The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

By December 1944, Allied armies had reached the western border of Germany itself. The US Army’s 99th Infantry Division, recently arrived in Europe and untested in combat, was assigned to the northern “shoulder” of the Allied front line in the Ardennes Forest.


The three regiments of the 99th ID—the 393rd, 394th, & 395th Infantry Regiments—were thinly spread across this frigid but quiet portion of the front. A few miles to the east lay the Siegfried Line, the enemy’s final defensive line guarding the German heartland.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

99th Infantry Division soldiers putting up a winterized squad hut.

(Source: U.S. Army)

The 3rd Battalion of the 395th Infantry Regiment (3/395), commanded by Lieutenant Colonel McClernand Butler, occupied the town of Höfen on the German border. Höfen, along with the nearby town of Monschau, was strategically vital because it sat on elevated terrain overlooking an important road junction.

Although 3/395 had only 600 men to defend a large area, they had been told that the German army, or Wehrmacht, was no longer capable of major offensive operations and that their winter in the Ardennes would be a quiet one.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

99th Infantry Division vehicles en route to the battle zone.

(Source: U.S Army)

Unknown to the Allies, the Germans were preparing a surprise counter-offensive through the Ardennes with the goal of splitting the Allied armies and recapturing the Belgian port city of Antwerp. The Germans planned to use massed infantry assaults to punch holes in the American lines, after which the feared German tanks, or panzers, would race through these gaps while the winter weather kept Allied planes grounded. Höfen-Monschau was vital to the operation’s success because the nearby road junctions would enable rapid movement of tanks.

This northern shoulder of the American line where the 99th ID was entrenched would be the hinge on which the German assault would pivot northwest toward Antwerp. The Germans were counting on something else, too—they knew that this sector was thinly manned by untested troops.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

German Panzer tanks en route to the Ardennes.

(Source: US Army)

In the pre-dawn hours of December 16th, Hitler’s final major offensive began. The ferocious assault caught the Allies off-guard and the rapid German advance famously caused a “bulge” on Allied maps.

The Germans were operating under a tight timetable, however, and the assault’s center of gravity—the 6th Panzer Army—had only one day to breach the 99th ID’s line. Any delay would jeopardize the plan to cross the Meuse River and advance on Antwerp before the skies cleared and the Allies regained their balance.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

German troops pass burning American equipment during the Ardennes offensive.

(Source: US Army)

The German pre-dawn artillery bombardment on December 16th destroyed 3/395’s communication wires at Höfen, but the stunned soldiers soon witnessed an even more ominous sight: enemy searchlights, reflecting off the dense clouds, illuminated the snowy open ground east of Höfen. Through this eerie artificial moonlight, the 326th Volksgrenadier Division advanced on 3/395’s position.

This, however, was the moment that Hitler’s master plan collided headfirst with American fortitude. 3/395 greeted the Volksgrenadiers with a punishing hail of bullets, mortars, and artillery. The Germans, moving across illuminated open ground without cover, fell by the hundreds against the murderous American fire. Some toppled directly into US foxholes as American troops engaged them at point-blank range. Those Germans who made it into the town itself were quickly mopped up. Höfen remained in American hands—for now.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

American troops from the 290th Regiment near Amonines, Belgium.

(Source: US Army)

Despite mauling the Germans on their first attempt to take Höfen, 3/395’s situation was grim. The battalion was badly outnumbered and nearly surrounded.

To make circumstances worse, just beyond the bloodied-but-not-beaten Volksgrenadiers waited the tanks of the 6th Panzer Army. It was not just the lives of 3/395 at stake; a German breakthrough here would have enabled the Sixth Panzer Army to outflank the 2nd ID and 99th ID and achieve a direct route to the Meuse River.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

Location of the 99th ID sector (red box) on a map of the “Bulge”.

(Source: US Army)

The Germans were not finished with Butler’s men, either. After failing to capture Monschau on the battle’s second day, the 326th Volksgrenadier Division turned its attention back to Höfen on December 18th. The Germans threw wave after wave of infantry, and a unit of panzers, at the town. The situation became so dire that Butler deliberately called in artillery on his unit’s own position to prevent them from being overrun—one of six times this would occur at Höfen.

When the Germans finally broke through 3/395’s lines and established a foothold in the town, the Americans recaptured the buildings by firing anti-tank guns through the walls. Later that night, another enemy assault was similarly unsuccessful. One Wehrmacht officer captured at Höfen asked his interrogators which unit had defended the town. When told it was 3/395, the prisoner replied, “It must be one of your best formations.”

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

Lieutenant Colonel McClernand Butler, commander of 3/395.

(Source: US Army)

The Germans would never take Höfen, nor most of their other ambitious objectives in the Ardennes, due in large part to the soldiers of 3/395 and the 99th ID as a whole. The failure to breach the 99th ID’s sector stalled the entire German advance and a decisive breakthrough was never achieved. 3/395, soon to be nicknamed “Butler’s Blue Battlin’ Bastards”, was one of the only US Army units that did not retreat in the opening days of the battle.

For their actions the battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation which read, in part: “outnumbered 5 to 1, [3/395] inflicted casualties in the ratio of 18 to 1. Despite fatigue, constant enemy shelling, and ever-increasing enemy pressure, [they] guarded a 6,000-yard front and destroyed 75 percent of three German infantry regiments.”

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

Captain Ned Nelson, veteran of 3/395 and the battle at Höfen.

(Source: author)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army reveals new insignia for Futures Command

The Army Futures Command now officially has a shoulder sleeve insignia and distinctive unit insignia that its soldiers will wear while they work toward modernizing the Army.

With a golden anvil as its main symbol, the shoulder patch and unit insignia are a nod to former Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s personal coat of arms that used a blue-colored anvil.

The command’s motto “Forge the Future” is also displayed below the anvil on the unit insignia, while both the patch and unit insignia have black and white stripes stretching outward from the anvil.


“Symbols mean things just like words do,” said Robert Mages, the command’s acting historian. “It’s a reminder to the soldiers that wear the patch of the mission that they’ve been assigned and of the responsibilities that come with that mission.”

Since last year, the four-star command has been at the heart of the most significant Army reorganization effort since 1973.

In July 2018, senior leaders picked Austin, Texas, for the AFC headquarters. Cross-Functional Teams were also stood up within the command to tackle the Army’s six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

Shoulder sleeve insignia for Army Futures Command. With a golden anvil as its main symbol, the shoulder patch and distinctive unit insignia are a nod to former Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s personal coat of arms that used a blue-colored anvil.

(Photo by John Martinez)

The patch and unit insignia represent the command’s most recent move toward full operational capability, which is expected in 2019.

Andrew Wilson, a heraldic artist at The Institute of Heraldry at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, worked with command leadership since December 2017 to finalize the designs.

“This is something that is supposed to stand the test of time and just to play a part in it, it’s an honor,” he said.

The main piece — the anvil — is meant to represent fortitude, determination and perseverance. The black, white, and gold resemble the colors of the U.S. Army.

Wilson said he got the idea for the anvil during a design meeting that mentioned the command’s new motto — Forge the Future.

Wilson, who once took a blacksmithing course in college, was immediately reminded of reshaping metals on an anvil.

“Taking away from the meeting, I tried to come up with something that would play off of that,” he said. “The first thing that popped in my head with ‘forge’ was blacksmithing and one of the key features of that is an anvil.”

Once he spoke of his idea, Charles Mugno, the institute’s director, then advised him to look at the anvil used in Eisenhower’s coat of arms.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

The coat of arms granted to Eisenhower upon his incorporation as a knight of the Order of the Elephant in 1950.

“And from there the spark of creativity just took off,” Wilson said.

The Institute of Heraldry was also involved in the organizational identity of the Security Forces Assistance Brigades, one of which just completed its first deployment to Afghanistan.

“Whenever you have a new Army unit, you do end up doing a heraldic package of shoulder sleeve insignia, distinctive unit insignia and organizational colors,” Mugno said.

Heraldic conventions, he added, is a time-honored process that dates back to the 12th century.

With a staff of about 20 personnel, the institute also helps create the identity of other federal government agencies. Most notably is the presidential seal and coat of arms.

“We have a very unique mission,” Mugno said. “We all share a sense of honor and purpose in being able to design national symbolism for the entire federal government.”

Until the new patch was created, soldiers in Army Futures Command wore a variety of patches on their sleeves. Those assigned to ARCIC, for instance, wore the Army Training and Doctrine Command patch and those in research laboratories had the Army Materiel Command patch.

Now, the golden anvil has forged them all together.

“It’s a symbol of unity — unity of effort, unity of command,” said Mages, the historian. “We no longer report to separate four-star commanders. We now report to one commander whose sole focus is the modernization of our Army.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the all-out US war plan for the entire Middle East

The days after the September 11th attacks were very different from the United States’ “business as usual” of post-Cold War days gone by. As the days stretched into weeks, the culture of the U.S. changed a little bit, and you could see it everywhere, from entertainment media to individuals across the country. The mood suddenly shifted.

For retired four-star general Wesley Clark, the mood shift was an entirely different level when he met old friends at the Pentagon.


The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

Clark was a Presidential candidate in 2004.

In a 2007 interview, Clark tells Democracy Now that life at the Pentagon was markedly different from the military world he knew after 34 years in the Army. The former NATO Supreme Allied Commander got a little insight from his old friends about how the United States was preparing to respond to the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

Some ten days after the attacks, Clark says he was in the Pentagon visiting friends at the Joint Chiefs of Staff when he was called into a former colleague’s office. Without divulging which colleague, Clark tells Democracy Now that the general told him they were preparing for a war with Iraq. This was just ten days after Sept. 11, 2001. Clark confirmed that there was no connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda, but the general was firm on the decision to invade.

“I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail,” Clark remembered the general saying.

Clark returned to the Pentagon a few weeks later. By this time, the United States was conducting bombing operations in Afghanistan. He poked his head into the same four-star colleague’s office and asked if the war was still on – it was. Not only was the war with Iraq still going on as planned, but the plan had since been expanded to also include other countries that were traditionally hostile to the efforts of the United States.

The general showed Clark a classified memo from then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that listed seven countries that were to be toppled by the U.S. military in the coming five years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran. In that order.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

Clark believes Iran needed the US to oust Saddam Hussein, something it could never do.

Clark believed that by that time, Iran already saw itself at war with the U.S., considering the calls for regime change and the ongoing proxy war in neighboring Iraq. In 2007, the United States military was implementing the famous “surge” strategy for defeating the insurgency in Iraq, a strategy that had not yet reaped benefits by the time of Clark’s interview. Clark was trying to stop the momentum for war with Iran.

Of course, the list of countries mentioned by Gen. Clark’s friend in the Pentagon have their own set of issues or were later beset with them. Libya and Syria fell victim to the Arab Spring five years later. The government of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya eventually fell, which led to his death. The government of Bashar al-Asad in Syria was rescued from collapse by Russian intervention in the country’s ongoing civil war. Lebanon was wrecked by an Israeli invasion in 2006. Sudan has since split into two countries as a result of civil strife, and Iraq would infamously suffer at the hands of ISIS after the U.S. withdrawal.

Articles

Vietnam War troops hated the M16 and called it a piece of garbage

Vietnam War troops hated the M16 and dubbed it the “Mattel 16” because it felt more like a toy than a battle rifle.


“We called it the Mattel 16 because it was made of plastic,” said Marine veteran Jim Wodecki in the video below. “At that time it was a piece of garbage.”

It weighed about half as much as the AK-47 Kalashnikov and fired a smaller bullet – the 5.56 mm round. In short, the troops didn’t have faith in the rifle’s stopping power.

Related: This is what happens when the rules of engagement are loosened

Compounding the M16’s troubles was its lack of a proper cleaning kit. It was supposed to be so advanced that it would never jam, so the manufacturer didn’t feel it needed to make them. But the M16 did jam.

“We hated it,” said Marine veteran John Culbertson. “Because if it got any grime or corruption or dirt in it, which you always get in any rifle out in the field, it’s going to malfunction.”

The troops started using cleaning kits from other weapons to unjam their rifles.

“The shells ruptured in the chambers and the only way to get the shell out was to put a cleaning rod in it,” said Wodecki. “So you can imagine in a firefight trying to clean your weapon after two or three rounds. It was a nightmare for Marines at the time.

Towards the end of 1965, journalists picked up on mounting reports of gross malfunctions. The American public became outraged over stories of troops dying face down in the mud because their rifles failed to fire, according to a story published by the Small Arms Review.

Thankfully, the reports did not fall on deaf ears. The manufacturer fixed the jamming problems and issued cleaning kits. The new and improved rifle became the M16A1.

This video features Vietnam Marines recounting their first-hand troubles with the M16:

LightningWar1941/YouTube
MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines want to shut out China, Russia with laser communications

As the Pentagon reorients toward great-power competition with adversaries like Russia and China, its preparations go beyond learning to ski and practicing to drive across Europe.

US military units rely on wireless networks and radio-frequency communications to talk on the battlefield, sharing intelligence, targeting data, and orders.


But concern is growing that rivals like China and Russia could pick up those transmissions and jam them, change them to confuse or deceive, or track them to target the people sending and receiving them — tactics Russia and Russian-backed forces are believed to have used before.

The Pentagon has started exploring the use of laser communications systems that are harder to detect and disrupt.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

Marine Corps field radio operators remove the free space optic system from a tactical elevated antenna mass at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Aug. 17, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Timothy Valero)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has been working on sensors and hardware to send and receive signals from free-space optical technology — which sends light beams through the air rather than a cable — for some time.

in early 2017, the Defense Department awarded million for a three-year project involving three of the service branches, focused on developing a laser communications system — “basically fiber optic communications without the fiber,” Linda Thomas, whose team at the Naval Research Laboratory got about one-third of the grant money, told Breaking Defense at the time.

Thomas’ team’s Tactical Line-of-sight Optical communications Network, or TALON, was able to send messages through laser beams over distances similar to those of Marine Corps tactical radios, which typically can range to about 45 miles.

Free-space-optical communications systems are available commercially, but their range is limited. The Naval Research Lab team was able to exceed the range of those systems, a problem that involved sending the low-power beam through the atmosphere without it being made unintelligible, though Thomas didn’t say how they did it.

Marines have already gone into the field to test a free-space optics system developed by the Naval Research Lab.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

Marines lift a tactical elevated antenna mass mounted with the free space optic system at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, August 17, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Kindo Go)

Marines from the III Marine Expeditionary Force tested a free-space optics system that “transfers data on a highly secured and nearly undetectable infrared laser, separate from the radio frequency spectrum” in Okinawa this month, according to a Marine Corps release.

The mobile system allows more data — larger files and imagery — to be transmitted without using more of the radio-frequency spectrum, “an already constrained resource,” one of the Marines involved said.

“When it first came up, we thought it would be a lot more difficult to set up and understand,” said Marine Sgt. William Holt, a cyber-systems administrator. “When the Marines heard ‘free space optics’ and ‘lasers,’ they got nervous about that. Then when they actually got behind the gear and were able to operate it, it was easier than expected.”

Thomas and other engineers from the Naval Research Laboratory were also on hand.

“We came out to Okinawa because it was one of the harshest humid environments with highly variable weather on very short time scales,” she said. “We are looking at how the system operates and handles these conditions and how we can better fulfill the needs of the future Marine Corps.”

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

Russian troops participating in Zapad-2017.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

‘The threat is out there’

US Marines are not the only ones gearing up to communicate in a contested environment.

China’s People’s Liberation Army considers electronic warfare a central component of its operations, and its EW doctrine “emphasizes using electromagnetic spectrum weapons to suppress or to deceive enemy electronic equipment,” the Defense Department said in a report about Chinese military capabilities released in August 2018.

Chinese units “routinely conduct jamming and antijamming operations against multiple communication and radar systems and GPS satellite systems in force-on-force exercises,” the report said. In addition to testing Chinese troops’ ability to use these systems, such tests “help improve confidence in their ability to operate effectively in a complex electromagnetic environment.”

Russian forces carried out similar tests during the massive Zapad 2017 exercise conducted late 2017.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

A training specialist from the Army Space and Missile Defense Agency shows Army National Guard soldiers on how to detect electromagnetic interference on a GPS receiver, June 23, 2018.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Carden)

According to Estonia’s military intelligence chief, Col. Kaupo Rosin, the amount of jamming Russia deployed against its own forces during that exercise “was at a level we haven’t seen.”

“The threat of the Russians is that if they are jammed, they can fall back into a civilian infrastructure on their own land, which gives them an advantage in operating in the vicinity of Russia,” Rosin told Defense News in 2017. “So they have that advantage.”

US troops have also tested their capacity to thwart electronic interference.

Ohio National Guard troops trained with a team from the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command in summer 2018 in order to be to detect and mitigate cyberattacks on GPS systems.

“There are adversaries out there with the capability to deny, degrade and disrupt our capabilities,” said Capt. Kyle Terza from US Army Space and Missile Defense Command. “The threat is out there and … we have to be trained and ready to operate without it.”

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

Lists

5 things boots need to do before earning the squad’s trust

Squads are the most fundamental part of the military. While you can generally get by with having an issue with someone else in the company, a squad can’t function unless everyone is on the same level.

It takes years to earn someone’s trust to the point of knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that they have your back. To get the new guys in the squad up to speed, they’ll have to be given a crash course in earning it.


The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

There is a difference between impressing the squad and impressing the platoon sergeant. Choose wisely.

(Photo by Spc. Noel Williams)

PT as well in the morning

the uninitiated may think that the fastest way to earn respect is to out-hustle, out-perform, and outlast the rest. The problem here is that morning PT isn’t designed to improve — it’s for sustaining one’s assumed peak performance. If you’re looking to improve, it’ll probably happen off-duty.

With that in mind, many troops who’ve been in for years won’t be impressed by the new kid smoking everyone on the pull-up bar. They’re probably hungover from drinking the night before. During morning PT, there’s no way to improve your standing with the guys, but making everyone else look bad will definitely cost you some points.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

This also means don’t ever miss the 50m target — you will be justifiably ridiculed.

(Photo by Sgt. Maj. Peter Breuer)

Shoot as good at the range

This rings especially true with line units. It’s also assumed that by the time a Drill Instructor hands off a boot to the unit, they’re ready to be hardened killing machines. Taking time to train someone to shoot perfectly is no longer in the training schedule, there’re still guys who’ve been in the unit for ages rocking a “pizza box,” or Marksman badge.

If you can show everyone that you’re not some kid, but rather someone who’s ready to train with the big boys, the squad will take notice and use you to belittle the guy who missed the 50m target. That’s a good thing for you.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

Or keep an eye out for staff duty and keep them occupied so they don’t crash the party.

(Screengrab via YouTube)

Party as hard in the barracks

Barracks parties are very tight-knit. There may be some cross-over with other platoons or companies that are cool with whomever is hosting, so don’t fret and be cool. It’s a real sign of trust if someone is willing to show you to the others off-duty.

Chances are that most boots are fresh out of high school. No one wants to party with the kid who’s going to get them arrested by the MPs for underage drinking. For all the legal reasons, you really shouldn’t be drinking if you’re under 21 (even though we all know what happens in the barracks). You can still play a part, however, by being the designated driver or helping others who’ve drank too much by grabbing water, junk food, and sports drinks.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

Chances are that the joke, just like your first time, will be quickly forgotten by most people involved.

(Photo by Pfc. Vaniah Temple)

Joke as witty off-duty

As odd as it sounds, the surefire way to make everyone in the squad trust you is to get them to like you. They’ll overlook a lot of your flaws if you’re not quite “grunt enough” if you can make them laugh.

No one wants to be around the guy who’s telling the same unfunny story that ends with getting yelled at by the drill sergeant. No matter how mind-blowing it was to you back then, I assure you that it’s nothing special. Dig deep and find that real humor. Joke about something personal, like the first time you got intimate with someone. There’s definitely an awkward moment in there that’s funny to reflect on.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

I’m just sayin’. Nearly every friendship is sealed in the smoke pit.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo)

Be as loyal when the time comes

There’s no concrete way to know when this time will come, but it will. At some point, everything will be on the line and you need to swoop in with the clutch. When it happens, you’ll know.

This is when you’ll show the squad that you’re one of them — that you value the rest of the guys above your own well-being. It could be as large as saving everyone’s ass from an enraged first sergeant to just bringing an extra pack of cigarettes to the field. Get to know your squad and you’ll know what it takes.

MIGHTY MOVIES

18 of the best jokes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Why are the Marvel movies so damn popular? Well, that might be the wrong question, because the more important question should be: how did the Marvel movies get to be so damn funny? What are the best jokes in the funniest Marvel movies?

From “Iron Man” in 2008 to “Avengers: Endgame” in 2019, one thing moviegoers have always been able to count on from these films is a one-liner quip machine even in the bleakest of installments. Figuring out all the funniest moments in all 22 installments of the official Marvel Cinematic Universe might seem like a task better suited to one of Tony Stark’s supercomputers, but since Jarvis and Friday aren’t real, you’ll have to deal with human bias. So, with that in mind, here are 18 of the best jokes from the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. And to avoid saying any of these jokes are better or worse than others, we’re just listing these jokes in chronological order.

Warning: Joke spoilers for all Marvel movies ahead!


The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

1. “Let’s face it, this is not the worst thing you’ve caught me doing.”

When Pepper Potts walks in on Tony messing with his Iron Man suit, this classic Stark comeback cannot be beaten.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

2. “We have a Hulk.”

From the 2012 “Avengers,” Tony Stark’s rebuttal to Loki’s boast “I have an army” is “We have a Hulk.” This is made all the sweeter when you consider Loki himself says “We have a Hulk” when he stands-up to Thanos in “Infinity War.”

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

3. “Better clench up, Legolas.”

Tony Stark’s pop culture references are an artform. If you don’t know who Legolas is and why this is funny, I’m sorry that I have to explain this to you: Legolas is an elf archer from “Lord of the Rings.” Hawkeye is an archer. Okay. enough explaining.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

4. “I’m a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster.”

This Tony Stark quip is preceded by him complimenting Bruce Banner on his scientific achievements, which of course, is totally overshadowed by his ability to Hulk-out.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

5. “No hard feelings, Point Break.”

I’m not going to explain this reference. I’ll explain “Lord of the Rings” references, but not this one. Either you get it, or you don’t. (If you’re reading this website and you’re a dad, I’m guessing you get this.)

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

6. “I understood that reference!”

Steve Rogers is great when he gets super-earnest in subsequent Avengers flicks, but he’s pretty much the best when he’s struggling with 21st-century pop culture references. In the first “Avengers,” when Steve actually understands one of Nick Fury’s references to “The Wizard of Oz,” his reaction is pure gold.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

7. “The city is flying. We’re fighting an army of robots. And I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes sense.”

One of the funniest meta-fictional lines in any Marvel movie. Hawkeye knows nothing about his role in these movies makes sense.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

8. “Why would I put my finger on his throat?”

You could, in theory, do an entire list of just great jokes and funny moments from both “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies and their appearances in “Infinity War” and “Endgame.” I’ve tried to prevent too many “Guardians” jokes from dominating this list. But still, when Star-Lord is trying to reason with Drax in that prison, this visual gag where Drax doesn’t understand the pantomime for killing someone is hilarious.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

9. “If I had a black light, this place would look like a Jackson Pollock painting”

A crass joke that flies over the head of kids and into the ears of knowing adults. Nice. Totally on-brand from Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord. Also, fun fact, this line was ad-libbed by Chris Pratt on the spot.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

10. “He says he’s an a-hole, and I’m quoting him here, but he’s not 100 percent…a dick”

John C. Reilly’s small role in “Guardians of the Galaxy” is underrated. It just is.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

11. “If you say one more word, I’ll feed you to my children! I’m kidding. We’re vegetarians.”

M’baku might not be as famous as T’Challa in the kingdom of Wakanda, but he’s pretty much the funniest person in “Black Panther.”

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

12. “He’s a friend from work!”

When Thor realizes he’s supposed to fight the Hulk in “Ragnarok,” he’s thrilled and relieved. This line is fantastic because it’s so relatable, but it’s made ten times sweeter when you know that a Make-A-Wish kid actually suggested the line in the first place. True story!

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

13. “Dude, you’re embarrassing me in front of the wizards.”

Tony Stark and Bruce Banner’s reunion in “Infinity War” is full of a lot of great moments, but this joke is easily the best.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

14. “OH! we’re using our made-up names!”

The lovable innocence of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is always great and when he understandably doesn’t understand that Dr. Strange’s real name is Dr. Strange, it’s one of the funniest moments in the entire series.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

15. “Kick names. Take ass”

Mantis’ mangling of a pretty common cliche turns it into something very different thanks to her naivite — and impeccable timing.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

16. “I get emails from a raccoon, so nothing sounds crazy.”

Black Widow is super tired in this “Avengers: Endgame” one-liner, but her workplace emails are certainly a little different than yours. Or are they?

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

17. “What’s up, regular-sized man?”

Rhodey gets in on the one-liner action, in one of the best jokes for “Endgame.” Picking on Ant-Man might not be nice, but it is hilarious.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

18. “As far as I’m concerned, that is America’s ass.”

Paul Rudd, an actual comedic actor who found his way into the Marvel universe as Ant-Man, gets what is probably the very best line in “Avengers: Endgame.” This joke is so good, it gets repeated by Steve Rogers as he’s staring at former-him’s ass.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

What to expect when flying on United, American, Delta, Southwest during pandemic: comparison

Over the course of four weeks in June, I flew seven flights on the largest airlines in the US including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines.

After on flight on Delta, two flights on American, two flights on United, and two flights on Southwest, I’ve been adequately reacquainted with flying having been grounded since February.

The experiences have been unlike anything I’ve seen before in a lifetime of flying with each airline having its own, unique way of handling the pandemic. No two airlines have been exactly alike on any of my journeys and seemingly ever-changing policies are creating confusion for passengers.


Social distancing, for example, has different definitions depending on what airline you fly on. Some airlines have chosen to block middle seats and limit capacity in an effort to achieve social distancing while others have given up entirely or only give the appearance of social distancing.

Here’s what you can expect on each airline.

American Airlines

Blocking middle seats or allowing free flight changes

Starting July 1, American began filling its flights to capacity and not blocking any middle seats. If a passenger is on a crowded flight, there is an option to change flights free of charge to an alternate flight, if there is one available.

Middle seats can be selected in advance and passengers flying in basic economy may be automatically assigned a middle seat, even if other aisle or window seats are available. Only check-in or gate agents typically have the power to change seat assignments if a passenger isn’t happy with their seat location.

American has not stated what factors determine whether the option to change flights is offered. The airline has been operating a reduced flying schedule so alternate flights have not always been available for passengers but an airline spokesperson told Business Insider that more flights being flown starting July 7 should give passengers more options.

Boarding

American operates a normal boarding process and passengers still board in their assigned groups, which vary based on seat location, fare type, and elite status. First class still boards first and basic economy boards last, regardless of seat location.

This results in economy passengers in the back of the plane walking through an entire aircraft of people before arriving at their seat.

Signage at the gate informs passengers that masks are required and that the airline has adopted new cleaning standards but does not go into detail.

Onboard the aircraft

American is limiting the in-flight service depending on the duration of the flight. Flights under 2,200 miles will no longer have a snack or drink service with non-alcoholic canned or bottled beverages being served on request in economy.

Flights greater than 2,200 miles will see a beverage service but no snack service in economy. The airline will also not distribute wipes or hand sanitizer kits to passengers upon boarding or as part of the in-flight service.

Deplaning

Flight attendants on American are typically asking passengers to remain seated until it is time for their row to deplane.

Delta Air Lines

Blocking middle seats or allowing free flight changes

Delta is blocking middle seats and certain aisle seats on its flights until September 30. Passengers who still do not wish to travel on a crowded flight even with the capacity restriction will have the option to request a free rebooking to a later flight, a Delta spokesperson confirmed to Business Insider.

Boarding

Delta is boarding its aircraft back to front with passengers being asked to remain seated until their row is called. Elite status holders and first class flyers can still board first.

Signage at the gate area informs passengers that aircraft are being “sanitized and inspected,” asks passengers to social distance, and reminds passengers that face coverings are required onboard the aircraft.

The airline has also installed placards both on the floor and in jetways at hub and outstation airports reminding passengers to social distance. In its Atlanta hub, Delta employees were distributing hand sanitizer to passengers of all airlines after the security checkpoint.

In-flight service

The traditional in-flight snack and beverage service has been replaced by flight attendants distributing a sealed bag containing snacks, a water bottle, and sanitary products.

Deplaning

Flight attendants did not ask passengers to stay seated during the deplaning process.

United Airlines

Blocking middle seats or allowing free flight changes

United is not blocking middle seats but won’t assign them until there are no more aisle or window seats to assign. Passengers on flights with greater than 70% capacity will have the option to change their flight for free but as United’s flying schedule has been reduced due to the pandemic, options are limited.

Boarding

United is boarding its aircraft back to front with first class passengers and elites still boarding first. Economy passengers are boarded from the last row forward in groups of five rows.

Gate agents are asking passengers to scan their own boarding passes when they board to reduce interactions between staff and passengers. Every passenger is given a sanitary wipe when they step on the plane that can be used to clean the seat.

Signage at the gate area informs United passengers of the sanitary measures the airline is taking including requiring face masks to be worn and the new fogging procedures. The displays, however, were inconsistent and were only prominent at United’s hubs and not outstations.

In-flight service

United has suspended the in-flight snack and beverage service for shorter flights in economy, including those less than two hours and 20 minutes. Passengers can, however, request beverages from the flight attendant.

On flights longer than two hours and 20 minutes, passengers in economy will receive a snack bag that includes a sanitary wipe, water bottle, stroopwafel snack, and package of pretzels.

Deplaning

Flight attendants on United are typically asking passengers to remain seated until it is time for their row to deplane.

Southwest Airlines

Blocking middle seats or allowing free flight change

Southwest is limiting capacity by around one-third so that there is only a maximum of two people in each row, with exceptions for family. The airline does not assign seats in advance.

Boarding

Southwest is boarding its aircraft in groups of 10 based on a boarding number given at check-in. The system is similar to the airline’s current procedure except only 10 passengers line up and board at a time instead of 30.

Some airports were not following the rule of 10 procedure, as I found on a recent Southwest flight, and passengers who boarded first chose to sit in the front of the plane. As Southwest allows for open seating, this meant passengers boarding last would have to walk passed crowded rows of people.

There is some signage at the gate asking passengers to social distance and informing them of the new boarding procedure but no visuals or anything pertaining to the airline’s new cleaning procedure.

In-flight service

Southwest is suspending the in-flight service on flights under 250 miles. Passengers on flights over that threshold will receive a cup of ice water and a snack bag served by flight attendants.

Deplaning

Flight attendants did not ask passengers to stay seated during the deplaning process.

The Winner

Delta Air Lines is the clear winner here as nearly every aspect of a flight has been revised to become more passenger-friendly during this pandemic while not compromising too much on service. From placards and informational signage in the gate area to blocking middle seats and maintaining an in-flight service, albeit limited, Delta is leading the way in multiple aspects.

Southwest Airlines comes in a close second with the low-cost airline earning its reputation for good customer service even more so during this crisis. The only downsides were the boarding process, the lack of informational signage at the gate area that I found on most other airlines, and a lack of consistency in staff following the new procedures.

United Airlines is the second-runner up mainly because I found its policies to be more empty gestures than actually helpful. The airline is offering free flight changes despite having few back-up options and restricting the advance selection of middle seats rather than blocking them but are still allowing flights to fill up,

United did have some positives in that it revised its boarding procedure and offered sanitary wipes upon boarding but I did find a lack of consistency in informational signage at different airports. Flights on United were boring, above all, as the in-flight service was also suspended.

American Airlines was the least passenger-friendly airline I found on my travels with a complete lack of social distancing policies and abandonment of in-flight service on most of its domestic flights. It’s largely business as usual when flying on American as if there is no pandemic occurring, with the airline happy to assign middle seats to basic economy passengers when entire empty rows are available and keep the standard boarding procedure.

I will say, however, that all aircraft I flew on from all airlines were clean and I was never worried I was getting on a dirty aircraft.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How General Patton’s granddaughter is honoring his legacy

History books will forever speak of the countless heroics and astonishing life of General George S. Patton. He’ll always be remembered as the Army officer who became an Olympian, the “Bandit Killer” at Columbus, the “Father of Armor” in WWI, and the liberator of Europe. It’s hard for anyone to stand in that shadow, but Helen Patton, his granddaughter, would have made him extremely proud.

Like every member of the Patton family, Helen has done many great things with her life while also carrying the torch for her father and grandfather. From attending ceremonies commemorating WWII anniversaries to heading up the Patton Foundation, which aids returning troops and veterans in need, Helen continues the Patton tradition of giving to our great country.

Her work with the Patton Foundation and the Patton Stiftung Sustainable Trust keeps the memory of the WWII generation alive.


The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge
A yearly tradition of hers is to lay flowers and wreaths at the American cemeteries and memorials in Europe.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden)

She also set out to fix a missed opportunity in history by hosting the soldiers of the 101st Airborne in a game of football. In 1944, there were plans for the troops to play what was dubbed “The Champagne Bowl.” These plans were cut short on Christmas Day because they needed in a march toward the Battle of the Bulge.

With Luxembourg firmly liberated for the past 74 years, Helen Patton played in integral role in hosting what was renamed the “Remembrance Bowl.” The game was played on June 2nd, 2018, in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, France by men of the 101st. Patton told the Army Times,

“I felt that we should play the game that never happened for them. It’s a new way to commemorate. It’s a way to turn the page of history.”

The event will now be an annual tradition.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge
(Army)

Helen Patton champions military history as well. She has produced two award-winning documentaries, one about General John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing and another about the continued struggles of war long after troops return.

She also hosted an amazing TEDxTalk about her grandfather, which can be seen below:

MIGHTY TRENDING

It rains on the sun – this is how

For five months in mid 2017, Emily Mason did the same thing every day. Arriving to her office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, she sat at her desk, opened up her computer, and stared at images of the Sun — all day, every day. “I probably looked through three or five years’ worth of data,” Mason estimated. Then, in October 2017, she stopped. She realized she had been looking at the wrong thing all along.

Mason, a graduate student at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., was searching for coronal rain: giant globs of plasma, or electrified gas, that drip from the Sun’s outer atmosphere back to its surface. But she expected to find it in helmet streamers, the million-mile tall magnetic loops — named for their resemblance to a knight’s pointy helmet — that can be seen protruding from the Sun during a solar eclipse. Computer simulations predicted the coronal rain could be found there. Observations of the solar wind, the gas escaping from the Sun and out into space, hinted that the rain might be happening. And if she could just find it, the underlying rain-making physics would have major implications for the 70-year-old mystery of why the Sun’s outer atmosphere, known as the corona, is so much hotter than its surface. But after nearly half a year of searching, Mason just couldn’t find it. “It was a lot of looking,” Mason said, “for something that never ultimately happened.”


The problem, it turned out, wasn’t what she was looking for, but where. In a paper published today in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, Mason and her coauthors describe the first observations of coronal rain in a smaller, previously overlooked kind of magnetic loop on the Sun. After a long, winding search in the wrong direction, the findings forge a new link between the anomalous heating of the corona and the source of the slow solar wind — two of the biggest mysteries facing solar science today.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

Mason searched for coronal rain in helmet streamers like the one that appears on the left side of this image, taken during the 1994 eclipse as viewed from South America. A smaller pseudostreamer appears on the western limb (right side of image). Named for their resemblance to a knight’s pointy helmet, helmet streamers extend far into the Sun’s faint corona and are most readily seen when the light from the Sun’s bright surface is occluded.

(© 1994 Úpice observatory and Vojtech Rušin, © 2007 Miloslav Druckmüller)

How it rains on the Sun

Observed through the high-resolution telescopes mounted on NASA’s SDO spacecraft, the Sun – a hot ball of plasma, teeming with magnetic field lines traced by giant, fiery loops — seems to have few physical similarities with Earth. But our home planet provides a few useful guides in parsing the Sun’s chaotic tumult: among them, rain.

On Earth, rain is just one part of the larger water cycle, an endless tug-of-war between the push of heat and pull of gravity. It begins when liquid water, pooled on the planet’s surface in oceans, lakes, or streams, is heated by the Sun. Some of it evaporates and rises into the atmosphere, where it cools and condenses into clouds. Eventually, those clouds become heavy enough that gravity’s pull becomes irresistible and the water falls back to Earth as rain, before the process starts anew.

On the Sun, Mason said, coronal rain works similarly, “but instead of 60-degree water you’re dealing with a million-degree plasma.” Plasma, an electrically-charged gas, doesn’t pool like water, but instead traces the magnetic loops that emerge from the Sun’s surface like a rollercoaster on tracks. At the loop’s foot points, where it attaches to the Sun’s surface, the plasma is superheated from a few thousand to over 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit. It then expands up the loop and gathers at its peak, far from the heat source. As the plasma cools, it condenses and gravity lures it down the loop’s legs as coronal rain.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

Coronal rain, like that shown in this movie from NASA’s SDO in 2012, is sometimes observed after solar eruptions, when the intense heating associated with a solar flare abruptly cuts off after the eruption and the remaining plasma cools and falls back to the solar surface. Mason was searching for coronal rain not associated with eruptions, but instead caused by a cyclical process of heating and cooling similar to the water cycle on Earth.

(NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory/Scientific Visualization Studio/Tom Bridgman, Lead Animator)

Mason was looking for coronal rain in helmet streamers, but her motivation for looking there had more to do with this underlying heating and cooling cycle than the rain itself. Since at least the mid-1990s, scientists have known that helmet streamers are one source of the slow solar wind, a comparatively slow, dense stream of gas that escapes the Sun separately from its fast-moving counterpart. But measurements of the slow solar wind gas revealed that it had once been heated to an extreme degree before cooling and escaping the Sun. The cyclical process of heating and cooling behind coronal rain, if it was happening inside the helmet streamers, would be one piece of the puzzle.

The other reason connects to the coronal heating problem — the mystery of how and why the Sun’s outer atmosphere is some 300 times hotter than its surface. Strikingly, simulations have shown that coronal rain only forms when heat is applied to the very bottom of the loop. “If a loop has coronal rain on it, that means that the bottom 10% of it, or less, is where coronal heating is happening,” said Mason. Raining loops provide a measuring rod, a cutoff point to determine where the corona gets heated. Starting their search in the largest loops they could find — giant helmet streamers — seemed like a modest goal, and one that would maximize their chances of success.

She had the best data for the job: Images taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, a spacecraft that has photographed the Sun every twelve seconds since its launch in 2010. But nearly half a year into the search, Mason still hadn’t observed a single drop of rain in a helmet streamer. She had, however, noticed a slew of tiny magnetic structures, ones she wasn’t familiar with. “They were really bright and they kept drawing my eye,” said Mason. “When I finally took a look at them, sure enough they had tens of hours of rain at a time.”

At first, Mason was so focused on her helmet streamer quest that she made nothing of the observations. “She came to group meeting and said, ‘I never found it — I see it all the time in these other structures, but they’re not helmet streamers,'” said Nicholeen Viall, a solar scientist at Goddard, and a coauthor of the paper. “And I said, ‘Wait…hold on. Where do you see it? I don’t think anybody’s ever seen that before!'”

A measuring rod for heating

These structures differed from helmet streamers in several ways. But the most striking thing about them was their size.

“These loops were much smaller than what we were looking for,” said Spiro Antiochos, who is also a solar physicist at Goddard and a coauthor of the paper. “So that tells you that the heating of the corona is much more localized than we were thinking.”

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

Mason’s article analyzed three observations of Raining Null-Point Topologies, or RNTPs, a previously overlooked magnetic structure shown here in two wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light. The coronal rain observed in these comparatively small magnetic loops suggests that the corona may be heated within a far more restricted region than previously expected.

(NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory/Emily Mason)

While the findings don’t say exactly how the corona is heated, “they do push down the floor of where coronal heating could happen,” said Mason. She had found raining loops that were some 30,000 miles high, a mere two percent the height of some of the helmet streamers she was originally looking for. And the rain condenses the region where the key coronal heating can be happening. “We still don’t know exactly what’s heating the corona, but we know it has to happen in this layer,” said Mason.

A new source for the slow solar wind

But one part of the observations didn’t jibe with previous theories. According to the current understanding, coronal rain only forms on closed loops, where the plasma can gather and cool without any means of escape. But as Mason sifted through the data, she found cases where rain was forming on open magnetic field lines. Anchored to the Sun at only one end, the other end of these open field lines fed out into space, and plasma there could escape into the solar wind. To explain the anomaly, Mason and the team developed an alternative explanation — one that connected rain on these tiny magnetic structures to the origins of the slow solar wind.

In the new explanation, the raining plasma begins its journey on a closed loop, but switches — through a process known as magnetic reconnection — to an open one. The phenomenon happens frequently on the Sun, when a closed loop bumps into an open field line and the system rewires itself. Suddenly, the superheated plasma on the closed loop finds itself on an open field line, like a train that has switched tracks. Some of that plasma will rapidly expand, cool down, and fall back to the Sun as coronal rain. But other parts of it will escape – forming, they suspect, one part of the slow solar wind.

Mason is currently working on a computer simulation of the new explanation, but she also hopes that soon-to-come observational evidence may confirm it. Now that Parker Solar Probe, launched in 2018, is traveling closer to the Sun than any spacecraft before it, it can fly through bursts of slow solar wind that can be traced back to the Sun — potentially, to one of Mason’s coronal rain events. After observing coronal rain on an open field line, the outgoing plasma, escaping to the solar wind, would normally be lost to posterity. But no longer. “Potentially we can make that connection with Parker Solar Probe and say, that was it,” said Viall.

Digging through the data

As for finding coronal rain in helmet streamers? The search continues. The simulations are clear: the rain should be there. “Maybe it’s so small you can’t see it?” said Antiochos. “We really don’t know.”

But then again, if Mason had found what she was looking for she might not have made the discovery — or have spent all that time learning the ins and outs of solar data.

“It sounds like a slog, but honestly it’s my favorite thing,” said Mason. “I mean that’s why we built something that takes that many images of the Sun: So we can look at them and figure it out.”

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

popular

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

Troops die in battle — it’s an unfortunate fact, but it’s the nature of the job. Countless men and women have sacrificed themselves to protect their fellow service members, their friends and family back home, and the lifestyle we enjoy here in the U.S. “Battlefield crosses” were created to honor the fallen. A deceased troop’s rifle is planted, barrel-first, into their boots (or, in some cases, the ground) and their helmet is placed atop the rifle. Like all things military, this cross is part of a long-standing tradition — a tradition that has evolved since its first use on the battlefields of the American Civil War.

Despite the fact that it’s called a cross, there’s no single religious ideology attached to the practice.


The tradition of marking the site where a troop met his end began in the Civil War. Historically, large-scale battles meant mass casualties. After armies clashed and the smoke settled, bodies were quickly removed from the field to stop the spread of disease. Blade-cut, wooden plaques were placed at temporary grave sites so that others could pay respects.

 

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge
The grave marker of Lt. Charles R. Carville, a member of the 165th New York Volunteers who died at Port Hudson May 27, 1863. (Nation Museum of American History)

It wasn’t until World War I, when troops were issued rifles and kevlar helmets, that these wooden blocks were replaced with the crosses as we know them. To many, it was the equipment that made a trooper, so creating a memorial from that same gear was poignant.

In World War II, dog tags were standard, making troop identification easier. The tags were eventually placed on the memorials, giving a name to the troop who once carried the gear on which it was draped. When available, a pair of boots was placed at the bottom of the shrine, too.

A pair of boots, a rifle, a helmet, and some identification — there’s something eerily, symbolically beautiful about the battlefield cross, composed of the core components of a troop.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge
A battlefield cross sits on display during sunrise, April 15, 2016, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 93d Air Ground Operations Wing set up the cross for Lt. Col. William Schroeder. (Photo by Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan)

Today, given the technology, photos of the fallen are also sometimes placed near the memorial. These crosses help give troops closure and a way to pay their respects to their brothers- and sisters-in-arms.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Viet Cong took out a Navy transport

Historically, the Vietnam War is one of America’s longest-running conflicts — only Operation Enduring Freedom has been longer. But, of all the chaos and carnage that characterized the Vietnam War, one of the most notable clashes is similar to one performed on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) about 36 years later.


The date was May 2, 1964. Viet Cong commandos had been trying to hit an American transport ship in Saigon to stop the flow of materiel to the South Vietnamese government. Two ships, the USNS Card and the USNS Core, had been serving as transports for helicopters and other essentials. The ships were World War II-era Bogue-class escort carriers that displaced about 16,600 tons and could travel at a top speed of 18 knots while carrying a dozen F4F Wildcats and nine TBF/TBM Avenger torpedo bombers.

U-Boat.net credits aircraft from the Card with sinking eight Nazi subs. Planes from the Core put four U-boats to rest on the seafloor.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge
A TBF Avenger comes into land on USS Card (CVE 11) during World War II. The Card sank eight U-boats in that conflict. (U.S. Navy photo)

After World War II, these carriers were too small to operate jets and a bit too slow for front-line service. Still, when a ship has a flight deck that is 439 feet by 70 feet — almost 31,000 square feet – and a hangar deck of roughly the same size, it’s still useful. So, the Military Sea Transport Service (the forerunner to today’s Military Sealift Command) took these ships. After all, they were pretty much free.

According to the National Interest, the Viet Cong managed to pull off the May 2 attack by sending a commando through the sewer system. A pair of limpet mines were stashed by the sewer’s exit, waiting for the commando as swam out toward the ship. He then planted the limpet mines on the side of the Card, set the timer, and made a clean getaway. At three in the morning, the mines went off. Severely damaged, the Card settled on the bottom of the harbor with five of her crew killed.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge
USS Card (CVE 11) in World War II. While she wasn’t able to operate jets, she had a lot of space to transport materials, giving this escort carrier a second lease on life as a transport. (U.S. Navy photo)

But she didn’t stay there. It took the Navy 17 days to do the temporary repairs required to get the Card out of the harbor. By the end of the year, the former escort carrier was back in service, and she made other runs carrying materiel. She did so for five more years after returning to service. In 1971, the Card was scrapped. Any claims that the Communists in Vietnam sunk a carrier are nothing but propaganda.

MIGHTY GAMING

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Violent video games have become embedded within American culture over the past several decades and especially since 9/11. First-person shooters, in particular, have become increasingly popular.

These games – in which players are positioned behind a gun – have turned a generation of kids into digital warriors who fight terrorists and battle alien invaders. Many play first-person shooters for pure, innocent enjoyment. Some like achieving objectives and being a part of a team. And, for others, it simply feels good to eliminate an enemy – especially someone who’s trying to harm them.


For the U.S. military, the rise of first-person shooters has been a welcome development. In recent years, the military has encouraged many of its soldiers to partake in the thrill of violent video games as a way to continue combat training, even when not on active duty. (In fact, using games to teach military tactics has been a longstanding practice in the U.S. military: Before video games, troops were encouraged to play military-themed board games.)

The games allow soldiers to take their combat roles home with them and blur their on-duty responsibilities with their off-duty, noncombat routines and lives.

But what effect have these video games had on U.S. soldiers? How accurately do they depict military life? And do they actually help recruit, train and retain troops?

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

The games in the Arma series strive to simulate combat. In this sequence from Arma 2, a helicopter insertion goes wrong as troops try to take a contested airfield.

(YouTube/GamerDudester)

From battle screen to battlefield

As part of a study, we interviewed 15 current and former members of the U.S. military who were between 24 and 35 years old to understand the role violent first-person shooter games played in their recruitment and training.

The majority of interviewees told us it was important to stay in the mindset of a soldier even when not on duty. To them, first-person shooters were the perfect vehicle for doing this.

Game preferences varied among the soldiers we interviewed, but popular titles included “Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2” and “ARMA 2,” which a current member of the Army said was “one of the most hardcore assault experiences in gaming.”

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, players fight a campaign across the world and in space during a war between the U.S. and Russia.

(YouTube/Bolloxed)

Meanwhile, an Iraq War veteran described “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2” and “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” as “the ultimate first-person shooter experiences ever” and “intensive and highly realistic approaches to tactical combat. The choice of attacking with stealth or unleashing an all-out frontal assault full of mayhem is yours. It’s violent, it’s chaotic, it’s beautiful.”

In this, the Iraq War veteran seems to say that video games can reflect real-life combat situations, an attitude that others share.

Altered realities

But it’s tough to make the case that games accurately simulate what a soldier’s life is really like. First, military tours of duty are not solely made up of hard-charging, chaotic battles, like those in first-person shooters. The majority of soldiers won’t participate in any full-frontal combat operations.

Second – and, most importantly – in the digital world there are no legal and ethical considerations. When things go wrong, when innocent people are killed, there are no ramifications. If anything, the games warp these real-world consequences in the minds of players; in 2012, psychologists Brock Bastian, Jolanda Jetten and Helena R.M. Radke were able to use brain scans to show that playing violent video games had the potential to desensitize players to real-life violence and the suffering of others.

In a 2010 article for the Brookings Institution, political scientist Peter Singer quoted a Special Forces soldier who was involved in the production of “America’s Army 360,” a video game developed to recruit and train enlistees.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

An American city burns in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

(YouTube/Bolloxed)

“You lose an avatar; just reboot the game,” the soldier said. “In real life, you lose your guy; you’ve lost your guy. And then you’ve got to bury him, and then you’ve got to call his wife.”

Indeed, journalist Evan Wright wrote in his book “Generation Kill” that solders were on “intimate terms with the culture of video games, reality TV shows and internet porn.”

Real-life combat, however, was something entirely different.

“What I saw was a lot of them discovered levels of innocence that they probably didn’t think they had,” Wright wrote. “When they actually shot people, especially innocent people, and were confronted with this, I saw guys break down. The violence in games hadn’t prepared them for this.”

Thus video games might suck soldiers in – offering a tantalizing taste of the glory and excitement of battle. But they do little to prepare them for the types of threats that actually exist on the battlefield.

“When I really think of the government seeing that as training, I laugh,” one of our interviewees told us. “But I also feel a bit uneasy.”

Militarizing legions of gamers

Regardless of their effectiveness as training tools, violent video games can certainly act as a valuable tool for connecting the military with potential recruits. In addition to influencing the decisions of gamers to pursue military service, they can also be used to promote the geopolitical goals of the military.

Journalist Hamza Shaban, in a 2013 article for The Atlantic, described just how deep the Army’s relationship had become with the commercial gaming industry, creating what he dubbed a “military-entertainment complex.” According to Shaban, the games that emerged from this relationship – an exciting, simplified, easy-to-play version of warfare – encouraged gamers to consider a career in the military.

The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge

Frontlines: Fuel of War attempts to simulate what World War 3 in the near future would look like.

(YouTube/Best War Games Channel)

Meanwhile, games such as “UrbanSim,” “Tactical Iraqi” and “Frontlines: Fuel of War” teach players and potential recruits about the discourse of modern-day warfare. Missions include battling Islamic militants, winning over potentially hostile populations and establishing pro-Western, pro-democratic societies. They engage with the fundamentals of insurgency and counterinsurgency, present the dangers of improvised explosive devices and highlight the military usefulness of weaponized drones.

However, to some of the soldiers and ex-soldiers we spoke to, the value of playing first-person shooters amounted to little more than propaganda.

“The idea of us training using these games is a bit of a [disaster],” one said. “What the U.S. seeks to achieve through the use of these games is not entirely within their control. It might be a cheap way of getting us involved … but it’s hardly ‘training.'”

Another called first-person shooters “more like brainwashing than anything.”

“But you have to be pretty stupid to buy into all this,” he added. The last stand of 3/395: how one US Army battalion helped win the Battle of the Bulge


This article was created by Scott Nicholas Romaniuk, University of Trento and Tobias Burgers, Freie Universität Berlin.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here.

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