4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did - We Are The Mighty
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4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did

We can all agree that the Nazi Party was a band of terrifyingly cruel, delusional sickos. What you may not know, however, is that Hitler’s SS minions were also sometimes really, really dumb. From failed propaganda campaigns to ridiculous assassination attempts, the Germans were not short on weird.


1. Operation Holy Hitler (aka let’s kill Pope Pius XXII)

Photo: concordatwatch.eu

In some ways, Hitler was kind of an understated guy. He was a vegetarian, didn’t like smoking, and wore pants like this. But mostly, as we know, he was an egotistical maniac.

One of the best examples of the Fuhrer’s self-love came about in the 1930s, when he decided that local Catholic schools had a shocking lack of Adolf Hitler memorabilia on their walls. This was quickly remedied by replacing the classroom crucifixes with pictures of his face. How no one thought this was insane is pretty damning of human intelligence as a whole, but maybe the kids were just really tired of having to look at a an emaciated Christ all day.

Once Hitler had figuratively substituted God for himself, he decided to take it a step further. And since literally pulling Christ from the sky wasn’t an option, he decided to take out the next best thing: The Pope. Did we mention this was part of a larger plan to abolish all religions and declare himself as God of Germany? Because that was also a thing.

Hitler didn’t want to nix the Pope purely for vanity’s sake, however. In 1943, Pope Pius XII started to publicly denounce the Nazi’s blatant abuses of human rights. This did not fly in Germany. Eventually, the Pope’s thinly-veiled condemnations of Hitler’s activities went too far, and it was at that point that a real plan was set into action. Hitler brought SS Gen. Karl Wolff into his office, beckoned him closer, and said “I want you and your troops to occupy Vatican City as soon as possible, secure its files and art treasures and take the Pope and curia to the North.”

Pope Pius XII looking pretty displeased with this plan. Photo: paxtv.org

So far this plan sounds like something a Bond villain would cook up: Flashy, intriguing, but not completely insane. Then phase two comes into play, and all of that goes out the window. Here’s the plan in a nutshell: Once Nazi soldiers had captured the Vatican and the Pope, a second group would infiltrate the Holy City, pretending to be a rescue party. But instead of rescuing the Pope, they would claim that the first group of Nazis were actually Italian assassins, slaughter them all and “accidentally” shoot the Pope amidst the chaos if he didn’t cooperate. If he kept his head down, they would drag Pius XII back to Germany and lock him in a castle. Then the Nazis would blame the Italians, and everything would be roses.

At least, that was the plan. Luckily, Wolff realized that this was completely psychotic and tipped off the Italians, who were rightfully pissed. He wasn’t very subtle about it either, going so far as to agree to an interview with a local Italian newspaper, the Avvenire, which is owned by the Catholic Church. The Guardian writes that in the newspaper Wolff reportedly announced, “I received from Hitler in person the order to kidnap Pope Pius XII.”

The weirdest part of this story, however, is that according to historian Robert Katz, assassinating Pope Pius XII wouldn’t have benefited Germany or the Axis powers at all. Hitler was prepared to screw up everything just out of spite. Or maybe he secretly wanted the Pope hat, who knows.

2. The “degenerate art” gallery that was actually a massive success

Before the Swastika flew over Deutschland, the soon-to-be Nazi nation was experiencing an incredible art renaissance. Dadaism and the Bauhaus movement were taking the world by storm, and the art community was looking to Germany for the best in cutting-edge modern art.

Then the book burnings began. Art now had to fit the “Nazi ideal,” upholding Aryan values and praising the brilliance and prestige of the Fuhrer. Movies and plays were censored, operas canceled, paintings confiscated. The German art scene was being completely dismantled, and people were not happy about it.

The Nazis knew that people were pissed about these new “creative restrictions,” but felt that they were just misguided. People don’t actually know what they want until you show it to them, right? This was the Nazi strategy. To redirect the poor, misguided art enthusiasts of Munich, they would first show them what they shouldn’t want — by organizing an art exhibit called “Entartete Kunst,” or “degenerate art.” The gallery was supposed to showcase why modern art was actually awful and not cool at all.

Over 650 sculptures, paintings, prints and books were confiscated from public German museums to be “shamefully” displayed in the gallery. The Nazis arranged the art pieces haphazardly to make them appear less attractive, and wrote up explanations of why they were inferior, undesirable contributions to the art world and the Nazi regime in general.

Then the Nazis simultaneously opened their own art exhibit, the “Great German Art Exhibition,” one with Aryan-approved art only. This way it would be clear to the public which was the superior art genre, and settle the matter once and for all.

And here we have yet another sculpture of the perfect Aryan woman. Photo:

This did not go well.

Unimpressed with the perfectly sculpted, tasteful bronze nudes that filled the “superior” art gallery, the German art lovers ditched the stuffy exhibit and headed to —  you guessed it — the degenerate art gallery. In the end, five times as many people visited the Entartete Kunst, thrilled to finally have legitimate art on display. In only one day, 36,000 visitors flooded the taboo gallery, completing ignoring the “Great German Art Exhibition” taking place just a few minutes away. After the degenerate art gallery was closed, the featured pieces were either burned, confiscated by Nazi officials or sold to museums at auction. The pieces that were saved can be found in museums all over the world today, and the Entartete Kunst is considered by many to be one of the most culturally significant art exhibits of all time.

3. That time Hitler’s “Perfect Aryan Baby” ended up being Jewish

When you establish yourself as an extremist war-mongering regime, you need to make sure you have some killer PR to, you know, convince people that you aren’t actually an extremist war-mongering regime.

Joseph Goebbels, the head of Nazi propaganda, learned this fairly early on. So, in order to make the Third Reich appear a little more cuddly (which is ironic, since the dude looked like Dracula), he began a national campaign in 1935 to find the “perfect Aryan baby” — a child so pale and Germanic it could be the measuring stick for all infant beauty.

You would think the chosen Nazi baby would fit the white-blonde, blue-eyed ideal, but for whatever reason Goebbels selected a brunette, brown-eyed baby. Mistake number one if you’re the head of Nazi propaganda.

Goebbels then set about plastering the Nazi-Gerber baby’s picture over all of Germany. She showed up in flyers, newspapers, postcards, and propaganda posters of all kinds. Most people were pretty unfazed by the doll-faced baby that was suddenly appearing everywhere, accepting her as an unusually cute edition to the militaristic landscape of Nazi Germany.

Jacob and Pauline Levinson, on the other hand, were terrified to see the soon-to-be famous photo on the cover of “Sonne in Hause,” a Nazi family magazine. Why? The Master Race baby was their daughter — and she was Jewish.

Let’s rewind six months. The Levinsons had taken their young daughter, Hessy, to get her picture taken by photographer Hans Ballin, a prominent Berlin photographer. After the quick photo shoot they thanked Ballin, paid for their prints, and headed home, thinking that was the end of it. For Ballin, it was just the beginning. What the Levinsons didn’t know was that the talented photographer secretly hated the Nazis — a lot. Like Brad Pitt in Inglorious Basterds a lot.

So when Ballin found out that Goebbels had created a photo contest designed to find the perfect Aryan child — a child that Goebbels would personally select — he couldn’t resist the opportunity to undermine the entire thing.

“I wanted to make the Nazis ridiculous,” Ballin confessed, according to The Telegraph.

So, like the rebel artist he was, Ballin submitted the photo of little Hessy to the contest, hoping that Goebbels would bite. And as luck would have it, he did.

Unfortunately, this put the Levinsons in a lot of danger, and they ended up having to flee to Latvia. The Nazis later learned of their mistake, but never who Hessy was or where her family was hidden. In an interview with Death and Taxes Magazine last year, the 80-year-old Hessy (who now lives in the United States) confessed: “I can laugh about it now. But if the Nazis had known who I really was, I wouldn’t be alive.”

And who wouldn’t laugh? With Hessy’s picture, Ballin had effectively trolled the Nazis on an international scale. The Third Reich didn’t learn from its mistake, either: They would later choose a half-Jewish man as the premiere example of what a full-blooded Aryan soldier should be.

Werner Goldberg: Half-Jewish soldier turned Nazi poster boy. Photo:

And people wonder why they didn’t win the war.

4. The “Lebensborn” Nazi baby factory

Two nurses weigh children at a Lebensborn house.

The Nazis really had a weird thing for babies. During Hitler’s rise to power, thousands of babies were born into “Lebensborn” programs, which were basically Nazi baby breeding factories created under Heinrich Himmler. The children were raised to be in peak physical condition and were groomed to emulate the Nazi standard of beauty. They were given a strict diet, were indoctrinated into the Nazi way of thinking and even had their hair treated with ultraviolet light if the nurses suspected it was starting to turn anything but Nazi-approved white-blonde. Seriously.

Nazi nurses wear goggles as they administer the light treatment. Photo: Daily Mail

Where exactly did these babies come from, you ask? A few different places. Many of the children were the product of the government encouraging SS soldiers to “get to know” the prettiest girls in the European nations they conquered during Germany’s expansion. Then if the ladies were lucky enough to get pregnant, they would be sent to a Lebensborn house, which literally means “font of life” when translated. As in these babies would be the “font” that would kick start the Aryan population of Germany and its captured lands, ensuring a smiling, blue-eyed super race. The unwed mothers were free to stay and live with their children, so long as they complied with the home’s methods and adopted a proper Nazi lifestyle. Orphaned children were adopted out by upstanding German families.

Babies were also abducted from surrounding countries, so long as they were beautiful (Poland estimates that it lost as many as 100,000 children during the war). The darker, “less desirable” children would be sent to concentration camps with their parents. The same was true of children born in the homes; if a child was particularly non-Germanic looking, or resisted Nazi teachings once he or she was a little older, they would be sent to be gassed at a death camp. The babies that made the cut grew up to be some of an estimated 250,000 children who were Nazified under the Lebensborn program during the war.

Tragically, many parents would surrender their children to the Lebensborn program in an attempt to keep them from the horrors of the concentration camps. Most of them were simply taken, however, despite their Jewish ethnicity. Looking the part was enough for the program as long as you grew up to love Hitler and despise the Jewish race like the Nazi nurses who raised you, apparently.

When the war ended and the Allies invaded, they found several Lebensborn homes still full of children. Of the estimated hundreds of thousands of children who were part of the program, only about 25,000 were reconnected with their original families. Many of the parents had been killed during the war, but some children refused to be reunited with their real families, believing themselves to be superior and racially pure after the Nazis’ brainwashing.

NOW: The Nazis had insane ‘superweapon’ ideas that were way ahead of their time

OR: Amazing insight into what US intelligence knew about Hitler in 1943

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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:

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Jorge Salazar reacts to scoring a point in the gold medal wheelchair rugby match during the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, Fla. May 11, 2016.

DoD photo Edward Joseph Hersom II

Members of the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron “Thunderbirds” perform an aerial demonstration during the Shaw Air Expo and open house, “Thunder Over the Midlands” at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 21, 2016.

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kelsey Tucker

ARMY:

An Army flight medic, assigned to the Arizona National Guard and currently attached to U.S. Army Europe, assembles an M4 carbine, while a thick cloud of smoke limits his visibility during the stress shoot portion of the Multinational Battle Group-East’s Best Warrior Competition held on Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, May 21- 22, 2016.

U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Thomas Duval

Soldiers assigned to 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, fire an M777A2 howitzer during an exercise at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California, Jan. 29, 2016.

U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Evan M. Cain

NAVY:

NEW YORK CITY (May 25, 2016) – Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) man the rails as the ship pulls in for 2016 Fleet Week New York. The event, now in its 28th year, is the city’s time-honored celebration of the sea services. It is an unparalleled opportunity for the citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as witness firsthand the latest capabilities of today’s maritime services. The weeklong celebration has been held nearly every year since 1984.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Julie Matyascik

GULF OF ADEN (May 23, 2016) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Chase Coker launches an AV-8B Harrier II, attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 166 (Reinforced), off the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). Boxer is the flagship for the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

U. S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jose Jaen

MARINE CORPS:

Lance Cpl. Zach King, left, and Cpl. Derick Sammonek, assaultmen with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, brace themselves as an 60mm mortar exits the tube of an M224 mortar system as part of sustainment training during Exercise Eager Lion, May 15, 2016. Exercise Eager Lion 2016 is a bilateral, scenario based exercise with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the U.S., designed to exchange military expertise and improve interoperability among partner nations.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Paris Capers

Marines endure light debris from a UH-1Y Venom helicopter at a landing zone outside of Robertson Barracks, Northern Territory, Australia, on May 20, 2016. Marines with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin simulated causality evacuations with a UH-1Y Venom helicopter. MRF-D is a six-month deployment of Marines into Darwin, Australia, training in a new environment. The Marines are with Company B, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, MRF-D and Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, MRF-D.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mandaline Hatch

COAST GUARD:

Two Response Boats-Medium from Station New York underway for fleet week NYC security.

US Coast Guard photo by PA3 Iannazzo-Simmons

Two Response Boats-Medium from Station New York escort the USS Bainbridge (DDG-96) as she passes under the Verrazano Bridge for the fleet week NYC Parade of Ships.

US Coast Guard photo

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Army’s new UH-60V Black Hawk makes first flight

The U.S. Army’s new UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter featuring a digital cockpit has made its first flight, a company announced.


The chopper, basically a UH-60L upgraded with the new Integrated Avionics Suite, flew for the first time on Jan. 19 in Huntsville, Alabama, according to a release Monday from Northrop Grumman Corp. The base is home to the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command.

Also read: How does the B-52 get more awesome? With lasers, that’s how

The utility rotorcraft is made by Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Sikorsky unit, but Northrop won a contract in 2014 to upgrade between 700 and 900 L models of the aircraft with the new cockpit design, which replaces older analogue gauges with digital electronic instrument displays. The technology is already included in UH-60M production models.

The pilot and crew prepare for an initial test flight of the UH-60V Black Hawk, which successfully flew for the first time on Jan. 19 | Northrup Grumman photo

“This UH-60V first flight accomplishment reaffirms our open, safe and secure cockpit solutions that will enable the most advanced capabilities for warfighters,” Ike Song, vice president of mission solutions at Northrop, said in a statement.

The Falls Church, Virginia-based company won the Army deal over such competitors as Lockheed Martin, Elbit Systems and Rockwell Collins, according to an Aviation Week report at the time.

The UH-60M marked a major change from the 25-year old UH-60L model Black Hawk with the addition of an all-digital avionics suite. The same technology is being added as part of an effort to upgrade L variants of the aircraft to V models. | Photo courtesy Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky unit

The new system is nearly identical to the UH-60M interface, according to Northrop. The technology is designed to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency’s Global Air Traffic Management requirements for military and civilian airspace around the world, the company said.

The UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter flying for the first time on Jan. 19, 2017, in Huntsville, Alabama.

The Army a decade ago began receiving UH-60M variants featuring the new digital cockpits. The M model is the most advanced variant of the helicopter and remains in production.

 

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LIVE: WATM coverage of IAVA Commander-in-Chief Forum

On Sept. 7, the two leading American presidential candidates will square off in a town hall-style forum before a live audience aboard the USS Intrepid, a decommissioned aircraft carrier that’s now a museum docked at Pier 86 in midtown Manhattan.


Sponsored by the non-profit Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and broadcast live by NBC and MSNBC, the first-ever Commander-in-Chief Forum will be an opportunity for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democrat presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton to speak about veterans issues, national security and military policy. The candidates will address the audience separately and will have the opportunity to answer questions from moderator Matt Lauer.

We Are The Mighty will live blog the event, providing commentary and insight from our team of editors, writers, contributors and friends throughout the primetime event. So stay tuned here for up-to-the-minute coverage as the groundbreaking forum unfolds.

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Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ in dry dock in July 2015. | Christopher Michel/Flickr photo


The aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is the biggest ship in the Russian navy and the most visible symbol of the Kremlin’s military power. This October, she will travel to the Mediterranean and carry out air strikes in Syria, according to a report from the Moscow-based Tass news agency.

There is a general rule for news about Russian warships. Like most things in life — don’t believe it until you see it. The first problem is that the Tass report, which reverberated throughout the Russian and Western press, relied on a single anonymous “military-diplomatic source.”

Nor is this the first time rumors have spread about the Admiral Kuznetsovgoing to war in Syria. The Russian navy denied a 2015 report which claimed as much.

But this is not to say you should totally disbelieve it, either. Recent activity surrounding the Admiral Kuznetsov may indicate an upcoming combat deployment.

First, here are several reasons to doubt it.

Admiral Kuznetsov has never seen combat, nor would she be of much practical military use. The 55,000-ton carrier has a bow ramp, not steam catapults, requiring her aircraft to shed weight before taking off. This means her planes will go into combat with less fuel or bombs than the ground-based fighters Russia has already deployed to Syria.

This is on purpose. The Soviet Union designed Admiral Kuznetsov as a “heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser” to support a surface battle fleet, foreign policy writer Taylor Marvin pointed out.

This makes her less flexible than U.S. supercarriers, and it’s the reason she packs anti-ship missiles for sinking other vessels, but cannot launch fully gassed-up strike planes with heavy bomb loads suitable for attacking targets on land.

Worse, the conventionally-powered Admiral Kuznetsov has problems. Poor maintenance, defective steam turbines and shoddy boilers means she’s unreliable — which is why Russia sends an ocean-going tug with her, wherever she goes.

A video of one of these tugs hauling the carrier in bad weather during a 2012 voyage appeared last year. It has an utterly awesome and appropriately Russian soundtrack.

“Carrier operations, particularly high-tempo strike missions, are an extremely complex logistical and operational dance, with lethal consequences for mistakes,” Marvin wrote. “Since the USSR and Russia has had little opportunity to build these skills, and none to test them in combat, any strike missions from the Kuznetsov would be limited and mostly for show.”

Russia would take a big risk … for not much gain. This doesn’t mean the Kremlin wouldn’t take the risk. There is circumstantial evidence to suggest — although in a speculative fashion — that the Russians may be preparing to do just that.

British destroyer HMS ‘York’ shadows ‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ in 2011. | U.K. Ministry of Defense photo

For one, Admiral Kuznetsov is planning a voyage to the Mediterranean this fall. “It is true. There is such a plan,” Adm. Vladimir Komoyedov, chairman of the State Duma defense committee, told Tass on June 28.

Su-33 and Su-25 jets recently landed on the flattop, last spotted sailing in the Barents Sea. MiG-29Ks — a carrier-launched version of the muscular, multi-role Fulcrum — will arrive “in the coming days,” according to a July 4 reportby Interfax.

The news agency reported that the arrivals are in preparation for a “long hike” planned “roughly in the middle of October.”

The MiG-29K and its two-seater KUB variant are Soviet-era designs revived for the Indian Navy after it purchased the Kiev-class flattop Admiral Gorshkov — renamed INS Vikramaditya — in 2004. However, the planes themselves are brand new, pack advanced avionics and can drop precision-guided bombs.

The Su-33 is an air-superiority fighter, and the Su-25 is a close air support plane. Tass’ source said the carrier will go to Syria with “about 15 fighters Su-33 and MiG-29K/KUB and more than 10 helicopters Ka-52K, Ka-27 and Ka-31.”

But it gets weirder.

Russia went to war in Syria in September 2015. That month, Admiral Kuznetsov was completing a three-month maintenance stint near Murmansk.

Then in October, she appeared in the Barents Sea … for combat training.

That’s unusual, because the Russian aircraft carrier is a snowbird; she heads south late in the year. More specifically, she sails into the Mediterranean, which she did during her four previous deployments — all during winter.

October is not winter. But the Barents Sea and the carrier’s home port at Severomorsk are beyond the Arctic Circle, where flight operations are particularly dangerous beginning in mid-October due to the polar night, when there is little light.

Sergei Ishchenko, a military commentator and former navy captain, found that perplexing. “Only extraordinary circumstances could have forced training flights from the carrier during the least suitable time of the year,” he wrote for the website Svobodnaya Pressa.

“It’s obvious that the war in Syria is that circumstance.”

 Russia might not have a chance to deploy its carrier in combat again for awhile. In early 2017, Admiral Kuznetsov will head into dry dock for a two-year overhaul shortly after she returns from the Mediterranean. The war may be over by the time her repairs are done, giving the Kremlin a tiny window to signal military prowess with its flattop.

More curious is what’s happening with the MiG-29Ks.

These warplanes train at a runway with a ski-ramp in Yeysk, Russia, along the Sea of Azov. The Kremlin built this facility in 2012 as an alternative to a similar ramp runway in Nitka, Crimea — then part of Ukraine — which Russia leased. Russia captured Nitka during its February 2014 invasion, but the facility is apparently not suitable for MiG-29Ks.

And according to Ishchenko, the MiG-29K unit — the 100th Shipborne Fighter Aviation Regiment — was not fully trained as of January 2016.Admiral Kuznetsov is useless without those multi-role fighters and their pilots. “Victory in that war demands actual, not potential, power,” Ischenko wrote. “And the Admiral Kuznetsov still lacks its full combat power.”

Hence the reason why the carrier is back in the Barents Sea for the second time since last October, now with MiG-29Ks on the way … on a crash course for an upcoming combat mission.

At least, that’s the theory. We’ll find out in a few months.

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Terminally ill 8-year-old boy dies 1 day after being named honorary Marine

Wyatt Gillette, an 8-year-old boy with a rare genetic disease, died July 31 — just one day after being made an honorary Marine.


Wyatt received his Marine Corps eagle, globe, and anchor in a formal ceremony at School of Infantry-West aboard Camp Pendleton, California. At the ceremony, Wyatt wore cammies in his wheelchair as he proudly accepted his a certificate and an official Marine Corps insignia. A drill instructor saluted the new recruit as ranks of Marines proudly looked on.

Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego presented the title of Honorary Marine to Wyatt Seth Gillette in a ceremony at the School of Infantry-West Parade Deck, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, July 30, 2016. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Angelica Annastas

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller approved the honorary ceremony after an online petition for the boy reached nearly 5,000 signatures.

“The courageous fight that Wyatt continues is absolutely ‘Marine,’ ” Neller told Marine Corps Times on July 28. “I hope this small gesture will bring Wyatt and his family a bit of joy during their tremendous battle.”

Jeremiah Gillette – Wyatt’s father who is a Marine drill instructor at Camp Pendleton — posted in the petition that, “Nothing could make me happier than to see my son Wyatt Seth Gillette become an honorary Marine. He has fought harder in the last almost eight years than I will ever have to. If I earned the title, I believe he has as well.”

Wyatt was diagnosed with Aicardi-Goutieres syndrome as a 4-year-old. The disease affects the brain, immune system, and skin, and it can cause seizures and kidney failure. His father began reaching out to fellow Marines for prayers on social media last month. His command staff started the formal petition process shortly thereafter, said Capt. Matthew Finnerty, a spokesman at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego.

Gillette told KABC-TV that he has no doubt his son could have grown up to be a Marine if he were healthy.

“He’s the toughest kid I’ve ever met,” he told the TV station. “He’s the toughest person I’ve ever met.”

Their savings gone, the Gillette family is currently accepting donations to help with bills and funeral expenses.

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This SEAL Team 6 vet idolizes ‘Rough Rider’ Teddy Roosevelt

Official portrait of Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT) (Photo by United States Congress)


Inter-service rivalry is very common in the military. But one Navy SEAL Team 6 vet with a long service record is openly admiring an Army hero.

According to the blog of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke, President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as Secretary of the Interior, applauding the values former President Theodore Roosevelt brought to conservation and land management.

“I am an unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt and believe he had it right when he placed under federal protection millions of acres of federal lands and set aside much of it as National forests,” Zinke said during his confirmation hearing.

Zinke, who spent 23 years in the Navy, was the first SEAL to win a seat in the  House of Representatives according to law360.com. The San Diego Union-Tribune noted when his nomination was announced that he would also be the first SEAL to hold a Cabinet position. According to his official biography on his congressional web page, Zinke’s decorations include two awards of the Bronze Star for service during Operation Iraqi Freedom, which included a stint as acting commander of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula. Among the SEALs who served under him were Marcus Luttrell (of “Lone Survivor” fame), Rob O’Neill (who claims to have killed Osama bin Laden), and Brandon Webb (founder of SOFREP.com).

Like Zinke, Teddy Roosevelt was an avid hunter and outdoorsman, according to the Theodore Roosevelt Association. Roosevelt was also a military badass, receiving the Medal of Honor for his actions on San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War.

Roosevelt, though, also had a keen interest in naval affairs before serving with the Army. Prior to becoming Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President William McKinley, the Theodore Roosevelt Association noted that he wrote a history of the War of 1812, publishing it at age 24. Roosevelt would help turn the United States Navy into the global instrument of power projection it is today.

So, yeah, while inter-service rivalry has its place, in this case, we can understand – and approve – of a SEAL admiring a soldier like Teddy Roosevelt.

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This Project Is A Real And Raw Look At How Military Service Affected Veterans


Devin Mitchell was trying to get into graduate school as a sociology major, and he needed what he called a “high impact device” to get the attention of the admissions board.  Since he was also a freelance photographer, he naturally thought of creating a photo essay as the medium for that sort of impact.

Also Read: 5 Times When Jon Stewart Made A Difference For America’s Veterans 

And with that the Veteran Vision Project was born.

The idea is at once simple and complex.  Miller takes a picture of a veteran wearing a uniform of his or her choosing while looking into a mirror.  The reflection in the mirror is the same vet dressed in civilian clothes that capture what his or her life is like out of the military.

“The use of a mirror seemed an appropriate device for this subject matter,” Mitchell said.  “It screams dichotomy, two different people in one body, and sometimes it screams embodiment and identification.”

Mitchell’s process is simple.  “I don’t know any of these people,” he said.  “My encounter with any one of the subjects are usually no more than 15 minutes total.  They reach out to me online.  I vet their military status to make sure I’m not meeting with anyone who’s counterfeit.  And I show up at their house.  I don’t usually ask questions.”

The subjects decide on the composition of the essay.  “Every single time so far they have had something ready,” Mitchell said.  “I make the photo and I give it to them and I sit back as an audience member and wonder what the photo meant.

“I call it ‘artistic journalism,'” he said. “These are landmark observations of who these people are in this time period.”

The images provide an amazing range of emotions, especially considering they’re all shot in basically the same setting – a bathroom mirror.  In one essay a Marine couple is hugging in the mirror while they stand separate in the foreground, the man still in uniform and the woman in civilian clothes holding a sign that says “PTSD – divorcing but united.” In another a soldier is peeling off the blouse to his camouflage while he’s shirtless in the reflection with “Pride” scrawled across his chest in red lipstick.

“If the photos make people squirm in their chair a little bit, then obviously that’s something they needed to be exposed to,” Mitchell said.  “As an artist I couldn’t dream of anything better.  Enlightenment through art is the most beautiful thing in the world.”

Mitchell is firm in the desire not to artificially engineer a reality with the Veterans Vision Project.

“This is not a project to propagandize any sense of nationalism whatsoever,” he said.  “I’m very early in the project, and I will document the good, bad, and ugly. People should really expect to see everything the veterans have to say. As an artist I’m not scared of walking on anyone’s eggshells.”

Marine veteran Mike Dowling is one of Mitchell’s subjects.

“I knew some friends who had done it and they vouched for him,” Dowling said.  “I liked the pictures he’d done, so when he reached out for me I was up for it.  He said, ‘I just need you to have a military uniform that fits you and whatever civilian clothes you want.  You pose how you want to pose.’ I had full creative control.”

And how did the result impact Dowling?  “I look at my photo I realize how significantly my military service has laid the foundation for who I am today,” he said.  “No matter what I wear the military is always going to be part of who I am.”

Mitchell is not a veteran, and he describes his military knowledge as “very distant, far-off media consumption.”  “But I’m a student,” he added.  “I like to learn.”

After 134 photo essays (and an ultimate goal of 10,000 for the project) Mitchell has learned a lot about the military community.

“There’s just as much fragmentation as there is unity among the military,” Mitchell said.  “Just like any community.  The military is no different.  That’s one myth that I’ve demystified for myself since I started this.  Everyone does not identify with everyone else in the military community.  They’re still people.”

For more about the Veteran Vision Project, including how to participate in the project, go here.

To contribute to the Veteran Vision Project’s Kickstarter campaign go here.

NOW: One Of America’s Most Elite Universities Is Helping Veterans In A Unique Way 

OR: The Navy Carrier Called The ‘Top Gun Of The Pacific’ Is Headed To The Scrapyard 

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Turkey has seen several military coups over the last 50 years, but this one is different

Turkish tanks move into position as Turkish people attempt to stop them in Ankara. Burhan Ozbilici / AP


The Turkish military apparently staged a coup on Friday night,deploying military into the streets of Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey’s largest city and capital, respectively.

“Turkish Armed Forces have completely taken over the administration of the country to reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedoms, the rule of law, and the general security that was damaged,” a statement, published by a group calling itself the “Peace at Home Council” on TRT, Turkey’s state-run broadcaster, read.

But Turkish citizens began flooding the streets in support of President Tayyip Recep Erdogan after he called for citizens to gather and repel the coup.

The military in Turkey has forced out four civilian governments since 1960.

Here’s a brief outline, with information collected from Wikipedia, Al Jazeera, Foreign Affairs, and The Wall Street Journal:

1960: The military took over the government on May 27 during a time of heightened tensions between the government and the opposition, following some loosened rules on religion, but more restrictions on press. Prime Minister Adnan Mederes was executed.

1971: The military stepped in amid economic and socio-political troubles. The chief of the general staff gave a memorandum to the prime minister, who resigned shortly thereafter. The military then had a “caretaker” government installed.

1980: The chief of the general staff announced the coup on the national channel during a time of economic stress. The years following this coup “did bring some stability,”according to Al Jazeera, but the “military also detained hundreds of thousands of people; dozens were executed, while many others were tortured or simply disappeared.” Notably, while this was “the bloodiest military takeover in Turkey’s history,” it was also “highly supported by the public, which viewed military intervention as necessary to restore stability,” according to Dr. Gonul Tol, writing in Foreign Affairs.

1997: The military issued “recommendations” during the National Security Council meeting. Al Jazeera writes that the prime minister agreed to some measures, such as compulsory eight-year education. He resigned soon after. This is often referred to as the “post-modern” coup.

“E-coupe” in 2007: The military posed an ultimatum on its website to warn the Justice and Development Party (AKP) against backing Abdullah Gul for president. He belonged to an Islamist government. “The public and the AKP were outraged, and Gul was elected,” noted Tol in Foreign Affairs. “The military’s attempt to intervene against a popular party dealt a serious blow to its standing in society, and in an early vote held right after the e-coup, the AKP increased its vote share by 13%.”

As for 2016 …

Even though Turkey has seen a few military coups in recent decades, there are some notable differences between the ones in the past and the current one.

Business Insider reached out to Tol, director of the Middle East Institute’s Center for Turkish Studies, who explained some of the differences:

“[T]he situation is still very fluid but this is a very atypical coup. In the past, the military acted on calls from the people and staged a coup against an unpopular government. That is not [the] case today. The AKP and Erdogan might be very polarizing and might have alienated an important segment of society, but they still have the backing of almost 50% of the population. And we also have not seen large-scale calls for a military intervention, security collapse, chaos, the factors that played an important role in past coups. Also missing in this coup is the chain of command. In the past, the top brass went on TV right after the coups and explained [to] the public the reasons for the intervention. That has not happened yet. So this coup might not have the backing of the top brass.”

As an endnote, Tol added that “if Erdogan survives this, his hand will be even more strengthened and he will be able to convince people more easily that a presidential system is necessary.”

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This is why the Army selected Sig over Glock for its new handgun

The dust has finally settled in the battle between firearms giants Sig Sauer and Glock over the Army’s program to replace more than half a million M9 Beretta handguns after government investigators sided with Sig over a protest that claimed the company was selected unfairly.


In a June 5 report, the Government Accountability Office denied the protest by Glock of the January award of a massive contract to replace nearly 550,000 handguns in the Army and other services with a militarized version of the Sig P320 striker-fired pistol.

U.S. Marines with Combat Marksmanship Company, Weapons Training Battalion, fire Glock 17 pistols at Altcar Training Camp, Hightown, United Kingdom on May 15, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Gregory D. Boyd)

While the GAO said each was very close in performance and other factors that evaluators looked into, Sig came in with a program price nearly $130 million less than Glock.

“Based upon the technical evaluation and my comparative analysis of the proposals, the Sig Sauer proposal has a slight technical advantage over the Glock proposal,” the GAO said in its final report. “The advantage of the Sig Sauer proposal is increased when the license rights and production manufacturing factors are brought into consideration … making the Sig Sauer proposal overall the best value to the government.”

The evaluators said the Sig and Glock basically ran neck in neck when it came to reliability, accuracy, and ergonomics. But the Army hit Glock on its safety during the “warfighter evaluation” phase of testing, giving Sig an edge and prompting Glock to factor that into its protest.

Sig Sauer says its Model P320 is the first modular pistol with interchangeable grip modules that can also be adjusted in frame size and caliber by the operator. (Photo courtesy Sig Sauer)

The report is unclear on how the Glock safety negatively impacted the Army’s decision, but most commercial versions of both candidate handguns do not have a thumb safety, so each company had to design that into their submissions.

According to the report, Glock submitted one full-sized handgun (presumably the G17 or G19) and Sig submitted two, a full-sized and compact version of the P320. Sig is the only company of the two that manufactures a fully-modular handgun — one that can convert from a full-sized handgun into a sub-compact for concealed carry by changing out a few parts.

Reports indicated that soldiers at Fort Campbell will be the first issued the new Sig-made M17 later this year.

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Senate committee renews medical marijuana provision in VA Bill


Senate lawmakers on Thursday once again signaled to the Veterans Affairs Department they want VA doctors able to talk to patients about use of medical marijuana.

By a 20-10 bipartisan vote, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to the military construction and veterans legislation allowing agency doctors to make recommendations to vets on the use of medical marijuana — something they can’t do now even in states where cannabis prescriptions are legal.

“We should be doing everything we can to make life easier for our veterans,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, said in a statement. “Prohibiting VA doctors from talking to their patients about medical marijuana just doesn’t make sense. The VA shouldn’t be taking legal treatment options off the table for veterans.”

Medical marijuana is being prescribed in some states for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, even though its effectiveness remains questionable.

The legislative amendment was sponsored by Merkley and Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana, who successfully got the same amendment through the committee in November, only to see it stripped from the bill by House lawmakers a month later.

The latest language still has to be considered by the full Senate and then be sent once more to the House for approval.

The VA won’t comment on the lawmakers’ actions on medical marijuana, but its website quotes a report by Marcel Bonn-Miller of the National Center for PTSD at the VA Medical Center in Palo Alto, California, and Glenna Rousseau of the VA Medical Center in White River Junction, Vermont, dismissing marijuana as useful in treating veterans.

“Controlled studies have not been conducted to evaluate the safety or effectiveness of medical marijuana for PTSD,” the report states. “Thus, there is no evidence at this time that marijuana is an effective treatment for PTSD. In fact, research suggests that marijuana can be harmful to individuals with PTSD.”

The federal government in 2014 approved a study on medical marijuana to be conducted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a California-based nonprofit research center. But the research hasn’t yet been completed.

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13 signs you’re an infantryman

Here’s when you know you’re probably an infantryman in the Army or Marine Corps, better known as a grunt.


#1: Whether it’s on the ground, in a bed, or in a helicopter, you can pass out ANYWHERE.

#2: You survive on this stuff, because it’s an amazing grunt power source.

#3: You have eaten way more of these than you’d care to remember.

#4: You wear camouflage uniforms so much, you wonder why they even issued you those dress uniforms that just sit in a wall locker.

What are those things on the right? (Photo Credit: usmarineis5150.tumblr.com)

#5: The aging of your body accelerates beyond what you imagined was possible.

#6: This is “the field,” and it’s your office.

Photo Credit: US Army

#7: The guys in your fire team/squad/platoon know more about you than your own family. They are also willing to do anything for you.

#8: You have probably heard some crusty old enlisted guy say “all this and a paycheck too!”

#9: Your day often starts with a “death run” or a “fun run.” It is never actually fun.

Photo Credit: 26th MEU

#10: You watch “moto” videos of grunts in combat and get pumped up.

#11: A port-a-john in Iraq or Afghanistan (or anywhere really) has three purposes, not just “going #1 or #2.”

#12: If you are pumped up to deploy, you remember Iraq or Afghanistan is usually way more boring than people think, and the last time you went, your entire platoon watched “The O.C.” or some other show during free time.

#13: You really regret not wearing earplugs more.

DON’T MISS: 21 photos showing the life of an elite US Army Ranger

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Meet the most decorated working dog of World War II

Chips, a German shepherd, collie, husky mix, was the most famous and decorated sentry dog in World War II, one of 10,425 dogs that saw service in the Quartermaster Corps’ new “K-9 Corps.” Prior to the K-9 Corps, dogs such as Admiral Wags on the carrier Lexington and World War I canine hero Sergeant Stubby were mascots without any official function.


The K-9 Corps was the culmination of a program begun by the Dogs for Defense, a civilian organization created in January 1942 by a group of notable dog experts and the American Kennel Club. Concerned about the vulnerability of America’s long coastline to infiltration by enemy saboteurs, it offered to provide the Army and Coast Guard with trained sentry dogs. After some initial resistance, the Army authorized an experimental program using 200 dogs. The success of that program caused the Quartermaster General to authorize the acquisition of 125,000 dogs (later reduced). Of the 10,425 dogs that served in the military during the war, most conducted sentry duty along America’s coastline and at military installations. But roughly 1,000 dogs were trained as scout dogs. Chips was one of those dogs.

Also read: A brief history of dogs in warfare

Chips’ owner was Edward J. Wren of Pleasantville, New York, who enlisted Chips in the Army in August 1942. After training at the War Dog Training Center in Front Royal, Va., he was assigned to Pvt. Rowell. Chips participated in Operation Torch, and was one of three dogs assigned guard duty for the Roosevelt/Churchill Casablanca Conference.

In the predawn hours of July 10, 1943, the 3rd Infantry Division under the command of Maj. Gen. Lucian Truscott landed on the shore of southern Sicily near Licata in Operation Husky. Among the troops that hit the beach was the 3rd Military Police Platoon, 30th Infantry Regiment, containing Pvt. John R. Rowell of Arkansas and his sentry dog, Chips. As dawn broke, the platoon was working its way inland when a machine gun nest hidden in what appeared to be a nearby peasant hut opened fire. Rowell and the rest of the platoon immediately hit the ground. But Chips broke free from his handler and, snarling, raced into the hut. Pvt. Rowell later said, “Then there was an awful lot of noise and the firing stopped.” The soldiers heard someone inside the hut fire a pistol. Roswell said he then “saw one Italian soldier come out with Chips at his throat. I called him off before he could kill the man. Three others followed, holding their hands above their heads.”

Chips suffered powder burns and a scalp wound from the pistol fired at close range. Medics treated Chips and released him to Rowell later that day. That night, while on guard duty Chips alerted Rowell of an infiltration attempt by ten Italian soldiers. Together they captured all ten.

Within days the story of Chips’ heroics had swept through the division. Chips was awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star. More was to come. The platoon’s commander, Capt. Edward G. Parr put in a recommendation that Chips receive the Distinguished Service Cross for “courageous action in single-handedly eliminating a dangerous machine gun nest and causing surrender of its crew.”

War Department regulations prohibited the awarding of decorations to animals. But in the case of Chips, Truscott’s attitude was “regulations be damned.” He waived them and on November 19 in Italy he personally awarded Chips the Distinguished Service Cross.

U.S. National Archives

The people back home learned of Chips’ heroism in newspaper stories published on July 14, 1944. While most people were thrilled, acclaim was not universal. The next day the War Department released a statement that it was conducting an investigation, noting the War Department regulations. In addition, William Thomas, the national commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, angrily wrote letters to the president, secretary of war, and adjutant general of the U.S. Army protesting that the Purple Heart was a decoration for humans, not animals. Then Congress got into the act. After a debate lasting three months, it decided no more decorations were to be awarded to non-humans adding “appropriate citations may be published in unit general orders.” This meant that at least they would receive honorable discharges.

Though they took away his medals, that didn’t make Chips any less a hero. Among those who honored Chips was Supreme Commander Gen. Dwight Eisenhower. But, when Eisenhower leaned down to pet him, Chips, only knowing that Eisenhower was a stranger and possibly stressed from the attention he had been receiving, nipped the general’s hand.

Chips remained with the 3rd Infantry Division throughout the war. Shortly before he was honorably discharged, the men in his platoon unofficially awarded him a Theater Ribbon with arrowhead for an assault landing and eight battle stars. He returned home to the Wren family in December 1945.

Chips died seven months after coming home from complications of his war injuries at the age of 6. He is buried in the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Westchester County, United States of America.