Since its official field debut in 1983, the MRE has come a long, long way. Today’s current iteration seems like veritable fine dining compared with previous versions, but they’re still widely considered “Meals Rejected by Everyone,” and “Meals Rarely Edible.” Take a look at how MREs have evolved over time and what the DoD is doing to make them more palatable.
1907: The Iron Ration becomes the first individual combat ration issued to military personnel and included three 3-ounce cakes made from beef bouillon powder and cooked wheat, three 1-ounce bars of chocolate, and salt and pepper.
1917: Reserve Rations are issued to soldiers during the end of WWI. These included 12 ounces of fresh bacon or one pound of canned meat, two 8-ounce cans of hardtack biscuits, 1.16 ounces of ground coffee, 2.4 ounces of sugar, and .16 ounces of salt—no pepper in sight.
1938’s C-Ration is closest to what many now think of as the MRE. It consisted of an individually canned, wet, pre-cooked meal. Service members had three choices: meat and beans, meat and vegetable stew, or meat and potato hash.
Just four years later, the 1942 K-Ration saw an increase in both calories and options. This MRE included meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but the choices (canned ham and eggs, bacon and cheese for lunch, and a beef and pork loaf for dinner) weren’t that appetizing.
By 1958, the Meal, Combat, Individual (MCI) included canned wet rations averaging about 1,200 calories each. The majority of all service members disliked the MCI, but this remained the only field option available for almost twenty years.
Adopted as the official DoD combat ration in 1975, large scale production of Meals Ready to Eat began in 1978, and the first delivery went out just three years later. The 25th ID ate nothing but MREs for 34 days, and service members rated the food “acceptable,” but only about half of the meals were consumed. Translation: the food was super gross, and the soldiers only ate them out of necessity. Three years later, the same experiment was performed … with the same results.
(U.S. Air Force Photo)
So, starting in 1988, the DoD made some changes. Entrée size was changed from 5 ounces to 8 ounces, and nine of the 12 entrée options were replaced. Candies were added to four choices, as was hot sauce, and for all 12 menus, cold beverage choices were made available.
But the MREs were still pretty gross.
Field testing and early feedback from Operation Desert Storm (ODS) brought another round of changes. This time, the DoD replaced old mil-spec spray-dried coffee with commercially freeze-dried coffee. Hot sauce was made available to all 12 menus, dehydrated fruits were swapped out for wet-pack fruit, and candy was made available to an additional four menus choices.
During ODS, service personnel ate MREs for as many as 60 days in a row, which resulted in another round of changes. Shelf-stable bread inside an MRE pouch was created, a chocolate bar able to withstand high heat was developed, and flameless ration heaters were developed as an easy method for service members to heat their entrees since the only thing grosser than eating MREs for two months is eating cold MREs for two months.
In 1994, more changes were field-tested. The DoD decided that commercial-like graphics should be added to increase consumption and acceptance. MRE bags became easier to open, and biodegradable spoons were added.
1996 saw MREs available for special diets to help increase calorie intake for service members in the field. Menu counts increased to 16 items and included ham slices and chili. One year later, there were 20 entrée items, including cheese tortellini and boneless pork chops with noodles.
Current menu offerings include southwest style beef and black beans, pepperoni pizza, creamy spinach fettuccine, and vegetable crumbles with pasta in taco style sauce. While none of those sound exceptionally appealing, they’re far better than beef bouillon cakes of 1907.
Ranked as the best MRE available, the chili mac menu comes with pound cake, crackers, a jalapeno cheese spread, and candy. The worst choices tie between the veggie burger (which includes a knockoff Gatorade powder, two slices of snack bread, and a chocolate banana muffin) and the Chicken a la King, which sounds yummy but is, in fact, just a gelatinous goo of shred of “chicken.”
MREs are useful for FTXs and good to have on hand in case of natural disasters. They’re convenient and shelf-stable, so they’re a good addition to emergency preparations. But don’t count on them tasting that great.
Four spouses and two fiancées of veterans eligible for the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ family caregiver program have filed a lawsuit against the VA for denying or improperly revoking their benefits.
In a suit filed Jan. 22, 2018, in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the plaintiffs, led by Florida resident Zamantha Tapia, fiancée of Army veteran Cesar Silva, allege that the VA did not follow the laws and regulations governing the department’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program, which provides compensation and health benefits to those who provide care for seriously injured post-9/11 veterans.
According to the suit, Silva and Tapia’s application was denied, and the benefits of the other plaintiffs were inappropriately downgraded or terminated without proper investigation or determination.
In 2017, veterans and their caregivers enrolled in the program began seeing their benefits curtailed or terminated — often with no reason given, other than that their VA providers determined they no longer needed help with their daily activities.
In August 2018, the VA Office of Inspector General found that across the VA, facilities didn’t adequately manage the program, failing to provide consistent access to it, improperly accepting ineligible veterans and declining to monitor the health statuses of nearly half the veterans it discharged from the program.
The IG also learned that the department paid out .8 million to caregivers of veterans who weren’t eligible for the program, and the VA “failed to manage the program effectively because it did not establish governance that promoted accountability for program management,” staff members wrote in the report.
In 2015, plaintiff Jennifer Wilmot and her husband George Wilmot, an Army National Guard veteran who served from October 2007 to May 2013, were booted from the program.
The Wilmots were accepted into the caregiver program in 2013 but should have received the highest level of compensation rather than the level they were awarded, according to attorneys Jason Perry and Luke Miller.
Then came the dismissal.
“After completing a comprehensive review of your medical records, it appears that you have met the intention of the program and your participation will be discontinued,” VA officials wrote to the Wilmots.
The lawsuit calls the termination “arbitrary and capricious.”
Silva was deployed to Iraq from November 2003 to August 2004, sustaining shrapnel injuries in an attack. According to the lawsuit, he received a VA disability rating of 70 percent in 2009 for rotator cuff strain and impingement and suffers from chronic headaches, degenerative joint disease, back pain and neuropathy. He also has PTSD, TBI, memory loss, depression and irritable bowel syndrome.
Tapia and Silva applied for the family caregiver program in 2014 but were denied. According to the suit, the VA found that Silva did not need assistance for physical injuries and said his mental health conditions were not service-connected. They reapplied in 2017, but following a phone assessment, VA officials said that Silva was not “receiving medical treatment” — an error, the lawsuit alleges — and that Tapia was “an enabler.”
According to Perry, an attorney in Wellington, Florida, and Miller, of Military Disability Lawyer LLC in Salem, Oregon, the plaintiffs have asked the court to certify the suit as a class action, meaning that other affected caregivers could sign on if it is approved.
They estimate that the VA received more than 100,000 applications for the family caregiver program between May 2011 and September 2018 and, therefore, thousands may be able to sign on to the possible class action.
The plaintiffs also are requesting that the VA stop what they perceive as arbitrary dismissals from the program and are seeking monetary compensation in an amount “to be determined at trial,” according to the suit.
The federal government has until March 25, 2019, to file a response in the case, and a status conference is scheduled for March 29, 2019, according to court documents.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Nothing has even been more with doing than invading occupied France in 1944. If the Allies were going to successfully land on the Normandy coast, however, they needed a perfect landing. Practice makes perfect, so that’s what the Allies did.
The training for D-Day was called “Exercise Tiger” and like most military exercises, it did not go entirely as planned. For starters, this training operation was wrecked by the actual enemy.
A few months before the scheduled D-Day landings window, American Force U, the units that were assigned to land at Utah Beach that Spring, started preparing for their task. More than 220 ships and landing craft were huddled together in Lyme Bay, on England’s southern coast. Their destination was Slapton Sands to the southwest along the English Channel.
To land there, the Americans were going to train like they were going to fight, with infantry carrying everything they were supposed to for the actual invasion of Europe. The Navy was going to fire actual live shells onto the beach. Everything was supposed to go the way it would happen on D-Day. It did not go that way.
The most important problem for the practice landing was hiding the landing force. The German knew an invasion would coming soon and were on the lookout for it through spies, aerial and naval reconnaissance, and radio traffic. The Germans saw the Allied landing force and knew where they were.
Next, the landing force only had one Allied cruiser escort to cover it in case of a German attack. It was supposed to have two, but one of them had to back out at the last moment due to an accidental collision in the bay. The HMS Azalea would be its only cover.
As the convoy traversed Lyme Bay in the early morning hours of April 28th, British radar picked up German S-boats, torpedo boats, making their way toward the convoy. The coastal defenses also saw the S-boats, but couldn’t fire on them because they were under orders not to engage.
By the time the Azalea saw green tracer rounds fired at the landing craft the two S-boats had already launched their torpedoes at LST-507. Radiomen aboard the other landing craft tried to discern what was happening but the convoy was spread out and radio silence had been ordered, adding to the general confusion.
Within one half-hour LST-507 gave the order to abandon ship. With the soldiers aboard carrying their full kit and hastily-applied life vests, many of them drowned. Less than an hour later, LST-531 was hit by torpedoes and sank much faster, carrying all but 29 aboard to the bottom of the English Channel with it.
One more landing craft, LST-289, was hit by a torpedo, but managed to limp back to base. A total of 749 American died in the exercise – only 197 were killed in the actual D-Day landing on Utah Beach.
Ten of the officers missing had knowledge of the D-Day invasion, and Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered delay to the planned attack until their bodies could be found and he was assured the Germans didn’t get their intelligence.
The Germans didn’t get further intelligence from the attack on the convoy, but the convoy did affirm to German intelligence that a cross-channel invasion was coming. Eisenhower ordered the English Channel to be cleared of S-boats before launching Operation Overlord.
As Hurricane Dorian approaches the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sent a crew to perform recon on the storm on Aug. 29, 2019. And for the first time, the pilots deployed were all women.
The all-female pilot crew was comprised of Captain Kristie Twining, Commander Rebecca Waddington, and Lieutenant Lindsey Norman. The women piloted a seven-and-a-half-hour flight to collect data on the storm as it gathers steam and heads toward Florida.
The crew flew a Gulfstream IV aircraft nicknamed “Gonzo” during the recon mission. On these trips, crews travel thousands of miles collecting high-altitude data that enable forecasters to better track storms, according to NOAA.
Waddington and Twining were previously on NOAA’s first all-female hurricane hunting crew last year when they were deployed on a mission to fly toward Hurricane Hector, CNN reported.
“While we are very proud to have made history yesterday by being the first all-female flight crew, we are more proud of the mission we are doing and the safety we are providing for people,” Waddington told CNN at the time.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
Inside Northern China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, one people have guarded the secrets and spirit of Genghis Khan for the past 800 years. They are the Darkhad, a group of nomadic warriors who have spent generations protecting the area where the Great Khan was laid to rest – but even they don’t know where that is.
It is said that Khan’s funeral procession murdered everyone it came across. After the slaves finished burying his remains, soldiers escorting the train killed the slaves. Upon the soldiers’ return, they too were killed to keep anyone from knowing the Khan’s final resting place.
It’s also said the Darkhad were given the order to protect this area some 37 generations ago, slaughtering the curious and the grave robber alike. They and their families have been there ever since.
But you’re probably cool. Go give it a try.
A lot of things have happened to this region in the 800 years since. There were three Chinese imperial dynasties, two opium wars, and a Boxer Rebellion, not to mention the slaughter suffered by the Chinese people at the hands of the invading Japanese during World War II and the endless suffering caused by the first decades of Chinese Communism.
During the Soviet Era, however, the Mongolian People’s Republic, backed by the Soviet Union, kept the area restricted and the Darkhad people briefly took a back seat to satellite technology.
A Darkhad shaman performing a ritual in Inner Mongolia’s Darkhad Valley.
These days, of course, no one will kill the curious traveler (or even the archaeologist) for entering the area and searching for the Great Khan’s tomb. But the Darkhad, now some 16,000 strong, continue to guard the living spirit of Genghis Khan in relics related to him. They were housed in eight white yurts passed on from father to son, emblems of the nomadic lifestyle of the Mongolian people. It was the Darkhad who protected the yurts from the emperors, the Japanese, the Chinese Nationalists, and the Chinese Communists.
In 1956, the Communists constructed the Mausoleum of Genghis Khan in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, to be a permanent home for the Khan-related relics. The Mausoleum is open to the public, but does not include the remains of the Mongols’ “Son of Heaven.”
The United States fielded a number of famous fighters in World War II. The P-40 Warhawk, the P-47 Thunderbolt, the F4F Wildcat, the F6F Hellcat, the P-38 Lightning, the F4U Corsair, and the P-51 Mustang all made huge marks. There was one plane, however, that did a lot of damage to the Axis but didn’t enjoy the same fanfare.
And it makes sense — because the Bell P-63 Kingcobra never saw action with the United States.
The P-63 Kingcobra did most of its fighting for the Soviet Air Force, where it served as a tank-buster, armed with a 37mm cannon (about 25 percent bigger than the A-10’s gun), that could also hold its own in the air.
The Kingcobra also packed four M2 .50-caliber machine guns — two in the nose (with 200 rounds per gun) and two in the wings (with 900 rounds per gun). These guns proved more than enough to take out German fighters. The Kingcobra also was able to carry up to three 500-pound bombs or drop tanks. And, with a top speed of 410 miles per hour, this plane was no slowpoke.
The P-63 packed a single 37mm auto-cannon and four .50-caliber machine guns.
Nearly 2,400 Kingcobras were provided to the Soviet Union under the provisions of the Lend-Lease policy. Despite its solid performance, the Soviets never gave this plane much credit for what it did to the Nazis, preferring to highlight the Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik, a Russian design, for propaganda purposes.
Some P-63s did serve in the American military – as training aids for pilots headed overseas.
The P-63 also saw some service with the French, who got 112 planes and used them in Indochina until they got second-hand F8F Bearcats from the United States.
In a way, the Kingcobra did serve in the United States — mostly as either aerial targets or target tugs to help American pilots practice their gunnery. Some were even slated to become (but were never used as) target drones.
Learn more about this forgotten fighter in the video below.
The Marine Corps released a request for information for industry input that identifies potential sources for a suite of hearing enhancement devices. The devices will protect Marines’ hearing while increasing their situational awareness in a variety of training and combat environments.
Marine Corps Systems Command will assess the systems to ensure they are compatible with Marine Corps radios and the Marine Corps Enhanced Combat Helmet, or ECH. Systems can be circumaural or intra-aural but must include versions that are both communications enabled and versions that are not communications enabled. Program Manager Infantry Combat Equipment at MCSC is considering options to purchase between 7,000 and 65,000 hearing enhancement devices within the next three years to be used in addition with the current Combat Arms Earplugs Marines wear.
“Marines have the earplugs and they do provide protection, but sometimes they choose not to wear them because they want to be aware of their surroundings at all times,” said Steven Fontenot, project officer for Hearing, Eye Protection and Loadbearing Equipment in PM ICE at MCSC. “The new headset we want to acquire will allow Marines to wear hearing protection, yet still provide the opportunity to communicate and understand what is going on around them.”
In February 2018, MCSC issued a sample of headsets to 220 infantry, artillery, reconnaissance and combat engineer Marines to ask their opinions on fit, form, function and comfort. Testing was conducted at the Air Force Research Laboratory and during live fire exercises with the Infantry Training Exercise 2018. Recon Marines also took headsets to Norway to conduct cold weather training and were pleased with the performance, Fontenot said.
Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU), Maritime Raid Force, check their weapons during a call-away drill in the hangar bay of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2).
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam M. Bennett)
“Marines wore the headsets throughout their regular training cycle to assess comfort and how well they integrated with the ECH,” said Fontenot. “We want to make sure the headset we acquire is rugged and capable of operating in a wide range of environments a Marine might encounter, from cold weather to extreme heat.”
In the future, MCSC will release new weapon systems that could potentially cause a greater risk to Marines’ hearing. To be prepared, PM ICE wants to ensure Marines ears are protected in advance.
“Most of the systems we’ve researched amplify the verbal and softer noises around the Marine, so they know what is going on while protecting against loud noises that could damage the ear,” said Nick Pierce, Individual Armor Team lead, PM ICE. “Although we conducted an initial evaluation, the latest technologies could yield something better in 2020, and there are always things we can improve upon from the systems that were tested, such as comfort and the ability to clearly pinpoint which direction sound is coming from.”
After industry information is gathered, MCSC’s PM ICE will conduct a larger evaluation with the hearing devices to test their compatibility with the ECH. MCSC could purchase quantities of hearing enhancement devices as early as fiscal year 2020.
Prior to WW2, knowing that they couldn’t compete with the numbers of the US navy, the Imperial Japanese Navy quietly authorized the construction of the two largest battleships by weight ever seen in warfare — the Musashi and her sister ship, the Yamato.
The origins of these two behemoths can be traced back to Japan’s 1934 withdrawal from the League of Nations. Amongst other things, doing this allowed Japan to ignore rules set by the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 and the London Naval Treaty of 1930, both of which aimed to limit the size of battleships as well as the right of participating nations to construct them.
Almost immediately following Japan’s withdrawal, a team working for the Japanese Navy Technical Department helmed by an engineer called Keiji Fukuda began submitting designs for a class of battleships superior in size and firepower to anything ever seen before.
While initially planning to build five of these battleships, ultimately only two were completed, with a third being converted to an aircraft carrier mid-way through construction.
The two completed ships, the Musashi and the Yamato, were quite literally in a class of their own, designed to displace some 73,000 long tons when fully equipped. For reference here, the United States’ Iowa class battleships created around the same time, while of similar length, weighed about 40% less.
Japanese battleship Yamato under construction at the Kure Naval Base, Japan, Sept. 20, 1941.
As one Japanese officer, Naoyoshi Ishida, described, “How huge it is! When you walk inside, there are arrows telling you which direction is the front and which is the back—otherwise you can’t tell. For a couple of days I didn’t even know how to get back to my own quarters. Everyone was like that…. I knew it was a very capable battleship. The guns were enormous.”
On that note, not just big, these ships also featured nine of the largest guns ever put on a battleship, featuring 460 mm barrels and weighing an astounding 3,000 tons each, with all nine combined weighing approximately as much as the United States’ Wyoming, New York, and Nevada class battleships.
These weapons were capable of firing shells that weighed up to 3200 pounds (1450 kg)- or, in other words, in the ballpark of what a typical full sized sedan car weighs. While you might think the range when shooting such an object must have been poor, in fact, these guns could hit a target over 25 miles (40 kilometers) away. They could also be fired at a rate of about once every 40 seconds.
The shockwave produced by one of these guns firing was noted as being powerful enough to tear the skin off of a human if an unlucky individual stood within 15 metres of it without proper shielding. This shockwave also resulted in nearby anti-aircraft guns having to be specially armored to protect them from this.
Speaking of anti-aircraft guns, ultimately these ships were equipped with approximately 150 25 mm guns. In between these and the massive 460 mm cannons previously described, the ships also featured six 155 mm and 24 127 mm guns.
Further, if not needing the 460 mm cannons for hitting ships far away, these battleships were equipped with so-called “beehive rounds” to fire from those cannons. In a nutshell, these rounds were filled with nearly a thousand incendiary tubes and hundreds of shards of steel. The round also included a fuse and explosive that would cause the shell to explode out, with the incendiary tubes igniting shortly thereafter, producing a wall of flame and molten steel meant to absolutely obliterate enemy aircraft. Essentially, the idea here was to convert these guns into comically large shotguns, able to pick any enemy birds out of the air.
Japanese Battleship Musashi taken from the bow.
Armor-wise, each ship possessed on its outer shell a protective layer some 16 inches thick.
While you might think this all combined must have made these ships slow as molasses, it turns out, they had a top speed of about 27 knots (31 mph). While not the fastest battleship in the world, this compared favorably to, for instance, the aforementioned Iowa class battleships that weighed about 40% less, but could only go about 6 knots faster.
Despite their awe-inspiring power and the full confidence of Japanese military brass that each ship was “unmatchable and unsinkable”, neither saw much combat. In fact, the Yamato spent so much time protecting Japanese ports that it was nicknamed the “Hotel Yamato”.
The reluctance of the Japanese navy to commit either ship to combat was motivated by both the scarcity of fuel in Japan during the war, with these battleships taking copious amounts of such to go anywhere, and the fact that military brass believed losing either ship would be a massive blow to the morale of the rest of the Japanese military.
Of course, in the closing months of WW2 with their forces almost completely obliterated, Japan reluctantly began committing both battleships to naval engagements. Unfortunately at this point these super battleships were so absurdly outnumbered in the limited engagements they’d ultimately take part in that they mostly just functioned as sitting ducks.
Most notably, they proved especially vulnerable to aircraft attacks. Even the aforementioned beehive rounds, which the Japanese believed would decimate aircraft, proved to be little more than a visual deterrent, with some American pilots simply flying straight through the flaming shrapnel they produced.
And while the near couple hundred anti-aircraft guns made it so it took a brave pilot to dive bomb the ships, the sheer number of aircraft that the Americans could throw at these battleships at the same time and how chaotic the battles got, ultimately saw these guns prove just as worthless in practice.
It didn’t help that at this point in the war Japan’s own aircraft were ridiculously outnumbered and outclassed, providing little to no air cover to try to protect the massive battleships. (See our article, How Were Kamikaze Pilots Chosen?)
Ultimately the Musashi was lost during the battle of Leyte Gulf in October of 1944, taking 19 torpedo and 17 bomb strikes to sink it.
As for the Yamato, it took part in her final engagement in April of 1945 in operation Ten-Go, which was an intentional suicide mission.
Japanese battleship Yamato is hit by a bomb near her forward 460mm gun turret.
The Yamato was to be the tip of the spear of this final, last-ditch effort to repel the American advance. Its crew was ordered to beach the ship near Okinawa and use its main battery to destroy as much of the invading force as possible. Essentially, the ship would function as a base on the island, and members of the near 3,000 strong crew not needed to operate weaponry aboard the ship were to wage a land battle with any enemy forces encountered.
The mission plan was flawed from the outset, however, and performed under protest of some of the Japanese Navy brass involved, who noted there would be no chance of even reaching the target island in the first place given the stated plan, including no air support whatsoever, and time of day they were to execute the plan (broad daylight).
This turned out to be correct- en route on April 7, 1945, the Yamato and handful of accompanying ships were completely, and quickly, overwhelmed by a combined assault from 6 cruisers, 21 destroyers, 7 battleships, and a few hundred aircraft.
One surviving member of the Yamato crew, junior officer Yoshida Mitsuru, had this to say of the battle that they all had known was a suicide mission from the start,
How many times, in target practice, have we conducted such tracking? I am possessed by the illusion that we have already experienced searches under the same conditions, with the same battle positions, even with the same mood. What is going on before my very eyes, indisputably, is actual combat — but how can I possibly convince myself of that fact? The blips are not an imagined enemy but an enemy poised for the kill. The location: not our training waters, but hostile waters. More than one hundred enemy planes attacking!” Is it the navigation officer who calls this out? … The battle begins…. As my whole body tingles with excitement, I observe my own exhilaration; as I grit my teeth, I break into a grin. A sailor near me is felled by shrapnel. In the midst of the overwhelming noise, I distinguish the sound of his skull striking the bulkhead; amid the smell of gunpowder all around, I smell blood…. The tracks of the torpedoes are a beautiful white against the water, as if someone were drawing a needle through the water; they come pressing in, aimed at Yamato from a dozen different directions and intersecting silently. Estimating by sight their distance and angle on the plotting board, we shift course to run parallel to the torpedoes and barely succeed in dodging them. We deal first with the closest, most urgent one; when we get to a point far enough away from it that we can be sure we have dodged it, we turn to the next. Dealing with them calls for vigilance, calculation, and decision…. That these pilots repeated their attacks with accuracy and coolness was a sheer display of the unfathomable undreamed-of strength of our foes.
In the end, it took only 2 hours for American forces to destroy the single most powerful ship constructed during WW2, along with most of the tiny fleet it set out with. When the smoke cleared, around 4,000 were dead on the Japanese side vs. just around a dozen dead on the American side and a few more wounded.
Early in WW2 the Imperial Japanese Navy had plans to construct even bigger ships than the Yamato and Musashi as part of an even more powerful class of ships they called the Super Yamatos. These ships, if constructed, would have possessed 510 mm guns, displaced upwards of 82,000 tons and could have moved at speeds approaching 30 knots. Lack of resources stopped Japan from ever building the ships however.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Humans are superstitious. We tend to come up with all kinds of ways to justify certain things we don’t fully understand. That same quality definitely has a home in military service. While some of these may seem ridiculous at first glance, there’s usually some kind of explanation underneath.
The Navy is easily the most superstitious of the branches — since their origins are tied to a history of life at sea, both military-related and otherwise, where imaginations ran wild after spending many months adrift. But, as a whole, the military has a wide array of superstitions that, when you take a closer look, are actually pretty creepy.
You don’t want one of these bad boys to drift right over a cliff.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel Yarnall)
Don’t carry a white lighter… Ever.
This is a superstition held by a huge number of people, mostly because of the notorious “27 Club” — a club made up of famous musicians and artists (like Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and others) that died at the age of 27 while carrying, you guessed it, a white lighter.
In the military, however, this superstition was given legs by a bad experience with an Amphibious Assault Vehicle. Rumor has it, the vehicle lost its brakes and went off a 100-foot cliff while one Marine carried a white lighter and another had a damn horseshoe. That horseshoe might have been good luck, but the lighter’s bad mojo was enough to disrupt the balance.
King Neptune doesn’t want to hear your sh*t.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Andrew Betting)
Neptune doesn’t like whistling
It’s a long-held belief in many cultures that whistling, especially at night, is an invitation to the spirits. There’s a home for this superstition in maritime tradition, too. Instead of spirits, however, the idea is that whistling will summon bad weather as it angers the King of the Sea.
So, if you find yourself on ship and you get the urge to whistle — don’t. Neptune seriously hates it.
When you hear the enemy eating apricots.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
A Stars Stripes article from 1968 explains a story surrounding Marines at Cua Viet who continuously found themselves under attack by enemy artillery barrages. What they started to notice, however, was that these barrages would start almost immediately after a Marine ate a can of apricots from their C-Rations.
Coincidence? You be the judge.
Maybe the “grandma’s couch” pattern wasn’t the best camouflage idea.
This superstition comes from the U.S. Army. If you look closely, you’ll see a pretty distinct key-shaped blotch within modern camouflage patterns. In what may be coincidence, several soldier took bullets right in the keys. It could just be that — coincidence — or it could be a deeper, like a spiritual omen.
Just don’t do it. Please.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nello Miele.)
Saying the “R” word
You know the word. “Rain.”
Marines, soldiers, and anyone who has a job in the military that requires going outside believe that using the term will change the weather from anything to pouring rain. Infantry Marines will tell you that a bright and sunny day changes almost instantly when someone utters this word.
What’s worse is that it won’t stop until you head back to the barracks.
Saying that World War I was really bad for Russia is like saying Hitler was a somewhat unstable veteran of the Great War. While the Tsar fielded the largest army in the world at the time and should have been able to trounce the Germans, years (maybe decades) of neglecting modernization hampered the Russians. Roads were impossible and railways were inadequate. Casualties were heavy and the conditions were deplorable. Even drafting men for the war was difficult. Life in the Russian Empire was so bad, the Tsar would be toppled and replaced by the Soviet Union.
Before the Tsar was forced to abdicate, the Russian Empire tried a last-ditch effort to fill its ranks: hiring women.
Congrats, you’re hired.
When the Great War first began, Russians were only too happy to serve in their country’s military. It was (on paper, at least) one of the most vaunted fighting forces on Earth at the time. But Tsarist Russia’s poor infrastructure, the indecision of the Russian high command, and the lack of adequate food, supplies, and other war resources soon made life miserable. When word got out about the deteriorating conditions on the front, good men suddenly became hard to find. Women, on the other hand, had been trying to join the regular army since day one. These women soon demanded the government form all-women’s military units.
The Tsarist government, facing an increasing manpower shortage, finally gave in. It formed 15 all-women’s battalions in an effort to replace its missing manpower with womanpower. They included communications battalions, a naval unit, and the aptly-named Women’s Battalion of Death. Of the 5,000 women who served in these units, 300 of them would join the Battalion of Death and march to the front in 1914.
Maria Bochkareva was awarded multiple medals after stabbing Germans to death in the trenches.
Led by the peasant fighter-turned military leader Maria Bochkareva, the women were highly-trained and tightly-controlled by Bochkareva. While her harsh (sometimes brutal) leadership kept a majority of potential volunteers from joining, the 300 or so who did stay became some of the most hardcore Russian troops of the First World War. They first saw action in the Kerensky Offensive of 1917. It was a terrible loss for the Russians, who lost 60,000 troops in the fighting. But it was a stunning victory for the Women’s Battalion of Death.
When ordered to go over the top and storm the enemy trenches, the women never hesitated, even when the men at their side did. In one instance, the Russian women made it through three trench systems before the lack of reinforcements necessitated their retreat. Bochkareva, though wounded twice, earned three medals for bravery in combat. With the effectiveness of the women in combat proven on the front, other women were deployed back home.
Back in St. Petersburg, things weren’t going so well for the Tsar and his government. Another women’s battalion had to be deployed to the Winter Palace to defend government ministries and the people who were running them. This is where history could have been made or turned back. When the Bolshevik fighters attempted to take the city, the women weren’t at the Winter Palace, they abandoned the government ministers to their fate and went to guard the supplies. Eventually, they were overcome by the Bolsheviks and forced to surrender. When the Bolsheviks officially took power, these women’s units were disbanded, with varying success.
Women who wanted to fight the Bolsheviks stayed in their units, joining the White Russian forces in the Russian Civil War. Others went home and became Soviet citizens. Many would live long enough to see women conscripted once more when Russia was again threatened from the outside, taking up arms against the Nazis and forming an essential element to the resistance of the Soviet Union – many of whom would go on to earn the title Hero of the Soviet Union.
We all know the phrase about the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941 — “a day that will live in infamy”. Understanding the devastating, clever and well-executed Japanese attack on the anchored and sleeping U.S. Navy Pacific fleet seems, at face value, unnecessary. And the business world today is marked by staggering complexity, technological innovations, instant communication and data-driven decision making. So what can an old battle hope to teach?
Despite occurring decades in the past, the lessons of Dec. 7, 1941 have never been more relevant nor more vital to the success of businesses and the people who lead them. Dec. 7th, 1941 is a constant reminder for the importance of innovation, preparation and training so businesses, like the military, are rarely surprised and always ready.
6 business lessons learned from the attack at Pearl Harbor
Lesson #1 – Surprise attacks will continue to be a favored tactic. Even at the start of World War II, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army possessed formidable military power in the Pacific. U.S. Navy ships patrolled to China and the U.S. Army occupied major bases throughout numerous Pacific islands. The attacking Japanese knew that a surprise attack was essential to temporarily defeat the United States. The tactic is similar in business — surprise either with existing business tactics or with new tactics, such as digital disruption or customer disintermediation, remain a favored and an effective tactic for competitors to disrupt the business landscape.
Lesson #2 – Never underestimate the capabilities of simple, quick-win innovations. One of the major innovations that allowed the Japanese to be successful on Dec. 7, 1941 was the use of simple and highly-effective military innovations. The Japanese built and tested wooden modifications to aircraft launched torpedoes that allowed the torpedoes to run just below the water’s surface and to run over the top of deployed anti-submarine torpedo nets that made anchored ships vulnerable. Japanese midget submarines allowed the Japanese to gather intelligence close to U.S. Navy ports. Complex Japanese codes, later broken during World War II, allowed the Japanese to communicate effectively and in secret. Innovation is often thought of as an entirely new capability when, in fact, true innovation is an effective introduction and use of technology. The Japanese took existing technology and applied multiple “quick-win” ideas to make them significantly more effective.
Lesson #3 – Loyalties and friendships can quickly shift. At the end of World War, I, the Japanese were a distant ally and the newly formed Communist Soviet Union was an enemy. At the start of World War II, Japan was the enemy and the Soviet Union was now an important ally. The global structure of U.S. allies and enemies is constantly shifting in military, technology and commercial affairs. This lesson is essential for businesses to constantly develop multiple strategies with multiple sets of allies to ensure success even as alliances rapidly shift and goals transform.
Lesson #4 – Passion, innovation and leadership reduce major offsets. As the Japanese planes flew away from Pearl Harbor, it appeared that the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army were damaged for years. Yet, only months later, the U.S. Navy had raised, and repaired ships sunk in the Pearl Harbor attack. In its own combination of military innovation, the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy, in a daring logistical concept, bombed mainland Japan with the “Doolittle Raid” of medium bombers launched for the first time from an aircraft carrier. All these critical military activities were created by leaders across the Pacific and the United States acting with passion, innovation and determination to reduce the strategic offsets of Dec. 7, 1941.
Lesson #5 – New technology without training vastly reduces the benefits. The U.S. Army had early versions of ground-based radar that detected the incoming Japanese aircraft. Due to a broad array of command and control failures, communication lapses and misunderstanding of radar’s capabilities, the warning of the Japanese attack were lost to the leaders. Innovative technology requires training, new procedures, new tactics and, vitally, new levels of trust so leaders at all levels benefit.
Lesson #6 – Every level in the company needs to be trained as leaders. The Japanese surprise attack exposed an Army and Navy leadership style that trained leaders to await orders. Waiting for orders during chaos and threat will never lead to success. Following Pearl Harbor, the U.S. military became a fighting force that used training, available military forces, innovation and technology to create a style of fighting that prized initiative and independence to achieve military success. n the military campaigns in the Pacific following Pearl Harbor, leaders down to the lowest level understood that every person needed to attack to ensure the defeat of Japan.
The best way to use military history for commercial benefit is not to sharply judge the past actions of military leaders. Military history and its lessons need to be understood in context and universally applied to the business challenges of today. When every person in an organization is better trained from the lessons of past mistakes to succeed in the future an organization is truly using history to its present and future advantage.
Chad Storlie is a retired U.S. Army Special Forces officer, an Iraq combat veteran and has 15 years of university teaching experience as an adjunct Professor of Marketing. He is a mid-level B2B marketing executive and a widely published author on leadership, logistics, marketing, business, analytics, decision making, military and technology topics.
Alice in Chains was a widely-successful Grunge band in the 1990s. Alongside Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden, they helped define an entire generation of musicians. While songs like Would? and Man in the Box are their most well-known, Rooster is the most beloved within the military community.
Jerry Cantrell Jr., the guitarist, co-vocalist, and songwriter, was the son of a Vietnam War veteran, Jerry Cantrell Sr. The younger Cantrell watched his father deploy twice and never talk about what happened in Vietnam. He watched as his father struggled with PTSD throughout his childhood until, eventually, it destroyed his family.
So, he wrote a song dedicated to his father and his experience in Vietnam.
The name, Rooster, is a play on three meanings: It was a childhood nickname of his father’s. ‘Rooster’ was also a nickname for M60 machine gunners because the muzzle flash looked like a rooster’s tail. It’s also a play on how the Vietnamese saw 101st Airborne Division soldiers who wore the Screaming Eagle on their sleeves. It’s said that because bald eagles aren’t native to Vietnam, the locals referred to 101st soldiers as “chicken men” or “roosters.” All three meanings perfectly describe Jerry Cantrell Sr.
The lyrics run deep with symbolism calling back to Vietnam. Cantrell Jr. was only able to piece together little things from what he heard his father occasionally say.
“Walking tall machine gun man.
They spit on me in my homeland.
Gloria sent me pictures of my boy.
Got my pills ‘gainst mosquito death,
My buddy’s breathing his dying breath.
Oh, God, please won’t you help me make it through.”
In a 1992 interview with Guitar for the Practicing Musician, he was asked if his father ever heard the song. He did, but only once live. Cantrell Jr recalled,
Yeah. He’s heard this song. He’s only seen us play once, and I played this song for him when we were in this club opening for Iggy Pop. I’ll never forget it. He was standing in the back and he heard all the words and stuff. Of course, I was never in Vietnam and he won’t talk about it, but when I wrote this, it felt right… like these were things he might have felt or thought. And I remember when we played it he was back by the soundboard and I could see him. He was back there with his big gray Stetson and his cowboy boots — he’s a total Oklahoma man — and at the end, he took his hat off and just held it in the air. And he was crying the whole time. This song means a lot to me. A lot.
Coast Guard Signalman Ray Evans was a legend in World War II who drew machine gun fire from Japanese soldiers while pulling Chesty Puller’s Marines out of a hairy situation on Guadalcanal in 1942. The Navy awarded him a Navy Cross, but Vice Adm. Joseph Stika had no medal to hand to Evans, so he took off his own Navy Cross and pinned it on Evans.
Stika, then a Coast Guard first lieutenant (which the Coast Guard used to have), led a team of five Coast Guardsmen and two soldiers into the explosions to secure and remove ordnance before it could go off. For two days, they repaired rail lines and drove trains out of the blaze, sometimes while the trains themselves were on fire or within burning areas.
Stika rose through the ranks during the interwar period and was serving as a vice admiral in 1942 when Evans and Coast Guard Signalman Douglas Munro were called to service at Guadalcanal. The two enlisted men had joined at the same recruiting station on the same day and been assigned to the same cutter, leading to a deep friendship.
The two were split up for different missions but were reunited at Guadalcanal where their orders intersected. On the island, they were asked by a Marine Corps major to take part in a mission planned by then-Lt. Col. Lewis “Chesty” Puller.
The Marines had been trying to get across the Matanikau River for some time with no success. Puller wanted to try an amphibious assault that would deliver Marines onto a beachhead behind the river. These Marines would then clear the Japanese and allow their compatriots to cross.
Munro and Evans agreed, and the initial landings went well. But as the Coast Guardsmen were headed back to base, they learned that the Marines had been ambushed soon after the boats left, and they desperately needed extraction.
Puller rushed to Navy ships in the ocean to direct artillery fire in support of his men, and the Coast Guardsmen were sent back to pull out the Marines. Evans and Munro volunteered to stay back from the beach and lay heavy fire on the Japanese, drawing their attention while the rest of the flotilla loaded up the Marines.
The extraction went well and the boats turned to head back to base, but one of the boats became stuck on a nearby beach. Munro and Evans towed the boat off the sand, but a Japanese machine gunner spotted them and opened fire as they did so.
Evans was put in for the Navy Cross. He only found out about the award when he made it back to Alameda, California, and was ordered to the ceremony. But when he arrived, something unexpected happened.
The orders for the award had come without a physical medal. So, Stika removed his own Navy Cross, earned more than 20 years before in the munitions explosions, and placed the medal on Evans for his actions on Guadalcanal.
The two men became friends and Evans routinely visited Stika after the older man’s retirement. Evans would go on to be a Coast Guard commander before retiring from the service.