By 1943, the war in the Pacific burned in its full fury. On November 20th, the Allies launched the first amphibious assault against heavily defended beaches in US history. The 2nd division of the US Marine Corps, used amphibious tractors and assault boats to reach the beaches of the Tarawa atoll, an enemy stronghold protected by 5,000 hardened Imperial Japanese marines. Ed Moore and Tommy Reed were decorated veterans of the 2nd Marine Division during the island campaigns in the Pacific War.
Just one day after video emerged of Iranian ships swarming and harassing the USS Nitze, Business Insider has confirmed a separate incident on Wednesday involving the USS Squall, a coastal patrol ship, in the northern Arabian Gulf.
CNN’s Barbara Starr reports that the Squall was harassed by Iranian fast-attack craft that came within 200 yards of the ship.
After repeated attempts to contact the boats by radio, the Squall had to resort to firing warning shots, according to Starr.
Business Insider has reached out to US naval officials for comment.
— The Situation Room (@CNNSitRoom) August 25, 2016
After watching for years as the United States called the shots in the region, Russian President Vladimir Putin is seizing the reins of diplomacy in the Middle East, establishing footholds, and striking alliances with unlikely partners.
From the battlefields of Syria to its burgeoning relationships with Iran and Turkey to its deepening ties with Saudi Arabia, Russia is stepping in to fill a void left by the United States first under the Obama administration and now in the vastly inconsistent and largely hands-off policies of Donald Trump.
Embroiled in controversy at home and loathe to engaging in the strife-riddled region beyond fighting the Islamic State group, Trump has largely stayed on the sidelines of attempts to help find a political settlement for Syria’s long-running civil war.
Those efforts are now led by Russia, in partnership with Iran and Turkey, organizing local cease-fires and creating “de-escalation zones” that have significantly reduced the violence in the country. Russia’s role in Syria has raised its international profile and allowed it to claim fighting terrorist groups such as the Islamic State group while it shored up President Bashar Assad’s government.
Moscow has stood by Tehran while Trump has refused to re-certify the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers — a stance reiterated by Putin himself Nov. 2 on a visit to Tehran. It has also reached out to Iran’s Mideast rival Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, promising weapons deals and other investments to the Sunni power house.
Bilal Saab, a senior fellow and director of the Defense and Security Program at the Middle East Institute, said that while Russia has clearly become a more influential interlocutor on Syria, there are clear limits to its overall foray into the region.
“What Russia offers is transactional, as opposed to strategic. Arms sales are no substitute for deep political rapport, which is what Washington provides, despite lingering tensions with key partners,” he said.
Still, Putin appears to be positioning himself as Mideast broker, seeking to expand his influence in a region where the US remains the most dominant military actor.
Syria Power Broker
Moscow’s military involvement in the Syrian war since 2015 has propped up Assad’s forces and turned the conflict in his favor, while Russian mediation earlier this year launched cease-fire talks in Astana, Kazakhstan. The talks, sponsored jointly with Iran and Turkey, have brokered local deals that have significantly reduced violence in the war-torn country.
This week, Russia announced plans to host Syrian groups and government representatives for political talks on Nov. 18 — just 10 days before a new round of UN-sponsored talks are to start in Geneva. The invitation has roiled Syrian opposition groups who described it as an attempt to “bypass” UN efforts to resolve the country’s conflict and dictate the terms of any settlement.
Russia invited over a dozen groups, a mix of government representatives and political opposition parties, including for the first time the main US-backed Kurdish party now in control of northern Syria. The Syrian Kurdish PYD has previously been barred from participation in political negotiations at the Geneva Talks, at Turkey’s insistence.
The invitation by Russia has led to speculation that Russia may use the conference to broker a wider reconciliation between Assad and the Syrian Kurds under conditions that preclude long-term US influence in Syria.
“Russia is accelerating its effort to subvert the Syrian political process by establishing a new diplomatic framework that sets conditions to expel the US from Northern Syria,” said an analysis by the Institute for the Study of War this week.
Badran Ciya Kurd, an adviser for the Kurdish-led self-administration who met with Russian officials ahead of the invite to Sochi, said Russia supports the Kurdish federal project while the US strategy has been vague.
“It is not yet clear what their (Americans) strategy is after Raqqa, and we would like to understand,” he said, referring to the northern city liberated from Raqqa last month.
Shared interests with Iran
While Iran promised a foreign policy that would be “neither East nor West” after its 1979 Islamic Revolution, Tehran has tilted toward Russia given its antipathy for Washington. Tehran relied on Moscow’s support to complete its Bushehr nuclear power plant in 2011 and received Russia’s S-300 surface-to-air missile system in 2016.
In that time, Russia and Iran also found themselves fighting to support the embattled Syrian president. The countries regularly coordinate on Syria and have provided overwhelming military and political aid to prop up Assad’s government and army.
On a visit to Tehran on Nov. 2, Putin strongly backed Iran and its nuclear deal with world powers, saying Moscow opposed “any unilateral change” to the accord after Trump refused to re-certify it.
Putin made the comments on a one-day trip to Tehran for trilateral talks between Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia, during which he met with both Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Across the Gulf Arab states, the US has been the guarantor of security since the 1991 Gulf War. In recent years, however, Gulf countries have increasingly looked toward making defense deals with Russia, especially after growing wary of the US detente with Iran under President Barack Obama. In the last weeks alone, Russia has gone big into Saudi Arabia, which supported the Afghan mujahedeen against Soviet troops in the 1980s.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia visited Moscow last month and signed multi-billion dollar energy deals with Russia, which also agreed to sell the Iranian rival its advanced S-400 missile system, which Tehran does not possess. Other deals would include Saudi Arabia locally producing Russian anti-tank missiles, rocket launchers, and automatic grenade launchers, as well as the latest version of the Kalashnikov assault rifle.
King Salman’s visit marked the first by any Saudi monarch to Moscow and heralded a new era of cooperation and a thawing in a bilateral relation that has been severely strained since Russia’s military intervention in Syria on behalf of Assad.
Close cooperation with Israel
Israel and Russia maintain a close, if sometimes uneasy, relationship on regional issues — particularly when it comes to the war in neighboring Syria. In recent years, the Israeli and Russian air forces have been active in Syrian skies and have maintained, throughout the fighting, a hotline to prevent clashes between their air forces. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has also held a number of meetings and phone conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, to discuss the situation in Syria.
Still, Israeli officials are concerned about Russia’s cooperation with Iran. But they also believe that Russian and Iranian interests could diverge as both countries compete for lucrative reconstruction contracts and political influence in postwar Syria. Israeli officials believe that Russia considers Iran a potentially destabilizing force in postwar Syria, and are cautiously optimistic that Russia understands Israel’s security concerns.
“Russian and Israeli interests in Syria may not be the same but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Russia cannot play a constructive role in Syria in Israel’s view or that certain understandings can’t be reached between Russia and Israel with regard to Syria,” said Chagai Tzuriel, the director general of Israel’s Intelligence Ministry.
Hours before the Allied Forces hit the beaches of Normandy, courageous British and American soldiers entered France with parachutes and gliders to secure key bridges and enemy artillery positions. Their dangerous missions led the way for the D-Day invasion and ultimate victory in Europe. Wally Parr, Terance Otway and Bill True recount their dramatic stories, In Their Own Words.
The 1st Air Cavalry Division was the most lethal assault force assembled in Vietnam. The pilots were the first to fully harness the power of helicopters and their soldier’s combat record was second to none. Steven E Warren served a year in the infantry in Vietnam, but then returned home to train to fly helicopters at Fort Rucker. Soon he returned to the conflict, as a Huey helicopter pilot in the 1st Air Cavalry. We spoke with him about his combat experiences, helping to perfect this new kind of warfare.
The nation’s highest medal for valor under enemy fire dates back over 150 years
In the mid-1990s, the U.S. Army recognized a problem with their existing combatives program. At that point, the program had withered to having whatever martial arts enthusiast they happened to command at the moment teach techniques to units. For the Army, being a fighting force and all, this was a huge no-go and a revamp ultimately led to the advent of the Modern Army Combatives Program, which has been all the rage since the beginning of the All-Army tournament in 2004.
We all know the Air Force likes to copy big brother Army in a lot of areas, and this one is no different. Well, it is a little different. Did you even know there’s an Air Force Combatives Program? No worries, most of us didn’t.
The difference, and the problem, is that the AFCP isn’t nearly as widespread nor is proficiency in combatives seen as important as it is to Soldiers or Marines. Nonetheless, there is an Air Force Combatives Program and here are 5 of the best moves.
5. Guard, sweep, mount
This is a basic flow that could be very useful in real-world situations where the goal isn’t just tapping out your rolling partner.
These two basic positions, along with a sweep, are taught in AFCP/MACP and are consistent with traditional Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training. The basic idea here is to gain top position. With some practice, this becomes a vital combination for any airman.
When to use: After you’ve established dominant position from the bottom (i.e. closed guard).
4. Rear naked choke
The rear naked choke is one of the most popular submissions in existence. It’s seen on film and television, it was once used by law enforcement, and everyone seems to know it. At least everyone thinks they know it.
There are some finer points (hint: hand placement and back contraction) to the move that take it from a good positional hold on an opponent to an almost-immediate night-night for any unruly tough guys you encounter.
When to use: When your opponent has surrendered their back.
3. Guillotine choke
Another super well-known submission, the guillotine choke also has some finer points that many of us that “know” the move tend to miss.
This is much more than just a headlock. Master the fine points and this move becomes a sometimes-lethal fight-ender.
When to use: When your opponent is charging/rushing you with their head down, in a tackling motion.
2. Arm triangle
A much less popular but equally valuable move is the arm triangle. This move can be applied in all circumstances. Standing, laying, from the top or the bottom, the arm triangle can be thrown and landed to subdue an overly aggressive opponent with relative ease.
It’s essentially choking your opponent with their own failing/punching arms.
When to use: When your opponent is throwing punching or extending their arms.
1. Double tap
What’s the one move you absolutely must develop for your own safety? Steady trigger manipulation and consistent aiming.
General Frank “Pete” Everest was a record-setting U.S. Air Force Test pilot. As a fighter pilot in World War II he flew over 150 combat missions. He then went on to lead the Air Force flight test program, flying with other legendary pilots like Chuck Yeager and George Welch.
From 1950 to 1956 he flew an average of eight newly designed aircraft a month, setting records like taking the Bell X-1 to an altitude of 73,000 feet and the X-2 to a speed of over 1900 miles per hour, making him the “fastest man alive” at the time. In this episode Pete Everest tells stories of those pioneering days of experimental aircraft and daring test pilots.
In January 2002, the Army revised their Combatives Field Manual (FM 3-25.150), which has been a fantastic training aid when it comes to teaching the Modern Army Combatives Program. It lays down the groundwork
literally, but without an instructor, there’ll be many gaps in instruction to fill.
Unlike many of the other documented skills in the Army, combatives is not something you can just read in a book — the actual FM isn’t any help either.
Combatives is a very aerobic activity that requires nearly every muscle in the body. Stretching is important before and after any exercise, yet the manual only covers five stretches and only one is not buddy-assisted.
1. The backroll stretch:
The point of stretching is to loosen up your muscles, not immediately throw out your back. Any sudden movements out of this one and you’re done.
2. The buddy-assisted hamstring stretch
A flaw in the “buddy-assisted” stretches is that the person assisting has no knowledge of what is helpful and what is hurting. They could push the stretcher to the point of injury or they could just do nothing at all. Not only is the risk of injury higher, it takes time away from what could be used stretching both combatants.
3. The buddy-assisted groin stretch
The same goes for the buddy-assisted groin stretch… except there are countless other methods to stretch your own groin that don’t involve outside help.
Basic ground-fighting techniques
Combatives lessons are broken down into three levels: one, two, and three (and technically four, but that’s a Master trainer course). Combatives level-1 is meant to get a soldier’s toes wet, but troops often come out thinking that their shrimp drills and mounting drills make them the toughest SoB in the bar.
4. The front mount and the guard
Much of the training revolves around learning these two positions. To the untrained eye, the person on top is always the one in control. While this is true for the front mount, the soldier on their back in the guard position actually has control of the fight. It all comes down to who has positive control of the other person’s hips and their center of balance.
5. Arm push and roll to the rear mount
The bread-and-butter of combatives level-1 is learning to switch between the various ground stances. However, much of this relies on your opponent giving you stiff arms (where the elbow is locked straight). In a controlled environment, it’s not a problem. In reality, fists fly too fast for you to grab them.
Advanced ground-fighting techniques
Stepping into level-2 doesn’t make you any more of a badass. You’ll still cover the same techniques, with maybe three or four new moves spliced in.
6. North-South Position
In this position, the person on the ground is in complete control. The problem with the North-South Position is that this an extremely ineffective hold. Placing your hands in the person’s armpits restricts their arms, but it still gives them the freedom to knee your head and punch your sides.
7. Captain Kirk
The objective of the Captain Kirk is to flip the opponent over you by hoping they bend down, give you stiff arms, and have moved their center of balance far enough forward for you to roll backwards.
The only applicable time for this is when a troop has watched too much WWE and is going for the Batista Bomb.
Takedowns and throws
These are your finishing moves. During combatives level-1, almost no focus is put onto these… despite being the actual goal of the program.
8. Attack from the rear
One crucial step is missing from the illustration: Applying the force needed to the enemy’s fourth point of contact and lifting from their ankles. The illustration goes from “Get ready, get set…” directly to “finished.”
Welcome to the first episode of Season Two of Warriors In Their Own Words. This episode is about the first Combat Helicopters. Today these aircraft carry the firepower of an artillery battery and can strike targets deep behind every lines, flying day or night in any weather. But back in 1944 helicopters were a brand new technology. Aviation pioneer Igor Sikorsky supplied the first primitive choppers to the US Army and four pilots were trained to fly the untested aircraft in the jungles of Burma. Carter Harman was one of those first courageous pilots and he performed the world’s first helicopter combat rescue mission.
Are you a strongman like Russian President Vladimir Putin or are you a diplomat like United States President Barack Obama? Find out which president you have more in common with. Take the quiz:
NOW: Which post-9/11 general are you? Take the Quiz
There must be an answer.
Whatever is harming US diplomats in Havana, it has eluded the doctors, scientists, and intelligence analysts scouring for answers. Investigators have chased many theories, including a sonic attack, electromagnetic weapon, or flawed spying device.
Each explanation seems to fit parts of what’s happened, conflicting with others.
The United States doesn’t even know what to call it. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used the phrase “health attacks.” The State Department prefers “incidents.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Photo from US Embassy Consulate in Korea.
Either way, suspicion has fallen on Cuba. But investigators also are examining whether a rogue faction of its security services, another country such as Russia, or some combination is to blame, more than a dozen US officials familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press.
Those officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the investigation. The AP also talked to scientists, physicians, acoustics and weapons experts, and others about the theories being pursued.
Perhaps the biggest mystery is why the symptoms, sounds, and sensations vary so dramatically from person to person.
Of the 21 medically confirmed US victims, some have permanent hearing loss or concussions, while others suffered nausea, headaches, and ear-ringing. Some are struggling with concentration or common word recall, the AP has reported. Some felt vibrations or heard loud sounds mysteriously audible in only parts of rooms, and others heard nothing.
Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Chargé d’Affaires at US Embassy Havana. Photo from US State Department.
“These are very nonspecific symptoms. That’s why it’s difficult to tell what’s going on,” said Dr. H. Jeffrey Kim, a specialist on ear disorders at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, who isn’t involved with the investigation.
To solve the puzzle, investigators are sorting symptoms into categories, such as auditory and neurological, according to individuals briefed on the probe.
There can be a lag before victims discover or report symptoms, some of which are hard to diagnose. So investigators are charting the timeline of reported incidents to identify “clusters” to help solve the when, where, and how of the Havana whodunit.
While Cuba has been surprisingly cooperative, even inviting the FBI to fly down to Havana, it’s not the same as an investigation with the US government in full control.
“You’re on foreign soil,” said David Rubincam, a former FBI agent who served in Moscow. “The quality of the information and evidence you collect is limited to what the host government will allow you to see and hear and touch and do.”
Especially when you don’t even know what you’re looking for.
The first signs pointed to a sonic attack. But what kind?
Some victims heard things — signs that the sounds were in the audible spectrum. Loud noise can harm hearing, especially high-decibel sounds that can trigger ear-ringing tinnitus, ruptured ear drums, even permanent hearing loss.
But others heard nothing, and still became ill. So investigators considered inaudible sound: infrasound, too low for humans to hear, and ultrasound, too high.
Infrasound often is experienced as vibration, like standing near a subwoofer. Some victims reported feeling vibrations.
And it’s not impossible that infrasound could explain some of what diplomats thought they heard.
Though infrasound is usually inaudible, some people can detect it if the waves are powerful enough. For example, individuals living near infrasound-generating wind turbines have described pulsating hums that have left them dizzy, nauseous, or with interrupted sleep. Such effects have prompted fierce scientific debate.
The balance problems reported in Havana? Possibly explained by infrasound, which may stimulate cells in the ear’s vestibular system that controls balance, scientists say.
But there’s little evidence infrasound can cause lasting damage once the sound stops.
And the pinpointed focus of the sound, reported by some? Infrasound waves travel everywhere, making them difficult to aim with precision.
“There’s no efficient way to focus infrasound to make it into a usable weapon,” said Mario Svirsky, an expert on ear disorders and neuroscience at New York University School of Medicine.
If not infrasound, maybe ultrasound?
At high-intensity, ultrasound can damage human tissue. That’s why doctors use it to destroy uterine fibroids and some tumors.
But ultrasound damage requires close contact between the device and the body. “You cannot sense ultrasound from long distances,” Svirsky said. No victim said they saw a weird contraption nearby.
None of these sound waves seems to explain the concussions. Usually, those follow a blow to the head or proximity to something like a bomb blast.
“I know of no acoustic effect or device that could produce traumatic brain injury or concussion-like symptoms,” said Juergen Altmann, an acoustic weapons expert and physicist at Germany’s Technische Universitaet Dortmund.
It may sound like Star Wars fantasy, but electromagnetic weapons have been around for years. They generally harm electronics, not humans.
The electromagnetic spectrum includes waves like the ones used by your cellphone, microwave, and light bulbs.
And they can be easily pinpointed. Think lasers. Such waves can also travel through walls, so an electromagnetic attack could be plausibly concealed from afar.
There’s precedent. For more than a decade ending in the 1970s, the former Soviet Union bombarded the US Embassy in Moscow with microwaves. The exact purpose was never clear.
What about the sounds people heard?
Microwave pulses — short, intense blasts — can cause people to “hear” clicking sounds. According to a two-decade-old US Air Force patent, the American military has researched whether those blasts could be manipulated to “beam” voices or other sounds to someone’s head.
But when electromagnetic waves cause physical damage, it usually results from body tissue being heated. The diplomats in Cuba haven’t been reporting burning sensations.
The stress and anxiety about the disturbing incidents could be complicating the situation. Diplomats may be taking a closer look at mild symptoms they’d otherwise ignored.
After all, once symptoms emerged, the US Embassy encouraged employees to report anything suspicious. Many of these symptoms can be caused by a lot of different things.
At least one other country, France, tested embassy staffers after an employee reported symptoms. The French then ruled out sonic-induced damage, the AP reported .
Not knowing what’s causing the crisis in Cuba has made it harder to find the culprit. If there is one at all.
The Cuba Theory
It was only natural that American suspicion started with Cuba.
The attacks happened on Cuban soil. The two countries routinely harassed each other’s diplomats over a half-century of enmity. Despite eased tensions over the past couple of years, distrust lingers.
Diplomats reported incidents in their homes and in hotels. Cuban authorities would know who is staying in each.
But what’s the motive?
When symptoms emerged last November, Cuba was working feverishly with the US to make progress on everything from internet access to immigration rules before President Barack Obama’s term ended. Officials still don’t understand why Havana would at the same time perpetrate attacks that could destroy its new relationship with Washington entirely.
Cuban President Raul Castro’s reaction deepened investigators’ skepticism, according to officials briefed on a rare, face-to-face discussion he had on the matter with America’s top envoy in Havana.
Predictably, Castro denied responsibility. But US officials were surprised that Castro seemed genuinely rattled, and that Cuba offered to let the FBI come investigate.
Cuban President Raúl Castro (left) shakes hands with former US President Barack Obama, 2015. Photo courtesy of the White House.
Then, Canadians got ill. Why them?
The warm, long-standing ties between Cuba and Canada made it seem even less logical that Castro’s government was the culprit.
If not Castro, could elements of Cuba’s vast intelligence apparatus be to blame? Investigators haven’t ruled out that possibility, several US officials said.
It’s no secret that some within Cuba’s government are uneasy about Raul Castro’s opening with Washington.
“It’s entirely possible that hard-line elements acted,” said Michael Parmly, who headed the US mission in Havana until 2008.
But mounting unauthorized attacks, tantamount to aggression against a foreign power, would be a risky act of defiance in a country noted for its strong central control.
Cuba’s surveillance of US diplomats in Havana is intense. The government tracks US diplomats’ movements and conversations.
So at a minimum, if Americans were being attacked, it’s difficult to imagine Cuba’s spies being left in the dark.
Who else would dare?
US investigators have focused on a small group of usual suspects: Russia, Iran, North Korea, China, Venezuela.
Cuban President Raúl Castro (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.
Russia, in particular, has harassed American diplomats aggressively in recent years.
Moscow even has a plausible motive: driving a wedge between the communist island and “the West” — nations such as the United States and Canada. Russia also has advanced, hard-to-detect weaponry that much of the world lacks and might not even know about.
None of the officials interviewed for this story pointed to any evidence, however, linking Russia to the illnesses. The same goes for the other countries.
Spying Gone Awry?
Maybe no one tried to hurt the Americans at all.
Several US officials have emphasized the possibility the culprit merely surveilled the US diplomats using some new, untested technology that caused unintended harm.
You might think eavesdropping devices simply receive signals. But the world of espionage is full of strange tales.
During the Cold War, the US Embassy in Moscow discovered Russia listening to conversations through a wooden plaque that the American ambassador received as a gift. The plaque had a tiny “microphone” and antenna embedded, but no power source, making it hard to detect even when the room was swept for bugs.
The Russians had developed something novel. They remotely beamed electromagnetic waves to activate the device, which then transmitted sound back via radio frequencies.
Yet if the Cubans or anyone else were equally as innovative, it’s unclear why the incidents would have continued once the United States and Canada complained.
The Air Force veteran played by Robin Williams in the 1987 movie, died Wednesday