Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends - We Are The Mighty
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Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends

On May 18, 1291, Acre, the last Crusader stronghold in the Middle East, fell to the Muslim Mamluks, ending Crusader control of the Holy Land.

European Christian Crusaders had been reeling from Sala-a-din’s conquest of Jerusalem in 1187. The Third Crusade recaptured Acre (in modern-day Israel) for the next 100 years. But in that time, one by one, Crusader cities would fall to the Mamluk Sultanate.

The Muslim Mamluks came to power in the region in 1250, marking a shift in the balance of power in the region. The Muslims were then able to compete with the heavy cavalry of the Crusader knights – and they did. 

Crusader cities in Caesarea, Haifa, Galilee, and Antioch sparked more Crusades from Europe, but they were largely ineffective. Latakia fell in 1278, Tripoli in 1289. Acre was surrounded. 

The Crusaders hoped for either an army from Italy or an unlikely alliance with the Mongols. Neither materialized and the Mamluks laid siege to Acre on April 5, 1291. By May 18, Al-Ashraf Khalil’s 222,000-strong army entered the city and killed its Crusader defenders, ending the last Crusader control of the region.

The Siege of Acre, also known as the Fall of Acre, marked the end of further crusades to the Levant. With the fall of Acre, the Crusaders lost their last major stronghold of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and by 1302 with the loss of Ruad, they were no longer control any part of the Holy Land.

Featured Image: Siège d’Acre (1291) by unknown 14th century French artist (Gallica Digital Library)

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The Army wants a future without drivers or pilots

An effort to make Black Hawk helicopters function as optionally unmanned aircraft passed a major threshold last week, Defense One reports, citing an Army testing official.


Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends
Blackhawks can now fly without their pilots. Photo: US Army Spc. Creighton Holub

The test featured an unmanned Black Hawk picking up and delivering an autonomous amphibious all-terrain vehicle, or AATV, which then carried out its own mission. The two unmanned vehicles managed to coordinate their missions and successfully carried them out.

Paul Rogers, director of the Army’s Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center, told Defense One that during the exercise, the helicopter “came in, picked up [the AATV], flew 5 to 7 kilometers in an air route, delivered it to a ground location, and released it.”

After the delivery, the AATV autonomously navigated a series of chemical and biological hazards while beaming back satellite data.

The success of the joint operation between the autonomous Black Hawk and AATV highlights a new level of robot teamwork.

The test also highlights the greatest success yet in attempts to make the Black Hawk an optionally manned aircraft in the future. Sikorsky, the company that builds the Black Hawk, has been working toward an unmanned version of the helicopter since an announcement last year.

Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends
Not all amphibious all-terrain vehicles need a driver anymore. Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Kirstin Merrimarahajara

The Army’s existing fleet of approximately 2,500 Black Hawks could be retrofitted to make the aircraft optionally manned. Such a move would supposedly give the Army a greater degree of flexibility in its operations.

“The autonomous Black Hawk helicopter provides the commander with the flexibility to determine crewed or un-crewed operations, increasing sorties while maintaining crew rest requirements,” Mark Miller, vice president of research and engineering at Sikorsky, told Defense Tech about the project. “This allows the crew to focus on the more ‘sensitive’ operations and leaves the critical resupply missions for autonomous operations without increasing fleet size or mix.”

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This Marine’s actions against the Chinese during the Boxer Rebellion remain the stuff of legend

Marines in turn-of-the-20th-Century Peking found themselves outnumbered and surrounded in the foreign diplomatic section of the capital. Anti-foreign Chinese Boxers threatened to overrun their position and kill everyone inside: troops, diplomats, and civilian refugees. One Marine Corps officer, Capt. John T. Myers, added to the USMC’s steadfast reputation of attacking in the face of insurmountable odds by leading a daring counterattack with American, British, and Russian Marines that would save the garrison.


Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends

John T. Myers was born into a family with an impressive legacy of military service. His great-grandfather John Twiggs served as a militia general during the American Revolution. One of John Twiggs’ sons, General David E. Twiggs – known as the “The Bengal Tiger” for his fierce temper – forged a reputation for stubbornness and bravery during the antebellum period until his death in 1861. Another son, Major Levi Twiggs, was a Marine officer killed while storming the castle of Chapultepec during the Mexican-American War. Myers’ father Abraham fought in the Seminole and Mexican Wars. Abraham married the “Bengal Tiger’s” daughter in 1853 and served as Quartermaster General for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Abraham fled to Germany after the South collapsed in 1865. John T. Myers was born there in 1871 and returned to the U.S. with his family at age six. Ten years later, he attended the Naval Academy at Annapolis. He graduated in 1892, after suffering from a lingering illness and outlasting his tendency for poor behavior.

Myers served in the Navy Engineer Corps before being transferring to the Marines in September of 1895. He first “saw the elephant” – an American expression of the time, meaning he gained experience at significant cost – during the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection. In March of 1899, the Marines promoted him to captain for his service during the Spanish-American War. The apex of his career came when the Navy sent him to Peking (modern-day Beijing) to protect the American Legation from violent anti-foreign sentiment brewing in China.

Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends
Troops of the Eight nations alliance of 1900 in China. Left to right: Britain, United States, Australia (British Empire colony at this time), India (British Empire colony at this time), Germany (German Empire at this time), France, Russia, Italy, Japan.

On May 31, 1900, he led 48 Marines and two officers of the USS Oregon and USS Newark from Tientsin to Peking. He and his Marines fought behind stacked sandbags and barricades alongside British, Austrian, Italian, French, German, Japanese, and Russian troops to beat back numerous attempts to overrun the garrison.

“It was all a matter of ‘sitting tight’ behind a barricade, constant vigilance night and day and firing promptly at such of the Chinese as had the temerity to expose themselves,” Myers wrote.

“There was scarcely an hour during which there was not firing on some part of our lines and into some of the legations, varying from a single shot to a general and continuous attack along the whole line,” as U.S. Minister Edwin Conger described it.

On July 2, Myers discovered that “during the preceding night and day the Chinese had succeeded in building a wall into and across the bastion and were then busily engaged in erecting a tower directly on my left flank, the fire from which, when completed, would reach all parts of our position.” The English and Russian ministers and military officers inside the Legation Quarter gave Myers the go-ahead to storm the enemy’s barricade and drive them from the menacing tower.

Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends

Myers reinforced his 14 U.S. Marines with 16 Marines from Russia and 25 from Britain for the counterattack. It was set for July 3rd.

“These men arrived between 2 and 3 a.m., and as the Chinese had almost finished their tower and were amusing themselves throwing stones into our barricade, I at once made the dispositions for the advance.” With sword unsheathed, Myers led the multinational detachment into the enemy’s barricade in a surprise assault.

During hand-to-hand fighting, Myers received a severe wound from an iron-pointed Chinese spear below the right knee but refused to leave the field. He reluctantly handed over command once his force pushed the Chinese Boxers back from their barricade.

Despite downplaying the severity of his wound, Myers could not return to the front line. He was moved to the Russian Legation to recuperate but continued to issue orders to his men from this position. At some point septicemia set in, and “considerable quantity of pus discharged from counter-opening made about 4 inches below original wound,” forcing him to hand over command of the U.S. Marines to his deputy. Not until the end of July was he was “able to hobble about with aid of crutch.” He soon fell victim to a bout of typhoid fever.

Eventually, the European defenders of Peking were relieved by a multinational column on August 14 after a 55-day siege. Captain Myers returned home to a hero’s welcome in January 1901. He served the U.S. military for another 34 years and rose to the rank of Major General until placed on the retired list in February of 1935 at the mandatory age of 64-years-old. He died in April 1952 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends

John Twiggs Myers’ counterattack was immortalized by Charleton Heston 11 years later in the 1963 film “55 Days at Peking.”

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The fascinating story behind the military’s use of the 21-gun salute

Becky R. asks: Why do they use 21 guns in the 21 gun salute?


The 21-gun salute that we know today has its roots in the ancient tradition of warriors demonstrating their peaceful intentions by resting the point of their weapons on the ground.

The notion of making a soldier’s weapons useless to show that he came in peace continued even as warfare changed over the centuries. Gunpowder and cannons became commonplace among militaries and private forces, both on land and at sea around the 14th century. In order for a ship entering a foreign port to show those on shore that they came in peace, the captain would have his crew fire the guns. This rendered the weapons inoperable for a period of time, with early guns only being capable of firing a single shot before crews needed to reload them.

Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends

Traditionally when a British ship entered into a foreign port, it would fire its guns seven times. The reason for the seven shots is widely debated to this day. One theory states that the majority of the British ships at this point only carried seven guns and so firing seven shots became the standard to signal those on shore that the ship was now unarmed. Ships carried enough gunpowder and ammunition to reload multiple times, but beyond symbolism, the idea here was that the lengthy process of reloading would allow the soldiers onshore more than enough time to disable the ship with their own weapons if needs be.

Another proposed theory for the number seven relates to the Bible. After creating the world, the Bible states that God rested on the seventh day (or for the seventh “event”- there is some debate over the “day” vs. “event” translation). So it has been theorized that the number could have been chosen in reference to its Biblical significance, perhaps of resting with the ship coming to port after a long journey. Yet another theory stems from the pervasive superstitious nature of sailors combined with the historic notion in certain regions that the number 7 is sacred, and that odd numbers are lucky and even unlucky. In fact, for a time it was common to use an even number of shots to signify the death of a ship captain when returning from the voyage the death occurred on.

Whatever the underlying reason, the guns onshore would return fire as a form of welcome once the incoming ship finished firing the seven rounds. However, the shore bound guns fired three rounds for every one fired by the incoming ships, putting the total number of shots fired at twenty-one in these cases. As with the “7” number, it’s not known precisely why in the regions that used this number scheme that they chose a 3 to 1 ratio.  What is known is that as time went on where this was practiced, it became traditional for the ships themselves to start firing off 21 shots as well, perhaps due to the ships becoming larger and being equipped with more guns, with the captains ostensibly preferring a 1 to 1 salute.

Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends
Photo: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Oscar L Olive IV

This then brings us to when firing the 21 shots became considered a type of official salute, rather than a symbolic way to indicate peaceful intentions.  This seems to have started around 1730 when it became a recognized salute to British government officials. Specifically, the British Navy allowed its ships and captains the option to perform the 21-gun salute as a way to honor members of the British Royal Family during select anniversaries. About eighty years later, in 1808, the 21-gun salute officially became the standard salute to honor British Royalty.

While the British Navy adopted the 21-gun salute in 1808 as the standard, other nations, such as the United States, didn’t adopt it until much later. In fact, the United States War Department decided in 1810 to define the “national salute” as having the same number of shots as there were states in the nation. That number grew every year that a new state joined the Union.  Needless to say, this quickly became a cumbersome way to salute the United States and its dignitaries.

That said, the United States did make the “Presidential Salute” a 21-gun salute in 1842, and in 1890 officially accepted the 21-gun salute as the “national salute.” This followed the 1875 British proposal to the United States of a “Gun for Gun Salute” of 21-guns to honor visiting dignitaries.  Essentially, the British and French, among other nations, at this point were all using 21 guns for their salutes, but the U.S. system required many more shots for their dignitaries.  Besides needing to fire off more cannons, this also potentially signified greater honor to the U.S. dignitaries than to those of other nations. Thus, the British proposed a 1 for 1 shot, with 21 being the number, which was accepted by the U.S. on August 18, 1875.

The 21-gun salute still represents a significant honor today. In the United States, the 21-gun salute occurs to honor a President, former president, or the head of foreign state. It can also be fired in order to honor the United States Flag. The salute also occurs at noon on the day of the funeral of a President, former President, or President-elect along with on Memorial Day.

Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends
Photo: US Navy

You may have noticed that there’s no mention of the 21-gun salute occurring during military funerals and that’s a common misconception. Known as the “3 Volleys,” the salute that occurs during soldiers’ funerals follows a battlefield tradition where both sides stopped fighting so that they could remove their dead from the field. The series of three shots, or volleys, let the other side know that the dead had been taken care of and that that battle could resume. Therefore the number of volleys is more important than the actual number of shots. Even the United States Army Manuel’s section on the Ceremonial Firing Party at a funeral named the number of riflemen as between five and eight, rather than an exact number.

Bonus Facts:

  • When ships were engaged in battle during the 14th century, the common practice was that the captured or defeated ship needed to expend all of its ammunition in order to make it helpless in the presence of the other ship and signify surrender.
  • A 62-gun salute was fired upon the birth of Prince George of England. The 21-gun salute was increased to 41-guns because the guns were fired from a royal park or residence and an additional 21-guns were added in order to pay respect to the city of London.

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This article originally appeared at Today I Found Out. Copyright 2015. Like Today I Found Out on Facebook.

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Mr. T’s military career is more awesome than you imagined

 


Before he nearly pounded Rocky Balboa into submission in Rocky III, and went on to fame as B.A. Baracus on the hit TV show A-Team, Mr. T was a member of the biggest team of them all — the U.S. Army.

In the beginning Mr. T was just plain old Laurence Tureaud, a kid from the projects in Chicago, part of a large family (four sisters and seven brothers) just struggling to get by. His physical abilities were evident from an early age, when he became the city-wide wrestling champion two years in a row at high school. Unfortunately, he also didn’t have much motivation for academics, and ended up getting expelled from Prairie View AM University after one year on a football scholarship.

After leaving school Tureaud enlisted in the United States Army in the mid-70s, and served in the Military Police Corps. In November 1975 he was awarded a letter of recommendation by his drill sergeant, and in a cycle of six thousand troops he was elected “Top Trainee of the Cycle” and promoted to Squad Leader.

In July 1976 his platoon sergeant punished him by giving him the detail of chopping down trees during training camp at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, but the sergeant did not specify how many trees that were to be cut down — so Tureaud single-handedly chopped down over 70 trees in the span of three and a half hours before being relieved of the detail.

After his discharge from the Army, Tureaud tried out for the NFL’s Green Bay Packers but failed to make the team because of a knee injury. However, his Army police training served him well in his next job, as a bouncer at Chicago nightclubs, where he began cultivating his ultra-tough “Mr. T” persona (the famous gold chains he wears were a result of picking up discarded jewelry from the nightclub every night). Perhaps the first “celebrity bodyguard,” and certainly one of the most famous, Mr. T would charge more than $3,000 a night for his services, protecting stars such as Steve McQueen, Diana Ross, and Muhammad Ali.

When he appeared on a televised bouncer competition, he caught the eye of director and actor Sylvester Stallone, who decided to cast him as the formidable, outrageous boxer Clubber Lang in Rocky III (1982), which turned out to be his launchpad to super-stardom. Fittingly enough, Mr. T’s Army roots came back into play when he was cast as Sgt. B.A. Baracus, Army Special Forces vet, in The A-Team (1985). Still as colorful as ever, Mr. T currently lives in L.A., and as you would expect from a tough guy, is healthy even after a 1995 bout with T-cell Lymphoma.

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This Israeli attraction has tourists engage in ‘counterterrorism’

Israel is a country that has been facing terrorism long before 9/11 awakened America to the threat. Now, though, some have capitalized on it by creating what one could call counterterrorism tourism.


According to a video by Business Insider, the tourism takes place at a training center in the West Bank that was established in 2003 during a Palestinian uprising. The training compound, Caliber 3, is designed to look like an open-air market. In 2009, it opened for tourism.

Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends
A Krav Maga lession at the IDF’s paratrooper school in Israel.

That might sound surprising, since in most countries, the tourism is all about showing off highlights. The purpose is to show what life is really like in Israel. However, this gives a chance for civilians to see what many counter-terrorism operatives go through – including the split-second life or death decisions that have to be made.

For the price of $115 for an adult and $85 for a child, people get a chance to see what life is really like in Israel. Among the experiences offered is the chance to thwart a terrorist attack. These have become all too common, not just in Israel, but also in Europe. Adults can even fire live ammo.

Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends
Officers with the Kfir Brigade practice fighting in built-up areas. (Israeli Defense Forces photo)

Tourist will also learn much about the Israeli Defense Forces, including their values. The camp is used to train security guards and commandos. In essence, it explains that while life in Israel can be beautiful, the reality is that they are still living in an active combat region, and there are certain things that people have to know how to do.

The Business Insider video is available below:

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The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years

Congress sent President Donald Trump legislation to provide the biggest expansion of college aid for military veterans in a decade.


The Senate cleared the bill by voice vote on August 2, passing the second piece of legislation aimed at addressing urgent problems at the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs in as many days. The House passed the bipartisan college aid legislation last week.

The measure is a broad effort to better prepare veterans for life after active-duty service amid a rapidly changing job market.

Building on major legislation passed in 2008 that guaranteed a full-ride scholarship to any in-state public university — or a similar cash amount for private college students — the bill removes a 15-year time limit to tap into GI benefits and increases money for thousands in the National Guard and Reserve.

Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends
USMC photo by Sgt. Melissa Marnell

Veterans would get additional payments if they complete science, technology, and engineering courses. The bill also would restore benefits if a college closed in the middle of the semester, a protection added when thousands of veterans were hurt by the collapse of for-profit college giant ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges. Purple Heart recipients, meanwhile, would be fully eligible for benefits, regardless of length of time in service.

“This bill invests in the proven success of our veterans,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. “When our veterans return home, they should have every opportunity available to them to pursue their desired profession and career.”

The panel’s top Democrat, Jon Tester of Montana, says the bill “also does right by Guardsmen and Reservists by getting them the education, housing, and health care that they have earned. I look forward to working with President Trump to quickly sign our bill into law.”

Tester is one of the more vulnerable Democrats up for re-election next year, seeking another term in a state Trump won last year.

Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends
Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., (left) and Jon Tester, D-Mont (right)

The Senate, on August 2, backed a measure that authorizes $3.9 billion in emergency spending to avert imminent bankruptcy in the VA’s Veterans Choice Program of private-sector care. About $1.8 million of that money would bolster core VA programs, including 28 leases for new VA medical facilities.

The education benefits would take effect for enlistees who begin using their GI Bill money next year.

For a student attending a private university, the additional benefits to members of the Guard and Reserve could mean $2,300 a year more in tuition than they are receiving now, plus a bigger housing allowance.

Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends
Army Photo by Sgt. Alexander Snyder

A wide range of veterans’ groups had supported the expanded GI Bill benefits. The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, hailed the proposal as launching a “new era” for those who served in uniform.

According to Student Veterans of America, only about half of the 200,000 service members who leave the military each year go on to enroll in a college, while surveys indicate that veterans often outperform peers in the classroom.

Veterans of Foreign Wars estimates that hundreds of thousands of veterans stand to gain from the new benefits.

The expanded educational benefits would be paid for by bringing living stipend payments under the GI Bill down to a similar level as that received by an active-duty member, whose payments were reduced in 2014 by 1 percent a year for five years. Total government spending on the GI Bill is expected to be more than $100 billion over 10 years.

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These 5 hypersonic weapons are the future of military firepower

For the last several years, the world’s most powerful militaries have been hard at work developing the next generation of long-range missile technology.


The main objective is to reach farther, faster.

That’s prompted weapons designers to push the boundaries of physics and hit speeds in the “hypersonic” realm, which is typically considered atmospheric travel faster than Mach 5

Imagine a missile fired from the Chinese mainland that could strike anywhere in the South China Sea in 20 minutes. That could be a massive game changer for such a turbulent region, many strategists believe.

There’s an international arms race in progress to develop hypersonic weapons. Four countries, including China, Russia, India, and the U.S., are in various phases of research, testing, or otherwise developing hypersonic weapons systems — planes, warheads, and cruise missiles capable of sustaining speeds well above Mach 5.

1. DF-ZF Hypersonic Glide Vehicle – China

The most promising Chinese hypersonic vehicle was successfully tested as recently as April. Beijing’s “Dong Feng” DF-41 ICBM carried two nuclear-capable warheads from the mainland into the South China Sea. To underline the tension in the South China’s Sea, Popular Mechanics’ Kyle Mizokami noted that this was the first time China tested its weaponry in the area.

Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends
The DF-ZF concept, previously referred to by the Pentagon as the WU-14.

The DF-41 booster rocket has a reported maximum operational range of 9,300 kilometers – not only covering the South China Sea, but also the mainland United States. It also has the ability to launch the hypersonic DF-ZF glide vehicle, which can reach speeds of 7,000 miles per hour – the speed of sound is just 768 mph.

2. Tactical Boost Glide Aircraft – United States

DARPA is developing technology similar to the Chinese DF-ZF they say is, “an air-launched, tactical-range hypersonic boost-glide system.” An ICBM boosts the glider to hypersonic speeds, then it separates from the rocket and coasts unpowered to its target. The project became known as the Falcon project — a test bed for projects that will enable the U.S. to hit any target in the world within one hour using unmanned hypersonic bombers.

Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends
The Hypersonic Technology Vehicle – 2 (DARPA concept)

The Falcon HTV-2’s top speed of Mach 20 would allow the United States to strike a target in Syria from the American East Coast in around 27 minutes, analysts say.

3. BrahMos II Missile – Russia and India

The BrahMos II is a cruise missile in joint development between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroeyenia. The BrahMos II is expected to have a range of about 180 miles and a top speed of Mach 7. During the cruise stage, the missile will be propelled by an air-breathing scramjet engine using a classified fuel formula to help sustain its top speed.

Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends
Indian Defence Ministry

As of March the BrahMos II has been undergoing tests in Russia. Military planners say it is intended as a conventional missile without a nuclear payload and is expected to be aboard Russian ships as early as 2019.

4. X-51 Waverider – United States

Jointly developed by Boeing and the Air Force, the X-51 WaveRider project is another research vehicle designed to test technology for the so-called “High-Speed Strike Weapon,” which is intended to be in military service by 2020.

Unlike the Falcon HTV-2, the HSSW is intended to cruise at only Mach 5, have a maximum range of 600 nautical miles, and be launched by F-35 or B-2 aircraft.

Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends
Powered by a Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne SJY61 scramjet engine, the X-51 is designed to ride on its own shockwave. Here, the X-51A was uploaded to an Air Force Flight Test Center B-52 for fit testing at Edwards Air Force Base on July 17, 2009.

The most successful WaveRider test so far hit Mach 5.1 for 210 seconds (short of the 300-second goal). It was enough to consider that phase of testing a success and advance to the next stages of development.

5. DF-21D – China

The DF-21D is a medium-range ballistic missile — sometimes referred to in defense industry circles as China’s “Carrier Killer.” The Dong-Feng 21 is considered an anti-ship missile, and a critical component to China’s plans to control the South China Sea. It’s a land-based, nuclear-capable missile that can fly at speeds of Mach 10, and uses a drone to help acquire its targets. Many think the DF-21 is designed to weaken the U.S. ability to project power with aircraft carriers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8Iem6AQA9M
Writing for the National Interest, Harry J. Kazianis wrote that the missiles are likely already deployed around China, and have been since at least 2010. As for their ability to knock out an aircraft carrier, Kazianis quoted defense expert Roger Cliff, who remarked that while the U.S. Navy has never had to defend itself against such a weapon, China has no experience using one, either.
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To combat ‘Godzilla’-type threats JLTV needs a bigger gun

Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends


The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, which is slated to replace the High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV or Humvee), entered low-rate initial production this year. But while it faces the challenge of replacing an iconic vehicle (much as the HMMWV replaced the jeep), it is getting a little help from another icon, the AH-64 Apache.

Not that the HMMWV couldn’t carry some decent firepower. It has operated the M2 heavy machine gun, the Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher, and the BGM-71 Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided missile (TOW). That said, here’s its problem: The M2 and Mk 19 are more suited to take out infantry and trucks than to take on armored vehicles. Granted, even a HMMWV could carry a lot of ammo for those weapons. Using those weapons against a BMP would be like shooting an elephant with a .22.

So, the JLTV, to paraphrase an Army NCO from the 1998 version of “Godzilla,” needed a bigger gun. But what sort of gun? The JLTV couldn’t quite manage the M242 Bushmaster used on the M2/M3 Bradley or the LAV-25 and still have enough ammo and still be able to carry up to six troops. Then, the Army looked to the Apache.

At 160 pounds, the M230 cannon on the Apache is lighter than the M242 (262 pounds), but the 30mm round it fires can easily take out most light vehicles, particularly the BRDM-2, a likely opponent. The M230 can also take out a number of armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, like the BTR-80 or BMP.

The M2 made a similar journey. While initially intended as an anti-tank weapon, Ma Deuce gained its biggest notoriety as the main armament of American fighters like the P-51, F4U, and P-38 during World War II. Even in the Korean War, it served as the primary armament for the F-86, before being displaced by 20mm cannon.

Using the M230 is also a benefit for lighter units like the 82nd Airborne Division and the 101st Air Assault Division. Since the AH-64s with those units use the M230 already, there is no need to add a new gun and all the spare parts and ammo into the supply chain for those divisions. That makes life a little easier for the valuable logistics personnel while the front-line grunts get a bit more firepower.

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Why you should stop chugging so many energy drinks

We’ve all seen them before. The cans, small shots, and uniquely packaged energy drinks that promise to give you an energy boost during the most important parts of your day. At first glance, it seems like a great idea: chug it down and get reinvigorated for the day. But, if you go beyond wanting to simply stay alert and begin to overindulge, you could wind up doing some serious harm to your body.


 

Today in military history: Crusader control of Holy Land ends
Spc. Kyle Lauth, assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, sips an energy drink before a dismounted patrol through the Hussainiyah town of the Istaqlal Qada district northeast of Baghdad, Dec. 29, 2008. (Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class JB Jaso)

Energy drinks became the beverage of choice for many service members during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research analyzed data collected during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2010 and found nearly 45 percent of deployed service members consumed at least one energy drink daily. Nearly 14 percent reported drinking three or more per day.

Related: Here are 5 healthy habits to work into your busy military lifestyle

Many of the most popular energy drinks are heavily marketed to young people, including military members. The marketing is sexy, the packaging is slick, the flavors are sweet like fruit drinks children crave, and the beverages are readily available on military bases and down range.

But, there are real reasons to avoid overusing energy drinks.

Energy drinks can cause drastic side effects

Energy drinks are loaded with caffeine, and too much of it isn’t good for you. Dr. Patricia Deuster, professor and director of the Consortium for Health and Military Performance at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, warns service members to avoid consuming more than 200 mg of caffeine every four hours. That means service members should add up the caffeine in their energy drinks, plus any other caffeinated beverages they may drink, like coffee and soft drinks.

“If it’s got more than 200 mg of caffeine, don’t use it,” cautions Deuster.

Deuster also warns female service members to be cautious about using energy drinks, noting the amount of caffeine you ingest relative to body weight is an issue for women. “Women get a higher concentration [of caffeine] since they tend to be smaller,” she said.

“Doctors don’t know what the effects of [energy drink] ingredients are in larger doses,” Deuster noted. “I don’t think anybody has an answer to the long term effects question.”

High amounts of caffeine can lead to increased blood pressure, panic attacks, heart palpitations, anxiety, dehydration, insomnia, and even bowel irritability when energy drinks are mixed with alcohol.

What is clear is consumers need to be more aware about what they’re putting in their bodies when it comes to energy drinks.

Energy drinks can activate your sweet tooth

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Service members should use caution when consuming energy drinks due to their potential health risks. Most drinks average about 200 calories, which can lead to weight gain. (Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Heather Johnson)

Energy drinks are loaded with sugar. Some cans pack a punch of 27 grams of sugar — two thirds of the recommended daily maximum for men, and 2 grams more than the maximum doctors recommend for women. Some service members can double or even triple that if they drink more than one energy drink per day.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend keeping your intake of added sugars to less than 10 percent of your total daily calories.

They can make you pack on the pounds

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Spc. Kevin Alexander of 138th Quartermaster Company grabs an energy drink at the Camp Atterbury Post Exchange. Most energy drinks contain anywhere from 70 to 200 milligrams of caffeine. The daily recommended intake of caffeine is no more than 300 milligrams. (Army photo by Sgt. David Bruce)

All of that extra sugar can cause your blood sugar to increase. Even the sugar-free versions of energy drinks can lead to weight gain, as research suggests artificial sweeteners may raise blood sugar, too.

Your body can also begin storing fat, especially if you’re unable to increase physical activity.

Energy drinks + alcohol = a dangerous cocktail

Energy drinks have become popular mixers for alcohol, raising concerns for health experts.

“A lot of the young people mix energy drinks with alcoholic beverages, then you’ve got a wide awake drunk,” says Deuster.

The CDC warns that when alcoholic beverages are mixed with energy drinks, the caffeine stimulant can mask the effects of the alcohol, which is a depressant. Often, the person drinking doesn’t even realize that they’re actually drunk. According to the CDC, that means people who mix alcohol with energy drinks are three times more likely to binge drink than those who don’t mix alcohol with energy drinks. Experts warn motor skills can be affected and some people engage in riskier behaviors while under the influence of alcohol and energy drinks. Additionally, both caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, which can cause dehydration if you’re not careful.

Some companies sell pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks which have the same sweet or tart flavors as standard energy drinks. As the Army notes, the alcohol content in these beverages can be significantly higher than what’s found in beer.

These energy drinks with alcohol may appeal to underage drinkers because they’re cheaper than hard liquor and they’re marketed with a message that the drinker can last all day or all night long. The sugary nature of the beverages also makes drinkers feel they can imbibe longer than if they were having harder alcohol.

Energy drinks can ruin your good night’s sleep

Deuster raises concerns about a problem in the military with energy drinks and sleep. And, the data back up those concerns. While service members may initially use energy drinks to make up for a lack of sleep, overuse can lead to a harmful cycle. Excess consumption of energy drinks can cause sleep problems and hamper performance.

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Marines and sailors with Regimental Combat Team 8 sleep during a C-17 Globemaster III flight from Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan, to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. (Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Clayton Vonderahe)

 

Dr. Nancy J. Wesensten, from the Center for Military Psychiatry and Neurosciences Research, tells Army Medicine that research on caffeine shows that it can be effective if used properly. However, Wesensten notes “because caffeine impairs sleep, individuals should stop all caffeine consumption at least 6 hours prior to scheduled sleep. Otherwise, sleep could be impaired without the person even being aware of it.”

As caffeine is the major ingredient in energy drinks, the CDC reports service members who drink three or more of the drinks per day were significantly more likely to report sleeping fewer than four hours per night. They were also more likely to report disrupted sleep and other illnesses. Lack of sleep can impact memory and a service member’s ability to pay attention when it matters most. Research indicates service members who drank three or more energy drinks each day also had difficulty staying awake during briefings or on guard duty.

The Army’s Performance Triad offer tips on how to get a better night’s sleep, including controlling light and temperature, as well as leaders ensuring service members have time for quality sleep.

You really don’t know what’s in them

These drinks are not regulated as dietary supplements. While the cans have nutrition labels, many do not list supplement information.

 

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The Human Performance Resource Center cautions energy drink users to be aware of the drink’s ingredients. (Operation Supplement Safety graphic)

 

One area that’s concerning to Deuster is the ingredient taurine. The chemical compound is an amino acid found in animal tissue. Many manufacturers purport the ingredient will enhance mental and physical performance. Researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center report little is actually is known about taurine’s neuroendocrine effects.

So, what should service members use instead of energy drinks?

 

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Dehydration is caused by not drinking enough water. The amount of water necessary to keep someone hydrated depends greatly on the weather, the amount of physical activity, and an individual’s physical fitness level. The symptoms of dehydration include lethargy, headaches and lack of energy. (Army photo by Sgt. Timothy R. Koster)

Deuster keeps it simple: “Good old water.” Appealing to service members’ frugality, she adds,

“If you want to save money, drink water.”

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US intelligence before World War II was basically nonexistent

U.S. intelligence before World War II was fragmented and ad hoc, comprised of numerous government and military entities all loath to share their information with each other. With the events transpiring across the globe in the 1930’s, President Roosevelt became concerned about the United States’ deficiencies in the intelligence field. Enter William Donovan.


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Col. William “Wild Bill” Donovan was a well-respected lawyer and veteran of the First World War, in which he earned the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, and three Purple Hearts. Between the wars, he traveled extensively and met with many foreign dignitaries, however, his chief concern was on establishing the American equivalent of Britain’s intelligence services, MI6, and the Special Operations Executive. His extensive travel and ideas earned him the respect and friendship of President Roosevelt, and when the President established the Office of the Coordination of Information he named Donovan the director.

Donovan immediately set to work untangling the bureaucratic mess that was the American intelligence services. It was much more complicated than he anticipated. He met hostility over jurisdiction with numerous people, most notably J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI. During this time, the majority of intelligence for the Office of the Coordination of Information came from the British, as did the training for the new operatives. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, it became clear that the United States needed a greater intelligence capacity. To accomplish this, President Roosevelt issued a presidential military order on June 13, 1942 creating the Office of Strategic Services with the mission of collecting and analyzing strategic information for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to conduct special operations not assigned to other agencies. William Donovan was reactivated in the U.S. Army at his World War I rank of Colonel and put in charge of the organization.

Now that Donovan had his intelligence agency, he needed to fill the ranks. With no prior experience to draw on, he and those he recruited would be starting essentially from scratch. However, Donovan was given just the right man for the job in one Lt. Col. Garland Williams, a successful law enforcement officer and officer in the Army Reserve. Williams took Donovan’s intent to create an American intelligence service based on the British models and made it uniquely American – though he would require British help to get started. It was decided the OSS would be responsible for intelligence and counter-intelligence, psychological warfare, and guerrilla and irregular warfare, to include sabotage and most importantly coordinating resistance movements with each area of responsibility handled by a specialized branch. Once the training areas, National Parks outside Washington, D.C., were established and trainers were in place Williams set about creating a curriculum to train the new operatives.

Williams broke down the training into three phases; preliminary, basic, and advanced. Preliminary training was what Williams called a “toughening up” phase and included PT, obstacle courses, road marches, hand-to-hand combat and weapons skills that were designed to weed out the unqualified and to help identify the particular skills of those who passed for their branch assignment within the OSS. The basic phase introduced many special topics for students such as intelligence gathering, target identification, and sabotage. But most importantly, according to Lt. Col. Williams, in these phases the students “will also be physically and mentally conditioned during these two courses for the aggressive and ruthless action which they will be called upon to perform at later dates.” A park superintendent who monitored the OSS training area referred to the training as “a stomach-turning roughhouse” and was thoroughly appalled by what he witnessed.

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Donovan conferring with OSS agents in China

Once the students had passed preliminary and basic operator training they moved on to the advanced training. This training involved what Lt. Col. Williams referred to as “schemes” – mock attacks on real targets in the U.S. Teams of students would be assigned missions against bridges, railroads, and plants in areas such as Baltimore and Pittsburgh in which they were instructed to infiltrate secure locations and plant fake explosives or to recover some kind of sensitive data. Most of these missions were completed successfully however a few teams were arrested by local police or the FBI.

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OSS classroom training.

Throughout the operators’ training, the emphasis was always on independent thinking, initiative, resourcefulness, personal courage, and building confidence. Military discipline took a back seat to the need for candidates to become individual fighters and guerrilla warriors as opposed to soldiers who needed orders to operate. Col. Donovan even stated, “I’d rather have a young lieutenant with guts enough to disobey an order than a colonel too regimented to think and act for himself.”

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OSS paratrooper training

Once the operatives completed training they were shipped to war zones all over the world where they conducted irregular warfare, sabotage, and direct action missions behind enemy lines in Operational Groups, a predecessor to modern Special Forces ODA’s, or in the more famous Jedburgh Teams. However, despite the support of Gen. Eisenhower, President Truman disbanded the Office of Strategic Services in October 1945 but its legacy and missions would live on.

Two years after the dissolution of the OSS, the Central Intelligence Agency was formed to take up many of its former missions and to establish their training curriculum the CIA used everything the OSS has created. A short time later the U.S. Army formed the Special Forces which took up the missions of irregular warfare and foreign internal defense. There are still visual cues that persist in the military today too such as the U.S. Special Operations Command shoulder sleeve insignia, nearly identical to the OSS patch, as well as the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife emblem on Delta Force’s shoulder sleeve insignia. Though the OSS was a fledgling intelligence service at the outset of World War II, it set the stage for the strongest clandestine services in the modern world.

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Here’s why NBA ‘badboy’ Dennis Rodman is visiting Pyongyang

Former NBA bad boy Dennis Rodman said Tuesday that he is “just trying to open a door” by going to North Korea in his first visit since President Donald Trump took office.


Rodman, who has made several trips to the country, sported a black T-shirt advertising a marijuana cybercurrency as he headed toward immigration at Beijing airport, from where he is expected to fly to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.

Asked if he had spoken to Trump about his trip, he said, “Well, I’m pretty sure he’s pretty much happy with the fact that I’m over here trying to accomplish something that we both need.”

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Rodman has received the red-carpet treatment on four past trips since 2013, but has been roundly criticized for visiting during a time of high tensions between the U.S. and North Korea over its weapons programs.

His entourage included Joseph Terwilliger, a professor who has accompanied Rodman on previous trips to North Korea.

Rodman said the issue of several Americans currently detained by North Korea is “not my purpose right now.”

In Tokyo, a visiting senior U.S. official said Rodman’s trip is as a private citizen.

“We are aware of his visit. We wish him well, but we have issued travel warnings to Americans suggested they not travel to North Korea for their own safety,” U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon told reporters after discussing the North Korean missile threat and other issues with Japanese counterparts.

In 2014, Rodman arranged a basketball game with other former NBA players and North Koreans and regaled leader Kim Jong Un with a rendition of “Happy Birthday.” On the same trip, he suggested that an American missionary was at fault for his own imprisonment in North Korea, remarks for which he later apologized.

A foreign ministry official who spoke to The Associated Press in Pyongyang confirmed that Rodman was expected to arrive Tuesday but could not provide details. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the ministry had not issued a formal statement.

Any visit to North Korea by a high-profile American is a political minefield, and Rodman has been criticized for failing to use his influence on leaders who are otherwise isolated diplomatically from the rest of the world.

Americans are regarded as enemies in North Korea because the two countries never signed a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War. Thousands of U.S. troops are based in South Korea, and the Demilitarized Zone between the North and South is one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world.

A statement issued in New York by a Rodman publicist said the former NBA player is in the rare position of being friends with the leaders of both North Korea and the United States. Rodman was a cast member on two seasons of Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Rodman tweeted that his trip was being sponsored by Potcoin, one of a growing number of cybercurrencies used to buy and sell marijuana in state-regulated markets.

North Korea has been hailed by marijuana news outlets and British tabloids as a pothead paradise and maybe even the next Amsterdam of pot tourism. But the claim that marijuana is legal in North Korea is not true: The penal code lists it as a controlled substance in the same category as cocaine and heroin.

Americans have been sentenced to years in North Korean prisons for such seemingly minor offences as stealing a political banner and likely could not expect leniency if the country’s drug laws were violated.

Articles

These are the 5 Russian generals already fighting the new Cold War

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons


The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has prepared a dossier laying out evidence for what it calls “Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

The report alleges there are some 9,000 Russian troops deployed in Ukraine, forming 15 battalion tactical groups. The force includes about 200 tanks, more than 500 armored fighting vehicles, and some 150 artillery systems, according to the dossier.

The SBU also identifies by name five Russian generals who it says are playing leading roles in commanding and coordinating the military forces of the separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Speaking to Bloomberg, New York University professor and specialist in Russian security services Mark Galeotti said that by “embedding their senior officers,” the Russians are solidifying control over the separatist portions of Ukraine.

“Somewhere in Moscow they have made the decision this will be a long-term frozen conflict,” Galeotti told Bloomberg.

Russia has consistently denied any military involvement in the conflict there.

RFE/RL takes a closer look at the six officers who have been implicated:

Major General Oleg Tsekov

Tsekov graduated from a military institute in Chelyabinsk in 1988. He then served in various parts of the Soviet Union and Mongolia.

He graduated from the Academy of the General Staff in 2011. The same year, he was appointed commander of the 200th motorized special-forces brigade of the Northern Fleet. In September 2014, the volunteer information service InformNapalm published evidence that the unit had been mobilized from Murmansk Oblast to Rostov Oblast, together with evidence that service personnel from the 200th had been identified in Ukraine.

Tsekov was promoted to major general (equivalent of a U.S. two-star general) on February 21, 2015.

The latest SBU dossier charges that Tsekov commands the so-called 2nd brigade of the separatist forces near Donetsk.

Major General Valery Solodchuk

Born in Astrakhan, Solodchuk graduated from the paratroops institute in Ryazan in 1992. In 2012, he was named commander of the 7th guards air-assault division based in Novorossiisk. A media reference in 2014 identified Solodchuk as deputy commander of the 5th Army in the Far East.

Digital-forensic investigators have drawn attention to a soldier of the 7th guards air-assault division named Stanislav Ramensky. He posted on social media several photographs that seem to have been taken in Crimea in March 2014, when Russia annexed the peninsula from Ukraine. He also published a photograph of the medal and certificate he was given on April 14, 2014, “for the return of Crimea,” which was signed by Solodchuk.

In an interview with Rossiiskaya Gazeta in March, Solodchuk was asked if the 7th guards air-assault division is a designated rapid-reaction unit within the Russian military. He answered that there are no such units and that the entire military is in a state of constant combat readiness. Asked if that meant that his unit is prepared to be ordered into battle at any moment, Solodchuk answered, “Exactly.”

The SBU dossier charges that Solodchuk is the commander of so-called 1st Army Corps of Novorossia in the Donetsk area.

Major General Sergei Kuzovlev

Sergei Kuzovlev was born in 1967 and graduated from the paratroops institute in Ryazan in 1990. He also studied at the Academy of the General Staff. He was promoted to major general in February 2014. Since 2014, he has been chief of staff of the 58th Army based in Vladikavkaz.

In January, the Ukrainian SBU released an audio recording that it alleged showed Kuzovlev organizing the military forces of the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic” in eastern Ukraine. The SBU says Kuzovlev goes by the pseudonyms “Tambov” and “Ignatov.”

Major General Aleksei Zavizion

Aleskei Zavizion was born in Narva, Estonia, in 1965 and graduated from a military institute in Chelyabinsk in 1986. He served in the Far East, in Chechnya, and as commander of Russian forces in Tajikistan.

In 2009, he began studies at the Academy of the General Staff.

In March, Ukraine’s SBU claimed Zavizion, using the nom de guerre Alagir, directed the shelling of Kramatorsk and Mariupol. Referring to Zavizion, SBU official Markiian Lubkivskyi wrote on Facebook that “a citizen of the Russian Federation…with the call sign Alagir is currently in Donetsk within the rotational assignment of running the Operational Headquarters since January 2015, coordinating military operations with the participation of representatives of illegal armed formations.”

“Alagir is the person in charge of the deployment of artillery, mobile rocket systems, and heavy equipment,” Lubkivskyi continued. “Major bloody attacks on Ukrainian cities, particularly on Kramatorsk and Mariupol, were carried out under his direct command and coordination.”

Lubkivskyi also wrote that Zavizion was scheduled to be replaced by Russian Major General Andrei Gurulyov.

Major General Roman Shadrin

Roman Shadrin was born in Rostov Oblast in 1967 and graduated from a military institute in Kazan. He served in the Soviet contingent in East Germany after graduating in 1988. In 1995, he was awarded the Hero of Russia medal for his service during the first war in Chechnya. After service in Armenia and the North Caucasus, Shadrin was named deputy commander of Interior Ministry troops in the Urals region. In 2008, he served during the conflict with Georgia in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia, after which he was promoted to major general.

In September 2013, he was elected to the Yekaterinburg City Duma from the ruling United Russia Party.

The SBU dossier says Shadrin is the so-called minister of state security for the self-proclaimed “Luhansk Peoples Republic” (LNR) in eastern Ukraine. According to a media report on July 3, Shadrin denies the allegation, saying he has only traveled to Ukraine’s Donbas region “with a humanitarian mission.”

The Yekaterinburg-based Novy Den news agency reported the same day that Shadrin has “repeatedly traveled to eastern Ukraine with humanitarian missions.” It also noted that Shadrin resigned as chairman of the city legislature’s security committee in January and quoted an unidentified source in the Yekaterinburg Duma as saying Shadrin “holds one of the top positions in the security service of the LNR.”

The same source said it is not known when Shadrin will return to his duties in Yekaterinburg, but there have been no efforts to strip him of his mandate.

Also from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

This article originally appeared at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Copyright 2015.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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