The profession of arms deals in death, no matter how we like to think of our daily military lives. No matter what your military speciality is, you’re helping that end. If you’re a cook, you feed warfighters who are out there dealing death. If you work in finance, you’re reimbursing travel vouchers for troops who likely dealt some death. Combat cameramen, you’re documenting the history of dealing death and inspiring others to join in.
I’m not passing moral judgement — I was in the military, too. That’s just the reality of what’s happening.
In that respect, not only does it make sense that some military installations, vehicles, and battlefields would be haunted (if you believe in that sort of thing) – it should actually make us wonder how military installations, vehicles, and battlefields aren’t more haunted.
No where else is that more apparent than Kadena Air Base, Japan.
Do you like ghost anime? Have I got a story for you…
Rumor has it the house was demolished in 2009, but Building 2283 on Kadena’s base housing was notorious for being the single most haunted house in the entire U.S. military. No one lived there for a long time and the building was reportedly used for storage — because no one could stand to stay there.
It was said that an Air Force officer murdered his entire family there before killing himself some time in the 1970s. The next military family to move in to the house experienced feelings of unrest and paranoia — until the father of the family stabbed everyone. So, it became a storage shed. But that didn’t stop the house from haunting people. Passersby reported hearing sounds of children crying, strange laughter, and, in one instance, a report of a woman washing her hair in the abandoned house’s sink.
“I don’t have time to wait for CE to come fix the shower, okay?”
You might ask what took the Air Force so long to tear the house down, which is a valid question. Kadena reportedly attempted to tear it down, but workers attempting to destroy the building reported headaches, hallucinations, and suffered from a high rate of on-the-job injuries.
Teachers at the daycare next door (yeah, there was a daycare next door thiswhole time) complained of children on the playground throwing toys over the fence because “the little kids on the other side ask them to.”
Kids are creepy.
Other reports have cited ghostly phone rings (despite there being no phone line attached to the house), faucets turning on by themselves, curtains opening, and even a sighting of the house glowing.
If the hallucinations and urges to kill your family weren’t enough to dissuade anyone from living in the house, the worst selling point for moving in might have been the goddamn Samurai warrior that rides his horse through the living room every once in a while, for reasons unknown.
“I’M HERE TO CATCH THE FINALE OF THE BACHELOR”
That’s not the only sighting of a Samurai warrior. A similar Samurai warrior is said to ride the road to Camp Foster up Stillwell Drive, reportedly headed to base housing.
Spectral gate guards
There’s nothing creepy about Security Forces. Not inherently, anyway. Those guys look sharp. But when you’re pulling up to a gate at 3am and encounter a World War II-era Marine covered in blood and asking for a match, things take a turn for the creepy.
That’s what happened at Camp Hansen’s old Gate 3 — more than once. In a weird way, it’s a good thing the ghostly Marine was hanging out at the gate, defending living American troops because ghosts of World War II Japanese soldiers were reportedly at the same gate all the time.
Eternally defending Flavor Country from the Japanese.
The haunting happened so often (some say every weekend) that Marine guards began to refuse to stand guard at Gate 3 and the entry control point was eventually closed. Closing the gate seemed a little unnecessary since the soldier would disappear once his cigarette was lit.
Even if I didn’t know this place was haunted, I would assume it was.
Kadena’s Banyan Tree Golf Course cave
During World War II, the Japanese maintained a field hospital on the site where Kadena’s golf course was built. After U.S. troops took the airfields on Okinawa in 1945, Japanese nurses, terrified of Americans due to Japanese propaganda, committed suicide in a nearby cave.
These days, Okinawans won’t go near the cave because the women are said to still haunt the cave and the nearby land – but it’s part of Kadena’s annual Halloween ghost tour.
“Listen, bro, I’m telling you…”
Maeda Point’s prophet of doom.
If you’re around Maeda Point on Okinawa and you see an elderly man walking around a tomb near the water, just go ahead and row to shore, go right to Personnel, retire, and fly home. It’s not worth sticking around, because rumor has it that old man is a ghost and every time someone sees him, there’s a body washing ashore on a beach nearby in a just a few days.
The point is apparently the site of many, many suicide jumpers who ended their lives by throwing themselves off the cliff. Not only that, this was also the site of another field hospital used by the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II. If an old man foretelling doom wasn’t enough, scuba divers even report seeing ghosts underwater. Some of these end up jumping off the haunted cliff for the rest of eternity, as ghost jumper reports are as ubiquitous as Taco Rice.
Everyone knows about the famous 4077th MASH, or Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. But if you ever wanted to see the kind of docs that Michael Bay or Jerry Buckheimer would do a movie about, look at the Air Force’s Special Operations Surgical Teams, or SOSTs.
A MASH unit usually had about 113 people. In 2017, Combat Support Hospitals began transitioning to Field Hospitals. According to the Army, the conversion reconfigures the 248-bed CSH into a smaller, more modular 32-bed FH with three additional augmentation detachments including a 24-bed surgical detachment, a 32-bed medical detachment, and a 60-bed Intermediate Care Ward detachment. The FH and the augmentation detachments will all operate under the authority of a headquarters hospital center.
According to the Air Force web site, the SOST is much smaller. It has six people: an ER doctor, a general surgeon, a nurse anesthetist, a critical care nurse, a respiratory therapist, and a surgical technician.
The MASH and CSH have trucks and vehicles to deliver their stuff. SOSTs only have what they can carry in on their backs. Oh, did I mention they are also tactically trained? Yep, a member of a SOST can put lead into a bad guy, then provide medical care for the good guys who got hit.
In one Air Force Special Operations Command release, what one such team did while engaged in the fight against ISIS is nothing short of amazing. They treated victims who were suffering from the effects of ISIS chemical weapon attacks, handled 19 mass casualty attacks and carried out 16 life-saving surgical operations. A total of 750 patients were treated by these docs over an eight-week deployment.
Again, this was with just what they carried on their backs.
At one point, the team was treating casualties when mortar rounds impacted about 250 meters away. The six members of the team donned their body armor, got their weapons ready and went back to work. Maj. Nelson Pacheco, Capt. Cade Reedy, Lt. Col. Ben Mitchell, Lt. Col. Matthew Uber, Tech. Sgt. Richard Holguin, and Maj. Justin Manley received Bronze Stars in February 2018 for their actions.
It takes a lot to get into a SOST. Fall selection is quickly approaching:
Fall 2021 Selection
Applications Due: 3 Sep 2021
Phase 1 (record review): 9 Sep 2021
Phase 2 (in-person selection): 17–21 Oct 2021
** Report date 12 October for COVID testing. **
**These dates are subject to change based on mission requirements.**
Learn more and apply here: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/Special-Tactics/Battlefield-Surgery/
One thing for sure, these are the most badass folks with medical degrees!
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl received his sentence after pleading guilty to charges stemming from his 2009 capture by the Taliban. While he is receiving no prison time, he has been given a dishonorable discharge.
However, the dishonorable discharge is actually going to follow Bergdahl for the rest of his life. It is such a severe consequence that it can only be imposed by a general court martial, and even then, only after conviction for certain crimes.
According to Lawyers.com, this discharge wipes out any and all military and veteran benefits for Bergdahl. That means no access to the GI Bill for further education, no VA home loans, no VA medical benefits. Bergdahl gets none of these benefits.
In addition, according to 18 USC 922(g), Bergdahl is now prohibited from owning any sort of firearm or ammunition. Even one pistol round could land him 10 years in the federal slammer (see 18 USC 924).
In addition, GettingHired.com notes that a dishonorable discharge is entered into law-enforcement databases. Furthermore, that site pointed out that Bergdahl will probably face “significant problems securing employment in civilian society.”
In short, Bowe Bergdahl may be a free man in that he is serving no prison time, but he has lost out on a lot of benefits, has lost his Second Amendment rights, and will be facing strong public backlash for the rest of his life.
Countries are jockeying for position as the changing climate makes the Arctic more amenable to shipping and natural-resource extraction.
Conditions in the high north are still formidable, requiring specialized ships. That’s felt acutely in the US, mainly because of the paucity of its ice-breaking capability compared with Arctic countries — particularly Russia.
Moscow, which has the world’s largest Arctic coastline, has dozens of icebreakers, some of which are heavy models for polar duty, and others that are designed to operate elsewhere, like the Baltic.
The US has just two, only one of which is a heavy icebreaker that can operate in the Arctic and Antarctica.
The Coast Guard cutter Polar Star cuts through Antarctic ice.
(US Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)
That heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, is more than 40 years old and clinging to service life — something former Coast Guard commandant Paul Zukunft was well aware of when he was asked to send the Polar Star north.
“When I was the commandant, the National Security Council approached me and said, ‘Hey, we ought to sent the Polar Star through the Northern Sea Route and do a freedom of navigation exercise,'” Zukunft, who retired as an admiral in 2018, said December 2018 at a Wilson Center event focused on the Arctic.
“I said, ‘Au contraire, it’s a 40-year-old ship. We’re cannibalizing parts off its sister ship just to keep this thing running, and I can’t guarantee you that it won’t have an catastrophic engineering casualty as it’s doing a freedom of navigation exercise, and now I’ve got to call on Russia to pull me out of harm’s way. So this is not the time to do it,'” Zukunft said.
The Polar Star was commissioned in 1976 and refurbished in 2012 to extend its service life. It’s the Coast Guard’s only operational heavy icebreaker, and it can chop through ice up to 21 feet thick. (The Healy, the service’s other icebreaker, is a medium icebreaker that is newer and bigger but has less ice-breaking capability.)
The Polar Star is more than 40 years old.
(US Coast Guard photo by Rob Rothway)
The Coast Guard’s other heavy icebreaker and the Polar Star’s sister ship, the Polar Sea, was commissioned the same year but left service in 2010 after repeated engine failures.
Like Zukunft said, the service has been stripping the Polar Sea of parts to keep the Polar Star running, because many of those parts are no longer in production. When they can’t get it from the Polar Sea, crew members have ordered second-hand parts from eBay.
The icebreaker makes a run to McMurdo Station in Antarctica every year. On its most recent trip in January 2018, the ship faced less ice but still dealt with mechanical issues, including a gas-turbine failure that reduced power to the propellers and a failed shaft seal that allowed seawater into the ship until it was sealed.
Harsh conditions wear on the Polar Star — it’s the only cutter that goes into drydock every year. It also sails with a year’s worth of food in case it gets stuck. As commandant, Zukunft said the Polar Star was “literally on life support.”
Contractors work on the hull of the Polar Star while the cutter undergoes depot-level maintenance.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)
The Coast Guard has been looking to start building new icebreakers for some time.
In 2016, Zukunft said the service was looking to build three heavy and three medium icebreakers. Along with the Navy, it released a joint draft request for proposal to build a new heavy icebreaker in October 2017.
The Homeland Security Department, which oversees the Coast Guard, requested 0 million in fiscal year 2019, which began Oct. 1, 2018, to design and build a new heavy polar icebreaker. (That request included million for a service-life extension project for the Polar Star.)
But the department is one of several that have not been funded for 2019, and it’s not clear the icebreaker money will arrive as lawmakers focus on other spending priorities, such as a wall on the US-Mexico border.
The Coast Guard cutter Healy approaches the Russian-flagged tanker Renda.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis)
The 0 million was stripped by the House Appropriations Committee summer 2018 — a move that was protested by House Democrats. The Coast Guard commandant, Adm. Karl Schultz, said early December 2018 that he was “guardedly optimistic” that funding for a new polar icebreaker would be available.
The need for Russian assets to support the US in the high north would not be unprecedented, however.
When asked what infrastructure was needed in the Arctic to support US national defense, Zukunft stressed that much of it, like ports, would be dual-use, supporting military and civilian operations.
“But the immediate need right now is for commercial [operations], and that was driven home when we didn’t get the fuel delivery into Nome,” Zukunft said, likely referring to a 2012 incident in which the Alaskan city was iced-in and a few weeks away from running out of fuel.
“At that point in time we were able to call upon Russia to provide an ice-capable tanker escorted by the Coast Guard cutter Healy to resupply Nome.”The need for Russian assets to support the US in the high north would not be unprecedented, however.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Remember the greatest scene in Iron Man in 2008? No, it’s not when Tony Stark says “I am Iron Man” and it’s not when he first tests the suit. It’s the part when Jeff Bridges yells at that random dude: “Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave!! With a box of scraps!” And now that bizarrely specific diss has created the entire evil scheme from Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Pretty much everyone — including the audience — misses Tony Stark in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Iron Man, the world’s premiere superhero and young Peter Parker’s mentor, sacrificed himself to save the world at the end of Avengers: Endgame and the new Spider-Man film sees Spidey, along with everyone else, dealing with a post-Blip, post-Iron Man world. However, there are some characters from Iron Man who make appearances in Far From Home, including one character whose inclusion is much, much more surprising than Happy Hogan or Nick Fury’s — especially once you realize who plays him.
The big twist in Far From Home comes when Quentin Beck, a.k.a. Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) reveals that he’s not actually a superhero from an alternate dimension. Instead, he’s a disgruntled ex-employee with a grudge against Tony Stark. He’s aided by other former employees, including a face who only appeared once in the MCU, 11 years ago, but it was a very, very memorable and meme-able moment.
Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave…with a box of scraps
Yes, it’s the “Box of Scraps” guy, or to be more accurate, the guy that Jeff Bridges’ Obadiah Stane was screaming at because he couldn’t miniaturize Tony’s Arc reactor in order to power the Iron Monger suit. William Ginter Riva was a scientist at Stark Industries in 2008 when Stane, growing increasingly power-mad, ordered him to do what Tony did.
“I’m sorry I’m not Tony Stark,” Riva squeaks back.
That one scene was all viewers ever saw of Riva, whose name they didn’t even know at the time, and chances are, nobody expected to see him again. That’s why it was such a shocker that he appeared by Mysterio’s side, having also adopted a grudge against Tony Stark.
Perhaps more than anybody except for Beck, Riva was responsible for Mysterio. Beck’s hologram technology — which Tony rechristened B.A.R.F. to Beck’s dismay — provided the illusions and visuals, but Riva’s drones provided the destruction. It was Riva who programmed most of the provided choreography for the Mysterio fights, and it was his drones that actually destroyed parts of Mexico, Venice, Prague, and London. For a character who appeared in one minor scene, Riva is incredibly important to Far From Home, and the MCU at large.
Stark Foundation Presentation | Captain America Civil War (2016) Movie Clip
Riva is clearly a bad guy, which means he should be getting coal for Christmas. That’s a tragedy since the character is, amazingly, played by Peter Billingsley, who is best known for playing Ralphie in A Christmas Story.
Yes, the kid from the 1983 holiday classic A Christmas Story grew up to become a Stark Industries employee, and later, a weapons designer who aided a supervillain in killing and deceiving people.
In the real world, Billingsly has been acting here and there in the decades since his most iconic role (Christmas movie fans might recognize him as Buddy the Elf’s superior in the Will Ferrel-led Elf), but he’s mostly moved behind the camera. Billingsley has numerous production, writing, and directing credits for film and especially TV. He was actually an executive producer for 2008’s Iron Man, which might explain why he popped in for that small little role. (He’s not listed as a producer for Far From Home, however).
So, there you have it. A minor character from one of the MCU’s most beloved moments 11 years ago appeared unexpectedly more than a decade later to be a surprisingly important villain in Spider-Man: Far From Home, and he was played by the Christmas Story guy a whole time. Heck, he almost shot Spider-Man’s eye out!
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Few weapons ever wielded by the U.S. Military are more beloved than the M1911. The weapon was designed by a competitive pistol shooter and equipped with the stopping power necessary to take down a berserk Moro rebel fighter. There’s a reason it was in the American arsenal for more than a century.
These days, the legendary .45 pistol isn’t used as much around the military, but it remains a collector’s item for veterans and aficionados alike. It retains its title of the greatest issued sidearm of all time – and now you can get one that came from interstellar space.
It may sound like the first in (probably) a long line of Space Force weapons programs from a less-than-honest defense contractor, but it’s actually just a nifty idea from American firearms manufacturer Cabot Guns. Their weapons are like the concept cars of firearms, with pistols that feature mammoth ivory grips (yes, Wooly Mammoth ivory) harvested from Alaska, a pistol crafted from a 50-layer block of Damascus steel, and a Donald Trump-level .45 with a gold finish, engraved with “Trump 45” along the barrel.
Gimmicky, maybe, but all are truly so well-crafted, they earned the right to be called “elite.” The biggest standout among the manufacturer’s arsenal has to be the Big Bang Pistol Set, crafted from the Gibeon Meteorite that fell in prehistoric Namibia.
The meteorite, believed to be at least four billion years old, is comprised of iron, nickel, cobalt, and phosphorous, along with numerous other rare minerals. The object fell from the sky and broke up in the days before history was recorded, dropping interstellar rocks in a meteor field some 70 miles wide. Prehistoric tribesmen would make tools and weapons of the hard material from the sky.
The Widmanstätten pattern formed by the alloy makes it a particularly interesting design for use in jewelry and other specialty items… like firearms.
For just ,500,000, you can own a piece of geological history with the power to end someone else’s history. Crafted from a 77-pound piece of the extraterrestrial rock, from the barrel to its smaller moving parts, the set contains two of the one-of-a-kind firearms. They are both fully functional pieces, made completely from the meteorite and feature the space rock’s natural pattern on the finish.
Firearms fan or not, the pistols are a pure work of art, along with all the other weapons the specialty manufacturer has to offer.
The war didn’t go well for the King, and he lost entire sections of his country in 1642 and 1644. By 1646, he had only one good castle left, Goodrich Castle at Herefordshire, but it was defended by a very loyal knight. In June 1646, Parliamentarians demanded that the Royalists surrender, but were politely rebuffed.
Except for some missing lead, this is basically what Goodrich Castle looked like after ole’ Meg was done with it. Note that the castle builders hadn’t designed the walls and towers to have those gaping holes in them.
(David Merrett, CC BY 2.0)
So, a siege ensued. For six weeks, the Parliamentarians attacked with artillery and managed to destroy the castle cisterns and a number of other structures, but the defenses held. So, the Parliamentarian commander, Colonel John Birch, commissioned a massive mortar from the local blacksmith.
“Roaring Meg” could fire an approximately 200-pound ball loaded with about 4 pounds of gunpowder that would explode in the courtyard, devastating nearby buildings with the blast wave and shrapnel. Meg destroyed buildings and walls and, combined with the mining operations happening at the same time, forced the defenders to surrender.
Now, Meg is a historical display, but a group of men got together to see what, exactly, a replica Meg could do. Because of modern ideas of “safety,” and “survival,” and “not being horribly maimed for the purposes of entertainment,” the men decided to fire the mortar at a caravan without any explosives loaded inside the ball. Then, after getting their hit, they would place explosives with similar power into the caravan and blow it up that way.
The video is pretty sweet (even if it took them a lot of shots to actually hit the caravan, which is normal with an old-school mortar). Check it out above.
A lot of people died at the Alamo, especially considering it was a fortification that wasn’t supposed to be manned at all. It was only when Col. James Bowie arrived at the Alamo to remove the guns did they realize its strategic importance. Sadly, this didn’t translate into Gen. Sam Houston providing any reinforcements. Some volunteers arrived, however, and among them were some famous names.
But it would not be enough, as the garrison was heavily outgunned and outnumbered and the Mexican Army was not taking prisoners.
William B. Travis
The original artist of the now-famous “Line in the Sand,” Travis straight-up told the defenders of the Alamo that they were all that stood between Santa Anna and the rest of Texas. After telling the Alamo’s men no reinforcements were forthcoming, he drew the line with his sword and told those who were willing to stay to step over it. All but two did so. Travis was supposedly hit in the head by a Mexican round early in the assault on the Alamo.
The legendary frontiersman and former U.S. Congressman departed the United States for Texas because of his direct opposition to many of then-President Andrew Jackson’s Indian policies. His presence at the Alamo was a good morale boost for the outnumbered Texians, but it would not be enough to prevent them from being overwhelmed. During the assault on the Alamo, Crockett and his marksmen were too far from the barracks to retreat there, and were left to their own devices as Mexican soldiers swarmed around them.
Bowie was a legend among Americans and Texians long before he started fighting for Texas independence. He had already led Texian forces on two occasions before coming to the Alamo. During the siege, Bowie was actually bedridden with fever and likely died in his bed, fighting Mexicans with his pistols.
Autry was a War of 1812 Veteran who fought the British in the Southern United States. He roamed the new country for a while, finally settling in Louisiana after quitting farming to become a lawyer. When the Texas Revolution started, he raised a contingent of men from Tennessee to march to the Alamo from Louisiana.
Bonham came to the Alamo with Jim Bowie because of his growing discontent with U.S. President Andrew Jackson’s policies. Bonham himself raised a troop of Alabama militia to join the Texian revolutionaries. It was Bonham who rode out of the Alamo to look for more men and material to support the defense of the fort. Three days after he returned, he was slaughtered with the rest of the defenders.
The T-14 is part of Russia’s new Armata Universal Combat Platform, which is based on a single chassis that can be used for other Armata vehicles, such as the T-15 (or Terminator 3) and Koalitsiya-SV.
It’s also reportedly equipped with an autoloader for its 125mm high-velocity cannon, compared to the Abrams’ 120mm gun.
And the specialist zeroed in on the autoloader.
“You looked around in here,” he said. “You see how sandy it is? You need something that’s going to work in all terrain.”
“Generally, I think the Russians like to build things that — like the AK, you can throw it through the mud and it’ll keep shooting,” the specialist said. “I feel like with the T-14, they got their eye off the ball, trying to be fancy.”
The specialist also said that a crew member can load the cannon faster than current mechanical autoloaders.
“So, what’s the point of an autoloader?” I asked.
“If the ammunition is so heavy, and so long — it’s a small turret here,” the specialist said. “The T-14 has gotten around that by having an entirely automated turret. What happens though, if something goes wrong in the middle of battle, and somebody’s gonna have to get up in there, get out of their position? I don’t know.”
“Let’s say there’s a misfire,” another crewmember interjected. “How much work would it take to get that machine open, get that breach open, and get down in there?”
I then asked what they thought about Moscow’s goal of eventually making the T-14 a completely unmanned tank.
“Maintenance-wise, an unmanned tank is going to be really difficult,” the specialist said. “All I do is maintain tanks … and these tanks still go down.”
Despite unveiling the tank in 2015, Russia has still not mass-produced the T-14 due to the high cost of the platform. Moscow initially said that it would produce 2,300 T-14s by 2020, but late last year said it would only produce 100 T-14s by 2020.
After nearly two decades of counter-terror operations the world over, the United States military is now shifting its focus back toward great power competition with the likes of China and Russia. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the past two decades have left the U.S. military particularly well suited for the war at hand, but not very well positioned for the wars that are feasibly to come.
During this era of counter-terror operations, China has had the opportunity to seek higher degrees of technological and tactical parity, while having the benefit of not being actively engaged in expensive combat operations on the same scale. That has allowed China’s sea-faring power to grow at an exponential rate in recent years, with an active fleet of more than 770 vessels sailing under the banners of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, their militarized Coast Guard, and a maritime miitia that takes its orders from the Chinese military as well.
Chinese Navy on parade (Chinese state television)
The addition of China’s massive ballistic missile stockpile, including hypersonic anti-ship platforms the U.S. Navy currently has no means to defend against, has further established China’s advantage in the Pacific. Even if the U.S. Navy leveraged every vessel in its 293-ship fleet, American forces would still be outnumbered by Chinese ships by more than two to one. Importantly, however, the United States likely couldn’t devote its entire fleet to any single conflict due to its global commitments to security and stability, especially regarding essential shipping lanes.
Today, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are both actively seeking ways to mitigate China’s numbers advantage, as well as the area-denial bubble created by China’s anti-ship platforms. Multiple possible solutions are being explored, ranging from hot-loading Marine Corps F-35Bs on austere airstrips on captured islands in the case of the Marines, to the Navy’s ongoing development of the MQ-25 aerial refueling drone that aims to extend the reach of America’s carrier-based fighters. Still, thus far, there has been no magic bullet. In fact, concerns about a near-peer conflict with China has even prompted several high-ranking defense officials to question the practicality of America’s fleet of super-carriers, both because of their immense cost, and because of the likelihood that they could be sunk by China’s hypersonic missiles long before they could get close enough to Chinese shores to begin launching sorties of F-35Cs and F/A-18 Super Hornets.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mohamed Labanieh/Released)
The fundamental challenges a war with China would present are clear: Finding a way to mitigate the risks posed by advanced anti-ship missiles and offsetting the significant numbers advantage Chinese forces would have within the region. In the past, we’ve discussed the possibility of arming commercial cargo ships with modular weapons systems in a “missile barge” fleet as a means to bolster American numbers and capabilities. Another feasible option that could even work in conjunction with this strategy would be issuing “letters of marque” to private operations, effectively allowing non-military forces to serve as privateers for the U.S. government.
The Capture of a French Ship by Royal Family Privateers by Charles Brooking
American Privateers or Pirates?
The concept of issuing letters of marque to American privateers was recently discussed by retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian and Brandon Schwartz in the U.S. Naval Institute’s publication, “Proceedings.” Although the idea seems almost ridiculous in the 21st Century, the legal framework outlined by Cancian and Schwartz is sound, and one could argue that their assertions about the viability and strategic value of privateer fleets are as well.
Cancian and Schwartz argue that privateering is not piracy, as there are laws governing it and precedent for the practice established in past U.S. conflicts, including the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
“Privateering is not piracy—there are rules and commissions, called letters of marque, that governments issue to civilians, allowing them to capture or destroy enemy ships. The U.S. Constitution expressly grants Congress the power to issue them (Article I, section 8, clause 11).” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
However, despite their argument being technically right, it’s difficult to dismiss how the piracy narrative would almost certainly affect public perception of the use of privateers, and potentially even the conflict at large.
While the United States could argue that privateers operate with specifically outlined rules and commissions, even the American public would likely see American privateers as pirates. And because America has found itself trailing behind nations like China and Russia in terms of manipulating public narratives, that narrative could indeed hurt not only public support for the conflict; it could even jeopardize some international relationships.
The Pride of Baltimore, left, and the Lynx, two privateer vessels, reenact a battle of the War of 1812 in Boston Harbor during Boston Navy Week 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elisandro T. Diaz/Released)
Privateers are not pirates in the literal sense only because a government is sanctioning their piracy. In the eyes of those who don’t recognize America’s authority to grant such permissions in far-flung waterways, the two terms would be interchangeable.
Regardless of vernacular, the United States has used this approach to great success in the past. Although the last time American privateers set sale was more than 200 years ago, their approach was modern enough to set precedent for a return to the concept.
“The privateering business was thoroughly modern and capitalistic, with ownership consortiums to split investment costs and profits or losses, and a group contract to incentivize the crew, who were paid only if their ship made profits. A sophisticated set of laws ensured that the capture was ‘good prize,’ and not fraud or robbery. After the courts determined that a merchant ship was a legitimate capture, auctioneers sold off her cargo of coffee, rum, wine, food, hardware, china, or similar consumer goods, which ultimately were bought and consumed by Americans.” -Frederick C. Leiner in “Yes, Privateers Mattered“
In the event of a large-scale conflict with a nation like China, that potential narrative blowback may be a necessary evil. However, the ramifications of that evil could be mitigated through a concerted narrative effort to frame privateer actions in the minds of the populous as an essential part of a broader war effort that has the American people’s best interests in mind.
In the War of 1812, privateering saw such public support (in large part thanks to the profits it drove) that some took to calling the conflict the “War of the People.” Managing the narrative surrounding American privateers could make the concept far more palatable to the American people.
As for the legal aspects of privateering, you can read a thorough legal justification for the practice in a separate piece written by Schwartz called “U.S. Privateering is legal.”
(Italian Center for International Studies)
The role of American privateers at war
China’s massive fleet of vessels in the Pacific can be broken down into their three command groups, all of which ultimately answer to China’s People’s Liberation Army. China’s maritime militia accounts for approximately 300 vessels, the militarized Coast Guard has 135 more, and the PLA-Navy itself boasts an ever-growing roster expected to reach 450 surface vessels by the end of the decade.
In the event of a war with China, the American Navy would have more than its hands full engaging with such a massive force, limiting its ability to cut China off from one of its most significant revenue sources, overseas trade. China’s reliance on shipping products to other nations has helped its economy grow rapidly, but it also represents a strategic disadvantage, as Cancian and Schwartz point out, if America can find the means to disrupt this exchange.
“Thirty-eight percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from trade, against only 9 percent of U.S. GDP. Chinese social stability is built on a trade-off: The Chinese Communist Party has told the people they will not have democratic institutions, but they will receive economic prosperity.” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
In 2018, China’s merchant fleet was already approaching 2,200 total vessels, thanks to massive external demand for inexpensive Chinese exports. America’s Navy would likely be stretched too thin to actually blockade such an expansive merchant fleet. Like with aircraft, America’s preference for large and expensive ships that are capable of fulfilling multiple roles has offered increased capability but significantly decreased numbers. At its peak during World War II, the U.S. Navy boasted more than 6,000 ships. Today, the Navy has 293 far more capable vessels, but none can be in more than one place at a time.
American Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, for instance, are too big and expensive to task with waiting out Chinese ships hiding in foreign ports, and would likely largely be assigned to Aegis missile defense operations. This is where American privateers could offer an important service.
American privateers wouldn’t be tasked with engaging the Chinese Navy or even with sinking merchant ships. Instead, they would be tasked with capturing Chinese cargo vessels, offering them a multi-million dollar bounty on each, and quickly compromising China’s ability to sustain its export sales.
“Since the goal is to capture the hulls and cargo, privateers do not want to sink the vessel, just convince the crew to surrender. How many merchant crews would be inclined to fight rather than surrender and spend the war in comfortable internment?” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
Of course, despite Cancian and Schwartz’ dismissive take on how apt Chinese crews would be to fight to maintain control of their ships, it’s important to remember that these privateers would likely be engaging in close quarters fighting with Chinese crews or security on board. As American privateers proved more costly to the Chinese government, an increased emphasis on protecting these cargo ships would almost certainly follow.
This begs an essential question: Where do you find privateer crews?
Private security contractors in Iraq (DoD photo)
Private infrastructure already exists
While the concept of American privateers seems borderline fantastical, the truth is, the United States has already leveraged the premise of using non-military personnel for security and defensive operations the world over. American security firm Blackwater (now Academi) is perhaps the highest-profile example of America’s use of private military contractors. In fact, contractors in Iraq have reached numbers as high as 160,000 at some points, nearly equaling the total number of U.S. military personnel in the region. At least 20,000 of those private contractors filled armed security roles.
So while the term “privateer” or even pirate suggests an entirely unconventional approach to modern warfare, the premise is already in play. Terminology may dictate perception to a significant degree, but in practice, privateering wouldn’t be all that different from existing relationships the United States maintains with private security outfits. Further, private security firms, including Blackwater, have already operated at sea in a similar manner to privateers, from Blackwater’s armed patrol craft policing Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa to countless armed and privately owned boats patrolling the Indian Ocean today.
In 2007, Blackwater acquired the McArther from the NOAAS. (WikiMedia Commons)
Many such organizations, with existing infrastructure and established relationships with the U.S. government, would likely seek and win contracts, or letters of marque, in the early days of a burgeoning Sino-American war, and stand up their own forces far more quickly than the United States could expand its naval force in the same volume. Rather than building ships and enlisting crews, the United States could simply authorize existing ships with existing crews to go on the offensive against China’s commercial fleets.
The American government’s experience with military contractors throughout the War on Terror means these relationships would not be as without precedent as they may seem, and the existing private military industry would make American privateers a quick and effective means to grow America’s offensive capabilities.
China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea (shown in red). A conflict with China would undoubtedly play out here. (WikiMedia Commons)
A complicated solution to a complex problem
Of course, there are many variables at play when discussing a future conflict with China. Incorporating privateers into such a strategy admittedly seems rather extreme from our vantage point in 2020, but it’s important to note that there is no precedent for what something like a 21st Century Sino-American war might look like. The massive sea battles of World War II may offer some sense of scale, but the rapid advancement of technology in the intervening decades creates a hypothetical war that is simply incongruous with the World War II models.
America does boast the largest and most powerful military in the world, but China’s rapidly expanding and modernizing force has not been growing in a vacuum. From space operations to warship construction, China has been developing its war-fighting apparatus with America specifically in mind. China isn’t interested in competing with the United States on its terms and instead has been focused on identifying potential American vulnerabilities and tailoring new capabilities to leverage those flaws.
China’s Type 002 Aircraft carrier (Tyg728 on WikiMedia Commons)
Large scale warfare between technological and economic giants would play out differently than any conflict we’ve ever seen. In order to emerge from such a conflict successfully, America has to do much more than win. Once the price of victory begins to compromise America’s ability to sustain its way of life thereafter, that victory becomes less pronounced.
In order to win in such a conflict, the United States will need to dig deep into its bag of tricks. On the home front, it would mean finding ways to rapidly expand America’s industrial base to replenish vehicles, supplies, and equipment as they’re expended or destroyed on the front lines. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Space Force will all be required to communicate and rely on one another in ways never before accomplished on a battlefield.
And China’s massive numbers advantage would have to be mitigated somehow. American privateers, or pirates as the press would surely call them, might just do the trick.
The U.S. military is expected to trim troop levels in Afghanistan by more than 1,000 soldiers, a U.S. general told Reuters on Feb.15, 2019.
U.S. President Donald Trump told Congress in February 2019 he intended to reduce U.S. forces in Afghanistan as negotiators make progress in talks with Taliban insurgents.
However, U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, the head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, said the decision to reduce some of the 14,000 American forces in Afghanistan was not linked to those negotiations.
Instead, he said it was part of an efficiency drive by the new commander, Army General Scott Miller, who took over in September 2018, to make better use of U.S. resources.
United States President Donald Trump.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
“This is something that he started as he got into the position here and was looking at how we [can] be as efficient and as effective as we can be on the ground,” Votel told Reuters during a trip to Oman.
Asked whether Miller would likely cut more than 1,000 troops from Afghanistan under the efficiency drive, Votel said: “He probably will.”
The U.S.-Taliban talks are aimed at finding a negotiated end to Afghanistan’s 17-year war.
The United States has been attempting to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table with officials in Kabul.
The Afghan government has been absent from the U.S.-Taliban talks, prompting anger and frustration in Kabul.
The Taliban considers the Kabul government a Western puppet and has so far refused to directly negotiate with it.
Washington State is big on the U.S. military. It’s a major part of their economy and culture. More than 69,000 troops are on active duty in the state, many of those in the Seattle-Tacoma area. With those troops are more than 90,000 dependent family members who make their living in Washington.
The Seattle Seahawks consistently recognize the importance of the local military community, and that’s exactly why they wanted give its members a Thanksgiving holiday they’ll never forget.
Troops and families in Washington State face the same hardships as troops stationed anywhere. Some are unable to go home and be with their families during the holiday. And some families are missing an essential element to their holiday celebrations – a deployed loved one.
But the Seattle area has something that other big cities don’t: the Seattle Seahawks. Few NFL teams are as committed to making an impact on the community that sustains them as Seattle’s local NFL team. For them, and the state in which they live, the military is hugely important.
Recently, the Seahawks invited a large group of military personnel and their families to their home, Seattle’s CenturyLink Field. They wanted to show their appreciation to the families for their sacrifices while giving them a thoughtful Thanksgiving meal —complete with all the trimmings, of course.
Seahawks’ rookie linebacker, Shaquem Griffin, and cornerback Shaquill Griffin, twin brothers, led the family effort to get more than a hundred service members to join them in celebrating the holiday. The team served a meal to their guests and they all spent time getting to know one another throughout the day.
Of course, no Thanksgiving Day celebration would complete without a little touch football – and the Seahawks were more than happy to toss a ball around.
It wasn’t just the current members of the Seahawks family who joined military families. For local Seahawks fans, the event was also a blast from the past, featuring the Seahawks’ Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent, who spent his entire 14-season career in Seattle and is regularly listed among the NFL’s top all-time wideouts.
Also visiting the families was Kenny Easly, Seattle’s Hall of Fame strong safety, who is considered one of the Seahawks’ all-time greatest players.
“It’s really cool to talk to the players one-on-one and get to know them as a person,” one soldier told USAA. That sentiment was repeated by Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin.
The players and families got closer than expected.
“It’s pulling at the heartstrings,” Baldwin said. “Being able to be around them [military and their families], spend some time with them, eat some food, just like their families would back home.”
The Seahawks want the military all to know how grateful they are for everything service members sacrifice, especially during the holidays.
“Everybody that’s serving our country, we appreciate you guys so much,” Shaquill Griffin said. “I’m not just saying it to say it, but it’s an honor.”
Surrounded by thousands of racers, Lt. Col. Frederick Moss stood out at the Army Ten Miler.
“I always get the question, ‘Why is this dummy running with this binder? He must be some staff guy that is all about his work.’ You know?” Moss joked, while discussing the annual race.
Indeed, Moss is a staff officer. He works for senior leaders at the U.S. Army Reserve Command headquarters on Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Yet, the binder is not his work.
It’s his duty.
Inside, the pages hold the names of 58,000 American military members who died serving in Vietnam.
Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, stares into the camera for a portrait at the North Carolina Veterans Park in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Sept. 27, 2019.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)
He carries the white binder on all the military-oriented races. The Marine Corps Marathon. The Army Marathon. The Navy Nautical. Some of these races won’t allow backpacks for security purposes, such as the Army Ten Miler, so he hand-carried the book 10 miles through the streets of Washington, D.C.
“It’s an act of remembrance. It’s an act of appreciation for them and what they’ve done,” Moss said.
He recalled printing the names at home years ago. He walked away from his computer thinking the job would be finished when he returned. Instead, the printer was still spitting out papers.
Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, runs nearby the North Carolina Veterans Park in Fayetteville during a film production Sept. 27, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Javier Orona)
“Wow, wait a minute. Now this can’t be right. It’s still going,” he said. “It went from 100 to 1,000 to 2,000. And that’s just the letter ‘A’ … 2,000 husbands, wives, uncles, brothers, cousins. They paid the ultimate sacrifice. And that’s really when this thing kind of hit me. This is really big. That’s a lot of people here.”
He originally printed the book to remember his father, Terry Leon Williams, after he died in 2012. Williams had survived Vietnam, but he rarely talked about the war.
“He was a Marine’s Marine. He’s a man’s man. I learned a lot from him, and I owe a lot to him,” said Moss.
Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, looks through the names of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall with his son, Brandon, while visiting Washington, D.C., Oct. 12, 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres)
Williams deployed twice, but in spite of his love for the uniform, the Marine didn’t wear it as he returned home from an unpopular war. He faced a country that offered protest, not praise.
“There’s still Vietnam veterans out there who feel some type of way about how they were received when they came back into this country,” Moss said.
That’s a vast difference from how the nation welcomed Moss in 2006. He had deployed to Iraq as a military police officer. When his airplane full of soldiers landed in Atlanta, firetrucks greeted them on the runway by spraying the plane with water.
Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, visits the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall with his son, Brandon, and wife, Cherie, in Washington, D.C., Oct. 12, 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres)
“We got off the plane … and everybody was hugging and kissing us. It was crazy. Holy smoke! It was hundreds, thousands of soldiers walking through the airport … I thought to myself: my dad and his comrades didn’t get that. It wasn’t America’s finest hour. So, that’s why I chose in my small way to show appreciation, for him and them, for their service to this nation,” Moss said.
The binder is for his father, but also for his uncle, Henry, who returned from Vietnam, yet wasn’t really home.
“He didn’t make it. He came back, but he wasn’t the same. You know, the hidden scars of combat. He ended up committing suicide,” said Moss.
Moss’ father was soft-spoken. He spared few words and rarely squandered those words on comforting his children. During his teenage years, their relationship was horrible, Moss said. A strict father and a rebellious son often at odds, he described.
Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, visits the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall with his family in Washington, D.C., Oct. 12, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Javier Orona)
“If you fell, he wasn’t going to hug you. He was going to tell you, ‘Get up. Dust yourself off. Fight on,'” he said.
He was more interested in teaching his son to defend himself than to show him affection.
“Sometimes, I feel like I’m running from him still,” Moss said, laughing.
His running days began in high school when he joined cross country track. Running calls him out of bed in the morning. He wakes up in the darkest hours and slips out of the house unnoticed. His wife, Cherie, jokingly calls it his “mistress” because she wakes up to an empty bed.
But Moss communes with God during those runs. He prays and listens to gospel music. Time and worry vanish. He might look at his watch at any moment and realize 20 miles have gone by. Just don’t let him sit through a meeting afterward, because he might fall asleep, he jokes.
He has run so many military races that he keeps his medallions in a bag. There’s no room to display them in the house.
Yet, after high school, his running stopped for a while. His first military experience took him off the track and tossed him toward the water.
Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, pages through a binder he printed holding the names from the Vietnam Memorial Wall during a film production day at his home in Spring Lake, North Carolina, Sept. 27, 2019.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)
“I joined the Navy, and I gained, like, 260 pounds,” he said, exaggerating the weight, with a laugh. He reached 260 pounds, but that’s not how much he had gained.
As he spoke, he pulls out a framed photo of himself in a white Navy uniform. A rounder version of himself looks into the camera, with a mustache hovering above his lips.
“This was pre-Army. I was like the ice cream man, right here. So I lost my love for running at the time because in the Navy, it’s all about systems and ships. Not a lot of room to maneuver to run on the ship,” he said.
He deployed twice with the Navy, to Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Later, Moss joined the Army as a staff sergeant. It was a rude awakening because, suddenly, he was in charge of soldiers without any prior experience in managing people.
“The Navy’s a little bit different. It’s not about people … it was about systems. I was an engineer in the Navy. A boiler technician. You need steam to make the ship go. To turn the turbines. To get power. To drink water. But you flip it, and you go to the Army, and the Army is all about people,” he said.
Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, takes a selfie with Lt. Gen. Charles Luckey, commanding general of the U.S. Army Reserve, while showing him a binder representing the fallen veterans of the Vietnam War during the Army Ten Miler in Washington, D.C., Oct. 13, 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres)
Those times in the military made him appreciate his father in ways he never could as a son.
When Moss commissioned as a lieutenant in the Army, his family surrounded him in celebration. He remembers sitting at a large round table with his father and relatives.
“I’ve got something to say,” Williams spoke, stopping the conversation around them.
Moss’ father pointed around the table to those who had served in the military. Four branches were represented there: Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps.
“My son was enlisted Navy,” Williams said. “But my son did something different. I never thought my son would be a commissioned officer.”
A pause. A quiet befell the table as the family waited to see what might happen next. Williams stood and saluted his son. Moss stood and returned the salute. He could sense people holding their breath. The two men dropped their salutes and sat back down.
Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, runs from his home in Spring Lake during a film production day, Sept. 27, 2019.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)
Then, just before the conversation could resume, or an applause might follow, Williams spoke again.
“Now, you’re a lieutenant. You’re officially a punk. Nobody likes lieutenants!”
The table broke in laugher, cheering, and the family returned to their celebration. But a moment had caught during the exchange. A shifting in balance – a new respect – occurred as the older saluted the younger. His father had changed.
Serving in the Army had helped Moss see that change, because service was about sacrifice and legacy. Not individual fame, but a legacy carried by the collective. He saw the military as a family who passed traditions from generation to generation.
“That legacy just keeps going on and on. A legacy of war fighters. People who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and you don’t ever want that legacy to be lost. So, one of the things I do, is I carry this book. That book, to me, signifies that you never, ever forget what other people have done for this nation to make sure that we continue to be free,” said Moss.
The Army Ten Miler reminds Moss of that legacy and of his love for people. He calls it a family reunion, where year after year he hugs brothers and sisters in arms who return to D.C. for the run. It’s a small nuisance that backpacks aren’t allowed, but it’s also an honor for Moss to carry his father’s generation of veterans in his hands.
Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, visits the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall with his son, Brandon, in Washington, D.C., Oct. 12, 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres)
“Sometimes the book is a little cumbersome, but it doesn’t bother me. Because it’s 58,000-plus fallen comrades in that book. What I’m doing for this short period of time is nowhere near the price they had to pay for us,” he said.
He reflects on those names through Washington, D.C., as he runs. He envisions their stories. He mourns with their families. He considers the children who never saw their fathers or mothers come home. Yet, he is grateful for one name who is not in his book. Not on the wall. Not on any official memorial except for the etching of his memories.