The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time - We Are The Mighty
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The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time

We here at WATM love putting together lists and rankings, so it makes sense for us create one for non-fiction books. We read quite often, and not surprisingly considering we’re a bunch of military veterans, those books often deal with military topics.


These are our picks for best military non-fiction books of all-time. (If you’d like to see our picks for fiction, click here.) The books below are numbered but not in rank order. All of these are great reads.

1. “The Forever War” by Dexter Filkins

If you want to gain an understanding of America’s war with radical Islamists, look no further than “The Forever War” by journalist Dexter Filkins. As a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, Filkins begins his book as the Taliban rises to power in Afghanistan, writes of the aftermath following the Sept. 11th attacks, and then continues through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Told from ground level by the only American journalist who reported on all of these events, Filkins does not write a neat history lesson. Instead, he tells individual stories of people — from ordinary citizens to soldiers — and how they are affected by the incidents that happen around them. He does it using beautiful prose, and with little bias.

 

The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time

2. “The Pentagon Wars” by James Burton

Former Air Force Col. James Burton gives the inside account of what it’s like when the Pentagon wants to develop a new weapons system. Having spent 14 years in weapons acquisition and testing, Burton details his struggle during the development of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle with those above him who were often more interested in supporting defense contractors instead of troops in the field.

Burton spends much of the book writing of the small band of military reformers who worked hard trying to fix the problems of Pentagon procurement from the 1960s to the 1980s, and he suffered professionally for “rocking the boat” as a result. For example, after suggesting that the Bradley’s armor should be tested against Soviet antitank weaponry, the Army — knowing it would never hold up — tried to get Burton transferred to Alaska. The very serious book also inspired a very funny movie made by HBO:

3. “Black Hawk Down” by Mark Bowden

Most people have seen the movie, but this is one of those times when you should definitely read the book. This brilliant account by journalist Mark Bowden tells the story of the Oct. 3, 1993 battle of Mogadishu, Somalia, when hundreds of elite U.S. Army soldiers fought back against thousands of militants when a routine mission went wrong.

With remarkable access, research, and interviews, Bowden recreates the battle minute-by-minute and perfectly captures the brutality of the fight and the heroism of those who fought and died there.

4. “One Bullet Away” by Nathaniel Fick

This book gives an inside look at the transformation that takes place from civilian to Marine Corps officer. A classics major at Dartmouth, Fick joins the Marines in 1998 an idealistic young man and leaves a battle-hardened and skilled leader after serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

At times very personal and unpleasant, Fick’s book recounts plenty of combat experiences. But that is not the real draw. His wonderful detailing of the training, mindset, and actions of Marine officers on today’s battlefields makes this a must-read.

5. “Band of Brothers” by Stephen Ambrose

Historian Stephen Ambrose’s account Easy Co. in “Band of Brothers” is quite simply, an account of ordinary men doing extraordinary things. The book — which later became a 10-part miniseries on HBO — takes readers from the unit’s tough training in 1942 all the way to its liberation of Hitler’s “Eagles Nest” in 1945.

Band of Brothers illustrates what one of Ambrose’s sources calls ‘the secret attractions of war … the delight in comradeship, the delight in destruction … war as spectacle,’ writes Tim Appelo in his review.

6. “We Were Soldiers Once… And Young” by Harold Moore and Joseph Galloway

One of the first significant engagements between American and Vietnamese forces in 1965 was also one of the most savage. The Battle of the Ia Drang Valley is told by Lt. Col. Moore and Galloway, a reporter who was there, and it serves as both a testament to the bravery and perseverance of the 450 men who fought back after being surrounded by 2,000 enemy troops.

While the book was later made into a movie, it’s well-worth reading if only for the stories of Rick Rescorla, the platoon leader featured on the cover of the book whose nickname was “Hard Core.”

The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time
Rick Rescorla

7. “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu

More than 2,000 years old and still relevant today, “The Art of War” is a must-read book on military theory and strategy. But its maxims can be applied by those far outside the combat arms. Tzu offers advice relevant to everyone from Army generals to CEOs.

“Absorb this book, and you can throw out all those contemporary books about management leadership,” wrote Newsweek.

8. “Flyboys” by James Bradley

There have been many contemporary accounts written of World War II, but “Flyboys” manages to bring to light something that had remained hidden for nearly 60 years. James Bradley tells the story of nine Americans who were shot down in the Pacific off the island of Chichi Jima.

One of them, George H.W. Bush, was rescued. But what happened to the eight others was covered up and kept secret from their families by both the U.S. and Japanese governments. Bradley, who wrote “Flags of our Fathers,” conducted extensive research and uncovered a story that has never been told before.

The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time
George H.W. Bush

9. “1776” by David McCullough

Written in a compelling narrative style, David McCullough’s “1776” retells the year of America’s birth in wonderful detail. McCullough is an incredible storyteller who puts you right there, feeling as if you are marching in the Continental Army.

From the Amazon description:

In this masterful book, David McCullough tells the intensely human story of those who marched with General George Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence—when the whole American cause was riding on their success, without which all hope for independence would have been dashed and the noble ideals of the Declaration would have amounted to little more than words on paper.

10. “Generation Kill” by Evan Wright

As a reporter for Rolling Stone magazine, Evan Wright rode with the Marines of 1st Recon Battalion into Iraq in 2003. Embedded among the men, Wright captures the story of that first month of American invasion along with the grunt mindset, how the Marines interact, and captures the new generation of warriors that has emerged after 9/11.

Soldiers today are “on more intimate terms with the culture of the video games, reality TV shows and Internet porn than they are with their own families,” Wright told Booklist (One 19-year-old corporal compares driving into an ambush to a Grand Theft Auto video game: “It was fucking cool.”)

11. “The Outpost” by Jake Tapper

A monster of a book at 704 pages, journalist Jake Tapper tells a powerful story of an Afghan outpost that was doomed to fail even before soldiers built it. Beginning with the decision to build a combat outpost in Nuristan in 2006, Tapper reveals a series of bad decisions that would ultimately lead to a battle for survival at that outpost three years later — one that would see multiple soldiers earn the Medal of Honor for their heroism.

Known as Combat Outpost Keating, the story of the base is one that is worth reading. With its bestseller status, rave reviews by critics, and most importantly, the soldiers who fought there, it’s safe to say “The Outpost” gets it right.

The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time

12. “On Killing” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman

Found on many military reading lists, Grossman’s “On Killing” is a landmark study of how soldiers face the reality of killing other humans in combat, and how military training overcomes their aversion to such an act.

A former West Point psychology professor, Grossman delves into the psychological costs of war and presents a compelling thesis that human beings have an instinctual aversion to killing. With this, he also shows how militaries overcome this central trait through conditioning and real-world training.

13. “The Guns of August” by Barbara Tuchman

This Pulitzer-Prize winning book is a masterpiece of military history. Delivering an account of the first month of World War I in 1914, Tuchman tells not just a war story, but an event that would upend the modern world.

“This was the last gasp of the Gilded Age, of Kings and Kaisers and Czars, of pointed or plumed hats, colored uniforms, and all the pomp and romance that went along with war,” reads the publisher’s description. “How quickly it all changed, and how horrible it became. Tuchman is masterful at portraying this abrupt change from 19th to 20th Century.”

14. “The Good Soldiers” by David Finkel

Embedded among the soldiers of 2-16 Infantry as part of President Bush’s last-chance “surge” in Iraq, journalist David Finkel captures the grim reality as troops face the chaotic, and often deadly, streets of Baghdad. The book often follows the overly-optimistic Col. Ralph Kauzlarich (motto: “It’s all good”).

But Finkel excels at capturing everyone up and down the chain-of-command, and tells their stories incredibly well. His book is less about big-picture surge strategy, and more about the soldiers on the ground who fought it. That is a very good thing.

Those are our picks. Did we miss one that you loved? Leave a recommendation in the comments.

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4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did

We can all agree that the Nazi Party was a band of terrifyingly cruel, delusional sickos. What you may not know, however, is that Hitler’s SS minions were also sometimes really, really dumb. From failed propaganda campaigns to ridiculous assassination attempts, the Germans were not short on weird.


1. Operation Holy Hitler (aka let’s kill Pope Pius XXII)

The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time
Photo: concordatwatch.eu

In some ways, Hitler was kind of an understated guy. He was a vegetarian, didn’t like smoking, and wore pants like this. But mostly, as we know, he was an egotistical maniac.

One of the best examples of the Fuhrer’s self-love came about in the 1930s, when he decided that local Catholic schools had a shocking lack of Adolf Hitler memorabilia on their walls. This was quickly remedied by replacing the classroom crucifixes with pictures of his face. How no one thought this was insane is pretty damning of human intelligence as a whole, but maybe the kids were just really tired of having to look at a an emaciated Christ all day.

Once Hitler had figuratively substituted God for himself, he decided to take it a step further. And since literally pulling Christ from the sky wasn’t an option, he decided to take out the next best thing: The Pope. Did we mention this was part of a larger plan to abolish all religions and declare himself as God of Germany? Because that was also a thing.

Hitler didn’t want to nix the Pope purely for vanity’s sake, however. In 1943, Pope Pius XII started to publicly denounce the Nazi’s blatant abuses of human rights. This did not fly in Germany. Eventually, the Pope’s thinly-veiled condemnations of Hitler’s activities went too far, and it was at that point that a real plan was set into action. Hitler brought SS Gen. Karl Wolff into his office, beckoned him closer, and said “I want you and your troops to occupy Vatican City as soon as possible, secure its files and art treasures and take the Pope and curia to the North.”

The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time
Pope Pius XII looking pretty displeased with this plan. Photo: paxtv.org

So far this plan sounds like something a Bond villain would cook up: Flashy, intriguing, but not completely insane. Then phase two comes into play, and all of that goes out the window. Here’s the plan in a nutshell: Once Nazi soldiers had captured the Vatican and the Pope, a second group would infiltrate the Holy City, pretending to be a rescue party. But instead of rescuing the Pope, they would claim that the first group of Nazis were actually Italian assassins, slaughter them all and “accidentally” shoot the Pope amidst the chaos if he didn’t cooperate. If he kept his head down, they would drag Pius XII back to Germany and lock him in a castle. Then the Nazis would blame the Italians, and everything would be roses.

At least, that was the plan. Luckily, Wolff realized that this was completely psychotic and tipped off the Italians, who were rightfully pissed. He wasn’t very subtle about it either, going so far as to agree to an interview with a local Italian newspaper, the Avvenire, which is owned by the Catholic Church. The Guardian writes that in the newspaper Wolff reportedly announced, “I received from Hitler in person the order to kidnap Pope Pius XII.”

The weirdest part of this story, however, is that according to historian Robert Katz, assassinating Pope Pius XII wouldn’t have benefited Germany or the Axis powers at all. Hitler was prepared to screw up everything just out of spite. Or maybe he secretly wanted the Pope hat, who knows.

2. The “degenerate art” gallery that was actually a massive success

The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time

Before the Swastika flew over Deutschland, the soon-to-be Nazi nation was experiencing an incredible art renaissance. Dadaism and the Bauhaus movement were taking the world by storm, and the art community was looking to Germany for the best in cutting-edge modern art.

Then the book burnings began. Art now had to fit the “Nazi ideal,” upholding Aryan values and praising the brilliance and prestige of the Fuhrer. Movies and plays were censored, operas canceled, paintings confiscated. The German art scene was being completely dismantled, and people were not happy about it.

The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time

The Nazis knew that people were pissed about these new “creative restrictions,” but felt that they were just misguided. People don’t actually know what they want until you show it to them, right? This was the Nazi strategy. To redirect the poor, misguided art enthusiasts of Munich, they would first show them what they shouldn’t want — by organizing an art exhibit called “Entartete Kunst,” or “degenerate art.” The gallery was supposed to showcase why modern art was actually awful and not cool at all.

Over 650 sculptures, paintings, prints and books were confiscated from public German museums to be “shamefully” displayed in the gallery. The Nazis arranged the art pieces haphazardly to make them appear less attractive, and wrote up explanations of why they were inferior, undesirable contributions to the art world and the Nazi regime in general.

Then the Nazis simultaneously opened their own art exhibit, the “Great German Art Exhibition,” one with Aryan-approved art only. This way it would be clear to the public which was the superior art genre, and settle the matter once and for all.

The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time
And here we have yet another sculpture of the perfect Aryan woman. Photo:

This did not go well.

Unimpressed with the perfectly sculpted, tasteful bronze nudes that filled the “superior” art gallery, the German art lovers ditched the stuffy exhibit and headed to —  you guessed it — the degenerate art gallery. In the end, five times as many people visited the Entartete Kunst, thrilled to finally have legitimate art on display. In only one day, 36,000 visitors flooded the taboo gallery, completing ignoring the “Great German Art Exhibition” taking place just a few minutes away. After the degenerate art gallery was closed, the featured pieces were either burned, confiscated by Nazi officials or sold to museums at auction. The pieces that were saved can be found in museums all over the world today, and the Entartete Kunst is considered by many to be one of the most culturally significant art exhibits of all time.

3. That time Hitler’s “Perfect Aryan Baby” ended up being Jewish

The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time

When you establish yourself as an extremist war-mongering regime, you need to make sure you have some killer PR to, you know, convince people that you aren’t actually an extremist war-mongering regime.

Joseph Goebbels, the head of Nazi propaganda, learned this fairly early on. So, in order to make the Third Reich appear a little more cuddly (which is ironic, since the dude looked like Dracula), he began a national campaign in 1935 to find the “perfect Aryan baby” — a child so pale and Germanic it could be the measuring stick for all infant beauty.

You would think the chosen Nazi baby would fit the white-blonde, blue-eyed ideal, but for whatever reason Goebbels selected a brunette, brown-eyed baby. Mistake number one if you’re the head of Nazi propaganda.

Goebbels then set about plastering the Nazi-Gerber baby’s picture over all of Germany. She showed up in flyers, newspapers, postcards, and propaganda posters of all kinds. Most people were pretty unfazed by the doll-faced baby that was suddenly appearing everywhere, accepting her as an unusually cute edition to the militaristic landscape of Nazi Germany.

Jacob and Pauline Levinson, on the other hand, were terrified to see the soon-to-be famous photo on the cover of “Sonne in Hause,” a Nazi family magazine. Why? The Master Race baby was their daughter — and she was Jewish.

Let’s rewind six months. The Levinsons had taken their young daughter, Hessy, to get her picture taken by photographer Hans Ballin, a prominent Berlin photographer. After the quick photo shoot they thanked Ballin, paid for their prints, and headed home, thinking that was the end of it. For Ballin, it was just the beginning. What the Levinsons didn’t know was that the talented photographer secretly hated the Nazis — a lot. Like Brad Pitt in Inglorious Basterds a lot.

So when Ballin found out that Goebbels had created a photo contest designed to find the perfect Aryan child — a child that Goebbels would personally select — he couldn’t resist the opportunity to undermine the entire thing.

“I wanted to make the Nazis ridiculous,” Ballin confessed, according to The Telegraph.

So, like the rebel artist he was, Ballin submitted the photo of little Hessy to the contest, hoping that Goebbels would bite. And as luck would have it, he did.

Unfortunately, this put the Levinsons in a lot of danger, and they ended up having to flee to Latvia. The Nazis later learned of their mistake, but never who Hessy was or where her family was hidden. In an interview with Death and Taxes Magazine last year, the 80-year-old Hessy (who now lives in the United States) confessed: “I can laugh about it now. But if the Nazis had known who I really was, I wouldn’t be alive.”

And who wouldn’t laugh? With Hessy’s picture, Ballin had effectively trolled the Nazis on an international scale. The Third Reich didn’t learn from its mistake, either: They would later choose a half-Jewish man as the premiere example of what a full-blooded Aryan soldier should be.

The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time
Werner Goldberg: Half-Jewish soldier turned Nazi poster boy. Photo:

And people wonder why they didn’t win the war.

4. The “Lebensborn” Nazi baby factory

The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time
Two nurses weigh children at a Lebensborn house.

The Nazis really had a weird thing for babies. During Hitler’s rise to power, thousands of babies were born into “Lebensborn” programs, which were basically Nazi baby breeding factories created under Heinrich Himmler. The children were raised to be in peak physical condition and were groomed to emulate the Nazi standard of beauty. They were given a strict diet, were indoctrinated into the Nazi way of thinking and even had their hair treated with ultraviolet light if the nurses suspected it was starting to turn anything but Nazi-approved white-blonde. Seriously.

The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time
Nazi nurses wear goggles as they administer the light treatment. Photo: Daily Mail

Where exactly did these babies come from, you ask? A few different places. Many of the children were the product of the government encouraging SS soldiers to “get to know” the prettiest girls in the European nations they conquered during Germany’s expansion. Then if the ladies were lucky enough to get pregnant, they would be sent to a Lebensborn house, which literally means “font of life” when translated. As in these babies would be the “font” that would kick start the Aryan population of Germany and its captured lands, ensuring a smiling, blue-eyed super race. The unwed mothers were free to stay and live with their children, so long as they complied with the home’s methods and adopted a proper Nazi lifestyle. Orphaned children were adopted out by upstanding German families.

Babies were also abducted from surrounding countries, so long as they were beautiful (Poland estimates that it lost as many as 100,000 children during the war). The darker, “less desirable” children would be sent to concentration camps with their parents. The same was true of children born in the homes; if a child was particularly non-Germanic looking, or resisted Nazi teachings once he or she was a little older, they would be sent to be gassed at a death camp. The babies that made the cut grew up to be some of an estimated 250,000 children who were Nazified under the Lebensborn program during the war.

Tragically, many parents would surrender their children to the Lebensborn program in an attempt to keep them from the horrors of the concentration camps. Most of them were simply taken, however, despite their Jewish ethnicity. Looking the part was enough for the program as long as you grew up to love Hitler and despise the Jewish race like the Nazi nurses who raised you, apparently.

When the war ended and the Allies invaded, they found several Lebensborn homes still full of children. Of the estimated hundreds of thousands of children who were part of the program, only about 25,000 were reconnected with their original families. Many of the parents had been killed during the war, but some children refused to be reunited with their real families, believing themselves to be superior and racially pure after the Nazis’ brainwashing.

NOW: The Nazis had insane ‘superweapon’ ideas that were way ahead of their time

OR: Amazing insight into what US intelligence knew about Hitler in 1943

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The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army

Everyone knows there are risks to joining the Army, but there are the dangers that everyone knows about thanks to movies, and then there are the dangers that soldiers learn about during their time in service.


Most movies make it look like the only way to die is in combat. But movies like “Jarhead” and “Starship Troopers” remind everyone that there are a lot of under appreciated ways to die in the military, like being killed by your own artillery or friendly fire from a machine gunner.

Here are five relatively unknown ways to get your ticket punched in the Army

1. It’s not “Danger close” until it has a 0.1 percent chance of incapacitating you

The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time
(Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)

“Danger close” is one of those military terms that pops up in movies from time to time. It’s usually used correctly with artillery observers yelling it on the radio when they need bombs or artillery.

What the movie doesn’t tell you is that the term “danger close” refers to fire missions where the rounds have a 0.1 percent chance of incapacitating or killing friendly troops. That may not sound like much, but the risk estimate distance, or RED, for calculating  danger close is on a per round basis. Which means you’re rolling those 1 in 1,000 dice every time a round is fired.

Danger close fires are still often a good idea since they’re only used when a U.S. position is about to be overwhelmed, but they’re super dangerous. If the artillery line is asked to fire a total of 150 rounds in a danger close situation, then they have an 8.6 percent chance of hitting an American even if they do everything perfectly.

Any mistake increases the risk.

2. Human chemical detectors

The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Brian Kimball)

In the unlikely event of a chemical or biological attack, all members of the military don protective masks and suits and chemical soldiers track how the enemy agents break down until it’s safe. But someone has to be the first to take off their mask.

This moment sucks especially hard for the junior-most member of the unit since they’re usually the one who has to take their mask off first. So, good luck with that, new enlistees.

3. Every weapon malfunctions and malfunctions can kill you

The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. John Portela)

The Army works hard to purchase and deploy effective and dependable weapons, but every weapon has a chance to fail even when it’s properly maintained. While soldiers usually act in training like helicopters only fall when shot at and weapons always fire until they overheat, that simply isn’t the case.

Take this artillery crew in Afghanistan that got a horrible surprise when their howitzer’s recoil mechanism gave out during a fire mission, leaving them to manually lower and raise the gun between shots. And that’s not even getting into the malfunctions that can kill soldiers outright, like when the breach or tube on a weapon gives out and it suddenly explodes when fired.

4. Everyone with a radio is a target

The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Eric Provost)

American soldiers are trained to target enemy combatants with radios in an attempt to shutdown the adversary’s command and control networks. Unfortunately, the enemy has figured this out too and uses the same tactics.

What that means for every platoon leader and sergeant, every radio telephone operator, and every artillery observer is that their antenna is a huge target painted on their backs.

5. Even in training, the weakest link can get you killed

The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Steven L. Phillips)

But the scariest thing about being in the Army is when you realize that you’re life depends on everyone around you, and some of those guys are pretty stupid. In combat, these guys can get you killed by not being good at their jobs, but there are risks in training as well.

Artillery crews can miscalculate and hit friendly troops, helicopter pilots can crash, troops who have negligent discharges can send rounds anywhere. Obviously, sexier training is more dangerous. Shoot houses with live ammo and artillery ranges are more dangerous than practicing to escape a rolled over vehicle.

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5 wild conspiracy theories that turned out to be true

Take off your tin-foil hats for a second, because sometimes an insane-sounding conspiracy theory actually turns out to be true. From the government making up an enemy attack to justify war to “mind control” experiments, some stories are hard to believe until declassified documents or investigations prove they actually happened.


Here are five of the wildest former conspiracy theories we found:

1. The US Navy fired on North Vietnamese torpedo boats that weren’t even there.

On the night of Aug. 4, 1965, the USS Maddox engaged against hostile North Vietnamese torpedo boats following an unprovoked attack. The only problem: there were no torpedo boats. Or attack. The Maddox fired at nothing, but the incident was used as a justification to further escalate the conflict in Vietnam.

President Lyndon Johnson reported that at least two of the enemy boats were sunk, and American media outlets backed up that story in numerous articles. But conspiracy theorists thought it looked a lot like a “false flag” attack. They were right, according to the National Security Agency’s own declassified documents.

Others who were present, including James Stockdale (a Navy pilot who would later receive the Medal of Honor), disputed the official account:

“I had the best seat in the house to watch that event, and our destroyers were just shooting at phantom targets — there were no PT boats there … There was nothing there but black water and American fire power.”

Even LBJ wasn’t convinced: “For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there.”

The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time

2. The FBI infiltrated, surveilled, and tried to discredit American political groups it deemed “subversive.”

When it wasn’t investigating crimes and trying to put people in jail, the Federal Bureau of Investigation under Director J. Edgar Hoover kept busy trying to suppress the spread of communism in the United States. Under a secret program called COINTELPRO (counter-intelligence program), the FBI harassed numerous political groups and turned many of its members completely paranoid.

Though they could never be sure, many activists suspected the FBI was watching them. And the Bureau was able to mess with groups it didn’t like and influence what they did.

From the book “The United States of Paranoia” by Jesse Walker:

Under COINTELPRO, FBI agents infiltrated political groups and spread rumors that loyal members were the real infiltrators. They tried to get targets fired from their jobs, and they tried to break up the targets’ marriages. They published deliberately inflammatory literature in the names of the organizations they wanted to discredit, and they drove wedges between groups that might otherwise be allied. In Baltimore, the FBI’s operatives in the Black Panther Party were instructed to denounce Students for a Democratic Society as “a cowardly, honky group” who wanted to exploit the Panthers by giving them all the violent, dangerous “dirty work.” The operation was apparently successful: In August 1969, just five months after the initial instructions went out, the Baltimore FBI reported that the local Panther branch had ordered its members not to associate with SDS members or attend any SDS events.

It wasn’t only communist or left-leaning organizations. The FBI’s list of targets included the Civil Rights movement, and public enemy number one was Dr. Martin Luther King. Agents bugged his hotel rooms, followed him, tried to break up his marriage, and at one point, even sent him an anonymous letter trying to get him to commit suicide.

It would’ve been just a whacky conspiracy theory from a bunch of paranoid leftists that no one would’ve believed. But the conspiracy theorists — a group of eight anti-war activists — broke into an FBI field office in 1971 and found a trove of documents that exposed the program.

3. U.S. military leaders had a plan to kill innocent people and blame it all on Cuba.

Sitting just 90 miles from the Florida coast and considered a serious threat during Cold War, communist Cuba under its leader Fidel Castro was a problem for the United States. The U.S. tried to oust Castro with the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, but the operation failed. So the generals went back to the drawing board and came up with an unbelievable plan called Operation Northwoods.

From ABC News:

The plans had the written approval of all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and were presented to President Kennedy’s defense secretary, Robert McNamara, in March 1962. But they apparently were rejected by the civilian leadership and have gone undisclosed for nearly 40 years.

“These were Joint Chiefs of Staff documents. The reason these were held secret for so long is the Joint Chiefs never wanted to give these up because they were so embarrassing,” Bamford told ABCNEWS.com.

What were the “embarrassing” plans? Well, there were ideas for lobbing mortars into Guantanamo naval base, in addition to blowing up some of the aircraft or ammunition there. Then there was another idea floated to blow up a ship in its harbor. But these were rather timid compared to other plans that came later in a top secret paper:

“We could develop a Communist Cuba terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington … We could sink a boatload of Cubans enroute to Florida (real or simulated) … Exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots, the arrest of Cuban agents and the release of prepared documents substantiating Cuban involvement also would be helpful in projecting the idea of an irresponsible government.”

The paper went on to describe in detail other plans for possibly hijacking or shooting down a “drone” airliner made to look like it was carrying civilian passengers, or faking a shoot-down of a U.S. Air Force jet over international waters to blame Cuba.

The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time
CIA headquarters

4. The CIA recruited top American journalists to spread propaganda in the media and gather intelligence.

Started in the 1950s amid the backdrop of the Cold War, the Central Intelligence Agency approached leading American journalists in an attempt to influence public opinion and gather intelligence. The program, called Operation Mockingbird, went on for nearly three decades.

From journalist Carl Bernstein, writing in Rolling Stone in 1977:

Some of these journalists’ relationships with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit. There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.

The Church Committee exposed much of the program, with a full report from Congress stating: “The CIA currently maintains a network of several hundred foreign individuals around the world who provide intelligence for the CIA and at times attempt to influence opinion through the use of covert propaganda. These individuals provide the CIA with direct access to a large number of newspapers and periodicals, scores of press services and news agencies, radio and television stations, commercial book publishers, and other foreign media outlets.”

The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time

5. The CIA conducted “mind control” experiments on unwitting U.S. and Canadian citizens, some of which were lethal.

Perhaps one of the most shocking conspiracy theories that turned out to be true was a CIA program called MKUltra, which had the stated goal of developing biological and chemical weapons capability during the Cold War, according to Gizmodo. But it ballooned into a larger program that encompassed research (via Today I Found Out):

  • which will promote the intoxicating affect of alcohol;
  • which will render the induction of hypnosis easier or otherwise enhance its usefulness;
  • which will enhance the ability of individuals to withstand privation, torture and coercion during interrogation and so called “brain-washing;”
  • which will produce amnesia for events preceding and during their use;
  • [which will produce] shock and confusion over extended periods of time and capable of surreptitious use; and
  • which will produce physical disablement such as paralysis of the legs, acute anemia, etc.

During the program, the CIA established front companies to work with more than 80 institutions, such as hospitals, prisons, and universities. With these partnerships in place, the agency then ran experiments on subjects using drugs, hypnosis, and verbal and physical abuse. At least two American deaths can be attributed to this program, according to the Church Committee.

Though the Church Committee uncovered much of this shocking program, many of the top secret files were ordered to be destroyed in 1973 by CIA Director Richard Helms.

NOW: Here’s a video of soldiers trying to march after getting stoned on LSD

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8 American military legends who were honored as foreign knights

American military heroes typically spend a lot of time fighting in other countries. The leaders of those countries can give medals or official thanks, but sometimes they induct American warriors into their chivalric orders and turn them into knights. For American citizens the honor comes without the title of “sir” or any of the official perks, but it’s still way better than a challenge coin.


1. Gen. James Doolittle

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Photo: Wikipedia

Medal of Honor recipient and leader of the Doolittle Raid, Gen. James Doolittle also has a number of honorary knighthoods including Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath from Great Britain, the Order of the Condor of Bolivia, and the Grand Order of the Crown from Belgium.

2. Adm. Chester W. Nimitz

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Photo: Wikipedia

The naval hero who commanded the fleets at the battles of Midway, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and others was named to two foreign knighthoods. First, he was appointed as Knight Grand Cross of the Military Division of the Order of Bath by Great Britain, then Knight Grand-Cross in the Order of Orange Nassau by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands.

3. Gen. “Stormin'” Norman Schwarzkopf

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Photo: US Army

The rockstar general who led Desert Storm, Gen. “Stormin'” Norman Schwarzkopf was appointed as a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath by Queen Elizabeth during her visit to the United States in 1991.

4. Gen. Omar N. Bradley

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Photo: US Army

Gen. Omar N. Bradley was a five-star general, World War II and Korean War commander, the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the first Chairman of the NATO Committee. For his years of military service, Bradley was made an honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire.

5. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Photo: US Army

General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower has way too many knighthoods to list here, but some highlights include: Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath from Great Britain, Grand Cordon with Palm of the Order of Leopold from Belgium, and the Grand Croix of the Legion of Honor from France.

6. Gen. Douglas MacArthur

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Photo: US Army Signal Corps Gaetano Faillace

Douglas MacArthur retired from the Army in 1937, but returned in 1941 after a request from President Roosevelt. Gen. MacArthur went on to become commander of occupied Japan and of United Nations Forces in Korea. For his World War II service, MacArthur was appointed as a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath of Great Britain.

7. Gen. George S. Patton

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Photo: Wikipedia

A veteran of the Border War with Mexico, World War I, and World War II, Gen. George S. Patton was named to numerous orders including the Order of the British Empire, the Order of Leopold, and the Order of Adolphe of Nassau, among others.

8. President George H. W. Bush

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Photo: George H.W. Bush Presidential Library

World War II naval aviator and former President George H. W. Bush was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace on Nov. 30, 1993.

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4 of the biggest lies Russia has told lately

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons/www.kremlin.ru


new Russian film on the 1968 events in Czechoslovakia has revived accusations that the Kremlin is twisting historical facts to forge a new ideology and justify some of its most controversial actions and policies.

Here is a look at some remarkable recent Russian treatments of history:

1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia

A Russian film glorifying the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 has sparked fury among Czechs and Slovaks.

Warsaw Pact: The Declassified Pages, which aired on state-run Russian television on May 23, justifies the armed crackdown on the democratic “Prague Spring” movement and claims Warsaw Pact troops were sent into Czechoslovakia to protect its citizens from a purported NATO threat.

Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek accused Russia of “grossly distorting” history and summoned the Russian ambassador in protest. Czech President Milos Zeman, who is seen as relatively Kremlin-friendly, dismissed the film as “Russian propaganda lies,” according to his spokesman.

The Slovak Foreign Ministry accused Russia of “trying to rewrite history and falsify historical truths about this dark chapter of our history.”

Defense of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

Putin caused dismay across Europe last year by arguing there was nothing wrong with the infamous 1939 nonaggression pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, which led to the carve-up of Eastern Europe.

“What’s bad about that if the Soviet Union didn’t want to fight?” he asked a meeting with historians in Moscow. “Serious research must show that those were the foreign-policy methods then.”

Last month, Putin again defended the pact during a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying the deal was signed “when the Soviet Union realized it was being left one-on-one with Hitler’s Germany” despite what he described as “repeated efforts” by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin to form an anti-Hitler coalition with Western countries.

Merkel responded by pointing out that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact encompassed a secret protocol under which Stalin and Nazi leader Adolf Hitler agreed to divide Eastern Europe into respective spheres of influence.

The agreement paved the way for Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939, as well as the Soviet Union’s invasion of eastern Poland in the following weeks and its occupation of the Baltic states in 1940.

Hitler was ‘good’ until 1939

Amid Russia’s persistent claims that Ukraine is teeming with neo-Nazis, a pro-Kremlin Russian newspaper caused stupor last year with an article asserting that Hitler was actually “good” before turning against the Soviet Union.

“We should distinguish between Hitler before 1939 and Hitler after 1939, and separate the wheat from the chaff,” read the piece in Izvestia, which rejected comparisons between Hitler’s annexation of Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland to Putin’s annexation of Crimea.

The author, Andranik Migranyan — who heads the New York office of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation, an NGO set up under President Vladimir Putin in 2007 — credited Hitler with uniting Germany, Austria, the Sudetenland, and Memel “without a single drop of blood.”

“If Hitler stopped at that, he would be remembered in his country’s history as a politician of the highest order,” Migranyan stated.

Critics reminded Migranyan about some of Hitler’s most horrific policies prior to 1939, including the establishment of concentration camps, the purges of “non-Aryans,” the creation of the Gestapo, and the bloody Kristallnacht pogroms in 1938.

Crimea as sacred cradle of Russian civilization

President Vladimir Putin has gone to great lengths to defend Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by portraying the peninsula as a holy cradle of Russian civilization.

Speaking in a state-of-the-nation address in December, he said Crimea had an “enormous civilizational and sacral meaning for Russia, just as the Temple Mount of Jerusalem does for those who profess Islam and Judaism.”

Grand Prince Vladimir is believed to have converted Kievan Rus to Orthodox Christianity in the 10th century after being baptized in Crimea.

The logic behind the annexation, however, is disputed as the conversion of Kievan Rus established the foundations for both the Russian and Ukrainian states.

The Black Sea peninsula was also home to various populations before Russia first annexed it from the Ottoman Empire in 1783, including Greek colonies some 2,500 years ago and Crimean Tatars, who today are considered the region’s indigenous population — and have been under increasing pressure since the Russian takeover in March 2014.

Also from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

This article originally appeared at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Copyright 2015.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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4 gross non-battle injuries medics have to look at

Corpsmen and medics who serve in the infantry have their work cut out for them. They wake up at the butt-crack of dawn for patrol, maybe get shot at a few times, then head back to base to eat chow.


They serve as infantrymen until they have to kick into doctor mode and patch up their buddies’ wounds; this involves putting their hands into some weird cavities, but it’s all part of the job.

Every once in a while they may even have to take care of the bad guys for various reasons. Sometimes it’s just for a simple sore throat and other times it’s for something a whole lot nastier.

 Related: 5 key differences between Army medics and Navy corpsmen

War is fought in some dirty places, like the trenches of World War I, the foxholes of World War II, and the jungles of Vietnam. Many of the injuries medics treat on the battlefield don’t come from bullets or bombs — they’re from unsanitary conditions.

So check out these gross things medics have to look at and be able to treat on a day-to-day basis.

1. Ingrown toenails

Ingrown toenails are the result of poor foot care and bad grooming practices.

A well-executed toenail extraction. (Images via Giphy)

2. MRSA

Stands for “Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus” and it’s meaner than your ordinary pimple. On the surface, it doesn’t look too frightening. But below the skin, it’s chewing you up.

See a professional before popping. (Images via Giphy)

3. Mouth ulcers

With a variety of known causes, mouth ulcers are typically related to a viral infection in the body. Pain management is required or everything that touches the sores will hurt.

I told you everything hurt a mouth sore. (Images via Giphy)

Also Read: 6 things corpsmen should know before going to the ‘Greenside’

4. Bacterial conjunctivitis

Better known as pink eye, the beginning stage isn’t so bad. But left untreated, the condition could lead to losing an eye. What’s nasty about this ailment is that it’s typically produced by poop particles floating in the air and getting in your eyes.

Anyone can get pink eye so wear your eye protection out there, people.  (Images via Giphy)What gross non-battle things have you seen on deployment? Comment below.

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The 10 most daring commando raids in history

1. Trojan Horse

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Perhaps one of the earliest examples of a successful commando raid can be found in the 12th century B.C. during the legendary siege of Troy. Though some historians doubt its certainty, both Homer’s Illiad and Virgil’s Aeneid histories point to a daring operation conducted by a select cadre of up to 30 Greek warriors who sealed themselves into the hollow body of an enormous wooden horse statue.

The symbol of the walled city of Troy, the horse was cunningly offered as a gift to the Trojans as the Greek fleet disembarked for home. Seen as a sign of good luck and an offering to the goddess Athena, King Priam of Troy accepted the gift over the objections of several in his court. That night, the Greek commandos emerged from the horse, opening the gates to the rest of the Greek army that clandestinely returned to shore and sacked the city.

Whether its truth or myth, the Greek raid of Troy using subterfuge and disguise still lives on as one of the most cunning and dangerous special operations raids of all time.

2. Assault on Eben-Emael

 

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German paratroopers pose after the successful raid on the Belgian fort at Eben-Emael.

The first modern military to embrace the concept of special operations, the German army of World War II conducted one of the first commando raids of the 20th Century in the opening days of the invasion of France. Rehearsed in minute detail over a year, the raid by German paratroopers, or Flieger-Jaeger, on the Belgian fortress at Eben Emael is still considered one of the most thoroughly-planned and executed commando operations in history.

A nearly 80-man team of specially-selected paratroopers, including engineers and assaulters commanded by Capt. S.A. Koch, flew aboard nine gliders to the heavily armed fortress built as a part of the famed Maginot Line intended to blunt an anticipated German invasion after World War I. In the early morning hours of May 10, 1940, and despite severe damage to their gliders from anti-aircraft fire and not a few servings of bad luck, the German commandos were able to neutralize the fort’s more than a dozen heavy guns. Though unable to penetrate the fort itself and forced to fight off harassing attacks for more than a day before the Belgians surrendered, the paratroopers rendered Eben Emael’s guns useless within minutes of the assault.

The paratroopers were eventually relieved by German infantry supported by Stuka dive bombers and each of the participants was awarded a medal of valor for the successful — and daring — raid.

3. Entebbe Raid

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A C-130 is seen parked on the runway at Entebbe airport in Uganda during a raid to free Israeli passengers of a hijacked Air France flight.

In one of the most iconic hostage rescues ever — and one that served to epitomize the cunning grit of the fledgling Jewish state — the operation by Israeli commandos to seize a hijacked Air France jetliner in the Ugandan city of Entebbe perhaps epitomizes how special ops could successfully blunt terrorist attacks.

On June 27, 1976, an Air France flight out of Tel Aviv bound for Paris was hijacked by four terrorists, including two West German revolutionaries and two attackers from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. After a brief stop in Athens and Tripoli the plane eventually landed into the open arms of Idi Amin’s Uganda. The terrorists demanded $5 million and the release of 40 Israeli-held Palestinian militants and threatened to kill the Israeli passengers of the flight.

When negotiations eventually broke down several days later, the Israeli military began planning a raid that would eventually involve nearly 100 men, including 29 assaulters from the legendary Sayeret Matkal — which was modeled off the British Special Air Service — who would fly into Entebbe airport via C-130 Hercules transports and rescue the hostages held in a nearby terminal building.

In the late hours of July 4, the C-130s carrying the assault team commanded by Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu lifted off from the Sinai bound for Entebbe. After landing at the Ugandan airport, the Sayeret Matkal assaulters stormed off the plane in a series of vehicles similar to a motorcade used by Idi Amin. The team eventually secured the hostages, killed the hijackers and held off Ugandan army attacks until they lifted off from Entebbe 90 minutes later.

In all, three hostages were killed, one Israeli commando was killed and five were wounded.

4. Operation Neptune Spear

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It may not be surprising to some that probably the most complex and dangerous commando raid in modern times was pulled off by Navy SEALs. A nearly 400 mile round trip into a nuclear armed country who has no idea you’re coming? Check. A terrorist target who’s been running from you for a decade and has a team of fanatical followers rigged to blow you to smithereens if he gets even a whiff of your plan? Check. A super-secret stealth helicopter? Check. A team of spies backing you up? Check. A commando dog? Check.

Sounds like a job for SEAL Team VI.

It’s no longer much of a secret that the operation to kill or capture Osama bin Laden was one of the ballsiest raids ever launched by special ops troops. From the months of practice on full mock-ups of the Abbottabad, Pakistan, bin Laden compound to the clandestine attempts to get DNA samples of the terrorist mastermind, Operation Neptune Spear will surely remain at the top of the list of most daring commando raids for years to come.

On the night of May 1, 2011, a select team of about 24 SEALs from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group flew aboard previously unknown stealth Black Hawk helicopters and assaulted bin Laden’s sprawling compound deep in Pakistani territory. After a crash nearly threw the operation sideways, the SEALs successfully assaulted the compound, killing bin Laden, his son Khalid, his courier Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, al-Kuwaiti’s brother Abrar and his wife. The raid took a total of 38 minutes, with more than half the time devoted to plundering the compound’s trove of intelligence, including computers, hard drives and documents.

The almost unimaginably complex raid was a complete success, with all operators successfully exfiltrating the compound without a single casualty. And if you remember anything from the raid, it’ll probably be the radio call from bin Laden’s room: “For God and country … Geronimo EKIA.”

5. The Raid on Son Tay Prison Camp

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Dubbed “Operation Kingpin” and commanded by legendary Army Special Forces Col. Arthur D. “Bull” Simons, the commando raid on the Son Tay prison camp in North Vietnam ranks up with one of the riskiest missions in spec ops history. And while ultimately unsuccessful in its primary mission of rescuing the camp’s American prisoners of war, the mission serves as a prime example of joint special operations planning and support.

Planning for the mission began in early May 1970 after Air Force aerial photos confirmed the camp’s existence, which for years had been suspected of housing more than 60 POWs. Simons selected a team of 130 Special Forces Soldiers from about 500 volunteers to begin training at a secret base in Florida. Over several months, the commandos and Air Force Special Operations air crews flying HH-3E Jolly Green Giants rehearsed the raid on a scale model of the camp.

Finally, in the late hours of November 20, support aircraft including A-1 Skyraiders, F-4 Phantoms and F-105G Wild Weasels and the assault force of six Jolly Green Giant helicopters lifted off for the rescue from bases in Thailand and South Vietnam. At about 2:00am local time, the main assault force of some 50 Green Berets deliberately crash landed its helicopter into the main courtyard of the prison camp guns blazing. After a methodical search of the prison barracks and multiple engagements with guards, the assault force boarded a second helicopter for its exfiltration, empty handed.

Though the mission didn’t recover any of the POWs (intelligence later found they had been moved in July), the raid was a major success, involving a host of joint service assets — including a Navy decoy mission using A-7 Corsairs and A-6 Intruders that tied up North Vietnamese air defense assets as cover for the raid —  and resulting in only one injury.

6. Operation Flipper

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British commandos conducted a daring raid to kill or capture Gen. Rommel that ended in failure

On the eve of a major offensive in North Africa against the German Afrika Corps, British generals planned a daring operation to assault Gen. Irwin Rommel’s headquarters and kill or capture the legendary Desert Fox.

Dubbed “Operation Flipper,” a team of nearly 60 soldiers from the #11 Scottish Commando and Special Boat Service were to make their way ashore on the coast of Libya and assault inland to Rommel’s headquarters near Apollonia. But the Nov. 10, 1941, mission was a disaster from the start.

Weather eventually forced much of the assault team to abandon the mission, leaving only 25 commandos to attack the objective. The team made it to Rommel’s headquarters but were shortly discovered by German staff and guards. The commando leader was shot and eventually died on the scene. And to make matters worse, Rommel was not at the headquarters.

The operation ended in total failure, with only two of the commandos and one of the SBS operators making it home alive. Nevertheless, Operation Flipper is seen as a bold and complex commando raid that combined covert insertion from a submarine, an arduous trek across miles of desert and a target whose death or capture could have decisively changed the direction of World War II.

7. Operation Oak

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It was July 1943 and the Allies were beginning their push north from Sicily and bombing Rome. With the Nazis tied up in the epic battle of Kursk in Ukraine, Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini was left to his own devices after the Grand Fascist Council passed a no confidence vote on his leadership and he was arrested.

Eventually imprisoned at the Campo Imperatore ski resort high on a mountain in Gran Sasso, Italy, Mussolini was thought to be safe from any escape. But Hitler had other plans.

So on September 12, 1943, elite paratroopers from the German Fallschirmjager and Waffen SS commandos flew DFS 230 gliders to the mountaintop redoubt, landing atop the resort and subduing Mussolini’s 200 captors without firing a shot. The Italian strongman was then whisked away aboard a short takeoff prop plane and eventually took up residence in Vienna, Austria.

Dubbed “Operation Oak” by the German high command, the commando operation was bold and technically difficult given the remoteness and altitude of the Campo Imperatore resort, not to mention the compliment of 200 well-trained Carabinieri guards securing the site — all of whom surrendered to the elite German operators without a fight.

8. Operation Nimrod

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Video footage of Operation Nimrod.

In one of the most public commando raids in history, two teams of British Special Air Service operators conducted an early evening assault on the Iranian embassy in London in front of hundreds of television cameras and reporters who broadcast the operation in real time.

Dubbed “Operation Nimrod,” the SAS assaulters repelled from the roof of the embassy and crashed through the ground floor to rescue 26 hostages taken by an extremist Arab independence group. For six days in April and May of 1980, a team of six terrorist besieged the embassy, deadlocking on negotiations with British officials.

On May 5, the SAS was called in after the terrorists killed one of their hostages and the raid was launched in broad daylight. More than 30 assaulters were involved in the raid, which killed all but one of the terrorists. One hostage was killed in the crossfire.

While the entire raid lasted only 17 minutes, the SAS was embroiled in controversy over its tactics, with some questioning whether the commandos used excessive force. One of the terrorists escaped with the hostages but was discovered by an SAS operator later and served a 27-year prison sentence.

9. Moscow Theater Rescue

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Assaulters from the Russian Spetznaz Alpha group rescued hundreds of hostages from terrorists who besieged a Moscow theater.

In one of the boldest terrorist hostage takings in history, Chechen separatists besieged a Moscow theater holding more than 800 people captive for nearly a week.

Up to 40 Chechen terrorists, including female suicide bombers strapped with explosives and detonators, held theatergoers for days, demanding the withdrawal of all Russian forces from the Republic of Chechnya. Negotiations broke down, two hostages were killed and the Russian government spooled up the elite Alpha Group of the Federation’s Spetznaz.

On October 26, 2002, using a specialized gas to knock out both the terrorist captors and their hostages pumped in through the theater’s air ducts, the Alpha troops stormed the theater guns blazing. No quarter was given to the terrorists, some of whom lay unconscious with bombs still strapped to them and thumbs on their detonators. The Spetznaz commandos shot nearly 40 Chechen terrorists and captured several more.

While most of the hostages were rescued, more than 130 eventually died from poor care after the assault, the gas causing many to suffocate. Some of the Alpha troops also suffered injuries due to exposure to the gas. The raid was aggressive, cunning and was the first known major commando assault to use a still unknown gas to suppress the target before the assault.

10. Benjamin Tallmadge

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Painting of Congressman Benjamin Tallmadge by Ezra Ames.

 

While not a specific raid per se, the combined operations of Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge and his troop of 2nd Continental Light Dragoons caused mischief and mayhem among British troops during the American Revolution, raiding Redcoat convoys, burning supplies and even running an espionage ring in the Northeast.

In one famous operation, Tallmadge and his Dragoons rowed across Long Island sound, hiked 20 miles inland and assaulted the British fort at Manor St. George in New York. The colonial commandos killed two British troops and quickly subdued the fort in the dead of night in November 1780. Tallmadge and his Dragoons are also famous for holding off attempts by British commandos to assault Gen. George Washington and his staff, serving as Washington’s personal body guard.

Tallmadge also played a pivotal role in unmasking the treachery of Benedict Arnold and his spy ring.

The role of Tallmadge’s 2nd Continental Light Dragoons is noteworthy because at the time such special operations and covert assaults were frowned upon by many traditional military officers, and it is seen as a testament to Washington’s strategic thinking that he allowed Tallmadge and his patriot commandos to operate as they did.

Christian Lowe is the former managing editor of Military.com. He's currently the online content director at the Grand View Media Group. Christian Lowe is the former managing editor of Military.com. He’s currently the online content director at the Grand View Media Group.

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7 thoughts a fighter pilot has during a dogfight

Requirements officers at the Pentagon and defense companies like to tout the “beyond visual range” capabilities of modern aircraft. On paper, these days a pilot could earn ace status and never see his or her opponents.


However, air wars aren’t fought on paper, and history has shown that in spite of all the sensors and early warning platforms chances are very high that a bad guy or two will make it into the visual arena. At that point it’s down to a good old-fashioned dogfight, mano-a-mano.

Here are the main thoughts that go through a fighter pilot’s mind in that dynamic environment:

1. “What kind of bandit am I fighting?”

This is where homework comes in. A fighter pilot needs to be able to recognize what kind of airplane he’s up against at the longest possible range and any aspect, and he needs to know what the capabilities of that airplane are including aerodynamic characteristics and weapons performance. This kind of recognition determines what kind of fight a pilot should attempt.

2. “What’s my weapons loadout?”

Fighter pilots have a saying:  “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” So it’s best to bring a gun to a knife fight . . . or at least bring a long, sharp knife to a knife fight. A pilot has to know what weapons he has on the jet at all times and be ready to select the right one and pull the trigger in an instant. Few things as wasteful as committing a missile outside of the acceptable envelope, especially in a multi-bandit environment.

3. “Where’s my wingman?”

Not only does a pilot need to keep track of where the bad guys are around him, he also needs to know where his wingman is. In the chaotic world of high-G this demands a lot of physical exertion and very clear, concise comms over the radio.

4. “What’s my airspeed?”

Depending on the type of fight, faster isn’t always better. If a pilot wants to out-turn a bandit he needs to have the jet flying at the optimum airspeed to carve max angles, not zorching around supersonic.

5. “What’s my altitude?”

Fighter pilots have another saying: “You can only tie the record for low flight.” True ‘dat! So it’s smart for a pilot to keep the scan going to stay aware of how high above the ground he is. Plus, different jets have different performance characteristics at high and low altitudes, so a pilot might want to take the fight higher or lower depending on what kind of airplane he’s up against.

6. “What’s my fuel state?”

Like flying into the ground, flaming out solves a bandit’s problem for him. It’s easy for a fighter pilot to get tangled up in the phone booth in max burner and drive himself way below his fuel ladder. “Tanker posit!”

7. “Which way is home?”

Killing all the bandits makes this problem less stressful, but short of that, a savvy fighter pilot needs to know the correct direction to bug out when the opportunity presents itself. Otherwise he’s going to have to fight his way back through the mess he just worked hard to get out of, and that’s a good way to get killed.

 

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7 Marvel Cinematic Universe movies to watch before ‘Infinity War’

Not planning a two-day Marvel Cinematic Universe marathon right before seeing “Avengers: Infinity War?”

Nobody has time for that.

To accommodate fans who want to freshen up their knowledge, we collected a list of the most essential MCU movies to watch right before you see “Infinity War,” which is scheduled for release April 27, 2018.

From “Captain America: The First Avenger” to “Thor: Ragnarok,” here are the 8 MCU movies you need to catch up on.

(To see where to watch, check this list of where to stream all 18 movies in the MCU.)

Here’s 7 MCU movies to watch before seeing “Infinity War”:

1.”Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)

In addition to debuting Captain America, this movie introduces us to the Infinity Stones, setting up the story years before “Infinity War.” The film’s villain, Red Skull, is trying to gain the power of the Tesseract, which contains the blue Space Stone.

2. “The Avengers” (2012)

In “The Avengers,” Loki is working for Thanos. He makes a failed attempt to get the Tesseract and take over Earth. It’s also an introduction to the Avengers team, and Mark Ruffalo’s version of the Hulk. In 2012, this movie felt like the biggest movie of all time, but now it feels so small.

3. “Captain America: Civil War” (2016)

“Civil War” is important because it divides the team right before “Infinity War.” It’s also essentially an Avengers movie. Captain America and his friends are now on the run from the law because of what happens in this movie, so it will be interesting to see how a team that is so divided sets aside their differences and comes together.

“Civil War” is available to stream on Netflix.

4. “Doctor Strange” (2016)

Doctor Strange will play a pretty prominent role in “Infinity War” since he has the Time Stone, which Thanos needs to achieve his goal of wiping out half the universe. “Doctor Strange” is a really good movie, and it will help you better understand Strange’s complicated and cool powers.

“Doctor Strange” is available to stream on Netflix.

5. “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017)

“Ragnarok” — which is a weird, fun action-comedy that defies all action movie laws in the best way — directly sets up “Infinity War,” so you absolutely have to see it. If you don’t, you’ll be very confused. The film focuses on Thor and Loki’s complicated relationship, which could be important in “Infinity War,” depending on where Loki’s loyalties lie.

6. “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014), “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017)

Since Thanos, the primary villain in “Infinity War,” is the father of two Guardians of the Galaxy, these films are worth revisiting to get an idea of how Gamora and Nebula feel about their dad. They don’t like him, but it’s complicated. This dynamic could play a huge role in “Infinity War.”

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is available to stream on Netflix.

7. “Black Panther”

You’ve seen the trailers. There’s clearly a huge battle scene in “Infinity War” that takes place in Wakanda, and it looks like some of the characters from the movie will make an appearance. You’ll have to go to a theater to see “Black Panther,” since the DVD and Blu-ray release isn’t until May 8, 2018, but it’s worth it.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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7 of the best ‘so-crazy-it-will-work’ plans that actually worked

Most anything can be overcome with a good, well-thought-out, reasonable plan.


But if you can’t think of anything good, just be like these guys and do something crazy. You’ll at least get a good story out of it.

1. The U.S. Coast Guard’s predecessor saved hundreds of sailors by herding reindeer to them

 

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(Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

When eight whaling ships and 265 sailors were trapped by early Arctic ice in 1897, President William McKinley asked the Revenue Cutter Service if they had any way to get supplies to the ships.

The RCS, a predecessor to the Coast Guard, responded by forming a unit of volunteers who traveled 1,600 miles from Dec. 1897 to Mar. 1898, buying reindeer along the way and herding them to Alaska where the sailors were trapped. They arrived with 382 reindeer just in time for most of the survivors. Three people died of starvation, but the rest were rescued during the spring thaw.

2. Army PSYOPS troops pretended they were vampires

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Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class William Johnson

American psychological operations soldiers were sent to the Philippines in 1950 to help destroy a Communist rebellion in the country. When the commander learned that the local fighters were superstitious and believed in a shapeshifting vampire known as the “asuang,” he came up with a Scooby Doo-esque plan.

First, he had friendly locals spread a rumor that an asuang was living in the hills. Then, the Americans and their allies set up an ambush in the hills, waited for the last man in a patrol to pass them, and abducted him. They poked two holes in his neck, drained him of his blood, and put his body back on the trail. The rebels bought the ruse and fled the area, allowing government forces to reclaim it.

3. Four Royal Marines rode Apaches into a Taliban fort

Long story short, a British attack on the Taliban base of Jugroom Fort went bad quickly, and British forces quickly withdrew. But, they accidentally left wounded Royal Marine Lance Cpl. Mathew Ford behind. With the Taliban in the fort already on high alert, a daring plan was needed to recover him.

So, some Royal Marines volunteered to strap themselves to the outside of two Apaches, ride into the fort, recover Ford, and ride back out. The daring plan worked, but Ford had unfortunately been rendered brain dead at the time of injury.

4. The Air Force used actual bears to test ejection seats

The Air Force struggled in the late 50s and early 60s with a simple but challenging problem. Crew who had to eject from supersonic planes were subjected to extreme and sometimes lethal strain. So the Air Force began testing experimental ejection devices — on bears.

To be fair, the Air Force didn’t start with bears. It started with unemployed humans. But the public thought it was messed up for the government to conduct dangerous experiments on unemployed Americans, so the Air Force strapped bears into experimental ejection devices on the B-58 Hustler.

The pod was proven safe and nearly all of the test animals returned to the ground safely. Unfortunately, the Air Force needed to check for potentially hidden injuries and ordered autopsies on all animal subjects.

5. Union soldiers stole a train and wreaked havoc across Georgia and Tennessee

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The great locomotive chase of 1862. (Photo: Public Domain)

What’s the best way to cut off your enemy’s lines of communication? Apparently, in Apr. 1862 Georgia, the answer was to steal on train and go on a GTA: V-type crime spree with it. The operation was led by a civilian but was conducted with the help of 18 Union soldiers.

The party stole a train in Marietta, Georgia, and drove it towards Chattanooga, Tennessee, destroying track and telegraph lines as they went and evading a pursuing party of Confederate soldiers and the original train owner. The men didn’t quite make it to Chattanooga but did cause extensive damage to Confederate logistics and communication networks.

The men were eventually caught. Eight of them were executed and the rest lived out the war as POWs.

6. American troops used a payphone to call for air support in Grenada

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82nd Airborne artillery personnel load and fire M102 105 mm howitzers during Operation Urgent Fury. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. M.J. Creen)

During the invasion of Grenada in 1983, the American communication network was so bad that almost no one on the island could talk to any fighters from another branch. This led to the legend that U.S. troops called for fire support using a credit card and a payphone.

Vice President Dick Cheney heard the story while he was a Congressman and was told that an Army officer could see naval artillery out at sea but couldn’t get them on the radio. So he pulled out his credit card and used a payphone to call the Pentagon who relayed his request.

The Navy SEALs have their own version of the story that said the frogmen were holed up in the governor’s mansion and used a credit card to call the Pentagon and get help from an Air Force AC-130.

7. American and Nazi troops teamed up to defeat an SS attack during World War II

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Schloss Itter (Itter Castle) in July 1979. (Photo: S.J. Morgan. CC BY-SA 3.0)

 

In the closing days of World War II, a group of American and German troops teamed up and fought side-by-side against a murderous SS battalion. The Americans had accepted the surrender of the Germans just before both sides saw the slightly drunk and very fanatical group of SS soldiers climbing the hill towards them.

The two groups quickly set aside their difference and conducted a joint defense of Itter Castle with some of the prisoners helping them out. The 150 SS troops outnumbered the defenders and fought until the allies were about to run out of ammunition when American reinforcements showed up. Many of the SS were captured and the freed prisoners were able to testify against the Nazis.

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

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:


ARMY

Soldiers, assigned to 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, Idaho Army National Guard, calibrate a M109A6 Paladin howitzer during Decisive Action Rotation 15-09 at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., Aug. 16, 2015.

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Photo by: Spc. Christopher Blanton/National Guard

Engineers, assigned to the Arkansas National Guard, fire a Mine Clearing Line Charge during Decisive Action Rotation 15-09 at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. Aug. 16, 2015.

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Photo by: Spc. Ashley Marble/US Army

MARINE CORPS

An F-35B joint strike fighter jet conducts aerial maneuvers during aerial refueling training over the Atlantic Ocean, Aug. 13, 2015. The mission of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 is to conduct effective training and operations in the F-35B in coordination with joint and coalition partners in order to successfully attain the annual pilot training requirement.

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Photo by: Cpl. N.W. Huertas/USMC

Marines with 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force conduct external lifts during helicopter support team training in Okinawa, Japan. The training helps increase proficiency in logistics tasks and enhance the ability to execute potential contingency missions.

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Photo by: Lance Cpl. Sean M. Evans/USMC

Marines use green smoke to provide concealment as they move through the simulated town during a Military Operation on Urban Terrain exercise aboard The Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, California.

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Photo by: Cpl. Joshua Murray/USMC

NAVY

(Aug. 20, 2015) Navy chief petty officers and chief petty officer selects stand at parade rest during a Pearl Harbor honors and heritage “morning colors” ceremony at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument Visitor Center on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The ceremony was the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in the Pacific.

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Photo by: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Johans Chavarro/USN

(Aug. 19, 2015) – Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Travis Weirich, from Gresham, Ore., and Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Juan Dominguez, from Santa Clara, Calif., clean an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Tophatters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14 aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).

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Photo by: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andre T. Richard/USN

AIR FORCE

Crew chiefs assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron prepare to launch a B-2 Spirit at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Aug. 12, 2015. Three B-2s and about 225 Airmen from Whiteman AFB, Missouri, deployed to Guam to conduct familiarization training activities in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

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Photo by: Senior Airman Joseph A. Pagán Jr./USAF

Airmen with the 1st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron move a tree to avoid contact with the tail of an AC-130H Spectre on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Aug. 15, 2015. More than 40 personnel from eight base organizations were on site during the tow process. The AC-130H will be displayed at the north end of the Air Park.

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Photo by: Senior Airman Meagan Schutter/USAF

Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell, a retired American mixed martial artist, tightens a bolt on a guided bomb unit-31 on Osan Air Base, South Korea, Aug. 5, 2015. Liddell visited various units across the base during a morale trip. Liddell is a former Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight champion. He has an extensive striking background in Kempo, Koei-Kan karate, and kickboxing, as well as a grappling background in collegiate wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

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Photo by: Senior Airman Kristin High/USAF

COAST GUARD

A blur of seabags and lots of excitement were seen early this morning as Officer Candidates from OCS 1-16 and NOAA’s BOTC 126 leave the Chase Hall Barracks for an underway trip on USCGC EAGLE.

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Photo by: USCG

Have a fun and safe weekend! We have the watch rain, shine or fog!

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Photo by: USCG

NOW: More awesome military photos

OR: The 13 funniest military memes of the week

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The 5 craziest ideas the British had for battling German subs

Whenever a new weapon sees widespread deployment, all the rules get rewritten. The draft version of the new rules can be a bit strange though. Here are five crazy ways Britain thought it might get a handle on Germany’s U-Boats in World War I.


1. Training seagulls to sh-t on the periscopes

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Photo: Wikipedia/Sanchezn

There is no explanation of how the seagulls would be trained to do this. Admiral Sir Frederick Inglefield, head of all “motor-boat patrols” (discussed below), believed seagulls would defecate on submarine periscopes if properly trained. The blinded submarines would then be forced to surface or attempt to escape the harbor.

2. Hammers and bags

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Photo: Wikipedia

The British tried to stop the submarine menace with a “motor-boat patrol.” There were hundreds of these boats, each with at least two crew members. The boats would patrol designated areas near the coast looking for periscopes. But only 1 in 10 was armed.

So, if the crew spotted a periscope, they were supposed to sneak as close to it as they could in the boat and then swim the rest of the way. One man would take a canvas bag and pop it over the periscope while the other would swing a hammer as hard as he could to break the periscope.

3. Meeting submarines under the surface with top notch swimmers and sharp hammers

There’s no record of the British ever attempting this method, but someone proposed the Royal Navy select some especially strong swimmers. When a submarine was spotted these swimmers could swim to the hull and attempt to hit it with a pointed hammer, piercing its hull and sending it down.

4. Training birds and sea lions to watch for periscopes

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Tony Hisgett

In an effort to more quickly identify submarines working near British and Allied shipping, the British Navy attempted to train seagulls and sea lions to chase periscopes. The training was done by creating dummy periscopes that dispensed food.

Seagulls were trained in the open ocean while sea lions from British music-halls and circuses were trained in tanks.

5. Covering the ocean in paint

This was supposed to work in two ways. First, any submarine that raised its periscope while the ocean was covered in paint would be blinded as the paint covered the periscope glass. Second, the paint was generally green which may confuse the submarine captain as to what depth he was cruising at, possibly causing him to move higher in the water which would expose his hull.

Artillery on the shore or motor boat patrols could then target the blind, exposed U-boat. While this tactic was proposed to the Royal Navy, it’s not clear that they ever attempted it. This could be because they didn’t have enough green paint to cover the surface Great Britain’s 19,491 miles of coastline.

 (h/t David A. H. Wilson, Cumbria Institute of the Arts, United Kingdom)

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