Italian-American military spouse shares message of hope amid coronavirus outbreak - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Italian-American military spouse shares message of hope amid coronavirus outbreak

“Don’t come here, it’s too dangerous!” my sister texted my mother a few weeks ago. “If you were to become infected with coronavirus, I would never forgive myself.”


My parents live in Naples, southern Italy, where I was born and raised before becoming an American citizen in 2018. My sister is in graduate school to become an anesthesiologist and she works in one of the most affected hospitals in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, one of the first areas to be designated as a red zone in the country.

Italian-American military spouse shares message of hope amid coronavirus outbreak

The Costagliola family on vacation at Disney World.

My parents, who are both over 65 years of age, were supposed to go visit my sister up north before coming to visit my family and I in New York, something they do at least once a year. We had it all planned out: they would join us in Syracuse — where we are currently stationed — and after a week, we were going to take a road trip all the way down to Florida, stopping at the most iconic landmarks on the East Coast, taking plenty of photos for my two children to look back on one day and reminisce on the precious moments they spent with their grandparents.

My 8-year-old son was counting down the days until the arrival of his Nanna and Babba, who had promised to bring an entire suitcase filled with presents for him and his 4-year-old sister — something they do every time they come visit. “Mamma, only 30 days left!” he shouted with excitement as he stepped off the school bus one afternoon. “Baby, I have to tell you something…” I said as I invited him to sit on the couch next to me. The words that came out of my mouth during that conversation sounded like something out of a script of an Apocalyptic science fiction movie.

Italian-American military spouse shares message of hope amid coronavirus outbreak

Tiziana Costagliola at work at one of the most affected hospitals in the Lombardy region.

Only a few hours earlier, I had spoken to my parents via Skype and my mother, a primary care provider, told me with tears in her eyes, “I love you, and that’s why I won’t come visit you guys.”

I couldn’t believe it.

The coronavirus had started spreading in Italy, but it was mostly contained in the red zone. It wasn’t even in southern Italy yet. Borders were open, flights were departing as scheduled, cruise ships were taking excited passengers to the most exotic corners of the world, and theme parks were still selling way too much candy to children running toward their favorite ride.

Yet, my parents had decided to cancel their trips. They would not be going to visit my sister nor would they be coming to visit us in the United States of America. “It’s going to get much worse before it gets better, sweetheart.” My mother explained, “And I would never forgive myself if I unknowingly brought the virus to you all.”

It’s going to get much worse. That thought kept haunting my mind, day and night. It sounded like a prophecy.

“We were just told to choose which patients to save…” my sister wrote a few days later in a family group chat on WhatsApp. “We are to pick younger patients over older ones, as they have better chances of surviving the coronavirus.”

Meanwhile, life in the United States of America was proceeding as usual. Children off to school, grocery shopping done, and manuscripts edited. But the headlines in the news began mirroring what I was hearing from my mother and sister back home. Not enough hospital rooms. Virus spreads to southern Italy as well. Italy struggles to contain outbreak. Italian hospitals out of ICU beds. Airlines have canceled their flights to and from Italy.

It was a nightmare. What was happening to my home country? What was happening to my family and friends?

But then, Italy took a deep breath, looked in the mirror and reminded herself of who she is. The land of art, eternal love, good food, genuine smiles, warm sun and glittering Mediterranean waters. An entire red zone with 60 million people in quarantine, Italians stepped outside their balconies, playing instruments, singing, dancing and keeping each other company.

Coronavirus: quarantined Italians sing from balconies to lift spirits

www.youtube.com

At the end of their impromptu concerts and shows, they could be heard yelling, “Andrà tutto bene!”

Everything’s going to be alright.

And now that we are also facing the reality of the outbreak here in the United States of America, let’s remind ourselves that, if we all do our part, everything will be alright.

As for that vacation, we were planning on taking; it wasn’t canceled, just postponed to when we are allowed to finally hug each other again. And if my children have it their way, it’ll be even bigger and better than the one we had originally planned.

Yes, everything will be alright.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Turkey is flying US-made F-16s to test a top Russian air defense system

Turkey conducted military tests using a Russian air defense system and an American-made fighter jet on Nov. 25, 2019, in a move US officials described as “concerning.”

Turkish F-16 jets flew over the capital of Ankara as part of a test of the S-400 missile defense system, which the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan purchased from Russia for $2.5 billion.


The purchase scuttled plans for Turkey to acquire the latest-generation F-35 Lightning II jet from the US, due to concerns that the Russian anti-aircraft system could exploit the US’s most advanced stealth technology. The purchase effectively nixed plans for Turkey to buy the US’s Patriot missile system.

One US diplomat said there was a chance that Russia had the ability to access Turkey’s S-400 remotely, and use a potential backdoor to observe on NATO allies, according to Defense News.

S-400 Hava Savunma Sistemleri Test Ediliyor

www.youtube.com

US lawmakers threatened to mount a campaign to levy sanctions against Turkey after it received delivery of a second battery in August 2019. The 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act allows Trump to sanction Turkey for conducting business with Russia.

It remains unclear if Trump will impose sanctions against Turkey, NATO’s second-largest military after the US. In 2017, Trump described the sanctions act as “seriously flawed” and said he signed it into law “for the sake of national unity.”

“Erdoğan is thumbing his nose at Trump, the US [and] NATO, and crossing another red line on S-400s,” Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said on Twitter.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday told reporters that the tests were “concerning,” but added he remained optimistic on resolving the impasse.

“We are hopeful. We are still talking to the Turks, still trying to figure out our way through this thing,” Pompeo said.

Despite objections on the S-400, President Donald Trump, who met with Erdoğan on Nov. 13, 2019, described his broader conversations with the Turkish president as “wonderful.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

9 college scholarships for military children

If you have a high school senior graduating in 2019, then it’s the perfect time to start thinking about college.

If you haven’t planned on using the GI BILL for them, there are many scholarships for military children that they can apply for.

I’ve done some digging and have come up with 10 that you can consider. They range from offering $1000 a year for 4 years to a total award of $10,000 covering housing, tuition, and academic expenses.


1. AMVETS Scholarship

00 is awarded annually for 4yrs to those awarded with this scholarship. It’s specifically for children AND grandchildren of Veterans, Active Duty members and Guard/Reserves. Students also must currently be High School seniors. The next cycle for this scholarship will start in January 2019.

2. Scholarships for Military Children

This scholarship is awarded by the Commissary and funded by its contributors. It is currently closed for the 2018 year but will reopen between December 2018 and the beginning of 2019.

3. Chief Petty Officer Scholarship Fund

This scholarship will open for applicants in January 2019. Be prepared to apply. All children of active duty, retired or reserve Chief Petty Officers are eligible rather they are natural born, adopted or step children.

Italian-American military spouse shares message of hope amid coronavirus outbreak

Chief petty officers from Naval Air Station Jacksonville.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gulianna Mandigo)

4. Frederick C. Branch Scholarship Program

Named after the Marine Corps’ first black officer, this NROTC scholarship is awarded to military children who plan on attending one of 17 black historical colleges. You can find the list here for more information!

5. Hero’s Legacy Scholarship

This is specific to children of a parent who has fallen in battle or have100% disability compensation. The Hero’s Legacy application process will open in mid-December.

6. Society of Daughters of United States Army Scholarship Program

Daughters AND granddaughters of US Army Officer’s (career or commissioned) are eligible for this scholarship. There is a small window to apply which only lasts from March 15th-March 31st.

7. Bonsai Finance Veterans Scholarship

Students will be rewarded with a one time 00 payment if chosen. Application consists of submitting a short essay in response to their questions. Applications are due September 28th.

8. Memorial Foundation Scholarship

The Enlisted Association Memorial Foundations Scholarship Program can be awarded to those children or grandchildren of good standing members of TREA (The Retired Enlisted Association). Applicants must submit a 300 word essay on a question posed by the organization.

9. VA Mortgage Center Scholarship

Recipients of this scholarship will be rewarded with id=”listicle-2631535261″,500 bi-yearly in May and November for five years. It’s a part of their Military Education Scholarship Program. For more information call their Scholarship Director at 800-973-4954.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Articles

This is actual WWII footage of a tank duel

While everyone talks about D-Day, what’s often forgotten is that getting past the Atlantic Wall was only the first step. The Allies had to fight their way out of Normandy and into the rest of France — not to mention across Germany.


This wasn’t easy. Germany had some very well-trained troops who were determined to put up a fight. One of the places where the Nazis held up the Allies was Villers-Bocage — a village to the southwest of Caen, a major objective of the initial staged.

 

Italian-American military spouse shares message of hope amid coronavirus outbreak
This version of the M4 Sherman could take on the German Tiger tank on even terms and win. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to Battle of Normandy Tours, on June 13, 1944, a force of British tanks from the famous 7th Armoured Division — also known as the “Desert Rats” — headed towards Villers-Bocage. At that village, a company of German Tiger tanks, under the command of Michael Wittman, fought the British force of Cromwell and Sherman Firefly tanks.

Italian-American military spouse shares message of hope amid coronavirus outbreak
A German Tiger in Sicily, 1943. (U.S. Army photo)

When all was said and done, Wittman’s force had destroyed 27 Allied tanks, according to WarfareHistoryNetwork.com. The Germans had also killed, wounded, or captured 188 Allied troops.

This video shows some of the fighting that took place during the Battle of Villers-Bocage. Warning: It does show some of the consequences of when armored vehicles are destroyed.

History, YouTube

MIGHTY TRENDING

Don’t believe it: Chuck Norris is not dead

The celebrity dead rumor mill is at it again. This time the (supposed) victim is Chuck Norris. According to rumors circulating on social media, the 80-year-old martial arts action movie star and Air Force veteran was felled by the novel coronavirus.

What fools these mortals be.


Norris, who served in the Air Force in Korea and beyond, is alive and well still, and maybe forever. He’s just the latest target of the endless rumor mill surrounding celebrity deaths — a rumor mill that had better watch its back.

Italian-American military spouse shares message of hope amid coronavirus outbreak

Especially if it’s going to target Chuck Norris. (U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Corporal Ben Eberle)

Celebrities are frequently the targets of such rumors, dating all the way back to Mark Twain, who was famously reached for comment about his own death in a June 1897 issue of the New York Journal. Beyonce, Clint Eastwood and — arguably the most famous — Paul McCartney have all supposedly died before their time.

The age of COVID-19 has brought out a lot of new rumors surrounding celebrity deaths, given the misunderstandings about the virus and its lethality. Many celebrities have (really) contracted it, including actors Tom Hanks and Tony Shalhoub, singer-songwriter Pink and even the UK’s Prince Charles. All went into isolation to prevent the spread of the virus.

Chuck Norris isn’t one of those. Chuck Norris puts the coronavirus in isolation.

According to the Poynter Institute, the Chuck Norris rumor comes from a Facebook post on June 11th in the group “Are You Not Entertained?” It read:

“Corona Virus claims a black belt. Carlos Ray ‘Chuck’ Norris, famous actor and fighter, died yesterday afternoon at his home in Northwood Hills, TX at the age of 80.”

Like many things on Facebook, readers apparently only read one part of the gag and then ran with it to spread the “news” among their networks. If they had kept reading, they would have arrived at the obvious joke.

“However, after his minor inconvenience of death, Chuck has made a full recovery, and is reported to be doing quite well. It has also been reported that the Corona virus is in self isolation for 14 days due to being exposed to Chuck Norris.”

Italian-American military spouse shares message of hope amid coronavirus outbreak

(Are You Not Entertained/Facebook)

Remember to keep a skeptical eye toward rumors of celebrity deaths. Just because your favorite celebrity’s name is trending somewhere, doesn’t mean they’ve met their maker. They might have instead met Chuck Norris.

As for Chuck, when Chuck Norris actually decides to die, you’ll know. Chuck Norris doesn’t cheat death, he wins fair and square.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

popular

Watch these glorious videos of terrorist drug labs being destroyed

There are certain things that just put a smile on every veteran’s face. The first smell of a warm cup of coffee on a cold morning, a child saying their first swear word, dogs jumping on their owners after they return from a deployment, and, of course, watching terrorist pieces of sh*t get blown to hell by precision-guided munitions. It’s the little things in life.


One of the key revenue streams of the Taliban comes from cultivating, manufacturing, and smuggling drugs. Nearly 90% of the heroin in the world comes from Afghanistan and 98% of that heroin comes from Taliban-controlled regions, which accounts for up to 60% of the Taliban’s half-a-billion dollar annual income. Not only do these labs directly fund terrorism, but the cultivation of the opium poppy fields outside them are often done using child and slave labor.

Destroying these labs and burning the fields is key to stopping terrorists in Afghanistan, which is exactly what Afghan National Police and the U.S. military have been up to in Afghanistan lately, employing 2 tons of laser-guided freedom at a time.

On Dec. 30, 2017, 24 precision-guided munitions were dropped on a Taliban drug lab and fighting position — setting a new record for munitions dropped from a B-52.

Since November, the ANDSF and U.S. forces in Afghanistan have destroyed more than 35 narcotics facilities, removing more than $30 million in direct revenue from the Taliban.
The average JDAM costs around $25,000. Each lab can generate over $1M every few months.
One of the primary reasons ISIS moved into Afghanistan was to gain control of the Taliban’s drug cartel. Thankfully, there’s more than enough ‘Murica to go around!
Everybody loves the A-10 Thunderbolt II for its BRRRRRT, but they also make things go “boom” very nicely.
In all seriousness, the shift to hitting the Taliban in the wallet has greatly weakened the recently emboldened terrorists. The Afghan National Defense and Security Force has been more successful than ever in regaining control of their country.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s how this Army general wishes he could handle internet trolls

Anybody that spends even the slightest bit of time on social media today is woefully aware of internet trolls. If, by some miracle of a chance, you haven’t had a run in with one of these anger facilitators on platforms like Facebook or Twitter, you’ve still almost certainly seen their kind surfacing in the comments sections under news articles and YouTube videos as though these digital outlets are little more than the sharpie-laden door of a bathroom stall.

They strike without warning, offering nonsense arguments without context or citation, caps-lock tirades, or insulting one-liners that someone, somewhere apparently thinks is funny while the rest of us are stuck scratching our heads or shaking our fists. In the societal hierarchy of the digital domain, internet trolls rank somewhere just below trantrum-throwing toddlers in terms of discourse, but their presence has become such an expected bit of online life that most of us log into our social media platforms of choice with our eyes already rolling in anticipation.


But what if it didn’t have to be that way? That was clearly on Lt. Gen. Ted Martin’s mind this week. The deputy commanding general of Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) released a hilarious video on Twitter Wednesday showing exactly how he’d like to handle the masses of keyboard warriors.


Twitter

twitter.com

“I got another snarky comment,” Martin tells a member of his staff after calling him into his office. “Can you get ahold of [Army Cyber]? I need to find out about @jackwagon. I don’t know who that is.”
Italian-American military spouse shares message of hope amid coronavirus outbreak

Not the hero we deserve, but the hero we need. (US Army photo)

Obviously, war fighting is serious business, as is training for the same–but it’s nice to see someone at the 3-Star level exercising his sense of humor in what has otherwise been one brutal year.

Unfortunately, we probably won’t be able to get the 10-digit grid coordinates of every snarky jackwagon with a black belt in keyboard-fu, but at least we know we’re not the only ones that wish we could send a tank platoon and some Rangers after them.

Bravo Zulu, sir.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

popular

Marines might lose their ‘golden hour’ in the next war

When a soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine is wounded, the clock starts ticking on the “golden hour” to save his or her life. The goal the Department of Defense had in the War on Terror was to get a wounded serviceman to definitive care within 60 minutes of being hit.


 

Italian-American military spouse shares message of hope amid coronavirus outbreak
The Task Force Marauder medical evacuation (medevac) company participated in a mass casualty exercise with the Role 3 hospital, Dec. 23, 2017, in Afghanistan to practice and refine procedures in the event of a real-world emergency. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Jessica Donnelly, Task Force Marauder)

 

The term “golden hour” is a carryover from emergency medical care in the United States. The fact is if a wounded serviceman (or any trauma victim, for that matter) is seen at a hospital in the first 60 minutes after the injury, the chances for survival go up. This is why the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have seen only 8,398 coalition servicemembers killed in action over the 16-plus years that they have been fought, according to icasualties.org.

 

Italian-American military spouse shares message of hope amid coronavirus outbreak

Why is this the case? According to a report by the Marine Corps Times, the DOD’s “golden hour” policy was put in place in 2009 and had the effect of creating a 98 percent survival rate. To do that, though, the military had to surge medevac and medical assets to the theater of operations.

Italian-American military spouse shares message of hope amid coronavirus outbreak
A U.S. Army HH-60 MEDEVAC helicopter from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade from Fort Hood Texas conducts a traffic pattern training flight Dec. 19, 2017, at Katterbach Army Airfield in Ansbach, Bavaria, Germany. One item of concern for treating wounded troops is the fact that Navy and Marine Corps medical equipment might not be interoperable with that of the Army of Air Force. (U.S. Army photo by Charles Rosemond)

“Our potential problem is air lift capacity, in certain scenarios we are not going to have enough capacity and so as opposed to right now, we are going to have to hold onto those patients much longer,” Rear Adm. Colin G. Chinn, the surgeon on the Joint Staff, said during a seminar at Marine Corps Base Quantico. He also cited equipment interoperability issues between the services, noting that a wounded Marine treated by a Navy corpsman may end up being treated in Air Force and Army facilities that have incompatible gear.

Italian-American military spouse shares message of hope amid coronavirus outbreak
A medevac helicopter from C Company, 3-10 General Support Aviation Battalion, arrives during a training exercise at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, on July 7. During the training, soldiers engaged targets while on the move, simultaneously using communications throughout the convoy, and ended with calling in a medevac helicopter during exercise Saber Guardian 17. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Thomas Scaggs)

Chinn noted that the advantages the United States has now may not exist in a conflict with Russia or China. Even North Korea, which has drawn intense focus, could present problems in evacuating wounded troops due to the acquisition of new weapons and military technology.

Italian-American military spouse shares message of hope amid coronavirus outbreak
Two U.S. Army HH-60M MEDEVAC helicopters assigned to Charlie Company, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, Fort Carson, Co., transport simulated casualties during exercise Patriot Warrior at Young Air Assault Strip, Fort McCoy, Wis., Aug. 12, 2017. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Efren Lopez)

“We need to be ready now. You fight tonight with what you have,” Chinn said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These night-vision goggles could let troops shoot around corners

US Army soldiers will soon be deploying with game-changing new night vision goggles as the service wraps up the final round of testing this week.

Troops will be putting the Enhanced Night Vision Goggles – Binocular (ENVG-B), recognized as one of the most advanced night vision optics available, to the test at Fort Drum in New York at the last of ten limited user events. Once the testing is complete, the ENVG-B will enter full-rate production with fielding scheduled for this fall, PEO Soldier announced April 22, 2019.

An armored brigade combat team set to deploy to South Korea this fall is expected to be the first unit to deploy with the new system, according to Army Times.


Highlights of the new night vision goggles include dual-tubed binoculars for improved depth perception and increased situational awareness, white phosphorous tubes (a higher-resolution improvement over the traditional green glow), and improved thermal capabilities that allow soldiers to see through dust, fog, smoke, and just about anything else that might impair a soldier’s vision on the battlefield.

Italian-American military spouse shares message of hope amid coronavirus outbreak

(PEO Soldier)

But, the really impressive capability is the ability to wirelessly connect the new goggles to the Family of Weapon Sights-Individual (FWS-I) for Rapid Target Acquisition. With the picture-in-picture setup, soldiers can fire accurately from the hip or point their weapon around a corner to observe or fire on targets effectively while remaining hidden.

This capability “enables soldiers to detect, recognize and engage targets accurately from any carry position and with significantly reduced exposure to enemy fire,” the Army explained.

“Now, if a soldier’s on a patrol, weapon’s down at his hip, all of a sudden a threat pops, instead of having to flip up a goggle, shoulder his weapon, reacquire, he has that aim point in his field of view, and he can actually shoot from the hip,” a BAE Systems spokesman previously told Business Insider. The FWS-I, along with the highly-capable monocular ENVG IIIs, were developed by BAE. The new ENVG-Bs were developed by L3.

Italian-American military spouse shares message of hope amid coronavirus outbreak

ENVG-B

(PEO Soldier)

Army officials have spoken highly of the new goggles and their improved capabilities.

“It is better than anything I’ve experienced in my Army career,” Lt. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commander of Army Futures Command, recently told Congress, according to Army Times. He said there had been been a marked improvement in marksmanship, explaining that Rangers had “gone from marksman to expert” with the help of the new optics.

Italian-American military spouse shares message of hope amid coronavirus outbreak

ENVG-B

(PEO Soldier)


Referring to the Rapid Target Acquisition capability, Brig. Gen. Dave Hodne, director of the Army’s Soldier Lethality cross-functional team, told reporters last fall that he “can’t imagine, right now, any future sighting system that will not have that kind of capability.”

The new goggles are also suitable for augmented reality, an option that allows the Army, and later the Marines, to turn the optics into a virtual reality platform for synthetic training.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Gaza fires hundreds of missiles at Israel in latest war

Palestinian terror groups claimed responsibility for firing more than 100 rockets and mortars from Gaza into Israel from May 29 to May 30, 2018, in the worst bombardment seen since the 2014 Gaza war referred to as Operation Protective Edge.

Israel’s Channel 10 estimated that more than 115 rockets and missiles were launched from Gaza into Israel after the first sirens were heard near the Gaza border at 6 p.m. on May 29, 2018. Other estimates listed the number as high as 130.


Despite the heavy barrage, no civilian casualties have been reported on the Israeli side as its Iron Dome missile defense system shot down many of the projectiles. Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) said three of its soldiers were wounded by mortar fragments on Tuesday, Haaretz reported.

The IDF said on Twitter that it struck 25 military targets in Gaza in retaliation for the increased fire.

“The IDF is prepared for a variety of scenarios and is determined to act against terror operatives.,” the IDF said.

Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks claiming it was in response to Israel’s killing of over 100 Palestinians participating in sometimes violent protests along its border since March 30, 2018.

“Qassam and Jerusalem Brigades (the groups’ armed wings) announce joint responsibility for bombarding (Israel’s) military installations and settlements near Gaza with dozens of rocket shells throughout the day,” the groups said in a joint statement, according to Reuters.

Israel also imposed a naval blockade on Gaza on May 29, 2018, and stopped a boat with 17 Gazan protesters from reaching Israel, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Israel’s Defense Ministry said on May 30, 2018, it believed the fighting had come to an end. Hamas said it had agreed on a ceasefire with help from Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza Haaretz reported.

Israel said it would be willing to respect the ceasefire, with Egypt acting as a moderating force. However an Israeli official told Haaretz that Israel was prepared to ramp up its retaliatory attacks if rocket launches resume.

The Gaza border has been the site of mass protests aimed at lifting Israel and Egypt’s blockade on the Gaza Strip which has been in place since 2014.

Rocket launches from were common during Israel’s war with Gaza in 2014. The 7-week war saw 73 deaths on the Israeli side and over 2,000 deaths on the Palestinian side, according to various estimates by Israel, the UN and Hamas.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the Soviet Union abandoned its World War II POWs

As Russia’s government pulled out all the stops on May 9, 2018, to celebrate the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany and to remember the estimated 25 million Soviets who died during the war, historian Konstantin Bogoslavsky was working to shed light on the fate of Soviet POWs “abandoned” by their own government.

The savagery of Hitler’s war on the Soviet Union is widely documented, but many details remain elusive about the plight of Red Army prisoners.


Their exact number will never be known for sure, but estimates of Soviet Red Army soldiers taken prisoner during World War II range from 4 million to 6 million. About two-thirds of those captured by the Germans — more than 3 million troops — had died by the time their comrades captured Berlin in May 1945.

The archives of the Soviet People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs were recently digitized, and Bogoslavsky has been studying the wartime correspondence between the Soviet government and the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Geneva-based international organization that tried to aid prisoners, the wounded, and refugees during the war.

“Already on June 23, 1941, the Red Cross sent a telegram to [Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav] Molotov offering its assistance to the Soviet Union during the war,” Bogoslavsky told RFE/RL. “Molotov confirmed his interest.”

Italian-American military spouse shares message of hope amid coronavirus outbreak
Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav

In the first weeks of the conflict, Germany and the Soviet Union both confirmed they would adhere to international conventions on the treatment of prisoners. However, it quickly became clear that neither side intended to keep its commitment.

In the first six months of the war, as the Germans raced across the Soviet Union to the outskirts of Moscow, more than 3 million Red Army soldiers were taken prisoner, often as a result of encirclement as Soviet officials refused to allow them to retreat or failed even to issue orders.

According to the archival materials, Bogoslavsky said, the Axis powers offered to exchange lists of prisoners with the Soviets in December 1941. Molotov’s deputy, Andrei Vyshinsky, wrote to his boss that a list of German prisoners had been compiled and advised that it be released to prevent harm to the Soviet Union’s reputation.

“But Molotov wrote on the message, ‘…don’t send the lists (the Germans are violating legal and other norms),'” Bogoslavsky said. “After that, almost all the letters and telegrams received from the Red Cross…were marked by Molotov as ‘Do Not Respond.'”

Italian-American military spouse shares message of hope amid coronavirus outbreak

The Soviet government adopted this policy as a result of a cold-blooded calculus.

“By the end of 1941, more than 3 million people had been taken prisoner, and one of the Soviet leadership’s goals was to control this avalanche,” Bogoslavsky said. “A Soviet soldier had to understand that if he was captured, he wouldn’t be getting any food parcels from the Red Cross and he wouldn’t be sending any postcards to his loved ones. He had to know that the only thing awaiting him there was inevitable death.”

One Soviet document issued under Stalin’s signature, the historian noted, asserted that “the panic-monger, the coward, and the deserter are worse than the enemy.”

In addition, the Soviet government refused to allow any Red Cross representatives into its own notorious prison camps, where they might stumble on secrets of Stalin’s prewar repressions.

“The distribution of food and medicine to prisoners was carried out by representatives of the Red Cross, and that would have meant allowing them access to camps in the Soviet Union,” Bogoslavsky said. “The Soviet leadership was categorically opposed to that. Despite numerous requests, Red Cross representatives were never given visas to travel to the Soviet Union.”

“Of course, the entire responsibility for the mass deaths of Soviet prisoners must fall on the leadership of the Third Reich,” he added. “But Stalin’s government, in my opinion, was guilty of not giving moral support or material assistance to its own soldiers, who were simply abandoned.”

In March 1943, Molotov wrote a letter to U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union William Standley, who had forwarded an offer from the Vatican to facilitate an exchange of information about Soviet prisoners being held by the Germans.

“I have the honor of reporting that at the present time this matter does not interest the Soviet government,” Molotov wrote. “Conveying to the government of the United States our gratitude for its attention to Soviet prisoners, I ask you to accept my assurances of my most profound respect for you, Mr. Ambassador.”

Italian-American military spouse shares message of hope amid coronavirus outbreak
Molotov’s letter to U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union William Standley

During the course of the war, the Soviet government also refused to cooperate with the governments of German allies Finland and Romania on the prisoners issue. Soviet prisoners in Finland did receive Red Cross packages that were organized by a charity in Switzerland and distributed in Finland on a unilateral basis.

In 1942, Romania offered to release 1,018 of the worst-off Soviet prisoners in exchange for a list of Romanians being held by the Soviet Union.

“The Soviet leadership simply ignored that offer,” Bogoslavsky said.

“The Soviet Union was the only country that refused to cooperate with the Red Cross and did not even allow Red Cross delegations onto its territory,” he added. “Germany did not work with the Red Cross in connection with Soviet prisoners, but it did cooperate concerning those of its Western enemies — the Americans, the British, and the French.”

The misfortunes of many Soviet POWs did not end when the guns fell silent.

“It is a myth that all those who returned from POW camps were sent to the gulag,” Bogoslavsky said. “The NKVD (Soviet secret police) set up special camps for checking and filtering returning prisoners. According to historian [Viktor] Zemskov, about 1.5 million former prisoners passed through the filtration process. Of them, about 245,000 were repressed.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghanistan is producing more opium than ever before

In 15 years in Afghanistan, no counternarcotics effort undertaken by the US, it partners, or the Afghan government has led to sustained reductions in poppy cultivation or opium production.

That was one of a number of findings of a Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Report issued in June 2018, underlining insufficient, uncoordinated, and at-times counterproductive initiatives in Afghanistan to reduce drug production there.


Between 2002 and 2017, the US government has allocated roughly $8.62 billion to fight narcotics in Afghanistan. But the drug trade remains entrenched. Opium is Afghanistan’s largest cash crop, reaching an export value of $1.5 billion to $3 billion in recent years. In 2017 alone, poppy cultivation was thought to support 590,000 full-time jobs — which is more people than are employed by Afghanistan’s military and security forces.

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Heroin and opium produced in Afghanistan are trafficked largely to Europe, Africa, and other parts of Asia.
(SIGAR)

The primary markets are Europe, Asia, and Africa. Opiates from Afghanistan travel through other Central or South Asian states — drug addiction has exploded in Iran, with opium making up two-thirds of consumption — to reach destinations in Europe and Asia. Drugs also travel maritime routes to Africa and Oceania.

Ninety percent of the heroin seized in Canada comes from Afghanistan, but scant amounts reach the US — 1% or less of the drug seized in the US can be traced back to the Central Asian country.

The amount of Southwest Asian heroin in the US peaked in the early 1980s, according to the DEA. It was replaced by Southeast Asian heroin — largely from Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand — in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The amount of South American heroin found the US started to increase in the mid-1990s, but by the late 2000s, Mexican heroin started to become predominant — in 2015 it was the more than 90% of the heroin seized in the US.

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The share of US heroin sourced to Mexico has grown considerably in recent years.
(2017 DEA NDTA)

Opium has been cultivated in Afghanistan for centuries. It was under royal control from 1933 to 1973, but the Soviet invasion and occupation from 1979 to 1989 crippled the legitimate economy and allowed illegal enterprises and criminal networks to thrive.

Production soared after the Taliban took control of most of the country in 1996. But it banned the crop in 2000, leading to a 75% drop in the global supply of heroin but leaving farmers destitute, as no alternative to poppy cultivation was provided.

Cultivation was at a historic low in 2001, when the US and its coalition partners invaded. Counterdrug work was done in the period that followed, but the vacuum created by the lack of functioning Afghan institutions limited their effectiveness.

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Despite year-to-year variations, poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has steadily increased over the last 20 years.
(SIGAR)

2004 saw an increase in cultivation, which was followed by more concerted US efforts to staunch it as well as increased counternarcotics efforts by coalition partners. Cultivation leveled off in 2009 and 2010 — around the time of the US-led surge that brought more attention to combating the drug trade.

But cultivation started to rise in 2011, compounded by missteps and a reduced emphasis on counternarcotics. “From 2013 to 2016, drug production continued at or near the highest levels ever consistently seen in Afghanistan,” the report states. Recent years have also seen eradication stall.

A UN survey in 2017 found cultivation had hit a new high, covering more than 810,000 acres. (The Taliban has also expanded its involvement in the drug trade.)

2017 also saw a new Trump administration strategy that brought with it an “unprecedented” level of attention to Afghan drug production by US military commanders, according to the report — marked by a “sustained air interdiction campaign” that included advanced aircraft striking rudimentary drug labs.

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A US-led airstrike on a Taliban drug lab in northern Helmand Province, November 2017.
(US Air Force photo)

The increases in drug cultivation make clear the failure of counternarcotics efforts, the report says, but it stresses that those failures are not the only factors that have led to the increases.

“The exponential rise in opium poppy cultivation and drug production is rooted in far-reaching, persistent challenges in Afghanistan — namely, lack of security, a poor economy, weak governing institutions, and failures of the wider reconstruction effort,” the report states.

“Given these challenges, there are serious limitations to the US capacity to bring about large-scale, lasting reductions in poppy cultivation and drug production,” it adds, noting the opium economy will continue to undercut US efforts in Afghanistan.

“Therefore, ongoing US reconstruction efforts must effectively address, or at least attempt to mitigate, the drug-related threats to Afghan security and stability.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why selling US war bonds was so important in earlier wars

Many troops take for granted the degree to which our military is funded today. There’s been a defense budget in place since the very early days of our country. Before World War I, this budget was made up of around 3 percent of the country’s GDP. Today, we’re sitting at 3.5 percent, but our total GDP is leagues larger than it was back then.

When the United States entered World War II, however, this defense budget spiked to a massive 41% of the country’s GDP — or $350 billion. Even that much money wasn’t enough to keep America at peak performance on all fronts. It needed more from the people.

That’s where war bonds, or “liberty bonds,” come into play.


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And not just because Superman and Batman told them to.

(DC Comics)

In their most basic form, war bonds could be bought and sold through the Department of the Treasury. These bonds came in various amounts, ranging from 25 cents to for the average civilian and up to between 0 and 00 for the wealthy and for businesses. The overall idea was simple: You’d buy a war bond and return it at a later date for a specified amount.

From a financial perspective, they were a pretty terrible investment. During times of war, the government would print more money to further fund our military, thus causing a spike in inflation. And, just like that, the you spent isn’t worth nearly as much as it was when you bought the the bond.

That didn’t matter to the citizens, though. It was the patriotic thing to do. Throughout the Second World War, over 85 million Americans purchased over 5.7 billion’s worth of securities.

For the people back home, war bonds were a way to feel like they were contributing directly to the war. Everyone from the elderly to children to medically disqualified applicants could give something and feel invested in the American effort overseas. These investments came with a hope that their individual contribution was the little push needed to turn the tide of the war.

Everywhere you looked back then, posters lined the streets, telling people that it was their duty to purchase bonds. Major celebrities of the time starred in pre-movie ads, selling bonds. The .25 cent war bond stamps were heavily advertised in Superman and Batman comics. Even Bing Crosby sang “The Road to Victory,” a performance that wasn’t subtle in its promotion of victory bonds.

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Ten percent of every single paycheck wasn’t even an outrageous ask. That was actually the norm.

As odd as it sounds, the most important thing that war bonds did was taking money out of circulation. The Treasury Department needed to pay for the war and printing more money was one of their only options. This isn’t uncommon but, at the rate the government needed to pay for the war, it would’ve crashed the economy if left unchecked.

It’s a basic economic principle: If there’s too much printed currency and not enough value behind it, the freshly printed money is worth less and less. Given that the United States was still reeling from the Great Depression, it’s safe to say the well was pretty dry. Every cent of a war bond was returned to the treasury, so the 5.7 billion’s worth of bonds that citizens purchased, essentially, allowed the government to print that many more dollars — they’d worry about the repercussions later, when there wasn’t a war to fight.

But at the ends of both World War I and World War II, two periods in history during which the United States spent an insane amount of money (in relation to the era’s GDP) on the war effort, bonds were repaid en masse, putting money in civilian pockets and sending the country into its greatest periods of economic growth.

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