Military greatness can sometimes be a double-edged sword when it comes to the personality traits of those to whom immense responsibility is given. Normalcy is for the average guy, and nobody on this list was average. Here are some of the weird habits a few famous generals throughout history have had:
1. Stonewall Jackson’s elevated arm
General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson is considered by many to have been the greatest Confederate commander of the Civil War, known for his tactical intelligence as well as his courage under fire. But he had a weird tendency to move around — either by foot or on horseback — with his right arm held up for no apparent reason to those around him.
Jackson believed that one side of his body was heavier than the other, so he’d raise his right arm to move blood to the “light” side to balance things out.
Modern physicians suggest Jackson’s feeling of unbalance may have been the result of a diaphragmatic hernia, which also gave him stomach problems and caused him discomfort while sitting.
This habit caused Jackson to be wounded during the first Battle of Bull Run when he took a bullet to his hand. Although a surgeon recommended amputation of the damaged finger, ultimately the wound healed by itself.
Stonewall Jackson later had his left arm amputated after he was shot multiple times by friendly fire during the Battle of Chancellorsville in May of 1863. His arm is buried near Chancellorsville with a marker that reads “Arm of Stonewall Jackson.”
Jackson survived the wounds and the amputation but died from pneumonia a week later.
2. George Custer’s cinnamon scented hair
Before General George Armstrong Custer infamously overplayed his hand at Little Big Horn while fighting Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne warriors, he was a heroic commander during the Civil War. And although he graduated last in his class at West Point, he made brigadier general at 23 years old.
Custer was also known as somewhat of a dandy — a man with a greater than average focus on what he wore and personal grooming. He often wore custom-tailored velvet uniforms with gold lace and bright red scarves and large sombrero-style hats. And he was very preoccupied with his blonde hair, which he wore very long. He constantly combed it and scented it with cinnamon.
3. Stan McChrystal’s one-meal-a-day regimen
While he was working long hours at the Joint Special Operations Command and then overseeing all NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal was eating just one meal per day.
But why? He liked the “reward” of food at the end of the day.
“When I was a lieutenant in Special Forces many many years ago, I thought I was getting fat,” said McChrystal. “And I started running, and I started running distance which I enjoyed. But I also found that my personality is such that I’m not real good at eating three or four small disciplined meals. I’m better to defer gratification and then eat one meal.”
The one meal he ate was dinner around 8 to 8:30 p.m. McChrystal also only slept about four hours per night.
4. Napoleon Bonaparte’s naps
Legendary French general (and emperor) Napoleon Bonaparte would go days without getting a full night’s sleep (or changing clothes). But he knew the value of the “combat nap.” Napoleon had the ability to catch a few Zs on the fly seemingly at any time including right before a battle or even when cannons were going off nearby. Then once the action was over he’d sleep for 18 hours straight.
The outsized pipe was good for show but difficult to smoke, so Missouri Meerschaum gave the general other pipes to use for his pleasure. Missouri Meerschaum continues to craft replicas of MacArthur’s customized pipe, and Ray-Ban named a sunglass line after him in 1987.
Check out WATM’s podcast to hear the author and other veterans discuss these and other crazy officers.
When author Robert B. Baer asked his boss at the CIA for the definition of assassination his boss replied, “It’s a bullet with a man’s name on it.” Baer wasn’t sure what that meant so he started to research the topic beyond what he already had experienced around it in his role at the CIA. The end of that process became his insightful and provocative new book, The Perfect Kill, in which he outlines 21 laws for assassins. Here are 11 of them:
Law #1: THE BASTARD HAS TO DESERVE IT
“The victim must be a dire threat to your existence, in effect giving you license to murder him. The act can never be about revenge, personal grievance, ownership, or status.”
Law #2: MAKE IT COUNT
“Power is the usurpation of power, and assassination its ultimate usurpation. The act is designed to alter the calculus of power in your favor. If it won’t, don’t do it.”
Law #5: ALWAYS HAVE A BACKUP FOR EVERYTHING
“Count on the most important pieces of a plan failing at exactly the wrong moment. Double up on everything — two set of eyes, two squeezes of the trigger, double-prime charges, two traitors in the enemy’s camp.”
Law # 7: RENT THE GUN, BUY THE BULLET
“Just as there are animals that let other animals do their killing for them — vultures and hyenas — employ a trusted proxy when one’s available.”
Law #8: VET YOUR PROXIES IN BLOOD
“Assassination is the most sophisticated and delicate form of warfare, only to be entrusted to the battle-hardened and those who’ve already made your enemy bleed.”
Law #9: DON’T SHOOT EVERYONE IN THE ROOM
“Exercise violence with vigilant precision and care. Grievances are incarnated in a man rather than in a tribe, nation, or civilization. Blindly and stupidly lashing out is the quickest way to forfeit power.”
Law #15: DON’T MISS
“It’s better not to try rather than to try and miss. A failed attempt gives the victim an aura of invincibility, augmenting his power while diminishing yours. Like any business, reputation is everything.”
Law #16: IF YOU CAN’T CONTROL THE KILL, CONTROL THE AFTERMATH
“A good, thorough cleanup is what really scares the shit out of people.”
Law #17: HE WHO LAUGHS LAST SHOOTS FIRST
“You’re the enemy within, which mean there’s never a moment they’re not trying to hunt you down to exterminate you. Hit before it’s too late.”
Law # 19: ALWAYS HAVE AN ENCORE IN YOUR POCKET
“Power is the ability to hurt something over and over again. One-offs get you nothing or less than nothing.”
Law #21: GET TO IT QUICKLY
“Don’t wait until the enemy is too deeply ensconced in power or too inured to violence before acting. He’ll easily shrug off the act and then come after you with a meat cleaver.”
For the rest of Robert B. Baer’s 21 laws for assassins, buy his amazing book here.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
A crew from Coast Guard Station Mayport trains aboard a 29-foot Response Boat-Small near Ponte Vedra Beach in North Florida.
Since 1941, U.S. Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco has guarded more than 300 miles of Pacific coastline.
Sgt. Derek Patrick, a military working dog trainer from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, demonstrates the capabilities of his military working dog at the fields behind the University of Phoenix Stadium at Glendale, Arizona, Sept. 11, 2015.
Marines floated an Assault Amphibious Vehicle and Landing Craft Air Cushion to Reserve Craft Beach aboard Naval Base Guam. The Marines are currently on a six-month deployment aboard the USS Germantown.
A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldier and Lance Cpl. Justin Peterson, an infantry riflemen with 2nd Marines, grapple during Exercise Forest Light 16-1 at Camp Aibano, Japan, Sept. 10, 2015.
Marines train Malaysian Armed Forces on the M32 grenade launcher during a Non-lethal Weapons Executive Seminar, Sept. 12, 2015.
Marines with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force—Crisis Response—Central Command, conduct fast rope training from an MV-22 Osprey while deployed to Southwest Asia, Sept. 16, 2015.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Sept. 13, 2015) Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG 107) refuel an MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter during night flight operations. Gravely is underway participating in a composite training unit exercise with the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Sept. 15, 2015) An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Jolly Rogers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 103, launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).
The Army made sure to send its compliments to the Air Force this week. Happy Birthday, U.S. Air Force!
Artillerymen, assigned to the New Hampshire National Guard, with various Soldiers assigned to III Corps and Fort Hood conduct a sling load operation during Operation Granite Viper at Udairi Range, Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Sept. 9, 2015.
A Soldier, assigned to 7th Infantry Division, practices an Australian style rappel during Operation Yudh Abhyas at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Sept. 14, 2015. Yudh Abhyas is an annual, bilateral U.S. Army Pacific-sponsored Theater Security Cooperation Program.
A Soldier, assigned to 52nd Air Defense Artillery, Eighth Army-Korea, tends to a casualty during Expert Field Medical Badge training on Warrior Base, South Korea.
The sun rises prior to the departure of deploying Airmen Sept. 8, 2015, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas. The Airmen departed in support of contingency operations in the Horn of Africa.
Airmen from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, perform a flag detail during Armed Forces Night at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, Sept. 8, 2015. The pregame ceremonies included a recognition of veterans, wounded warriors, military families, as well as a tribute to fallen service members.
Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis is a legend in the military. Revered by Marines and non-Marines alike, Mattis has taken on the persona of a modern-day Patton — having the knowledge and insight to lead his Marines through combat, while standing behind them and taking the heat if things go bad. In short, Mattis is a hell of a leader.
In 2013 while serving as commander of Central Command in Tampa, Fla., Mattis retired after four decades of service. Since then, he’s been teaching at Stanford and Dartmouth, as well as speaking across the country on leadership. He’s also working on a book with author Bing West.
We looked back at some of the best insights he offered, through a great collection of quotes. Most apply strictly to military service, but some can be just as useful in the corporate boardroom.
“You cannot allow any of your people to avoid the brutal facts. If they start living in a dream world, it’s going to be bad.”
The “dream world” Mattis is talking about is one of denial and complacency — a mood in combat that can get you killed. And in corporate America, it can get you wiped out by the competition.
“If in order to kill the enemy you have to kill an innocent, don’t take the shot. Don’t create more enemies than you take out by some immoral act.”
Mattis, who co-wrote the manual for Counterinsurgency with Gen. David Petraeus, knows well that troops cannot win over the population to their side if they are killing the wrong people. His advice here to soldiers and Marines is spot on.
“I don’t lose any sleep at night over the potential for failure. I cannot even spell the word.”
Of course he can spell it but that’s not the point. Mattis wants to impress upon his troops that failure should not be an option.
“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
Before his Marines deployed to Iraq in 2003, he told them this (along with many other great pieces of advice in a now-famous letter). His point here is to be a professional warfighter who can be polite with civilians, but always remember that if things go south, the dirty work needs to get done.
“The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event. That said, there are some sh–heads in the world that just need to be shot. There are hunters and there are victims. By your discipline, you will decide if you are a hunter or a victim.”
Recalling the mentality of the wolf, the sheep, and the sheepdog, Mattis understands that there is evil in the world. It’s important for his men to be prepared for whether they will be the hunter or the victim if they ever face it.
“There are some people who think you have to hate them in order to shoot them. I don’t think you do. It’s just business.”
One of his more controversial quotes, to be sure. But in Mattis’ view, to be a professional, you need to have a professional mindset. It’s not really necessary to get emotional about what you have to do. It just needs to get done.
“You can overcome wrong technology. Your people have the initiative, they see the problem, no big deal … you can’t overcome bad culture. You’ve gotta change whoever is in charge.”
In a talk at Stanford, Mattis was relating how toxic culture can bring down an organization that has everything else right. The culture of an organization comes from the top, and if that part is screwed up, there are going to be problems.
“The most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.”
Mattis doesn’t want robots just mindlessly following his orders. As a leader, he gives broad guidance and lets his men use their own brains to decide how it gets accomplished.
“Find the enemy that wants to end this experiment (in American democracy) and kill every one of them until they’re so sick of the killing that they leave us and our freedoms intact.”
“In this age, I don’t care how tactically or operationally brilliant you are, if you cannot create harmony — even vicious harmony — on the battlefield based on trust across service lines, across coalition and national lines, and across civilian/military lines, you need to go home, because your leadership is obsolete. We have got to have officers who can create harmony across all those lines.”
Mattis implores his officers to not get stuck in their own little boxes. Learning how to be brilliant on the battlefield is important, but it’s more important to be able to work with others to get the job done.
“PowerPoint makes us stupid.”
Military officers endure (and have to create) tons of PowerPoint briefings to inform their chain of command what’s going on. Mattis however, is not one of those officers. He actually banned PowerPoint since he saw it as a waste of time.
“You are part of the world’s most feared and trusted force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon.”
Mattis wants his Marines to always be thinking before they take the shot. It’s advice that has no doubt saved lives.
“An untrained or uneducated Marine … deployed to the combat zone is a bigger threat to mission accomplishment … than the enemy.”
The biggest detriment to mission accomplishment is not from the competition, but from within. Having the right mindset and skills is what results in getting results.
“No war is over until the enemy says it’s over. We may think it over, we may declare it over, but in fact, the enemy gets a vote.”
Combat doesn’t happen in a vacuum. All the planning, meetings, and briefings on what potentially can happen in a given situation are good, but the bad guys will always react in uncertain ways. The key is to be prepared for anything.
“Be the hunter, not the hunted: Never allow your unit to be caught with its guard down.”
Just because you are at the top of your game doesn’t mean someone won’t come along to knock you down. Units (and individuals) need to be vigilant and make sure that doesn’t happen.
“Ultimately, a real understanding of history means that we face NOTHING new under the sun.”
Mattis is an avid reader. On all his deployments, the general brought along a ton of books that he thought may help him along the way. In an email that went viral (via Business Insider) on the importance of reading, Mattis wrote that it “doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.”
“You’ve been told that you’re broken. That you’re damaged goods … there is also Post-Traumatic Growth. You come back from war stronger and more sure of who you are.”
While giving a speech to veterans in San Francisco, Mattis tried to dispel the mindset that those leaving the service should be pitied. Instead, he told them, use your experiences as a positive that teaches you to be a better person.
U.S. Marines love to talk about their history — from battles won to the heritage of uniform items — but sometimes, the line between history and myths gets a little muddled.
There are some things in Marine lore that are passed on as tradition or legend that have no basis in fact. The truth hurts, Marines, but it’s more important to get our history right.
Here are the four biggest myths that Marines have kept alive over the years:
1. The “blood stripe” on the NCO and officer dress blue uniform pants commemorates the 1847 Battle of Chapultapec.
According to Marine legend, a large number of Marine officers and non-commissioned officers perished while assaulting the castle at Chapultapec, Mexico in 1847. To signify their bravery, the Corps later authorized a red “blood stripe” for NCOs and officers to remember and honor their sacrifice.
It sounds legit, but it’s yet another myth. Following an Army uniform practice about ten years before this battle, the Corps began putting stripes on its trousers. The color choice of the stripes changed over those years until solid red was adopted in 1849, according to the Marine Corps Museum. The Corps chose red at the time not to commemorate Chapultapec, but to match the red accents of the blues jacket.
“While a wonderful story, and one that is taught to incoming recruits, it is only a story,” Beth L. Crumley, of the Marine History Division, said in an e-mail.
The Marines first started wearing the scarlet stripe on blue pants in 1840, borrowing the tradition from the Army. Moreover, seven Marines were killed at Chapultepec out of a force of between 400 and 450 Marines.
2. Marines have never surrendered. Biggest myth ever.
U.S. Marines are (and should be) proud of their battlefield heroics, from battling Barbary pirates to fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. But with that long battle history comes the claim that Marines have never surrendered. While this claim serves to motivate Marines to always fight just as hard as those who came before, it’s a total myth.
Just one day after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Marines — under the command of Maj. James Devereux — were under siege on a tiny Pacific atoll called Wake Island. The Marines of the 1st Defense Battalion put up an incredible 15-day fight, sinking ships, damaging or destroying more than 70 aircraft, and holding off the Japanese despite overwhelming odds.
But the Marines were ultimately unable to hold off the enemy. Though their fight serves as an amazing tale of Marine bravery in the opening days of America’s involvement in World War II, they finally surrendered to the Japanese on Dec. 23, 1941.
About an hour after daylight (0630), Commander Keene picked up the telephone in the contractors’ headquarters and found Commander Cunningham and Major Devereux engaged in conversation on the line. The latter reported being hard-pressed at his command post. He did not believe, he said, that the battalion could hold out much longer. Cunningham told Devereux that if he did not feel he was able to continue fighting, he should surrender. A discussion between the two men then ensued. “You know, Wilkes has fallen,” Devereux stated. Cunningham answered that he did. Devereux then stated that he did not feel he should make the decision to surrender, that Cunningham, the commander of the island, should decide. Pausing for a moment, Cunningham then told Devereux that he authorized surrender, and to take the necessary steps to carry it out. Uncertain of his ability to contact the Japanese commander, Devereux asked Cunningham to attempt to make contact with the enemy, as well. Cunningham responded: “I’ll see what I can do.”
At 1015 Kliewer saw men carrying a white flag coming down the beach. Major Devereux was among them, with a group of what appeared to be Japanese officers. They stopped about 50 feet from Kliewer’s trench and ordered him to surrender. Kliewer’s men counseled against giving up: “Don’t surrender, lieutenant. The Marines never surrender. It’s a hoax.”
“It was a difficult thing to do,” Kliewer wrote later, “but we tore down our guns and turned ourselves over.”
Some will argue that technically, Marines did not surrender at Wake, because the Navy commander ordered it. A similar argument is made when referencing Guam or the Marine surrender (under the command of an Army general) in the Philippines. But that doesn’t explain away Marines attempting to surrender during the little-known Makin Island Raid, though they were unsuccessful after being unable to find any Japanese to surrender to.
Further, there are other occasions where Marines have surrendered throughout the service’s history in this book by historian Albert Nofi, including the 40 Marines of “Task Force Drysdale” who surrendered to the Chinese during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir in Korea.
“We are not surrendering because you beat us,” Marine Maj. John McLaughlin told the Chinese, according to HistoryNet. “We are surrendering to get our wounded cared for. If we can’t get our wounded evacuated, we will fight on.”
3. The birthday of the modern U.S. Marine Corps is on Nov. 10, 1775.
On Nov. 10, 1775, the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Penn. authorized the raising of two battalions of Marines to serve “for and during the present war between Great Britain and the colonies.” Shortly after this resolution, Marines were recruited and served aboard ships, most notably as sharpshooters taking out enemy officers.
What many Marines don’t know, however, is that the Continental Marine Corps was disbanded after the Revolutionary War in 1783 and ceased to exist for the next 15 years. It wasn’t until July 11, 1798 that what we know as the modern U.S. Marine Corps was established through an act of Congress.
For the next 123 years, the Corps recognized July 11, 1798 as its official birthday, even though it was little more than a myth.
Until 1921 the birthday of the Corps had been celebrated on another date. An unidentified newspaper clipping from 1918 refers to the celebration of the 120th birthday of the Marine Corps on 11 July “as usual with no fuss.” It is doubtful that there was any real celebration at all. Further inspection of documents and publications prior to 1921 shows no evidence of ceremonies, pageants, or parties. The July date was commemorated between 1798 and 1921 as the birthday of the Corps. During the Revolution, Marines had fought on land and sea, but at the close of the Revolution the Marine Corps and the Navy were all but disbanded. On 11 July 1798, President John Adams approved a bill that recreated the Corps, thereby providing the rationale for this day being commemorated as the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps.
It wasn’t until Nov. 1, 1921 with Gen. John A. Lejeune’s issued Marine Corps Order 47 that the birthday changed to the previous date for the Continental Marine Corps that modern Marines still celebrate today. Later this year on Nov. 10, 2015, the Marine Corps will celebrate 240 years of service, but we should really subtract 15 from that number. Ah well. Myths are sticky.
4. Germans dubbed the Marines “devil dogs” during The Battle of Belleau Wood in World War I.
German soldiers facing American Marines at Belleau Wood, France during World War I took notice of their ferocious fighting spirit in battle, and they referred to them as teufelhunden, or “devil dogs,” according to Marine Corps legend. The Marine nickname of “devil dog” later appeared on a recruiting poster shortly after the battle.
But this myth also falls apart under closer scrutiny. Jeff Schogol, again writing in Stars Stripes, spoke with a member of the Marine Corps History Division and a representative of the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Here’s what they said:
“The term very likely was first used by Marines themselves and appeared in print before the Battle for Belleau Wood,” Marine Corps History Divison’s Bob Aquilina said. “It gained notoriety in the decades following World War I and has since become a part of Marine Corps tradition.”
“We have no proof that it came from German troops though tradition says it came from German troops referring to Marines,” said museum rep Patrick Mooney. “There is no written document in German that says that the Marines are Devil Dogs or any correct spelling or language component of ‘Devil Dog’ in German.”
Further confusing the matter is the fact that a number of American newspapers ran stories in April 1918 claiming that Germans had nicknamed the Marines “devil dogs.” This was prior to the Battle of Belleau Wood, which began on June 1.
While not based in reality, it made for a compelling recruiting drive and the myth still endures. “The Germans, during the war, had no opprobrious nicknames for their foes … Teufelhunde (devil-dogs), for the American Marines, was invented by an American correspondent; the Germans never used it,” wrote famed American author H.L. Mencken in his book on linguistics, “The American Language.“
So check out what we learned about America from our time deployed overseas.
1. There’s no place like America
After the first few months, your fighting spirit usually tends to die out, then you really do begin to believe those classic words Dorothy from Kansas once spoke. This motivation is usually what gets you through the rest of the deployment.
America and its people are certainly flawed, but we love them anyway.
2. Bigger problems
Stateside you have all types of bills, some family drama and if you’re living in the barracks, room inspections.
Now that you’re deployed half way around the world, those issues still exist, but you put them on the back burner. Although combat stress can get pretty jarring, many prefer that headache over fighting heavy traffic.
3. Americans are true supporters
Mail call doesn’t come around too often, but when it does, it’s like Christmas no matter the time of year. Many don’t have families back home to support them while they’re off fighting the bad guys. So Americans from across the U.S. often come together and pack up goodies and send them off to deployed service members around the world.
4. How good American air smells
Being stationed on a small patrol base, you incinerate all the trash you accumulate in a burn pit not far away from where you eat, sleep and stand post. The smell can be pretty nasty.
Come home after a year-long deployment and smell that good old fashion America breeze.
As Americans, we buy a lot of crap we don’t need but convince ourselves we do. Live for months on an aircraft carrier or on a patrol base and you’ll have maybe 10 square feet of personal storage — you’ll still get by just fine with a whole lot less stuff.
For decades, Hollywood has made military-based films that touch Americans’ hearts with epic characters and stunning imagery. Not every movie has a big budget, but it’s the attention to detail that the veteran community respects. When their branch is accurately represented on the big screen, Hollywood scores big points.
Still, even when some filmmakers think they’ve done a great job, veterans notice the smallest error of detail in movies.
Here’s a simple list of five movie mistakes we always seem to spot.
In Jarhead 2, a senior officer (Stephen Lang) would know better than to put on the wrong color undershirt, wear gunny sleeves, and sport a cover that looks like a blooming onion. Plus, he’s wearing a guard duty belt for some reason.
You know you can Google our uniforms and learn how to set everything up, right?
You could afford a talented actor like Stephen Lang, but researching Marine Corps uniforms wasn’t part of the budget? (Image from Universal Pictures’ Jarhead 2: Field of Fire)
4. “Flagging” your boys
Any person on earth can tell you that pointing a weapon at one of your friends is a bad thing, and pulling the trigger in their direction is even worse. In the infantry, we’re always training to maneuver on the enemy without pointing our rifles at our own people.
1987’s Full Metal Jacket showcased a prime example of “flagging” as “Doc” runs in front of his squad and they shot around him. Every veteran watching this scene is shaking their head.
See anything wrong with the image below? Shy of the obviously awful salute, her beret shouldn’t be that low and the back of it is supposed to be flush with the skull. It makes the beret look better if you shave off the fluff.
Several films are guilty of this common mistake, but we like looking at Jessica Simpson.
Jessica Simpson does look good in the beret, though. (Image from Sony Pictures’ Private Valentine: Blonde and Dangerous)
2. One too many flags
In 2008’s The Hurt Locker, Col. Cambridge appears to have more patriotism than any other soldier in the Army.
There’s only supposed to be the one flag on his right shoulder — not two. The “field” is supposed to be facing forward. You know, like someone running into battle with the flag.
But this colonel decided to show up to work supporting America twice.
Col. Cambridge should have known better. (Image from Summit Entertainment’s The Hurt Locker)
Saluting officers stateside — or when you’re facing an epic ass-chewing — is an absolute must. But salute an officer in the middle of a war zone in real life, and you just might get him or her killed by an enemy sniper.
In war, saluted officers make great targets for the enemy. (Image via GIPHY)
A North Korean guard handed Sgt. Berry F. Rhoden, a POW, a card which read:
“You are about to die the most horrible kind of death.”
The guard then shot Rhoden in the back. These are the kinds of stories collected by Michigan Senator Charles E. Potter after the Korean War ended. Potter documented more than 1,800 atrocities committed by the Communists against civilian populations and UN military personnel during the Korean War.
The 1954 Potter Report is more than 200 pages of testimony from Korean War veterans and massacre survivors before Congress. Sgt. Rhoden was one of just a few of those survivors.
When the Korean War started, victory was far but assured. The North Korean attack on June 25, 1950 took the U.S. and South Korea by complete surprise, and the Communists were able to make large gains in a very short amount of time.
The battle lines swung as wildly as the momentum of the war itself before grinding into months of stalemate as the two sides haggled at the negotiating table. Every time the pendulum shifted, more American and UN forces were captured by the North Korean and Chinese forces. The first reports of enemy atrocities filtered into the UN headquarters as early as two days after the invasion started.
The report found the Communist forces in Korea “flagrantly violated virtually every provision of the Geneva Convention” as well as Article 6 of the Nuremberg Tribunal Charter. It also lists the abuses American and UN POWs suffered at the hands of the North Koreans:
“American prisoners of war who were not deliberately murdered at the time of capture or shortly after capture, were beaten, wounded, starved, and tortured; molested, displayed, and humiliated before the civilian populace and/or forced to march long distances without benefit of adequate food, water, shelter, clothing, or medical care to Communist prison camps, and there to experience further acts of human indignities.”
On top of the numerous forced marches and torture, seven Korean War Massacres stand out as egregious examples of the systematic, inhumane treatment of POWs at the hands of Communist forces. According to the Potter Report, as of June 1953, the estimated number of American POWs who died from enemy war crimes was 6,113. The total number of UN forces who were victims ranged between 11,662 – 20,785.
1. The Hill 303 Massacre
On August 14, 1950, 26 U.S. troops were caught by surprise and captured by North Koreans. Their hands were bound and their boots were stolen by their captors. The next day, more American POWs joined the group, bringing their number to 45.
The prisoners were led to a ravine where they were all shot with their hands still tied. Only 4 survived. Cpl. Roy Manring, Jr. gave his testimony before the commission:
“They come by and they started kicking and you could hear the fellows hollering, grunting, groaning, and praying, and when they kicked me they kicked my leg and I made a grunting sound and that’s when I caught it in the gut, got shot in the gut at the time.”
2. The Sunchon Tunnel Massacre
In October 1950, UN troops were approaching Pyongyang when 180 U.S. prisoners were loaded onto rail cars and moved north. The men had already survived the Seoul-Pyongyang Death March and were starving, dehydrated, and wounded. The ride north exposed them to the elements for five days when they were unloaded near the Sunchon Tunnel. The North Koreans led the men to a ravine and shot them to pieces. 138 died from the shooting, starvation, and disease after being left there.
Pvt. 1st Class John Martin, one of the survivors, gave his account of the incident:
“We went around the corner, into this ditch. They said, “Get down; the planes. Get down; the planes. So when we all ducked down some more of them came up on us over a little rice paddy and they just opened up.”
3. The Taejon Massacre
On September 27, 1950, 60 U.S. prisoners of war held in the Taejon prison were bound by their hands and taken to the prison yard. As the sat in shallow ditches, the North Korean guards shot them at point blank range with an American M-1 rifle. Only one survivor lived to tell the story.
Civilians killed by the North Korean People’s Army forces Identify bodies. October 1950 (U.S. Army photo)
Sgt. Carey Weinel told Congress about the slaughter of the Americans but also told them about the 5,000 – 7,000 Korean civilians and South Korean soldiers who also died at Taejon. Weinel allowed himself to be buried alive to escape the massacre.
“As I say, I was shot around 5 o’clock in the morning, and I stayed in the ditch until that eveninq, until what time it was dark. I woula say approximately 8 hours, 8 or 7 hours. “
4. The Bamboo Spear Case
Five airmen in a truck convoy were ambushed by North Korean troops in December 1950. Their bodies were found by a South Korean patrol, punctured with 20 different stab wounds from heated bamboo sticks. None of the wounds were fatal by themselves.
Lt. Col. James Rogers of the Army Medical Corps testified before Congress that the five airmen were tortured and then murdered.
“After torturing them with the superficial wounds they then bayoneted them with the same instruments and these fellows mere allowed to bleed to death. “
5. The Naedae Murders
Near a Communist propaganda bulletin board that accused the UN of committing atrocities against Koreans, 12 American soldiers were imprisoned in a hut and then shot by North Korean troops. Five were able to survive by faking their own deaths.
Cpl. Frederick Herrmann survived the October 1950 murders and told the Potter commission about the surprise shooting:
“I heard the first shot go off and this fellow sitting right across directly from me was hit and he fell forward. When he fell forward. I just spun around and stuck my head under the desk. While I was laying there playing dead, I heard all kinds of shots. Pretty soon I felt somebody kick me. I got shot in the leg. I still played dead…”
6. The Chaplain-Medic Massacre
In July 1950, just after the North Korean invasion that started the Korean War, the Communists surprised 20 gravely wounded U.S. soldiers and their attendants. Attending the wounded was a regimental surgeon wearing the red cross armband and a non-combatant Christian chaplain. The chaplain was slaughtered with the injured troops, but the surgeon, Capt. Linton J. Buttrey, was the sole survivor.
Senator Potter: He was administering the last rites to the patient, to a patient on a litter?
Captain Buttrey: Yes.
Senator Potter: And how did they kill him?
Captain Buttrey: He was shot in the back, sir.
7. The Kaesong Massacre
Just north of what we today call the Demilitarized Zone, 13 American soldiers were captured by North Koreans near the city of Kaesong in November 1950. They were stripped of all their possessions and imprisoned in a small hut. After 3 hours, they were marched out of the hut for two miles, thinking they were headed to a POW camp. The men were then shot from behind without warning.
There was one survivor, Cpl. William Milano, who told his story to Congress.
“I heard the bolt go back and as I heard the bolt, I turned around to see what it was, and he fired. He hit me through the right hand and it threw me up against the hill. As it did, blood either squirted on me, or blood squirted on my face. He took another shot and it skidded off my left leg and took a piece of flesh away. The third hit me high and I felt the dirt. They were still firing on the other men. About 5 minutes later all the firing stopped.”
In all, the war crimes perpetrated by the Communist forces left “several thousand” unrepatriated Americans wounded, killed in action, or otherwise left confined behind the Iron Curtain.
Look, we’re not here to judge, and they don’t appear to have ever used their military affiliation to boost their movies. But since the connection is now out in the open, we thought we’d suggest a few themed movie titles they could use, as well as some good names if any of his military colleagues want to help out his company.
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:
Marine infantrymen thrive on hardship. Whether it’s training and deploying to austere environments, learning to do more with less, or figuring out how to catch Z’s anywhere, grunt life in the infantry is very different from the rest of the Marine Corps.
There are also some problems specific to the infantry community. We came up with five, but if you can think of some more, leave a comment.
1. Physical training often consists of “death runs” and they feel just like it sounds.
Physical training is a part of being a Marine, but it’s much more demanding as an infantryman. Life in the grunts usually means waking up early to go on a “death run,” which isn’t that far off the mark. While the Marine physical fitness test (PFT) has a timed three-mile run, grunts can expect to go way beyond that.
On “death runs” that I’ve personally been on — also known jokingly as “fun runs” — our platoon commander or platoon sergeant would take us on runs over the seven-mile mark at an insane pace. And for extra fun, sometimes we wore gas masks. Gotta love it.
2. Your platoon commander is guaranteed to get you completely lost at some point.
When he’s not running you into the dirt, your platoon commander is supposed to be planning missions and leading. But sometimes that means leading you into who-knows-where. It’s a running joke that second lieutenants are terrible at land navigation, but it’s not that far off. He’s guaranteed to get you lost at least once. Let’s just hope it only happens in training.
3. I hope you’re ready for the non-grunt company First Sergeant who wants to “get back to the basics.”
Infantry Marines hold the 0300 military occupational specialty, as do their officers with 0302. But since company first sergeants perform mostly administrative duty (compared to Master Sergeants who remain in their field), they aren’t required to hold the infantry MOS. Although plenty of them do come up from the infantry ranks, some come from completely unrelated fields.
Grunt first sergeants are usually focused on the mission of the infantry (locating, closing with, and destroying the enemy), but first sergeants outside of the MOS sometimes focus on “getting back to the basics” — aka cleaning the barracks, holding uniform inspections, and marching properly. These are all good things for junior Marines to be exposed to in their careers. Just don’t expect them to like it.
4. Excuse me sir, do you have a moment to talk about prickly heat?
Training in the field can lead to some weird physical problems for grunts. In humid places, Marines can expect something called “prickly heat” — a very annoying rash that develops after sweating profusely. When you’re out in the field for days or weeks and not able to take a shower, that tends to happen quite a bit.
Then of course, there’s that terrible smell you develop. But luckily, you’re around a bunch of other people who smell terrible so you don’t even notice. Great success!
5. Range 400.
This legendary training range is a rite of passage for infantry Marines. With machine guns firing over their heads and mortars dropping down in support, grunts rush forward to attack a fortified “enemy” position in 29 Palms, California. It sounds awesome, and it is. It’s also an ass kicker.
“It’s the only range in the Marine Corps where overhead fire is authorized,” Capt. Andy S. Watson explained in a Marine Corps news release. “We are also granted a waiver to close within 250 meters of 81mm mortar fire. Normally, it is only 400 meters. Therefore, Range 400 gives Marines a realistic training experience of closing close into fires. They can’t get that anywhere else in the Marine Corps.”
We’ve been hard at work making Christmas wishlists for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. There is, of course, one not-quite service branch to cover that likely has some niche needs. We’re talking about United States Special Operations Command. Although this command pulls from other armed services, they have some unique leads. So, what would the snake-eaters want for Christmas?
7. A new SEAL Delivery Vehicle
The current Mk 8 Mod 1 SEAL Delivery Vehicle isn’t bad, but it is a “wet” SDV. This means the SEALs are exposed to the water. While this may be unavoidable in some cases, enabling SEALs to stay dry longer and not use up the air in their tanks when operationally possible would be a good thing. Reviving the Advanced SEAL Delivery System is a good start.
6. A new Spectre gunship
The AC-130H has been a reliable means of support for SOCOM. Just one problem: The airframes are mostly based on the older C-130H airframe. The stretched C-130J-30 would make for a nice platform for a new generation of Spectres.
5. A replacement for the Little Bird
The MH-6 and AH-6 “Little Bird” helicopters used by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment are getting a little old. We’re thinking the Army’s UH-72 Lakota would be an excellent replacement — especially since Airbus is already pitching an armed version of this nifty little chopper.
4. Add the Coast Guard’s Maritime Security Response Team to JSOC
This Coast Guard unit could be a very useful asset for Joint Special Operations Command, which controls Delta Force and SEAL Team Six. It can carry out a number of missions similar to DEVGRU, but since Coast Guard personnel also have law enforcement powers, they can serve warrants. Think of it as an international, “no-knock” warrant service team, and a nice way to backstop these other elite units.
3. Bring back the Army Reserve Special Forces groups
During the Cold War, the Army Reserve had two Special Forces groups: the 11th and 12th. During the draw-down after the Cold War, they were deactivated. Perhaps it’s time to bring them back, given the heavy workload of active Army and National Guard special forces groups.
2. Add the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety Security Teams to SOCOM
These Coast Guard units specialize in counter-terrorism and have been trusted to protect major events, including the Olympics and the national conventions of the Republican and Democratic parties.
1. Create a Marine Corps “Advice and Assist Regiment” for MARSOC
The Marine Raiders have traditionally, as their name suggests, carried out raids. So, why not create an “Advise and Assist” Regiment, similar to the “Advise and Assist” brigades the Army is setting up? This would enable the Marines to let the Raiders to focus on direct action.
What presents do you think SOCOM wants to find under their Christmas tree? Let us know in the comments.
Predicting the future through popular fiction is always a headache. One specific (and inevitable) war, however, has been the setting for many works of exploratory fiction. Everyone has come up with their own unique twist on how the World War Trilogy is going to end because global audiences demand an over-the-top-ending to their trilogies.
Video games set in a fictional World War III span the range of plausibility and, accordingly, audience reception. Early games, like 1981’s Missile Command, were simple enough as to not raise eyebrows and breathtaking, modern games, like Battlefield 4 and Arma 3, take a more down-to-earth approach.
But then there are the absolutely ridiculous games that hinge on insane premises, like that the next World War will involve us fighting our would-be robot overlords by the distant year 2010.
6. Terminator: Salvation (2009)
Yes, we were not-so-subtly pointing at this game. To the Terminator franchise’s credit, they were pretty optimistic about how advanced future technology would be back when the series kicked off in 1984.
But when this game references its own timeline as being “13 years after Judgement Day,” which, according to the films, was on Aug. 29, 1997, they effectively put all of one year between the game’s release and the over-the-top, dystopian futurescape… there’s just no excuse for that silliness.
We could forgive the game’s plot if it wasn’t so bad… even by 2009 standards.
5. Chromehounds (2006)
Like some of the other games on this list, alternate history is used to explain away inconsistencies. Chromehounds is a giant robot simulator that pits three fictional nations against each other that are totallynot based on America, the USSR, and the Middle East.
You could customize your mech and choose a nation to fight under in real time against other players. The game was enjoyable while it lasted, but the servers shut down in 2010.
The world needs more customizable mech simulators.
4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011)
Compared to many of the other first-person shooters set in WWIII, Call of Duty: MW3 upped the ante. Sure, the story follows many of the standard tropes for WWIII — some Russian guy is evil, Europe gets invaded again, and *gasp* nuclear war is threatened.
What made 2011’s installment of Call of Duty so spectacular was that, during the single-player campaign, you got to live out all the action in various roles throughout the world. You play as several characters, all with unique backstories, while you hunt down the big bad.
The ending is just so, so satisfying.
3. Homefront: The Revolution (2016)
Based off the premise that North Korea takes over the world, this game is set in an alternate history where the hermit kingdom’s tech industry isn’t as laughable as it is in our timeline. The game places you in a Red Dawn-esque world where you need to start an underground resistance against Communist invaders.
The game wasn’t without faults — mainly in the narrative and character-development departments — but immersive open-world gameplay, complete weapon customization, and a level of difficulty that made you think through every action made the game stand out.
2. Raid Over Moscow (1984)
Cold War-era games about the Cold War were the best. Originally released on the Commodore 64, Raid Over Moscow‘s story begins when three Soviet nukes launch and you’re the only space-pilot able to stop it. You fight your way through to the Kremlin (which, apparently, was the missile silo for all of the USSR’s nukes) before blowing it up. The most unbelievable thing about this game is that it goes out of its way to explain that America can’t just nuke them back because all US nukes were dismantled.
At the time, the game was fairly controversial. European nations were uneasy about selling a game that directly portrayed the destruction of the Kremlin. Unfortunately for them, the controversy only made European citizens want the game more.
Ahh, the good ol’ days when people feared 8-bit graphics could start an international incident.
1. Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 (2001)
No WWIII game comes close to offering the same level of enjoyment and ridiculousness as Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2. To cut a very long and very confusing story short, Albert Einstein creates a time machine to kill a young Hitler. This leads the Soviets to grow unchecked and, in their liberty, research mind-control technology. And that’s just the first game.
This time around, you need to fight a psychic Rasputin stand-in — or you could choose to play as the Soviets. This game and its expansion pack, Yuri’s Revenge, are considered classics. You’ll need to play through it to understand, really.
The silly live-action cutscenes just make the game that much more hilarious.