Living in American can be tough when you have to deal with problems most people in other countries can’t even imagine, such as having so much food in the fridge that there’s no room for leftovers. Yes, the struggle is real.
Being a sailor in the U.S. Navy brings its own set of unique hardships, which service members of other branches and sailors from other nations just wouldn’t understand. Here are seven first-world problems that sailors can relate to.
1. “I have so much cash in my wallet during port visits, it hurts my butt when I sit.”
Yes, this is a thing. You can’t always rely on vendors to accept your credit card, but cash is internationally accepted.
2. “The steak and lobster we have every Friday is just terrible.”
MRE, what’s an MRE? Sailors eat warm meals, silly grunts.
3. “We have to buy small souvenirs during port visits because we don’t have anywhere to put them.”
Instead, they have to settle for small things like jewelry, video games, and DVDs.
4. “Amazon always gets the ‘expected delivery date’ to my FPO AP address wrong.”
Amazon forgets the part about packages being delivered to ships. What’s up with that Amazon?
5. “They called ‘general quarters’ so I have to be in my rack, but I’m not really tired.”
The ship’s personnel hate it when people get in the way of their drills, so they make airedales and Marines jump in their racks.
6. “My fat uniform is now my uniform.”
Lobster and steak can take its toll on a sailor’s uniform allowance. Hopefully by that time, you’re ready to become chief.
7. “It’s so hard to choose between Master and Commander, Top Gun, and The Hunt For Red October when the ship plays them at the same time.”
It’s rare, but it happens, sometimes the ship’s movie programmers schedule these Navy staples on different channels at the same time.
Can you think of more first-world sailor problems? We’d like to know, leave them in the comments area below.
We’ve all served with the zealot, the screamer, the wild man, the badass, the strange agent, and other signature personalities, but have we seen them accurately presented in movies? Well, sometimes. And in some cases when Hollywood has tackled military topics they’ve gone beyond simply “getting it right” and moved into the arena where icons are forged. Here are 12 examples of when movie makers got it absolutely right and then some:
1. Jack Nicholson as Colonel Nathan R. Jessup in “A Few Good Men”
Col. Jessup is as badass as grunts come . . . right up to the point where he gets his ass handed to him by a weenie JAG officer. With classic lines like “I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4000 Cubans who are trained to kill me, so don’t think for one second that you can come down here, flash a badge, and make me nervous,” and, of course, “You can’t handle the truth!” Nicholson’s reading of this somewhat psycho colonel is among the best military characters Hollywood ever created.
2. Steve McQueen as Captain Virgil Hilts in “The Great Escape”
Arguably the late Steve McQueen’s best work, Capt Hilts of the Army Air Corps is known around the stalag as the “cooler king” because of all the time he’s logged in solitary confinement following his escape attempts. In the climactic scene he jumps a barbed wire fence on a motorcycle (the only stunt McQueen didn’t perform himself in the film) but gets caught up in a second fence and is recaptured. The final scene shows him being thrown back into the cooler, but his attitude shows that it’s only a matter of time before he tries to escape again (because he’s an American fighting man).
3. Robert Duvall as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now!”
In a high-budget blockbuster full of stars like Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando, Duvall steals the show with his portrayal of Army helo squadron skipper Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore. As Sheen’s character muses, Kilgore “had that light in his eye . . . you knew he wasn’t going to get so much as a scratch on him in Vietnam.” And Kilgore cements his military movie icon status with lines like “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” and “Charlie don’t surf!” Cue “Ride of the Valkyries” and go win some hearts and minds.
4. R. Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in “Full Metal Jacket”
Before “Full Metal Jacket” came out in 1987 the pop culture standard for a DI was Sergeant Carter from the TV comedy “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” That changed in a big way with Ermey’s brilliant portrayal of Gunny Hartman, as tough as he is doomed (oops, spoiler alert for any of you maggots who haven’t seen this Stanley Kubrick-directed masterpiece). Hartman remains the cinematic boot camp standard by a mile with lines like “did your parents have any children that lived?” and “choke yourself, Pyle!” Ooh-rah, Devil Dog!
5. Gregory Peck as General Frank Savage in “12 O’ Clock High”
Peck plays General Frank Savage, a B-17 driver who inherits a shitty command in the middle of high-tempo ops. Loses have been high and morale sucks, and Savage’s initial attempts to square the unit away are met with stiff resistance. In time his superior leadership techniques take hold and things improve. Peck does a great job of capturing the nuances surrounding the age-old facts that life is lonely at the top and being in charge is no popularity contest. There’s a reason this movie is shown in military leadership courses.
6. John Wayne as Captain Rockwell “Rock” Torrey in “In Harm’s Way”
Some fans of “The Duke” may argue that “The Green Beret” or “Sands of Iwo Jima” are his signature military roles, but he brings a lot more to the role of Capt. Rock Torrey. “In Harm’s Way” was a groundbreaking (and shocking with subplots that tackle themes like adultery and professional misconduct) film in its day and still holds up in many respects for how it presents the complexities of Navy life during wartime. “In Harm’s Way” allows Wayne to do more than just swagger; he stretches his talents as an actor. And because of that it’s his best military work.
7. George C. Scott as General George S. Patton in “Patton”
Everything the nation knows about General George S. Patton is a function of this movie and George C. Scott’s amazing performance in it. “Patton” presents the general as the flawed genius he was, as brilliant as he was self-destructive and reckless. The opening soliloquy alone is total money: “No damn bastard ever won a war by dying for his country,” he says in front of a giant flag backdrop. “He won it by making the other poor damn bastard die for his country.”
8. Alec Guinness as Lieutenant Colonel Nicolson in “Bridge on the River Kwai”
Before he was in “Star Wars” as Obi-Wan Kenobe urging Luke Skywalker to use the force, Sir Alec Guinness played Lt. Col. Nicolson, the senior ranking officer among prisoners held by some nasty Japanese troops. Guinness’ Nicolson is tough and resourceful and good at messing with his captors, especially when it comes to figuring out ways of keeping the construction of the Bridge on the River Kwai from proceeding. His performance is as good a cinematic example as there is for why the Brits make great allies.
9. Robert De Niro as Staff Sergeant Michael Vronsky in “The Deerhunter”
Staff Sergeant Vronsky is ballsy-as-pozz, especially during the Russian Roulette scenes. And good luck not yelling “hell yeah!” at the screen when he overpowers his VC captors and escapes. De Niro’s performance is moving and feels authentic, and he does the special forces community proud while at the same time showing the sometimes tragic impact of war on a small town.
10. Tom Hanks as Captain John H. Miller in “Saving Private Ryan”
“Saving Private Ryan” did much toward dispelling the myth that World War II was somehow cleaner than the wars that followed, and that cinematic landscape is made all the more real by Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Capt. John Miller, a school teacher-turned-war-weary-warfighter who knows the meaning of duty and leads by example. His on-screen sacrifice is truly felt and is a worthy representation of what earned The Greatest Generation their label.
11. Sterling Hayden as General Jack D. Ripper in “Dr. Strangelove”
This Cold War satirical masterpiece about B-52s gone wild by the orders of a lunatic wing commander is made pitch perfect by Sterling Hayden’s performance as General Jack D. Ripper (get it?). From his musings about post-coitus epiphanies (“loss of essence,” as he calls it) to his fears about the commie plot that is fluoridation, Hayden’s Ripper should be funny enough to scare us all that he might actually exist (and have his finger on the button).
12. Jürgen Prochnow as Captain-Lieutenant Henrich Lehmann-Willenbrock in “Das Boot”
The U-boat war was a little-explored part of military movies until “Das Boot” was released in 1981. Jürgen Prochnow does an amazing job playing the captain of the submarine toward the end of the war. The crew is beat down and the Nazi rhetoric has long since rung hollow, but there is still a mission to carry out and a war to survive. Lehmann-Willenbrock is as good a leader as military movies have ever created, and his courage, skill, and empathy are timeless. Watch this one and find yourself routing for the other side. (“Das Boot” is best viewed in German with English subtitles, by the way.)
The American military has been kicking ass and taking names for over 240 years. In all that time, it’s amassed a massive list of important victories and defeats. Below is a list of some that reshaped American history for better or worse.
The list is voteable, so click to advance your picks for most important battles and strike down ones you find less important.
Although the perfect movie doesn’t exist, 1994’s Forrest Gump gets pretty damn close. Directed by legendary filmmaker, Robert Zemeckis, the film chronicles the fictional life of a man who lacks social intelligence but makes up for it with an incredible amount of heart.
Out of all the outstanding characters the film showcases, outside of Forrest, many moviegoers wanted to see “Lt. Dan” overcome his demons and succeed at life, but we only catch a glimpse of it.
Although the movie does feature his character arch, seeing his unique journey, start to finish, would have been awesome.
These are four reasons why we think Lt. Dan should have gotten his own freakin’ sequel.
4. He knew his sh*t
We first meet Lt. Dan as Forrest and Bubba wrongfully salute him in the field. He quickly corrects their saluting and just as quickly explains why.
To other veterans, this is an excellent detail. We’ve seen many films where enlisted troops salute an officer in a war zone, and they don’t get briefed on why they shouldn’t do that.
Lt. Dan knows his sh*t, plus, he told them to take care of their feet, which is huge in the infantry and often left out of movies.
Lt. Dan Taylor informs Forrest and Bubba of a few of the “what-nots” to surviving in Vietnam. (Image from Paramount Pictures’ Forrest Gump)
3. Focus on Lt. Dan before Forrest shows up
We get a pretty comedic backstory of Lt. Dan’s family members fighting and dying in previous wars. However, we don’t know too much of what he’s done in Vietnam other than he’s probably been “in-country” for a while when we meet him.
We think it would be pretty awesome to see him when he was just a boot.
Maybe he looked a lot like this? (Image from Columbia Tristar Home Video’s A Midnight Clear)
2. What happened to Lt. Dan after he left the war?
We were all a little surprised when Forrest tried to give Lt. Dan some ice cream, only to find out he was transported back to the States. For the most part, we know how sh*tty Vietnam vets were treated after they returned from the war, which f*cking sucks.
“Lt. Dan, ice cream.” (Image from Paramount Pictures’ Forrest Gump)
Personally, we would love to have seen Lt. Dan bark back at some of the Vietnam protestors when he encounters them on the street… or something like that.
Lt. Dan was a yeller — we all know that. He yelled at Forrest when he had legs, and even more after he’d lost them. But, toward the end of the film, we see a cleaned up version of Lt. Dan, married, and sporting new, magic legs.
As veterans, we all know the struggle of overcoming adversity, and to see Lt. Dan clean up his life up — that’s impressive. But, we’d like to see how it all happened in a sequel.
Lt. Dan all cleaned up with his new magic legs at his best friend’s wedding. (Image from Paramount Pictures’ Forrest Gump)
Troops deployed around the world aren’t always saddled with the modern conveniences of a private room. Instead, they get to experience communal living in an open bay that houses anywhere from five or six service members to hundreds of them, each with an entire cot’s worth of space to call their own.
For those unfortunate people who have never lived within spitting distance of nearly everyone they work with, here are six major perks to living in a military bay:
1. Everyone knows your business, and you know theirs.
When everyone is sleeping practically on top of each other, it’s sort of hard to keep anything private. Reading choices, hygiene habits, frequency of urination, everyone knows everything about you. And, this flows both ways. Whether you like it or not, you will know how long and how often your friends poop.
2. You always know which of your buddies are sick
Every cough, sneeze, and snore cuts through the air of the bay like a serrated knife through your dreams, ensuring that you always know who is congested and who has undiagnosed sleep apnea. This allows buddies to update each other on general health matters.
3. You learn all sorts of medical tips, like “Sleep head-to-toe to avoid respiratory infections.”
You’ll learn a lot about human anatomy in a large bay. For instance, humans breathing only a few feet from each other all night will often exchange respiratory diseases. To avoid this, all troops should sleep with their heads and feet on alternating ends of the cots. That way, you get to smell your buddy’s sweaty feet all night instead of picking up his horrendous cough.
4. You have the entire underside of your cot to store stuff.
One of the best things about living in a bay is that you have tons of storage space. Almost the entire underside of your cot can be used for holding duffel bags, rucks, and — for the truly elite — even footlockers. Some units fill the bay with beds and lockable storage, but then you need a key to get into your stuff. Best to just rock the duffel bag with flimsy lock for quick access.
5. Other military specialties divulge their secrets while holding meetings 3 feet from you.
Sleepers will learn a lot more about the Army when they’re frequently awakened by NCOs and junior officers discussing operations near their bunks. Want to learn more about electromagnetic warfare? Be sure to grab a bunk near the EWO. Want to never sleep again? The operations cell usually has bunks at the back.
6. The long treks to the latrines really wake you up in the morning (and at 0-dark-30).
Have trouble waking up without coffee? Many bays don’t have plumbing and the 300-yard walk to the latrines and sinks every morning just to brush your teeth can really get the blood pumping. In the bays with water, you’re sure to get frequent reminders to get out of bed as literally dozens of people start shuffling past your bed on their way to and from the urinal.
It probably doesn’t feel great to be outnumbered and fought into a corner. That’s probably why American troops tend to avoid those situations.
You never know what surrender could bring. At best, the unit is just out of the war ’til the end. At worst, the officer in charge might just get everyone killed.
Maybe it’s better to risk a fight to the death.
1. “I have not yet begun to fight.”
– John Paul Jones, Continental Navy Captain during the Revolutionary War.
While at the Battle of Flamborough Head, John Paul Jones and his combined American and French squadron of ships went head-to-head with large British frigates protecting British shipping.
From the Bonhomme Richard, Jones engaged the frigate HMS Serapis for hours. Each tried to board then subsequently sink their opponent. When the captain of Searapis called for Jones to surrender, he uttered this now-famous reply.
He is the only Continental commander to bring the Revolution to the British, raiding English shipping in the Irish Sea and the English town of Whitehaven.
– The cannon Texian commander William Barret Travis fired at Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna at the Alamo.
By now, most Americans know the story of the old Spanish mission in San Antonio. Santa Anna’s 1,800-strong Mexican Army laid siege to the Alamo for ten days as an estimated 200 or more defenders held their ground for Texas’ independence.
Santa Anna’s troops slaughtered the defenders of the Alamo to the last man. He would be captured by the Texian Army days later while hiding amongst his soldiers after losing the Battle on San Jacinto, forcing him to grant Texas its independence.
3. “I beg leave to say that I decline acceding to your request.”
– General Zachary Taylor to Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.
President Polk deliberately gave all but 4,650 of Zachary Taylor’s troops to General Winfield Scott in an effort to diminish Taylor’s growing popularity back home. When Santa Anna learned about this, he sent his army of 15,000 Mexicans to annihilate Taylor.
Instead, Taylor’s army routed the Mexicans, despite being outnumbered 3-to-1. Rather than checking Taylor’s popularity, the general’s military acumen so impressed the Whig Party, they ran him as their candidate for President, despite disagreeing with him on practically every issue.
He was easily elected.
4. “I will do my best to meet you.”
– Confederate General James Longstreet’s reply to Union General George A. Custer.
Custer threatened to “immediately renew hostilities” just as Lee and Grant were discussing the term of the surrender of all Confederate forces at Appomattox Court House, demanding Longstreet surrender separately.
Longstreet then bluffed that he had many more operational units than he did by ordering imaginary these units forward as he spoke to Custer. Custer balked and withdrew his demand.
– General Anthony McAuliffe, acting commander of the 101st Airborne while surrounded at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII.
Major General Maxwell Taylor was at a staff conference in the United States when strong German armor units surrounded the 101st around the Belgian city of Bastogne. General Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz sent a surrender demand threatening to annihilate the U.S. troops if they didn’t capitulate.
McAuliffe’s response was interpreted to von Lüttwitz as “go to hell.”
Pirates, the swashbuckling legends of yesteryear. We often hear the stories of pirates like fairytales from long ago, but we rarely learn about them in detail, as individuals. From unique backstories to long careers, these six real-life pirates are some of the greatest and most interesting from history.
1. Anne Bonny
Born in 1697 in Ireland, Anne was the illegitimate daughter of a lawyer and a servant, who moved away to Charleston, SC and owned a plantation. After her mother’s passing, Anne became enamored with James Bonny, a pirate, as well as the adventurous pirate lifestyle. Marrying James caused disownment from her father, but their romance was not for long and Anne left James to join Calico Jack’s crew.
While Captain Jack was a small-time pirate, it was Anne who found intense excitement in gaining new territory and overtaking ships, each time, bigger and better. She was a pioneer for openly female pirates, who went without a disguise, carving out a name for herself as not simply “The Captain’s Woman,” but also a ruthless pirate who could hold her own in battle. She even gave birth to two children, one of whom’s pregnancies spared her execution.
2. Mary Read
Mary or ‘Mark’ Read is yet another legendary female pirate. Born 1685 in England, Mary lost her father and brother as a child, and was forced to be raised as a boy by her mother so her paternal grandmother, believing that her deceased grandson was still alive, would continue to support them. Mary soon entered the army where she met her husband. However, after leaving the army together he also died. Devastated, she re-entered the army and was captured by Calico Jack’s crew.
Although Mary’s indoctrination into pirate life was involuntary, she grew fond of the liberation that came with it. She was well known for being the first to fight off attacks on the ship, leveraging her military knowledge. It is known that only a handful of people were aware of her true gender, one being Anne Bonny, Calico Jack, her two loves and the judge that oversaw her trial after being captured. Regardless of her dark past, Mary’s ruthless lust for life and battle will always be remembered.
3. Black Beard
Blackbeard, or his real name, Edward Tache, is considered one of the most menacing pirates in history. Originally a privateer (legalized pirate), during the Spanish Succession, Blackbeard robbed ships in the West Indies. By the end of the war, Teche chose piracy and started his two-year reign that would cement him in history. Teche served under the command of pirate captain Benjamin Thornigold, where he plundered ships and terrorized communities along the Gulf Coast, later taking over as captain of his own ship.
Blackbeard lived for conquest and spectacle. His black beard, growing from his cheeks to his waist, was tied in black ribbons, and a lit rope soaked in saltpeter braided into his beard puffed clouds of smoke, giving the appearance of a demon. His tactics were ruthless, from disemboweling captives and slicing off a prisoner’s ears and forcing him to eat them, to murdering his own crew members. However, his demise was inevitable when he was hunted down in 1718, on Ocracoke Island, where his head was publicly displayed as a warning.
4. Sir Francis Drake
Sir Francis Drake, is revered as a hero in England, and a pirate in Spain. Drake entered the sea trade at age 12 and with an increased interest in exploration of the world, he leveraged his knowledge and skill to become one of the first Europeans to ‘discover’ new routes and lands. His adventures into uncharted territory and ability to seek out and plunder the ships of competitors placed him in excellent favor with Queen Elizabeth I. While at sea, Drake participated in the Caribbean slave trade and also defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588, plundering many Spanish vessels, as a way to discourage Spain from continuing their exploration endeavors. Consequently, in his raids, Drake acquired some of the most priceless loots in history.
5. Bartholomew Roberts
“Black” Bart Roberts was a Welsh pirate and is considered one of the most successful pirates of the Golden Age of piracy. He operated out of Africa and the Caribbean, capturing over 400 ships within his 4-year reign. Roberts was known as a man of expensive taste and his desire for luxury showed itself in boldness, serving him well in plundering so many ships. Coming from an enslaved childhood, he was freed by pirates and eventually became one himself.
Roberts was deceivingly calm, but in truth was cold and calculated, frequently killing entire crews aboard plundered vessels. In fact, one of the characteristics that made him so famous was his willingness to conquer superior ships usually avoided by other pirates. By 1722, however, Roberts and his crew were put on trial, in one of the biggest pirate trials in history, and executed. Thus, with the fall of Black Bart came the fall of piracy’s Golden Age.
6. Ching Shih
Piracy wasn’t just limited to the western world. Born in 1775 in Guangdong Provence, Ching was thrown into prostitution at 13 to bring in income for her family. She was famous within the province for her beauty and hospitality, soon attracting the attention of notorious pirate Zheng Yi in 1801, who asked for her hand in marriage. While she agreed, Ching demanded monetary benefits from their relationship, as well as the co-command of his crew.
Ching’s wish was granted and her influence was fast, implementing strict guidelines that encouraged equality among men and women aboard and between captain and crew. After Zheng’s death, Ching took full control and with such ‘progressive’ policies, other fleets joined Ching’s pirate empire, thus creating the largest pirate fleet, known as The Red Flag Fleet, in history, with numbers in the thousands.
It’s well known that the fearsome Soviet spy agency, the KGB, used brutal tactics to eliminate and intimidate rivals.
Legend has it that when Soviet diplomats were kidnapped by terrorists in Lebanon in the mid-1980s, KGB officers kidnapped and killed a relative of one of the perpetrators, mailing body parts to the terrorists to demonstrate why Russia’s enemies shouldn’t poke the bear.
Now-declassified CIA documents reveal the KGB had a special team created exclusively for assassinations. The KGB’s 13th Department was called the “Directorate of Special Tasks” and used “executive actions” or “liquid affairs” (read: targeted assassinations) to eliminate threats to the Soviet state.
The directorate had two special labs that most officers didn’t know about – one for creating unique weapons and explosives, the other for developing new poisons and drugs. Poisons were a favorite for these extra-judicial killings because they attracted less attention and were often confused for natural deaths.
Here are nine KGB assassination attempts that will make you want to run background checks on your friends.
1. Leon Trotsky
Trotsky was a key player in the Bolshevik takeover of Russia in 1918. When Lenin died, many believed he would take over. But it was Stalin who won the succession struggle.
Trotsky criticized the new Soviet state for suppressing democracy and was expelled from the government for his trouble. Eventually, Stalin exiled Trotsky out of the USSR.
The Mexico City suburbs became his new home, but the distance couldn’t keep him safe from the death sentence Stalin ordered. In 1940, Trotsky was done in by a Spanish Communist agent with an ice pick.
2. Franz Josip Tito
The World War II leader of Yugoslavia would not give up his country’s hard-fought independence for anything. Tito’s refusal to align himself with the Soviet Bloc frustrated Stalin to no end. So the Soviet dictator decided to get rid of Tito — as he had done with many previous political roadblocks.
‘Stop sending people to kill me… If you don’t stop sending killers, I’ll send one to Moscow, and I won’t have to send a second.’
3. John Wayne
Film historian and author Michael Munn tells the story of John Wayne’s brush with a Soviet assassination order in his book, “John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth.” Wayne’s anti-Communist statements didn’t sit well with Stalin, who allegedly ordered The Duke’s murder. Two Russian filmmakers, Sergei Gerasimov and Alexei Kapler, warned film legend Orson Welles about the order. Wells told Wayne, but Wayne was also warned by the FBI and stuntman Yakima Canutt, whom Wayne once credited with saving his life.
Wayne and a screenwriter friend planned to abduct the assassins, drive them to a beach, and stage a mock execution to pump them for information. The two hitmen turned and worked for the FBI while Wayne moved to a house behind a large wall.
4. Lev Rebet
Rebet was a Ukrainian nationalist writer, Nazi death camp survivor, and staunch anti-Communist. He was also the leader of the Ukrainian government for a time. In 1957, Rebet died suddenly of “natural causes” while on a trip to Munich. In 1961, a KGB agent named Bohdan Stashynsky defected to the West and revealed Rebet’s death was an assassination. The weapon he used was a gun that sprayed a cloud of cyanide gas. Stashynsky also killed Rebet’s party boss, Stepan Bandera, with the gas weapon.
5. Georgi Markov
A gray-haired man waiting for a London bus in 1978 would have attracted little attention from passers-by. In this case, that man was Georgi Markov, a Communist defector from Bulgaria who made England his new home. The man next to him dropped his umbrella, hitting Markov in the leg. It hurt, but Markov barely noticed. The man apologized and they both went on their way. Markov died four days later.
His autopsy revealed a pellet in his leg which contained .2 milligrams of ricin, a deadly poison used in chemical warfare and made famous by the show “Breaking Bad.” Vladimir Kostov, another Bulgarian defector, survived a similar fate with the pellet being stuck in his back. He told the world about the attack on Radio Free Europefour days after his brush with death.
“Georgiy Sergeyevich, I have come to you from Moscow. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union has ordered your assassination.”
But Khoklov didn’t kill him. Instead, the KGB agent defected to the U.S. and revealed (via press conference) the weapon he was supposed to use: a cigarette pack that was actually an electrically-operated, silenced gun that fired cyanide rounds.
7. Nikolai Khoklov
In retaliation for his defection and failed assassination of Okolovich, Khoklov’s wife was sentenced to forced resettlement in the Soviet Union and Department 13 ordered Khoklov’s own assassination. The weapon would be thallium poisoning, the first use of radiological weapons by the KGB.
Thallium is a soft metal element that was often used as a rat or ant poison but fell into disuse for its potential side effects. When Khoklov’s skin began to crack, he began to lose his hair, and bleed without clotting, he knew what was happening. German doctors irrigated him with antidotes and he survived.
8. Pope John Paul II
When Polish Cardinal Karol Józef Wojtyła was elected Pope in 1979, the Soviet Union was less than thrilled. They believed he was the single greatest threat to their power, especially in Poland. So when the Pontiff was shot and wounded on May 13, 1981, the world looked to more than his attacker, a Turkish man named Mehmet Ali Agca, for answers.
The Solidarity movement was a direct outgrowth of the Pope’s visit to Poland in 1979 and became a constant irritation in the side of the Soviet leaders. A book detailing the Mitrokhin Archive, a massive trove of Top Secret KGB documents carried over by Vasili Mitrokhin after his defection to the West, shows the KGB carried out this assassination attempt in retaliation for the Pope’s attempt to undermine Soviet regime.
9. Alexander Litvinenko
Litvinenko served with the KGB from 1986 until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. He continued serving in Russia’s internal security service long after, working to infiltrate organized crime groups. In 1998, he accused his superiors of ordering the assassination of a Russian media mogul in a public press conference. He was arrested twice for this and personally fired by Vladimir Putin, whom the agent accused of bombing Russian apartments and murdering a Russian journalist to get elected president.
He fled to London with his family and began to write books and advise the Britain’s intelligence community on Russian activities. Allegedly a target of the KGB’s susccessor, the FSB, in 2006 he suddenly became gravely ill, growing weak and unable to walk. When he was hospitalized, specialists conducted a test for radioactive materials and discovered the element Polonium-210, a radioactive element that emits alpha radiation – only damaging to human tissue when ingested.
The UK’s Health Protection Agency discovered the Polonium poison in Litvinenko’s teacup, 200 times greater than a normally lethal dose.
Operation Just Cause was a quick, decisive mission to remove Manuel Noriega from power in 1989. The operation was opened by the largest airborne operation since World War II and is often cited as an example of using overwhelming force to achieve mission objectives.
The operation also saw many firsts for the U.S. military.
1. First deployment of the entire 75th Ranger Regiment
While Rangers are one of the oldest units in the US military, the unit in its modern incarnation did not come into being until 1986. Just three short years later the entire 75th Ranger Regiment would spearhead the assault into Panama with parachute landings at Rio Hato Airfield and Torrijos/Tocumen International Airport.
The next time the entire regiment would be deployed to one operation was the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
2. First (and only) airborne deployment of the M551 Sheridan tank
The M551 Sheridan armored reconnaissance/airborne assault vehicle had been in the military’s inventory since 1967 and had served in combat in Vietnam. However, by the mid-1980’s it had been phased out of all units, without replacement, with the exception of the 3rd Battalion, 73rd Armored Regiment (Airborne), a part of the 82nd Airborne Division.
This was the first, and only, time that tanks and their crews were delivered by parachute in combat. With little else in the way of armored units, these tanks provided a much needed punch to the assault forces. Less than ten years later, though, the 82nd also divested itself of the M551 without a planned replacement.
Two F-117A Nighthawks dropped bombs during Operation Just Cause. (Photo: Department of Defense)
3. First mission for the F-117
Having just been revealed publicly the year prior, six F-117A’s flew from the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada — though only two would actively participate. Those two aircraft dropped 2,000 laser-guided bombs on the Rio Hato airport prior to the parachute insertion of the Rangers in order to stun and confuse the Panamanian soldiers stationed there.
After a successful debut in Panama, F-117’s would next see action in Operation Desert Storm where they flew through strong Iraqi air defenses to take out targets in Baghdad without a single loss.
4. First combat deployment of the AH-64 Apache
The AH-64 Apache, another weapons system that would see extensive service in the First Gulf War, also made its combat debut in Panama. In its first missions, the Apache proved a capable Close Air Support platform and, though not tank-busting, provided precision fires against fortified targets.
Its superb night-fighting capabilities ensured it had a long career ahead with the U.S. Army. After the warm-up in Panama the Apache would also see extensive service in Iraq in 1991, where it wreaked havoc on Iraqi armored formations. An improved Apache, the AH-64D Apache Longbow, continues to serve in the Army and has seen extensive use in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
5. First combat deployment of the HMMWV
The venerable “Humvee” is as ubiquitous to the modern military as its predecessor the Jeep. The HMMWV had come into service earlier in the decade to replace a multitude of different service, cargo, and combat vehicles. In its debut in Panama, it quickly showed that it could outperform all of them.
The Humvee received praise for its durability and reliability from ground commanders in Panama. The Humvee has served troops all over the world for over 30 years, seeing extensive action in both Afghanistan and Iraq, before finally succumbing to the operational needs of the battlefield.
Operation Just Cause also saw the combat debut of a Marine Corps weapons system, the LAV-25. In its first combat use the LAV-25 showed its versatility as it covered Marine advances, conducted breaching operations, and quickly transported Marines from objective to objective across the battlefield.
7. First unified combatant command operation after the Goldwater-Nichols Act
While this sounds rather boring (yawn) compared to the rest of this list, it is actually very important. The Goldwater-Nichols Act had changed the chain of command and the interoperability of the branches of the armed forces. Like the rest of this list, Panama was a testbed for this new organizational structure.
The success of the operation proved that Congress had gotten it right. The new streamlined chain of command, which goes from the President to the Defense Secretary right to the Combatant Commanders, greatly increased speed of decision-making and the ability of the different branches to coordinate for an operation. This has been the model used throughout our current conflicts to ensure that each service is properly coordinated for joint operations.
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.”
Our hearts go out to the lives lost and to everyone who were displaced and had their lives affected by Hurricane Harvey. I would like to dedicate this ‘Photos of the Week’ to all of the brave service members in Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast.
Of course, our troops are always training and are still fighting. This week, we will highlight how each branch is doing its part to aid in these troubling times.
Personnel from the 59th Medical Wing, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, prepare their equipment to accept patients at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, in response to the devestation caused by Hurricane Harvey, August 30, 2017. The 59th MDW is part of a larger Department of Defense presence in an effort to aid eastern Texas following a record amount of rainfall and flooding.
Brian Archibald, a rescue specialist assigned to the South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team Delta in McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., points to a someone who may need help August 31, 2017 in Port Arthur, Texas. The SC-HART are specialized in search and rescue and are capable of recovering people in distress.
Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Class Richard Call and members of New Jersey Task Force 1, assist evacuees into a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle (LMTV) to during water rescue operations in Wharton, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017, due to devastating effects caused by Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath. Harvey made landfall into the Texas coast last week as a category 4 hurricane.
U.S. Army Sgt. Daniel Carnahan (front) and Staff Sgt. Tym Larson, Detachment 2, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 238th Regiment, crew members of a UH-60 “Blackhawk”, strap down cargo, Seguin Artillery Airfield, Tx., Aug. 30, 2017. This crew is taking Meals-Ready-to-Eat to those affected by Hurricane Harvey.
An MH-53E Sea Dragon assigned to the HM-15, Naval Station Norfolk, Va, flies over Houston, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. Hurricane Harvey formed in the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall in southeastern Texas, bringing record flooding and destruction to the region. U.S. military assets supported FEMA as well as state and local authorities in rescue and relief efforts.
U.S. Navy AWSC Phillip Freer, assigned to the HM-14, Naval Station Norfolk, Va, guides a forklift loading a pallet of water onto an MH-53E Sea Dragon for Hurricane Harvey relief support at Katy, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. Hurricane Harvey formed in the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall in southeastern Texas, bringing record flooding and destruction to the region. U.S. military assets supported FEMA as well as state and local authorities in rescue and relief efforts.
A Marine with Charlie Company, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, along with a member of the Texas Highway Patrol and Texas State Guard, escort a man to higher ground, Houston, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. Hurricane Harvey landed Aug. 25, 2017, flooding thousands of homes and displaced over 30,000 people.
Marines with Company C, 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion, 4th Marine Division, load Hurricane Harvey victims aboard Amphibious Assault Vehicles during rescue operations and immediate response missions in response to Hurricane Harvey at Galveston, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. The Marines and Sailors with Marine Forces Reserve are posturing ground, air and logistical assets as part of the Department of Defense support to FEMA, state and local response efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Evan Gallant, a rescue swimmer from Air Station Miami, carries a boy away from an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter in Beaumont, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. An aircraft crew working out of Air Station Houston transported a group of people from a shelter to Jack Brooks Regional Airport in Beaumont, Texas.
Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Evan Gallant, a rescue swimmer working out of Air Station Houston, prepares to deploy and rescue stranded people in Vidor, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. Anderson Cooper, anchor with CNN, accompanied the aircraft crew on their rescue missions Thursday.