On June 4, 1942, the Battle of Midway began when a Japanese fleet of almost 100 ships, led by the architect of the Pearl Harbor attack, attempted an even more overwhelming attack that would have kicked the U.S. out of the Central Pacific and allowed the empire to threaten Washington and California. Instead, that fleet stumbled into one of the most unlikely ambushes and naval upsets in the history of warfare.
Thanks to quick and decisive action by key sailors in the fleet, the U.S. ripped victory from the jaws of almost-certain defeat.
The Kido Butai, which was the largest fleet in the world at the time, had successfully fended off a variety of land-based attacks from American carriers. Just as they were about to mount a counter-attack three of the fleet’s carriers – the Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu – were hit by dive bombers from the USS Enterprise and USS Yorktown.
The fourth carrier, the Hiryu, would carry out two strikes that would leave the Yorktown crippled.
Japan’s carrier air arm would never fully recover from the events of June 4, 1942. The Battle of Midway was truly the turning point of the Pacific Theater.
Featured Image: Devastators of VT-6 aboard USS Enterprise being prepared for takeoff during the Battle of Midway.
The Army is in the early stages of creating requirements for a new externally mounted weapon to replace both the M2 .50-cal machine gun and the MK-19 grenade launcher.
The idea is to simultaneously lighten the load of mobile attack forces while increasing their lethality and envelope of attack with a single system that achieves the offensive firepower, and desired combat effects, of both weapons.
“This will be one weapon with a totally different new type of ammo that is not yet even in the developmental phase,” Laura Battista, product management engineer, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The effort is still very much in the early or conceptual phases, though future engineering and requirements initiatives plan to give shape, contours, and direction to the new weapon; as a result, Army officials did not yet specify a time frame as to when this might be operational. It is reasonable, however, to assume that requirements, designs, and then prototypes could emerge in the next few years.
The details of how this will be accomplished have not yet emerged, though the planning is to engineer a weapon that has the attack and suppressive fire ability of a .50 cal along with an explosive “area weapon” effect of a grenade launcher.
The new, combined-fires weapons would bring both logistical and tactical advantages. A single unit on the move could much more easily attack a wider range of targets with one weapon, laying down suppressive fire or attacking with machine gun fire and also achieving the effects of firing grenades at enemy locations when needed.
The Army will also embark upon a simultaneous excursion to develop a lighter profile barrel for the .50 cal.
“We will have many barrels that will lessen the logistic burden of having a spare barrel all the time,” Battista said. “We are also hoping to save a lot of weight. We are hoping to save 16 pounds off of a 26-pound barrel.”
The Army’s .50-cal program is looking at a longer-term project to engineer a lighter-weight caseless ammunition that will reduce the amount of brass needed, Lt. Col. Paul Alessio, product manager for crew-served weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
In addition, the Army plans to engineer a laser rangefinder, new optics, and fire-control technology for the .50 cal. Alessio said a new, bigger machine-gun mounted optic would most likely be put on the gun within the next five years.
A laser rangefinder uses an algorithm created to identify the exact distance of a target by combining the speed of light, which is known, with the length of time it takes the laser to reach the target.
New lightweight .50 cal
The Army is creating a new, lightweight version of its iconic .50-caliber machine gun designed to better enable soldiers to destroy enemies, protect convoys, mount weapons on vehicles, attack targets on the move, and transport between missions.
The new weapon, engineered to be 20 to 30% lighter than the existing M2, will be made of durable but lighter weight titanium, Army officials said.
The emerging lightweight .50 cal, described as still in its infancy stage, still needs to be built, riveted, and tested.
The parts for the titanium prototypes will be built at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey and then go to Anniston Army Depot in Alabama for riveting and further construction.
“We always want to lighten the soldier load,” Battista said. “A major requirement is to engineer a 60-pound weapon compared to an 86-pound weapon.”
“We will procure 30 and then go into full-blown testing — air drop, full reliability, durability, maintainability, and government standard testing,” Battista added. “We’ll see how it did compared to the M2, and we will try to go to turn it into a program of record.”
An intimidating combat-tested weapon
The M2 crew-served machine gun, referred to as the “Ma Duece,” was first introduced in the 1930s; it has both a lethal and psychological effect upon enemies.
“When enemies hear the sound of the gun, they tend to run in the other direction,” Battista said.
The machine gun is used on Humvees, tactical trucks, M1 Abrams tanks, Strykers, some Navy ships, and several aircraft such as CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopters and UH-60 Black Hawks. The gun can also be mounted on a tripod on the ground by infantry in a firefight or combat circumstance; the M2 has a solid range and can fire at point targets up to 1,500 meters away and destroy area targets at distances up to 1,800 meters.
The .50 cal is effective in a wide variety of circumstances, such as convoy protection, air attacks, and attacks upon small groups of enemies on foot or moving in small vehicles. Several variants of the machine gun can fire more than 500 rounds a minute.
“It can be used for antipersonnel (enemy fighters) and also against lightly armored vehicles and light unarmored vehicles,” Maj. Keith Muehling, assistant product manager for crew-served weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview. “Any time you get into an up-armored (more armor) situation or reactive armor — it is not going to be very effective. It works against anything that does not have thick armor.”
The Army owns what is called the Technical Data Package, or TDP, for the new lightweight .50 cal; vendors will have to “build to print” and execute the government’s existing specs, Battista said.
The Army now operates 24,000 standard M2 machine guns and roughly 25,000 upgraded M2A1 .50-caliber weapons designed with numerous improved features. The improved M2A1 is, among other things, engineered with what is called “fixed head space and timing” designed to better prevent the machine gun from jamming, misfiring, or causing soldier injury, officials said. The M2A1 is also built to be more reliable that the standard M2; the M2 barrel extension can last up to roughly 25,000 rounds, whereas the M2A1 barrel extension can fire as many as 80,000 rounds, Alessio said.
The Army plans to have initial prototypes of the new lightweight .50 cal built by this coming summer as a preparatory step to release a formal Request For Proposal, or RFP, to industry in the first quarter of 2017, Alessio said. An acquisition contract is expected several months after the RFP is released.
The lighter weapon will bring additional an additional range of mission sets for soldiers who will be better able to transport, mount, and fire the weapon against enemies.
“If you are a top gunner and you are having to move this weapon around, it is on a pedestal tripod,” Meuhling said. “If it is lighter, you are going to be able to traverse the weapon a little bit easier than a 20-pound-heavier weapon. That is one of the added benefits as far as getting it on and off the vehicle. If a soldier can do that by himself, that is an added benefit.”
The M2 uses several different kinds of ammunition, including some rounds engineered to be “harder penetrating.” The weapon also uses an ammo can with 200 rounds; a top cover can be lifted off and the links between rounds are spaced to provide accurate timing as they are dropped into the weapon, service officials said.
In a bid to dispel Western fears about planned war games by Russia and Belarus, the Russian military said Aug. 29 the maneuvers simulating a response to foreign-backed “extremists” won’t threaten anyone.
The maneuvers, to be held Sept. 14-20 in Belarus and western Russia, have raised NATO concerns. Some alliance members, including the Baltic states and Poland, have criticized Moscow for a lack of transparency and questioned its intentions.
Amid spiraling tensions over fighting in Ukraine, Western worries about the planned maneuvers have ranged from allegations that Russia could keep its forces in Belarus after the drills, to fears of a surprise attack on the Baltics.
Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister, Lt. Gen. Alexander Fomin, rejected what he described as Western “myths about the so-called Russian threat.”
“The most improbable scenarios have been floated,” he said at a briefing for foreign military attaches. “Some have reached as far as to claim that the Zapad 2017 exercises will serve as a ‘platform for invasion’ and ‘occupation’ of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine.”
Fomin said the Russian military will invite foreign observers to the maneuvers, which will involve 5,500 Russian and 7,200 Belarusian troops, about 70 aircraft, up to 250 tanks, 200 artillery systems, and 10 navy ships.
Moscow’s assurances, however, have failed to assuage Russia’s neighbors, which expect the drills to be far greater in scope than officially declared.
Estonian Defense Minister Juri Luik said last month that Moscow could deploy up to 100,000 troops for the maneuvers. Poland’s Deputy Defense Minister Michal Dworczyk also questioned Russia’s official claims, saying that Warsaw expects many more Russian soldiers and equipment to be deployed.
Speaking Aug. 28 on Polish state Radio 1, Dworczyk expressed hope that the exercise “will not include any aggressive scenarios” and won’t cause any incidents, adding that “operations on this scale always run this risk.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said last week that the alliance will send two observers to the maneuvers, but noted that access offered by Belarus does not constitute real monitoring. He said NATO is seeking “a more thorough way of observing” the drills.
NATO has rotated military units in the Baltics and Poland and held regular drills in the region — activities that Moscow has criticized as a reflection of its hostile intentions.
The alliance has watched Russian military moves with utmost concern following Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine. Russia had leased a naval base in Crimea prior to its seizure, and used troops deployed there to quickly overtake the Black Sea peninsula.
Speaking in Moscow, Fomin said next month’s exercise will simulate a military response to foreign-backed extremist groups and aren’t directed against anyone in particular.
“Despite the fact that the bulk of it will be held on the territory of Belarus, we had in mind an imaginary adversary unrelated to any specific region,” he said. “According to our estimates, the situation envisaged in the maneuvers’ scenario could develop in any part of the world.”
Dworczyk, Poland’s deputy defense minister, said Warsaw is particularly worried about the possibility that Russia could keep some of its forces in Belarus after the maneuvers.
“Obviously, this would negatively impact the region,” he said.
Belarus has maintained close political, economic, and military contacts with its giant eastern neighbor. Its authoritarian leader, President Alexander Lukashenko, has relied on cheap Russian oil and billions of dollars in loans to keep the nation’s Soviet-style economy afloat.
But relations between the two allies often have been mired in disputes, as Lukashenko has accused the Kremlin of trying to strong-arm Belarus into surrendering control over its most-prized industrial assets.
Belarus hosts a Russian military early warning radar and a navy communications facility, but Lukashenko has resisted Kremlin pressure for hosting a Russian air base. Some in Belarus voiced fears that the base could provide a foothold for Moscow if it decides to annex its neighbor, like what happened in Crimea.
The flamboyant Belarusian leader has hailed bilateral military cooperation and criticized NATO’s moves, but he has refused to recognize Crimea as part of Russia. He also failed to follow suit when Moscow acknowledged Georgia’s breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states after a brief 2008 Russian-Georgian war.
Alexander Golts, a Moscow-based independent military analyst, said that while Moscow would certainly like to permanently station its forces in Belarus, Lukashenko will strongly oppose such a move because that could put his nation in cross-fire in case of a conflict between Russia and NATO.
“The possibility of a permanent Russian military deployment in Belarus appears unlikely,” Golts said.
Alexander Klaskovsky, an independent political analyst in Minsk, agreed.
“Lukashenko is involved in a delicate balancing act, trying to show his loyalty to the Kremlin without damaging ties with the West,” he said.
The chief of the Belarusian military’s General Staff, Oleg Belokonev, pledged Aug. 29 that all Russian troops involved in the maneuvers will leave Belarus by the end of September.
During the spring of 2003, the first medivacs were returning to Camp Pendleton from the battlefield of Iraq. Karen Guenther, a Marine Corps spouse who’s husband was deployed at the time, was working at the Naval Hospital on Camp Pendleton, and saw firsthand the needs of the wounded arriving there.
Guenther immediately realized most of them were in need of basic health and comfort items, so she enlisted the help of some fellow military spouses and began assembling “welcome bags” full of toiletries, phone cards, and other items intended to make life better for the wounded Marines.
“We went out to local churches and Boy Scouts and had everybody help,” said Wendy Lethin, one of the first to join Guenther’s effort. “Everybody was very generous, but we realized there was much more than welcome bags needed.”
During this same time, the spouses learned of parents of wounded Marines sleeping in their cars while visiting hospitals because they could not afford to stay at local hospitals, and they also helped to provide an adapted vehicle to a Marine whose wife was having difficulty lifting him into their truck
“That was kind of the idea for the Semper Fi Fund,” Lethin said.
Guenther gathered her group of spouses around her kitchen table in her house aboard Camp Pendleton and started brainstorming what they should do to get their collective arms around all of the needs that they saw rapidly emerging. They researched existing non-profits and were surprised that there didn’t seem to be any that were doing what they had in mind.
“We had the right group at the right time,” Lethin said. “We read all kinds of books on non profits and did our research. And we agreed to the ideals and tenants of the organization that still guide us today.”
As stated on the Semper Fi Fund’s website, the organization’s mission is to provide immediate financial assistance and lifetime support to post-9/11 wounded, critically ill and injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their families, ensuring that they have the resources they need during their recovery and transition back to their communities.
The Fund’s first official donation came for the Lighthouse Christian Church in Oceanside, California. The entire donation was given to the first three wounded Marines referred by the hospital with the thought that even if that was all that was raised it would at least help those three and their families at a difficult time in their recovery. Little did the organizers realize that that donation would be the first of many.
In the 12 years since the Semper Fi Fund has transformed the lives of thousands of wounded service members and their families. The Fund now has a dedicated staff supplemented by hundreds of volunteers around the world.
“I’m proud of what we do and how we do it,” Lethin said. “It’s a sacred duty to be able to do what we do.”
The Fund’s next major event is the “InVETational,” a charity golf tournament hosted by comedian and actor Rob Riggle (who, among other roles, is currently playing Col. Sanders in KFC commercials). Riggle is a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who served as a public affairs officer in Afghanistan. The tournament will take place at Valencia Country Club in Los Angeles on Dec. 5.
“We are so excited that Rob is doing this for the Semper Fi Fund,” Lethin said. “He has the heart of our mission. He’s a Marine who knows the power and good of what we do.”
The Battlefield series has always been known for its breathtaking graphics and in-depth storytelling about real-life conflicts involving troops. These popular features seem to be continuing with their latest installment, Battlefield V, coming Oct. 19.
The new game will be set in World War 2 and have several modes. The single-player “War Stories” will be brought back from Battlefield 1, which gave each chapter of the story to a different soldier fighting in the war. This opened up many storytelling possibilities that could give each region and troop the respect they deserve.
The multiplayer is also looking just as in-depth. The series is known for its massive 64 versus 64 player matches and it’s being teased that those matches may be even bigger. This even branches off into the “Last Stand” mode where a player is given only one life and that’s it.
Another much welcomed return to video gaming is an extremely interesting co-op mode called “Combined Arms.” In it, a squad of four players will be paratroopers given a mission to sneak behind enemy lines to complete their objective. The squad-based multiplayer is the game’s focus, just as it was in the phenomenal Battlefield: Bad Company 2.
Everything in the game is destructible and players can interact with everything and even build their own fortifications. Not only is being able to clear out buildings standing between you and your opponent coming back, but there’s a return of minor details that make the game feel more realistic. A key example is grabbing a health pack; players have to actually apply it to heal (instead of the gaming norm of just walking over it and magically healing.)
This offers a much more difficult level of game play that is unparalleled — and very welcomed from gamers.
Another popular perk of the game is their discontinuation of a premium or season pass. Every bit of post-launch content will be free to all players. In similar fashion, EA Dice has filled previous content with enough things to do that nearly doubles the game-play content in a matter of months.
Check out the video below to watch the official trailer.
Those suffering from injuries will do and try just about anything to relieve pain. With musculoskeletal injuries being a top health problem for the U.S. Armed Forces, it’s time to prioritize better treatments and solutions.
A recent report by Walter Reed and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences found that 3/4 of medically non-deployable service members are sidelined due to musculoskeletal injuries, and 68,000 service members fall into that category each year. Studies suggest that non-combat musculoskeletal injuries could account for nearly 60% of soldiers’ limited duty days and 65% of soldiers who cannot deploy for medical reasons.
Throughout my five years working with the military, currently with units from every branch, including Special Operations Command and the Reserve Component, the most common musculoskeletal injuries I see our service members suffer from are lower back pain and lower leg issues, with the former being at the top of the list for the warfighter. Lower leg issues are a close second, with those injuries ranging from shin splints and stress reactions to stress fractures.
These two injuries are the most common across the force, but each branch exhibits certain types more than others. For example, the Air Force tends to suffer from lower back injuries because Airmen are sitting in cramped areas for an extended period. Additionally, they are at an increased risk for spinal injuries, neck, and back. The neck becomes an issue because jets are faster and helmets have more tech, making them heavier. Confined spaces, faster jets, and heavier helmets make a great recipe for spinal injuries.
However, the Army is the best example of lower leg injuries because they tend to cover the most mileage on rugged terrain over long distances.
Although these two branches stand out for certain types of injuries, nearly every service member will suffer from some musculoskeletal injury during their career and seek the best solution for recovery and pain relief.
Whether information is found on the internet or received from a doctor, it is typically seen as the magic cure by the patient seeking help.
While there are certainly good doctors and sound advice online, each injury and individual require specific, personalized treatment. As an expert in using Force Plate Machine Learning™ (FPML™) to identify, prevent and treat musculoskeletal injuries, I encourage military leaders to seek out programs that focus on the individual warfighter’s health and fitness needs. Solutions like FPML™ will allow for early identification of musculoskeletal weakness and help create individualized training programs to prevent future injury.
Practices that utilize evidence-based, individualized solutions are best for preventing injuries and correctly training the body but understanding that this technology is not yet widely used by the Service, I will share some generic at-home remedies for common service member injuries, as well as dispel myths about well-known treatments.
The easiest way to make an injured area feel better is to stimulate or contract the opposite area. For example, if suffering from back pain, a solution can be working your abdominals with exercises like the plank. This is because the human body has antagonistic relaxation – meaning when one muscle group fires, the other is inhibited. Therefore, activating the abdominal muscles will, in turn, relax the back muscles and provide relief.
The quick and easy treatment used by traditional doctors reluctant to adopt more complex solutions is RICE. We’ve all heard it: rest, ice, compression, elevation. Sure, ice is great as an anesthetic (a numbing agent) for short-term pain relief immediately after injury. It will hide the pain and help with performance for about 5-60 minutes post-injury. But after that, ice and RICE will significantly prolong the healing process.
Both RICE and ibuprofen (Advil) actually delay the healing process and can be harmful to the body’s recovery. Many doctors still prescribe the nifty acronym because it’s easy to remember for the physician who is still operating in the 1980s.
RICE exemplifies the power of simplification and reinforces the idea that people will try just about anything – opioids, RICE, or over-the-counter painkillers when in pain.
In reality, movement is the best medicine, with data-driven, individualized movement plans being effective solutions that can help reduce chronic pain and injuries.
Dr. Phil Wagner is a physician, strength & conditioning coach, and expert on using force plates and machine learning to prevent and treat musculoskeletal injuries. He is the founder and CEO of Sparta Science.
Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Timothy Moore
Music from a fife and drums rang in the ears of a father and son as they sat around the campfire. Brian E. Withrow and his 14-year-old son, Josh, talked with fellow re-enactors, also clad in Union blue, the night before their first re-enactment at the Battle of Cedar Creek in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
Now and then, the discussion turned to times on the battlefield when the re-enactor could almost feel as if he was actually walking in the boots of a Civil War Soldier.
Fifteen years later, the Withrow duo are back in camp at the same Virginia battlefield, except the son is now a 29-year-old re-enactment veteran, and the father plays a commanding general’s assistant chief of staff . What hasn’t changed is their shared love of history, and the one thing that has kept them returning to re-enactment battlefields is the search for those special times when they feel almost transported back in time. They call those times “Civil War moments.”
“An example was at the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, and we were doing the battle through the cornfield,” said Brian, a retired lieutenant colonel and munitions officer. “It was early morning, still dark, with just the glimpses of light coming up. There was a mist over the field. The artillery was firing, and I could see the blasts from their muzzles.
“In front of me, the very first wave of federal soldiers was given the command to go into the cornfield. For that brief moment, there were no telephone poles, no vehicles. There was just the cannon fire and musketry fire with one of the just-right conditions and glimpses that give you that moment of, ‘Wow! That must have been what it was like.'”
An interest in U.S. history from his youth led Brian to consider the re-enactment hobby when he was stationed at the Pentagon in 1997, with the numerous Civil War battlefields in Maryland and Virginia. Josh shared the love of history, so the two attended re-enactments together as spectators until his father asked him if he would like to try the hobby with him. They watched the 136th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia in 1999, and after talking to re-enactors in the 3rd U.S. Infantry, Company B, they decided to join the unit.
Josh was still two years away from his 16th birthday, so he wasn’t able to carry a weapon at their first re-enactment at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park later that year, but as it turned out, he was right where the action was. In the Battle of Cedar Creek in the fall of 1864, forces led by Gen. Jubal Early over-ran federal forces, although Union Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan later made his famous ride to lead a rout of the Confederates, which helped the Union crush the resistance in the Shenandoah.
“I was too young to carry a gun, and I didn’t have any shoes that would fit me, so I had to stay in the tent while my dad went to take the field,” Josh said. “But, of course, the battle came to me. I was sitting there inside the tent, while there were two rows of infantry firing at each other around me, and it’s lighting up with the gunpowder. It was so dark outside, and all you could see were the flashes of the muzzles of the guns. It was just one of the coolest things I’d ever seen, and we were thinking, ‘We are going to keep on doing this.'”
Brian’s interest in re-enacting began with a question about his ancestors’ role in the Civil War. Through his research and participation in re-enactments, he was able to correct what the family believed about an ancestor who fought and died in the war. For years, the family’s oral history showed that George Dugan, a private in the 10th Illinois Infantry, died in a Confederate prison in Andersonville, Georgia. By the time he’d participated in the 150th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Bentonville, North Carolina, Brian had learned he actually died in action there, a fact he didn’t know when he attended the same battle as a private 10 years earlier.
“I now have a personal connection,” Brian said. “Not only had he died there, but fortunately for my family line, he had a son who ended up being my great great-grandfather.”
A glance at the uniforms in a closet in the family home in Stafford, Virginia, shows the variety of ranks Brian portrays in his hobby. He plays the role of Union Soldiers, as well as those from the Revolutionary War, from the ranks of private all the way up to the commanding general of the Union Army. After he retired from the Air Force, Brian let his beard grow, which coupled with the cigar he often has in his mouth in camp, gives him a resemblance to a U.S. history legend, Gen. (and former President) Ulysses S. Grant.
While on the board of directors that created the Stafford Civil War Park, Brian portrayed a colonel in the 55th Ohio Infantry at the grand opening in 2013, and spectators saw the beard and cigar and mistook him for Grant. The mistaken identity kept happening at subsequent reenactments and historical events, even to the point where Confederate re-enactment forces “captured” him, thinking they’d caught the overall Union commander. He was eventually asked to portray Grant for the 150th anniversary re-enactments in 2011 and 2012. Brian impersonates the famous general for the Civil War Impressionists Association in annual events at the National Mall in Washington and at numerous Civil War historic sites.
“I’m still a private in Company K of the 3rd U.S. Infantry, so I still go out and do events as an infantry private,” Brian said. “Then again, I can put on three stars, and I can be the commanding general. I can play a private or the general-in-chief with equal enthusiasm.”
When he began the hobby, Brian had no interest in portraying an officer. He was still on active duty, and he wanted to experience a taste of a Union private’s daily life. However, after his Air Force retirement six years ago, he had an opportunity to join the Army of the Potomac headquarters staff as a guidon bearer for the command officer, which was appealing to him because of his love for horses, and in the past year he’s served as the commander’s assistant chief of staff.
The night before the re-enactment at Cedar Creek, Brian was also promoted to brigadier general and will transition into the role of the staff’s commanding officer.
Serving as an officer in a Civil War re-enactment unit is obviously completely different from an active-duty career. For example, there is no Uniform Code of Military Justice to keep them bound to the unit or to commander’s orders. Still, Brian has found common ground between the two. Safety, self-aid and buddy care, and survival training, as well as his logistics knowledge from a career in munitions, have all come into play at different times in the field. Also, Soldiers in the 19th century operated on a code that wasn’t too different from the Air Force Core Values.
“From my research, I can’t say that they had what they called core values,” he said. “But clearly, in particular, the Soldiers who had been trained formally through the military academies during that time period, had a value system based on personal honor and morality. I think those attributes defined what it meant ideally to be a good Soldier then, and those traditions from our early American military experience are what evolved into what we call our core values now.”
For just a few days, re-enactors like the Withrows not only try to help re-create historic battles, but also get a taste of the living experiences Soldiers on both sides endured in the Civil War. Along with the bonding experiences when they swap war stories and glimpses of their lives with fellow re-enactors, they also sometimes experience some harsh conditions. They faced below freezing weather at the Battle of Sailor’s Creek in April, and there was the other extreme, where they faced temperatures above 100 degrees with elevated humidity at the 150th Battle of First Manassas in July 2011.
“We got just a little taste of some of the environmental conditions these Soldiers went through,” Brian said. “The difference was we came out and may experience some of those conditions for a weekend. That gives you an appreciation for the fact that these guys did this week on end, month on end, on forced marches of 10 to 15 miles, summertime and wintertime. Again, we get this little glimpse, just a little taste of what they may have experienced.”
These days, it is difficult for both father and son to make every battle as they were able to do when Josh was younger. He’s not able to attend most re-enactments because of his schedule as a legislative affairs manager for Freedom Works in Washington. Since his father retired, his schedule as a government employee at Fort Belvoir also keeps him busy. But their love of the hobby remains as strong as it was around that campfire 15 years ago. Hearing the fife and drums still sounds sweet to their ears.
Maj. Jim Capers fought valiantly in Vietnam, was severely wounded, and literally became a recruiting poster Marine.
But for more than 40 years, Capers and his supporters have been fighting for an award they believe he was wrongfully denied: The Medal of Honor.
“He was always the last man on the chopper,” former Sgt. Ron Yerman told Marine public affairs in 2010. “I was the second to last man. I’d get aboard and I’d nod. If I didn’t nod, he’d know that all the men weren’t there, and we wouldn’t leave.”
Now Capers’ case is receiving more attention after the publication of the story “The Hero Who Never Was” by former Marine journalist Ethan Rocke in Maxim Magazine. In the story and accompanying video, Rocke gives an excellent account of a Marine who took part in some of the most secretive and dangerous missions of the Vietnam war.
Within minutes, the dog alerted again, and Capers noticed three NVA soldiers just a few feet away. He opened up on full automatic, dropping all three in a single stroke. Capers’ M16 jammed, but Team Broadminded had already initiated its well-rehearsed contact drill, unleashing a barrage of grenades and bullets as the enemy platoon scrambled. Capers, struggling to unjam his rifle, saw two more NVA soldiers emerge, full tilt in a desperate counterattack. He drew his 9 mm and gunned them down. Then he ordered his men to finish off what remained of the enemy platoon. When the battle was over, at least 20 NVA soldiers lay dead, their corpses obscured beneath a haze of gunpowder and smoke. From the surrounding vegetation, the screams of the wounded rang out.
On the chopper back to Khe Sanh, the team was subdued. “There was no backslapping,” Capers recalls. “For us, death and killing had become business as usual.” They’d be back in the jungle in just a few days.
That was just one story among many. Team Broadminded engaged in numerous combat engagements throughout its time in Vietnam, culminating in the vicious fight that would ultimately earn Capers the Silver Star.
On April 3, 1967 near Phu Lac, a large enemy force ambushed Capers’ nine-man patrol with claymore mines and small arms. They were immediately pinned down, and every member was wounded — including Capers, who took more than a dozen pieces of shrapnel to his abdomen and legs.
“Despite his wounds, Capers directed his team to lay down suppressive fire to gain fire superiority and set up a hasty defense,” reads a Marine Corps news release. “He called for mortar and artillery strikes against the enemy, directed the treatment of the wounded and called for the team’s evacuation, ensuring all his men made it out alive.”
When the Great War began in 1914, the armies on both sides brought new technologies to the battlefield the likes of which the world had never seen. The destruction and carnage caused by these new weapons was so extensive that portions of old battlefields are still uninhabitable.
World War I saw the first widespread use of armed aircraft and tanks as well as the machine gun. But some of the weapons devised during the war were truly terrifying.
The flamethrower was especially useful because even just the idea of being burned alive drove men from the trenches into the open where they could be cut down by rifle and machine gun fire.
The terrible nature of the flamethrower, Flammenwerfer in German, meant that the troops carrying them were marked men. As soon as they were spotted, they became the targets of gunfire. Should one happen to be taken prisoner, they were often subjected to summary execution.
The British went a different way with their flamethrowers and developed the Livens Large Gallery Flame Projector. These were stationary weapons deployed in long trenches forward of the lines preceding an attack. The nozzle would spring out of the ground and send a wall of flame 300 feet in the enemy’s direction.
These were used with great effectiveness at the Somme on July 1, 1916 when they burned out a section of the German line before British infantry was able to rush in and capture the burning remnants.
2. Trench Knife
Even with the advent of the firearm, hand-to-hand combat was still a given on the battlefield. However, with the introduction of trench warfare, a new weapon was needed in order to fight effectively in such close quarters. Enter the trench knife.
The most terrifying trench knives were developed by the United States. The M1917, America’s first trench knife, combined three killing tools in one. The blade of the weapon was triangular which meant it could only be used for stabbing, but it inflicted terrible wounds.
Triangular stab wounds were so gruesome that they were eventually banned by the Geneva Conventions in 1949 because they cause undue suffering. The knife also had a “knuckle duster” hand guard mounted with spikes in order to deliver maximum damage with a punching attack. Finally, the knife had a “skull crusher” pommel on the bottom in order to smash the enemy’s head with a downward attack.
Along with the trench knife the Allies developed other special weapons for the specific purpose of trench raiding. Trench raiding was the practice of sneaking over to enemy lines’ and then, as quietly as possible, killing everyone in sight, snatching a few prisoners, lobbing a few explosives into bunkers and high-tailing it back to friendly lines before the enemy knew what hit them.
As rifles would make too much noise, trench raiding clubs were developed. There was no specific design of a trench raiding club, though many were patterned after medieval weapons such as maces and flails.
Others were crude handmade implements using whatever was around. This often consisted of heavy lengths of wood with nails, barbed wire, or other metal attached to the striking end to inflict maximum damage.
When Americans entered the fight on the Western Front they brought with them a new weapon that absolutely terrified the Germans: the shotgun. The United States used a few different shotguns but the primary weapon was the Winchester M1897 Trench Grade shotgun. This was a modified version of Winchester’s model 1897 with a shortened 20″ barrel, heat shield, and bayonet lug.
The shotgun, with 6 shells of 00 buck, was so effective that American troops referred to it as the “trench sweeper” or “trench broom.”
The Germans, however, were less than pleased at the introduction of this new weapon to the battlefield. The effectiveness of the shotgun so terrified the Germans that they filed a diplomatic protest against its use. They argued that it should be outlawed in combat and threatened to punish any Americans captured with the weapon.
America rejected the German protest and threatened retaliation for any punishment against American soldiers.
5. Poison Gas
Of course any list of terrifying weapons of war has to include poison gas; it is the epitome of horrible weapons. Poisonous gas came in three main forms: Chlorine, Phosgene, and Mustard Gas.
The first poison gas attack was launched by the Germans against French forces at Ypres in 1915. After that, both sides began to develop their chemical weapon arsenals as well as countermeasures.
The true purpose of the gas was generally not to kill — though it certainly could — but to produce large numbers of casualties or to pollute the battlefield and force the enemy from their positions.
Gas also caused mass panic amongst the troops because of the choking and blindness brought on by exposure causing them to flee their positions. Mustard gas was particularly terrible because in addition to severely irritating the throat, lungs, and eyes, it also burned exposed skin, creating large painful blisters.
Though artillery had been around for centuries leading up to WWI, its use on the battlefields of Europe was unprecedented. This was because of two reasons.
Second, because the world had never seen such concentrations of artillery before.
Artillery shells were fired in mass concentrations that turned the earth into such a quagmire that later shells would fail to detonate and instead they would simply bury themselves into the ground. Massive bombardments destroyed trenches and buried men alive.
Artillery bombardments were so prolific that a new term, shell shock, was developed to describe the symptoms of survivors of horrendous bombardments.
A recent Washington Post opinion piece sharply criticized President Obama’s policies in confronting the threats from ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The piece also put the crosshairs on the measured Congressional response, saying it substituted “actual thought” and real strategy for overused, cliché statements from Congress like these:
“The world needs American leadership,” said Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the new House speaker.
“We want our homeland to be secure,” Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California said.
Rep. Steve Scalise from Louisiana said we need “go and root out and take on ISIS.”
Not to be outdone, Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington State said we must “rise to the challenge” and find “the courage and the resolve.”
In the spirit of helping the U.S. fight the good fight, Team Mighty thought of 10 more non-statements lawmakers and other administration officials can use to continue not implementing a policy that meaningfully counters the threat:
1. “Smoke ’em out”
This was a staple of the days after 9/11 and the early days of the invasion of Afghanistan. While we may not have smoked out Osama bin Laden, we sure did smoke a lot of others. President Bush said it a lot while forces were building up and Green Berets were on horseback getting vengeance. He couldn’t just tell us U.S. troops were already in Afghanistan, but he had to say something.
My sincere apologies for referencing Fahrenheit 9/11. But you get it. He said it a lot.
2. “Time will tell”
This is the ultimate phrase to use as an excuse to skate. You don’t have to do anything at all, and you’re outright saying that’s your entire strategy.
3. “We need to build a bipartisan consensus”
In the current political environment, this will guarantee nothing will ever happen against the terrorist organization. The only thing our Congress can build bipartisan consensus on is . . . well, nothing.
4. “We need a Marshall Plan for [insert crisis here].”
This refers to the massive economic undertaking led by the U.S. to help rebuild Western Europe after WWII. The great part about this line is it makes whomever says it look like a big picture thinker, but no one is ever going to ask him about that Marshall Plan thingy ever again.
5. “We need higher level engagement with [insert country with which the U.S. has a toxic relationship here]”
This is another great one to use, because you can pass the blame on to someone like Russia, who seems like a pretty stubborn country, right? It’s like saying “Oh, I’d be in there right now, killing terrorists like whoa, but Putin won’t coordinate and we don’t want to start World War III here, do we?”
You’re not just a strategist, you’re a diplomat.
6. “We need a more comprehensive approach that integrates military and non-military tools”
Because everyone knows DoD and State work so well together. Wasn’t the Iraq War a perfect example of government agency interoperability? This also leaves everyone wondering and speculating just which tools you’re talking about.
7. “God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle”
This is perfect if you’re a politician because you get to imply you’re doing something, reassure the public that you’re on the case AND invoke god, without having to do anything at all. It’s like a reelection hat trick.
8. “We should work with our allies to do [the thing we know damn well we’ll never get done]”
If you’re watching a Presidential debate involving foreign policy, drink every time someone invokes working with our allies and then comes up with some long Rube Goldberg pipe dream of doing whatever with 12 countries who don’t have the same foreign policy goals.
Just kidding, don’t do that. You will die trying.
9. “It’s a game changer.”
One canned statement is probably not going to cover everything ISIS does. You may have to face the media again when the terrorists step up their game. When a politician needs to do something but really wants to continue the status quo for fear of making a mistake, this is the go-to line.
10. “This is a Code Red”
This one has also gained popularity around the NFL recently when describing the need for a win at any cost in the middle of a losing season. But what happens after you go to Code Red? It’s not clear, but it better be good.
Be careful with this one, it’s more like a bet the terrorists won’t “go there.” But they probably will, and now you’ve just backed yourself into a corner.
Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business is trying to maximize the entrepreneurial potential of America’s veterans, and after a successful pilot program in 2014, the school is again opening its doors to another 25 current and former military for their Post-9/11 Ignite Program.
“No veteran wants a handout and just say ‘hey come to this program [and] learn some things because you’re a veteran.’ No,” said Alex Martin, a Marine veteran, in a video about the program. “What they do want is: ‘hey, do you want to work hard for something? Do you want to learn the language of this business or this industry? If you do, and if you’re qualified, and if you’re the right person for the job and if you’re a man or woman of character, then you have shot to get interviewed.”
The four-week program is meant for veterans and transitioning service-members who have a demonstrated record of excellence in and out of uniform, and who are passionate about starting or scaling up a business. The Ignite Program accelerates their development from idea to profitable venture.
Those who are selected after the application period closes on March 3rd will live on campus with the other participants, learning about business fundamentals from some of the world’s best professors. Topics include innovation, leadership, operations, marketing, strategy, negotiations, and finance accounting.
The program also includes practical application along with classroom instruction. The participants split themselves into small groups, who then develop and finally pitch their business to a panel of experienced entrepreneurs and investors from Silicon Valley.
Alongside The Commit Foundation, a veteran service organization focused on helping transitioning service members, Stanford is subsidizing this immersive environment for anyone interested in building a successful business. Beyond the rigorous training, the veterans form new connections across branches of service.
To learn more about the Stanford Graduate School of Business Post-9/11 Ignite program, click here. To register for the February 11th informational webinar, click here.
William Treseder served in the Marines between 2001 and 2011. He now writes regularly on military topics, and has been featured in TIME, Foreign Policy, and Boston Review.
Graduate students from University of New Orleans public history department tour the Louisiana National Guard Museum April 11. A stack of playing cards displaying Iraq War's "most wanted" rests on a shelf in the museum's archive department. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Karen Sampson/Released).
Three trucks pulled out of the Central Bank of Iraq at 4 a.m. local time on March 18, 2003. Their cargo was nearly $1 billion dollars, a full quarter of the country’s currency reserves. The loot was taken by a team led by Qusay Hussein, the son of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
It’s safe to say that Qusay didn’t quite get away with the heist. The heir-apparent to the Ba’athist regime would meet his end a few months later in an ill-advised shootout with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division and a team of Special Forces operators. Still, a huge chunk of the money was never recovered.
If March 18, 2003, sounds like a familiar date to many post-9/11 veterans, that’s because it is. The air war that signaled the beginning of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was set to begin the next day. Anticipating the American move, The dictator (correctly) predicted that once the air war began, it might be difficult for him to move about the country and get things done, so he sent his son to get a useful supply of liquid assets.
Qusay Hussein arrived at the Central Bank of Iraq in Baghdad with a handwritten note from his father, ordering that $1 billion in U.S. greenbacks be withdrawn and released from the country’s coffers. Three trucks and a number of Iraqi regime officials, including Qusay, supervised the transfer of funds.
Despite the large sum of money, the forced withdrawal may not have actually been illegal, according to some legal experts. Saddam Hussein was an absolute dictator with personal, direct control over every aspect of the country’s governance, including the central bank and other economic institutions. The $1 billion might even have been Saddam Hussein’s own personal funds, collected over the course of more than two decades of ruling Iraq.
At first, American intelligence officials believed that Hussein may have been trying to transport the spoils of his time in power over the border to escape the American invasion. A team of U.S. Army Special Forces near Iraq’s border with Syria reported seeing trucks matching the description crossing over the border to escape.
Others believed that Hussein would use the money to foment resistance inside of Iraq as the American troops advanced throughout the country. Many Iraqis agreed with that assessment. The money may have also been used to fund the flight of those closest to the Iraqi dictator, including his family and personal friends.
In the days and weeks that followed, Coalition forces managed to find an estimated $650 million of the money taken from the central bank. They found the caches of funds through searches and various patrols around the country that led them to the money, stashed away in one of the palaces used by Uday, Saddam Hussein’s other son.
When Qusay was finally tracked down to a house in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, he tried to resist numerous raids on the house from American forces. He and his brother Uday were turned in by one of the other guests of the house who wanted the $30 million reward. American troops began firing TOW anti-tank missiles, 12 in all, into the house, killing everyone inside.
When they were finally able to search the premises, there was no sign of the remaining $350 million from the Iraqi Central Bank. No one has seen or heard of the money since.
Feature image: A stack of playing cards displaying Iraq War’s “most wanted” rests on a shelf in the Louisiana National Guard Museum’s archive department. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Karen Sampson/Released)