Why finding war allegories in Tolkien's work is complicated - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Why finding war allegories in Tolkien’s work is complicated

There’s an old saying within the writer’s world. “Write what you know.” Meaning that every artist should always put a bit of their own life experiences into their creations to help create the feeling that the world they’re creating is real enough – regardless of its fictional setting. This is especially important when it comes to analyzing works created by war veterans when they tell stories dealing with war.

This leads us to literature’s biggest question about authorial intent: Is The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien an allegory for WWI? From the mouth of Tolkien himself, it’s not. Yet scholars still debate this.

The honest answer is that it’s much deeper than a surface level “the orcs are really these guys” and “the ring actually means this thing.”


If you’re still not convinced… If the One Ring was about the bomb, then the eagles would have definitely been the ones to drop the Ring in Mt. Doom and not about the struggles of two hobbits going in on foot.

(United States Department of Energy)

The novel was released in 1954, and, as people do, there was speculation that it was about either World War I or World War II. The straight-forward nature of Sauron being purely evil and the works of the Fellowship purely good puzzled Tolkien’s life-long friend and Jesuit priest, Father Robert Murray, who also questioned if it was a message about Christianity – since Tolkien himself was a devout Catholic.

His response to both was included into the forward to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings, which Tolkien has this to say:

As for any inner meaning or ‘message,’ it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical…. I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.

Later on in life, many questioned if the One Ring was also symbolic of atomic weapons. This is easily debunked by the simple fact that he began writing The Lord of the Rings in 1934 – many years before the Manhattan Project was even known.

Need to come up with a war-torn hellscape that’s riddled with death and decay? Tolkien’s mind went to the worst hell he could imagine: the swamped trenches of the Battle of the Somme.

(Warner Bros.)

In Tolkien’s eyes, his work were, and always should be viewed as, a fairy tale. This is why the chapters of The Hobbit feel slightly disconnected from each other – because they’re meant to be bedtime story-sized chunks to read to children at night.

When it came time for his magnum opus, The Lord of the Rings, it was intended as a more mature follow-up to that world while still holding true to its fairy tale spirit. Sauron is the unequivocal embodiment of evil. Frodo Baggins, though flawed and unlikely to be the hero, was a nuanced embodiment of good. The core of the series is always that good, no matter where it comes from, will always triumph over evil.

The debate lies in the unexpected journey of how that happens, which brings us back to writing what you know.

To be fair, this place would be what Tolkien’s friend Father Murray may have called an allegory for Heaven.

(Warner Bros.)

As every combat veteran can tell you, war is a hell that you can never really get out of your mind. Tolkien himself saw his two best friends die within the first day of combat, a first aid station he was at destroyed with many inside, and he would be sent back to the rear for health reasons. He would eventually learn his battalion, and everyone he knew would be destroyed by the end of the war.

Tolkien’s survivor’s guilt would haunt him throughout the rest of his life. This is reflected in the most powerful moment of The Lord of the Rings – Frodo’s return to the Shire. Frodo lost many of his friends along the way. What was once a happy, cheery little town felt alien to him. He couldn’t just slip back in like nothing had happened because, it did. His scars healed but still hurt while his mind wandered. This is not unlike what happened to Tolkien, but it’s not unique to him.

But this isn’t where Frodo’s story ends. Neither is it for every returning veteran. For all of his good deeds, Frodo is allowed passage into the Undying Lands. He can be free of his pain and know that he fought the good fight. His battles with his trauma were over. This pained and injured hero can finally have his happy ending.

There is no allegory for the pure good and pure evil of The Lord of the Rings. The Orcs weren’t the Germans (from either war), and the Hobbits weren’t the peaceful Welsh. The story is meant to be interpreted by anyone who sees themselves in Frodo’s shoes (well, in the metaphorical sense. Hobbits never wear shoes.)

Tolkien wrote the fairy tale he’d have wanted to hear as a returning veteran. To be told that no matter where you’re from, no matter how big or small, no matter the pain you endure, no matter the friends you lose along the way, your story will eventually have a happy ending.

This is the basis for the Fox Searchlight film Tolkien about how his life experiences influenced his writing. Check it out in theaters May 19th.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This radar could make it very hard to hide – even on land

Radars have long been used to track targets in the air or at sea but, traditionally, radar isn’t known for its ability to track targets on land. Despite its reputation, radar has been used for exactly that purpose as far back as Operation Desert Storm.


Electronics have advanced rapidly since then, however. In the last 25 years, we’ve gone from clunky desktop computers that ran up to 16 megabytes of RAM and a 250 megabyte hard drive to using laptops that hold 32 gigabytes of RAM and have terabytes of storage space. Today, the cell phone you hold in your hand is arguably more powerful than a top-of-the-line gaming PC of 25 years ago.

The E-8C JSTARS had to be based on the Boeing 707.

(USAF photo)

Well, that electronics revolution has helped radars, too. Previously, you needed a jumbo jet, like the 707, to carry a radar system around. Modern radars, however, are a lot smaller. One such radar is the APS-134G from Telephonics. According to an official handout, the radar weighs just under 450 pounds!

Despite being lightweight, this radar can do a lot. Among its capabilities is a ground moving target indicator, synthetic aperture radar imaging, wide-area surveillance, coastline mapping, weather mapping, and an aircraft detection and location mode that can simultaneously process over 300 targets!

The HU-25 Guardian used an earlier version of the APS-143.

(USCG photo)

The small size of this system means that you no longer need a jumbo jet to get a powerful eye in the sky. Among the planes capable of carrying this radar are Beech King Air planes, Bombardier Global business jets, and the CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft.

In short, this radar will make it very hard for bad guys to hide.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These Navy Tigers played the MiGs in ‘Top Gun’

If you’ve seen Top Gun, then you probably remember the enemy MiG-28s that enter the fray at the beginning and the end of the film. If you know your aircraft, however, you quickly figured out that the on-screen “MiGs” were actually Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II fighters from the Navy’s aggressor squadrons.

The F-5E/F has done a lot more than play a body-double for Russian aircraft, though.


The Northrop F-5E/F Tiger first saw action in 1972 in Vietnam. The early versions of this plane flew several missions and it was quickly understood that, while fully operational, the plane needed some upgrades. The result was called the “Tiger,” and it was intended to match the Soviet MiG-21 “Fishbed.”

Three F-5E Tiger II aggressors in formation.

(USAF)

The F-5E had a top speed of 1,077 miles per hour, a maximum range of 1,543 miles, and was armed with two 20mm cannon, AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, and could carry a number of bombs, rockets, and missiles for ground attack. The Navy and Air Force bought some as aggressors, but the real market for this jet was overseas.

Taiwan bought a lot of F-5Es to counter Communist China’s large force of J-5 and J-6 fighters, South Korea used the specs to build a number of airframes locally, and the Swiss bought a significant force of F-5E to make their presence known in Europe. Countries from Morocco to Thailand got in on the Tiger action.

F-5E Tiger IIs and F-14 Tomcats prior to filming for ‘Top Gun.’

(U.S. Navy)

The Air Force retired its Tigers in 1990, allowing the F-16 to take over the aggressor role. The Navy and Marines still use the Tiger as an aggressor – and is even putting on a global search for a few good replacements to bolster the ranks.

Learn more about this long-lasting fighter that spent some time as a Hollywood villain in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ohj9mSn0LrE

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY CULTURE

Drone footage shows leveled compound where ISIS leader died

New drone footage shows what remains of the Syrian compound where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died as US Delta Force commandos raided the secret lair on Oct. 26, 2019.

Turkish state-run news outlet Anadolu Agency released the footage Oct. 28, 2019. It shows the compound in Barissa, Syria, completely leveled, with people milling about in the rubble.

US fighter jets fired six rockets into the building after the kill team left, in order to prevent the building from turning into a shrine for the terrorist leader.


Watch the full video below:

Drone Video Shows The Devastated Compound Where Al-Baghdadi Died | NBC News

www.youtube.com

Earlier this month, Trump announced he was removing American troops from northern Syria, causing Turkey to invade the region, which may explain why it was a Turkish news outlet that got to the scene first to take the drone video.

Trump said Al-Baghdadi fled into an underground network of tunnels when the raid started, wearing a suicide vest and bringing three children with him.

Drone footage of the compound, bottom right, was taken by a Turkish state-run media outlet.

(Anadolu Agency)

When he reached the end of the tunnel, Trump said the most wanted terrorist in the world ignited the suicide vest, killing himself and all three of the children.

The explosion caused the tunnel to cave in, so US forces weren’t able to completely remove Baghdadi’s body. But they got enough of it to conduct DNA testing to confirm that the man was indeed the head of ISIS.

US forces stayed on the scene for about two hours, recovering highly sensitive information on the group.

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

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MIGHTY CULTURE

US Air Force bases could be getting new names

The US’s long-awaited Space Force was officially established on December 20, when President Donald Trump signed the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

Space Force was created from US Air Force Space Command but is still part of the Air Force, much like the Marine Corps is a part of the Navy Department. Space Force is not meant to put troops into space but will provide forces and assets to Space Command, which leads US military space operations.


The secretary of the Air Force has to tell Congress by February 1 how Space Force will be organized and its expected funding needs. But there are still “thousands and thousands of actions that are going to have to take place” over the next 18 months, Air Force Gen. Jay Raymond said on December 20

Among those is the renaming of Air Force bases to reflect the space mission, according to Raymond, who is head of US Space Command and will lead Space Force as its first chief of space operations.

“We do have a plan to rename the principal Air Force bases that house space units to be space bases,” Raymond said.

“I just want to point out, though, that we will rely very heavily on the Air Force to operate those bases,” he added. “But we’ll work to rename those to match the mission of the base.”

Raymond mentioned five Air Force bases that could be renamed — Patrick Air Force Base, for example, could become Patrick Space Base — but he said “his list wasn’t necessarily all inclusive,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in an email last week, adding that the service was “still working through the details” and didn’t currently have any other information about renaming bases.

Below, you can see some of the bases that may soon have new names.

A C-17 Globemaster III at Buckley Air Force Base, March 19, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Michael D. Mathews)

Located in Aurora, Colorado, Buckley AFB’s host unit is the 460th Space Wing, the mission of which is “to deliver global infrared surveillance, tracking and missile warning for theater and homeland defense and provide combatant commanders with expeditionary warrior airmen.”

In its day-to-day operations, the 460th SW directly supports combatant commands around the world.

Runners exit the north portal of Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station during the Zombie Tunnel 5k Fun Run, Oct. 20, 2017.

(US Air Force/Steve Koteck)

Cheyenne Mountain AFS is located near Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, home to the headquarters of North American Aerospace Defense Command and US Northern Command.

While Raymond didn’t mention Cheyenne Mountain by name, it is a big part of US space operations. It is the alternate command center for NORAD and Northern Command and is a training site for crew qualification.

“NORAD and USNORTHCOM use just under 30% of the floor space within the complex and comprise approximately 5% of the daily population at Cheyenne Mountain,” according to NORAD. But it is owned and operated by Air Force Space Command, which is now Space Force.

Staff Sgt. Heather Heiney takes photos on the flight line at Peterson Air Force Base, July 3, 2019.

(US Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Frank Casciotta)

In addition to hosting the headquarters for NORAD and Northern Command, Peterson Air Force Base is headquarters for Air Force Space Command and now for Space Force.

It is also home to the 21st Space Wing, the Air Force’s most geographically dispersed wing and the fifth-largest wing in the Air Force by number of units.

“We literally cover the world with our operations,” the base’s website says.

The 21st SW uses a network of command-and-control units as well as ground- and space-based sensors operated by units around the world to provide missile warning and space control to NORAD.

50th Operations Support Squadron students at Schriever Air Force Base, January 10, 2019.

(US Air Force/2nd Lt. Idalí Beltré Acevedo)

East of Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs, Schriever AFB’s host unit is the 50th Space Wing, the mission of which is “to evolve space and cyberspace warfighting superiority through integrated and innovative operations.”

The 50th SW and its 16 units around the world provide “command and control of more than 185 satellites, to include commercial, DoD and civil assets,” the base’s website says.

The wing runs satellite operation centers at Schriever AFB and remote-tracking stations and command-and-control facilities across the planet, at which it monitors satellites throughout their service life.

Among the space operations that the wing supports are the Global Positioning System, defense meteorological and surveillance programs, and the mysterious X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle.

Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, head of Northern Command and NORAD, tours Vandenberg Air Force Base, August 7, 2018.

(US Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Jim Araos)

Vandenberg Air Force Base

Located in a remote area north of Los Angeles, Vandenberg AFB is headquarters for the 30th Space Wing, which manages space and missile testing for the Pentagon, launches satellites and spacecraft, and supports the Minuteman III ICBM force development evaluation program.

Vandenberg is also home to the 14th Air Force, which on December 27 was redesignated as Space Operations Command, which “directly supports the US Space Force’s mission to protect the interests of the United States in space; deter aggression in, from and to space; and conduct space operations.”

SPOC comprises the five space wings on this list as well as the 614th Air and Space Operations Center, which is the SPOC commander’s command-and-control center at Vandenberg.

Among other things, SPOC will provide space domain awareness and electronic warfare, satellite communications, missile-warning and nuclear-detonation detection, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance for Space Force and Space Command and other combatant commands.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, May 23, 2019.

(US Air Force/1st Lt Alex Preisser)

Patrick Air Force Base

Patrick Air Force Base is on Florida’s Atlantic coast near Orlando, and its host unit is the 45th Space Wing.

The wing operates the Eastern Range, which supports rocket and missile launches at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center. It also oversees satellite launches at Cape Canaveral for the US military and civilian agencies and commercial entities.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral on Monday with Starlink satellites in the first launch of 2020 and the wing’s first launch as a part of Space Force.

“The effects the new Space Force will have on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Patrick Air Force Base has not been announced yet, but continuing to successfully accomplish the mission without interruption is our top priority,” 45th Wing commander Brig. Gen. Doug Schiess said January 3.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The most ‘Murican moments of every presidency, part one

Politics in the United States can be an incredibly divisive topic of conversation, if recent news is any indication. Still, no matter how you feel (or felt) about any Commander-In-Chief, there’s one thing we can agree on for all of them: each loved this country and cared about doing a good job. No one wants to be remembered as the the “worst president of all time” — and no matter whether you hate or love the current president or the last, I can guarantee you that neither will hold that title.

But even the now-reviled James Buchanan didn’t set out to become the worst President ever. Even the Pierce Administration thought it was doing what was right for the United States. And, in Warren G. Harding’s defense, things were going really well in America during the 1920s. Let’s take a moment to forget party divisions and just remember the good times.


(And if you’re wondering, President Trump isn’t on here because his term isn’t over yet — his most ‘Murica moment might be yet to come)

George Washington accepting Lord Cornwallis’ sword at Yorktown in 1781.

George Washington

What was George Washington’s most “‘Murica” moment? Making everything about this country happen. The original Commander-In-Chief trapped the British Army under Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown with the help of the French Fleet. With nowhere else to go, Cornwallis surrendered, breaking the will of the British to keep fighting in North America.

The United States was born two years later and George Washington set the standard for how every democratically-elected President should act in office. It was his will that set these precedents and allowed the American experiment to continue. We would not have our democratic traditions were it not for how Washington conducted himself during and after his time in office.

He even warned us about political parties. Just saying.

“The Directory is a stupid name for a ruling body. France is dumb.” — John Adams, probably.

John Adams

In many ways, the way John Adams conduct in office was as important as George Washington’s. Adams’ continuation of precedents set by Washington meant that successive Presidents would do the same. But that wasn’t Adams’ most patriotic moment.

That came when Revolutionary France demanded a bribe from the United States in order to accept diplomatic envoys. Rather than quietly pay up, Adams read the letter to Congress — who promptly printed it. Adams also commissioned ships for the U.S. Navy and raised a provisional army as reports of armed actions from France mounted. Instead of going to war, the French relented when American ships started clearing sea lanes and accepted American diplomats.

This is a face that says, “I’m sick of your sh*t.”

Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson’s finest American hour came when he launched the nascent United States’ first war on terror. For decades, countries paid the North African Barbary States for the right to not get attacked by pirates in the Mediterranean. Corsairs from Tripoli and Algiers would raid foreign shipping and enslave entire crews, often even if the ransom was paid.

When Thomas Jefferson took office in 1801, the Barbary States got no more money from the United States. What they got instead was Stephen Decatur stealing their ships and burning their harbors as United States Marines under Lt. Presley O’Bannon captured their cities from the rear. When they Barbary Pirates tried the same stuff again a few years later, Decatur returned and this time, Algiers paid the U.S. to stop.

James Madison

James Madison is one of our more overlooked Founding Fathers, and it’s probably because the war his administration oversaw ended in a stalemate — and the burning of Washington, D.C. But what was Madison supposed to do? Sit there and let Britain steal American sailors and tell the United States with whom who it could and couldn’t conduct trade just because they were the world’s dominant power? If your answer is ‘hell no,’ then you know why Madison took America to war, despite having very little to fight with.

It was the first time the United States declared a war against anyone and declared to the world that we were here to stay.

“Back. The Hell. Up.” – James Monroe (paraphrasing)

James Monroe

For almost the entire lifespan of the United States, our policy in the Western Hemisphere was that any European meddling in the affairs of states in North and South America would be seen as “the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States” and be dealt with accordingly — this became known as the “Monroe Doctrine.” Recolonization of the Western Hemisphere was not gonna fly.

Basically, he told the world that the West was an American Hemisphere and if you f*ck with free and independent Latin America, you’re f*cking with the United States. And they all listened.

That is what a game face looks like.

John Quincy Adams

Adams wasn’t just the progeny in the first Father-Son Presidential legacy, he was also the first “America First” President, opting to maintain good relations with Europe but focus any military and economic might right here in the Western Hemisphere. Under John Quincy’s administration, infrastructure projects created a marvelous system of roads and canals across state lines.

Unfortunately, while this was good for the young country’s development in the long term, the short term effect caused Adams to lose after his first administration, being accused of “public plunder” and federal overreach by his detractors.

“The Era of Good Feelings is over. Daddy’s home.”

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson came into office like a wrecking ball — literally. His inauguration party nearly destroyed the White House. But as Jackson pledged his respect for the right of the states’ self-governance, he also had a deep respect for the law of the land. So, when uppity U.S. states thought they could nullify federal laws they just didn’t like, President Jackson had to remind them that the the Constitution of the United States was in charge.

Even lowering the so-called “Tariff of Abomination” didn’t placate the South. So, Jackson sent the U.S. Navy into Charleston Harbor and threatened to hang anyone who even said the word “nullification.” He considered states defying federal law to be in full rebellion. And secession — another word Jackson hated — was not something he would tolerate either. You might say Andrew Jackson’s fury at Southern intransigence held the Union together for another decade.

He was also the first President born in the United States.

Martin Van Buren

This one… this one was a tough one. There’s no doubt President Van Buren did what he thought was right, even if it meant disagreeing with his political patron and idol, Andrew Jackson. But Martin Van Buren’s greatest accomplishment seems to be keeping the United States out of wars at a time when it couldn’t really pay the debt a war would cause — and it cost Van Buren the office of President.

It’s not as if there weren’t reasons to go to war. The newly-freed Republic of Texas was clamoring to be annexed by the United States, but it would lead to a war with Mexico. Canadian freedom fighters begged for help from the Van Buren Administration in liberating our northern neighbor from British rule. The British were even close to invading Maine. But after the Panic of 1837, the finances of the U.S. were weak and a war, though good for his approval rating, was not something they could afford.

He came from a time when a popped collar meant something.

William Henry Harrison

Harrison, the General and hero of Tippecanoe and the War of 1812, was propelled to the Presidency by popular demand. Everything about Harrison was America. Sadly, he famously died in office after 30 days and a long bout with pneumonia. As the oldest President ever elected at that time (only Reagan and Trump were older at their elections), it’s a surprise no one saw that coming.

On a cold, wet day in March, he delivered the longest inaugural address in history and he got there riding a horse without a coat and hat. The guy was practically begging for pneumonia. But the most American thing about Harrison was his dedication to bipartisanship — every time someone tried to force him to do something unethical, he reminded them that William Henry Harrison was the President of the United States and he’ll do what he damn well wants.

A full, four-year Harrison Administration would have been quite the sight.

If ever there was a face that said, “I didn’t ask for this, leave me alone,” it was John Tyler’s.

John Tyler

Tyler took over for Harrison after his death, assuming office amidst a number of terrible crises for the still-young United States. Tyler’s most American moments just might be weathering all of these crises in line with the Constitution, as he believed the Founders would have intended.

Known as “His Accidency” for being the first unelected President of the United States after Harrison died, Tyler moved into the White House and assumed the duties of President. At the time, Presidential succession was not outlined in the Constitution as it is today. He was the first President to have a veto overridden by Congress, the first President against whom the House of Representatives began impeachment proceedings, and the first President to be expelled from his own party. He took all of it in stride and when the time to step down came, he did.

The first Presidential Mullet says, “Manifest Destiny, b*tches.”

James K. Polk

After three very lackluster Presidencies, there’s no doubt the people were excited to have a President like Polk. James Polk promised he’d only serve one term and he kept that promise — but not before achieving every single goal he said was a priority for his administration.

James Polk’s most American moment came when he pretty much created or settled the borders of the mainland United States as we know it today. With the exception of a strip of New Mexico and Arizona purchased from Mexico in 1853, Polk annexed Texas for the United States, negotiated with Britain for what is now Oregon and Washington, and sent the Army and Navy to a war with Mexico, securing the Rio Grande as the southern border and acquiring what is today California, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Arizona and Colorado — exactly what he said he was going to do in his inauguration address.

The list continues in part two.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why Iran is training to swarm the US Navy with speedboats

Iran has dispatched its elite Islamic Republican Guard Corps navy to the Strait of Hormuz, a massively valuable waterway that Tehran has threatened to close as retaliation against the US — and despite their small size and dated ships, these commandoes could do real damage to the US Navy.

The US Navy stands unmatched on earth in terms of size and ability, but Iran’s IRGC ships are small, fast, deadly, and designed specifically to present an asymmetrical threat to the toughest ships on earth.


The IRGC doesn’t have any interest going toe to toe with the US Navy by building its own destroyers or carriers, instead, it’s formed a “guerrilla army at sea” of vicious speedboats with guns, explosives, and some anti-ship missiles, Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at geopolitical consulting firm Stratfor, told Business Insider.

“They understand full well that there’s a decisive qualitative disadvantage against the US and its allies,” Lamrani said of the IRGC. “They know they can’t win, so they plan to attack in a very fast way with many, many small ships swarming the US vessels to overwhelm them.”

Iran’s fast attack craft, the type repeatedly used to harass US Navy ships.

(Fars News Agency photo)

Currently, that situation is exactly what the IRGC is training for. US officials said that more than 50 small boats are now practicing “swarming” attacks to potentially shut down the strait which sees about 30% of the world’s oil pass through, according to Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson .

For the Iranians, it’s a suicide mission. But in Iran’s struggle to oppose the US at any cost, something it sees as a spiritual matter, they could employ these little ships and irregular warfare to cripple the US Navy.

How the US would fight back

If the US knew a hostile group of IRGC fast attack craft were swarming around the Gulf trying to close down the Strait of Hormuz, there’s no question its destroyers and other aircraft carrying ships could unleash their helicopters to strafe the ships to the bottom of the sea. With enough notice, nearby US Air Force planes like the A-10 Warthog could even step in.

“The biggest weapon [US Navy ships] have against these swarm boats is the helicopter. Helicopters equipped with mini guns have the ability to fire very fast and create standoff distance to engage them,” said Lamrani.

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Levi Horn observes as Operations Specialist 3rd Class Monica Ruiz fires a 50-caliber machine gun during a live-fire qualification aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian Caracci)

If some swarming ships did break through, the Navy has automated close-in weapons systems and missiles it can fire to pick the ships off. But, “the problem is, with these swarm boats, there’s only so much they can engage before the vessels get in range and cause damage.”

But Iran holds the first mover advantage

Iran holds the first mover advantage. The US Navy regularly transits the Persian Gulf, and it does so peacefully. The US and Iran are not at war, so when Iranian ships have harassed the US Navy in the past , they’ve come within a hundred yards of the billion-plus dollar ships before being warded off by warning shots .

That means the ideal scenario for the US, where it sees the enemy a ways out and can call in devastating air power, likely won’t happen. Iran knows it can only win with a sneak attack, so Lamrani thinks that’s how they’ll do it.

“If they decide to do this, they’re going to go as fast as possible, in as many numbers as possible before they get wrecked,” said Lamrani.

The US Navy’s lack of training against low-end threats like speedboats further exacerbates the problem. Navy watchers frequently point out the force is stretched thin across a wide spectrum of missions, and that surface warfare, especially against a guerilla force, hasn’t been a priority.

Ultimately, no serious military analyst thinks 50 or so Iranian speedboats could hold off the US Navy for long , but caught unawares, the first round could deal a devastating loss to the US.

“Given the constraints, this is a very, very effective tactic, very cost effective,” said Lamrani. “Even if they lost an entire fleet of speedboats and they managed to sink an aircraft carrier, a cruiser, a destroyer,” the effect would be devastating.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why camouflaged troops wearing reflective belts became a thing

If there’s one accessory that’s become synonymous with the post-9/11 generation of troops, it has to be the nonsensical PT belt. It’s that bright, neon green, reflective band that you see wrapped around every troop when they go out for a jog.

Honestly, it seems like some big wig at the Pentagon must have thought it was funny in an ironic sort of way to make all troops who’re wearing camouflage fatigues put on a bright, shiny, eye-catching belt. Military doctrine isn’t made on a whim and, usually, there’s a lot more at play than meets the eye, but the actual reason behind wearing the belt is a perfect example of someone listening to the “Good Idea Fairy” instead of reason.


In all fairness to the glow belt, it does help troops be seen at night. That doesn’t mean that’s the solution to vehicular manslaughter, however.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Zachary Wolf)

Prior to the 90s, troops didn’t wear any sort of reflective clothing during morning PT. Instead, for safety, troops conducted PT on roads that were blocked off in the mornings to avoid any potential accidents with civilian drivers. Unfortunately, the scenario didn’t play out as installation commanders hoped and fatalities would happen occasionally.

The first step in preventing these unfortunate deaths was to create more reflective PT uniforms — without abandoning the military appearance, of course. A few designs were tested, but the luminescence would consistently lose its luster after a few runs through the laundry.

So, rather than holding the manufacturers accountable for making a sub-par product, the Army used reflective armbands, reflective vests, before, finally, adapting the the widespread PT belt. Initially, this was more of a Band-Aid solution to a large problem.

It’s funny how everyone of ranks of E-7, O-2, and below unanimously hate the belts, but as soon as you make rank, you suddenly laud their effectiveness…

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ethan Morgan)

Then came a horrible incident on Lackland Air Force Base in 1996 in which several airmen were struck by a moving vehicle during a morning run. Rather than installing a traffic light or determining what, exactly, was to blame, the Air Force pulled the trigger and made the new reflective belts mandatory.

The rest of the branches soon followed suit because it gave the commanders an out when creating Risk Management Assessments. Rather than taking an analytical look at serious and tragic incidents, the commanders could cut themselves out of the accountability equation by making everyone wear reflective bets.

(Comic by AF Blues)

In short, the solution of “add a PT belt” was a lazy answer to a complicated question that resulted in horrible accidents. Vehicles hitting pedestrians in the motor pool was another problem addressed by adding a PT belt instead of figuring out why so many accidents were happeningafter all, do the belts even have any real effect in broad daylight?

This sort of irresponsible risk management solution has since become the biggest running joke in the military.

“Going into combat? Don’t forget your PT belt!” “Picking someone up from the local bars? Don’t forget your PT belt!” “Jumping out of a C-130 without a parachute? It’s fine so long as you wear your PT belt!”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the real Ragnar Lothbrok is so shrouded in mystery

The Viking Age spanned from the sacking of the abbey on Lindisfarne in June, 793, and is generally accepted as ending with William the Conqueror’s ascension to the English throne in 1066. The Norse traveled outward from Scandinavia, reaching everywhere from Estonia to Canada to Spain to Baghdad. Despite their many accomplishments in exploring and trading, history knows them as warriors who welcomed battle and death.


No viking warrior has a reputation for badassery quite like that of Ragnar Lothbrok. His lifestyle was so badass that it’s been made into television series on History, aptly named Vikings. According to the show, Lothbrok single-handedly lead the assaults on Lindisfarne, Paris, and Wessex, and his eventual death sparked his sons to form the Great Heathen Army.

Looking at the timeline of those events in the real-world, that would mean he had a roughly 73-year viking career. The vikings, historically, made those victorious raids in 793, 845, and 858, before his death in 865. While it’s not entirely impossible for someone to raid for 73 years, the show’s creators are open about their creative liberties. The biggest of them being that there may have been many people named Ragnar Lothbrok — or no one at all.

I mean, if your BS story makes a cold-hearted deathbringer think twice, it’s worth the risk.

(Vikings Heading for Land / Frank Dicksee / 1873)

The Norse weren’t keen on preserving their own history. They did tell stories orally, which is how they still exist today, but historical records kept by the vikings are scarce at best. As with most stories, there was room for exaggeration. Plus, the people who wrote the stories of the vikings were almost always on the receiving ends of raids, concerned more with exaggerating their ferocity and triumphs over vikings than accurately retelling their defeats.

This leads us to the biggest debate surrounding Ragnar Lothbrok: When and where he actually died. Many have claimed responsibility for death: from Carlingford Lough to East Anglia to Anglesey to where the show places his death, Northumbria, everyone wanted to be known for slaying the fearsome Lothbrok. Taking credit for such a victory could ward off potential raids, but there’s little proof to back up most of these claims.

The battles of the Great Heathen Army were entirely accurate. They destroyed the hell out of Old England.

The only legitimate source for information on Ragnar Lothbrok is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a collection of documents detailing Anglo-Saxon history originally published around the time Ragnar was said to exist. His name does appear, but there is a debate within the historical community if that the name “Ragnar” has been attributed to several other Norse leaders and not one single badass.

This puts a new perspective on the term “Son of Ragnar,” as it might have been more of a title than an actual blood relation. In the television series, many of Ragnar’s sons are born from his multiple wives. The two sons that actually have been historically proven to exist are Bjorn Ironside and Ivar the Boneless, both from different mothers. But any stories of their exploits, once again, fall firmly in the “with-a-grain-of-salt” category, seeing as The Saga of the Sons of Ragnar is, like much of viking history, more of a collection of campfire stories than historical evidence.

Though Vikings may not be a completely historically accurate telling of events, they do the vikings plenty of justice by interweaving the vast collection of Ragnar Lothbrok tales and piecing them into a single, compelling, easy-to-follow narrative. The facts are a bit hazy, but it’s still one of the more accurate representations of vikings in modern media. It just takes some liberties with individual characters.

Of course, there was no one assuming the mantle of “Ragnar” at the Lindisfarne raid. The actual viking, Rollo, who became the First Duke of Normandy in the year 911, lived nearly fifty years after Ragnar’s death, which means it’s impossible for them to be brothers. Even his first wife, Lagertha, may also be more myth than fact.

But on the bright side, the greatest scene in the entire series — if not television history — is actually very historically accurate.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US fired off its first post-INF Treaty missile

The US military conducted its first flight test of a conventional ground-launched cruise missile in a test that would have been banned prior to the recent collapse of a Cold War-era nuclear arms agreement.

The missile was launched on Aug. 18, 2019, from a testing site on San Nicolas Island in California. “The test missile exited its ground mobile launcher and accurately impacted its target after more than 500 kilometers of flight,” the Pentagon explained in an emailed statement, adding that “data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform the Department of Defense’s development of future intermediate-range capabilities.”

Earlier this month, the US officially withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a 1987 agreement with Moscow that formally limited the development of ground-launched missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, or about 300 to 3,400 miles. The US accused Russia of violating the agreement through the development of the Novator 9M729, which NATO refers to as SSC-8.


The White House said in February 2019 that Russia has, for too long, “violated the [INF Treaty] with impunity, covertly developing and fielding a prohibited missile system that poses a direct threat to our allies and troops abroad.” The president warned that the US intends “move forward with developing our own military response” to alleged violations of the pact by Russia.

Following the end of the treaty, new Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a statement that the “Department of Defense will fully pursue the development of these ground-launched conventional missiles,” calling these moves a “prudent response to Russia’s actions.”

The defense secretary has also said that the US is looking at developing these systems to counter China in the Pacific. “Eighty percent plus of their [missile] inventory is intermediate-range systems,” Esper told reporters recently. It “shouldn’t surprise [China] that we would want to have a like capability.”

Both China and Russia have expressed opposition to US plans, and some observers have expressed concerns that a new arms race is underway.

While the US moves forward with plans to develop new ground-based intermediate-range missiles, it is still unclear where the US ultimately plans to deploy them.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Danger Close’ tells the story of heroic Australians in Vietnam

It’s easy to forget that the Vietnam War was originally fought by the French and that plenty more countries came to fight the communists, not just the U.S. One of the other groups deployed to Vietnam was a force of Australian and New Zealand soldiers. A group of just over 100 of them would fight an estimated 2,500 North Vietnamese for over three hours with little support, achieving a victory in the direst of circumstances.


Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan – Official Trailer

www.youtube.com

The Battle of Long Tan is now in theaters, and it tells the story of these soldiers and how a combination of grit, danger close artillery, and gutsy support from helicopters got them out alive. The movie is, appropriately, named Danger Close.

The men of Delta Company, 6th Royal Australian Regiment, were sent out to patrol the area around their base at Nui Dat. The base was established in order to cut North Vietnamese supply lines, and the North Vietnamese and their Viet Cong allies were super pissed off about it.

So, in August 1966, the Australian command began to gather intelligence that said North Vietnamese troops were conducting reconnaissance in a rubber plantation just a few miles from the base and potentially building up forces for an attack. Senior leaders did not share this intelligence with the men of the 6th Royal Australian Regiment.

This painting is a reconstruction of several different events that occurred during the Battle of Long Tan fought on Aug. 18, 1966, between ‘D’ Company, 6RAR and Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army forces.

(Bruce Fletcher, Australian War Memorial)

On that August 18 patrol, 108 men of Delta stumbled into a fight with an estimated 2,500 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops in deep mud as massive rains poured onto the men. The company commander, Maj. Harry Smith, positioned his men behind a small rise that provided some cover as long as they were laying down. Bullets would fly over their heads for the next 3.5 hours.

Despite the discomfort of the rain and mud and how dangerously outnumbered they were, the Australian troops did have a few advantages. The rain was hitting hard enough that mud splashed up and camouflaged them, and the light silhouetted the North Vietnamese and helped the Australian troops target them. And, amazingly professional artillerymen fired thousands of rounds in support of them, including numerous fire missions within 60 yards of the friendly infantry.

But the men weren’t equipped for a protracted battle. They nearly ran out of ammunition as the weather kept helicopters on the ground. Two helicopter pilots took it upon themselves to deliver a re-supply despite the dangers, giving the men enough ammo even as the men were firing their last few rounds of what they had carried in.

Reinforcements finally made it to the fight in armored personnel carriers and forced the North Vietnamese back. Eighteen Australian and New Zealand troops had been killed or would soon die of their wounds while another 24 were injured. Meanwhile, they had inflicted at least 245 fatalities on the enemy, and it is believed that the North Vietnamese had suffered many more losses but had carried the dead away to frustrate Australian intelligence collection.

While American and South Vietnamese leaders decorated Delta Company in the years that followed, it would take decades for the Australian government, wracked by protests at home, to commend the men for their bravery.

Now, the movie praising their exploits is available in Australian theaters, and it will soon be available online.

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 reasons ‘The Guardian’ should be in your top ten military films of all time

Apocalypse Now. Full Metal Jacket. Platoon. Top Gun. Black Hawk Down. A Few Good Men. Saving Private Ryan. Kelly’s Heroes. Crimson Tide.

If you ask your circle of friends and family what some of their favorite military films are, you could get literally a hundred different answers. You’d probably have to ask a few more friends and listen to another hundred more before you get someone to organically name 2006’s The Guardian as a movie they’ve even heard of.

Just to get a few FAQ out of the way early on: yes, Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher did a film together. Yes, it is based on the military. Yes, it is about the US Coast Guard. Yes, the USCG is an arm of the US Armed Forces.


As you can imagine, there aren’t very many people who would dare call this a good film, but I ask that you pump the brakes a bit and read why The Guardian should be on your list of favorite military films.

The original DHS

(Image from MilitaryHumor.com)

A movie about the Coast Guard?

As stated above, yes, the Coast Guard is a branch of the military… kind of.

They aren’t, technically, a part of the Department of Defense so there is that odd “one of these things is not like the others” vibe going on, but they are our brothers and sisters, regardless. At one point they were Department of Transportation during peacetime and switched over to Department of Defense, falling under the umbrella of the Navy, during wartime.

They currently fall under the Department of Homeland Security, another departmental move that makes many of us lower-level peons scratch our heads.

Yes, the USCG got some badasses, too!

(Image from Outsideonline.com)

It features some unheralded badasses

Rescue swimmer seems like the most fitting name for this group of hardened heroes, but they have a much more official title: Aviation Survival Technician. Regardless of all of that, the AST of the US Coast Guard is a certified badass.

It is one of the US military’s most elite careers with about an 80% washout rate. For comparison sake, that’s about the same attrition rate as the Green Beret and Navy SEAL, and higher than the Army Ranger!

A bit of split in opinion between the critics and the audience

(Image from Rotten Tomatoes.com)

It’s better than you think

Sure it made less than m in profit (horrible for a major theatrical release). Yes, it is lambasted on movie critiquing platform, Rotten Tomatoes. However, have you seen it?

Give The Guardian a good, genuine, non-biased once over, and you’ll likely find yourself among the 80% of the audience who think this film is rated “fresh.” The film doesn’t tell any groundbreaking story. It is a completely fictionalized account but there are enough moments to draw you in, and that ending is truly special, if not a bit predictable.

Uh, yea

(Image from 20th Century Fox’s Dude, Where’s My Car?)

It’s one of the few watchable Ashton Kutcher films

Look, Ashton Kutcher is a great man. He is involved in some of the most selfless causes in modern society. He has been instrumental in raising awareness, if nothing else, to the mainstream.

He also has a pretty decent track record when it comes to television. He was key in That 70’s Show, created and hosted Punk’d, replaced Charlie freakin’ Sheen on Two and a Half Men, and is currently putting out the Netflix Show, The Ranch. His television reputation is intact. Filmwise..not so much.

A bit of a holdover of a foregone era in a way, Kutcher doesn’t seem to have the same magic when selected for movie projects as he does with TV. Of the 20+ movies Kutcher has starred in The Guardian is one of about four films that is actually enjoyable without intoxicants.

Yea… he did this doozy too

(Image from Universal Pictures’ Waterworld)

It’s got Costner being Costner

Similar to his co-star, Kevin Costner has a bit of a checkered history when it comes to choosing movie roles. On the one hand you have films like Dances with Wolves and Hatfields McCoys, two productions that yielded major awards and nominations for Costner.

Then you have Waterworld.

Just take this victory and go.

Articles

If a nuclear bomb explodes nearby, this is why you shouldn’t get into a car


  • Nuclear blasts create fallout, which can harm you with large doses of radiation.
  • Cars offer little protection from fallout.
  • A surer way to survive in the aftermath of a nuclear explosion is to go indoors, stay put, and listen to the radio.

The first thing you’d see if a nuclear bomb exploded nearby is a flood of light so bright, you may think the sun blew up.

Wincing from temporary blindness, you’d scan the horizon and see an orange fireball. The gurgling flames would rise and darken into purple-hued column of black smoke, which would turn in on itself. As a toadstool-like mushroom took shape, the deafening shock front of the blast would rip through the area — and possibly knock you off your feet.

Congratulations! In this hypothetical scenario, you’ve just survived a nuclear blast with an energy output of about 10 kilotons (20 million pounds) of TNT. That’s roughly 66% of energy released by either atom bomb dropped on Japan in 1945.

This scenario may sound far-fetched, but more than 14,900 nuclear weapons exist in the world, and kiloton-class nukes (like the one we just described) are now proliferating in favor of larger weapons. In fact, a 10-kiloton-or-less nuclear detonation by a terrorist is the first of 15 disaster scenarios that the US government has planned for.

No one could fault you for panicking after the sight and roarof a nuclear blast. But there is one thing you should never do, according to Brooke Buddemeier, a health physicist and radiation expert at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

“Don’t get in your car,” he tells Business Insider — don’t try to drive, and don’t assume that the glass and metal of a vehicle can protect you.

Why vehicles and nuclear survival don’t mix

Not where you want to be.

Avoiding driving after a nuclear blast is wise because streets would probably be full of erratic drivers, accidents, and debris. But Buddemeier says there’s another important reason to ditch the car: a fearsome after-effect of nuclear blasts called fallout.

Fallout is a complex mixture of fission products, or radioisotopes, that are created by splitting atoms. Many of the fission products decay rapidly and emit gamma radiation, an invisible yet highly energetic form of light. Exposure to too much of this radiation in a short time can damage the body’s cells and its ability to fix itself — a condition called acute radiation sickness.

“It also affects the immune system and the your ability to fight infections,” Buddemeier says.

Only very dense and thick materials, like many feet of dirt or inches of lead, can reliably stop the fallout.

“The fireball from a 10-kiloton explosion is so hot, it actually shoots up into the atmosphere at over 100 miles per hour,” Buddemeier says. “These fission products mix in with the dirt and debris that’s drawn up into the atmosphere from the fireball.”

Trapped in sand, dirt, cement, metal, and anything else in the immediate blast area, the gamma-shooting fission products can fly more than five miles into the air. The larger pieces drop back down, while lighter particles can be carried by the wind before raining over distant areas.

A simulation of nuclear fallout conditions over Washington DC at different times of the year. | Bruce Buddemeier/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

“Close in to the [blast] site, they may be a bit larger than golf-ball-size, but really what we’re talking about are things like salt- or sand-size particles,” Buddemeier says. “It’s the penetrating gamma radiation coming off of those particles that’s the hazard.”

Which brings us back to why a car is a terrible place to take shelter.

“Modern vehicles are made of glass and very light metals, and they offer almost no protection,” he says. “You’re just going to sit on a road some place [and be exposed].”

Buddemeier says he’s asked people what their knee-jerk response to a nuclear blast might be. It wasn’t comforting.

“There was actually a lot of folks who had this notion — and it may be a Hollywood notion — of ‘oh, jump in the car and try to skedaddle out of town if you see a mushroom cloud.'” he says.

However, fallout is carried by high-altitude winds that are “often booking along at 100 miles per hour,” he says, and “often not going in the same direction as the ground-level winds. So your ability to know where the fallout’s gonna go, and outrun it, are… Well, it’s very unlikely.”

What you should do instead of driving

The protection factor that various buildings, and locations within them, offer from the radioactive fallout of a nuclear blast. The higher the number, the greater the protection. | Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Your best shot at survival after a nuclear disaster is to get into some sort of “robust structure” as quickly as possible and stay there, Buddemeier says. He’s a fan of the mantra “go in, stay in, tune in”.

“Get inside … and get to the center of that building. If you happen to have access to below-ground areas, getting below-ground is great,” he says. “Stay in: 12 to 24 hours.”

The reason to wait is that levels of gamma and other radiation fall off exponentially after a nuclear blast as “hot” radioisotopes decay into more stable atoms and pose less of a danger. This slowly shrinks the dangerous fallout zone — the area where high-altitude winds have dropped fission products. (Instead of staying put, however, a recent study also suggested that moving to a stronger shelter or basement may not be a bad idea if you first ducked into a flimsy one.)

The dangerous fallout zone (dark purple) shrinks quickly, while the much less dangerous hot zone (faint purple) grows for about 24 hours before shrinking back. Bruce Buddemeier. | Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

“Try to use whatever communication tools you have,” he says. He added that a hand-cranked radio is a good object to keep at work and home, since emergency providers, in addition to broadcasting instructions, will be tracking the fallout cloud and trying to broadcast where any safe corridors for escape are located.

There is only one exception to the “no cars” rule, says Buddemeier: If you’re in a parking garage with your car, the concrete might act as a shield. In that case, you could stay there and listen to a radio inside your car.

If everyone followed these guidelines after nuclear blast, he says, hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved.