The United States owes its success in the Revolutionary War to help from France. The chief architect of that help was Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette. In America, we simply call him “Lafayette.”
When France needed help during World War I, a squadron of American airmen volunteered their skills to fight against Germany. They called themselves the Lafayette Escadrille. When American troops finally arrived in France years later, their leaders walked into the tomb of the nobleman and announced, “Lafayette, we are here.”
The relationship between the Marquis and the United States has endured for many centuries because of his admiration and service to a country that was not his own. That admiration runs so deep, that the nobleman is buried in American soil – in Paris.
When the Marquis de Lafayette came to the United States to fight the British in the Revolution, he was so committed to the cause that he volunteered to serve without pay. Unlike other French officers volunteering, Lafayette had the military pedigree to be of use and soon came to be the right hand man to Gen. George Washington himself.
That pedigree didn’t come with much experience. Lafayette would be learning as he served the American cause. Luckily, as a wealthy man, his personal contributions more than made up for what he lacked in military experience. But as he gained that valuable experience, he proved himself an able commander.
A dedicated Enlightenment thinker, his devotion to the cause of American ideals led him to fight in several battles, to be wounded at the battle of Brandywine, and encourage France to recognize American independence. Most crucially, it was Lafayette’s forces that harassed Cornwallis on his way to Yorktown.
This forced the British to move across the James River, where they were eventually trapped by Washington, Lafayette and Comte de Rochambeau by land and the French fleet by sea. He was forced to surrender his army after an almost three-week siege. It was the beginning of the end of the war, and the start of the American experiment.
Lafayette fought in the Continental Army all over the colonies, from New England to the Mid-Atlantic to the South, and was one of the few things that all the new states of the United States had in common. He so loved the ideals of the American Revolution that he tried to export them to France when he returned home.
His advocacy for American liberty would serve him and his wife well in the coming years of the French Revolution. The French admiration for American values saved the lives of the noble and his wife.
Lafayette would return to the United States many times in the years following the revolution. His visits would confirm the idea that the Founding Fathers had created a functioning democracy, based on the egalitarian values of the Enlightenment. He came to love the United States and proclaimed that he wanted to be buried in American soil.
On his final visit to the United States, Lafayette filled a trunk full of earth from the land near Boston’s Bunker Hill. When the noble died in 1834, his son interred him in the dirt from America. The American flag has flown over his grave continuously since 1850, a simple site behind an innocuous high stone wall.
When picturing a member of the armed forces, a fit person often comes to mind, and with good reason. Fitness is an essential part of being in the military. An unfit person is unable to carry the necessary gear in dangerous situations. Lacking physical fitness is a liability, both for the service member and their battle buddy. Therefore, active-duty members go through fitness tests on a regular basis.
The relationship between sports and the armed forces goes beyond the ability to carry a heavy backpack. After all, they both require discipline, commitment, and the ability to constantly push one’s limits. This is why the armed forces encourage active-duty members who wish reach the highest level of competition. Service members have programs, special authorizations, and may even delay active duty service. A Military world-class athlete has the chance to honor and represent our country in sports events all around the globe. Here are five ways they can do so.
The Olympic Games
Members of the military have taken part in the Olympic Games for years. In fact, for a long time, officers completely dominated shooting and horse riding events. Nowadays, active-duty members can compete in the Olympic trials. Officers and enlisted may join the U.S. team in both the Summer and the Winter Olympic Games. They can participate in events such as boxing, wrestling, gymnastics, swimming, climbing, shooting, modern pentathlon, table tennis, triathlon, judo, fencing, kayaking, softball and more. Thanks to the emphasis on physical fitness and the pride of representing Ol’ Glory, service members have succeeded in the past.
The Paralympic Games
If an amputee soldier wishes to remain on active duty, he or she must demonstrate a higher level of function with a prosthesis and have the recommendation of two medical officers. The soldiers are evaluated for prosthetic ambulation that exceeds basic ambulation skills, exhibiting high impact, typical of the prosthetic demands of the active adult or athlete, which is consistent with a K4 Medicare Functional Classification Level.
Gailey RS, Roach KE, Applegate EB, et al. The amputee mobility predictor: an instrument to assess determinants of the lower-limb amputee’s ability to ambulate. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2002;83:613– 627
Although military personnel with a disability are eligible to qualify for the Paralympic Games, they are usually are no longer active duty military. Only very rarely can a service member remain on active duty while wounded. A number of veterans wounded in action make it to the Paralympic Games. Discipline, mental strength, and determination are necessary to perform in sports and to overcome those life-altering injuries. That is why former military personnel are an important part of the teams who participate in the Paralympic Games. They have a good fitness base, and the right mental framework to overcome any obstacle in front of them and to transcend whatever impairment they face, translating into amazing skills.
The Marathon is the longest foot race in the Olympics. They are harrowing but rewarding challenges. In recent years, their popularity has increased, along with the rise of the fitness trend that started in the 80s. To run a marathon requires stamina, determination, and the will to keep going until reaching the finish line, even when every muscle burns and the lungs cry for help. This makes military personnel very suited for the task. Numerous active-duty members have taken part in popular editions around the world, such as the New York, Boston, London, or Paris marathons. Some hard-chargers love nothing more than a challenge; a few of them have run the race in full gear to establish dominance.
Major Leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL…)
A number of graduates from military academies, such as West Point, the Naval Academy, and the Air Force Academy, have been offered a shot at the pros upon graduation. However, a minimum of two-years of active duty service is required post-graduation. Naturally, most athletes lose that opportunity. In 2017, that rule was challenged. Graduates from the military academies are now allowed to go straight to the major leagues, replacing the two years of active duty by eight to ten years in the reserves. This change will probably allow the academies, who have been producing many brilliant military and business careers, to also produce world-class athletes while upholding the values of the US military.
National and International Championships
The excellent athletes on active duty are present at the national and international competition levels. Thanks to special authorizations, they are allowed to train to reach their peak and travel around the country and the globe to represent the Star-Spangled Banner. Whether national championship, Pan-American championship, qualifying rounds, invitationals, or world championship, they are present across many competitions to represent both their country and the military they serve. Thanks to the values of discipline and hard work promoted by Uncle Sam, these athletes often achieve very good results.
Members of the Kremlin Regiment on horseback dressed in the uniforms of the cavalry corps. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cavalry_corps_(Soviet_Union).
In terms of technological advancement on the battlefield, World War II oversaw a complete transition from the fighting of the 19th century to the advanced mechanized warfare of the future. By the end of the war, the world would reach the atomic age. At the war’s start, however, the armies of Europe and Asia were still using cavalry and horses.
That doesn’t mean the horse-mounted units weren’t effective. The opposite is actually true, and the most efficient uses of cavalry came on World War II’s Eastern Front, in Poland and later the Soviet Union.
After launching Operation Barabarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, the Germans made sweeping advances into Soviet territory, inflicting havey damage on the Red Army and capturing hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops.
Then, the German soldiers brutalized those prisoners of war. The advance also took a heavy toll on Soviet civilians. When the Germans were defeated at Stalingrad in 1943 and forced to fall back, the Red Army made sure the German soldiers paid a heavy price for all of their transgressions.
A trademark of the German invasion was the constant encirclement, capture or defeat of entire Soviet divisions. When it came time to make an envelopment of their own, the communist troops would give Hitler’s soldiers a taste of their own medicine.
By Fall 1943, the German Army was pushed all the way back to what is today Ukraine, after coming within 100 miles of taking the Soviet capital of Moscow. German Field Marshal Erich von Manstein’s Army Group South fell back to the Dnieper River, where the Germans were supposed to have constructed a series of fortifications in case the invasion failed.
These fortifications were supposed to have been built for the situation they now found themselves in. Except the fortifications had never been built. The Germans were forced back further and the Soviets were coming right for them.
The German 8th Army reformed a 62-mile front, with the town of Korsun in its center. The Germans were low on supplies, ammunition, and pretty much anything else needed to fight a war. The Russians, on the other hand, were flush with fresh troops and American-made equipment and vehicles.
By early February, Russian Field Marshal Georgy Zhukov decided he would use the same tactic he used to crush the German 6th Army at Stalingrad, a double envelopment. Just four days after the attack began, the envelopment of the German 8th began to form around Korsun. The move was much worse than the Germans originally thought – the Red Army had formed a double envelopment, the Korsun Pocket.
Relief to the pocket was hampered by both the weather and by German dictator Adolf HItler. Hitler ordered German forces outside the pocket to try to encircle the Red Army instead of helping the pocket simply break out. Then the weather turned unseasonably warm, turning the roads from frozen dirt to mud.
The Germans were barely able to move and the Korsun Pocket was soon whittled down to just seven square miles. The Wehrmacht had to break out or be destroyed and without orders from Hitler, made the attempt on Feb. 16, three weeks into the battle.
But the Soviets were ready for the attempt, and brought every tank and gun they could to stem the German breakout. As the Germans advanced, the Soviet brought T-34 tanks into their formation, driving over hundreds of infantrymen. Then, the Cossacks attacked.
Horse-mounted cavalry armed with sabers poured into the German defenders, and as they broke and ran for the safety of nearby hills and streams, they were literally cut down by the Cossack cavalry. Those who tried to surrender with their hands raised in the air found their hands lopped off.
For three hours, the heavy horsemen hunted the Germans. 20,000 were killed in the Korsun Pocket fighting and 8,000 were eventually taken prisoner.
There are some jobs troops leaving the service are expected to go after, but world-class musician isn’t typically one of them. Still, these 13 veterans prove that it can be done.
1. Elvis Presley
It’s not like Elvis needs an introduction. He was drafted in December 1957 and reported for his induction in March 1958. He turned down offers to perform for the troops in lieu of traditional service. Instead, he became a tanker and served in West Germany.
The “King of Country” served in the U.S. Army from 1971 to 1975. While in the Army, he began playing with an Army-sponsored band, “Rambling Country.”
4. Toy Caldwell
A founding member of the Marshall Tucker Band, Toy Caldwell served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam. After he was injured by a land mine in 1967, he was shipped home and medically discharged.
He created the Toy Factory band which would later become the Marshall Tucker Band. They released 14 albums. Five went gold, and an additional two went platinum.
5. Craig Morgan
Craig Morgan, now a country music star, spent nearly a decade as a forward observer in the Army’s 101st Airborne Division and 82nd Airborne Division. He would serve another six and a half years in the Army Reserve.
The legendary Willie Nelson was once a lackluster airman. He was discharged after only nine months due to back problems. He maintains ties to the veteran community though, advocating for veteran issues and providing support to vet groups.
8. Maynard James Keenan
The frontman for Tool, Keenan spent three years in the Army, starting with a stint in the U.S. Military Academy Prep School. He turned down an appointment to West Point and instead completed an enlistment before going on to become a world-famous musician.
9. George Jones
George Jones was once the top name in country music. In 1951, two years before he was discovered, he was a newly enlisted Marine. Jones never served overseas though the country was at war with Korea. He was stationed in California where he played gigs during his off time. His country music career took off in 1953.
He was allowed out after a year when an ankle injury on a training jump gave the Army an excuse to let him go. Only a few years after his discharge, the Jimi Hendrix experience wowed London and launched Hendrix’s career.
12. James Otto
James Otto was the son of an Army drill sergeant, but he opted for the Navy when he enlisted. He credits his two-year term with giving him discipline and life experience to make it in Nashville. James Otto wrote the hit “In Color,” which won multiple country awards for best song of the year. He continues to write and perform hit songs like “Soldiers and Jesus.”
13. Ray Manzarek
Most famous for playing the keyboard in “The Doors,” Manzarek joined the Army during the buildup to Vietnam. He served in Thailand and Okinawa before being kicked out. Manzarek, who had been a student at UCLA Film School before enlisting, returned to college. Only two months after graduation, Manzarek and Jim Morrison formed “The Doors” and became icons.
The Department of Defense has approved the Navy’s request for an extension to hardship duty pay for deployed sailors. Though the Navy requested the extra money for two years, the current funding expires in September, 2017, and does not include new money for Marines.
According to the Navy, an “extended deployment” consists of 221 consecutive days in an “operational environment” (aka: deployment), and the sailor assigned to those areas will earn $16.50 per day, “not to exceed $495 per month.” That amount is not dependent on rank or time in service. (Photo from U.S. Navy)
“The Navy is in high demand and is present where and when it matters,” said Vice Adm. Robert Burke, Chief of Naval Personnel. “Hardship Duty Pay – Tempo is designed to compensate sailors for the important roles they continue to play in keeping our nation safe during extended deployments around the globe.”
A Marine Corps financial office source said the reason the authorization was only approved for a year has more to do with politics than logistics.
During an election year, it is difficult to get additional funding for programs, he said.
“There are going to be budget cuts across the whole of the federal government in order for any progress on the national debt to be made,” the Marine financial office source said. “The next administration’s defense and fiscal policies will ultimately determine the fate of [Hardship Duty Pay- Tempo].”
A Navy spokesman said the service has paid out nearly $16 million over two years to about 24,000 sailors from 1,129 commands or units.
“This is something that the Navy wants for our sailors as we believe it positively affects sailors’ morale,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, spokesman for the Chief of Naval Personnel. “It’s one small way to help them during long and difficult deployments away from home.”
(Photo from U.S. Navy)
The Marine officer, however, was hopeful that “since it was reauthorized after its first go or ‘trial run,’ I think we can conclude that it was determined to be a success by our legislators in Congress and by the Department of the Navy’s upper echelon decision makers. Thus, I’m optimistic that it will continue in the future.”
Right now the reauthorization only applies to the Navy and does not include the Marine Corps. The same financial officer noted that though the extension of Hardship Duty Pay- Tempo does not apply to Leathernecks, he is hopeful that the Corps will issue its own extension.
The Marine finance officer didn’t believe that the lack of guidance for Hardship Duty Pay for the Corps would be a morale hit.
“If it turns out that Marines are not given HDP-T, I’m sure there will be a small level of frustration at first,” he said. “But Marines have always and will continue to put the needs of their country first, and are honored to do so. I have no doubt that what little frustration does occur will dissipate quickly.”
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
Lt. Col. Mark Sletten, an F-35 Lightning II program integration officer, lowers the canopy on an F-16 Fighting Falcon before taxiing to take off Dec. 7, 2015, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. More than 30 maintenance Airmen worked an early shift to help launch several jets to Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., for Checkered Flag 16-1, a large-force exercise that simulates a large number of aircraft in a deployed environment to cross-check weapons systems.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., is in the process of a midair fuel transfer from a Royal Australian Air Force KC-30A tanker Dec. 3, 2015. This was the first flight as part of a coalition tanker aerial refueling certification effort to qualify Australian, United Arab Emirates and Italian tankers to refuel U.S. Air Force F-16s, F-15 Eagles, B-1B Lancers, and A-10 Thunderbolt IIs using their respective booms. The test team will check for qualities such as fuel pressure surges, stability of the aircraft being refueled and the handling qualities of the boom for certification.
A B-1B Lancer launches from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Dec. 2, 2015. The B-1B is one of many aircraft participating in the first large force exercise in the newly expanded Powder River Training Complex.
Army paratroopers, assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade, establish security during Exercise Rock Nemesis at Rivolto Air Base, Italy, Dec. 4, 2015.
An Army paratrooper, assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade, fires an M249 light machine gun during a range exercise at Force Reno training area Ravenna, Italy, Nov. 30, 2015.
First lady Michelle Obama helps sort toys for the Marine Corps Foundation’s Toys for Tots drive for the sixth straight year at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling on Dec. 9, 2015.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Dec. 7, 2015) – An F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the Wildcats of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 131 prepares to launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Dwight D. Eisenhower and embarked Carrier Air Wing 3 are underway preparing for their upcoming deployment.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Dec. 07, 2015) Dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) prepares for night time flight operations. The Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) is underway off the coast of Southern California completing a certification exercise (CERTEX). CERTEX is the final evaluation of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (13th MEU) and Boxer ARG prior to deployment and is intended to certify their readiness to conduct integrated missions across the full spectrum of military operations.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Dec. 6, 2015) Sailors from Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 1, provide security during a visit, board, search and seizure drill with Sailors and Marines from amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18), and 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (13th MEU). New Orleans is part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), which is off the coast of Southern California completing a certification exercise (CERTEX).
BFG: U.S. Marines conduct artillery live-fire rehearsals during Platinum Lynx 16-2 at Smardan Training Area, Romania, Dec. 8, 2015. Exercise Platinum Lynx 16-2 is a NATO-led multinational exercise designed to strengthen combat readiness, increase collective capabilities, and maintain proven relationships with allied and partner nations.
A Marine with Alpha Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, awaits the order to lock down the hatches as the unit prepares to conduct company-level beach operations on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Dec. 5, 2015. During this exercise the unit conducted maneuvers as a mechanized infantry company in preparation for upcoming operations.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, based out of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, conduct counter-improvised explosive ordnance training exercises at the Barry M. Goldwater Range in Yuma, Ariz., Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015.
Coast Guard Station Golden Gate is trained and ready! During a typical year the station prosecutes approximately 450 search and rescue cases and over 300 law enforcement boardings, with the busiest part of the year occurring from June through September, making Station Golden Gate one of the busiest search and rescue stations in the Coast Guard!
This is how our crews at U.S. Coast Guard Station Morro Bay check the weather! The 47-foot Motor Lifeboat crew was evaluating the conditions at the bar.
Everyone knew in the closing days of World War II that the Soviet Union was destined to clash with the rest of the Allies. But when it attempted a blockade of West Berlin that amounted to a siege in 1948, it still took the world by surprise and threatened World War III. Luckily, President Harry S. Truman was able to call on Western air forces to resupply Berlin by air for over a year.
Berlin Airlift: The Cold War Begins – Extra History
The Berlin Blockade, as it was known, was in reaction to Western Power attempts to re-stabilize the German economy and currency after World War II. Both the Soviet Union and the West wanted Germany to lean toward them in the post-war world because it would act as a buffer state for whichever side won.
But, beyond that, Russia wanted to ensure that Germany would never again be strong enough to invade the Soviet Union. Remember that the German military under the Kaiser had invaded Russia only 30 years before the Germans under the Fuhrer invaded the Soviet Union. The Soviets didn’t want to suffer that again.
So Soviet Premier Josef Stalin sabotaged the first attempt to overhaul the German economy, and when the Western Powers attempted to introduce the new German Deutsche Mark behind his back, Stalin instituted a total blockade of West Berlin.
Germany had been split up after the war, with America, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union all taking control of one section of the country. But each Allied power also got control of a section of Germany’s capital, Berlin, even though Berlin sat entirely within the Soviet Sector of the country.
So the Soviets could choke off the ability of France, America, and Britain to resupply their troops simply by closing the roads and rails that fed into the city, and they did.
This left those countries with a serious problem and only crappy choices. Do nothing, and the troops are starved. Pull the troops out, and the Soviets take control of the entire capital. Try to resupply them in force, and you’ll trigger a war, for certain.
So the senior advisers to Truman suggested that he simply give in, and pull the troops out. Better to lose the city than fight another war, and allowing the troops to starve to death was no option at all.
A C-54 flies into Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport in 1948 as part of the Berlin Airlift.
(U.S. Air Force Henry Ries)
But Truman, a veteran of the front lines of World War I, and the man who decided to drop the atom bombs was not one to shy away from a confrontation. He ordered the city held and required his generals to find a way to get supplies in.
Their best plan was an audacious airlift called Operation Vittles. Experts from Britain estimated that it would take 4,000 tons of supplies per day to keep the city going. Carrying that many supplies via plane would be tough in any situation, but the task was made worse by the limited amount of infrastructure in Berlin to receive the supplies.
Berlin only had two major airports capable of receiving sufficiently large transports: Tempelhof Airport and Royal Air Force Station Gatow. These stations would need to receive well over 1,000 flights per day if the mission were to be achieved with the planes immediately available, mostly old C-47s.
But in the early days of the airlift, the air forces would fall well short of 4,000 tons per day. Instead, they would hit more like 70 and 90 tons per day, slowly growing to 1,000 tons per day. But, after a few weeks when it became clear that the airlift would need to continue indefinitely, the U.S. Air Force brought in an airlift expert to increase the throughput.
Maj. Gen. William H. Tunner was a top operations officer for the Military Air Transport Command, and he took over in order to make the operation much more professional and precise. Under Tunner, the military brought in new planes that would max out the reception capability of Tempelhof and Gatow.
The C-54s could carry more supplies, but they also over-stressed the landing surfaces. Workers rushed out between landings to spread sand to soften the damages to the landing surface. And, as winter set on, an entirely new landing strip was constructed at Tempelhof.
Almost 1.8 million tons of supplies were delivered by the time the operation was over.
(U.S. Air Force)
And the miracle worked. Tunner got the daily total to over 4,000 tons, then set record days at 4,500 tons, 5,000 tons, and beyond.
Eventually, the Soviet Union had to admit that the blockade had failed. The German people had rallied around the Western powers, and the West was in a better position after 15 months of airlift than it had been before the start. The western sections of Berlin and Germany became decidedly pro-American and British, and the Soviet Union had to use the force of arms to retain control of the Soviet sections.
This should have been predictable. After all, there are few sights that might make a government more popular than its planes flying overhead, dropping candy and delivering food and fuel, for over a year as you’re barely able to stave off starvation.
The Cold War was on, but Western logistics had achieved the first great victory with no violence. But, approximately 101 fatalities were suffered in the operation.
Chaplains do a lot for the troops they serve during war, whether it’s bringing comfort to a badly wounded soldier in their last moments or helping guide a troop through rough, emotional times. A chaplain may be of just about any religion, but no matter which he’s chosen, he’s there for all troops.
There was one instance where four chaplains proved exactly that. In the early morning hours of Feb. 3, 1943, John P. Washington (Roman Catholic), Alexander D. Goode (Jewish), George L. Fox (Methodist), and Clarke V. Poling (Reformed Church of America) would go down in history as “The Four Chaplains.”
These men came from a variety of backgrounds. According to ArmyHistory.org, Fox was already a hero of note – a Silver Star and Croix de Guerre recipient from his service as a medic during World War I. Washington had survived a BB gun accident that nearly blinded him and had cheated on a vision test to serve in the Army. Goode followed in his father’s footsteps to become a rabbi and had shown a talent for bridging religious divides. Poling’s father had been a prominent radio evangelist. Washington and Goode, coincidentally, had both been rejected by the Navy.
However, all four of these chaplains would soon meet their end at the hands of a German U-boat and, in doing so, would become known for their extreme bravery and poise.
When torpedoes from the German submarine U-233 hit USAT Dorchester, it triggered a calamity. The stricken transport developed a sharp thirty-degree list, rendering a number of lifeboats unusable. Over a third of the personnel on board were quickly killed and many of the survivors were panicked.
The four chaplains took control of the situation, passing out life jackets to the troops who needed them. At one point, a navy officer went looking for a pair of gloves when Goode stopped him, handing over his own gloves, claiming he had an extra pair. Another soldier began to panic about not having a life jacket and Fox was heard saying, “Here’s one, soldier.” A survivor witnessed Fox giving the panicking soldier his own life jacket. The official summary of the statements by survivors noted merely that the chaplains on board had a “calm attitude” throughout the Dorchester’s last moments.
All four chaplains perished in the sinking of the Dorchester. They received Distinguished Service Crosses and the Purple Hearts posthumously. Their heroism, though, will live on.
The video below is part of the 75th-anniversary tribute to these men:
There’s a lot to unpack in this headline – the legality of pirates, why there would be pirates in the 20th century, how they came to be flying the Goodyear Blimp of all things, and what would be the best way to be a pirate when your only ship is an unarmed airship that proudly displayed your tire company of choice.
First, let’s talk about legal piracy.
Definitely not your torrent collection. If you don’t know what torrents are, then you’re probably good.
Know that “piracy” is always illegal, and the only time it’s not against the law is when we agree to call it something else. In the old days – that is the old days of wooden sailing ships – ships known as “privateers” sailed the high seas. These were privately owned and operated ships that were allowed to board and capture this ship of a particular nation, claiming it and its cargo as prizes. A privateer is not a pirate for one simple reason: the privateer carries a Letter of Marque.
A Letter of Marque is issued by one country, listing the specific assets available to the privateer, the enemy nation from which those assets can be seized or destroyed, and the authorization for the privateer to do it in the name of the issuing country. Famous privateers include Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh (who raided Spanish gold ships for the English) and the Goodyear Blimp Resolute.
(U.S. Navy Photo)
For the first time since the War of 1812, the President, through Congress, issued a Letter of Marque to a civilian ship. In this case, the letter of marque allowed the private-owned airship to search for Japanese submarines in the Pacific Ocean, and allowed its crew to be armed without violating any laws of armed conflict.
And it was. The Resolute was based in Los Angeles and was used in regular patrols of the Pacific Ocean, searching for Japanese submarines operating along the United States West Coast. Its crews’ only armament was small arms, but there was little chance of the airship successfully boarding and capturing a Japanese submarine. The airship would just have radioed the location of the submarine to ships who could come do something about it.
Too bad there would be no chance of taking prize money.
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:
Survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists wait before performing static line jumps as the door of a C-130 Hercules, assigned to Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., opens over the Nevada Test and Training Range, Nev., March 11, 2016. SERE specialists lead the Air Force emergency parachuting program and conduct extensive testing of parachuting systems. They are uniquely suited to analyze the operating environment to plan for evasion, captivity and recovery considerations.
Airmen, carrying 35-pound rucksacks, participate in the 2016 Bataan Memorial Death March with 6,600 other participants March 20, 2016, at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The 27th annual march was 26.2 miles long and served as a reminder for today’s generation of the harsh conditions World War II veterans endured during their 60-mile march to a prisoner-of-war camp in the Philippines.
A Soldier rushes to his next position during the third day of testing at the Expert Infantry Badge qualification held on Fort Jackson, S.C. March 31, 2016.
A Soldier, assigned to 1-2 SBCT, 7th Infantry Division, conducts aerial radiological survey training from a 16th Combat Aviation Brigade UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., March 24, 2016.
SOUDA BAY, Greece (March 25, 2016) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75), departs Souda Bay, Greece, following a scheduled port visit. Donald Cook is forward deployed to Rota, Spain, and is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.
NORFOLK (March 30, 2016) An MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter from the Blackhawks of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 15 conducts an aerial refueling exercise with a Lockheed Martin KC-130 tanker. Navy and Marine Corps aviators regularly conduct training in order to maintain mission readiness.
A U.S. Navy Corpsman assigned to Field Medical Training Battalion East (FMTB-E), checks on members of his squad during a final exercise (FINEX) at Camp Johnson, N.C., March 1, 2016. FINEX is a culminating event at FMTB-E which transitions Sailors into the Fleet Marine Force.
U.S. Marines with the Marine Corps Engineer School (MCES) at Courthouse Bay, participate in tug of war competition during a field meet at Ellis Field on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, March 17, 2016. The MCES holds a field meet annually in order to promote camaraderie and competition.
Chief Petty Officer Mark Wanjongkhum and Chief Warrant Officer Michael Allen, both from Surface Forces Logistics Center, walk around the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy while in dry dock at Vigor Shipyard in Seattle, March 31, 2016. Healy will return to the water this week after three months of maintenance.
A C-27J Medium Range Surveillance airplane sits on the runway at Coast Guard Aviation Logistics Center in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Thursday, March 31, 2016. The C-27J is the newest Coast Guard aircraft to join the fleet and will be used in maritime patrol, drug and migrant interdiction, disaster response, and search and rescue missions.
When people talk about the aircraft carriers of World War II, some names jump out right away. Maybe the USS Enterprise (CV 6), both versions of the USS Yorktown (CV 5 and CV 10), or the USS Hornet (CV 8)?
But one carrier that was present at the start of World War II and survived throughout the war isn’t that well known. Meet America’s first purpose-built aircraft carrier, the USS Ranger (CV 4).
The Ranger, like many pre-war American ship designs, was heavily influenced by the Washington Naval Treaty. This limited aircraft carriers to 27,000 tons per ship, and the United States Navy’s carrier force could have a total displacement of 135,000 tons. The conversion of the under-construction battle cruisers Lexington (then-CC 1) and Saratoga (then-CC 3) to CV 2 and CV 3 put them both at 33,000 tons.
As such, the Ranger was limited to 14,500 tons – and the U.S. wanted to cram as much as it could on this ship. She received eight 5-inch, 25-caliber guns, as well as a host of M2 .50-caliber machine guns. She also could carry around 75 aircraft.
Nine Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighters and five Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless dive bombers are visible on the flight deck of USS Ranger (CV 4) prior to Operation Torch. Note Ranger´s distinctive stacks in the left foreground. (US Navy photo)
When World War II broke out, the USS Ranger was in the Atlantic as part of the Neutrality Patrol, along with the carrier USS Wasp (CV 7). According to the “Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships,” the Ranger was sent to patrol the South Atlantic. After returning for repairs, the Ranger then was tasked with delivering P-40 Warhawks to Africa. She made two runs in the spring and summer of 1942, delivering 140 of those planes – some of which were destined to reinforce the Flying Tigers.
In November of 1942, the Ranger took part in Operation Torch, launching 54 F4F Wildcats and 18 SBD Dauntless dive bombers. Her planes sank or damaged two French warships, and also gave the landings fighter cover.
After Torch, the Ranger was overhauled, then delivered 75 more P-40s — this time for the North African Theater of Operations. She carried out training missions during most of 1943, until she was attached to the Home Fleet.
In October, 1943, the USS Ranger joined the British Home Fleet, and carried out a number of strikes on German naval forces around Norway. After that, she again served as an aircraft ferry, delivering 76 P-38 Lightning fighters to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations.
After making that delivery, the Ranger finally went to the Pacific, where she was a training carrier until the end of the war. After the war, the USS Ranger was decommissioned and sold for scrap.
In London’s Westminster Abby there is St. George’s Chapel, where on one of the chapel’s walls hangs the Commando Association Battle Honors flag that lists where the Commandos fought and died during World War II from 1940 to 1945.
Under the word COMMANDO in gold letters is a stylized portrayal of a singular knife – the Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife.
Soldiers throughout history have always carried blades as weapons and as tools. Yet, no other knife is more commonly associated with WW II elite forces or possesses more mystique than the Fairbairn-Sykes knife.
Commonly referred to as the “F-S knife” or “F-S dagger,” it is still issued to British Royal Marine Commandos, the Malaysian Special Operations Force, Singapore Commandos and Greek Raiders. In addition, the image of the knife is part of the emblem of the United States Army Special Operations Command (Airborne) as well as the emblems of special forces units in Holland, Belgium and Australia.
Yet, it is a weapon born out the experience of dealing with 1930’s knife fights in Shanghai and developed by two men who had no scruples about dirty fighting. In fact, William Fairbairn and Eric Sykes taught an entire generation of warriors that one of the quickest, quietest and deadliest ways to kill Germans was cold steel thrust into Nazi vitals – preferably from behind.
“The Commando dagger would become a symbol not just to the men who were issued it, but also to British civilians at a time when Britain was on the back foot, and any deadly way to strike back at the Germans was considered a boost for morale,” wrote Leroy Thompson is his book Fairbairn-Sykes Commando Dagger.
Whether it was the Roman pugio (a short-bladed dagger that served as a legionnaire’s backup weapon), bowie knives wielded on both sides of the U.S. Civil War, or the “knuckle duster” trench knives of the Great War, soldiers have always carried blades for use in close-quarters fighting.
However, from the late 19th century until World War II many European generals thought it was unseemly for soldiers to bring personal knives into combat. Some thought it would reduce reliance on the bayonet and diminish the fighting spirit of soldiers.
Other commanders deemed rough-and-tumble knife fighting downright “ungentlemanly” – there’s a reason why betrayal is often called a “stab in the back.” Killing face-to-face with the bayonet was considered the more honorable way to dispatch the enemy.
However, the beginning of World War II reinvigorated belief in the close-combat knife as an essential weapon.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill was less fussy about how British troops killed the soldiers of the Third Reich. He placed great stock in commando forces, covert operations, and what he called “ungentlemanly warfare.”
The newly created Special Operations Executive taught knife-fighting as part of agents’ training. So did the British Commandos and airborne forces.
That meant there was a demand for a specific kind of knife that would be used to quietly kill the enemy, preferably in a surprise attack.
“In close-quarters fighting there is no more deadly weapon than the knife,” Fairbairn wrote in his manual Get Tough! How to Win in Hand-to-Hand Fighting (1942). “An entirely unarmed man has no certain defense against it, and, further, merely the sudden flashing of a knife is frequently enough to strike fear into your opponent, causing him to lose confidence and surrender.”
Fairbairn would have known: During his 20-year career with the Shanghai Municipal Police, he fought in hundreds of street fights against assailants armed with knives and daggers. His friend and colleague Sykes served on the same police force and faced the same adversaries in what was at the time one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
In 1941, both men collaborated on the knife’s original design. Although the knife went through several variations during the war, it remained a double-edged stiletto well-balanced like a good sword and suited to thrusting and cutting more than slashing an opponent.
The models made by high-quality cutlers were manufactured from carbon steel so they could be honed razor sharp.
David W. Decker, a U.S. Navy veteran, knife-fighting expert, and collector of F-S knives, said a man trained in the use of the Fairbairn-Sykes knife learned confidence and aggression. In the hands of a properly-trained individual, it is a fearsome weapon.
“The knife has tremendous capacity for penetration of an enemy’s clothing, web gear and person,” Decker said. “A vital part of the training was the instruction in hitting lethal targets on the human body. Many of these targets had to be reached through the rib cage, so the slender blade was most efficient. The approximately seven-inch blade is capable of reaching all vital organs. Fluid in the hands, the grip was designed like that of a fencing foil to enhance the maneuverability of the knife.”
Another advantage of the F-S dagger was its ease of carry, said Decker, whose website chronicles the development of the knife and has photographs of many examples.
Relatively lightweight compared to other combat knives of the time, it was easily concealed or secured in a battle dress cargo pocket. Some men carried them strapped to their legs, tucked behind their pistol holster, or in a boot.
The needle-nosed point and razor-like edges of the dagger sometimes caused problems, Decker said. For example, one British commando could not pull the dagger out of the body of a German sentry because the knife was stuck in his ribs.
“At least one knife-maker was quoted as saying he made knives for stabbing Germans, not peeling potatoes,” Decker said, indicating some manufacturers made F-S knives with smooth edges so a soldier could remove the blade more easily from the enemy’s body.
Despite differences in quality and manufacture, the F-S knife gained popularity with both British and American soldiers during the war.
Members of the U.S. Army Rangers and Marine Raiders carried versions of the knife. U.S. Army Gen. Robert T. Frederick, commander of the 1st Special Service Force known as The Devil’s Brigade, based his design for the V-42 stiletto issued to his troops on the F-S knife.
Today, the F-S knife remains an iconic symbol on both sides of the Atlantic of what it means to qualify as an elite soldier.
At Fort Benning, Georgia, there is the Ranger Memorial. Behind two stone pillars holding a stylized Ranger tab are two smaller pillars and a knife sculpted in stone – a Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife.