During the initial invasion of Iraq on March 25, 2003, then-1st Lt. Brian Chontosh responded to an enemy ambush on his convoy in a way most would expect to see only in a Hollywood action movie. After being attacked by Iraqi forces with mortars, automatic weapons, and rocket-propelled grenades — and caught in the kill zone — Chontosh directed his driver to go straight toward the enemy position as his .50 cal gunner fired.
But wait, there’s more. From his citation for the Navy Cross, the nation’s second-highest award:
He then directed his driver into the enemy trench, where he exited his vehicle and began to clear the trench with an M16A2 service rile and 9 millimeter pistol. His ammunition depleted, First Lieutenant Chontosh, with complete disregard for his safety, twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack. When a Marine following him found an enemy rocket propelled grenade launcher, First Lieutenant Chontosh used it to destroy yet another group of enemy soldiers.
“I was just doing my job, I did the same thing every other Marine would have done, it was just a passion and love for my Marines, the experience put a lot into perspective,” Chontosh told Marine Corps News at his award ceremony.
When it was all over, Chontosh had cleared 200 meters of the enemy trench, killed more than 20 enemy soldiers, and wounded several others. Still, he didn’t want to take all the credit — instead commending the Marines with him that day for saving his life.
“They saved my life, multiple times that day, during the ambush,” Chontosh told Stripes. “That’s all them. If it wasn’t for them, I would be the lieutenant who would be reported as … a case of what not to do.”
Do you know someone we should highlight for the next Warrior Wednesday? Email us info [at] wearethemighty.com with their name, rank, award received, and any other information you think is relevant.
The Nazis had plans to blow up the Hoover Dam during World War II, in an effort to cripple aircraft manufacturing in Los Angeles.
Born out of the Great Depression and completed in 1935, the dam was the largest ever built and stood as a symbol of America’s ability to overcome adversity. It fueled Southern California’s incredible growth – its large cities, its industrial base, its massive agricultural industry, and the nation’s biggest defense plants, according to the National Archives.
This video from American Heroes Channel gives an idea of what happened:
Fortunately, the government was tipped off to the plot and upped security in the area. But it kept fears of the plot secret for more than 60 years, until a historian unearthed documents while doing research at the National Archives, according to Mental Floss.
Although economic sanctions have all but neutered much of the nation’s military modernization efforts, Russia has managed to keep itself relevant in the 21st century by fielding headline-grabbing exotic weapons, including massive nukes far greater in scale than anything Uncle Sam has to offer. With nuclear weapons like the RS-28 Sarmat ICBM and the Status-6 Oceanic Multipurpose System submersible drone, Russia can cause greater devastation to its targets today than at any point during the Cold War. The thing is… that just doesn’t really matter anymore.
Mutually assured destruction
While the fighting during the Cold War was largely relegated to comparably small proxy conflicts, the Cold War eclipsed even World War II in terms of stakes. A Nazi victory in World War II would have changed life as we know it worldwide… but a nuclear exchange in the Cold War could have literally ended it. With stakes that high, it wasn’t difficult for both the United States and Soviet Union to convince lawmakers and taxpayers to pour funding into weapons development. The result was nuclear stockpiles so vast and broadly capable that a doctrine of MutuallyAssured Destruction became the only effective means of deterring large scale war between superpowers.
The concept of Mutually Assured Destruction was originally coined in 1962 by Donald Brennan, a strategist working in Herman Kahn’s Hudson Institute. After the Soviet Union tested their first nuclear weapon in August of 1949, tensions between the World War II allies became significantly more pressing, prompting renewed interest and funding into America’s own weapons of mass destruction. Predictably, the more the United States poured money into defense programs, the more the Soviets did in turn. The result was a cycle of nuclear weapon production and development that found its peak in the 1980s, when the two nation’s combined stockpiles of nuclear weapons exceeded60,000 (or about six times the combined stockpiles of these nations today).
This arm’s race also extended well beyond the nukes themselves. Each nation also needed broadly distributed means of delivering these weapons to their targets, so no nuclear first-strike could completely eliminate a nation’s ability to respond in kind. In order to accomplish this, the United States began distributing nuclear weapon capabilities across the methods of delivery and service branches. Today, we’ve come to know this distribution as the nuclear triad. While nuclear weapons of varying uses and sizes emerged as a part of this effort, the backbone of America’s nuclear triad emerged as a combination of land-based ICBMs, aircraft-based bombs, and submarine-based missiles. The Soviets soon fielded a comparable triad, matching America’s ability to respond to any nuclear attack.
The doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction remains a prominent part of America’s nuclear deterrence strategy for the Soviet Union’s successor, the Russian government. Today, both nations maintain nuclear stockpiles that are significantly smaller than they did at the height of the Cold War. However, while America has allowed a good portion of its nuclear weapon infrastructure to age toward obsolescence, Russia has continued to lean on its nukes as a means of geopolitical showmanship.
How do Russia’s nukes compare to America’s?
The RS-28 Sarmat
Today, the United States maintains approximately 5,800 nuclear weapons, with 3,800 considered active. Within that stockpile are at least 400 LGM-30 Minuteman III land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The Minuteman III has been in service since 1970, has an operational range of more than 6,000 miles, and is accurate to within 800 feet. These missiles can carry between one and three nuclear warheads, each with a maximum explosive yield of 475 kilotons, giving this weapon a maximum yield of 1.425 megatons. To put it another way, that means each American ICBM can deliver about 95 times the destructive capability of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Sounds pretty big, right? America’s dated Minuteman III missiles certainly pack a punch, but even when carrying three of its most potent warheads, these missiles are utterly dwarfed by Russia’s most advanced (and powerful) ICBM coming into service this year: The RS-28 Sarmat.
The RS-28, sometimes known as the “Satan II,” has been in development since 2014, and was famously described as “capable of wiping out parts of the earth the size of Texas or France,” by Russia’s state-owned media. The missile has a range of 6,385 miles and carries a warhead jam-packed with Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles (MIRV) that boast a combined destructive yield of 50 megatons. In other words, the RS-28 Sarmat carries a destructive yield greater than 35 times that of the Minuteman III.
America’s most powerful nuclear bomb in service, the B83, also boasts just a 1.2 megaton yield, and even the most powerful nuclear weapon in American history, the 9 megaton B53, rings in at less than 1/5 the yield of the mighty Sarmat.
But if a missile dubbed the “Satan II” and marketed as a way to remove Texas from the map isn’t massive enough, Russia also boasts another doomsday nuke–one said to match or even double the nuclear yield of the Sarmat, while bolstering its destructive capacity by creating an unnatural, natural disaster.
The Status-6 Oceanic Multipurpose System
The Status-6 Oceanic Multipurpose System has gone by a number of names in Western analysis over the years, in part because this weapon was considered something of an urban legend for a long time. Rumors about the Status-6 first bubbled to the surface years ago, largely through vague mentions in Russian news reports, but its existence was confirmed within the past few years–first in a leaked image of a Pentagon intelligence report, and then through official announcements from the Kremlin.
Unlike the submarine-launched nuclear missiles both Russia and the United States maintain as a part of their nuclear triads, the Status-6 (sometimes called “Poseidon” or by its NATO designation of “Kanyon”) is actually a submersible drone. Once deployed by a Russian Navy submarine, the drone can travel autonomously toward its target, covering more than 5,400 miles at depths as low as 3,300 feet. Once it finds its target, the Status-6 simply parks and waits for the command to detonate.
Onboard this submersible drone is an absolutely massive warhead–with some claims saying it carries the same nuclear yield as the RS-28, and others claiming twice that. According to some Russian officials, the Status-6 can be equipped with a 100 megaton weapon… which is two times more powerful than the largest nuclear weapon evereven tested.
A detonation of that magnitude would not only destroy and irradiate a massive area, its positioning under water would result in a radioactive tsunami that would reach far further inland than the blast itself. In no uncertain terms, the Status-6 is intended to serve as a doomsday weapon. It’s the sort of weapon you build not to win wars, but to end them.
What is the strategic value of massive nuclear weapons?
America is amid an arguably overdue effort to modernize its ICBM arsenal in Northrop Grumman’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) platform expected to enter service later this decade. Although the weapon’s W87 Mod 0 thermonuclear warhead’s destructive capacity has not been revealed just yet, it stands to reason that these new missiles will still offer significantly less firepower than Russia’s mighty Sarmat, let alone the terrifying 100 megaton capacity claimed by the Status-6.
To some maintaining the Cold War’s mindset of matching capability to deter war, this may seem like an egregious failure on the part of America’s defense infrastructure. After all, how do you hope to deter a 100 megaton weapon if your own most powerful weapons are tiny by comparison? Well, the truth is, you simply don’t have to.
Way back in 1962, when Donald Brennan first coined the term “Mutually Assured Destruction,” the Soviet Union had only successfully tested their first hydrogen bomb (or thermonuclear weapon) some seven years prior. The Soviets didn’t possess any nuclear tsunami drones as they do today, and yet, as far as America was concerned, a nuclear exchange with the Soviets would all but certainly wipe out life on earth as we know it. It’s almost like you don’t need Bond villain-esque nukes to be scary when run-of-the-mill nukes will do the same job.
And therein lies the practical failing of Russia’s massive nukes: They may be good for a bit of geopolitical theater, but strategically they change nearly nothing about the nuclear deterrence mission or the comparative military standing of each nation. Just like during the Cold War, both Russia and the United States are aware that the launch of a single nuclear weapon is all it takes to start a cascade of retaliatory strikes that, once begun, will usher in a nuclear apocalypse most citizens of each nation (and all others) likely won’t survive. When the result is the end of the world, it really doesn’t matter how big that first explosion might be.
So what value is there in a 50 or 100 megaton weapon like those found in Russia’s arsenal? While they don’t actually offer much in the way of strategic value in a nuclear war, they do however play an important role in helping Russia maintain its global reputation as a force to be reckoned with. That reputation is essential, not only for Russia’s aggressive approach to foreign policy, but also to maintain its footing as the arms dealer of choice for nations on America’s naughty list.
Like their token fleet of a dozen or so fifth-generation fighters, or their frequent claims about robot soldiers or invisibility cloaks, Russia depends on foreign press coverage to help advance the perception that Russia is a cutting edge weapons designer and producer. Russia needs the influx of money from foreign sales if they ever hope to secure adequate funding for their notably promising (but sorely under-funded) programs like their T-14 Armata main battle tank.
Put simply: Russia’s massive nukes aren’t really about strategic capability, so much as they’re about perception, intimidation, and economics. Whether or not this effort will be successful, however, is yet to be determined.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency: Many Americans often pair the two high-level security organizations together. While agents of both organizations report directly to the Director of National Intelligence and their work often overlaps, their overall structure and mission differ vastly.
The key differences between the organizations lie in where the security threat comes from, who they are essentially extensions of, and the authorities granted to both. It can basically be summed up by what the ‘I’ in their names stand for. The FBI focuses on investigating crimes while the CIA focuses on gathering intelligence.
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The FBI works under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice. They are essentially business-suit-wearing police officers, although they function at a much higher level.
The Bureau was founded after merging several other branches of the Department of Justice together. Early work of the FBI was to hunt down known gangsters of the 1930s, such as John Dillinger, “Baby Face” Nelson, and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. Over the years, the FBI has taken on more counter-terrorism roles in the wake of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and the apprehension of the Unabomber.
While the work of the FBI is occasionally covert, their presence is much more known than that of the CIA. They have field offices in 56 major cities, 350 smaller offices, and are in many embassies and consulates. Despite how films portray them (especially when the protagonist is a police officer and FBI agents are in their way), they often work hand-in-hand with many police stations.
Central Intelligence Agency
The CIA, on the other hand, is actually a civilian foreign intelligence service of the United States government. Among countless other functions (countless because a lot of internal workings of the CIA are classified), this is where you would find the spies.
Created as a successor to the Office of Strategic Services, the first real mission of the CIA was to gather what information it could during the Korean War and, eventually, against the Soviet Union. The CIA has been known to install pro-American governments around the world.
The CIA doesn’t let information out about the size and scope of their operations, but it’s generally considered that they hide in plain sight in many locations around the world. As mentioned, the CIA employs much more than spies. Translators, cyber-analysts, and negotiators are far more common.
To learn more about the differences between the two agencies, check out the video below:
From the comedy group Cannibal Milkshake comes this parody trailer for “Canadian Sniper” which, the group writes, is based on the premise of “a deadly domestic moose attack [spurring] an unlikely hero into action in this parody based on that trailer for that movie based on that book.”
Military video site Funker 530 points out that it’s ok to laugh. It’s not making fun of Chris Kyle, but instead, a cheesy Hollywood adaptation of a book. And it does a pretty good job, with plenty of denim, accents, moose, and even a fake baby being fed pure maple syrup. That’s what they do in Canada, right?
As mankind turns their eyes back to space and technology edges us ever closer to a life outside of the atmosphere, there must also be contingency plans established in case the worst happens to astronauts. To date, there is no defined protocol for returning remains back to Earth. This will need to change as more and more astronauts take to the skies.
There have been eighteen deaths during spaceflight. The three deaths to occur in space (above 100 km elevation) were also the only remains properly recovered. The crew of the Soyuz 11 perished on June 29th, 1971 while they were preparing for re-entry. Their names are Georgy Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, and Viktor Patsayev. Their remains were recovered at the intended landing site — an autopsy ruled the cause of death a capsule-decompression failure — and the astronauts were properly laid to rest. They may be the first and only astronauts to be given this respect.
If an astronaut were to die on a spacewalk and his or her body went unrecovered, they would float lifelessly until caught in the atmosphere, at which point they’d burn in the reentry process. Until then, no bacteria could survive to decompose the body, so it would remain frozen as the days passed.
However, due to the UN’s strict “no littering” policy in space, the family and nation of the astronaut would be required to recover the remains and lay them rest with dignity. A space free-float wouldn’t happen.
This also rules out all possible funerals, like the one given to Spock. (Paramount Pictures’ Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
According to Col. Chris Hadfield in his book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Earth, today’s astronauts conduct simulations for onboard deaths, but taking care of the body is tricky and very unpleasant. The remains are placed inside of a GoreTex bodybag. Then, it is isolated immediately in the airlock to avoid contamination to the air supply.
The funeral rites are then given to the deceased. This would include speeches by world leaders, the deceased’s family, and the crew. The body is then exposed to space to freeze. A robotic arm then takes the corpse and vibrates it outside of the spacecraft until the body breaks down into a powder, which is then released into space. As morbid as it is, it saves valuable room in the spacecraft and keeps the other astronauts safe. In a way, the astronaut becomes a part of space.
The powder that remains in the bag is then given to the family on the next return voyage, allowing them to pay the proper respects.
Video gamers are more prepared for military service than people the same age were in previous generations.
“We don’t need Top Gun pilots anymore, we need Revenge of the Nerds,” said Missy Cummings, former US Navy pilot, Assoc. Prof. of Aeronautics, MIT in Drone Wars: The Gamers Recruited To Kill, a documentary film about gamers and drone operators.
With the development of drones and other technologies, it’s easy to understand why she makes that statement. The Navy has even fashioned some of their controllers after popular gaming consoles, such as the X-Box and Playstation, making it a comfortable transition from make-believe entertainment to high stakes shoot em’ up.
Video games have been used by the military to win the minds of young people since 2002 with America’s Army, a first person shooter created and run by the Army. Gamers who play similar first-person shooters get immersed in stories that require teamwork and battlefield knowledge to succeed while having fun.
“Whilst nobody who’s ever played Call of Duty or Battlefield expects to recover from a real-life assault rifle round to the chest by crouching momentarily behind a wall, huge numbers of young people are developing an in-depth knowledge of military hardware, vocabulary and basic technique,” reports Dan Pearson for Games Industry.
The game is so popular that from 2002 to 2008 it was one of the top 10 computer games in the world, reported Corey Mead in a 2013 article for Time magazine. For recruiters, the game is a tool for connecting with people familiar with Army basics, so hosting and attending tournaments is a no-brainer. However, the military is reaching beyond America’s Army. In the video below, you can see military officials attending gaming trade shows searching for the next drone operators.
Once a war kicks off, it’s generally easy to recognize. But war planners want to know about these things ahead of time so they predict what might be coming. While moves like large military exercises on a border are a dead giveaway that an invasion might be imminent, smaller things can give intel analysts a clue as well.
Here are 6 surprisingly minor things that can predict a major conflict:
1. Industrial diamonds and mineral prices
Who knew diamonds could predict wars? Back when World War II was just a fight between Germany and Poland about whether Poland got to keep being a country, Hitler was promising everyone that it was a limited, one-time thing. But the other countries knew he was full of it because, among other things, diamond prices were climbing.
Industrial diamonds are ugly things used in heavy duty drills, grinders, and other machinery. They’re essential to properly machining large weapons of war and the price was high because Germany was buying a lot of them plus tons of metals, like enough to create a blitzkrieg-capable army. A short time later, that army was rolling across Dutch fields.
David E. Walker wrote “Adventure in Diamonds” about the rush by British and Japanese teams to secure Amsterdam’s diamond stocks during the German invasion.
2. Missing uniforms and other supplies
Another thing the Dutch found suspicious ahead of the Nazi invasion was a higher than normal disappearance rate of uniforms and other supplies. Some items always go missing and sometimes things really do fall off of trucks, but a sudden jump should get analysts worried.
When German paratroopers started landing in the Netherlands, some of them were wearing Dutch uniforms that had gone missing. Wearing an enemy’s uniform is a war crime, but that only matters if the side guilty parties are on loses. If your uniform is missing, it may be forgetfulness, or it may predict something scarier.
3. Suspicious demonstrations
One of the things Ukraine noticed before of the shadow invasion of the Donbas region was a sudden increase in Pro-Moscow agitation in the east of the country and apparent ties between the agitators and Russian propaganda outlets.
Russian special operators and soldiers now cross into the area from time-to-time to make sure separatists forces are able to resist Kiev’s military, keeping the nation off-balance and allowing Russia a generally free hand.
4. Increased tourism
A spike in tourism is usually just a good sign for the economy, but combined with any other indicators that a war is looming, it’s a decent bet that some of those tourists are spies.
When it comes to local conflicts, warlords and smaller armies are sometimes equipping their forces right before the fight. This drives up the costs of weapons, especially AK-47s. Intel analysts and concerned citizens can watch those prices and see if a brush fire war or uprising is likely.
For larger nations, observers watch the overall size of the arsenal. If Russia starts producing more cruise missiles than normal, they’re probably going to be firing some soon.
6. Computer activity
In the modern day, hacking is a tool of war that is sometimes used on its own or in conjunction with a kinetic attack. Either way, the cyber assault is usually preceded by the tests of cyber defenses and the collecting of information on targets.
The US Navy has successfully altered a Raytheon Tomahawk land attack missile (TLAM) to be able to hit a moving target at sea, USNI News reports.
In a Jan. 27 test off of San Niolas Island, California, the Navy launched a TLAM which was guided into a moving maritime target through directions given by a Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet flying overhead. TLAMs are capable of changing their direction mid-course.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, the Pentagon’s second-highest-ranked civilian, praised the successful test of the missile during a keynote speech at the WEST 2015 conference. He said the missiles were part of the Pentagon’s “Third Offset Strategy,” an initiative focused on research into new long-range weapons.
“A big part of the Third Offset Strategies is to find new and innovative ways to deploy promising technologies,” Work said. “This is potentially a game changing capability for not a lot of cost. It’s a 1000 mile anti-ship cruise missile.”
TLAMs are already used for land attack missions against static targets. By converting TLAMs into missiles capable of penetrating thickly-armored vessels at sea, the Navy plugs a serious gap in its current weapons capabilities. According to USNI News, TLAMs that have been converted into anti-ship missiles that could be used aboard the Navy’s newer guided-missile destroyers, which cannot currently use the service’s antiquated RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile.
The new converted TLAMs would have a range of almost 1,000 nautical miles, allowing the US to maintain a considerable edge over rival naval powers. One of China’s most threatening new military advancements is its development of its own advanced anti-ship cruise missiles. However, these missiles would only have half the range of a converted TLAM.
If fully adapted, the newest iteration of the TLAM will function as a stop-gap measure until the Navy’s next-generation Long Range Anti-Ship missile is ready for action.
America is hooked on true crime stories. One of the most engrossing among those true crime stories is “Forensic Files,” the true stories of murder and intrigue solved by scientific professionals who think of creative ways to link a crime with its perpetrator.
For decades, forensic investigators have used everything from DNA analysis to gas chromatography to determine who killed who and where and with what – like a giant, real-world game of Clue.
Military scientists have been at the same game for around the same amount of time. The only trouble is that these scientists know who killed the dead men and how they died. In the military, they don’t know who the dead men are. For Americans and the U.S. military, that’s the most important puzzle to solve.
In the days of wars past, the quest to identify America’s honored dead was limited by the technology of the times. This is why the United States has Unknown Soldiers from World War I, World War II and Korea. Only the Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War could be identified.
But new forensic technology offers hope to scientists who spend their days trying to identify soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, despite the lack of evidence.
Advanced forensic technology used to catch serial killers along with the rise of publicly available DNA ancestry databases has given them new methods of finding clues that could lead to more positive identifications – even if the dead were killed 70 years ago.
As the New York Times reported in April of 2021, traditional methods used by the POW/MIA Accounting Agency usually use DNA samples from found remains and try to match them with a known relative. But if there are no known relatives from which to draw a sample, the case quickly runs cold. The agency can’t even exhume remains of unknown war dead unless there is a 50% chance of identification.
This means they have to have a known relative to compare the sample. IF there is no known relative, the remains are unlikely to ever be identified.
So some analysts believe all the remains should be exhumed, DNA samples taken, and run through every available DNA database, including those used by the public for ancestry identification.
While this sounds like a good idea, it could also be a massive invasion of privacy. Genetic testing open to the public has done a lot of good, such as finding the true identity of the Golden State Killer. It has also led to the inadvertent discovery of deeply hidden family secrets, such as extra-marital affairs, children who didn’t know they were adopted, and so on.
In World War II alone, more than 73,000 American service members were unaccounted for by the end of the war. An estimated 41,000 of those are considered to be lost at sea. In the years since, researchers at the POW/MIA Accounting Agency have been able to find and identify 280,000 of the 400,000 who died during World War II.
There are also more than 7,800 missing from the Korean War, 1,626 missing from the Vietnam War, 126 from the Cold War and six from conflicts fought since 1991. As technology advances, so does the likelihood of finding and identifying the remains of the missing, but there’s still more work to do for those who gave their lives in the great power conflicts of America’s past.
After they jump — most of the time with the use of static-line parachutes — they’ll often land behind enemy lines to seize an objective, such as an airfield. They are constantly training and maintaining their jump status, and that means going out of traditional aircraft, helicopters, and jumping alongside NATO allies.
A video posted by the 82nd Airborne shows an example of those last two items. 1st Brigade Combat Division writes:
Join your1st Brigade Paratroopers on a beautiful Day!! airborne as they conducted a joint airborne operation with German paratroopers on Fort Bragg, N.C., July 15, 2015. Operation Federal Eagle is an annual event led by the German paratroopers to promote friendship and military partnership.
Join your1st Brigade Paratroopers on a beautiful Day!! airborne as they conducted a joint airborne operationwith German paratroopers on Fort Bragg, N.C., July 15, 2015. Operation Federal Eagle is an annual event led by the German paratroopers to promote friendship and military partnership. #paratrooper #alltheway #devils #82ndAirborneDivision #fit #awesome #StrikeHold #US Army Airborne School, Fort Benning #bragg