The USS O’Bannon was named for the legendary Marine Corps hero Presley O’Bannon, who famously led a ragtag group of Marines and mercenaries in a daring overland expedition to surprise an enemy in North Africa. The World War II-era destroyer became a ship worthy of its namesake just a year after it was launched, surprising an enemy Japanese submarine – not with cunning or guile, but with potatoes.
Lots of potatoes.
O’Bannon would also serve in the Korean War and in Vietnam.
It’s not as if the O’Bannon didn’t have real armaments. The ship carried 17 anti-aircraft guns, torpedo tubes, depth charges, and .38-caliber deck guns. O’Bannon was a floating death machine. It just so happened that its potato store was all it needed in this one instance.
The ship had been running support missions in the Pacific Theater since it was launched the previous year. After the O’Bannon joined in the shelling of the Solomon Islands in 1943, it was cruising its way back to its home station in the middle of the night. That’s when it came upon the enemy sub known as RO-34.
RO-34 had no idea the Fletcher-class destroyer, a good-sized ship displacing 2,000 tons and carrying a buttload of weapons at its disposal, was in the vicinity. RO-34 was moving along, on the surface, as its crew dozed silently. O’Bannon had the drop on the enemy boat. And yet, despite the O’Bannon’s buttload of weaponry, the skipper decided to ram the submarine instead.
As the destroyer careened toward the submarine that was half its size, ready to send it to the bottom, someone aboard the U.S. destroyer surmised the sub could be a minelayer and take the O’Bannon to the bottom of the ocean in the resulting explosion. The ship turned rudder in a hurry, only to find itself now alongside its determined enemy. They were too close to use that buttload of weapons – or even their sidearms.
The Japanese naturally flipped the f*ck out when they realized they were next to an American destroyer. They scrambled, running for the ship’s deck guns, which were the perfect weapon to use on the O’Bannon. The fortunes of the battle just changed 180 degrees. They needed to buy time to keep the enemy away from the deck guns while creating distance enough to use their own weapons – they looked around for anything they could chuck at the Japanese sailors.
Luckily, they had been carrying bins of potatoes on the deck, and the Americans began to throw them at the crew of RO-34, who promptly began to flip the f*ck out once more. The half-asleep Japanese sailors thought they were hand grenades.
The thud of potatoes thrown at high velocity on a metal hull might have the sound of a grenade hitting a similar surface, but for those in doubt, remember what was happening to the Japanese crew. First, they were just woken from a deep sleep. Second, their alarm clock was a giant enemy ship coming at them at full speed. Third, they were likely confused as to why the Americans decided to come alongside them to throw stuff at them, rather than just shoot them. And finally, who throws potatoes in the middle of World War II instead of trying to kill the enemy? The Japanese had no way of knowing the thuds could be spuds.
The potatoes gave the O’Bannon time to get far enough away to use its real weapons, which it did, hitting RO-34 hard before the sub dove into the dark sea. The destroyer then moved over the submarine’s position and finished it off with depth charges.
The crew was later presented with a plaque to commemorate the potato incident – from the Association of Maine Potato Growers.
It’s impossible to describe John Ripley’s most famous action in a single headline. This Marine dangled from the Dong Ha Bridge for some three hours as North Vietnamese soldiers took potshots at him. He took his time attaching 500 pounds of explosives to the bridge, singlehandedly halting an advance of 20,000 Communists during the Easter Offensive.
Then-Captain John Ripley was an American advisor in the northern regions of South Vietnam in 1972. He was at Camp Carroll, a firebase between Khe Sanh and Dong Ha, advising South Vietnamese troops. It was his second tour in Vietnam and things were mostly quiet…until they weren’t.
The NVA had been testing the U.S. defenses at firebases in his area but they would quickly disengage. One day in March 1972, they didn’t stop. Enemy artillery started raining shells on the firebases in the area. The NVA was throwing everything they had at South Vietnam, 14 divisions and 26 independent regiments. The Easter Offensive had just begun.
As Camp Carroll was overrun and its ARVN garrison surrendered, Ripley and another American escaped on a CH-47 Chinook. But the helicopter took on too many fleeing ARVN troops and was forced to crash land on Highway 1, near Dong Ha.
At Dong Ha, close to the DMZ that separated North and South Vietnam, he found a number of South Vietnamese Marines who had no intention of surrendering. He also found some 200 North Vietnamese tanks and self-propelled artillery backed up for six miles – and ready to cross the Cam Lo River.
“We didn’t have the wherewithal to stop that many tanks. We had little hand-held weapons. And we certainly didn’t have anything on the scale that was needed to deal with the threat. Originally 20 tanks had been reported.” Ripley chuckled softly at the memory years later.
With the monsoon season limiting American air support and the North Vietnamese controlling one half of the bridge, Ripley decided he had to blow up the bridge. By himself, if necessary.
Another American, Maj. James Smock drove him to the bridge in a tank and Ripley headed below where he found five ARVN engineers trying to rig the bridge to blow. They had 500 pounds of TNT. The problem was the way the explosives were laid out; the bridge wouldn’t be completely destroyed and the NVA would still be able to cross. They’d have to be rearranged.
By hand. With tanks and guns shooting at those hands.
Meanwhile, 90-pound South Vietnamese Marine-Sergeant Huynh Van Luom dashed onto the bridge in what Ripley called “the bravest single act of heroism I’ve ever heard of, witnessed or experienced.”
Huynh fired two M72 light antitank assault weapon rounds at the lead NVA tank. The first shot missed, but the second hit the tank turret, stopping it cold. The entire column was stopped. It couldn’t move and couldn’t turn around.
The ARVN engineers below the bridge took off as Ripley climbed over the razor wire barrier designed to keep people from doing what he was about to do. He climbed hand over hand as Smock pushed the explosives out to him. Ripley grabbed the box and moved it to a better location.
“I would hand-walk out, then swing up to get my heels into the “I” beam,” Ripley said, recalling that he was still wearing all his web gear and slung rifle. “Then I’d swing down on one T beam and then leap over and grab another T beam.”
For nearly three hours, Ripley dangled under the Dong Ha Bridge, rigging it to blow, and frustrating the enemy trying to kill him. To make matters worse, Ripley had no blasting caps, so he had to use timed fuses — fuses with an unknown time, set with his mouth.
Smock moved to rig the railway bridge to blow at the same time and moved back to friendly lines. The 500-foot bridges blew up just minutes later. The armored column became sitting ducks for the Navy’s ships offshore and South Vietnamese A-1 Skyraiders.
His effort on the bridge that day may have been the decisive factor that kept the North from taking Saigon until three years later.
Colonel John Ripley died in 2008 at the age of 69, but not before making a trip back to Dong Ha with some of his buddies from L/3/3 Marines in 1997.
Feature image: Painting by Col Charles Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.) captures the spirit of Ripley at the bridge at Dong Ha.
World War II and the Cold War brought out the worst in everyone. So it should be a surprise to no one to find out the Soviet Union developed biological warfare agents almost as soon as the dust from the October Revolution settled.
Despite being a signatory to the Geneva Convention of 1925 – which outlawed chemical and biological weapons – and the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, the Soviets had dozens of sites to develop eleven agents for use on any potential enemy.
The Russian Bioweapons program would be the most capable, deadliest program in the world. It was complete with viruses and pathogens that were genetically-altered and antibiotic resistant, with sophisticated delivery systems.
Category A agents are easily weaponized, extremely virulent, hard to fight and contain, and/or have high mortality rates. They have the added bonus of being an agent that would cause a panic among the enemy population.
For most of us post-9/11 veterans, Anthrax was the one that could have been all too real. In the days following 9/11, letters containing Anthrax spores were sent to members of Congress and the media. Subsequently, troops deploying overseas to countries like Afghanistan and Iraq were given a course of Anthrax vaccines.
Anthrax can present in four ways: skin, inhalation, injection, and intestinal. All are caused by the Bacillus anthracis bacteria. Before antibiotics, Anthrax killed hundreds of thousands of people, but now there are only 2,000 or so worldwide cases a year.
The mortality rate is anywhere from 24 to 80 percent, depending on which type you get.
Ah, plague. The biblical weapon. This one makes a little bit of sense. Since the Soviet Union would most likely go to war with Western Europe, the best weapon to use would be something that regularly wiped out more Europeans than the Catholic Church.
Plague works fast, incubating in two to six days, with a sudden headache and chills at the end of the incubation period. Gangrene and buboes (swollen lymph nodes in the armpit and groin) are the best indicator of plague.
There are other symptoms too, but after two weeks, it won’t matter. Because you’ll be dead.
Never hear of Tularemia? Good for you. Tularemia is one of the many reasons you shouldn’t touch dead animals. It’s a nasty bug that can survive for long periods outside of a host.
Tularemia can enter the body through lungs, skin, or eyes. It can present as a skin ulcer, but the most dangerous form is when it’s inhaled. Pneumoic tularemia will quickly spread into the bloodstream, killing 30-60 percent of those infected.
This is deadly neurotoxin, the deadliest substance known. It was used as a biological agent by Japan in WWII and was subsequently produced by almost every biological warfare program – for a good reason. Botulism is easy to produce and presents in 12-36 hours once in the body.
In an aerosol infection (like a bioweapon attack), even detecting botulism could be difficult. Treatment is mainly supportive, there is little that can be done once symptoms start to present. The only known antitoxin even produces anaphylaxis, which means it can only be administered in a hospital setting.
Smallpox is the disease that won the new world for the Europeans, more than guns, horses, or booze. It killed off 90 percent of the indigenous population of the Americas, whose immune systems were unprepared for it.
The Marburg Virus is a hemorrhagic fever, in the same family as the Ebola virus, the deadliest of hemorrhagic viruses. In an unprepared population, the mortality rate can be as high as 90-100 percent. So if you’re unfamiliar with Marburg Virus, imagine someone making Ebola airborne and killing you with it.
Category B agents are also easy to transmit and/or virulent among a population, but is less likely to kill or cause panic. Still, they should be taken seriously. Some, like Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis can have lasting effects.
Glanders can enter the body through the skin and eyes, but also via the nose and lungs. The symptoms are similar to the flu or common cold, but once it’s in the bloodstream, it can be fatal within seven to ten days.
I’m not going to include a photo, because it’s really gross to look at.
The bacteria is at the top of the list for potential bioterrorism agents and was even believed to be intentionally spread to the Russian Army by the Germans in WWI. The Russians allegedly used it in Afghanistan during their ten-year occupation.
This is usually caused by drinking raw milk or imbibing other raw dairy products. If an animal has brucellosis, they’re transmitting it to you. It’s also an inhalation hazard that can affect hunters dressing wild game. Symptoms are flu-like when inhaled and soon inflame the organs, especially the liver and spleen. Symptoms can last anywhere from a matter of weeks to years.
Brucellosis was once called both “Bang’s Disease” and “Malta Fever.” It has been weaponized since the 50s, with a lethality estimate of one to two percent. Just kill me with fire if I have the flu for two years.
Like most of the agents on the list, Q-fever is also spread via inhalation or contacts with infected domestic animals – unless the Russians bombed your town with it. The agent can survive for up to 60 days on some surfaces.
When the American Biological Weapons arsenal was destroyed in the early 1970s, the U.S. had just under 5,100 gallons of Q-fever.
10. Viral Encephalitis
The worst part about this agent is that there is no effective drug treatment for it, and that any treatment is merely supportive – meaning that there is no way to treat the cause of the disease, only to manage the symptoms.
The incubation period is fast, one to six days, and causes flu-like symptoms. It can incapacitate the infected for up to two weeks and cause swelling of the brain. Up to 30 percent of infected persons have permanent neurological conditions, like seizures and paralysis.
11. Staphylococcal Enterotoxin
Staph infections are pretty common but as a biological agent, it’s stable to store and weaponize as an aerosol agent. At low doses, it can incapacitate and it can kill at higher doses. The biggest concern is that a mass infection of a population is extremely difficult to treat effectively.
This agent can infect food and water but is deadliest when inhaled. High doses of inhaled Staph can lead to shock and multi-organ failure. Symptoms of any dosage appear within 1-8 hours.
Category C Agents
Category C consists mostly of potential agents, but the Soviet program didn’t use any of the C category as we know it today. This category includes virulent but untested (for biowarfare) agents like SARS, Rabies, or Yellow Fever.
In an action that has been long overdue, Congress has approved the award of the Congressional Gold Medal to members of the famed Merrill’s Marauders of World War II. The House passed the resolution last week after the Senate had approved it last fall. It is expected that President Donald Trump will sign it shortly.
Only one Congressional Gold Medal is awarded each year to a person or institution. It is deemed, “the highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions” according to the award’s official website.
Merrill’s Marauders were named after General Frank Merrill. The 3,000-strong unit was officially the 5307th Composite Unit. It was trained to work behind Japanese lines during the Burma campaign of World War II.
Marauders move under fire against Japanese positions.
Unfortunately, combat, disease, and time have taken their toll. Today there are only eight surviving members of the famed unit. When the push for awarding the medal began in 2016, there were still 28 Marauders still alive.
“I feel like I’m floating on air,” Robert Passanisi, a 96-year-old veteran of the unit, who is also the spokesman for the surviving members and a historian, said when hearing the news.
“It has been a long journey, and we’ve had to struggle through three congressional sessions to obtain this great honor,” Passanisi said. “My one regret is that only eight of us are alive to enjoy this historic honor.”
Some individual members of the unit, including Japanese-American interpreters as well as OSS troops who fought with the Merrill’s Marauders in Burma, had already been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
The House passed the bill one day after the 77th anniversary of 2,000 volunteers boarding the SS Lurline on Sept. 21, 1943, in San Francisco to ship out to New Caledonia. There, another 1,000 veterans from the South Pacific front joined them.
After the U.S. troops had been driven out of Burma by the Japanese in 1943, the Americans decided that they needed a “Long Range Penetration” mission behind Japanese lines. The plan was to disrupt and destroy the enemy’s supply lines and communications, to attack him from behind, and to try to regain the Burma Road.
General Joseph “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell grimly summarized the campaign: “I claim we got a hell-of-a-beating. We got run out of Burma, and it is as humiliating as hell. I think we ought to find out what caused it, go back, and retake [Burma].”
The call went out for volunteers for “A Dangerous and Hazardous Mission.” Over 3,000 men answered that call, some from far-flung bases in Panama and Trinidad; others were veterans from New Guinea, Guadalcanal, and elsewhere. Thus the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) was born.
Merrill (holding the map) with members of his staff.
The unit got its nickname from Time correspondent James R. Shepley. Reporters sent to cover the fighting in Burma were looking for a hook to capture the imagination of the American public back home. Nicknaming the unit served that purpose.
Frank Merrill didn’t look like a man whose job it was to lead a Special Operations Task Force behind enemy lines. Although he was a powerfully built man, he was plagued with a bad heart and poor eyesight. He had graying hair and smoked his pipe non-stop. He had little experience commanding troops but was a brilliant and unshakable leader.
During training and operations, Merrill drove himself even harder than his men; because of that, they loved, respected, and believed in him. The Chinese troops, part of General “Vinegar Joe” Stillwell’s command, loved him nearly as much as General Chenault, the commander of the “Flying Tigers.”
Merrill was born in the small town of Hopkinton, Mass. (the starting point for the Boston Marathon.) He tried unsuccessfully to get into West Point before joining the Army as a private. Working his way up to Staff Sergeant, he was finally accepted to the U.S. Military Academy on his sixth application. He graduated and was commissioned as a cavalry officer.
Merrill spent time in Japan as an assistant military attaché and learned Japanese while stationed there. Just prior to Pearl Harbor, he was assigned to the Chinese-Burma Theater and was with Stillwell on his long march out of Burma.
He trained his unit hard, working them for three months with Orde Wingate’s Chindits, the British unit that had already carved a name for themselves in the theater.
The Marauders were divided into three battalions and formed into six combat teams (400 per team), color-coded Red, White, Blue, Green, Orange, and Khaki. There were two teams to a battalion. The rest of the men formed the H.Q. and Air Transport Commands.
During the next four months, Merrill’s Marauders would take part in five major and 30 minor engagements with the Japanese veteran 18th Division which had taken both Singapore and Malaya.
In their first action against the Japanese 18th Division, they moved to set up blocking positions at Walawbum 10 miles behind the Japanese lines. General Tanaka, who commanded the Japanese forces, fearing that Stillwell was trying to encircle his forces, promptly attacked the Marauders.
The Americans beat back several bayonet attacks and caused significant casualties. The Japanese had 650 dead and as many wounded. The Americans had just seven killed and 36 wounded.
In the south, Wingate’s Chindits were hitting Tanaka hard cutting the railway lines and forcing him to withdraw northward. After two months of near-constant fighting, the Marauders were reeling; many of them were already sick with malaria. But their biggest mission lay ahead.
Less than a year after its creation, the unit was tasked with conducting a long and dangerous mission over the mountains. They had to trek across nearly 1,100 miles over the mountainous, nearly impenetrable jungle, in the foothills of the Himalayas, with no tanks or heavy artillery, to attack the Japanese. Their goal was to capture the important Japanese airfield at Myitkyina. The Operation would be known as “End Run.”
Capturing the airfield would benefit the supply aircraft since it would no longer have to fly over “the Hump” to ferry supplies to Kunming, China. It would also allow the Allies to construct the Ledo Road through which supplies could also travel to Kumming.
Augmenting the Marauders, who were down to about 50 percent strength due to casualties and tropical diseases, were two Chinese regiments and 300 Kachin tribesmen who were led by the OSS.
Merrill, having just returned to duty after his second heart attack, was beside the men and encouraging them all the way. The trek was so steep, muddy, and treacherous. Merrill’s men would lose half of their pack animals, along with their necessary equipment. And nearly half of the men became sick with amoebic dysentery after drinking water from streams that the Chinese were using the streams as a latrine.
After wiping out a small Japanese garrison at Ripong, 149 of the men came down with typhus. Several of the men died including Colonel Henry Kinnison, one of the team leaders. The Marauders arrived at their target location on the night of May 16.
The next morning they began their assault which was led by Lt. Colonel Charles Hunter. The Marauders and two Chinese regiments snuck past the Japanese undetected and attacked the airfield from the north, south, and west. They took the Japanese completely by surprise.
Not only did they seize the airfield but the Chinese troops also took a ferry landing on the Irrawaddy River. By 1530 hrs on the 17th of May, Merrill had radioed the code words “Merchant of Venice” which meant that the airstrip was already set for taking in C-47 transport aircraft.
Lord Mountbatten sent Stillwell the following message:
“By the boldness of your leadership, backed by the courage and endurance of your American and Chinese troops, you have taken the enemy completely by surprise and achieved a most outstanding success by seizing the Myitkyina airfield.”
The airfield seizure was considered a brilliant military move. Yet the Americans had lost a major opportunity in not capturing the town of Myitkyina. The town was only defended by about 700 Japanese troops but Hunter had been given no orders to take it.
Additionally, a fresh division, the British 36th, could have easily joined the Americans but Stillwell wanted no part of the British in this operation. This was a big mistake. Stillwell then sent anti-aircraft crews and engineers to fix an airstrip that was already totally operational, instead of securing badly needed arms and ammunition. By the time Merrill’s Marauders’ 2nd Battalion attacked the town, the Japanese had been reinforced and now had 3,500 well dug-in troops. The Marauders’ attacks failed.
Merrill and Stillwell in Burma.
Diseases, typhus, malaria, and dysentery, kept reducing the Marauders’ numbers until only 200 effective riflemen were left. In response, Stillwell scraped together more engineers and support troops; yet these men were totally green.
The Japanese managed to hold onto the town of Myitkyina until late summer. By then, the Marauders were no longer an effective fighting outfit. They were pulled out of the line finally in June and disbanded by August.
But by the excellent efforts of both the Marauders and the Chindits, the airfield at Myitkyina saved the transports from flying over the dangerous “Hump” into China. And with the Ledo Road complete, the 1,100-mile supply route to Kunming was now open.
Merrill was promoted to Major General and was transferred to the Pacific Theater. He was the Chief of Staff of the 10th Army under General Buckner during the Okinawa campaign. Later he held the same position for the Sixth Army in the Philippines. He was present on the battleship Missouri for the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay.
After the war, he was briefly the Deputy Chief for the Military Advisory for the Philippines but a third heart attack forced him into retirement. He returned to his native New England and retired in New Hampshire where he was given the job of State Highway Commissioner by the governor. Merrill died of a heart attack in Fernandina Beach, Florida on December 11, 1955. He was only 52 years old. He was buried at West Point next to General Stillwell per his wishes.
On August 10, 1944, the surviving Merrill’s Marauders were consolidated into the 475th Infantry, which continued service in northern Burma until February 1945. In June of 1954, the 475th Infantry was redesignated as the 75th Infantry. Thereby, the men of Merrill’s Marauders became the parents of the 75th Infantry Regiment, from which descended the 75th Ranger Regiment of today. This is why the six colors that represented the Marauders’ combat teams are now worn on the beret flash of the Ranger Regiment.
Merrill was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame in 1992. In his honor, Camp Frank D. Merrill in Dahlonega, Georgia, is home to the 5th Ranger Training Battalion and the mountain phase of the U.S. Army Ranger School.
If you haven’t played
Red Dead Redemption II, we highly recommend it. The game has some great storytelling and features some amazing characters. The most notable of the cast is the protagonist and player-character, Arthur Morgan. Easily one of the best characters in video game history, Arthur Morgan’s set of skills puts him in line with special operators around the world.
Special operators must be equipped to carry out the most dangerous missions the country has to offer. This is why they’re required to undergo rigorous training. Arthur Morgan, on the other hand, developed his skills while trying to survive in the days of the American frontier, a.k.a. The Wild West.
While there’re plenty of things to say about Arthur Morgan, here are some of the top reasons he’s operator AF:
Oh, and before we begin, this is your official spoiler warning.
Yes, he can even use a bow.
He can use just about any weapon
From your standard lever-action rifle to a tomahawk, Arthur can pick up any weapon and use it with deadly proficiency. He’s also a very skilled boxer and knife-fighter. His previous life as an outlaw put him through numerous fights against all sorts of enemies, and he learned from those experiences.
Being outnumbered is actually fun in this game.
He fights against overwhelming odds
Not unlike our very own Green Berets, who are trained to take on entire battalions with a single team, Morgan is no stranger to being outnumbered and still managing to shoot his way out of the situation, relatively unscathed.
In fact, on several occasions throughout the game, you fight around 20 people by yourself. That may not seem like a lot, but when your fastest firing weapon is a lever-action, it’s quite a challenge.
You’re alone most of the game anyway.
He goes on covert missions
Numerous times throughout the game, you’re sent on missions to steal or destroy things without being detected. Hell, there’s even a mission where you and another character, the famous John Marston, secretly blow up a railroad bridge. Another mission takes you into an Army camp to steal some items.
Of course, you can choose to make some noise, but when you do it quietly, you really get the feeling that Arthur is a true operator of his time.
Look at that thing!
He can grow a sick beard
While it may not be a requirement, most operators are definitely capable of growing nice, thick beards. If you choose to let it grow, Arthur’s beard can challenge even the most operator beards.
It’s honestly heartbreaking, though.
He gets tuberculosis… and keeps on fighting
The man gets diagnosed with TB and is even told by a doctor to get plenty of rest, but what does Arthur do? He goes about living his life as though nothing has changed. He struggles, sure, but he doesn’t let the sickness become a liability and fights all the way to the very end.
Germany dropped a lot of bombs on England (not to mention the rest of the United Kingdom) during World War II. Not all of them exploded – and unexploded ordnance, or UXO, has been an ongoing issue.
According to a report by NavalToday.com, war’s gift that keeps on giving turned up in Portsmouth, England. This is where the Royal Navy is planning to base the 65,000-ton Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
The report said that the German SC250 bomb, which weighed 500 pounds and had 290 pounds of high explosive, was discovered while dredging was underway as part of a program to improve the Royal Navy base’s infrastructure. The London Guardian reported on a past UXO find in Portsmouth in November that was rendered safe in a controlled detonation. The Guardian report also mentioned a bomb discovered in September.
UXO has been a long-running problem after wars. In fact, last October saw EOD personnel in the United States tasked to deal with Civil War cannonballs that were unearthed by Hurricane Matthew. UXO from World War I and World War II has been very common in Europe, including poison gas shells.
In 2009, a U.S. Navy release reported that a number of leftover mines and a British torpedo from World War II were discovered during a mine countermeasures exercise during that year’s BALTOPS. Three years later, during that same exercise, an unexploded aerial bomb was discovered according to another U.S. Navy release.
A 2011 Navy release estimates that in the Baltic Sea alone, there are over 200,000 pieces of UXO from not only conflicts, but training exercises dating back to the Russian Revolution.
Author’s note: This is a very hypothetical look at how a fight between two of America’s greatest expeditionary units could play out. Obviously, this battle would never actually happen since paratroopers and Marines rarely fight outside of bars. Both sides can only use their indigenous assets and their rides to the fight, no requesting Patriot missile support or a carrier strike group.
During the short War of Alaskan Secession in 2017, one brutal battle pitted an Army Airborne Brigade Combat Team against a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).
The fight centered on Fort Glenn, an abandoned World War II airfield on Umnak Island in the center of Alaska’s Aleutian Island Chain. The 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division attempted to take the fort for the Alaskan Independence Forces while the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit steamed north to capture it for the Federal Forces.
The Alaskans wanted the base to act as an early-warning installation and a platform for controlling Arctic traffic while the Federal Forces needed it as a marshaling and power projection platform for the invasion of Alaska.
The soldiers and Marines raced to the island, each unaware of the other’s plans. 4th Brigade caught a ride from Alaskan Air National Guard C-17s while the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit rode in on their dedicated Navy ships, the USS Peleliu and the USS Germantown, from where they were already steaming in the northern Pacific.
The paratroopers arrived first, jumping into the grass and wildflowers covering Fort Glenn. After Army pathfinders walked the runway and declared it safe for airland operations, C-17s began ferrying the unit’s heavy equipment onto the base.
It was at this critical moment that the Army colonel learned from one of his UAV operators that the 31st MEU was south of the island and steaming towards Deer Bay, a natural beach that sat at the foot of Fort Glenn.
This was a crisis for the airborne unit. A surprise winter storm approaching mainland Alaska had grounded the F-22s and other fighters captured as the war began, but the commander knew the MEU would still be able to launch its eight Harriers and four attack helicopters with the Navy’s ships safely out of the storm’s path.
The Army had limited options. They could attempt to defend Fort Glenn with what static defenses could be emplaced quickly, hide and set up an ambush at the beaches for when the Marines landed, or withdraw to the nearby high ground at Mount Okmok, a volcano that rarely erupts.
Javelin missile teams jumped out and positioned their launchers to screen for aircraft flying low and slow. Riflemen grabbed their assault packs and began setting up their own positions.
The soldiers waited and watched as the Marines’ amphibious assault vehicles crept into view. It wasn’t until the first of the Ospreys and SuperCobras neared the beach and spotted the humvees that the Javelin crews began firing.
The first missiles streaked toward the aircraft, but they had only limited anti-air capabilities. Two SuperCobras and two Ospreys came down, but the rest of the aircraft began evasive maneuvers.
The Humvees moved up from the dead space to give their gunners a shot at the Marines coming in. TOW missiles and 40mm grenades began striking the AAVs making their way to the beach while .50-cal gunners targeted the Marines Combat Rubber Raiding Crafts.
The Marines, though surprised to find the beach occupied, were masters of amphibious warfare. The command quickly ordered the landers to turn south where the terrain around Deer Bay would protect them from the missiles. The AAVs began suppressive fire to cover the movement.
The Marines knew that since the Army fired Javelins, an anti-tank missile that is a risky choice against helicopters, the Javelin was their only anti-air missile. So the Harriers were free to fly just a little too fast and a little too high for the Javelins, and therefore they were able to rain destruction.
Once the Harriers were airborne, it was over for the Army’s heavy weapons platforms. After destroying the Humvees, they went after the Army howitzers and the few M1135 Strykers on the island.
The Army attempted an organized withdrawal to the mountain as the two remaining SuperCobras returned with the Harriers. The LCACs and Landing Craft Units offloaded the Marines’ six Light-Armored Vehicles and 120 humvees. The surviving AAVs swam onto the shores.
Army mortar crews, riflemen, and the surviving Javelin firers fought a valiant delaying action, but the island provided little cover and concealment and they were destroyed.
By the time the storm had passed over the Alaskan mainland and the governor could send reinforcements, the resistance on Umnak Island had been essentially wiped out. There was simply too little cover and concealment for the paratroopers to defend themselves against the air and armored support of a MEU once the Marines knew that they were there.
Time brings continued improvement to the world of CCW handguns. Smaller, lighter, new cartridges, new projectile designs, innovative sighting systems.
On the other hand, you don’t see that sort of innovation in the pepper spray market. Pretty much since its inception, an OC dispenser has been an aerosol can that squirts oleoresin capsaicin. Your choices have been pretty much limited to the size and color of the dispenser, and whether it dispenses the spicy treats in stream, spray, or gel form.
But it’s 2019, and if you want innovation in OC dispensers, it turns out there’s an app for that. More than one, actually.
Sabre is releasing a new Smart Pepper Spray in 2019, which will communicate with your phone via Bluetooth. The app on your phone will alert designated contacts or first responders, marking your position on a map.
Additionally, the app can be used independently of the spray, since the map will show where and when pepper spray has been deployed previously. This function could prove useful if the user is in an unfamiliar town. “Probably don’t want to go jogging there; fifteen OC uses in the last month.”
Also new from Sabre is a combination OC dispenser and auto rescue tool, with a seatbelt cutter and glass breaker. The position of the glass breaker, on the bottom of the canister, opposite the dispensing button, doesn’t seem ideal. Giving yourself a faceful of OC spray while trying to escape a rollover would make an already bad day worse.
Another manufacturer was showing off their own Bluetooth-enhanced Smart Pepper Spray. Plegium, based out of Sweden, packs even more functions into theirs. In addition to the automatic alert function, there’s an audible 130dB alarm. Next to the OC nozzle are a trio of bright LED emitters that strobe 19 times a second to disorient your attacker and make it easier to aim the spray in low light conditions.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
Every four years, we have the opportunity and responsibility to make our voices heard. While elections are always important, this year feels particularly critical. A global pandemic. Heightened racial tensions. Upholding or repealing Supreme Court decisions. New and old military adversaries. Economic impact… the list goes on. While military families are concerned with the macro issues facing the country, they’re also incredibly concerned about the “micro -” those issues that many Americans can’t understand because they don’t live it – things like military spouse employment, PCSing and base housing. In just a few weeks, Americans will determine our next commander in chief.
The need for and reliance on mental health care was a common thread throughout the 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey. However, the greatest obstacle to accessing mental health care was the ability to get appointments. Those who left military service within the past 10 years were more likely to have accessed mental health care for themselves or members of their families. The more recently they left service, the more likely they were to have accessed mental health care. About 14.6% of respondents said they had accessed mental health crisis resources for themselves or their families. They expressed a need for emergency mental health care for the following reasons: specific mental health diagnoses; suicidal ideations and attempts; and feelings of stress, grief, and hopelessness. They also described difficulty receiving care, such as long wait times and less attentive medical personnel. When asked if participants themselves had thoughts of suicide in the past two years, one in eight respondents to this question responded affirmatively.
Most respondents, 77%, said they have debt. The amount of emergency savings varied significantly depending on demographics: 27.4% of currently serving military family respondents said they have less than 0 in emergency savings, while 49.2% of veteran family respondents (those without a military pension) and 22.2% of military retiree family respondents (those with a military pension) reported having less than 0. Nearly a quarter (23.5%) said they do not have a practical or viable plan for seeking assistance in a financial emergency.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. N.W. Huertas/Released)
Moves are expensive for military families, and they are causing long-term financial strain for some. On average, families are losing about ,000 per move in out-of-pocket costs and losses and damage to their household goods. The average unreimbursed out-of-pocket expense during a move was id=”listicle-2648395695″,913, and the average financial loss over and above claims for lost and damaged items during the move was ,920. The majority of respondents, 68.2%, said they experienced loss or damage during their most recent moves. Respondents said the moving support they need the most is financial.
Choosing a place to live is an essential process during a move, and the choice can affect families’ lives for the course of their tours. Exploring military families’ housing choices and experiences has been a perennial topic in MFAN’s support programming surveys. Between the 2017 survey and the 2019 survey, MFAN fielded a study on the state of privatized housing that was a catalyst to an overhaul of the system, a budget increase, and the Tenant Bill of Rights. The current research showed that concerns about privatized housing still linger, making it the number one reason families choose to live on the economy. Those who choose military housing do so for financial reasons and because of base amenities. Among the respondents living in military housing, those in lower enlisted ranks were more likely to have negative satisfaction rates, and the least satisfied respondents were those ranked E4 to E6. There was a very clearly statistically significant relationship with those ranked E4 to E6—they were more likely than any other group to rate their experiences as very negative across all areas of satisfaction rates measured.
Employment and Entrepreneurship
MFAN has explored military family employment needs and transition experiences in every support programming survey. Many of the responses have not changed. For example, in 2013, military spouses said they needed more assistance, specifically for spouses trying to build and maintain careers. In 2017, respondents said their job search experiences were generally negative, and they said they had difficulties with employer bias, location obstacles, child care, and unsuccessful searching. These themes emerged again this year.
Active duty military spouses are still struggling to find employment. Respondents said that the demands of military life, being the primary caretaker to children and needing flexible schedules, are obstacles to finding gainful employment. They are looking for remote and portable work that will help them build lasting careers. They were more likely than any other demographic group to have given up trying to find work. Meanwhile, those who had transitioned from service told a very different story. Veterans and retirees said their greatest obstacle is an employer who is willing to hire them. They would like assistance preparing for interviews and marketing themselves effectively with polished resumes.
Both groups placed a priority on assistance that would help them find open positions, and they have not been able to receive support. Nearly one-third of respondents said they can’t find effective support, and an additional 22.8% said they needed more information about available resources. 05 Active duty military spouses were statistically more likely than other demographics to consider entrepreneurship. Of those who do not currently have a business, 33% said they would consider starting one. However, entrepreneurial spouses of active duty service members reported low earnings, with 70.5% earning ,000 or less and 53.2% making ,000 or less. The most common reasons entrepreneurs chose for building their own businesses were flexible hours and to balance work and family life.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff. Sgt. Austen Adriaens/Released)
Child care and education
Child care and school-related support are the top two supports that military families with children wish they had. Child care priorities change based on the age of children; however, respondents with children ages 0 to 12 agreed that hourly care, both in-home and outside of the home, was a top priority. Those with children younger than 5 years old prioritized full-time child care, while after-school care was a priority for those with children between the ages of 6 to 12.
In alignment with their top priority for care they seek, almost two-thirds (64.1%) of actively serving military family respondents said they had to forego a medical appointment due to lack of child care in the past two years. When asked to identify helpful educational support programming for military children, 40.5% of respondents could not think of any that they were aware of or used. The top missing educational supports included special needs support; learning support, such as tutoring and personalized support to fill learning gaps; and transition support to aid military-related adjustment.
Razsadin said: In the 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey, military families shared with us the issues that are the greatest challenges to them. They told us that they have difficulty accessing health care appointments. That they need additional assistance as caregivers. That mental health care is critical, but difficult to access. They shared that many of them experience food insecurity. And that many feel lonely and disconnected from their communities. They disclosed that military moves are expensive and cause long-term financial strain. And that putting aside emergency savings is difficult. They talked to us about difficulties finding child care. And how hard it can be to secure (and keep) employment.
In many different areas, military families trusted us with their struggles and shared what makes military life difficult sometimes. And MFAN is committed to moving the needle on those critical areas they’ve identified. But Election Day is an opportunity for all military families to directly use their voices to address the issues that are most important to them. To speak up about what matters to them. And to vote so their voices are counted.
The people and issues military families vote for are up to them. That military families vote means our election results reflect the beautiful diversity of our force.
The U.S. Military prides itself on serving our country in all situations, foreign and domestic. The Military coordinates with government agencies to issue out destruction to the enemies of freedom, but it also focuses on preserving this beautiful land of ours. Researchers routinely find rare or endangered species of plants and animals on bases because of the way we preserve training areas.
The cohesion between military and civilian organizations, coming together to preserve our wildlife, has grown stronger over the last decade. All branches take painstaking care to protect nature; the inheritance of generations yet to come. Here’s how:
“Many years ago, [red-cockaded woodpeckers] decided to plant themselves in our training area and we decided that we wanted to help save these birds,” – Colonel Scalise
The Marine Corps plants trees to save woodpeckers
In April, 2018, Col. Michael Scalise, Deputy Commander of MCI East, Camp Lejeune, met with Representative Walter Jones to plant Longleaf Pine Seedlings at Stones Creek Game Land. The Longleaf tree is a favorite of the red-cockaded woodpecker, a species that has made nests under the protection of the Marine Corps for generations. Camp Lejeune shares land with a nature preserve that further protects the woodpecker and other endangered species alike.
The ceremony of planting new trees was the culmination of state and federal conservation agencies, such as the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Recovery and Sustainment Program partnership (RASP), to encourage the species to relocate their nesting grounds off ranges and onto safer areas. Training schedules are adjusted regularly to accommodate the woodpeckers’ preservation.
The Coast Guard battles the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Provide guidance, policy, and tools for Coast Guard Marine Environmental Response planning, preparedness, and operations to prevent, enforce, investigate, respond to, and to mitigate the threat, frequency, and consequences of oil discharges and hazardous substance releases into the navigable waters of the United States.
They are the first line of defense against oil spills that threaten the health of our citizens and wildlife. Coast Guardsmen are the first responders in the event of a hazardous substance release polluting our waters on a very real, catastrophic scale. Coasties are the stewards of our oceans, the most precious of national treasures, and risk their lives in the name of public health, national security, and U.S. economic interests.
Rare butterfly thrives on, and because of, US military bases
The Army saves endangered butterflies with controlled burns
Across many Army Installations, a variety of endangered butterflies would rather take their chances living on artillery impact areas due to habitat destruction. Species such as the St. Francis Satyrneed disturbance to keep their populations at a thriving level. The fires set by explosions burn across forests and wetlands that benefit the frail little ones. Even if an impact kills some butterflies, even more are able to take their place. At least three of the world’s rarest butterflies have found safety among the howitzer shells of Fort Bragg, NC.
The Army partners with biologists to retrieve females and relocate them to a greenhouse the Army built. The butterflies are bred and released into new areas for the population to continue to grow. Biologists and the Army recreate zones that resemble the impact areas to ensure the population won’t have to resort to living amongst unexploded ordinance.
Other species, such as the one in the video below, also call Army bases home.
It’s as if the military was never here…
(USAF Civil Engineer Center)
The Air Force prevents the contamination of wildlife after training
The Air Force has a division that specializes in Restoration Systems and Strategies. Their mission is to promote efficient and effective restoration of contaminated sites. They provide expertise on clean-up exit strategies and implementation of effective remediation using science and engineering. They ensure that the Air Force keeps up with their environmental responsibilities and tracks progress to prevent adverse long-term effects of training.
Performance-based remediation has become the standard for the Environmental Restoration Technical Support Branch that keeps the homes of wildlife clean.
The Navy shares their data with marine researchers
The Navy has a program called Marine Species Research and Monitoring and has invested over 0 million dollars to better understand marine species and the location of important habitat areas. Civilian researchers have access to the Navy’s data about the migratory patterns of whales, sea turtles, and birds that can aid them when their work is peer-reviewed.
The benefit is mutually beneficial because the published works can then be used by the Navy to develop tools to better estimate the potential effects of underwater sound. The program empowers scientists with research they otherwise would never have had access to independently, and the Navy can safeguard marine protected species.
A U.S. Army sniper takes aim while wearing a ghillie suit (U.S. Army photo/Released)
The two men crawl stealthily through the Panamanian jungle. Their faces are painted with hues of black, brown and green. Their bodies are covered by the burlap strands and interwoven foliage of their ghillie suits. The sniper and his spotter reach a vantage point overlooking the village and search for their target, a Panamanian rebel leader. Camouflaged against the jungle by their ghillie suits, the two men spot their target. As the rebel leader bites into his apple, a single shot pierces the stillness of the jungle and a 7.62x51mm NATO round pierces his heart.
One shot, one kill.
Alerted to the threat, the rebels frantically spray the jungle with automatic fire. Unable to see their enemy, they fire their weapons haphazardly and pray not to be the sniper’s next victim. Invisible to the rebels, the sniper ejects the spent cartridge from his M40A1 rifle and hands it to his spotter. As civilians in the village take cover, the rebels continue to pour gunfire into the jungle with no specific target. When no shots return from the trees, they cease fire. Still unseen, the sniper and his spotter melt back into the jungle and disappear. The only evidence of them having been there is the dead body of the rebel leader, a single hole through his heart.
Sniper and spotter take up an overwatch position (Credit TriStar Pictures)
The 1993 film Sniper, starring Tom Berenger as the titular and aforementioned sniper, introduced many viewers to the ghillie suit. An integral part of a sniper’s kit, the ghillie suit allows the sniper to blend in with their surroundings and evade detection. This is key to accomplishing their mission since a sniper’s primary functions on the battlefield are conducting covert reconnaissance and delivering precision fires.
A ghillie suit is typically made of a net or cloth garment and covered in burlap strips, cloth, or twine. It has an irregular shape which breaks up a sniper’s outline and makes them more difficult to spot. Additionally, snipers can weave local flora into their ghillie suit in order to better blend with their surroundings. If done properly, this additional camouflage will even sway in the wind to match the environment it is replicating. Today, ghillie suits are used by snipers all around the world in foliage, sand, and even snow. Their origin, however, can be traced back to the game attendants and folklore of the Scottish Highlands.
Scottish ghillies in Highland Perthshire. (Photo from tour-scotland-photographs.blogspot.com)
Derived from the Scottish Gaelic word “gille,” meaning lad or servant, a ghillie (the English misspelling) is a man or boy who serves as a game attendant and specializes in fishing, stalking, and hunting. In Scottish folklore, the Gille Dubh was a timid but wild male fairy who roamed the Highlands. Like the suit that bears his name, the Gille Dubh was clothed in leaves and other vegetation which allowed him to camouflage in the Highlands and evade capture.
Lovat Scouts wear two variations of the ghillie suit. (Photo from the Imperial War Museum)
Scottish ghillies created the ghillie suit in the turn of the 20th century as a wearable hunting blind that would allow them to more stealthily stalk and hunt their game on the Highlands. These first ghillie suits were made primarily of burlap which were irregularly torn and cut to break up the ghillie’s silhouette. Almost immediately, the ghillie suit saw military application with the British Army during the Second Boer War (1899-1902). The Lovat Scouts, the British Army’s first sniper unit, were initially recruited from Scottish Highland estate workers. This included the ghillies who brought their burlap camouflage suits with them.
Two British snipers during a demonstration for Their Majesties in May 1944. (Photo from captainstevens.com)
The ghillie suit went to war again in WWI where other nations took notice of its effectiveness and adopted it for themselves. As a concept, the ghillie suit has remained largely unchanged since its inception. One notable upgrade came in June 2003 when the U.S. Army introduced a new ghillie suit made of a lightweight, fire-resistant, and self-extinguishing fabric instead of the heavier and flammable burlap.
A U.S. Army sniper wears the Flame Resistant Ghillie System. (U.S. Army photo/Released)
Today, snipers around the world continue to carefully craft their ghillie suits in order to camouflage themselves and evade detection by the enemy. Meanwhile, in the Scottish Highlands, professional ghillies continue to preserve their legacy as gamekeepers. They cull game herds and lead hunting expeditions, sometimes with the added camouflage of their iconic burlap suit.
1. The reason why they expended 200 rounds during a firefight when they clearly couldn’t see the enemy.
Grunts can be trigger happy. They enjoy firing their weapons at the bad guys, hoping to score a solid kill shot, even if it means expending 90% of their ammo. Half the time, the ground pounders don’t get a clear line of sight on enemy movement from ground level.
But they still pull the trigger.
2. Why they shot so poorly at the range.
Not every infantryman is a crack shot. When you’re competing for bragging rights throughout the platoon and you don’t win, excuses are made.
3. How many girls they’ve been with prior to joining the military.
All grunts were ladies men before they signed on the dotted line. It’s incredible how joining takes all their mojo away.
4. How muscularly toned they once were before joining the infantry.
The average grunt is around 19-ish. So, it’s pretty hard to believe that your body’s metabolism has changed so quickly that you lost your muscle density.
5. About all of their outstanding achievements before shipping off to boot camp.
It’s okay, not everyone can be a high school football or wrestling star.
These guys are football stars and they aren’t in the infantry — yet.
History was made on Aug. 22, 2019, as the U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbirds, the RAF’s Red Arrows (the Royal Air Force aerobatic team is in the U.S. for a tour of North America between August and October 2019) and a flight of two F-35As Lightning II jets of the F-35 Demo Team and two F-22s of the Raptor Demo Team flew over NYC ahead of the New York International Air Show to be held at New York Stewart airport.
Overall, 20 aircraft (including a Red Arrows Hawk jet that acted as camera ship) conducted the flyover on the Hudson River near the Statue of Liberty and Verrazzano Bridge performing passes at 2,500-3,000 ft and trailing colored smokes.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, initially slated to take part in the aerial parade, could not join the rest of the teams because of operational requirements.
Here are some of the coolest images we found online.
First of all, the following video (fast forward to 13:15 mark to spot the first jets) shows the flyover:
More photographs were shared online by the Red Arrows:
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.