When developers set out to make video games, their focus should always primarily be on crafting a fun and engaging experience. Oftentimes, you’ll see video games set far in the future so that developers can place an arsenal of advanced, sci-fi weaponry in the hands of the player — because it’s fun. Other times, they’ll take cues from real wars and toss the player directly into the heat of a historical battle — because that’s fun, too.
But, despite the fact that wars have been fought since the beginning of time, most games are set during WWII and onward, into modern conflicts. These backdrops just work better for gameplay reasons. Nobody wants to play a video game set in an era where you have march right up to and fire against an opposing formation only to spend the next two minutes reloading your rifle.
Granted, there are exceptions to this rule but, for the most part, you’d probably not want to play games set during the following conflicts.
But holy sh*t, was this mission amazing!
(Electronic Arts’ Battlefield 1)
World War I
Yes, Battlefield 1 gave this war the gritty treatment that it deserved and was one of the funnest games of 2016, but the multiplayer didn’t have anywhere near the same feel as the single-player campaign.
If the game really wanted to bring WWI to gaming, everything about the game would feel like the tutorial. It’d be dark, dirty, your weapons would barely work, and you’d probably not make it out alive.
There’s a good reason the last good game from this era was made in 1997.
(Sierra Entertainment’s Civil War Generals 2)
The American Civil War
Every video game set during the American Civil War is a strategy game that places you in the shoes of a general, overlooking the chaos.
Playing as a boots-on-ground soldier simply couldn’t be fun, given the technology and tactics of the time — unless you broke away and did some guerrilla warfare. Now take into account the emotional grief of brothers literally fighting brothers over ideological differences… On second thought, most of us already have fun beating our little brothers at any video game…
Worst part is that everyone would forget that you had to play this “level.”
American involvement in the Russian Civil War
Imagine a game where you just finished playing something amazing, like Battlefield 1‘s single-player campaign, and then you’re told that you can’t set down the controller until you go help the Russian Czar. No one cares that you’re there and the developers probably wouldn’t send you any support either.
You’d spend the entire game in a downward spiral as more and more Russians join the Red Army until you eventually rage quit.
At least the mission where you blast Bruce Springsteen to piss off Noriega would be fun.
Operation Just Cause
Funnily enough, there’s already a video game series called Just Cause and they’re great! The only thing is that they have absolutely nothing to do with the 42-day invasion of Panama, otherwise known as Operation Just Cause.
Realistically, the game would probably only last for two or three missions before the credits roll.
At least they made the Boston Tea Party playable.
(Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed III)
The Revolutionary War
There is no finer moment in American history than when patriots banded together to fight for their freedom from the British. It will forever ring in history books as a hard-fought, bloody victory over the finest military in its prime. It’s a shame that everything about the war make for a boring video game.
Assassin’s Creed III was able to transform this era into something fun by conveniently focusing on everything but the political disputes. Also, you’d more often grab a new rifle instead of spending minutes reloading.
“Get good, scrubs!”
(‘The Custer Fight’ by Charles Marion Russell)
The Battle of Little Bighorn
So, you’re one of those gamers who played Dark Souls (or, if you’re old school, the original Ninja Gaiden) and thought it was for casuals? Okay, I got you. Imagine playing a game where you’re fighting in Custer’s Last Stand.
Good luck trying to make it out of one the biggest military blunders without a Konami code.
Kevin Nash went to the University of Tennessee for one reason: to play basketball, and for three years that’s pretty much what he did. Nash played center, and as a junior he helped the team advance to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament. But one physical altercation with legendary coach Don Devoe later, he was gone. Who knew he would end up in Magic Mike?
Nash made his way to Europe to play professionally, but during a game in Germany he injured his anterior cruciate ligament, which immediately ended his basketball career. Out of any better ideas, he decided to try something he’d always wanted to do: He joined the Army.
After going through basic at Fort McClellan, Nash wound up assigned to the 202nd Military Police Company in Giessen, Germany and served in a secure NATO facility for two years.
“I enjoyed the life,” Nash said. “I was forced to be disciplined, and that was something I’d lacked to that point to a certain degree.”
During his three years of military service, Kevin Nash rose to the rank of specialist.
“I liked it so much I thought about going to be a drill instructor,” he said. But ultimately he decided not to reenlist. Family matters – including his father’s failing health – took him back to his hometown of Detroit. After working on the assembly line at Ford Motor Company for a while, he decided to enter the world of professional wrestling.
Nash debuted in WCW as the orange-mohawked “Steel”, one half of the tag team known as the “Master Blasters.” His success right out of the gate was followed by more, adopting different personas and adjusting to changes in the organizations around him. He went from “Steel” to “Oz” to “Vinne Vegas” to “Diesel” before going back to his real name.
“The secret to being a pro wrestler, besides having physical abilities, is to pick a good personality,” Nash said. “The closer it is to you the better.”
And as he changed names he went from WCW to WWF and back again a few times before joining the WWE and, finally, signing on with Global Force Wrestling as a “legend” to help promote events and tours. In the process he became one of the industry’s most popular wrestlers. His career culminated with him being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2015.
Nash also has a host of acting credits on his resume. Beside appearing in movies and on TV, his voice has been used in video games and cartoons. Last year he appeared in “John Wick” with Keanu Reeves, and this year he reprises his role as Tarzan in “Magic Mike XXL.”
“Of all the things I’ve done, the ‘Magic Mike’ series most resembles the comradery of Army life,” Nash said. “Working with the other guys reminds me of being in a squad.” The producers even had the cast do weapons training together as a team-building exercise.
“Magic Mike XXL” was filmed in Savannah, Georgia, which worked out well for Nash as he now makes his home in Daytona, Florida. “Besides, I like to spend as little time as possible in L.A.,” he added.
Nash is happy with the results in the sequel. “It’s better than the first one,” Kevin Nash said. “There’s a lot more going on. It’s more of a road trip and not just hanging in the club.”
Snipers from Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain attended the International Special Training Centre’s Desert Sniper Course in July 2018 at the Chinchilla Training Area here.
ISTC is a multinational education and training facility for tactical-level, advanced and specialized training of multinational special operations forces and similar units, employing the skills of multinational instructors and subject matter experts.
The Desert Sniper Course is designed to teach experienced sniper teams skills for operating in desert environments.
“The students that come to this course all have prior experience,” said a U.S. Army sniper instructor assigned to ISTC. “We help them build upon what they already know in order to operate in a desert environment. During the course we teach them concealment techniques and stalking in desert terrain. This culminates with students conducting missions where they put their newly learned skills to the test.”
A sniper team from the Netherlands collects ballistic data during a nighttime range session during the International Special Training Centre Desert Sniper Course at Chinchilla Training Area, Spain, July 9, 2018.
(Army photo by 1st Lt. Benjamin Haulenbeek)
Because of the nature of their work, the snipers’ names are not used in this article.
Snipers operating in dry or barren environments must take extra measures to alleviate the effects of heat that can increase the challenges when constructing concealed positions, known as hide sites.
Unique camouflage requirements
“The biggest challenges snipers will encounter during most desert operations are the unique camouflage requirements, the heat and exposure to the harsh environment, and having to engage targets at extreme distances,” the U.S. instructor said.
The first week of the course gave students the opportunity to acclimate to the environment.
“We ease into operations by conducting ranges where they collect data for their rifles and learn about environmental considerations such as heat mirage and strong winds that affect their ability to make long shots,” the instructor said. “From there, they practice building hide sites and stalking to refine the skills they’ll need when conducting missions during week two.”
ISTC’s ability to conduct and train across various countries in Europe provides NATO and partner nations the opportunity to participate in cost effective training close to home.
“Spain is the perfect place to conduct this type of training,” a Spanish sniper instructor. “We have the right kind of climate and terrain to replicate the conditions that a sniper team will encounter when deployed in a desert. We also have the space needed to conduct ranges for long-distance shooting, something that is not easy to find in Europe.”
With snipers from multiple countries, the opportunity to share knowledge helped all those who attended.
“One of the greatest benefits is that our courses bring together knowledge and resources from so many places,” the ISTC operations and plans officer said. “By combining efforts and sharing knowledge, the nations that participate in course like Desert Sniper are able to reinforce alliances and strengthen their capability to work together.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence once said in a statement at the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar that we will one day put American boots back on the Moon. It reaffirms his position he made at the Kennedy Space Center awhile back that Americans are going back to the moon at some point.
“We will return astronauts to the Moon — not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond,” said Vice President Mike Pence.
Before we get our hopes up about signing up as a Space Shuttle Door Gunner (99Z) in the beloved Space Corps, there a long road to go. But there’s hope! We went to the Moon back in ’69 and we’re a few years past landing probes on comets. Surely sending more people to the moon with 2017 technology shouldn’t be that difficult.
Except it still is. It’s still very costly (average of $450 million per mission) to send people to space, let alone to the Moon.
To be worth the money and risk, NASA has a very brief list of requirements in astronaut selection. At least a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field, 3+ years of professional experience or 1,000+ hours of flight time, and the ability to pass the NASA physical. Seems easy enough, but NASA will only send the best of the freaking best to the Moon.
What better way to figure out what would make you stand out than by looking at those who’ve made the cut before?
At the time of writing this, 560 humans have been to space (according to the USAF’s definition) and only 12 have left their boot marks forever on the lunar surface. Of the 560 to go to space, 61.6% (337) have been American — including all twelve astronauts who’ve been to the Moon.
All twelve men were between the ages of 36 and 47. All from very prestigious universities, with seven of them having degrees in various military academies. And all but one, Harrison Schmitt, served in either the Air Force or Navy as well as ten being on active duty. Neil Armstrong was a veteran at the time of his flights.
Of the eleven military personnel, all were pilots. The least amount of flight time logged was by Neil Armstrong, who had over 2,400 hours. The standard just went up from there. John Young, the 9th person to walk on the moon, had 15,275 hours flying jets, props, helicopters, rocket jets; 9,200 hours in a T-38; and 835 hours in space.
You would need to also be fairly high in rank. Neil Armstrong, still the exception, was the lowest rank at Lieutenant Junior Grade — and a veteran, at that. Everyone else was an O-6, (Air Force Colonel or Navy Captain) and above.
If you want to walk on the Moon – you’re going to need to either be an aviation golden child, have a PhD from Harvard, or be veteran AF like Neil Armstrong.
There is nothing more heart-wrenching to veterans with families than having to explain why daddy hasn’t been the same ever since he returned from the war. A reasonable adult can grasp the idea that war is hell and that it can change a person forever, but an innocent kid — one who was sheltered from such grim concepts by that very veteran — cannot.
A. A. Milne, an English author and veteran of both World Wars, was struggling to explain this harsh reality to his own child when he penned the 1926 children’s classic, Winnie-the-Pooh.
This might help give you a picture of just how awful the Battle of the Somme was. Fellow British Army officer and writer J.R.R. Tolkien fought in the Battle and used it as inspiration for the Dead Marshes in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
(New Line Cinema)
As a young man, Alan Alexander Milne stood up for King and Country when it was announced that the United Kingdom had entered World War I. He was commissioned as an officer into the 4th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, as a member of the Royal Corps of Signals on February 1, 1915. Soon after, he was sent to France to fight in the Battle of the Somme.
The description, “Hell on Earth” is apt, but doesn’t come close to fully describing the carnage of what became the bloodiest battle in human history. More than three million men fought and one million men were wounded or killed — many of Milne’s closest friends were among the numerous casualties. Bodies were stacked in the flooded-out trenches where other men lived, fought, and died.
On August 10, 1915, Milne and his men were sent to enable communications by laying telephone line dangerously close to an enemy position. He tried warning his command of the foolishness of the action to no avail. Two days later, he and his battalion were attacked, just as he had foreseen. Sixty British men perished in an instant. Milne was one of the hundred or so badly wounded in the ambush. He was sent home for his wounds suffered that day.
A.A. Milne, his son, Christopher Robin, and Winnie the Pooh.
(Photo by Howard Coster)
Milne returned to his wife, Daphne de Selincourt, and spent many years recovering physically. His light finally came to him on August 21, 1920, when his son, Christopher Robin Milne, was born. He put his writings on hold — it was his therapeutic outlet for handling his shell shock (now known as post-traumatic stress) — so he could be the best possible father to his baby boy.
One fateful day, he took his son to the London Zoo where they bonded over enjoying a new visitor to the park, a little Canadian Black Bear named Winnipeg (or Winnie for short). Alan was drawn to the bear because it had been a mascot used by the Canadian Expeditionary Force in WWI. Despite being one of the most terrifying creatures in the zoo, Winnie was reclusive, often shying away from people.
Alan saw himself in that bear. At the same time, Christopher loved the bear for being cuddly and cute. Understandably, Alan bought his son a teddy — the real-life Winnie the Pooh bear.
It all kind of makes you think about that line Winnie’s says to Christopher, “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”
(New York Public Library)
The demons of war followed Milne throughout his life. It was noted that when Christopher was little, Alan terrified him when he confused a swarm of buzzing bees with whizzing bullets. The popping of balloons sent him ducking for cover. Milne knew of only one way to explain to his son what was happening — through his writing. A.A. Milne started writing a collection of short stories entitled Winnie-the-Pooh.
It’s been theorized by Dr. Sarah Shea that Milne wrote into each character of Winnie-the-Pooh a different psychological disorder. While only A. A. Milne could tell us for certain, Dr. Shea’s theory seems pointed in the right direction, but may be a little too impersonal. After all, the book was written specifically for one child, by name, and features the stuffed animals that the boy loved.
It’s more likely, in my opinion, that the stories were a way for Milne to explain his own post-traumatic stress to his six-year-old son. Every stuffed friend in the Hundred Acre Woods is a child-friendly representation of a characteristic of post-traumatic stress. Piglet is paranoia, Eeyore is depression, Tigger is impulsive behaviors, Rabbit is perfectionism-caused aggression, Owl is memory loss, and Kanga Roo represent over-protection. This leaves Winnie, who Alan wrote in for himself as Christopher Robin’s guide through the Hundred Acre Woods — his father’s mind.
The books were published on October 14, 1926. As a child, Christopher Robin embraced the connection to his father, but as the books grew in popularity, he would resent being mocked for his namesake character.
Christopher Robin Milne eventually followed in his father’s footsteps and they both served in the Second World War. His father was a Captain in the British Home Guard and he served as a sapper in the Royal Engineers.
It was only after his service that he grew to accept his father’s stories and embraced his legacy, which endures to this day.
In fact, Christopher Robin, a film starring Ewan McGregor and directed by Marc Forster (known for Finding Neverland), is opening this weekend. Be sure to check it out.
Leave it to military veterans to make one of Earth’s last tests of human endurance that much more difficult. It’s a 6,000-mile bike ride from the town of Jonkoping, Sweden, to the base camp of Mount Everest. Former Swedish paratrooper Goran Kropp knew how far it was as he packed up his bicycle with 200-plus pounds of gear and departed on that trip in 1995.
His first summit of a major mountain came when he climbed the highest peak in Scandinavia with his dad – at just six years old. Although he indulged a rebellious streak as a young man, the experience of that first climb never left him, and he soon found himself in thin air once more.
Kropp grew up as a hard-partying punk rocker but soon joined the Swedish paratroopers. This was the event that would shape Kropp for the rest of his life. He met his climbing partner while in the army and moved from an apartment to a tent pitched in a gravel pit that was close to his barracks. While still in the Swedish military, he would test himself through different climbing endurance challenges. The two paratroopers even made a list of progressively higher mountains.
Until it was time to go climb them.
He soon earned the nickname “The Crazy Swede” and became known for his insane feats. The first major peak he summited was Tajikistan’s Lenin Peak, far below the 8,000-meter “Death Zone” of mountaineering, but still a great place to start. What made his summit of Lenin Peak special is that he set the record for it at the time.
The hits just kept coming. Kropp was the fourth climber ever to conquer Pakistan’s Muztagh Tower in 1990. He was the first Swede to summit K2, a much deadlier mountain to climb than Everest. One of every ten people who climb Everest will die there. On K2, the fatality rate is more than twice that. Climbers of K2 regularly face life-threatening situations that end their trip before it begins.
On Kropp’s first attempt at a K2 summit in 1993, he stopped to help rescue Slovenian climbers stranded at a high altitude. His ascent on K2 would happen a week after this aborted attempt, but danger didn’t always stop Kropp. That’s why it took him three attempts to summit Everest.
Kropp leaving Sweden for Nepal in 1995.
Kropp left Sweden on his 8,000-mile journey to Nepal in October 1995 and arrived at base camp in April 1996. He wanted to make the ascent without the use of oxygen tanks or assistance ropes. His first attempt saw him struggle to make it to the south summit in waist-deep snow, but his slow pace meant he would be descending in the dark, a risk he was not willing to take. So, he turned around to climb another day.
As Kropp recovered at base camp, a blizzard killed eight trekkers making a descent from the summit, in what became known as the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster. It was the deadliest climbing season on Everest to date. Kropp joined the relief efforts as he recovered, but it was during this deadly season that Kropp summited the mountain, without oxygen and without sherpas.
Then, he rode his bike 8,000 miles home to Sweden.
In later years, Kropp and his wife skied across the North Pole ice sheet, attempting to reach the North Pole. He had to back out, however, due to a frostbitten thumb. It was on that trek that the press turned against him, claiming he was a poacher for shooting a Polar Bear that was stalking him and his wife during the expedition. As a result, Kropp left Sweden for Seattle.
It was in Washington State that 35-year-old Kropp died an ironic death. After making so many miraculous summits and life-threatening firsts, he died climbing a routine 70-foot rock wall near his home after two safety rigging failures.
Heather Wilson swore in as the 24th Secretary of the Air Force in May 2017 with a clear-eyed view on the task at hand.
“When Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis asked me to serve as the Secretary of the Air Force I said, “You know, Mr. Secretary, I’m not the kind of gal who just cuts ribbons on new dormitories, that’s not me. But if you want somebody who’s going to help to try to solve problems and make it better, not just different, but better, then that’s what I’ll do.”
Before representing New Mexico’s first district as a member of Congress and being the president of South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Wilson was an Air Force officer. During her seven years of service in the 1980s, she served as a planner, political advisor and a defense policy arms control director. Her husband, Jay Hone, served in the 1970s as an Air Force lawyer and went on to retire from the service. For them, Air Force business was family business, and there was work to be done.
Wilson said her responsibilities as SecAF were broader than those of any other executive position she held…she was obligated to the welfare of 685,000 total force airmen and their families, and the oversight of a 8 billion annual budget. Aware of the devastating toll sequestration and 27 years of combat had taken on the force, Wilson called on her wingmen – Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright – to help devise and oversee plans to restore the readiness of the force, cost-effectively modernize, and revitalize Air Force squadrons. It would take an Air Force-wide effort to get after these challenges, and the senior leaders’ message to the airmen was clear.
“We trust you…we trust that you’ve been well-trained,” Wilson said. “We will try to give you a clear set of mission parameters and the skills and the abilities to get after the job. Don’t wait to be told what to do…see the problems around you and just get after them. Don’t wait for us.”
That’s one of the things Wilson said she’s appreciated most about the “intelligent, capable and committed” U.S. Air Force airmen – their unique way of handling business.
“I like the fact that airmen don’t always do exactly what they’re told in the way they were told to do it because they come up with better answers to complex, difficult problems,” she said.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks to 2nd Maintenance Squadron airmen during a tour at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Nov. 14, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)
And for the issues that required Headquarters-level intervention, Wilson relied on her wingman for assistance.
“The law says the service secretary has all of the authority to run the service, but the chief of staff has most of the influence,” Wilson said. “There are very few decisions that I make without asking for his advice, and he freely gives that advice. If I know we have a difference in opinion I always want to understand why, and as a result I think we have a very close, professional working relationship, and that is transmitted to the force. We’ve been forging vicious partnerships between both the civilian leadership and the military leadership of the service, and it’s been very effective.”
After two years, the results of Wilson’s empowering leadership are palpable.
“There have been significant advances in the Air Force’s ability to win any fight, any time, including a more than 30% increase in readiness, she said. “We’ve also gone a long way in cost-effective modernization and taking the authorities we’ve been given to buy things faster and smarter. We’ve stripped 100 years out of Air Force procurement in the last year…we’re streamlining the schedules to get capability to the warfighter faster.”
With a shared focus on revitalizing squadrons, Wilson and Goldfein also returned power, time and support back to the squadron by removing redundant policies, revamping personnel evaluations, updating professional military training and extending high year of tenure.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson testifies during a House Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington D.C., April 2, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Wayne Clark)
On a larger scale, Wilson worked with the Secretaries of the Army and Navy to make the process of transferring duty stations easier for military families. Together, they wrote letters to governors across the United States to address two issues members said matter most – the quality of public schools near military installations and reciprocity of licensure.
“We told them, ‘We want you to know when we make basing decisions in the future we’re going to take these things into account,'” she said. “We had some leverage, and I’ve been really pleased at the number of states that have passed laws related to reciprocity of licensure.
“I hope the changes that we’ve made to assignment policies at Talent Marketplace has helped to make a difference, to give families more control and choice over their lives, and recognize that they’re balancing family life with service life,” she continued. “And I hope that ultimately that’ll mean we keep more highly capable airmen in the service for longer.”
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks with airmen during a farewell interview at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, May 8, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Barnett)
Though her tenure as SecAF is at its end, the impact of her laser-focused efforts may reverberate throughout the service for years to come.
“I came here to try to make things better,” Wilson said. “Life’s short, time’s short, so you got to make a difference today. I hope people have a better quality of life and quality of service because we were here. And I hope that the Air Force is better because I served.”
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
The new PD-100 black hornet nano-drone has made its way into the Australian Army in a very big way. It is mainly utilized as a small range, inconspicuous recon drone. However, it is essentially the first of its kind, and the possibilities are endless.
Not too shabby for a drone the size of a matchbox
(reddit user /u/harriharris)
These little dudes have been assisting in recon training with the Australian Army. Apparently, they are much quieter than their larger drone counterparts. This, coupled with the tiny size, makes them a perfect match for covert recon. They can also snap some really crisp pictures for a micro-drone.
This makes them a logical improvement from the already tremendously effective “instanteye” being used by forces today. The instanteye has a lackluster battery and picture resolution, but can still be advantageous for getting an idea of the enemy’s position from a safe distance. The PD-100 black hornet improves on this with a much smaller, quieter, design.
A previous generation of the “instanteye”
The thought of spawning hundreds of these little dudes all over a battlefield, essentially giving commanders a fully comprehensive and detailed view of the battlefield, could change the way battle tactics evolve alongside nano-technology.
This brings to mind sci-fi visions of Ed Harris in “The Truman Show” overseeing every single detail in a massive landscape, pulling every tiny string perfectly. Now couple that with tactical genius in a real-world setting, and it’s not too far of a logical jump to consider the combat effects.
Another interesting implication to consider with these little marvels is their offensive capabilities. What if one of these was armed with high explosives and controlled remotely to be deadly accurate? Now consider that possibility, but with a swarm of dozens of them — or hundreds.
US Military Released Micro Drone Swarm From FA 18 Super Hornet Jet…
Here is a video of a micro-drone 9 (albeit, larger than the PD-100 black hornets) swarm being released by some F-18s.
Imagine those, but smaller, strapped and readied with high explosives, each controlled remotely by some military equivalent to a professional gamer. The quiet PD-100 black hornet certainly poses some interesting implications.
As of now, the biggest limitation of this technology is its battery life. It is estimated at somewhere between 30-60 minutes. This is somewhat of a far cry from its larger drone counterpart, the RQ-11b Raven (which is estimated at about 60-90 minutes).
Still, even with its limited battery life and the obvious problems that could arise for a small drone in heavy winds — the PD-100 seems to be dipping its tiny little toes into the water of the world of evolved combat. Time will tell if military tech will continue to go bigger, by getting smaller.
On the morning of September 8, 1944, a massive explosion rocked the southeastern outskirts of recently liberated Paris. The blast killed six people and wounded 36 more. Nearly eight hours later, two more explosions occurred in London, killing three people and wounding 17.
One of the explosions in London left a crater 30 feet wide and 8 feet deep. The site was closed to the public, and censors barred journalists from reporting on it. The blast was blamed on a faulty gas main and quickly hushed up.
Hundreds of explosions in the following weeks forced the British to admit the truth. The Germans had launched a horrifying new type of weapon at France and England: the V-2, the first guided ballistic missile in history.
For almost a year, more than 3,000 V-2s would be launched at civilian and military targets in Belgium, Britain, France, and the Netherlands.
A vengeance weapon
Development of the V-2 started in 1934. The German Wehrmacht had a keen interest in rockets, and some of Germany’s best engineers were tasked by the military to create this new “Wunderwaffe” or “wonder weapon.”
The missile had its first successful test flight in October 1942. Traveling over 118 miles and reaching an altitude of 277,200 feet, or 52.5 miles, it was the first rocket to reach the edge of space.
The project was repeatedly downgraded and upgraded during the war, but in 1943 it became one of the largest weapons projects of the Third Reich.
Hitler, angry at the destruction Allied bombing was causing in Germany, wanted to strike Allied cities in revenge. The missile became the second in Hitler’s series of “Vergeltungswaffen,” or “vengeance weapons,” and was designated V-2.
About 6,000 V-2 rockets were built. They were intended to be launched from hardened complexes similar to modern missile silos, but Allied bombing and advances on the ground forced the Germans to rely on mobile launch platforms.
V-2s were much more complex and larger than their predecessor, the V-1. They were about 46 feet tall and were equipped with a 2,000-pound amatol warhead at the tip. They also had a range of 200 miles.
After launch, the missile rose over 50 miles into the air and reached a speed of over 3,000 mph, enabling most to reach their targets in just five minutes. V-2s were so fast that they could hit their targets at up to 1,790 mph.
A program of death and destruction
Their speed and operational ceiling made them impossible to intercept, and Allied attempts to jam the V-2’s guidance system were useless, as the missile did not use radio guidance. (Its guidance system was an innovation in its own right; gyroscopes and an analog computer in it constantly tracked and adjusted its course to a preprogrammed destination.)
Up to 100 V-2s were launched each day, and they wreaked havoc on Allied cities. Over 2,700 people were killed by the missiles in Britain alone.
One V-2 struck a packed cinema in the Belgian port city of Antwerp, killing 567 people, including 296 Allied soldiers — the deadliest strike from a single piece of aerial ordnance in the European theater.
There is no complete official toll, but it is estimated that V-2 attacks killed anywhere from 5,000 to 9,000 people. Together, V-1 and V-2 attacks caused over 30,000 civilian casualties and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
That number does not include the deaths of 10,000 to 20,000 people who were used as slave labor in V-2 construction at the underground Mittelwerk factory and various concentration camps.
Desperate to stop the strikes, the Allies launched Operation Crossbow — a series of operations and bombing campaigns aimed at destroying the V-weapon program. The Allies were aware of the V-2 as early as 1943 and even managed to obtain V-2 parts with the assistance of the Polish Home Army.
A lasting legacy
In the end, the V-2, like many of Nazi Germany’s so-called wonder weapons, was too little, too late. Though the civilian body count was high, it was smaller than that caused by other weapons.
Moreover, V-2s did almost no significant damage to military targets, and by 1944 the Allied war machine was just too large for Germany to fight off.
The Wehrmacht spent so much money and resources on the V-2 for such minimal military gain that Freeman Dyson, a Royal Air Force analyst during the war, later likened it to “a policy of unilateral disarmament.”
But the V-2 left a lasting legacy. Combined with the advent of nuclear weapons, it proved that the most important weapons of the future would be ballistic missiles.
The Soviets and the Western Allies scrambled to collect as much of the V-2 program as possible when the war ended, and some of the earliest ballistic missiles on both sides of the Cold War were essentially copies of the V-2.
Many scientists from the V-2 program, including its leader, Wernher von Braun, were also directly involved in the US space program, ultimately helping NASA land on the moon in 1969.
Sitting in the White House reading the citation for the Medal of Honor doesn’t give the real flavor of why retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer and special warfare operator Britt K. Slabinski is receiving the award.
The nicely air conditioned room with comfortable chairs, impeccable floors, historic artwork and gilt on many surfaces isn’t right, somehow.
The dispassionate words on the award talk of Slabinski’s heroism in assaulting bunkers, rallying his men, and going back into the center of the firefight.
The White House is literally half a world away from a mountain in Afghanistan in 2002, where Slabinski — and America — lost seven good men.
When the master chief talks of the action, you realize he is reliving his time atop Takur Ghar — a 10,000-foot mountain near Ghazni, on March 4, 2002. He is remembering his decisions. He is remembering what he felt. And he is remembering his brothers who were killed.
He speaks in present tense, because in his mind’s eye. It is still happening.
‘I Was Just Doing My Job’
He believes he did nothing special. “I was just doing my job that day,” Slabinski said during an interview.
Slabinski — then a senior chief petty officer — and his men were just supposed to set up an overwatch position on the mountain to support the conventional forces in the valley below. “Now the enemy gets a vote,” he said. “We plan, we train, we rehearse and we rehearse some more for every possible contingency, but sometimes the fog and friction of war is just out of your control and a leader has to adapt.”
The team was aboard an Army MH-47 helicopter and as it was landing, well dug-in al-Qaida fighters opened up. “When we land, the ramp goes down,” he said. “I’m standing on the very back of the helicopter … and almost immediately take an RPG rocket to the side of the aircraft. It goes off, fills the aircraft full of smoke and we are getting shot up right away. There’s bullets flying through the aircraft the size of your finger [from] 12.7 machine guns that were up there.”
The pilot was able to take off, but the bird was wounded and experienced what Slabinski called “the worst turbulence you could imagine.”
Those gyrations caused Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts to fall off the ramp. The crew chief grabbed Roberts’ pack, and the weight of the SEAL pulled him off the ramp, too. But the crew chief was tethered into the aircraft and was able to get back in. Roberts fell 10 feet into the meter-deep snow.
“It happens that fast,” Slabinski said as he snapped his fingers.
He told the pilot that he had lost a man, but with the chopper’s hydraulics shot out, there was no way the bird could circle and retrieve him. “[The pilot] was flying a brick,” Slabinski said. “It was basically a controlled crash into the enemy-held valley.”
The master chief assessed the situation. “Now my mission originally was to support the overwatch, then my teammate Neil fell out, and now I have a downed helicopter I have to deal with,” he said.
Calling For Support
The first problem he dealt with was the helicopter, and he called in a second aircraft to take the crew and team to a safe place. Once there, Slabinski was able to focus his attention on Neil.
The information he received was Roberts was alive. “I knew there was a superior enemy force up there and they had heavier weapons than I had,” he said.
The enemy, the cold, the altitude — “Everything that could be stacked against us, was stacked against us going back, and I had the feeling that this was a one-way trip,” he said. “I knew though, that if I go now, there’s a chance I could rescue Neil. I knew if I tried to develop a battle plan more on my terms, it would certainly be better, but I knew Neil didn’t have that time.”
The weight was on Slabinski’s shoulders. “I remember sitting in the helicopter,” he said. “The [rotors are] turning, it’s cold, trying to sort through the tactical piece of it … and this thought keeps coming back to me: If I go now what’s the cost going to be versus the cost if I wait. If you are the leader and you have peoples’ lives that you are responsible for, the decisions don’t come easy.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Matthew R. Loken)
This was Slabinski’s loneliest moment. He was sitting in the chopper with a headset on and people are talking to him. He was thinking of all the tactical problems and the lives. “And this thought kept coming back to me, and it’s the first line of the Boy Scout Oath … ‘On my honor, I will do my best,'” said Slabinski, who attained the rank of Eagle Scout at his hometown troop in Northampton, Massachusetts “The only thing that is in the back of my mind is, ‘On my honor I will do my best, On my honor I will do my best, On my honor I will do my best.’
“That’s when I said, ‘I’m gonna go do this.'”
The master chief assigned his men jobs, and the pilot of the first aircraft, Army Chief Warrant Officer Al Mack, went up to Slabinski and told him he would be flying them back in the new MH-47, even though he had just survived a harrowing experience with the first helicopter.
There was no other place to land, so the team had to go right back to the place the first bird took the fire. As the chopper took off, it got quiet for Slabinski and he thought of his son, who was 6 years old at the time. “I remember saying, ‘I love you. Sorry for what’s to come. Be great,'” he said. “Then I put it in another room in my brain and went on with my duties.”
This Chinook also took fire coming in to the landing area, and as soon as the ramp went down, the team went off the back of the ramp. Two men went to the right, two to the left and the master chief and Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, an Air Force combat controller, went out together.
Slabinski and Chapman were hit by a burst of automatic weapons fire. “The burst hit John and he went down,” Slabinski said. “The bullets from the same burst went through my clothes on each side, and I jumped behind a rock.”
The belt-fed weapon kept firing at them. “I looked for John and he is lying in a very odd position, and I look to my other guys and they are engaged with another dug-in position and the two to my left are engaged there. There are enemy muzzle flashes on three sides.”
There is no cover, and Slabinski tosses two grenades at the bunker, but the position is too well dug in. He looks to his men and sees Chapman still in the same odd position and the others engaging the enemy. His M60 gunner is next to me. “I have a 40mm grenade launcher … and I have six grenades,” he said. “I’m too close to the big bunker because they won’t go off. They have to spin to arm.”
He fired at the farther bunkers and silenced those, but the big bunker remains a deadly problem. He has the M60-gunner fire on the bunker and he wants to charge to the bunker to clear it under the cover of that automatic fire. Before he could do that, a grenade flies out of the bunker and explodes right in front of the barrel of the M60, wounding the gunner.
Slabinski again assesses the situation. “The gunner is down. John hasn’t moved and my other two guys are still engaged in contact,” he said. “The plan in my head isn’t working so I have to do something different.”
(Painting by Keith Rocco)
He decided to get his small band out of direct fire. As he is doing that another SEAL was hit in the leg from the same machine gun Slabinski was trying to take out. “I sent the wounded over first and I crawled over to John, looking for some sign of life from John and didn’t get anything,” he said.
The place he chose to seek shelter from the fire was just about 30 feet away over the side of the mountain.
Slabinski called for support from an AC-130 gunship to hit the bunkers. At the same time as the aircraft was hitting the mountain he noticed shell fragments were landing around the team. Slabinski thinks at first it is the AC-130, but it is from an enemy mortar that is ranging his position.
He moves again to a more protected area and now the U.S. Army Ranger quick reaction force is coming in. The first chopper is hit and crashes on the top of the mountain. Slabinski contacted the second bird and it lands on another spit of land and the Rangers work their way to the SEAL position and attack up the mountain to secure the top.
The master chief can’t move his wounded to the top of the mountain, so he moved to a place he could secure and await medevac, which came that night.
Estimates of the number of al-Qaida fighters on the top of that mountain range between 40 and 100. They had heavy weapons galore with automatic machine guns, mortars, RPGs and recoilless rifles. It was the headquarters for al-Qaida operating against U.S. forces engaged in Operation Anaconda. The SEAL team went in to try to rescue Roberts with six men.
Footage taken by a remotely piloted vehicle and examined later showed that Chapman was not dead. The technical sergeant regained consciousness and engaged the enemy killing two of them — one in hand-to-hand combat. “I was 100 percent convinced that John was dead,” Slabinski said. “I never lost track of John.”
He never would have left the airman on that mountain, he said, if he thought for an instant that Chapman was alive.
For his actions that day, Slabinski received the Navy Cross, the nation’s second-highest award for valor. As part of then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s directive to the services to re-examine all of the valor awards beginning in 2001, the Navy recommended upgrading that award to the Medal of Honor. The master chief — who retired from the Navy in 2014 — received a call from President Donald J. Trump in March telling him of the decision.
The master chief is conflicted about the award. He believes he was just doing his job and still feels the loss of the seven men — Navy, Army and Air Force — he served with that day. “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about them,” he said. “If I could give up this medal to have them back, I would.”
The U.S. Army hasn’t really flown fixed-wing combat aircraft since the Army Air Forces became the Air Force in 1947. An agreement on U.S. military policy written in Key West in 1948 divvied up the roles of aircraft used by the United States for air defense, interdiction of enemy land forces, intelligence, mine-laying, airlift, and pretty much anything else aircraft might have a role in doing.
Ever since, the Air Force is solely expected to provide close-air support, resupply, airborne operations, and pretty much everything else the Army might need fixed-wing aircraft for. Now one lawmaker wants to upend all that.
The top leadership of the world’s new superpower came together after World War II to form this gentleman’s agreement on whose air forces would perform what tasks because it was better than leaving it to Congress to codify it. Solving the problem before it became one also gives the Pentagon more flexibility in the future to control how it fights war, rather than forcing Congress to change legislation so it could get on with the business of defending America.
Seeing as how the Pentagon – and the Army in particular – need the tools required to execute that mission, one lawmaker is getting impatient with Air Force foot-dragging over a new close-air support attack aircraft. He’s ready to give the contract and the money to the Army if the project doesn’t get a move on.
Florida Rep. Michael Waltz is promoting his legislation to allow the U.S. Special Operations Command to get its own light attack aircraft, separate from the U.S. Air Force fleet. The House has already given the idea the green light (but not the money yet), and Waltz wants to extend that same courtesy to the Army. The reason is that the Air Force has been too slow in rolling out new, prop-driven attack planes for land interdiction.
“My frustration is almost palpable at why it is taking so long to get this platform out to where the warfighters need it,” Waltz said.
The Air Force has been working on the plane for the past 12 years, unsure if it really wants the platform over the A-10 or the newest F-35 fighters. The argument for the prop planes is that they provide better CAS coverage while costing much, much less than flying an F-35 for hours on end, all while carrying the same armaments. There’s only one problem – prop planes are really easy to shoot down.
The A-26 Super Tocano is just one of the types of light attack craft tested by the Air Force.
Waltz is a former U.S. Army Special Forces operator who believes low-intensity conflict will not go away in the coming years but rather will likely increase. He also believes the U.S. military’s main mission shouldn’t stray too far from its counterterrorism role.
“Whether it’s Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, South America, we are going to be engaged with our local partners on the ground in low-intensity conflict…” he said. “If we can’t move this program forward, then perhaps we need to explore if the Army needs that authority.”
The Air Force is looking to produce six A-29 Super Tocanos or six AT-6 Wolverines for training and advisory missions overseas and here at home. While the Air Force program has no set date for rollout, the legislation to give the Army the authority to roll out its own is part of the House version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
David Bellavia, who received the nation’s highest military honor June 25, 2019, for his heroic actions in Iraq, offered rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment at the Pentagon on June 24, 2019, revealing the thoughts and emotions that flooded his brain as he charged into a house filled with insurgents in Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004.
Former Staff Sergeant Bellavia and his team were clearing houses in support of Operation Phantom Fury. In one house, insurgents ambushed his squad, pinning them down. Bellavia rushed inside the house to provide suppressing cover fire so that his fellow soldiers could exit the building safely.
Ret. Sgt. First Class Colin Fitts told reporters that had it not been for Bellavia, he probably wouldn’t be here today.
After Bellavia and his squad got out, a Bradley fighting vehicle hit the war-torn house hard, but not hard enough to eliminate the threat. It was necessary for someone to head inside and clear the building of insurgents, who were armed with rocket-propelled grenades, among other weapons.
“David Bellavia had to go back into a darkened, nightmare of a house where he knew there were at least five or six suicidal jihadis waiting,” Michael Ware, an embedded reporter who was with the staff sergeant and personally witnessed the Medal of Honor moment, told press at the Pentagon.
Engagements on the first floor.
Supported by one fellow soldier inside and three outside, Bellavia re-entered the house, fighting room-to-room, killing four insurgents and mortally wounding a fifth in the fierce fight.
Engagements on the second floor.
“A lot of things go through your mind. Some are very rational. Some are completely irrational,” Bellavia explained. “The first thing you’re thinking about you’re scared, you’re life is on the line. The second thing you’re thinking is you’re angry. How dare anyone try to hurt us. How dare anyone try to step up against the US military.”
“You’re angry. You’re scared,” he said, telling reporters that it’s a certain kind of peer pressure that keeps you moving forward. “When you’re peer is asking for help … it’s easy. Peer pressure might make you smoke cigarettes at 13. But, peer pressure can also make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. It’s about who your peers are.”
Bellavia talked a little about the house he cleared, and it sounded horrific. He explained that the scenes when he first entered and when he re-entered the house were very different due to the extreme redecorating the Bradley fighting vehicle did prior to his re-entry.
“The water had ruptured. All of the plumbing inside. Fallujah had been abandoned for months. So, that water was very unpleasant. It assaulted your senses,” he revealed, adding that there were propane tanks lying about, broken mirrors, makeshift bunkers, and insurgents hopped up on experimental drugs in the dark.
“It was tough. The mind is playing tricks on you,” he said, “You don’t know if you are firing at the same individual or if this is a new individual. A person gets dropped, then they disappear.”
Bellavia said he “thought it was a real possibility” that he wouldn’t make it out.
Bellavia is the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the Medal of Honor, an upgrade of the Silver Star he initially received, for “conspicuous gallantry” during his time in the Army. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon June 24, 2019, he said that this honor “represents many different people,” including many who never came home.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.