The Chicago Tribune tracks the insane number of shooting victims in the area, broken down by year, month, and location.
And the numbers are staggering.
As gangs inflict casualties on other gang members and innocent bystanders in cities like Chicago, it’s tragically similar to a war zone — so similar, U.S. military medics have been training in the most dangerous parts of America’s cities since at least 2003.
Many of the armed forces’ medical personnel just do not get trauma training they need on the battlefields overseas, so they get it working the battlefields at home.
“It’s important to get them this kind of training here, so they can see how to stop that bleeding and save that life,” Lt. Cmdr. Stan Hovell, a Navy nurse who worked at Chicago’s Cook County hospital, told the Chicago Tribune. “They pick up those skills and carry it back to the Navy.”
Gangland violence is keeping up with the times when it comes to wounds of warfare. Gang members sometimes even use military-style rifles in their assaults, according to Dale Smith, the chair of the Medical Military History Department at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda. And they’ve inflicted bayonet-like stabbing wounds.
“The first night I took calls here, it was unbelievable,” Navy Cmdr. Peter Rhee, director of the Trauma Training Center at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center emergency room told the LA Times. “We ended up opening five chests; we had 10 people shot in the chest. We were operating all night long. It was truly as bad as any kind of wartime experience you could have.”
The doctors, nurses, and administrators love having medics and corpsmen rotating through their staff because U.S. military personnel are fearless.
“Some of them are very experienced,” Faran Bokhari, the head of Chicago’s Stroger Hospital trauma department told the Chicago Tribune. “They’re not green medical students out of la-la land. They’ve seen the blood and guts.”
Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian P. Wade, the 2nd Marine Division Gunner as well as the personality behind that video of cooking bacon on a suppressor, has a new video where he tests the resilience of the Marine Corps’ new reinforced pack frame.
Despite long falls, getting dragged behind a Jeep, and about 51 Kalashnikov rounds, the new pack proves itself to be surprisingly tough. You can see what finally destroys the pack in the video below:
The former head of one of the US government’s leading intelligence divisions says that the US believed that religious extremists could carve out a sizable safe-haven in Syria as early as 2012 — but that the US did little to stop this from happening.
Hasan quotes what he describes as a “secret” DIA analysis from August 2012 warning that the chaos in Syria could allow for the creation of a Salafist enclave in the country’s desert east. Hasan asked Flynn whether this meant the US actually predicted the rise of the ISIS caliphate and did nothing to stop it.
Flynn agrees, arguing that it shows the US should have had a smarter policy of cooperation with Syria’s secular rebels.
“I think where we missed the point, where we totally blew it was in the very beginning, I mean we’re talking four years now into this effort in Syria … the Free Syrian Army, that movement, I mean where are they today? Al Nusra, where are they today? How much have they changed?” Flynn asked. “When you don’t get in and help somebody they’re going to find other means to achieve their goals.”
Flynn suggests that the US’s failure to assist the rebels earlier in the conflict created an opening for extremist groups. Mehdi pushed back, quoting the 2012 DIA assessment as saying that“The Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda in Iraq are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” before accusing the US of “coordinating arms transfer to those same groups.”
Flynn says he paid “very close attention” to reports like the DIA assessment and implies that he actually opposed forms of assistance that could benefit extremist groups. But Flynn disputed Mehdi’s characterization of the administration turning a “blind eye” to the DIA’s analysis and explained that US policymaking on Syria has always been convoluted.
“You have to really ask the President, what is it that he actually is doing with the policy that is in place, because it is very very confusing.” Flynn said.
The jihadist group began as Al Qaeda in Iraq, which fought the US military and the Iraqi state during last decade’s US campaign in the country. ISIS was expelled from Al Qaeda in February 2014 because of the group’s overly-brutal sectarian violence and refusal to listen to the group’s Afghanistan and Pakistan-based global leadership.
Although Al Qaeda in Iraq was hobbled when the US military pulled out of Iraq in 2011, the collapse of Syria provided AQI with a safe-haven.
The rule of a sectarian Shi’ite government in Baghdad, and the Baghdad government’s failure to integrate anti-Al Qaeda Sunni militants into the security forces, provided further impetus for the group’s growth.
During the Al Jazeera interview, Flynn also conceded that the US’s military policies in the Middle East were at least partly to blame for the crisis in Syria and that the US had made a number of strategic errors that made the conflict more likely.
He also conceded that US prisons in Iraq were responsible for the radicalization of thousands of young Iraqis, many of whom are now fighting with ISIS.
Like most general officers commissioned right after the Vietnam War ended, Gen. Martin Dempsey’s firsthand experience of dealing with combat losses came relatively late in his career. During the summer of 2003, then-Major General Dempsey was commanding “Task Force Iron” in Iraq when the post-invasion lull ended and the insurgency began going after American troops.
“We started taking casualties,” Gen. Dempsey recounted. “And during the morning briefing, after we talked about the high-level mission items and what we called ‘significant incidents,’ we’d flash up the names of the fallen and have a moment of silence.
“The names were up there on the screen and then, whoosh, they were gone,” he said. “After about two or three weeks of the same thing, I became really uncomfortable with that. One minute it was there and real, and then the next minute it was somebody else’s problem.”
Gen. Dempsey attended a number of the memorial services held at the forward operating bases downrange for those killed in action.
“They were both heart wrenching and inspirational,” the general said about the services. “To see the love that these soldiers had for each other made me take my responsibilities that much more seriously.”
But as he greeted the battle buddies of the fallen, Gen. Dempsey wasn’t sure what to say to them that would help at those moments. “I had nothing,” he said. “I mean, I’d say, ‘hang in there’ or ‘we’re really sorry about what happened’ . . . I felt so superficial.”
Then it hit him one morning after he was just waking up in his quarters in Baghdad. “A phrase was echoing in my head,” he remembered. “Make it matter.”
He did two things immediately after that: First, he had laminated cards made for every soldier who had been killed to that point. The cards were carried by all the general officers in theater as a constant physical reminder of the human cost of the war. In time the number of casualties became so great that it was impractical to carry the cards at all times, so he had a mahogany box engraved with “Make it Matter” on the top and put all but three of the cards inside of it. He would constantly rotate the three he carried in his pocket with the ones in the box.
Second, from that point forward when he would address the soldiers in units that had experienced losses, he’d simply say, “Make it matter.”
“They knew exactly what I meant,” Gen. Dempsey said.
Five years after Gen. Dempsey’s introduction to the challenges a two-star leader faces during periods of significant combat losses, Marine Corps Major David Yaggy, a veteran of three combat deployments, was an instructor flying in the rear cockpit of a Navy T-34C trainer on a cross-country flight between Florida and South Carolina when the airplane went down in the hills of Alabama. Yaggy and his flight student at the controls in the front cockpit were both killed in the crash.
The day of that crash is burned into the memory of Maj. Yaggy’s widow, Erin. She first heard from a realtor friend that a helicopter had gone down, and she immediately went online and saw a report that, in fact, a T-34 had crashed in Alabama. Fearing the worst, she put her 18-month-old daughter Lizzy in a stroller and went for a walk, in denial and hoping to avoid any officials who might show up to tell her that her husband had been killed.
During the walk, she received a phone call from her cousin. “Where are you?” she asked.
“I’m at your house,” he replied. That was all he said.
Erin ran home pushing the stroller, in her words, “like a crazy person.” When she arrived she caught a glimpse of a uniform, and she broke down, hysterical. “That didn’t go so well,” she said.
She had a long period of vacillating between shock, anger, and sorrow. “I felt like other people wanted me to cry,” she said. “I was like, ‘I don’t want permission to cry, I just want him here.”
The sister of the flight student killed with Erin’s husband convinced her to get involved with Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), and she wound up making the short trip from Baltimore to Washington DC to attend her first Good Grief Camp — the organization’s signature gathering — when Lizzy was four years old.
General Dempsey had just taken over as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army when his aide briefed him that he was scheduled to address the TAPS Good Grief Camp attendees gathered in a hotel ballroom across the interstate from the Pentagon. Although the general had heard of TAPS and was armed with the requisite three-by-five cards filled with talking points provided by his staff, when he got there he realized he wasn’t fully ready for what he was walking into.
“I walked into this room with 600 kids all wearing big round buttons with images of their parents, and I knew I was ill-prepared,” Gen. Dempsey said. “It was emotionally overwhelming. It’s hard enough meeting a single family that’s had a loss. It’s another thing altogether meeting 600 families.”
Gen. Dempsey started his appearance with a question-and-answer session, and after a couple of innocent ones like “do you have your own airplane?” and “do you like pizza?” a little girl dramatically shifted the mood by asking, “Is my daddy an angel?”
“I was stunned,” Gen. Dempsey recalled. “How do you answer that question?”
The general thought for a few moments before calling an audible of sorts. Fearing that he could well break down if he tried to talk he decided to attempt something else.
“I knew I could sing through emotion instead of trying to speak,” he said.
So he answered that, of course, her father was an angel — like the fathers of everyone there — and that the entire group should sing together because singing is joyful and the fact that their fathers were angels should bring them great joy.
Then he launched into the Irish classic, “The Unicorn Song,” including a lesson in the proper hand gestures required during the chorus. Soon the entire room was singing.
After his appearance, General Dempsey asked Bonnie Carroll, the founder of TAPS, if he could meet the little girl who’d asked the question and her family, so Bonnie introduced him to the Yaggys. The general was immediately struck by Lizzy’s spark, and, as Erin put it, Lizzy was drawn to the man with lots of silver stars on his Army uniform who’d raised her spirits by singing with all of the kids.
“His timing was perfect,” Erin said. “Before [General Dempsey’s singalong], Lizzy had just said, ‘I don’t want to talk about daddy being dead anymore.’ Her attitude changed after she met General Dempsey.”
At the following year’s Good Grief Camp, they began what blossomed into a tradition: Lizzy introduced him as the keynote speaker.
“She stood up and said, ‘this is General Dempsey. We love him, and he loves to sing, and he makes us feel good,'” the general recalled. “And she finished with, ‘and now my friend, General Dempsey.'” With that, once again, General Dempsey had to fight back tears as he faced hundreds of military survivors.
General Dempsey and his wife Deanie stayed in touch with the Yaggys, exchanging email updates and Christmas cards. The third year Lizzy introduced the general he’d taken over as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon’s senior-most position. Before they got on stage together she gave him a little box with an angel-shaped medallion in it, saying, “You’re my guardian angel.”
The general was deeply moved and wanted to return the gesture, but all his aide had in his possession was a ballcap with the numeral “18” on the front of it, signifying the 18th CJCS. He wrote in black ink on the bill: “To Lizzy — From your chairman friend. Martin E. Dempsey.”
“It was so cute to see her wearing that hat for the rest of the night,” Deanie Dempsey said. “Here was this little girl in this long green dress with a ballcap on.”
“She wore that hat all the time after that,” Erin said. “She even took it to bed with her.”
The entire time General Dempsey served as the chairman he only had two things on his desk in the Pentagon: The mahogany “Make it Matter” box full of the laminated cards that profiled those who were killed under his command in Iraq and the guardian angel medallion Lizzy gave him.
When it came time for the general to retire, the Pentagon’s protocol apparatus sprang into action — after all, a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff change of command is like the Super Bowl of military ceremonies. As the officials were coordinating all the moving parts, including the details surrounding President Obama’s attendance, they were surprised to learn who the outgoing chairman wanted to introduce him. They pushed back, but the general was insistent.
The day arrived and at the appropriate moment in the event, a little girl on the dais confidently strode by the dignitaries and political appointees and the President of the United States and stood on the box positioned behind the podium just for her.
And without any hesitation, Lizzy Yaggy delivered her remarks to the thousands in attendance, and finished with, “Please welcome my friend, General Dempsey . . .”
One would think that without a security clearance, the Director of Naval Intelligence would lose his job. In the case of Navy Vice Adm. Ted Branch, that didn’t happen.
Branch was caught on the periphery of the “Fat Leonard” scandal, due to his actions while commanding officer of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68).
You’ve probably heard of it by now. Numerous Navy officers and individuals tied to a contractor in the Far East have been indicted for all sorts of charges, including retired Navy Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, whose indictment was unsealed on March 14, according to a Defense News report.
Branch had his security clearance suspended in 2013, months after he became Director of Naval Intelligence. A March 2016 report by USNI News noted that then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus discussed the situation with the Senate Armed Services Committee in a hearing.
“When I was informed in late 2013 that Adm. Branch was possibly connected to the GDMA case, I thought because of his position I should remove his clearance in an excess of caution. I was also told — assured — at that time that a decision would be made in a very short time — in a matter of weeks, I was told — as to whether he was involved and what would be the disposition of the case,” Mabus explained to Senator Joni Earnst (R-IA).
Branch’s situation had languished for almost two and a half years at that point.
“Naval intelligence is OK. The whole situation is less than optimal and frustrating, but we are where we are,” he told Military.com in Feb. 2016. “And we will persevere. And I will lead in this capacity until somebody tells me to go home.”
Branch retired on Oct. 1, 2016, upon the confirmation of his successor, Vice Adm. Jan Tighe.
During Branch’s time as captain of the Nimitz, the 10-part PBS documentary series “Carrier” was film on the vessel. The series was produced by Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions, the same company that did the Oscar-winning film “Hacksaw Ridge.”
Now that the Republican Party has officially nominated Donald Trump as its candidate for president, briefers from intelligence agencies will soon begin detailing America’s current covert operations to both Trump and likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
When possible, the briefings take place in secure areas. But more often than not, briefers are sent to meet candidates and presidents-elect where they are.
In 1992, the Deputy Director of the CIA flew to Little Rock, Arkansas, and rented a cheap motel room to inconspicuously brief then-President-elect Bill Clinton.
When candidates are on the campaign trail, the briefers plan spots on the route where they can establish a temporarily secure area to brief.
These initial briefings to candidates are not as in depth as the president’s daily brief. The idea isn’t to give the candidate a detailed breakdown of each operation and how it works, it’s to give them a broad understanding of what America is doing around the world and why.
For instance, the intel briefings were first given to Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson during the 1952 election. During the run-up to Election Day, Eisenhower was receiving more sensitive information than Stevenson. This was because Eisenhower had extensive experience with intelligence from his command time in World War II, while Stevenson did not.
Once a candidate is selected, though, the briefings become more detailed and some of them become decision briefs. Even though the president-elect is not yet in charge, the intelligence agencies have to be prepared to immediately execute his or her orders on Inauguration Day.
The president-elect receives a roughly complete copy of the president’s daily brief — sometimes as early as election night. The only information omitted is operational information that isn’t useful to the president-elect.
President John F. Kennedy was a war hero and senator before campaigning for the presidency. But he didn’t gain access to America’s top intelligence until after winning the election. (Photo: National Archives)
Once the president-elect has a base of knowledge about the situation, senior intelligence officials begin coming to him or her for their expected orders on Jan. 20. If the president-elect wants to cancel a covert operation or change its course, the decision is made ahead of time so the agency can prepare.
In 2000, then-President-elect Barack Obama made it clear that the detention and interrogation program would cease the moment he was in charge. That allowed Hayden to prepare to cut that program while keeping most other covert operations going full-bore.
You can learn a lot more about these briefings and their history in former-CIA Analyst John L. Helgerson’s book, Getting to Know the President. The book is available for free on the CIA’s website.
On October 14, 1947, U.S. Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager became the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound.
Yeager, a West Virginia native, was a combat pilot during World War II, flying 64 missions over Europe. He claimed 13 Axis kills and was shot down over France. He evaded the Nazis on the ground with aid from the French Underground. After the war ended, he was one of the pilots to test-fly the experimental X-1 rocket plane, built by the Bell Aircraft Company specifically to attempt to break the sound barrier, something many thought impossible.
Many thought the drag from supersonic speed would tear an airplane apart until Yeager flew his X-1 over Rogers Dry Lake in Southern California. A B-29 carried his X-1 to 25,000 feet and then released it through the bomb bay, blasting to 40,000 feet and then to 662 miles per hour which is the sound barrier at that altitude. The rocket plane, nicknamed “Glamorous Glennis,” was designed with a .50 caliber bullet in mind.
The project was still classified however, and Yeager’s speed was not announced until June 1948. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1975 with the rank of brigadier general. Yeager, now 92, tweeted this on the 2015 anniversary of his first supersonic flight:
Today, 68 years ago, at 10:24am,I broke the sound barrier w/ only 1.5 minutes of fuel. I told Ridley: Something wrong with this Mach meter
The Bangor, Washington-based USS Michigan (SSGN 727) will soon put to sea and submerge with a crew that includes four female NCOs and 34 junior enlisted women, marking the first time the Navy has deployed a submarine with women in the enlisted ranks.
The female sailors will be divided between the Gold and Blue crews of the guided-missile submarine.
According to the Kitsap Sun newspaper, the USS Michigan has undergone a $6 million retrofit to build out the crew quarters and heads to accommodate the female crew, including converting a bunkroom into shower space, splitting the aft washroom to allow for a shower and head combination and a watchstander head, and creating a new bunkroom from the old crew’s study.
The chief petty officers will bunk together two or three to a room, while the other women will split into nine-person bunkrooms and share a head, the newspaper said.
The Navy opened up the all-male submarine force several years ago to female sailors and deployed its first crew with women officers in 2011.
The USS Michigan’s crew is made up of 15 officers and about 140 enlisted sailors. The female enlisted submariners were chosen from 113 applicants, the Kitsap Sun reported.
The Navy reportedly plans to add as many as 550 female sailors to the submarine service by 2020.
“You are there for your brothers, and that’s all that really matters.”
It was that one line from the trailer of the upcoming movie “Last Flag Flying” that caught my attention and transported me back to another place and another time — Al Anbar province, September 2005.
At the time, I was a Marine staff sergeant on my third combat tour in three years. I had just returned to Iraq after being wounded by an IED the year prior.
On this deployment, I was to be the top NCO for all Mortuary Affairs operations in and around Al Taqaddum Air Base, Iraq. My job was to recover our fallen warriors from the battlefields and return them home with honor.
As unassuming as that movie quote may be for anyone else, for me, those words ignited a spark. They instantly connected me to how my Marines and I felt about the fallen who were in our care back then. We would stop at nothing to return them home — because they were one of us, they were our brothers, and in the end, that was all that really mattered.
“Last Flag Flying,” which will be released in select theaters Nov. 3 and hit theaters nationwide on Nov. 22, stars Steve Carell who takes a departure from his normal funny-man roles by portraying former Navy Corpsman Larry “Doc” Shepherd who tracks down two of his Marine buddies he hasn’t seen in 30 years (played by Laurence Fishburne and Bryan Cranston). Shepherd reveals he had been notified two days prior that his son, a Marine, was killed in Iraq.
He asks his friends for their help to lay his son to rest.
A story like this automatically kicks me square in the feels. In the short two minute trailer, I immediately recognized the two sides to this parable. One is a story of old warriors coming together to honor a son killed at war. The other is rarely depicted in movies in a time of strife. It is the human cost of warfare, the cost beyond the obvious war dead. It is the sacrifices made by their families and communities.
This is a truth that has replayed across our country close to 7,000 times over the last 16 years. The movie takes a look at this cost that has spared few communities in some way or fashion by our recent conflicts.
During my time in Iraq, my Marines and I would go to vast extremes to recover our fallen warriors. The thoughts of those families pushed us to work harder — no matter what it took or how difficult it was, we were going to get them home to their families.
Through helo crash scenes we crawled on our hands and knees, combing through the desert sands in search of remains and personal effects. We spent countless hours swinging sledge hammers to break apart the solidified parts of melted vehicles to recover the minutest fragments of DNA.
Repeatedly we put ourselves directly into harm’s way to gather our fallen brothers from the battlefields to get them home. We believed we actually worked for the families of the fallen. They would want us to go that extra mile to ensure that their loved ones were taken care of the best way we could, and we did exactly that, no matter the cost.
The connection between “The Last Flag Flying” and my experiences extends to how today we honor our fallen warriors with flags. In Iraq, my Marines and I changed the way we flagged the transfer cases of our fallen to pay them a deeper honor.
Before our tour in 2005, flags were merely taken out of a cardboard box, placed upon the transfer case, and tied down with a white cord. It just was how things were done going all the way back to whenever they first started flagging caskets. Realizing these flags were eventually given to the families, I knew we could do better. Instead we ironed and starched every flag so that they were crisp and sharp.
We also implemented a new technique so there was zero chance of the flag touching the ground. These procedures were eventually adopted by the military.
The common thread between my experience and “The Last Flag Flying” is that in our own ways, the director and I were trying to reveal the same narrative.
Quietly and largely unseen, brothers go to great lengths to care for their fallen brothers. And the story of sacrifice doesn’t just end on battlefields, it continues into the homes of our Gold Star families. It is felt on the everyday streets of our communities, and it is remembered in the resting places of our honored fallen.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was never one to shy away from thinking big. When he saw the plans for General Claude Auchinlek’s offensive, Operation Crusader, he looked beyond its stated goals of lifting the siege of Tobruk and eliminating the Axis threat to Egypt—way beyond. He envisioned it as being a potential victory to rank with Blenheim and Waterloo; one in which the British Eighth Army would destroy the Axis forces threatening Egypt, relieve Tobruk, continue west and eject the Axis from North Africa. Then the British Army of the Nile would march east and north through the Levant to the Iranian border. But Auchinlek was grounded enough to know that if he were to have any sort of shot at victory, he had to eliminate the general who had so brilliantly led the Axis troops to the Egyptian border, Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel.
If Rommel could be assassinated, the resultant chaos in the Axis command would give the Eighth Army its best chance of success. To that end Auchinlek authorized Operation Flipper.
Operation Flipper originally had four goals:
Kill Rommel at his headquarters in Sidi Rafa
destroy the nearby Italian headquarters and its communications network
sabotage the Italian Intelligence Office in Appolonia and the communications network between Faidia and Lamdula
conduct general sabotage actions elsewhere in the Axis forces’ rear.
Leading the mission was Colonel Robert Laycock. His second in command was Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Keyes, the son of Admiral Roger Keyes the first director of Combined Operations and who would be responsible for the attack on Rommel. On November 10, 1941, Laycock’s force of six officers and 53 men boarded the submarines Torbay and Talisman and left Alexandria harbor for Beda Littoria, Cyrenaica. They arrived at their landing site on the evening of November 14. Waiting for them on the beach was guide Captain Jock Haselden and his team who had been parachuted there earlier.
Keyes got himself and all his men ashore. But as Layton and his men prepared to disembark, a squall struck. Heavy seas drove Talisman aground and only Layton and seven men reached the beach.
With the force cut in half, the plan was drastically modified. Now it would be a two-part assault; Keyes attacking Rommel’s HQ and Lt. Roy Cooke leading the attack on the Italian headquarters. Layton and a small force would defend the force’s escape route. On the evening of November 15, Keyes, Cooke, and their men headed inland, dogged by constant rain. Despite the weather, the groups managed to reach their respective launch positions the evening of November 17.
At midnight, they attacked. Keyes, leading a three-man assault team, burst into the villa identified as Rommel’s headquarters. They surprised a German officer who was killed as he struggled with Keyes. The attackers then rushed down the hall and Keyes opened a room where ten Germans were arming themselves. One of the Germans shot Keyes, killing him.
Rommel with captured British officers in Cherbourg, France, June 1940. | Gregory J. W. Urwin Collection
The mission was a failure. Only three German supply colonels and a soldier were killed at the villa. And only a fuel supply depot was destroyed. After 37 days avoiding Axis patrols, Colonel Layton and Sergeant Jack Terry reached British lines. They were the only ones; everyone else was either captured or killed. As it turned out, Rommel was not at the villa; inclement weather delayed his arrival from Rome. Operation Crusader did not achieve Churchill’s lofty goals. Though the siege was lifted, Rommel managed to save the bulk of his forces.
Rommel ordered that Lt. Colonel Keyes be buried with full military honors; sending his personal chaplain, priest Rudolf Dalmrath, to officiate. He had cypress crosses and wreaths made for the British and German dead. Rommel also instructed that photographs be taken of the ceremony and of Keyes’ grave and sent to his parents, a chivalrous act that increased British respect for him.
Laycock and Terry arrived at Eighth Army headquarters on Christmas Day. A message dispatched to Minister of State in the Middle East Oliver Lyttleton stated, “Feel it would interest C-in-C and Minister to know that Laycock arrived today at 9:20 p.m. for his Christmas dinner.” Lyttleton responded, “Please state why Laycock was one hour 20 minutes late for his Christmas dinner.”
Layton would serve with distinction, rising to the rank of major general and, in October 1943, succeed Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten as Director of Combined Operations.
During World War II, there was a concerted effort to develop heavier and heavier tanks, often stretching past the limits of practicality and even credulity. Some of the larger examples were well over 100 tons, huge by today’s standards. Almost none were ever deployed in battle. But they displayed a school of thought similar to that of battleships, where sheer armor and weaponry took precedence over anything else.
The Japanese developed several prototypes for massive tanks to be used in the Pacific Theater. The O-I superheavy tank was conceived due to the profound inferiority of Japanese Army armor facing off against Soviet armor in a series of severe border clashes at Khalkin Gol on the Manchurian border. A single functional model was built by 1945, weighing in at a gigantic 120 tons and armed with a 105mm gun and two rocket launchers. Under murky circumstances it was shipped to Manchuria and it is unknown whether it ever saw combat. It was scrapped after the war. Only its tracks remain in an Japanese museum.
The German Panzer VIII, jokingly named the Maus, or Mouse, was the largest and heaviest tank design that was ever actually built, though it never saw any frontline service. It weighed in at 188 tons, over six times as heavy as a U.S. M4 Sherman, and was conceived as a way to break through heavy field fortifications in frontal assaults. It was armed with a 128mm gun that could easily destroy any Allied tank out to very long ranges. It also carried a 75 mm gun as a secondary armament that was equal to the main gun on the M4. Several prototypes were constructed, but were captured by the Soviets in 1945. Only one, assembled from the prototypes, remains in the Kubinka tank museum in Russia.
The United States and the British also worked on vehicles in the 70-100 ton range, but they were conceived more as large armored self-propelled artillery, such as the American T28 and the British Tortoise. Neither entered production before the end of the war.
Despite their awesome appearance, superheavy tank designs were almost uniformly a failure. The size and weight of the tanks made traversing rough terrain difficult if not impossible, and they were often far too heavy for most bridges, restricting them to fording the rivers using snorkels. But river fords shallow enough for passage were not always available, a severe restriction on the tank’s tactical flexibility. Also, tanks were generally transported long distances by rail, and the extreme difficulty of doing so with 100-plus ton tanks was a serious disadvantage.
Heavy armor alone was not enough to make up for low speed and presenting a large target. Tanks in the open are extremely vulnerable to air attack, and a slow, large target was even more so. A 250-pound bomb from above would kill a superheavy tank as quickly as a light one.
Even light artillery could at the least knock off one of the tracks, leaving the tank immobilized and helpless. Low maneuverability and speed meant lighter enemy tanks could outflank them and hit them from the sides and rear, where the armor was weakest. Far greater numbers of regular tanks like the American M4 and the famed Soviet T-34 could be built, and it was these that overcame the often superior German tanks through tactics and numbers.
But the single biggest problem facing superheavy tank designs was one that plagued many of their smaller cousins: mechanical reliability. The engines available were uniformly underpowered, and the huge weight of armor and weapons took a terrible toll on transmissions, suspensions, and turret mechanisms. A broken-down tank was just as useless as one destroyed by the enemy. Even the German King Tiger II, still large at 68 tons, lost more tanks to mechanical breakdown than to the enemy.
Following the war, improvements in armor and gun technology made superheavy tanks unnecessary. Advances like composite armor and better engines made tanks more survivable while faster and more maneuverable, and ever more effective airpower made monster tanks more of a target than a weapon. The M1 Abrams, the mainstay tank of the United States for over 30 years, weighs in at less than a third of the Panzer VIII.
Like so many “miracle weapons,” the superheavy tanks never panned out. It proved more effective to have larger numbers of smaller, economical, and more reliable tanks, rather than a small number of large ones. Modern tank design in particular has concluded that bigger is not always better.
It’s probably a tale as old as the military itself, but even the anonymity of the online marketplace couldn’t keep these alleged military conspirators from getting nabbed by the feds for pinching combat gear for resale on the outside.
The United States Attorney’s Office for Middle Tennessee indicted six Fort Campbell soldiers Oct. 6 for allegedly selling more than $1 million worth of military equipment they’d stolen from the base to buyers on eBay. The feds say the soldiers stole sensitive items, including body armor, sniper optics and flight helmets and sold them to anonymous bidders — some they say were in foreign countries.
“Homeland Security considers the national security interests of our nation among our top priorities,” said Homeland Security Special Agent in Charge Raymond R. Parmer, who helped with the investigation. “It’s especially disturbing when we identify corrupted members of our military who undermine the welfare of this this country, so we, along with our law enforcement partners, shall continue to aggressively investigate this type of criminal activity.”
The indictment charges each defendant with conspiring to steal or receive U.S. Army property and to sell or convey U.S. Army property without authority. The civilian defendants were charged with additional counts of wire fraud, money laundering and violating the Arms Export Control Act. One was also charged with three counts of selling or conveying U.S. Army property without authority.
“Those who compromise the safety of the American public and our military personnel in the interest of greed will be held accountable for their actions,” IRS investigator Tracey D. Montaño said.
The Justice Department says each defendant faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on the conspiracy charge. The civilians face up to 20 years for each for wire fraud and violating the Arms Export Control Act and an additional 20 years on the money laundering charges. The defendants also face forfeiture of the proceeds of their crimes.