With all the dumb stuff that’s going on in the world today, it’s a damn good thing that the military never loses its sense of humor. In fact, we’re constantly busy coming up with new and hilarious ways to bash on rival branches in good fun.
So, get ready for a few jokes that we’re confident you’re going to repeat later… probably at the bar.
An old veteran walks into a grocery store. Immediately, the cashier stops him and says, “sir, your barracks door is open.” At first, he pays zero attention to her because he doesn’t live in the barracks. So, he continues shopping until he spots a man stocking some shelves. He tells him what the cashier said and asks what she could’ve meant.
He tells the veteran that his fly is open.
After completing his shopping, he goes back to the same cashier and says, “ma’am, you told me my barracks door was open. While you were looking, did you see a Marine standing at attention, saluting?”
The cashier replies, “no, sir. I just saw an old, retired veteran lying on two seabags.”
A sailor tells a joke to two Marines
A sailor in a bar leans over to the guy next to him and asks, “hey, do you want to hear a Marine joke?” The guy responds, “well, before you tell that joke, you should know that I’m 6-foot tall, I weigh 200 pounds, and I’m a Marine.”
“The guy sitting next to me,” he continues, “is 6′ 2″, weighs 250 pounds, and he’s also a Marine. Now, you still wanna tell me that joke?”
The sailor says, “nah, I don’t want to have to explain it more than twice.”
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, more than 2,000 people go missing throughout the U.S. every day. Many of those innocent individuals are taken from the very neighborhoods they grew up in. While 57 percent of all missing-persons cases end on somewhat good notes, 43 percent do not.
We’ve all heard the horror stories of people being tied up with rope or zip ties as captors transport them to some secondary, unknown location. Knowing how to free yourself from those bonds might make all the difference in a pinch.
In the event that you’re being kidnapped and the captors are tying up your hands, it’s good practice to force your hands open and spread your fingers out as widely as possible. This makes your wrists bulky. That way, when you ball up your hands into fists later, making your wrists narrow, you’ll create a tiny bit of wiggle room.
If the restraints are indeed strapped down onto your wrist, you’ll want to widen out our elbows and, with great force, pull your hands toward your rib cage. In theory, this turns your body into a wedge and the sudden force will, hopefully, free you.
This typically works best if you’re bound together by duct tape or zip ties.
If ripping the bonds apart isn’t an option, look for points of friction within a close proximity. A loose screw or corner of a wall can serve as a useful tool in a pinch. Rub your bonds against these points to wear them down.
Also consider taking a deep breath or flexing your muscles as captors tie material around your torso, arms, or legs. This will increase blood flow to the area, causing it to grow in size temporarily. Later on, the fluid build-up will egress, making the bound areas narrower. When those body parts slim down, you’ll gain a little bit of slack to help you wiggle out of restraints.
Most people don’t count of being kidnapped, but it never hurts to be ready. Emerson suggests hiding a razor blade or a handcuff in your sock in the event that the worst happens.
So, you’ve been navigating the vast ocean of civilian life, all while growing an impressive beard and wearing that veteran’s hat to places. Suddenly, one day, you get a letter — orders for Individual, Ready Reserve Muster. But at this point, you’ve been out for so long, and you’re wondering why they’re calling you back. Well, the Marine Corps wants to check in and make sure you’re still ready to be called back into active service should they need you back in the rain, dealing pain.
It may seem like an inconvenience and, sure, it might be, but it’s really not that bad. It’s only a few hours on the weekend, and you can choose to go in the morning or the afternoon. On top of that, you’ll get paid somewhere around $250, for three hours of time. You might show up and hear a bunch of fellow Marines complain, but it’s not a field op. It’s not raining. You just sit in a few rooms, fill out some paperwork, and then you’re on your way.
Overall, here’s what you can expect:
It almost brings a tear to your eye. Almost.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Lucas Vega)
You get treated like a human being
There’s going to be a ton of staff NCOs and officers hanging around muster. None of them are going to yell at you for your lack of shave, haircut, or proper greeting of the day. Not a single one will hit you with a, “hey there, Devil Dog,” just to chew your ass for not saying good morning.
Furthermore, when you talk to the admin clerks and other Marines running the muster, they won’t even require you to address them by rank. Here’s the thing: they know you’re a Marine, but they actually just treat you like another person, which is an improvement.
Waiting in lines
Did you expect anything different? Most of your time at muster will be spent in lines… go figure. Waiting to leave rooms, waiting to have someone look at a medical form, etc. You know the drill. Honestly, it’s not as bad as any other line you’ve been through in the Marines. Not even close.
The only thing that makes those lines bad is the fact that you’re trying to get out of there to go do civilian things, like eat real food, not shave, and not worry about formation.
It’s seriously not bad.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Daniel Hughes)
No, not your underpants — you know what we mean. You’re going to get two briefs for a max of, like, 20 minutes, tops. One is from the VA and the other is to tell you about your options in the Reserve. It’s definitely not anywhere near as bad as annual training briefs, which span the course of several days, and last for about eight hours each.
Right after you go through the briefs, you’ll fill out a medical form to list any ailments you may have. If you do have some medical issues, you’ll wait to go into a room for a screening where they’ll decide whether or not you’re still in good enough condition to deploy if necessary. Otherwise, you go straight to the administrative room.
It doesn’t take long, honestly.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Daniel Hughes)
This part probably takes the longest, and it’s mostly just waiting (again, go figure). You’re just there to verify that your contact information is correct as well as your Record of Emergency Data and other things. It’s just a quick scan, sign, date, and then you verify your bank information, turn in the paperwork, and you’re out of there.
A lot of other people might complain but, realistically, IRR Muster is not the worst thing you could do on a Saturday — especially when you compare it to your Saturdays spent as a Marine.
Aerodynamic heating at Mach 6.72 (4,534 mph) almost melted the airframe.
On Oct. 3, 1967, the North American X-15A-2 serial number 56-6671 hypersonic rocket-powered research aircraft achieved a maximum Mach 6.72 piloted by Major Pete Knight.
Operated by the United States Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as part of the X-plane series of experimental aircraft in the 1960s, the X-15 was a missile-shaped vehicle built in 3 examples and powered by the XLR-99 rocket engine capable of 57,000 lb of thrust.
The aircraft featured an unusual wedge-shaped vertical tail, thin stubby wings, and unique side fairings that extended along the side of the fuselage.
The X-15 was brought to the launch altitude of 45,000 feet by a NASA NB-52B “mothership” then air dropped to that the rocket plane would have enough fuel to reach its high speed and altitude test points. Depending on the mission, the rocket engine provided thrust for the first 80 to 120 sec of flight. The remainder of the normal 10 to 11 min. flight was powerless and ended with a 200-mph glide landing.
As the X-15 was falling from the B-52 he lit the engine and locked on to 12 degrees angle of attack. He was pushed back into his seat with 1.5 g’s longitudinal acceleration. The X-15 rounded the corner and started its climb.
During the rotation as normal acceleration built up to 2 g’s Pete had to hold in considerable right deflection of the side arm controller to keep the X-15 from rolling to the left due to the heavier LOX in the left external tank. When the aircraft reached the planned pitch angle of 35 degrees his scan pattern switched from the angle of attack gauge to the attitude direction indicator and a vernier index that was set to the precise climb angle.
The climb continued as the fuel was consumed from the external tanks, then at about 60 seconds he reached the tank jettison conditions of about Mach 2 and 70,000 feet. He pushed over to low angle of attack and ejected the tanks. He was now on his way and would not be making an emergency landing at Mud Lake.
“We shut down at 6500 (fps), and I took careful note to see what the final got to. It went to 6600 maximum on the indicator. As I told Johnny before, the longest time period is going to be from zero h dot getting down to 100 to 200 feet per second starting down hill after shutdown.”
Final post flight data recorded an official max Mach number of 6.72 equivalent to a speed of 4534 miles per hour.
From there down Pete was very busy with the planned data maneuvers and managing the energy of the gliding X-15. He approached Edwards higher on energy than planned and had to keep the speed brakes out to decelerate.
On final approach he pushed the dummy ramjet eject button and landed on Rogers lakebed runway 18. He indicated he did not feel anything when he activated the ramjet eject and the ground crew reported they did not see it. Pete said that he knew something was not right when the recovery crew did not come to the cockpit area to help him out of the cockpit, but went directly to the back of the airplane.
Finally when he did get out and saw the damage to the tail of the X-15 he understood. There were large holes in the skin of the sides of the fin with evidence of melting and skin rollback. Now we are talking Inconel-X steel that melts at 2200 degrees F. Later analysis would show that the shock wave from the leading edge of the ramjet’s spike nose had intersected the fin and caused the aerodynamic heating to increase seven times higher than normal. So now maybe we knew why the ramjet was not there.
The following 48-sec footage shows the extent of the damages to the X-15-2 aircraft. Noteworthy, the ramjet detached from the aircraft at over 90,000 feet and crashed into the desert over 100 miles from Edwards Air Force Base.
The X-15A-2 never flew again after the record flight. It is currently preserved and displayed at the United States Air Force Museum, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
“There is no power, water or sewer service to the base at this time,” Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen said in a statement. “All personnel assigned to ride out the storm are accounted for with no injuries.”
The National Hurricane Center said the storm reached Category 4 status, with 150 mph winds as it made landfall early Wednesday afternoon. Tyndall at one point was in the eye of the storm.
“The Air Force is working to conduct aerial surveillance of the damage, to clear a route to the base and to provide security, potable water, latrines and communication equipment,” Yepsen said, adding that the base will remain closed and airmen should not plan to return until further notice.
“The good news is the airmen that we left behind to ride out the storm are all safe and accounted for,” Gen. Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, said in a video posted on Twitter. “In the short-term, it’s just not safe to return there. In the hours and days to come, we’ll know more about the conditions at Tyndall, and we’ll know more about when [airmen] can come back.”
A YouTube video showed an F-15 static display aircraft knocked over. Roofs were damaged across the base, trees were shown split or scattered, and vehicles were overturned.
Aerial image shows destruction at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, after Hurricane Michael made landfall Oct. 10 and 11, 2018.
At Eglin Air Force Base, the 96th Test Wing commander declared that base can return to normal operations and that base services will reopen Oct. 12, 2018.
While Hurlburt’s base services remained closed Oct. 11, 2018, “it appears the storm has made the long-awaited turn to the northeast,” Col. Michael E. Conley, 1st SOW commander, said on Facebook.
He went on to say it appeared that Hurlburt Field would be “spared from the worst impacts” and that the base, home to the Air Force’s special tactics community, “dodged a bullet.”
“Let’s give the Tyndall team the chance to fully assess the situation and figure out what they need,” Conley said.
Tyndall on Oct. 8, 2018, ordered the evacuation of all on-and-off-base personnel ahead of the hurricane. Personnel were given permission to use their government-issued credit cards “for any expenses incurred during this evacuation,” a base statement said, adding they will be reimbursed for any travel expenses of at least 100 miles, but no more than 500 miles, from the base.
Francis Ford Coppola was originally worried his soon-to-be iconic Apocalypse Now would be “too weird” for audiences, so he made major cuts to his film. Now, you’ll be able to see it in all its wacky glory, including 300,173 restored frames of depth, detail, and napalm.
Turn on your sound and watch this epic trailer, people:
APOCALYPSE NOW FINAL CUT – 4K Restoration in Theaters 8/15 & on 4K Combo Pack 8/27!
If Walkürenritt or Ritt der Walküren Ride of the Valkyries doesn’t get your juices flowing, I don’t know what will.
On Aug. 27, 2019, in honor of the 40th anniversary of the film, Lionsgate will release Apocalypse Now on a 4K Ultra HD™ Combo Pack (4K disc, plus three Blu-ray discs and Digital copy) and on Digital 4K Ultra HD for the first time ever.
But more importantly, on Aug. 15, 2019, you can see it in select theaters.
This isn’t the first time Coppola has made changes to his film. In 2001, Coppola released Apocalypse Now Redux, which added an additional 49 minutes to the original film, and while Roger Ebert gave Redux 4 stars, Coppola still wasn’t satisfied. With Apocalypse Now: Final Cut, Coppola has finally released his vision (which will run 183 minutes, about a half hour longer than the original).
But it’s not just the visuals that are being remastered. Sound technology has advanced since 1979, allowing Coppola to achieve effects that weren’t available in the 70s, including low frequency sound design meant to create a visceral reaction during war scenes.
Make no mistake, this is a sensory theater experience fans of the original film should take advantage of.
Movies and TV shows often portray military leaders as harsh and demanding all the time, but Navy SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin say this is a misrepresentation. In their book, “The Dichotomy of Leadership,” they explain that a good leader has to be aggressive, but not too aggressive. It’s all about balance.
Jocko Willink: One of the things that you might see in the media is that some mission is going to come down and the front line troops are going to get told exactly what’s gonna happen and exactly how they’re gonna execute the mission. That doesn’t happen, and it doesn’t work. The military operates with a very decentralized command, so a lot of times it’s the mid-level guys that are coming up with the mission and how they’re gonna execute the mission. And they’re actually briefing up the chain of command. That’s what Leif and I did. We would brief up the chain of command and tell our boss how we were going to do something. And then, our boss would give us the support that we needed to go out and execute.
One of the better examples that kind of gets leadership right is Band of Brothers, which is an HBO miniseries that focused on Easy Company, 1st of the 506th, or actually 2nd of the 506th, and centered around a character named Dick Winters, who was just an outstanding leader. And if you watch the way he leads his men, compared to the way some of the less savory characters lead their men in that series, you’ll see the exact kind of leadership that we talk about in “The Dichotomy of Leadership.” He’s close to his guys, he’s not too close. He’s aggressive on the battlefield, but he’s not over-aggressive. So he takes risks, but he doesn’t take worthless risks that won’t gain anything. He’s a great example of a leader and he’s a guy that we definitely look up to, and try and emulate as leaders as well.
As we work with companies and with leaders over the last several years, we saw that one of the biggest weaknesses they had was trying to deal with something that we call the dichotomy of leadership. And what that is, is these are opposing forces that are pulling leaders in opposite directions, that a good leader has to try and balance those opposing forces out. So for instance, as a leader, you can’t get too emotional about things because then you make bad decisions, but on the other hand you can’t just stay completely detached and have no emotions, otherwise, no one will follow you. You can’t be hyper-aggressive. You can’t be over-aggressive, but at the same time, you can’t be not aggressive enough. You have to find that balance in the middle.
Leif Babin: People have a fundamental misunderstanding of what military leadership is like, and I think they look at guys like me or Jocko and think that we’re gonna be the guys that yell and scream and smash people down, and frankly that doesn’t work. That doesn’t work in any type of leadership scenario, doesn’t work in the military, doesn’t work in the business world, doesn’t work anywhere.
Willink: One of the biggest problems that new leaders have, is they think they should know everything. They think to themselves, “I’ve gotta know everything, everyone’s watching me and they’re judging me, and if I don’t know everything they’re gonna think less of me.” And so what they do is they go in and they try and act like they know things that they don’t know. The best possible thing you can do as a new leader, if there’s something that you don’t know, is raise your hand and say: “Hey guys, I’m new at this. Do you know a better way to do this?” or “Do you know how to do this?” or “Can you give me a hand?” That doesn’t lower people’s respect for you, it actually increases their respect because they think you’re not going to try and pull the wool over their eyes. You’re gonna actually ask for help when you need it. You’re a humble leader, and that’s going to come across a lot better and it’s going to work out better in the long run for you ’cause you’ll learn more, you’ll know more, and you’ll be more respected by your team. So don’t worry about saying I don’t know something, it’s perfectly fine. You just showed up, no one expects you to know everything. Relax, and ask some questions.
Babin: Another very common problem that we see with leaders is that leaders look at the specific problems that they’re facing, and they think it’s unique. And they think their problems are harder than everyone else’s problems. It’s a very common problem, I fall into that trap as well, and you can’t do that as a leader because what you’re really doing is you’re making an excuse. You’re making an excuse when you say, “Well, it’s harder for me than it is for other people. I have it tougher here. It’s easier for them.” Or “This other team in this situation that’s able to perform better.” And you can’t do that because as long as you’re making an excuse for yourself, an excuse for your team, you’re never going to actually solve the problems that are causing you to not perform the way you should, and therefore you’re going to keep repeating those same mistakes. And you’re gonna ultimately lead to failure. So, stop giving yourself that excuse, realize that your problems are no different than anybody else’s problems, step up, find a way to solve those problems and win.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Imagine the tension of being a British soldier waiting to be evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk as the Nazi Wehrmacht closed in around you and your mates. Now imagine somehow being left behind after all 340,000 of your fellow troops were led back to Britain.
May joined the service in 1940, after World War II broke out. He enlisted to become a driver with the 13-division strong British Expeditionary Force in France. The British mission on continental Europe in the early days of the war did not go well. After Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September, 1939, the French and British declared war almost immediately. Just as fast, the British Expeditionary Force began arriving in France.
By June, 1940, they were all being evacuated by any British subject who had a boat that could float. Most of them, anyway.
The effort to rescue the trapped Allied troops was dubbed “Operation Dynamo” and was a mission to pick up distressed British, French, and Belgian troops waiting on the beaches at Dunkirk. By May 10, 1940, Nazi Germany had captured all of Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. They were already in control of much of Northern France and had the Allied forces on the ropes.
As the Nazis moved to push the Allies into the sea, British citizens and Royal Navy ships mounted the massive impromptu rescue effort, pulling any troops they could fit in their craft, and ferrying them back across the channel. Not everyone survived the wait on the beaches, as they were constantly harassed by the Nazi luftwaffe and threatened by German ground forces.
British troops waiting for evacuation on the beaches of Dunkirk.
In Dynamo, the British expected to be able to save some 30,000 to 45,000 troops who would then defend the British home islands. Using a still-unknown number of “little ships” piloted by civilians, they managed to save ten times that number. It truly was a miracle.
But James May and six of his fellow soldiers were somehow left behind. They did what any quick-thinking, resourceful bunch of soldiers would do in a lawless area with an determined enemy bearing down on them: They stole a car and beat it.
In their own, smaller version of the Miracle at Dunkirk, the group managed to drive out of the war zone in their stolen vehicle, evading the Wehrmacht for a full six days before finding a boat and captain that would ferry them home to England.
He was stationed in Northern Ireland for much of the war but he had his chance to hit the beach of France once more, and again as a driver. This time, however, he was driving a British DUKW amphibious vehicle, landing British troops in the battle to crack the walls of Hitler’s Fortress Europe.
Some planes have long had a reputation for being deadly in air-to-air combat. That is an arena built for the fast and evasive — and planes get faster and more evasive all the time. But what do we do about the older fighters? Retirement or being passed on, second-hand, to other countries happens to some models, and some of these designs are so good, they last for decades (the P-51 served in a military role until 1985). Other planes, however, undergo a little role change and start dropping bombs instead.
In fact, when you look at the most prominent fighters from World War II (the P-51, the F6F Hellcat, the F4U Corsair, the P-47 Thunderbolt, and the P-38 Lightning), they were all multi-role fighters. The jet age was no different — many planes designed for air-to-air became very good at dropping bombs on the enemy on the ground. Here are some of the most prominent.
1. North American F-86 Sabre
The F-86 Sabre dominated the skies during the Korean War, but as the war went on, this plane also had a significant impact as a fighter-bomber. This plane did so well dropping ordnance that the Air Force eventually bought the F-86H, a dedicated fighter-bomber version of the F-86, which served until 1972.
2. North American F-100 Super Sabre
Like the F-86, the F-100 was initially intended for air-to-air combat. But the F-100A had its teething problems, and it never saw much combat as a fighter. The F-100D version, however, became a very reliable fighter-bomber. In fact, a later model, the F-100F operational trainer model, was among the first of the Wild Weasels — Vietnam-era bombers that were responsible for taking out enemy air defenses. The F-100 fighter-bombers stuck around until 1979.
3. McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom
The Navy’s version of the Phantom, the F-4B, was an all-weather interceptor. The Air Force was the first branch to use this airframe as a tactical fighter, and the others quickly followed suit. As F-14s and F-15s emerged into service, F-4s took on more ground-attack missions. Today, those still in service with Turkey and other countries are primarily used for bombing.
4. Grumman F-14 Tomcat
Lessons learned from Vietnam and the development of new Soviet bombers spurred the development of the F-14 as a pure fighter. It had quite the long reach, too. With the end of the Cold War, though, the Tomcat quickly ran thin on targets in the air and was quickly retooled to attack ground targets. Sadly, it also saw its production ended shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union and was retired in 2004. It leaves us to wonder just what could have been for carrier air wings.
5. McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Eagle
While the Navy replaced its F-4s with the F-14, the Air Force chose to replace them in the air-to-air role with the F-15. The F-15 dominated as an air-superiority fighter (it still hasn’t lost a for-real dogfight). Then, the Air Force sought to replace the F-4 for the ground-attack missions – and the F-15 was selected. Today, the F-15E is still going strong, bringing the fight to ground forces.
The fact is, an air-superiority fighter need not despair when newer jets come along. It can earn a second lease on life by dropping bombs on the bad guys. It might not be as thrilling as a dogfight, but it’s plenty effective.
After nearly two decades of counter-terror operations the world over, the United States military is now shifting its focus back toward great power competition with the likes of China and Russia. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the past two decades have left the U.S. military particularly well suited for the war at hand, but not very well positioned for the wars that are feasibly to come.
During this era of counter-terror operations, China has had the opportunity to seek higher degrees of technological and tactical parity, while having the benefit of not being actively engaged in expensive combat operations on the same scale. That has allowed China’s sea-faring power to grow at an exponential rate in recent years, with an active fleet of more than 770 vessels sailing under the banners of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, their militarized Coast Guard, and a maritime miitia that takes its orders from the Chinese military as well.
Chinese Navy on parade (Chinese state television)
The addition of China’s massive ballistic missile stockpile, including hypersonic anti-ship platforms the U.S. Navy currently has no means to defend against, has further established China’s advantage in the Pacific. Even if the U.S. Navy leveraged every vessel in its 293-ship fleet, American forces would still be outnumbered by Chinese ships by more than two to one. Importantly, however, the United States likely couldn’t devote its entire fleet to any single conflict due to its global commitments to security and stability, especially regarding essential shipping lanes.
Today, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are both actively seeking ways to mitigate China’s numbers advantage, as well as the area-denial bubble created by China’s anti-ship platforms. Multiple possible solutions are being explored, ranging from hot-loading Marine Corps F-35Bs on austere airstrips on captured islands in the case of the Marines, to the Navy’s ongoing development of the MQ-25 aerial refueling drone that aims to extend the reach of America’s carrier-based fighters. Still, thus far, there has been no magic bullet. In fact, concerns about a near-peer conflict with China has even prompted several high-ranking defense officials to question the practicality of America’s fleet of super-carriers, both because of their immense cost, and because of the likelihood that they could be sunk by China’s hypersonic missiles long before they could get close enough to Chinese shores to begin launching sorties of F-35Cs and F/A-18 Super Hornets.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mohamed Labanieh/Released)
The fundamental challenges a war with China would present are clear: Finding a way to mitigate the risks posed by advanced anti-ship missiles and offsetting the significant numbers advantage Chinese forces would have within the region. In the past, we’ve discussed the possibility of arming commercial cargo ships with modular weapons systems in a “missile barge” fleet as a means to bolster American numbers and capabilities. Another feasible option that could even work in conjunction with this strategy would be issuing “letters of marque” to private operations, effectively allowing non-military forces to serve as privateers for the U.S. government.
The Capture of a French Ship by Royal Family Privateers by Charles Brooking
American Privateers or Pirates?
The concept of issuing letters of marque to American privateers was recently discussed by retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian and Brandon Schwartz in the U.S. Naval Institute’s publication, “Proceedings.” Although the idea seems almost ridiculous in the 21st Century, the legal framework outlined by Cancian and Schwartz is sound, and one could argue that their assertions about the viability and strategic value of privateer fleets are as well.
Cancian and Schwartz argue that privateering is not piracy, as there are laws governing it and precedent for the practice established in past U.S. conflicts, including the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
“Privateering is not piracy—there are rules and commissions, called letters of marque, that governments issue to civilians, allowing them to capture or destroy enemy ships. The U.S. Constitution expressly grants Congress the power to issue them (Article I, section 8, clause 11).” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
However, despite their argument being technically right, it’s difficult to dismiss how the piracy narrative would almost certainly affect public perception of the use of privateers, and potentially even the conflict at large.
While the United States could argue that privateers operate with specifically outlined rules and commissions, even the American public would likely see American privateers as pirates. And because America has found itself trailing behind nations like China and Russia in terms of manipulating public narratives, that narrative could indeed hurt not only public support for the conflict; it could even jeopardize some international relationships.
The Pride of Baltimore, left, and the Lynx, two privateer vessels, reenact a battle of the War of 1812 in Boston Harbor during Boston Navy Week 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elisandro T. Diaz/Released)
Privateers are not pirates in the literal sense only because a government is sanctioning their piracy. In the eyes of those who don’t recognize America’s authority to grant such permissions in far-flung waterways, the two terms would be interchangeable.
Regardless of vernacular, the United States has used this approach to great success in the past. Although the last time American privateers set sale was more than 200 years ago, their approach was modern enough to set precedent for a return to the concept.
“The privateering business was thoroughly modern and capitalistic, with ownership consortiums to split investment costs and profits or losses, and a group contract to incentivize the crew, who were paid only if their ship made profits. A sophisticated set of laws ensured that the capture was ‘good prize,’ and not fraud or robbery. After the courts determined that a merchant ship was a legitimate capture, auctioneers sold off her cargo of coffee, rum, wine, food, hardware, china, or similar consumer goods, which ultimately were bought and consumed by Americans.” -Frederick C. Leiner in “Yes, Privateers Mattered“
In the event of a large-scale conflict with a nation like China, that potential narrative blowback may be a necessary evil. However, the ramifications of that evil could be mitigated through a concerted narrative effort to frame privateer actions in the minds of the populous as an essential part of a broader war effort that has the American people’s best interests in mind.
In the War of 1812, privateering saw such public support (in large part thanks to the profits it drove) that some took to calling the conflict the “War of the People.” Managing the narrative surrounding American privateers could make the concept far more palatable to the American people.
As for the legal aspects of privateering, you can read a thorough legal justification for the practice in a separate piece written by Schwartz called “U.S. Privateering is legal.”
(Italian Center for International Studies)
The role of American privateers at war
China’s massive fleet of vessels in the Pacific can be broken down into their three command groups, all of which ultimately answer to China’s People’s Liberation Army. China’s maritime militia accounts for approximately 300 vessels, the militarized Coast Guard has 135 more, and the PLA-Navy itself boasts an ever-growing roster expected to reach 450 surface vessels by the end of the decade.
In the event of a war with China, the American Navy would have more than its hands full engaging with such a massive force, limiting its ability to cut China off from one of its most significant revenue sources, overseas trade. China’s reliance on shipping products to other nations has helped its economy grow rapidly, but it also represents a strategic disadvantage, as Cancian and Schwartz point out, if America can find the means to disrupt this exchange.
“Thirty-eight percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from trade, against only 9 percent of U.S. GDP. Chinese social stability is built on a trade-off: The Chinese Communist Party has told the people they will not have democratic institutions, but they will receive economic prosperity.” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
In 2018, China’s merchant fleet was already approaching 2,200 total vessels, thanks to massive external demand for inexpensive Chinese exports. America’s Navy would likely be stretched too thin to actually blockade such an expansive merchant fleet. Like with aircraft, America’s preference for large and expensive ships that are capable of fulfilling multiple roles has offered increased capability but significantly decreased numbers. At its peak during World War II, the U.S. Navy boasted more than 6,000 ships. Today, the Navy has 293 far more capable vessels, but none can be in more than one place at a time.
American Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, for instance, are too big and expensive to task with waiting out Chinese ships hiding in foreign ports, and would likely largely be assigned to Aegis missile defense operations. This is where American privateers could offer an important service.
American privateers wouldn’t be tasked with engaging the Chinese Navy or even with sinking merchant ships. Instead, they would be tasked with capturing Chinese cargo vessels, offering them a multi-million dollar bounty on each, and quickly compromising China’s ability to sustain its export sales.
“Since the goal is to capture the hulls and cargo, privateers do not want to sink the vessel, just convince the crew to surrender. How many merchant crews would be inclined to fight rather than surrender and spend the war in comfortable internment?” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
Of course, despite Cancian and Schwartz’ dismissive take on how apt Chinese crews would be to fight to maintain control of their ships, it’s important to remember that these privateers would likely be engaging in close quarters fighting with Chinese crews or security on board. As American privateers proved more costly to the Chinese government, an increased emphasis on protecting these cargo ships would almost certainly follow.
This begs an essential question: Where do you find privateer crews?
Private security contractors in Iraq (DoD photo)
Private infrastructure already exists
While the concept of American privateers seems borderline fantastical, the truth is, the United States has already leveraged the premise of using non-military personnel for security and defensive operations the world over. American security firm Blackwater (now Academi) is perhaps the highest-profile example of America’s use of private military contractors. In fact, contractors in Iraq have reached numbers as high as 160,000 at some points, nearly equaling the total number of U.S. military personnel in the region. At least 20,000 of those private contractors filled armed security roles.
So while the term “privateer” or even pirate suggests an entirely unconventional approach to modern warfare, the premise is already in play. Terminology may dictate perception to a significant degree, but in practice, privateering wouldn’t be all that different from existing relationships the United States maintains with private security outfits. Further, private security firms, including Blackwater, have already operated at sea in a similar manner to privateers, from Blackwater’s armed patrol craft policing Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa to countless armed and privately owned boats patrolling the Indian Ocean today.
In 2007, Blackwater acquired the McArther from the NOAAS. (WikiMedia Commons)
Many such organizations, with existing infrastructure and established relationships with the U.S. government, would likely seek and win contracts, or letters of marque, in the early days of a burgeoning Sino-American war, and stand up their own forces far more quickly than the United States could expand its naval force in the same volume. Rather than building ships and enlisting crews, the United States could simply authorize existing ships with existing crews to go on the offensive against China’s commercial fleets.
The American government’s experience with military contractors throughout the War on Terror means these relationships would not be as without precedent as they may seem, and the existing private military industry would make American privateers a quick and effective means to grow America’s offensive capabilities.
China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea (shown in red). A conflict with China would undoubtedly play out here. (WikiMedia Commons)
A complicated solution to a complex problem
Of course, there are many variables at play when discussing a future conflict with China. Incorporating privateers into such a strategy admittedly seems rather extreme from our vantage point in 2020, but it’s important to note that there is no precedent for what something like a 21st Century Sino-American war might look like. The massive sea battles of World War II may offer some sense of scale, but the rapid advancement of technology in the intervening decades creates a hypothetical war that is simply incongruous with the World War II models.
America does boast the largest and most powerful military in the world, but China’s rapidly expanding and modernizing force has not been growing in a vacuum. From space operations to warship construction, China has been developing its war-fighting apparatus with America specifically in mind. China isn’t interested in competing with the United States on its terms and instead has been focused on identifying potential American vulnerabilities and tailoring new capabilities to leverage those flaws.
China’s Type 002 Aircraft carrier (Tyg728 on WikiMedia Commons)
Large scale warfare between technological and economic giants would play out differently than any conflict we’ve ever seen. In order to emerge from such a conflict successfully, America has to do much more than win. Once the price of victory begins to compromise America’s ability to sustain its way of life thereafter, that victory becomes less pronounced.
In order to win in such a conflict, the United States will need to dig deep into its bag of tricks. On the home front, it would mean finding ways to rapidly expand America’s industrial base to replenish vehicles, supplies, and equipment as they’re expended or destroyed on the front lines. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Space Force will all be required to communicate and rely on one another in ways never before accomplished on a battlefield.
And China’s massive numbers advantage would have to be mitigated somehow. American privateers, or pirates as the press would surely call them, might just do the trick.
Soldiers aren’t likely to don space suits and blast off into space to fight an enemy, the head of Army Space Command said this week.
But the domain is going to play a big role in the way the Army trains and fights in the future, Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, commanding general of Army Space and Missile Defense Command, told reporters at the annual Association of the U.S. Army meeting in Washington, D.C.
“We need to make sure we’re going to be able to protect what we have in space,” the three-star said. “But I don’t think that lends itself necessarily to formations in space.”
Space as a future conflict zone led President Donald Trump to direct Pentagon leaders last year to create a Space Force. The U.S. has since stood up Space Command, a new unified combatant command that’s serving as a precursor to the future Space Force.
“Space is very important,” Dickinson said. “It’s gotten a lot of national senior leader attention over the last year or so, and the Army is excited to be part of that.”
The service is developing a new space training strategy, he added, which will likely be completed in the next three or four months. That could lead to changes across the force about how soldiers train for ground fights.
There are a lot of space-based tools on which soldiers currently rely, he said, that could be jammed or degraded by adversaries. The Army will need to place soldiers at the unit level who understand those risks and challenges.
“We need soldiers that are subject-matter experts who know about space in formations,” Dickinson said.
The Army’s upcoming training strategy could suggest how those formations will be organized, he said. It’s also going to outline how security challenges in space will affect future operating environments.
“The training strategy … will give you fundamentals on what we need to look for as far as environments we’re going to operate in and what we see in terms of those formations and who will be in those types of formations,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Everyone wants something from their friendly neighborhood medic: opiates, tourniquets, a quick peek at that rash on their junk. But French Foreign Legion troops could get an additional bit of medicine from their quartermaster or doc: absinthe or quinine-laced wine.
So, was it just that the French knew how to party better than any other army? Or was it that the Legion just gave zero sh*ts and did whatever it wanted?
The female mosquito sucks so hard.
(Center for Disease Control)
Well, the French propensity to drink and the Legion’s outcast status both played roles. At that time, the wine that was part of a soldier’s daily ration was increasing while most other militaries were cutting back. The reason being that France thought drinking that wine was a good way to cut down a troop’s chances of contracting malaria.
Quinine was known to have anti-malarial effects as far back as the late 1600s when King Charles II was successfully treated with it. Slipping it into the wine of legionnaires and others operating in tropical heat (in places like Africa and Mexico) just made sense.
“The Green Muse” was the lady who visited you and gave you all your good ideas when you were all messed up on absinthe. She’s also known as the “Green Fairy,” but prefers Samantha, if anyone would ever bother to ask.
Ballers on a budget were only sucking down absinthe when they received it in their ration — that is, if they didn’t sell it instead.
Still, it must’ve made the quartermaster pretty popular. Any medics in charge of giving out anti-malarial pills should feel free to take on a new nickname: The “Green Fairy” of absinthe lore.
When special operators (or any armed force, for that matter) goes on an operation, Murphy (of “Murphy’s Law” fame) can be an uninvited and very unwelcome guest — whether with last minute changes in the plan, an inopportune discovery by civilians, or gear breaking down.
America’s highly-trained commandos have an amazing track record of achievement, wracking up huge wins with very few losses over the decades since World War II. But their missions are often so high stakes that when Murphy does pay a visit, the damage has an outsized public impact.
Here are some of the more notable instances where Murphy’s Law sent spec ops missions into a tailspin.
1. Desert One
On April 24, 1980, the newly established Delta Force attempted a daring rescue mission of the 66 Americans being held hostage in Iran.
At the initial landing site codenamed “Desert One,” the mission went south in a big way. Ultimately, eight special operators died in the abortive effort, which contributed to the undoing of the Carter administration. The mission did become the backdrop used for the opening of the Chuck Norris classic, “The Delta Force,” which was also Lee Marvin’s last role.
2. Operation Urgent Fury
After a Marxist coup seized power of the small Caribbean nation of Grenada in 1979, tensions between the country (essentially a Cuban puppet) and the United States increased. After an internal power struggle ended up leaving the island nation’s president dead, President Ronald Reagan ordered American forces to settle the matter.
The Navy SEAL Museum notes that a drop that was supposed to be in daylight and calm seas got delayed to night. A bad storm resulted in the loss of four SEALs. The lack of reconnaissance and bad comms (SEALs who rescued the island’s governor, had to use a phone to call HQ for support) created problems, but the operation was successful.
The SEALs at the governor’s mansion were eventually rescued by Force Recon Marines. Other SEALs managed to destroy a radio tower and swim out to sea, where they were picked up. Grenada was a success, and many of the lessons learned were applied in the future.
3. Operation Just Cause
The SEALs again were involved in an op where Murphy paid a visit when the United States decided to remove Manuel Noriega from power after Panamanian troops killed a U.S. Marine.
SEAL Team 4 drew the assignment of taking Punta Paitilla airport and disabling Noriega’s private jet. According to the Navy SEAL Museum’s web page, Noriega’s jet had been moved to a hanger.
As a result of the move, the SEALs ended up into a firefight that left four dead. One of those killed in action. SEAL Don McFaul would receive a posthumous Navy Cross, and have an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, USS McFaul (DDG 74), named in his honor.
4. ODA 525 – Desert Storm
In this special op, Murphy took the form of children discovering the hide site of nine Green Berets lead by Chief Warrant Officer Richard Balwanz. Balwanz made the decision to let the kids, go, and his force found itself under attack.
Despite being heavily outnumbered, the Daily Caller noted that Balwanz brought his entire team back. In this case, the special operators overcame Murphy in an outstanding feat of arms that few Americans have heard about.
If you’ve seen “Black Hawk Down,” you pretty much know the story of how the firefight in Mogadishu went down. In this case, a 2013 article at RealClearDefense.com noted that two MH-60 Blackhawks from the 106th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (the “Nightstalkers”) were shot down. Murphy had a lot of room to maneuver when armor and AC-130 support was denied.
6. Operation Red Wings
If you read the book, “Lone Survivor” (or saw the movie), you have a very good sense as to what went wrong here. Lieutenant Michael Murphy’s team of SEALs was discovered by civilians, a force of insurgents launched an attack and three SEALs were killed in the harrowing firefight.
It got worse when a Chinook helicopter carrying a quick reaction force was shot down by insurgents, killing 11 SEALs and eight Nightstalkers.