Being a solid Corpsman or combat medic in the infantry takes discipline, determination, and, above all, passion. Some aid station medics are more brainiacs than their grunt-like counterparts who lug heavy packs out in the field.
However, many of these ‘docs’ quickly transition from being badasses who put rounds downrange to being the squad’s doctor when someone gets hurt.
When the bullets start flying and the adrenaline pumps through your veins, it’s incredible how fast you can become fatigued if you aren’t physically ready.
You don’t need a bodybuilder’s biceps to keep up with the physical demands of being a combat medic, you just need to strengthen these key areas.
Deployed medical professionals carry stretchers and Army litters for prolonged periods of time. This can tire out your shoulders in a matter of minutes if you’re not prepared.
Build up those shoulders by knocking out a few sets of “shoulder shrugs” during your workouts. It’ll help.
2. Keep that muscle memory tight
Jackie Chan isn’t one of the greatest stuntmen in Hollywood history because he sits in his barracks room playing Call of Duty all day. He continually practices his craft to get better and better every day.
Combat medics should do the same with applying tourniquets and battle dressings.
3. Use those legs for lifting
Docs are going to do a lot of lifting.
Most wounded patients are going to be laying on the ground when you arrive on the scene, and the medic will have to summon the strength to pick them up. If you use too much of your back, you’re looking at injury. Use those legs to lift.
4. Cardio is key
Medics do a lot of running. They run from patient to patient in the event of a mass casualty situation, then, they have to haul ass to the medevac to relay the proper medical information to the in-flight surgeon.
The job can be tiresome if you’re not in good shape. So, workout with a buddy if you need extra motivation, but be sure to get that cardio in.
When troops deploy overseas to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, they usually get a pay increase thanks to combat and hazardous pay bonuses. And given that they are working longer days and away from most of the comforts of home, they usually save a bunch of money in that time.
Usually returning with a large balance in their bank account, they are what some would call “post-deployment rich.”
But that wealth usually doesn’t last forever. Some troops save their money for the future, while others making big purchases soon after they are home. These are the six things they are usually buying.
1. A new car or motorcycle
The barracks parking lot is guaranteed to be filled with new cars and bikes shortly after a unit returns from deployment. The vehicular staple of the returning Marine, soldier, sailor, or airman usually spans the gamut of Ford Mustang to Jeep Wrangler.
That’s it. The barracks parking lot is just filled with Mustangs and Wranglers. That and a ton of crotch rockets.
2. Post-deployment booze
I’m not going to lie. When I came back after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan, I drank a lot. Think—drinking at a minimum a six-pack of beer every night for months—a lot. Was it healthy? No. A good idea? No. Helpful during morning PT? Oh, good lord no.
But hey, I hadn’t drank in a long time and I had to make up for lost time. At least that made sense in my then-21-year-old brain. My story is not unique, however. While the military tries to crack down on binge-drinking, for many troops, it’s still a big part of the lifestyle.
3. Epic parties in Vegas (or some other awesome place)
When you are post-deployment rich, it’s no problem picking up the tab at the bar. “Oh yeah! I got this,” the young private says. “Drinks are on me!” Come back to this same young private about two months later and he probably won’t be saying this one again.
That’s definitely true of throwing big parties. While they initially start out in the barracks and involve kegs, beer pong, and midget-tossing (no? that’s not allowed Sergeant Major?), the parties eventually head off base to a better location. Sometimes this means the strip club, but let it be known: Las Vegas is always the best option.
Just don’t buy the next item while you are drinking.
4. Engagement rings
Spending seven to 12 months (or more) overseas can get some service members thinking about elevating their relationships to the next level of marriage. For some, that means saving up their deployment cash to buy an expensive engagement ring for their honey. Hopefully it all works out, because if it doesn’t, the post-deployment splurge may be spent on…
5. Divorce lawyers are, unfortunately, another common deployment side effect
Most service members have heard a horror story or two about a fellow soldier returning home with no greeting at the airport, a completely empty refrigerator (even sans ice cubes), and an empty bank account. The sad homecoming for some troops means one thing: Divorce.
There’s a good reason why tattoo parlors are strategically located near military bases. Troops love ink (including this writer). Whether it’s a simple U.S. Army or USMC on your arm to show pride in your service, or a listing of fallen friends, tattoos are a big part of the military culture.
Just make sure you get it spell-checked.
What did you buy right after deployment? Let us know in the comments.
Are you interested in a job that allows you to work from home? You’ll want to make sure to set up an environment that will allow you to work up to your best capabilities. You might think that working from home will be easier or less stressful than an office environment, but that’s not the case if you don’t do it right.
Here are 7 work from home tips you need to be successful:
1. Minimize distractions
(Photo by Sadie Hernandez)
Working at home is an incredible convenience and an example of technology enabling us to do things that were not possible only a few years ago. The drawback to this is that you are physically working in your home. Your home life is being brought into the office in ways that would be unthinkable for someone physically commuting into work every day.
For example, your children or pets might be around and they do not necessarily care that you are at work. If they will be around during working hours, keep them occupied or teach them to behave while you are busy. Home has some other distractions, like television or speakers. Keep them away from your work space.
2. Take care of your internet connection
If you are working off your personal internet connection at home, chances are very high that it is slower than the one in an office. Therefore, do not clog it up with junk. If other people in the house would like to play online games or stream while you are working I recommend asking them not to. This is extra important if you use a remote connection and run queries or reports that require a large amount of bandwidth. A slow internet connection will kill your productivity and by extension your mood.
3. Create a separate work space
(Photo by San Sharma)
When you work at home, you are literally bringing your work life into your home. It is damaging to your work life balance to constantly bring work home with you. Mitigate this by creating an office space if you have room. If you do not, set aside room within your dining room or living room to work out of. Make it look and feel like a desk you would use in an office.
A separate work space also means maintaining your work hours. Log on and off your computer at the beginning and end of the day. Do not let work bleed into personal life. The only time you should work longer hours at home is when you would also be working longer hours in the office.
4. Act like you are working in an office
Dress in work appropriate clothes. Go through a regular morning routine before starting work. When you interact with people at home act professionally and speak like you are working in an office. Be available and answer your phone and messages promptly.
5. Take advantage of the convenience
If you are working from home you do not have to commute to work. Commuting creates added stress to begin the day and adds it all back at the end of the day. Use this time gained to be more productive and energetic at work and use the additional free time to your benefit. While it is important to avoid distractions while working at home, it also makes things like child care and home maintenance easier.
6. Check in with your co-workers and supervisor often
(Photo by Joi Ito)
Working at home can make you feel cut off from your co-workers. You are on your own. It is important to stay connected through your computer and telephone. Always be willing to send instant messages through Skype or whichever software your company uses. Stay available and do not ignore your co-workers when they message or email you, this goes both ways.
Your supervisor has the added challenge of leading you when you are not physically present. Stay proactive and give updates. When you are trying to be responsive or get a response your priority should be telephone, it is the most engaging way to communicate after face to face, which is not feasible when working at home.
7. Take breaks and go outside
At all offices your mental and physical health will affect your work performance. When you work at home, particularly if you live by yourself and do not share a residence with people or pets, it is possible to spend an entire day without going outside. Shutting yourself inside is detrimental to your physical fitness and will hurt you mentally.
When you take breaks during the day take walks or do physical activity. If you worked in a physical office you would take breaks with co-workers and chat at the water cooler, when you are working at home you should do the same. You can also invest your additional time saved by not commuting into your health. Working at home is a modern convenience. If you approach it with the right attitude it can enhance your career and improve all areas of your life.
This article originally appeared on G.I. Jobs. Follow @GIJobsMagazine on Twitter.
While the names of the 20th century’s most brutal dictators will forever go down in history, much less is known about their descendants.
As it turns out, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, and other infamous figures all have living descendants. Some are politicians, others are artists, and others are living relatively anonymously.
Read on to find out what the descendants of ruthless dictators are doing today:
7. Alessandra Mussolini
Alessandra Mussolini, the granddaughter of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, is a right-wing politician who was elected to the Italian Senate in 2013. She was previously an actress and a model.
6. Jacob Jugashvili
Jacob Jugashvili, the great-grandson of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, is an artist living in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. He was once ashamed of his lineage, according to The Globe and Mail, but now celebrates his family tree.
Source: The Globe and Mail
5. Sar Patchata
Sar Patchata is the only daughter of Cambodian dictator Pol Pot. She got married in 2014 and works as a rice farmer, according to The Daily Mail. “I want to meet my father and spend time with him in the next life, if the next life exists,” she said, according to journalist Nate Thayer.
Source: The Daily Mail and Nate Thayer
4. Zury Ríos
Zury Ríos is the daughter of Efraín Ríos Montt, who took power in Guatemala through a coup d’état in 1982. She is a politician in her home country and in 2004, married Jerry Weller, then a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois.
Source: The New York Times
3. Valentin Ceausescu
Valentin Ceausescu is the only surviving child of Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena. He does research in nuclear physics in Romania.
Source: The New York Times
2. Jaffar Amin
Jaffar Amin, son of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, worked as a manager for DHL for 11 years, according to Foreign Policy. Now he does voiceover work in commercials for companies like Qatar Airways and Hwansung, a South Korean furniture company.
Source: Foreign Policy
1. Fernando Martin Manotoc
Fernando Martin Manotoc is the grandson of former Filipino ruler Ferdinand Marcos. He works as a model and owns businesses in the Philippines, including a Doc Martens footwear store, according to Inquire.
Bonus: Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler didn’t have any children, but there are still five living members of his bloodline, descendants from Hitler’s father’s first marriage. They have vowed never to have children so that Hitler’s legacy ends with them.
Troops under heavy fire often look to the skies for rescue, praying for an something like an Apache or A-10 to materialize and destroy the enemy. But sometimes help comes in less expected and more unusual forms:
1. MH-60 Direct Action Penetrator
The humble Blackhawk helicopter is a great utility aircraft, but the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment looked at it and thought, “Could use more guns.” They fly a modified Blackhawk, the MH-60 Direct Action Penetrator. Instead of carrying troops, it carries a Light Armament Support Structure to which weapons can be mounted. Weapons used on the DAP include miniguns, 30mm chain guns, rocket pods, Hellfire missile launchers, air-to-air Stinger missiles, and a three-barrelled .50-cal gatling gun.
2. Guns A-Go-Go, the Chinook attack helicopter
The Chinook is a beloved aircraft, but it’s the manatee of Army aviation and is only thought of as threatening because it can carry dozens of combat-equipped troops. In the 1960s though, four of them were modified into attack helicopters. Re-designated as ACH-47As, each bird had a 40mm grenade launcher in a turret, two 20mm cannons, a spot for either a 2.75-inch rocket launcher or 7.62mm rotary minigun, as well as five crew stations that were usually outfitted with .50-cal. machine guns.
All four were eventually sent to Vietnam where they got the nickname, “Guns A-Go-Go.” One was lost in a runway accident, one experienced a mechanical failure and crashed, and one was shot down during the Tet Offensive. Since the helicopters worked in pairs, the survivor was sent back to America as a training tool for maintainers. It has since been restored and is on display at Redstone Arsenal.
3. V-22, but with missiles
America’s first tilt-rotor serves in raids, medical evacuation, troop transport and supply missions, but in its heart it wants to kill things directly.
Most people know about the AC-130 gunship, but there is actually another C-130 variant that can rain down death and destruction. The KC-130J Harvest Hawk can carry four Hellfire and 10 Griffin missiles which it fires using the same sight sensor that is on the AH-1z Cobra attack helicopter.
The military is filled with sports fans, and few days are as important to sports followers as the Super Bowl. So the U.S. military goes to great lengths to ensure that troops around the world are granted the opportunity to watch the big game (as long as they aren’t currently wrapped up in a mission…probably).
Here are 14 photos that show how troops around the world watch the ultimate football game each year:
1. Sports fans around the world watch the game on the Armed Forces Network, a U.S. military satellite channel. Some of these watching parties even allow minor uniform alterations, such as the wear of sports jerseys.
2. The watch parties are held wherever a TV and suitable seating can be set up, including chow halls…
Sailors watch Super Bowl 50 (fun fact: this was the year the Super Bowl decided to take a break from using roman numerals because the stand-alone “L” raised some confusion) between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos in USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) mess decks. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago)
3. …theaters or briefing rooms…
Deployed troops watch the “big game” during a Super Bowl 50 viewing party at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, Feb. 8, 2016. The Airmen, soldiers, and civilians enjoyed the game and got to meet Miami Dolphins cheerleaders and former players during the event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Rau)
4. …and even ranges.
5. The luckiest viewers get to watch in sports bars on base.
6. The game-watching parties are usually supplemented with other activities.
7. For obvious reasons, football games are a common choice.
8. But other games are commonly set up.
Pfc. Oscar Ramero plays pool at a Single Marine Program Recreation Center at Camp Pendleton, Feb. 7, 2016. The center hosted a Super Bowl party which included free food and games for noncommissioned officer ranks and below. Ramero, from New York, is a student with Assault Amphibian School Battalion, School of Infantry – West. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Caitlin Bevel)
9. Some bases will even get special visits from USO tours, like this NFL All-Star Cheerleaders line-up.
10. Concerts are fairly common as well.
11. Prize giveaways are big at watch parties, especially overseas.
12. Electronics, plane tickets, and other prizes are given out.
Prizes for the patrons of the Super Bowl 50 Madness party rest on a table Feb. 7, 2016, in the Ramstein Enlisted Club, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Prizes included National Football League lawn chairs and money. Club members could also receive furniture, additional cash, LED televisions, and gaming consoles. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore)
13. Of course, no Super Bowl party is complete without snacks.
14. But it is the military, so not everyone gets a party or even a chance to watch the game. Some guys have to pull duty, like these paratroopers getting ready for an airborne operation on Super Bowl Sunday.
Senior Airman Adan Solis, 921st Contingency Response Squadron aircraft maintainer, marshals a C-130 Hercules aircraft during the Joint Readiness Training Center exercise, April 9, 2018, at the Alexandria International Airport, La. Contingency Response Airmen conducted joint training with Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, providing direct air-land support for safe and efficient airfield operations.
Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 307th Civil Engineer Squadron hone their skills on Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, April 11, 2018. The firefighters practice dousing a simulated aircraft fire in a realistic, but controlled environment.
Soldiers from across 25th Infantry Division continued to strive for the title of Best Warrior by participating in an eight-mile ruck march, preparing a weapon for close combat, and draftingan essay about what it means to be a leader and how to prevent sexual harassment and assault with in the military. The Tropic Lightning Best Warrior Competition is a week-long event that will test Soldiers competing on the overall physical fitness, warrior tasks and battle drill, and professional knowledge.
Bearing the weight of heavy combat loads, paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade move to the flight line to board US Air Force C130 Hercules turboprop aircraft for an joint forcible entry into northern Italy.
Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Michael DeCesare, assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 4, Det. Guam, fires an M2 machine gun aboard a Mark VI patrol boat during a crew-served weapons qualification in the Philippine Sea, April 12, 2018. CRS-4, Det. Guam, assigned to Costal Riverine Group 1, Det. Guam, is capable of conducting maritime security operations across the full spectrum of naval, joint and combined operations. Further, it provides additional capabilities of port security, embarked security, and theater security cooperation around the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Granito)
Capt. Gregory Newkirk, deputy commander of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, prepares to take off in an F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the “Blue Blasters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34 aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). Carl Vinson Strike Group is currently operating in the Pacific as part of a regularly scheduled deployment.
MV-22B Ospreys attached to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One conduct an aerial refuel during a Long Range Raid simulation in conjunction with Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-18 in Tuscon, Ariz., April 11. WTI is a seven-week training event hosted by MAWTS-1 cadre, which emphasizes operational integration of the six functions of Marine Corps aviation in support of a Marine Air Ground Task Force and provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics.
U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Thomas Johnson, an assaultman with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, bear crawls on Fort Hase beach during a scout sniper indoctrination course, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, April 11, 2018. The overall goal of the course is to familiarize students with the main aspects of sniper skills so that when they go to the Scout Sniper Basic School, they will continue to improve and successfully complete it.
(U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 2nd Class Christin Solomon)
Sunset falls on an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Bear during a three-month deployment in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The Bear is scheduled to return to homeport April 12, 2018, in Portsmouth, Virginia. During the patrol, the Bear’s crew performed counter-narcotic operations, search and rescue, and maritime law enforcement.
While most Marines and soldiers walk or ride into battle, paratroopers pride themselves on getting into harder-to-reach spots, or dropping behind enemy lines. Though military strategists developed plans for their use before 1939, the use of “sky soldiers” was really perfected during World War II.
Perhaps the most famous use of paratroopers was during the Normandy invasion of 1944, when more than 13,000 airborne troops dropped from the sky behind German positions in France. Today, the U.S. and other countries still maintain airborne soldiers, or train up their special operations forces in airborne operations.
A common trope among the airborne is that it’s crazy to “jump out of a perfectly good airplane.” But if you think it’s crazy, then you’re probably just a leg (that’s airborne talk for regular-old ground troops).
Check out 12 photos of U.S. and other airborne troops:
One of the oldest axioms in writing is to “write what you know.” Ernest Hemingway knew adventure, war, travel, and love (even if that love was temporary). When reading a work by Hemingway one might think of how incredible his characters must have felt fighting fascists in Spain, fighting a shark with a harpoon, or saving lives in WWI Italy, only to realize all these people are real, and they’re one person: Ernest Hemingway.
In the entire history of wordsmithy, no one ever reached the level of real-world adventurer quite like Ernest Hemingway. Here are ten ways he was the quintessential American warrior poet, punctuated by his own life lessons.
1. “Never sit at a table when you can stand at a bar.”
Hemingway ignored his father’s wishes and enlisted in the Army during World War I but did not pass the Army’s initial physical examination due to poor eyesight. Instead, Hemingway drove ambulances for the Red Cross.
In the course of his duties, he was hit by fragments from an Austrian mortar. He never stopped working to move wounded soldiers to safety, earning the Italian Medal of Military Valor.
2. “Develop a built-in bullsh-t detector”
After high school, Hemingway moved to Kansas City where he became a reporter, covering a local beat which included fires, work strikes, and crime. Here he formed his distinct prose of “short declarative sentences.” After WWI, he continued working in journalism in Toronto and Chicago, covering unrest in Europe’s Interwar years. He interviewed Benito Mussolini during this time, describing him as “the biggest bluff in Europe.”
3. “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.”
Hemingway stayed in Europe for the Spanish Civil War, even teaming up with famed war photographer Robert Capa. He was in Madrid writing his only play, the Fifth Column, as it was being bombed by Fascist forces. He was at Ebro when the Republican army made its last stand.
4. “When you stop doing things for fun you might as well be dead.”
When World War II broke out, Hemingway was living in Cuba. In his free time he ran his own intelligence network to spy on Nazi sympathizers there. The ring had 26 informants, six working full-time and 20 of them as undercover men, all recruited by Hemingway.
He also equipped his fishing boat with direction-finding equipment, a machine gun and grenades to hunt for Nazi U-boats in the Atlantic, reporting his sightings to Navy officials.
5. “Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.”
By 1944, Hemingway was back in Europe covering WWII. He was onboard a landing craft on D-Day, within sight of Omaha Beach, but was not allowed to go ashore. He attached himself to the 22nd Infantry on its way to Paris but was brought up on charges because he became the leader of a French Resistance militia in Rambouillet, aiding in the Liberation of Paris (forbidden for a combat correspondent under the Geneva Convention). He beat the rap.
According to World War II historian Paul Fussell, “Hemingway got into considerable trouble playing infantry captain to a group of Resistance people that he gathered because a correspondent is not supposed to lead troops, even if he does it well.”
6. “To hell with them. Nothing hurts if you don’t let it.”
He came down with pneumonia, but covered the Battle of the Bulge while still sick. In France, Hemingway encountered a basement full of S.S. troops, whom he told to “share these among yourselves” before throwing grenades inside.
He also covered the Battle of Hürtgenwald Forest as U.S. troops broke the Siegfried Line. He returned to Cuba after the war, where he received the Bronze Star for his work in Europe.
7. “I drink to make people more interesting.”
While sightseeing in Africa, he and his wife survived a plane crash after hitting some power lines, causing severe head injuries. The next day, he boarded another plane which exploded during take-off, giving him another concussion. He walked to the hospital and did not die, even though his obituary had already been published.
8. “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”
When author Max Eastman published a review of one of Hemingway’s essays which questioned his masculinity, Hemingway hit Eastman in the face with his own book, then called him out in The New York Times, challenging him to a fight. Eastman declined.
Hemingway’s favorite drinking buddy was James Joyce, not known for his strength or stature. Whenever Joyce was about to get into a barfight, he’d yell “Deal with him, Hemingway!”
9. “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit at a typewriter and bleed.”
Hemingway used to write standing up. Even though Hemingway’s fondness for drinking is well documented, he never drank while he wrote.
“Jesus Christ,” Hemingway once said. “Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Faulkner. He does sometimes – and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one. Besides, who in hell would mix more than one martini at a time?”
10. “Death is like an old whore in a bar. I’ll buy her a drink but I won’t go upstairs with her.”
Hemingway struggled with bipolar disorder all his life. The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota gave him electroshock therapy, but it didn’t help and Hemingway blamed it for his memory loss. After surviving gunshot wounds to practically every part of his body, an Austrian mortar wound, countless concussions, three car crashes, two plane crashes, two fires, and an anthrax infection, Hemingway eventually took his own life, deciding to do so with a shotgun.
During his funeral, an altar boy fainted at the head of the casket, knocking over a large cross of flowers, to which his brother Leicester said, “It seemed to me Ernest would have approved of it all.”
The Civil War is cemented in history as the deadliest war fought on American soil. For four years, the Unioners of the North fought the Confederates of the South, hoping to dismantle the institution of slavery. This led to the loss of over 600,000 lives and, ultimately, the assassination of President Lincoln in 1865.
Thousands of Civil War books have been written since the first shot rang out in 1861. Though no single book can attempt to cover the endless tragedies or important events that occurred over those four years, the following works add valuable new perspectives to the narrative. Between fictionalized accounts and battle retellings to soldiers’ eye-opening diaries, this list will satisfy any Civil War history buff.
1. Dee Brown on the Civil War
By Dee Brown
This trilogy focuses on the some of the Civil War’s most influential but lesser-known figures. In Grierson’s Raid, aformer music teacher leads almost 2,000 Union troopers from Tennessee to Louisiana. Their attack diverts attention from General Grant’s crossing of the Mississippi—an instrumental distraction for the subsequent Siege of Vicksburg.
The Bold Cavaliers stars Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, whose cavalrymen wreak havoc on Alabama. Meanwhile, The Galvanized Yankees tells the widely unknown story of a group of captured Confederate soldiers. Faced with the prospect of serving time in a prison camp or in the Union Army, they choose the latter. When they’re tapped to guard outposts in the Western frontier, their experiences have profound effects on their own loyalties—and make for a fascinating Civil War story.
2. Battle Cry of Freedom
By James. M. McPherson
This Pulitzer Prize-winning book charts the period between the 1846 outbreak of the Mexican-American War to Robert E. Lee’s surrender in 1865. Author James McPherson examines the economic, political, and social factors that led to the Civil War, particularly how small, violent outbursts evolved into America’s deadliest war. Both sides believed they were fighting for freedom—though their definitions of this freedom differed greatly. With in-depth analyses of nearly every major event, Battle Cry of Freedom is an indispensable addition to any history buff’s collection.
3. The Civil War: A Narrative
By Shelby Foote
In the first book of Foote’s three-volume series, the author opens with Jefferson Davis’ resignation from the US Senate. The Democratic politician was destined for another, bigger role: the first presidency of the Confederate States. So begins an extensively researched account of the events—and war—that followed, which culminates in the Union’s victory four years later. Maps are a welcome addition to the narrative, providing useful visuals of important battle sites and travel routes.
4. Mary Chesnut’s Diary
By Mary Chesnut
A native of South Carolina, Mary Chesnut kept a detailed account of her life as an upper class woman during the Civil War. Though her husband was a senator and a Confederate officer, Mary secretly hated the institution of slavery. From her reflections on witnessing the first shots fired in Charleston to hearing parts of her husband’s meetings, Chesnut’s diary is one of the few complete firsthand accounts of the war written by a non-soldier.
5. For Cause and Comrades
By James M. McPherson
After countless bloody battles and widespread death, how did Civil War soldiers find the will to keep fighting? In For Case and Comrades, James McPherson explores what drove them—namely, their unshakeable belief in the necessity of their actions. For both sides, victory was worth everything.
McPherson analyzed over 250 diaries and 25,000 letters to truly understand the soldiers’ thought processes. He was shocked by their eloquence and honesty, and the frequency with which they wrote of their daily lives. Their writings reveal how they were not just hardened men of war—but brothers, sons, fathers, and husbands who simply wanted to go home with their dignity in tact. The result is a humanizing study of war, and of the men who fought unwaveringly for their ideals.
6. The Black Flower
By Howard Bahr
As a war veteran and novelist, Bahr was a master of well-paced, engaging Civil War fiction—and lucky for us, he wrote three books. The first installment in his Civil War trilogy is The Black Flower, a New York Times Notable Book. When a 26-year-old Confederate soldier is wounded, the bond he forms with a medic gives him hope for a brighter, post-war future.
The Year of Jubilo sees a similar hero: Gawain Harper, who only fights in the Confederate army to be with the woman he loves. His return home is not as charmed as he anticipated when he discovers the rebels’ plot to incite new warfare—which Gawain must stop.
In the final book, The Judas Field, Civil War veteran Cass accompanies a friend to Tennessee, where they’ll retrieve the bodies of her brother and father. As they pass through devastated Southern towns, Cass cannot escape his haunting memories of the battlefield. All three novels explore the violence of warfare, the endurance of hope, and the lengths to which men and women fought to return to their loved ones.
7. The North and South Trilogy
By John Jakes
In the trilogy that has sold millions of copies, John Jakes examines how war can disintegrate even the closest of bonds. While training at West Point, Southerner Orry Mains quickly befriends Northerner George Hazard. But when the Civil War places them on opposite sides of the battlefield, tensions reverberate through their relationship, their families, and the rest of Jakes’ bestselling trilogy. Part war story, part family drama, the books were adapted into a wildly popular miniseries starring Patrick Swayze and James Read.
8. Murder at Manassas
By Michael Kilian
With the Civil War still in its earliest days, Virginian Harrison Raines is torn between his abhorrence of slavery and his love for his home state. He is also in love with actress Caitlin Howard—though her affection for John Wilkes Booth (yes, that one) poses a serious threat. Raines’ personal dramas reach new heights when, after taking Caitlin to watch the Battle of Bull Run, he becomes embroiled in a murder mystery involving a wrongly-disgraced major. What ensues is a fast-paced whodunit full of rich historical detail and real-life figures like Abe Lincoln.
9. Cold Mountain
By Charles Frazier
Nothing, not even war, can prevent Inman from reaching his true love, Ada, in North Carolina. After being gravely wounded in battle, Inman deserts the Confederate army, determined to return to the woman he left behind. As he journeys across the ravaged American landscape, Ada struggles to restore her late father’s farm back to its former glory. But with only a few moments shared between them, have Inman and Ada pinned their hopes on a foolish dream?
Frazier’s National Book Award-winning novel is based on stories he heard from his great-great-grandfather as a child. Gorgeously written and unrelentingly heartbreaking, Cold Mountain is at once an unforgettable tale of war and a deeply moving love story.
10. The Killer Angels
By Michael Shaara
Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel recreates the bloodiest battle in American history: Gettysburg. Over the four days of fighting, countless men died—men with families, men with futures, men who might have done great things for the nation. Shaara imagines who these men, whether Northern or Southern, may have been.
Told through the perspectives of multiple historical figures, the story begins with a very confident Robert E. Lee as he and his troops travel to Pennsylvania. But instead of finding the victory they envisioned, Lee and his fellow Confederates are demoralized by the battle—and many know they’re unlikely to win the war, or even see its end.
11. Cain at Gettysburg
By Ralph Peters
Another Gettysburg-centered novel, Cain at Gettysburg is a fictional retelling of what is considered “the turning point of the Civil War.” It follows a misfit group of characters—including desperate generals, a German refugee, and an Irishman who fled the famine—as they fight for their cause, unsure of their futures. Compelling and jam-packed with action, Cain at Gettysburg is a fascinating tale of battle, bravery, and brotherhood that no lover of Civil War history should miss.
12. Gone with the Wind
By Margaret Mitchell
If you ever had access to the Turner Classic Movie channel, then you’ve probably heard of the film version of Gone with the Wind. But before Vivien Leigh starred as Scarlett O’Hara, there was Margaret Mitchell’s epic book, which offers a more detailed look at Georgia during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. At the center, of course, is Scarlett—a Southern belle and the daughter of a wealthy planter—who is forced to change her spoiled ways once war divides the country. Though her enduring relationship with Rhett Butler is considered one of the greatest love stories of all time, the novel is also one of the best portraits of the effects of war on a place and its people.
In the wake of Eagle Claw, the disastrous mission to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1979, President Carter and then-Defense Secretary Harold Brown ordered the U.S. military to form what would become the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC. Much of the failure of Eagle Claw was due to the inability of the services to work together on specialized missions which required interoperability between branches. The Defense Department wanted to guarantee it would not repeat such fiascos during operations where failure would not be an option.
This year, author and counterterrorism reporter Sean Naylor published Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command, recounting the history and organization of this most secretive military group, from before Eagle Claw to the units in place today. It features inside stories on recent famous ops, including the raid in Pakistan which resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden and the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. It also contains stories behind the other successes and some of the failures of the organization, all of which are fascinating reads. Here are eight more interesting tidbits from Naylor’s book:
1. Two helicopters ran out of ammo while fighting the Taliban, then switched to small arms
In the early days of the Afghan War, two MH-6 “Little Bird” pilots hit a Taliban column of armored personnel carriers and T-55 tanks with their onboard .50 caliber guns and rockets. They then run into a truck full of Taliban fighters. The remaining Taliban personnel attempted to flee on foot into the desert. The helicopters, now out of ammunition, pulled out their personal M-4 rifles and grenades and engaged the fleeing fighters from their pilot seats.
The fighters would try to split up to escape the helicopters, but they kept flying a “wagon wheel” formation, with the pilot in the left seat firing at the enemy in the middle, dropping grenades forcing them back into the circle.
2. JSOC used homemade bombs on insurgents, which looked like an insurgent-made bomb
It was called the “Xbox” and it was used to take out insurgents who received political protection from the Iraqi government, then led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Maliki protected Shia insurgents, who provided money and materiel to jihadis and militia in Iraq from Iran.
The device used parts and ingredients used by local insurgents after EOD troops disabled them and reverse-engineered them. In the Afghan-Pakistan theater of operations, the Xbox would be made from Chinese circuits and Pakistani parts with the explosives from old Soviet weapons. It was designed to be indistinguishable from an insurgent-made device.
3. A SEAL accidentally killed a British hostage
British aid worker Linda Norgrove was kidnapped in Afghanistan in September 2010. U.S. intelligence in Afghanistan found her in a compound in the country’s dangerous, infamous Korengal valley. SEAL Team 6 dispatched a squadron to rescue her the very next month. As they engaged insurgents while fast-roping from a Chinook, one of the SEALs threw a grenade at what he thought was a fighter in the brush.
That fighter was with Norgrove, who was fatally wounded in the grenade blast. The U.S. military initially reported a SEAL shot set off a suicide vest, but only because they didn’t know the other threw the grenade. They found out what happened when that SEAL told his team leader.
“To this day, the guy that threw the grenade, he’s a wreck,” a senior Team 6 operator told Naylor.
4. Delta Force created its own Iraqi intelligence network
They called these Iraqis “mohawks.” They were native Iraqis completely vetted and had necessary back stories to fill their cover. They provided Delta Force with information on buildings and targets of interest which the operators couldn’t get close to. They conducted Human Intelligence by talking with their families and friends and recruited other sources of information. They tracked insurgent activities all over, from Internet Cafes to the insurgents’ homes.
All this was part of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s effort to “build a network to fight a network” in Iraq, the enemy network being al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups.
5. The search for Saddam Hussein crossed into Syria
JSOC used helicopters to chase a convoy of Iraqi vehicles they watched cross the border on June 18, 2003. They believed Saddam Hussein was in the convoy somewhere. Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld confirmed a week later the attack happened, but in his words, it was “near the Syrian border.”
Delta operators and Army Rangers from the city of Mosul flew in helicopters and arrived slightly too late to keep the convoy from crossing into Syria. Rumsfeld himself cleared their pursuit into the neighboring country.
6. JSOC used cell phones to monitor, track, and kill insurgents
If insurgents were using their phones, JSOC could track the number and pinpoint its location, then they would hit the target. They developed a device that could home in on a specific mobile phone number, even if that phone was turned off. JSOC figured out how to turn phones on remotely, using cell phones as listening devices. They could clone an insurgent’s phone even without having the phone in their possession, allowing them to send and receive text messages from that phone.
Insurgents caught on to this vulnerability soon. Zarqawi and those closest to him were not allowed cell phones. One insurgent leader turned off his mobile, only to turn it on a year later, possibly thinking the U.S. couldn’t be tracking it after so long. He was incorrect, and got droned.
7. Delta operators dressed as farmhands to capture al-Qaeda in Iraq’s second in command
Ghassan Amin was not only al-Qaeda in Iraq’s number two guy and a close associate of its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, he also controlled an efficient counterintelligence force, completely controlled the Rawa region of Iraq, and controlled the flow of international Jihadist into Iraq, he also owned a farm on the West Bank of the Euphrates river. JSOC intelligence learned Amin would personally come to his fields to watch the harvest come in.
Delta operators dressed as Iraqi farmworkers floated down the Euphrates, “sequestered” the farmhands currently working in the fields, and began to do the work themselves, even driving tractors, waiting for Ghassan Amin to appear. When Amin arrived at the farm, he and two of his lieutenants walked right up to the operators, greeting them in Arabic. The Deltas took out their weapons and subdued Amin and his men.
8. Admiral McRaven wanted Seal Team 6 to surrender to the Pakistanis if surrounded
The SEAL team who went on Operation Neptune’s Spear were going to be more than 120 miles from the nearest U.S. forces. The CIA did clear the area before the raid and established a safehouse. In many media accounts, McRaven told the White House to seek a negotiated solution with the Pakistani government while the SEALs strongpointed the bin Laden compound, but Naylor writes some Team 6 operators believed McRaven said they should surrender to the Pakistanis.
President Obama rebuffed that idea, saying,”No, they’re not going to surrender. They’ll fight their way out and we’ll go in and get them if we have to.” It never came to that. Pakistani fighter jets scrambled while SEAL Team 6 made their way back to Afghanistan, but the jets flew to the east instead of west.