We both went down. I couldn’t get my weapon out. So I picked up his weapon and from there on in it was a fight with rifle butts. I was swinging that thing and knocking ’em out, one by one.”
In Owen’s mind, the confidence enlisted Marines have in their leaders is what sets Marines apart. Lieutenants are the first line of that confidence in combat. This is why Owen calls Korea a lieutenant’s war.
“You have to be visible. Anyone who stands up under enemy fire… that takes balls. You become a target and the sons of bitches try to kill you and you have to return fire or move forward. You gotta keep the men going, give ’em direction, let them know you’re moving with them.”
This spirit was embodied in Chew Een-Lee, the Marine Corps’ first Chinese-American officer, who served with Owen.
“A guy like that is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Owen says of Lee. “If you spent time with him it was rewarding. It lasts forever. We said things to each other that can only be stories, experiences that you talk about and you think son of a bitch, I should have done that.”
Lee died on March 3, 2014 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Owen gave the eulogy at his funeral.
“He was a conceited, self-centered sonofabitch but he was my pal,” Owen said. “We had some classic arguments. What I say about him may not be entirely complimentary, but it was a great experience to know him. And when you think of it, that’s better.”
“He and I and another guy named McCluskey, we used to get together to talk about combat leadership,” Owen recalls. “Chinese officers were very emphatic, screaming and yelling at their people to keep on going. They wouldn’t hesitate to kill the foot soldier who didn’t move forward. They had no feeling for the men who got killed under their command. In contrast, every time I lost a man, I felt as though I lost a son. Even though I was only 23-24 years old. I just felt my men trusted me and were entrusted to me. I had to bring them forward with care – to be damn sure that they were in a position where they could effectively use their weapon and defend themselves.”
He never felt sympathy for the enemies at the reservoir, but he remembers the Chinese differently from the North Koreans.
“They were trying to kill me,” Owen says. “I didn’t forget that. Anyone trying to kill me, I’m gonna kill them.”
Owen was injured at the Chosin Reservoir; doctors almost amputated his arm, but his verve convinced them he would survive his injuries without losing his arm.
“When I woke up at the Naval Hospital near Tokyo, I was in an examination room, and I see several doctors looking at X-rays on a light panel,” he said. “One of them says ‘we don’t have any choice, we have to amputate.’ I figured some poor son of a bitch is gonna lose something. I look around, and mind you I just came out of the morphine, and I see I’m the only guy in there. I figure they’re gonna cut something off me. So I yelled out fuck you. In my head I had to go back up on line with my men. If I lost parts, I can’t go back up. That saved it. The spirit saved my arm.”
He did lose full use of the limb and was soon discharged from the service, but Owen’s life didn’t stop there. He credits his longevity to the same spirit that kept his men going and saved his arm.
“If I could muster Baker 1-7 today, I would tell them we’re alive because you kept fighting,” he said. “You were invincible. You maintained the fighting spirit. You went through one of the most difficult fights ever experienced by American fighting men and you damn well held the line. You became the best goddamn rifle company in the Marine Corps.”
Ukraine has released footage of two North Korean spies exuberantly photographing fake missile designs in 2011, as part of a sting operation that eventually landed the pair in jail, as CNN reports.
Ukraine, once home to thousands of Soviet nuclear ICBMs, continues to produce missiles today as it faces a Russian-backed insurgency in the country’s east. Another Cold War remnant in Ukraine appears to be spycraft, which allowed the country to trick and capture two North Korean spies.
Authorities in Ukraine told CNN that the North Koreans sought “ballistic missiles, missile systems, missile construction, spacecraft engines, solar batteries, fast-emptying fuel tanks, mobile launch containers, powder accumulators, and military government standards,” to bring home to Pyongyang, according to CNN.
The specific plans the spies thought they were capturing showed schematics for the SS-24 Scalpel intercontinental ballistic missile, a Soviet-designed missile that can carry 10 independently targetable warheads across vast distances. Such a weapon would be a massive improvement over North Korea’s current fledgling ICBM fleet.
But the designs photographed by the North Koreans were fake, and moments after the cameras flashed, authorities broke into the room and detained them. The spies are now serving eight years in prison.