Why airborne units are obsolete - We Are The Mighty
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Why airborne units are obsolete

This article originally appeared at The Havok Journal.


I recently read an article that posed an interesting question: Does the Army need airborne? The short answer is no. The long answer is we need the capability; there is a small fraction of operations where an airborne assault might be the only way to go, but we don’t need as much “airborne” as we currently have.

Bear with me. I know there are some seriously butt hurt people right now reading this. The tactic has value — limited, but still some.

The unit as an organized structure that practices the airborne tactic has no value — zero, nada, and zilch. The reason is simply the risk; a new person jumping one time is just as much at risk as a veteran jump master on his 1,000th jump.

Why airborne units are obsolete
(U.S. Army paratroopers conduct an airborne operation on Oct. 20, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez)

The singular benefit of airborne operations is to get troops on the battlefield when there are no other means available and when those same troops might secure the means themselves.

WWII was a perfect example. The night of June 5, 1944, airborne operations began to place large numbers of troops behind German lines to tie up reinforcements trying to reach the Atlantic Wall fortifications and prevent the beach invasion.

Also read: Here are 10 things everyone experiences in jump school

It was known and accepted that those airborne troops were effectively lost and might never be recovered as a unit. We routinely accept injury in airborne operations that would be unacceptable in other training, all for a tactic that has limited utility.

Had the beach landings failed, the airborne teams would have been cut off and without support. At best they could have surrendered; at worst, they would be dead. This was not an assumption. This was a specific and recognized outcome of the invasion.

Why airborne units are obsolete
U.S. Air Force photo/Alejandro Pena

For all the vaunted legend of the 82nd Airborne and the 101st Airborne, the fact is that the units had little cohesion, fought mostly in small numbers, and took several days to re-form into fighting units. Unity of command was not lost; it was impossible to obtain from the beginning.

I am not denigrating the men of the 82nd and the 101st. I am saying any unit could have accomplished the same tasks without any special training involving parachute operations. The difficulties would have been the same.

Soldiers were intermingled between companies, battalions, brigades, and divisions as the confusion of the battlefield worked its magic. Fortunately Americans took advantage of the confusion and managed to win the day.

In that one demonstration on the field of battle, they proved that Airborne was not “all the way” and that the technique of vertical envelopment of the battlefield has a limited utility best used sparingly and only if you are ready to lose those involved.

Which is why for the next sixty years the activities in wartime were expressly limited. In part, we had other means, but ultimately it became clear that this is a tactic that only serves its use in specific operations or as an act of desperation.

Why airborne units are obsolete
U.S. Army Airborne School. (Photo: U.S. Army Kristin Molinaro)

The operational characteristics, fully published in FM3-99 Airborne and Air Assault Operations, show the limitations clearly. Even during peacetime, the physical threat to personnel from the jump alone is high.

In fact, regardless of the number of jumps a person has, the risk to life and limb is the same each time they jump. The experience they receive does not affect the process once they exit the aircraft. The senior commanders are just as exposed to risk as the privates.

They are at the mercy of the weather. And that alone can render an entire operation a failure.

With the risk being the same for a jump master with 1000 jumps or the cherry on his first jump, we can say, from a risk management standpoint, we don’t need Army Airborne.

We can still, when the need arises, utilize airborne operations. All risk being equal, there is no difference to the mission to drop an entire unit using a small cadre of experienced personnel while the rest of the personnel just straps on the parachute and falls.

I know it works. This was also proven in WWII by the same units. Many of those men had no training in parachute operations. They were taught to put it on and they got in the plane and jumped into combat.

We don’t need units like the 82nd or battalions like the 1/501st. We need each unit to have a small cadre of jump masters and if the military decides to utilize personnel on an airborne operation, the cadre will ensure everyone is suited up and rigged, and then push them out the door.

There is no reason to have a specialized unit with nifty hats just to practice a tactic that is not really necessary. All they do is fall. They don’t have to open the parachute because the static line does that. While the appropriate parachute landing fall (PLF) might be worthwhile to prevent injury, it is not really worth the effort of a 3 week school just to teach that.

Airborne school teaches the PLF and weeds out those too scared to jump. Other than that, it does not teach you anything particular.

Putting on the parachute does not require training beforehand — the jump master is responsible for making sure you put in on right anyway. Rigging your equipment is not an experience-based skill. Just wrap it up using a pictogram and you are done.

Why airborne units are obsolete
Paratroopers jumping off C-130 Hercules. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod)

We don’t need specialized airborne units. Airborne, as practiced by the 82nd AA, was obsolete at the end of WWII.

The Army just doesn’t want to admit that because it looks good. But none of them want to admit that the casualties, from the jump and from war, would make any airborne operation a risky adventure.

They know it; they just don’t want to talk about it.

In combat, a unit that sustains 15% casualties is still combat capable but only marginally. What gain do we have from a military unit that could receive those losses from entering combat before they face the enemy?

The jump alone could cause that damage, and this does not include the fact that it could be the senior command leadership, key weapons vital to the mission, or any number of critical items lost on the drop.

Why airborne units are obsolete
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Javier Orona

Those are the risks not once, but every time a jump occurs. It is not cost effective to maintain a unit that faces those risks every time just for practice. It would be better to only pull out this operation when necessary.

If we are going to accept the potential risk, it is not any more dangerous to accept a leg unit that did an airborne operation as a onetime act of desperation.

Airborne pride is an expensive attitude for a military tactic of desperation. It is time to close the books on that chapter.

We can still use the tactic — but we don’t need to enshrine the idea behind it.

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American commandos are ready for a ‘Toyota War’ of their own

Why airborne units are obsolete
Special operators gather around an up-armored Humvee. (Photo: DVIDS)


In May, images emerged of American commandos working with the Kurdish YPG rebel group in Syria. Among other things, the pictures highlighted an increasingly popular military method of transportation for special operators – the pickup truck.

Though the Pentagon has spent millions on purpose-built military trucks for its elite troops, U.S. Special Operations Command has a separate project specifically set up to buy more discreet, civilian-style vehicles. Based on readily available models, the top commando headquarters dubbed them “Non-Standard Commercial Vehicles,” or NSCVs

“The NSCV provides … a low visibility vehicle capability to conduct operations in politically or operationally constrained permissive, semi-permissive or denied areas,” U.S. Army Col. John Reim explained in a briefing on May 26 at the annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Florida. At that time, special operators had a combined fleet of more than 500 Fords, Nissans and Toyotas, with the bulk already deployed around the world.

Commonly referred to as “technicals,” armed pickup trucks are generally associated with terrorists, insurgents and small military forces rather than American troops. When Chadian soldiers piled into these types of vehicles to fight Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddaffi in 1987, observers quickly dubbed the conflict the “Toyota War.”

Since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11th, 2001, the Pentagon has been working with contractors to develop and field these improved civilian vehicles. After arriving in Afghanistan in 2002, Army Special Forces soldiers were famously spotted riding a red Toyota Tacoma pickup on at least one occasion.

We don’t know whether this or other similar trucks spotted in the field were part of the formal NSCV project. The Army’s special operators only got their latest versions ready to go in September 2014, according to the one review of the ground combat branch’s special operations plans.

In principle, the truck’s main job is to allow elite troops to better blend in overseas. On top of that, the upgraded pickups and sport utility vehicles offer a number of distinct advantages over specially upgraded Humvees and mine-resistant MRAPs.

The most obvious benefit is that the NSCVs are simply smaller and lighter than their military cousins. A basic Toyota LandCruiser Model 78 weighs approximately 4,700 pounds, depending on year and starting configuration.

An up-armored Humvee can be over 11,000 pounds. In comparison, Oshkosh’s “light” M-ATV mine-resistant vehicle is positively gargantuan at over 32,000 pounds.

One 1999 Army manual tells Special Forces troops to “carefully consider weight” when using modified Humvees. “An overloaded vehicle handles poorly, consumes fuel at a higher rate, lacks power, and will experience more maintenance problems.”

The handbook specifically says the M1114 up-armored Humvee is a poor choice for desert operations because of its size. Heavy military vehicles can easily sink and become trapped in sand and other soft ground.

The Humvee’s ever growing size and weight is why the U.S. Marine Corps purchased a number of Growler “internally transportable vehicles” that could squeeze inside the confines of their unique MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotors. With similar concerns, the Army has become increasingly interested in smaller military trucks, such as the Jeep J8, for airborne and airmobile troops.

For special operators, even if the added armor and other gear doubled the weight of an NSCV, it wouldn’t be half as big as the MRAP. With payload capacities up to 2,500 pounds, when riding in the plain looking trucks, elite troops don’t necessarily have to leave behind critical gear. The pictures from Syria showed commandos in full kit on pickups armed with weapons like the .50 caliber M2 machine gun and 40-millimeter Mk 47 automatic grenade launcher.

In addition, the upgraded civilian trucks retain their relatively small dimensions. This means the pickup trucks can fit into the main cabin of the U.S. Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment’s MH-47 transport helicopters.

All of the modified commercial vehicles can easily drive on and off the Air Force Special Operations Command’s specialized MC-130 cargo planes. These four-engine transports can airdrop unarmored versions, too.

So, unlikely MRAPs, elite troops can quickly get the trucks where ever they might be needed. It’s no surprise that special operators brought NSCVs with them into the complex and hostile Syrian battlefield.

And the commercial starting pattern makes the trucks less of a hassle to maintain in remote areas. American special operations forces routinely work with friendly troops driving similar vehicles – which the Pentagon has often supplied in the first place.

With their NSCVs, the special operators can go where their allies can go and share many necessary supplies. In training exercises, the elite troops could share valuable lessons learned from their own experiences. The otherwise innocuous trucks present a less obvious target to terrorists or criminals when American commandos travel abroad.

Now, the Pentagon is looking to expand and extend the project. On July 18, the top commando headquarters hired the Battelle Memorial Institute to help develop new versions.

The $170 million contract covered modifications to Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger pickup trucks, as well as Toyota Land Cruiser sport utility vehicles, according to the original synopsis the Pentagon posted online in October 2015. Battelle had previous experience supplying the armored NSCVs to the Pentagon, according to Reim’s presentation.

The work outlined in the latest contract included upgrades to the vehicles’ suspensions, armor plating and bulletproof windows and space for communications gear, radio signal jammers and other military equipment. If the defense contractor keeps to the agreed upon schedule, Battelle should deliver the first 20 pickups and SUVs for tests by January 2016.

The Pentagon expects to buy just over 511 of the trucks over the course of their seven-year deal with Batelle. However, Reim’s bullet points said that the contract could cover more than 550 vehicles, some 20 vehicles over what the officer said was needed to achieve “full operational capability.”

These new vehicles are set to replace SOCOM’s existing modified trucks over the next three to five years. Whatever happens, American commandos are prepared to fight their own “Toyota War” for years to come.

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This Army unit uses Mickey Mouse in its logo — and Disney is totally cool with it

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory uses a picture of Mickey Mouse in its official logo, and it turns out that Walt Disney is totally fine with that.


The Army’s crime lab investigates serious crimes “in which the Army has an interest,” providing everything from forensic laboratory support to the experts that testify in criminal cases. Since they are the folks trying to figure out what happened on a crime scene, it makes sense to have a logo that reflects the profession.

In the Army’s case, that’s a picture of Mickey Mouse looking like Sherlock Holmes with a magnifying glass.

Why airborne units are obsolete

From the lab’s history page:

In 1943 the world was at war, and millions of Americans had been called to serve their country. The chain-of-command realized that in order to defeat the enemy aggressors, they had to control the internal criminal element. To assist in accomplishing this mission, the Army’s first forensic laboratory was activated on October 1, 1943, as the Scientific Investigations Branch of the Provost Marshal’s Office, 12th U.S. Army Group, Algiers, French North Africa.

The Laboratory consisted of 2nd Lt. George R. “Pappy” Bird and a photographer. They moved with advancing forces from Algiers to Naples, Italy where Sgt. James Boarders joined the new crime laboratory. The team then moved on to southern France. During this time all their work was done in borrowed offices of abandoned homes. As the offensive picked up speed, Bird, who had been promoted to captain, saw the need for a mobile laboratory. While in Marseilles, France, he obtained a weapons repair truck and its driver from the 27th MP Detachment (CI) and converted it into a laboratory. Bird later added a jeep and a chemist to his team and rejoined the allied advance; crossing the Rhine River and moving into the heart of Germany. The laboratory ended its wartime duty in Fulda, later moved to Wiesbaden, and then to Frankfurt.

The lab has been accredited since 1985, and is the only full service forensic laboratory the DoD has. On the command’s website is a letter from Walt Disney Productions (which is watermarked on the logo under Mickey’s feet), explaining that the studio is just fine with its appropriation of everyone’s favorite mouse:

Why airborne units are obsolete

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This pharmacy has a deep military tradition

Charles R. Walgreen, Sr. was more than an innovator and business owner — he was also a veteran.


The son of Swedish immigrants, Walgreen interrupted his budding pharmacy career to enlist with the Illinois National Guard and fight in the Spanish-American War in Cuba in 1898. His primary assignment was working in a hospital dispensary, which exposed him to yellow fever, complicated by malaria, a combination that was nearly fatal to him.

In time he recovered, returned to civilian life, and spent the following years working in various Chicago drugstores, sometimes for short periods at each. Thus he gained knowledge of the practice of pharmacy and experience with business techniques that distinguished the successful drugstore from the less so.  He learned a lot about the art and value of good customer service. Before long he wanted to be his own boss and, in 1901, bought the pharmacy he worked at in Chicago. Walgreens, the company, was born.

In its first few years, Walgreens became known for its “two-minute stunt.”  Customers who were in the immediate vicinity of the drugstore would call to order non-prescription items, and Walgreen would slowly repeat the order and delivery address back to the customer, loud enough for an assistant to take down the details. Walgreen would then chat up the customer long enough for the assistant to make the trip to the delivery address. Sometimes, with Walgreen still on the phone, the customer would excuse him or herself from the phone to answer the door, and return in amazement at how quickly the order had arrived. It was a feat of sufficient theatricality that it earned good word-of-mouth advertising.

Eight years after the first Walgreens opened its doors, the second location in Chicago opened.

By 1916, there were nine stores and by the time of the company’s 25th anniversary of service, 92 stores were operating in the Chicago area alone, many featuring soda fountains.

During World War II, more than 2,500 Walgreens employees served in the military, 20 percent of its workforce.  Forty-eight did not survive the war.

In 1943, Walgreens supported the war effort by opening a nonprofit, 6,000-square-foot store inside the Pentagon. Elsewhere, stores around the country sold $41 million in war bonds and stamps.

Walgreens continued to grow with the post war boom, and by 1975, hit $1 billion in sales. By 1984 Walgreens opened its 1,000th store.

Over the decades, the community and civic engagement for which Charles Walgreen was known evolved with the company to become a corporate-wide commitment to social responsibility. In addition to supporting numerous philanthropic causes, Walgreens has shown innovations in environmental sustainability, mirrored the diversity of America through its employment and vendor policies, and earned an international reputation as a model employer of people with disabilities.

From its humble early aspirations to make a name in Chicago, to its current aspiration to be America’s most-loved pharmacy-led health, wellbeing and beauty retailer, Walgreens in 2016 boasts a total of over 8,100 stores in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U. S. Virgin Islands.

After 115 years of service to the country, Walgreens is honored to also serve those in the military who have defended our country.

As part of the Express Scripts network of pharmacy providers, Walgreens stands ready to give Tricare members the excellent service for which it is famous. With over 8,000 in-network pharmacies from which to choose, Walgreens is well-positioned to champion every Tricare members’ right to be happy and healthy.

 

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13 photos showing the incredible determination of wounded warriors

The Department of Defense Warrior Games began in 2010 as a way to celebrate the the talents of injured or ill warrior-athletes. The 2015 games showcased some of the finest talent of the American and British wounded warrior communities. Showcased below are 13 of the most inspiring photos from the games.


While the games are about celebrating recovery and the warrior spirit, there are winners and medals. The Warrior Games closed on Sunday with the Army winning the overall competition. Check out the the final medal counts and more photos at Defense.gov.

Why airborne units are obsolete
Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Mark Watola

1. U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Marcus Chischilly takes off during the swimming finals at the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center in Manassas, Va., June 27, 2015. Chischilly is a member of the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games All-Marine Team. The 2015 DoD Warrior Games, held at Marine Corps Base Quantico June 19-28, is an adaptive sports competition for wounded, ill, and injured Service members and veterans from the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Special Operations Command, and the British Armed Forces.

Why airborne units are obsolete
Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Jared Lingafelt

2. Lance Cpl. Charles Sketch is presented with a gold medal during a standing ovation from spectators from around the world at the 2015 Marine Corps Trials. Competition provides opportunities for the Marines to train as athletes, while increasing their strength so they can continue their military service or develop healthy habits for life outside the service. The Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment enables wounded, ill, or injured Marines to focus on their abilities and to find new avenues to thrive.

Why airborne units are obsolete
Photo: US Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt Ezekiel R. Kitandwe

3. A member of Team Air Force throws the shot put during field competition for the 2015 DOD Warrior Games, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 23, 2015.

Why airborne units are obsolete
Photo: US Marine Corps Sgt. Fareeza Ali

4. Retired Marine Cpl. Ray Hennagir, an Orlando, Florida native, keeps his eyes on the ball during sitting volleyball practice at the 2015 Marine Corps Trials.

Why airborne units are obsolete
Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Terry W. Miller Jr.

5. U.S. and British athletes compete in the 100-meter sprint at the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 23, 2015.

Why airborne units are obsolete
Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Owen Kimbrel

6. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Ray Hennagir prepares to shoot the ball during the wheelchair basketball championship game at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 23, 2015.

Why airborne units are obsolete
Photo: DoD News EJ Hersom

7. Army visually impaired cycling teams finish together to take gold, silver and bronze during the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 21, 2015.

Why airborne units are obsolete
Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Owen Kimbrel

8. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Peter Cook practices swim form during the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 21, 2015.

Why airborne units are obsolete
Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Owen Kimbrel

9. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Jenae Piper prepares to serve during the bronze medal volleyball game during the 2015 Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games at Marine Corps Base (MCB) Quantico, Va, June 26, 2015.

Why airborne units are obsolete
Photo: DoD News EJ Hersom

10. Army Staff Sgt. Monica Martinez, left, And Army Staff Sgt. Vestor ‘Max’ Hasson compete, but in separate 1,500 meter wheelchair race categories during the Army Trials at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas April 1, 2015.

Why airborne units are obsolete
Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Ashley Cano

11. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Clayton McDaniels’ son receives a gold medal on behalf of his father whose team won the wheelchair basketball championship game at the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 23, 2015.

Why airborne units are obsolete
Photo: US Army Spc. Garry Abidin

12. U.S. Army Sgt. Blake Johnson, Bethesda, Md., attempts to block the shot of his Air Force opponent while playing a wheelchair basketball game during the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games at Barber Fitness Center, on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 20, 2015.

Why airborne units are obsolete
Photo: US Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt Ezekiel R. Kitandwe

13. A member of Special Operations Command throws the shot put during field competition for the 2015 DOD Warrior Games, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 23, 2015.

NOW: Ronnie Simpson created a non-profit that teaches wounded veterans to sail

OR: The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

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This is the Dunkirk hero who deserted then changed his name to rejoin the army

In 1916, nine-year-old Paddy Ryan was caught in a shootout between the Irish Republican Army and British troops. One of the British men pushed Ryan to the ground, taking a bullet for the young boy. It inspired Ryan to join the Army.


Except Paddy Ryan wouldn’t join the British Army until 1930. But Alfonsus Gilligan, as Ryan was known at the time joined as soon as he could. And deserted shortly after.

Why airborne units are obsolete

Deserters in the era of the second world war left for many reasons; few of them were actually for cowardice. Most of them were actually because months and years of endless combat pushed many of the frontline British troops past their breaking point.

The British Empire abolished the death penalty for desertion after World War I. In World War II Europe, deserters ran the black markets of occupied countries like France and the Netherlands. In Africa, deserters were often recruited into special operations forces like the British SAS.

Alfonsus Gilligan deserted because he wanted to avoid a court martial.

The 17-year-old wore his Irish Guards uniform to a public event in County Cork, Ireland — in defiance of British Army rules. The Irish, who just fought a war of independence against Britain, started a riot. Gilligan escaped unharmed, but was brought up on charges. He never returned to his London-based unit.

He spent a few years as an itinerant farmer and day laborer before he rejoined the British Army with a new name: Frank “Paddy” Ryan.

Why airborne units are obsolete
Frank Paddy Ryan in uniform with his wife Molly and son David taken in 1942. (via Birmingham Mail)

He and his fellow Royal Warwickshires deployed to France in 1940. He was part of the rear guard that held back the Nazis at Dunkirk, delaying them long enough for most of the men to make it off the beaches.

The Royal Warwickshire Regiment was overrun at Wormhoudt, in northern France, by the German army. They ran out of ammunition and surrendered with the expectation of proper treatment under the Geneva Convention.

Instead, a Nazi Waffen SS division called Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler took many of Ryan’s friends and brothers from the Royal Warwickshires, along with members of the Cheshire Regiment, Royal Artillery and a handful of French soldiers, to a barn near Wormhoudt, and then murdered them with grenades and rifle fire.

Why airborne units are obsolete

This became known as the Wormhoudt Massacre. Paddy Ryan was not among those killed. He fought on along the Ypres-Comines Canal as they made their way to the beach, being evacuated and returning to England on June 1, 1940.

His daughter didn’t discover her father’s first life until after his death in 2000. It inspired her and her husband to explore his life in more detail.

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America’s first fighter jet was designed before Pearl Harbor — but the Army rejected it

The Lockheed L-133 was thought to be capable of flying at least 620 mph and moving even faster when it kicked in its afterburners. Members of the development team thought it might even be capable of supersonic flight.


Shockingly, the L-133 wasn’t an aircraft design from the 1950s, but from 1938.

Why airborne units are obsolete
Photo: Youtube

Lockheed pitched the L-133 to the Army Air Force in 1940, but the generals were focused on long-range bombers. The people at Lockheed who designed the L-133 would go on to be the major players in Lockheed’s famed Skunk Works. They took many of their ideas from the L-133 and incorporated them into new designs for more than 20 years.

When the Germans began developing jet fighters, the U.S. decided they needed one. They went to Lockheed in 1944 and asked for a new fighter within 160 days. Using the lessons from the L-133, Lockheed created the F-80 with a couple days to spare. The F-80 was the first American fighter with jet engines to reach production.

Why airborne units are obsolete
Photo: US Air Force

Next the F-104 Starfighter was first flown in 1954. It incorporated the afterburners and “boundary layer control,” a method of increasing control of planes with short wings, that were originally destined for the L-133.

Why airborne units are obsolete
Photo: US Air Force

The SR-71 Blackbird flew in 1964 and was the first American aircraft to have wings blended into the body for stealth, a design element the L-133 called for in 1940.

Why airborne units are obsolete
Photo: US Air Force

To learn more, check out the documentary below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3viiJ4g5G8

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Meet The Marine Veteran Who’s Going To Be Star Wars’ Next Villain

Why airborne units are obsolete


The next villain of the Star Wars franchise also happens to be a military veteran.

Meet Adam Driver, the apparent villain of “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens,” set to be released in December 2015. He’s 31, a graduate of Juilliard, and you’ve seen him in the HBO series “Girls,” along with films such as “J. Edgar,” “Lincoln,” and “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

But before his acting career took off, he was U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Adam Driver. Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the San Diego-native decided to enlist.

Why airborne units are obsolete

“I was having an argument with my stepfather, and he was like, ‘Why don’t you join the Marine Corps?’ And I was like, ‘Noooo! Well, maybe, actually … ‘” Driver told Rolling Stone. “I went and saw the recruiter, who was like, ‘Are you on the run from the cops? Because we’ve never had someone want to leave so fast.’ I was like, ‘I’m going to be a man.'”

Stationed at Camp Pendleton with 81s Platoon, Weapons Co. 1st Battalion 1st Marines, the infantry mortarman began training for an eventual deployment to the Middle East. From Military.com:

Unfortunately for the young Marine, Driver injured his sternum in a mountain biking accident before deploying. He attempted to mitigate his debilitated state by training harder than before, if for no other reason than to show off that he was okay. However, after two years of service with no time in the field, Driver was medically discharged.

He served for two years and eight months, but was unable to finish his enlistment in the Marines. Still, Driver has continued to serve the military community. He runs a non-profit called Arts in the Armed Forces, which brings contemporary theater performances to troops free of charge. For now, we can speculate on exactly what his role in Star Wars will be, and of course, be sure to check out the movie on Dec. 18.

SEE ALSO: Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

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This is how the Pentagon had over 120,000 extra Purple Heart medals

Since 9/11, almost 58,000 American troops have either been killed or wounded in the war on terrorism. And according to the Pentagon, each of those casualties qualifies for the Purple Heart medal — whether awarded in person or posthumously.


But it turns out that most of those pinned with the distinctive badge would wear an actual medal that’s been in DoD stocks for over 70 years.

How is this possible? Believe it or not, according to a Dec. 2003 report by HistoryNewsNetwork.com, the military had over 120,000 Purple Heart medals in stock at the time, even after suffering almost 81,000 killed in action and nearly 257,000 wounded in action between the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Why airborne units are obsolete
The Purple Heart, the oldest American military decoration for military merit, is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who have been killed or wounded in action against an enemy. It is also awarded to soldiers who have suffered maltreatment as prisoners of war. Purple Heart day is dedicated to honoring service members, past and present, who have received the Purple Heart medal.

How did the Department of Defense end up with so many spare Purple Hearts on hand? The answer goes back to 1945.

We may remember it as the year the war ended, but back then, the question was how it would end.

The United States was planning for the invasion of Japan, codenamed Operation Downfall. The fight was expected to be very nasty. A 1998 article in Air Chronicles cited one estimate of 394,859 casualties. The Department of Defense ordered nearly half a million Purple Heart medals to award to casualties.

According to a 2015 post at HotAir.com, Operation Olympic, the invasion of Kyushu involving 14 divisions of troops, was slated to take place on Nov. 1, 1945. Operation Coronet, the invasion of Honshu with 25 divisions, would have begun four months later.

Why airborne units are obsolete
(Photo: AP)

Thanks to a pair of airplanes named Enola Gay and Bock’s Car, the invasion of Japan never took place. Many of the implements used to win World War II were either scrapped, sold off, or disposed of. But the medals were kept. The book “Blood Trails” by Christopher Ronnau described how Vietnam vets received Purple Hearts originally meant for use two decades earlier.

HistoryNewsNetwork.com reported that in 2000, the government finally ordered the production of more Purple Heart medals, but only to re-stock what was then known as the Defense Supply Center in Philadelphia.

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Today in military history: Germans ambush allies during secret Normandy landings practice

On April 28, 1944, German E-boats ambushed allied forces during a secret dress rehearsal for the historic Normandy landings called “Exercise Tiger.” 

Exercise Tiger was one of the largest scale training operations for the D-Day invasion, and for obvious reasons, it was a major hush-hush operation.

Still, nine German E-boats caught sight of the exercise in the early morning hours of April 28th and opened fire. 

They attacked a convoy of eight large tank landing ships, or LSTs, the vessels the allies would use to deliver vehicles and landing troops on D-Day. Only one of the two ships assigned to protect the convoy was present. The other was undergoing repairs.

The German E-Boats attacked four LSTs before they were driven away. 749 allied servicemen were killed in the attack. For perspective, only 197 servicemen were killed on Utah Beach during the actual D-Day landing. 

Additionally, ten officers involved in the exercise had intimate knowledge of the D-Day plan, but luckily, none were captured by the Germans.

Despite the tragic loss of life, many historians believe that lessons learned from the surprise ambush at Exercise Tiger contributed to the eventual success of the June 6th D-Day landing.

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American rebels returned this British general’s dog after a crushing defeat

Going up against the most powerful army in the world wasn’t easy. And the Continental Army knew all too well the smell of defeat at the hands of British regulars during their war for independence.


Why airborne units are obsolete
What’s this!? A British general’s dog? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Bitterness at suffering a loss could drive most troops to lash out at the victor in any way they could — even to hold a British general’s dog hostage to snub the victorious commander.

But fortunately for the American rebels, their commander had the moral fortitude — and an abiding appreciation for man’s best friend — to do the right thing.

And there’s even a book about the exchange.

After losing the American revolutionary capital at Philadelphia to British forces lead by Gen. William Howe in September 1777, Washington tried to knock out part of the Red Coat force camped at nearby Germantown. The attack launched Oct. 4 collapsed under its own complexity and the Continental troops were driven from the field by Howe’s forces.

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General Howe beat the pants off of Washington, but he lived the rest of his life fighting criticism of his conduct of the war in America. (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

The Continentals lost an estimated 1,000 men to Britain’s 500 and it was the second defeat of the American army under Washington’s leadership.

But it turns out the rebels captured an important asset of the British general who just dealt them a crushing blow.

“A dog … which by collar appears to belong to [Howe] accidentally fell into the hands” of Washington’s army.

Washington was well known as a dog lover, with a host of precarious pooches kenneled on his estate at Mount Vernon in Virginia. And though his men were inclined to keep Howe’s dog in retribution, Washington would have none of it.

He ordered a courier to take the dog through British lines and deliver him to Howe with a note written by his aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton.

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General Washington’s letter to British Gen. William Howe accompanying his recently-returned dog.(Photo from US government)

“General Washington’s compliments to General Howe, does himself the pleasure to return [to] him a Dog, which accidentally fell into his hands, and by the inscription on the Collar appears to belong to General Howe,” the note reads.

It turned out Washington’s good karma paid off, as Howe resigned as Britain’s top general of the Colonial Army not long after his victory at Germantown and spent the rest of his life fighting off criticism of his conduct of the war in America.

 

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sound familiar?

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

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

 

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That time Civil War soldiers stopped fighting and played music for one another

A few weeks after the bloody battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, an odd event took place at the front lines of the Civil War armies camped on the Rappahannock River in Virginia. The two sides — camped approximately a mile from one another — engaged in a battle of the bands.


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A Union band in the Civil War poses for a photo. (Photo: CC BY-SA Jcusano)

According to University of Virginia Professor Dr. Gary W. Gallagher in his Great Courses lecture series on the war, the concert was begun by a Union band on one side of the field who played a patriotic northern song, likely “Yankee Doodle” or “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Just after they finished playing, the Confederate band opened with the song “Dixie.”

The two bands then continued playing songs for one another throughout the early hours of the night, until the Union band started playing “Home on the Range,” a song popular in both Union and Confederate camps throughout the war.

The Confederate band joined in during the song, and soldiers from each side sang along.

The entire event was captured in a poem “Music in Camp” by John Reuben Thomas.

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Thure de Thulstrup’s Battle of Gettysburg, showing Pickett’s Charge. (Scan: Library of Congress)

Like the later Christmas Truce of World War I, the peace between the warring sides was short-lived. The Civil War would rage for almost two more years before its official end in May 1865. Indeed, the bloodiest battle of the war, Gettysburg, would take place just a few short weeks after the impromptu concert.

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