The U.S. government warns Americans against traveling to North Korea, specifically stating that travel to the Hermit Kingdom risks “arrest and long-term detention.” There have actually been many Americans held by North Korea, most were subsequently sentenced to a fine and years of hard labor. It happened most recently in January 2016, when 21-year-old Otto Warmbier was arrested for stealing a political banner from a hotel. Warmbier was sentenced to fifteen years “for crimes against the state.”
Warmbier will likely not be the last American detained by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the North’s full, ironic moniker). He’s actually the thirteenth American to be arrested there since 1996. Most are detained for a number of days but less than a full year. The only exception being Kenneth Bae, who held for nearly two years on charges of attempting to overthrow the government.
Three of those Americans were released only after the interventions of former American presidents acting as diplomats. Since the U.S. does not have official relations with the DPRK (and are still technically at war), the governments cannot speak directly, so when the former presidents flew to Pyongyang, the U.S. government considered their trips “private, humanitarian, and unofficial.”
In March 2009, Journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were caught and detained for illegally entering North Korea. They were held for 140 days before former President Bill Clinton made an unannounced trip to the North Korean capital to meet with then-President Kim Jong-Il. The two were sentenced to twelve years of hard labor but were released within hours of President Clinton’s arrival. The journalists flew back to the U.S. with Clinton.
In 2010, Aijalon Gomes was held for 213 days for illegally entering the country. After Gomes attempted suicide in captivity, an American consular envoy flew to Pyongyang to request the release of Gomes but was unsuccessful. That’s when former President Jimmy Carter hopped on a plane and met with Kim Jong-Il in August 2010. Gomes was freed the next day and left the DPRK with Carter.
In addition to Warmbier, North Korea is currently holding Kim Dong-Chul, a naturalized American citizen, for espionage. He has been held for 153 days at this writing.
The SR-71 Blackbird is the fastest and highest-flying production aircraft ever to exist. It holds all of the world’s airspeed and altitude records, even after its retirement from the Air Force in the late 1990s.
It’s an incredible accomplishment considering the spy plane was developed during the 1950s and 60s without the help of computers.
The long-range, supersonic Blackbird was capable of flying at Mach 3 for more than an hour unlike its closest competitor, the Russian-made MiG-25 Foxbat, which could do it for a few minutes, according to the TechLaboratories video below.
The SR-71 was only about 45 feet shorter than the Boeing 727 passenger airliner. From nose to tail, the sleek jet measured 107.4 feet long, had a wingspan of 55.6 feet, stood 18.5 feet high and weighed about 140,000 pounds — including a fuel weight of 80,000 pounds.
Remarkably, the Blackbird had better gas mileage traveling at three times the speed of sound than at slower speeds. But it was still extremely expensive to operate, which is why Congress finally decommissioned the bird in 1998.
From its engines to its airframe, this TechLaboratories video explains the incredible engineering magic behind the SR-71 Blackbird:
The top weapons buyer for U.S. Special Operations Command said Wednesday that the so-called Iron Man suit being developed for elite commandos may not end up being the exoskeleton armored ensemble popular in adventure movies.
It’s been four years since SOCOM leaders challenged the defense industry to come up with ideas for the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS — an ensemble that would provide operators with “more-efficient, full-body ballistics protection and beyond-optimal human performance” as well as embedded sensors and communications tech for heightened situational awareness.
Program officials are about “a year and a half” away from having a TALOS prototype that’s ready to put in the hands of operators for testing, James “Hondo” Geurts, acquisition executive and director for SOF ATl at USSOCOM, told an audience at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Annual Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium.
When the program began, it captured the public’s imagination and conjured images of high-tech ensembles worn in movies such as “Man of Steel,” “Pacific Rim” and “Starship Troopers.”
“We are on our fifth prototype,” Geurts said. “Will we get everything we want? Probably not. That was never the intent.”
SOCOM officials envisioned TALOS would feature integrated heaters and coolers to regulate the temperature inside the suit. Embedded sensors would monitor the operator’s core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels. In the event that the operator is wounded, the suit could feasibly start administering the first life-saving oxygen or hemorrhage controls.
This is not the first time the U.S. military has embarked on an effort to perfect smart-soldier technology. The Army is now equipping combat units with a secure, smartphone-based kit — known as Nett Warrior — that allows a leader to track subordinates’ locations in relation to his own position via icons on a digital map. The unit leaders can view satellite imagery and send text messages.
The technology has seen combat and given leaders a precise view of their tactical environment, empowering units to operate more decisively than ever before.
But the program’s success did not come easily. Land Warrior, the first generation of this computerized command-and-control ensemble, was plagued by failure. From its launch in 1996, the Army spent $500 million on three major contract awards before the system’s reliability problems were solved in 2006.
When TALOS began, SOCOM said it planned to funnel $80 million into research and development over a four-year timeline. Geurts did not say how much money SOCOM has spent so far on TALOS.
One of the biggest challenges is powering the suit, but also a type of control theory and deep learning, Geurts said.
In just walking, “we take for granted that when we put our arm out, that our foot is behind us to balance it,” he said.
Geurts said the program has had “tremendous hurdles” working with these technologies, but said the effort will likely result in spin-off technologies that can be fielded to operators before TALOS is operationally ready.
“So in TALOS, don’t just think exoskeleton and armor — think of the whole equation,” he said. “Survivability is part of what armor you are carrying, but it’s also a big part of whatever information you have, what is your situational awareness, how do you communicate. So as we are going down all those paths, we can leverage quickly some of the stuff that is ready to go right now.”
Called the “Swamp Fox” for his ability to hit the British and disappear without a trace into the South Carolina swamps, Marion was the only senior officer to escape the British capture of Charleston (and he went on to inspire Mel Gibson’s character in the 2000 film The Patriot).
Marion took command of a force of irregular troops who would hit British forces and terrorize Loyalists. He and his men fought for no pay and supplied their own horses, arms, and food.
The Swamp Fox and his irregular cavalry of 250 completely routed a loyalist force on the Pee Dee River at Port’s Ferry.
After General Horatio Gates sent Marion away from the main body of the Continental Army, Marion launched a strategic campaign against all British and Tory forces in the colony. Port’s Ferry was an important river crossing for the Swamp Fox’s forces.
Marion’s campaign was so successful that support for the British in South Carolina was largely restricted and Lt. Col. Francis Marion was never captured.
Featured Image: Mel Gibson in The Patriot (Columbia Pictures)
It may come as a surprise, but until President Obama signed the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in November, military working dogs who were retired while overseas were sometimes left in the country in which they were deployed, separated from their handlers instead of returning back to the U.S. Sometimes the dogs would be left on the base until they were adopted locally.
Some handlers were able to return with their dogs, but the handler would have to pay for it out-of-pocket. If the handler couldn’t afford it, that was tough luck. The 2016 NDAA how the armed forces retires its working dogs. Those dogs will now be guaranteed a ride home thanks to a bipartisan amendment, which also allows their handlers to adopt them after their service ends.
The American Humane Association lobbied for the amendment for a year. Before the bill passed through Congress and was signed by the President, theAssociation spent thousands of dollars to repatriate retired dogs and reunite them with their handlers. They handled 21 cases in 2015 alone.
Staff Sgt. Philip Mendoza pets his military working dog, Rico, wearing “doggles,” during air assault training aboard a helicopter at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Elizabeth Rissmiller)
The Humane Association estimates there are upwards of 2,500 dogs at work with the U.S. military overseas. They believe the bond between a dog and its handler is a mutually beneficial relationship.
“It’s not just those 2,500 precious canines it’s also their handlers at the other end of the leash,” Dr. Robin Ganzert, CEO of the American Humane Association told the Washington Free Beacon. “When they come back suffering from those invisible wounds of war, we’re hoping that their four legged battle buddy will help them heal from PTS. We know it works. We’ve seen it work.”
The Humane Association’s next push is for ongoing veterinary care for returning canine veterans.
“We also did a call to action to the private sector and said, okay guys, time to step up and provide for veterinary care,” Ganzert said. “We achieved free specialty veterinary care but I’m still calling for free primary care. These handlers that are former-military, a lot of them, to have a battle buddy in their home is a grand expense.”
The B-1B Lancer is perhaps America’s most underrated heavy bomber.
For some perspective, let’s look at the specs. The Lancer can carry 84 Mk 82 500-pound bombs internally — that’s more than the B-52 or the B-2. It can carry a bunch of other weapons as well – from the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile to the CBU-97 cluster bomb.
And the B-1 may be the one thing holding back Russia from an all-out invasion of the Baltics.
But did you know that a B-1 even foiled a plan to bring over 1,000 pounds of cocaine into the country? Here’s how that happened:
According to an Air Force Times report from last year, the B-1 had been on a routine training mission off the Florida coast in March when the crew noticed something suspicious. When they went to check it out they saw a speed boat with drug smugglers and a fresh load of cocaine.
The smugglers had no idea that they were followed until they looked up and saw the humongous bomber coming right at them. They did what just about anyone would do in that situation: They panicked.
The B-1 crew caught them on tape dumping an estimated 500 kilos of cocaine overboard. According to an Oct. 2016 report by Business Insider, each kilo was worth up to $150,000 on the street – meaning that some drug lord took a $75 million hit to his bottom line.
Now that’s a good thing.
You might think the crew of that B-1B got into trouble for violating the Posse Comitatus Act. Guess again – in fact, this incident inspired then-Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James to see if other training missions could be used to help in the War on Drugs. This past September, DodBuzz.com reported that a five-day training exercise last August was used to assist in a counter-drug operation that seized over 6,000 kilos of cocaine.
Yes, that’s right. The legendary AR-15 manufacturer Noveske Rifleworks is now making a water gun. Based in Grants Pass, Oregon, Noveske has long been a supplier to top-tier American military units. In fact, the company has been awarded nearly $4.9 million in contracts by the U.S. Navy since 2007, including the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division. Noveske’s rifles are available to the civilian market as well but can cost thousands of dollars. Instead, consider Noveske’s new water gun to beat the summer heat.
In conjunction with URT Clothing, Noveske released the Water Hog 5000 sqURT rifle. The AR-pattern water gun is bright yellow with a lime green top-mounted water tank and orange trim to clearly identify it as a toy. The pump-action sqURT gun has a capacity of 24oz and is California legal. “We’ve modernized the vintage pump-action sqURT gun and given it some teeth. Tackle the heat with this beast and take control of your summer,” URT says on the product page.
At $43.00, the Water Hog is a bit pricey compared to other water guns. However, it’s probably the cheapest blaster that will ever come with the Noveske logo on it. The company even put together an over-the-top promotional video. Just be sure to watch it at home and away from more sensitive eyes. Whether it’s a water gun fight in the park or a Friday night in the barracks, the Noveske Water Hog 5000 has your tactical water blaster needs covered.
Philip Hollywood grew up in a Navy family, so when World War II started he enlisted in the Navy — at the ripe young age of 17. After his combat training, he was assigned to the USS Melvin, a destroyer homeported in the Philippines.
The Melvin fought in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944, which turned out to be the largest naval battle of World War II and possibly the largest in history. Leyte Gulf was also the first time the Japanese used coordinated kamikaze attacks.
“The Kamikazes… that was scary to me. Anyone who says they weren’t scared, I don’t think they’re telling the truth,” says Hollywood. “It was a new experience trying to kill an opponent who only wanted to kill you and not survive.”
The battle was much more than fighting kamikaze attacks. Two days into the fight for Leyte, a Japanese task force of two battleships, a heavy cruiser, and four destroyers tried to steam through the narrow Surigao Strait to support the main force in the Gulf. The Japanese ran into six American battleships (five of which were sunk at Pearl Harbor, but were repaired and brought back to service), four heavy cruisers, four light cruisers, 28 destroyers, and 39 torpedo boats in Surigao’s narrows.
In a video produced by AARP, Hollywood recalls his memories of the battle, the kamikaze, and how it felt to sink the Japanese battleship Fuso.
Hollywood died shortly after this video was produced.
“Phil Hollywood was the last of a dying breed,” says TJ Cooney, one of the video producers. “I am so thankful for the time that I had with Phil to make this story, he was an amazing man and truly an American hero and treasure. He is going to be sorely missed and never forgotten.”
Sometimes the hardest drinking sailors and soldiers are the ones supposed to be keeping everyone else in check. Here are four times when officers led the barroom charge:
1. The guy in charge of 450 nukes got too drunk for the Russians in Moscow.
It takes a lot too be considered too drunk in Moscow, but Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Carey took a trip there in Jul. 2013 and managed it. Among other incidents during the trip, he allegedly went to a Mexican restaurant to meet two suspicious foreign women, got extremely drunk, and tried to convince the restaurant band to let him play with them. Carey was later fired from his position.
2. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant (may have) drunkenly rode through Army camps.
The famously-alcoholic Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was in a steamship on the Yazoo River in 1863 when he ran into journalist Sylvanus Cadwallader. Cadwallader later described working with Grant’s security detail and aides to unsuccessfully stop his drinking by confining the general to his wardroom.
At Stone River, this resulted in Cheatham’s two brigades being late to the attack, allowing Union Forces on the run to regroup and re-establish their lines. The recovered Union forces later managed a stunning artillery barrage that caused 2,000-3,000 casualties in four hours.
4. A Navy admiral was fired for drunkenly wandering a Florida hotel naked.
Rear Adm. David Baucom was one of the Navy’s top logistics officers until he was fired for wandering around a Florida hotel naked and drunk on Apr. 7, 2015 during a conference.
Everyone has to start somewhere. It’s not as if a young boy from Tikrit woke up one day and decided he would be known as “the Butcher of Baghdad.” It’s far more likely such a boy would just become a butcher. (And for the record, Saddam Hussein was trained to be a lawyer.)
Dictators are just like the rest of us (at least, at first). If they’re not born into powerful families, they will likely need to help their families make extra cash to survive or just make a living on their own until circumstances afford them the chance to take hold of the state’s coffers while stomping on the necks of their enemies real and perceived.
Here are the ways a few brutal dictators made ends meet while waiting for their big breaks:
Ho Chi Minh – Baker
The leader of the Vietnamese independence movement that liberated his home country from colonial France, as well as the figurehead for the North Vietnamese who fought the United States during the 1960s and 1970s also brought a brutal form of Communism to Vietnam. 50,000 to 100,000 people are thought to have been killed in his rise to power. He once said: “Anyone who does not follow the line determined by me will be smashed.”
Ho Chi Minh in 1921 (French National Library photo)
Before that, he claimed to be a baker at the Parker House Hotel while living in Boston in the early years of the 20th Century. He also spent time living in New York City, working in a series of menial labor jobs.
Pol Pot – Teacher
Born Saloth Sar, Pol Pot studied a number of disciplines as young man, but proved as capable a student as he was a capable leader, which is to say, not at all. He failed as a student in both France and his native Cambodia. When he came back, he taught at a school in the capital of Phnom Penh until he was forced out by the government.
In response, he changed his name to Pol Pot and took charge of the Khmer Rouge, ousting the government and installing himself as leader in 1975. He ruled for four years, presiding over the deaths of a million Cambodians after implementing disastrous economic, agricultural, and cultural reforms. Luckily for the average Cambodian, Vietnam invaded in 1979 to overthrow the regime.
Adolf Hitler – Artist
The boy who was all set to become a priest dropped out of the seminary in 1903 to be come a professional painter. His works were exact, unremarkable, unemotional landscapes that “was ripe for instruction he never received.” He moved to Vienna in 1908 and struggled there as a poor artist while the city’s culture incubated his racist and anti-Semitic ideas.
He left Vienna to dodge the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s draft for World War I. He was deemed unfit for service later anyway. He did volunteer in the Bavarian Army as a dispatch runner.
François Duvalier – Doctor
Haiti’s 40th president was a democratically elected black nationalist and classically trained doctor, which made him an excellent butcher of 30,000-60,000 Haitians. His education also earned him the nickname “Papa Doc.”
The 41st President of Haiti was his son, Jean-Claude Duvalier, who was handed the name “Baby Doc,” despite not being a doctor at all. Baby Doc fled Haiti after a 1986 rebellion toppled the government.
Benito Mussolini – Author
Many dictators penned books. Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book is one of the bestselling books of all time. Hitler wrote Mein Kampf. Mussolini wrote romance novels. That’s right, romance novels.
The Cardinal’s Mistress tells the tragic story of,a 17th-century Catholic clergyman and his mistress. Lines like “cast a ray of your light into my darkened soul,” do much toward explaining why he was made to take the other fork in the career road, the one marked “dictator.”
Bashar al-Asad – Opthalmologist
A graduate of Damascus University, Asad spent time as a doctor in his father’s (Syrian “President” Hafez al-Asad) army. He studied ophthalmology at London’s Western Eye Hospital. He returned to Syria when his brother Bassel was killed in a car crash to be groomed to take over for his father as “President” of Syria. Before ascending to leadership, his only administrative role ever, was head of the Syrian Computer Society.
Than Shwe – Mailman
The man who shipped almost a million Burmese people off to jungle gulags and work camps led one of the most repressive, autocratic regimes in the history of Earth. The military junta led by Than Shwe even executed Buddhist monks by the hundreds, dumping their bodies in the wilds and countrysides of Burma.
As a younger man, fresh from school, Than Shwe worked at the Meikhtila Post Office as a postal clerk before enlisting in the Burmese Army and becoming an officer who would later be Prime Minister.
Muammar Qaddafi – Goat Herder
No one knows exactly when Qaddafi was born, but it’s widely known his family comes from a Bedouin tribe of nomads who were illiterate and didn’t maintain birth records. His father was a camel and goat herder who wanted his son to attend school.
Qaddafi would seize power in 1969 while the pro-Western King Idris was away on state business. Qaddafi increased the Libyan quality of life at the cost of mass political repression and extrajudicial killings. In the early days of the Civil War that would lead to his overthrow and death, he ordered his army to starve the citizens of his own cities and kill any government troops who surrendered to the rebels.
Stalin – Weatherman
Joseph Stalin, the brutal Russian dictator and one of the deadliest dictators in history was actually born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, a Georgian seminary student with webbed toes. He dropped out of the seminary and worked as a meteorological clerk before joining Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik Movement. He started using the name Stalin around 1912.
The estimated number of people killed by Stalin’s regime and its policies range between three and sixty million Soviet citizens, with the higher victim estimates being more common among experts.
There’s no need to leave your love of military fashion at the parade grounds when you get off duty. Here are five great designs that’ll let you show your colors while turning heads. Or just make you look really weird. Either way will work.
1. RAF high heels
For the fashion-forward ace fighter pilot in your life, complete with five rivets annotating the number of kills the wearer has.
2. Digital camo crop top
Perfect for hiding out in the woods or standing out in a crowd.
3. Who wore it better?
It takes a lot of personality to pull off this look, but the King of Pop rocked a sequined military jacket while receiving an award from President Ronald Reagan. Jimi Hendrix, a former member of the Army, rocked a more subdued version of the military dress jacket.
4. Dueling medals
Today’s fashionistas shouldn’t fear showing allegiance to multiple regimes. Here, a woman displays her love for the U.S. military, the bail enforcers, and communism, all displayed on a military style coat. The pistol belt allows wearers to quickly dispatch enemies of the state, subdue bail jumpers, or protect the freedoms of civilians, depending on which medal is given precedence that day.
5. Classic spats for modern women
This great design takes the gaiters, formerly relegated to protecting boots during marches in the backcountry, to the catwalk. Pair it with high heels and a matching purse.
Military representatives from Morocco and the United States held an opening ceremony Feb. 27 for the Flintlock 2017 exercise at the Tifnit training base [in Morocco], marking another milestone in a relationship between their nations that began in the 1700s.
More than 2,000 military personnel from 24 African and Western nations are participating in the 10th annual iteration of the exercise, which continues until March 16 across seven African host nations.
The exercise, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, strengthens security institutions, promotes multilateral sharing of information and develops interoperability among counterterrorism partners from across Africa’s Sahara region.
Deep U.S.-Morocco Roots
African partner special operations forces and U.S. Special Operations Command Africa jointly plan and execute the exercise, highlighting the sense of shared purpose across the continent as partners strengthen themselves and their regional network against violent extremists. For Morocco and the United States, the roots run deep in this partnership.
Morocco formally recognized the United States by signing a treaty of peace and friendship in 1786 between U.S. Minister Thomas Barclay and the Sultan of Morocco, Sidi Muhammad, in Marrakesh, according to the U.S. State Department website. The relationship matured with the naming of James Simpson as the first American consul in 1797 in Tangier.
Sultan Mawlay Suleiman gifted the consulate a building and grounds to use, marking the first property owned by the U.S. government on foreign shores.
In all of American history, no other country has maintained its treaty relationship with America for as long as Morocco.
Flintlock 2017 is the most recent in a long line of actions and expressions of solidarity between the two nations.
“Morocco plays a key leadership role in Africa and we are honored by the continued partnership and friendship between our two countries. We look forward to working with you over the next few weeks,” Morocco’s special operations command exercise instructor said.
‘A Golden Opportunity’
Brig. Gen. Mohammed Benlouali, operations commander for Morocco’s Southern Zone, delivered remarks on behalf of the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces.
“These types of activities, as well as other joint combined Moroccan-American exercises, are a golden opportunity to further enhance the ties of military cooperation between our two countries,” he said. “We will stand ready and willing to take maximum benefit from this period of training to further promote our knowledge and know-how in the field of special forces,” he said.
Marines from Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command are training alongside their Moroccan peers, refining tactics, techniques, and procedures across multiple full-mission profiles. The two forces specifically are training on small-unit special operations forces tactics, weapons training and fire support, lifesaving first aid and trauma care, command and control, and force protection.
The shared training experiences will develop the two partners’ ability to plan, coordinate, and operate as an integrated team and will strengthen the bond between the two countries. The Moroccan Royal Armed Forces have contributed to United Nations peacekeeping missions around the world and provide a center of stability and security across the Sahel region.
Countering the threat posed by violent extremist organizations around the world demands proficiency, coordination and enhanced interoperability. While regional security is the main focus of Flintlock 2017, the lessons learned and investments in relationships will allow participants to share the burdens of managing conflicts and improve their ability to provide security solutions that meet threats at their origin, exercise officials said.