A brief history of US troops playing cards - and a magician's trick honoring veterans - We Are The Mighty
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A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

War can be hell…and war can be absolute boredom. There are few better ways to pass the time than by playing cards. Anyone who served in the military and made it past basic training probably ended up in a game of cards with their fellow troops.


A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans
Photo taken by an 82d Airborne paratrooper during WWII. (Portraits of War)

They’re easy to carry: small and lightweight, they fit into a rucksack, duffel bag, or Alice pack without having to sacrifice any piece of essential gear. Plus, they’re cheap. It just makes sense that the troops and playing cards would pair so well together.

The Bicycle Playing Card Company recounts the history of American troops and playing cards, though many other nations’ militaries also have a tradition of playing cards in their downtime. It just beats sitting around thinking about everything that could go wrong in a battle. As one Civil War soldier said, “Card playing seemed to be as popular a way of killing time as any.”

Wartime decks have been used to help soldiers in the field learn about their enemies and allies, to identify aircraft, and even teach a little about American history. Even in the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, American forces used playing cards to identify the most wanted members of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans
These cards are probably well-known by now.

Also Read: This is how POWs got playing cards with secret escape maps for Christmas

Playing cards themselves can be traced back to 12th century China. Some scholars think they made their way to Europe through Italian traders. The cards (and maybe even the games) predate the United States. But Americans have their own love affair with cards, and the military is no different.

Early special decks were released depicting Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, and (John Quincy) Adams as the kings of the deck. By the time of the Civil War, playing cards were in every American camp, Union or Confederate.

Since troops in the Civil War spent a lot of time in camp and had easy access to decks, alcohol, and firearms, a cheater could make the game go very badly for himself. The war actually shaped the way playing cards are printed, so players could hold a tighter hand.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

Another innovation of that era was the design on the backs of cards. Before then, most were made with plain backs, ones that were easy to mark and see through. The new back designs made short work of that problem.

In 1898, the Consolidated Playing Card Company created a cheap deck and poker chips for troops deploying to the Spanish-American War. For World War I, the U.S. Playing Card Company released special decks just for a few specialties of service in the Great War, namely Artillery, Navy, Air Corps, and Tank Corps. The German High Command in WWI considered the game so important to morale, they called the cards kartonnen wapens – cardboard weapons.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans
German soldiers playing cards on the Western front in the summer of 1916. (Playing Card Museum)

Many playing card factories converted to war production during World War II, but that certainly didn’t mean no decks were printed. The aforementioned cards used to identify aircraft, known as “spotter cards,” were essential to the war effort.

During the Vietnam War, playing card companies sent deployed soldiers and Marines special decks comprised of just the ace of spades, believing the Viet Cong considered the symbol to be a deadly serious omen.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

As late as 2007, American forces were given decks meant to inform them about important cultural and historical relics in the countries to which they deployed.

Watch below as magician Justin Flom recounts the oft-told story of a Revolutionary War soldier and his deck of cards, which acts as his bible, calendar, and almanac. Be sure to watch til the end for a magician’s tribute to American troops overseas.

Articles

US to confront China on ‘unsafe’ intercept of Air Force spy plane

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans
The WC-135W Constant Phoenix perfroms worlwide air sampling and is also used for limited nuclear test ban treaty verification. | U.S. Air Force Photo by Josh Plueger


Officials with U.S. Pacific Command concluded the two Chinese J-10 jets that intercepted an Air Force RC-135 spy plane during a routine patrol over the East China Sea were flying unsafely and improperly, but not being intentionally provocative.

In a statement released Wednesday by the command, officials said the Defense Department planned to address the problem with Chinese authorities using appropriate diplomatic and military channels.

The intercept, officials said, was unsafe because one of the Chinese jets approached the American aircraft at an excessive rate of speed.

“Initial assessment is that this seems to be a case of improper airmanship, as no other provocative or unsafe maneuvers occurred,” they said in a news release.

A spokesman for the command, Cmdr. David Benham, told Military.com that the speed with which the J-10 had closed on the RC-135 had not been determined.

“We’re still reviewing the details of the incident,” he said. “Generally speaking, when assessing the intercept, we evaluate factors such as distance, closure, weather, maneuvering and visibility.”

The release cited the chief of Pacific Command, Navy Adm. Harry Harris, who emphasized that unsafe intercepts by Chinese aircraft were a rare occurrence, and that most recent U.S.-Chinese maritime interactions “had been conducted safely and professionally.”

But this intercept maneuver comes less than a month after a May 19 incident in which two Chinese J-11 aircraft conducted an unsafe intercept of an American EP-3 reconnaissance plane over the South China Sea. In that incident, the Chinese planes came within 50 feet of the American aircraft, according to media reports.

This most recent incident comes as U.S. and Chinese officials exchange stern words over the contested South China Sea.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said last week at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore that China risked building a “Great Wall of self-isolation” if it continued to alienate neighbors with aggressive sovereignty claims and militarization activities in the region.

China fired back on Monday, when Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying

accused “certain countries” of conducting a “negative publicity campaign” regarding Chinese activity in the South China Sea.

“By sensationalizing the so-called tensions in the South China Sea, and driving wedges between countries in the region, they are trying to justify their political and military involvement in the South China Sea issue,” Hua said. “That is what they really want.”

Articles

6 awesome photos that show A-10 Warthogs landing in Putin’s backyard

Earlier this month, A-10 Thunderbolt II close-air support planes went on a 16-day deployment to Estonia — a country that along with Latvia and Lithuania, achieved independence in 1991 as the Cold War ended.


The Baltic countries joined NATO on March 29, 2004.

The A-10s, all from the 104th Fighter Squadron of the Maryland Air National Guard, were not the only troops on the scene. Air Force Combat Controllers with the 321st Special Tactics Squadron also took part – a natural team, since there have been many times where special ops teams have been bailed out by the Hogs. So, enjoy these six photos by Air Force photographer Senior Airman Ryan Conroy.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

Air Force combat controllers wave to the first A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot from Maryland Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Squadron to land in Jägala, Estonia, Aug. 10, 2017.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

An Air Force combat controller takes wind speed measurements before an A-10 Thunderbolt II lands in Jägala, Estonia. The combat controller is assigned to the 321st Special Tactics Squadron.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

An Air Force combat controller looks through binoculars at an A-10 Thunderbolt II that is preparing to land in Jägala, Estonia.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

An A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the Maryland Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Squadron ascends towards the runway in Jägala, Estonia.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

An A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the Maryland Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Squadron taxis in Jägala, Estonia.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

Two Air Force combat controllers observe an A-10 Thunderbolt II preparing to land in Jägala, Estonia, Aug. 10, 2017. The combat controllers are assigned to the 321st Special Tactics Squadron.

 

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Marines’ hero of Guadalcanal died at Iwo Jima

For an ordinary man, ‘Manila John’ Basilone did extraordinary things. Despite a short life, Basilone accomplished great acts of heroism and patriotism. Born on Nov. 4, 1916, in Ruritan, New York, Basilone would go on to become the first U.S. Marine of enlisted rank to earn the Medal of Honor during World War II. He was also the only enlisted Marine to earn the Navy Cross posthumously.


Basilone hadn’t begun his career in the Marine Corps. Basilone enlisted in the U.S. Army just before his 18th birthday in 1934. He was sent to the Philippines as an infantryman from 1934 to 1937. While in the (at the time) U.S. colony, Basilone became a champion boxer and fell in love with his style of life there. Three years after his return to the United States, Basilone enlisted in the Army, thinking he would be more likely to return to the Philippines in that service. His Marine service did take him to the Far East, but, sadly, he never saw his beloved Manila again.

After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. joined the fight against Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Fascist Italy. America’s late entry into WWII has drawn criticism, but there was no doubt that once America joined it came with full force. Basilone’s unit (1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division) soon found themselves in the thick of the fighting defending the island of Guadalcanal. Guadalcanal was where this ordinary man’s extraordinary courage first showed itself.

Guadalcanal was as rough a posting as any soldier could want, or fear. Sited well within Japan’s emerging empire, it was vital to the Americans–and the Japanese wanted them out. Allied forces had captured an airstrip at Henderson Field, which allowed Allied aircraft to strike Japanese forces. In response, the Japanese naval force known as the Tokyo Express regularly bombarded the airfield and American positions. The fight for Guadalcanal was long and bloody. Basilone was smack in the middle of it.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans
John Basilone awarded the Medal of Honor 1943

During Oct. 24-25 in 1942, the Marines faced a frontal assault from over 3,000 Japanese troops of the Sendai Division. The Japanese, probably World War II’s best jungle fighters, attacked in typical Samurai fashion. The troops regarded death in battle as something to aspire to, not fear. Commanding two machine gun sections, Basilone readily obliged their aspirations. The citation for his Congressional Medal of Honor described his efforts in the battle.

“In a fierce frontal attack with the Japanese blasting his guns with grenades and mortar fire, one of Sgt. Basilone’s sections, with its guncrews, was put out of action, leaving only two men able to carry on. Moving an extra gun into position, he placed it in action, then, under continual fire, repaired another and personally manned it, gallantly holding his line until replacements arrived.”

A brave effort indeed, but ‘Manila John’ wasn’t finished yet. His citation continues:

“A little later, with ammunition critically low and the supply lines cut off, Sgt. Basilone, at great risk of his life and in the face of continued enemy attack, battled his way through enemy lines with urgently needed shells for his gunners, thereby contributing in large measure to the virtual annihilation of a Japanese regiment.”

Thirty-eight bodies were left around the gun that Basilone had personally manned. His mission to collect ammunition for his gunners saw him fighting through Japanese lines on foot both ways, using a pistol. Not surprisingly, his commander Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis ‘Chesty’ Fuller recommended Basilone receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. It was well deserved.

Newly promoted to Gunnery Sergeant Basilone, CMH, USMC, he was sent home for publicity tours, using his celebrity status. He wasn’t happy. Like many soldiers, Basilone disliked celebrity and hero-worship. Like many Marines, he said as much. Within months, he requested re-assignment to the Pacific. The Corps refused, offering a commission and a safe posting stateside.

His national war bond tour had earned him ticker-tape parades, newsreel coverage, and a spot in Life magazine, but he wanted to be in the front line with his fellow Marines. He reportedly said, “I’m just a plain soldier and want to stay one. I ain’t no officer and I ain’t no museum piece. I belong back with my outfit.”

Eventually, the Corps relented. Basilone went to Camp Pendleton to train for combat in the Pacific. There he met his wife, fellow Marine Sergeant Lena Mae Riggi, who became Mrs. Basilone in July 1944. In December, Basilone returned to the Pacific, headed for Iwo Jima. He never saw his wife again.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans
Basilone, right, wearing his Medal of Honor.

Iwo Jima was a bloodbath. Over 20,000 Japanese troops defended it: Only about 200 of them are known to have survived. The Marine Corps suffered nearly 26,000 casualties, of whom nearly 7,000 were killed in action. On the first day of the invasion, Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone, CMH, USMC became one of the fatal casualties.

Attacking the Japanese-held Airfield One on Feb. 19, 1945, Basilone was killed. By then he’d already risked his life pushing two bogged-down Sherman tanks out of mud, by hand, and had killed numerous Japanese soldiers. According to his Navy Cross citation:

‘In the forefront of the assault at all times, [Basilone] pushed forward with dauntless courage and iron determination until, moving upon the edge of the airfield, he fell, instantly killed by a bursting mortar shell.’

He was 28 years old. Basilone’s actions just before his death would posthumously earn him a Navy Cross and Purple Heart. Basilone was the only Marine who was awarded these three major citations (Navy Cross, Purple Heart, and Medal of Honor) during World War II.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

Basilone’s wife, Lena Mae, never remarried. She died in 1999 and was buried wearing her wedding ring. Aside from numerous decorations, Basilone received other honors. The U.S. Navy named a destroyer after him in 1945, which Lena Mae christened. Another USS John Basilone is scheduled for commission in 2019. He also appeared in the ‘Distinguished Marines’ postage stamp series and was a central character in the HBO series The Pacific.

The U.S. Marine Corps still consider him a soldier’s soldier, a Marine’s Marine. He lies beside many of America’s heroes in Arlington National Cemetery. You can find Basilone’s grave in section 12, Grave 384.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the story of Abraham Lincoln’s forgotten sword duel

Dueling was still a big deal in mid-19th Century America. So much so, it actually decimated the U.S. Army’s officer corps. It seemed no one was immune, from President Jackson on down to the common man. One such common man was future President Abraham Lincoln. The young politician made the mistake of publicly denouncing an Illinois banker. The banker demanded satisfaction while Lincoln demanded the public challenge be fought with swords.


The whole row started with a public debate about banking in 1842. Lincoln was a young man at this time, a lawyer and member of the Illinois State Legislature. Even then, Lincoln’s rhetoric was formidable. His debating skills were feared by opponents, and as a lawyer, his closing arguments were near-perfect. The debate that got Lincoln into a duel was one about banking in Illinois with state auditor James Shields.

Lincoln criticized the closing of the bank and its refusal to accept its own issued currency. Farmers in Illinois now had worthless money while the bank would only accept gold and silver as payment on debts. In a letter to the Sangamo Journal newspaper, Lincoln wrote an editorial criticizing the bank, the Democratic Party, and personally insulting Shields. Shields demanded a retraction, and when he didn’t get one, he demanded a duel. Lincoln, the challenged, got to choose the weapon.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

Awesome.

Honest Abe chose cavalry swords because he knew if he were to choose pistols, Shields would likely kill him. Lincoln, a very tall man by the standards of the day, was also very strong, so his reach and his power gave him the edge in a sword fight. Lincoln did not want to kill his opponent, instead intending to use his seven-inch advantage in height and reach to disarm the man.

When the time came, the two men met at Bloody Island, Mo. for the match. There, they received the swords and stood apart with a plank dividing them. Neither man could cross the wooden board. Instead of swinging at Shields, Lincoln lopped a branch off a nearby tree with a single blow. Shields understood the demonstration and called a truce.

In an interesting historical footnote, Shields would later lead Union troops in the Shenandoah Valley as a Brigadier and was the only General to defeat Stonewall Jackson in battle during the campaign. It cost him a lot – he was nearly killed in the process. Lincoln awarded his former rival a promotion to Major General for the action.

Articles

11 reactions to seeing your relief show up after a long watch

Standing watch is important but could feel like a complete time suck for sailors. Here are 11 reactions sailors have when standing duty:


1. When you see your name twice on the watch bill back-to-back.

2. Not all watches are bad. Sometimes they feel like a break.

3. Watch turns into “relief lookout” 30 minutes away from your scheduled end time.

4. When you confirm the approaching sailor is your relief.

5. Calm down gung ho sailor. He didn’t get to his watch early by choice.

6. Standing an easy “balls to eight” watch (midnight to 8:00 AM) on a Friday morning feels like a three-day weekend for sailors that are not deployed.

*Sailors who work before having a watch during this time slot typically have the rest of the day off to recover.

7.  Here’s the typical reaction to the end of a balls to eight watch during the week.

8. When everything goes according to schedule.

9. When your relief doesn’t show up on time.

10. How you feel when your relief finally shows up after being late.

11. When you fly under the radar.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

NOW: 5 differences between the Navy and the Coast Guard

OR: The 11 stages of leaving the Navy

Articles

This Japanese Dish Exists Only Because Of The US Military

As an overseas hub for U.S. military bases, Okinawa, Japan is known among troops for its beautiful coastline, hot and humid weather, and a unique fusion food simply referred to as TRC.

“Tacos had already been introduced to Okinawa by the Americans, but it was more like a snack – not very filling for Americans. And it was something you couldn’t find at a restaurant,” Parlor Senri restaurant’s Sayuri Shimabukuro Shimabukuro told Stripes Okinawa. “Matsuzo decided to substitute the taco shell with rice, which is relatively faster to cook and also filling. Parlor Senri’s customers were 100 percent Americans, and in order for the wait staff to explain the dish, he named it taco rice.”

TRC, or “Taco, Rice, and Cheese,” — a Mexican-Japanese fusion dish that exists only because of the U.S. military presence on the island — is most simply put, a giant taco salad with rice instead of the taco shell. First introduced on the island in 1984, it’s now a staple among U.S. service-members stationed there.

The dish is so popular among troops that most shops that serve it are literally walking distance from the base gates. There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to it.

There’s considerable debate among shop owners as to who came up with TRC first. According to Stripes Okinawa, multiple shops in Kin (the town outside Camp Hansen) claim it was their idea. But while we’re trying to figure out who cooked it first, you can always make it yourself at home.

SEE ALSO: 5 Signs You’ve Been In The Barracks Too Long

MIGHTY HISTORY

America wanted to stop Earth’s rotation during Cold War

A book from a nuclear whistleblower has a stunning claim that the U.S. Air Force once had a plan to throw off Soviet missiles by stopping the rotation of the earth with a thousand rockets.

Yup, the Wile E. Coyote missile defense plan which, theoretically, could have worked.


A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

Like this, but with fewer spectators and tires. And more rockets.

(NASA)

First, the qualifications: The allegation comes from Daniel Ellsberg who worked for RAND from 1960 to 1970 and says he saw the plans before he left the corporation. Basically, it called for 1,000 rocket engines laid horizontally on the Earth’s surface that would fire when missiles were in flight towards America. His claim is the only evidence that remains. He said he stole documents, but they were lost years later.

The plan was in early stages when Ellsberg saw it, and it seems to have gone nowhere. But, in the most limited sense, the science does kind of work. Before cruise missiles became all the rage, nearly all nuclear threats were limited to ballistic missiles and bombers. When it comes to ballistic missiles, they have no guidance after a certain point in the flight; some can’t be redirected after takeoff because they used solely inertial guidance.

So imagine if you shot an arrow at a moving target and then someone stopped the target from moving while the arrow was already in flight. You would likely miss since, you know, target moved. So far, so good.

But the rest of the science isn’t so great.

Can You Change Earth’s Rotation With Rockets – Project Retro

www.youtube.com

Can you change earth’s rotation with rockets – Project Retro

First of all, rockets laid against the ground would be pushing against the atmosphere, and the earth is much, much denser than the atmosphere. So most of the energy would accelerate the atmosphere rather than slow the rotation of the earth.

Even with a thousand of America’s most powerful rockets pushing at once, it’s likely that U.S. cities would be in basically the exact same spot. A YouTuber who plugged the numbers into some simulations found that the rotation would only slow enough to shift the target’s position so minutely that you couldn’t even measure it with conventional tools. Like, the missiles would only miss by the width of a couple of atoms. Not enough to save a single human life.

And then there’s the fact that, even if the rockets offset the cities’ positions by hundreds of yards or even a few miles, that would only shift the pain. The missiles would still impact on the east side of the city or just east of the city. For New York, the missile would explode over the ocean instead of the city. But east of Philadelphia is still New Jersey. East of Atlanta is still Georgia, east of Dallas is still Texas.

But the more success the rockets have in shifting the city’s position, the worse another problem is. Everything on earth experiences the earth’s inertia, we just can’t feel it because it’s always there. But if the earth’s inertia suddenly slowed or even stopped, we would experience it like the earth was suddenly moving.

Ballistic missiles coming from Russia would take something like 30 minutes from launch to impact, but the U.S. wouldn’t necessarily know the missile was in flight for the first few minutes. So, if we give the rockets 20 minutes of time to shift the planet’s rotation 11 miles, the distance needed to keep a missile aimed at western Washington D.C. from hitting the city, the rockets would have to slow the planet’s rotation by 33 mph for that entire 20 minutes. (But the nukes would still hit the suburbs.)

Imagine a model of a city sitting on top of a car, then imagine accelerating the car to 33 mph as fast as you could, driving it for 20 minutes, and then coasting to a stop. And the city isn’t built to withstand earthquakes.

And every human and structure and animal and droplet of water in the world would experience this slowdown at once, not just the ones targeted by the missiles. But not all tectonic plates would experience it exactly the same. Assuming the rockets would all have been placed in the U.S., the North American Plate would take all the stress.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

​Pictured: Still not as bad as worldwide earthquakes and tsunamis.

(U.S. Department of Defense)

Where the plate borders other tectonic plates, this would certainly create earthquakes, potentially triggering tsunamis off the West Coast as well as deep within the Atlantic. Another fault line passes through the Caribbean south of Florida and it, too, would likely quake.

So, actual earthquakes and tsunamis would be triggered at the same time that every city in the world experiences a weird pseudo-quake as the rockets fire, and the oceans would slosh over continents, all so the missiles would land on the outskirts of a few dozen cities instead of the hearts of the cities.

The missiles are starting to not look so bad, huh? It seems likely that, if the Air Force ever did seriously consider this, it was like the nuclear moon bases. They wrote some papers, decided it was nonsense, and moved on. But then, they did make prototype nuclear-powered planes and rockets, so maybe not.

(Featured image by Kevin Gill CC BY 2.0)

Military Life

7 ways the military breaks introverts out of their shells

The military has a way of ensuring that its troops constantly work, live, and interact with each other. While it’s not uncommon for troops to get off duty and hide away in their barracks or at home, the way the military is structured prevents them from truly shutting themselves off from the rest of the unit.


One of the most mission-critical elements of the military is a foundation of trust and rapport between troops. To that end, the military has a way of forcing its troops into building camaraderie.

1. Basic Training/Boot Camp living conditions

Straight out of the gate, potential recruits are thrown in 30-man bays under the watchful eye of Drill Sergeants/Instructors. Troops will quickly learn the go-to pastime when there’s absolutely nothing else to do: talking to each other.

That quiet kid from a Midwestern suburb will probably have their first interaction with people from nearly every other state, background, economic status, and lifestyle during Basic.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans
Doesn’t matter where you’re from; you’re all sh*t. (Photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)

2. Morning PT

You’ll never hear more words of encouragement than you do during physical training. When troops go for a run in the morning, they’ll often shout motivation at one another. “Come on, Pvt. Introvert! You got this!”

This isn’t done solely to lift spirits, but rather to make sure their ass catches back up to the platoon.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

3. Working parties

Another perfect way to build mutual understanding is to share suffering. Cleaning the same connex they cleaned out last week may seem boring (because it is), but every time a troop says something like, “man, f*ck this. Am I right?” a friendship is born.

There are few stances shared by troops more than a dislike of mundane, physical labor.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans
Many friendships have bloomed through the shared hatred of sandbags. (Photo by Sgt. John Crosby)

4. Barracks parties

In nearly every comedy about high school or college life, there’s always that one party scene. Those kinds of lavish parties don’t really exist like they do in the movies — college kids are broke. But do you know who gets a regular paycheck on the first and fifteenth of each month and has few bills to spend the money on? Troops.

Actual parties also bring troops together. Everyone is pulled from their barracks room to do keg-stands off the roof of the Battalion Headquarters before staff duty finds them.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans
Your party isn’t close to awesome until someone calls the unit’s medic because they don’t want to explain it later to the aid station. (Screen-grab via YouTube)

5. The “battle-buddy” system

The “battle-buddy” system is a method the chain of command uses to have troops keep an eye on each other. What probably started out as a great PowerPoint presentation given by a gung-ho 1st Lt. gave the military what is, essentially, an assigned best friend. The idea was to prevent troops from getting into trouble, but it’s eventually devolved into simply having two troops stand in the First Sergeant’s office.

This system is even more needed while stationed overseas. Command policies often dictate that a troop can’t leave post without someone keeping an eye on them. Now, instead, there’re two dumbasses let loose on the world.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans
Battle buddies have a way of picking you up when you’re down. (Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

6. Constant pissing contests

Pissing contests are a weird constant in the military. In the civilian world, people try to one-up each other with made-up stories. In the military, actions speak louder than words, so when troops do awesome things daily, chances are they were trying to one-up the person next to them.

The best way to describe it would be if someone were to say, “Man, I’m awesome. How about you, introvert? How awesome are you?”

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

7. Deployments

Troops stateside can find some room to breathe, but when they’re deployed and end up 30 to a tent with no walking room, well… good luck.

The only privacy you’ll find is in the latrine. Even then, you might have a conversation with the guy in the next stall.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

Articles

The making of ‘Range 15’ is even crazier than ‘Range 15’

“Nothing’s off limits.”


That’s a quote from one of the actors in Range 15, but it’s also the way the creators of the film live their lives.

And before you start getting all teary-eyed over it, know that it’s also the attitude they bring to their dark, effed up, and glorious comedic projects.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

For people who can relate to military humor, it doesn’t get much better than the veteran-produced zombie flick “Range 15”…until you find out they also made a behind-the-scenes documentary.

For those who haven’t seen “Range 15” (it’s for sale as a digital download at Amazon.com), it’s about some military buddies who have a wild party and find themselves tossed into the drunk tank. They wake up to the realization that the zombie apocalypse is in full swing.

Think of what follows as a threesome between “Team America,” “Zombieland,” and “The Hangover.”

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

According to a report by the Military Times, the documentary made its debut on June 30, 2017. The video, dubbed Not a War Story, details the making of the movie, which was filmed in 13 days — a balls crazy pace. The 80 vets who made the film, some of them amputees, had very little (if any) experience shooting feature films, but they didn’t let that stop them.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

In the trailer, William Shatner, who plays an attorney in the film, strikes a very poignant tone as he recognizes the sacrifices many of these veterans have made. “You’re the fellows who altered your life to do the job,” he says.

Oh, and good news for Range 15 fans: Military Times mentioned that a sequel is reportedly in the works.

In the meantime, check out the trailer for Not a War Story and check out the film on iTunes Nov. 7, 2017.

Articles

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

The US military’s special operations forces (SOF) are increasingly returning to their roots of advising foreign militaries to fight for them — and it seems to be paying dividends in Iraq and Syria.


The campaign against ISIS is being fought less by US troops on the front lines, but instead is being conducted ” by, with, and through” local forces, Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of CENTCOM, told Congress.

There have been three big changes in how SOF has been used against ISIS, and if successful, these new tactics might be used in future conflicts, Linda Robinson, a senior analyst with RAND, writes at The Cipher Brief.

As Robinson notes, special ops are on the ground in ideal numbers, they accompany and are dispersed with local forces at the front, and they provide crucial fire support to local forces.

In the late 1940s, SOF were seen to have little purpose in a new world where atomic weapons and strategic bombers reigned. But that changed with the emergence of the Cold War, where proxy wars and insurgencies became more prevalent.

One of the first examples of the new way SOF were used was in the 1950s when the 10th Special Forces Group was tasked with establishing guerrilla forces behind Communist lines in eastern Europe. “That was the moment Special Operations warriors point to as their birthday,” Dwight John Zimmerman and John D. Gresham write in “Beyond Hell and Back: How America’s Special Operations Force Became The Best Fighting Force In The World.”

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans
A member of the U. S. Army Special Forces conducts Security Assistance Training for members of the Armed Forces Philippines (AFP). This field training is held on the Zamboanga Peninsula of the Philippine Islands with the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines (JSOTF-P) as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. | U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer First Class Edward G. Martens

After 9/11, however, SOF began to be used in more “precision, highly kinetic strike forces enabled by technology and linked through a digitally networked battlefield.” But by and large, the new counter-terrorism strategy in Iraq and Syria may prove to be something of a reset to SOF’s former tactics.

The number of SOF in Iraq and Syria has now reached about 10,000, giving them the means to provide “meaningful support to the variety of indigenous forces fighting ISIS,” Robinson writes.

Related: US officials want to deploy 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan

Furthermore, SOF now accompany local forces to secure locations near the front lines. They no longer give tactical advice from distant headquarters, where they had to analyze operations through “the soda-straw perspective of drone feeds,” Robinson says.

This allows them to see local forces in action, and therefore give better advice.

Over the last year, SOF has increasingly provided more fire support. US Apache helicopters were first used in June 2016 to capture Qayyarah, which is now a staging base for coalition forces’ assault on Mosul. This base now has an ICU, and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems set up to support the assault.

US howitzers are also set up at a base in Hamman al-Alil, providing support to Iraqi CTS and Federal Police advancing into West Mosul.

This support has been even more helpful to Syrian Democratic Forces, an irregular force that is not heavily armed but nevertheless is the main force fighting ISIS in Syria.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans
A U.S. Army Soldier, attached to The 7th Special Forces Group, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, conducts reconnaissance during a live-fire exercise at Twentynine Palms, Calif. | United States Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Efren Lopez

Members of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit have also moved into Syria with 155mm howitzers to assault Raqqa. It was reported in March that US Marines near Raqqa “had killed hundreds of enemy fighters and destroyed more than 200 fortifications.” One of the canons they used in these strikes was the M-777 Howitzer, which fires 155mm shells and has a range of up to 25 miles.

SOF has also recently helped position 500 local forces near the strategic Tabqah Dam, which was eventually wrested from ISIS.

However, the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq is far from over. ISIS has dug bunkers, trenches and tunnels, and laced Raqqa with mines, while in western Mosul, there are still more than 400,000 civilians caught in the middle of heavy fighting.

But if the campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria succeeds, “this new way of combining forces and using SOF to direct a ground war, could become a model for conducting low- to mid-level combat.”

Check out the full article at The Cipher Brief

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the most decorated enlisted sailor in US military history

When James Elliott Williams enlisted in the Navy in 1947, World War II was over, and the South Carolina native probably thought he might have a career no different, better, or worse than any other enlisted sailor. History would have other ideas. He just wanted to join the Navy, so bad in fact, he was only 16 when he enlisted. He and a county clerk altered his birth certificate to make him old enough to join. That was just the first bold move of his career.


It’s notable that the most decorated enlisted sailor in Navy history isn’t a SEAL or anything like that, he was a Boatswains Mate.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

Chief Ryback approves.

Today’s Boatswain’s Mates now train, direct, and supervise the ship’s personnel in the maintenance of the ship as well as operate machinery to load and unload supplies. They’re kind of the jack of all trades sailor, the oldest rate in the Navy. They repair the ship, provide security, and even drive the damn things. Not three years into James William’s enlistment, the Korean War broke out, and Williams was aboard the destroyer USS Douglas H. Fox. Being a Boatswain’s Mate, he ended up on numerous small boat raiding parties into North Korea.

It suited him just fine. Williams continued his enlistment even after the war ended. His real moment to shine came during his time in Vietnam.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

Yeahhhhhhhh buddy. I don’t know this guy, but I’d follow him anywhere.

Williams was the Petty Officer in charge of overseeing patrols in the Mekong Delta as the Vietnam War was heating up in 1966 and 1967. At the time in his career when other NCOs would be seeking a quiet place to end their enlistment, Williams was tossing ammunition over his shoulder and telling junior sailors everything was going to be okay – and it was, because Williams was going to see to that.

That’s what happened on Oct. 31, 1966, when Williams’ two boat patrol was ambushed by two enemy boats on the river. He collected his “19-year-old and scared to death” gunners, and directed a return fire that destroyed one boat and sent the other running away for dear life. It wouldn’t get away, as the sailors chased the damaged enemy boat right into…

An enemy stronghold.

Suddenly, they were outnumbered 65-to-1. The VC opened up on the Americans with withering AK-47 and RPG fire. You can probably guess what happened next.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

If you guessed the Americans retreated, I’m showing you this photo again because you clearly forgot about it.

Williams led his boat and its crew into the enemy formation, with fortified bunkers shooting at them from the riverbanks, enemy boats swirling around them, and all kinds of different ordnance being thrown their way. As he attacked enemy sampans, junks, and other river craft, he called in for help from UH-1B Huey helicopters as the night fell on the South Vietnamese inlet where Williams and his crew were absolutely laying waste to the Viet Cong.

For three hours, Williams and company fought and wrecked an entire hub of VC shipping and supply along with the 65 boats and untold manpower defending it. The Navy wrecking crew killed 1,000 enemy troops in the process while disrupting the VC supply lines in the entire region.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

That’s how James Williams earned the Medal of Honor.

Aside from the Medal of Honor he earned on that day, Williams other awards and decorations include the Navy Cross, the Silver Star with gold star, the Legion of Merit with combat V, the Navy and Marine Corps Medal with gold star, the Bronze Star with combat V and two gold stars, the Purple Heart with two gold stars, and a ton of other unit commendations and service medals.

He left the military as a Boatswain’s Mate First Class, E-6, but was made an honorary Chief in 1977.

Articles

WWII veteran’s remains return home 74 years after ill-fated mission

More than 70 years ago, a US Army cargo plane dubbed “Hot as Hell” was headed for India on a supply mission. It never arrived, and no one went looking for the doomed aircraft or the eight men on board because military officials had no way of pinpointing where it went down.


All signs of the mission were lost until 2006, when a hiker in northeast India spotted a wing and panel sign with the plane’s name inscribed — “Hot as Hell.” It wasn’t until 2015 that the US Defense Department investigated the crash site and found the remains of 1st Lt. Robert Eugene Oxford.

On June 8th, Oxford will finally be returned home and then laid to rest the following weekend with full military honors in his tiny hometown of Concord, Georgia. Photos of his seven fellow crewmen, none of whom was ever found, will lay beside the coffin and then be placed inside it for burial.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans
DoD Photo by Sgt. Eben Boothby

“We were ecstatic that Eugene was found, but we feel guilty there are seven other men on that mountain top,” said Merrill Roan, the wife of Oxford’s nephew. “So we are honoring the other seven. … We have to honor them as well, because they may never get any closure.”

Oxford’s plane departed Kumming, China, on Jan. 25, 1944, said Staff Sgt. Kristen Duus at the Defense Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Agency. Oxford was declared dead two years later.

Oxford’s family didn’t know the wreckage had been found until 2007 when Merrill Roan saw a message on a genealogy website from a relative of another service member on the aircraft. That relative wanted help persuading military officials to investigate the crash site.

Duus’ agency confirmed the crash site correlated with the missing aircraft in 2008. But harmful weather coupled with access issues and security delayed recovery operation efforts until late 2015, Duus said.

Officials say a DNA analysis of Oxford’s remains matched his niece and nephew.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans
C-54 Skymaster. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Roan said the family was “shocked and excited” when they heard the news.

Duus said Oxford is one of 74 veterans who have been identified so far this year. She said all service members have been returned to the US for identification before the family is notified and the service member is provided a funeral with honors.

Eighty service members were identified in 2015, and that number more than doubled with 164 the following year, Duus said.

The Missing in Action Agency website says there are more than 86,000 Americans still missing abroad from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Advancements in DNA testing technology and partnerships with other nations has helped find and identify more missing service members than ever, Duus said.

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans
US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy

Oxford’s parents, siblings, and any other relatives who saw him leave for World War II have all died since he went missing, said Terrell Moody of Moody-Daniel Funeral Home, which is handling burial arrangements. Still, the long-overdue homecoming of his remains won’t go unnoticed.

A State Patrol escort will guide a hearse carrying Oxford’s casket 50 miles south on Interstate 75 from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to the funeral home. A funeral will be held June 10th in a school auditorium — the biggest venue in town, Moody said.

“It’s just a huge historical event for our little town,” Moody said. “The phone constantly rings from people wanting information.”

Oxford will be buried in the same plot with his parents, Charles and Bessie Oxford, who had placed a memorial marker for their lost son at the gravesite after his plane went missing seven decades ago.

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