The USS Yorktown (CV-5) was heavily damaged at the Battle of Coral Sea, but it pushed on to join other Navy forces at the Battle of Midway, where the valiant actions of the crew helped ensure a U.S. victory despite the loss of the ship.
On May 7, 1942, Task Force 17 found itself in a historic battle that would affect the direction of the war. During the Battle of the Coral Sea, a Japanese task force tried to invade the capital of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby.
From May 7-8, the American and Japanese fleets clashed in the Pacific in the first naval battle where the two fleets couldn’t see each other. American planes sank the light carrier Shoho along with some smaller ships and damaged two other carriers. But Japanese forces sank the Lexington and heavily damaged the USS Yorktown.
The ship and air wing losses on each side would be important because Japan was planning an attack at Midway Atoll that could tip the balance of power in the Pacific or accelerate a Japanese victory in the war. Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz knew he needed his carriers ready to go.
And so the Yorktown, suffering from a penetrating bomb strike and eight near-misses, was far from combat ready. Its radar was out, there was a hole in the flight deck, an elevator was damaged, and she was leaking fuel and oil across the surface of the ocean.
An estimate by Rear Adm. Aubrey Fitch stated that it would take 90 days to repair the ship. Nimitz gave the ship three days before it had to ship out to Midway.
Thanks to codebreaking efforts, the U.S. was able to ambush the Japanese fleet heading to Midway. And even with the Yorktown present, America was outnumbered in all ship types. The Japanese had brought about 124 ships including six carriers against America’s 40 ships including only three carriers.
Spoiling for a fight
The first hours of the fight went horribly for the U.S., as land and ship-based torpedo planes went in waves against the Japanese carriers only to be cut down by Zeroes. Many of the planes couldn’t even get their torpedoes fired before they were shot down. Of the torpedoes that were launched, all either failed to hit or to explode.
The two flights rained dive bombs onto the Japanese carriers Kaga, Akagi, and Soryu. Recently fueled and re-armed Japanese planes on the decks went up in fireballs next to hoses and weapons strewn about the decks.
What followed was probably the most damaging few minutes of the war for the Japanese. Three carriers and much of their air arms were completely destroyed and sent to the bottom of the Pacific, largely thanks to the Yorktown which had limped into combat and still scored a staggering blow.
Another Japanese carrier, the Hiryu, was sank by other forces.
But the Japanese fleet survived and managed to exact its revenge on the Yorktown. The Hiryu’s planes found the American ship and hit it with three bombs. The already crippled ship lost its boilers and listed in the water. Navy Capt. Elliott Buckmaster ordered the Yorktown abandoned.
War is a dangerous thing, often necessitating actions that — in any other circumstance — would be absolutely insane.
Here are six of the things that make sense in war, but are still pretty ballsy regardless:
6. Flooding your own territory
The idea for most defenders is to keep their territory whole for their own people, even in the face of enemy forces. But for defenders in low-lying areas facing a potentially unstoppable force, there’s always the option of making sections of it impossible via water (though mines, obstacles, and a few other maneuvers work also).
This forces the enemy to attack through narrow channels determined by the defenders, and limits the territory that has to be protected. Does make for a hell of a cleanup problem, though.
5. Night raids
Night raids have all the same drawbacks of normal raids in that the attackers are trying to conduct a quick assault before the defenders can rally, but with the added confusion of limited visibility and increased sound transmission — sound waves typically travel farther at night and have less ambient sound with which to compete.
Of course, the U.S. enjoys a big advantage at night against many nations. While night vision goggles and other optics provide less depth of field and less peripheral vision, if any, they’re a huge advantage in the dark against an enemy without them.
4. Submarine combat
Submarines face a lot of jokes, but what they do is pretty insane. A group of sailors get into a huge metal tube with torpedoes, missiles, or both, dive underwater and sail thousands of nautical miles, and then either park or patrol under the waves, always a single mechanical failure from a quick and agonizing death.
The reasons to go under the waves anyway are plentiful. Submarines can provide a nearly impossible-to-find nuclear deterrent, molest enemy shipping, sink high-value enemy vessels, place sensors in important shipping lanes, or tap into undersea cables.
But the guys who sail under the water are crazy to do it.
3. “Vertical envelopment”
Vertical envelopment means slightly different things depending on which branch’s manuals you look at and from which era, but it all boils down to delivering combat power from the sky, usually with paratroopers from planes or troops in helicopters on-air assault.
Either way, it leaves a large group of soldiers with relatively little armor and artillery trying to quickly mass and fight an enemy who was already entrenched when they arrived, hopefully with the element of surprise.
It’s risky for the attackers, but it allows them to tie up or destroy enemy forces that could threaten operations, such as when Marines air assault against enemy artillery that could fire on a simultaneous amphibious assault.
2. Assault through ambush
When a maneuver force finds itself in a near ambush — defined as an ambush from within hand grenade range, about 38 yards — with the enemy sweeping fire through their ranks, it’s trained to immediately turn towards the threat and assault through it, no matter the cost.
Each individual soldier takes this action on their own, not even looking to the platoon or squad leadership before acting. While running directly towards the incoming fire takes serious cojones, it’s also necessary. Trying to go any other direction or even running for cover just gives the enemy more time to fire before rounds start heading back at them.
And the number 1 ballsiest move:
1. Ships ramming submarines
It’s hard to get more ballsy than one of the earliest methods for attacking submarines: taking your ship, and ramming it right into the enemy. This is super dangerous for the attacking ship since the submarine’s hull could cause the surface ship’s keel to break.
But surface ships do it in a pinch anyway, because there’s more risk to allowing a submarine to get away and possibly into position for a torpedo attack. And the surface ship is generally more likely to limp away from a collision than the submarine is, which is still a win in war.
According to a report by the British news agency Reuters, the Galicia Spirit, owned by the Teekay shipping group, came under attack by a rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire from a small boat. The RPG missed the LNG tanker, which was escorted by Djibouti naval vessel. The method used in the attack is similar to that used in the October 1 attack on HSV-2 Swift that caused a fire and damaged the former U.S. Navy vessel, which was on a humanitarian mission. HSV-2 Swift was towed away from the scene of the attack, which prompted the deployment of USS Mason, USS Nitze (DDG 94), and USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) to the region.
The Galicia Spirit would have potentially fared a lot worse than HSV-2 Swift did. Even though it is much larger than Swift at about 95,000 gross tons to the Swift’s 955, it is usually carrying a large amount of a highly flammable and volatile cargo (137,814 cubic meters of liquefied natural gas). That would have been a huge explosion.
Yemen has been wracked by a civil war between the government lead by Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. The Houthi rebels were responsible for the attacks on Swift and Mason. Nitze fired Tomahawk cruise missiles at Houthi coastal radar sites after the attacks on Mason.
If there’s one thing U.S. Marines and soldiers can depend on from their Air Force, it’s that the USAF isn’t just going to let them get napalmed. The idea of losing air cover never crosses our troops’ minds. The U.S. Air Force is good like that. Other countries…not so much.
Air Forces like the United States’ and Israel’s are just always going to be tops. So don’t expect we’re going to go dumping on Russia just because they have a turboprop bomber from 1956 (the American B-52 is even older).
We’re also not here to make fun of countries without an air force. There are 196 countries in the world (seriously — Google it.) and not all of them have air forces…or armed forces at all. Grenada hasn’t had a military since the U.S. invaded in 1983. Can you imagine a world without militaries?
The criteria are simple. We’re talking about the worst air forces among countries who are actually trying to have an air force and failing at it, have a definite rival to compete with and are seriously behind, or are actively fighting a conflict they can’t seem to win.
Oh, Canada. I hate that I have to add you to this list. I hate that you’re on this list. But Canada, you’re probably the only country on this list who’s personnel isn’t one of the primary reasons. This is all about poor decision making in Ottawa.
Canada chose to update its fighter fleet of aging Hornets with…Super Hornets. At a time when the rest of NATO is getting their F-35 on, Canada is buying more of the same – probably for parts, so they can stop stealing parts from museums. The issue is even worse now that Super Hornet pilots know they can actually run out of air at any time.
The good news is first: Canada has room for improvement. Second, they could totally take on any other air force…on this list.
The worst part has to be Canada’s Sea King helicopter fleet and their problem with staying airborne. Just to get them in the air, they require something like 100 maintenance hours for every hour of flight time.
More than two full years after Houthi rebels toppled the government in Yemen, the six-state GCC coalition – consisting of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, UAE, Bahrain, and until recently, Qatar – are still unable to dislodge them. The reason why? Probably because much of the senior leadership is based on royal family lineage, not merit.
It’s a good thing their real defense is provided by the United States, because Iran would wipe the floor with these guys.
When the Yemen conflict first broke out, the Saudis launched a 100-fighter mission called “decisive storm” in an effort to help dislodge the rebels. If by “decisive,” they meant “bombing a wedding that killed and injured almost 700 people and makes the U.S. reconsider the alliance,” then yeah. Decisive.
As of June 2017 the war is still ongoing and has killed at least 7,600 and destroyed much of the infrastructure.
The Royal Saudi Air Force, the largest of the GCC countries’ air forces, is upgrading their Tornado IDS and Typhoon fighters for billions of dollars, while the West sells them our old F-15s so we can all upgrade to the F-35 and they can keep hitting Womp Rats back home.
The Sudanese Air Force is so bad, they hire retirees from the Soviet Air Force to fly in their parades, and even they get shot down by rebels.
The fun doesn’t stop there. Most of their cargo aircraft and and transports are also Soviets from the 1960s, which was unfortunate for half of Sudan’s senior military leadership, who died in an air force plane crash in 2001. And their most recent and advanced planes are Chinese trainer aircraft from the 1990s.
But wait, you might say that the future of combat aviation is in UAVs. Even then, Sudan’s Air Force is pretty awful. They buy old Iranian prop-driven drones, ones that can be used for reconnaissance or weaponized with a warhead. The only problem is that the drone can’t drop the warhead, it has to ram the target.
If you ever got annoyed with a USAF Medical Group for having Wednesday off as a training day, or you look with disdain upon the nonners who work banker’s hours, despite being in the military, consider the fact that they still work and are on call 24-7 to work, deploy, or back up Security Forces.
If you want to make fun of a corporate Air Force, look no further than Switzerland, who doesn’t operate during non-business hours, 0800-1800 daily. During their off-hours, Swiss airspace is defended by Italy and France.
Pakistan has had air superiority approximately never. In the 1965 Indo-Pakistani War, India used British-made Folland Gnat trainer aircraft that were armed for combat against U.S.-provided Pakistani Air Force F-86 Sabres. And India won. It wasn’t even close.
So for the next war, the Pakistanis called in as a ringer to train their air force.
In the 1971 war with India, India achieved immediate air superiority over Bangladesh (then called East Pakistan), which is admittedly pretty far from the bulk of Pakistan’s air space. But surprise! Pakistan was still forced to surrender some 90,000 troops and Bangladesh was created from the ashes.
Pakistan sparked another war with India in 1999 but this time, they negated the need for air superiority by fighting most of the conflict at high mountain altitudes. The altitude limited the Indian Air Force’s ability to support its ground troops.
These days, the PAF has no Air Superiority Fighters and no Airborne Early Warning and Control planes — India does. India’s transport and fighter fleet are also more advanced, newer, and carry better weapons.
Syrian airspace can belong to anyone who wants it. Anyone at all. Especially if they come at night, because the Syrian Air Force doesn’t have the ability to fly at night. By 2013 they became more effective, but the start of the Civil War, almost half of the SAF’s ground attack aircraft couldn’t even fly.
That’s only recently. During the 1948 Israeli War, the young Israeli Air Force was able to hit Damascus with impunity, despite being comprised of a bunch of WWII veterans who happened to have old German airplanes.
In the 1967 war with Israel (who also had to fight Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon, not to mention the money and materiel coming from every other Arab country), two-thirds of Syria’s Air Force was destroyed on the ground. On the first day. The rest of the SAF sat out that war.
In 1973, the Syrians were actually able to hit Israeli positions, but that’s only because the IDF’s air forces were busy either in Egypt or napalming entire Syrian armored columns while their air cover was away.
The biggest loss against Israel came in the 1982 Lebanon War, where 150 aircraft from Syria and Israel fought for six days straight. Israel shot down 24 Syrian MiG-23s – without losing a single plane. The battle became known as the “Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot.”
1. North Korea
Big surprise here. Military experts straight up say the Korean People’s Army Air Force is the “least threatening branch” of the North Korean military.
That’s a big deal, considering their Navy is also a mess and that the only reason anyone fears a war with North Korea is because they have a thousand rockets and artillery shells pointed at Seoul. It says a lot about you when the only reason you haven’t been destroyed is because we care more about one city on the other side of the border than your entire shit country.
Historically, the North’s airborne successes came because of their patron in the Soviet Union. That was a long time ago.
North Korean pilots get something like 20 flight hours a year. If you think about it, I almost tied them and I didn’t even train. And when they do train, fuel reserves for actual flying are so scarce that their primary simulator is their imagination.
Their aircraft are so old, a few of them could have actually fought in the Korean War. Against their main enemy (the U.S.), the best this air force could do is create a target-rich environment. Even with a fleet of 1,300 planes, the only credible air defense the North can muster is from ground-based anti-aircraft and SAM sites.
Finally, there is a lot of talk about North Korean nukes but right now, if the DPRK wanted to nuke someone in a war, they’d have to sneak the nuke in on horseback. If there’s a horse they didn’t eat already.
Today, the Transformers IP has a world-wide presence in toys, comic books, video games, TV shows, movies and even amusement park rides. Just hearing the name cues the iconic jingle or robotic transforming noise in the heads of even the most casual fans. It’s incredible to think that this franchise that dominates the globe owes its existence to the Second World War, G.I. Joe action figures and one very special Marine.
Transformers is still going strong with a new Netflix original series (Netflix)
Following the end of WWII, American troops occupied the Japanese islands as the nation entered into the process of reconstruction. A key element in reviving the Japanese economy was its once prominent toy industry. However, with few raw materials available after the war, toy makers were forced to resort to unconventional sources.
American GIs occupying Japan were fed heavily with canned rations. It was the metal from these cans that was recycled and used to craft Japanese robot toys. To highlight Japanese craftsmanship, these toys were often motorized with clock mechanisms that allowed them to walk and roll.
The popularity of Japanese robot toys increased through the 1960s and 1970s. With the expansion of television, the robot toys were paired with manga comics and anime cartoons that engaged children and promoted toy sales. Japanese robot-based entertainment like Astroboy, Ultraman, Shogun Warriors and Gigantor became increasingly popular in America.
Robot shows like Gigantor were also successful in Australia (Eiken/TCJ)
However, even the robots from the east couldn’t compete with “A Real American Hero” like G.I. Joe. High sales of the action figure in the states were enough to convince Japanese toy maker Takara to license G.I. Joe for the Japanese market.
Having gained respect in the Japanese toy world for their toy dolls, Takara wanted to branch out and make a toy line for boys. However, G.I. Joe’s iconic scar and grimacing expression were a bit too harsh and aggressive for post-war Japan. To market the toy to Japanese boys, Takara decided to make G.I. Joe into a superhero with superpowers. When the designers realized that G.I. Joe’s body wasn’t conducive to a superhero build, they resorted to type and made him into a robot. With a clear plastic body displaying his metal computer-like internals, G.I. Joe became Henshin Cyborg. Henshin meaning “transformation”, this was the first step towards what we know today as Transformers.
Following the 1973 oil crisis, the 11.5″ tall toy and all of its accessories became prohibitively expensive to produce. Like G.I. Joe in the states, Takara introduced the 3.75″ tall Microman. A mini version of Henshin Cyborg, the Microman toy line focused even more on transforming toys with robots that could change into sci-fi spaceships. Microman was so popular that it was marketed in the US under the name Micronauts.
By the 1980s, robot toys that transformed into exotic spaceships were losing popularity. To rejuvenate the robot toy concept, Takara introduced the Diaclone Car Robo and Microman Micro Change lines. Diaclone toys transformed from robots into 1:60 scale vehicles like cars and trucks while Microman toys transformed into 1:1 replicas of household items like cameras, cassette players and toy guns.
At the Tokyo Toy Show, Hasbro executives took notice of Diaclone, Microman Micro Change and the plethora of other Japanese transforming robot toys and wanted to develop their own toy line. A deal was struck with Takara and Hasbro lifted almost every one of their toy lines for the US market, including Diaclone and Microman Micro Change.
To review, Hasbro licensed G.I. Joe to Takara in the 1970s. Takara turned G.I. Joe into Henshin Cyborg. Henshin Cyborg was shrunk down to Microman. Microman evolved into Diaclone and Microman Micro Change, both of which were licensed back to Hasbro. Things had really come full circle.
With all of these transforming robot toys, Hasbro turned to Marvel Comics to develop a backstory for the new toy line. Over a weekend, Marvel writers came up with the names and backstories for the first 26 Transformers as well as the plot for the first comic book issue.
Diaclone and Microman Micro Change robots were renamed and became Transformers as we know them today. Micro Car became Bumblebee, Cassette Man became Shockwave, Gun Robo became Megatron, Battle Convoy became Optimus Prime and the War for Cybertron between the just Autobots and the oppressive Decepticons was born. The first commercial for the Transformers toys introduced the now iconic jingle and the phrases, “Robots in disguise” and, “More than meets the eye.”
The 1984 release of Transformers was a huge success netting Hasbro 5 million in sales. The popularity of the franchise was due in large part to the Transformers cartoon, the star of which was the venerable Optimus Prime.
Peter Cullen, the original voice of Optimus Prime, became so iconic that he was brought back to reprise the role of the Autobot leader in the 2007 Transformers film and its many sequels. Cullen, also known for voicing Eeyore in the Winnie the Pooh franchise, crafted the voice of Optimus Prime with inspiration from his older brother.
Marine Captain Henry Laurence Cullen, Jr., known as Larry, was a decorated veteran of the war in Vietnam. While serving with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Capt. Cullen was awarded a Bronze Star with a V device as well as two Purple Hearts for his actions during Operation Hastings in June 1966.
Capt. Cullen was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery (Cullen family)
When his younger brother told him he was going to audition for the role of a hero in a cartoon series, Capt. Cullen said, “Peter, if you’re gonna be a hero, be a real hero. Don’t be one of those Hollywood heroes pretending they’re tough guys when they’re not. Just be strong and real. Tell the truth. Be strong enough to be gentle.”
With his older brother’s words echoing in his mind, Peter Cullen delivered the strong yet gentle voice performance that Transformers fans today will always hail as the one, true Optimus.
“He had a lot of influence on me, you know, and especially coming back from Vietnam. I noticed somebody different,” Cullen remembered of his older brother. “Going into that audition, Larry was with me. I mean, he was right there beside me. When I read the script, Larry’s voice just came out. He was my hero.”
From recycled ration cans, to a classic American action figure and an inspirational leader of Marines, the Transformers franchise has had a lot of American military influence to get to where it is today.
The Battle of the Philippine Sea was the kick that broke down the door to the Philippines and the Japanese home islands during World War II. The American 5th Fleet squared off against the Imperial Japanese Navy’s 1st Mobile Fleet in a fight that would help decide the success of the ongoing Marine invasion of the Marianas Islands and determine which side controlled the air surrounding Japan.
This footage from the Smithsonian Channel shows what sailors and pilots actually experienced during the largest ever carrier-to-carrier battle.
It was to be a gamble for the Japanese no matter what, but it’s impossible that Jisaburo knew just how badly the next two days would go for him and the rest of the Japanese forces. The Japanese chose this engagement as the “decisive battle,” and pitted all serviceable ships and planes in range into the fight in order to break the back of the American amphibious forces.
But problems for Japan began before the battle. On June 15, an American sub spotted the Japanese fleet headed toward the islands, allowing the U.S. commanders to favorably redistribute their forces for the massive surface and aerial fight to come.
A plane lands on the USS Lexington during the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
The American fleet had a thick screen of anti-aircraft guns on battleships and heavy cruisers positioned ahead of the escort and fleet carriers. They had almost twice as many carriers and about 20 percent more planes. U.S. pilots and crews were well-trained veterans flying against predominantly green, under-trained pilots that were rushed into place after previous losses, like the Battle of Midway.
These fuses used radar to determine their distance from a plane and then detonated at an optimal range, drastically increasing the chance that shrapnel would kill the pilot or destroy the targeted plane.
The Imperial Japanese Navy’s 1st Fleet tries to maneuver out of harm’s way June 20, 1944, during the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
And then the U.S. planes took to the air. The Americans, with better crews and radar, facing Japanese wings broken up by anti-aircraft fire, were able to absolutely slaughter the enemy. It would later be described as the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.” The Japanese units suffered so much damage that some lost their way back to ship and were attacked while trying to reach the friendly airfield on Guam.
But of course, a group of naval aviators in a carrier battle don’t want to just take down the enemy planes — they also want a piece of the carriers. Sinking just one of those can set the enemy industry back a few years’ worth of mining, smelting, and ship construction.
American planes failed to find the Japanese fleet on the first day of battle, but U.S. submarines spotted two fleet carriers, the Taiho and Shokaku, and sank them with torpedoes.
A Japanese carrier attempts to outmaneuver American bombs and other ordnance during the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
Overnight, the two fleets maneuvered around one another and put planes up once again the following morning. Again, the forces clashed and America came away the clear winner. The American planes hunted for the fleet and, this time, spotted it late in the afternoon.
Despite the setting sun, America decided to press it’s luck and a torpedo plane managed to sink a third Japanese fleet carrier, the Hiyo.
All told, America destroyed well over 500 aircraft, sank five ships (including three carriers), and protected the invasion forces at Saipan. The engagement cost the U.S. over 100 sailors and aircraft as well as a battleship, but so weakened the Japanese navy that it was seen as a sort of second Midway, permanently tipping the balance of power even further in America’s direction.
These days, aircraft designers aren’t exactly household names. Quick, can you tell me who designed the F-22? How about the F-35? No? Don’t worry, not too many can.
Back in the day, aircraft designers were big names. Kelly Johnson of Lockheed is rightly famous for designing the SR-71 and P-38, among other planes. But only one man can say that he designed aircraft that helped avenge both Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks.
His name is Ed Heinemann, and he holds the distinction of having designed both the plane that won one of the most pivotal battles in naval history and today’s best multi-role fighter. According to the National Aviation Hall of Fame, he became the chief engineer at Douglas Aircraft Corporation’s El Segundo plant in the 1940s.
While there, he designed the A-20 Havoc and, more notably, the SBD Dauntless. The SBD is most famous for what it did in the span of roughly five minutes on the morning of June 4, 1942, about 175 miles north-northwest of Midway Atoll. In that timeframe, three Japanese aircraft carriers, the Akagi, Soryu, and Kaga, were fatally damaged by dive-bombers launched from aircraft carriers USS Enterprise (CV 6) and Yorktown (CV 5).
The SBD wasn’t all. While with Douglas Aircraft Corporation, Heinemann also designed some Cold War standbys of the United States: The A-3 Skywarrior and the A-4 Skyhawk.
Heinemann left Douglas in 1962 to join a company called General Dynamics. In the wake of the Vietnam War, that company would be one of two asked to develop a lightweight fighter for the United States Air Force that took into account lessons learned from fighting the Communists. Heinemann oversaw the project team, which would produce a multi-role fighter that would become almost as widely exported at the Skyhawk, until his retirement in 1973.
That plane, Ed Heinemann’s last aviation creation, would win the competition, and even get to star in a movie, all while becoming the backbone of the United States Air Force in Desert Storm (where it served alongside some modified A-3s) as well as the War on Terror. According to a book he co-authored on aircraft design, Ed Heinemann, in the last days of his career, oversaw the development of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Every service member knows the result of not living up to the expectations placed upon them by donning the uniform of the Armed Forces of the United States. Most will never receive a punishment beyond Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, non-judicial punishment. For repeat offenders, the threat of “turning big rocks into little rocks” at Fort Leavenworth looms large.
Actually being sent to the Kansas-based U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Leavenworth is, in reality, a tall order. The facility houses only the worst offenders. It’s the only maximum-security facility in the U.S. military and hard time there is reserved for commissioned officers, enlisted personnel with sentences longer than ten years, and those who are convicted of crimes related to national security. It’s reserved for the worst of the worst — which includes those on the military’s death row.
Since the end of World War II, the facility has executed some 21 prisoners, including more than a dozen Nazi German prisoners of war convicted of war crimes. The last time an American troop was executed for his crimes was in 1961, when Army Pfc. John Bennett was hanged for the rape and attempted murder of a young Austrian girl after spending six years on death row. There are currently four inmates awaiting execution at Leavenworth, but these four will not face the gallows.
Executions for military personnel will likely be by lethal injection and performed at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.
In 1986 and 1987, then-Specialist Ronald Gray was a cook stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., when he committed the series of crimes that landed him on the military’s death row. Gray raped and murdered four women, both on Fort Bragg and in the area around nearby Fayetteville. He was sentenced to death in 1988 and his execution was approved by President George W. Bush in 2008. He has since filed a petition to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, but it was turned down, meaning Gray might soon be the first prisoner executed by the military in over 50 years.
His first victim was 27-year-old civilian Linda Jean Coats and his second was also a civilian, 18-year-old Tammy Cofer Wilson. He next turned his attention to female soldiers, abducting, raping, and murdering 18-year-old Pvt. Laura Lee Vickery-Clay. Vickery-Clay’s body was discovered a block from her home on Fort Bragg. He then raped and attempted to kill 20-year-old Pvt. Mary Ann Lang Nameth, stabbing her in the throat after entering her barracks room, but leaving her alive. She was able to identify him as her attacker when Gray was arrested for another crime.
Just three days later, he raped and murdered another civilian, 23-year-old Kimberly Ann Ruggles. It was this crime that would lead to his capture and conviction. Ruggles was a taxi driver dispatched to pick up a “Ron” at Gray’s address. Her body was discovered later that night near her empty cab. Police identified the gag on Ruggles’ body as one belonging to Gray after holding him for another crime just hours before. Gray’s fingerprints were all over the cab and Ruggles’ prints were on money Gray was holding during his arrest.
Gray was tried and convicted in both civil and military courts in 1988. Civilian courts sentenced Gray to eight consecutive life sentences. His military court martial sentenced him to die. He is currently the longest-serving death-row inmate at Fort Leavenworth.
In March, 2003, just days after U.S. troops initially crossed into Iraq, Army Sgt. Hasan Akbar was at Camp Pennsylvania, a rear-staging area for the invasion of Iraq, located in Kuwait. In the early morning hours, Akbar lobbed fragmentation and incendiary grenades into the tents of sleeping officers, then assaulted other members of his unit with his issued M-4 rifle. He killed Army Capt. Christopher Seifert and Air Force Maj. Gregory L. Stone. and wounded 14 other service members.
Even though his defense team cited repeated attacks and insults on his Muslim faith from fellow soldiers as a primary motivator for the attack, it was later discovered that Akbar decided to plan and execute the attack once he was in Kuwait, writing in a journal on Feb 4, 2003:
“As soon as I am in Iraq, I am going to try and kill as many of them as possible.”
Hasan was convicted of two counts of premeditated murder and three counts of attempted premeditated murder. The commander of the 18th Airborne Corps affirmed the death sentence and an appeal to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals is pending.
In 1985, a mother and two of her children were found murdered in their Fayetteville, N.C. home. Kathryn Eastburn was stabbed to death with two of her three daughters while her husband, an airman, was training in Alabama. The family was getting ready to move away from the country and put an ad in the paper to sell their dog. Timothy Hennis was a Fort Bragg soldier who admitted to police he responded to the ad. An eyewitness identified Hennis as a man who left the Eastburn home in the early morning hours after the killings would have taken place.
Hennis was tried, convicted, and sentenced to die in North Carolina civilian courts but that verdict was later overturned and Hennis was acquitted in a retrial. As a free man, Hennis returned to the Army and retired as a Master Sergeant in 2004. But the Army wasn’t done with the Hennis case. Semen samples taken from Kathryn Eastburn’s body were analyzed as DNA evidence that wasn’t available in the original case.
The Army again charged Hennis with the crime, this time framing the evidence to the matching DNA samples. In 2010, A military court finally found Hennis guilty of the crimes, stripped him of rank and pay, and sentenced him to death.
Also known as “The Fort Hood Shooter” Hasan was an Army officer, a psychiatrist stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas. On Nov. 5, 2009, Hasan entered the Soldier Readiness Center, pulled a handgun, and, for 10 minutes, began shooting at the personnel there. He killed 13 people and injured another 30 before being shot himself by Fort Hood’s Army Civilian Police. The gunfight rendered Hasan paralyzed from the waist down.
The Army charged Hasan with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder, with the Army announcing early on that Hasan was eligible for the death penalty and that the Army would seek that sentence. Hasan defended himself at the trial and in doing so was found guilty of all charges. He was unanimously sentenced to Fort Leavenworth to await execution.
A State Defense Force (SDF) is a state militia under the command of the chief executive of that state only. Twenty-five states in America have some kind of SDF, and all states have laws allowing one. Whether they call it state guards, state military reserves, or state militias, they are not a part of the National Guard of that state and only partially regulated by the federal government and cannot come under federal control.
In addition to its National Guard, if any, a State, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, Guam, or the Virgin Islands may, as provided by its laws, organize and maintain defense forces. A defense force established under this section may be used within the jurisdiction concerned, as its chief executive (or commanding general in the case of the District of Columbia) considers necessary, but it may not be called, ordered, or drafted into the armed forces.
During World War I, Congress authorized states to create Home Guards as reserve forces aside from the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe. During WWII, the 1916 legislation was amended to allow state militaries to defend their own states. Now called State Guards, they were trained and equipped by the federal government but maintained their separation. It wasn’t until 1956 that Congress allowed for the continual existence of these units outside of a wartime role. For a time, these SDFs existed only on paper. During the Reagan Administration, that changed. Reagans Department of Defense wanted SDFs in all states.
The last part of the legislation says an SDF cannot be drafted into the Armed Forces of the United States, but that same legislation says that an individual member can. This is to ensure the independence of the SDF from the state National Guard. While typically organized as Army units, the SDFs vary, with some akin to the Navy and Air Force.
Before rushing to join your state’s SDF, be advised there are a lot of controversies surrounding SDFs. In the late 1980’s, the governor of Utah had to fire 31 officers for creating an SDF full of neo-nazis, mental patients, and felons. After September 11, 2001, Alaska disbanded its SDF because their lack of actual military training was more of a liability. New York’s SDF was full of Generals who have never had any military training, they were appointed by the governor as a reward for support. Some SDFs have no fitness or weight standards (California) while others are highly restrictive (Tennessee requires its SDF members be honorably discharged from the U.S. military).
State Defense Forces have assisted in many disaster-related capacities, however. They augmented forces in support of Hurricane Katrina relief, especially in states surrounding Louisiana, to assist with the expected influx of refugees. In Texas, the SDF responds to local emergencies (like flash floods) that aren’t declared disaster areas but need help anyway. They provide security augmentees for regular military forces and provide emergency medical training to National Guard units and other areas of the U.S. military.
The state SDF could be a good way for a military veteran to continue serving their country while providing those without that experience their much-needed expertise. Every state has a different enlistment process and requirements, so there isn’t a single portal to joining, but be sure to do the research on the training and operations for your home state before applying.
During the spring of 2003, the first medivacs were returning to Camp Pendleton from the battlefield of Iraq. Karen Guenther, a Marine Corps spouse who’s husband was deployed at the time, was working at the Naval Hospital on Camp Pendleton, and saw firsthand the needs of the wounded arriving there.
Guenther immediately realized most of them were in need of basic health and comfort items, so she enlisted the help of some fellow military spouses and began assembling “welcome bags” full of toiletries, phone cards, and other items intended to make life better for the wounded Marines.
“We went out to local churches and Boy Scouts and had everybody help,” said Wendy Lethin, one of the first to join Guenther’s effort. “Everybody was very generous, but we realized there was much more than welcome bags needed.”
During this same time, the spouses learned of parents of wounded Marines sleeping in their cars while visiting hospitals because they could not afford to stay at local hospitals, and they also helped to provide an adapted vehicle to a Marine whose wife was having difficulty lifting him into their truck
“That was kind of the idea for the Semper Fi Fund,” Lethin said.
Guenther gathered her group of spouses around her kitchen table in her house aboard Camp Pendleton and started brainstorming what they should do to get their collective arms around all of the needs that they saw rapidly emerging. They researched existing non-profits and were surprised that there didn’t seem to be any that were doing what they had in mind.
“We had the right group at the right time,” Lethin said. “We read all kinds of books on non profits and did our research. And we agreed to the ideals and tenants of the organization that still guide us today.”
As stated on the Semper Fi Fund’s website, the organization’s mission is to provide immediate financial assistance and lifetime support to post-9/11 wounded, critically ill and injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their families, ensuring that they have the resources they need during their recovery and transition back to their communities.
The Fund’s first official donation came for the Lighthouse Christian Church in Oceanside, California. The entire donation was given to the first three wounded Marines referred by the hospital with the thought that even if that was all that was raised it would at least help those three and their families at a difficult time in their recovery. Little did the organizers realize that that donation would be the first of many.
In the 12 years since the Semper Fi Fund has transformed the lives of thousands of wounded service members and their families. The Fund now has a dedicated staff supplemented by hundreds of volunteers around the world.
“I’m proud of what we do and how we do it,” Lethin said. “It’s a sacred duty to be able to do what we do.”
The Fund’s next major event is the “InVETational,” a charity golf tournament hosted by comedian and actor Rob Riggle (who, among other roles, is currently playing Col. Sanders in KFC commercials). Riggle is a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who served as a public affairs officer in Afghanistan. The tournament will take place at Valencia Country Club in Los Angeles on Dec. 5.
“We are so excited that Rob is doing this for the Semper Fi Fund,” Lethin said. “He has the heart of our mission. He’s a Marine who knows the power and good of what we do.”
Sam Houston is more than just the namesake for the fourth-largest city in America — the man is literally called the “George Washington of Texas.” And in the Lone Star State, that’s as close to God as one can get.
Here are a few reasons why the Texas hero Sam Houston owns the title “Governor of Governors.”
1. He was actually governor of two states.
Houston was elected governor of Tennessee in 1827. He resigned as governor in 1829, a result of alcoholism and depression from his failed marriage. Thirty years later, he became the 7th governor of Texas.
2. He’s an American combat veteran.
Of course he is. When the War of 1812 rolled around, he fought so well, Gen. Andrew Jackson took notice. Houston became a Jackson protégé and Jacksonian Democrat in his political years.
3. Sam Houston was adopted by the Cherokee Nation.
He spent much of his youth among Indians in Tennessee. Although he would come to have close ties with President Jackson, they probably differed on the treatment of the Cherokee. Houston took a Cherokee wife and was an honorary member of the tribe. His adopted name was “Black Raven.”
We can take a pretty good guess on how Jackson felt about the Cherokee.
After Houston rigged the appointment of Nashville Postmaster away from John P. Erwin at Jackson’s request, Erwin challenged Houston to a duel. Houston refused, but when Gen. William White — veteran of the Battle of New Orleans — challenged him instead, the gunfight was on.
He practiced shooting at Jackson’s home. Old Hickory advised him to bite a bullet during the duel saying “It will make you aim better.”
Houston won the duel, shooting White in the groin.
5. He clubbed a congressman for accusing him of fraud.
Sam Houston, while a Congressman from Tennessee, felt slandered in a speech on the House floor. William Stanbery of Ohio, an anti-Jacksonian, accused Houston of fraud. Later that day, Houston saw Stanbery walking down the street and delivered a fierce beating. Stanbery even pulled a pistol on Houston, but it misfired.
6. His defense attorney was Francis Scott Key.
When Congress got wind of the epic beat-down Houston put on Stanberry, they charged him with assault and put him on trial. The eloquent Key argued the case with the Supreme Court acting as judges (no pressure) but still lost. Houston was fined $500 and left Washington in disgust, heading back home to Texas.
7. He beat the “Napoleon of the West” in eighteen minutes.
He didn’t fall into the trap of going in headfirst against Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s army after the fall of the Alamo. Instead, Houston led a very George Washington-esque series of strategic retreats, giving his army time to regroup and congeal as a unit – and for more Texians to join his army. By the time he surprised Santa Anna on the banks of the San Jacinto, Houston was no longer outnumbered.
It took 18 minutes for the Mexican Army to break and flee. But the Texians killed them for hours. Houston’s official report, numbered 630 Mexicans killed, 208 wounded, and 730 taken prisoner – including Santa Anna. The Texians lost just 11 men, with 30 (including Houston) wounded.
8. He was the first (and only) foreign head of state to be a U.S. governor.
His win at San Jacinto won Texas its independence as a republic. With Houston promptly elected as the first President of Texas with 80 percent of the vote. Once the Republic became a U.S. state, he would become one of its senators.
9. He refused to declare allegiance to the Confederacy.
Houston opposed secession and traveled around Texas explaining why. He did not think it was good for Texas economically, militarily, or ethically. He didn’t think the rebels would win. Despite his opposition, a state convention met and voted to secede by a whopping 160 votes. Houston would not swear allegiance to the Confederate States and was ousted as governor of Texas.
The Union offered him a command, but he turned it down.
It’s not bravado, it’s not some Hollywood publicity stunt, and it sure as hell isn’t special effects. Arnold Schwarzenegger not only owns a tank, he knows how to drive it and operate it in every possible way. It wouldn’t have done him much good in the Army if he didn’t know how to use its weapons. But the tank he has is a special one – to him, anyway.
The Terminator’s tank is the same one he used to learn his tank skills while serving in the Austrian Army.
Schwarzenegger (left, duh) in his Army days.
Austria is one of few countries in Europe to have mandatory civil or military service upon graduating from high school at age 18. A young Arnold Schwarzenegger, never one to shirk his duties, did what he had to do. He joined up and became a tanker in the Austrian National Army in 1965. His tank is a 1951 M-47 Patton tank, designed for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps to take the place of the Pershing tank in the early days of the Cold War.
He’s owned his tank since 1991, paying ,000 to have it shipped from Austria.
The 50-ton behemoth uses a V-12 Chrysler twin turbo gas engine and cranks out 810 horsepower for a max speed of 30 miles per hour and a whopping 2.3 miles per gallon. But Schwarzenegger doesn’t use it to get around the streets of Southern California.
He uses it to keep kids in school.
Disadvantaged or at-risk students come to Schwarzenegger’s home to check out the tank and have fun with him in a series of after-school programs. The ones who stay in school get to drive the tank. With Arnold. And maybe even driving it over a few cars.
He even put a day in the tank up as an Omaze reward, offering donors to The After-School All-Stars Program the chance to crush stuff and “blow sh*t up” with him. Before that, the tank was housed at the Motts Military Museum in Ohio. In 2008, the then-Governor of California decided his role would soon include driving over a few jalopies to support youth enrollment. The program has been ongoing ever since.
Senior Army and Pentagon strategists and planners are considering ways to fire existing weapons platforms in new ways around the globe – including the possible placement of mobile artillery units in areas of the South China Sea to, if necessary, function as air-defense weapons to knock incoming rockets and cruise missiles out of the sky, senior Pentagon and Army officials told Scout Warrior.
Adm. Harry Harris, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, has said he thinks the U.S. should think about new ways of using land-based rockets and howitzer systems as offensive and defensive weapons in areas of the South China Sea.
Such a move would better ensure access and maneuverability for U.S. and allied ships, assets and weapons in contested or tense areas, he explained.
Howitzers or Paladins could be used as a mobile, direct countermeasures to incoming rockets, he said. A key advantage to using a Paladin is that it is a mobile platform which could adjust to moving or fast-changing approaching enemy fire.
“We could use existing Howitzers and that type of munition (155m shells) to knock out incoming threats when people try to hit us from the air at long ranges using rockets and cruise missiles,” a senior Army official told Scout Warrior in an interview.
This consideration comes not long after Pentagon officials confirmed that satellite pictures show the Chinese have placed weapons such as Surface to Air Missiles in areas of the South China Sea.
Having land-based rockets or artillery could give US and allied forces both strategic and tactical assistance.
“A Howitzer can go where it has to go. It is a way of changing an offensive weapon and using it in dual capacity,” the official explained. “This opens the door to opportunities and options we have not had before with mobile defensive platforms and offensive capabilities.”
Mobile air defenses such as an Army M777 or Paladin Howitzer weapon could use precision rounds and advancing fire-control technology to destroy threatening air assets such as enemy aircraft, drones or incoming artillery fire.
Alongside the South China Sea, more mobile artillery weapons used for air defense could also prove useful in areas such as the Middle East and Eastern Europe, officials said. Having mobile counter-air weapons such as the M109 Paladin, able to fire 155m precision rounds on-the-move, could prove to be an effective air-defense deterrent against Russian missiles, aircraft and rockets in Eastern Europe, the senior Army official told Scout Warrior.
Regarding the South China Sea, the U.S. has a nuanced or complicated relationship with China involving both rivalry and cooperation; the recent Chinese move to put surface-to-air missiles and fighter jets on claimed territory in the South China Sea has escalated tensions and led Pentagon planners to consider various options.
Officials are clear to emphasize that no decisions have been made along these lines, yet it is one of the things being considered. Pentagon officials have opposed further militarization of the area and emphasized that the territorial disputes in the South China Sea need to be resolved peacefully and diplomatically.
At the same time, Pentagon officials have publically stated the U.S. will continue “freedom of navigation” exercises wherein Navy ships sail within 12 miles of territory claimed by the Chinese – and tensions are clearly on the rise. In addition to these activities, it is entirely possible the U.S. could also find ways to deploy more offensive and defensive weapons to the region.
Naturally, a move of this kind would need to involve close coordination with U.S. allies in the region, as the U.S. claims no territory in the South China Sea. However, this would involve the deployment of a weapons system which has historically been used for offensive attacks on land. The effort could use an M777 Howitzer or Paladin, weapons able to fire 155m rounds.