The Confederate Army had better things to do than decide how it would award medals to its fighting men. In that era, Americans weren’t really into medals and ribbons, as it was considered a very European military tradition. The Civil War changed all that. The brutality of the war, combined with the feats of heroics performed by those who fought it inspired the need for such awards.
That being said, the Confederacy had its heroes as well, but aside from a Confederate Congressional “Roll of Honor,” nothing much was ever done in terms of awards and decorations – until the Second Battle of Sabine Pass.
Sabine Pass is a small outlet from Lake Sabine that pours into the Gulf of Mexico, bordering both Texas and Louisiana. During the Civil War, it was a lightly defended Western outpost, far from the central fighting of the war. As a result, the shoddy earthwork fortifications at the pass had mostly old smoothbore cannon to defend it, eight guns in total. But then the French installed a pro-French Emperor in Mexico, opening the possibility for Confederate supplies to reach Mexico by rail, then onto Europe under French-flagged ships, completely circumventing the Union blockade and providing the South with crucial money, arms, and supplies.
The Union sent 5,000 troops, 18 transports, and four armed gunboats to capture the pass and cut the South off from French Mexico. Defending the fort were the Jeff Davis Guards, named for the Confederate President, 47 Irish immigrants from bigger cities in Texas, and well-trained and drilled artillerymen. This was the largest amphibious assault ever taken by the United States until this point so you’d think the Union would have come prepared. You’d be wrong. So wrong.
Only the lightest of the Union ships could enter the river, due to the shallow nature of the entryway. Four steamers and 150 Union sharpshooters were to cross the sandbars then take out the fort and its guns so the rest of the Union force could take the town and then move on to Houston. That never happened. Instead, accurate cannon fire from the fort hit one of the steamers in her boiler, disabling another and grounding the USS Arizona. The two ships surrendered, and the rest of the invasion force ended up running back to New Orleans.
In all, the battle last 45 minutes. The Davis Guards fired 137 rounds from their eight guns, dwarfing the Union’s rate of fire and ensuring those guns couldn’t be used for weeks after the battle. The handful of Confederates then went to capture the Union troops on the disabled ships, taking 315 Union troops prisoner. The Union forces suffered a further 19 killed and nine wounded at the cost of zero casualties to the Confederates. It was the most lopsided victory of the war.
Richard Dowling, commander of the Davis Guards, wearing his medal.
Grateful Texans decided to reward the men for not only staying at their posts in the face of overwhelming odds, but for actually winning. They cast medals from Mexican silver coins, engraving “DG” on one side with a Malta Cross and the date of the battle on the other. It was hung on the uniform by a green ribbon, representing the Irish heritage of the fort’s defenders. In all, 47 were awarded to the men, with two more awarded to their officers, and one struck just for their namesake, Jefferson Davis. Davis ensured the Confederate Congress authorized the medal for wear, the only medal so authorized.
The President had his on him when he was captured after the war’s end.
Sometimes there can be total domination by an individual or a team.
In sports, we could see it in something like Gayle Sayers scoring six touchdowns in a game, or Randy Johnson pitching a perfect game. In war, it can be racking up a lot of kills in quick succession, like Chuck Yeager’s becoming an “ace in a day.”
So here is the rarely-told story of how one destroyer escort, the USS England (DE 635), pulled off utter dominance in anti-submarine warfare – six kills in less than two weeks. The famed Second Support Group lead by Frederick J. Walker of HMS Starling in its best stretch took 19 days to get six kills (31 January, 1944 to 19 February, 1944).
USS England was a Buckley-class destroyer escort, displacing 1,400 tons with a top speed of 23 knots, and was armed with three 3-inch guns; a quad 1.1-inch gun; some small anti-aircraft guns; three 21-inch torpedo tubes; a “Hedgehog” anti-submarine mortar; and a number of depth charge launchers. This was a potent arsenal against aircraft, surface vessels, and submarines.
Kill One – 18 May, 1944
The USS England was operating with two sister ships, the USS George (DE-697) and the USS Raby (DE-698) when she was ordered to intercept the Japanese submarine I-16. Navy codebreakers had cracked a message that I-16 was delivering supplies to Japanese troops. The England made five attacks using the Hedgehog and scored the kill.
Kill Two – 22 May, 1944
Again, Navy codebreakers provided information on Japanese intentions. This time, they sent a line of subs to sit astride a route that Adm. Bill Halsey had used to move the Third Fleet on two previous occasions. The USS George first detected the Japanese submarine RO-106 at 3:50 AM local time on May 22, but missed. Less than an hour later, the USS England fired the first salvo of Hedgehogs and missed. But at 5:01, the England’s second salvo scored hits that triggered an explosion.
Kill Three – 23 May, 1944
After scoring that kill, the three destroyer escorts began scouting for the rest of the line. The next day, the American vessels found the Japanese RO-104. The USS Raby and USS George missed with eight Hedgehog attacks over two hours, starting at 6:17 in the morning. The USS England then took over, scoring on her second attack at 8:34 AM.
Kill Four – 24 May, 1944
The American destroyer escorts continued their sweep up the Japanese submarine picket line. A half-hour later, the England made sonar contact, and after 24 minutes, launched a Hedgehog attack, putting the Japanese sub RO-116 on the bottom.
Kill Five – 26 May, 1944
Eventually a hunter-killer group consisting of the Casablanca-class escort carrier USS Hoggatt Bay (CVE 75) and the Fletcher-class destroyers USS Hazelwood (DD 531), USS Heerman (DD 532), USS Hoel (DD 533), and USS McCord (DD 534) relieved the three destroyer escorts. The escorts maintained their search formation, and came across the RO-108. USS England picked up the target at 11:04 PM, then launched an attack with Hedgehogs, scoring direct hits on her first salvo.
Kill Six – 31 May, 1944
After re-supplying, the three destroyer escorts were joined by the USS Spangler (DE-696), another Buckley-class destroyer escort. They re-joined the Hoggatt Bay hunter-killer group, and continued their mission. On May 30, the hunt began when USS Hazelwood picked up the RO-105 on radar at 1:56 AM. Commander Hamilton Hains, the escort commander, ordered England to hold back. A depth-charge attack failed, leading to a lethal 25-hour game of cat and mouse during which over 20 hedgehog attacks missed. Finally, Hains sent the England in. One salvo of hedgehog later, RO-105 was on the bottom of the Pacific.
Rear Adm. Samuel Eliot Morison wrote that Hains later sent a message to USS England, asking “God damn it, how do you do it?”
The response from Cmdr. C.A. Thorwall, the CO of Destroyer Escort Division 40, who has his flag on board USS England, was both witty and politically incorrect.
“Personnel and equipment worked with the smoothness of well-oiled clockwork. As a result of our efforts, Recording Angel working overtime checking in [Japanese] submariners joining Honorable Ancestors,” Morrison was quoted as saying in Volume VIII of his History of United States Naval Operations of World War II.
Admiral Ernest J. King vowed, “There will always be an England in the United States Navy.”
After her exploits, the USS England carried out escort missions. She would not see much more action until May 9, 1945, when she was attacked by three dive bombers. England shot one down, but the plane crashed into her, forcing the ship to return to the United States for repairs.
The end of World War II lead to the ship’s decommissioning the month after Japan surrendered. And she was sold for scrap in 1946.
In 1963, a Leahy-class destroyer leader was named USS England (DLG 22). Later re-designated a cruiser, this ship served in the Navy until being decommissioned in 1994, and sold for scrap 10 years later.
To date, there are no ships currently in service or under construction with the name USS England.
Once, when the United States went to war, that war was felt by everyone in the country. The wars’ effects seeped into every facet of American life. The primary reason for this was the draft. Selective service meant that anyone in America could be called up to serve and fight a war at any given time. This included movie stars, politicians, and even star athletes — some of whom never made it home.
Sports fans know the stories of baseball players Moe Berg (who served as an OSS agent during WWII) and Ted Williams (who was in the Navy and Marine Corps for WWII and the Korean War). Less well-known are those NFL players who fought for the United States. Football’s popularity only came about relatively recently, whereas baseball has long been “America’s Pastime.”
When Spring Training rolls around, we’ll remember the MLB players we’ve lost but, for now, let’s take some time during the NFL’s Salute to Service Month to remember those players who were also our brothers in the profession of arms. This is a list of those who died in combat; the list of the NFL’s veterans is much, much longer.
Keith Birlem, Washington Redskins (1943)
Birlem became an Army Air Forces officer during World War II after just one season in the league. After a bombing mission over Europe in 1943, the pilot attempted to land his damaged B-17 Bomber in England, but was killed in the resulting crash.
Mike Basca, Philadelphia Eagles (1941)
Basca enlisted in the U.S. Army after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The former Eagle was a tank commander with the 4th Armored Division. He was killed with the rest of his crew after an anti-tank round struck their vehicle in France in 1944.
Alex Ketzko, Detroit Lions (1944)
Ketzko was a son of Michigan, having played football for Michigan State and then later for the Detroit Lions. After the 1943 season, Ketzko enlisted in the U.S. Army. He eventually found himself in France, where he was killed in action in December, 1945, at just 25 years old.
Walter R. “Waddy” Young, Brooklyn Dodgers (1945)
Young was a big-time athlete out of Oklahoma. He started the Sooners off on their way to becoming a powerhouse sports team, bringing them to their first-ever Orange Bowl Game. After playing for the NFL’s Brooklyn Dodgers (yes, they were a football team, too), he signed on to fly B-24 Liberators over Europe and B-29 Superfortresses over Japan during World War II. On Jan. 9, 1945, the legendary athlete was killed in a plane crash during a run over Tokyo.
Don Wemple, Brooklyn Dodgers (1944)
Wemple died on an Army Transport plane flying in the China-India-Burma theater of World War II. The onetime Brooklyn Dodger and Army officer was on his way to India in 1944.
Charlie Behan, Detroit Lions (1945)
After one season with the Lions, Behan decided to join the Marine Corps. He was hit in the mouth by shrapnel on Okinawa. Stuffing cotton into the wound to continue the fight, then-Lt. Behan led his troops up Sugar Loaf Hill and was killed guiding his Marines over the top. He was posthumously award the Navy Cross.
Al Blozis, New York Giants (1945)
The All-Pro tackle joined the Army in 1943, despite being much too tall to conform to standards. The 6’6″ literal giant broke the Army’s grenade throwing record before being shipped out to lead a platoon of troops in France in 1944. After two of his men were lost in the Vosges Mountains, he set out to find them by himself and was never heard from again.
Young Bussey, Chicago Bears (1945)
After the 1941 season, Bears QB Young Bussey left the NFL to join the war effort after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The young Bussey was killed during the invasion of the Philippines.
Edwin B. “King Kong” Kahn (1945)
Kahn spent three seasons in the NFL with the Redskins, staying with the team after they moved from Boston to Washington. He signed up for Army service as a First Lieutenant and was wounded in the invasion of Kawajalien. He died of wounds incurred in the invasion of Leyte in the Philippines in February, 1945.
Howard “Smiley” Johnson, Green Bay Packers (1945)
Johnson traded his Packers green for Marine Corps greens after two seasons in Green Bay. The Marine officer was killed in action while leading Marines into battle on Iwo Jima.
Jack Lummus, New York Giants (1945)
The Giants’ Jack Lummus played only nine games in his NFL career before enlisting during the 1941 season. He eventually became an officer candidate and began training with the elite Marine Raiders. Lummus was one of the first Marines to land on the island of Iwo Jima in 1945, and for two weeks directed artillery fire onto Japanese positions on Mount Suribachi. Lummus was wounded by shrapnel but managed to knock out three Japanese fortifications so his Marines could advance.
Lummus then lost both of his legs to a land mine and died at an aid station. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his outstanding display of battlefield skill and leadership.
Don Steinbrunner, Cleveland Browns (1967)
The Browns’ Offensive Tackle was just one of two NFL players who died during the Vietnam War. He played for Cleveland during the 1953 season where the Browns lost the championship to the Detroit Lions. He joined the U.S. Air Force in 1954. Steinbrunner was on a defoliation mission over Vietnam in 1967 when his C-123 Provider was shot down. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Bob Kalsu, Buffalo Bills (1970)
The All-American tackle was drafted in 1968 by the Buffalo Bills but went to the University of Oklahoma on an ROTC scholarship. To fulfill his obligations to the military, the Bills’ rookie of the year entered the Army as a 2nd Lieutenant with the 101st Airborne Division, landing in South Vietnam in November of 1969. He was killed in the infamous attack on Fire Support Base Ripcord in 1970, just hours before his wife gave birth to their son back home.
Pat Tillman, Arizona Cardinals (2004)
Like many NFL players who enlisted in a time of national need, Tillman joined the military in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. By June 2002, he was a soldier and on his way to the Army Rangers. He would go on to serve in both Iraq and Afghanistan before his death in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan.
The reverberations surrounding Tillman’s death has been felt by the NFL and its players, the veteran community, nonprofits, and even college football players – to this day – honor Tillman’s spirit and memory.
They perform the tasks that the average trooper would run away from, like “bore punching” and administrating the “silver bullet.”
Like every profession in the military, medical is home to some of the most interesting personalities. Although they wear the same uniforms and earn the same badges, their individual personalities are entirely different from one another.
This is the guy or gal that shows up to work blasting their MOS and branch pride via their street clothes. They’re continually preparing themselves for advancement and may even quiz you on military history while you’re merely checking in for an appointment.
4. The “beast”
If you think you’re buff and muscular, you’re wrong. This enlisted doc hits the gym six to seven days a week, preparing himself to go special forces — and they’ll definitely let you that they’re eventually headed in that direction.
We love this type of Corpsman or medic. This person joined the military later in life, so they have more wisdom and experience, but have next to no rank on their collars.
2. The “softy”
For all of our “sick-call commandos” out there, this is the staff member you should hope to get when you go to medical. They’ll do everything in their power to get you that light duty chit or sick-in-quarters form you want. All you have to do is play up your pain or sickness and watch them crumble.
Across the US military last year, there were 18 known crashes involving UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters. That makes routine maintenance and inspection a vital part of ensuring the safety and security of our military’s soldiers and equipment.
Soldiers from Delta Company, 1-171st Aviation Regiment, the maintenance company for Task Force Aviation on Camp Bondsteel, began a phase maintenance inspection for one of their UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopters on Nov. 18, 2019, in the aviation motor pool.
According to Army Techniques Publication 3-4.7, a phase maintenance inspection is a thorough and searching examination of the aircraft and associated equipment. The maintenance should be conducted every 320 flight hours in a UH-60’s lifespan. More recently updated literature has changed the requirement to 480 flight hours.
US soldiers clean a partially deconstructed UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.
(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)
“Every 480 hours we take a helicopter completely down and apart for safety inspections,” US Army Capt. Paul Strella, commander of Delta Company, TF AVN said.
“We’re inspecting each individual component to make sure it’s still air-worthy and meets the DoD standard. Then we put everything back on it and do a test flight, ensuring that the aircraft is safe for flight and release back to the unit to put back in service.”
Strella said that it is becoming rare for an Army unit to have a phase team to do the type of maintenance they are conducting, because those jobs are being outsourced to contractors.
US soldiers from remove a UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter engine during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.
(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)
“It’s a great opportunity for Delta Company, during the KFOR 26 rotation, to be able to get hands-on experience,” Strella said.
“A lot of research went into the training and classes to be able to perform this efficiently and safely. Most importantly it’s good training for the soldiers, to build their experience up for the continuity of the unit and to increase the soldiers’ skill level.”
The inspection should take 23 days by DoD standard, but Delta Company is extending the timeline to 10 weeks in order to move carefully through each step of the inspection.
Strella said this will allow meticulous execution of the processes and provide time for detailed training opportunities.
US Army Sgt. Daniel Beanland and Spc. Marshall Cox, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter repairers, remove a UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter engine during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.
(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)
US Army Spc. Daniel Strickland, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter repairer, removes a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter engine during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.
(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)
US Army Spc. Jared Turner, UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter repairer, TF AVN, said that it’s his job to make sure that the aircraft are in the proper condition to successfully complete missions, whether it’s carrying troops, sling-loading for air assault missions, or medical evacuations.
He said his favorite part is seeing the results of his unit’s labor.
“Out on the flight line you get to see them take off and fly all the time, and when you recognize an aircraft that you’ve worked on, it’s just a good feeling,” Turner said. “That’s one of the best parts of the job. You watch it fly away and you’re like — I put my hands on that.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It seemed almost immediate: right after the death of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover in 1972, the FBI began opening up training to women who were qualified candidates. At Hoover’s funeral was a young female Marine, sent to Washington as a representative of the U.S. Navy. As soon as Hoover’s replacement offered the title of “special agent” to women, that Marine was one of the first ones to go to Quantico.
Susan Roley Malone wanted to be an FBI agent ever since she was tasked to give a presentation on the Bureau in the eighth grade. The young Malone was supposed to research the agency, interview special agents, and tell her class about career opportunities, even though she would not be eligible for them. The FBI was her passion as she grew up in the 1950s and 1960s. She read books about the FBI. She watched movies about the FBI. When it came time to serve her country, however, she wasn’t allowed to join. So she became a Marine.
She and another woman – a former nun named Joanne Pierce – went to the FBI academy on Jul. 17, 1972 – little more than two months after Hoover’s death. Her FBI career would include investigating the Patti Hearst kidnapping, organized crime, and monitoring foreign nationals.
Susan Roley Malone
The hostility began right away – and abated just as fast. At lunch, some male agent trainees sat around her and began to grill her on her dedication to training with the Bureau.
“Why are you here?”
“Who are you?”
“Why do you want to be here?”
“What makes you think you can be an FBI agent?”
Her answer was curt but honest. She sat down and told them what’s what: she was there for the same reason any man was there. She loved her country just like anyone else. She wanted to continue to serve, now in law enforcement. She knew the FBI and the work it did. She cherished their work and she wasn’t going anywhere.
“It’s like any organization,” Malone says. “When you’re the first and you’re a pioneer, you know, you’re going to get push back from some people. But I got a lot people that helped, a lot of people that held out their hands, and were colleagues and allies to help. Those people that didn’t help or were maybe nasty to me, they have to walk in their own skin and you know they probably didn’t feel good about themselves, I can’t say.”
Her first field office was Omaha, Nebraska, wrangling cattle rustlers, which she thought was a cruel joke at first, chasing down cattle rustling in the 1970s. It turns out that stealing cattle was a big business. But she was a good agent – and dedicated one. She began making arrests right away, the first arrest ever made by a female FBI agent.
“I am where I am today because of the talents and gifts of many people that have opened doors for me,” she says. That have assisted me along on my journey. And especially some of the people that I recall that were FBI agents… These people had such talent and they were willing to share it. They were willing to take a young agent, whether it was a man or women, and share that talent. And for that I am grateful.”
There’s no doubt about it. Steven Spielberg’s 1998 war epic, Saving Private Ryan, was a masterpiece in every aspect of filmmaking. It won five of the eleven Academy Awards for which it was nominated. The immense scale of the invasion of Normandy was expertly recreated for film in a way that hasn’t been replicated since — and likely never will be.
Despite the massive war that characterizes the film, the movie’s primary conflict wasn’t between warring nations, but rather between Tom Hanks’ character, Captain Miller, and his duty to return Pfc. Ryan (as played by Matt Damon), who refuses to leave behind the brothers with whom he’d fought so far.
The film, being the masterpiece that it is, wraps the story up nicely, leaving few loose ends, but there’s that ever-burning question in Hollywood — how do you make that special lightning strike twice? How can you create another story surrounding the incomparable D-Day and find just as much success?
The truth is, simply, that you can’t. The story has already been perfectly told by one of the finest filmmakers in Hollywood at just the right moment. But that doesn’t mean that the story has necessarily ended…
What made this scene so great wasn’t the million put into it — it was Tom Hank’s reaction to everything happening around him.
As stated by Jack Knight of War History Online, there is serious interest in following-up Saving Private Ryan by continuing the story of the Rangers at D-Day and the mission that occurred at Pointe du Hoc. What made the beach landing scene so spectacular wasn’t the battle itself, but rather how the battle was seen — through Capt. Miller’s eyes.
The audience felt the immense gravity of war in a truly human way. In one moment, we’re listening to a guy joke on the landing craft; one second later, his blood is splattered on Miller’s face. This is the essence of what made Saving Private Ryan so great. World War II was just the backdrop to a more personal story, but the sheer, raw horrors of war were still very much present.
The audience saw the enemy in the distance, but the focus was entirely on the Capt. Miller. Any spiritual successor (or direct sequels) should keep that in mind.
It’s a grim reality, but it’s comforting in it’s own way.
Such a sequel, a movie that follows someone’s personal life after a major conflict, has been dreamt up before. One film, known as “the greatest war film never made,” that was to explore this theme was to be called The Way Back.
The 1955 film To Hell and Back was an amazing anomaly. It was the World War II experience of Audie Murphy, based on the autobiography of the same name that was written by Audie Murphy and David McClure, starring Audie Murphy himself. But this wasn’t the only film the war hero wanted to make. Everyone wanted to see his heroic stand on the back of the Sherman, but he never got the finances for the script that told the story of what happened after he was bestowed the Medal of Honor.
He struggled daily with post-traumatic stress. His family life was, to put it lightly, troubled. He turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with the pain. He even famously locked himself in a dirty motel room to kick his morphine addiction. He was lost in a world that wanted “him,” but not the real him. But he knew countless children looked up to him, so he put one foot in front of the other with a forced smile on his face.
This movie, were it ever made, would’ve been a powerful piece. Audie Murphy, arguably the greatest soldier to ever don a uniform, would’ve told everyone that not everything is fine when the war’s over. There’s a pain there that nobody can see, but many of us feel.
It’s not like there are too many war films out there specifically made for Post 9/11 vets. The bar is set kinda low…
War films are a dime a dozen in Hollywood and rarely will they have any impact on the public because they’re just action scenes after action scenes until the credits roll. If Hollywood really wanted a powerful message to send to the world, they could make a grounded story following the life of one of the Rangers after D-Day. Use Saving Private Ryan’s personal approach and make it about one soldier. They could keep the action scenes, but make them a background to the story of just surviving. Then, as Act II rolls around, shift the story to show how a returning soldier survives this world he left behind to fight in D-Day.
Hollywood could have their cake and eat it to while also sending a powerful message to the countless returning veterans of the Post-9/11 wars, telling them that they’re not alone.
To put it bluntly, the M113 armored personnel carrier looks like a big box on tracks. It’s equipped with a primary weapon that’s over 75 years old that isn’t particularly effective against its modern contemporaries. And yet it’s served with the United States Army for nearly sixty years and, even when it’s retired, it’ll stick around for a long time.
When it entered operational service in 1960, it was intended to haul 11 troops into battle. It had a crew of two: A driver and a vehicle commander who handled the vehicle’s primary weapon, the M2 “Ma Deuce” heavy machine gun.
M113s lead the way for troops in South Vietnam.
The M113 saw a lot of action in the Vietnam War, where it proved very versatile. Some versions were equipped with the M61 Vulcan, a 20mm Gatling gun, and were used as effective anti-aircraft vehicles. Others were outfitted with launchers for the BGM-71 TOW missile.
Some M113s were modified to carry mortars, like this one with a M120 120mm mortar.
(U.S. Army photo by SPC Joshua E. Powell)
Other variants quickly emerged, including a command vehicle, a smoke generator, an ambulance, and a cargo carrier. Two mortar carriers, the M106 (which carried a 107mm mortar) and the M125 (packing an 81mm mortar) also served, paving the way for the introduction of the M1064 (equipped with a 120mm mortar). The M113 chassis also carried the MIM-72 Chapparal surface-to-air missile and the MGM-72 Lance ballistic missile.
The M113 could carry 11 troops — two more than the M1126 Stryker.
Versions of this vehicle have served with nations across the world, including Canada, Norway, Egypt, and Italy. Over 80,000 M113s of all variants have been produced, which means it’ll be around for years with one nation or anything long after the U.S. retired it.
Learn more about this senior citizen of armored vehicles in the video below.
It is a dangerous and unpredictable time, and the United States must reverse any erosion in its military capabilities and capacities, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at the Military Reporters and Editors conference Oct. 26, 2018.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford is confident the U.S. military can protect the homeland and fulfill its alliance commitments today, but he must also look at the long-term competitive advantage and that causes concern.
He said the competitive advantage the U.S. military had a decade ago has eroded. “This is why our focus is very much on making sure we get the right balance between today’s capabilities and tomorrow’s capabilities so we can maintain that competitive advantage,” Dunford said.
Strategic alliances provide strength
The greatest advantage the United States has — the center of gravity, he said — is the system of alliances and partners America maintains around the world.
“That is what I would describe as our strategic source of strength,” he said.
This network is at the heart of the U.S. defense and security strategy, Dunford said. “We really revalidated, I think, what our threat assessors have known for many years, is that that network of allies and partners is truly unique to the United States of America and it is truly something that makes us different,” the general said.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, describes the global strategic environment during a presentation at the Military Reporters and Editors Conference in Arlington, Va., Oct. 26, 2018.
(DOD photo by Jim Garamone)
A related aspect is the U.S. ability to project and maintain power “when and where necessary to advance our national interests,” Dunford said.
“We have had a competitive advantage on being able to go virtually any place in the world,” he said, “and deliver the men and women and materiel and equipment, and put it together in that capability and be able to accomplish the mission.”
This is what is at the heart of great power competition, the general said. “When Russia and China look at us, I think they also recognize that it is our network of allies and partners that makes us strong,” he said.
Challenges posed by Russia, China
Broadly, Russia is doing what it can to undermine the North Atlantic Alliance and China is doing what it can to separate the United States from its Pacific allies. Strategically, Russia and China are working to sow doubt about the United States’ commitment to allies. Operationally, these two countries are developing capabilities to counter the U.S. advantages. These are the seeds to the anti-access/area denial capabilities the countries are developing. “I prefer to look at this problem less as them defending against us and more as what we need to do to assure our ability to project power where necessary to advance our interests,” Dunford said.
These are real threats and include maritime capabilities, offensive cyber capabilities, electromagnetic spectrum, anti-space capabilities, and modernization of the nuclear enterprise and strike capabilities. These capabilities are aimed at hitting areas of vulnerability in the American military or in striking at the seams between the warfighting domains.
“In order for us to be successful as the U.S. military, we’ve got to be able to project power to an area … and then once we’re there we’ve got to be able to freely maneuver across all domains … sea, air, land, space, and cyberspace,” the chairman said.
This requires a more flexible strategy, he said. During the Cold War, the existential threat to the United States emanated from the Soviet Union and strategy concentrated on that. Twenty years ago, this was different. The National Security Strategy of 1998 didn’t address nations threatening the U.S. homeland.
“To the extent that we talked about terrorism in 1998, we talked about the possible linkage between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction,” Dunford said. “For the most part, what we talked about were regional challenges that could be addressed regionally with coherent action within a region, not transregional challenges.”
Transregional threats are a fact of life today and must be addressed, the general said. “What I’m suggesting to you, is in addition to the competitive advantage having eroded, the character of war has fundamentally changed in my regard in two ways,” he said. “Number one, I believe any conflict … is going to be transregional — meaning, it’s going to cut across multiple geographic areas, and in our case, multiple combatant commanders.”
Another characteristic of the character of war today is speed and speed of change, he said. “If you’re uncomfortable with change, you’re going to be very uncomfortable being involved in information technology today,” the general said. “And if you’re uncomfortable with change, you’re going to be uncomfortable with the profession of arms today because of the pace of change. It’s virtually every aspect of our profession is changing at a rate that far exceeds any other time in my career.”
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
(DoD Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)
He noted that when he entered the military in 1977, the tactics he used with his first platoon would have been familiar to veterans of World War II or the Korean War. The equipment and tactics really hadn’t changed much in 40 years.
But take a lieutenant from 2000 and put that person in a platoon “and there’s virtually nothing in that organization that hasn’t changed in the past 16 or 17 years,” Dunford said. “This has profound impacts on our equipment, our training, the education of our people.”
This leads, he said, to the necessity of global integration. “When we think about the employment of the U.S. military, number one we’ve got to be informed by the fact that we have great power competition and we’re going to have to address that globally,” he said.
The Russian challenge is not isolated to the plains of Europe. It is a global one, he said.
“China is a global challenge” as well, Dunford added.
American plans have historically zeroed-in on a specific geographic area as a contingency, the general said. “Our development of plans is more about the process of planning and developing a common understanding and having the flexibility to deal with the problem as it arises than it is with a predictable tool that assumes things will unfold a certain way in a contingency,” he said. “So we’ve had to change our planning from a focus on a narrow geographic area to the development of global campaign plans that actually look at these problem sets in a global context. When we think about contingency planning, we have to think about contingencies that might unfold in a global context.”
This has profound implications for resource allocation, Dunford said. Forces are a limited resource and must be parceled out with the global environment in mind. “The way we prioritize and allocate forces has kind of changed from a bottom-up to a top-down process as a result of focusing on the strategy with an inventory that is not what it was relative to the challenges we faced back in the 1990s,” he said.
In the past, the defense secretary’s means of establishing priorities came through total obligation authority. The secretary would assign a portion of the budget to each one of the service departments and the services would develop capabilities informed by general standards of interoperability. At the time, this meant the American military had sufficient forces that would allow it to maintain a competitive advantage.
“Because the competitive advantage has eroded, in my judgment, the secretary is going to have to be much more focused on the guidance he gives,” Dunford said. “He not only has to prioritize the allocation of resources as we execute the budget, but he’s got to five, seven or 10 years before that, make sure that the collective efforts of the services to develop the capabilities that we need tomorrow are going to result in us having a competitive advantage on the backside.”
This fundamentally changes the force development/force design process, he said. “This is not changing because of a change in personalities. It’s not changing because different leaders are in place,” the general said. “It’s changing because the character of war has changed, the strategic environment … within which we are operating today and expect to be operating in five to seven years from now, will change. Frankly, were we to not change the fundamental processes that we have in place inside the department, we would not be able to maintain a competitive advantage five or seven years from now.”
In this day and age, allowing a minor to enlist in the military and be sent off to war is practically impossible — especially with our modern tracking systems.
But at the start of the 20th century, an accurate method of recording individual troop movement hadn’t been invented; thousands of soldiers would eventually go missing through the course of the war, many of whom were actually children.
After WWI reared its ugly head, military recruiters were paid bonuses for every man they enlisted. Countless young men, many of them orphans or just seeking adventure, would simply lie about their ages to join up.
The recruiters saw dollars signs and looked past any age issues as they wrote the coercible young boy’s names down, signing them up on the spot. Many feared the thought of going off to war but thought they would look weak if they didn’t take part with their friends — the ultimate peer pressure.
These young boys swear in to join the fight. (Source: The Great War/ YouTube/ Screenshot)
The idea was extremely controversial at the time, but it didn’t stop the boys from volunteering as they showed up to the local recruiting offices in droves. It’s estimated that 250,000 boys under the age of 18 served in the British Army alone.
Once they signed up, they were sent through some basic infantry training then whisked off the front lines.
Most famously was John Condon, an Irishman who is believed to have been the youngest combatant killed; at the age of 14, he died during a mustard gas attack in Belgium while serving in the third battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment.
On Mar. 2, 1965, North Vietnamese guards at an ammunition storage area near Xom Bang heard the telltale sounds of massed aircraft overhead. They then learned why the F-105 Thunderchief earned the nickname “Thud” as 5,000 pounds of bombs from each of the passing planes hit the Earth around them.
The United States Air Force had just launched Operation Rolling Thunder, a bombing campaign over North Vietnam that lasted more than three years. Photographer Cade Martin set out to document and preserve the memories and images of the men who flew those dangerous missions.
Martin was just seven years old when the Vietnam War ended. What he knew about it came from movies and documentaries. Then, one day, he went to a Thud pilot reunion in San Antonio, took their portraits, and listened to their stories — the revelation of the war from their perspective rendered him speechless. Their stories were many and, as one might imagine, incredible.
“We have since learned that our target list was shared through Switzerland with the enemy to ensure no civilians were harmed. Well, that’s no way to win a war. The enemy would move out and set up somewhere else, ready to hit us on our way in and out. And, sometimes… Chiefs of Staff would send us five days in a row.” – John Piowaty, USAF
Rolling Thunder was an effort to break the will and ability of the Communists in the North and bring a negotiated end to the aggression against the non-Communist South. But, like many other aspects of the Vietnam War, it restricted the warfighter for political reasons and failed to achieve its overall strategic goals. Meanwhile, the men flying above North Vietnam were performing acts of valor and heroism without knowing what’s happening in Washington.
“In my junior year of high school, 1952, the Korean War was in full swing. Our fighter pilots were picking up where the aces of WW2 left off. Now in jets engaging in dogfights with the MiGs of North Korea and China. I wanted in. Went directly from high school to flight school. My all-time childhood dream come true.” – Gerald McGauley, USAF
Thoe pilots who flew those missions hit thousands of targets in North Vietnam, dropping more ordnance than was dropped during the bombing campaigns of World War II. The problem was that the classic targets of such a campaign were not as abundant or as vital to the North Vietnamese war effort than they were in Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan. Much of North Vietnam’s weapons and materiel for the war was provided by Communist China and the Soviet Union.
“I finished first in my class, giving me first choice of assignment. I went to “Gun School” at Luke AFB in Phoenix. There, I was in a class of seven. Three years later, only three of us were still alive… and this was before the war had begun.” – John Morrissey, USAF
Even though it was a Rolling Thunder target, the main distribution network for these supplies – the Ho Chi Minh Trail – was not effectively halted, as it was a simple network of roads and trails, hidden under jungle canopy and traversing steep mountain passes. The pilots could not hit what they couldn’t see and the trail remained an effective means of distribution.
“The F-105 – It was the sweetest thing you’d ever want to wrap your hands around. Once you got it airborne the sensation was like flying a Cadillac. 52,000 pounds, 65 feet long, 38-foot wingspan. Couldn’t turn with a MiG but could outrun them. Great airplane.” – Ben Bowthorpe, USAF
A simple cost-benefit analysis of the campaign shows the failure of the strategic initiative. At a cost of 0 million, the US wreaked only 0 million worth of damage to the North. It also forced the Vietcong to increase troop levels in South Vietnam, which further escalated the war. The North came to the negotiating table as President Lyndon B. Johnson called off the campaign — but they were not cowed into a negotiated peace as the U.S. had hoped.
Rolling Thunder ended fifty years ago, on November 2, 1968 — but the war raged on in various forms until 1973.
“My heroes growing up were soldiers and pilots. They played big roles in the movies and stories of the time, making aviation look exciting and romantic. I daydreamed and sketched airplanes through my early childhood. This led to building and flying models until finally in high school I got a chance to take flying lessons.” – Ed “Moose” Skowron, USAF
The Air Force was also hamstrung by leadership in Washington over available targets. While military commanders wanted more decisive action and an unrestricted bombing campaign, political leaders wanted to humble the North Vietnamese with an impressive display of American military might. While the display was made, the North would not concede. After spending the better part of a decade ousting the French from Vietnam, the Communists knew that a war of attrition was their best chance at defeating a power like the United States.
“They had so many different kinds of guns. 37, 57, 85, 100 millimeter guns. 1,700 guns in place circling Hanoi. We had briefing, we knew where the guns were at… but you couldn’t avoid all of them. We had to go in there and take our chances.” – Cecil Prentis, USAF
In the years that followed Vietnam, photographer Cade Martin noted that the men who flew the F-105 mission during Rolling Thunder were silent in the postwar years, sitting back as the world Monday-morning-quarterbacked their performance in the war. The Thud pilots lost some 922 aircraft in the skies over North Vietnam and more than a thousand American service members were killed, captured, or wounded.
“You can’t run a war from the Oval Office. I would have loved to have McNamara or Johnson on one of those flights with me.” – Cal Jewett, USAF
Martin’s project, called Over War, seeks to document and share the history of the Rolling Thunder pilots that they have shared among themselves for the last fifty-plus years. You can check out more of their personal statements, photos, and testimonies at Cade Martin’s Over War website.
Weighing in at approximately 120 pounds, Allen said in an interview he had to carry a grocery list of munitions like Claymore mines, trip flares, hand fragmentation grenades and at least 2,000 rounds of M60 ammo, just to name a few.
With all that gear strapped to his back, Mike humorously said, “you didn’t want to run short in case you hit the sh-t.”
Like most grunts, Mike had to live in the hot and muggy jungles and wore his first set of clothes for roughly 80 days, with only four 0r five changes to last during the deployment.
Allen earned an Air Medal for surviving at least 25 operational flights into unsecured landing zones.
“You were scared but you couldn’t feel scared because it would overtake you,” Mike said. “You know they’re watching you, and you try to keep your distance.”
Check out Wisconsin Public Television‘s video below to watch Mike Allen’s patriotic story of what life was like for the “little kid” of Vietnam.
(Wisconsin Public Television, YouTube)Fun Fact: According to the National Archives, 27 million American men were eligible for service and only 2.2 million were drafted between 1964 and 1973. That is all.
This article is not meant to disparage Beretta’s products. The 500-plus-year-old company has supplied arms to every major European war since 1650, and the results are just what a weapons manufacturer intends their products to do. When it came to replacing the legendary M1911 as the U.S. military’s trusty sidearm, no one expected the Italian company to carry the day, but cost was the final factor for the Air Force. From there, it spread to all the branches.
The Army was not pleased.
The M1911 was a workhorse.
From 1911 to 1986, the Colt M1911 was the pistol weapon of choice for the U.S. military. These days, most military personnel don’t require or train on a pistol, but in the days of the 1911, most absolutely did. The American-built weapon was a trusted, durable weapon for decades and many, many wars – and still hasn’t been entirely replaced. But ultimately, the 1911 was replaced because of capacity.
World War III was supposed to be fought in the forests and fields of Europe, where American and NATO troops would face an onslaught of Soviet men who may be fighting in human wave attacks. Planners wanted to give Western fighting men as many rounds as possible to fight their way out, so it seemed natural that decreasing the size of a round while increasing capacity allowed the average G.I. Joe to carry and load more bullets. The M9 would allow for twice as many rounds per load.
The Italian-owned company Beretta submitted its Model 92S handgun to the U.S. Air Force-led Joint Services Small Arms Program in 1978. The Air Force was tasked with finding a sidearm that was suitable for all branches of the military. Beretta went up against other heavyweights of the firearms industry, including Heckler Koch, Colt, and Smith Wesson, to name a few. To everyone’s surprise, the Air Force declared Beretta, the clear winner.
It was not a welcome surprise for the Army. The Army declared the Air Force tests invalid due to what they called testing discrepancies. So they conducted the trials again under Army supervision. While all this hoopla over the test results was happening, the U.S. Navy purchased the Beretta with features demanded by the JSSAP.
The Army went ahead with a third trial anyway, set for 1984. In this trial, Beretta submitted an improved Model 92 up against SIG Sauer’s P226 model, both vying to be the U.S. military’s M9. While both performed admirably, Beretta’s lower overall cost won it the day, and the Army declared the Italian-made pistol its new sidearm of choice.
Since being declared the M9, there have been more than 600,000 Berettas ordered by the U.S. military. American arms manufacturers were incredulous, leveling any number of charges against Beretta, including accusing the Italian company of having access to SIG Sauer’s initial bid to the Pentagon.
The M9 was a workhorse in its own right.
But the Beretta did not last as long as the M1911 did in the U.S. arsenal. After 30 years (no small feat), SIG Sauer finally usurped the Italian gunmaker to become the U.S. sidearm maker for the U.S. Armed Forces Modular Handgun System, finally issued in 2018 with its P320 model.