These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle - We Are The Mighty
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These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
Merrill’s Marauders trudging through the Burmese jungle. (Photo: Life Magazine)


When it comes to sheer hardship under appalling combat conditions, it is hard to match what the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional), better known as Merrill’s Marauders, endured in the China-India-Burma campaign.

When the Japanese had overrun and taken Burma from its colonial master Great Britain in 1942, it had cut the only real overland route for military supplies heading to Chinese forces fighting the Japanese in mainland China. The famed Allied air transport route “over the hump” of the Himalayas was no substitute for a reliable road considering the amount of supplies needed.

U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided at a conference in August 1943 to form special American units for infiltrating Burma, modeled after the British Army Chindits, a long-range penetration unit that had already operated in Burma under Brigadier Ord Wingate. The plan was to disrupt Japanese communications and supply lines and capturing key points, the reopening of the Burma Road could be accelerated.

An Army-wide call for those interested in volunteering was put out under presidential authority, drawing about 3,000 recruits from stateside units. Many were specifically drawn from soldiers who already had experience in jungle fighting from earlier in the war. After assembly in India, they received months of intensive training in jungle warfare under the instruction of Wingate, including extended exercises with the Chindits. The 5307th was placed under the command of Brig. General Frank Merrill, the source of the name ‘Merrill’s Marauders’ eventually given to the unit by the press.

Conceived as a mobile raiding force, the Marauders were lightly equipped by conventional infantry standards, with no heavy weapons beyond light mortars, bazookas, and machine guns. Dense jungle and mountains made ground vehicles impossible, so supplies were to be carried by the soldiers themselves and hundreds of mules and horses. Resupply was limited to airdrops and whatever the unit could forage off the countryside in trade with indigenous locals.

Embarking on Feb. 24, 1944, the Marauders mission began with 2,750 men marching over a thousand miles through the Patkai region of the Himalayas, in order to get behind Japanese lines in Burma. Operating with indigenous Kachin scouts and Chinese forces, they began a series of raids against Japanese patrols, supply lines, and garrisons. Their ultimate goal was to capture the strategic Burmese town of Myitkynia, which had an important airfield and was along the route for an alternate road to China.

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
Brig. Gen. Merrill accepts a goat from village elders. (Photo: Nat’l WW2 Museum)

The Marauders were almost always outnumbered and outgunned by the Japanese 18th Division, which formed their primary opposition. Lacking artillery and out of range of any serious air support, they had to rely on surprise, training, and mobility to outfight the Japanese regulars, and they often found themselves on the defense because they were ill-equipped for fighting against larger forces.

But their greatest enemy, which inflicted more damage than even superior Japanese forces could, was the jungle. Malaria, amoebic dysentery, and typhus took an awful toll, inflicting more casualties than Japanese fire did. Soldiers shaking from fever and tormented by diarrhea had to force themselves through dense jungle and intense close quarters combat. Torrential rains, stinging insects, and snakes only added to their misery.

The issued K-rations were relatively light and compact, but at 2,900 calories per day were wholly inadequate for heavily loaded men marching, sweating, and fighting in the jungle. Even for men facing hunger, many components of the rations were so widely detested that they were often thrown away, and failed air drops only made the situation worse. Malnourishment and its accompanying weakness and exhaustion made the troops more vulnerable to already endemic diseases, and many of them were reduced to little more than walking skeletons.

Despite the enormous challenges, the Marauders managed to inflict far greater casualties on the Japanese then they suffered, and used their mobility and seeming ability to strike anywhere to throw Japanese forces into confusion. After dozens of skirmishes and several major actions, the 5307th managed to take the airfield at Myitkynia in August 1944 alongside elements of the Chinese Army, and the town itself after reinforcements arrived.

So decimated were the Marauders by disease and combat that only 200 men of the original task force were still present at the end of the campaign. Frank Merrill, who suffered a heart attack before being stricken with malaria by the end of the mission. Every last member was evacuated to hospitals to recuperate from months of hunger, disease, and exhaustion.

The 5307th was disbanded shortly thereafter, and in a very rare distinction every single member of the commando force received the Bronze Star for staying and fighting. They fought five major actions and dozens of smaller ones while marching over 750 miles through enemy territory, all the while fighting a different but even more deadly battle against hunger and disease. The unit was eventually redesignated as the 75th Infantry Regiment, from which today’s 75th Ranger Regiment descended.

 

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This is why landing on an aircraft carrier never gets easy

There’s a reason Navy carrier pilots are so cocky.


Their jobs would be challenging if they were just steering small hunks of metal through the air at high speed in combat, but they also take off and land on huge floating hunks of metal moving at low speed through the waves.

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
Most people only see successful carrier landings, but they can go horribly wrong. (GIF: YouTube/Superfly7XAF)

In this video from PBS, the already challenging task of landing on a floating deck gets worse in rough seas. With large waves striking the USS Nimitz, the flight deck pitches dozens of feet up and down, making the pilots’ jobs even harder.

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13 funniest memes for the week of Sept. 30

We scrolled through miles of the Internet to find and present these funny military memes. Please enjoy them.


1. This was a surprise (via Coast Guard Memes).

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle

2. Ugh, I still get the ghost weapon panic every once in a while (via The Salty Soldier).

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle

3. “Welcome to the advancement exam. There’s a good chance you’ll make sergeant this time.”

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
They should’ve made him walk into an Army promotion board like that.

4. Always be ready to lay waste to your enemies, especially at PTA meetings (via Pop Smoke).

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
Now you have to have a few kids so that you can properly crew the weapon.

5. The perfect cream to help with Navy service (via Sh-t my LPO says).

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
Might want to buy it out of pocket, though. Chief will get suspicious if he notices someone ordered it through the Navy.

6. “That’s it? All of it?”

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle

7. OMG, Navy. If you lifted more, you would be able to get out (via Pop Smoke).

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
Never go on land alone, sailors.

8. He has lots of sensitive parts, mostly areas of soft tissue and cartilage (via Military Memes).

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
Don’t try to get away. It’ll only get worse.

9. We have all sorts of games and prizes (via Pop Smoke).

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle

10. Speak softly and carry a few nuclear reactor-powered sticks.

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
Prepare the be #wrekt.

11. The Air Force needs luggage, not rucks (via Military Memes).

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle

12. Funny thing is, she’ll probably still reenlist (via Hey Shipmate).

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle

13. “This is a training program, right?”

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle

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An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history

Sure, you can think of history as the grand narrative of human progress—but the past is also full of examples of really dumb ideas. Here’s one we can’t get over: the rigid airship, better known as the Zeppelin after a particularly successful design. Invented in Germany in the late 19th century, Zeppelins were hailed as a milestone of air travel. They were also completely ridiculous. Here’s why.


You could travel faster in your car

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
Wikipedia

Why do people subject themselves to air travel at all? Simple: planes get us where we need to go as quickly as possible. You might think that there was a similar rationale behind Zeppelins and other rigid airships—but you’d be dead wrong. The max speed of the classic Graf Zeppelin? a staggering 80 miles per hour. The famous Hindenburg was a bit better—at 84 MPH. Sure, the fact that it could cross the Atlantic in two and a half days was impressive compared with the five days required for an ocean liner trip, but, as I hope my next two points will make clear, that’s still way too long to allow yourself to be inside a Zeppelin.

They were filled with (extremely) flammable gas

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
Wikipedia

You’ve heard about the 1937 Hindenburg disaster (pictured above), but that was scarcely the only time an airship burst into flames. Some, like the Imperial German Navy L 10, exploded after being struck by lightning. Others went up in flames, killing all crew and passengers, for no apparent reason. And let’s not forget that Zeppelins were a staple method of military transport, including air raids, during WWI, meaning they were prime targets for enemy fire: slow-moving, enormous, and a single spark could take the whole thing down.

A gust of wind could flip a stationary Zeppelin upright

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
Wikipedia

This 1927 photograph of the USS Los Angeles shows one of the many hazards of Zeppelin travel: while docked, a gust of wind caused the airship’s tail to rise straight up in the air, a “sudden increase in lift which was not controllable.” If that’s not scary enough on its own, check out the interior of a passenger cabin, which (unsurprisingly for the 1920s) had nary a seatbelt in sight. Ouch.

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
Wikipedia

Winds could really mess with a Zeppelin even when they didn’t turn them on end: many of history’s airship disasters involved a Zeppelin simply floating away uncontrollably, with or without people inside.

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How the US Army responded to internet claim that Captain America was owed $3 million in back pay

A fan on Reddit once calculated that the US government would owe Captain America more than $3 million in back pay if the events in the Marvel Universe were real.


A US Army spokesman told INSIDER that the fan had a point but that calculating the exact dollar amount isn’t so simple.

Here’s the backstory.

After defeating Hydra in World War II, Captain America was lost in the Arctic north from 1945 to 2011. During those six decades on ice, he was never technically discharged. As a result (the theory goes), the government owes him payment for those 66 years of service.

Redditor Anon33249038 crunched the numbers and concluded that the First Avenger is entitled to $3,154,619.52, adjusting for inflation.

The analysis factors in the Army’s 1945 pay grade, biannual raises, and how long Cap spent on ice before he returned to active duty in 2011 at the start of “The Avengers.”

Wayne Hall, an Army spokesman, says there’s more to it than that.

“If Capt. Steve Rogers (aka Captain America) were not a fictional character and the circumstances surrounding his disappearance and recovery actually real, he may actually be entitled to receive back pay,” Hall told INSIDER in an email. “However, a wide variety of variables would have to be taken into consideration to actually calculate the true amount of back pay to which he would be entitled to receive; given that he is a fictional character we cannot truly capture all of those variables accurately.”

Hall went on to say that the Redditor had some of his facts wrong.

“Yes, it is correct that the O-3 (Army captain) pay grade in 1945 was $313.50; however it was a monthly pay rate vs. quarterly as the original poster indicated.”

The fan theory also “misinterpreted military pay scales” when arriving at the figure for the biannual increase of pay, Hall said, and failed to take in “any potential promotions that may have been bestowed upon Rogers while he was listed in a ‘Missing’ status.”

Whatever the final amount of back pay the government would owe Captain America for his decades of service, it’s almost certain that he would still have way less money than Tony Stark.

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This Confederate soldier coughed up a bullet 58 years after it took out his right eye

We previously brought you the amazing story of Jacob Miller, a Union soldier who walked around with a bullet in his face for 31 years. We thought Miller held the record for the longest amount of time spent alive with a Civil War bullet inside of your head. We were dead wrong. According to this article in the Mail Tribune, Willis Meadows had him beat by a full 27 years.


Battle of Vicksburg Wikimedia Commons Battle of Vicksburg | Wikimedia Commons

The Confederate soldier lost his right eye to a bullet at the Siege of Vicksburg in 1863. Fired by Union soldier Peter Knapp, the one-ounce slug lodged near Meadows’ brain and didn’t come out again for 58 years. How’d he survive?

“He was put on board a POW ship and transported to a Union hospital. Later, he was paroled to a Confederate hospital, where he spent the rest of the war as a patient and sometime nurse’s aide. After the war, he returned to his farm in Lanett, Ala., just east of the Georgia state line. He married, but had no children and probably would have died in obscurity had he not coughed up the bullet.”

Chew on that for a minute. He coughed up the bullet that took out his eye. Here’s how it went down. Meadows lived on his farm in Alabama in total obscurity for 58 years. When he was 78-years-old, he coughed up the bullet in his kitchen. Super intense, right? Everyone in 1921 thought so too:

“‘Coughs Up Bullet’ was a national newspaper story in 1921. Eleven years later, in a ‘Ripley’s Believe It or Not’ cartoon, it was published around the world in 42 countries and 17 different languages.”

Peter Knapp Peter Knapp

Things only got crazier from there. How’s that even possible? Because the Union soldier who fired the bullet ended up seeing the story and he and Meadows became best friends:

“Turns out that after Knapp saw the story, he realized he was the one who fired the bullet that lodged near Meadows’ brain. Within a few months, he contacted Meadows and when they compared notes, they realized it was true. As young mortal enemies they had tried to kill each other, but now, as aging veterans, they would spend their last few years as friends, exchanging photographs and wishing each other good health.”

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Coast Guard vet Arnold Palmer transformed golf

Arnold Palmer, legendary professional golfer and Coast Guard veteran, died Sunday afternoon from complications of a heart condition. He transformed the game of golf with his aggressive, magnetic playing style and he later transformed the world of business and sports marketing with a similar passion.


After dropping out of Wake Forest in 1950, Palmer enlisted as a Yeoman in the Coast Guard and served until 1953. The Coast Guard allowed Palmer to compete in amateur golf tournaments. After his service, he returned to Wake Forest and promptly won the U.S. Amateur Championship in 1954.

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
Arnold Palmer, 23, played in the North and South Amateur Golf Championship held at Pinehurst Country Club, Pinehurst, N.C., April 20, 1953, while on leave from his yeoman duties in the 9th District Auxiliary office. | US Coast Guard historical photo

Palmer was a working-class kid from Latrobe, PA who took the pro golfing world by storm, transforming a game that had previously been popular with the elite country club set to the massively popular pastime that it is today. His charisma and devoted fan base (dubbed “Arnie’s Army” because “Arnie’s Yeomen” wasn’t quite as catchy) inspired networks to broadcast golf tournaments in hopes they could cash in on the excitement. He won 7 major tournaments, 62 overall and was the first golfer to win a million dollars in prize money on the tour. His 1960s rivalry with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player brought fame to all three men.

And, yet, it was Palmer’s early embrace of sports marketing that truly transformed the sports world. An early alliance with lawyer Mark McCormack, whom he met in the Coast Guard, led to the creation of the International Management Group, which became the most prominent sports agency in the world.

Palmer aggressively pursued endorsements, putting his name on lines of golf clubs and clothing. Millions of Americans who knew nothing about golf knew him as the guy on the tractor who trusted Pennzoil in dozens of commercials in the ’70s and ’80s. He worked on the development or redesign of more than three hundred golf courses.

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
AriZona Beverages

His most lasting legacy may be the drink that bears his name, the half-lemonade-half-iced-tea off-menu order known as the Arnold Palmer. He eventually made a deal with Arizona iced tea and now practically every convenience store in America is stocked with cans that bear his likeness.

Arnold Palmer paved the way for every athlete business tycoon that followed: Jack Nicklaus, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods and Lebron James all owe a debt to the Coastie from Latrobe, PA.

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13 lessons you learn while traveling in the US military

Military travel: it’s like civilian travel with more red tape. Here are 13 things every constant military traveler knows.


1. The Defense Travel System is arguably the most frustrating thing ever made.

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle

2. The overly moto guys will wear civilian clothes but completely fail to hide that they’re in the military.

3. Your military ID and TSA Precheck can make security a breeze.

4. Getting your gear through security can be more challenging, so you learn to make friends with security.

5. Government rate hotels are not always the nicest.

6. Someone will get lost but swear he isn’t. This is especially annoying when he outranks you.

7. Someone in your group can’t handle foreign food.

8. Take a minute to get to know the staff duty driver every night, just in case.

9. You will run into someone from an old unit. You probably will not be excited about it.

10. The DoD is paying for the rental car and mileage, so find somewhere to go every day off.

11. No matter how many phone numbers, email addresses, and instant messaging usernames you exchange, someone will be impossible to keep track of for accountability. It’s probably a senior officer.

12. Every base exchange is filled with tackier, more expensive versions of local stuff you can buy off post.

13. Despite all the frustrations, you will want to leave again 15 minutes after you return to your home base.

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle

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This Soviet colonel managed a crazy escape from the KGB after he was exposed as a spy

Oleg Gordievsky, British spy and former Russian Soviet Colonel, is congratulated by Baroness Thatcher following his investiture by the Queen on 18th October 2007. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Sergei66


The KGB colonel knew his cover was almost blown.

He had been suspiciously summoned to Moscow. They had got him drunk on cognac while a KGB general grilled him for four hours. He’d be executed if they could catch him. They seemed to be closing the net. But the MI6 double agent couldn’t risk openly fleeing.

After he sobered up at home, Oleg Gordiyevsky turned to his last resort — an emergency escape plan devised by the British intelligence services that was hidden in invisible ink in a collection of Shakespeare sonnets.

Pulling bed sheets over his head to elude surveillance cameras in the ceiling and walls of his Moscow apartment, Gordiyevsky soaked the book cover in water, revealing a set of instructions. He set about memorizing them.

The plan sketched out a risky rendezvous with two British diplomatic cars at the bend of a road near Finland. From there, Gordiyevsky would be smuggled across the border in the trunk of a car right under the nose of Soviet guards.

If the plan failed, the British security services would lose a prized asset, sometimes considered the West’s most valuable Cold War intelligence source. The plan was backed by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: if uncovered it would spark a major diplomatic incident; for Gordiyevsky it would mean certain death.

Recruited in 1974 in Copenhagen by MI6, Gordiyevsky, a KGB colonel, was an unparalleled source within the secretive Soviet state, passing reams of information to the British, who shared it with the CIA. It led to him being compromised. Gordiyevsky blames Aldrich Ames, a KGB mole in the CIA, who he says told Moscow there was a leak in the KGB London station where Gordiyevsky was posted.

‘Toward Death’s Embrace’

Gordiyevsky was summoned to the KGB’s Lubyanka headquarters in Moscow, ostensibly so that he could be confirmed as station chief. But Gordiyevsky suspected something was up.

“I realized I was going toward death’s embrace. But I still decided to go to show that I’m not scared,” he said. He took with him a backup escape plan written by British spy John Scarlett, the man who went on to become “M,” the head of MI6.

“It was all arranged ahead of time,” Gordiyevsky said 30 years later in an interview with RFE/RL’s Russian Service at his two-floor house in a town near London.

All he had to do was inform the British of the proposed date of his extraction. But even that proved hard.

A first “control” meeting arranged at Kutuzovsky Prospekt was botched. A second rendezvous was planned at St. Basil’s Cathedral, where he was meant to pass a note to a British spy on the narrow staircase leading up to the iconic tourist site’s second floor.

But after walking for three hours to shake off his KGB tail, Gordiyevsky arrived to find the plan had been foiled — the whole of Red Square was closed for renovations.

Finally, a third control meeting was successful. The plan was on.

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
Courtesy photo

At five o’clock on a Friday afternoon on July 19, 1985, a short, thick-set man in a worn jacket and corduroy trousers stepped out of a west Moscow apartment. Staying close to the bushes to avoid detection by a surveillance vehicle, he quietly slipped across to an adjacent street.

Within an hour Gordiyevsky was at Moscow’s Leningrad train station, where he bought tickets to Leningrad before travelling by suburban electric train to Zelenogorsk. From there, he jumped on a bus to Vyborg.

Hours Of Waiting

The meeting place was somewhere along the way, but he had only a description of the meeting place and no precise location.

Unsure exactly where to get off but having passed a big bend in the road that resembled the meeting place, he feigned sickness and nausea to convince the driver to let him off, and walked back along the road until he found the designated meeting place.

“I was surrounded by woodland where I laid down waiting for the diplomatic car of the [British] embassy. I lay there three hours waiting for the moment when the car was meant to come. At 2:20 a.m. two cars with two drivers arrived. They managed to hide around the bend for a few minutes away from the KGB car following them from Leningrad.”

“I dived into the trunk of one of the cars. The whole operation took no longer than a minute, we managed to get going again before the KGB tail appeared round the corner.”

Luckily, a slow goods train chugging through a railway crossing had separated the British diplomats from the KGB tail and put considerable distance between them. The KGB sped forward to catch up, but the British cars had waited by a small hill out of sight and the KGB overshot them.

“Our pursuers, having reached a traffic police post, asked the police: ‘Where are the English cars?'”

“‘What cars? No one has passed,’ [they answered]. And then our cars appeared. They surrounded the English: ‘Right, that’s it, now they’re going to arrest us,’ they thought. But the KGB were also tired. It was half past five, Saturday, end of the working day. They’d been on duty since about 7 that morning and let us go through to the border point without checking us.”

From the trunk of the car, all Gordiyevsky could hear was the driver turn on a piece of music by Sibelius called Finlandia.

“That’s how I realized we were on Finnish territory.”

In Finland, Gordiyevsky was let out of the stuffy trunk of the car and met by a young British diplomat named Michael Shipster. He called MI6, Gordiyevsky recalls, and announced: “The luggage has arrived. It’s all in order.”

Also from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

This article originally appeared at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Copyright 2015.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

War can be hell…and war can be absolute boredom. There are few better ways to pass the time than by playing cards. Anyone who served in the military and made it past basic training probably ended up in a game of cards with their fellow troops.


These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
Photo taken by an 82d Airborne paratrooper during WWII. (Portraits of War)

They’re easy to carry: small and lightweight, they fit into a rucksack, duffel bag, or Alice pack without having to sacrifice any piece of essential gear. Plus, they’re cheap. It just makes sense that the troops and playing cards would pair so well together.

The Bicycle Playing Card Company recounts the history of American troops and playing cards, though many other nations’ militaries also have a tradition of playing cards in their downtime. It just beats sitting around thinking about everything that could go wrong in a battle. As one Civil War soldier said, “Card playing seemed to be as popular a way of killing time as any.”

Wartime decks have been used to help soldiers in the field learn about their enemies and allies, to identify aircraft, and even teach a little about American history. Even in the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, American forces used playing cards to identify the most wanted members of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
These cards are probably well-known by now.

Also Read: This is how POWs got playing cards with secret escape maps for Christmas

Playing cards themselves can be traced back to 12th century China. Some scholars think they made their way to Europe through Italian traders. The cards (and maybe even the games) predate the United States. But Americans have their own love affair with cards, and the military is no different.

Early special decks were released depicting Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, and (John Quincy) Adams as the kings of the deck. By the time of the Civil War, playing cards were in every American camp, Union or Confederate.

Since troops in the Civil War spent a lot of time in camp and had easy access to decks, alcohol, and firearms, a cheater could make the game go very badly for himself. The war actually shaped the way playing cards are printed, so players could hold a tighter hand.

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle

Another innovation of that era was the design on the backs of cards. Before then, most were made with plain backs, ones that were easy to mark and see through. The new back designs made short work of that problem.

In 1898, the Consolidated Playing Card Company created a cheap deck and poker chips for troops deploying to the Spanish-American War. For World War I, the U.S. Playing Card Company released special decks just for a few specialties of service in the Great War, namely Artillery, Navy, Air Corps, and Tank Corps. The German High Command in WWI considered the game so important to morale, they called the cards kartonnen wapens – cardboard weapons.

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
German soldiers playing cards on the Western front in the summer of 1916. (Playing Card Museum)

Many playing card factories converted to war production during World War II, but that certainly didn’t mean no decks were printed. The aforementioned cards used to identify aircraft, known as “spotter cards,” were essential to the war effort.

During the Vietnam War, playing card companies sent deployed soldiers and Marines special decks comprised of just the ace of spades, believing the Viet Cong considered the symbol to be a deadly serious omen.

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle

As late as 2007, American forces were given decks meant to inform them about important cultural and historical relics in the countries to which they deployed.

Watch below as magician Justin Flom recounts the oft-told story of a Revolutionary War soldier and his deck of cards, which acts as his bible, calendar, and almanac. Be sure to watch til the end for a magician’s tribute to American troops overseas.

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5 ways officers know there will be an incident during liberty call

Liberty call is a roller coaster of emotions. There are times when you can almost feel it in the air that something is going to go down over the weekend. There are tell-tale signs more obvious that others. When you see the stars align and the following events happen, keep your phone on. You’re going to need it, sir or ma’am.

1. The boot drop

Across the board in every branch there are ranks earned through time in grade. All a troop has to do is keep their nose clean at the entry-level position over a certain amount of time to rate the next rank. Is it easier said than done? Sort of. Don’t break the law and you’ll be fine. However, since majority of troops are those who exhibit good character, they will be promoted in waves. It’s not intentional– it mainly has to do with when they went to boot camp and their MOS school that will affect when a unit receives new pups.

The seasoned captain knows to place extra NCOs on duty in his company to prevent the opportunity for hazing. The difference between hazing and tradition is humiliation. The military has made great leaps to prevent and discourage hazing. Now-a-days kicking down a troop’s door and making them chug six beers at three in the morning is hazing. Back in my day it was free beer. Take that, stupid seniors. Don’t do it now though, you’ll go to real a** pounding jail.

2. Deployment is around the corner

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
New Marines with Kilo Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, stand in formation during liberty call at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, Jan. 16, 2020. After the Marines were reunited with their families, they were dismissed for six hours of on-base liberty. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Grace J. Kindred)

You know that meme with the dog who doesn’t bite but will hurt you in other ways? Like saying that Kuwait isn’t a real deployment (*because it isn’t). Exactly, whether a deployment meets the infantry’s certified bad a** criteria or not, a unit is going to do what a unit is going to do. They’re going to party. That means a commander has to check the blotter. For the uninitiated, a police blotter is a public record of arrests made the prior evening. Your command will find out if you screwed up.

The brass would rather you went down for selling state secrets to the former Soviet Union than a D.U.I. – don’t do that either! In all seriousness though, officers better give one hell of an entertaining safety brief that communicates ‘don’t F this up for all of us’. I hope you took a course in stand up comedy in college, sir (or ma’am) because a good safety brief does deter stupid sh*t.

Officers, don’t put your reputation on the chopping block for a troop who came back hot during the unit drug test. Everyone is Rambo when they come back. Do not let your personal bias get in the way of protecting the rest of your troops. The odds that there was a mistake at the lab after post-deployment leave block are slim to none. Someone is going to pop.

Apes. Together. Strong. Apes on leave throw poop at everyone.

Yes, it’s your leave block too. However, an officer’s rank is on their shoulders to symbolize the burden of leadership. A phone call once every few days on a long leave block does make a difference. If an incident is going to happen you can at least get ahead of it and prevent it by staying informed. The Navy hits port after being months at sea. A Marine Expeditionary Unit is how the Marine Corps and the Navy can liberate any country in the world at a moment’s notice. Every ocean on the planet has a fleet of angry, bored Marines and sailors. Yet every valve needs a pressure release, or it will explode. When they hit port, R&R needs to be steady and controlled or sh*t will hit the fan. The command needs to make sure that there are plenty of tourist options available.

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
U.S. sailors and Marines assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) participate in a guided tour of Vatican City during a port call, Oct. 31, 2013. The Nimitz was deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Kelly M. Agee/Released)

When we stopped in Dubai, I went skiing indoors at the U.A.E. mall and had chai at the Burj al Arab. We were so caught up in tourist stuff that no one got in trouble. Ports with no activities except alcohol were the most problematic, so, officers should expect the bare minimum if they plan the bare minimum. Honestly, there shouldn’t be any excuse for not incorporating morale because officers have better opportunities to access the internet on a Navy ship than enlisted. Put the social media down for one day and Google some fun stuff.

3. A holiday leave block longer than a 96

The risk is higher but that doesn’t always mean something will happen. Months like December are a minefield, so, calling your troops to at least check up on them is a worthwhile investment. You don’t want to do it. They don’t want to do it either. It’s reminder that, before they do some Wolf of Wall Street shenanigans, that they still have a career to get back to.

4. The 2nd promotion wave

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
Marines from Alpha Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, march to meet families and friends prior to beginning liberty call at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Dec. 17. Family Day allows recruits to reunite with families for the first time since leaving for Marine Corps recruit training. 

Those E1s that got promoted to E2s are now ready to climb to E3s. The difference this time around is that they’ve ‘gotten with the program’ and won’t snitch if they’re getting hazed. It could be something as small as a light tap on their chevrons or full blown meritorious a** beating. In a good unit, it shouldn’t get out of hand, but officers know what they have. Even if your platoon doesn’t break the rules, if you got a bunch of rowdy, recently promoted war fighters, you’re in a rough ride.

5. The lance corporals are getting out

Terminal lances are out of f**ks to give. They’re a wild card even if they are getting out. They may be bitter from their four years of service and will disregard the rules. But even the lance corporals like to have a good time – find fun things to do in every port, or have them voluntold for plenty of admin.

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6 ways the US could beef up its short-range air defense

According to DefenseNews.com, the Army is desperate to re-build its short-range air-defense capabilities. One big reason is the fact that Russia has become much more aggressive, making the need to deal with planes like the Su-25 Frogfoot close air support plane a distinct possibility.


So, here are some ideas on how America’s military can get some more surface-to-air punch.

Right now, the main system used by the Army for short-range air defense is the FIM-92 Stinger – used on the Avenger air-defense system and by grunts who carry it by hand.

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
The Air Defense Anti-Tank System (ADATS) is a dual-purpose short range surface-to-air and anti-tank missile system based on the M113A2 vehicle. The ADATS missile is a laser-guided supersonic missile with a range of 10 kilometres, with an electro-optical sensor with TV and Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR). The carrying vehicle also has a conventional two-dimensional radar with an effective range of over 25 kilometres. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

1. The MIM-146 ADATS

This system was looked at by the Army in the 1980s, but at the end of the Cold War it got cancelled. Designation-Systems.net notes that Canada did buy 34 systems.

With a speed of Mach 3, and a range of six miles, ADATS has more reach than the Stinger. Canada deployed it on a M113 chassis – the U.S. Army has lots of those – and also tested a new version on the LAV III, their version of the Stryker, according to the Rheinmetall Defense web site.

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
AMRAAMs mounted on a Humvee. Versions of this have been called HUMRAAM, CLAWS, or SLAMRAAM. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

2. NASAM and 3. HUMRAAM/CLAWS/SLAMRAAM

The AIM-120 AMRAAM has been a bedrock of American air-to-air capability for the last 25 years. However, Designation-Systems.net notes that Norway lead the way in developing a version used as a surface-to-air weapon.

The Marines tried out a Humvee-mounted version many called HUMRAAM, but was known as CLAWS, for Complimentary Low-Altitude Weapon System. Army-Technology.com reported that the United States Army was looking at a system, of its own called SLAMRAAM. It would seem to be a quick way to get systems in service.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4PXou0aGiE

4. C-RAM

While originally purchased to defense bases in Iraq and Afghanistan against mortars and rockets, C-RAM is based on the Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System, or “CIWS,” that was intended to kill missiles like the Russian AS-4 Kitchen. Aircraft and helicopters might not be a problem for the system to track, either.

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) conducts a live-fire exercise with the ship’s RIM 116 Rolling Airframe Missile weapon system. Bataan is underway conducting composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group in preparation for an upcoming deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Petty Officer Nicholas Frank Cottone)

5. RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile

Also a Navy point-defense missile system, the RIM-116 is another option for short-range air defense. According to a Navy fact sheet, it weighs about seven tons, has a 7.9-pound warhead, and is supersonic. Designation-Systems.net notes that it has a range of five nautical miles and infra-red guidance. This would be an excellent complement to the SLAMRAAM or CLAWS.

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle
A MIM-115 Roland fired from Launch Complex 32. (DOD photo)

6. MIM-115 Roland

This is a missile that was widely used by adversaries and allies alike, including France and Germany and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Designation-Systems.net reported that the U.S. tried it out in the 1980s, but never really deployed it. Army-Technology.com adds that the latest version, the VT1, has what amounts to a range of just under seven miles and a speed of almost 2,800 mph. This is probably the most “off-the-shelf” system to purchase — and it would help our allies by lowering the per-unit cost.

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‘You’re Really Pretty For Being In The Army’

These WW2 commandos marched over 1,000 miles fighting the Japanese and the jungle


“This is great – you can help counteract the stereotype that only big bull dykes join the Army just by being there,” the recruiter said (yes, really).

That was one of my first introductions to how much my appearance would constantly be noticed – and openly discussed by others – as a female soldier. I had signed up to do Hometown Recruiting (between initial entry training and going to your first permanent duty station, you can spend a week helping local recruiters out for a few hours every day without getting charged leave, while still having your evenings free). Instead of going back to my hometown, I’d decided to visit a friend in New York City, and the station I was assigned to apparently thought my key asset was not looking the way they apparently assumed lesbians look.

Later in my military career, people regularly told me, “You’re really pretty for being in the Army.” This baffling pseudo-compliment made me uncomfortable, and I developed a joking stock response: “What, all the pretty girls join the Air Force?” … while at the same time wondering if what they meant was that as civilians go, I’m ugly. It was further confirmation that at least initially, my appearance was a key part of how people would form opinions of me as a soldier.

Recently, an internal email from the female officer heading an Army study on how to integrate women into previously closed ground combat jobs and units to the public affairs office was leaked and much of it published by Politico. In it, she urged that public affairs personnel choose photos of “average looking women” to illustrate generic stories. I’m not thrilled with all her word choices, but I’m worried that her core message has been obscured by quibbles over terminology and the relish media outlets and pundits take in trying to turn everything into a major story. If she had wrapped her message in more obfuscating language – perhaps saying women who do not seem to be trying to conform to modern beauty norms by use of appearance-enhancing efforts instead of the shorthand pretty, maybe it wouldn’t have led to the same degree of public outcry. (I also empathize with her on a personal level: I’m not careful in how I phrase messages that are not meant to be public and certainly wouldn’t want some of them leaked!)

The heart of her argument fell much farther down in the story: compared to photos where women troops are obviously wearing makeup, photos of female soldiers with mud on their faces “sends a much different message—one of women willing to do the dirty work necessary in order to get the job done.”

This immediately resonated with me based on my own experiences. While I was deployed to Iraq, I got a few days of RR in Qatar. While there, I went shopping, bought makeup, got a massage, and drank a few (carefully rationed!) beers. Upon my return to Mosul, Bruce Willis and his band (who knew?) came to our FOB on a USO tour. On a whim, I wore the mascara from my RR – it had been nice to feel feminine for a few days.

Guys asked me about it for weeks. All the male soldiers in my unit noticed I’d worn makeup. They commented on it. It changed how they looked at me and thought about me. And they all knew me, had known me for months or years already.

So when it comes to Infantrymen who haven’t served with women before, do I think that this picture might make them think differently about women joining the combat arms than these? Yes. Yes I do.

OK, I purposefully chose extreme examples. It’s not always that cut-and-dry. When my friends and I were discussing this story on social media, we argued about whether or not women in various photos were wearing makeup (yes, really). It isn’t always easy to tell, and for many women, makeup is a fraught issue. I know women who will never be seen without makeup. While I was in Advanced Individual Training at Goodfellow Air Force, one of my suitemates got up an hour before we had to do physical fitness training to put on full makeup. Full makeup – to go run for miles – in the heat of a Texas summer. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. (Recently reading this piece on indirect aggression among young women made me think hard about my negative reaction and wonder if I’d react the same way now that I’m a decade older…)

Part of the kerfuffle about this, to me, comes down to the problems of real versus ideal.

In my ideal world, the way I look is meaningless, whether I wear makeup doesn’t matter – I’ll be judged on how competent I am. But in the real world, I have to be aware of the fact that (in normal settings) wearing makeup “increases people’s perceptions of a woman’s likability, her competence and (provided she does not overdo it) her trustworthiness.” So I’ve worn makeup to every job interview I’ve ever gone on. Once I’ve gotten the jobs, there have days I skipped wearing makeup to the office – I can work toward making my ideal world a reality by demonstrating to my colleagues that my appearance and competence aren’t connected. But the important days, when I wanted to make a good first impression? I lived in the real world.

In my ideal world, the way people dress is unimportant. But in the real world, I wore a suit on my last job interview, too – and so did my husband, because this isn’t just about gender. (Although apparently if either of us had applied to work in the tech world, it may have benefitted us NOT to wear suits.) You meet the social norms of the world you want to inhabit, and then you can work to change it from the inside. But if you thumb your nose too heavily at the mores of the organization you want to join, you risk not getting that opportunity.

Almost all of my women veteran friends who posted about this story on social media seemed (to me) angry that the ideal world hasn’t yet materialized, pissed off that people think about women’s appearances at all, irritated that men in the military might let something as trivial as eyeliner distract from the far more important question of whether or not a woman soldier can accomplish the mission effectively. I get that.

But several of the male troops and vets that I know said they got COL Arnhart’s point and agreed with the core message on at least some level (while agreeing the wording was suboptimal). I imagine part of this is that they aren’t triggered in the same way by words like “pretty” and “ugly,” which can be tremendously emotionally charged for women – and that may give them the space to more clearly acknowledge the real world we still inhabit. (Although one of them less charitably posited, “When we see a picture featuring an attractive female soldier, it undermines the message mostly because we’re all very immature.”)

All signs currently indicate that the Army will be opening ground combat arms jobs to women (I’m not as sure about the Marines). This is a tremendous step forward for both women and the Army. COL Arnhart, who has since stepped down, was – in my take of the situation – urging a couple of colleagues to be mindful of the real world we still inhabit while setting the stage for those women, in order to slightly diminish the obstacles that will be awaiting them. Those women, by demonstrating their competence, strength, and abilities, will help accomplish the mission, regardless of how they look – and that will help drag the ideal world once step closer to reality.

Kayla Williams is an Army war vet and author of “Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the US Army.” This article originally appeared on her website.

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