One of the most useful and game-changing weapons of World War II was radar, a technology that allowed Allied pilots to know when and where to fly in order to intercept incoming German bombers, but Britain was actually hunting for a super weapon: A death ray.
In 1935, World War II had essentially not started yet. Japan was conducting limited, intermittent fighting with China, but Europe was technically at peace. Except war was clearly bubbling up. Germany was re-building its military in violation of the Peace Treaty of Versailles, and Italy launched a successful invasion of Ethiopia.
Britain knew, sooner or later, it would get dragged into a fight. Either Italy would attack colonial possessions in Africa that belonged to it or its allies, or Germany would attempt to conquer Europe. And there was a rumor that Germany had developed a weapon that could wipe out entire towns.
(This may have been a result of early nuclear research. German scientists made some of the critical first breakthroughs in what would later result in nuclear bombs.)
So British leaders asked Robert Watson-Watt if his research, using electromagnetic radiation to detect clouds, could be used to kill enemy pilots.
Yes, they wanted a death ray. But Watson-Watts quickly realized that he couldn’t get that much energy into the clouds. His work, which would lead to modern day weather radar, used a magnetron to send microwave radiation into the sky. But it wasn’t a focused beam of energy, and there simply wasn’t enough juice to kill or even seriously distract an enemy pilot.
To get an idea of how the death ray would’ve had to work, imagine a microwave that could cook a human in less than a minute while they were still miles away. That would be a huge, power-sucking microwave and essentially technically impossible to build.
But Watson-Watts came back with an alternative proposal. The death ray was dead in the water, but the magnetrons could be used to detect planes just like clouds, but even more effectively. And the early math around the idea revealed that the device could see enemy planes for miles and miles, eventually 100 miles out.
British troops guard a downed German Messerschmitt Bf 109 in August 1940. Radar helped British pilots hold off German advances despite a shortage of pilots and planes.
(Imperial War Museums)
This was game-changing for British pilots when war did break out and reach British shores. Germany quickly conquered France and then began attacking England in the Battle of Britain, using the Luftwaffe to bomb British targets and take on British fighters. The British were outnumbered, and so they needed to make each flight hour of each pilot count for as much as possible.
Radar made this possible. If Britain could only spot incoming German forces with human eyeballs, it would need a large number of spotters on the ground and pilots in the air at all times. But with radar looking out a hundred miles, the Royal Air Force could fly fewer patrols and keep most pilots resting on the ground until needed, instead.
When radar detected incoming planes, the in-air patrols could fly to intercept as additional forces scrambled into the sky as necessary. The network of radar stations would become the “Chain Home” system, and it watched Britain to the north, east, and south.
Germany developed its own radar and deployed it operationally in 1940.
Britain never got its death ray, but Japan did experiment with making a death ray like Watson-Watts considered. They used magnetrons to create microwave radiation in an experimental design that did kill at least one rabbit targeted during tests. But killing the rabbit required that it stay still for 10 minutes, not exactly useful in combat. A groundhog took 20 minutes.
ISIS fighters will be closely watching the fighting between Turkish and Kurdish troops in northeastern Syria, waiting for a chance to break thousands of fighters, and tens of thousands of family members, out of Kurdish prisons, according to a former member of the group, Western intelligence officials, and Kurdish commanders.
Concerns of a mass-scale ISIS prison break have grown as Turkish troops enter northeastern Syria to confront the Syrian Defence Forces. The SDF is a predominately Kurdish group regarded as terrorists by Turkey but a key American ally in the ground war against ISIS. SDF officials, who have warned that their resources were already overstretched guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners before the invasion, now say the situation is critical.
But that won’t be enough to prevent ISIS from attempting to break out thousands of lesser known but vital fighters, according to a former member of the group.
“Prison is like their home,” a former ISIS fighter tells Insider
Abu Ahmed al Halabi fought alongside ISIS and its predecessor groups from 2012 until 2015 before quitting the group over its brutal treatment of other Syrian rebel groups in his hometown of Tal Riffat, outside of Aleppo. Although not in contact with the group any longer, he’s currently fighting in Idlib Province for a non-jihadist rebel group. He told Insider that the group is deeply experienced in prison breaks, and its men will have organized while they were detained.
“All of the big bosses in Daesh are Iraqis that were in jail together during the American occupation,” he said. “The group that Abu Musab [al Zarqawi] founded in Iraq in 2003 was all sent to Camp Bucca, it’s where they organized Daesh [ISIS]. Prison is like their home.”
“Daesh will be organized inside the prisons and ready to attack the guards and escape,” Abu Ahmed said. “Outside the prisons, Daesh will be watching the guards and defenses and planning an attack, at any of these prisons they know they can get an entire [battalion] of fighters if they succeed. They have people watching right now waiting for a chance.”
Western intelligence officials agree, one officer from a NATO member that served inside Syria with his government’s special forces told Insider.
“These guys are a jail gang, running their operations while detained might even be easier than [being outside] hiding from drones afraid to use a telephone,” the official, who lacks permission to speak to the media, said.”
We are sure that there is close cooperation between fighters in some prisons, the families in al Hol, and the units that are still free in the desert area between Iraq and Syria,” the official said.
As many as 12,000 ISIS fighters including about 2,000 foreigners are held in SDF prisons. Among the 70,000 women and children in al Hol are hundreds of women who are still loyal to ISIS’s ground leadership.
Flag of the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”
“[ISIS leader Abu Bakir] Baghdadi even said in his last statement that his people should be patient and await rescue, and that was before the Turks upended what had been a mostly stable situation.”
ISIS fighters in Kurdish jails have been in constant contact with the group’s leadership via Telegram and Whatsapp
The families of ISIS fighters currently held in deteriorating security conditions in al Hol — where the SDF was already stretched thin — were in constant contact with the group’s leadership via Telegram, Whatsapp and other secure messaging systems, the official told us.
“Of course, we know they are plotting something but the resources to stop them just aren’t available,” the official said.
Abu Ahmed described the release of women and children in al Hol as a goal for the group but secondary to the immediate military need to free as many of its captured fighters as possible.
“The women might escape al Hol themselves but the Daesh bosses will be watching the prisons holding the fighters first,” he said. “They want those thousands of mujahideen so they can also fight the Kurds and Iraqis. If they take one prison, they will use those new guys to take another prison and then it will be just like Mosul” in 2014.
“They will have planned to attack at the perfect time and will have trucks and guns waiting for all the men they free”
Abu Ahmed said that in a series of attacks on Mosul in 2014, the plan was merely to break out 2,500 fighters from a local prison. Fighting for the group in northern Syria at the time, Abu Ahmed’s commander had been assigned to help plan the mission.
“My Emir was Abu Omar [al Shishani], and he was commander for all Daesh ground forces in Syria and Iraq, I helped him plan the Mosul operation. We were just trying to get fighters out of prison when the Iraqi Army collapsed. Once Abu Omar saw this he ordered everyone to attack to take as much space as they could as the Iraqis retreated. But the Mosul operation was part of a campaign of jailbreaks called ‘Breaking the Walls.'”
“These are very careful people,” he added. “They will have planned to attack at the perfect time and will have trucks and guns waiting for all the men they free.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Your mind is a muscle. Your patience is a muscle. Your creativity is a muscle. Your muscles are muscles. Just like muscles all these other skills and organs can be trained to become better at what they do. Let’s have a look at exactly how this works for your brain and how you can train it with meditation to become more resilient, just like your biceps get from all those curls you finish every workout with.
Trying to get enlightened real fast!
(Photo by Sgt. Elizabeth White)
This is how your brain works
When you are born, your brain is like the untainted wilderness. As you grow and learn things paths are developed in your brain to those facts and actions just like footpaths are in the woods. Over time those paths become entrenched so that they are unconscious.
When was the last time you gave your full attention to tying your shoes? It’s probably been a long time, that’s because simple actions like lacing up your boots get moved into your unconscious memory. You don’t need to think about doing it. This is a way that our brains work to save space and processing power.
This is great for things like getting dressed or signing your signature, but it becomes a problem when your habits are less desirable, like smoking or not thinking before you speak when your OIC is around.
US Army Veteran, Sean Villa, on Transcendental Meditation
Being able to break these bad habits and actively control what we remember is one of the benefits of meditation known as neuroplasticity.
That phrase: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” comes from old people being stuck in their ways, refusing to change, obviously. That’s the opposite of neuroplasticity. Meditation teaches your brain to stay young and flexible.
Literally, the same thing that happens to your body when you train happens to your brain when you meditate. It makes you more resilient to change and adversity. Whether that adversity is an alligator that needs a beat down- physical training #happygilmore, or a newly updated browser that makes it impossible to figure out how to delete your less than desirable search history #firstworldproblems- meditation.
Don’t forget the gym just because you are training your brain like these guys.
Of the pilot studies on military members with PTSD, they all have been able to show significant results from meditation. In one study over 83% of the participants had a positive effect after just one month, some of which were even able to get off the medication they were taking to help manage their symptoms.
The practices these groups were doing did more than just manage symptoms. It allowed the service members to come to terms with what they experienced. This takes neuroplasticity to the next level.
Meditation Improves Performance at Military University
What happens many times in those with PTSD is that their mind gets stuck on loop reliving a terrible or gruesome experience. The brain digs a path so deep that it’s like you’re stuck in the Grand Canyon of your mind with no climbing tools to get up the wall and out of that undesirable place.
The meditation practices in these studies gave the participants the tools they needed to start climbing up and making their way out to forge a new less traumatic path.
Again, this is exactly the same as if you were actually stuck at the bottom of The Grand Canyon. You need the physical strength to start making your way up, if you’ve never done a pull-up that climb is going to be impossible. You need to train and acquire the physical tools to accomplish such a feat.
You don’t need to be sitting crossed legged to be doing it “right”.
Learn to be in silence: Most of us are constantly surrounded by ear clutter. And even when we finally get a chance for some silence, like in the shower, we decide to crank the Spotify Throwback Workout playlist. Many people can’t even fall asleep without some noise in the background. Start slow on your path to meditation by just picking some dedicated time where you will intentionally listen to nothing and no one. Put some earplugs in if you’re in the barracks and just learn to embrace the silence.
Use an app: What happens when you go to the gym completely unprepared with no idea what to do? Chances are you end up doing a few sets of biceps curls and waste 30 minutes on a treadmill. The equivalent can happen when meditating. Start slowly with an app like headspace or Sam Harris’ new app Waking Up. They will take you through a beginners course on meditating and help you start building that neuroplasticity toolbox.
A team of six Air Force men and women bested the Army and Navy to capture the first-ever Inter-Service Alpha Warrior Final Battle held at Retama Park on the outskirts of San Antonio Nov. 17, 2018.
Capt. Mark Bishop of Air Mobility Command, Capt. Noah Palicia of Pacific Air Forces, Capt. Jennifer Wendland of Air Force Global Strike Command, 1st Lt. Stephanie Frye of PACAF, 1st Lt. John Novotny of AMC, and Senior Airman Stephanie Williams of U.S. Air Forces in Europe completed the course in 2:17:33 to win the championship, a 110-lb trophy and armed forces bragging rights for the next year.
Fashioned after the popular American Ninja Warrior TV competitions, Alpha Warrior tested the competitors’ strength, coordination and endurance through more than 20 obstacles.
The two-day event featured Air Force finals on Nov. 16, 2018, and the inter-service finals the next day. Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center and the Air Force Services Activity hosted the event.
In kicking off the finals Nov. 17, 2018, Maj. Gen. Brad Spacy, AFIMSC commander, talked about how teammates would pull each other through.
Capt. Mark Bishop nears the end of the bridge obstacle of the proving rig during the first Inter-service Alpha Warrior Final Battle Nov. 17, 2018, Retama Park, Selma, Texas.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Debbie Aragon)
“These young soldiers, sailors, and airmen are going to push through this course and they’re going to get to a point somewhere where they think they can’t make it, and they’re going to get through it and their teammates are going to get them through it. In the end, someone will be the winner, but they’re all going to win together,” he said.
It wasn’t too surprising the previous day’s Air Force Final Battle first place male and female athletes, Palicia from Yokota Air Base, Japan, and Williams from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, United Kingdom, came out on top again in the individual category. Palicia finished with the overall fastest time at 16:57.9. Williams finished at 24:03.2.
“The competition was really tough but I’m really pumped that the Air Force is able to do this,” Palicia said. “It feels incredible to be part of the first inter-service battle.”
He said the team walkthroughs and understanding proper technique really helped them complete the obstacles.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Bareng, who is no stranger to fitness programs, said the atmosphere motivated him.
“I wasn’t only getting motivated by my teammates but actually had Air Force and Army guys rooting me on,” he said. “It’s been one team-one fight mentality this whole time and it’s been inspiring to be alongside our sister services.”
Senior Airman Stephanie Williams, women’s category winner, tackles the rings obstacle of the proving rig during the first Inter-service Alpha Warrior Final Battle Nov. 17, 2018, Retama Park, Selma, Texas.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Debbie Aragon)
The finals provided an opportunity for friendly competition while building camaraderie and esprit de corps among the competitors, said Army Sgt. Cameron Edwards.
“The event was challenging,” Edwards said. “It was the first event that I’ve been around Navy and Air Force together. It was a very unique time together. We competed not only against — but with — each other through the end.”
The program expanded from an Air Force-only event in 2017 to include Army and Navy competitors in its second season.
“This event has been a year in the making,” said Col. Donna Turner, AFSVA commander. “Airmen had to compete at the installation-level and regionals where the top two male and females were selected to compete in the Air Force Final Battle. The top six male and females moved on to our first inter-service battle.
“We have a phenomenal partnership with Alpha Warrior, to be able to bring this type of training and tactical fitness to our armed forces,” she said.
“This is the new way to train. This is functional fitness put into a complex environment where airmen have to think, as well as be fit and strong. We call it the revolution in fitness and this is the way of the future,” Spacy said.
Service members are held to a pretty high standard when it comes to grooming practices. The military requires that work uniforms look as neat as possible, men’s faces need to be clean shaven, and haircuts fall with in regulation.
Staying within these standards can be difficult, especially if you’re deployed. But for many, it’s just a matter of heading to the local base and getting a $12 haircut at the PX or NEX. The cut may not turn out celebrity style perfect, but you will be within regs.
Grooming standards vary amongst the branches, but at least one aspect remains the same — the hairline needs to be tapered. A fellow troop’s haircut is one of the first things veterans and service members notice.
Check out our list of military haircuts that would fail inspection:
1. War Daddy
In David Ayer 2014’s war movie “Fury,” Brad Pitt plays a hard-charging tank commander with a pretty awesome hair cut. But we can’t imagine how the Army managed to get a talented hair stylist out on the German front lines to keep his hair perfectly gelled.
2. American Sniper
The story of legendary Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle hit the big screen in 2014 directed by the iconic Clint Eastwood. With all the excellent production value the film had one aspect was over looked — this Marine’s sideburns.
We could mention he also needs to shave, but that’s not what this article is about — maybe next time.
3. Broken Arrow
Christian Slater plays Riley Hale, a military stealth pilot who needs to track down a war head, defeat the villains, and locate a pair of Osters.
We know it makes you sad to trim around the ears, but you know what else is sad? Terrorism. Now go shave.
4. Full Metal Jacket
Although this Stanley Kubrick film is epic on multiple levels, it’s a hard fact to swallow that these Marines stationed on a large military base in Vietnam can’t find a pair of hair clippers. We’re just saying.
5. Jarhead 3: The Siege
The Jarhead franchise just won’t stop making bad movies. Not only does the corporal standing on the left need a quick touch up, but he may want to consider switching out his 8-point cover before the sergeant major rips him a brand new a**hole.
John Travolta plays DEA investigator Tom Hardy (not that Tom Hardy) in 2003’s “Basic.” Although the character isn’t on active duty, his backstory in the film states he’s a former soldier. So before he goes out on a mission to locate a rogue soldier, we think he should clean it up around his ears.
When people think hovercraft, the Landing Craft Air Cushion (also known as the LCAC) comes to mind. Understandably so — that hovercraft has been a vital piece of gear for the Navy and Marine Corps when it comes to projecting power ashore. But these are not the first hovercraft to be used in service. In fact, hovercraft saw action with both the Navy and Army during the Vietnam War.
In 1966, the Navy acquired four Patrol Air Cushion Vehicles, or PACVs (pronounced “Pack-Vees”), for test purposes and deployed them to Vietnam. The hovercraft quickly proved very potent, delivering a lot of firepower and speed and reaching areas inaccessible to traditional tracked or wheeled vehicles.
Patrol Air Cushion Vehicles packed a lot of firepower and were fast — but they never got past an operational test.
A PACV was equipped with a turret that held one or two M2 .50-caliber machine guns mounted on top of the cabin, which held a crew of four. There were also two M60 general-purpose machine guns, one mounted to port and the other to starboard. Additionally, there were two remote-controlled emplacements for either M60s or Mk 19 automatic grenade launchers.
The hovercraft could reach a top speed of 35 knots and had a maximum range of 165 nautical miles. But as maintenance and training proved problematic, especially given the trans-Pacific supply lines, the Navy decided to pull the plug. The Army, however, remained interested. The hovercraft operated primarily from a land base, but could also be deployed from amphibious ships (like today’s LCACs).
PACVs worked with the Navy’s Light Attack Helicopter Squadron Three (HAL-3), providing a fast response to enemy activity.
The Army acquired three Air-Cushion Vehicles, which operated within the 9th Infantry Division. Two were configured for attack missions and both were destroyed in 1970. The other, which was tooled as a transport, was shipped back to the United States.
Learn more about these early hovercraft that did some damage in Vietnam in the video below.
Every country’s military has their own version of Special Forces. However, none of them are quite like the 14th Intelligence Detachment, ‘The Det,’ which was formed as part of the British Army Special Forces during a time known as The Troubles in Northern Ireland. The Det was tasked with mounting surveillance and intelligence gathering operations against the Irish Republican Army and their allies.
They worked in the shadows. No one knew who they were or what they did. They received no acknowledgement or fanfare. The world will never know who they were. But, this dedicated force of highly-trained plain-clothes operatives worked to gather the intelligence needed for the British Army and others to maintain their peacekeeping role between the IRA and the unionist paramilitary forces.
The Det was formed after the British Army’s intelligence unit, the Military Reaction Force, was compromised. The MRF was compromised when IRA double-agents were discovered and then interrogated. They spilled details about a covert MRF operation out of Four Squares laundry in Belfast. This led to an IRA ambush of a MRF laundry van, which killed one undercover soldier.
With the MRF compromised, the Det was set up in 1973. The Det was open to all members of the armed services and to both genders. For the first time, women were allowed to be a part of the UK Special Forces. Each candidate had to pass a rigorous selection process. Members of the Det were expected to have excellent observational abilities, stamina and the ability to think under stress, as well as a sense of self-confidence and self-reliance as the majority of surveillance and intelligence gathering operations were solo missions.
The IRA treated the conflict like guerilla warfare for national independence. They used street fighting, sensational bombings and sniper attacks, which led to the British government classifying their aggressions as terrorism. The Det’s main focus during this time was utilizing their unique talents and training to gather information on the members of the IRA so that the British Army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary could then intervene.
The skills and training of the members of the Det included the disciplines of surveillance, planting bugs and covert video cameras, and close quarters combat. They were also experts in the use of pistols, sub machine guns, carbines and assault rifles. They were also trained in unarmed combat, as well as techniques to disarm and neutralize knife or gun-wielding assailants. It was important for each member to be adept in these skills in order to be able to protect themselves while undercover.
Along with this specialized training, the Det was also equipped with unique equipment much of which could be considered ahead of its time. This included a fleet of ordinary looking saloon cars called ‘Q’ cars. These vehicles were specially equipped with covert radios, video and still cameras, concealed weapons packs, brake lights which could be switched on and off, and engine cut off switches to prevent hijacking. All of these worked to aid in the surveillance missions of the operators. The Det also had their own flight of Army Air Corps Gazelles, which were referred to as ‘The Bat Flight.’ The Gazelles carried sophisticated surveillance gear which was uniquely suited to the operations of ‘The Det.’
From the time of its inception until the end of The Troubles the Det performed numerous operations, mostly following and observing suspected terrorists. These painstakingly planned intelligence operations often led to the arrest of the suspected terrorists and/or the discovery of weapons caches. Occasionally the members of the Det would find themselves in a firefight with terrorists, this was usually due to their cover being blown. Unfortunately, several Det operators tragically lost their lives in Northern Ireland.
The highly-trained members of the Det did not do what they did for glory. They didn’t do it for the accolades, as there were none offered. These elite members put themselves in danger because they believed in what they were working for. They wanted to do their part to protect their country and those they loved. They believed in justice. They believed in the greater good. They knew going into it that no one would ever know what they did or the sacrifices they made in the name of Queen and country. But, they went in anyway. They didn’t see themselves as heroic. But, the elite members of the Det can truly be considered the unsung heroes of The Troubles.
The Det has now been absorbed into the British Army’s Special Reconnaissance Regiment, with a mission to fight the global war on terrorism.
Every year, approximately 4 million people travel to Arlington National Cemetery to pay their respects to the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice defending our great country. Most gather in solemn awe at the historic site of “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” standing atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C.
If you plan your visit accordingly, you may get to witness the awesomeness that is the changing of the guard, which occurs every 30-minutes during the hot summer and every hour during the cold winter.
In April of 1948, the 3rd US Infantry Regiment proudly took on the responsibility of guarding the tomb 24-hours day. Being a sentinel guard isn’t just about walking back and forth keeping a close eye out, it takes professionalism, honor, and most importantly commitment as one must volunteer for the role.
Prospects are hand-selected after volunteering and undergo either a 2 or 4 week TDY to learn rifle precision, uniform maintenance, and marching, as well as to, memorize seven pages of knowledge. Verbatim.
On average, 60% of the hopefuls will not graduate, but those who do complete the training will move on and become “Newman”.
Newmans assist sentinels prior to guard changes, maintain their uniforms, and must endure three more tests before earning their future position. The entire training takes six to nine months and has a fail rate of 90%.
Sentinels stand a 27-hour guard shift, walking their post a dozen times. Contrary to popular belief, they are allowed to verbally discipline tomb visitors.
It’s been more than 150 years since Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Army Commander Ulysses S. Grant at Wilmer McLean’s Appomattox home, but the legacy of the Civil War still lingers.
From the recent controversies over Confederate memorials to the tens of thousands of hobbyists who dress in grey and blue every summer to reenact key battles, Americans continue to wrestle with the causes and ramifications of the War Between the States.
These nine films, which cover the conflict from the hallways of Congress to the scorched earth of Bleeding Kansas, are packed with insights and (usually) authentic historical details. Just as importantly, they’re guaranteed to entertain.
Widely considered one of the greatest films of all time, this four-hour epic won 10 Academy Awards, broke box office records, and introduced the myth of the Lost Cause to generations of moviegoers. For the role of Scarlett O’Hara, producer David O. Selznick considered nearly every leading lady in Hollywood–from Katharine Hepburn to Tallulah Bankhead to Lana Turner–before settling on Vivien Leigh, a relatively unknown English actress. Her iconic performance immortalized the character of the spoiled, strong-willed Southern belle.
To cast Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, Selznick had to delay production and give away half his profits. In return, Gable got the most famous exit line in movie history: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Hewing closely to Margaret Mitchell’s bestselling novel, the screenplay features insightful period details (Confederate blockade runners, Carpetbaggers bribing freed slaves for their votes, etc.) and an epic recreation of the burning of Atlanta. While Gone with the Wind has been rightly criticized for misleading viewers about the horrors of slavery, its emotional impact and sweeping scale make it a must-see for anyone interested in the legacy of the Civil War.
Denzel Washington won his first Academy Award for his portrayal of a runaway slave turned soldier in this captivating drama about the 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry, the first all-black regiment in the history of the US Army. Matthew Broderick stars as Robert Gould Shaw, the white officer who commanded the 54th.
The Confederate Army had recently announced that any captured black Union soldier would be enslaved or killed alongside his white officers, and Shaw had doubts about the unit’s chances for success. But he was impressed by the soldiers’ grit and determination in the face of relentless discrimination and eventually joined their protest to be paid the same as white soldiers.
Tasked with the impossible mission to take Fort Wagner in Charleston Harbor, Shaw and the men of the 54th fought with incredible courage. Their sacrifice is memorialized in a bronze statue in Boston Common, which inspired screenwriter Kevin Jarre to pay tribute to their story.
Daniel Day-Lewis spent a full year researching Abraham Lincoln’s life in preparation for his Oscar-winning turn as the 16th president of the United States. The result is a tender, lived-in portrayal of the man behind the myth–from his slumped shoulders and high-pitched Illinois twang to his unwavering sense of conviction.
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner draws on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography Team of Rivalsto dramatize the political machinations involved in the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Lincoln knew that the permanent abolition of slavery was necessary to the nation’s survival but had to race against the clock to get the bill passed before the South could negotiate peace.
By revealing the drama and intrigue behind one of Congress’s most significant pieces of legislation, director Steven Spielberg offers a civics lesson as thrilling as it is necessary.
Originally planned as a TV miniseries, this four-hour epic based on Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Killer Angelsstars Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, and Martin Sheen. Director James Maxwell convinced the National Park Service to allow him to film on the actual Gettysburg battlefield, and thousands of Civil War reenactors came from all over the country to recreate crucial moments in the three-day campaign, including the assault on Devil’s Den and Pickett’s Charge.
The film, like the novel, focuses on the decisions and actions of key players including General Robert E. Lee (Sheen), Lieutenant General James Longstreet (Berenger), and Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Daniels). Daniels, in particular, delivers a rousing performance as the commander of 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment, whose stout defense of Little Round Top against repeated Confederate assaults helped to turn the tide of the battle and the war. With its massive scale, brilliant cinematography, and rigorous attention to historical detail, Gettysburg does justice to the deadliest battle in US history.
When it was first broadcast on five consecutive nights in September 1990, this documentary miniseries drew an average of 14 million viewers per night–the largest audience in the history of PBS. Over the course of nine episodes, director Ken Burns and his team of researchers, video editors, historians, and actors unspooled the full story of the Civil War, from John Brown’s uprising at Harper’s Ferry to Lincoln’s assassination and the capture of John Wilkes Booth.
Inspired by Matthew Brady’s photographs of the conflict, Burns used a panning and zooming technique (thereafter known as the “Ken Burns effect”) to bring to life roughly 16,000 still images. Excerpts from the letters and diaries of Robert E. Lee, Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglass, and less-known historical figures such as Mary Chestnut and George Templeton Strong provide an intimate perspective on large-scale events like the Battle of Gettysburg and Sherman’s March to the Sea.
The Civil War reignited popular interest in America’s bloodiest conflict and helped to pave the way for bingeable TV documentaries such as The Jinxand OJ: Made in America.
Based on Charles Frazier’s blockbuster novel of the same name, this Anthony Minghella-directed epic is the story of W.P. Inman (Jude Law), a Confederate deserter trying to make his way home to North Carolina in the final months of the Civil War. Gravely wounded in the Battle of the Crater and recovering in a field hospital, Inman decides to leave the war when he reads a letter from his beloved, Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman), imploring him to do just that.
While Inman and the other Cold Mountain men have been off fighting, Ada has been struggling to work her deceased father’s farm. Eventually she’s helped in her efforts by Ruby Thewes (Renée Zellweger in an Oscar-winning performance), an unlettered woman well-versed in the hardscrabble life of a subsistence farmer.
The film brilliantly interweaves Inman’s encounters with all manner of desperate characters–from ribald preachers to villainous Confederate Home Guards –and scenes of Ada and Ruby learning to fend for themselves. Natalie Portman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Brendan Gleeson, Donald Sutherland, and Jack White round out the all-star cast of this story of war-torn country and lovers.
Starring Tobey Maguire, Skeet Ulrich, Jewel, and Jeffrey Wright, this underrated film is based on Daniel Woodrell’s novel Woe to Live On. Maguire stars as young Missouri farmer Jake Roedel, who joins the Bushwhackers, a pro-Confederate guerrilla force, when his German immigrant father is killed by pro-Union Jayhawkers from Kansas.
Alongside his best friend Jack Bull Chiles (Ulrich), Roedel roams the border between Kansas and Missouri, skirmishing with Union regulars and irregulars. But when the Bushwhackers, led by militiaman William Quantrill (John Ales), raid Lawrence, Kansas and massacre 150 unarmed men and boys, Roedel must ask himself where his loyalties truly lie.
Jeffrey Wright delivers a stellar performance as a freed slave who fights for the South, and director Ang Lee brings deep sensitivity and impressive historical accuracy to this searing portrayal of a largely forgotten chapter of the Civil War.
This John Ford-directed Civil War Western is loosely based on the real story of Grierson’s Raid, a daring Union cavalry incursion some six hundred miles into hostile territory that set the stage for the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi.
John Wayne stars as Colonel John Marlowe, a railroad construction engineer who leads his men on a mission to destroy a railroad and supply depot in Newton’s Station, Mississippi. When a Southern belle overhears the brigade’s plans, Marlowe is forced to take her and her slave, Lukey, captive. Legendary tennis ace Althea Gibson, the first black woman to win a Grand Slam title, was cast as Lukey but objected to the character’s scripted stereotypical “Negro” dialect. Ford had the dialogue changed at her request.
With Ford’s dynamic visual style and a well-matched rivalry between Wayne’s colonel and William Holden as a regimental surgeon haunted by the horrors of warfare, The Horse Soldiers captures the drama and audacity of one of the war’s most brilliant campaigns.
Inspired by real-life rumors of lost Confederate gold, this epic spaghetti Western follows three gunslingers across a southwestern landscape ravaged by the Civil War. Clint Eastwood is Blondie (The Good), a lone-wolf bounty hunter with a sense of justice; Lee van Cleef is Angel Eyes (The Bad), a cold-blooded mercenary who never lets a contract killing go unfulfilled; and Eli Wallach is Tuco (The Ugly), a voluble Mexican bandit wanted for a long list of crimes.
As these drifters cross and double-cross each other in pursuit of 0,000 in buried treasure, Union and Confederate forces clash for control of the New Mexico Territory. In director Sergio Leone’s vision of the Civil War, neither side fights with honor. Greed, violence, and stupidity rule the day. With brilliant cinematography and an iconic score by Ennio Morricone, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is one of the 20th century’s most unique and influential films.
The Saab Gripen is a beautiful fighter with a nifty little mane on its nose, and it’s popular with small militaries around the world because it’s cheap to operate, has high-mission readiness, and can take off from nearly anywhere. Seriously, if you’ve got a half mile of level pavement, you can probably get a Gripen in the air from it.
You might need to cut down some light poles or whatever, but that’s on you.
The Gripen fighter, which recently saw its E-variant enter serial production, is squarely aimed at fighting whatever it needs to, including fifth-generation fighters like Russia’s Su-57. That might be surprising since it’s not as fast. Or have as many weapons. Or have much stealth coating or many materials.
But the Gripen’s manufacturer, Saab, isn’t trying to win at air shows, and it isn’t accepting the price point required to develop stealth aircraft. (Even Russia can’t actually afford its stealthy Su-57, which might not even be that stealthy.)
That’s because Saab makes weapons for Sweden and for export to countries like Thailand, Hungary, and South Africa. These countries don’t have the money to drop 0 million per F-35, a plane that costs ,000-,000 per hour of flight. And they don’t have the billion to develop a Su-57 and fail like Russia did.
A Saab Gripen takes off from a public road.
(San Diego Air and Space Museum)
So Saab built the Gripen around a few complementary ideas. The first was that they could develop a capable jet fighter with a low cost per flight hour. Right now, new Gripens cost up to million per copy and come out to ,000 per flight hour.
Part of this low-cost per flight hour is making it easy to refuel, rearm, and maintain the plane on the ground. And, the way they did this allows operators to work the plane from nearly anywhere a 20-foot cargo container can be delivered on a truck, provided there are at least 875 yards of runway-ish concrete for the plane to take off from. So, Gripens can easily disperse during combat. Sure that’s not scary for an aggressor who has to face them.
But operators, obviously, still need them to be lethal. Paper planes are cheap and hard to spot, too, but there’s a reason they aren’t popular with militaries. But the Gripen is lethal, partially because it can fire most NATO-produced missiles and partially because the entire plane was designed around electronic warfare.
But the Gripen’s electronic warfare is robust, so much so that Saab believes the plane can blind nearly all of the Russian fighters the Gripen is designed to deter, especially the large number of Flankers in Russia’s inventory but also the Su-57. Even better, Saab thinks the E-variant can fight the Su-57 on equal terms.
There is one serious caveat, though. Sweden doesn’t want the fighter jet’s electronic warfare tools recorded by adversaries who could create exploits against them. (Electronic warfare in combat turns into a game of tit-for-tat as each side tries to reconfigure their signals to defeat the other.) So, Sweden has rarely allowed pilots to turn on the full electronics suite in exercises with England.
And so, no one can be really certain how the Gripen E will perform against advanced air defenses and fighters. They can hide in the brush, they can take off from anywhere, but they can only probably cut their way through Russia’s air force.
Accounts in South Korean media differ over who exactly proposed the latest measure, but it came at a general-level military dialogue, which hadn’t happened for over a decade before.
The two nations, still technically at war after signing an armistice in the 1950s, met under the banner of “practically eliminate the danger of war,” as South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to do on April 27, 2018, during their historic first summit.
But the guns represent a substantial part of North Korea’s threat to Seoul, perhaps acting as the main deterrent holding off a US or South Korean invasion during the multidecade military standoff.
Precisely because the artillery is so formidable, expect to see North Korea ask for something in return. Kim could ask for a withdrawal of or a reduction in US forces in South Korea — a longstanding goal in Pyongyang. Roughly 28,000 US troops are stationed in South Korea as a deterrent.
He was a former Delta Force operator who’d taken a career turn into the shadowy world of “non-official cover” intelligence operations for the Army. He lived in the shadows — traveling around the world to build and maintain his cover as a businessman, with members of his former unit wondering where he’d gone.
But on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the East European executed a daring mission on behalf of America’s top commando units, driving into the heart of Saddam Hussein’s power and surveilling his most fearsome tool of the Iraqi dictator’s oppression.
The stunning story of the East European is detailed in Sean Naylor’s book “Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command.” The operator is said to have been an original member of Delta Force and was on the ill-fated Eagle Claw mission to rescue American hostages in Tehran. Born in Eastern Europe, the elite commando was said to be a “funny, outgoing guy with a heavy accent,” Naylor writes.
The operator left the assaulter side of Delta and worked in the Training, Evaluation and Operational Research office of the unit, which among other things develops high-tech gadgets for Delta commandos to use on covert missions. Later, the East European descended into the shadowy world of a NOC.
These intelligence agents, Naylor writes, were playing a dangerous game. They could infiltrate countries where Americans dared not travel under a realistic cover, but if they were caught, they had no ready support and no diplomatic immunity like CIA officers do. The East European had traveled to Iran in hopes of recruiting military sources there and had even worked inside Iraq in the 1990s as part of the United Nations’ search for WMD. His cover was maintained by a U.S.-allied country in Eastern Europe, and he’d even had access to that country’s embassy in Baghdad, Naylor explained.
But it was after the attacks on 9/11, that the East European was given his most dangerous mission yet.
It was a typical drive from Amman to Baghdad for the American agent, but the vehicle he was driving into Saddam’s capital wasn’t typical at all. The SUV that would carry him into the city was bristling with surveillance equipment implanted by the National Security Agency. The super-secret listening devices were designed to capture cellphone and handheld radio traffic and send the signals back to the U.S. for analysis, Naylor writes.
The East European simply parked the SUV in front of the Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad and left it there. Military intelligence operatives hoped to get tips on Iraqi military positions just before the invasion and track the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein.
“If you were trying to establish every time that Saddam Hussein’s personal security detail drove around Baghdad, this was a way of doing that,” a Joint Special Operations command officer told Naylor. “The Iraqis were notoriously poor at OPSEC.”
After leaving the vehicle at Iraqi intel HQ, the East European walked the streets of Baghdad with a special GPS device, tagging targets in the Iraqi capital for airstrikes.
The East European pinpointed targets deep inside Baghdad for U.S. bombers during the ‘Shock and Awe’ campaign. (Photo from Democracy Now)
“Such missions entailed enormous risk, not only from the Iraqi security services if the agent was compromised, but from the bombing campaign itself,” Naylor wrote. “Protecting him required careful, up-to-the-minute planning of the airstrikes.”
So if it wasn’t the Mukhabarat that could bring death and destruction to the East European, it was American bombs.
The East European quietly exfiled from Iraq after the invasion and served several more years in military-related intelligence services. But that drive into the heart of Baghdad shows that the feats of Hollywood superstars like Jason Bourne aren’t entirely the stuff of fiction.
In 1941, after the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, famous aviatrix Marina Raskova lobbied Joseph Stalin to form regiments of women pilots. Out of necessity, Russia became the first country to allow women to fly combat missions and formed three regiments.
The most fearsome of these groups, the 588th Regiment, became known as the Nachthexen or, “Night Witches,” a name the women adopted with pride.
The Night Witches were not treated equally to their male counterparts. The only regiment made up entirely of women — ages 17 to 23 — wore hand-me-downs from male pilots and flew militarized crop-dusters known as Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes.
The planes were made mostly of wood and canvas and, if hit by tracer bullets, would ignite like paper. The pilot and navigator sat in open cockpits, with only small, glass windscreens to protect them from the savage Russian winters. To top it all off, the aircraft carried no radio or machine gun. The Po-2 could carry only two 220-lb. bombs at a maximum speed of 94 mph. Because of the weight of the bombs they carried and the low altitudes at which they flew, they carried no parachutes. They had no radar to help navigate through the night skies — only maps and compasses.
The courageous and smart women that made up the 588th, however, used these trainer planes’ shortcomings to their advantage. Because of the planes’ primitive construction, German radar could hardly see their approach, so they were assigned night harassment. Often operating in a sort-of stealth mode, idling engines as they neared the targets, they would glide their way to the bomb release points.
The Germans became terrified of the “Night Witches” and spread wild rumors that the women were given special injections that gave them feline-perfect night vision. Soldiers often would refuse to go outside and smoke for fear of letting the bombers know where they were. The “Night Witches” were so effective and so elusive that German pilots received the Iron Cross and a cash award of 2,000 Reichsmarks if they shot one of them down.
Dealing with daily sexual harassment on the ground and grueling night runs (sometimes up to 18 per night), the women were hardened and feared very little. However, the all-female aircrew did fear one thing above all else, and that would be what might occur if they were grounded and captured alive by the Germans.
Hint: It would not end well for the pilots, who were both female and Russian — a deadly combo when caught by the SS.
Galina Beltsova, a navigator with the Dive Bombers regiment said,
All of us were provided with one extra bullet and if I could see I was being circled by the enemy, of course, I could take out my pistol and shoot myself — as a last resort.
The female fighter pilots initially struggled, but later earned the respect of their brothers-in-arms. As a regiment, they flew more than 24,000 combat missions and dropped 3,000 tons of bombs and 26,000 incendiary bombs. The leader of the 588th Regiment, Irina Sebrova, became one of the most decorated pilots in the Soviet Army and was awarded the distinctions of Hero of Soviet Union and the Order of Lenin. Sebrova also received 3 Orders of the Red Banner, the Order of the Patriotic War, 1st and 2nd class, the Order of the Red Star, and various medals.
The “Night Witches” didn’t have great planes, superior bombs, or even very much support for their unit, but they nonetheless became one of the most remarkable fighting forces of World War II.