Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you've never heard of - We Are The Mighty
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Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

When most people think of World War II, they probably think of soldiers fighting in Europe or Marines island-hopping in the Pacific. But it truly was a World War, and that included combat in some of Earth’s most frigid and inhospitable waters in the Arctic Circle.

The Soviets needed plenty of supplies to fight off the Germans, and it was up to the Allies to make it happen. Beginning in 1941, the Allies began sending convoys of merchant ships packed with food, ammunition, tanks, and airplanes, along with warship escorts.

 

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

But the freezing waters of the Arctic — and the German navy — didn’t make it easy.

Via the World War II Database:

The cold temperature in the arctic region also posed a risk in that sea splashes slowly formed a layer of ice on the decks of ships, which over time, if not tended to, could weigh so much that ships would become top-heavy and capsize. Of course, given the state of war, the German military also posed a great danger by means of surface warships, submarines, and aircraft. The threats, natural or otherwise, endangered the merchant ships throughout the entire length of the supply route. British destroyer HMS Matabele and Soviet trawler RT-68 Enisej of convoy PQ-8 were sunk by German submarine U-454 at the mouth of the Kola Inlet near the very end of their trip, British whaler HMS Sulla of PQ-9 capsized from ice build-up three days into her journey in the Norwegian Sea, while PQ-15 suffered the loss of three merchant ships on 2 May 1942 to German torpedo bomber attacks north of Norway.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
HMS Duke of York in heavy seas

Initially the ships met little resistance, as the Nazis were unaware of the resupply route. This quickly changed after Operation Dervish, the first convoy from Iceland to Archangelsk, Russia.

“After Dervish, the Germans did wake up to what was happening,” Eric Alley, who was on the first convoy, told The Telegraph. “The Luftwaffe and U-boats moved 
to northern Norway, so the convoys had to keep as far north as possible.”

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

The convoys were dangerous due to the unpredictable nature of the frigid waters and threat of Nazi U-boats and land-based aircraft. And summer made things much worse, which left ships completely exposed since the area had 24 hours of daylight.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

“That was hell. There is no other word I know for it,” wrote Robert Carse, in an account of an attack on his convoy that lasted for 20 hours. “Everywhere you looked aloft you saw them, crossing and recrossing us, hammering down and back, the bombs brown, sleek in the air, screaming to burst furiously white in the sea. All around us, as so slowly we kept on going, the pure blue of the sea was mottled blackish with the greasy patches of their bomb discharges. Our ship was missed closely time and again. We drew our breaths in a kind of gasping-choke.”

The convoys delivered more than four million tons of cargo, though at a heavy cost: 101 ships were sunk and roughly 3,000 Allied sailors lost their lives, according to The Telegraph.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

Here are more photos of what it was like:

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

NOW: Hitler’s secret Nazi war machines of World War II

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6 times troops marched all night and laid waste in the morning

Turns out, the military is hard work. Apparently, sometimes you don’t even get a real break between marching all night through treacherous terrain and then having to crush your enemies, seeing them driven before you, and hearing the lamentations of their women.


These six units had no issue with that:

6. The 37th Illinois Infantry assaults a stubborn hill after 36 miles of marching

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Confederate and Union forces clash at the Battle of Bull Run. (Image: Library of Congress)

The 37th Illinois Infantry was maneuvered across the Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, repeatedly, completing 36 miles of marching and fighting repeatedly in 36 hours. On Dec. 7, 1862, they were marched to a new position and most of the men fell asleep despite an hour-long artillery duel going on over their heads.

They were awoken and ordered against a hill with an unknown enemy force. The 37th hit it in good order and manged to take and hold the edge before enemy artillery on the flanks pushed them back.

Despite their exhaustion and weaker position, the 37th formed back up and held the line at the bottom of the hill, containing the Confederate units for the rest of the battle.

5. The 101st raced to Bastogne and then fought a multi-week siege against the Germans

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
American soldiers rush during an artillery attack in the Battle of the Bulge. (Photo: U.S. Army)

When the Germans launched their daring attack that would become the Battle of the Bulge, the U.S. rushed to evacuate some headquarters from the area while sending in those who would hold the line, including the 101st Airborne Division. With the commanding and deputy commanding generals out of the country, the division’s artillery commander was forced to take the men to the front.

The paratroopers rushed into the breach, moving throughout the day and night and almost ending up in the wrong city due to a miscommunication. But the troops took their positions just as the Germans reached Bastogne, exchanging fire immediately after their arrival.

Over the following month, the light infantry in Bastogne held off the better armored, armed, and supplied German tanks and refused requests for their surrender.

4. American troops route Mexican defenders in 20 minutes after a night march

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
(Painting: Adolphe Jean-Baptiste Bayot, Public Domain)

Near the end of the Mexican-American War, American attackers near the outskirts of Mexico City needed a way through the defending forces. One route was promising, but a force of 7,000 Mexican troops was defending it.

After the first day of fighting, a lieutenant found a ravine that cut to the rear of the Mexican camp and marched his troops through it. At dawn, the main force made a frontal assault while a smaller group launched from the ravine and into the enemy’s rear. In less than 20 minutes, the Mexicans were forced to retreat and other American troops were able to assault into the city.

3. Washington crosses the Delaware at night to surprise the Hessians on Christmas, then attacks the British at Princeton

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
(Painting: Battle of Trenton by Charles McBarron)

On Dec. 25, 1776, Gen. George Washington led his men across the partially frozen Delaware River and on a 19-mile march to the Hessian camp at Trenton, New Jersey, surprising the Hessians before dawn and killing their commander as well as 21 others while capturing 918.

Just days later, British reinforcements had Washington cornered near Princeton. After nightfall on Jan. 2, Washington led 4,500 men through the night while 500 others made it look like the whole force was still in position. Washington’s men clashed with another British force and beat them, proving that the British Army could be defeated.

2. The Rangers march through the evening to attack Sened Station at full dark

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Rangers practice for their assault on Arzew(Photo: U.S. Army)

On Feb. 11, 1943, four Ranger companies set out with each man carrying just their canteen, a C-ration, a half shelter, and their weapon. They marched eight miles and then waited four miles from their target for full night to fall.

When twilight took over, they marched the remaining four miles to their target and attacked under the cover of darkness. Italian defenders at Station de Sened, Tunisia, suspected an attack was coming and fired machine guns into the night, giving away their positions.

Three maneuver companies assaulted the Italian positions while the headquarters formed a blocking force. In less than an hour, the Rangers were victorious and held 11 prisoners and had killed 50 enemy troops.

1. Stonewall Jackson orders a night march to surprise Union artillery with flank attacks

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
(Photo: Library of Congress)

Confederate Maj. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson ordered a few night marches in his day, but few were as important as the June 9, 1862, march at Port Republic that arguably saved the Confederacy for a few years. The battle would decide whether Jackson could send reinforcements to Gen. Robert E. Lee who was defending the rebel capital.

And the Union forces had the better ground at Port Republic. Their cannons were arrayed on a high ridge where they pummeled Confederate attempts to advance through the valley. But that’s where a night march by the 2nd and 4th Virginia came in. They attacked the Union guns, were pushed back, and attacked again with new reinforcements, capturing and holding the former Union position.

The Confederates held the ridge, forcing the Union to retreat and allowing Jackson to reinforce Lee at Richmond, allowing the war to drag on three more years.

Articles

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever

In the ultimate irony of Cold War-era surveillance, one of America’s most effective spy planes — and literally the fastest plane ever built — could never have happened without the help of its intended target, the Soviet Union.


Turns out the Americans bought the metal it needed to help the SR-71 Blackbird withstand the temperatures of supersonic travel from its longtime rival Russia. These are just a few of the fun facts the Smithsonian revealed in a recent video on the plane.

The documentary features a tour of the SR-71 at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Former Blackbird pilot Buz Carpenter joins the tour, giving the lowdown on what kept the stealthy plane up in the air. Carpenter flew the SR-71 hundreds of times during its time in service, and he even flew the airplane that now resides at the Smithsonian.

The SR-71 had three nose options: A training nose, a radar nose, and a camera nose capable of taking a 72-mile wide photo. The film in that camera was 5 inches wide and 2 miles long. It had to be processed in 500-foot rolls.

The radar nose wasn’t required for navigation. The SR-71 had a pod that read the location of the stars in the sky and, as long as you gave the plane its initial position on the planet, the plane would know where it was anywhere in the world. This was 12 years before the global positioning system was first imagined by the U.S. military.

While the radar nose could assist with avoiding enemy ground fire, the Blackbird’s jamming and missile countermeasures usually meant — not to mention its 2,200 miles-per-hour speed — enemy surface-to-air missiles missed by a mile. Literally.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Photo: US Air Force

That top speed meant the average temperature of the plane’s skin was upwards of 600 degrees. At that temperature, it couldn’t be built with aluminum, so it had to be built with 93 percent titanium – and that titanium came from Russia.

The Russians never knew to whom they were selling the titanium, but they sold enough to build 32 SR-71 Blackbirds — planes used primarily to spy on the Soviet Union. The windows were made of quartz and the plane was built with intentional gaps in the wings and fuselage to account for heat expansion during flight. The airplane grows about 2 inches in width and 4 inches in length because of the frictional heat. The hottest part of the plane could get to 1,200 degrees.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

The plane’s engines are unique to the Blackbird because no jet engine can absorb supersonic air. So they were specially designed to expand and contract with the airspeed. The extremely high airspeed gave the jet a unique sonic boom as it broke the sound barrier, and the Air Force routinely overflew foreign heads of state to remind them the U.S. could see them.

During the Vietnam War, President Richard Nixon ordered SR-71 pilots to fly over Hanoi and go supersonic to create a sonic boom as a signal to POWs held at the Hanoi Hilton. The booms let the downed pilots in the prison know that if they could escape, Navy SEALs were waiting on the North Vietnamese coast to help them.

Of the 12 Blackbirds rendered unserviceable (none were shot down), four of those came from tire failure. Engineers solved this by cutting the amount of fuel the plane carried during takeoff. A normal mission would see one or two in-flight refuelings. The plane had to refuel every two hours, either in air or on land.

MIGHTY HISTORY

‘Quiet professionals’: These are the legendary Vietnam War marksmen every Marine scout sniper trains to be

Marine Corps snipers struck fear in the hearts of their enemies in the jungles of Vietnam. The exploits of three sharpshooters, in particular, are legendary.

Charles “Chuck” Mawhinney, Eric England, and Carlos Hathcock had almost 300 confirmed kills combined and even more unconfirmed. They were masters of their craft, and their skills in battle, as well as their silent professionalism and humility, made these men examples for the Marine snipers that followed.

“The Marines who go forward and work to put 120% into it and let their accolades speak for themselves are the guys that we encourage [Marine snipers] to emulate,” Staff Sgt. Joshua Coulter, a Marine Corps Scout Sniper instructor, recently told Insider.

As skilled marksmen capable of putting precision fire down range at a distance, snipers excel at providing overwatch and gathering intelligence, eliminating enemy officers, and demoralizing opposing forces, among other things.

In many conflicts throughout US history, Marine Corps snipers have proven to be valuable assets on the battlefield. But when the fighting finished, the Corps time and time again failed to build the kind of lasting programs needed to preserve the skills. That finally changed with the Vietnam War.

“Vietnam was the foundation for our modern program,” Coulter said. He explained that the remarkable capabilities demonstrated by Marines like Mawhinney, England, and Hathcock during the conflict highlighted the value of  snipers in a very visible way.

“The only reason there is still a sniper program today is the guys who came before us, the quiet professionals who worked their assess off, went down range, and came home,” Coulter said.

They didn’t try to tack their names into the legends of the Corps, but by giving it their all, these snipers left their mark on history.

Gunnery Sgt. Carlos N. Hathcock:

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Carlos Hathcock 

In Vietnam, Hathcock had 93 confirmed enemy kills and several hundred unconfirmed. He also set the record for the longest combat kill shot in 1967 at 2,500 yards — a distance of about 1.4 miles. The record held until the early 2000s.

The Arkansas native deployed to Vietnam in 1966 as a military policeman, but because he had previously distinguished himself as a marksman, Hathcock was recruited by Edward James Land, another talented Marine sharpshooter who had been tasked with building a sniper program from scratch to counter the enemy’s irregular warfare tactics.

As a sniper, Hathcock inflicted such tremendous pain on enemy forces that the North Vietnamese army placed a $30,000 bounty on his head, putting him in the crosshairs of elite enemy snipers.

One of his most memorable battles in Vietnam was with a notorious sniper nicknamed “Cobra” who was sent to kill him. The enemy sharpshooter had been purposefully killing Marines near Hathcock’s base of operations to draw him out. It worked, but not the way Cobra had intended.

As the two expert snipers stalked one another, Cobra made a mistake. He moved into a position facing the sun, causing his scope to reflect the light and give away his position. Hathcock fired, shooting clean through the enemy’s scope and killing him.

The nature of the shot suggested that had Hathcock not seen the glare or been faster than Cobra on the trigger, his enemy would have shot him instead.

Among Hathcock’s famous kills was also a woman nicknamed “Apache” who tortured captured Marines and a North Vietnamese general. He pulled off the latter on a secret one-man mission deep into enemy territory.

For many years, Hathcock was believed to have the most confirmed kills of any Marine Corps sniper. That never mattered to him though, according to Charles Henderson’s book, “Marine Sniper: 93 Confirmed Kills.”

“You can take those numbers and give ’em to someone who gives a damn about ’em,” Hathcock is said to have told a fellow Marine during a discussion about his kills.

“I like shooting, and I love hunting. But I never did enjoy killing anybody,” he said. “It’s my job. If I don’t get those bastards, then they’re gonna kill a lot of these kids dressed up like Marines. That’s the way I look at it.”

Hathcock left Vietnam in 1969 after suffering severe burns while rescuing Marines from a fiery vehicle that struck a mine.

Although his injuries prevented him from serving as he once had, he remained active in the sniper community, providing instruction even as his health failed later in life.

Hathcock died in 1999 after a long and painful battle with multiple sclerosis, but his memory lives on. Though he does not actually hold the record for the most confirmed kills as previously thought, Hathcock is widely regarded as one of the finest snipers in the history of the Corps.

Master Sgt. Eric R. England:

England is one of two Marine Corps snipers who had more confirmed kills than Hathcock during the Vietnam War, though not a lot is known about his service.

Before the war, he had proven himself to be an excellent marksman in shooting competitions. Once in Vietnam as a sniper with the 3rd Marine Division, he continued to excel. In a period of just seven months before he had to be medically evacuated, he had 98 confirmed kills, with possibly hundreds more unconfirmed.

The Georgia native never really talked about his service or his kills, according to a 2011 report from the Union County Historical Society. His record, as was the case with Hathcock, was relayed by Marine Corps officers familiar with his accomplishments on the field of battle.

England opened up a little about his experiences during an interview with the Marine Corps in 2017, just one year before he died.

“About Vietnam, well, like all wars, it ain’t no good feeling, especially some of the jobs you have,” England said, explaining that shooting at human beings in war is different from shooting at targets in competition, though snipers can’t focus on that.

“When you go to get that one shot off, you have to put yourself in another world,” he said. “You try to put yourself in a little bubble. You cut the world out, and you just concentrate on those things you got to do to get a good shot off because if you don’t, you could be dead.”

He told the Marine Corps that he did not not brag about his kills because he was not seeking glory. He did, however, say that he considered himself better than the average Marine because a good shot makes a better Marine and he could shoot better than most.

Despite his legendary status, England is not very well known outside the US military sniper community, but Hathcock once said that “Eric is a great man, a great shooter, and a great Marine.”

Sgt. Charles “Chuck” B. Mawhinney:

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Charles Mawhinney 

Mawhinney spent almost a year and a half in Vietnam, but when he returned home to Oregon in 1969, he kept the details of his service a secret. No one outside a small circle of Marines he served with knew the truth: he was the deadliest sniper in Marine Corps history.

Mawhinney’s story went untold for two decades, but in 1991, friend and former Marine sniper Joseph Ward published a book that credited Mawhinney with 101 confirmed kills, a new record.

Ward’s book triggered an investigation into Marine Corps records, and it was found that the number he reported was incorrect. It turns out that Mawhinney actually had 103 confirmed kills. He also had another 216 “probable” kills.

With the release of Ward’s “Dear Mom: A Sniper’s Vietnam” and the end of Mawhinney’s quiet life of anonymity, this outstanding sharpshooter came out of the shadows and shared parts of his story publicly.

In one particularly intense engagement, Mawhinney put 16 bullets in 16 enemy troops in just thirty seconds, and he did it in the dark.

“I got 16 rounds off that night as fast as I could fire the weapon,” Mawhinney said in an interview for a documentary on Marine scout snipers. “Every one of them were headshots, dead center. I could see the bodies floating down the river.”

Vietnam, as it was for many, was hell for Mawhinney, but he extended his tour of duty because he knew he had the abilities to keep his fellow Marines alive.

One of the things that haunted Mawhinney after Vietnam was an enemy soldier that got away after an armorer had made adjustments to his rifle. He fired off multiple shots. All of them missed.

“It’s one of the few things that bother me about Vietnam,” he previously told The Los Angeles Times. “I can’t help thinking about how many people that he may have killed later, how many of my friends, how many Marines.”

Mawhinney left Vietnam after being diagnosed with combat fatigue. He is still alive, and his M40 rifle is on display in the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

The only US military sniper with more confirmed kills than Mawhinney in Vietnam was Army sharpshooter Adelbert Waldron with 109 confirmed kills.

Examples for modern Marine snipers

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
31st MEU Scout Snipers during a live-fire exercise 

There is a lot that modern-day Marine scout snipers can learn from legends like Mawhinney, England, and Hathcock. For Staff Sgt. Coulter, who instructs future Marine snipers, what stood out as most impressive was their attention to detail down to the smallest level.

“Their attention to detail was unparalleled,” he said.

“Those guys back in the day were handloading their own rounds,” Coulter continued. “They went to great depths to understand the equipment they used, the ammo they used, the effects of their environment.”

“They understood you are naturally at a disadvantage walking into someone’s backyard,” he said, explaining that they thought carefully about how they camouflaged themselves, the routes they took, the positions they held, and so on.

“They went into such nitty-gritty detail, and that was kind of the definition of success for them,” he told Insider.

As part of their training, Marine Corps scout snipers are required to take time to study their history and the outstanding snipers who came before them. It’s a reminder, Coulter explained, that “the only thing that kept our program alive was performance.”

During the Vietnam War, snipers proved their worth. It is said that for every enemy killed, the average infantryman expended 50,000 bullets. For snipers, with their “one shot, one kill” approach, it was an average of 1.3 rounds per kill.

And snipers continue to make a difference today.

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

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This Marine Was The ‘American Sniper’ Of The Vietnam War

Long before Chris Kyle penned “American Sniper,” Carlos Hathcock was already a legend.


He taught himself to shoot as a boy, just like Alvin York and Audie Murphy before him. He had dreamed of being a U.S. Marine his whole life and enlisted in 1959 at just 17 years old. Hathcock was an excellent sharpshooter by then, winning the Wimbledon Cup shooting championship in 1965, the year before he would deploy to Vietnam and change the face of American warfare forever.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Hathcock in competition (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Also Read: The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up

He deployed in 1966 as a military policeman, but immediately volunteered for combat and was soon transferred to the 1st Marine Division Sniper Platoon, stationed at Hill 55, South of Da Nang. This is where Hathcock would earn the nickname “White Feather” — because he always wore a white feather on his bush hat, daring the North Vietnamese to spot him — and where he would achieve his status as the Vietnam War’s deadliest sniper in missions that sound like they were pulled from the pages of Marvel comics.

White Feather vs. The General

Early morning and early evening were Hathcock’s favorite times to strike. This was important when he volunteered for a mission he knew nothing about.

“First light and last light are the best times,” he said. ” In the morning, they’re going out after a good nights rest, smoking, laughing. When they come back in the evenings, they’re tired, lollygagging, not paying attention to detail.”

He observed this first hand, at arms reach, when trying to dispatch a North Vietnamese Army General officer. For four days and three nights, he low crawled inch by inch, a move he called “worming,” without food or sleep, more than 1500 yards to get close to the general. This was the only time he ever removed the feather from his cap.

“Over a time period like that you could forget the strategy, forget the rules and end up dead,” he said. “I didn’t want anyone dead, so I took the mission myself, figuring I was better than the rest of them, because I was training them.”

Hathcock moved to a treeline near the NVA encampment.

“There were two twin .51s next to me,” he said. “I started worming on my side to keep my slug trail thin. I could have tripped the patrols that came by.” The general stepped out onto a porch and yawned. The general’s aide stepped in front of him and by the time he moved away, the general was down, the bullet went through his heart. Hathcock was 700 yards away.

“I had to get away. When I made the shot, everyone ran to the treeline because that’s where the cover was.” The soldiers searched for the sniper for three days as he made his way back. They never even saw him.

“Carlos became part of the environment,” said Edward Land, Hathcock’s commanding officer. “He totally integrated himself into the environment. He had the patience, drive, and courage to do the job. He felt very strongly that he was saving Marine lives.” With 93 confirmed kills – his longest was at 2500 yards – and an estimated 300 more, for Hathcock, it really wasn’t about the killing.

“I really didn’t like the killing,” he once told a reporter. “You’d have to be crazy to enjoy running around the woods, killing people. But if I didn’t get the enemy, they were going to kill the kids over there.” Saving American lives is something Hathcock took to heart.

“The Best Shot I Ever Made”

“She was a bad woman,” Carlos Hathcock once said of the woman known as ‘Apache.’ “Normally kill squads would just kill a Marine and take his shoes or whatever, but the Apache was very sadistic. She would do anything to cause pain.” This was the trademark of the female Viet Cong platoon leader. She captured Americans in the area around Carlos Hathcock’s unit and then tortured them without mercy.

“I was in her backyard, she was in mine. I didn’t like that,” Hathcock said. “It was personal, very personal. She’d been torturing Marines before I got there.”

In November of 1966, she captured a Marine Private and tortured him within earshot of his own unit.

“She tortured him all afternoon, half the next day,” Hathcock recalls. “I was by the wire… He walked out, died right by the wire. “Apache skinned the private, cut off his eyelids, removed his fingernails, and then castrated him before letting him go. Hathcock attempted to save him, but he was too late.

Carlos Hathcock had enough. He set out to kill Apache before she could kill any more Marines. One day, he and his spotter got a chance. The observed an NVA sniper platoon on the move. At 700 yards in, one of them stepped off the trail and Hathcock took what he calls the best shot he ever made.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

“We were in the midst of switching rifles. We saw them,” he remembered. “I saw a group coming, five of them. I saw her squat to pee, that’s how I knew it was her. They tried to get her to stop, but she didn’t stop. I stopped her. I put one extra in her for good measure.”

A Five-Day Engagement

One day during a forward observation mission, Hathcock and his spotter encountered a newly minted company of NVA troops. They had new uniforms, but no support and no communications.

“They had the bad luck of coming up against us,” he said. “They came right up the middle of the rice paddy. I dumped the officer in front my observer dumped the one in the back.” The last officer started running the opposite direction.

“Running across a rice paddy is not conducive to good health,” Hathcock remarked. “You don’t run across rice paddies very fast.”

According to Hathcock, once a Sniper fires three shots, he leaves. With no leaders left, after three shots, the opposing platoon wasn’t moving.

“So there was no reason for us to go either,” said the sniper. “No one in charge, a bunch of Ho Chi Minh’s finest young go-getters, nothing but a bunch of hamburgers out there.” Hathcock called artillery at all times through the coming night, with flares going on the whole time. When morning came, the NVA were still there.

“We didn’t withdraw, we just moved,” Hathcock recalled. “They attacked where we were the day before. That didn’t get far either.”

White Feather and The M2

Though the practice had been in use since the Korean War, Carlos Hathcock made the use of the M2 .50 caliber machine gun as a long-range sniper weapon a normal practice. He designed a rifle mount, built by Navy Seabees, which allowed him to easily convert the weapon.

“I was sent to see if that would work,” He recalled. “We were elevated on a mountain with bad guys all over. I was there three days, observing. On the third day, I zeroed at 1000 yards, longest 2500. Here comes the hamburger, came right across the spot where it was zeroed, he bent over to brush his teeth and I let it fly. If he hadn’t stood up, it would have gone over his head. But it didn’t.” The distance of that shot was 2,460 yards – almost a mile and a half – and it stood as a record until broken in 2002 by Canadian sniper Arron Perry in Afghanistan.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

White Feather vs. The Cobra

“If I hadn’t gotten him just then,” Hathcock remembers, “he would have gotten me.”

Many American snipers had a bounty on their heads. These were usually worth one or two thousand dollars. The reward for the sniper with the white feather in his bush cap, however, was worth $30,000. Like a sequel to Enemy at The Gates, Hathcock became such a thorn in the side of the NVA that they eventually sent their own best sniper to kill him. He was known as the Cobra and would become Hathcock’s most famous encounter in the course of the war.

“He was doing bad things,” Hathcock said. “He was sent to get me, which I didn’t really appreciate. He killed a gunny outside my hooch. I watched him die. I vowed I would get him some way or another.” That was the plan. The Cobra would kill many Marines around Hill 55 in an attempt to draw Hathcock out of his base.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

“I got my partner, we went out we trailed him. He was very cagey, very smart. He was close to being as good as I was… But no way, ain’t no way ain’t nobody that good.” In an interview filmed in the 1990s, He discussed how close he and his partner came to being a victim of the Cobra.

“I fell over a rotted tree. I made a mistake and he made a shot. He hit my partner’s canteen. We thought he’d been hit because we felt the warmness running over his leg. But he’d just shot his canteen dead.”

Eventually the team of Hathcock and his partner, John Burke, and the Cobra had switched places.

“We worked around to where he was,” Hathcock said. “I took his old spot, he took my old spot, which was bad news for him because he was facing the sun and glinted off the lens of his scope, I saw the glint and shot the glint.” White Feather had shot the Cobra just moments before the Cobra would have taken his own shot.

“I was just quicker on the trigger otherwise he would have killed me,” Hathcock said. “I shot right straight through his scope, didn’t touch the sides.”

With a wry smile, he added: “And it didn’t do his eyesight no good either.”

1969, a vehicle Hathcock was riding in struck a landmine and knocked the Marine unconscious. He came to and pulled seven of his fellow Marines from the burning wreckage. He left Vietnam with burns over 40 percent of his body. He received the Silver Star for this action in 1996.

After the mine ended his sniping career, he established the Marine Sniper School at Quantico, teaching Marines how to “get into the bubble,” a state of complete concentration. He was in intense pain as he taught at Quantico, suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, the disease that would ultimately kill him — something the NVA could never accomplish.

Articles

The most spectacular Russian military failures of all time

There are some projects that the Kremlin would love us to forget.


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Photo: Youtube

The Russian military has long been a bogeyman for the West, with Cold War memories lingering even after the fall of the Soviet Union.

However, over the years Russia’s fierce competition has produced a number of duds alongside its successes, as the country has scrambled to stay one step ahead of its geopolitical rivals.

The following is a collection of some of the most ambitious military projects that resulted in spectacular failures.

The Tsar tank has achieved almost mythical status since the unusual vehicle was first tested in 1914. Due to weight miscalculations, its tricycle design often resulted in its back wheel getting stuck and its lack of armor left its operators exposed to artillery fire.

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Photo: Wiki Commons

But it wasn’t Russia’s only tank failure. The Soviet Union’s T-80 was the first production tank to be equipped with a gas turbine engine when it was introduced in 1976.

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Photo: Wiki Commons

However, when it was used during the First Chechen War it was discovered that when the tanks got hit on their side armor, its unused ammunition exploded. The performance was so poor that the Ministry of Defense cancelled all orders for the tanks.

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Photo: Wiki Commons

The Raduga Kh-22 air-to-surface missile was designed as a long-range anti-ship missile to counter the threat of US aircraft carriers and warship battle groups.

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Photo: Wiki Commons

What it wasn’t designed to do was hit friendly territory, but that’s exactly what happened in 2002 when one of the rockets misfired during Russian military exercises and struck the Atyrau region of western Kazakhstan to the great embarrassment of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov (pictured below).

Sergei Ivanov Photo: Wiki Commons

The Mikoyan Project 1.44 (MiG 1.44) was the Soviet Union’s answer to the US’s development of its fifth-generation Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) in the 1980s.

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Photo: Wiki Commons

Thirty years later and the status of the MiG 1.44 remains something of a mystery after it performed its first and only flight in February, 2000. The only known prototype was put in long-term storage in the hangar of Gromov Flight Research Institute in 2013.

Russia’s flagship, the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, is the only aircraft carrier of its type to enter service after its sister ship was scrapped due to the fall of the Soviet Union.

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Photo: Wiki Commons

Unfortunately, it has been beset with problems over the years. Due to problems with its powerplant, tugs used to have to accompany the ship whenever it is deployed to tow it back to port. In 2009, a short circuit aboard the vessel caused a fire that killed one crew member, before an attempt to refuel the vessel at sea a month later caused a large oil spill off the coast of Ireland.

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Photo: Wiki Commons

On February 17, 2004, President Vladimir Putin boarded the Arkhangelsk, an Akula-class submarine, to watch the test launch of a newly developed ballistic missile.

Unfortunately, the R-29RMU Sineva missiles failed to launch from the nuclear submarines Novomoskovsk and Karelia because of unspecified technical problems leaving a lot of red faces all around. Putin subsequently ordered his defense minister to conduct an urgent review of the program.

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Photo: Wiki Commons

In 2013, shocked sunbathers on Russia’s Baltic coast were confronted with a giant military hovercraft bearing down on them. A spokesperson from Russia’s navy said the beach was supposed to have been cleared for the exercise.

The satellites of Russia’s “Tundra” program, designed to be early-warning system capable of tracking tactical as well as ballistic missiles, were first scheduled for launch in 2013.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Photo: Wiki Commons

Yet due to technical problems the launch has suffered a series of delays forcing the country to rely on its outdated existing satellites. In February two satellites, which were operational for only a few hours each day, finally went offline leaving Russia unable to detect missiles from space.

The T-14 Armata tank was billed as the “world’s first post-war, third-generation tank.” So you can imagine the disappointment when the new, high-tech piece of military hardware broke down during May’s rehearsal for the Victory Day parade in Moscow and had to be towed with ropes by another vehicle.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Photo: Wiki Commons

Articles

12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades

The Air Force is recommending upgrading the awards of a dozen airmen to the Medal of Honor or the Air Force Cross, the service announced Friday.


The upgrades to the service’s two highest valor medals stem from review boards that met in May, according to Brooke Brzozowske, a spokeswoman for the Air Force.

Also read: This airman saved 23 wounded troops during an insider attack

“The boards were charged with reviewing [Global War on Terrorism] Air Force Cross and Silver Star nominations for possible upgrade,” she said in an email. “Specifically, [the] Air Force Cross Review Board reviewed all Air Force Cross nominations [and] Silver Star Review Board reviewed all Silver Star nominations.”

The recommendations have been forwarded to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James for further action.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Veronica Salgado

Another service spokesman, Maj. Bryan Lewis, said he couldn’t disclose how many of the recommendations were upgraded from Silver Star to Air Force Cross and from Air Force Cross to Medal of Honor — the highest military award for combat action.

The service’s review was part of the Defense Department’s push to audit more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine if they warrant a higher award such as the Medal of Honor, officials announced last year.

The Air Force review of awards continues and is expected to be completed this spring, Lewis told Military.com in December. “We are reviewing 147 cases, which consists of 135 Silver Stars and 12 Air Force Crosses,” he said at the time.

The Air Force is also continuing to review additional cases in which airmen were recommended for but didn’t ultimately receive a Silver Star, he said. It wasn’t immediately clear how many airmen may be upgraded to the third-highest valor award.

Simultaneously, the Army is reviewing 785 Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross awards; and the Navy, including the Marine Corps, is looking at 425 Navy Cross and Silver Star medals.

In 2014, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of all decorations and awards programs “to ensure that after 13 years of combat the awards system appropriately recognizes the service, sacrifices and action of our service members,” officials told USA Today at the time.

Military.com this week asked the service if James would announce additional upgrades after Marine Corps officials revealed on Wednesday that her counterpart, outgoing Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, would present four Marines and a sailor with upgraded awards for their service.

Mabus will present the upgraded awards in a ceremony aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, on Friday.

However, it’s unclear if James will coordinate a medals ceremony in the next few days. The secretary, who had her formal farewell ceremony on Wednesday, is expected to leave the Pentagon next week.

RELATED: Airman to Get Silver Star for Leading River Evacuation Under Fire

Most recently — but separate from the Air Force review — Airman First Class Benjamin Hutchins, a tactical air control party airman supporting the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, was approved for the Silver Star in April. Hutchins received his award Nov. 4 during a ceremony at the 18th Air Support Operations Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The Air Force previously said Hutchins had been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal with Valor. However, the service later clarified Hutchins had instead been submitted for two Bronze Star Medals for his actions, which instead were combined into one Silver Star award.

Articles

Navy grounds T-45 Goshawk fleet after pilot protests

The navy has instituted an “operational pause” for the entire fleet of one of it’s most important training jets due to problems with its environmental control systems feeding air to pilots.


The Navy announced the grounding April 5, saying it was “in response to concerns raised by T-45C pilots over the potential for physiological episodes.”

Multiple sources tell We Are The Mighty that the grounding was prompted by protests by Navy instructor pilots who were concerned over the effects of the malfunctioning oxygen system in the Goshawk. One source tells WATM that more than 100 instructors “I am safed” themselves — essentially telling the Navy they felt unsafe to fly — en masse at three air bases to force the service into coming up with a solution.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Student pilots prepare to exit a T-45C Goshawk assigned to Carrier Training Wing (CTW) 2 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zach Sleeper)

According to the Navy statement, on March 31, 94 flights were cancelled between Naval Air Stations Kingsville, Meridian and Pensacola due to operational risk management concerns raised by T-45C instructor pilots. Their concerns are over recent physiological episodes experienced in the cockpit that were caused by contamination of the aircraft’s Onboard Oxygen Generation System. Chief of Naval Air Training immediately requested the engineering experts at NAVAIR conduct in-person briefs with the pilots.

The briefs were conducted in Kingsville Monday, then Meridian and Pensacola April 4, the Navy said.

The T-45C Goshawk is a two-seat, single-engine, carrier-capable jet trainer aircraft used by the Navy and Marine Corps for intermediate and advanced jet training. The T-45 is a derivative of the British Aerospace Hawk and has been in service since 1991. The Navy currently has 197 T-45s in its inventory.

“This issue is my number one safety priority and our team of NAVAIR program managers, engineers and maintenance experts in conjunction with Type Commanders, medical and physiological experts continue to be immersed in this effort working with a sense of urgency to determine all the root causes of [physiological episodes] along multiple lines of effort,” said Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, Commander, Naval Air Forces.

The Navy says it expects to resume flight operations for the Goshawks April 10.

Articles

General George S. Patton has some life advice for you

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of


Few generals have had the lasting impact that Gen. George S. Patton has had.

Patton, who commanded the US’s 7th Army in Europe and the Mediterranean during World War II, is perhaps just as well known for his amazing insight into what makes for excellent and successful leadership.

Showcasing Patton’s most memorable and poignant quotes is author Charles M. Province in “Patton’s One-Minute Messages.”

Here’s a few of our favorites quotes from America’s “Ol’ Blood and Guts.”

“Do everything you ask of those you command.”

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Sgt. Maj. Scott T. Pile speaks to 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit Marines and sailors embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island parked pierside at Naval Base San Diego Aug. 9. | US Marine Corps

“No good decision was ever made in a swivel chair.”

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
US Marine Corps

“Any man who thinks he’s indispensable, ain’t.”

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
US Army Photo

“As long as man exists, there will be war.”

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
US Marine Corps

“Do more than is required of you.”

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
The Aviationist

“Take calculated risks.”

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
US Marine Corps

“Do not make excuses, whether it’s your fault or not.”

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Drill Instructor Sgt. Jonathan B. Reeves inspects and disciplines recruits with Platoon 1085, Charlie Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. | US Marine Corps

“Fame never yet found a man who waited to be found.”

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US Air Force

“A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood.”

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
US Army

“You’re never beaten until you admit it.”

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Sgt. William Wickett, 2nd Radio Battalion, performs a rescue drill during the Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival Course at Marine Corps Base Camp Johnson, N.C., March 5, 2013. | US Marine Corps

“It’s the unconquerable soul of man, and not the nature of the weapon he uses, that ensures victory.”

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
US Marines

“Genius comes from the ability to pay attention to the smallest detail.”

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
US Marine Corps

“Do your duty as you see it and damn the consequences.”

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
A US Marine with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Battalion Landing Team, Alpha Company 1/4, throws a training grenade during a live fire and movement grenade training exercise at Arta Range, Djibouti, Feb. 18, 2014. | US Marine Corps

“It’s better to fight for something in life than to die for nothing.”

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US Marine Corps

“Success is how you bounce on the bottom.”

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
US Marines and Sailors competed in the 2015 Commanding General’s Cup Mud Run at Camp Pendleton, California, June 12, 2015. | US Marine Corps

“Know what you know, and know what you don’t know.”

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US Navy

“Never make a decision too early or too late.”

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
US Marine Corps

“No one is thinking if everyone is thinking alike.”

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
US Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Farris, an Artillery Cannoneer assigned to 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, Alpha Battery, carries a round back to his gun to resupply before a fire mission aboard Pohakuloa Training Are, Hawaii, Sept. 5, 2014. | US Marine Corps

“Do not fear failure.”

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Drew Tech

(h/t Patton’s One Minute Messages)

Articles

The last soldier killed in WWI died one minute before the war ended

Sergeant Henry Gunther was actually a private the day he charged a German machine gun nest for the last time in World War I. He had just been busted down in rank for criticizing the war in a letter he wrote home, and he wasn’t happy about it.


Luckily for millions of other soldiers and civilians in Europe, everyone knew the Armistice would come into effect on the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

This is why so many question why Sgt. Gunter charged a German machine gun nest at 10:59 that same day.

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A memorial to Gunther built on Nov. 11, 2010 at his gravesite in Baltimore.

Gunther and his unit came across a German position north of Verdun on Nov. 11, 1918. As they took cover from the machine guns, they received word that the war would be over in less than an hour.

That’s when Sgt. Gunther charged the position with a fixed bayonet.

The Germans fired a number of warning shots and tried to yell at Gunther – in English – to stop.

But Gunter wasn’t the only troop to die in that last hour of World War I. Some 3,000 men died in that short time. Some historians even speculate that Gunther was ordered to charge the machine guns.

Even though so many others died around the same time, the commander of the American Expeditionary Force General John J. Pershing declared that Gunther would be known as the last man killed in action in the war.

Sergeant Henry Gunther was engaged before the war started and just secured a job as a bookkeeper in the Baltimore area before he was drafted in 1917.

After his death was recorded at 10:59, his fellow troops moved his body and buried him near where his company was posted. His remains were moved to the United States in 1923.

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A man in WWI-era French uniform stands beside a memorial stone at the spot where Henry Gunther fell on Nov. 11, 1918. The stone was unveiled by the French government as part of a 90th anniversary event in 2008. (Photo by American War Memorials Overseas)

On Veteran’s Day 2008, a memorial was constructed on the site where he was killed in Chaumont-devant-Damvillers, France.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield

There’s a long list of interesting technologies that almost made their way onto the front lines during the brutal days of World War I.


In trench warfare, as troops set into position to attempt a shot, they often became the enemy’s target. They needed some way to protect themselves.

To this end, Gen. Sir Sam Hughes, the Canadian Minister of Militia and Defense during the war, engineered a device that looked just like an infantryman’s shovel, but slightly modified — with a hole. This unique invention was intended to act as a shield for allied forces and was dubbed the “MacAdam shovel,” named after Hughes’ secretary, Ena MacAdam, who sparked the idea. The E-tool was made of durable metal and was standard-issue, making this shield a potential lifesaver across the service.

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A sniper demonstrates using the MacAdam shovel.

In 1914, thousands of MacAdam shovels were produced for the Canadian army. However, the invention came with a few drawbacks.

First, the new shovels were made using a new, bullet-deflecting steel, making it much heavier than previous E-tools. Additionally, it didn’t have a carrying handle — as it was supposed to stick in the ground — making it more cumbersome for troops.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
A drawing of MacAdam shovel from Hughes’ patent design request.

Secondly, the shield shovel was mass produced to deflect incoming enemy rounds — but failed to do just that. Small caliber rounds managed to drill right through.

Lastly, and most obviously, the E-tool was used for digging, which is hard to do with a hole in your shovel. After testing the shield, many military minds refused to accept the shovel as a multi-use tool.

Hughes and MacAdams’ brainchild was, ultimately, scrapped. Bummer.

Check out Simple History‘s video below for more details on this odd shield that couldn’t protect much.

MIGHTY HISTORY

100 years after a grisly murder, rare photos of the last Russian Tsar emerge

After Tsar Nicholas II and his family were executed by Bolshevik revolutionaries early on the morning of July 17, 1918, a collection of the royal family’s personal photographs was smuggled out of Russia. The albums offer a haunting glimpse into the life of a family destined for tragedy.


Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

28. Tsar Nicholas II and his son Aleksei sawing wood while in captivity. They were killed a few months later. The diary of a senior Soviet leader recalls that Vladimir Lenin made the decision to have the Romanovs executed, after concluding “we shouldn’t leave the [anti-Bolshevik forces] a living emblem to rally around, especially under the present difficult circumstances.”

(All photos courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.)

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

Don’t panic (yet) about the post-Brexit British military

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The ballistic missile submarine HMS ‘Vanguard’ alongside the ‘Type 45’ destroyer HMS ‘Dragon’ in 2010. Royal Navy photo


It’s not every day one of Europe’s largest economies votes to pull itself out of the European Union, the British prime minister announces his resignation and serious questions erupt regarding the future of the Western political order.

But fortunately for NATO and the British military, it’s not time to panic … yet. The military implications of Brexit will not set in overnight, and Britain has a backup plan.

However, there could be profound consequences for the alliance and the British military over the long term — some of them negative.

For one, NATO is responsible for Europe’s collective defense, not the European Union. The United Kingdom will remain one of Europe’s largest economies and will continue to wield outsized global influence due to its permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

Nor does leaving preclude Britain from participating in the E.U.’s military missions, such as chasing pirates off the Horn of Africa.

The British economy has tanked, but Britain will survive. The actual process of withdrawing from the European Union is also exacerbated by the entangling of European and British case law, which will take years to sort out.

Parliament must ratify the referendum for it go into force — and what remains of the British-European relationship years from now is a mystery. But there’s no doubt that Brexit (if it happens) could have major consequences for British foreign and military policy.

A June briefing paper from the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based defense and security research organization, described a a possible withdrawal from the European Union as “significant a shift in national strategy as the country’s decision in the late 1960s to withdraw from bases East of Suez.”

That’s a big, sweeping and once-in-a-generation shift.

It was evident at the time. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the United Kingdom withdrew its military from East Asia and the Middle East to focus on countering the Soviet army in Europe. This period coincided with the Troubles in Northern Ireland, where British Army troops deployed beginning in 1969.

Britain joined the European Union’s predecessor organization in 1973. In short, Britain’s growing military ties with Europe were inexorably bound with growing economic and political ties.

Those ties shaped the British military.

The Royal Air Force scrapped its long-range Avro Vulcan strike bomber, which wasn’t needed to defend the homeland from a Soviet invasion. Britain put off building new aircraft carriers, but developed Trafalgar-class attack submarines to hunt Russian subs in the North Atlantic.

Britain’s Tornado fighter jets are also a product of the 1970s, built by a German-Italian-British consortium and designed specifically to fight Soviet forces in Europe.

The Falklands War served as a brief interlude in 1982. But beginning in the 1990s, Britain would shift to a more internationalist posture, fighting wars in Iraq and later Afghanistan, where Britain still keeps 450 troops in an advisory role.

Today, British warplanes and advisers are involved in the war with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The U.K. military is increasingly involved in Africa.

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A Royal Air Force Typhoon in 2012. Peter Gronemann/Flickr photo

In short, the British military is less focused on Europe, and is more globalist, than it was during the Cold War.

So in an irony for Brexit’s most isolationist supporters, one possibility is that a post-E.U. Britain might increase its role in NATO to make up for its declining influence in European capitals. Especially now that European governments worry about Russia’s military build-up.

“The U.K. might find that the extent of its commitment to European defense would be one of its few bargaining chips as it entered a period of tough negotiations on the terms of its future economic engagement with its E.U. neighbors,” Malcom Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute wrote.

The outcomes of the 2016 NATO summit in Warsaw in July are likely to further constrain the U.K.’s room for maneuver, committing the U.K. to invest in deployments and capabilities whose main role will be to contribute to deterrence of Russia. New crises in Europe and its neighborhood (for example in the Balkans or Africa) could also increase immediate demands on U.K. capabilities, especially in cases where the U.S. makes it clear that it expects Europe to take the lead.
In these circumstances, as Europe’s most capable military power, the U.K. could not easily stand aside from the European consensus without significant risk to its reputation as a reliable NATO partner.
Nor can a resurgence of security concerns closer to home be ruled out.