Often dubbed the “Second Pearl Harbor,” the West Loch disaster in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, saw six large landing ships explode, burn, and sink on May 21, 1944, after their cargoes of ammunition and fuel caught fire. The LSTs were moored in a large formation of 34 ships preparing to take part in the invasion of Saipan in the Marianas Islands. LSTs were designed to deliver 10 fully combat-ready tanks onto beaches during amphibious landings and could carry hundreds of tons of supplies.
At Pearl Harbor, the ships were carrying mostly fuel and ammunition, including mortar rounds from a failed test to employ LSTs and their smaller cousins, landing craft tanks, as mortar platforms to support beach assaults.
Soldiers were unloading mortar shells from LCT-963 and onto trucks on LST-353 on May 21 when a fireball suddenly erupted from LST-353.
The Navy was never able to identify a definite cause, but an accident with a cigarette or a mortar round going off and igniting the gasoline fumes have been advanced as probable causes.
Regardless of how the first fire started, its progress through LST-353 was fierce, and the rising heat triggered a second, larger explosion that filled nearby ships with hot shrapnel and spread flaming debris through the docking area.
The other ships, also filled with fuel, ammunition, and other supplies, began trying to get clear while rescue vehicles rushed in to try to save sailors, Marines, and soldiers and put out the flames.
The military also lost three LCTs, 17 tracked vehicles, and eight artillery pieces.
The Navy rallied after the incident, finding new ships and men to take over the mission. The LST fleet for the invasion of Saipan launched only one day late and made it to the Marianas quickly enough to invade on schedule on June 15, 1944.
A media blackout kept most of America from hearing about the incident until it was declassified in 1960. Even today, it remains relatively unknown.
Accounts in South Korean media differ over who exactly proposed the latest measure, but it came at a general-level military dialogue, which hadn’t happened for over a decade before.
The two nations, still technically at war after signing an armistice in the 1950s, met under the banner of “practically eliminate the danger of war,” as South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to do on April 27, 2018, during their historic first summit.
But the guns represent a substantial part of North Korea’s threat to Seoul, perhaps acting as the main deterrent holding off a US or South Korean invasion during the multidecade military standoff.
Precisely because the artillery is so formidable, expect to see North Korea ask for something in return. Kim could ask for a withdrawal of or a reduction in US forces in South Korea — a longstanding goal in Pyongyang. Roughly 28,000 US troops are stationed in South Korea as a deterrent.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered the military to put an end to paid service activities once and for all and focus on combat readiness as the commander-in-chief attempts to build a world-class fighting force by mid-century.
In an effort to fulfill a pledge first made three years ago, Xi instructed the armed services on July 31, 2018, to halt all commercial activities, such as “kindergarten education, publishing services, and real estate rentals,” before the year’s end, Bloomberg News reported on Aug. 1, 2018, citing China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency.
Xi called for the cessation of practices that have led troops and officers to become “mercenaries for hire,” the Asia Times reported , citing the PLA Daily, the main newspaper of the Chinese armed services. He reportedly stressed that the move is intended to improve the military by allowing it to “focus on its main mission of battle readiness” through concentrated efforts to strengthen war preparation and fighting ability.
Short on funds, the Chinese military began engaging in commercial activities after the reform and opening up period in the 1970s, but such activities were, with certain exceptions, prohibited by 1998. The Chinese president’s new directive “allows no exception, discount or makeshift compromise,” Xinhua explained, noting that the aim is to purify the military and reduce corruption by eliminating commercial perks and moonlighting opportunities for members of the armed services.
Chinese President Xi Jinping
(Photo by Michel Temer)
“Paid services can sometimes encourage corruption and the military should focus on national defense,” National Defense University professor Gong Fangbin told the Chinese state-affiliated outlet Global Times in March 2016 when Xi first announced plans to eliminate the military’s paid services activities. At that time, he argued that ending paid services would enhance “the military’s combat capability.”
The Chinese military had put an end to 106,000 paid service programs by June 30, 2018, according to the China Daily.
The Chinese president’s announcement on July 31, 2018, came on the eve of China’s Army Day celebrations, when the Chinese People’s Liberation Army turned 91.
Xi, as the leader of China and head of the Communist Party of China’s Central Military Commission, stressed his goal of building a world-class military that can win wars in any theater of combat by 2050 in his speech before the 19th Communist Party Congress in October 2017, stating, “China’s dream of a strong national army will be realized” with mechanization completed by 2020 and modernization finished by 2035.
While the Chinese military has grown stronger, especially with the development of new military technologies and systems, expert observers like Adam Ni, a visiting fellow at the Strategic and Defense Studies Center at Australian National University, argue that China’s military continues to struggle to overcome certain lingering problems, including a lack of combat experience, extensive corruption, limited discipline, and nascent power projection capabilities.
Other countries, the US in particular, are watching carefully as China strives to bolster its national military power. “Great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of US national security,” Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis stated when the 2018 National Defense Strategy was released, highlighting the threat posed by “revisionist” powers like China and Russia.
Prior to his departure as head of what is now Indo-Pacific Command, then-Adm. Harry Harris reiterated that China is the greatest challenge facing the US. “China remains our biggest long-term challenge. Without focused involvement and engagement by the United States and our allies and partners, China will realize its dream of hegemony in Asia,” he said in May 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Even though the F-35 program is making strides, each of the Joint Strike Fighter variants is still coming up short on combat readiness goals, according to the Pentagon’s top weapons tester.
Based on collected data for fiscal 2019, the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy variants all remain “below service expectations” for aircraft availability, Robert Behler, director of the Pentagon’s Operational Test and Evaluation Office, said Nov. 13, 2019.
“Operational suitability of the F-35 fleet remains below service expectations,” he said before the House Subcommittee on Readiness and Tactical Air and Land Forces. “In particular, no F-35 variant meets the specified reliability or maintainability metrics.”
One reason for falling short of the 65% availability rate goal is that “the aircraft are breaking more often and taking longer to fix,” Behler added.
Lawmakers requested that Behler; Ellen Lord, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment; Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, Program Executive Officer for the F-35 Joint Program Office; and Diana Maurer, director of Defense Capabilities and Management for the Government Accountability Office testify on sustainment, supply and production challenges affecting the program.
Crew chiefs with the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit work on an F-35A Lightning II at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, July 31, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
Results improved marginally from 2018 to 2019 but were still below the benchmark, and well below the 80% mission-capable rate goal set by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in 2018.
Mattis ordered the services to raise mission-capable rates for four key tactical aircraft: the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the Navy’s F/A-18 Hornet, the F-22 Raptor and the F-35. The objective was to achieve an 80% or higher mission-capable rate for each fleet by the end of fiscal 2019.
Units that deployed for overseas missions had better luck, Behler said.
“Individual units were able to achieve the 80% target for short periods during deployed operations,” he said in his prepared testimony.
Fick backed up that claim. For example, he said, the 388th Fighter Wing from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, deployed to the Middle East as part of the F-35A’s first rotation to the region. As a unit, the mission-capable rate for the jet fighters increased from 72% in April to 92% by the time they returned last month, he said.
Later in the hearing, Fick mentioned that a substantial contributor to the degraded mission capability rate — the ability to perform a core mission function — is a deteriorated stealth coating on F-35 canopies.
In July 2019, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told lawmakers the F-35 would fall short of the 80% mission-capable rate target over parts supply shortages to fix the crumbling coating that allows the plane to evade radar.
“[Canopy] supply shortages continue to be the main obstacle to achieving this,” Esper said in written responses to the Senate Armed Services Committee prior to his confirmation. “We are seeking additional sources to fix unserviceable canopies.”
33rd Fighter Wing F-35As taxi down the flight line at Volk Field during Northern Lightning Aug. 22, 2016.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)
Nov. 13, 2019’s hearing comes on the heels of a new Government Accountability Office report that once again urges the Defense Department to outline new policies to deal with the F-35’s challenges.
“DoD’s costs to purchase the F-35 are expected to exceed 6 billion, and the department expects to spend more than id=”listicle-2641354570″ trillion to sustain its F-35 fleet,” the Nov. 13, 2019 report states. “Thus, DoD must continue to grapple with affordability as it takes actions to increase the readiness of the F-35 fleet and improve its sustainment efforts to deliver an aircraft that the military services and partner nations can successfully operate and maintain over the long term within their budgetary realities.”
The 22-page report largely reiterated what the GAO found in April 2019: that a lapse in supply chain management is one reason the F-35 stealth jet fleet, operated across three services, is falling short of its performance and operational requirements.
It’s something the Pentagon and manufacturer Lockheed Martin need to work through as they gear up for another large endeavor. The DoD last month finalized a billion agreement with the company for the next three batches of Joint Strike Fighters, firming up its largest stealth fighter jet deal to date.
The agreement includes 291 fifth-generation fighters for the US, 127 for international partners in the program, and 60 for foreign military sale customers.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Sports, in large part, were halted when the U.S. military became involved in World War II. The Indy 500 was canceled to save gasoline, and the U.S. Open golf tournament was scrapped favoring resources in rubber, which typically made golf equipment. Several professional athletes, managers, owners, and even rules officials across many leagues enlisted, commissioned, or were drafted.
These sports icons sacrificed the prime of their careers for a cause bigger than themselves. On the anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, we celebrate the lives of some of sports’ greatest stars who served during this time.
(Courtesy of World Golf Hall of Fame)
“I don’t suppose that any of the pro and amateur golfers who were combat soldiers, Marines, or sailors will soon be able to think of a three-putt green as of the really bad troubles in life,” Mangrum said when he returned from World War II. Mangrum was both a veteran of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. Before he left for war to fight with General Patton’s Third Army, he made a pact with his friend, Sergeant Robert Green. Each ripped a id=”listicle-2641582160″ bill in half, vowing to each return it when the war ended. Green was killed in action, thus the pair never rekindled their promise.
Mangrum and his brother spent their childhood in the backyard where his thirst for competition began. “A small creek ran behind our house,” he told the NY Times. “My brother, Ray, and I built a crude green on the opposite bank and had [sic] pitching contests with a rustyblade old mashie somebody had discarded.” Soon he was a caddie learning how to approach the game through judgment. He took first place in the first US Open (1946) golf tournament since its hiatus during World War II. He became known as “Mr. Icicle” for his calmness on the links, which he credits how nothing on the golf course could rattle him like the battlefield.
Ralph Houk is not a name that is first mentioned when thinking of a New York Yankee, but he should be. His commanding officer, Caesar Flore, spoke of his battlefield fearlessness when he sent Houk out in a jeep to do reconnaissance on enemy scouting positions. He didn’t return until two nights later, and Flore listed him as ‘missing in action.’ “When he had returned, he had a three day growth of beard and hand grenades hanging all over him,” Flore said. “He was back of the enemy lines the entire time. I know he must’ve enjoyed himself. He had a hole in one side of his helmet, and a hole in the other where the bullet left. When I told him about his helmet he said, ‘I could have [sic] swore I heard a ricochet.'”
Houk rose from Private to Major in four years and earned a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster, and a Purple Heart for when he was wounded in the calf during the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, he secured the back-up catcher’s position behind Yogi Berra and became a manager where players referred to him as “The Major” for his wartime discipline.
(Courtesy of the New York Times.)
Gino Marchetti was known primarily for two things: being a Hall of Fame defensive end for the Baltimore Colts and an entrepreneur who co-owned a restaurant called Gino’s with teammate Alan Ameche. Their influence was so great that members of the community, including New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, often muttered their slogan “Gino’s, oh yeah!” while they visited players at their favorite hamburger joint.
What most don’t know is that Gino Marchetti served as a machine gunner with Company I, 273rd Regiment of the 69th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge. “You don’t realize that you are going to see some of your friends go down,” Marchetti told ESPN. “You don’t realize any of it. For example, the first time I ever saw snow, I slept in it. It’s hell.” Marchetti credits joining the Army as the greatest thing he had ever done because it gave him the discipline and toughness to compete in the NFL.
Nestor Chylak’s career behind home plate almost never came to be. While serving as a Technical Sergeant in the US Army’s 424 Infantry Regiment, Chylak was severely wounded on January 3, 1945, in the Ardennes Forest. While his battalion braced artillery fire in the blistering cold and blanketed snow, an artillery shell exploded a tree, which sent splinters traveling the speed of bullets into his face. He was blind for ten days, but ultimately regained his eyesight. He was awarded both the Silver Star and the Purple Heart.
Chylak would go on to become one of the most legendary MLB Umpires in the history of the game. He was never one to cower to a feisty manager’s tirade, nor did he get flustered from loud boos from fans. He umpired baseball’s bizarre promotion games like the infamous “10-Cent Beer Night” promotion in Cleveland and Bob Veeck’s “Disco Demolition Night” in Detroit. Both promotions ended in similar flair — a forfeiture and a flying chair. Chylak, however, umpired for 25 years in five World Series and was respected for his fairness.
At the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, a bronze plaque in the Umpire Exhibit says in his jest, “This must be the only job in America that everybody knows how to do better than the guy who’s doing it.”
Ukraine has barred Russian male nationals between 16 and 60 from traveling to the country, President Petro Poroshenko announced on Nov. 30, 2018.
The move comes amid escalation tensions between the two countries after Russian border guards on Nov. 25, 2018, opened fire and captured three Ukrainian naval vessels and their 24-member crew off Crimea, which Russia forcibly annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
The Ukrainian leader has called for a stronger NATO presence in the Black Sea region and for further Western sanctions against Russia.
Poroshenko tweeted on Nov. 30, 2018, that the restrictions on Russian travelers have been taken to prevent Russia from forming “private armies” fighting on Ukrainian soil.
Russia has backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has killed more than 10,300 people since April 2014.
Petro Tsygykal, head of Ukraine’s border guard service, said border checkpoints were being bolstered, according to a statement on the presidential website.
Border Guard Service spokesman Andriy Demchenko told Ukraine’s Hromadske TV on Nov. 30, 2018, that Russian male nationals would be barred from entering Ukraine during the period of martial law, which is now due to continue until Dec. 26, 2018.
Russia said it had no plans to mirror the Ukrainian move. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blamed the Ukrainian government for implementing a policy that hurts ordinary people.
On Nov. 29, 2018, Poroshenko said that Kyiv will impose “restrictions” on Russian citizens in Ukraine and the country’s border guard said only Ukrainian nationals would be allowed to travel to Crimea in connection with the imposition of martial law for 30 days in parts of the country.
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Kateryna Zelenko confirmed to RFE/RL by phone that foreign journalists are among those excluded from entering Crimea from Ukraine but said her ministry was discussing whether to grant them an exception.
The official confirmation came hours after Anna-Lena Lauren, a Moscow-based foreign correspondent for the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, was barred by Ukrainian border guards from entering Crimea through the what Ukraine deems the only legal route.
Meanwhile, the European Court of Human Rights said Ukraine has filed a complaint against Russia in the court for firing on three of its ships and boarding them.
A court statement on Nov. 30, 2018, said Ukraine had asked it to intervene to ensure the well-being of its sailors. Moscow accuses them of illegally crossing the Russian border and failing to comply with orders to stop.
“The Ukrainian government has asked in particular that Russia provide medical care to the wounded sailors and provide information on the state of health of the crew members. It also asks that the sailors be treated as prisoners of war,” the statement said.
The court said it had asked the Russian government for information about the condition of the sailors’ detention. The complaint is the fifth filed by Ukraine against Russia since Moscow forcibly annexed Crimea in 2014.
A Russian government-appointed ombudswoman in Crimea said the captured Ukrainian naval personnel are being transferred to Moscow, Russian state media reported on Nov. 30, 2018.
Russia says the Ukrainians had violated its border while Ukraine says its ships were acting in line with international maritime rules.
A Crimean court earlier this week ruled to keep the Ukrainian seamen behind bars for two months pending the investigation.
Earlier on Nov. 30, 2018, the Kremlin said it regrets U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at an upcoming Group of 20 (G20) summit.
Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin shake hands during a 2018 summit.
“This means that discussion of important issues on the international and bilateral agenda will be postponed indefinitely,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian state media.
Putin, he said, “is ready to have contacts with his American counterpart.”
Trump said he was cancelling the meeting scheduled for this weekend at the G20 summit in Argentina over Russia’s recent seizure of the Ukrainian vessels.
“Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting…in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin,”” Trump said in a tweet posted on Nov. 29, 2018.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Nov. 30, 2018, that Budapest stands by Ukraine in the latest escalation of tensions with Russia.
Orban, who is one of the few EU leaders to have good relations with Putin, said Hungary’s position was clear despite the “anti-Hungarian government” in Kyiv.
Hungary and Ukraine are at odds over the rights of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine.
‘No military solution’
In an interview with the German tabloid Bild published early on Nov. 29, 2018, Poroshenko said he hopes European states will take active steps, including increasing sanctions and military protection against Russia, to help Ukraine after providing verbal support in the wake of Russia’s capture of 24 Ukrainian crew members over the weekend.
“We hope that NATO states are prepared to send naval ships to the Sea of Azov to support Ukraine and provide security,” Poroshenko said. He claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin sees himself as a “Russian emperor” and Ukraine as a Russian “colony.”
“The only language he [Putin] understands is the solidarity of the Western world,” Poroshenko said. “We can’t accept Russia’s aggressive policies. First it was Crimea, then eastern Ukraine, now he wants the Sea of Azov.”
Speaking at a German-Ukrainian economic forum in Berlin later on Nov. 29, 2018, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she planned to press Putin at the G20 summit on Nov. 30-Dec. 1, 2018, this week to urge the release of the ships and crews.
“We can only resolve this in talks with one another because there is no military solution to all of these conflicts,” she added.
While blaming Russia for tensions, Merkel showed no signs of being ready to back military support.
“We ask the Ukrainian side, too, to be sensible because we know that we can only solve things through being reasonable and through dialogue because there is no military solution to these disputes,” she said.
Peskov on Nov. 29, 2018, criticized Poroshenko’s request for NATO to deploy naval ships to the Sea of Azov, alleging it was “aimed at provoking further tensions” and driven by Poroshenko’s “electoral and domestic policy motives.”
Putin has claimed that the naval confrontation was a ploy to boost his Ukrainian counterpart’s popularity ahead of an election in March 2019.
A NATO spokeswoman said the alliance already has a strong presence in the region, with vessels routinely patrolling and exercising in the Black Sea.
“There is already a lot of NATO in the Black Sea, and we will continue to assess our presence in the region,” Oana Lungescu said.
The Sea of Azov is the body of water that separates the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, from the Ukrainian and Russian mainlands. Russia opened a bridge over the Kerch Strait connecting Crimea with Russia in May and has asserted control over the strait.
The Kerch Strait is the only route for ships traveling between the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine has several ports, and the Black Sea, which is an arena usually patrolled by NATO.
Given that their country’s humor is so steeped in subtle and sophisticated irony, Russian officials’ frequent inability to get a joke can be pretty mind-blowing.
And it appears that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter just had a good laugh at Moscow’s expense.
Speaking this weekend, the 91-year-old Carter said he had offered to provide Russia with accurate maps of Syria so its pilots could actually target Islamic State positions in the country — rather than U.S.-backed opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.
Carter, who was among a group of prominent former global leaders who met Putin this past spring, said the Russian president had provided him with an email address.
“I sent him a message on Thursday [October 15] asking him if he wanted a copy of our map so he could bomb accurately in Syria,” Carter said.
He added that the next day the Russian Embassy “called down and told me they would like very much to have the map. So in the future, if Russia doesn’t bomb the right places, you’ll know it’s not Putin’s fault but it’s my fault.”
The maps Carter spoke of are publicly available on the Carter Center’s website, which on October 8 published a report saying that the vast majority of Russian airstrikes in Syria were not hitting Islamic State targets.
In the video of Carter’s remarks posted in YouTube, it is clear that the 39th U.S. president, who is known to have a playful sense of humor, was just having a little fun.
WATCH: Jimmy Carter Jokes About Offering Maps To Putin
But it appears that Moscow didn’t pick up on the joke. The Interfax news agency flashed the following: RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY CONFIRMS THAT EX-U.S. PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER HANDED MAPS INDICATING ISLAMIC STATE’S CURRENT LOCATIONS IN SYRIA TO RUSSIAN EMBASSY IN WASHINGTON
Russian news sites followed up with stories citing Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying that “it was with a big thanks that we accepted this gesture by the former U.S.president who obviously is sincerely calling for joint efforts in the fight against terror and is concerned about the fate of the Syrian people.”
Zakharova added that she hoped that another Carter — U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter — would continue this spirit of cooperation.
Perhaps Zakharova was joining in on the joke. But history suggests otherwise.
The Foreign Ministry is far from the only part of official Russia that has trouble understanding contemporary humor.
Back in May, prosecutors in Rostov questioned the organizer of a local spelling bee about whether he has any connections to so-called “grammar Nazis.”
Grammar Nazi, of course, is a slang term for somebody who habitually — and often annoyingly — corrects other people’s grammar. In recent years, it has developed into a satirical Internet meme, which uses imagery that vaguely resembles swastikas.
But prosecutors in Rostov didn’t get the joke. They interrogated spelling bee organizer Aleksei Pavlovsky, asking him whether he believed people who make spelling and grammatical mistakes should be exterminated.
Through the darkness, the Soldiers pushed forward toward their objective. Sweat was dripping off the chins of some, hitting the ground as each mile passed. This is only the beginning of earning the Army Expert Infantryman Badge.
Their rucksacks seemed heavier with each passing step, their helmets weighing down like lead covers on their heads. They had to complete a full 12 miles before their trek was done.
Once they reached their destination, there was one more task at hand: each Soldier had to treat a simulated casualty and carry him out on a litter.
This was the final event for the Expert Infantryman Badge testing that took place Dec. 11-15, 2017, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
Out of the 324 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team Soldiers who started the Expert Infantryman Badge testing, only 73 successfully completed all the required tasks and earned their Badge — making the attrition rate 78 percent.
“The test has evolved over the years,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Walter A. Tagalicud, the I Corps command sergeant major. “It certainly differs from the one I participated in to earn my EIB in 1989. But, the spirit and intent remain. There is no greater individual training mechanism to building the fundamental warrior skills required in our profession, than the EIB.”
There is a lot of train up to the EIB, said Spc. Tyler Conner, an infantryman with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment. Even if a Soldier is not trying out for the EIB, the train up for the testing is valuable to see the right way of doing infantry tasks. When a Soldier finally earns the EIB, it shows that they have honed their skills enough to be called an expert infantryman.
The EIB evaluation included an Army Physical Fitness Test, with a minimum score of 80 points in each event; day and night land navigation; medical, patrol, and weapons lanes; a 12-mile forced march, and Objective Bull (evaluate, apply a tourniquet to and transport a casualty).
“These crucial skills are the building blocks to our battle drills and collective gates,” Tagalicud said. “The Expert Infantryman Badge is as much about the training, leading up to and through the testing, as it is about proving your mettle.”
“Earning the EIB was one of the best experiences I had in the Army,” said Sgt. Wilmar Belilla Lopez, a Soldier with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment. “Being tactically and technically proficient is the core of being a Soldier. When a Soldier earns their EIB, it signifies they have achieved a level of proficiency all Soldiers should strive for.”
“The Greek Philosopher Heraclitus said, ‘Out of every 100 men, 10 shouldn’t even be there, 80 are just targets, 9 are the real fighters and we are lucky to have them – for they make the battle. But the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back,'” Tagalicud said while addressing the new EIB holders.
“You are that warrior. You Infantrymen, you Soldiers, you leaders, and candidates are the one in a hundred,” he said. “Many stepped forward to answer the question am I good enough. For you the answer in a resounding yes!”
The Expert Infantryman Badge was developed in 1944 to represent the infantry’s tough, hard-hitting role in combat and symbolize proficiency in infantry craft.
For the first Expert Infantryman Badge evaluation, 100 noncommissioned officers were selected to undergo three days of testing. When the testing was over, 10 NCOs remained. The remaining ten were interviewed to determine the first Expert Infantryman.
On March 29, 1944, Tech. Sgt. Walter Bull was the first Soldier to be awarded the Expert Infantryman Badge
A decorated US Marine Corps veteran, who a federal judge ruled was an American citizen, is facing deportation to Mexico in a case that has been criticized as a cruel and extraordinary application of immigration laws.
The US government’s ongoing effort to deport George Ybarra, who is currently locked up in an Arizona detention center, has shed light on the vulnerabilities of foreign-born Americans who have served in the military, along with the deportation threats that can plague even those who are deemed to be citizens and have deep ties to the country.
Ybarra, who was honorably discharged after serving in the Persian Gulf war and earning numerous badges and medals, is facing deportation due to a criminal history that his family says is tied to mental health struggles and post-traumatic stress disorder from his service. While there have been growing concerns about the removal of veterans and the harsh policies of deporting people for minor crimes, Ybarra’s case is particularly troubling to immigrant rights’ advocates given a judge’s acknowledgement that he is US citizen.
“George hopes he will be able to stay in the country he fought for,” Luis Parra, Ybarra’s attorney, told the Guardian. “He is a third-generation [US] citizen … It would be a very extreme hardship for George to have to relocate to Mexico.”
Ybarra, whose story was first reported in the Tucson Sentinel, has a complex immigration and citizenship battle dating back more than a decade, including deportation threats under Barack Obama’s administration.
Ybarra, also known as Jorge Ibarra-Lopez, was born in Nogales in Mexico, just south of the Arizona border, in 1964, according to his court filings. He moved to the US months after he was born, and his maternal grandfather was a US citizen, born in Bisbee, Arizona, his lawyers wrote. Ybarra has long argued that he has “derivative citizenship,” meaning he is a citizen by virtue of his mother’s status.
An immigration judge eventually agreed that there was “sufficient evidence” that the 52-year-old father of five should be considered a US citizen, but the US Department of Homeland Security challenged that decision in 2011 and has since continued to try to deport him, records show.
The deportation proceedings stem in part from a number of criminal offenses, including drug-related charges. He was also convicted of firing two rounds through the front door of his home in Phoenix in 2011 in the direction of two police officers, according to the Sentinel. The paper reported that no one was hurt and that Ybarra said he was suffering from a PTSD-induced episode of delusion at the time and believed federal authorities were coming to “take away” his family.
Ybarra ultimately served a seven-year sentence in state prison for aggravated assault, but instead of returning to his family after he completed his time, he was transferred into the custody of federal immigration authorities last month. Ybarra and his family now fear he could soon be deported.
Parra argued that Ybarra should be released while the ongoing dispute about his citizenship is resolved. US Citizenship and Immigration Services had previously denied his application for a certificate of citizenship, but there are numerous ways he can have his status formally recognized, according to Parra.
His family has argued that he should get treatment and other government support as a disabled veteran with PTSD.
“He basically has no family in Mexico,” said Parra, noting that Ybarra’s children and grandchildren and other relatives in Arizona are all US citizens. “He has a very supportive family living in the Phoenix area, including his mother, who depends on George.”
Ybarra is distraught and worried about his continued detention, Parra said. In a Sentinel interview last month in an Arizona state prison, Ybarra said, “I’ve got a lot of anger, a lot of anxiety over this. They know I’m a citizen, they know I’m a combat veteran. I don’t see where they’ve ever shown that they care.”
A spokeswoman for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not respond to questions about Ybarra’s case, but said in a statement that the agency “does not knowingly place US citizens into removal proceedings”, adding, “ICE deportation officers arrest only those aliens for which the agency has probable cause to believe are amenable to removal from the United States.”
When ICE does detain US citizens, the statement said, it’s usually because there is a misunderstanding about their status.
“The job for ICE deportation officers is further complicated by some aliens who falsely assert US citizenship in order to evade deportation, which is not uncommon,” the statement continued.
A Northwestern University analysis of government data found that hundreds of US citizens have, in fact, been detained by immigration authorities.
Margaret Stock, an immigration attorney and expert on military cases, said the deportation of veterans has been an ongoing challenge under both Obama and Donald Trump, but that she has never seen a case like Ybarra where the government threatens to deport someone ruled a citizen by a judge.
“If you can deport this guy, you can also try to deport all kinds of other people,” she said.
The Littoral Combat Ship has been nothing short of problematic for the US Navy. Engineering and mechanical issues have repeatedly sidelined a number of active LCS warships, sometimes in foreign ports for months at a time. Oddly enough, as much as the LCS has been a pain in the figurative neck, it’s far from the worst frigate-type vessel afloat in today’s modern navies.
In fact, that dubious distinction goes to the yet-to-be-accepted F125 series of “super frigates” commissioned by the German Navy.
Though the first of the F125 ships, the Baden-Württemberg, has already been built and has sailed under its own power, it was returned to its builder by the German government — which isn’t a very good sign.
The German military originally sought a replacement for its Bremen-class frigates in the early 2000s. While the Bremen boats were still fairly young at the time, they were rapidly walking down the path toward obsolescence. With operational costs steadily climbing at a time when the German military planned to make deeps cut in spending, a plan formed in the minds of the country’s highest-ranking civilian and uniformed defense officials.
Instead of ordering frigates that could fulfill just one or two types of missions, they would order and commission the largest frigates in the world to serve as multi-mission platforms. They would, hypothetically, be able to operate away from their German home ports for up to 24 months at a time, function using a smaller crew, and serve on humanitarian and peacekeeping operations around the world as needed.
Additionally, similar to the LCS frigates, these new surface combatants would be able to field modules for various missions, quickly swapped out in port as varying objectives demanded. Special operations forces could also use the new ships as floating staging areas, with the ability to carry four smaller boats and two medium-lift NH90 helicopters.
In 2007, the first contracts for the new frigates — dubbed the F125 class — were inked, outlining an order for a batch of four ships with the potential for more in the future. The deal tallied up to nearly $3 billion USD with an expected delivery date of 2015-2016.
During the construction program, problems began to manifest, and with them came delays and cost overruns. By the time of the lead ship’s christening in 2013, German officials anticipated a commissioning date in 2016 or 2017 at the latest. However, by 2017, the situation had worsened when scores of defects were discovered during testing and evaluation.
The F125 class is far closer in size and constitution to a destroyer than a frigate. Coming in at around 7200 tons, the weight of the vessel (which includes its mission systems, propulsion, machinery, etc.) makes for a major speed disadvantage. The Baden-Württemberg can’t go faster than 26 knots (30 miles per hour) while underway. By comparison, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, which are just 15 feet longer than the F125s and are in a similar weight class, has been known to achieve speeds in excess of 30 knots (+35 miles per hour) with its engines are cranked up.
Not only does this have an impact on the F125’s performance, it also makes the ship considerably more expensive to operate in the long term.
Hardware and software woes are among the most damning issues plaguing the F125s. Defective mission-critical systems means that the ship is unreliable when at sea and probably completely unusable in combat situations. At this point, the F125s are more like extremely expensive military yachts than they are warships.
To top it off, the Baden-Württemberg has a consistent list to starboard, meaning that the ship is on a permanent lean to the right side.
In late December, 2017, the German military refused to accept the Baden-Württemberg for active service, citing the above flaws and defects. This is the very first time in German history where a warship was actually returned to its builder because it didn’t meet minimum operating standards and requirements.
There is no timeline on when the German Navy will finally accept the F125s into its surface fleet. That won’t happen until all four ships have been refitted and repaired to the satisfaction of German defense officials. Before that, millions of dollars will have to be reinvested into the already highly-expensive program.
In the days before naval aviation and submarines, the battleship was the unchallenged king of the seas. Building a bigger and better ship with more and bigger guns was basically the order of the day, and it continued all the way up until the days before World War II, when the world reached peak battleship, and airplanes proved to be deadlier than the Navy ever imagined.
But America almost reached peak battleship before World War I was even a possibility, and it was possibly the biggest battleship ever conceived – it also might have been an ironic joke from someone who hated the Navy.
Benjamin Tillman, famous racist and Navy hater.
Benjamin Tillman was a U.S. Senator from South Carolina and a member of the Senate Naval Affairs Committee. He was annoyed at the Navy for coming to Congress every year to request money to build more and bigger battleships. Despite this pretty much being what the Navy is supposed to do, Tillman decided it would be best to just get the whole arms race out of the way and build the biggest possible battleship they could at the moment. This led to the creation of the Maximum Battleship design.
No, that’s really what they called it.
Tillman hated the Navy’s battleships, and everyone knew it, but when he requested the Department of the Navy just submit the plans for the biggest battleship they could, the Navy obliged him anyway. There were, however, restrictions on U.S. ship designs at the time. Namely, they had to fit through the Panama Canal.
The first design submitted was a massive 70,000 tons – almost 50 percent heavier than the modern Navy’s USS Missouri – and this was in 1916. It carried 12 16-inch guns and had an armor thickness of 18 inches. In comparison, the Iowa-class battleships of World War II would carry just nine 16-inch guns and have a maximum armor thickness of 14.5 inches. The next iteration of Maximum Battleship designs would have 24 16-inch guns and an armor thickness of 13 inches. It was the third design that really took the cake, however.
Maximum Battleship III – also known as the Tillman III design – weighed 63,000 tons. It had the armor of the second design and the guns of the second design. It could even move at an absurd 30 knots, which is almost as fast as an Iowa-class ship and an insane speed for a ship of that size in 1916. This is a weight equal to the largest battleships ever actually built that moves even faster and was supposed to be built 20 years earlier. That wasn’t the end of the attempt, though. There would be another.
The largest of the Tillman Designs.
The fourth design for Tillman featured the 24 guns and even thicker armor, coming in at 19 inches. It was clear by now the Navy wasn’t expecting to get funding for these. The fourth design would displace 80,000 tons and was practically impossible to build with the technology of the day. In all, six designs were made, each bigger and more ridiculous than the last. It would be as big as the modern American supercarriers and carry the most and biggest weapons of anything on earth, on land, or on the oceans. And it would have been sunk just as easily with the advent of naval aviation.
Richard “Dick” D. Winters was born in rural New Holland, Pa. in January 1918. Richard graduated from Franklin and Marshall College in 1941 with a bachelor degree in economics. On Aug. 25 of the same year, he enlisted into the Army to fulfill a one-year service requirement. He said he had done this as an attempt to avoid completing a full three-year tour if he had been drafted.
Nonetheless, he reported for basic training at Camp Croft, S.C. In 1942, Richard was selected to attend the Army Officer Cadet School (OCS) in Fort Benning, Ga. Once he completed his time at OCS he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division commissioned as a second lieutenant. In the 101st, Richard volunteered for the rigorous paratrooper training program and was assigned to Company E, commonly referred to as “Easy Company,” of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 2ndPlatoon, where he was made platoon leader. The regiment was considered experimental at the time as they were part of the first soldiers to be given airborne training. While still in paratrooper training, Richard would receive another promotion, this time to the rank of first lieutenant and assigned the role of executive officer of 1st Platoon. Richard, along with the rest of the 101st Airborne Division, was deployed to England in September 1943 to begin preparing for the invasion of Normandy.
Richard “Dick” Winters.
Eventually, this training was put into action and in the early hours of June 6, 1944, Easy Company was deployed alongside the 82nd and the rest of the 101st Airborne Divisions to commence Operation Overlord and the D-Day invasion. During the early moments of this operation, the plane carrying all of Easy Company’s leading officers, who made up the company’s headquarters, was shot down, which left Richard, a first lieutenant, as the acting commanding officer. In the following days, he destroyed a full battery of German howitzers and the platoon that commanded them, as well as acquired key information detailing German defenses at Utah Beach. Richard achieved these feats with only 13 of his men used in the action dubbed, the Brecourt Manor Assault. Richard was recommended for the Medal of Honor and received the Distinguished Service Cross and a promotion to the rank of captain for his actions. He would go on to fight heroically in Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge. On March 8, 1945, Richard was promoted to the rank of major.
After World War II, he stayed in Europe as part of the occupation and demobilization effort even though he had the option of returning home. Richard was later offered a regular commission, as opposed to his reserve commission, but declined and was discharged Jan. 22, 1946. Upon his return to the United States, Richard would meet and marry Ethel Estoppey on May 16, 1948. In 1951, Richard was reactivated by the Army and trained infantry and Army Rangers at Fort Dix, N.J.for three more years. He then moved to Hershey, Pa. with his family and founded his own company, R.D. Winters Inc., which sold feed for livestock to Pennsylvania farmers. After retirement, he would speak with historian Stephen Ambrose who would turn his stories into a book named Band of Brothers in 1992. In 2001, actor Tom Hanks adapted that book into an Emmy winning HBO miniseries. Richard would go on to publish his memoirs and give public speeches. Richard passed on Jan. 2, 2011 in Campbelltown, Pa.
We honor Richard’s service.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.