Pacific War Diary - We Are The Mighty
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Pacific War Diary

During World War II, the United States Marines played a central role in the battle for the islands of the Pacific. Marine Corps veteran Bill Swanson was often in the first wave to hit the beach in many of these brutal campaigns. In this episode, he paints a vivid picture of what it was like to fight in the “living hell” of these steaming jungles and swamps.  He shares his experiences on Bougainville, Guam and Iwo Jima, battling a hidden and determined enemy.

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Intelligence Officer Fighting in Europe

Walter Bodlander was a military intelligence officer for the US Army during WWII.  He was born in Germany in 1920. As a Jew, he knew he had to flea Hitler’s regime. He eventually made his way to the United States and volunteered to join the Army to fight the Nazis.  Military Intelligence wanted to use his fluency in German to interrogate Nazi prisoners on the front lines.  Walter was soon dispatched to England to join the D-Day invasion and the march into Germany.

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Headlines

Writing a great headline is hard. Here’s how to do it.

In the digital age, writing a headline is extremely important. There are so many places out there on the web competing for people’s attention and WATM is not just competing with Military Times or Military.com, or other military-related websites. It is competing with the entire web — whatever is in the user’s Facebook news feed — for attention.A good headline grabs someone. Not only that, it should immediately get an emotional reaction. In hardly any instance is it wise to save the important part for the story, and do a straight, boring, newspaper headline. The headline is what makes a person click through to read. Put simply, if they are not interested in the headline, they aren’t going to even give you the opportunity to show them why it’s a cool story. You already lost them.


First, some formatting notes that are important:

  • Headlines should be in sentence case.
    • This is a properly-formatted headline
    • This is Not a Properly-Formatted Headline
  • Avoid swears in the headline unless absolutely necessary. There may be times when this would work, so they are not absolutely forbidden. But avoid them if you can.

Constructing a great headline

What is a great headline? This varies from person to person, but a headline should be informative and interesting, without lying to the reader. Headlines are much more important nowadays. My former boss Gus at Business Insider explains:

Your goal is to post good content and get people to view it without resorting to unfair tricks. This isn’t a magazine, where people will read whatever is on the page. It is a ruthlessly competitive environment, where people are choosing between dozens of stories on our page, hundreds of stories on twitter, and infinite stories on the Internet.

People will only click news if they understand its significance, so focus on significance when necessary to reach a wider audience. When news becomes old, which happens fast on the Internet, then further coverage of a story should focus on compelling analysis, exciting details, or other added value. Compelling analysis and exciting concepts can also be good without a news hook.

Rhetorical techniques can help increase clicks but should not be overused. Obfuscation can create intrigue and works well when a headline reads naturally and conveys some information already, but it can be annoying if too teasing. Dramatic language can heighten interest, but it backfires when overused or overstated.

Now instead of writing on and on about how to create a headline, let’s look at some examples that did well and work backwards. Here’s the headline:

11 Things New Soldiers Complain About During Basic Training

This is a great headline because it tells the reader exactly what they are going to get without overselling it. It doesn’t need to be “Incredible Things” or “Awesome Things.” It’s enough as it is, and the subject is interesting while being a little teasing. What are these things? Let’s definitely click and see what they are.

Soldiers want to click this headline to see if their complaint is in it, and civilians want to click it to get a view into the world of a soldier. It’s a great headline (and a great post).

27 Incredible Photos Of Life On A US Navy Submarine

Another example of an interesting premise that both sides want to read about: sailors and civilian. This headline promises something you don’t normally get to see. Not only are you going to check out life on a Navy submarine, but it’ll include incredible photos.

7 Key Military Life Hacks That Matter In Civilian Life

This headline uses the term “life hacks” which everyone knows with a military spin on it. What can we learn from the military and really use? There is a promise give the reader something new they can learn.

Key takeways:

  1. Start with a solid premise that is accessible to a large audience
  2. Make the point in the headline. Don’t save it for the story.
  3. Use as few words as possible. Always shoot for brevity.

Here is a look at our best posts over the past few months. Check out the headlines for ideas:

Pacific War Diary

 

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Air War Over Europe in World War Two

By 1942, the skies over Germany were aflame with German fighters battling Allied bombers for the survival of Europe and the free world. Central to victory in this air war were the fighter planes of the Allies.  At first they were obsolete and woefully inadequate. But with the advent of advanced aircraft like the P-47 Thunderbolt and the P-51 Mustang, the tide of war was about to change. In this episode we hear the powerful words of fighter aces Clarence “Bud” Anderson in his revolutionary North American P-51 and Francis “Gabby” Gabreski, flying the Republic P-47, as they battle the Luftwaffe in the war torn skies over Europe during World War II.

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This is how Singapore could strong-arm China

If you believe some reports, or breathless commentators, China is becoming an unstoppable naval juggernaut in the Pacific region. That may be somewhat overstated. Yes, China’s navy has become far more modern in the last ten years, but ironically, a country that is the size of the entire Washington D.C. metropolitan area (District of Columbia, Arlington County, Fairfax County, Alexandria, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County) could bring it to its knees.


Pacific War Diary
A 428th Fighter Squadron crew chief member marshals an F-15SG fighter in front of the Republic of Singapore squadron May 6, 2009. The unit includes approximately 180 active duty and 130 support personnel as part of a long-standing partnership with the United States to train Singaporean aircrews. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Renishia Richardson)

Singapore is so small, about 25 percent of its combat planes are based in the United States due to a lack of space for training. In absolute terms, Singapore’s navy is small, with six frigates, six second-hand Swedish submarines, and six guided-missile patrol boats (plus a host of smaller combatants) according to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World.

Pacific War Diary
RSS Archer prior to its re-launch. (Kockums AB photo by Peter Nilsson)

China’s just in the South China Sea fleet is much larger, and the Luyang-class destroyers outclass Singapore’s Formidable-class frigates. Yet, Singapore has one very big advantage in any conflict – and it’s best summed up in that real-estate maxim: Location, location, location.

Pacific War Diary
This map shows Singapore’s strategic location between Malaysia and Indonesia. (CIA map)

Singapore controls the Strait of Malacca, the most critical maritime chokepoint on the Pacific Rim. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) had a notable collision with a merchant ship near this choke point, which contributed to the Pacific fleet’s commander being passed over for a promotion.

Pacific War Diary
A Singaporean F-16D Fighting Falcon with the 425th Fighter Training Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo)

While a lot of merchant traffic goes through this chokepoint – so called because those who control it can choke the trade of other countries – the most important are supertankers. With its diesel-electric submarines and frigates, combined with modern F-15 and F-16 fighters, Singapore can shut down traffic in the Strait of Malacca.

Pacific War Diary
The Republic of Singapore Navy missile corvette RSS Vengeance launches two Barak missiles during a missile exercise in support of the Singapore phase of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT). The two missiles successfully shot down two U.S. Navy BQM-74E aerial drones, launched from the dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46). (U.S. Navy photo)

China may be a high-tech power, but one resource it doesn’t have a lot of is oil. Cut off the oil supply, and the People’s Liberation Army Navy isn’t going anywhere. Nor will the People’s Liberation Army Air Force or the People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force. That is how tiny Singapore could put a stranglehold on China. It’s all about location – and Singapore has prime geo-political real estate.

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It’s surprisingly easy to earn a modern-day knighthood

Being knighted today holds a much different meaning than it did in the days of old. Nations with a monarch as their head of state would, once upon a time, issue knighthoods to their loyal subjects and foreign citizens who have done great deeds for their country.


Today, you can earn a knighthood through military badassery or if your artistic, scientific, or civil service shines greatly upon the crown. No squiring or learning to fight on horseback required! Then again, you could also be a genocidal Marxist dictator who overthrows the government and you’ll eventually be knighted — or you could just be a penguin.

While various knighthoods exist, we’ll be discussing the two most recognized: The United Kingdoms’ Order of the British Empire and the Holy See’s Order of St. Gregory the Great. Fun fact: Bob Hope earned both of these.

Order of St. Gregory the Great

To be knighted by the Pope into the Order of St. Gregory the Great, you must do something good for the Holy See by setting an excellent example for their community and country. Though usually reserved for Catholics, there have been exceptions made for converts and non-Catholics.

A notable knight is Wilfred Von der Ahe, co-founder of the Southern California supermarket chain, Vons. He and his wife were well-known philanthropists in Los Angeles and would donate much of their earnings to Catholic churches in the area. Von der Ahe was a founding donor to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angeles after the previous mother church of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles was severely damaged in an earthquake.

So, in short, help out a church and you could become a knight.

Pacific War Diary
Which, in a way, happens in Season 3 of Boardwalk Empire. (Image from HBO’s Boardwalk Empire)

Order of the British Empire

Formal knighthood is definitely the easiest. The Queen remains fairly neutral in political matters, so she chooses to not elect her own knights and appoints everyone chosen by the Cabinet Office twice a year. The only real stipulation is you have to be recommended for doing something good for the Commonwealth of Nations. Though highly illegal, because you need to be nominated by British politicians, people in the past have been nominated to knighthood through political donations.

You don’t need to go that far, though. It seems like every British general officer, professor, and celebrity is knighted eventually. Since you don’t nominate yourself, there have been a few instances where people have turned down the honor. David Bowie, for example, was offered the Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2000 but politely declined. He was offered full knighthood in 2003 and again declined. He said, “I would never have any intention of accepting anything like that. I seriously don’t know what it’s for. It’s not what I spent my life working for.”

Anyone can get this award, but only Brits get the title of ‘Sir’ or ‘Dame’ before their first name.

Pacific War Diary
On the bright side, Americans don’t kneel. (Photo by Jack Tanner. Courtesy of the Imperial War Museums)

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Iwo Jima

The battle for Iwo Jima in World War II became the bloodiest in U. S. Marine Corps history. But for survivors like Chuck Tatum, it also represents the best, the Marines and the United States has to give.  For despite the 23,000 American casualties, including 5,400 dead, the flag atop Mount Suribachi, is a symbol of this nation’s willingness to fight for freedom and liberty, no matter what the cost. This episode is an in-depth interview with Chuck Tatum. These are his dramatic experiences in his own words. 

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Glider Attack On D-Day

They are known as America’s first military stealth aircraft. Under cover of darkness, the Waco CG-4A combat glider carried U.S. troops and materiel into battle during World War II.  William Horn and Leo Cordier, pilots who flew these unarmed and un-powered planes, landed behind enemy lines before the invasion troops arrived in Europe on D-Day. Their courageous stories are a little known chapter in the Allied march to victory during WWII.

 

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These 7 military movies are so good that even the trailers will move you

This year the GI Film Festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary of sharing the military experience in and out of the arena of war. The festival is the first in the nation to exclusively celebrate the successes and sacrifices of the service member through the medium of film.


Over the last 10 years, the GIFF has presented films from new and established international and domestic filmmakers that honor the heroic stories of the American military and the universal lessons of war and conflict.  All of them in some way express the courage and selflessness of our fighting men and women and the value of their work.

The GI Film Festival is open to filmmakers of every experience level, from first-timers to veteran directors and producers.  Prizes are awarded annually to winners in three main categories: feature, documentary, and film shorts.

Here are the trailers of 7 of this year’s best. Watch them and be moved:

1. The Last Man Club

https://player.vimeo.com/video/165420834?color=f3ec19byline=0portrait=0

The Last Man Club is a story about four World War II veterans who served together on a B-17 Bomber. After losing touch over the years they each find themselves trapped in life circumstances and are all too compliant to live out their last days in their own “private little hell”. Pete is dying in a veteran’s hospital and it’s his nurse, Ripley who helps him find the last known address of Eagle, his captain and the pilot of their beloved B-17.

Pete’s letter finds Eagle living in his son’s home, stripped of his privileges and housebound. The letter informs him that he is the last man after Pete passes and he must fulfill the oath they had all taken after the war. What Eagle first sees as impossible, he is jarred from his fears when he learns that he will soon be going to a retirement home.

Dressed in his reunion military uniform he steals the battery from his son’s car and escapes in his late wife’s 1958 Ford Fairlane. At the start of his journey, Eagle meets up with the most unlikely of accomplishes. Romy is an attractive young woman on the run from her abusive gangster boyfriend. Through a series of happenstances, Romy becomes Eagle’s unwilling tour guide. As they travel cross country Eagle teaches Romy to respect herself and through Romy’s friendship, Eagle conquers his own limitations, finds vitality and a life worth living. They venture through the backroads of America, in a race to complete their mission, as the police, the FBI, a dangerous gangster and Eagle’s family try to figure out this band of geriatric’s next move.

As they travel cross country Eagle teaches Romy to respect herself and through Romy’s friendship, Eagle conquers his own limitations, finds vitality and a life worth living. They venture through the backroads of America, in a race to complete their mission, as the police, the FBI, a dangerous gangster and Eagle’s family try to figure out this band of geriatric’s next move.

2. Ride the Lightning

Ride The Thunder is the true heroic story of a friendship between American military legend and recipient of the Navy Cross, John Ripley and one of South Vietnam’s most decorated Heroes, Le Ba Binh. The film is based on a book by the same name by Richard Botkin, former Marine Infantry Officer (1980-1995) The storyline follows Ripley’s and Binh’s fight together against the communists at the Battle for Dong Ha during the Vietnam War and the aftermath of the fall of Saigon, as Ripley goes home to a divided America while Binh is imprisoned in a communist re-education camp. After the war, their wives struggle to adjust to their changed lives. Immersed in this true story are interviews and rare historical footage that educates the moviegoers on the truth of the war along with the heroes who fought in it, while exposing the opportunists who betrayed them. The main Vietnamese actors in the film are Vietnamese refugees.

3. Thank You For Your Service

The U.S. military faces a mental health crisis of historic proportions. Thank You for Your Service takes aim at our superficial understanding of war trauma and the failed policies that have resulted. Director Tom Donahue interweaves the stories of four Iraq War veterans with candid interviews of top military and civilian leaders. Observing the systemic neglect, the film argues for significant internal change and offers a roadmap of hope. Interviews include Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Admiral Mike Mullen, Generals David Petraeus and Loree Sutton, Sebastian Junger, Nicholas Kristof, Dexter Filkins, Senator Patty Murray, Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Colonels Lawrence Wilkerson and Dave Sutherland.

4. The Unimaginable Journey of Peter Ertel

At the time of filming, Peter Ertel is 95 years old. He is a published author and an avid pianist. Using his skill as a riveting storyteller, Ertel recounts his experiences as a soldier in the German army – from his early days as an “unsoldierlike” recruit who was deemed an “unreliable follower of the Fuhrer” to his becoming a highly respected platoon leader, who routinely risked his life to save the lives of his men, as well as the lives of the enemies he encountered on the battlefield. Though Peter takes us through the hell of front-line combat in both France and Russia, perhaps the most ‘unimaginable’ part of his journey begins after he becomes a prisoner of war. The Unimaginable Journey Of Peter Ertel is a documentary portrait of a man who maintained his humanity despite being thrust into a world of hatred, destruction and death. Peter Ertel tells his own story as only he could tell it – with unflinching honesty and raw emotion.

5. Rising Fear

https://player.vimeo.com/video/165078202?color=f3ec19byline=0portrait=0

Marine Ryan Taylor is given a phone number by a pretty, mysterious girl. Believing it’s hers, he calls and it detonates a bomb in downtown Pittsburgh. The marine then becomes the main suspect in the bombing. Now, he must evade the authorities and hunt down the people who set him up before they can launch a second attack. Rising Fear is an indie action thriller boiling with twists, turns, and a deadly conspiracy that threatens to destroy the US government–and freedom itself. Buckle in as writer director Tom Getty takes you on a roller coaster ride that starts with a bang and doesn’t let up until its explosive finale.

6. The Last Time I Heard True Silence

https://player.vimeo.com/video/165078200?color=f3ec19byline=0portrait=0

Noah Cass was a machine gunner for the Marine Corps during the 2005 Operation Spear in Iraq. During an over-watch mission, his team was ambushed and a mortar round hit his truck leaving him with permanent hearing loss and tinnitus. When Noah returned home, he dealt with issues common to veterans transitioning into civilian life: aggressive behavior, alcohol addiction, depression, difficulty keeping a job, and relationship problems. Noah eventually hit rock bottom and was desperate for a change. He decided to get sober and started running in the woods nearby. Noah, now a father and husband, enters the 50-mile wilderness race having only completed one 26-mile marathon. This race represents the journey a young soldier faces to help cope with a past that haunts him every day.

7. No Greater Love

Chaplain Justin David Roberts served 6 years active duty as an Army Chaplain. Before he left the Army in 2015, he found that beneath the collar of ministry he was struggling with depression and PTS. Wondering what kind of father he would be if he didn’t face his issues, he set out on a journey to meet up with members of his old unit. Along the way, they recall their tour of duty. In total, 17 soldiers were killed in action and over 200 were wounded during the deployment. Almost all of the men lost died while either trying to save someone or protect others. The common thread in every one of these stories of valor is love. This film layers the footage Roberts shot on missions in Afghanistan with heartfelt interviews of the men he served with, as well as surviving family members. Through telling these stories, the soldiers that deployed with the legendary No Slack battalion are finding healing and purpose after combat.

For show times for these films and a complete rundown of the other films and events going on at this year’s exciting GI Film Festival go here. If you’re in the greater DC metro area you’re not going to want to miss it.

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Congress could overturn the 9/11 law authorizing ever-expanding war

A Navy SEAL, killed alongside civilians in a January raid on a village in Yemen. Another SEAL, killed while accompanying Somali forces on a May raid. And now four Army soldiers, dead in an ambush this month in Niger.


These US combat deaths — along with those of about 10 service members killed this year in Afghanistan and Iraq — underscore how a law passed shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks has been stretched to permit open-ended warfare against Islamic militant groups scattered across the Muslim world.

Also read: It looks like there’s going to be a GWOT memorial after all

The law, commonly called the AUMF, on its face provided congressional authorization to use military force only against nations, groups, or individuals responsible for the attacks. But while the specific enemy lawmakers were thinking about in September 2001 was the original al-Qaeda and its Taliban host in Afghanistan, three presidents of both parties have since invoked the 9/11 war authority to justify battle against Islamic militants in many other places.

Pacific War Diary
A US Army Special Forces weapons sergeant observes as a Nigerien soldier bounds forward while practicing buddy team movement drills during Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 11, 2017. Army photo by Spc. Zayid Ballesteros.

On Oct. 30, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as lawmakers renew a debate over whether they should update and replace that law, revitalizing Congress’ constitutionally assigned role of making fundamental decisions about going to war.

But even as President Donald Trump’s administration moves to ease some Obama-era constraints on counter-terrorism operations, political obstacles to reaching a consensus on new parameters for a war authorization law look more daunting than ever.

Related: 6 surprising things that are against the laws of war

Previous efforts collapsed under disagreements between lawmakers opposed to restricting the executive branch’s interpretation of its wartime powers and those unwilling to vote for a new blank check for a forever war. Among the disputes: whether a replacement should have an expiration date, constrain the use of ground forces, limit the war’s geographic scope, and permit the government to start attacking other militant groups merely associated with the major enemies it would name.

Pacific War Diary
Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn, left) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz). Photos from Wikimedia Commons.

Adding to the political headwinds, two of the Republican lawmakers most interested in drafting a new war authorization law are lame ducks and estranged from the White House: Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who has proposed a new war authorization bill with Sen. Tim Kaine, D- Va. Both Republican senators, who have announced that they will not seek re-election, have publicly denounced Trump in recent weeks as dangerously unfit to be the commander in chief.

But as the 9/11 war enters its 17th year, questions about the scope and limits of presidential war-making powers are taking on new urgency.

Trump is giving the Pentagon and the CIA broader latitude to pursue counter-terrorism drone strikes and commando raids away from traditional battlefields. Two government officials said Trump had recently signed his new rules for such kill-or-capture counter-terrorism operations, without major changes to an inter-agency agreement first described last month by The New York Times.

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WWII Fighter Ace Flies In Korea

Col. Walker “Bud” Mahurin was an American combat fighter pilot. Flying P-47s with the 56th FG in WWII, he became an ace three times over in the skies over France and Germany. He was shot down once but returned with the help of the French underground. 

After the war Mahurin remained in the newly independent U.S. Air Force. The outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 found him in the Pentagon, working on new fighter aircraft procurement. The skills he exhibited in WWII would once again be tested, this time in a new arena of air warfare…the jet age dogfight.  In this episode, Mahurin tells his dramatic story of returning to combat in Korea.

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This is the fictional country the Russians are training to fight

Russia is sending what NATO thinks is thousands of troops into Belarus – and the transatlantic alliance is worried the Russians may not leave. The move would pose a counter to the recent movement of NATO forces into the area, including former Soviet states Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, and Poland.


Pacific War Diary
Russian troops form to move on the fictional enemy Veishnoriya.

Every four years, the Russian military conducts its Zapad military exercise with neighboring Belarus. In the exercise, three “aggressor countries” (Veishnoriya, Vesbaria, and Lubenia) attack Belarus. Veishnoriya, according to legend, is located in the western part of Belarus; Vesbaria is on the territory of Lithuania and Latvia; Lubenia in Lithuania and Poland. The two intervening countries are pro-Western client states.

The Russian and Belorussian response, they claim, is purely defensive. The Russians say it emulates a terrorist threat with external support – that support comes from the West, which the Russian military will move to counter.

Just as Americans embrace the fictional countries the U.S. military uses to train its troops, fictional Twitter and Facebook accounts representing Veishnoriya’s various official ministries have popped up around the war games. There are even fictional seals, flags, and histories surrounding the fictional country. You can even apply for a Veishnoriyan passport.

Pacific War Diary

One Facebook discussion boasted that Veishnoriya has never lost a war, while detractors say, “It’s not Vesbaria, it’s not Lubenia. Volodya, your soldiers will be torn to pieces!”

An estimated three thousand to 100,000 Russian troops are involved (depending on who you ask), along with the Russian 1st Guard Tank Army. It’s an exercise they’ve been running every four years since the 1970s, except for the decade or so after the fall of the Soviet Union.

NATO experts believe the game represents what Moscow thinks is a scenario most likely to come from Western efforts to undermine the Russian sphere of influence.

Pacific War Diary
Russian tanks align for Zapad exercises every four years.

If the war game did have upwards of 100,000 troops and tanks, the Russians would be required to report the exercise and submit to having foreign observers monitor the exercise, according to the Vienna Document, a 2011 security agreement.

The Russians say it involves just 12,700 troops, 300 shy of the number that would trigger the Vienna agreement. But even if the West isn’t able to observe the exercise, they can still monitor Russian troop movements, something experts say will give NATO a good idea of just how capable the Russian military can be.