17 wild facts about the Vietnam War - We Are The Mighty
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17 wild facts about the Vietnam War

The American experience in Vietnam was a long and painful one for the nation. For those against the war, it appeared to be a meat grinder for draftees, unfairly targeting the poor, the uneducated, and minorities. For those in favor of the war and those who served in the military at the time, the American public and media were (and still are) misled about what happened during the war and so feel betrayed by many at home (Jane Fonda is the enduring symbol of the cultural schism).


17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
Jane Fonda (via Dutch National Archives)

The facts not in dispute by either side are just as harrowing: Over 20 years, more than 58,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam and more than 150,000 wounded, not to mention the emotional toll the war took on American culture. The war ended the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson and left a lasting impression on Richard Nixon’s. It was the backbone to the most tumultuous period in American history since before the Civil War one century prior.

The other facts are not so clear. We are at the fifty year mark for the start of the war, so soon more and more government documents from the period will be declassified. We will learn a great deal about this time in American history. Right now, however, the misinformation, cover-ups, and confusion about Vietnam still pervade our national consciousness. Right now, we can only look back at the war and take stock of what we know was real and what was B.S. from day one.

1. The U.S. first got involved in Vietnam in 1954

Sort of. The official line is the United States sent only supplies and advisors before 1965. Looking back before the fall of French Indochina, Vietnam’s colonial name, the end of World War II saw a briefly independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam under President Ho Chi Minh. Minh even gave a nod to the visiting American OSS agents by paraphrasing the Declaration of Independence in his own Independence speech: “All men are created equal. The Creator has given us certain inviolable rights, the right to life, the right to be free, and the right to achieve happiness.”

Almost as soon as Minh realized the Western allies were going to restore French rule, Chinese advisors and Soviet equipment began to flow to North Vietnamese guerillas. After the Vietnamese Gen. Võ Nguyên Giáp handed the French their asses at Dien Bien Phu, the French left and Vietnam would be split in two. In 1954, an insurgency sprang up, but was quelled by the government of the new South Vietnam, led by Ngô Dình Diem. Unfortunately Diem was as dictatorial as Ho Chi Minh and as Catholic as the Spanish Inquisition.

2. U.S. and South Vietnamese Presidents were shot in 1963, and this would be significant

They were also both Catholic, but that’s where the similarities end. This also may be the death of coherent containment strategy in the country. Diem was shot in an armored personnel carrier on November 2, 1963. At the time, there were 16,000 U.S. advisors in Vietnam. President Kennedy was said to be shocked at the news. Then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara said he “had never seen the President more upset.” Both men knew the U.S. government was responsible “to some degree.”

The Pentagon Papers leak explicitly stated the U.S. clandestinely maintained contact with Diem over-throwers and the U.S. government gave the generals in Vietnam the green light to start planning a coup. Twenty days later, Kennedy would himself be shot in the back of a vehicle.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War

3. Kennedy wanted to get the U.S. military out of Vietnam but couldn’t figure out how

President Kennedy was a fervent believer in the policy of containment and believed in the Domino Theory, but not so much as to wage unending war with the Communists in Vietnam. During his Presidency, he and McNamara actively pursued a way to leave Vietnam, while still maintaining their commitment to a free South through financial support and training. Kennedy wanted all U.S. personnel out by the end of 1965.

Many people refute this theory using a quote Kennedy gave Walter Cronkite: “These people who say we ought to withdraw from Vietnam are totally wrong, because if we withdrew from Vietnam, the communists would control… all of Southeast Asia… then India, Burma would be next.” The only problem with this quote is while Kennedy was in office, there was no open warfare in Vietnam and U.S. involvement was limited. Their strategy was to bring the North to heel using strategic bombing and limited ground attacks. Recordings between Kennedy and McNamara were since released to attest to their efforts in getting out of Vietnam.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
Library of Congress photo

4. The Gulf of Tonkin Incident only sort of happened.

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident is the catalyst for the escalation of American action in Vietnam. It refers to two incidents in August 1964. On August 2, the destroyer USS Maddox was shelled by NVA torpedo boats. The Maddox responded by firing over 280 rounds in return. There was no official response from the Johnson Administration.

The pressure mounted however, with members of the military, both in and out of uniform, implying Johnson was a coward. On August 4th the second incident was said to have happened, but Secretary McNamara admitted in Errol Morris’ 2003 documentary The Fog of War the second attack never occurred. The Pentagon Papers even implied the Maddox fired first in an effort to keep the Communists a certain distance away.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War

The resulting Gulf of Tonkin resolution passed by the U.S. Congress allowed Johnson to deploy conventional (ground) U.S. troops and operate in a state of open but undeclared war against North Vietnam.

5. The U.S. didn’t lose the war on the ground

But we didn’t win every battle, either. The North Vietnamese Army (NVA) can’t be faulted for lack of dedication, patriotism, or leadership. NVA Gen. Võ Nguyên Giáp orchestrated successive defeats of the Japanese and the French. Even Death had a hard time finishing off Giáp – he lived to 102. It also can’t be faulted for a lack of organization. The NVA was a professional fighting force, organized under Soviet guidance. The VC were forced to use inferior equipment because the Chinese would swipe the good weapons and replace them with cheap Chinese knockoffs.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
NVA Troops with Chinese SAM launcher (USAF Photo)

Outmanned and outgunned, the NVA was beaten by U.S. troops in nearly every major battle. The myth of the U.S. never losing a single battle inexplicably persists (unless you were stationed at Fire Support Base Ripcord, outnumbered 10-to-1 for 23 days in 1970). Not as improbable, no U.S. unit ever surrendered in Vietnam.

Despite initial victories, the infamous Tet Offensive was a major defeat for the Communists. It resulted in the death of some 45,000 NVA troops and the decimation of Viet Cong elements in South Vietnam. The Tet Offensive succeeded on only one front: the media (more on that later). Saigon fell on April 30, 1975, two years after the Paris Peace Accords and after the American military left Vietnam. The last American troops departed in their entirety on March 29, 1973.

6. The M-16 sucked so hard, U.S. troops preferred the AK-47

Gen. William Westmoreland, Commander of U.S. Forces in Vietnam, replaced the M-14 rifle with the new M-16 as the standard issue infantry rifle in the middle of 1966. There was no fanfare. The first generation of the M-16 rifle was an awful mess with a tendency to experience a “failure to extract” jam in the middle of a firefight. They sucked so hard, the Army was hammered by Congress in 1967 for delivering such a terrible rifle system and then failing to properly train troops to use it.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
Photo from Anonymous Former Officer

So what to do? Pick up the enemy’s weapon. We already talked about why the AK-47 is so widely used. It’s better than dying for lack of shooting back. In Vietnam, an underground market developed among troops who didn’t trust their M-16. “Q: Why are you carrying that rifle, Gunny?” “A: Because it works.”

7. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) — aka South Vietnam — wasn’t all bad

The ARVN troops get mixed reviews from the Americans who fought with them. Most judge ARVN units on their leadership, which was definitely mixed. In the end, the South Vietnamese ran out of fuel, ammunition and other supplies because of a lack of support from the U.S. Congress in 1975, while the North Vietnamese were very well supplied by China and the Soviet Union.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
ARVN Rangers defend Saigon during the Tet Offensive (DOD Photo)

8. The North Vietnamese Air Force was actually a pretty worthy adversary

Vietnam-era pilot and Hanoi Hilton POW was once asked on a Reddit AMA how good the NVAF fighter pilots were. His response: “The got me, didn’t they?” This is anecdotal evidence, but more exists. The Navy’s Top Gun strike fighter tactics school was founded to respond to the loss rate of 1 aircraft for every thousand sorties during Operation Rolling Thunder, a lot considering the combined 1.8 million sorties flown over Vietnam.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
The NVAF’s top ace, Nguyen Van Coc

At war’s end, the top ace in North Vietnam had nine kills, compared to the U.S.’ top ace, who had six. The U.S. could only boast three aces (ace status requires at least five air-to-air kills), while the NVAF boasted 17.

9. It wasn’t only the U.S. and South Vietnam

Australia and New Zealand also fought in Vietnam, but the largest contingent of anti-Communist forces came from South Korea. Korean President Syngman Rhee wanted to send troops to help the Vietnamese as early as 1954. More than 300,000 Korean troops would fight in Vietnam, inflicting more than 41,000 casualties, while massacring almost 5,000 Vietnamese civilians.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
Soldiers of the ROK 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam. Photo by Phillip Kemp.

10. The draft didn’t unfairly target the working class or minorities

The demographics of troops deployed to Vietnam were close to a reflection of the demographics of the U.S. at the time. 88.4% of troops deployed to Vietnam were Caucasian, 10.6% were African-American and 1% were of other races. The 1970 census estimated the African-American population of the U.S. at 11%.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
A wounded soldier is helped to a waiting helicopter by two of his comrades  near Near Tay Ninh, South Vietnam,  November 1966 (Stars Stripes)

76% of those who served did come from working-class backgrounds but this was a time when most troops had at least a high school education, compared with enlisted men of wars past, among whom only half held a high school diploma. Wealthier families could enroll in college for a draft deferement, but even so …

11. A majority of the men who fought in Vietnam weren’t drafted — they volunteered

More than three-quarters of the men who fought in Vietnam volunteered to join the military. Of the roughly 8.7 million troops who served in the military between 1965 and 1973, only 1.8 million were drafted. 2.7 million of those in the military fought in Vietnam at this time. Only 25% of that 2.7 million were drafted and only 30% of the combat deaths in the war were draftees.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
Indiana University Archives

12. The war was not exclusively a jungle war

At the start, the South and allied forces were fighting Viet Cong insurgents in the jungle, but as time wore on, the battles became more set piece, complete with tanks and artillery. For example in 1972, the NVA Eastertide Offensive was the largest land movement since the Chinese entered the Korean War, crossing the Yalu river. The Eastertide Offensive was a planned, coordinated three-pronged invasion of the South, consisting of 12 divisions.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
USMC Photo

13. The Vietnam War was only sort of lost in the American media

The most famous quote attributed to President Johnson (aside from “Frank, are you trying to F–k me?” and “I do not seek and will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as President”) is “If I’ve lost Walter Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” Whether or not he actually said this is only important to fans of Walter Cronkite, who was then considered the most trusted man in America.

Until 1968, much of the American media was widely a mouthpiece for American policy and not one newspaper suggested disengagement from Vietnam. But things would get worse. A 1965 Gallup poll showed only 28% of Americans were against the war, 37% in 1967, 50% in 1968, 58% in 1969, In 1971, Gallup stopped asking. The 1968 Tet Offensive is what led Cronkite to see the war as “unwinnable.” Veterans of Vietnam widely attribute the success of the Tet Offensive as a success only in the media. The media they’re referring to is Walter Cronkite.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War

Yet, it’s not that cut and dry. A 1986 analysis of the media and Vietnam found the reporting of the Tet Offensive actually rallied American media to the Vietnam War effort. The Tet Offensive was a defining moment in public trust of the government reports on the progress of the war. Americans had no idea the VC were capable of infiltrating allied installations the way they did and many were unaware of the extent of the brutality and tactics of the war, but the Tet Offensive allowed American television cameras to record the bombing of cities and the execution of prisoners of war.

The tide of public opinion turned “for complex social and political reasons” and the media began to reflect that, according to the Los Angeles Times. “In short, the media did not lead the swing in public opinion; they followed it.”

New York Times White House correspondent Tom Wicker remarked: “We had not yet been taught to question the President.” Maybe the turn in public opinion had more to do with fatigue surrounding almost a decade of body counts and draft lotteries.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
Cronkite with Marines in Vietnam (USMC Photo)

14. Richard Nixon ended the war — but invaded Cambodia first

President Nixon’s “Vietnamization” strategy involved a gradual drawdown of U.S. troops, and a bolstering of ARVN forces with modern equipment, technology, and the training to use it. It also involved plans to help garner support for the Saigon government in the provinces and strengthen the government’s political positions.

In 1970, he authorized incursions into Cambodia and massive bombings of Cambodia and Laos to keep pressure on the North while Vietnamization began. This prompted massive public protests in the United States. As U.S. troop numbers dwindled (69,000 in 1972), NVA attacks like the 1972 Eastertide Offensive showed the overall weakness of ARVN troops.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War

15. Vietnam Veterans are not mostly crazy, homeless, drug users

There is no difference in drug usage between Vietnam Veterans and non-Vietnam Veterans of the same age group. 97% of Vietnam vets hold honorable discharges and 85% of Vietnam Veterans made successful transitions to civilian life. The unemployment rate for Vietnam vets was only 4.8% in 1987, compared to the 6.2% rate for the rest of America.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
The truth is less like Lt. Dan, more like Gary Sinise

16. The Communists do not still hold POW/MIAs

Many cite “evader signals’ on satellite imagery of Vietnam as evidence of the continued imprisonment of American prisoners of war (POW). If POWs were still held in 1973, it is very likely they are long since dead. Those hypothetical withheld POWs who did not die of old age would never be repatriated to the U.S.

More than 600 MIA suddenly found in Hanoi would be very difficult to explain. The fact is, North Vietnam had no reason to continue to hold American captives. The Americans would not return and the North violated the Paris Accords anyway.

17. Today, most Vietnamese people see the U.S. very favorably

It’s true.

 

NOW: The Real Story of Jane Fonda and the Vietnam Vets Who Hate Her

OR: This Marine Was the ‘American Sniper’ of the Vietnam War

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Here’s what training is like for the Air Force’s most elite operators

America has some of the world’s most elite special operators and they get a lot of press. But on most of the missions that Special Forces, SEALs, and other top operators conduct, they bring a very special airman.


The Air Force combat controller moves forward with other special operators, swimming, diving, parachuting, and shooting with their brethren. But, they act as an air traffic controller and ground observer while doing so. They can also conduct missions with other Air Force special operators, seizing enemy airports and controlling air power for follow-on forces.

The Air Force combat controller moves forward with other special operators, swimming, diving, parachuting, and shooting with their brethren. But, they act as an air traffic controller and ground observer while doing so. They can also conduct missions with other Air Force special operators, seizing enemy airports and controlling air power for follow-on forces.

In his book “Kill Bin Laden,” former Delta Force commander Dalton Fury writes:

The initial training “pipeline” for an Air Force Special Tactics Squadron Combat Controller costs twice as much time and sweat as does the journey to become a Navy SEAL or Delta operator. Before their training is complete someone brainwashes these guys into thinking they can climb like Spiderman, swim like Tarzan, and fly like Superman — and then they have to prove they can, if they plan to graduate.

Being a combat controller takes a lot of brainpower and muscle. Here’s how the U.S. Air Force takes a bunch of talented young men and turns them into elite warriors.

Air Force Basic Military Training

Photo: US Air Force Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo

Like all other service members, combat controllers begin by learning the fundamentals of military life. Airmen attend basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base. Recruits go through a processing week and eight weeks of training.

Combat Control Screening Course

This two-week course is also on Lackland, and it’s purpose is in the name. Students are physically screened and have to pass tests in seven events to move on. The events are: push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, 1.5-mile run, 500-meter swim, 4-mile ruck march, and an obstacle course.

“We need this two weeks just to make sure they’re the right guys to be combat controllers and they’re going to be successful in the pipeline,” says an Combat Control selection instructor in the Air Force video above.

Two weeks may seems like a short time for airmen to be screened and prepared for the rest of the combat controller pipeline, but the class is so tough that the Air Force has published a 26-week guide to help recruits physically prepare. The students will be tested on the seven physical tasks throughout the training pipeline with the standards becoming more rigorous at each testing (Page 12).

Immediately after the screening course, students may find themselves waiting for an open slot at the combat control operator course. They are tested weekly to ensure their performance on the seven physical tasks mentioned above don’t slip.

Combat Control Operator Course

This course lasts for just over 15 weeks at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. It focuses on recognizing and understanding different aircraft, air navigation aids, weather, and air traffic control procedures. It is the same course all other air traffic controllers in the Air Force attend.

Airborne School

Photo: US Army Ashley Cross

At Fort Benning, Ga., airmen go through the U.S. Army Airborne School. Here, they are taught how to safely conduct static-line parachute jumps from an airplane and infiltrate an enemy-held objective area.

Basic Survival School

To learn basic survival techniques for remote areas, future combat controllers spend more than two weeks at the Air Force Basic Survival School at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. By graduation, the airmen should be able to survive on their own regardless of climatic conditions or enemy situation. Survival training is important for combat controllers since they’ll be deployed to a variety of austere environments.

Combat Control School

In 13 weeks at Pope Army Air Field, North Carolina, students are taught small unit tactics, land navigation, communications, assault zones, demolitions, fire support, and field operations. It is at the end of this course that students become journeyman combat controllers and they are allowed to wear their iconic scarlet beret and combat controller team flash.

Special Tactics Advanced Skills Training

Though they are technically now combat controllers, airmen will then spend almost another year training in Special Tactics Advanced Skills Training at Hurlburt Field, Fla. AST is broken down into four phases: water, ground, employment, and full mission profile. By full mission profile, combat controllers should be able to do their full job in simulated combat. The training at Hurlburt Field allows combat controllers to infiltrate enemy territory through a variety of means. A combat controller going to work “involves jumping out of an airplane, or sliding out a helicopter down a fast rope, or riding some sort of all-terrain vehicle, or going on a mountain path on foot,” Air Force Maj. Charlie Hodges told CNN.

AST is challenging. “This is probably about the most realistic training you could get here back in the states to get you prepared for the real world,” Air Force 1st Lt. Charles Cunningham, a special operations weather officer said in an Air Force video. “They add a very serious element of realism and make it as intense as it can be.”

While in AST, combat controllers will depart Hurlburt Field to complete the following three schools.

Military Free Fall Parachutist School

Students will train at Fort Bragg, N.C., and then Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. Trainees learn free fall parachuting procedures over a five-week period by practicing in wind tunnels and in free fall. Students learn stability, aerial maneuvers, air sense, parachute opening procedures, and canopy control.

Students jump from up to 35,000 feet above sea level and may wait until below 6,000 feet above the ground to open their chute. One student in the video above calls it “the best school I’ve ever been to.”

Combat Divers School

At the U.S. Air Force Combat Divers School in Panama City, Fla., combat controllers learn to use SCUBA and closed-circuit diving equipment to infiltrate enemy held areas. The course is four weeks long.

Underwater Egress Training

Only a day long, this course teaches the controllers how to escape from a sinking aircraft. It is taught by the Navy at Pensacola Naval Air Station, Fla.

Graduation and assignment

Finally, after completion of the AST and the full mission profile, combat controllers are ready to head to a unit where they’ll receive continuous training from senior combat controllers and begin building combat experience on missions.

What? You thought they were done? To be able to augment Delta, Seal Team 6, and conduct missions on their own, combat controllers are never done training.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coast Guard starts the new fiscal year with big narco sub busts

After several years of increases, Coast Guard seizures of cocaine at sea declined slightly during fiscal year 2019, but that fiscal year ended and the 2020 fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, 2019, and runs to Sept. 30, 2020, began with major busts.

During the 2018 fiscal year, Coast Guard personnel removed 207,907.6 kilograms, or just under 208 metric tons, of cocaine worth an estimated $6.14 billion, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Barry Lane said in an email.

The amount of cocaine removed by the Coast Guard is the sum of all cocaine physically seized by Coast Guard personnel and all cocaine lost by smugglers due to Coast Guard actions, according to a Homeland Security Department Inspector General report for fiscal year 2018.


17 wild facts about the Vietnam War

US Coast Guard personnel unload bales of cocaine from a “narco sub” in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Coast Guard)

The amount of cocaine lost by smugglers is at times “an intelligence-based estimate of the quantity of cocaine onboard a given vessel that is burned, jettisoned, or scuttled in an attempt to destroy evidence when Coast Guard presence is detected,” according to the report.

The 2019 total is the second year of decline, following the 209.6 metric tons seized in 2018, according to the Inspector General report. The 223.8 metric tons seized in 2017 was up from 201.3 metric tons in 2016 and 144.8 metric tons in 2015.

Narco subs

The Coast Guard has led efforts to intercept narcotics coming to the US by sea from South and Central America, working with partners in the region through Operation Martillo, which involves ships and aircraft scouring the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific.

High-seas busts happen regularly, yielding not only drugs and drug smugglers but also intelligence on the groups behind the shipments.

In July 2019, the Coast Guard’s newest cutter, Midgett, caught a “narco sub” carrying 2,100 pounds of cocaine and three crew in the Eastern Pacific Ocean as the cutter made its first trip to its homeport in Hawaii.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War

US Coast Guard personnel unload bales of cocaine seized from a “narco sub” in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Coast Guard)

“Narco sub” is often used as a catch-all term, sometimes describing true submarines or semi-submersibles but usually referring to low-profile vessels.

They are all typically hard to spot in the open ocean, but the Coast Guard has seen a resurgence of them.

In September 2019, Coast Guard cutter Valiant tracked down another narco sub in the eastern Pacific, pursuing the 40-foot vessel over night and into the early morning. It was stopped with 12,000 pounds of cocaine aboard, but Coast Guard personnel were only able to offload about 1,100 pounds because of concerns about its stability.

The Valiant’s seizure closed that fiscal year, and the crew of the cutter Harriet Lane opened the current one with another, stopping a semi-submersible smuggling vessel in the Eastern Pacific on October 23 and seizing about 5,000 pounds of cocaine.

Boarding teams from the Harriet Lane got to the smuggling vessel just before midnight, taking control of it before four suspected smugglers aboard could sink it using scuttling valves.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War

US Coast Guard personnel aboard a “narco sub” stopped in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Coast Guard)

‘A mission enabler’

Coast Guard officials have pointed to narco subs as a sign of smugglers’ ability to adapt to pressure.

The service has pursued what Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz has called a “push-out-the-border strategy,” sending ships into the Pacific to bust drugs at the point in the smuggling process when the loads are the largest.

But Schultz and other officials have cautioned that the service can see more than it can catch.

In the eastern Pacific, where about 85% of the cocaine smuggling between South America and the US takes place, the Coast Guard has “visibility on about 85% of that activity,” Schultz told Business Insider in November 2018. “Because of the capacity — the number of ships, the number of aircraft — [we act on] about 25% to 30% of that.”

Stopping drugs, as well as the Coast Guard’s other missions, are opportunities to employ new technology, Schultz said in October 2019.

“That counter-drug mission, where you’re trying to surveil the eastern Pacific Ocean … you can take the entire United States and turn it on a 45-degree axis and drop it there, it’s the equivalent of patrolling North America with five or six police cars out of Columbus,” Schultz said during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“You’ve got to bring some technologies in … We’ve fielded small unmanned systems, the Scan Eagle, on the back of our national-security cutters,” Schultz added. “We haven’t fielded them all out yet, but hopefully by the end of next year every national-security cutter will have a Scan Eagle. That’s a mission enabler.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The OV-10 Bronco is alive and well in the Philippines

The OV-10 Bronco had a long service career with the United States. It first saw action in Vietnam and stuck around through Desert Storm. Just a few years ago, the idea of bringing the Bronco back was floated — the OV-10 flew 82 sorties against ISIS targets and performed quite well. Despite that, the Bronco didn’t make a comeback in America. The DOD instead pursued the OA-X program.

But just because the Bronco won’t be serving with the U.S. military doesn’t mean its career is over.


Currently, eight Broncos are serving in the Philippines as light attack planes specializing in counter-insurgency operations. The OV-10 is very well-equipped. The World Encyclopedia of Modern Aircraft Armament notes that it packs four 7.62mm machine guns and can haul four 500-pound bombs or rocket pods.

A proposed OV-10X modification would see the Bronco equipped with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, a glass cockpit, improved sensors, and precision-guided bombs, like the Paveway laser-guided bombs or GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions. The OV-10X would also feature up to four .50-caliber machine guns, replacing the 7.62mm machine guns. It was rumored that this souped-up version of the Bronco would compete in the OA-X program a few years ago, but it’s looking unlikely that this variant will see the light of day.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War

An OV-10 Bronco takes off from USS Nassau (LHA 4).

(US Navy)

The Bronco has a top speed of 288 miles per hour and a range of 1,400 miles. By contrast, some of the competitors for the OA-X program, like the AT-6, AT-802, and AT-29, are not quite as long-legged. Furthermore, the OV-10 also has the advantage of having two engines, giving it far more staying power if hit.

The OV-10X was a heavily upgraded version of the Bronco.

​(Greg Goebel)

The Broncos currently in service with the Philippines are hand-me-downs from both the United States and Thailand. According to Janes.com, four more OV-10, two OV-10A, and two OV-10G+, are headed to the Philippines to help hold the line until the AT-29 Super Tucano comes online next year.

Until then, the Bronco will bucking.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Whistle-blower Snowden seeks extension Of Russian residence permit, says lawyer

Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who was granted asylum in Russia, is preparing to apply for the extension of his Russian residence permit which expires in April, his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told Russian media on February 7.


Snowden has been living in Russia since 2013 after he revealed details of secret surveillance programs by U.S. intelligence agencies.

“At Edward’s request, I am drawing up documents for the Russian Interior Ministry migration service to extend his residence permit,” Kucherena said.

Snowden was charged under the U.S. Espionage Act for leaking 1.5 million secret documents from the NSA on government surveillance, prompting public debate about the legality of some of the agency’s programs, on privacy concerns, and about the United States snooping on its neighbors.

If convicted, Snowden faces up to 30 years in prison.

In September, Snowden called on French President Emmanuel Macron to grant him asylum. The French presidency did not comment.

Snowden had unsuccessfully applied for asylum in France in 2013 and several other countries.

“Everything is okay with him. He is working. His wife is with him,” Kucherena said.

Asked if Snowden plans to apply for Russian citizenship, Kucherena said, “I haven’t discussed this matter with him so far.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

This ‘Lone Survivor’ duo wants veterans to know about a new benefit

Throughout our military careers, we had the distinct privilege of shopping at the base exchanges and would receive discounts on many items. After being discharged, most of us lost those benefits — until now.


Mark Wahlberg and Marcus Luttrell are here to officially announce that those discount advantages are coming back starting Nov. 11, 2017, for veterans who qualify.

“All honorably discharged veterans are encouraged to visit VetVerify.org to confirm eligibility for their lifetime exchange online benefit today,” Luttrell states in the informational video. “Thank you for your service and welcome home, guys.”

Related: 13 songs on Marcus Luttrell’s mixtape that will make you feel operator AF

This process is extremely simple; just go to www.vetverify.org and register your information to see if you’re eligible. Once completed, you’ll receive an email confirming your newly earned lifelong online benefits. Many veterans are even being pre-selected to test the benefits immediately, instead of waiting until November.

The duo first teamed up in 2013’s epic true story “Lone Survivor,” directed by Peter Berg. Wahlberg played Luttrell in the film, exemplifying the SEAL’s heroic journey.

Also Read: This SEAL was shot 27 times before walking himself to the medevac

Check out the video below to hear it from the “Lone Survivor” duo themselves and be sure to check out the awesome new program.


Articles

Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

A CV-22 Osprey connects to an MC-130H Combat Talon II air-refueling receptacle during a training mission at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Sept. 7, 2016. The Osprey is a versatile, self-deployable aircraft that offers increased speed and range over other rotary-wing aircraft, enabling Air Force Special Operations Command aircrews to execute long-range special operations missions.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Joseph Pick

F-15E Strike Eagles assigned to the 334th Fighter Squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., fly over New York City, Sept. 10, 2016. The F-15’s were flying over New York for the U.S. Open Championship woman’s tennis final.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Corey Hook

ARMY:

U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, provides security during Decisive Action Rotation 16-09 at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., Sept. 6, 2016.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Jasmine Ballard

A U.S. Army Soldier assaults an objective while conducting a raid during exercise Combined Resolve VII at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels Germany, Sept. 6, 2016. Combined Resolve VII is a 7th Army Training Command, U.S. Army Europe-led exercise is designed to train the Army’s regionally allocated forces to the U.S. European Command. Combined Resolve VII includes more than 3,500 participants from 16 NATO and European partner nations.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Danielle Carver

NAVY:

Sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) heave in a line during a replenishment-at-sea with the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). Bonhomme Richard, flagship of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, is operating in the Philippine Sea to support security and stability in the Indo-Asia Pacific region.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David Holmes

The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17) visit, board, search and seizure team and medical response team depart on a rigid hull inflatable boat to provide medical assistance to a sick crew member aboard the Liberian general cargo ship Fernando. San Antonio is deployed with the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group to conduct maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jacob Mathews

MARINE CORPS:

Marines with Bravo Company, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division prepare for training exercises at Ft. Pickett, Virginia, August 29, 2016.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Rebecca L. Floto

Marines with Lima Company, Battalion Landing Team, ride in an MV-22 Osprey before participating in a vertical assault raid at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, August 23.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Melanye E. Martinez

COAST GUARD:

Training doesn’t just mean learning about the job, it can also help prepare for the worst case scenarios. U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego Jayhawk helicopter crews practice entering life rafts during survival training to simulate water survial, foster teamwork and provide survival equipment familiarization.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
USCG photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Rob Simpson

Crewmembers from the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa stand with intercepted bales of narcotics onboard the Tampa in the Pacific Ocean, Aug. 4, 2016. During this patrol, Tampa’s crew successfully interdicted approximately 2,059 kilograms of narcotics with an estimated wholesale value of $68 million.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
U.S. Coast Guard photo

Lists

13 ways vets with PTSD can get some freakin’ sleep

There is evidence that people with with PTSD, including Veterans, often suffer from sleep problems and poor sleep, which can make it difficult to function and decrease quality of life.


Insomnia can be a significant challenge. Among active duty personnel with PTSD, research tells us 92 percent suffer from clinically significant insomnia, compared to 28 percent of those without PTSD.

Veterans with PTSD often suffer from nightmares, as 53 percent of combat Veterans with PTSD report a significant nightmare problem. In fact, nightmares are one of the criteria used to diagnose PTSD. Often, nightmares are recurrent and may relate to or replay the trauma the Veteran has experienced. They may be frequent and occur several times a week.

Sleep challenges can compound the effects of PTSD, and can lead to more negative effects, including suicidal ideation and behavior. Insomnia is associated with an increased risk of suicide, even independent of PTSD as a risk factor.

Prolonged or intense stress, such as that experienced during a trauma or in PTSD, is associated with a decreased level of serotonin. The serotonin system regulates parts of the brain that deal with fear and worry. Low serotonin production disrupts sleep and often leads to more significant sleep disorders, like insomnia.

Those with PTSD who experience these brain chemistry changes may be hyper-vigilant, even in sleep. This can make it difficult to fall asleep or remain asleep. Excess adrenaline can make Veterans feel wired at night and unable to relax and fall asleep. With elevated cortisol, there is a decrease in short-wave sleep, and increases in light sleep and waking.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
Courtesy of David Palka

Treating PTSD and sleep disorders

It’s important for Veterans to seek treatment for trauma-related sleep difficulties. With treatment, Veterans can work to improve sleep difficulties and get more restful sleep. Treatment for Veterans with PTSD may include:

1. Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy is used to facilitate processing of a traumatic event. It may include therapies such as prolonged exposure, cognitive processing therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Although psychotherapy may not be directly aimed at sleep improvement, it can be effective in relieving PTSD, and in turn, the symptoms of sleep disruption from PTSD.

2. Cognitive behavioral therapy: With cognitive behavioral therapy, Veterans with PTSD discuss their sleep habits and identify opportunities for improvement of sleep hygiene.

3. Relaxation therapy: Often combined with meditation, relaxation therapy is used to promote soothing and a peaceful mindset before bedtime. Ideally, relaxation therapy can alleviate hyperarousal so that Veterans with PTSD can relax and fall asleep more easily.

4. Light therapy: Light therapy uses exposure to bright light to realign the circadian clock. With exposure to bright light during the day, your brain is better able to understand that it’s daytime, and time to be alert. Patients of light therapy often fall asleep more easily and sleep later.

5. Sleep restriction: Sleep restriction is controlled sleep deprivation, which limits the time spent in bed so that sleeping takes up 85 to 90 percent of the time spent in bed.

6. Medication and supplements: Medications are typically considered a last resort for solving sleep difficulties due to their potential side effects. Supplements of melatonin, a natural hormone that regulates the sleep cycle can help patients sleep better. Medications including sedatives and hypnotics may be used if therapies and natural supplements are not effective.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War

Strategies and techniques to help PTSD-affected Veterans get to sleep

Treatment of PTSD and related sleep disorders is key. However, there are steps Veterans can take in addition to treatment that can alleviate the sleep disruption associated with PTSD. These include:

7. Sleep in a comforting location: Your sleep environment should be a location where you feel safe, and free of any triggers that might cause you to relive trauma.

8. Ask friends and family for support: Some with PTSD feel safer and more comfortable sleeping with a trusted friend or family member in the same room or a nearby room.

9. Wind down in the evening: Spend time in the evening before bed winding down from the day to induce relaxation. If you take time to relax and maintain a consistent bedtime routine, you can signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep. This can be done by going through the same steps before bed every night, ideally relaxing activities such as playing soft music, meditating, practicing muscle relaxation, taking a warm bath, or reading a book.

10. Setup the ideal sleep environment: A nightlight might make you feel more comfortable sleeping in a dark room. If your sleeping environment can be noisy or disruptive, consider playing soft music or using a white noise machine to block out sounds that can startle you out of sleep. Make sure to control the temperature of your room and keep it between 60-67 degrees fahrenheit. From your mattress to your bedding, make sure you know what keeps your spine in alignment and alleviates any pressure points or additional issues you might face.

11. Give yourself enough time to sleep: Being rushed in the evening or morning can contribute to feelings of stress that may exacerbate sleep struggles for Veterans with PTSD. You shouldn’t feel like you don’t have enough time to sleep. Schedule enough time for adequate rest, leaving extra time if you often experience difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep through the night.

12. Listen to your body’s sleep cues: Following trauma, you may need more sleep than you’re expecting. Listen to your body and go to bed when you feel ready to sleep. However, it’s important to avoid getting into bed too early and lying awake for long periods of time.

13. Avoid activities that can interfere with sleep: Eating a large meal, drinking alcohol, consuming caffeine, or napping or exercising a few hours before bed can make it difficult to fall asleep. Avoid screen time late at night, including video games, TV, and mobile devices.

Articles

13 funniest memes for the week of April 7

Tomahawks are flying, tensions are rising, and we’re just over here collecting memes and giggling. Here are 13 of our favorite funny military memes from this week, starting with a little shout out to the ships that conducted the strikes:


1. Congrats to the Navy for getting to set off some fireworks last night (via Weapons of Meme Destruction).

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
But y u no shoot more?

2. Digital security is important (via Team Non-Rec).

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
ISIS is coming for you with stock photos of models.

ALSO READ: The only time the Soviet Union officially fought the US was in brutal air combat

3. Navy Capt. Bender got the hookers out before the NCIS raid began (via Military World).

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
Best. Cruise. Ever.

4. You’ve got to earn that nap time by holding up that book she’s going to read to you (via Decelerate Your Life).

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War

5. If it’s stupid but it works … actually, this is still stupid (via Coast Guard Memes).

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
Would love to the new safety briefing when this goes awry.

6. Poor Jody never gets any respect (via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said).

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
#JodiesServeToo

7. Grade-A, Tier-One killers (via Devil Dog Nation).

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
Just make sure they’re home before dark.

8. Every paratrooper’s spirit animal on a Saturday jump (via Military World).

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
Unless it’s a Chinook, Sherpa, or foreign jump. Then, it’s all smiles all around.

9. Shut up, POG (via Pop smoke).

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
POGs who wish they weren’t POGs are 1,000 percent more likely to call people POGs than an infantryman is.

10. Yeah. This is worth the next four years of my life (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
Career counselors are basically Mephistopheles made flesh (Google it, then print one out and tape it to the career counselor’s door).

11. “Potato” isn’t too shabby (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War

12. Good ol’ National Training Center (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
So many great memories there.

13. You’ll never run faster than when you’re told you don’t have to run that morning (via The Salty Soldier).

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
One word. One syllable. So many feelings.

Articles

The 10 best military-themed sketches from ‘Saturday Night Live’

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War
Photo: SNL/screenshot


Topical humor has always been a big part of Saturday Night Live history and there have been plenty of military stories in the news to inspire its writers over the last four decades. As the show celebrated its 40th anniversary with a three-hour special that aired on Sunday, February 15th, we’ve combed through the SNL archives and selected the 10 best military-themed sketches.

1. Bruce Willis wants to bring some John McClane-style Die Hard heroics to a Black Ops mission in Afghanistan.

2. General David Petraeus (Will Forte) testifies to Congress about the progress of the surge in Iraq.

3. It’s time to build a coalition to fight Iraq’s nuclear capabilities, but General Colin Powell (Kenan Thompson) seems to have turned into Fred Sanford since his retirement.

4. A TV pitchman (Harry Shearer) explains why you need to spend $50,000 on a Pentagon-approved MacDouglass Drummond wrench.

5. An Air Force fighter pilot (NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon) wins elementary school Career Day over carpet salesman Seth Meyers.

6. Weekend Update’s Seth Meyers examines the Winners Losers in the General David Petraeus/Paula Broadwell/Jill Kelley/General John Allen scandal.

7. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (Darrell Hammond) updates the media on progress after the United States invades Afghanistan.

8. Tired of the Congressional debate about whether to invade Iraq, Vice President Dick Cheney (Darrell Hammond) goes all Doctor Strangelove and rides a missile to Baghdad.

9. Test Pilot Mustang Calhoun (Dennis Quaid) is just plain crazy.

10. Two dumb Marines (Kevin Nealon and Dana Carvey) bring spies to the US Embassy in Moscow.

These just skim the surface. There are dozens of military-themed sketches from SNL. Tell us your favorites in the comments below.

More from Military.com:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marine Corps tested a skateboard unit in the 1990s

Before the days of the Iraq War made training to fight in urban centers a necessity, the Marine Corps was being proactive with the idea that the U.S. Military might have to capture some cities during a war. Urban combat exercises became a focal point after the Battle of Mogadishu, culminating in the large-scale Urban Warrior exercises in 1999.

One of the innovations tested in Urban Warrior was the development of the combat skateboard.


Urban Warrior was a test by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory to test the effectiveness of Marines fighting in large urban areas, which the Corps predicted would materialize on the world’s coastlines. The urban area was more than just another terrain for fighting. It came with its own set of obstacles to overcome including lack of shelter, lack of resources and the ease of booby-trapping rooms, trash, and even entire buildings.

The idea was that conventional U.S. Military power would be limited in an urban environment with a large civilian population and the potential for collateral damage. American tanks, munitions, and other go-tos of the arsenal of democracy would be useless in such an environment. On top of that, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance would have to accompany the fighting to prevent the devolution of the city into another Stalingrad.

Since the Corps knew what wouldn’t work, Urban Warrior was a chance to see what would work.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War

Like these spiffy “new” Urban BDUs.

On top of weapons, strategies, and uniforms, the Marines who landed and took over parts of Chicago, San Francisco, and Oakland in 1999 also tested a number of tactical ideas at their makeshift proving grounds, including the combat skateboard.

The Marines used store-bought, off-the-shelf, skateboards during Urban Warrior to detect tripwires in buildings and draw sniper fire, among other uses. What the Marines really took away from its experimentation with combat skateboards is that standard knee and elbow pads were useless for American troops fighting in urban centers and specialized ones would have to be obtained.

17 wild facts about the Vietnam War

Lance Cpl. Chad Codwell, from Baltimore, Maryland, with Charlie Company 1st Battalion 5th Marines, carries an experimental urban combat skateboard which is being used for manuevering inside buildings in order to detect tripwires and sniper fire. This mission is in direct support of Urban Warrior ’99.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Vallee)

Also tested by Marines in urban combat exercises were paragliders and bulldozers, which Marines dubbed “the bulldozer from hell.”

Articles

How this Marine inched his way to knock out a Japanese machine gunner

On May 1, 1945, the 5th Marine Regiment arrived at the Shuri line in Okinawa, Japan, to support the war-torn 27th Army Infantry Division. As the Marines patrolled the dangerous area, a Japanese machine gunner opened fire on the incoming grunts, killing three and wounding a few others.


After taking cover, Sgt. Romus “R.V.” Burgin decided that he needed to take action and bring the fight to the enemy.

“I was with some of those Marines out there for two and a half years, and whenever somebody gets hit it’s just like your family,” Burgin states in an interview. “That’s when I decided he needed knocking out right quick.”

Related: This is how the first Asian-American Marine officer saved 8,000 men

At that moment, the Japanese machine gunner was completely hidden, and Burgin needed to locate the threat immediately. He knew what direction the incoming fire came from but he needed to acquire a proper distance to call in for support.

Burgin stepped out into the open and proceeded in the direction of the shooter, hoping to spot the enemy gunner’s muzzle flash — and making himself a target.

After a few steps, the brave Marine’s plan began to work, drawing the enemy’s fire once again. Burgin dodged the incoming fire, two rounds ripped through his dungarees — but the quick-footed Marine was safe.

Little did the Japanese gunner know, he’d just given away his position. Burgin spotted his target and called in the enemy’s coordinates for a mortar strike.

Also Read: 9 things you should know before becoming a Marine infantry officer

After the first round missed, the Marine made a slight adjustment and scored a direct hit with the second attempt.

“I got a direct hit with the second round. Machine gun went forward and the [enemy] went backwards,” he said.

Check out the American Heroes Channel‘s video to see this outstanding Marine take out an enemy gunner for yourself.

(American Heroes Channel, YouTube)
MIGHTY CULTURE

This country music star is excited to be playing for the military

Country music superstar Chris Young has released two platinum albums, been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, and has nine number 1 hits. He’s on his Raised On Country Tour right now, and he took some time to talk about what it’s like to visit with Navy working dogs, to see so many vets and service members on his tour after his sister’s time in the Marines, and to have a tour sponsor in USAA that can help him get in touch with more military audiences.


Young picked the cities for the tour for the standard reasons, but he’s gotten to enjoy some little perks and experiences at military stops. Like when, two weeks ago, he got to hang out with dog handlers at Naval Base San Diego.

“There are so many markets where we’re going to go that are pretty large military markets as far as bases,” he said, “and, you know, we’re able to do the things like we did in San Diego on the naval base the other day.”

“We knew there were going to be a bunch of partnership opportunities like that [with USAA] and I just have a big love and respect for the military,” he said. “So anytime you get a tour sponsor where you know, everything already lines up on its own, it’s a pretty incredible thing.”

He isn’t new to the military experience, though. Young’s sister was a West Coast Marine who worked on helicopters. And she married another Marine. Seeing his sibling’s sacrifices deepened his respect for the military.

“I remember that I would see, first-hand, about the amount of time that people are going out. She and I have always been really, really, really close and so when you go months at a time, sometimes, without being able to see somebody because their travel versus what you’re doing to travel and anything else I think you understand it in a different way I guess.”

It’s his sister’s and his brother-in-law’s military service that he thinks of when he’s performing “The Dashboard,” a song about two brothers when one is sent to war and leaves his truck behind. For anyone who hasn’t heard it, we won’t give away the ending, but it’s not the ending made typical by “Riding with Private Malone.”

Young didn’t write “The Dashboard,” but he connected with it when he heard it.

Chris Young – Raised on Country (Official Video)

www.youtube.com

“That song, buddy of mine Monty Criswell wrote it, and I just thought it was so different from the way I had heard other songs written even along the same line, topically, just the way he handled that song and made it something really, really special and anytime that I’ve played I always use the chance to reference my sister because obviously, she’s a Marine so I get a chance to nod to her and my brother-in-law when I sing that song and I always make sure to say something about them.”

For Young, who has gotten a kick out of playing for troops since he was at bases like Fort Bliss before his first record contract, it’s nice to get back in front of them. But as his fame has grown and technology has advanced, he’s found better ways of recognizing vets and service members in huge venues.

A partner company makes these “armbands where we’ve been able to ask people prior to the show, we go, ‘Hey have you or has anyone in your family served?’ And then we can actually light up their armbands for a song and kind of call them out say thank you that way … which is pretty cool.”

For Young, that made USAA agreeing to come as tour sponsor perfect. He already loved the military and liked to take time during shows to raise them up, so having a sponsor whose customer base is almost exclusively military families let everything sync up.

“I’m already totally all in on and any chance that I get to say thank you in multiple different ways to military, that’s something that’s been important to me my entire career. [Partnering with USAA] is just going to be awesome. It’s just going to work so I think it’s one of things that just happened.”

And that partnership has already helped Chris Young take part in multiple events. He played a small concert for military and family members at the NFL Draft back in April and then got to visit the working dogs at San Diego this August. (If you watch the NFL Draft video, you might recognize WATM’s own Augie Dannehl who helped host.)

If you’re interested in seeing when Chris is coming to your town, check out his tour calendar here.