Remember the collective crushing disappointment we all felt as we got settled in to watch Pearl Harbor in 2001, expecting a Saving Private Ryan-level war movie on a grander scale and suddenly realizing it was a love story and that the attack on Pearl Harbor was actually just part of the backstory? The bad news is that Pearl Harbor is still on television.
The good news is that the director of Independence Day just made a movie about the World War II Battle of Midway. And he even remade the attack on Pearl Harbor to get started.
All this and Woody Harrelson as Chester Nimitz? I’m interested. This still is from Planet of the Apes, but we all wish Nimitz shaved his head like this before combat. I do, anyway.
For the uninitiated, the Battle of Midway may have well been the turning point in the Pacific War of World War II. While the Doolittle Raid featured in Pearl Harbor showed American resolve and boosted morale, it did little to really hurt the Japanese in the Pacific (the Doolittle Raid appears to be in the Midway movie as well). Two months later in 1942, the U.S. Navy struck a decisive blow, delivering a devastating punch to the face of the Japanese Empire at the height of its power – just six months after the U.S. Navy was supposed to be knocked out of the war at Pearl Harbor.
The Americans had a complete intelligence advantage at Midway, having broken the Japanese radio codes and determining they were on their way to attack an island code-named “AF.” In order to figure out what objective “AF” was, American intelligence sent an uncoded message that the water purification system on Midway was down, they heard Japanese radio operators reporting objective “AF” was low on water. The target was Midway, and the Navy laid a trap for the oncoming Japanese fleet.
The United States ended up with the Japanese objective, the days the Japanese fleet would arrive, and the entire Japanese order of battle. What’s more, the Japanese were unaware of the Americans’ positions or that the Navy had broken their codes, so the Japanese Navy took the further steps of so dividing their forces into four subgroups, that they were unable to support each other. This might have been a great tactic in a surprise, but not so much when the Americans knew exactly where every ship would be and when they would be there. The result was, not surprisingly, a complete rout that could only be described as a major ass-kicking.
Japanese forces took massive losses. The Imperial Japanese Navy lost ten times the number of men, along with four aircraft carriers it could not replace, two heavy cruisers, and almost 250 aircraft. The Americans lost just 307 men, 150 planes, the carrier USS Yorktown and the destroyer USS Hammann.
Not bad for the first American victory in the Pacific.
Two British Typhoon jets based in Romania have scrambled to investigate suspected Russian fighter aircraft operating near NATO airspace over the Black Sea.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said the Typhoons launched from the Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base near the Romanian city of Constanta on Aug. 21, 2018, when two suspected Russian Su-30 Flanker aircraft appeared to be heading toward NATO airspace from the Crimea region.
There was no immediate comment from Russian officials.
Encounters between Russian and NATO warplanes have increased in recent years as Moscow demonstrates its resurgent military might.
Russia has also increased its navy’s presence in the Mediterranean, Black Sea, and other areas.
Tensions are high in the region since Moscow’s 2014 takeover and illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, a move that led to Western sanctions being imposed against Russia.
Two British Typhoon jets were launched from an air base near the Romanian city of Constanta on Aug. 21, 2018.
The British Typhoons were operating in accordance with NATO’s enhanced air policing mission designed to deter “Russian aggression, reassure Romania and assure NATO allies of the UK commitment to collective defense,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
It quoted one of the Typhoon pilots as saying, “We had radar contact and shadowed the two aircraft as they flew through the Romanian flight information region, but we never got within visual range to see them.”
Airspace is divided into flight information regions, in which flight and alerting services are provided by a specific country’s aviation authority and differs from sovereign airspace.
The statement did not specify if the Russian jets flew into actual Romanian airspace.
Veterans with PTSD often suffer from nightmares, as 53 percent of combat Veterans with PTSD report a significant nightmare problem. In fact, nightmares are one of the criteria used to diagnose PTSD. Often, nightmares are recurrent and may relate to or replay the trauma the Veteran has experienced. They may be frequent and occur several times a week.
Prolonged or intense stress, such as that experienced during a trauma or in PTSD, is associated with a decreased level of serotonin. The serotonin system regulates parts of the brain that deal with fear and worry. Low serotonin production disrupts sleep and often leads to more significant sleep disorders, like insomnia.
Those with PTSD who experience these brain chemistry changes may be hyper-vigilant, even in sleep. This can make it difficult to fall asleep or remain asleep. Excess adrenaline can make Veterans feel wired at night and unable to relax and fall asleep. With elevated cortisol, there is a decrease in short-wave sleep, and increases in light sleep and waking.
Treating PTSD and sleep disorders
It’s important for Veterans to seek treatment for trauma-related sleep difficulties. With treatment, Veterans can work to improve sleep difficulties and get more restful sleep. Treatment for Veterans with PTSD may include:
1. Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy is used to facilitate processing of a traumatic event. It may include therapies such as prolonged exposure, cognitive processing therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Although psychotherapy may not be directly aimed at sleep improvement, it can be effective in relieving PTSD, and in turn, the symptoms of sleep disruption from PTSD.
2. Cognitive behavioral therapy: With cognitive behavioral therapy, Veterans with PTSD discuss their sleep habits and identify opportunities for improvement of sleep hygiene.
3. Relaxation therapy: Often combined with meditation, relaxation therapy is used to promote soothing and a peaceful mindset before bedtime. Ideally, relaxation therapy can alleviate hyperarousal so that Veterans with PTSD can relax and fall asleep more easily.
4. Light therapy: Light therapy uses exposure to bright light to realign the circadian clock. With exposure to bright light during the day, your brain is better able to understand that it’s daytime, and time to be alert. Patients of light therapy often fall asleep more easily and sleep later.
5. Sleep restriction: Sleep restriction is controlled sleep deprivation, which limits the time spent in bed so that sleeping takes up 85 to 90 percent of the time spent in bed.
6. Medication and supplements: Medications are typically considered a last resort for solving sleep difficulties due to their potential side effects. Supplements of melatonin, a natural hormone that regulates the sleep cycle can help patients sleep better. Medications including sedatives and hypnotics may be used if therapies and natural supplements are not effective.
Strategies and techniques to help PTSD-affected Veterans get to sleep
Treatment of PTSD and related sleep disorders is key. However, there are steps Veterans can take in addition to treatment that can alleviate the sleep disruption associated with PTSD. These include:
7. Sleep in a comforting location: Your sleep environment should be a location where you feel safe, and free of any triggers that might cause you to relive trauma.
8. Ask friends and family for support: Some with PTSD feel safer and more comfortable sleeping with a trusted friend or family member in the same room or a nearby room.
9. Wind down in the evening: Spend time in the evening before bed winding down from the day to induce relaxation. If you take time to relax and maintain a consistent bedtime routine, you can signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep. This can be done by going through the same steps before bed every night, ideally relaxing activities such as playing soft music, meditating, practicing muscle relaxation, taking a warm bath, or reading a book.
10. Setup the ideal sleep environment: A nightlight might make you feel more comfortable sleeping in a dark room. If your sleeping environment can be noisy or disruptive, consider playing soft music or using a white noise machine to block out sounds that can startle you out of sleep. Make sure to control the temperature of your room and keep it between 60-67 degrees fahrenheit. From your mattress to your bedding, make sure you know what keeps your spine in alignment and alleviates any pressure points or additional issues you might face.
11. Give yourself enough time to sleep: Being rushed in the evening or morning can contribute to feelings of stress that may exacerbate sleep struggles for Veterans with PTSD. You shouldn’t feel like you don’t have enough time to sleep. Schedule enough time for adequate rest, leaving extra time if you often experience difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep through the night.
12. Listen to your body’s sleep cues: Following trauma, you may need more sleep than you’re expecting. Listen to your body and go to bed when you feel ready to sleep. However, it’s important to avoid getting into bed too early and lying awake for long periods of time.
13. Avoid activities that can interfere with sleep: Eating a large meal, drinking alcohol, consuming caffeine, or napping or exercising a few hours before bed can make it difficult to fall asleep. Avoid screen time late at night, including video games, TV, and mobile devices.
The building has withstood the test of time. It has seen generations of Marines enter and leave its halls. It has seen Marines off to several wars from the shores of Pacific Islands, the mountains of North Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, and the deserts of the Middle East. It has served as the operational and cultural epicenter of the 1st Marine Division — the most storied and consequential Division in the United States Marine Corps. It has seen its share of history both for the division and the Corps.
The building has even been reviewed as a historical site, still bearing the simple style and white paint associated with World War II era buildings, which were originally meant to be temporary. Few of its kind are still standing across the nation, yet it remains, bold in both color and design, while its peers have been replaced over the decades. If you walk through the musty halls that were once treaded by the likes of Chesty Puller and James Mattis, you can see the artwork — paintings of past commanders, old battle scenes ripped from the pages of history and photos of Marines from modern wars.
“It’s a unique building,” said Colonel Christopher S. Dowling, former Chief of Staff of the 1st Marine Division. “When it was built in 1942-1943 it was supposed to only last five years, five years — that was it.”
U.S. Marine Corps Col. Christopher S. Dowling.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Audrey M. C. Rampton)
Humanity creates things that last; tools which pass through dozens of hands before becoming worn beyond use, structures that stand strong for decades, centuries and even several millennia. There are also occasions where we make things for a simple and easy use, where they are only meant to last for short periods of time. Building 1133 of Camp Pendleton, better known as “the white house” was one such structure. Acting as both a headquarters and administration building for the growing conflict in the Pacific, it even expanded to accommodate the needs of the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions that also participated in World War II’s Pacific Theatre.
“The sergeant major’s office is my favorite room,” said USMC Sgt. Maj. William T. Sowers, former sergeant major of the 1st Marine Division. “The amount of detail in the wood and the fire place gives it that really old feeling and gives off the air of a museum.”
In the early years it did not have the nickname “the white house”. It stood amongst many buildings that were painted the same cheap, bare off-white and was not unique beyond its purpose. Styled like many of the buildings to ensure the security of the command, it served many Marines throughout the Pacific for the course of World War II.
The 1st Marine Division Headquarters Building on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Prado)
The structure grew upon the Marines that called it home and in 1946 it was officially ordained the 1st Marine Division Headquarters building. This would lead to it being modified decades later, not once, but twice to ensure the building could continue to function and support the many Marines that passed through its halls. Though the renovations have ensured the building has stayed with both the times and technology of the era from phone wiring to internet within its walls, its overall structure and design are still the same as it was when first built.
“It was not as iconic to us during our time,” said U.S. Marine Corps Retired General Matthew P. Caulfield. “We never knew it as ‘the white house’. We never thought about the fact it was the division command post during World War II. We simply knew it as the place we work, though we sometimes referred to it as ‘the head shed’.”
Due to the era in which ‘the white house’ was made, there were many developmental needs required of it during that time. One of the largest was the need to withstand a possible attack. A Japanese invasion of the U.S. was a realistic threat in the 40s. To ensure the safety of the command staff, the building was meant to be indistinguishable from the rest. To those born in the last 40 years, the very concept of a military attack on the U.S. is simply something that would not and could not happen. But in 1940, when Camp Pendleton was officially opened, thousands of Marines marched up from San Diego for combat exercises against a fake enemy. It caused a panic within the civilian population. People initially thought a Japanese invasion had occurred. The base’s presence even led to a drop in the housing market, a fact that is inconceivable to most Southern California home owners today.
The main gate of Camp Pendleton.
The threat of attack from the skies influenced much of what would become Camp Pendleton as we know it today. The camps on base are spread wide across the camp’s more than 195 square miles, originally designed to protect the base from being crippled in one decisive airstrike, according to Dowling. In the attics of the White House and other buildings from the era, there is still evidence of the original plywood roofing used. Pressed wood was used at the time for two reasons: actual wood planks were in immediate need to build and replace decks of Navy ships, and pressed wood was less likely to create deadly wood debris if the buildings were stuck by a Japanese bomber.
“The white house” was designed by Myron B. Hunt, Harold C. Chambers and E. L. Ellingwood. Their firms handled the development of several buildings across Camp Pendleton during the 1940s. Based on the U.S. Navy B-1 barracks, which was a common design to further make the building indistinguishable from other building on base at the time, making it less of a target for Japanese bombers after Pearl Harbor. Few of these barracks are still left standing after the 70 plus years since their development. The B-1, much like its sibling structure, “the white house” was only a temporary design meant to last for the duration of the war. In 1983 congress would pass the Military Construction Authorization Bill of 1983, which demolished many of the older temporary structures of World War II in favor of new designs. Some structures were renovated due to their historical significance. “The white house” interior was included in these renovations. The building underwent changes to its exterior but maintained its current shape with only a few minor changes.
Since its construction many people have entered “the white house” and many more have driven past it. It is an iconic symbol of the 1st Marine Division with dozens of memorials surrounding it, capturing the sacrifice of every Marine who fought with the Division during its many battles through our history. From officers arriving at its doors in 1940 Ford staff cars, to 1968 Volkswagen Beatles, and even more recently, a 2018 name your make and model. When one steps out of their vehicle, they would gaze up at the white building marked by the iconic blue diamond and the battle streamers the division has earned.
The 1st Marine Division Headquarters Building on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, May 17, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Prado)
In the old days it would support the entire command staff, but now much of the command is spread out across Camp Pendleton. Many Blue Diamond alum have even thought of making it into a museum, given the many historical pieces that already line its halls. It gives off that feeling of having entered a place engrained with history.
“The iconic building of the ‘Blue Diamond,’ it is the division,” said Sowers. “Many people assume that this is the main command post for the Marine Expeditionary Force or even the Marine Corps Installations West.”
Many of the older veterans were not using to dealing with the commands of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said Sowers. When they thought of “the white house” they’d think of the commanding general who presided over all they knew of the Marines on the West Coast at that time.
Generals, majors, sergeants and lance corporals have walked its halls over the last 70 years. Some still live amongst us while others have given the ultimate sacrifice. Their memories and actions live through both the 1st Marine Division and “the white house” itself, which has been an unchanging monument to the Marines of the 1st Marine Division. No matter the age in which one served the Division, all have known that building in one way or another. It is a testament to both the Division and the Marines that have served. Our ideals have become engrained into its very structure and it has become a permanent member in both the hearts and minds of the Marines of the 1st Marine Division.
Rocky Bleier was unique among Americans in the late 1960s. He was drafted – twice. In the same year. First, the Notre Dame running back was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Then, the college graduate was drafted by the U.S. Army to head to Vietnam. And he did. Unlike many athletes at the time, the 1-A draftee was not put in reserves, so he put his NFL career on hold to answer the country’s call to arms.
Unfortunately for the Steelers, Bleier was sent to combat duty in southeast Asia after leaving basic training in 1969. He joined well over half a million American troops there, more than 11,000 of which would die in combat. Rocky Bleier was not one of those men but he came very, very close.
“There were a handful of players who had been drafted in their career, and I got drafted in the latter part of the year,”He told Fox Sports. “Next thing I knew, I was in basic training and my world had kind of been turned upside down. Then, eventually, I found myself in Vietnam, like all replacement soldiers at the time – shipped over because they needed bodies.”
Bleier arrived in Vietnam in May, 1969, a mortarman with the U.S. Army’s 196th Light Infantry Brigade. His company was in an area called LZ Siberia near Hiep Duc. One day, in August, 1969, his unit got word that their sister company was ambushed by an entire regiment of North Vietnamese Army regulars. Bleier’s Charlie Company was sent in to help Bravo Company.
But the moment they arrived in the area, they had to extract. It was a bloody mess. Charlie company had to carry out the dead and wounded bodies of Bravo Company, and as they did, they were ambushed themselves. Bleier and his fellow soldiers had to go. Two days later, they would have to come back for those bodies.
They were ambushed again.
“Obviously, we knew there was some enemy in the area, and we had just taken a break early in the morning and were moving out on an open rice paddy,” Bleier said. “So we’re moving out into that open rice paddy and all of a sudden we kind of ran into, accidentally, enemy soldiers. Our point man got excited and opened up fire, and then they started to run. We started to chase them, the machine gun leveled the area, and now we’re in a firefight in open rice paddies and that’s when I got hit the first time.”
Bleier was wounded in the thigh in that action; the bullet tore through his body. It felt like a punch to the leg and the Pittsburgh running back wasn’t sure if he could run. Or walk. Or even crawl. Somehow, he tied gauze around the wound and made it back to his commanding officer.
But that was far from safety. As the day wore on, the NVA were able to advance on the Americans. The communist troops were able to get a grenade into the position Bleier and his CO occupied.
“It hit my commanding officer, who I was lying next to,” Bleier said. “It bounced off his back and rolled between my legs, and by the time I jumped to get up, it blew up. I was standing on top of it and it blew up on my right foot, knee and thigh and my commanding officer caught a lot of that shrapnel as well.”
it was during that exchange that the North Vietnamese troops suddenly retreated from the battlefield. No one is quite sure why, but the Americans suspected the NVA field commander had been killed or wounded. It was dark by then, the two sides had been fighting almost the entire day. With the break in fighting, Bleier’s unit decided to leave. It took them hours to get to their landing zone.
Bleier suffered from a bullet wound in the thigh, shrapnel wounds in both legs, and a torn-up right foot. Doctors removed 100 pieces of shrapnel from him throughout several procedures, each a threat to his football career. Doctors told him he would never play again. Bleier set out to prove them wrong.
And the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers were going to help.
Bleier was placed on Injured Reserve for the 1970 NFL season and on waivers for the 1971 season, where he went unclaimed. By 1972, he was good enough to make the team again. He had few touches on the ball before the 1974 season, where he helped take the Steelers to the first of his four Super Bowls.
After doctors told him he would never again have the flexibility and strength to perform at an NFL level, Bleier ran for 3,826 yards on 922 carries, scoring 23 rushing touchdowns. On top of that, he also caught 133 passes for 1,226 yards and two touchdowns.
“I was one of a few Vietnam veterans that our fellow soldiers could identify with and say, ‘Hey, he’s one of ours, and God bless him,'” Bleier later said. “I was telling the story and giving a different image than one of baby-killers or derelicts or post traumatic stress or unemployment or homelessness. It was that kind of image that needed to be changed and I got to be a part of that, of changing that image.”
U.S. Marines, attached to special operations forces in Syria, often found themselves in direct-fire gunfights with Islamic State fighters early 2018, according to the commander of the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response for Central Command.
The unit, designed with capability to launch combat forces within six hours anywhere in the CENTCOM theater, sent two rifle companies to support Special Operations Command units operating in Northern Syria between January and April 2018, Marine Col. Christopher Gideons, commander of the task force, said June 8, 2018, at the Potomac Institute.
“When Marines deploy, they want to get involved,” he said. “When there is a gunfight out there … they want to find that opportunity to feel like they are making a meaningful contribution. We did exactly that.”
Gideons initially deployed a platoon-size element that linked up with ArmySpecial Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) teams.
“They were integrated with [special operations forces], absolutely integrated. We were providing Marine infantry, we were providing indirect fires, and we were providing anti-tank fires,” he said.
The SOF elements would push forward, advising Syrian Democratic Forces, “the ones that were primarily engaged in the direct firefights with ISIS,” Gideons said.
“You would have Marines integrated with those ODAs … providing fires down at that lower tactical level,” he said.
During its 243-day deployment, the unit had to conduct several “rapid planning processes” to deploy forces on short notice, he added.
Over time, more support was needed in Syria, so Gideons deployed more Marines to grow the platoon-size element to “two infantry [companies minus]” that were located in two separate locations in Northern Syria.
“We anticipated that that requirement would grow with a need for Marine Corps capabilities, and it did,” he said.
Soon the fighting intensified.
“On a number of different occasions, there would be various engagements, some direct, some indirect,” Gideons said. “As the SDF would close in sometimes, they would outstretch particularly what our mortar fires could provide.
“We would displace out of our small [forward operating bases] we were operating out of, move closer in behind the SDF and then provide fires — a lot of times mortar fire … and of course as you were getting into an engagement, there is the potential for stuff to come back at you,” he said.
Marines operated in both mounted and dismounted roles. F/A-18s coming out of Bahrain provided close-air support when needed, Gideons said.
Despite the action Marines saw, there were no casualties.
“I am very happy and proud to say that we brought everybody home,” Gideons said.
He described the deployment as “dynamic.”
“What was unique on our watch is over our 243 days in theater … from our perspective, we were more distributed than any other SPMAGTF up until that point,” he said. “We had Marines operating in 10 different countries and 24 separate locations. I had Marines from Egypt to Afghanistan.
“I didn’t own missions in Iraq or Syria, but I had capabilities that could augment and support that mission’s successful accomplishment.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Airborne soldiers have some particular fears that most other troops don’t have to worry about. Total malfunctions of the parachute like a “cigarette roll” can cause them to hurtle into the earth at terminal velocity while mid-air entanglements can leave them with broken bones or worse.
One of their most unique fears is that of becoming a “towed jumper,” something that happens when their chute fails to separate from their static line and they are literally towed behind the plane like the pet dog from “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”
(Younger readers should not Google that reference. Instead, just imagine the worst possible version of parasailing.)
For Army Ranger Spc. Brian Hanson, the nightmare became a reality during a training jump under the stars of Fort Benning, Georgia. He and the rest of his company were under strict orders to conduct the perfect nighttime jump, to include not losing any gear.
But Hanson’s chute failed to separate and he became a towed jumper.
This left Hanson flying through the night sky as he fervently tried to keep all of his gear as close as possible despite the wind rushing over him while he dangled 1,200 feet above the surface of Benning. Watch the video above to learn how he made peace with these developments as well as the moment when he realized he was truly screwed.
Let’s be clear — all battles suck for a foot soldier, even the smaller ones. But there were some in recent times that sucked more than others for the lowly grunt, with body counts piling up, bad commanders and leadership with a total lack of respect for the lives of their men.
Here is a partial list of five of the worst modern battles to be a bottom-of-the-barrel foot soldier.
5. The Battle of Kiev, 1941
The Battle of Kiev lasted from August 23 – Sept. 26, 1941. The German army, led by Fedor von Bock, Gerd von Rundstedt, and the famed Heinz Guderian, continued their spearhead towards Moscow but Hitler reconsidered.
Instead, he ordered Bock, von Rundstedt, and Guderian to focus their attack on the city of Kiev. The total amount of German forces heading towards Kiev numbered a little over 500,000. The reason for this was that Kiev was third largest city with a large concentration of Soviet forces with likely more than 627,000 Red Army troops facing the German onslaught.
How bad was it? In order to crush the Soviets in Kiev, the Germans were forced to systematically reduce the pockets of resistance. In other words, the Germans had to work at making each line (pockets of resistance) buckle and break.
Because of this, the fighting was unsurprisingly up close and personal. The total number of dead were 127,000 Germans and 700,544 Soviets — that’s over 800,000 killed in the battle for Kiev.
4. The Battle of Verdun, 1916
The Battle of Verdun lasted from Feb. 21 – Dec. 18, 1916, between the armies of France and the German Empire. Located in northeastern France, when the battle of Verdun kicked off, 30,000 French soldiers faced 130,000 German soldiers. Seeing that 30,000 troops were not enough, the French bolstered their forces to a staggering 1.1 million men. The Germans countered this by delivering 1.25 million troops.
The horrors of such a battle need little explanation. All one has to do is look at the photos of the battle site. World War I was a war in which the technology outpaced the tactics and strategies. Because of this, war came to a near standstill as men were mowed down by machine guns and blown to pieces by artillery fire on a daily basis.
If that wasn’t enough, living in the trenches was another misery all its own. Here’s a testimony.
A German soldier writes to his parents:
An awful word, Verdun. Numerous people, still young and filled with hope, had to lay down their lives here – their mortal remains decomposing somewhere, in between trenches, in mass graves, at cemeteries…
In total, the French would lose upwards of 500,000 troops while the Germans lost in some estimates more than 400,000 — nearly 1 million killed on both sides.
3. The Siege of Leningrad, 1941-1944
The siege of Leningrad lasted from Sept. 8 1941 – Jan. 27, 1944. The German army surrounded the city with 725,000 troops and began an on-and-off bombardment and assault of the city which was defended by 930,000 Soviet soldiers.
While the Germans made little advancement into the city, mainly controlling the outskirts, they were effective in starving the city to near death.
While war is indeed hell, the Germans suffered from the typical day-to-day engagements as did the Soviet soldiers. However, the people of the city suffered the worst. Due to the limited amount of supplies, many people ate whatever they could get their hands on, even people.
Once the siege lifted, the Germans suffered 579,985 casualties while the Soviets lost 642,000 during the siege and another 400,000 at evacuations.
2. The Battle of Stalingrad, 1942-1943
The battle of Stalingrad lasted from August 23, 1942 – Feb. 2, 1943. Initially, the Germans besiege the city with 270,000 troops. But by the time the siege was lifted, the Germans army had swelled to 1,040,000 men.
The Soviets at first only had 187,000 personnel to defend the city, but by the time of the counteroffensive, more than 1.1 million troops were on the move.
The horrors of Stalingrad were an outgrowth of the hellish street-to-street and building-to-building fighting. Not to mention the many horrors both sides witnessed and committed.
Red Army Maj. Anatloy Zoldatov, recalled:
The filth and human excrement and who knows what else was piled up waist-high. It stank beyond belief. There were two toilets and signs above them both that read: No Russians allowed.
In total, the Germans would lose 734,000 killed, wounded and missing, while the Russians lost 478,741 killed and missing and another 650,878 wounded or sick.
1. The Battle of Berlin, 1945
The battle of Berlin ran from April 16 – May 2, 1945. The Germans had only 766,750 soldiers on hand to defend the city against 2.5 million Soviet soldiers. The result was a decisive Soviet victory that would lead to Germany’s surrender on May 7, 1945.
As for the horrors of the battle, many German citizens — including children — were forced to defend the city. Of course, this was the norm when the situation grows dire.
Like Stalingrad, the fighting in Berlin would be from street-to-street and building-to-building. However, the German army, like its people, were depleted from years of war and had 2.5 million angry Soviets kicking their door in.
Once Berlin was theirs, the pillaging began. In total, the Germany army lost 92,000–100,000 troops while the Soviets lost 81,116.
It’s Women’s History Month, and we’d be wrong if we didn’t highlight some of the most badass women to serve within the military’s ranks. Throughout American history, the stories of heroes who are women have often been told as if they were asterisks to everyday heroes. They’re not.
They have always been smart and strong leaders. Unfortunately, they weren’t always given opportunities to prove themselves worthy. But boy, have times changed.
There are women in the infantry, Ranger corps, Cav Scouts and Marine combat units. Can you believe that prior to 2013, there was a ban on women serving in direct combat roles? These old regs are revised, and women are climbing to glory!
1. Ollie Josephine B. Bennett
Ollie Josephine B. Bennett was one of the first female medical officers in the U.S. Army and one of the few practicing anesthetists in America. She served during World War I. As a female doctor in the early 1900s, she experienced many firsts. She designed her military uniform because there wasn’t a designated uniform for female surgeons when she served. Of course, that wasn’t her plan. Yet, she used the opportunity to be innovative and inventive. Lt. B. Bennett was a leader. She instructed many soldiers to perform anesthesia at Fort McClellan. After the service, she went on to marry, have a child and live a life of service. She died in 1957 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
2. Marcelite Jordan Harris
Marcelite Jordan Harris, another woman of many firsts, retired from the Air Force in 1997. She became the first African American female brigadier general in the Air Force in 1991, at a time when Black women in America were earning less than ,000 a year. Harris was also the first female aircraft maintenance officer. She received a Bronze Star, Vietnam Service Medal and a Presidential Unit Citation. She was appointed as a member of the Board of Visitors for the Air Force by President Obama. Prior to that, Harris served as an aide during Carter’s Presidency. She embodied the definition of a true patriot. She too, was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
3. Molly Pitcher
Today, female service members are continuing the tradition of firsts. The pitchers of water they were once only entrusted to carry and serve, now cools them in the heat of battle. Do you see what I did there? If you don’t know, check out the story of one of the baddest females in battle, Molly Pitcher.
4. Ayla Chase
Ayla Chase, a Captain, currently serving as a signal officer in the U.S. Army, was one of the first females in an infantry class for the Army. She also completed training for civil affairs. Although she was not selected, she continues to train and prepare for another opportunity to prove herself. Chase is committed to strengthening the physical capabilities of America’s armed forces. She conducts routine late-night ruck marches with her troops during her off time, mentors them and helps cultivate leadership skills within the ranks of her unit. She leads from the front. This woman is so badass, she took on a 100-mile race without training. Who does that and survives on their first go-round?
5. Janina Simmons
Speaking of first-time go-rounds, Sgt. 1st Class Janina Simmons was the first African American female to complete Army Ranger school. This accomplishment is colossal not only for Simmons but for Ranger candidates as a whole. A large percentage of soldiers do not successfully complete the Ranger’s course on their first try. Even Fort Jackson’s Commander Brig. Gen. Beagle was impressed by her work, and he’s not easily impressed. He congratulated her, saying, “Outstanding work by one of the best (non-commissioned officers) on Fort Jackson, and now earning the title of U.S. Army Ranger. Always leading the way.” Simmons earned her way to the top as she put her yes on the table, and went for it all. #Goals.
These women have all faced various obstacles in their military careers. But, they chose to jump, climb, crawl and fight their way to being known as the best. Since the first woman enlisted in the United States Armed Forces in 1917, women have continued to break barriers and shatter ceilings at every turn. We see you ladies. Keep kicking ass and taking names.
A strong woman looks a challenge in the eye and gives it a wink. -Gina Carey
Hans Island is a tiny speck of rock that lies almost exactly halfway between Canada and Greenland in the Nares Straight, a thin body of Arctic seawater between the two countries. Denmark and Canada both claim the island as sovereign soil.
For over 95 years, they’ve been fighting the world’s most gentlemanly military struggle by sending their navies to claim the island using sarcastic signs, national flags, and bottles of Danish brandy and Canadian whisky.
The island was mapped in 1920 and has been a spot of contention between between Canada and Denmark ever since. Since the .5-square-mile island has no resources, inhabitants, wildlife, and hardly any soil, the island has limited value in itself.
But, its location makes it a prime spot for managing sea traffic going into and out of the Arctic, something that is becoming more important with each bit of sea ice that melts. So, the two countries sat down and settled most of their border disputes in 1973 but were unable to come to terms on Hans Island.
Sometime in the 1980s, the bottles began appearing on the island. Denmark upped the ante sometime in the early 2000s when they placed a large flag on the island and a sign that said, “Welcome to Denmark,” with the liquor. Canada answered back with its own flag, sign, and liquor in July 2005.
The conflict has edged into more serious territory a few times. A visit to the island by the Canadian Defense Minister in 2005 drew angry comments from Denmark as did a 2004 increase in Canadian defense spending increase that cited Hans Island as a factor.
During the Vietnam War, the Republic F-105 Thunderchief — affectionately known as the “Thud” — was one of the U.S. Air Force’s primary strike aircraft. But amidst mounting losses from North Vietnamese surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery, the Thud took on a new role — the Wild Weasel.
The Wild Weasels of the United States Air Force were some of the most courageous pilots in Vietnam. In a deadly game of cat and mouse, they flew fighter jets like the F-100, F-105 and F-4s deep into hostile airspace to coax the enemy into opening fire with their surface-to-air missiles. Once the Weasels located the site, other fighter bombers were called in to destroy the installations. In this episode of Warriors in their Own Words, Jerry Hoblit, Bill Sparks, Mike Gilroy, and Tom Wilson tell dramatic stories of their days as Wild Weasels.
F-105s take off on a mission to bomb North Vietnam, 1966.
A history of the Wild Weasels
The F-105 was originally conceived as a single-seat, tactical nuclear strike-fighter. In the early days of the war, these single-seat variants, F-105D’s, flew strike missions with Combat Air Patrol provided by F-100s to defend against MiG fighters.
However, during Operation Rolling Thunder in 1965, North Vietnamese air defenses improved with the addition of Soviet-made SA-2 Guideline missiles.
As American losses mounted from North Vietnamese SAMs and AAA, the decision was made to employ specialized F-100F two-seat fighters in a suppression role code-named “Wild Weasel.”
When the idea of flying directly into enemy air defenses was first briefed to the men flying the mission, an Electronic Warfare Officer gave the Wild Weasels their first motto by exclaiming,
“You gotta be sh*ttin’ me!”
After heavy losses in just seven weeks, it quickly became apparent that the F-100 was an insufficient aircraft to carry out the missions. The first Wild Weasel unit flying F-100’s was declared combat ineffective.
As luck would have it, Republic had produced two-seat trainer variants of the F-105 shortly before the end of the production run in 1964. These were quickly modified as the F-105F and rushed into the Wild Weasel role.
The newest Thud was also equipped to carry the first ever anti-radiation missile, the AGM-45 Shrike. These initial aircraft were designated Wild Weasel II.
Even with the improved F-105F, the tactics often remained the same as with the F-100. Using hunter-killer teams, a Wild Weasel aircraft would guide a flight of Thuds loaded with bombs and rockets to find the SAM sites and destroy them.
The Wild Weasel was essentially the bait.
Using their advanced radars and warning devices — or sometimes good ol’ drawing enemy fire — the Wild Weasels would “ferret out” the SAM sites, which then allowed the Thuds to come in and pulverize the position. This was often accomplished by simply following the missile’s smoke trail back to its launch site.
As the F-105F models were upgraded to G-models, known as Wild Weasel III, the Air Force began to change the tactics employed. The Wild Weasels would fly in ahead of a strike package to clear the area of SAMs, stay over the target during the bombing raid in order to attack any other SAMs or AAA that appeared, and then maintain their position until the bombers left the area, at which time they themselves would head for home as well.
This led to incredibly long, dangerous missions for the Wild Weasel crews–often three to five hours of intense flying in hostile air space. It also led to another motto for the Wild Weasels: “First In, Last Out.”
The Wild Weasel mission was exceedingly dangerous, but there was no shortage of brave, if not slightly crazy, volunteers willing to carry it out. Two Wild Weasel Thud pilots would be awarded the Medal of Honor for their gallantry in the air.
As his flight entered the target area, the lead engaged in a duel with a SAM site but was shot down while his wingman, Lincoln 02, was put out of action by flak. This left Dethlefsen and his wingman, Lincoln 04, to deal with the SAMs in the area. As Dethlefsen dove for an attack on the SAM site, he was jumped by two MiG-21 fighters.
Dodging two enemy missiles, he fled for cover in the enemy’s flak zone, betting that his pursuers wouldn’t follow. He again pressed the attack on the SAM and was again driven off by the fighters, his Thud absorbing several 37mm cannon shells.
As the strike package egressed from the area Dethlefsen decided to try one more time to destroy the SAM site. Leading his wingman in, he fired his AGM-45 and destroyed the radar. With the defenses down, the two Thuds pummeled the site with their bomb loads.
For good measure Dethlefsen rolled over and strafed the site with his 20mm cannon.
The second Medal of Honor was awarded to Lt. Col. Leo Thorsness for his actions on April 19, 1967. While leading a Wild Weasel mission of F-105’s, Thorsness and his wingman attacked and destroyed a SAM with missiles. Spotting another SAM, they proceeded to move in and destroy it with their bomb loads.
However, Thorsness’ wingman was shot down in the attack. The two crewmen bailed out and as they descended, Thorsness circled them to provide protection and maintain sight for the inbound rescue crews. As he did this, a MiG-17 approached.
Thorsness quickly responded and blasted the MiG with his 20mm cannon, sending it to the ground. As the rescue crews approached the scene, Thorsness peeled off to refuel; however, hearing of more MiG-17’s in the area, he quickly returned to the fight. Seeing the enemy fighters attempting a wagon wheel maneuver, he drove straight in and raked a MiG as it crossed his path.
Thorsness bugged out on afterburners at low-level to avoid the pursuing fighters. Eventually Thorsness was forced to return to base, almost out of fuel. He put his plane into a “glide” and landed at a forward air base with empty tanks.
Eventually high losses and improving technology would see many F-105’s replaced by the newer F-4 Phantom II in the Wild Weasel and strike roles, though F-105G’s continued to operate as Wild Weasels through the end of the war.
This week in history, East German soldiers closed the borders between East and West Berlin. What started as a makeshift wall in 1961, pieced together with barbed wire, soldiers and tanks, eventually morphed into a 15-foot high symbol of division that blotted the landscape. However, the citizens of Berlin proved time and again where there’s a will, there’s a way. In its 28-year history, over 5,000 people risked life and limb to successfully across the border. For today’s history lesson, let’s take a look at a few more things you probably didn’t know about the Berlin Wall.
The wall was built to keep people in
At the height of the Cold War, Germany was politically divided. East Germany represented life under Communism, and West Germany held the promise of democracy. Consequently, between 1949 and 1961, over 2 million East Germans fled from East to West.
Initially, a hasty perimeter was set up, and the wall in the city center was made of men and armored vehicles. On the morning of August 13, 1961, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) soldiers laid down barbed wire and ripped up the street known as Friedrich-Ebert Strasse, to build a makeshift wall. More armed guards kept watch, ready to shoot anyone who tried to cross as the wall was erected.
Over time the Berlin wall was shored up, reaching up to 15 feet high in some spots, and barbed wire and pipes perched atop the wall made climbing over impossible.
Checkpoint Charlie was the most famous checkpoint, but do you know why?
Along the Berlin Wall, there were a few checkpoints where those with the proper documentation were able to cross between sides. Among them was Checkpoint Friedrichstrasse — more commonly known as Checkpoint Charlie. The U.S. Army maintained Checkpoint Charlie, and it was the only checkpoint where foreigners and allied forces were allowed to cross into East Germany.
Checkpoint Charlie also gained notoriety because it was the preferred crossing for prisoner swaps. The most notable prisoner swap occurred in 1962, on Glienicke Bridge, which stood only a short distance from Checkpoint Charlie. During this exchange American U-2 spy plane pilot, Francis Gary Powers was traded for Rudolf Abel, a Soviet spy convicted of espionage.
Checkpoint Charlie has often been depicted in film and books as well, perhaps most notably in the James Bond classic Octopussy and The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John le Carré.
You can own a piece of the wall
On November 9, 1989, East Germany announced relaxed travel restrictions to West Germany, and thousands gathered to demand passage. As East German guards opened the borders, the demonstrations reached a fever pitch. Berliners climbed the wall, defaced it with graffiti, and began chipping away at it, some keeping fragments as souvenirs. While East German guards began dismantling the wall on August 10, 1989, Germany was not officially united until 1990.
Today pieces of the Berlin Wall are available for sale on eBay. You can own a piece of history for .99 plus shipping and handling.
More than 100 people died trying to cross the wall
The Apache helicopter was a maligned weapon system in early 1991 as low readiness rates, and worse than expected performance in small conflicts made people wonder if the aircraft’s huge costs were worth it. But the system excelled in the tough environment of the Persian Gulf War, chewing up Iraqi armor, bunkers, and ground troops.
In fact, one Apache crew even accepted the surrender of an Iraqi officer and his driver after the men decided they couldn’t escape the helicopter in their vehicle.
Soldiers receive an escort from AH-64 Apache helicopters in 2004.
(U.S. Army Sgt. Kimberly Snow)
Warrant Officer John Ely was one of the pilots on the attack helicopter, and he would later describe the Iraqis’ actions as a seemingly obvious decision. Ely had been part of a team hunting targets in the desert, and they had already erased a few enemy positions.
Ely had his eye on a Toyota when the driver suddenly stopped the vehicle and hopped out. He opened the door for “a fat Iraqi officer” who exited the vehicle with his hands up and a briefcase raised.
Now, even with the man attempting to surrender, this was a tricky situation. Typically, surrenders are given to “maneuver” forces like infantry or cavalry on the ground, but engineers, artillery, and plenty of other ground troops are quite capable of accepting an enemy surrender.
But Apache crews have a severe weakness in this area. While the helicopter’s lethality is a great reason for enemy troops to throw their hands in the air, how does a four-man team in two helicopters; a common battlefield deployment for the attack helicopters, take custody of prisoners?
How do they search them for intel and weapons? How do they transport them back to a base? Apaches have good armor and redundant systems, but they’re vulnerable if they land. And they have no real passenger space even if they landed.
Look, [if you`re an Iraqi and] you see a guy in this machine hovering 200 feet in front of you, with a gun turret that moves with the nodding and turn of my head . . . I point south, they move south. They`ve just seen their buddies blown away. What would you do?
Another event took place in Iraq after Apaches took out artillery positions. The insurgents manning the weapons went to the middle of the field and held their hands up while the Apaches took out the large weapons, and then ground troops moved in to take possession of the prisoners.
But, tragically, that’s not always an option. The 227th Aviation Regiment’s 1st Battalion saw those flags of surrender from Iraqi tankers on the Highway of Death and didn’t engage them, allowing U.S. ground troops to accept the Iraqi surrender in 1991. But in 2007, two Iraqi men jumped out of their truck and attempted to surrender to a 1-227th Apache crew.
The crew held off on attacking, but wasn’t sure what to do. The Iraqis had been firing mortars from the truck, so the unit asked an undisclosed military lawyer for a legal review. His advice was that the Apache crew could not effectively receive the surrender, and so the mortar crew was still a legal target. (This advice has proved controversial since then.)
Meanwhile, the mortar crew jumped back into the truck and drove off with its mortar tube. So it was no longer clear whether they still wanted to surrender. The Apaches re-engaged, but failed to destroy the truck in the next attack. The men abandoned the truck and took shelter in a nearby shack, and the Apaches killed them there with a 30mm gun run.
So, if you ever find yourself trying to surrender to an Apache crew, maybe look around and see if you can find some ground troops to surrender to instead.