Not all war movies are created equal. While box office returns don’t necessarily mean the movie was good or bad (for example, Iron Man 3 is the 10th highest grossing movie ever), they are an indication of what does or doesn’t pique people’s interest – although you might personally find a correlation between the two in this list.
Here are 13 military movies Hollywood probably wishes it could take back in order of the least to the worst offenders. (Loss estimates include marketing costs and adjustments for inflation.)
How could Director Peter Berg have known casting Rihanna was not the best idea? When the audience and critics think the movie is “not fun,” “crushingly stupid,” and would prefer to spend the time actually playing the game instead. And word of mouth didn’t save it at the box office.
Peter Berg told The Hollywood Reporter that his 2013 film “Lone Survivor” would allow him to “buy back his reputation.”
Roger Ebert called “Gods and Generals” a film “Trent Lott would enjoy,” referring to the Senator’s praise of segregationist Strom Thurmond. Noted author Jeff Shaara, whose Civil War-based books are highly praised and widely read, said the movie is nothing like his book and he has no idea how he could “let them butcher the book like that.” (But that didn’t keep him from holding onto the money he was paid for the film rights to the book).
Air Force movies don’t do well at the box office. No one has expressed a desire to see an Air Force movie since Gene Hackman and Danny Glover in “BAT*21,” and that was 1988. Someone should have told Cameron Crowe to make this movie about Marines … and not to cast Emma Stone as an Asian woman.
This might be the exception on this list. “K-19” was actually well-received, even by Russian submariners who were part of K-19’s crew. The only thing the Russian Navy veterans didn’t like was being portrayed as a bunch of drunken, incompetent Russian stereotypes.
Like the great general himself, “Alexander” enraged people from Greece all the way to India. Historians and critics both agree that this movie is both way too long and needs more fighting — unless those critics and moviegoers are American, in which case, the biggest concern seems to be that Alexander the Great might have been gay.
This is the story of the Raid at Cabanatuan on the island of Luzon in the Philippines during WWII. General Roger Ebert praised the film, saying “Here is a war movie that understands how wars are actually fought.”
Of course, Ebert was never a general, he’s just referring to the realistic depiction of combat in the film. He also said, “it is good to have a film that is not about entertainment for action fans, but about how wars are won with great difficulty, risk, and cost.”
There’s no movie magic like a Korean War epic funded by a cult. The film’s star told the world he did it for the money, the actress portraying the love interest decided to quit being a movie star after shooting wrapped, and the movie’s Washington, D.C. premiere was picketed by anti-cult activists.
Called one of the most inaccurate war movies ever made, “Windtalkers” also tries to tell the story of WWII Navajo code talkers through the eyes of a white guy. (Come to think of it, it’s actually surprising that here’s only one Nicolas Cage movie on this list).
A robot plane (stop laughing) is based in downtown Rangoon (which hasn’t been called that since 1989). After it’s hit by lighting, it becomes more alive (stop laughing, this is serious) and one of the pilots trying to stop it gets shot down over North Korea. Some more stuff happens, and then they discover the plane has feelings.
The marketing for this movie used the line “you will never forget.” And you won’t. You’ll remember how great this movie could have been if every character had been played by Billy Bob Thornton. “The Alamo” is number 2 on this list, but number 1 in terms of epic disappointment.
Colin Farrell strikes again. Even Bruce Willis couldn’t create any interest in this WWII movie. Basically, a captured American officer is punished in the POW camp by having to bunk with the enlisted. The prisoners use a trial to distract the guards from a coming attack on an ammo factory.
The U.S. Army is considering having paratroopers in airborne units wear World War II-style brown jump boots with the new Army Greens instead of the black boots they currently wear.
“We have discussed that; we don’t have them done yet, of course,” said Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey. “We’ve got to make prototypes and show them to [Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley] for a decision.”
Since the first airborne units were formed during World War II, Army paratroopers have bloused their spit-shined jump boot in the trousers of their Class-A and Class-B uniforms.
The tradition will likely continue with the new Army Greens, Dailey said.
“The intent is to still allow the airborne soldiers to wear jump boots [with the Army Greens] and … it’s not approved yet, but the intent would be to show the chief of staff of the Army brown prototypes.”
Dailey’s comments to reporters at the Pentagon on Nov. 19, 2018, came eight days after the service announced the adoption of the Army Greens — a new Class-A/Class-B uniform designed after the iconic pinks-and-greens uniform soldiers wore during World War II.
Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey stands with Soldier models wearing the proposed Pink Green daily service uniform at the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania December 9, 2017.
(US Army photo by Ron Lee)
The current blue Army Service Uniform will become the service’s optional dress uniform once the Army Greens becomes mandatory for wear in 2028.
The service plans to begin issuing the Army Greens to new soldiers in summer 2020. Soldiers will also have the option to begin buying the new uniform in summer 2020.
The new uniform will feature a green jacket, taupe-colored pants and brown leather shoes. It will be issued with a garrison cap, but soldiers are also authorized to wear the black beret, Army officials said.
There will also be an optional service cap with brown leather trim that soldiers can purchase, officials have said.
There are other optional items soldiers can purchase as well, Dailey said.
“There are a few different jackets that we are working on right now,” he said.
One of them, Dailey said, is the Eisenhower jacket or “Ike jacket,” a waist-length jacket that was popular in WWII.
“The second one is the tanker jacket, which would replace the [current] black windbreaker, and it is a greenish color,” he said. “And the last one is, which the soldiers love the most, is what we call the World War II bomber jacket, so it’s the leather jacket.
“Each one of those would be optional for wear, based upon the type of formation or the commander’s input. But if the soldier is traveling around in Class-Bs and wants to put on … a jacket to warm up, a soldier will have that option,” Dailey said.
Army officials did not say when the three optional jackets would be available for soldiers to buy.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
There’s no other way to put it. This week was full of horrific events and terrible news.
Yet, in the midst of all the bad that happened this week, there were some rays of goodness. Because that’s what memes are supposed to be about – making a joke and putting a smile on someone’s face after a sh*tty day.
There are many children still here today because of the quick-thinking PFC Glendon Oakley. An all-veteran A Cappella group called Voices of Service performed a breathtaking rendition of See You Again on America’s Got Talent and made it to the live rounds. Across the country, many unclaimed veterans – deceased veterans without contactable next of kin – are having their brothers and sisters-in-arms attend their funerals.
The world’s too full of fighting and bickering over mundane BS. I’ll let someone else tell you that everything is on fire, but I say we just take a breather and remember that there is still some good in the world. Anyways, here are some memes.
The forced abdication of the Russian Tsar Nicolas II in 1917 sparked a civil war between the Bolshevik “Red” army fighting for Communism and various factions known as the “White” army, generally fighting against the Communists. In an effort to stop the Bolsheviks from taking control of the country, the World War I-era Allied forces invaded Russia near the end of the Great War.
For its part, America provided two contingents. The American North Russia Expeditionary Force was deployed to Arkhangelsk, while the second, called the American Expeditionary Force Siberia, was deployed to Vladivostok. The American North Russia Expeditionary force consisted of soldiers from the 85th Division’s 339th Infantry Regiment,consisting of about 5,000 Americans who were originally en route to France to fight on the Western Front. Due to the extreme climate in which they operated, they came to be known as the Polar Bears.
The 339th began arriving in Russia in September 1918, shortly before the armistice would end World War I. Upon their arrival it was discovered that the allied war materiel supposedly stored at Arkhangelsk had been moved away by the Bolsheviks. Instead, ‘Detroit’s Own’, as the 339th was often known, went on the offensive against Bolshevik forces along the Dvina River and Vologda Railroad. The Americans advanced quickly and for nearly six weeks drove the Red Army back. By late October, the American force was holding two fronts well over 100 miles apart which created great logistical difficulties. To make matters worse, the brutal Russian winter was beginning. In order to hold their gains, the Americans turned to the defensive and set in for the winter.
The Red Army, accustomed to the icy winters of Russia, had no intention of letting up and began a winter offensive against the Allied forces. Though the Americans fought viciously, they were pushed back along the Dvina. Furthermore, the hope that the presence of the Allies would assist in raising local anti-communist forces turned out to be unfounded so the force began to find itself with little support.
When the war ended in Europe on November 11 of that year, the soldiers in Russia began to question why they were still fighting. As the winter went on, their willingness to fight deteriorated. The New York Times ran a scathing review of the expedition in February 1919. Combined with rumors of mutiny, this led to President Woodrow Wilson to order the unit’s withdrawal. On April 17, 1919 Brig. Gen. Wilds P. Richardson arrived in Arkhangelsk with orders to withdraw the Polar Bear Expedition. They were gone by June.
During their time in Russia, the Polar Bears suffered over 500 casualties. Due to the nature of warfare at the time, over 100 bodies were not recovered. A significant effort by veterans of the 339th led to the repatriation of nearly all lost or buried in Russia in the coming decades.
Although the campaign did not meet its stated goals, it’s an interesting bit of history considering the United States and Russia would spend much of the 20th Century facing off against one another in the Cold War.
The Army is working to engineer a sleek, high-speed, first-of-its-kind long-range ground-launched attack missile able to pinpoint and destroy enemy bunkers, helicopter staging areas, troop concentrations and other fixed-location targets from as much as three time the range of existing weapons, service officials said.
The emerging Long Range Precision Fires, slated to be operational by 2027, is being designed to destroy targets at distances up to 500 kilometers.
“The Long Range Precision Fires Missile will attack, neutralize, suppress and destroy targets using missile-delivered indirect precision fires. LRPF provides field artillery units with 24/7/365 long-range and deep-strike capability while supporting brigade, division, corps, Army, theater, Joint and Coalition forces as well as Marine Corps air-to-ground task forces in full, limited or expeditionary operations,” Dan O’boyle, spokesman for Program Executive Office, Missiles Space, told Scout Warrior.
The new weapon is designed to replace the Army’s current aging 1980’s era MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System, a ground-launched missile able to fire at least 160 kilometers.
“The LRPF will replace the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) capability, which is impacted by the age of the ATACMS inventory and the cluster munition policy that removes all M39 and M39A1 ATACMS from the inventory after 2018,” O’boyle added.
A key aspect of the strategic impetus for the long-range LRPF weapon is to allow ground units to attack from safer distances without themselves being vulnerable to enemy fire, Raytheon and Army officials explained.
LRPF missile will have a newer explosive warhead and guidance technology aimed at providing an all-weather, 24/7, precision surface-to-surface deep-strike capability, O’Boyle added.
In addition, the LRPF will fire from two existing Army launchers, the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System and the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System, O’Boyle added.
The new weapons system will fire two missiles from a single weapons pod and uses a more high-tech guidance system than its predecessors.
Although additional competitions among vendors are expected in future years, however the Army did award a $5.7 million risk-mitigation contract to Raytheon for the LRPF program.
“We’re looking to replace a design originally from the 1980s,” said Greg Haynes, a Raytheon manager leading the company’s campaign for a new long-range weapon. “Missile technology has come a long way.”
The US Army was among the first-ever to deploy land-fired precision weaponry such as the GPS-guided Excalibur precision 155m artillery round and the longer-range Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, or GMLRS. These weapons, which were first used in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2006 through 2009 timeframe, ushered in the advent of a new kind of weapon engineered to give Commanders more attack options and pinpoint enemy targets with great precision from long distances. In fact, among other things, GMLRS successfully destroyed Taliban targets in Afghanistan.
While precision fires of this kind would, quite naturally, be useful in full-scale mechanized force-on-force combat – they proved particularly useful in counterinsurgency attacks as Taliban and Iraqi insurgents deliberately blended in with innocent civilians among local populations. As a result, precision attacks became necessary, even vital, to US combat success.
Since the initial combat debut of these weapons, however, the fast pace of global technological change and weapons proliferation has fostered a circumstance wherein the US is no longer among the few combat forces to have these kinds of weapons. As a result, the US Army sees a clear need to substantially advance offensive ground-attack technology.
“Adversaries are already equipped with long-range weapons that could inflict substantial damage at distances beyond the Army’s striking power,” said former Army colonel John Weinzettle, now a program manager in Raytheon’s Advanced Missile Systems business.
A former Army vice chief of staff and Fox News analyst will be awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor by President Donald Trump, the White House announced Wednesday.
Retired Gen. Jack Keane, a Silver Star recipient who led troops in Vietnam and was at the Pentagon on 9/11, will be presented with the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom next week.
“General Keane has devoted his life to keeping America safe and strong,” a White House statement announcing the award states.
Keane could not immediately be reached for comment.
Bill Hemmer, a Fox News host, on Wednesday called the award well deserved. “Jack Keane, a friend and colleague for years here at Fox … is a committed American to getting it right,” he said.
Presidents select Medal of Freedom recipients. The award was created to honor Americans who have made significant contributions to national, international or cultural causes in the public or private sectors. Recipients have included those in the medical, journalism, entertainment and business fields.
President George H.W. Bush presented the award to Holocaust survivor, author and political activist Elie Wiesel in 1992. Civil rights activist Rosa Parks received the award from President Bill Clinton in 1996. Mother Teresa, a Catholic nun and later saint, was chosen for the award by President Ronald Reagan in 1985 and physicist Stephen Hawking by President Barack Obama in 2009.
The award was most recently presented to conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh during last month’s State of the Union address. Trump took heat for the decision to award the medal to Limbaugh, who is seen as a divisive figure by critics. The talk show host has been accused of making sexist and racist comments on the air.
Keane, 77, retired from the Army in 2003. As vice chief of staff, he provided oversight for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to his bio. He played a key role in formulating and recommending the surge strategy in Iraq, it states, and as recently as 2016 was still advising senior government officials on national security issues and the Afghanistan War.
Keane also serves as chairman of the board for the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank that produces research on military and foreign affairs.
In addition to being awarded the Silver Star, Keane has earned two Defense Distinguished Service Medals, five Legions of Merit, two Army Distinguished Service Medals and the Bronze Star.
Author Phil Klay became the first Iraq war veteran to win the prestigious National Book Award for fiction Wednesday with his book “Redeployment.”
Klay produced a gripping collection of short stories on a wide range of topics, from modern combat, the boredom of deployment, to the homecoming and stressful transition to civilian life. For its part, “Redeployment” was previously described by The New Yorker as “the best literary work thus far written by a veteran of America’s recent wars.”
Starting with the very first page, the reader quickly learns that “Redeployment” is not a typical war memoir.
“The first sentence I wrote was ‘we shot dogs,'” Klay told Business Insider in August. “I knew a Marine who had talked about the experience of shooting dogs. I’m a dog lover myself, so it seemed like something that crystallized the weirdness of some of the things people experience and try to make sense of, and that difference between the things that you do overseas and what constitutes normal life for everybody back home.”
A graduate of Dartmouth College, Klay served in Iraq’s Anbar Province from Jan. 2007 to Feb. 2008 as a Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Marine Corps. When he left the service, he went to Hunter College and received a Masters in Fine Arts.
The New York Times has more:
In an emotional acceptance speech, Mr. Klay described returning from the war and being treated as if he were unstable, and being asked by children if he had killed anyone.
“I came back not knowing what to think,” he said. “What do you do when you’re trying to explain in words, to the father of a fallen Marine, exactly what that Marine meant to you?”
His book is very much worth reading. You can check out a longer review of it at Business Insider, or pick it up at Amazon.
The U.S. Army loves robots and wants its soldiers to love them, too. The U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command recently conducted its annual Joint Warfighting Assessment in the Pacific Northwest, with most of the testing at the Yakima Training Center. From late April to May 11, 2019, troops from Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 2-2 Stryker Brigade and 2nd Ranger battalion, along with U.S. Marines from Camp Lejune and Camp Pendleton, tested new weapon concepts for a Pacific war scenario set in 2028.
One of the concepts they were testing was the “optionally manned vehicle,” which would allow leaders in the field to decide to switch their systems to remote operating systems instead of putting their troops on the line.
“The idea is that the robotics could be available, so when they pick that platform you can put the robotics on it, and now you can do the manned (or) unmanned team and push the robotics out on the battlefield,” explained Lieutenant Colonel John Fursmo, the officer commanding the opposing force for the exercise.
The Assault Breacher Vehicle.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Some of the vehicles that have been brought out for testing are actually quite old, brought back to life and stuffed with robotic capabilities by engineers tinkering with them like Frankenstein’s monster. Troops and engineers explain that it’s all about testing, experimentation and soldier feedback. “These are concepts, these are not necessarily the pieces of equipment we would actually use,” said Fursmo. “The Army still has to decide what it wants for this new combat vehicle that will replace some tanks and other armored vehicles.”
Fursmo pointed to an old M58 mobile recon vehicle that’s been retrofitted with remote control capabilities. “It’s a tracked vehicle, it’s been in the Army a very long time, [and] essentially the Army stopped using it several years ago because the mission itself was so dangerous that it was just decided it wasn’t worth it,” he explained. “But make it a robot and now it’s at least conceptually worth looking at it again.”
Robotics and digital tech are already changing the way wars both big and small are being fought around the world every day. What were once science fiction dreams (or nightmares) aren’t as far away as some might think. Some are already here.
An experimental quadcopter mounted on a Stryker during JWA 19.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Eyes in the Sky
Cavalry scouts often call themselves the ninjas of the U.S. Army. Though considered combat troops, their job is more often to scope out the enemy without drawing fire and to report their findings. “A big problem we have is seeing without being seen,” explained Major Dave Scherke, a cav scout squadron leader with the 2-2 Stryker Brigade.
A scout team might move with three troops aboard a Stryker and three dismounted on the ground. They use maps, rulers, and measuring tape to take down mission critical information while conducting route reconnaissance. “It’s very time consuming and, from a security standpoint, can leave you exposed,” Scherken said.
However, at Yakima Training Center, Scherke’s men have been testing the Sensor Enabled Scout Platoon concept. They’ve tested the “Instant Eye” quad copter, an aerial drone surveillance system. “We have that all the way down to the squad level. So instead of just having one of these for each one of my cav troops, now I have six of them, and that massively increases our ability to see over the ridge and see the enemy first,” Scherke explained.
The quad copter itself isn’t particularly unique — you can buy similar models at Best Buy. Drones have already become part of the new normal for warfare. In Iraq and Syria, ISIS militants have used store-bought drones to help them target mortars and have even modified them to drop grenades and other improvised explosives. During the battle of Mosul, frustrated Iraqi troops started purchasing commercial drones of their own to fight ISIS. Robots are everywhere.
However, the small drones the scouts are testing are equipped with the Instrument Set Reconnaissance and Survey (ENFIRE) system that uses software and algorithms that can help measure terrain features, roads, and even calculate how much weight a bridge is capable of supporting. “There’s a bridge classification app that tells you the whole bridge classification,” said Colonel Chuck Roede, the deputy commander of JMC. “It really allows the scouts to do the job we expect them to do.”
ENFIRE connects directly to systems in the Stryker itself, which connects to a larger network. “It takes all that information, aggregates it into a computer, and creates a route overlay,” Scherke explained. “[Plugging] into our mission command systems to send very rapidly [means] our logistics planners and our other maneuver planners can get that information right away. So it speeds up what our scouts can do, and now instead of having six scouts on the ground just doing this while other guys are securing them, you can put fewer scouts on the ground to do that mission.”
Deep purple, the drone utilized by chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist, prepares to lift off on an NBC reconnaissance mission at the Joint Warfighting Assessment 19 training exercise at Yakima Training Center, Yakima, Washington, April 29, 2019.
(Photo by Pfc. Valentina Y. Montano/302nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, U.S. Army)
The Instant Eye has night vision, infrared, and powerful zoom and camera clarity features for checking out targets, as well as signal tracking. “We can get some eyes on there without exposing our scouts and then bring indirect fires down to win that fight first because we want to be fighting an unfair fight,” said Scherke.
Cav scout Sergeant Joseph Gaska, who was in the field operating the prototype, told Coffee or Die that he was impressed with it. “As long as you’re high enough, you won’t hear it, so it’s not going to be that buzzing sound above your head,” he said of small, nimble drones’ ability to move nearly undetected. It has other ambitious features, too, Gaska noted. For instance, he said that if they were to somehow lose their connection to the drone, it’s programmed to remember where its handlers are and will return to them.
The Joint Warfighting Assessment JWA19 WA, UNITED STATES 04.28.2019
One of the most difficult things ground troops are asked to do is breaching operations against enemy strongholds. The defending side nearly always has the advantage. Good defenders lay out layers of defense that can include walls, barbed wire, ditches, minefields, and countless other hazards and traps. “It’s a very challenging task because you have to imagine your opponent on the far side of that position ready to destroy you with every weapon system that they have,” Fursmo said. “If you can take humans out of that, you’re going to have fewer casualties — it’s really the most dangerous thing a ground force does.”
Troops in the field trained with various aerial drones for detecting chemical threats and minefields, but more of the efforts focused on ground-based systems. One of the key systems they were testing was the Assault Breacher Vehicle. Their ABV working prototype was built around the hull of an M1A1 Abrams tank armed with mine charges and a .50-caliber machine gun and equipped with plows and dozer blades.
“Basically, the concept of this vehicle is that this one vehicle with two operators can do what an entire platoon of engineers would be required to do in a breach,” U.S. Marine 1st Lt. David Aghakhan explained. “It’s not taking anything away from my capabilities — I can still manually operate it — but it gives me the option of saying ‘I don’t want to expose my Marines in this obstacle belt because it’s too dangerous,’ and I can pull them out and we can robotically operate it.”
A soldier remotely operates a humvee from inside another humvee.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Working from remote controls in command vehicles, soldiers and Marines could also remotely control other vehicles to move in and provide suppressing fire for the ABV as it worked to clear mines, smash berms, and deal with other obstacles. Captain Nicole Rotte, an Afghanistan veteran and commander of the 2-2’s engineer company, said that she was impressed with it.
“The challenge that I have is my planning factor for moving through a breach is 50 percent loss,” said Rotte. “So all these concepts, to be able to take an unmanned vehicle and bring them down the battlefield, to be able save soldiers from being lost in the breach, that’s awesome for me.”
Rotte said they only had minor technical issues that were easily solved by turning the systems off and on again. She added that if anything, she’s excited for the prospect of having more robots available to her and seeing what they can do.
Unmanning the Battlefield?
Some futurists have envisioned a world in which war was waged entirely by robots. The U.S. military and CIA have already used drones with operators in Nevada pulling the trigger to kill enemies as far away as Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. However, while the vehicles are referred to as “unmanned,” they require regular maintenance — and usually have a human operator somewhere.
At times, U.S. military commanders have underestimated the strain on personnel in regard to upkeep and the long hours of operation. “The explosion in demand had created a snowball effect that never allowed the […] staff to take a pause and say, ‘Let’s normalize all the processes that we should be doing,'” the Air Force reported in one of its official annual histories from 2012. “Instead, normalization was put off to some future date after the pace of combat operations slowed down.”
But the wars continued, as did the extreme hours. Airmen working six days a week were constantly asked to work extra hours while leave got cancelled. They were never “deployed” but remained almost constantly on duty, remotely fighting wars in several countries that were continents away. “It’s at the breaking point and has been for a long time,” a senior Air Force official told The Daily Beast in 2015. “What’s different now is that the Band-Aid fixes are no longer working.”
A remotely operated humvee with a robotic firing turret.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Even without the logistical hurdles, many commanders (even those that fully embrace a robotic future for war) don’t believe grunts will ever become obsolete. “It’s technologically feasible to fly a drone from Nevada and have it circling over Iraq or Afghanistan. But the demands of the terrain, as Army soldiers we are so tied to the terrain — you need to have leaders on the ground to see and understand the terrain,” Roede said.
Col. Christopher Barnwell, head of the field experimentation division at JMC, said that while he could see a future where commanders could run a war without ever going to the field — adding that at this point communications are advanced enough that senior officers already don’t have to — he doesn’t think a good leader would choose to stay home while war is raging elsewhere.
“No commander I know would do that,” he said. “I feel like I need to be on the ground and see things with my own eyes and get a feel for what’s going. Technically possible? Yes. Likely? I don’t personally think so.”
An Alabama Army National Guard Soldier with the 690th Chemical Company inspects a “deep purple” drone at YTC at Joint Warfighting Assessment 19, May 4, 2019.
(Photo by Pfc. Valentina Y. Montano/ 302nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, U.S. Army)
While they don’t see human judgement being removed from the equation, some military planners are excited by the prospect of artificial intelligence to allow vehicles to move on their own on the battlefield.
“As the concept matures, as we bring in elements of AI, as we bring in some measures of autonomy, the ratio of operators to vehicles will drop so that eventually you’ll have one operator who can control maybe a squad or platoon’s worth of vehicles,” said Roede. He suggested that AI could allow vehicles to autonomously navigate terrain and even rally into formations as they haul supplies and weapons.
Barnwell suggested it potentially going even further — he can foresee a day in the future when leaders can delegate to robotic weapons systems in combat and allow them to autonomously pick and engage targets.
“You tell these robotic vehicles, ‘You’ve got this part of the engagement area, and you are free to shoot at enemy vehicles; anything north of the niner-niner grid line is enemy and you are free to shoot it,'” Barnwell said. “And because these vehicles have AI, they know what to shoot […] on their own.”
However, the prospect of robots that can autonomously kill enemies based on algorithms or pre-programmed targets sets has potentially serious ramifications. The recent battles for Mosul and Raqqa proved incredibly bloody. House-to-house fighting and heavy bombing and artillery strikes led to untold deaths of civilians trapped in the cities, and the work of rebuilding the infrastructure since the battles ended has been slow.
Military strategists believe that urban fighting could be the norm for the 21st century. More than half of the world’s population now lives in cities, and that’s expected to grow. In particular, there are concerns about the challenges posed by potentially fighting in massive megacities like Seoul, Shanghai, Tokyo, or Lagos. Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley has pointed out that the entirety of Mosul — Iraq’s second largest city — isn’t equal to a neighborhood in Seoul.
Conceptual prototypes at Yakima Training Center.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Heavily armed robots combing the streets of a densely populated megacity picking targets based on algorithms have the potential to cause a lot of unintended collateral death and destruction. Machines feel neither remorse nor pity.
Barnwell said that they’re already considering these potential problems. “Through programming, we would be able to figure out what are appropriate targets, what are not. What is the ROE (rules of engagement), what are we going to allow these things to shoot at by themselves, and what are we not going to allow them to shoot at by themselves,” he explained. “In a megacity, for example, we may not even employ this sort of thing — or we may, depending on what the intelligence tells us the enemy is out there.”
But Roede stressed again that fighting wars is going to remain a fundamentally human endeavor, adding, “I don’t think we’ll ever be at a place where we’ll let the machine make the final decision on anything.”
Refugees wait at the gates of the Japanese Consulate. (Photo courtesy of Nobuki Sugihara/Retrieved from TimesofIsrael.com)
In 2019, a Japanese man traveled from Antwerp, Belgium, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to meet with a Jewish Rabbi at Shofuso, a Japanese house and garden in Philly. Though the two men had never met, their lives were decisively intertwined in 1940 by a war, a genocide and one man’s determination to do the right thing.
On January 1, 1900, Chiune Sugihara was born into a middle-class family in Japan. Receiving high marks in school, his father wanted him to be a physician. However, Sugihara had no desire to study medicine; he was far more interested in the English language. Sugihara failed his medical school entrance exam, writing only his name on the test, and entered Waseda University in Tokyo to study English. There, he became a member of Yuai Gakusha, a Christian fraternity founded by a Baptist pastor, to fortify his English.
In 1919, Sugihara passed the Foreign Ministry Scholarship exam. After two years of military service, he resigned his officer’s commission in 1922 and took the Foreign Ministry’s language qualifying exams in 1923. He passed the Russian exam with high marks and was recruited into the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
On assignment from the Foreign Ministry, Sugihara attended the Harbin Gakuin National University in China where he studied German, Russian and Russian Affairs. During his time in Harbin, Sugihara converted to Christianity and married Klaudia Semionovna Appollonova. In 1932, serving in the Manchurian Foreign Office, he negotiated with the Soviet Union to purchase the Northern Manchurian Railroad. In 1935, Sugihara resigned his post as Deputy Foreign Minister in Manchuria in protest of the harsh treatment of the local Chinese people by the Japanese. He and his wife divorced and Sugihara returned to Japan.
After returning to Japan, Sugihara married a woman named Yukiko with whom he had four sons. He continued his government service as a translator for the Japanese delegation to Finland. In 1939, Sugihara was made a vice-consul of the Japanese Consulate in Lithuania. In addition to his diplomatic duties, Sugihara was instructed to report on Soviet and German troop movements.
Photographic portrait of Chiune Sugihara. (Public domain/Author unknown)
Following the German invasion of Poland in 1939, many Jewish Poles had fled to neighboring Lithuania. The Soviets also had begun to take over Lithuania, establishing military bases in 1939. By 1940, Polish refugees, along with many Jewish Lithuanians and Jewish refugees from other countries, sought exit visas to flee the country. At the time, the Japanese government only issued visas to individuals who had gone through official immigration channels and already had a visa to another destination to exit Japan. Sugihara contacted the Foreign Ministry three times to make exceptions for the Jewish refugees; he was denied three times.
Aware of the dangers facing these people, Sugihara did what he knew to be right. Beginning July18, in deliberate disobedience of his orders, he issued 10-day visas to Jews for them to transit through Japan. He also made arrangements with Soviet officials who allowed the refugees to travel through the Soviet Union on the Trans-Siberian Railway (at five times the regular price). Working 18 to 20 hours a day, Sugihara hand-wrote visas, producing a month’s worth of them every day. He continued his life-saving work until September 4, when he was forced to leave his post just before the consulate was closed.
The holder of this Czech passport escaped to Poland in 1939 and received a Sugihara visa for travel via Siberia and Japan to Suriname. (Public Domain/Scanned by username Huddyhuddy)
Witnesses report that Sugihara continued to write visas on his way to the railroad station from his hotel and even after boarding the train. He threw the visas out into the crowds of refugees even as the train departed the station. Out of visas, Sugihara even threw out blank sheets of paper bearing only the consulate seal and his signature for people to turn into visas. According to Sugihara’s biography written by Yukiko Sugihara, one of his sons, as he departed, he bowed to the crowd and said, “Please forgive me. I cannot write anymore. I wish you the best.”
Someone exclaimed from the crowd, “Sugihara. We’ll never forget you. I’ll surely see you again!”
The exact numbers of visas issued and Jewish people saved is in dispute. Hillel Levine, an author and professor at Boston University, estimates that Sugihara helped, “as many as 10,000 people,” though fewer than that number survived. Some Jews carrying Sugihara’s visas did not leave the country before the German invasion of the Soviet Union and were murdered in the Holocaust. The Simon Wiesenthal Center estimates that Sugihara issued transit visas for about 6,000 Jews and that around 40,000 descendants of the refugees are alive today as a result of Sugihara and his visas.
In 1984, Sugihara was recognized by Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Israel, as Righteous among the Nations. This honorific title is given by Israel to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust for altruistic reasons.
The Righteous Among the Nations Medal. (Credit Yad Vashem)
Despite his fame in Israel and other nations for his actions, he lived in relative obscurity in Japan until his death in 1986. His funeral was attended by a large Jewish delegation from around the world, including the Israeli ambassador to Japan. After this, Sugihara’s heroic story spread throughout the country.
Chiune Sugihara and his youngest son, Nobuki, in Israel 1969. (Photo by Nobuki Sugihara)
The Japanese man from Antwerp, Belgium, was Nobuki Sugihara, youngest and only surviving son of Chiune Sugihara. He met in Philadelphia with Rabbi Yossy Goldman, son Rabbi Shimon Goldman. The elder Goldman was a teenage student that fled Poland, and then Lithuania, with his class and teachers on one of Sugihara’s visas. Shimon Goldman passed away in 2016 at the age of 91, leaving behind more than 100 descendants, including 80 great-grandchildren. “Every time he clutched a great-grandchild to his heart, it was not only love but also an indication for him that Hitler did not win,” Yossy remembered of his father. Yossy was joined by his own son, Rabbi Yochonon Goldman, and the three men sat down to a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. “I would not be here, my son would not be here, none of us would be here if it was not for your father,” Yossy said to Nobuki, “God bless his soul. I’m sure there’s a special place in heaven for him. Thank you.”
(Left to right) Nobuki Sugihara, Rabbi Yossy Goldman, and Rabbi Yochonon Goldman at Shofuso. (Photo by Sharla Feldsher/Retrieved from WHYY.org)
Today, Sugihara has streets in Lithuania, Israel and Japan, and even an asteroid named after him. Further tributes to the Japanese diplomat include gardens, stamps and statues. However, his greatest legacy is the thousands of Jews that he saved and their tens of thousands of descendants. In Sugihara’s own words, “I may have disobeyed my government, but if I didn’t, I would be disobeying God. In life, do what’s right because it’s right, and leave it alone.”
Finance innovator Leo Melamed and his wife Betty visit the Chiune Sugihara memorial at Waseda University. Melamed fled Europe on one of Sugihara’s visas. (Photo by Waseda University)
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.
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.
“[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.”
Veterans who have been in the service a while know that the exact dates and times of the biggest operations are typically classified until just before they pop off. But the troops have found ways of knowing what’s coming because the command can’t quite keep everything to “business as usual” while also preparing for a big push.
Here are six signs that sh*t’s about to get real:
Lt. Col. Matthew Danner, battalion commander of Battalion Landing Team 3/1, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, inspects a rifle aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex during a regularly scheduled deployment of Essex Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th MEU, July 31, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Francisco J. Diaz Jr.)
The commander shows up to inspections
In theory, the commander cares about all inspections, but he or she typically leaves the actual inspecting to their noncommissioned officers and platoon leaders. After all, company commanders and above have a lot to keep track of.
But sometimes, the first sergeant and commander are involved in more inspections than normal, and are checking for more details than normal. It’s a sign that they’re worried weapons, vehicles, and troops will see combat soon, making an untreated rash or rust damage much more dangerous.
Soldiers training at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, undergo a CS gas attack simulating an attack with a worse chemical agent.
(U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Hannah Baker)
Low-level, constant exercises or operations suddenly stop
When a force is built up for a potentially big fight, the commanders have to keep everyone razor sharp and focused. If the troops aren’t in regular combat, this is typically accomplished via small exercises and large drills.
But, if the fight is about to start, the higher-ups want to ensure that everyone gets a little rest before going into the big battle. So, leaders get word from their own bosses to cease unnecessary training and operations the days immediately preceding the fight, and troops may even get official confirmation 24 hours out along with orders to rest up.
All the headquarters pukes are suddenly mum, or are talking in whispers in corners
But of course, not every low-level soldier can be kept out of the loop. Someone has to look at where the moon will be on different nights, cloud cover, whether the locals will be outside or in their homes during normal patterns of life. Someone has to move the right equipment to the right spots, and someone runs the messages between all the majors making the plans.
So, those people are all low-ranking, yes, but they’re also in the know. They’ll respond in one of a few ways, usually spilling the beans to close friends or cutting themselves off from everyone — which are dead giveaways in their own right. If the intel guy who typically wants to talk to everyone is suddenly mum or will only talk in whispers to close friends, get ready for a fight.
Marines deliver an M777 howitzer via MV-22 Osprey slingload during training in Australia in 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Wetzel)
A whole bunch of fresh supplies arrive
Here’s a little secret: For as much as all the troops complain about always having to deal with old, hand-me-down gear, the U.S. is actually one of the best-supplied militaries in the world, if not the best supplied (we’re certainly the most expensive). But all of those supplies are typically sent to top-tier units or units about to go into the fight.
So, if you’re not in a Special Forces unit but the supply guy shows up with a ton of useful, new gear — especially batteries —that your unit has been asking for — and failing to receive — then you might be going into combat. Get to know the equipment quick.
Pizza Hut shows up at the Marines’ base just before the invasion of Iraq begins in ‘Generation Kill,” a mini-series based on a journalist’s account of the invasion.
A sudden, seemingly unprompted, nice meal
As odd as it sounds, an unexpected nice meal is a dead giveaway that troops are about to experience something rough. If you’re a soldier in the middle of a huge force, it’s a good bet that the “something rough” is the planned operation.
This sometimes comes up in movies and TV, like in Generation Kill, when 20 cars showed up at the wire filled with Pizza Hut while the Marines were waiting for the invasion of Iraq to begin. Driver and comedian Ray Person immediately calls it,
“Sh*t is on. Has to be.”
Marines communicate with family and friends on new morale internet lines in 2011 in Kabul, Afghanistan.
(Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs)
Of course, the officers typically want to tell all their troops what’s going on and get them mentally prepared for the fight, but there’s a big step they need to take to make sure word doesn’t leak out: a communications blackout. Internet and phone access to the outside world is cutoff so no one can send an errant text home and let the enemy know the invasion is coming.
So, if the morale lines suddenly cut off, go ahead and report to your platoon, because word is coming down that something has happened or is about to.
The North Korean ballistic missile threat has been receiving significant attention in recent weeks, but missile threats are surging worldwide, a new Pentagon report suggests.
North Korea has made significant strides in developing its weapons program in recent months, successfully testing multiple new ballistic missile systems, but other countries, such as Iran, Russia, and China, are also rapidly advancing their missile capabilities. “Many countries view ballistic and cruise missile systems as cost-effective weapons and symbols of national power,” defense intelligence agencies said in a report viewed in advance by Bloomberg News.
“China continues to have the most active and diverse ballistic missile development program in the world,” the Pentagon assessed.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force, which oversees China’s land-based nuclear and conventional missiles, has received much more attention as China pursues an extensive military modernization program putting greater emphasis on technological strength rather than manpower.
China tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile — the DF-5C — with 10 warheads in January, and there have been rumors that another developmental Chinese ICBM has already been deployed. China conducted its seventh successful test of the DF-41 with two inert warheads last spring. The Chinese armed forces are expected to substantially increase the number of warheads on the ICBMs capable of threatening the continental US over the next few years, the new Pentagon report suggests.
The Chinese military has also deployed new and improved DF-16s, highly-accurate, mobile medium-range ballistic missiles, to further threaten Taiwan. The precision missiles could also be used to target US bases located along the “first island chain.” At the same time, China can field DF-21D anti-ship missiles and the DF-26, which could be used against US forces in Guam, according to the Pentagon’s China Military Power report.
Russia, which has more deployed nuclear warheads than the US, is “expected to retain the largest force of strategic ballistic missiles outside the United States,” according to the new defense report.
Both China and Russia are also working to develop hypersonic glide vehicle technology. “HGVS are maneuverable vehicles that travel at hypersonic (greater than Mach 5) speed and spend most of their flight at much lower altitudes than a typical ballistic missile,” defense agencies revealed.
High speed, maneuverability, and low-altitude flight make missile interception via missile defense systems significantly more difficult. Russia is believed to be moving closer to fielding a hypersonic cruise missile — the Zircon — that can threaten enemy ships. Some observers, however, suspect Chinese and Russian claims regarding their various achievements in this area are exaggerated.
Iran has extended the range and effectiveness of its mid-range Shabab-3, a weapon based on a North Korean model, and the Pentagon is under the impression that Iran, much like North Korea, ultimately intends to develop an ICBM.
“Tehran’s desire to have a strategic counter to the United States could drive it to field an ICBM. Progress in Iran’s space program could shorten a pathway to an ICBM because space launch vehicles (SLV) use inherently similar technologies,” the report explained.
Iran has also been working to advance its Fateh-110 missiles, which it tested in March. Iran launched missiles into Syria last week, firing off a mid-range weapon in combat for the first time in three decades.
Expert analysts have noted significant cooperation between Iran and North Korea in recent years.
North Korea has, this year alone, tested new short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, experimenting with different fuels and engines. The North has also been testing new transporter erector launchers, which offer greater mobility and survivability. Similar developments are being seen in other countries.
North Korea has repeatedly threatened that an ICBM test is not far off, and while the regime will most likely test a liquid-fueled ICBM, such as the KN-08 revealed a few years ago, the North has also presented two canister-launched ICBMs in military parades resembling two foreign missiles, specifically the Chinese DF-31 and the Russian Topol.
Submachine guns were a staple of combat in the early 20th century. Their light weight and sleek profiles meant that they could be used in many close-quarters situations and their high rate of fire gave them a stopping power to be feared. By the 1980s, however, submachine guns were rarely seen in regular line units.
Now, this isn’t to say that the entire class of firearm is faulty or that there isn’t a use for them. In fact, many special operations units and police SWAT teams use submachine guns for their ease of control and for the very reason they’re discouraged by conventional units: a lesser stopping power compared to automatic rifles.
Created as a mix between a machine pistol and a carbine, the Italian Beretta M1918 and the German MP 18 were game-changers in the trenches of WWI. The American Thompson M1921 (better known as the “Tommy Gun”) wasn’t ready in time for the war, but served as a basis for every SMG that came after it.
In WWII, the Tommy Gun gave American troops a lot of firepower in a small package. Paratroopers could easily carry them on planes, tankers could keep them handy in case anyone got too close, and infantrymen could maneuver through cities with them with ease. It was often copied but never outdone. It and its sister weapon, the M3/M3A1 “Grease Gun,” were mainstays throughout the Korean War and into the early parts of the Vietnam War.
(Photo by SSgt. Walter F. Kleine)
The submachine gun, however, wasn’t able to hold up long in the jungles of Vietnam when the M16’s durability, range, and 5.56mm ammunition outperformed it in nearly every way. This, however, wasn’t its death rattle.
The SMG’s maneuverability in close quarters didn’t go unnoticed by law enforcement — primarily by SWAT teams. Additionally, SMGs are often chambered in 9mm or .45 ACP, meaning that targets struck by rounds are more often incapacitated than killed. In the hands of law enforcement, an armed assailant could then be taken into custody.
Though modern rifles have made the SMG unpopular in warfare, it still serves a valuable purpose in the right hands.