This letter General James Mattis wrote to his Marines is a must-read of historical proportions - We Are The Mighty
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This letter General James Mattis wrote to his Marines is a must-read of historical proportions


Marine Gen. James Mattis is something of a legend in the US military. Looked at as a warrior among Marines, and well-respected by members of other services, he’s been at the forefront of a number of engagements.

He led his battalion of Marines in the assault during the first Gulf war in 1991, and commanded the task force charging into Afghanistan in 2001. In 2003, as a Major General, he once again took up the task of motivating his young Marines to go into battle.

Also read: These 4 Marines killed so many Germans, the Nazis thought they were an allied battalion

One day before beginning the assault into Iraq, on March 19, 2003, every member of 1st Marine Division received this letter, written in Mattis’ own hand.

In the letter, he tells them, “on your young shoulders rest the hopes of mankind.” He conveys a sense of staying together and working as a team, writing, “keep faith in your comrades on your left and right and Marine Air overhead. Fight with a happy heart and a strong spirit.”

He finally signs off with the motto of 1st Marines: “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy.”

You can see the full letter below:

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Drone strike kills suspected al-Qaeda militant in Yemen

A drone strike killed a suspected al-Qaeda militant in southern Yemen on April 6 as the U.S. steps up its air war against the extremists.


The missile hit al-Qaeda provincial official Ahmed Ali Saana as he was riding a motorbike late on April 5 in the town of Khabar al-Muraqasha in Abyan province, a major target of recent drone strikes, an official said on condition of anonymity.

The Pentagon has confirmed more than 70 airstrikes on al-Qaeda targets in Yemen since Feb. 28.

Yemeni security officials have reported dozens of suspected fighters killed in the strikes on Abyan and the neighboring provinces of Shabwa and Baida.

A commando raid against al-Qaeda in Baida province was the first operation U.S. President Donald Trump ordered after taking office in January.

It went badly wrong, resulting in the deaths of a U.S. Navy SEAL and multiple civilians — including women and children — the Pentagon acknowledged.

In March, Trump reportedly gave the CIA new powers to authorize drone strikes against extremist targets in the Middle East independently of the Pentagon.

More than two years of civil war have created a power vacuum that al-Qaeda has exploited to consolidate its presence.

At least 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since Saudi Arabia entered the conflict in March 2015 after Houthi rebels took control of the capital Sana’a and overthrew President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, according to the United Nations.

The U.S. has supported the Saudi-led coalition through weapons sales, air-to-air refueling of jets, and intelligence sharing.

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7 things you need in your bug out bag when sh** gets real

When the time comes to get out of the house and hit the road for a few days to reach a safe place, what do you take with you? What if you lived in Washington D.C. and need to get to your cousin’s house in Charleston, West Virginia, among the throngs of frightened masses choking the roadways and buying up all the supplies during a natural disaster? A simple answer is a bug out bag.


Bug out bags are just what the name implies — bags you and your family can grab at a moment’s notice and bug out of the area. A bug out bag can get you through a few days by itself, but it’s a temporary means to an end. The water and food will eventually run out so you have to pack one in a methodical manner that meets your expectations and criteria. When prepping bags, it’s important to keep in mind a few things:

What is the threat? What are you running from? Where are you running to?

What is the environment? A bug out bag for a family living in the Everglades is not going to look much like a bug out bag for a family living in Anchorage. Determine what it is you need the most of — water, heat, food, etc?

How much can you and your family carry? If you’re a big guy and can carry a lot, then by all means find a large rucksack and maximize it. But if you have kids (who should all be carrying their own bags), take their capabilities into account and pack accordingly.

Be redundant. That old cliché “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is very true of bug out bags. Let’s say you and your family are crossing a stream and one bag gets lost down river. If that bag had the only Epi Pen for your allergic son, you’ve just made your situation worse.

I have three kids and packed each of them a bag according to how much they can carry and what they would need to survive in the Northern Virginia area for 5 days with no assistance. Our area has a lot of natural water sources, so I’m not overly concerned with finding water. All three bags have the following basics:

1. Water

The human body cannot survive without water! Keep this primary directive in mind. Water packets are great for the short term, but you will need to find a water source as soon as possible. My bags all have 5 purified water packets, a folding water bottle, and water purification tablets so I can fill a bottle, disinfect it, and drink fairly quickly. I also have a Life Straw in each bag so we can drink from any source on the go.

2. Five days of meals

For food preparation, I have included a small folding stove, a canteen cup, and 2 cans of camp fuel or heat tabs is great for boiling water for freeze dried meals.

One set of steel utensils or a multi-use eating tool is a must.

3. Fire making materials

Redundancy is key here. It’s easy to carry several forms of fire making materials without overloading the pack. Wise Fire Starter, fire sticks, butane lighters, and flint are all fairly lightweight.

4. Items to keep you warm and dry

Everyone needs to stay warm and dry. Chemically activated hand and body warmers, gloves, a ski cap, an emergency blanket, and a folding poncho are easy to find and relatively small.

5. Light

Have a mix of direct light (flashlights, head lamps) and marking lights (chem lights). A powerful handheld flashlight can also act as a blinder for animals and humans. Pack an extra set of batteries for whatever light you choose. Several companies make flashlights that don’t need batteries.

6. First aid kit

Each bag has a small, basic first aid kit with bandages, alcohol wipes, gauze, and other basic items. I also put one trauma pack and a snake bite kit in each bag.

Make sure you include basic meds and specific meds for each particular person. Each bag has a travel container of Neosporin, Advil, Tylenol, Benadryl, Orajel, Blistex, Dayquil, Nyquil, Gold Bond, insect wipes, sun block, and a protective mask. One of my sons requires an inhaler and an Epi Pen, as well.

Hygiene is more important than you think. Besides fighting off bacteria and infections, a basic cleaning can raise your morale. Each bag should have a small travel pack of toothpaste, toothbrush, body wash, baby wipes, tissues, a cloth, and hand sanitizer. Add other items as needed.

7. Tools and Weapons

A Gerber or other multi tool is a must as is a good pocket knife. I like to pack a small shovel, a tree saw, a fishing kit, and a Mace gun with extra cartridges. I also have a multi-use bracelet on the outside of the bag with a compass, cord and flint.

A few more miscellaneous things:

Toss in a whistle with a compass, a deck of cards, a notepad, a signal mirror, a signal flag, a NIOSH approved face mask, and a watch that doesn’t need a battery. A small survival manual is a good idea if you can find one.

Include three pairs of underwear and socks per person. If you can fit a change of clothes, do so.

As for basic communications, everyone has a cell phone nowadays, which is good and bad. They provide immediate communications, but the networks they rely on can be knocked out easily. Backup comms are a must. A simple battery operated radio with a limited range in each bag provides short range comms and most importantly, can help avoid family members getting separated.

I keep an IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) on the outside of my ruck so it can be accessed easily. If I’m injured, I want my kids to be able to get to it and treat me without having to dig through the ruck. I also keep my ammo on the outside for easy access.

I carry a small tent and, just to be safe, I put an extra set of my son’s prescription meds in my ruck. I keep my ruck in the car because I’d rather have it with me at work and on vacations than sitting in my basement where it doesn’t do anyone any good. Also, if I find myself in a survival situation (snowstorm, car failure, zombie apocalypse, etc) I’m ready.

There are a lot of companies that sell pre-packed bug out bags that are a great start, but I encourage you to customize them to your situation and environment. I highly recommend my friend Tim Kennedy’s Sheepdog Response website.

Stay ready!

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The US Navy Has A Real-Life Capt. Kirk — And William Shatner Is A Fan

It had to have been a simultaneously proud and awkward moment in his career: The day U.S. Navy Commander James Kirk got promoted to captain.


Of course any Trekkie would know the reason, as the real-life captain shares the name of the fictionalized character played by William Shatner on “Star Trek.” But the real Kirk is a serious officer, taking the helm of the futuristic USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000), a ship christened earlier this year.

While he’s obviously of no relation to the Capt. Kirk played by William Shatner in “Star Trek,” many have had fun with that coincidence. That included Shatner himself, as a photo tweeted by Barbara Zumwalt showed the framed photo and letter he sent to the sailors who will soon be onboard, which is currently on display at Bath Iron Works in Maine.

“Unfortunately I can’t be with you when your vessel is commissioned and obviously your captain, Captain Kirk, is dear to my heart,” Shatner wrote. “So forgive me for not attending, my schedule won’t allow me, but know that you are in our thoughts — Mr. Mrs. Shatner — and that we bless you and hope that you have a safe journey wherever your ship takes you.”

Here it is:

Photo courtesy of Barbara Zumwalt

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These ‘Q-ships’ used to fool subs and take torpedoes in both world wars

Appearances, as the saying goes, can be very deceiving.


This happened to be the exact concept behind Q-ships, heavily armed decoy vessels used by Allied navies during the First World War to harass and destroy German submarines, also known as U-boats.

The Germany Navy’s U-boat fleet quickly proved to be a scourge in the Atlantic, hunting down and sinking Allied merchant and combat ships with impunity. Able to sneak up to convoys and warships virtually undetected, U-boats began racking up kills in incredible numbers, quickly becoming a threat that needed to be dealt with immediately.

Allied ships, often loaded with troops, supplies, and materiel to aid the war effort in Europe were being lost at astonishing rates. As sonar was still an emerging technology, submarine detection was often difficult if not downright impossible. However, a solution began to form in the minds of Allied naval commanders.

An American Q-ship of the Second World War (Photo from U.S. Navy)

U-boats could only remain submerged for short periods of time, and they were often deployed to sea with a limited supply of torpedoes. As such, most U-boat commanders preferred to run their vessels on the surface, utilizing deck guns for the majority of their attacks on enemy vessels.

The British Navy came up with a solution in the form of a thoroughly disguised merchant vessel carrying a crew of sailors dressed like fishers or merchant mariners. With fake boxes of cargo on the decks of the ship, German U-boats would likely assume that what they see in their periscope’s crosshairs was really just a supply ship, transporting munitions and weaponry for Allied soldiers on the front lines.

A juicy and defenseless target, ripe for the taking.

However, these ships were anything but defenseless. Armed with a variety of deck guns in different calibers, and even depth charges in some cases, the crew could open fire after luring the German submarines close enough, sinking, or at least thoroughly disabling, their enemy’s watercraft.

One less U-boat in the fight.

The British Admiralty decided that these decoy ships would be homeported at Queenstown, Ireland, where they would have easy access to the North Atlantic, and a safe harbor to return to. They would soon be nicknamed Q-ships, thanks to their port of origin.

Deployed in growing numbers, Q-ships began hunting down and attacking German submarines using deception and surprise to their advantage. As soon as U-boats closed in, panels were dropped, the Royal Navy’s ensign was raised and deck guns boomed while sending German sailors scrambling for cover.

HMS Polyanthus, a WWI-era Q-ship with camouflage designed to break up the lines of the ship (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

However, the plan turned out to be a major dud.

By the war’s end, it was found that throughout 150 reported engagements between Q-ships and U-boats, only 14 submarines were destroyed, while the rest were either damaged or had escaped. The Q-ship program had an even lower success rate than mines, which, given the associated numbers and statistics, was highly embarrassing.

The program, once a closely-kept secret, was shuttered and remained fairly dormant in the years between World Wars, though other navies began exploring similar vessels of their own.

Q-ships would make a reappearance during the Second World War, serving with the German, British, American, and Japanese navies. Oddly enough, German Q-ships wound up racking up higher kill numbers than their Allied counterparts.

In the years since, anti-submarine warfare (ASW for short) has advanced considerably, making sub-hunting something of an art form. Thankfully, the Q-ship concept has been relegated to the history books once and for all, having experienced its trial by fire during the two World Wars, and coming up short.

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This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

The C-47 fulfilled a number of roles in World War II and Korea. It was a supply plane, a plane for dropping paratroopers, and a tow for gliders.


But it was in the Vietnam War that the “Gooney Bird” would get its greatest mission — flying three 7.62mm miniguns through the night to devastate North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces.

Night attack of a U.S. Air Force Douglas AC-47D Spooky gunship over the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) Team 21 compound at Pleiku in May 1969. This time-lapse photo shows the tracer round trajectories. (Photo: U.S. Army Spec. 5 Thomas A. Zangla)

The idea for a side-firing gunship had been floating around military circles since at least 1926. In fact, the technique had been tested successfully in 1927 when 1st Lt. Fred Nelson flew a DH-4 with a mounted .30-cal machine gun and destroyed a target on the ground.

But the Army Air Corps and the Army Air Forces never came around to the idea. It was 1963 before the idea of a side-firing aircraft got another serious test. A C-131B modified with gunsights and a minigun was successful in early tests and the experiment was repeated with a C-47.

The U.S. Air Force AC-47 Dragon aircraft flies missions over South Vietnam in support of allied outposts. (Photo: Public Domain)

The C-47 performed swimmingly as well, and Air Force leader Gen. Curtis LeMay approved the modification of two planes in 1964.

The final combat variant of the AC-47 consisted of the cargo plane with three 7.62mm miniguns mounted on the left side — two in modified portholes near the cargo door and one in the cargo door itself. The triggers for the three guns were connected to a button in the pilot’s compartment.

The pilots would take off with a 7-man crew and seek out small bases and villages under fire by North Vietnamese forces. When fighting popped off, the crew would drop flares out of the open door and the pilot would fly a race track pattern over the target, pouring fire on it the whole time.

Night attack of a U.S. Air Force Douglas AC-47D Spooky gunship over Saigon in 1968. This time lapse photo shows the tracer round trajectories. (Photo: Public Domain)

If the threat was too large for the AC-47, the flares it dropped would light up the target for follow-on fighters. The AC-47 would stay in the area, directing the attacks by other aircraft.

The AC-47, dubbed “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” by an officer who saw it at work, was so effective that the Air Force launched Project Gunship II, the program which resulted in the AC-130 still in service today.

The AC-47D contained three miniguns mounted in the cargo hold. (Photo: Office of Air Force History)

A number of AC-47 pilots and crew members were cited for bravery while serving aboard the plane, including Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. John L. Levitow. Levitow was on an AC-47 that was struck by a mortar round.

Though he was peppered by approximately 40 pieces of shrapnel in the blast, he noticed that a flare — activated by another crewmember just before the blast — was rolling around the cargo area.

The flare had yet to fully ignite, but it was only a matter of time before it would, possibly killing the crew on its own and almost certainly causing the cargo hold of ammunition to go off. Levitow crawled to the flare, held the burning implement against his already wounded body, and moved to the door with it.

He was able to throw it out just before the flare ignited.

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Here’s how volunteers are stepping up to fight terrorism

Hunkered down in sniper positions on the top floor of an abandoned building in the Syrian city of Raqqa, two Americans and a British volunteer face off against Islamic State snipers on the other side of the front line. The trio, including two who were battle-hardened by experience in the French Foreign Legion and the war in Iraq, have made the war against IS in Syria their own.


They are among several US and British volunteers in the decisive battle against the Islamic State group for Raqqa, the city in northeastern Syria that the militants declared the capital of their self-proclaimed caliphate in parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq.

The men joined US-allied Syrian militias for different reasons — some motivated by testimonies of survivors of the unimaginable brutality that IS flaunted in areas under its control.

People’s Protection Units work towards peace. (Photo from KurdishStruggle on Flickr.)

Others joined what they see as a noble quest for justice and a final battle with the “heart of darkness,” in a belief that violence can only be met with violence.

Taylor Hudson, a 33-year old from Pasadena, compares the fight for Raqqa to the 1945 Battle of Berlin in World War II that was critical to ending the rule of Adolf Hitler.

“This is the Berlin of our times,” said Hudson, who doubles as a platoon medic and a sniper in the battle against the militants. For him, IS extremists “represent everything that is wrong with humanity.”

Syria’s war, now in its seventh year, has attracted foreign fighters to all sides of the complicated conflict.

Photo courtesy of Kurdish YPG Fighters Flickr.

Islamic extremists from Europe, Asia, and North Africa have boosted the ranks of the Islamic State group, as well as rival radical al-Qaeda-linked groups. Shiite Iranian and Lebanese militias have sided with the Syrian government, deepening the sectarian nature of the conflict that has killed over 400,000 people and displaced over 11 million, half of Syria’s pre-war population.

On the anti-IS side — though far less in numbers than the thousands of foreigners who swelled the IS ranks — most Western foreign volunteers have been drawn to the US-allied Kurdish militia known as The People’s Protection Units, or by their Kurdish initials as the YPG. The US military has developed a close relationship with the YPG and its extension, the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the war against IS.

Related: US special operators, artillery, gunships support Raqqa offensive

Some Western volunteers have died in battle — earlier in July the YPG announced that 28-year-old Robert Grodt, of Santa Cruz, California, and 29-year-old Nicholas Alan Warden, of Buffalo, died in the battle for Raqqa.

Since launching the push on Raqqa on June 6, the US-backed forces have conquered a third of the city.

Under ISIS reign, the city of Raqqa has been turned into a veritable hell for its residents. (Photo from Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.)

Hudson, who has been fighting in Syria for the past 13 months, said he was moved to tears by stories in the media of Iraqi Yazidi women who were enslaved by IS militants and looked for a way to help. A pharmacy student who learned combat medicine in the field, he said he had treated some 600 wounded ahead of the march onto Raqqa.

The presence of Western anti-IS volunteers in Syria has created something of a conundrum for their governments, which have often questioned them on terrorism charges.

“I am not a terrorist,” said Macer Gifford, a 30-year former City broker in London, who came to Syria three years ago to volunteer first with the Kurdish militia. Now he is fighting with an Assyrian militia, also part of the US-backed forces battling IS militants.

“I am here defending the people of Syria against terrorists,” he added.

Raqqa, Syria. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Gifford has been questioned by both his British government and by the US government. At home, he has written and lectured about the complex situation in Syria, offering a first-hand experience of IS’ evolving tactics.

He believes the militants can only be defeated by sheer force.

“The Islamic State (group) is actually an exceptional opponent,” Gifford said. “We can’t negotiate them away, we can’t wish them away. The only way we can defeat them is with force of arms.”

For Kevin Howard, a 28-year old former US military contractor from California who fought in Iraq in 2006, the war against the Islamic State group is more personal.

A skilled sniper who prides himself in having killed 12 IS militants so far, Howard said he is doing it for the victims of the Bataclan Theatre in France, where the sister of one of his best friends survived. The Nov. 13, 2015 attacks claimed by IS killed 130 people at Paris cafes, the national stadium, and the Bataclan, where 90 died.

Photo from Kurdishstruggle Flickr.

“This is a continuation of that fight, I think if you leave something unfinished, it will remain unfinished for a lifetime,” he said, showing off his 1972 sniper rifle.

On his forehead and neck, he has tattooed the “Rien N’empêche” — or “Nothing Prevents”— words from the song of the French Foreign Legion in which he served, and “life is pain.”

“For me this is a chance to absolutely go to the heart of darkness and grab it and get rid of it,” he added.

From his sniper position on Raqqa’s front line, he peeked again through the rifle hole. For Howard, the orders to march deeper into the IS-held city can’t come soon enough.

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Recent layoffs indicate working for ISIS might be a risky career move

ISIS is facing severe cash shortfalls as NATO airstrikes take out their supply lines and cash reserves, forcing the so-called caliphate to slash salaries for all workers and fighters as well as cut back services.


The U.S. began targeting warehouses of ISIS cash in Jan. and NATO has been striking oil infrastructure and equipment for months.

GIF: Youtube/Mike B

Other strikes against weapons and fighters have driven up the cost of waging violent jihad, and plummeting oil prices have further damaged ISIS’s bottom line. Now, the Iraqi government has decided to stop paying the salaries of government workers in ISIS-controlled areas, salaries ISIS had heavily taxed.

Photo: Youtube.com

The Commanding General of U.S. Central Command, Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, told CNN that ISIS has lost millions of dollars because of U.S. operations.

Back in Jan., it was revealed that money troubles forced ISIS to reduce fighters’ salaries by half, and new reports from the AP show that even that wasn’t enough to bridge the shortfall.

Civil servant salaries have now had their salaries slashed as well, and ISIS is cutting many perks. Fighters no longer get free energy drinks or candy bars (yeah, they were apparently getting those) or bonuses for getting married or having babies.

Some fighters are now going without pay while food and electrical rations have been reduced.

Between the money shortages, the airstrikes and raids, and the Internet trolling, it seems like working for ISIS might be a bad idea.

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7 stunning photos of Air Force spec ops planes getting ready for action

Air Force Special Operations pilots are some of the best in the world. But what is it like to be with this awesome community as they make sure they’re ready for action?


Here are some photos that are worth more than the proverbial thousand words.

The MC-130J, like the C-130J, can be loaded with vehicles. In this case, they can carry the specialized vehicles used by other special operators like Rangers, Green Berets, and SEALs.

U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 17th Special Operations Squadron prepare to load a vehicle onto a MC-130J Commando II as part of a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Routine flights and airdrops are conducted to maintain proficiency and training certifications for prospective missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

Of course, before take-off, there is the ritual of the pre-flight checklist. At least the tablet means there’s no chance of losing a page.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Thomas Parris, 17th Special Operations Squadron MC-130J Commando II loadmaster, reviews a preflight checklist as part of a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The MC-130J was among four others that flew in formation and completed airdrop training on Ie Shima Range, Okinawa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

The pilot, of course, will be in his office during this exercise, so the tablet is conveniently mounted.

A U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando II pilot from the 17th Special Operations Squadron maneuvers toward a five-aircraft formation during a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017, off the coast of Okinawa, Japan. This is the third iteration of the annual training, which is referred to as ‘The Day of the Jakal.’ It entailed a series of airdrops at Ie Shima Range, Okinawa, to hone in low-altitude maneuvers and supply-delivery capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

“Tail-end Charlie” gets a good look at the other planes in the formation.

U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando IIs from the 17th Special Operations Squadron line up in a five-aircraft formation during a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017 off the coast of Okinawa, Japan. Airmen from the 17th SOS conduct training operations often to ensure they are always ready perform a variety of high-priority, low-visibility missions throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific-Region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

Here, you can see two of the planes breaking, while others wait patiently in line. This isn’t just a training exercise for AFSOC, it’s also practice for the VA.

Four U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando IIs from the 17th Special Operations Squadron break out of a formation June 22, 2017 off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, during a mass launch training mission. Airmen from the 17th SOS conduct training operations often to ensure they are always ready perform a variety of high-priority, low-visibility missions throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific-Region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

The view from the front of the line is much better, no?

MC-130Js in a line behind another MC-130J during a training exercise. (USAF photo)

Preparing for the air-drop: This is what all that flying is about – delivering the supplies to the boots on the ground.

A U.S. Air Force loadmaster from the 17th Special Operations Squadron prepares to airdrop a package onto Le Shima Range, Okinawa, Japan, during a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017. Aircrews must consider a number of variables in order to execute a precise and effective airdrop, to include wind speed, aircraft velocity, altitude, location and timing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

Every day, this is the type of stuff that Air Force Special Operations Command does to support America’s top commandos.

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5 totally badass weapons you’ve probably never heard of

Obscure historical ways to slice, dice, and fry your opponents.


1. The Fire Lance

Photo: wikimedia

First find a spear. Now fill a bamboo tube with gunpowder and sharp objects and tie the tube to the end of your spear. Next, aim this contraption at someone who has seriously pissed you off and ignite the gunpowder by way of a fuse. Congratulations, you’ve just made and discharged a Chinese Fire Lance.

Considered one of the earliest gunpowder weapons, the Fire Lance was invented in the 10th century and was used throughout the Ming dynasty, often deployed in the defense of fortified cities when an invading or marauding army appeared at the gates. While these were unpredictable one-off weapons, Fire Lances were cheap, very effective at short ranges, and psychologically terrifying for enemy soldiers.

If the initial shrapnel volley didn’t kill you, you were now dealing with a guy more or less wielding a flamethrower. The Fire Lance and other early Chinese gunpowder weapons are the direct precursor for more advanced Middle Eastern and European firearms that would come to dominate warfare in the following centuries.

2. The Mancatcher

Have you ever seriously considered kidnapping an armored nobleman on horseback in order to ransom him back to his vassals? No? Well you really should and if you do, your best bet is the bizarrely designed Mancatcher.

Photo: London Science Museum

This weapon is described by Wikipedia as an “esoteric pole-arm,” probably because it looks like something out of a Terry Gilliam film. The mancatcher’s primary purpose was the non-lethal dismounting and capture of high value targets on the battlefield. Those spikes on the inside of the collar pictured above are predicated on the assumption that anyone you’re trying to catch with the mancatcher is wearing armor, or else I suspect there would have been some severe neck injuries to explain during the ransom negotiations.

The Japanese have a similar weapon called the sasumata which is interestingly still in use today (albeit with a very different design) as a non-lethal way to apprehend criminals and troublemakers.

3. The Bagh Naka

Photo: Wikipedia/Daderot

Anyone with a Wolverine fetish should appreciate this Indian hand-claw, which was a favorite among thieves and assassins of the 15th and 16th centuries. The Bagh Naka (tiger claw in Hindi) consists of a crossbar with four or five sharp blades and two finger-holes for the wearer’s thumb and pinky finger.

The weapon could be worn so that the blades extend over the knuckle, functionally turning one’s hand into a mauling device, or worn so that the blades are hidden in the palm of the hand, for a more, shall we say, sneaky approach. Some models, such as the one pictured above, had additional blades jutting out from the side to add to the Bagh Naka’s versatility and carnage dealing capabilities.

4. The Ballista

Photo: Wikipedia/Ronald Preuß

This early artillery siege weapon makes the list not only because of its pretty badass name but also because it hurtles spears the size of tree trunks at opposing armies.

Developed by the Ancient Greeks, the Ballista is basically a very large crossbow that discharged an ordinance capable of flattening enemy troop formations at a distance of up to 500 yards. They were often placed at the top of large siege towers and moved within range of enemy fortifications to lighten a besieged city’s defenses. A smaller model, called the Scorpio, was one of the first sniper rifles to see extended action in war and probably deserves its own entry on this list. Perhaps most impressive, the Ballista remained in use for more than a thousand years which is pretty rare for such a specialized siege weapon.

5. The Macuahuitl 

Photo: Wikimedia/Zuchinni one

The Macuahuitl was a meso-american club which was affixed with numerous obsidian blades on its sides. It could be used to lacerate opponents or bludgeon them into unconsciousness.

The conquistadors were greatly impressed with the effectiveness of this weapon during their conquests and we have multiple reports of Macuahuitl being used to decapitate horses with a single swing. They were also reportedly used by the Aztecs to knock out targets during raids to acquire sacrificial victims.

Photo: Wikimedia

There are surprisingly no known authentic Macuahuitl left, however reconstructions such as the one pictured above have been extensively tested and confirm the weapon’s deadly effects. It is the only obsidian based weapon I am aware of and that makes it pretty badass in my book.

Also at HistoryBuff.com:

The American Confederacy Lives On in Brazil

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This is what Game of Thrones can teach you about situational awareness

I think this should go without saying, but, here’s your obligatory Spoiler Warning.


If you saw Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 6 (or you don’t really care about spoilers) then read on. If you haven’t watched the episode but you’re reading articles about the show…here’s an article we did about cats.

Still around? Cool. Let’s get into it.

For last week’s episode, check out – This is what Game of Thrones can teach you about squad composition

Situational awareness isn’t a skill a warfighter picks up overnight. It’s the concept of living your life with your head on a swivel. It’s why so many veterans and active duty troops keep their back to a wall and an eye on the door like they’re Jason Bourne.

This is what Jeff Cooper described in his book “Principles of Personal Defense” as “living in Condition: Yellow.”

(Scale by Jeff Cooper via Principles of Personal Defense)

White is being blissfully ignorant and Orange being hyper-vigilant to the point of paranoia. Yellow is the perfect middle ground of quietly observing. It’s also referred to as “relaxed alert.”

Red, Gray, and Black are the states of action with varying degrees of how one reacts in confrontation to a threat. Red or “primed for action” is the desired state when sh*t hits the fan. Grey is a state of chaos and Black is total panic, both causing the war fighter to ignore or forget their surroundings.

We can break down the reactions of how the team of Westeros’ greatest fighters devised a strategy to capture and extract a wight (the reanimated skeletons that fight for the Night King.)

Deep in conversation, they’re still watch their surroundings (Photo via Army.mil Screen grab via HBO Go)

As the team of badasses move through the frozen north, they generally maintain Condition: Yellow. Tormund may be joking about his three best ways to keep warm, but he’s still eyeing his surroundings.

It’s only Gendry, the fighter with the least experience, who is in Orange. He’s uneasy about his “squad mates.” He’s never been beyond the wall, or even acclimated to the snow. He’s nervous and it shows.

When the group comes to the open field shrouded in snowfall, the group loses their control of situational awareness. And this is common in every battle.

The Prussian military analyst Carl von Clausewitz said of this: “War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty. A sensitive and discriminating judgment is called for; a skilled intelligence to scent out the truth.”

This has since been called the “fog of war.” Same concept as in video games, but our heroes also have to contend with a literal fog that hide their enemies as well as allies. With the probable threat nearby, they form up and prepare to engage.

Note the 360° Perimeter (Photo via Wikimedia Screen grab via HBO Go)

The squad isn’t able to spot the zombie bear in time and after it caught on fire, Sandor Clegane is terrified. He is a prime example of how even the greatest of war fighters can still lose their composure. He’s in Condition: Gray.

They find their stray wight with a white walker and his soldiers. The rest of the steps in maintaining situational awareness are further explained in fighter pilot and military strategist John Boyd’s OODA Loop, which is the constant cycle of Observing, Orienting, Deciding, and Acting.

(Chart via Wikicommons)

Through the OODA Loop, they observe the valley and have a count how many enemies there are. They orient themselves to position themselves to push through with the exit to their front. They decide who is attacking whom, with John (the only one with a Valerian Steel sword) attacking the leader.

And in action, it works flawlessly. They capture and bind the enemy. But not before it calls for reinforcements.

They send Gendry as a runner to get the message back to Daenerys. Keeping higher command aware of what’s going on in the field is paramount for operation success. But Gendry has another critical mission: to call in air support.

As the undead horde swarms the squad, they come across a lake with thin ice and an island with a high observation point. They use this perfectly to their advantage. The ice shatters, creating a moat-like barrier around their island. They can hold the island long enough for extraction.

If it looks stupid but works — it ain’t stupid.

A good fighting position makes all the world. (Photo via Army.mil Screen grab via HBO Go)

Operationally, everything has been relatively smooth. Only one character with a name has died so far. It’s cold, but they have eyes on every target, including the enemy leaders — who’s elimination would end their magically undead army. You can point out everything thus far as prime examples of things you should do before and after first contact.

Now comes the example of what happens when you march into battle with no situational awareness, no understanding of your enemy, very little experience, and way too much confidence.

If everyone is waiting on you…move. (Photo via Defense.mil Screen grab via HBO Go)

Air Extraction has touched down on the landing zone and air support is (literally) lighting up the enemy. Daenerys and her dragons have arrived. Minutes before, she didn’t believe the enemy existed and now she’s fighting the massive army of the dead.

Her dragons have been injured before; Drogon has taken spears from Sons of the Harpy and the Lannister’s Scorpion and he survived. And in battle, we all think we are invincible…until we’re not.

Viserion, the golden dragon of Daenerys, is slain after the Night King impales him with an ice spear.

It was the lack of situational awareness that kept the group from identifying not one but two ice spears. Jon Snow, with all of his experience in combat, really is a slow-learner as far as battle tactics go. He spots the second spear in time to send off a warning, but is left stranded on the battlefield with plan.

Sure, he’s alright and thanks to plot armor he makes it out of there alive, but really Jon, it’s time to start studying combat strategy. It’s almost as if he forgot everything he had learned about situational awareness up until this point…

Articles

The Soviet conspiracy that almost started World War III will blow your mind

In 1967, a Soviet submarine armed to the teeth with a deadly payload of nuclear missiles mysteriously disappeared off the coast of Hawaii.


During the Cold War, it was not unusual for Soviet and American subs to patrol each other’s coasts for months at a time waiting for orders to pull the trigger in case the war went hot.

“The Soviets called these patrols: ‘war patrols,’ ” said Red Star Rogue author Kenneth Sewell in the video below. “To them, we were at a state of war, and they took this very, very seriously.”

Related video:

www.youtube.com

Although no one knows for sure what happened to the sub, a conspiracy has emerged painting the captain as a hero for sacrificing his ship and crew to divert the apocalyptic scenario.

According to Sewell, Soviet sub K-129 was hijacked by a band of rogue KGB commandos to provoke a war between America and China by making it appear like China attacked Hawaii á la Pearl Harbor.

“They did that to weaken the United States, to strengthen the Soviet Union. Get your two enemies to fight and you pick up the pieces,” Sewell said.

But when the captain realized the mutiny wasn’t authorized by the Soviet government, he gave the KGB operatives the wrong launch codes to his missiles, Sewell alleges.

“When you had an attempted launch with the wrong code it would detonate the warhead, which would cause the missile to explode, which sank the submarine,” Sewell said. “We owe him a really big debt of gratitude. He’s one of these unsung heroes of history that will never really get credit.”

This American Heroes Channel video portrays how the conspiracy would have played out.

Watch:

American Heroes Channel, Youtube
Articles

5 things the US Military should ban forever

The U.S. military does a lot of good around the world, but it also maintains a few quirks. Usually stemming from the mindset of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” some items common to the military experience don’t make much sense. These are those items.


1. The Navy’s blue camouflage uniform

UPDATE: This change is already in the works. We take full credit.

Here is how this went down: The Navy was wearing its completely blue working uniform, and then the Marine Corps and Army went to new and improved digital patterns. The admirals got together and thought of how to best to spend the budget.

They got into a big room with presentations about cool laser beams that can destroy an entire terrorist compound, missiles for fighter jets that can travel 300 miles, and new GPS navigation systems that can tell you where you are with pinpoint accuracy and you can hit one button to call in naval gunfire. And then they decided to spend a bunch of money on uniforms that make no sense.

2. Wearing reflective belts everywhere

Yeah, we know. They reflect light from car headlights so that you don’t get flattened like a pancake when you’re on your run. So maybe that makes sense. But they are overused to the point of absurdity. You need to wrap a reflective belt around your pack on this hike, because drivers may not notice the 900+ people around you with flashlights and making lots of noise.

Make sure you also wear your reflective belt around your forward operating base so that Johnny Taliban can make that mortar fire more effective.

3. Those brown dive shorts that only Navy SEALs wear

The UDT SEAL swim shorts come in khaki, have an included belt, and are short enough to show how terribly untanned your legs are. According to NavySEALs.com, the shorts were issued to the original frogmen of World War II, and now all SEALs are issued them as part of that tradition.

Photo Credit: Valet Mag

Holding to traditions is important, but we’re talking 1940s-era fashion here. SEALs aren’t shooting at Taliban fighters with M1 Garands, because times, trends, and technology has changed. Which leads us to …

4. Marine Corps “silkies” physical training shorts

We can officially conclude that the military has a serious problem with short shorts. The worst offender is the U.S. Marine Corps, with their “silkies.” While Marines have been issued updated physical training uniforms, the silkie shorts that looked like they were stolen from Larry Bird’s locker room still prevail. And sadly, there’s always at least one weird guy in your platoon who actually enjoys wearing them.

5. PowerPoint

There’s a reason Gen. Mattis banned the use of Powerpoint briefings when he was in charge at CENTCOM. Creating slideshows are boring, huge wastes of time, and as he so famously said, they “make you stupid.”

We’re absolutely certain there are other things out there. What can you think of? Add it to the comments.