In order to combat versatile enemies who are not only able to acquire US weapons and vehicles but emulate tactics as well, the US military needs to take advantage of the latest advances from the defense industry.
But just as the military and its branches all have unique missions, the individual units within the military are also issued equipment geared towards fulfilling their respective jobs.
One such unit from the special forces community may very well be receiving the latest offering from SkyRunner, a company that specializes in utility vehicles and light sport aviation.
This all-terrain vehicle has the ability to take off from indigenous runways and transform into a light-sports aircraft using a parafoil wing. Reaching ground speeds of up to 70 mph and flight speeds of 40 mph, the SkyRunner can transport 2 occupants 240 miles, or 120 nautical miles, at an altitude of 10,000 feet.
The latest model of SkyRunner, equipped with a carbon-fiber body, will cost about $139,000.
After receiving FAA approval in June, a SkyRunner representative explained in an interview with Business Insider that they received interest and a verbal commitment from the US special forces community.
“The shocks [are what] won this particular group over,” said SkyRunner consultant Mike Mitchell. “Going off of a loading dock 4-5 feet tall … with such a soft landing was a big plus in their eyes.”
Rather than being offensively oriented, Mitchell explained that a military-grade SkyRunner would be primarily used for surveillance or recovery missions.
SkyRunner could not comment on what the commitment specifically entailed, or which branch of the military expressed interest in their vehicle.
Army mariners are a rare breed — soldiers who spend most of their time out on the water, sometimes even transiting open oceans like sailors or something.
While the Army’s boat program is relatively unknown outside of the service, it fills a crucial role in military logistics, allowing commanders to ferry supplies along coastlines and up and down rivers — even when there is little or no Navy support. Here are 14 photos that give a glimpse into the life of Army watercraft operators:
1. Mariners have to train for special emergencies that the rest of the Army rarely thinks about, like man overboard or a capsized vessel.
2. Watercraft operators and other mariners can be assigned to a number of different ships, but logistics vessels like these Landing Craft Utility 2000s are the most common.
3. The LCU 2000s, Logistics Support Vessels, and other craft are designed to deploy heavy Army equipment to unimproved beaches.
4. Different vessel types have different lift capabilities, and the largest can carry over a dozen M1 tanks per lift.
5. While the boats are made to operate in as little water as possible — 12 feet for the LSV and as little as five feet for the Landing Craft, Mechanized 8 — most of them are capable of crossing open ocean when necessary.
6. The boys in blue may look like Coast Guardsmen, but they’re actually the soldiers who crew these small vessels.
7. Watercraft engineers maintain the boats. Because there are no specialty fields for watercraft engineers, they have to learn the ins and outs of each vessel type.
8. Watercraft operators pilot the ships and work the decks. Other soldiers, like medics and cooks, are also assigned to Army vessel crews.
9. Most of the boats have ramps that allow vehicles to be driven on and off.
10. But cranes are often used to move pallets and machines onto and off of the vessels.
11. Everything from Humvees to tankers to armored vehicles can be loaded this way.
12. In addition to the sealift vessels, the Army maintains a small fleet of tugboats and engineering vessels like dredges and cranes.
13. The Army’s watercraft are deployed all around the globe, supporting operations from the American coast to the Middle East and Asia.
14. Just remember, the crews are soldiers and mariners, not sailors or Marines.
As Russia focuses on militarizing its Arctic region, the Kremlin is trying to develop military technology needed to operate in one of the world’s harshest environments. Russian military planners are now setting their sights on the development of Arctic rescue robots.
Admiral Victor Chirkov, the head of the Russian Navy, has called for the development and construction of “Arctic underwater search and rescue robots,” Newsweek reports citing Itar-Tass, a state-owned Russian media organization. The robots would be designed to withstand difficult Arctic conditions and cold temperatures.
“We have formulated our requirements and set the task for manufacturers to create both manned and unmanned underwater vehicles, which can be used to provide search and rescue support with proper effectiveness in the harsh conditions of the Arctic seas,” Chirkov said.
Chirkov’s urging for robot development coincides with Russia’s Arctic militarization push and the Kremlin’s efforts to develop autonomous robotic technology. In January, Russia premiered a prototype for a robotic biker, proof that Russia was interested in developing humanoid robots with possible military applications.
Russia’s new military doctrine designates the Arctic as one of three geopolitical areas that could serve as strategic beachheads. To achieve this goal, Moscow has increasingly deployed advanced weaponry along its northern coast, created a unified military command for the region, and planned a construction blitz through the region that would include a series of ports, airfields, and military bases.
Moscow has also announced that it plans on sending a drone fleet to the eastern reaches of the Arctic region.
Russia’s focus on the Arctic stems from unclaimed natural resources under the ice. The US estimates that a possible 15% of the earth’s remaining oil, 30% of its natural gas, and 20% of its liquefied natural gas are stored within the Arctic sea bed.
Currently, Russia, Denmark, Norway, Canada, and the US all have partial claims to the Arctic Circle.
The Marine Corps was paying $60,000 more than it was supposed to for a type of radio cable since 2007, according to Stars and Stripes.
The cable was discovered to be overpriced in October 2016, when Marine Cpl. Riki Clement had to fix a radio. After being told that the needed parts would take six to eight months to arrive, he decided to reverse engineer a replacement using old parts and found out its true cost was actually closer to $4,000.
Later that month, the Marine Corps said the corporal had saved the government $15 million.
The defense contractor that makes the cable, Astronics, had been charging $64,000 for each cable. Astronics did not immediately respond to request for comment.
“There may be a good reason for the price, but based on us taking apart the cable and researching the individual parts, we’ve found no reason for this part to cost as much as it does,” Clement told Stars and Stripes in December 2016.
The overpriced cable was one of six in the same parts catalog, Barb Hamby of Marine Corps Systems Command told Stripes.
“The catalogued mistakes were made nearly seven years ago,” Tony Reinhardt, the command’s team lead for automatic test systems, told Stripes. “We went through every [item] in the kit to confirm the prices and fix the errors.”
Reinhardt said the cable costs $4,000 because of the material that goes into it, as well as the process of designing, developing and manufacturing it. He added that there’s no record of the Marine Corps ever purchasing individual replacement cables. The originals were part of kits, and Marines had been using parts from other kits for repairs.
The cost of each kit was $21,466, Capt. Frank Allan, a project officer at Marine Corps Logistics Command, told Stripes.
In December 2016, it was discovered that the Pentagon had buried a study from late 2015 exposing $125 billion in administrative waste. President Donald Trump has also attacked defense contractors for overpriced weapons, despite recently calling for a $54 billion boost in defense spending.
When it comes to sheer hardship under appalling combat conditions, it is hard to match what the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional), better known as Merrill’s Marauders, endured in the China-India-Burma campaign.
When the Japanese had overrun and taken Burma from its colonial master Great Britain in 1942, it had cut the only real overland route for military supplies heading to Chinese forces fighting the Japanese in mainland China. The famed Allied air transport route “over the hump” of the Himalayas was no substitute for a reliable road considering the amount of supplies needed.
U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided at a conference in August 1943 to form special American units for infiltrating Burma, modeled after the British Army Chindits, a long-range penetration unit that had already operated in Burma under Brigadier Ord Wingate. The plan was to disrupt Japanese communications and supply lines and capturing key points, the reopening of the Burma Road could be accelerated.
An Army-wide call for those interested in volunteering was put out under presidential authority, drawing about 3,000 recruits from stateside units. Many were specifically drawn from soldiers who already had experience in jungle fighting from earlier in the war. After assembly in India, they received months of intensive training in jungle warfare under the instruction of Wingate, including extended exercises with the Chindits. The 5307th was placed under the command of Brig. General Frank Merrill, the source of the name ‘Merrill’s Marauders’ eventually given to the unit by the press.
Conceived as a mobile raiding force, the Marauders were lightly equipped by conventional infantry standards, with no heavy weapons beyond light mortars, bazookas, and machine guns. Dense jungle and mountains made ground vehicles impossible, so supplies were to be carried by the soldiers themselves and hundreds of mules and horses. Resupply was limited to airdrops and whatever the unit could forage off the countryside in trade with indigenous locals.
Embarking on Feb. 24, 1944, the Marauders mission began with 2,750 men marching over a thousand miles through the Patkai region of the Himalayas, in order to get behind Japanese lines in Burma. Operating with indigenous Kachin scouts and Chinese forces, they began a series of raids against Japanese patrols, supply lines, and garrisons. Their ultimate goal was to capture the strategic Burmese town of Myitkynia, which had an important airfield and was along the route for an alternate road to China.
The Marauders were almost always outnumbered and outgunned by the Japanese 18th Division, which formed their primary opposition. Lacking artillery and out of range of any serious air support, they had to rely on surprise, training, and mobility to outfight the Japanese regulars, and they often found themselves on the defense because they were ill-equipped for fighting against larger forces.
But their greatest enemy, which inflicted more damage than even superior Japanese forces could, was the jungle. Malaria, amoebic dysentery, and typhus took an awful toll, inflicting more casualties than Japanese fire did. Soldiers shaking from fever and tormented by diarrhea had to force themselves through dense jungle and intense close quarters combat. Torrential rains, stinging insects, and snakes only added to their misery.
The issued K-rations were relatively light and compact, but at 2,900 calories per day were wholly inadequate for heavily loaded men marching, sweating, and fighting in the jungle. Even for men facing hunger, many components of the rations were so widely detested that they were often thrown away, and failed air drops only made the situation worse. Malnourishment and its accompanying weakness and exhaustion made the troops more vulnerable to already endemic diseases, and many of them were reduced to little more than walking skeletons.
Despite the enormous challenges, the Marauders managed to inflict far greater casualties on the Japanese then they suffered, and used their mobility and seeming ability to strike anywhere to throw Japanese forces into confusion. After dozens of skirmishes and several major actions, the 5307th managed to take the airfield at Myitkynia in August 1944 alongside elements of the Chinese Army, and the town itself after reinforcements arrived.
So decimated were the Marauders by disease and combat that only 200 men of the original task force were still present at the end of the campaign. Frank Merrill, who suffered a heart attack before being stricken with malaria by the end of the mission. Every last member was evacuated to hospitals to recuperate from months of hunger, disease, and exhaustion.
The 5307th was disbanded shortly thereafter, and in a very rare distinction every single member of the commando force received the Bronze Star for staying and fighting. They fought five major actions and dozens of smaller ones while marching over 750 miles through enemy territory, all the while fighting a different but even more deadly battle against hunger and disease. The unit was eventually redesignated as the 75th Infantry Regiment, from which today’s 75th Ranger Regiment descended.
The short answer: a lot of people would die. Like, a lot.
There are 10 million people in Seoul alone, and an estimated 40 million more in the surrounding areas, which would all be vulnerable to North Korean artillery.
Now, the only likely way any of this would happen is if the North Korea threat went from credible to imminent and required immediate action by the United States, South Korea, and other allies to avert a nuclear attack or invasion.
It’s unlikely that China would defend North Korea in this case. With China’s interconnectedness, they would not be able to repeat their efforts from 1950 — the world community would simply not stand for it, and the sanctions would cripple any hopes of continued growth.
With an imminent threat from North Korea, the United States’ options would be limited. However, the first hours will be crucial. America must neutralize the threat from North Korea’s nuclear weapons.
The most viable option is going to involve large numbers of aircraft and missiles aggressively striking targets within North Korea. With little on-the-ground intel to target the missiles, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps aircraft are going to have to fly into harm’s way to suppress and destroy enemy air defenses and launch sites.
Should North Korea get off a shot towards South Korea, American Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense will be expected to shoot it down.
In coordination with the air strikes, Navy SEALs and operators from the 1st Special Forces Group will conduct clandestine insertions to further secure the sites and ensure their destruction.
South Korean Special Forces will seek to decapitate the regime while also securing nuclear weapons.
These actions will likely trigger a reaction from North Korea to send its army across the DMZ into South Korea.
North Korea’s artillery contingent, one of the largest in the world, will unleash a barrage reminiscent of World War I on any targets within range.
Leading the charge right behind the artillery barrage will be thousands of North Korean tanks and armored vehicles. While antiquated, their sheer numbers will pose a problem for American and South Korean gunners.
The defense of South Korea will largely fall on the ROK Army. Although the United States maintains a large military presence in South Korea offensive ground forces consist of only a single rotating armored brigade combat team.
Therefore, simultaneously with the launching of the air strikes, units around the Army and Marine Corps are going to receive notifications for deployment.
In 18 hours or less, the 2nd Ranger Battalion will be wheels up from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, followed closely by the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division from Alaska.
Alerted simultaneously, the 82nd Airborne Division will push out its Global Response Force brigade.
Meanwhile, every brigade on the west coast and across the Pacific will be alerted for action. Air Force transports from across the country will be diverted west to begin preparations for movement. Air Force fighters will converge on Japan and Korea to bolster the units already there.
Any Marine Expeditionary Units operating in the Pacific will immediately set a course for the Korean peninsula to bring Marine aviation and ground combat assets to bear. At the same time, 1st and 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force units will receive their alert and begin preparations to deploy to Korea.
It is also likely that many of America’s allies in the Pacific, such as Australia and New Zealand, would alert their militaries and provide a contingent for the conflict.
On the ground in Korea, the situation will likely be a mess. With little time to prepare, ROK Army and U.S. Army troops will be fighting desperately against the human wave that is the North Korean Army flowing across the DMZ.
Ranging far in front of the conventional forces, North Korean Special Forces will be conducting sabotage, raids, ambushes, and the like deep behind the front lines sowing confusion and fear into the rear areas.
Bolstered by the arriving Rangers and paratroopers conducting combat jumps right into the front lines, the Allies will be able to stymy the North Koreans. But without further armored support they will have to fall back.
Outnumbered by at least two-to-one, Allied forces will not be able to hold at the DMZ, or likely, anywhere near it. Using Seoul, and the Capital Defense Command as an anchor, the allied line will stretch across the peninsula roughly along the 37th Parallel.
Overhead, American and South Korean fighters will be having a turkey shoot. Air superiority is assured in a rather short amount of time as the fledgling North Korean Air Force is shot out of the sky or destroyed on the ground.
Meanwhile, Navy ships and Air Force bombers will continue to pummel known targets and seek to eliminate Kim Jong Un.
As more units arrive on the peninsula and enter the fray, the North Koreans’ early gains will quickly be reversed. Short on food and fuel — their supply lines interdicted — their military will quickly disintegrate in front of the onslaught of a joint combined-arms offensive. A-10’s will have a field day with North Korean armor.
In short order, and as more Army and Marine Corps units arrive, the joint effort will roll into North Korean territory.
Defectors will be prevalent but paramilitary forces will slow the offensive as the regime’s true-believers seek to start a guerrilla campaign. However, simple offerings of comfort, such as food, to such a forlorn population may be sufficient to effectively defeat any remnants of resistance.
The Kim regime will be dismantled and families divided over 60 years ago will be reunited. Though facing a numerically superior enemy, and likely suffering large numbers of casualties early on, the superior training and technology of the Allies will win the day.
Iraqi nationals who risked their lives to help American troops in wartime should not be subject to a recent executive order halting immigration from Iraq, a bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump on Monday.
The letter, a joint effort by Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-California, and Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, asks Trump to grant the request of Defense Secretary James Mattis to exempt Iraqi military interpreters, aides and allies from the scope of the order. Both Hunter and Kinzinger are veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively.
The letter was also signed by Reps. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio; Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon; Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts; and Peter Welch, D-Vermont. Stivers and Moulton are also veterans. Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq, has publicly discussed bringing his own interpreter to the United States on a Special Immigrant Visa.
“We made a promise to the men and women who served alongside us on the battlefield, and we must uphold that promise to leave no man behind,” Hunter and Kinzinger said in a joint statement. “We urge the president to honor Secretary Mattis’ requests, and stand up for those who stood by our military and American personnel. For the safety of these courageous individuals and their families, and in the interest of our national security, it’s critical that we make this exception and do so swiftly.”
On his own, Moulton has taken an even stronger stance in full opposition to Trump’s executive order. In a statement, he warned that closing doors to immigration would fuel antipathy against the U.S. and help Islamic State radicals recruit new suicide bombers.
“His policies literally put our troops’ lives at risk — I’ve heard this loud and clear when I have visited them overseas,” he said. “They also prove he has zero understanding of our country’s values and no intention of defending our Constitution.”
Trump’s executive order, published Jan. 27, put an immediate temporary halt to immigration from seven countries, including Iraq. The order caused immigrants currently in transit to be taken into custody, including Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who had reportedly worked for the U.S. government in Iraq for more than a decade. Darweesh, who was granted a Special Immigrant Visa on Jan. 20, was ultimately released into the U.S. a full day later.
A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, told reporters Monday that the Defense Department is making a list of Iraqis who had worked to help U.S. troops for submission to the government agencies carrying out the executive order.
Special Immigrant Visas were created in 2008 for the express purpose of providing a special path for people from Iraq and Afghanistan who had assisted American troops to resettle in the United States, a recognition that these individuals and their families often faced greater danger because of their service.
“It is important that a special exception is made for the consideration of individuals who directly supported American personnel overseas,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter. “We respectfully ask that you take this action to ensure these individuals are not put in any further danger. Doing so would send a strong signal to those who show such immense courage to advance U.S. security interests at a risk to their own safety, as well as the many veterans and warfighters who’ve relied on the service of these individuals for their own protection and to accomplish their objectives.”
By February 1945, the cruel and inhumane treatment by the Japanese against their enemies was well known. As the Allies liberated the Philippines, the decision was made to attempt a rescue effort at the Cabanatuan Prison.
This rescue, often referred to as the Great Raid, liberated over 500 prisoners from Cabanatuan on Jan. 30, 1945. These prisoners then described their horrific treatment as well as the atrocities of the Bataan Death March.
This convinced the Allied commanders to attempt more rescue operations in order to save the lives of those held by the Japanese.
A plan was quickly drawn up, this time using paratroopers from the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
The first phase involved inserting the 11th Airborne’s divisional reconnaissance platoon along with Filipino guerrillas as guides.
Prior to the attack they would mark the drop zone for the paratroopers and landing beach for the incoming Amtracs. Others from the platoon would attack the sentries and guard posts of the camp in coordination with the landing of the paratroopers.
The second phase consisted of the landing and assault by the paratroopers. These men were from Company B, 1st Battalion, 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment along with the light machine gun platoon from battalion headquarters company. They were led by 1st Lt. John Ringler.
Simultaneous to the landing of the paratroopers, Filipino guerrillas from the 45th Hunter’s ROTC Regiment would attack the prison camp itself.
Together these two groups would eliminate the Japanese within and the Americans would gather them for transport from the camp.
The third phase of the operation would bring the remainder of the 1st Battalion, 511th PIR across the Laguna de Bay in Amtracs. These would then be used to transport the prisoners to safety.
Finally, another 11th Airborne element, the 188th Glider Infantry Regiment, would make a diversionary attack along the highway leading to the camp. The intent would be to draw the Japanese attention away allowing the paratroopers to escape with the prisoners.
All of this would happen nearly simultaneously. The amount of coordination of forces was tremendous.
Everything was set to go off at 7 AM on Feb. 23, 1945.
The first to depart for the mission were the men of the division reconnaissance platoon who set out the night of Feb. 21 in small Filipino fishing boats. Once across the Laguna de Bay, they entered into the jungle and made their way to hide sites to wait for the assault to begin.
On the morning of the 23rd at 0400, the 1st Battalion minus B Company boarded the 54 Amtracs of the 672nd Amphibian Tractor Battalion and set out across the bay toward their landing beach.
At 0530 the men of B Company boarded the C-47’s for the short flight to Los Baños. By 0640 they were in the air toward their destination.
Lt. John Ringler was the first man out the door of the lead C-47 coming low at 500 feet.
Having already marked the drop zone, the reconnaissance platoon and their accompanying guerrillas, spotting the incoming troop transports, sprung from their hide sites and attacked the Japanese guard post and sentries. Many were quickly overwhelmed.
At the same time, the 45th Hunter’s ROTC Regiment of Filipino guerrillas attacked three sides of the camp. As this was happening, the paratroopers were assembling on the drop zone and the lead elements were breaching the outer perimeter of the camp.
Many Japanese were caught in the open, unarmed, preparing to conduct morning physical training. They were cut down by the gunfire of the assaulting forces.
Some Japanese were able to mount a defense but many simply fled in the face of the charging Americans and Filipinos. By the time the balance of the 1st Battalion arrived at the camp in their Amtracs, the fight was all but over.
In very short order the raiding force had overwhelmed and secured the prison.
Out on the highway, the 188th GIR was making good progress against the Japanese and had successfully established blocking positions by late morning. The sound of their battles reminded the men at the camp that time was of the essence — the Japanese were still nearby.
Due to their harsh treatment, many of the prisoners were malnourished and extremely weak. Those that could walk began making their way towards the beach for evacuation. Others were loaded into the Amtracs at the camp and transported back across the lake.
It took two trips to get all the internees across the lake and a third to evacuate the last of the assault troops, but at the end of the day 2,147 prisoners were liberated from the Los Baños prison camp. The cost to the Americans and Filipinos was just a handful of casualties — no paratroopers were killed in the raid.
Among those evacuated was Frank Buckles, a World War I veteran, who would go on to be the last living veteran from the conflict.
“I doubt that any airborne unit in the world will ever be able to rival the Los Baños prison raid,” said Gen. Colin Powell. “It is the textbook airborne operation for all ages and all armies.”
A senior member of Russia’s defense and security committee told Russian TV that Norway has been added to the list of potential targets for a nuclear strike after Norway agreed to host 330 U.S. Marines for a rotational training deployment.
Norway has allowed other NATO militaries to use its country for cold weather training for years.
He later said, “Because we need to react against definitive military threats. And we have things to react to, I might as well tell it like it is.”
It’s not clear how the Marines provide a definitive military threat to Russia. While significant U.S. hardware is cached within Norway, the 330 Marines would have to invade through famously neutral Sweden to use a 700-mile route. Going around would add on hundreds of miles of travel distance and logistics problems.
And even Marines would struggle if they took on the Russian military in such small numbers.
Meanwhile, the U.S. already has troops permanently stationed in Germany, which is about the same distance from Russia, as well as service members on training rotations in Estonia, Latvia, and Ukraine — all of which share a border with Russia.
The Air Force, meanwhile, has forces permanently deployed to Incirlik, Turkey, which is also much closer to Russia than Værnes.
So it’s doubtful that Russia’s bluster is really about countering a valid military threat. More likely, this is Russia protesting what it sees as its continuing isolation as more and more countries deepen their ties with NATO.
Norway, for its part, insists that the Russian reaction to a training rotation of Marines is ridiculous.
Tensions between Russia and NATO have been on the rise, partially due to conflicting agendas in Syria where the U.S. and Russia are both conducting air strikes. But the dispute also comes from disagreements over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and threatening actions, such as the Russian abduction and jailing of an Estonian intelligence officer.
The Raiders of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command are some of the world’s greatest warrior-athletes, specializing in taking the fight to America’s enemies across the globe. But not all fighting members of MARSOC are the human Raiders. Some are specially trained canines who deploy across the world and support Marines wherever they’re called upon.
Here they are, in 14 photos:
1. MARSOC dogs are highly-trained animals who work with their multipurpose canine handlers to execute missions around the world.
2. The dogs train to accompany their handlers on a variety of missions and can enter the battlefield via Zodiac boat.
3. When necessary, they can also swim stealthily to shore.
4. The canines and handlers will then make their way through the surf and toward their objective.
5. When the target is far from shore, the dogs and their handlers can even insert by parachute.
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Scott Achtemeier)
6. Once they reach the objective, the dogs are capable of completing many missions. Some engage in direct action, helping MARSOC Raiders clear buildings and hunt down bad guys.
7. The dogs have to move tactically with the other operators and perform their tasks as a member of the team.
8. One of their specialties is seeking out enemies who’ve tried to hide or escape.
9. To work well together, the dogs and handlers have to train together in all their essential tasks, including range qualifications.
10. They also swim together.
11. They dive together.
12. They even complete obstacle courses together. Here, a U.S. Army soldier navigates the course with a Marine Corps canine.
13. The obstacle courses at Camp Pendleton, California, give the dogs and handlers plenty of realistic barriers to navigate.
14. We’re not sure whether the dogs take the training quite as seriously as their handlers, but they’re pretty darn impressive nonetheless.
It was one of the most beloved and abused weapons in the history of warfare. The Browning Automatic Rifle was the weapon of choice for infantrymen, vehicle crews, and even gangsters from its debut in World War I, through two World Wars and Korea to the jungles of Vietnam.
The BAR was invented by its namesake, John Browning, in 1917 for use in World War I. The Army, newly arrived in Europe to fight on the Western Front, was told that machine guns were the way to go in the new war, and America agreed.
One of the first soldiers to carry the BAR into combat was Browning’s own son, 2nd Lt. Val Browning. Browning and his men employed the weapon at the Meuse-Argonne offensive to good effect just like thousands of other soldiers in the war.
Just as important, the BAR was very accurate for such a light automatic weapon. It was employed in a counter-sniper role by shooters firing quick bursts at known or suspected enemy positions, suppressing or killing the enemy.
In World War II, the attributes that made the BAR so great for trench-fighting also made it great for sweeping Nazis and Japanese soldiers from bunkers. It was mostly chambered in .30-06 that left the barrel at 2,682 feet per second.
While the Browning was able to reprise its World War II infantry role in Korea, the 1957 debut of the M60 machine gun forced the BAR from the top spot in Vietnam. Still, it was a valuable asset for special operators and as a weapon for vehicle crews.
But that was the swan song for the BAR in American service. The M249 was introduced into the American arsenal in 1984, nine years after the Vietnam War ended. When the Invasion of Panama took place in 1989, it was M60s and M249s that sprayed lead downrange in the BAR’s stead.
The true story of Garlin Murl Conner’s heroism in the face of a Nazi onslaught might have gone to the grave with the soft-spoken Kentucky farmer if not for a chance phone call from another military man trying to piece together the last days of his uncle’s life.
That call — and the heartbreaking developments that followed — left Richard Chilton with no answers, but gave the tenacious former Green Beret a cause: Seeing that Conner, who on one day in 1945 killed 50 German soldiers and saved his storied battalion on the front lines in France, is recognized with the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty.
“This man may have been the greatest soldier of our time,” said Chilton, whose bid to get Conner the Medal of Honor began in 1998, wended its way through a series of military panels and federal courts, and now stands closer than ever to fruition. “I owe it to him to fight like hell to make damn sure the Army gives him what he earned.”
After a series of denials that led Chilton and advocates including retired Air Force Col. Dennis Shepherd, an attorney for the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, to turn to the federal courts for help, the effort took a leap forward last week. The Army Board for Correction of Military Records bucked its own staff and ignored a federal judge’s ruling that the statute of limitations barred consideration and recommended Conner for the award, which can only be bestowed by the president.
The bravery of Conner, who died in 1998 at the age of 79, is well-documented. The first lieutenant, who was wounded seven times, earned an incredible four Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars, seven Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross for his World War II heroism. But it was what he did on Jan. 24, 1945, near Houssen, France, that elevated his courage to mythical status.
And the story would have remained in obscurity, alive only in Conner’s mind and packed away in a cardboard box near his Albany, Ky., home, were it not for Chilton.
Chilton, a veteran of the Korean War who later trained Israeli fighters during the Gulf War, wanted to learn more about his uncle, Army Pfc. Gordon Wesley Roberts. All he knew was that the brave man he remembered from his boyhood had served in the 3rdInfantry Division and had never made it home from World War II. It was 1995, and Chilton, now 82, started tracking down men from the division, which included movie star Audie Murphy – himself a Medal of Honor recipient – and which lost more men than any other in the war.
“I’d called about 200 men, and no one really was able to tell me much about my uncle,” Chilton recalled. “I was ready to give up but I tried one more. I left a message with Garlin Murl Conner.”
A few days later, Chilton got a cryptic message on his answering machine.
“I knew your uncle,” Conner said. “I was with him the night he died. He died from small arms fire. More to follow.”
But that was the last Chilton heard from Conner. When he finally mailed a letter to him, Conner’s wife, Pauline, wrote back to say her husband had had a stroke days later and could no longer speak. Chilton, who lives in Genoa City, Wis., drove more than 500 miles to Conner’s home in the desperate hope that a face-to-face meeting might yield information.
But it did not. As a dejected Chilton was walking out the door of the Conner home, Pauline suggested he look through her husband’s records. Maybe there would be a clue about his uncle there, she said. She emerged from a back room with a box full of medals, commendations, yellowed newspaper clippings and faded photographs.
Chilton found nothing on his uncle, but his amazement grew as he spent the next few hours digging through the box.
“I discovered the most decorated soldier I’d ever heard of,” Chilton said. “I was blown away. I’ve never seen a man with four Silver Stars.”
Through the pictures, medals and testimony of Conner’s superior officers, including legendary Maj. Gen. Lloyd Ramsey, the story of Conner’s heroic actions more than 50 years earlier in France came back to life. Earlier that day, Conner, who had been badly wounded in the hip, sneaked away from a field hospital and made his way back to his unit’s camp. His commanding officer was seeking a volunteer for a suicide mission: Run 400 yards directly toward the enemy while unreeling telephone wire all the way to trenches on the front line. From that point, the volunteer would be able to call in targeting coordinates for mortar fire.
Conner grabbed the spool of wire and took off amid intense enemy fire. He made it to the ditch, where he stayed in contact with his unit for three hours in near-zero-degree weather as a ferocious onslaught of German tanks and infantry bore down on him.
“My God, he held off 600 Germans and six tanks coming right at him,” Chilton marveled. “When they got too close, his commander told him to vacate and instead, he says, ‘Blanket my position.'”
The request meant Conner was calling for artillery strikes as he was being overrun, risking his life in order to draw friendly fire that would take out the enemy, too.
Circumstances conspired to thwart Chilton’s initial effort to have Conner awarded the Medal of Honor, which 471 men received for their efforts in World War II. His commander did not fill out necessary paperwork, an oversight he later apologized for. Records, which included testimony from fellow soldiers, were lost with millions of others in the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. But perhaps most of all, Conner never told his story.
Chilton’s application in 1997 on behalf of Conner was rejected. An appeal supported by the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs three years later was similarly nixed. But Shepherd and his team, with the help of Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., managed to find duplicate documents in which soldiers attested to Conner’s exploits in the National Archives.
Shepherd’s team took those papers and the recommendation of Ramsey, now 96, to federal court in 2009, seeking to have the Army re-examine the application. District Judge Thomas Russell rejected the motion, noting the seven-year Statute of Limitations had passed since the last appeal. But his reluctance was clear in his decision, in which he said a technicality should not diminish Conner’s “extraordinary courage and patriotic service.” Shepherd said Russell’s words helped set the table for an appeal to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In a dramatic proceeding in the Cincinnati court, the three-judge panel heard all the testimony about Conner’s actions, and the courtroom was stunned when Assistant U.S. Attorney Candace Hill told the judges her own father served with Conner.
For Shepherd and Chilton, the difficult part is getting someone to listen to the evidence.
“Anytime I’ve been able to put the facts regarding Garlin Conner in front of someone, we get results,” said Shepherd. “As soon as these judges saw what he had done that day, they didn’t care about the statute of limitations.”
The 6th Circuit ordered both parties into mediation, which led to last week’s ruling by the Army Board for Correction of Military Records. That recommendation will likely carry weight with the Senior Army Decorations Board, though it could take “several months” for a decision.
If the decorations board recommends the award, the Senate Armed Services Committee takes up the case and makes its own recommendation to the president.
If the words written by Ramsey, who went on to serve in Korea and Vietnam, where he commanded the Americal Division, when Conner’s bravery was fresh in his mind, hold sway, Conner’s ailing wife and numerous supporters could yet help repay an American hero.
“I just sent one of my officers home,” Ramsey, then a lieutenant colonel, wrote to a colleague in Kentucky in 1945, when Conner was discharged. “I’m really proud of Lt. Conner. He probably will call you and, if he does, he may not sound like a soldier, will sound like any good old country boy, but, to my way of seeing, he’s one of the outstanding soldiers of this war, if not THE outstanding.”
An epic military parade earlier this month showed off some of the Chinese military’s new toys, unveiling heavy vehicles in maritime camouflage as the country’s island-building in the South China Sea sits in US military planners’ minds.
So how does China stack up to other world powers when it comes to aircraft carriers, one of the biggest factors in air and sea dominance?
Take a look at the photos and graphics below to get an idea of China’s naval power:
This is China’s only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. Like much of China’s military hardware, the Liaoning is a reworking of an older Russian-made model.
The Admiral Kuznetsov, which the Liaoning is based on, is Russia’s sole aircraft carrier. The ships have the same size and speed, and they both feature the “ski jump” platform.
The Kuznetsov, like the Liaoning, lacks the catapults used by US vessels to launch heavier planes, but it carries offensive weapons of its own.
China’s southern neighbor India operates two smaller aircraft carriers, but they are much more reliable. In 2014, the Liaoning experienced unexpected power failures while at sea.
The USS Abraham Lincoln, one of the US Navy’s 10 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, is larger and carries more planes, and it features catapults to launch heavier planes, thus the flat runway.
The US leads the world in aircraft carriers by far, and it is developing an even larger class of aircraft carrier to replace aging members of the fleet.
To put things in perspective, this graphic shows the relative sizes of aircraft carriers from around the world.