This is Mattis' response to skepticism about ISIS plans - We Are The Mighty
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This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans

As the Islamic State group loses its remaining strongholds in Iraq and Syria, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is facing a growing chorus of questions from NATO allies and partners about what the next steps will be in the region to preserve peace and ensure the militants don’t rise again.


Heading into a week of meetings with Nordic countries and allies across Europe, Mattis must begin to articulate what has been a murky American policy on how the future of Syria unfolds.

Speaking to reporters traveling with him to Finland, Mattis said the main question from US allies is: what comes next? And he said the key is to get the peace process on track.

“We’re trying to get this into the diplomatic mode so we can get things sorted out,” said Mattis, who will meet with NATO defense ministers later this week. “and make certain (that) minorities — whoever they are — are not just subject to more of what we’ve seen” under Syrian President Bashar Assad until now.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Russia President Vladimir Putin (right) meets with Syrian President Assad. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in late October repeated Washington’s call for Assad to surrender control, looking past recent battlefield gains by his Russian-backed forces to insist that “the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end.”

Tillerson made the comments after meeting with the UN’s envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, who later announced plans to resume UN-mediated peace talks Nov. 28. It will be the eighth such round under his mediation in Geneva since early 2016.

Related: How the US is caught between Turkey and the Kurds

Mattis said intelligence assessments two to three months ago made it clear that the Islamic State group was “going down.” He said information based on the number of IS individuals taken prisoner and the number of fighters who were getting wounded or were deserting the group made it clear that “the whole bottom was dropping out.”

But while he said the effort now is to get the diplomatic process shifted to Geneva and the United Nations, he offered few details that suggest the effort is moving forward.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Photo from US Embassy Consulate in Korea.

In addition to the diplomatic efforts, Mattis said the US is still working to resolve conflicts with Russia in the increasingly crowded skies over the Iraq and Syria border, where a lot of the fighting has shifted.

On Nov. 3, Assad’s military announced the capture of the eastern Syrian city of Deir ez-Zour, while Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi proclaimed victory in retaking the town of Qaim on the border, the militants’ last significant urban area in Iraq.

Focus has now turned to Boukamal, the last urban center for the militants in both Iraq and Syria where Syrian troops —backed by Russia and Iranian-supported militias — and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are vying for control of the strategic border town.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Fighters of the Euphrates Liberation Brigade, part of the Manbij Military Council of the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the city of Manbij in northern Syria. Wikimedia Commons photo from user Kurdishstruggle.

The proximity of forces in the area has raised concerns about potential clashes between them as they approach Boukamal from opposite sides of the Euphrates River, and now from across the border with Iraq.

Mattis said that as forces close in, the fighting is getting “much more complex,” and there is a lot of effort on settling air space issues with the Russians.

He also declined to say whether the US will begin to take back weapons provided to Syrian Kurdish fighters, known as the YPG. The US has argued that the YPG has been the most effective fighting group in the battle to oust IS from Raqqa, but Turkey opposed the arming effort because it believes the YPG is linked to a militant group in Turkey.

The US has pledged to carefully monitor the weapons, to insure that they don’t make their way to the hands of insurgents in Turkey, known as the PKK. The US also considers the PKK a terrorist organization, and has vowed it would never provide weapons to that group.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
A Kurdish YPG militant. The US has provided arms to this group, with a stated intent to recollect them. Photo from Kurdishstruggle Flickr

Turkish officials have said that Mattis reassured them by letter that arms given to the Syrian Kurds would be taken back and that the US would provide Turkey with a regular list of arms given to the fighters.

Also Read: 17 Brilliant Insights From Legendary Marine General James Mattis

While in Finland, Mattis will attend a meeting of a dozen northern European nations, which are primarily concerned about threats from Russia.

“They are focused on the north,” said Mattis, adding that he plans to listen to their thoughts on the region and determine how the US can help, including what types of training America could provide.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

“It is an opportunity to reiterate where we stand by our friends,” said Mattis, “if any nation, including Russia, seeks to undermine the rules of international order.”

During a press briefing later on Nov. 6, Denmark Defense Minister Claus Hjord Frederiksen told reporters that allies must continue to be present in the region because of the risk that IS would rise again.

“We’re not so naive that we think that terrorism is removed from this earth, but of course it is very important to have taken geographical areas from them so they can’t attack or rob or whatever — using the income from oil production to finance their activities,” said Frederiksen. “We foresee therefore years ahead we will have to secure that they cannot gain new ground there.”

Asperiores odit

Airborne Assault On D-Day

June 6th, 1944…D-Day. It was the greatest military assault ever staged. Code named Operation Overlord, the massive invasion of Normandy by the Allies involved more than a quarter of a million soldiers, sailors and airmen as well as 5000 ships and 3000 aircraft.  

Tom McCarthy and Francis Lamoureux were Parachute Infantrymen during the epic conflict. They tell their riveting first-hand accounts in this dramatic presentation, Airborne Assault on D-Day. 

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Forward Air Controllers in Vietnam

Forward Air Controllers or FACs choreographed this skies over the battlefield in Vietnam. They courageously flew low, slow and unarmed over enemy territory in small, propeller driven aircraft like the Cessna 0-1 Bird Dog and 0-2 Skymaster. The FACs were experts at spotting an evasive, well camouflaged enemy and they often braved a battery of enemy ground fire to target the opposing force.  In this episode, Forward Air Controllers William Platt and Bill Townsley tell their dramatic stories, In Their Own Words. 

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Here’s what it looks like when paratroopers seize an airfield

Every once in a while, America finds they desperately need an airfield in someone else’s territory. When there are no forces nearby to seize said airfield, U.S. paratroopers climb into cargo aircraft by the hundreds and get ready to beat down some defending forces. Here’s how that happens:


1. The units grab their gear and rush to waiting planes.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Smith

Units on different missions will have different minimum timelines, but airborne response forces pride themselves on attacking anywhere in the world in 24 hours or less.

2. Most missions are “heavy drops” where vehicles, artillery, and other large equipment are dropped with the soldiers.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Smith

3. The heavy equipment will generally be deployed first.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Annette B. Andrews

4. Once the equipment is out, the paratroopers will begin raining from the sky.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Mike Pryor

5. The soldiers maneuver their chutes to avoid hazards on the drop zone and then execute “parachute landing falls” when they reach the ground.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Photo: US Army

6. Once they reach the drop zone, troops mass as quickly as possible so they can begin maneuvering on the enemy. Chem lights, reflective panels, and other markers are used by leaders to show troops where to congregate.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Photo: US Army Spc. Cody A. Thompson

7. These points have to be defended from the enemy forces near the drop zone.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Mike Pryor

8. Artillery units will try to mass on their howitzers so crews can prepare them to fire.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Annette B. Andrews

9. Soldiers with radios must immediately get them up and running so leaders can coordinate the assault before an enemy counterattack materializes.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Photo: US Army Spc. Cody A. Thompson

10. Units check in with the ground commander on the radio or by signaling. The commanders will map out where their forces are in relation to the objectives, sometimes changing the attack plan if forces landed in the wrong spots.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Photo: US Army Spc. Cody A. Thompson

11. As the infantry begins their attack, artillery soldiers hurriedly prepare their ammunition to fire.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Love

12. The artillery will fire in support of the infantry, striking enemies on the airfield and any enemy reinforcements approaching the objective. Typically, they will try to avoid striking the airstrip itself to prevent damage to it.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Annette B. Andrews

13. If the howitzers find they landed too close to an enemy position or an enemy counterattack is drawing close, they’ll begin firing “high-angle” shots. These will land nearby, killing enemies in close proximity to the guns.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Love

14. When helicopters are in range to support, they and other aircraft will destroy troop concentrations and heavy vehicles that are a threat to the infantry.

15. Of course, the infantry units also rain steel on the enemy. Mortarmen are part of the maneuver force, moving up to the enemy forces and striking them with high explosives.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Photo: US Army

16. Some of the infantrymen on the ground will also have grenade launchers. M230 and M320 grenade launchers can be attached to the infantryman’s rifle. The M320 can also be carried as a separate weapon.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Photo: US Army

17. The infantry will clear the buildings and the area surrounding the airfield to ensure no defenders are left.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Mike Pryor

18. Once the airstrip is secure, the ground forces will call for reinforcements to begin landing. This could consist of anything from additional airborne infantry to heavy armored units with M1 Abrams.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Photo: flickr/Josh Beasley

19. If the main airstrip is damaged or cannot accommodate all the aircraft needed for the mission, engineers will cut out dirt “forward landing strips” for the C-130s so reinforcements can continue pouring in.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brian E. Christiansen

NOW: Here’s what an Army medic does in the critical minutes after a soldier is wounded

OR: These 7 photos show how Marines take a beach

Asperiores odit

How stupid-looking minisubs could sink a US aircraft carrier

While there has been a pause in tensions with North Korea — to the point where the dictatorship, led by Kim Jong Un, is taking part in next month’s Winter Olympics — that regime has always been tricky. Remember, we’re talking about a rogue nation that sank the South Korean corvette Cheonan with a minisub out of nowhere on March 26, 2010, killing 46 of her crew.


This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, and Rear Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Korea, and Rear Adm. Park Sung-bae, commander of the Republic of Korea Navy Second Fleet, tour the ROKS Pohang-class corvette Cheonan that was sunk by a North Korean torpedo on March 26, 2010. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua Bryce Bruns)

Now, you might think that an American carrier isn’t at the same risk as a South Korean corvette. After all, a North Korean minisub can’t carry that many torpedoes. A Yono-class minisub, the type suspected of sinking the Cheonan, packs two 21-inch torpedoes. The larger Sang-o-class sub carries four.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
A North Korean-designed Yono-class mini-sub in Iranian service. A similar sub is suspected to have sunk the Cheonan. (Wikimedia Commons photo by ThePulleySystem)

Could the United States Navy lose an aircraft carrier if attacked by one of these minisubs? It seems far-fetched at first. The United States Navy has lost only one fleet carrier, USS Wasp, to a submarine-only attack. Two escort carriers, USS Block Island and USS Liscome Bay were also sunk in submarine attacks, and USS Yorktown was finished off by a Japanese submarine after being rendered dead in the water by aircraft.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
USS Wasp was the last fleet carrier to be sunk by an enemy submarine. (U.S. Navy photo)

Wasp weighed in at 14,900 tons, according to MilitaryFactory.com. By comparison, today’s Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers have a much larger displacement of over 90,000 tons. When the Soviet Union was considering how to kill a Nimitz, they designed the Oscar-class submarine for the job. That was a huge vessel, carrying 24 SS-N-19 anti-ship missiles as well as eight torpedo tubes for disabling and destroying the carrier.

Fortune plays a big role in war, however. For example, The Japanese carrier HIJMS Taiho was sunk by a single torpedo in 1944. Additionally, since the end of the Cold War, American expertise in anti-submarine warfare has declined. In 2006, a Chinese submarine surfaced near and surprised the aircraft carrier, USS Kitty Hawk.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
In 2006, a Chinese Communist submarine surfaced next to the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, showing that American anti-submarine warfare skills had atrophied. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Lee McCaskill)

While two-to-four torpedos typically wouldn’t do the job against a U.S. carrier, North Korea could get lucky and sink one, but that luck would quickly turn into bad news for Kim Jong Un.

Learn more about North Korean submarine capabilities in the video below.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rYwDjIiVf8
(Warthog Defense | YouTube)
Asperiores odit

Here’s a look inside Canada’s most elite search and rescue force

Canada is the second largest country in the world in terms of land mass and size, with harsh, unforgiving territory marking the majority of its geographic map. Air traffic nevertheless crisscrosses these large expanses of land, boats and ships still ply the rough seas around, and hikers and the adventurous of heart still navigate their way through the desolate north to explore the country’s natural beauty.


But when the unthinkable happens – be it an airplane crash in a remote area, a stranded an grievously ill hiker in the middle of  forest, or a sinking vessel off Canada’s coast, the Canadian armed forces are among the best prepared in the world.

We Are The Mighty recently flew with the Royal Canadian Air Force to watch its search and rescue teams in action.

The RCAF’s mission is known as Canadian Armed Forces Search and Rescue, CAFSAR for short, conducted by teams of fixed-wing and rotary aircraft, which can seamlessly integrate with Canadian coast guard and naval vessels for waterborne rescue missions, should the need arise.

From recovering downed aviators to rescuing civilian boaters adrift at sea, CAFSAR’s various units can do it all.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
A CC-130H Hercules and CC-115 Buffalo (right) sit side by side before a training sortie (Photo Ian D’Costa)

Canada’s SAR units primarily use fixed-wing aircraft like the CC-130H Hercules and the CC-115 Buffalo to function as “spotters.” On missions, these aircraft fly low to the Earth, with aircrew inside maintaining vigilance over the terrain below for telltale signs of the imperiled.

To better facilitate these missions, the RCAF has modified their H-model Hercs with plexiglass “spotting stations” where the para-doors once existed towards the rear of the aircraft.

Both the Herc and the Buffalo are capable of remaining on-site for extended periods of time, and they often contain supplies and support materials relevant to the mission. For example, sometimes crews carry inflatable air-dropped life rafts and bilge pumps for at-sea rescues or recoveries. They also carry a complement of orange-clad SAR Technicians, who represent the backbone of the CAFSAR apparatus.

SAR “techs” are among the most elite of the Canadian Forces, numbering only 140 out of the nearly 70,000-strong military. Techs are considered specialists in their field, trained to provide “advanced pre-hospital medical care,” and are broadly qualified to perform missions in all areas of the Canadian wilderness and North, ranging from lakes, oceans, heavily-forested areas, mountains and onward to the bleak Arctic tundra.

SAR tech training is arduous and difficult. The attrition rate for students is high, and only the best students of each training class are posted to CAFSAR’s various joint rescue commands across the country.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Aircrew with 424 Sqn, RCAF prepare to drop inflatable liferafts to stranded boaters below (Photo Ian D’Costa)

CAFSAR also uses rotary aircraft— namely the CH-146 Griffon and CH-149 Cormorant — to move SAR techs to hard-to-reach places, and to conduct seaborne rescue operations. These aircraft can hover in place while techs are lowered and raised via winches, horse collars, and metal baskets. Rotary assets are often “vectored” to the site of a rescue by the spotter aircraft, when the site of the incident has been triangulated and located.

Given the urgent nature of rescue operations, missions can appear when least expected, and require crews to be alert and ready at a moment’s notice. In a matter of minutes, a Herc or a Buffalo can be loaded up and prepared for launch while SAR techs and the aircrew ready themselves for the mission at hand. Simultaneously, Griffons and/or Cormorants begin spooling up nearby for their own inevitable launch.

When on a larger joint SAR operation, a Herc or a Buffalo will lift off with the intention of finding and marking the location of the incident/rescue with a smoke canister. This can happen within minutes of reaching the general area, or after an hour of low-level flying. Depending on the nature of the emergency, support materials are prepped and deployed, while rotary units are flown over to the area with SAR techs ready for action.

Should the circumstances merit immediate assistance, CAFSAR’s SAR techs have one very important and versatile trick up their sleeves. Its members are qualified to perform “pararescue” operations, which involve parachute jumps from Hercs and Buffalos to reach areas on the surface where aircraft can not hover or land nearby.

The careful coordination of these assets, the advanced and well-developed abilities of SAR techs and rescue aircrews, and years of experience in performing rescue missions throughout Canada has helped CAFSAR become what it currently is – one of the most competent and effective search and rescue apparatuses in existence today.

Asperiores odit

The White House is going after this Lebanese terrorist group with a $12M bounty

A multimillion-dollar reward offered by the Trump administration in return for information leading to the arrest of two senior operatives of Hezbollah is part of ongoing US efforts to “demonize” the group, a party official said Oct. 11.


The new US measures, including recent sanctions, will not affect Hezbollah’s operational activities, the official added.

He was reacting to the US State Department’s announcement Oct. 10 of an up to $7 million reward for information on Talal Hamiyah, who it says leads Hezbollah’s “international terrorism branch” and who the US claim has been linked to attacks, hijackings and kidnappings targeting US citizens.

Another $5 million is being offered for information on Fu’ad Shukr, a member of Hezbollah who runs the group’s military forces in southern Lebanon. The State Department said he played a key role in Hezbollah’s recent military operations in Syria.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
US State Department wanted poster from RewardsForJustice.net/

The total of $12 million for information leading to the location, arrest or conviction of the two comes as part of tougher US action against Iran, Hezbollah’s patron.

Shukr and Hamiyah are believed to have worked alongside Mustafa Badreddine running the party’s military operations after the death of Imad Mughniyeh. Badreddine, one of the founders of Hezbollah in 1982, took a leading role in the group’s military wing after the death of his brother-in-law, Mughniyeh, in Syria in February 2008.

Badreddine was indicted by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon as a key suspect in the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others in 2005, but was himself killed in Syria in 2016. Media reports speculated that internal Hezbollah power struggles had led party leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah himself to order Badreddine’s death, although a party spokesman denied the claims in March of this year.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Sheikh Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

The rewards are the first offered by the United States for Hezbollah leaders in a decade, and come against the backdrop of heightened US-Iran tensions resulting from President Donald Trump’s threats to scuttle the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

An avowed critic of the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, Trump has called it one of America’s “worst and most one-sided transactions” ever. US officials have said he is looking for ways to pressure Tehran. Under the new policy, the White House is focusing on the Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah – two Iran-backed entities that have long elicited scorn from much of the West.

The Hezbollah official dismissed the accusations, saying the US should be “the last state” to designate people on terror lists and accusing it of supporting terrorist organizations and sponsoring states and regimes “that have a long history in financing and supporting terrorism.”

“It is part of the continuous efforts to demonize Hezbollah. They are false accusations that will not have any effect on the operational activities of Hezbollah,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with party regulations.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Photo from CounterExtremism.com

Later Oct. 11, MP Hussein Musawi – a member of Hezbollah’s Loyalty to the Resistance Parliamentary bloc – said the “US is the mother of terrorism.” He continued: “The plan’s aim is to encourage Muslims to kill each other and to make peace with the criminal Zionists.”

All efforts to distort Hezbollah’s image and show a different image about Iran will fail, he added in a statement. “Remaining silent about this [American] interference may take Lebanon downhill toward collapse. This is what the enemies of Lebanon want.”

Musawi went on, saying: “We advise those concerned not to take any American dictates, by maintaining the policy of constructive dialogue between all political forces and components.”

Hezbollah has sent thousands of its fighters to Syria to shore up President Bashar Assad’s forces in the country’s ongoing civil war. The group has been fighting ISIS inside Syria and along the Lebanese-Syrian border.

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Beijing vows ‘stern measures’ after US ship sails near South China Sea islands

China on Oct. 11 protested the sailing of a US Navy ship near its territorial claims in the South China Sea, saying it would continue to take measures to protect Beijing’s interests in the vital waterway claimed by several nations.


A US official said the destroyer USS Chafee sailed near the Paracel Islands on Oct. 10, coming within 16 nautical miles (30 kilometers) of land. The Navy does not announce such missions in advance and the official spoke on condition of anonymity.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying denounced the mission as dangerous and a violation of China’s sovereignty. She said the military verified the presence of the US ship by sea and air and warned it off.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
The guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90). Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Diana Quinlan.

“The Chinese government will continue to take firm measures to safeguard national territory, sovereignty, and maritime interests,” Hua told reporters at a daily briefing.

China claims the South China Sea and its islands virtually in their entirety, and its military expelled Vietnamese forces from the Paracels in 1974. The US does not take an official position on sovereignty claims, but the Navy regularly sails through the area to assert freedom of navigation.

China usually claims to have “expelled” Navy ships on such missions and its relatively mild response this time suggested the Chafee had not entered what it claims are its territorial waters.

The South China Sea has crucial shipping lanes, rich fishing grounds and potential oil, gas and other mineral deposits. China has carried out extensive land reclamation work on many of the islands and reefs it claims, equipping some with air strips and military installations.

Asperiores odit

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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These 32 photos show a rare side of World War II

World War 2 pictures capture everything from presidents and prime ministers to ordinary soldiers. As cameras became smaller and more portable, World War 2 images were taken in every country at war, and of virtually every battle. These rare World War 2 pictures capture not just the combat and danger, but the mundane moments in the lives of troops on both sides.


Many unseen pictures of World War 2 are just of soldiers goofing around, mugging for the camera, or posing with their weapons. Such candid pictures aren’t just found on the Allied side, but on the Axis as well, as many young German soldiers were captured playing around and carrying out their daily tasks. The photos make the war come alive in a way that most WWII documentaries or history books don’t – showing young men in difficult situations trying to retain their humanity and have a little bit of fun, even with danger all around them.

Here are some of the best old school photos of WW2, taken all over the world.

Old School Pictures from World War 2

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Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Sept. 18, attended the week-long war games with Belarus that have demonstrated the Russian military’s resurgent might and made neighboring countries nervous.


Putin observed the Zapad 2017 drills — tank attacks, airborne assaults, and air raids that got underway Sept. 14 — at the Luzhsky range in western Russia, just over 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) east of Estonia’s border.

As part of the maneuvers, the Russian military on Sept. 18 also test-fired its state-of-the-art cruise missile at a mock target in the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan, showcasing the weapon’s extended range and precision strike capability.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Russian Zapad ’17 military exercises. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Some nervous NATO members, including the Baltic states and Poland, have criticized an alleged lack of transparency about the war games and questioned Moscow’s intentions.

Related: This video of a Russian helicopter accidentally firing on observers is crazy

The exercises, held in several firing ranges in Belarus and western Russia, run through Sept. 20. Russia and Belarus say 5,500 Russian and 7,200 Belarusian troops are participating, but some NATO countries have estimated that up to 100,000 troops could be involved.

With Russia’s relations with the West at a post-Cold War low point over the fighting in Ukraine, worries about the war games ranged from allegations that Russia could permanently deploy its forces to Belarus to fears of a surprise onslaught on the Baltics.

Russia and Belarus have said the exercises simulate a response to foreign-backed “extremists” and insisted the maneuvers don’t threaten anyone.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Russian Zapad ’17 military exercises. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Their troops are fighting three invented “aggressor countries” — Veishnoriya, Lubeniya, and Vesbariya. However, the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — and Poland see the monikers for the made up enemies as thinly disguised references to their nations.

NATO has rotated military units in the Baltics and Poland and staged regular drills in the region, activities Moscow has criticized as a reflection of the alliance’s hostile intentions.

Also read: Watch Russia kick off this year’s massive ‘Zapad 2017’ wargame

Russia and Belarus kept the stated number of troops involved in the drills just below 13,000, a limit allowing them to dodge more intrusive inspections by NATO in line with international agreements. The practice maneuvers nonetheless have put Russia’s massive military mobilization capability on display.

They also have involved various branches of the Russian military, including the air force’s long-range bombers and missile forces. In a reflection of the drills’ broad scope, they featured the Sept. 18 launch of the Iskander-M cruise missile, a new weapon that has drawn concern from the United States.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
USMC Photo by Cpl. Janessa K. Pon.

The missile, launched from the Kapustin Yar firing range in southwestern Russia, hit a mock target at a range in Kazakhstan, some 480 kilometers (nearly 300 miles) away, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

The US has accused Russia of developing cruise missiles banned by the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with a goal to threaten US facilities in Europe and the NATO alliance. Moscow has rejected the accusations and insisted it has adhered to the pact.

The INF Treaty bans an entire class of weapons — all land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (310 and 3,410 miles). The Iskander-M’s stated range puts it just below the pact’s threshold.

The Zapad 2017 maneuvers are intended to underline the close military cooperation between Russia and Belarus, but also revealed signs of strains between the allies.

While Putin watched the previous drills in 2013 with his Belarusian counterpart, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said he would watch them separately on Sept. 20.

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans
Zapad ’13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Lukashenko has relied on subsidized Russian oil and gas supplies and billions of dollars in loans to keep his nation’s Soviet-style economy afloat. At the same time, he often has bristled at what he described as the Kremlin’s attempts to subdue Belarus and force it to surrender control over prized economic assets.

Lukashenko also has flirted with the West to try to reduce his dependence on Russia. His decision to dodge a joint appearance with Putin at the military exercises was seen by observers as an attempt to put some distance between Belarus and its giant eastern neighbor.

“Lukashenko is trying to mend ties with the West to get new loans, and the Kremlin’s military games don’t help that,” Alexander Klaskovsky, a Minsk-based political analyst, said.

Asperiores odit

5 of the worst things about standing in a ceremonial formation

In the military, there isn’t much that matches the pride of standing in a ceremonial formation. There you are, in front of a respectable crowd. Your dress uniform is perfectly pressed, your medals are shining bright, and the weather is outstanding — what the hell could go wrong?

Well, since there are many elements to a military ceremony, from the posting and retiring of the Colors to several long-form speeches, things usually run a lot longer than you’d expect — that’s when these happen .


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Needing to pee

As you can imagine, it takes a minute to prepare everyone to march out in formation. Everyone needs to be accounted for before stepping off. You’ll be out there in the sun, so it’s essential that you drink plenty of clear fluids. Unfortunately, there’s a fine line between being hydrated and being a bit too hydrated.

Suddenly, halfway through the proceedings, your full bladder tells your brain that you need to hit the head. Guess what? The ceremony won’t pause so one troop can take a leak. So, good luck holding it in until the end.

Passing the f*ck out

Service members are trained to properly move into the position of attention, hold the pose, and move out of it in a smooth, choreographed motion. We’re taught how to stand at that position for prolonged periods of time by keeping our knees slightly bent and wiggling our toes — even still, many end up passing out.

Most of us have passed out for one reason or another in our lifetimes, but doing it in front of a big crowd is super embarrassing.

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Overthinking

Most people aren’t born to entertain a crowd. When you suddenly become the subject of a crowd’s direct attention, you may start to overanalyze the little things, leading to dumb mistakes. How fast are you supposed to snap up a salute? Wait — do I start out on my right foot or my left?

It happens.

Getting the shakes

When standing in the same position for too long, people get tired and, to compensate, end up shifting their weight to find some type of relief. Although this might be subtle individually, when you’re up against a backdrop of stone-still troops, the movement sticks out.

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Losing track of time

Since ceremonies can last a long time and they can be pretty dull, our minds will wander. Because we’re thinking of something else, we tend to lose track of time, which can lead to making a stupid mistake, like snapping into parade rest at the wrong moment.

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