This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War - We Are The Mighty
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This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

Berlin was a dangerous place during the Cold War. A preserved piece of the Wall containing a mural memorializing 146 Germans killed trying to escape communism stands in stark testament.


As the grand central station of East-West espionage, the city was a playground for all sorts of secret agents. And its place in the history of the 20th century far outweighs its size. Indeed, 37 percent of Americans viewed the fall of the Berlin Wall as the single most important event of the 1980s.

That Wall came down after 28 years because Americans in uniform stood as a barrier to Soviet aggression. The vast majority of those GIs were clearly visible. But a small contingent operated behind the scenes, not even acknowledged until long after the Cold War ended. Only this year were they fully and publicly recognized.

Born in the Mid-’50s

Though the Status-of-Forces Agreement signed by all four powers occupying Berlin prohibited elite forces, each country had its own prowling the city. It was 10 years after WWII ended, however, before the U.S. had such a unit formally in place there.

In August 1956, the elite 10th Special Forces Group, based in Bad Tolz, Germany, stationed the secretive 7781 Army Unit (also known as the 39th Special Forces Operational Detachment) in West Berlin. It consisted of six modified detachments that became part of the Headquarters Company of the 6th Infantry Regiment. Each team had six members.

Two years later, the unit was renamed Detachment A and assigned to the Headquarters Company of the U.S. Army Garrison, Berlin. Then in April 1962, it was attached to the Berlin Brigade. Its area of operations was primarily that city, but it could undertake missions elsewhere in Europe.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Top secret spy photos taken by Det-A in the early ’60s showing detail of the Berlin Wall. (Photo: Bob Charest)

“Detachment A was literally in the eye of the Cold War hurricane,” said Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. As an unconventional and classified outfit of 90 men (a normal tour of duty was three years), Detachment A carried out clandestine operations.

Originally operating in small cells, by the late 1960s it expanded to 12-man “A” teams. Unit members were as unique as the U.S. Army ever recruited. Many were German or East European refugees who still had families trapped behind the Iron Curtain. In the early years, a significant number were WWII vets, too. Hence they brought much-needed skills along with knowledge of other nations and languages to the unit.

Training and tools of the trade

Physical training was wide-ranging and progressively intense. For instance, winter warfare training in Bavaria consisted of downhill and cross-country skiing equivalent to extreme skiing. Specialized demolition training was required for various targets in Berlin. Some teammates attended the CIA’s specialized demo course at Harvey Point, N.C. Scuba diving was another required skill.

Every month, members made parachute jumps staging out of Tempelhof Air Base in Berlin. Detachment A participated in NATO escape and evasion exercises. Exercises exclusive to Berlin included dead drops, live drops, primary meetings, surveillance and communications. Team members trained with the elite West German Federal Border Guard and Border Protection Group 9, British Special Air Service and special police units.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
The Det A boys ready to go all cloak and dagger circa ’72. (Photo: Bob Charest)

 

But they also taught an urban course to other 10th SFG personnel, as well as SEAL Team 2 based on Crete. As masters of spy craft, team members carried items reminiscent of a James Bond movie.

Coal filled with C-4 explosives was used to potentially sabotage the rail ring surrounding Berlin. Oneshot cigarette-lighter guns, vials filled with metal shavings for destruction of turbines and noise-suppressed weapons for eliminating targets were all part of the arsenal. The German Walther MPK 9mm SMG that fit in a briefcase was the weapon of choice.

All scuba gear was German-made, including the one-man portable decompression chamber. Every member spoke fluent German and dressed mostly in authentic German civilian clothes. They sometimes carried non-American flash documentation and identification. Dual passports, or dual nationalities, were part of the deception.

Adversaries in this potentially deadly game of cat and mouse included the notorious East German Secret Police (Stasi), Soviet KGB (Committee for State Security) and even Spetsnaz (Russian Special Purpose Forces). Being vigilant of Soviet surveillance was a given. The KGB had members under constant watch and possessed dossiers on everyone in Detachment A. Yet the Green Berets always deceived their adversaries into believing they were an exponentially larger force than they really were.

Mission

During the mid-1970s, the unit’s mission began to evolve. Though the classic Cold War enemy always remained, a new one reared its ugly head in the form of terrorism. The lethal Red Army Faction —a rabid Marxist group targeting the U.S. military starting in 1972—came into play, killing six GIs in all. That meant being prepared to take on terrorists with snipers and SWAT tactics.

“They were very brave men and took on some tough missions,” recalled Sidney Shachnow, who led Detachment A from 1970 to 1974. Still, the Soviet threat hovered over the divided city. In 1978, the unit was tasked by the CIA with digging up several mission sites positioned throughout Berlin for stay-behind operations. Also, to maintain the equipment in them— weapons and demolitions, for example.

In April of 1980 Detachment ‘A’ participated in “Operation Eagle Claw,” the attempt to end the Iran hostage crisis by rescuing 52 diplomats held captive at the United States Embassy and the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran, Iran. Det-A’s portion of the mission was code-named “Storm Cloud.”

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Patch for Operation Storm Cloud. (Courtesy: Bob Charest)

Detachment ‘A’ was responsible for the pre-mission reconnaissance of the targets by successfully infiltrating a team into Tehran on several occasions and contributed an element to rescue three hostages held in the MFA.

When the first mission was aborted because of a crash involving a C-130 and a CH-53 in the middle of the Iranian desert, a second attempt was planned for later that year. That was cancelled when negotiations proved successful.

Four years later the mission of this unique outfit was deemed unnecessary even though the Cold War was far from over. At the end of 1984, Detachment A was disbanded.

“I knew when I closed the door,” said Eugene Piasecki, the detachment’s last commander, “I would no longer serve in a unit like that.”

Bob Charest, a retired Army master sergeant, served with Detachment A from 1969 to 1972 and 1973 to 1978.

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17 photos that show how great-grandpa got ready for WWI

Basic training sucks, but it follows a predictable pattern. A bunch of kids show up, someone shaves their heads, and they learn to shoot rifles.


But it turns out that training can be so, so much better than that. In World War I, it included mascots, tarantulas, and snowmen.

Check out these 18 photos to learn about what it was like to prepare for war 100 years ago:

1. If the old photos in the National Archives are any indication, almost no one made it to a training camp without a train ride.

 

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
New York recruits heading to training write messages on the sides of their train. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

2. Inprocessing and uniform issue would look about the same as in the modern military. Everyone learns to wear the uniform properly and how to shave well enough to satisfy the cadre.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

3. Training camps were often tent cities or rushed construction, so pests and sanitation problems were constant.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
A U.S. Marine at Marine Corps Training Activity San Juan, Cuba, shows off the tarantula he found. Tarantulas commonly crawled into the Marines’ boots at night. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

 

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Looking for more patriotic content, from sea to shining sea—and beyond? Military service members and veterans can get a FREE FOX Nation subscription until for a year! Sign up for your free subscription here!

4. Unsurprisingly, training camps included a lot of trench warfare. America was a late entrant to the war and knew the kind of combat it would face.

 

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Soldiers make their way through training trenches in Camp Fuston at Fort Riley, Kansas. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

5. Somehow, even training units had mascots in the Great War. This small monkey was commonly fed from a bottle.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
A World War I soldier plays with the unit mascot at Camp Wadsworth near Spartansburg, South Carolina. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

6. Seriously. Unit mascots were everywhere. One training company even boasted three mascots including a bear and a monkey.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
A World War I soldier lets the regimental mascot climb on him. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

7. Troops in camp built a snowman of the German kaiser in New York.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Troops at Camp Upton on Long Island, New York, pose with their snowman of the kaiser. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

8. A lot of things were named for the enemy in the camps, including these bayonet targets.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

9. This grave is for another dummy named kaiser. He was interred after the unit dug trenches in training.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Soldiers in a training camp at Plattsburg, New York, show off the grave they created for a dummy of the German kaiser during training on trench construction. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

10. World War I saw a deluge of new technologies that affected warfare. These shavers were preparing for a class in aerial photography.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Soldiers training at the U.S. Army School of Aerial Photography in New York shave before their class. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

11. Uniform maintenance was often up to the individual soldier, so learning to mend shirts was as important as learning to shoot photos from planes.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Soldiers from the 56th Infantry Regiment mend their own clothes at Camp McArthur near Waco, Texas. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

12. Local organizations showed their support for the troops through donations and morale events.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Soldiers training at Camp Lewis, Washington, grab apples from the Seattle Auto-Mobile Club of Seattle. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

13. Some were better than others. Free apples are fine, but free tobacco is divine.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
A thirty-car train carrying 11 million sacks of tobacco leaves Durham, North Carolina, en route to France where it will be rationed to troops. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

14. Nothing is better than payday, even if the pay is a couple of dollars.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Troops are paid at Camp Devens, Massachusetts. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

15. Someone get these men some smart phones or something. Three-person newspaper reading is not suitable entertainment for our troops.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
A father, son, and uncle share a newspaper on a visitor’s day during training camp. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

16. Once the troops were properly trained, they were shipped off to England and France. Their bags, on the other hand, were shipped home.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Soldiers finished with stateside training pose next to the large pile of luggage destined for their homes as they ship overseas. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

17. Again, trains everywhere back then. Everywhere.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Engineers ready to ship out write motivational messages on the side of their train car just before they leave the Atlanta, Georgia, area for France. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

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DARPA’s new bionic arm is now available for vets at Walter Reed — Video

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is making available to military amputees the first production versions of a groundbreaking upper-limb prosthesis, according to a DARPA press release.


This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Dr. Justin Sanchez, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Biological Technologies Office, fist-bumps with one of the first two advanced “LUKE” arms to be delivered from a new production line during a ceremony at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Dec. 22, 2016 DoD photo

Dr. Justin Sanchez, director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, delivered the first two advanced “LUKE” arms from a new production line Dec. 22 — evidence that the fast-track DARPA research effort has completed its transition into a commercial enterprise, DARPA officials said.

The ceremony took place at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

“The commercial production and availability of these remarkable arms for patients marks a major milestone in the [DARPA] Revolutionizing Prosthetics program and most importantly an opportunity for our wounded warriors to enjoy a major enhancement in their quality of life,” Sanchez said, “and we are not stopping here.”

The RP program is supporting initial production of the bionic arms and is making progress restoring upper-arm control, he added.

“Ultimately we envision these limbs providing even greater dexterity and highly refined sensory experiences by connecting them directly to users’ peripheral and central nervous systems,” Sanchez said.

As part of the production transition process, DARPA is collaborating with Walter Reed to make the bionic arms available to service members and veterans who are rehabilitating after suffering upper-limb loss, DARPA says.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
The first production versions of “LUKE” arms, a groundbreaking upper-limb prostheses, were on display during a ceremony at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Dec. 22, 2016 The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is collaborating with Walter Reed to make the bionic arms available to service members and veterans who are rehabilitating after suffering upper-limb loss. DoD photo

LUKE stands for “life under kinetic evolution” but is also a passing reference to the limb that Luke Skywalker wore in Star Wars: Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back.

The limbs are being manufactured by Mobius Bionics LLC, of Manchester, New Hampshire, a company created to market the technology developed by DEKA Integrated Solutions Corp., also of Manchester, under DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics program.

The prosthetic system allows very dexterous arm and hand movement with grip force feedback through a simple intuitive control system, DARPA says.

The modular battery-powered limb is near-natural size and weight. Its hand has six user-chosen grips and an arm that allows for simultaneous control of multiple joints using inputs that include wireless signals generated by innovative sensors worn on a user’s feet.

The technology that powers prosthetic legs has advanced steadily over the past two decades but prosthetic arms and hands are a tougher challenge, in part because of the need for greater degrees of dexterity, DARPA says.

When the LUKE arm first went into development, people who had lost upper limbs had to use a relatively primitive split-hook device that hadn’t changed much since it was introduced in 1912.

DARPA launched the Revolutionizing Prosthetics program with a goal of getting U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for an advanced electromechanical prosthetic upper limb with near-natural control that enhances independence and improves quality of life for amputees. LUKE received FDA approval less than eight years after the effort began, DARPA says.

Under a recently finalized agreement between DARPA and Walter Reed, DARPA will transfer LUKE arms from an initial production run to the medical center for prescription to patients. Mobius Bionics will train the Walter Reed staff to fit, service and support the arms.

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Trump announces plan to boost carrier force to 12

President Donald Trump visited the aircraft carrier PCU Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), and announced plans to boost the Navy’s carrier force to 12.


In a speech given during the visit, the president announced the 12-carrier goal, which would bring the force up to a level it has not been at since 2006, according to a Navy listing of ship force levels.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
President Donald J. Trump tours Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). Trump visited March 2, 2017 to meet with Sailors and shipbuilders of the Navy’s first-in-class aircraft carrier during an all-hands call inside the ship’s hangar bay. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cathrine Mae O. Campbell/Released)

“After years of endless budget cuts that have impaired our defenses, I am calling for one of the largest defense-spending increases in history,” the President said.

Currently, the force is at 10 carriers, all of which are nuclear-powered. The Gerald R. Ford is slated to commission later this year, to replace USS Enterprise (CVN 65), which was taken out of service in December 2012, being formally decommissioned last month. The new aircraft carrier has seen numerous delays due to problems with its advanced systems.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
President Donald J. Trump speaks with Sailors in the hangar bay aboard Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). Trump visited March 2 to meet with Sailors and shipbuilders of the Navy’s first-in-class aircraft carrier during an all-hands call inside the ship’s hangar bay. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 1st Class Joshua Sheppard/Released)

“In these troubled times, our Navy is the smallest it’s been since World War I.  That’s a long time ago.  In fact, I just spoke with Navy and industry leaders and have discussed my plans to undertake a major expansion of our entire Navy fleet, including having the 12-carrier Navy we need,” the President said.

“Our military requires sustained, stable funding to meet the growing needs placed on our defense. Right now, our aging frontline strike and strike-fighters — the whole aircraft; many, many aircraft — are often more likely to be downed for maintenance than they are to be up in the sky,” the President also said, noting the problems that have plagued Navy and Marine Corps aviation units.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
President Donald J. Trump salutes the rainbow sideboys before his departure of the aircraft carrier Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cathrine Mae O. Campbell/Released)

In his address to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28, 2017, President Trump called for the elimination of the sequester as it pertained to defense spending. It came on the heels of what the Washington Times reported was a proposed $54 billion increase in the defense budget.

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US forces are quickly cutting off ISIS’ only escape route in Syria

The offensive to destroy ISIS in Syria took a big step forward recently with US military advisers, helicopters, and artillery helping position a force of about 500 soldiers near a strategic damn outside of Raqqa, ISIS’s Syrian capital.


The US military, along with Kurdish forces and the multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Foces rebel group, have moved to put a stranglehold on Raqqa with shelling, air support, and ground forces at the last route in and out of the city, according to a press release.

Related: US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight

Operation Inherent Resolve, the 68-nation mission to destroy ISIS, flew in fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed rebel group, behind enemy lines to a strategic dam.

“It takes a special breed of warrior to pull of an airborne operation or air assault behind enemy lines,” Col. Joe Scrocca, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve told the Times.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Marines with the 11th MEU train in Djibouti. Leathernecks from the 11th MEU reportedly just deployed to Syria to bolster an assault on Raqqa. | US Marine Corps photo

“Seizing Tabqah Dam will isolate Raqqah from three sides and give the SDF the strategic advantage and launching point needed for the liberation of the city,” said the release. But while the US says they’re mainly backing local forces, they seem poised to take on a more active role with conventional forces fighting ISIS on the ground in Raqqa.

The Pentagon has been considering sending as many as 1,000 ground troops to help take back Raqqa from ISIS, which would signal a reversal of the Obama-era policy to fight ISIS via train and equip methods and airstrikes.

The coalition says they’ve conducted more than 300 airstrikes around Raqqa in the past month.

Raqqa, situated along the Euphrates river in the mostly barren Easter Syria has been ISIS’ main Syrian stronghold since 2014.

The US, Inherent Resolve coalition partners, and local forces have been involved in a massive air and ground campaign to rid the country of the terrorist group while simultaneously carrying out similar operations in neighboring Iraq.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
ISW

A spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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There are still no answers for the KC-130 crash that killed 16 Marines

Military investigators are trying to piece together the cause of a crash that killed 15 Marines and a sailor in Mississippi in July, but it could be a year or more until any information becomes public.


In the meantime, the Marine Corps’ fleet of KC130T transport planes remains grounded. That plane is similar to the one that crashed near Itta Bena on July 10.

April Phillips, a spokeswoman for the Naval Safety Center, said August 21 that final reports often don’t become public for 12 to 18 months following a crash. Even then, much of the information in the reports is often withheld from public view.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
KC-130 Hercules. DOD Photo by Senior Airman Tyler Woodward.

“Ours are done solely to ensure what happened doesn’t happen again,” Phillips said, saying that various military commanders must endorse the report before it’s finished.

Marines and other investigators finished collecting debris August 3, recovering all of the plane’s major components, said Marine Forces Reserve spokeswoman Lt. Stephanie L. Leguizamon. She said last week that there’s still work going on to clean up the crash area.

Naval Safety Center investigators are both reconstructing the wreckage and interviewing witnesses. Their report will ultimately include recommendations to enhance safety.

Victims included nine Marines based at Stewart Air National Guard base in Newburgh, New York, who flew and crewed the plane, plus six Marines and a Navy Corpsman from an elite Marine Raider battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The passengers were headed for pre-deployment training in Yuma, Arizona. Cargo included at least some ammunition.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Screen capture from DoD.

Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James has told reporters that whatever went wrong began when the plane was at cruising altitude. Most of the plane pancaked upside down into a field, but part of it, including the cockpit, broke off and landed far from the fuselage and wings. Debris was scattered for miles over fields, woods, and ponds.

Witnesses said they saw the plane descend from high altitude with an engine smoking, with some describing what pilots call a “flat spin,” where a plane twirls around like a boomerang.

Phillips said the plane didn’t have an in-flight data recorder. That, plus the lack of survivors, could make the debris crucial to determining what happened.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
KC-130T. Wikimedia Commons photo by Jerry Gunner.

“A lot it, in this case, is likely to come from forensic evidence,” she said.

Phillips said the C-130 and its variants have historically been one of the safest planes operated by the Marine Corps. The Navy classifies its most serious incidents as Class A mishaps, involving death, permanent disability, or more than $2 million in damage. Only two in-flight Class A mishaps were recorded before the Mississippi crash, both in 2002. A KC-130R experienced a flash fire and crashed into a mountain in Pakistan while nearing an airfield, killing seven people. A KC130F crash landed shortly after taking off inCalifornia, causing injuries but no deaths.

The New York squadron is the last Marine unit flying the KC-130T version and is scheduled to upgrade to a newer version in 2019. Only the remaining 12 KC-130Ts are affected by the grounding.

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This “right arm of the free world” killed Commies and other Cold War-era scumbags

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Don’t fight ladies. There’s plenty of firepower for everyone. (Photo: youtube)


Name a war, revolution, or revolt during the Cold War that involved the British Commonwealth, Western European nations or their allies and you’ve also named a conflict that had combatants fighting with the Fabrique Nationale FAL.

No wonder the FAL earned the nickname “the right arm of the free world” and became a symbol of the struggle against Communism.

In many ways, it was the West’s answer to the Kalashnikov, albeit one chambered to fire the heavier 7.62 x 51 mm NATO round instead of the AK-47’s 7.62 x 39 mm intermediate round.

Created in the years immediately after World War II, FN eventually produced 2 million FALs (Fusil Automatique Léger or “Light Automatic Rifle”) that were used by the militaries of more than 90 nations.

At one time, the FAL was even the official battle rifle of most NATO-member countries. It was even considered for the role as the United States’ main battle rifle.

Frankly, the FAL was everywhere.  For example, consider the Six-Day War in 1967.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

A common misconception is the 9mm Uzi was the weapon of choice for the Israeli Defense Forces. Actually, Israeli soldiers carried more FALs than Uzis when facing Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian troops.

Then, there was the 1982 Falklands War. The Argentine Army carried the full-auto version of the FAL; British troops had the semi-auto L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle model of the FAL.

When captured Argentine troops piled their weapons, British infantry and Royal Marines often walked over to the stack and retrieved the full-auto FAL so they could spray more lead at the enemy.

In Argentina, thousands of FALs underwent armory rebuilds in 2010, a sure sign that nation will continue to put the weapon in the hands of its troops.

How the FAL saw the light of day is a story that combines the tactical realities that emerged out of World War II and the politics of who would lead who during the Cold War.

The success of the innovative Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle convinced ordnance officers and weapons designers that era of the bolt-action battle rifle was dead and gone. Lighter cartridges in select-fire assault rifles captured the imagination of weapons designers.

Only the United States fielded a heavy caliber semi-auto battle rifle, the well-regarded M1 Garand .30-06 weapon that Gen. George S. Patton called “the greatest battle implement ever devised.”  But the future was one that fired full auto – and the Garand did not.

Caliber was also an issue. As weapons designers on both sides of the Atlantic toyed with prototype battle rifles the British tested a 7 mm (.280-caliber) round in the new FAL and liked it.

In the United States, the Army wanted to stick with the .30-caliber round, flatly stating that no other cartridge could hold its own on the battlefield.

With the formation of the new NATO alliance in 1949, generals and civilian planners both talked of the necessity to standardize equipment, weapons and supplies.

“The laudable aim was one that had been much in the minds of many forward-looking military thinkers for a long time,” writes David Westwood, author of Rifles: An Illustrated History of their Impact. “For experience had shown that the United States and Britain often fought side by side, and commonality would be to the benefit of all including soldiers in the field.”

One thing was certain: the British were impressed with the FAL and were willing to choose it over other weapons.

It was deemed the superior firearm to competitors because it was easy to maintain, field strip, and clean. It reassembled without special tools and it was a select-fire weapon – but it fired the lighter round.

The “gravel belly” U.S. generals would accept nothing but a .30-caliber weapon, insisting on the superiority of a prototype called the T25, a forerunner of the M14 that was nothing more than a glorified Garand.

Soon, there was a “Battle of the Bullets” that went as high as the White House and 10 Downing Street. Pres. Harry Truman and Prime Minister Winston Churchill even held a mini-summit, where rumor has it they struck a quid pro quo – the U.S. would adopt the FAL as its main battle rifle if Britain backed NATO adopting the 7.62 x 51 mm round.

NATO relented and adopted the round. However, the U.S. reneged, developed the M14, which fired the NATO 7.62 mm cartridge, and adopted it as the American military’s main rifle.

In the end, it didn’t matter to FN because NATO countries (including Britain) began snapping up the FAL chambered for the NATO round.

Many consider that combination of weapon and cartridge the quintessential pairing of battle-rifle and bullet during the 20th Century – the FAL went into production in 1953 and FN continued to produce the rifle until 1988. The M-14 fell by the wayside as the main U.S. battle rifle within a few years, replaced by the M-16.

“Regardless of the political activity that went on before its adoption, the 7.62 x 51 mm NATO turned out to be an excellent, powerful military cartridge,” writes Robert Cashner, author of The FN FAL Battle Rifle. “With millions of FALs manufactured and internationally distributed, the rifle played a large part in making the 7.62 x 51mm NATO the success that it was.”

Vietnam is one often overlooked place where the FAL also proved a success. The weapon arrived there in the hands of Australian troops who fought as allies of the United States under the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO).

More than 60,000 Aussies would serve in the Vietnam War from 1962 to 1972, including the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. More commonly known as 1RAR, soldiers in the regiment fought in many significant battles during the war’s escalation in the mid-1960s.

During those the engagements, they often faced well-equipped Viet Cong who carried new AK-47s supplied by the Communist Chinese and East Bloc nations.

Despite its weight and size (the FAL is one of the longest battle rifles of the 20th Century), 1RAR’s troops considered their weapon suited for jungle warfare.

The powerful NATO round would punch through thick foliage, killing their concealed VC opponents. It was also a far more reliable weapon than the early version of the M-16 issued to U.S. forces – the FAL rarely jammed or misfired, two problems that plagued the M-16 for years.

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These photos of airmen playing a life-size “Hungry Hungry Hippos” game will surely deter our enemies

On May 12, airmen at Travis Air Force Base, like the rest of the USAF, participated in a series of “Wingman Day” exercises. Wingman Day is a long-running annual event where the Air Force attempts to remind airmen that the Air Force cares about its people. It’s also a day to remind airmen to take care of each other. The day is usually filled with team building events, training, and exercises designed to improve the mental, spiritual, social, and physical well-being of those in the U.S. Air Force. One such exercise at Travis this year was a full-scale version of the popular children’s game Hungry Hungry Hippos.


The photo caption indicates this game is designed to train airmen to help fellow airmen in distress, using the PRESS (Prepare, Recognize, Engage, Send, and Sustain) model. While we aren’t entirely sure how this game helps impress that model on airmen, we’re willing to give the planners of Travis’ Wingman Day the benefit of the doubt. We’re not experts.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Heide Couch/Released)

Before everyone goes nuts with making fun of the Air Force, we at Team Mighty recognize that this game was probably not the airmen’s idea. And who is going to say “no” to the question of  “Who wants to play a life-size game of Hungry Hungry Hippos?”

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Heide Couch/Released)

Also, this is not the first government agency to play a life-size game. The Department of Veterans Affairs (infamously) did it first. The game they played? Hungry Hungry Hippos.

Admit it: The Air Force did it better. Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with goofy fun office games, even at work, even in the military. This isn’t even the most humiliating thing Air Force Public Affairs allowed to go on the internet. Remember that time Team Charleston posted photos of Joint Base Charleston airmen making things out of construction paper on Facebook, then immediately had to take it down because of the public backlash? They sure hope you don’t.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Heide Couch/Released)

Have fun, Air Force, just don’t post it on DVIDS. Saying it’s supposed to help airmen recognize others in distress may fly to get the commander’s approval but the media isn’t going to understand, especially when no one else is posting these things. Context is important – and all we see is airmen wearing helmets and carrying laundry baskets to catch plastic balls.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Heide Couch/Released)

 

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Heide Couch/Released)

 

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Heide Couch/Released)

In all honesty, who isn’t wondering if they have the required space and/or equipment to do this at work?

If you have any video of these games, email it to info@wearethemighty.com.

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 of the best tank scenes, ranked

Hollywood filmmakers go to extreme lengths to produce bouts of nail-biting hand-to-hand combat and on-screen firefights. These sequences are exceptionally thrilling and, with the right choreography and camera movements, can be lifelike and intense.

Now, add in a monstrous armored vehicle, like a tank or two, and you’ve officially kicked your movie up a notch. Sure, some films do a great job of showing a tank destroying everything in its path, but few are able to tell a story in a way that makes the well-protected vehicle into its own unique character.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yy-MKdRwhHs

www.youtube.com

When James Bond takes the controls in ‘GoldenEye’

In 1995, James Bond teamed up with a survivor of a destroyed Russian research center to stop a former agent from taking over a nuclear space station. To rescue one of the notable Bond girls (this time, Natalya Simonova), 007 tactically acquires a Russian tank.

Next, our favorite British spy makes smashing a Russian tank through a brick wall and steering it down the streets of St. Petersburg look easy. If you can suspend your disbelief a little, this is an awesome scene.

www.youtube.com

Speedster cars versus a beast of a tank in ‘Fast & Furious 6’

The Fast and the Furious franchise isn’t known for its military authenticity. That being said, moviegoers expect over-the-top action and director Justin Lin provided: this time, in the form of a cool tank scene that literally popped out of nowhere. Suddenly, the film’s heroes must improvise a way to take down a well-armed tank using their clever wit and outstanding driving skills.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9bymLD8yvQ

www.youtube.com

Sticky bombs against a couple of tanks ‘Saving Private Ryan’

There’s probably nothing scarier than being out-manned, under-supplied, and having to fight a tremendous force of German soldiers headed your way. But, in 1998, a squad of Army Rangers took on that near-impossible task head-on in Saving Private Ryan.

During the film’s memorable final battle, the young squad had to defeat not one, but four tanks before they broke through their defenses using what they called “sticky bombs.” It’s an incredible scene.

www.youtube.com

Indy takes on a Nazi tank while on horseback in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’

If any Hollywood director appreciates a solid tank battle, it’s the legendary Steven Spielberg (it’s no coincidence that he’s made this list twice). In this scene, Hollywood’s most exciting archaeologist must battle a group of Nazis riding in tanks while on horseback.

We know, those odds aren’t exactly fair, but Indiana Jones (somehow) pulls through and wins this epic duel, rescuing his father in the process.

www.youtube.com

The parachuting tank in the ‘A-Team’

While trying to clear their names, four brave Soldiers, better known as The A-Team, take over a massive cargo plane that happens to have a fully loaded tank in the back. Now, before the plane gets blown up, the crew deploys the tank and attempts to direct it toward a safe landings via a few parachutes .

This original idea makes for a great cinematic experience for the audience, and it’s for that reason (not military authenticity) that it successfully touched down on our list.

www.youtube.com

The tanks battles in ‘Fury’

If you set out to make a modern day film dedicated to the brave tankers of World War II, you’ll need to include some epic battle scenes to truly do the story justice. In 2014, director David Ayer did exactly that in Fury.

If you want a taste of the intensity, check out the scene below.

Featured

The first Native American woman to die in combat was also the first female military death of the Iraq War

American women risk their lives for their country every day. In fact, women have served alongside men in combat long before they were legally “allowed.” That being said, women didn’t have the option of joining the military in fields outside of nursing until after the Vietnam War. With such a history, it’s important to tell the stories of the women who served and lost their lives while defending our country.


This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Pfc. Lori Piestewa waiting for deployment at Fort Bliss, Tex., on Feb. 16, 2003. (U.S. Army photo)

Honoring our fallen warriors is a longstanding, sacred traditional in our military. It’s part of our DNA to recognize the sacrifice of those that die in combat.

Let’s take a moment to remember Pvt. Lori Ann Piestewa, who was not only the first woman in the U.S. military to lose her life in the Iraq War, she was also the first Native American woman to die in combat with the United States Armed Forces. Piestewa was a Native American of Hopi descent with Mexican-American heritage.

Her native name was White Bear Girl.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Piestewa is the first American Indian woman to die in combat on foreign soil. (U.S. Army photo)

Hailing from her hometown of Tuba City, Ariz., Piestewa was from a military family. She was the daughter of a Vietnam veteran and the granddaughter of a World War II veteran. Her own interest in the military began in high school, where she participated in a junior ROTC program. Piestewa enlisted in the Army and was attached to the 507th Maintenance Company in Fort Bliss, Texas and deployed to Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Her company, the 507th, was infamously ambushed near Nasiriyah, Iraq, on March 23, 2003.

Piestewa was driving the lead vehicle in a convoy when one of their vehicles broke down. They stopped to make a repair, then continued north to catch up to the rest of the convoy. Along the way, they made a wrong turn and were ambushed by Iraqi troops.

The missing numbered 15 total.

A few days later, Pfc. Jessica Lynch was rescued from an Iraqi hospital. Nine members of the 507th were killed in action, including Piestewa. A rocket-propelled grenade hit the Humvee she was driving.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Piestewa with her best friend, Pfc. Jessica Lynch. Lynch was also in the convoy ambushed by Iraqi forces in March 2003. (Piestewa Family photo)

Piestewa left behind a son, a daughter, and a mother and father, Terry and Percy Piestewa, who toured the country attending memorial services held in her honor.

She was posthumously promoted to Pfc. Lori Ann Piestewa and Arizona’s offensively-named “Squaw Peak” was renamed Piestewa Peak. It was “given the name of hero,” as her tribe described it.

Lori Piestewa will live forever in our memory and in the memory of her fellow soldiers as the Hopi woman warrior that gave her life for her country: White Bear Girl.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

#WWIII, #NoWarWithIran, and other trending Twitter hashtags from the past week reveal the anxiety people across the globe are feeling amid near-boiling-point tensions between the US and Iran.

The US is sending 3,500 Army paratroopers to the Middle East, reports Tuesday revealed, adding more uncertainty — especially for military families.

To add to that distress, those being deployed have been told to leave their cellphones at home.


Eighteen-year old Melissa Morales is one of those family members caught off guard. Her twin sister, Cristina, is scheduled to leave Wednesday, she said in an interview with CNN.

“As her twin sister, it kind of hurts. It stings,” she told the outlet.

Research shows deployment can have a very real psychological impact on family members, particularly military spouses and children.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Sean Mathis)

Among a range of feelings, studies have shown that families of deployed military personnel experience a range of challenging emotions.

Learning of a spouse’s deployment can mean “emotional chaos.”

A qualitative study of 11 women married to deployed Army Reserve military members had a heart-wrenching finding.

Nearly all of the women described the moment they learned their husband would have to deploy fell into a category researchers call “emotional chaos,” or experiencing a range of emotions — like stress, disbelief, and sadness — all at once.

Partners of those deployed report higher levels of anxiety and stress.

One study of 130 US military spouses (68 spouses of non-deployed servicemen and 62 spouses of servicemen deployed to a combat zone) took a close look at stress.

Spouses of deployed servicemen had markedly higher stress scores than spouses of non-deployed service members, the study found. Additionally, anxiety levels were “significantly higher in spouses of deployed versus non deployed servicemen,” the researchers found.

Spouses are at an increased risk for substance abuse.

UK-based King’s Centre for Military Health Research collected data from 405 women in military families with at least one child.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

Shared routines, rituals and set rules help keep members feeling stable and grounded.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Snider)

These women reported higher rates of binge drinking than women in the general population, 9.7% compared to 8.9%, respectively. They also reported higher rates of depression, 7% compared to 3%.

For parents, there’s often no room for self-care.

When spouses deploy, many partners are left to take care of their families by themselves.

One 2018 study found that spouses report not having enough time to take care of themselves. As one participant said, when it comes to taking care of themselves, “Everything else comes first.” Time to go to the gym and money to buy healthy food is nonexistent, they said.

Children are at a higher risk for depression and other psychosocial issues.

Kids with a deployed parent show higher incidents of lashing out, sadness, worry, and depression, a meta analysis of several studies shows.

Toddlers of deployed parents can experience confusion and separation anxiety.

The American Academy of Pediatrics writes on its blog that toddlers “may not understand why mom or dad isn’t there for bedtime” and that school-aged children “may worry mom or dad will be hurt.”

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brad Mincey

A 2014 research analysis supports this finding, with author Dr. Suzannah Creech, a research psychologist with Veterans Affairs and a professor at Brown University writing, “For children, deployment-separation can bring a sense of fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and absence.”

Trouble sleeping and poor academic performance can weigh on kids.

A 2009 study that looked at children ages 5-12 with a deployed parent found that 56% had trouble sleeping and 14% had school-related issues.

Social support and therapy are proven to help spouses and children.

While these findings paint a grim picture, there is help out there for military families.

Studies show that factors such as increased social support and cognitive behavioral therapy, where people learn to challenge their patterns of thought, can greatly help families during and after a loved one’s deployment.

Within military families individually, maintaining shared routines, rituals and set rules help keep members feeling stable and grounded. And regular family meetings before, during, and after deployment can be helpful, researchers report.

Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is struggling, please call the US National Suicide Prevention Helpline anytime at 1-800-273-8255.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

This famous author started his career drawing timeless cartoons as a drafted US troop

A note from a 1955 Ballantine Book remarked about how one author – a former serviceman – arrived in their New York offices with his Stars and Stripes drawings and a story of a “brilliant military career, where he rose through the ranks to become a PFC.”


That newly-minted civilian was Shel Silverstein. And he did rise through the ranks to become one of the most celebrated American writers.

A quick perusal of the books on his website will show a body of work that uses all his many talents.

For decades, Silverstein entertained and delighted children with poetry like “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and stories like “Giraffe and a Half.” His children’s book “The Giving Tree” is widely considered one of the best, though to some divisive, of its genre.

But there is at least one book missing from that list.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

It was during his time in the military that Silverstein began to draw cartoons, at times finding himself at odds with military censors. He later wrote enough cartoons to make a compendium of his best works.

“Drop Your Socks” was published in 1955 to the delight and entertainment of the new peacetime Army and the old war veterans alike.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

The young artist was attending the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts when he was drafted into the Army in 1953. According to his biography in “Stars and Stripes,” the Army “without realizing its error, assigned him to the Pacific Stars and Stripes, read by thousands of Army men in Japan and Korea.”

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

But Shel Silverstein didn’t join the Army of WWII or Korea. It was a new Army, one not at war, but supposedly at the ready to fight for peace. Silverstein never knew the Army that “fought the wars with live ammo and read V-mail and liberated towns and kissed French girls and caught bouquets and wore baggy pants and a six-day growth of beard.”

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

Shel Silverstein’s Army was made up of “ordinary guys” who “dragged through two years [the amount of time a peacetime draftee normally spent in the service] cleaning grease traps, bugging out of details, and forgetting their general orders.”

As he wrote in the book’s introduction, “there’s no war now, no casualties, no rationing, and no immediate danger … people’s attitudes are bound to change.”

Sound familiar?

But legendary military cartoonist Bill Mauldin, in writing the book’s introduction said, “the thing about real military humor is that when a soldier says something funny, he is mainly trying to ventilate his innards … he expresses himself in a wisecrack because if he said it straight, he’d simply bust down.”

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

“Motives and methods of warfare change from generation to generation,” Mauldin continues. “But soldiering stays pretty much the same messy proposition. … I suspect Shel Silverstein would have amused the cootie-pickingest Roman centurion.”

 

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Disney unveiled a free ‘bedtime hotline’ and it’s pure magic

There’s something special about the magic of Disney. With Disney’s continued support of our service members and military families with the Armed Forces Salute deep discount and the special military accommodations, we love supporting them.

Now, you can bring that magic to bedtime. Whether it’s for you, your little one, a grandchild or just that Disney lover in your life, calling for a bedtime message is easy, fun, and best of all, it’s free.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

The author’s daughter sound asleep at Disney. Photo/Tessa Robinson

For a limited time (until April 30), ShopDisney.com is offering bedtime messages from some of our favorite Disney characters. Callers can choose a special goodnight greeting from Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy or Goofy. The messages are so endearing, tucking your little one in for the night and telling them to have sweet dreams.

Simply dial: 1(877) 764-2539 and after a quick message you’ll be able to select which character you’d like to hear from. Disney also offer free printable sleep activity cards and sleep progress cards to help your child see bedtime as special, not scary.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

Even though spring break trips are canceled and the legendary theme parks have shut down all over the world in response to COVID-19, we all could use a little Disney magic.

When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come to you
If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star as dreamers do.

Sweet dreams from Disney!

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