Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

There’s no truer way to describe it: Life in the trenches of WWI was absolute hell. If an enemy bullet, artillery shell, or gas canister didn’t kill you, the cesspool of diseases that formed in the puddles at the bottom of the trenches surely would. To make matters worse, the damp, dingy, and dirty environment made for the perfect breeding ground for rats that would carry and spread deadly diseases.

Placing and maintaining rat traps was impractical in such an austere environment, so there was really only one way to deal with the infestation. This particular deterrent also provided a huge boost to morale in an otherwise bleak battlefield. We’re talking, of course, about trench cats.


Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

Things are just slightly better when you have a kitty.

(Imperial War Museum)

Throughout the trench systems that ran along the Western Front of WWI, there were an estimated 500,000 cats. Primarily, they were there to cull the rodent population, but as you can imagine, many troops would find comfort in caring for the kitties.

The cats also served at mascots for many of the units fighting in the trenches. Troops would share parts of their rations with the cats who, in turn, would stick around for the food and attention. The cats would mostly crowd around troops’ living quarters, giving them something to play with between conflicts.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the cats, though. Many more troops loved and cared for the cats in between battles and made them part of their unit. Like this Army Air Corps kitty, who’s name was Spark Plug.

(National Archives)

As heart-wrenching as it was, cats were also very susceptible to the near-odorless and near-invisible toxic gas used against the Allies. This means that cats would feel the effects of the gas attacks almost immediately. Like canaries in mine shafts, their reaction to the gas would alert nearby troops, who would then rush to put on their gear and get to safety. It’s unknown how many cats died due to chemical warfare, but their losses saved countless GI lives.

The cats were also able to freely cross no man’s land. During the famous Christmas Truce of 1914, many soldiers wished for peace and friendship between the troops of warring factions. So, they would tie messages around the collars of some of the free-roaming kitties and the message would get across to the enemy fortifications.

Unfortunately, not everyone thought such communication was to be taken lightly. One cat by the name of Felix was caught by French officers and put in front of a tribunal. This cat, trying to carry messages of peace and love in exchange for treats, was found guilty of treason and executed by firing squad.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

Lt. Lekeux and Pitouchi would remain best friends long after the war.

(Belgian Historical Archives)​

The cats were known to be fiercely loyal to the troops with whom they served. One Belgian officer and scout, Lt. Lekeux of the 3rd Regiment of Artillery, came across a liter of kittens whose mother had perished before the young could open their eyes. Lekeux nursed the kittens back to health, but unfortunately only one survived — he named the cat Pitoutchi.

The cat followed the lieutenant everywhere he went and jumped on his shoulders whenever the trenches were too wet. One night, as Lt. Lekeux was scouting out the German position and drawing their location on a map, German troops almost spotted him. Alerted by some noise, the troops surrounded the artillery crater in which Lekeux took cover. He was trapped; the Germans were sure to shoot him if he fled or bayonet him if they found him in there.

Suddenly, Pitoutchi jumped from Lt. Lekeux’s shoulder and dashed out of cover. The Germans spotted the little kitten and opened fire, but his cat’s reflexes proved too quick. The Germans attributed the noise they heard to Pitoutchi and gave up searching.

This gave Lekeux the window he needed to mount an escape, with the maps and Pitouchi in hand.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA

Four spouses and two fiancées of veterans eligible for the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ family caregiver program have filed a lawsuit against the VA for denying or improperly revoking their benefits.

In a suit filed Jan. 22, 2018, in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the plaintiffs, led by Florida resident Zamantha Tapia, fiancée of Army veteran Cesar Silva, allege that the VA did not follow the laws and regulations governing the department’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program, which provides compensation and health benefits to those who provide care for seriously injured post-9/11 veterans.


According to the suit, Silva and Tapia’s application was denied, and the benefits of the other plaintiffs were inappropriately downgraded or terminated without proper investigation or determination.

In 2017, veterans and their caregivers enrolled in the program began seeing their benefits curtailed or terminated — often with no reason given, other than that their VA providers determined they no longer needed help with their daily activities.

In August 2018, the VA Office of Inspector General found that across the VA, facilities didn’t adequately manage the program, failing to provide consistent access to it, improperly accepting ineligible veterans and declining to monitor the health statuses of nearly half the veterans it discharged from the program.

The IG also learned that the department paid out .8 million to caregivers of veterans who weren’t eligible for the program, and the VA “failed to manage the program effectively because it did not establish governance that promoted accountability for program management,” staff members wrote in the report.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

In 2015, plaintiff Jennifer Wilmot and her husband George Wilmot, an Army National Guard veteran who served from October 2007 to May 2013, were booted from the program.

Wilmot had been injured during a 2009 deployment to Mosul, Iraq, when the Humvee he was riding in came under small-arms fire and crashed. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, fractured portions of his back and pelvis and nearly lost his left arm. He also has post-traumatic stress disorder and memory loss.

The Wilmots were accepted into the caregiver program in 2013 but should have received the highest level of compensation rather than the level they were awarded, according to attorneys Jason Perry and Luke Miller.

Then came the dismissal.

“After completing a comprehensive review of your medical records, it appears that you have met the intention of the program and your participation will be discontinued,” VA officials wrote to the Wilmots.

The lawsuit calls the termination “arbitrary and capricious.”

Silva was deployed to Iraq from November 2003 to August 2004, sustaining shrapnel injuries in an attack. According to the lawsuit, he received a VA disability rating of 70 percent in 2009 for rotator cuff strain and impingement and suffers from chronic headaches, degenerative joint disease, back pain and neuropathy. He also has PTSD, TBI, memory loss, depression and irritable bowel syndrome.

Tapia and Silva applied for the family caregiver program in 2014 but were denied. According to the suit, the VA found that Silva did not need assistance for physical injuries and said his mental health conditions were not service-connected. They reapplied in 2017, but following a phone assessment, VA officials said that Silva was not “receiving medical treatment” — an error, the lawsuit alleges — and that Tapia was “an enabler.”

According to Perry, an attorney in Wellington, Florida, and Miller, of Military Disability Lawyer LLC in Salem, Oregon, the plaintiffs have asked the court to certify the suit as a class action, meaning that other affected caregivers could sign on if it is approved.

They estimate that the VA received more than 100,000 applications for the family caregiver program between May 2011 and September 2018 and, therefore, thousands may be able to sign on to the possible class action.

The plaintiffs also are requesting that the VA stop what they perceive as arbitrary dismissals from the program and are seeking monetary compensation in an amount “to be determined at trial,” according to the suit.

The federal government has until March 25, 2019, to file a response in the case, and a status conference is scheduled for March 29, 2019, according to court documents.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Bin Laden was ‘not a fighter’ and fainted when battles broke out

Osama Bin Laden, the terror leader behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the US, has gone down as one of the most vicious figures in history, but he admittedly lacked the courage to fight in an actual battle.

In an interview with The Guardian on Aug. 3, 2018, Bin Laden’s family and those close to him opened up about his personal life and the fallout he brought down on Saudi Arabia after his rise to infamy.


Prince Turki al-Faisal, head of Saudi intelligence for 24 years until September 1, 2001, told The Guardian that “there are two Osama bin Ladens… One before the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and one after it.”

Bin Laden got his first taste of warfare in Afghanistan during its 1970s war with the Soviet Union, but it turned out he wasn’t made of soldiering stuff.

“He was very much an idealistic mujahid [this word has a similar meaning to jihadist]. He was not a fighter. By his own admission, he fainted during a battle, and when he woke up, the Soviet assault on his position had been defeated,” Turki said.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

2001 video of Bin Laden.

Bin Laden’s family portrays him as drifting towards radicalism and away from the family in the decades between that struggle and 2001 in The Guardian interview. The family has tried to distance itself from Bin Laden’s acts of terrorism, but his youngest son went to Afghanistan to “avenge” his death, they said.

Bin Laden famously led Al Qaeda and planned the 2001 attacks. Again, Bin Laden himself did not engage in the hijackings, and simply coordinated them behind the scenes.

When Bin Laden finally came face to face with US forces, taking the form of US Navy SEALs storming his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan, initial US government reports said he hid behind women in the complex to use them as a human shield.

Later the White House walked back those statements . The Pentagon never released images of Bin Laden’s body, and the SEALs that participated in the attack all say it’s because he was left in unpresentable shape.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Australia won’t allow Chinese tech near its networks

The top cyber and communications spy in Australia has explained why Huawei and ZTE have been barred from the country’s 5G network and China is unimpressed.

Mike Burgess, the director-general of the Australian Signals Directorate, said in Canberra on Oct. 29, 2018, that the ban on Chinese telecom firms like Huawei Technologies and ZTE was in Australia’s national interest and would protect the country’s critical infrastructure.

It is the first time the nation’s chief cyber spook has publicly explained the move since August 2018 when Australia made the call to block the Chinese telecom giants from supplying equipment to the nascent Australian 5G network.


Burgess said that the stakes “could not be higher” and that if Australia used “high-risk vendor” supplies then everything from the country’s water supply and electricity grid to its health systems and even its autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles would be compromised.

In response, a miffed, but totally unsurprised China on Oct. 30, 2018, again called on Australia to drop “ideological prejudice” and “create a level playing field for Chinese companies doing business in the country.”

Australia is a member of the so-called “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance alongside Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the US, and while Australia is also a close trading partner, there is certainly an understanding to follow the US on sensitive intelligence issues that can compromise the alliance.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

ZTE booth at Mobile World Congress 2015 in Barcelona.

So that obviously puts the kibosh on allowing any access to critical infrastructure for any companies aligned with the Chinese state.

And since the Chinese government has been leveraging the state’s position, role and function within its growing portfolio of world-beating mega-tech companies, the decision out of Canberra to err on the side of caution — and Washington — would have surprised precisely no one.

But that didn’t stop China from responding the way it did.

In a restrained retort from the English language tabloid, The Global Times, China accused Canberra of being part of a US-led global conspiracy to leave Chinese tech companies behind.

“Australian officials and think tanks in recent days continued to raise security concerns over Chinese companies’ operations in the country and have made accusations about China stealing its technologies, in what Chinese analysts say is an attempt to, in collaboration with other Western powers, derail China’s steady rise in telecom and other technologies,” the Global Times noted.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a press briefing on Oct. 30, 2018, that “the Australian side should facilitate the cooperation among companies from the two countries, instead of using various excuses to artificially set up obstacles and adopt discriminatory practices.”

Back in August 2018 Marise Payne, the Australian foreign affairs minister, said the move was not targeted specifically at Huawei and ZTE, but applied to any company that had obligations clashing with Australia’s national security.

In response, China’s Ministry of Commerce released a statement chilling in its brevity: “The Australian government has made the wrong decision and it will have a negative impact to the business interests of China and Australia companies.”

China is Australia’s largest trading partner and 30% of Australian exports end up in the Middle Kingdom, it’s a bit of a fraught relationship when the US is also the isolated Pacific nation’s most important and closest military ally.

Huawei is the largest maker of telecom equipment worldwide, and in Australia for that matter too. But its sales here are still a fraction of the broader economic ties between the two countries, and it is China that has historically been unwilling to open much of its own telecom markets to foreign companies.

Describing Australia’s ban on Chinese telecommunication companies as “discriminatory” and based on manufactured “excuses,” China on Oct. 30, 2018, called on Australia to drop its “ideological prejudice” and “create a level playing field for Chinese companies doing business in the country.”

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne.

(DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

In the annals of majestic propaganda, it’s low-key bluster coming as it does from the world’s first digital dictatorship, as Business Insider UK’s Alexandra Ma describes here.

It’s just that not getting your tech-giants invited to global infrastructure parties is one of the unforeseen costs of setting up the greatest, most powerful intelligence-collection systems ever devised.

That success makes it hard for the Chinese government and its state-owned media to credibly look surprised, hurt, or bewildered when such a decision is made.

China’s vast data-collection platforms — WeChat alone has more than a billion users — are harvesting ever-deeper and more granular material on behalf of the state.

That’s great news for China’s state machinery when it comes to monitoring the population, but it’s a double-edged sword too, and wielding it has its price.

According to Danielle Cave, a senior analyst at the Australian Security Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Centre, requiring Chinese citizens, organisations and companies to support, cooperate with and collaborate in intelligence activities, of course, comes at a cost to China.

“And that cost will be the international expansion plans of Chinese companies — state-owned and private — which have been well and truly boxed into a corner.

“The CCP has made it virtually impossible for Chinese companies to expand without attracting understandable and legitimate suspicion. The suspicion will be deeper in countries that invest in countering foreign interference and intelligence activities, Cave wrote in 2018 in The Strategist.

Most developed countries, including Australia, fall into that group and will come to fear the potential application and reach of China’s technical successes.

But then again, there are a good few states out there that could be willing to risk being watched by China, if they can use China’s tech to watch their own populations.

For now the Global Times insists that “such accusations are baseless.”

“They are in line with the Australian government’s overall approach toward China — a tougher approach that (is) derived from suspicion about China rise’s (sp) that they perceive as threat, a fantasy to contain China’s further development and ideological prejudice against China.”

It might be infuriating, but taken from this perspective it is a mark of sheer awe and respect for China’s technocratic achievements that Australia has balked at letting Huawei loose inside its critical networks.

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

Articles

These two Medal of Honor recipients could be the first American servicemen to become saints

Though “saintly” is a term quite often used to describe the virtuous actions of American troops in combat zones — from providing humanitarian aid and medicine to those in need, to placing themselves between civilians and the line of fire — it could have a very literal meaning in the near future when describing two deceased military chaplains.


Decades after their passing, Catholic priests Fr. Emil Kapaun, and Fr. Vincent Capodanno, are currently undergoing the process for canonization with the Roman Catholic Church, which could see these two Medal of Honor recipients become the first official saints to have served with the US military.

Emil Kapaun was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the US Army in 1944, seeing service as a chaplain in the Burma Theater towards the end of World War II. Briefly leaving the Army at the war’s conclusion to pursue graduate studies, he returned to active duty soon afterwards and was stationed in Japan with a cavalry unit.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI
Chaplain Emil Kapaun celebrates a Catholic Mass for cavalry soldiers during the Korean War (Photo US Army)

The young priest, respected among his peers and often sought out as a source of advice and friendship by the soldiers he ministered to, was sent back to a combat zone during the onset of the Korean War. Using the hood of a jeep as his altar, Kapaun led prayer services and Catholic Masses in the midst of combat for soldiers who requested it, sometimes even while under withering enemy fire that would see his jeep lit up with machine gun rounds by Chinese and North Korean forces.

The chaplain was taken prisoner, along with a number of others from his unit during the Battle of Unsan, and was force-marched to a Chinese prison camp where he and his fellow prisoners of war would undergo harsh treatment at the hands of their captors. Kapaun developed a quick reputation for stealing food and medicine from Chinese storage sites at the camp to feed the malnourished and aid the sick POWs.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI
Emil Kapaun’s official portrait (Photo US Army)

He would also go without his meager rations for considerable periods of time, having volunteered them to others who he felt needed it more than he did. Above that, Kapaun incurred the wrath of his Chinese guards for halting the executions of wounded American troops by tackling or shoving the soldiers lined up to commit the dastardly act.

Still ministering to his fellow POWs as best as he could, Kapaun died in captivity. His body was thrown in a mass grave by his Chinese captors along with the remains of many other deceased American POWs. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously in 2013 by former President Barack Obama.

Lieutenant Vincent R. Capodanno was another military chaplain similarly decorated for bravery like Kapaun, who lost his life in war. After joining the Catholic priesthood and completing his studies in a seminary, the freshly-ordained reverend from New York was commissioned an officer in the Navy upon hearing of a need for chaplains to minister to Marines and sailors.

Though he could have requested to stay away from the front lines, Capodanno felt that he was called to a deployment overseas in Vietnam, ministering to infantry Marines embroiled in a brutal fight against the Communist North Vietnamese forces. In 1966, Capodanno’s request was granted and he was sent to South Vietnam to serve with the 7th Marine Regiment.

Liked unanimously by the Marines he ministered to, Capodanno was affectionately referred to as “The Grunt Padre” for his willingness to go into combat and assist corpsmen in administering aid to casualties sustained in battle. Capodanno extended his tour in Vietnam for another year, this time with 5th Marine Regiment.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI
Vincent Capodanno’s official Navy portrait (Photo US Navy)

It was during this last tour in 1967, that the Navy chaplain would lose his life. In the onslaught of an outnumbered fight, where small elements of Marines were pitted against an overwhelming force of NVA troops and irregulars, Capodanno ran into battle repeatedly to pull fallen Marines away from danger, sustaining critical wounds himself.

Refusing to be evacuated, the Grunt Padre continued onward, giving Last Rites to the dying while tending to the wounded with combat medical aid. A burst of machine gun fire finally cut down Capodanno as he attempted to shield a fallen Marine from enemy fire with his own body.

The Navy chaplain’s heroism and valor under fire was witnessed by every Marine and corpsman on the field of battle that day, and the following year, Capodanno’s family was notified that he would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor as a result.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI
Chaplain Capodanno celebrating a Catholic Mass for Marines during a lull in fighting in Vietnam (Photo US Marine Corps)

In the years after their passing, Kapaun and Capodanno have generated huge followings, especially among soldiers, Marines and sailors alike, a number of whom devoted time to praying for their spiritual intercession. And interestingly enough, a number of miraculous events have occurred in the time since, apparently attributed to the assistance these two chaplains have supposedly provided from even beyond the grave, still serving faithfully.

According to the Catholic Church, a series of verified miracles attributed to a candidate for sainthood are required before someone can be confirmed through a process called the “cause for canonization.” Currently, the miracles ascribed to Capodanno and Kapaun’s intercession are under procedural investigation by the Church, and should they be approved, these two former servicemen who gave their lives for their brothers in arms could very well find themselves canonized the first American military saints in history.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Finally – this is the Army’s new parental leave policy

The Army has doubled the amount of parental leave available to fathers and other secondary caregivers of newborn infants with a policy that also provides more leave flexibility for mothers.

Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper signed a directive Jan. 23, 2019, that increases parental leave from 10 to 21 days for soldiers who are designated secondary caregivers of infants. The new policy makes the Army’s parental leave comparable to that of other services and in compliance with the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.


Mothers will now be granted six weeks of convalescent leave directly after giving birth and can be granted another six weeks of leave as primary caregiver to bond with their infant anytime up to a year after birth.

“We want soldiers and their families to take full advantage of this benefit,” said retired Col. Larry Lock, chief of Compensation and Entitlements, Army G-1. He said parental leave is a readiness issue that ensures mothers have the time they need to get back in shape while it also takes care of families.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

A soldier shares a high-five with his daughter.

The new policy is retroactive to Dec. 23, 2016 — the date the NDAA legislation was signed for fiscal year 2017.

In other words, soldiers who took only 10 days of paternal leave over the past couple of years can apply to take an additional 11 days of “uncredited” leave as a secondary caregiver.

An alternative would be to reinstate 11 days of annual leave if that time was spent with their infant.

Eligible soldiers need to complete a Department of the Army Form 4187 and submit it to their commanders for consideration regarding the retroactive parental leave.

Fathers can also be designated as primary caregivers and granted six weeks or 42 days of parental leave, according to the new policy. However, only one parent can be designated as primary caregiver, Lock pointed out.

If a mother needs to return to work and cannot take the six weeks of leave to care for an infant, then the father could be designated as primary caregiver, he said. However, if the mother has already taken 12 weeks of maternal leave, that option is not available.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

Sgt. 1st Class Michael Lewis, a motor sergeant assigned to the 232nd Engineer Company, 94th Engineer Battalion, plays with his daughter.

(Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Heather A. Denby)

Until now, mothers could receive up to 12 weeks of maternity leave, which had to be taken immediately following childbirth. Now, only the six weeks of convalescent leave needs to be taken following discharge from the hospital. The second six weeks of primary caregiver leave can be taken anytime up to a year from giving birth, but must be taken in one block.

In the case of retroactive primary caregiver leave, it can be taken up to 18 months from a birth.

This provides soldiers more flexibility, Lock said.

The new directive applies to soldiers on active duty, including those performing Active Guard and Reserve duty as AGRs or full-time National Guard duty for a period in excess of 12 months.

Summing up the new policy, Lock said the Military Parental Leave Program, or MPLP, now offers three separate types of parental leave: maternity convalescent leave, primary caregiver leave, and secondary caregiver leave.

Mothers who decide to be secondary caregivers are eligible for the convalescent leave and the 21 days for a total of up to nine weeks.

Parents who adopt are also eligible for the primary or secondary caregiver leave.

The new policy is explained in Army Directive 2019-05, which is in effect until an updated Army Regulation 600-8-10 is issued.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The President gets closer to his enormous military parade

Republicans are attempting to ensure that President Donald Trump will get the massive military parade through the streets of Washington that he has long desired, according to a summary of the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act.

The annual defense bill, slated for release on May 7, 2018, will include language that will provide for a parade “to honor and celebrate 100 years of patriotic sacrifice in a way that expresses appreciation and admiration for our men and women in uniform, including a parade in the nation’s capital and a national celebration for that purpose,” according to a summary released by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry.


Republicans are billing the parade as a grand homage to America’s veterans and servicemembers, but also one that would double as a show of force to adversarial countries like Russia.

Thornberry “thinks at this point in history — 100 years after the Armistice when the world order that has been built largely by the service and sacrifice of veterans of past wars is under pressure from countries like Russia and China — this is an appropriate moment to acknowledge their service,” a Republican aide told Business Insider.

But what kind of equipment will be paraded through the capital is unclear. Under the framework outlined in the bill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will have authority to prohibit the use of “operational units or equipment” if he deems it at all a burden that would threaten military readiness.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis
(DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

“It talks a little about stuff that’s traditionally used in parades,” the aide said. “But as for anything more, [Thornberry] leaves it to the secretary’s discretion to make sure that readiness restoration remains the department’s priority.”

The GOP aide added that the Department of Defense regularly uses funds for ceremonies and similar events, making them “well-versed in these functions.”

“What the chairman is comfortable with is veterans. Of course you’re gonna see a 21-gun salute, you’re gonna see firing of cannons, and things like that — that’s OK — that’s traditional ceremonial function,” the aide said. “What we don’t wanna see are tanks rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue.”

Trump has been fascinated by the idea of a large US military parade ever since his trip to Paris, where French President Emmanuel Macron hosted him for Bastille Day celebrations.

Trump remarked to the New York Times in an interview that “it was one of the most beautiful parades I have ever seen. And in fact, we should do one one day down Pennsylvania Ave.”

If the annual NDAA makes its way through, Trump may get most of what he has hoped for in terms of a grand military display in Washington.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The earliest-born American to be photographed is also a veteran

Conrad Heyer crossed the Delaware with George Washington. He was also the earliest-born person, one of only a handful of Revolutionary War veterans, to be photographed. But there is one important historical inaccuracy in the legend of Conrad Heyer that may not add up.


Heyer was born an American in the Massachusetts Bay Colony (now the State of Maine) around 1749. He sat for this photo in 1852, at age 103. In that time, he saw the young republic finish the British off during the American Revolution and fight them, again, to a draw in the War of 1812. He saw President Jefferson purchase Louisiana and watched President Polk and the U.S. Army defeat Santa Anna in the Mexican-American War of 1847.

In his 107 years of life, he saw 15 Presidents of the United States, 31 colonies and territories become U.S. states, and barely missed the start of the Civil War.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI
TV wasn’t around back then. He had to watch something.

Although this is not the earliest photo of an American, Heyer was the earliest-born American to be photographed (and this is actually a daguerrotype — an early kind of photography).

In the telling of Conrad Heyer’s Revolutionary War tale, however, people have been adding one detail for decades that just might not be true: that Conrad Heyer crossed the Delaware with General Washington in 1776.

Washington’s daring plan to attack Hessian mercenaries in Trenton on Christmas, 1776, was audacious and dangerous. Any troop who fell into the icy river would likely die — and two of the three flat boats set to make the crossing didn’t even make it. Somehow, Heyer was counted among those in Washington’s boat, according to the Maine Historical Society.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI
Look out for icebergs, Conrad.

The Journal of the American Revolution did some digging into Heyer’s story. They went back to the sworn testimony Heyer gave years after the Revolution when applying for a veteran’s pension.

In 1818, Congress allotted funds to give pensions to veterans of the Continental Army who were struggling financially. Applicants had to prove their service either by enlistment documents or sworn testimony of those they served with. Don N. Hagist went back to the National Archives for the Journal of the American Revolution and found Heyer’s original sworn testimony, along with the support of his officers.

Heyer did serve in the Continental Army, but his testimony states he served for a year, starting in the middle of December, 1775. But Heyer says he was discharged in December 1777. This could allow for Heyer to have served at the Battle of Trenton. The records of Heyer’s unit, the 25th Continental Regiment, indicate that the unit served in Canada and was disbanded in New Jersey in 1776.

It looks like the year 1777 was a mistake made by the person who wrote Heyer’s pension deposition, as mentions of Heyer and his unit disappear into history a year earlier.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI
But not the hearts of Revolutionary War re-enactors.

If he was discharged in Fishkill, New York, as records show, then there is little chance he could have been at the Delaware River crossing in time to join Washington by Christmas, even if he did re-enlist.

But by the time he died, his obituary claimed he’d served three years in the Revolution. Heyer, in reaffirming his pension claim in 1855, swore that he served those three years and was also at the Battle of Saratoga, being present to see General John Burgoyne surrender to Horatio Gates and was later part of Washington’s “bodyguard.”

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI
His second exploit worthy of a painting.

This is where Heyer could be correct — there is no complete list of members of General Washington’s guard corps. The guard was hand-picked from members of Washington’s field army.

But never once did Heyer ever swear that he was with Washington at the Delaware Crossing.

See Conrad Heyer’s pension statements at the Journal of the American Revolution.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Commandant says he won’t force out Marines as the service shrinks

Tank Marines and other leathernecks in specialties that won’t play a role in the service’s future will get the option of transferring to another branch or military occupational specialty, the Corps’ top general said this week.

Commandant Gen. David Berger spoke to reporters Wednesday about the long-awaited force-redesign plans. One of the biggest changes to the future Marine Corps of 2030 will be its size. The total number of personnel will drop by 16,000 over the next 10 years to a 170,000-person force.


Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

That includes ditching its tank battalions, law-enforcement units and bridging companies. The Marine Corps will also drop its total number of infantry battalions and cut several aviation squadrons as it shifts its focus toward countering China in the Asia-Pacific region.

Marines won’t face the same hardships some endured during the post-war drawdown though, when thousands were cut from the ranks. This change, Berger said, “is intentionally drawn out over time so we can make the right decisions.”

“No one’s getting a pink slip saying time to go home,” the commandant said. “… We’re not forcing anybody out.”

The Marine Corps will rely on attrition to shed personnel from the ranks, Berger added.

“In other words, people [will be] out as they normally would,” he said. “We might recruit less … but there’s no intent at this point to issue a whole bunch of go-home cards for Marines.”

The Marine Corps got rid of about 20,000 people over four years starting in 2012. It involved putting sometimes-painful involuntary separation plans in place that cut short some people’s hopes of making the Marine Corps their career.

Berger said Marines affected by the changes in the force redesign will “have some choice” in what happens next. That will depend on where they are in their careers though, he said.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

“They can choose another military specialty to go into; they can, in some instances, make a transfer to another service,” Berger said.

Some may be eligible to move into career fields that don’t exist yet.

“We are fielding new capabilities that we don’t have right now, so we will need Marines in specialties that we either don’t have at all or we don’t have nearly in the numbers that we’re going to need,” the commandant said.

The Marine Corps plans to spend money it will save on having fewer personnel and ditching some aging equipment on new capabilities. The service will invest in equipment for long-range precision fires, new air-defense systems and unmanned aircraft, among other things.

The Marine Corps carried out a series of war games that showed areas where it can cut some existing capabilities, a 15-page memo on the force design states.

When it comes to tanks, the Marine Corps found “sufficient evidence to conclude that this capability, despite its long and honorable history in the wars of the past, is operationally unsuitable for our highest-priority challenge,” the report adds.

“Heavy ground armor capability will continue to be provided by the U.S. Army.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch a Chinese ship try to block US navigation

A Chinese warship threatened a US Navy destroyer during a tense showdown in the South China Sea in late September 2018, according to new details of the encounter.

A Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy Type 052C Luyang II-class destroyer challenged the US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur during a routine freedom-of-navigation operation near the disputed Spratly Islands. The Chinese warship sailed within 45 yards of the American vessel, nearly colliding with the US destroyer.

The Chinese vessel “approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” where it engaged in “a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for Decatur to depart,” a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet said in a statement. The Decatur was forced to change course to avoid a collision.


A transcript of the radio exchange between the two naval vessels obtained by the South China Morning Post from the British Ministry of Defense shows that the Chinese ship threatened the Decatur, warning that it would “suffer consequences” if it did not move.

“You are on [a] dangerous course,” the Chinese destroyer warned over the radio. “If you don’t change course, [you] will suffer consequences.”

“We are conducting innocent passage,” the Decatur reportedly replied.

In a video of the incident, an unidentified Navy sailor can be heard saying that the Chinese ship is “trying to push us out of the way.”

The video is a little unclear, but there appear to be ship fenders deployed off deck, Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, noted on Twitter. He explained that “fenders are designed to mitigate the kinetic impact of a collision,” adding that the deployment is “clearly an indication of preparedness for such an eventuality.”

Ankit Panda, a foreign-policy expert who is a senior editor at The Diplomat, called the incident “the PLAN’s most direct and dangerous attempt to interfere with lawful US Navy navigation in the South China Sea to date.”

Unsafe or unprofessional encounters between the US Navy and the Chinese military are, however, not particularly uncommon. “We have found records of 19 unsafe and/or unprofessional interactions with China and Russia since 2016 (18 with China and one with Russia),” Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet, recently told CNN.

A number of these incidents involved dangerous Chinese intercepts of US Navy aircraft. In August 2018, the Chinese military sent a total of six warnings to a US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane, warning it to “leave immediately and keep out.”

It is potentially noteworthy that the details of the showdown between the US and Chinese warships in the South China Sea came from the British Ministry of Defense, as a British naval vessel also found itself in a standoff with the Chinese military in the South China Sea not too long ago.

In early September 2018, China dispatched a frigate to to take on the UK Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Albion when it sailed too close to Chinese outposts in the Paracel Islands. China called the incident a provocation and warned that it would “take all necessary measures to defend its sovereignty and security.”

The US Navy is apparently expecting incidents like this to occur more frequently going foward. The US and China “will meet each other more and more on the high seas,” Chief of US Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said Oct. 30, 2018.

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

Military Life

5 reasons why troops and first responders get along so well

There’re no two groups of Americans that get along quite as well as the military and the first-responder community. It makes sense on a broad level; they’re both occupations filled by people who hope to help their fellow man and make the world a slightly better place.


But it goes much deeper than that — it’s not just a shared, we-got-10-percent-off-our-meal-at-a-restaurant connection.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

Civilians just don’t understand the actual amount of paperwork and bureaucracy that happens in both. That fact alone is why so many police officers love ‘Hot Fuzz.’

(Photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Taylor)

They share the same culture

Part of what makes the armed forces fun is the inter-service banter exchanged between branches. Funnily enough, first responders playfully mock one another as well.

EMS will throw some jabs in jest at firefighters and firefighters will tell jokes at the police’s expense. Hell, even within the different bureaus, police will riff on each other. Law enforcement officers and firefighters, just like Marines and airmen, will happily mock one another all day long, but treat each other as family when push comes to shove.

This is just one of the many areas in which the two cultures overlap.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

They also come up with the same off-the-wall insults that troops love.

(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Pedro A. Rodriguez)

They share the same lingo

Troops say a lot of little things that they don’t realize are uncommon in the civilian world, but the lingo is easily understood by first responders.

The phonetic alphabet is an obvious one, but it makes my veteran heart grow knowing that police also call each other blue falcons.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

The hardest times for both are often the memorial services.

(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Fowler)

They share the same bad days

The sad reality is that the bad days both groups experience can be hard to explain to civilians.

There are fantastic moments that you can be proud to share with your children and your spouse, but helping the world will also show you things that’ll keep you up at night — you can’t know this feeling without experiencing it.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

Have you ever been to a fire station? It’s basically a frat house in between calls.

(Photo by Jamal Wilson)

They share a strong bond of brotherhood with their peers

It’s no secret that troops are close to one another — and first responders are no different.

They grow together through shared pain, mockery, and brief moments of brevity until the sh*t hits the fan again. This level of camaraderie is respected across both groups.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

Or you enlist for a change of pace but end up doing the same thing in a different uniform.

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Octavius Thompson)

Many have served in both

The main reason why so many of each community can relate with one another is because many troops leave the service and make a living as a first responder, and vice versa.

During a moment of peace in Basic or Boot Camp, it’s not uncommon to hear a new troop say that they were a volunteer firefighter for a few semesters in college.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force B-52 bombers drop laser-guided bombs for first time in a decade

Laser-Guided Bomb Units, commonly referred to as LGB’s, were dropped from the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress for the first time in nearly a decade during an operational test performed by the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron Aug. 28, 2019.

The munitions used to be dropped from the bomb bay of the jet using a cluster bomb rack system, but the method raised safety concerns and the practice was eliminated.

“We’ve still been able to utilize LGB’s underneath the wings of the B-52, but they don’t do very well when carried externally because they are susceptible to icing and other weather conditions,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Little, 49th TES commander.


According to Little, the seeker head of the LGB can be adversely affected by the elements, potentially reducing its effectiveness.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

US Air Force Senior Airman Endina Tinoco wires a GBU-12 laser guided bomb after it was loaded onto a Conventional Rotary Launcher in the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Aug. 20, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Gregory Steele)

The advent of the Conventional Rotary Launcher, a bomb bay weapons platform made available to the B-52 fleet in 2017, provides an alternative to the cluster bomb rack system and may once again allow LGB’s to be dropped from inside the jet.

Doing so would keep the weapons protected from the elements, reducing the effects of weather. It also has the potential to increase the jet’s lethality.

“It’s another arrow in the quiver, it gives us the ability to carry more LGB’s on the aircraft or give more variation on a conventional load,” said Little. “It adds capability and is another thing you can bring to the fight.”

Little explained the CRL was not originally designed for gravity-type bombs like the LGB, but recent software upgrades to the system now allow for such munitions.

Getting to the point of operational testing required a team effort between the 49th TES and Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 307th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. The 307th AMXS took the lead in configuring the CRL to accept the LGB’s.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Skyler McCloyn and Staff Sgt. Nathan Ehardt load a GBU-12 laser-guided bomb onto a Conventional Rotary Launcher in the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Aug. 20, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Gregory Steele)

SSgt. Skyler McCloyn, 307th AMXS aircraft armament systems mechanic, served as the loading team chief for the event.

“It was very cool mission,” said McCloyn. “It is exciting to know you are a part of something that could have a long-term impact.”

The experience of the Reserve Citizen Airmen contributed greatly to the success of the effort, according to McCloyn.

“When you are doing something for the first time there will always, be kinks,” said McCloyn. ” But the expertise we have from working with so many type of munitions allowed us to adjust and work through those issues without much trouble .”

Little appreciated having the breadth and depth of experience offered by the unit.

“The 307th AMXS is on the leading edge of weapons loading and giving the rest of the B-52 maintenance community the data they need for unique scenarios like this,” he said.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 things Maverick would actually be doing after 32 years of service

The poster for Top Gun 2 has officially been released to let audiences know that Day 1 of principle photography has begun. Awesome. I just want to be that guy and point out that, after 32 years of being in the Navy, is Maverick still only a captain. Why? How?


While he’s still got nothing on Gen. Vessey’s 46 years of service, the average time it takes to make Admiral is 23 years — and that’s taking into account only the 2.24% of ensigns who stay in that long. I guess his need for speed is really that strong.

Here’s our take on what a real-world Maverick would be (or should be) doing after all this time.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

But I can’t help but feel like we’ve seen this film somewhere before…

(Pixar Animation Studios)

Stuck in Training Command

The most obvious and likely scenario will reverse the roles as we know them: the former rambunctious student is now an underappreciated teacher who has to mentor someone just as rebellious and talented as he once was.

He’ll probably hold fast to his old gotta-be-the-best mentality before he finally accepts the fact that his time has passed and his new calling is to impart all of his knowledge onto a quirky, young, Latina pilot that nobody believes in. Chances are high that this is what the film is going to be about — according to rumors, anyway.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

He would need to fight the urge to go inverted, though…

(Universal Pictures)

Commercial airline pilot

The most common scenario is that, after so many years, he’d just say, “screw it,” retire, and look for employment in the civilian sector. I’m just saying, it’s hard to scoff at a potential 3k a year when he’d otherwise make 9k by staying in.

Maybe Maverick feels like hanging it all up and making some serious bank by flying red-eyes between San Diego and Seattle-Tacoma International. It could be a heart-felt story about a once-badass Navy aviator having to cope with a dull civilian life.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

Basically another role reversal if Maverick became Gene Hackman’s character from The Firm.

(Paramount Pictures)

Corporate lobbyist in Washington

One of the complaints many people have about the freshly-released teaser poster is that Maverick is seemingly about to board an F-18 Super Hornet instead of the F-35C Lightning II. Personally, I have no dog in this fight — maybe this all the work of Pete Mitchell (formerly known as Maverick) cozying up to politicians who want to keep the Super Hornet in production.

Top Gun 2 could shape up to be a politician thriller along the lines of Thank You For Smoking or something that wouldn’t get unofficially scrapped before the series arc could finish.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

So it’d be ‘Jack Reacher’… but without the action.

(Paramount Pictures)

Old drunk at the bar

A place Maverick frequented in the original Top Gun was that bar outside of Miramar. But what if Maverick could never really leave that bar — just like so many veterans before him? Night after night, generation after generation, Maverick sat in the bar reminiscing. Now, he’s become that washed-up old guy who tells uninterested sailors about that time he “totally” fought the Soviets without starting an international incident.

It’d be just like Cocktail or Cheers — except it wouldn’t be a romantic comedy. It’d be a serious drama about an old vet who just wants someone to talk to.

Why cats were the perfect companions in the trenches of WWI

…too soon?

(Paramount Pictures)

Unapologetic clothing line owner

Just like nearly every high-profile veteran that leaves the service, he could start his own veteran-owned military clothing company. He only sells jean shorts, body oil, and sunglasses. For obvious reasons, selling t-shirts is completely out of the question.

It could be a movie about Maverick and Iceman making YouTube shorts, sharing memes, and, eventually, trying to make their own movie about beach volleyball players during the zombie apocalypse…