Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

The War Office has the unique ability to censor letters, media reports and controls the flow of information from forward-deployed units to the general public. While most military members know this inherently, it might surprise you to understand how censorship got its legs in America and what it looks like today.

With all likelihood, there was probably some censorship happening during the Civil War, but because so many service personnel were illiterate, it’s hard to know exact numbers. But there had to be some censorship since often letters crossed into enemy territory. But the real start to military censorship started during WWI and the Espionage Act of 1917.


This act allowed the government to fine citizens for interference with recruiting troops or the refusal to perform military duties. The charge came with a fine of $10,000 and 20 years in prison. Within six months of the act being signed, there were over 1,000 people imprisoned.

The Sedition Act of 1918 meant that it became a crime to criticize the government, the Constitution, the flag, or the uniform of men in military service. This applied to both speeches and writing. Under the two laws, thousands of people were imprisoned for acts of nonviolent protest against the war. Additionally, at least 75 newspapers lost mailing privileges and were under governmental pressure to change their outward-facing editorial attitudes.

President Wilson went so far as to create a Committee on Public Information. This committee created a “voluntary censorship code” with newspaper journalists. The committee released a sanitized version of the news to over 6,000 newspapers every single day.

By WWII, censors were on the lookout for anything a soldier might say that would be of value to the enemy or anything that would contradict the official Committee on Public Information reports. The formal establishment of the Office of Censorship in 1941 gave e formal power to censor all communication between the US and foreign countries and prevented news organizations from publishing information that might inadvertently aid the enemy.

By 1942, the Office of War Information took over the flow of information into and out of the government to pass on “approved” versions of news events to news organizations. The OWI prevented any pictures of graphic photos from being released. It also severely limited the letters that it allowed to get through from forward-deployed service members to their families. Letters sent in foreign languages were intercepted, and since most censors didn’t understand what was written, the letter simply wasn’t delivered.

The Vietnam conflict saw the introduction of “5 O’Clock Follies” where press and military officials would gather to receive information about battles ahead of time. Then, the press would wait to report on them until after the battle started. Service member’s letters were heavily censored during this time as well.

During the Gulf War, censorship was not only blatantly accepted by all media outlets, but it was also expected. News reports were submitted to a security review before being released, and a press pool was established to allow one reported to accompany soldiers to combat areas. Letters from service members continued to be intercepted, and information relating to operational security was removed.

Our current conflicts in the War on Terror are still heavily censored, both in what’s allowed to be known ahead of time (like re-deployment dates and precise locations) and in the access the press has to battles. Most often, journalists are no longer allowed to embed in units, and the government has purchased the exclusive rights for commercial satellite imagery of Afghanistan.

Now more than ever, OPSEC is important, since we all have smart devices that we carry with us. Imagery is shared in our modern world in ways it has never been in the past, making it even more important to keep up situational awareness and not give up secrets. For military members and this community, it’s not as much about free speech as it is protecting and defending the ones we love.

Lists

4 Army regulations every soldier pushes to the limits

Let’s be real: If Army regulations specifically required just one thing, there’d be someone out there trying to push it to the limit, just to see how far they can go. Then, the commander would make a company-wide memorandum because that Joe took it too far.


Thankfully, there are a number of Army regulations out there for all you rebellious types to break. Let’s take a look at those most tested:

4. Wear and Appearance (AR 670-1)

The most cited Army Regulation is also the most abused. Just everything about AR 670-1 is tested, and not just by the lower enlisted.

If the regulations say an officer can wear a cape, you know there’s at least one officer who’s tried to get away with wearing it. Haircuts are strictly limited, but nearly every E-4 walks around with the exact text memorized, so they can say, “Ah! But the regulation just says, ‘unkempt!'”

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information
If your hair is out of regs, find the barracks barber. There’s one in every unit. (Photo by Sgt. Ferdinand Thomas II, PAO)

3. Alcohol Limit (AR 600-85)

By pure letter of the word, you cannot wear your uniform in a bar. You cannot wear a uniform in an establishment where your activities are centered around drinking. Being intoxicated in uniform is definitely against Army regs. This mostly gets interpreted as a “two-drink limit” by commanders to close that loophole.

And that’s exactly what happens. If, at an event where alcohol happens to be served — like spending a lunch break at the Buffalo Wild Wings just off-post, soldiers will likely grab just two. Doesn’t matter the size of the glass, the alcohol content of the drink, the tolerance of the person drinking, or how soon that person should be back on duty. The drink limit is just “two” drinks, right?

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

2. Counseling Timelines (AR 623-3)

According to regulations, soldiers, NCOs, and officers should be “routinely” counseled, which really means every 30 days. So, by that logic, everyone waits until the last minute to get counseling forms, NCOERs, and OERs done.

Leaders (should) know the soldier underneath them and have a good idea of what they’ve done throughout the rating period — it’s too bad that none of that knowledge gets used as everyone scrambles to get reviews done so people can go home.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information
Counseling time is probably the worst time to learn you have soldiers. Not speaking from personal experience or anything… (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ian Thompson)

1. Swearing (AR 600-20)

Profanity that is derogatory in nature against someone’s race, ethnicity, religion, sex, or orientation is clearly in the wrong. And f*ck you if you’re using it specifically against another soldier.

Shy of that, what constitutes “professionalism” and “becoming of a soldier” is a grey area. Commanders don’t really have a set guideline of specific expletives you can and cannot say, nor do they dictate how often you can cuss.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

*Bonus* Fraternization (still AR 600-20)

AR 600-20 is the Army Command Policy; it mostly serves as a catch-all for the smaller regulations. In the ambiguity of the fraternization policy, the rules behind dating, marriage, and hook-ups are kind of spelled out.

Even friendships between a soldiers and their leaders fall into that same gray area. As long as it doesn’t affect morale of all troops, it seems to be fine.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How just one care package can change a deployment for the better

There are inherent dangers involved with a combat deployment. Even if you don’t have first-hand knowledge, you probably have a pretty solid understanding of what troops go through on a near-daily basis in a country that few can even point to on a globe. Our troops are up against a hostile environment filled with potentially hostile actors that hide behind civilian masks. But one thing that’s never really discussed is downtime — the rest period, the time between missions.

As bizarre as it sounds, it’s often the nothingness that can be most exhausting. At a certain point during a deployment, you adapt to the pressures of war and missions, but being left with nothing to do, without any real outlet to help you escape your surroundings and calm down for a moment, is what gets to some troops most.

So, it’s not unusual for troops to pick up some sort of hobby to pass the time. Some troops take up drawing or learn to play the guitar. Others head to the MWR tent to watch the same late-90s sitcom for the 80th time. Many others pass the time by picking up a controller and playing a video game with their friends.

But the luxury of popping the latest game into an X-Box simply isn’t afforded to all troops — and that’s where care packages from a loved one — or organizations like OSD — come in.


Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

The reason OSD is so in sync with what troops want and need is because many members of the organization are veterans themselves.

(OSD)

OSD has been filling in those gaps of nothingness with a wide assortment of highly-desired goods. Once the OSD team gets a hold of a deployed unit, that unit can usually expect a massive care package filled with entertainment. OSD shipped over 450 such “Supply Drops” in 2017, containing everything from video games to game consoles and televisions to coffee, junk food, and everything else troops might miss from back home.

Troops who are in outlaying bases, like the soldiers of the 101st Aviation Regiment, will now have something to look forward to when their shifts are over.

And that’s just their flagship program. OSD also provides mentorship and resources for veterans seeking employment opportunities through their Heroic Forces program, they assist wounded veterans throughout their recovery processes through Respawn, and they sponsor nominated veterans via Thank You Deployment, a program that celebrates service by giving individuals the day of a lifetime.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

Because one care package really can change a deployment for the better.

(OSD)

This October, OSD is running their third annual Vetober, a charity donation drive that helps fuel all of the awesome programs above and more. You can donate the conventional way, but OSD is also staying true to their roots in gaming culture by introducing competition to the mix. Form or join a team, raise cash for veterans, and see if you can come out on top!

Every dollar donated goes to benefit the hundreds of thousands of troops and veterans. 0 raised means a new supply drop goes out to troops who desperately need some entertainment. 0 helps mentor veterans seeking employment. 0 sponsors events in veteran communities across the country. 00 helps OSD grow, allowing them to continue changing thousands of service members’ lives for the better.

Help us break the monotony of deployments and keep our troops happy and healthy. Whether you want to donate directly, help spread the word, organize a fundraising team, or join someone else’s team, you can help make a difference!

On a more personal level, I cannot recommend OSD highly enough. Not only do they hold a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, so you know they’re trustworthy, they also personally impacted my life.

My unit received a supply drop from OSD when we were deployed and, man, was it a welcomed sight. We opened a care package only to find, basically, everything we’ve ever wanted. For the first time in a while, we played games and relaxed. It helped give us a chance to come together as a platoon and take our minds off everything.

MIGHTY TRENDING

After lost court battle, U.S. ends friendship treaty with Iran

The United States says it is canceling a decades-old friendship treaty with Iran after Tehran cited it in an international court case against Washington’s sanctions policy.

“I’m announcing that the US is terminating the 1955 Treaty of Amity with Iran. This is a decision, frankly, that is 39 years overdue,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on Oct. 3, 2018, referring to the year of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

After the announcement, Tehran slammed the United States as an “outlaw regime.”


The U.S. move came after the top UN court ordered the United States to ease sanctions it reimposed on Iran following Washington’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers in early 2018.

The 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights called for “friendly relations” between Iran and the United States, encouraged mutual trade and investment, regulated diplomatic ties, and granted the International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction over disputes.

It was signed at a time of close relations between Washington and Tehran, long before the 1979 revolution brought about decades of hostility between the two.

In August 2018, Washington slapped a first round of punitive measures on Iran after President Donald Trump in May 2018 pulled the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

President Donald Trump.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The U.S. moves sent Iran’s economy into a downward spiral with the national currency, the rial, hitting record lows.

Iran challenged the reinstatement of sanctions in a case filed in July 2018 at the ICJ in The Hague, arguing that it breaches the friendship treaty between the two countries and accusing the United States of “economic aggression.”

U.S. lawyers responded by saying the reimposition of the sanctions was legal and a national security measure that cannot be challenged at the UN court.

In a preliminary ruling in the case, the ICJ said earlier on Oct. 3, 2018, that exports of “humanitarian” goods such as medicines and medical devices, food, and agricultural commodities” should be allowed, as well as aviation safety equipment.

It said the U.S. sanctions on such goods breached the 1955 treaty between Iran and the United States.

Announcing the decision, the court’s president, Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, said U.S. sanctions on goods “required for humanitarian needs…may have a serious detrimental impact on the health and lives of individuals on the territory of Iran.”

Sanctions on aircraft spare parts, equipment, and associated services have the “potential to endanger civil aviation safety in Iran and the lives of its users,” he also said.

The ruling is a decision on so-called provisional measures ahead of a final decision on the matter, which may take several years, according to experts.

Speaking to reporters, Pompeo said the ruling “marked a useful point for us to demonstrate the absolute absurdity of the Treaty of Amity between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

He also said the United States was “disappointed” that the ICJ “failed to recognize that it has no jurisdiction to issue any order relating to these sanctions measures with the United States, which is doing its work on Iran to protect its own essential security interests.”

The secretary of state said that Iran’s claims under the treaty were “absurd,” citing Iran’s “history of terrorism, ballistic-missile activity, and other malign behaviors,” and accused Tehran of “abusing the ICJ for political and propaganda purposes.”

Pompeo added that the United States will work to ensure it is providing humanitarian assistance to the Iranian people.

“Today US withdrew from an actual US-Iran treaty after the ICJ ordered it to stop violating that treaty in sanctioning Iranian people. Outlaw regime,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later tweeted.

Earlier, Zarif called the court decision “another failure for sanctions-addicted” U.S. government and “victory for rule of law.”

And the Foreign Ministry said the ruling “proved once again the Islamic Republic is right and the U.S. sanctions against people and citizens of our country are illegal and cruel.”

The U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, Peter Hoekstra, said it was “a meritless case over which the court has no jurisdiction.”

He added that the ruling did not go as far as Iran had requested, saying the court “issued a narrow decision on a very limited range of sectors.”

The ICJ rules on disputes between UN member states. Its decisions are binding and cannot be appealed, but it has no mechanism to enforce them.

Both Washington and Tehran have ignored ICJ decisions in the past.

Later in the day, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton announced that the administration was pulling out of an amendment to the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that gives the ICJ jurisdiction to hear disputes between states.

Bolton also told a White House briefing that Washington will review all international agreements that “may still expose the United States to purported binding jurisdiction, dispute resolution” in the ICJ.

“We will not sit idly by as baseless politicized claims are brought against us,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How Army Apaches actually kill their numerous victims

The Black Death. The Monster. The Rifleman of the Sky.

The Apache is a lethal and feared military monstrosity that rakes its claws across the battlefield and leaves shattered bodies and buckets of gore in its wake. Here’s how it kills you — and anyone nearby. And anyone within a few miles.


Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

An Apache sits on the airfield in Germany in 2018. The Apaches main armament in the U.S. consists of rockets, missiles, and a chain gun. The chain gun is visible under the cockpit. The missile racks are mounted on either side of the Apache body and the rocket pods are the pieces with the honeycomb pattern mounted on the outside of the wing stubs.

(U.S. Army Charles Rosemond)

First, lets take a look at the Apache armament. While it can be fitted with other missiles and guns, Apaches are usually deployed with three offensive weapons: Hellfire missiles, guided and unguided rockets, and a 30mm chain gun that’s often described as an automatic grenade launcher.

All three of them are highly capable, and all of them kill in their own special way.

First, the chain gun. It’s commonly loaded with M789 High-Explosive, dual-purpose ammunition. When this is fired at personnel on the ground, it does look a lot like they’re getting attacked by an automatic grenade launcher. The weapon is fired in bursts with over two rounds per second striking the ground, all of which explode soon after, shredding the bodies of those targeted.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

A U.S. Army Apache helicopter fires its M203 chain gun during an exercise in Georgia in 2018.

(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ellen Babo)

The chain gun ammunition is dual-purpose and is designed to penetrate armor at ranges of up to 3 kilometers. Against older tanks, these rounds pierce the hull and blow up inside or nearly pierce it and then explode, turning the remaining armor into shrapnel that flies through the crew compartment. The helicopters carries up to 1,200 of these rounds.

Most modern tanks can survive this onslaught, but they’ll likely lose any externally mounted equipment, potentially including their main gun. For these rugged targets, the Apache will typically turn to its Hellfire missiles.

There isn’t a known tank that the Hellfire missile can’t kill, and the Apache can carry up to 16 of these bad boys if it foregoes rockets. The Apache originally carried laser-guided Hellfires, but now it often carries radar-guided Longbow variants of the missile which the pilot can fire and forget about. It’ll get to the target on its own.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

A U.S. Army Apache helicopter flies over Georgian tanks during a live-fire exercise in Georgia in 2018.

(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ellen Babo)

While there are now air-to-air and surface-to-air versions of the Hellfire, the Apache is essentially always equipped with the air-to-ground version in the U.S. arsenal. It has a variety of available warheads, including thermobaric, tandem charges, shaped charges, and blast fragmentation.

That basically means that the Apache can use the missile against enclosed structures, any-and-all tanks, and soft vehicles and personnel, but it does have to decide what it will likely be attacking before departing the base.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

An Army Apache helicopter fires rockets during a live-fire range in Korea in 2014.

(U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Vincent Abril)

Finally, the Apache carries rockets. Historically, this was the Hydra rocket, a 70mm unguided weapon. But then BAE Systems rolled out the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System, a kit that gives guidance to dumb rockets. So now, the pilots can send their rockets with warheads between 8 and 15 pounds.

These rockets’ payloads can be high explosive, but they can also be filled with darts called flechettes that zip through human flesh and bones, shredding arteries, nerves, and other flesh, and quickly ending life. Occasionally, the rockets are used with parachuting illumination payloads or CS gas.

So, when Apaches are flying at you, they can choose to kill you with a chain gun, a warhead, or rockets, all of which can explode on impact or carry a variety of other payloads. But what really makes the Apache so dangerous is how far away it can kill you from.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

A U.S. Army Apache helicopter returns from a maintenance test flight in 2018. The disc on top is a radar that allows to Apache to detect and engage targets from up to 3 miles away.

(U.S. Army Charles Rosemond)

The Apache has a super sensitive camera mounted under its nose and a variety of other sensors. One of the most powerful sensors is the radar mounted over the rotor blades.

These sensors and the on-board computers allow the helicopter to track up to 256 targets from up to 3 miles away. That’s further away than the sound of their rotor blades carries, especially if there is vegetation or uneven ground to break up the waves. So, for many people being hunted by an Apache, the first sign of trouble is the sudden sound of high-explosive chain gun rounds landing all around them.

This sound is quickly followed by the noise of the gun firing, since the rounds leave the gun at over Mach 2 at normal temperatures. Around the same time that the sound wave comes, the rounds begin exploding. You likely won’t hear anything else after that.

Unless you’re in a tank! But, then you likely wouldn’t hear any explosive rounds. Instead, you’d just take a Hellfire missile to the turret and be dead from the tandem warhead before you realize anything is wrong. Tandem warheads fire twice. The first explosive opens a gap in your reactive armor. The second pierces the remaining armor and sends you to your maker.

But it might hit you with rockets, shredding you with darts or destroying you with explosives and fragmentation.

So, uh, maybe don’t get caught burying an IED when any of these things are around. It’ll be a bad day.

Articles

Today’s UCMJ was born out of the summary hanging of 13 American soldiers by the US Army

In the pre-dawn darkness of December 11, 1917, thirteen American soldiers died together at the same moment, hanged in a mass execution on gallows that were immediately torn back down to lumber so other soldiers wouldn’t see them. If you serve in the military today, your life is better because of that morning, and because of the debate that followed. Samuel Ansell left the Army nearly a hundred years ago, and he might save your life one day.

The men who died on December 11 were black privates and NCOs, infantrymen who served together under white officers in the segregated 24th Infantry Regiment. Earlier that year, in the spring of 1917, they had been sent to Texas to guard army facilities as the United States went to war in Europe. Posted outside Houston, the men of the 24th collided with Jim Crow laws and the social customs that went with them. By mid-August, arguments were nearly turning into fights, and a white laborer on Camp Logan stabbed a black civilian to death in the payroll line.

On August 23, two Houston police officers saw a group of black teenagers shooting craps on a city street, and tried to arrest them for illegal gambling. The teenagers ran, and the police chased them, bursting into homes in an African-American neighborhood. A black woman named Sara Travers complained, and a pair of white policemen dragged her outside, half-dressed, to arrest her. Watching white police rough up a black woman, a soldier from the 3/24 in the city on a pass stepped forward and told them to stop. They beat him and took him to jail. Soon after, an NCO from the 2/24 approached the officers and demanded an explanation for the beating and the arrest. At that point, Officer Lee Sparks pulled his revolver out and began to beat Cpl. Charlies Baltimore over the head with it – then fired at his back as he ran away, before catching up to him and hauling him away to jail, too.

It was the moment when the arguments ended and the fighting began. Back at Camp Logan, a group of about 100 soldiers stormed an ammunition tent, loaded rifles, and went into town to find the police officers who had beaten and shot at their fellow infantrymen. They found them. At the end of a running gun battle, nineteen people were dead: Fifteen of them white, including police officers, and four black soldiers.

The courts-martial that followed were a joke, mass trials meant to placate infuriated Texas politicians. Sixty-three men were tried before the first of three courts, with single witnesses casually implicating dozens of defendants and men being convicted on the strength of testimony that had flatly misidentified them in court. For their defense, they were represented by an infantry officer with no legal training. On November 29, returning guilty verdicts by the box lot, the court sentenced 13 defendants to death. Facing local pressure, the convening authority, Maj. Gen. John Rickman, approved the verdicts and scheduled the executions – on his own authority, without seeking approval from the Army or the War Department.

The 13 men were simultaneously hanged on December 11 at 7:17 a.m. local time — one minute before sunrise — in the presence of U.S. Army officers and one local official, County Sheriff John Tobin.

It was the event that kicked off the debate about military justice during World War I: American soldiers were being killed by their own army without any kind of legal review or approval by national authorities.

Incredibly, the War Department issued a general order forbidding local commanders to put soldiers to death before the Judge Advocate General and the president had a chance to review their convictions – an obvious expectation that was only imposed for the first time in the second decade of the 20th century. Imagine serving in an army that could put you in front of the firing squad or put a noose around your neck a few days after a shoddy trial, with no one checking to make sure you hadn’t just been railroaded. That was a possible feature of military experience for the first century and a half of our history.

The War Department order was just in time. While the court-martial in Texas was delivering its sentences, drumhead courts-martial at the front in France were sentencing four other privates to death. Jeff Cook and Forest Sebastian had fallen asleep on guard duty on the front line, slumped forward against the trenches, while Olon Ledoyen and Stanley Fishback refused an order to drill. All four had even less of a trial than the soldiers of the 24th Infantry. Ledoyen and Fishback were represented in their defense by an infantry lieutenant who was pulled from the line for the job. Shrugging, he told them both to just plead guilty and hope for the best. All four trials took somewhere in the neighborhood of a few minutes, with little to no testimony, argument, or deliberation.

This is where our contemporary military justice system was born. In Washington, the Army had two top legal officers. The Judge Advocate General, Maj. Gen. Enoch Crowder, was temporarily assigned to other wartime duties, so Brig. Gen. Samuel Ansell was the acting JAG; both thought of themselves as the Army’s top legal officer. The two men had completely different reactions to the trials in Texas and France, and a totally different view of the way courts-martial were supposed to work. Their argument – the “Ansell-Crowder dispute” – kicked off a full century of debate.

To Crowder, the purpose of a court-martial was discipline and good military order, and the results of a trial could only merit objections from army lawyers if blatant unfairness screamed from the record of the proceedings. Commanders needed near-absolute latitude to deliver the punishments inflicted by courts, and the JAG office had little to no reason to interfere. If the army’s lawyers objected to the death sentences in France, Crowder warned, Pershing would believe that his authority had been undermined in a critical matter involving his command.

But to Ansell, courts-martial had to be courts. They needed standards of evidence and reasonable rules about due process, and the outcome of a military trial could become illegitimate when courts broke rules. The acting JAG and the circle of reformers around him tore into the records of the courts-martial in France – finding, for example, that Cook and Sebastian had gone four days with almost no sleep at all, but their courts-martial had taken no notice of those extenuating circumstances in delivering death sentences. “These cases were not well tried,” Ansell wrote.

President Woodrow Wilson agreed with Ansell and pardoned all four men. Sebastian died in combat soon afterward, fighting with courage, and Wilson told War Department officials that he was glad to have given a soldier a chance to redeem himself.

Then the war ended, and the argument got serious. Ansell presented a long report to Congress, detailing a series of proposals for changes in the Articles of War, the pre-UCMJ law that governed the army. He especially wanted to see the law adopt some form of mandatory post-conviction legal review, creating an appellate authority that had the direct power to overturn bad convictions. But Crowder eased him out of the office, arranging a job for Ansell at a law firm before telling him that he was done in the army. As Congress prepared to vote on Ansell’s proposed reforms, Crowder – back at his regular duties as the army JAG – gave his congressional allies a set of more modest changes. In an amendment to the pending legislation, they swapped out Ansell’s reforms for Crowder’s, and the law passed.

Even as Crowder won, though, Ansell had forced a more serious set of reforms on the army than his adversaries had wanted to see. Among the changes to the laws governing the army in 1920, Congress created boards of review for the first time. A retired JAG officer, Lawrence J. Morris, calls those boards “the first step toward a formal appellate process.” Another change required courts-martial to reach unanimous agreement to impose the death penalty, where the previous Articles of War had only required a two-thirds majority vote to put a soldier to death.

Ansell began the long effort to make courts-martial into true courts, giving soldiers some degree of due process protection. And he planted the seeds for all of the debates that have followed. After World War II, when Congress and the newly created Department of Defense decided to pursue the more serious reforms that led to the creation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the person who led the effort was a law school professor, Edmund Morgan – who had spent World War I in uniform, working for Ansell in the office of the Judge Advocate General.

Injustice led to justice. Your legal rights before the military justice system today – including your right to a trial that isn’t tainted by unlawful command influence, your right to be represented by a lawyer, and your right to appeal serious convictions to real military appellate courts – were born in a field outside Houston in 1917. Arguing over the death of soldiers, Samuel Ansell and the generation of army lawyers who served alongside him began to make military justice a far better system for everyone who followed. They were patriots who served their country with honor and left it a better place.

Chris Bray is the author of “Court-Martial: How Military Justice Has Shaped America from the Revolution to 9/11 and Beyond,” published last month by W.W. Norton.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Can you actually pull a grenade pin with your teeth?

GatGatCat asks: Is cooking grenades and pulling the pins with your teeth something people really do or just something in games?

We’ve all seen it — the protagonist of a film whips out a hand grenade, dashingly yanks the pin with his teeth as his hair flows in the wind, counts one-potato, two-potato, three and hucks it at nearby teeming hoards of enemy swarming on his location. But is this actually a thing in real life?

First thing’s first, yes, if you have hair, it is possible for it to flow in the wind… As for the grenade part, the generally recommended proper technique is — “proper grip, thumb to clip, twist pull pin, strike a pose, yell frag out, hit the dirt”.


On the first step of “proper grip” it is particularly important to make sure to NEVER adjust your grip on the lever (called “milking”) once the pin is pulled. Doing so may let up enough on said lever to allow the striker to do its thing to the percussion cap, which in turn creates a spark, thereby causing a slow burn of the fuse materials lasting approximately 2-6 seconds for most types of grenade, after which the main charge will ignite, sending shrapnel in all directions. So should you adjust your grip, you could potentially have a really bad time, even should you re-squeeze the lever after. Such a thing has caused the deaths of many a soldier, for example thought to have been the cause of the death of Specialist David G Rubic who had an M67 grenade explode in his hand as he was about to throw it during a training exercise.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

M67 grenade.

(Public domain)

As you can see from these steps, at no point is taking your sweet time getting rid of the grenade after you release the lever, called “cooking”, mentioned. Nevertheless, cooking the grenade is not without its virtues, with the general idea to minimise the window of opportunity the enemy has to react to said grenade — potentially throwing it back or diving for cover.

That said, while in film throwing the grenade back is a common trope, this is an incredibly difficult thing to pull off in real life. Consider that when the grenade is thrown, it is likely going to be in the air or bouncing around on the ground for a couple seconds in most scenarios, and thus about the only chance of someone actually picking it up and throwing it back successfully is if they Omar Vizquel’d it and caught it in the air and immediately hucked it back. But even then, whether it would get back to the thrower before exploding is anybody’s guess — quite literally given, if you were paying attention, that rather variable estimate of 2-6 seconds from lever release to explosion, depending on model of grenade.

For example, the US Army’s own field manual on the use of grenades and pyrotechnic signals states the fuse time tends to vary by as much as 2 whole seconds with, for example, the M67 grenade then having an estimated “3-5 second delay fuze”. So counting one-potato, two-potato potentially only gives you one potato to go through the throwing motion, then take cover. And if you happen to be on the 3 potato end of things to boom, that grenade is going to be extremely close to your position when it sings the song of its people.

It’s at this point we should point out that in many common grenade designs the potential lethal area is approximately 15-30 metres (50-100 feet), with the risk of injury from shrapnel extending to a couple hundred metres with some types of grenades. As you can imagine from this, potentially under one-potato just isn’t a good enough safety margin in most scenarios.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information
Giphy

For this reason, both the US Army and the Marines Corp strongly advise against cooking grenades with the latter referring to it as the “least preferred technique” to throw a grenade. As for the most preferred technique, to quote the Marine Corps manual on Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain:

The preferred technique involves throwing the grenade hard enough that it bounces or skips around, making it difficult to pick up. The hard-throw, skip/bounce technique may be used by Marines in training and combat.

That said, there are edge cases where cooking a grenade may be beneficial where the reward outweighs the risks and potentially environmental factors make it a safer prospect. As such, the same manual notes that cooking a grenade is a technique that can be used “as appropriate” based on the discretion of an individual Marine, but should never be used during training. Likewise, the US Army notes in its field manual on the use of grenades that the act of cooking off grenades should be reserved for a combat environment only.

As for situations where cooking a grenade is deemed potentially appropriate, the most common are clearing rooms and bunkers where there are nice thick barriers between you and the impending blast. (Although, it’s always worth pointing out that while many a Hollywood hero has taken cover on one side of a drywall wall, this isn’t exactly an awesome barrier and shrapnel and bullets easily go through the gypsum and paper. Likewise as a brief aside, any such hero ever trapped in a room in many homes and buildings can quite easily just smash a hole in the drywall to escape if they so chose. It’s not that difficult. Just make sure not to try to punch or kick through the part with a 2×4 behind it…)

In any event, beyond urban environments, hitting very close enemies behind heavy cover is another common scenario cited in field manuals we consulted for cooking a grenade.

As for the amount of time it is advised to cook a grenade before throwing it, every official source we consulted notes that 2 seconds is the absolute maximum amount of time a soldier is advised to hold onto a live grenade before throwing it, with emphasis on MAXIMUM.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

All this said, technology has improved this situation in some newer designs of grenades that use electronic timer components, rather than unpredictable burning fuses. In these grenades, you can be absolutely sure that from the moment you release the lever, you have exactly the amount of time the designers intended, making cooking these grenades a much safer prospect in the right circumstances. Further, there are also new grenade designs coming out with position sensors as an added safety mechanism, via ensuring they cannot detonate unless the sensor detects the grenade has been thrown first.

But to sum up on the matter of cooking grenades, soldiers can and do, though rarely, “cook” grenades to minimise the time an enemy has to react to them, although doing so isn’t advised and requires, to quote a book literally titled Grenades, “great confidence in the manufacturer’s quality control”. And, of course, similarly a soldier with balls or ovaries of solid steel and compatriots who are extremely trusting of their ability to count potatoes accurately — when literally a one second margin of error may be the difference between you dying or not, a sloppy seconds counter is not to be trusted.

Now on to the matter of pulling a pin with your teeth… While designs of grenades differ, from accounts of various soldiers familiar with a variety of grenades, as well as looking at the manufacturers’ stated pull power needed — it would seem trying to pull a grenade pin with your teeth is a great way to put your dentist’s kids through college.

For example, the relatively common M67 grenade takes about 3-5 kg (about 7 to 11 pounds) of force to pull free stock. The Russian F1 grenade takes about 8 kg (17 pounds) of pull power to get the pin out. Or as one soldier, referring to the Singapore SFG87 grenade, notes, “The pin was actually partially wrapped around the spoon(handle) of the grenade and was extremely stiff. You had to literally twist and yank the pin out, which made your fingers red and hurt a little.”

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information
Frag out!

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller)

Even without bent pins, to illustrate just how hard it can be to pull these pins in some cases, we have this account from Eleven Charlie One Papa by James Mallen. In it, he states,

[The] new guy had entered the hooch and hung up his gear, apparently from the canvas web gearing of his LBG but actually hanging on the pull pin of an HE fragmentation grenade, and then decided to go off somewhere. Worse still, the guy had not bent the cotter pin of the grenade over, so that at any moment…the gear would fall, the pin would be pulled out, the grenades’ primer would ignite, and give seconds later everyone in the hooch at the time would be killed or horribly wounded.I had a mini heart attack and turned immediately to jump out but a soldier behind me was blocking my way, whereupon I mostly violently pushed him out of the way, up the stairs and outside, to escape a quick and violent end…
I learned that the guy who was responsible for it would return soon. I decided that he would have to take care of it… After about ten minutes that soldier … returned…He went back down, seemingly unconcerned, and rearranged his LBG so that it was hanging by the suspender strap instead of the pull-pin of a hand grenade….

Going back to bent pins, while many grenades don’t come stock with the pins bent, this is a common practice done by soldiers the world over anyway, making it even more difficult to pull the pin. The primary purpose behind this is to ensure that the pin doesn’t accidentally get pulled when you’d rather it not, like catching on a stray tree branch as you’re trotting through the jungle, or even in combat when you might be hitting the deck or scrambling around haphazardly with little thought to your grenade pins.

Illustrating this, in Eleven Charlie One Papa, Mallen states, “I pointed out to him that the grenade cotter pin wasn’t even bent over and he said that he was completely unaware that he should have them bent over. So for the last week or so we had been humping the bush with this guy whose grenades could have easily been set off by having the pin catch in a big thorn or spike. I guess it was our fault for not telling the guy things like that, things that were never taught in basic or advanced infantry training back in the states.”

This practice, although widely utilised by soldiers is sometimes discouraged by some in the military precisely because it makes it extremely difficult to pull the pin if one doesn’t first take the time to bend the metal back. This not only makes the grenade potentially take a little longer to be deployed in a pinch, but is also thought to contribute to soldiers unintentionally milking the grenade directly after the pin has finally been pulled with extreme force. This is what is speculated to have happened in the aforementioned death of Specialist David G Rubic, as noted by Colonel Raymond Mason who was in charge of figuring out what went wrong. In the investigation, it was discovered that Rubic had, according to witnesses, both previously bent the pin and been holding the lever down at the time it exploded in his hand.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Dengrier Baez)

Of course, if one throws the grenade immediately upon pin removal, whether you milk the grenade or not makes little difference — with it only being extra risky if you choose to hold onto it for some number of potatos. On top of this, regardless of what superiors say, many soldiers are unwilling to entrust their and their compatriots’ lives to a mere 3-8 kg worth of pull force, which a tree branch or the like while jogging can potentially exert.

That said, a tree branch is not your teeth and whether bending the pins or not, as Sergeant Osman Sipahi of the Turkish Armed forces states, you can pull the pin this way, “but there is a high probability of you fucking up your teeth. It’s the same as biting the top of a beer bottle off; it’s doable but not recommended.”

Or as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Quigley, author of Passage Through A Hell of Fire And Ice, sums up: “The business in the movies of the guy grabbing the grenade ring in his teeth and pulling out the pin is a load; it does not happen unless he is prepared to throw out a few teeth with it as well. We have all commented how we would like to get some of those Hollywood grenades that allow you to bite off the pin, throw the grenade a few hundred yards, and never miss your target, going off with the blast effect of a 500-pound bomb…”

Bonus Facts:

Any article on the discussion of grenade usage would be remiss in not answering the additional question often posed of whether you can put the pin back in after you’ve pulled it and still have it be safe to let go of the lever — the answer is yes, but this must be done VERY carefully, as letting up even a little on the lever before the pin is fully-re-inserted can cause the striker to do its thing, potentially without you knowing it, as illustrated in the death of one Alexander Chechik of Russia. Mr. Chechik decided it would be a good idea to pull the pin on a grenade he had, take a picture, then send it to his friends. The last text he ever received was from a friend stating, “Listen, don’t f*** around… Where are you?” Not responding, reportedly Chechik attempted to put the pin back in, but unsuccessfully. The grenade ultimately exploded in his hand, killing him instantly, while also no doubt making him a strong candidate for a Darwin award.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Justin J. Shemanski)

Next up, as occasionally happens to all of us, if you happen to find a grenade thrown at you or drop the one you’re holding with the pin already pulled, if no readily available cover is nearby the general recommendation is to lay flat on the ground with, assuming you remembered to wear your Kevlar helmet like a good soldier, your head towards the grenade. These helmets are designed to be an effective barrier against such shrapnel. This position also ensures minimal odds of any shrapnel hitting you in the first place via reducing the cross section of you exposed to the grenade’s blast.

Now, you might at this point be thinking as you have your shrapnel proof Kevlar helmet, why not just put it on the the grenade? Genius, right? Well, no. While these helmets can take a barrage of quite a bit of high speed shrapnel, they cannot contain the full force of the blast of a typical grenade, as was tragically proven by Medal of Honor winner, Jason Dunham. In his case, not trusting his helmet to contain the blast, he also put his body on top of the helmet to make sure nobody else would be hurt by the dropped grenade. He did not survive, but those around him did.

In yet another case of a soldier jumping on a grenade to save his fellow soldiers, but this time with a reasonably happy ending, we have the case of Lance Corporal William Kyle Carpenter. On November 21, 2010 while in Afghanistan, a grenade was thrown into his sandbagged position. Rather than run, he used his own body to shield the other soldier with him from the blast. Miraculously, though severely injured, Carpenter lived and was awarded the Medal of Honor in June of 2014.

In a similar case, during a battle on Feb. 20, 1945, one Jack H Lewis and his comrades were advancing toward a Japanese airstrip near Mount Suribachi. Taking cover in a trench under heavy fire, Jack realized they were only feet away from enemy soldiers in a neighboring trench. He managed to shoot two of the soldiers before two live grenades landed in his trench. Thinking quickly, Jack threw himself on the first grenade, shoving it into volcanic ash and used his body and rifle to shield the others with him from the pending blast. When another grenade appeared directly after the first, he reached out and pulled it under himself as well. His body took the brunt of the two blasts and the massive amount of shrapnel. His companions were all saved, but his injuries were so serious they thought he had died. Only after a second company moved through did anyone realize he was somehow still alive. Jack endured nearly two dozen surgeries and extensive therapy and convalescence. Despite the surgeries, over 200 pieces of shrapnel remained in his body for the rest of his life which lasted an additional six decades. He died at the ripe old age of 80, on June 5, 2008 from leukemia.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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Lists

US Army recruitment campaigns, ranked from worst to best

Most soldiers have a valid reason for joining the military: family, patriotism, better opportunities — chances are they made their mind up long ago. For those who joined during a “huh, that sounds like a good idea!” moment, they probably got the idea after seeing a television commercial or billboard — complete with noteworthy slogans.


While this list is compiled fairly loosely, it still illustrates a range from complete sh*tshow to absolutely iconic:

7. Army of One (2001 to 2006)

Oh boy. There’s no contest on which slogan goes to the very bottom.

Not only did it invoke the sense of individuality over teamwork, but all of the quotes that went on the posters just came off as pretentious.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information
But it did give us the video game Army of Two, which was a fun game. So there’s that.

6. Look Sharp, Be Sharp, Go Army! (1950 to early 70’s)

This slogan was plastered on billboards around the country. But during the draft, the second slogan was kind of…mean: “Your future, your decision…choose ARMY.”

Not really your decision if you’re drafted, huh?

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information
Maybe this was meant to be a warning before the draft chose for you?

5. Join the people who’ve joined the Army (mid 70’s)

Because of slogans like “Today’s Army Wants to Join You” (whaaaat?) and because of the rumors that there was beer in the barracks and loose rules and things like that, “…it was perceived by a great many Americans that the Army would be an undisciplined Army,” said Secretary of the Army Bo Callaway.

This campaign was very short lived before the Army reverted back to the next entry on our list because of a kickback scandal involving the ad agency. It was fairly basic in just giving the facts. It was created out of the fear of soldiers drinking in the barracks…which totally never happens…

(YouTube, Brian Durham)

4. Today’s Army Wants to Join You (early 70’s to 1980)

After the Vietnam War came to an end, the Army had a bit of an image problem. Drafting men to fight in an era of hippies took its toll when it came time to transition into an all-volunteer Army.

So the Army loosened many of its restrictions to try to appeal to the more free lifestyle of the youth counter-culture. It was a twist on the classic “I Want You for U.S. Army” poster with the added intensive that the Army would “care more about how you think than how you cut your hair.”

I mean, it was effective. So it lands firmly in the middle of the list.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information
The recruiter isn’t lying, per se…

3. Army Strong (2006 to Present)

After the blunder that was “Army of One,” they decided to strip down the advertisements to just show all the cool things you can do in the Army.

Nothing but the bare bones of soldiers doing awesome things. No lies being spread. No sense of individuality trumping your unit. Just “Look how cool this sh*t is!” Plus it gave us a catchy theme song that gets stuck in everyone’s head after a battalion run.

(The only down side is that the other branches definitely use this slogan against the Army.)

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information
WTF is happening in this picture?

2. Be All You Can Be (1980 to 2001)

The Cold War still had not thawed when they came up with this scheme but then it seemed to fit with everything 80’s and 90’s — so it stuck.

The emphasis was more on using cool promises to get lost high schoolers to join after graduation. I hate to break it to the kid below, but are a lot of steps before you can become a pilot.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8ggZapHxvk

(YouTube, Video Archeology)

1. I Want YOU for US Army (WWI to WWII)

You can’t beat the classics.

The original James M. Flagg poster turned countless heads across the country during the first World War. Even after the armistice, the posters stuck around.

The iconic poster made its round again to bring the Greatest Generation back into the fray. It has since been imitated, referenced, and adapted, even if it was also a reference to the British “Your Country Needs YOU” campaign.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

Would you have ranked it differently? Were there any we left out? Let us know in the comment section!

Articles

27 FBI photos you must see of the Pentagon on 9/11

Five al-Qaeda militants hijacked American Airlines flight 77 on Sept. 11, 2001. The plane was on its way from Dulles Airport outside of Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles. The plane made it as far as eastern Kentucky before the terrorists took over the plane and slammed it into the Pentagon.


The FBI added 27 images the agency took on the ground that day to their photo vault, as first responders raced to rescue the wounded and remove the dead from the shell of the nation’s symbol of military power.

Debris from the plane and the building are highlighted in the Mar. 23 release of photos. The attack killed 125 people in the Pentagon, as well as all aboard the flight

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

The Boeing 757 took off from Dulles ten minutes early.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

Some of the passengers were teachers and students on a National Geographic Society field trip.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

Authorities estimate the flight was taken over between 8:51 and 8:54 in the morning, as the last communication with the real pilots was at 8:51.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

The terrorists were led by a trained pilot, as the other four herded the passengers to the back of the plane to prevent them from re-taking the aircraft.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

The hijacker pilot did not respond to any radio calls.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

With no transponder signal, the flight could only be found when it passed the path of ground-based radar.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

At 9:33 am, the tower at Reagan Airport contacted the Pentagon, saying “an aircraft is coming at you and not talking with us.”

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

At 9:37:46 am, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

Listen actual radio traffic about the flight at NPR.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

USA Today detailed the victims of Flight 77.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

Articles

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter

The Blackhawks are one of the lesser-known superheroes in the DC Comics pantheon today, but from the 1940s to the 1960s, they were big names. The only hero who outsold them during the early years of their run was Superman.


Part of the appeal was their planes. In the 1950s, their primary mount was the Lockheed F-90, which they used to fight off their monster and alien foes.

But here’s the kicker – the plane they flew has some origin in fact, but it never got past the flight test stage.

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F-90 with the Blackhawks. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Dubbed the “XF-90,” the experimental plane’s tale is one of the few real failures that came from Lockheed’s legendary Skunk Works.

According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the Air Force was looking for a long-range jet fighter to escort bombers to targets. Lockheed went with the F-90, and proceeded to build it in a very sturdy fashion.

The good news was that this was one tough plane, and had six 20mm cannon (enough to blast just about any plane out of the sky), but it weighed 50 percent more than its competitor, the XF-88 Voodoo from McDonnell.

From the get-go, the XF-90 had problems. The plane was underpowered and was outperformed by the F-86A — even when afterburners were added to the plane’s two XJ34 jet engines. The Air Force chose the XF-88 Voodoo to be its penetration fighter, but that never went into production.

Only two XF-90s were built.

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Lockheed had tried a number of other options, including the use of a single J47 engine to boost the F-90s performance, but there was too much re-design work involved. The first F-90 version the Blackhawks used, the F-90B, did feature a single engine. The second version, the F-90C, was said to be lighter version of the F-90B.

The Blackhawks eventually faded — partially due to some bad 1960s storylines — and the super hero team was eventually eclipsed by Batman and many of the superheroes who are familiar today.

And as for the XF-90 prototypes? One was tested to destruction by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, and the other was banged up in the nuclear tests of the 1950s.

That second plane is currently in storage at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Apparently it would take 1,000 rockets 20 years to set up city on Mars

Elon Musk has made another grand claim about his plans to colonize the red planet with his space exploration company SpaceX.

Speaking at the US Air Force Space Pitch Day on Nov. 5, 2019, Musk estimated that Starship, SpaceX’s 100-passenger reusable rocket design, will cost $2 million to launch.

In a series of follow up tweets, Musk threw out a few more figures about how many rockets will have to bring the necessary amount of cargo to properly set up base on Mars.


“A thousand ships will be needed to create a sustainable Mars city… As the planets align only once every two years,” he said. This led him to conclude it would take 20 years to transport one million tons of cargo which would “hopefully” allow for building a self-sustaining Mars base.

By Musk’s mathematics, that would mean a total billion spent on launching the rockets — although over 20 years the cost could fluctuate.

Musk has a history of making alarming predictions about his plans to colonize Mars. Notably he has espoused the idea of targeting nuclear weapons to detonate just above the planet’s ice caps, thereby causing the frozen water to evaporate releasing CO2 into the air and warming the planet’s surface — rendering it more habitable for humans.

The theory has little scientific grounding however. A study published in Nature found there is unlikely to be enough CO2 in Mars’ icecaps to engineer the desired greenhouse effect and, even if there were, Mars’ atmosphere is constantly leaking into deep space so the gas would gradually disappear.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS is now fighting US Marines head-on in Syria

U.S. Marines, attached to special operations forces in Syria, often found themselves in direct-fire gunfights with Islamic State fighters early 2018, according to the commander of the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response for Central Command.

The unit, designed with capability to launch combat forces within six hours anywhere in the CENTCOM theater, sent two rifle companies to support Special Operations Command units operating in Northern Syria between January and April 2018, Marine Col. Christopher Gideons, commander of the task force, said June 8, 2018, at the Potomac Institute.


“When Marines deploy, they want to get involved,” he said. “When there is a gunfight out there … they want to find that opportunity to feel like they are making a meaningful contribution. We did exactly that.”

Gideons initially deployed a platoon-size element that linked up with Army Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) teams.

“They were integrated with [special operations forces], absolutely integrated. We were providing Marine infantry, we were providing indirect fires, and we were providing anti-tank fires,” he said.

The SOF elements would push forward, advising Syrian Democratic Forces, “the ones that were primarily engaged in the direct firefights with ISIS,” Gideons said.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

“You would have Marines integrated with those ODAs … providing fires down at that lower tactical level,” he said.

During its 243-day deployment, the unit had to conduct several “rapid planning processes” to deploy forces on short notice, he added.

Over time, more support was needed in Syria, so Gideons deployed more Marines to grow the platoon-size element to “two infantry [companies minus]” that were located in two separate locations in Northern Syria.

“We anticipated that that requirement would grow with a need for Marine Corps capabilities, and it did,” he said.

Soon the fighting intensified.

“On a number of different occasions, there would be various engagements, some direct, some indirect,” Gideons said. “As the SDF would close in sometimes, they would outstretch particularly what our mortar fires could provide.

“We would displace out of our small [forward operating bases] we were operating out of, move closer in behind the SDF and then provide fires — a lot of times mortar fire … and of course as you were getting into an engagement, there is the potential for stuff to come back at you,” he said.

Marines operated in both mounted and dismounted roles. F/A-18s coming out of Bahrain provided close-air support when needed, Gideons said.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information
F/A-18

Despite the action Marines saw, there were no casualties.

“I am very happy and proud to say that we brought everybody home,” Gideons said.

He described the deployment as “dynamic.”

“What was unique on our watch is over our 243 days in theater … from our perspective, we were more distributed than any other SPMAGTF up until that point,” he said. “We had Marines operating in 10 different countries and 24 separate locations. I had Marines from Egypt to Afghanistan.

“I didn’t own missions in Iraq or Syria, but I had capabilities that could augment and support that mission’s successful accomplishment.”

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

Articles

This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down

Army 2nd Lt. Frank Luke, Jr., arguably America’s greatest fighter pilot of World War I, was finally downed after taking out 14 German observation balloons and four combat planes. But he took as many Germans with him as he could, strafing ground troops as he crashed and unloading his pistol into the infantry trying to capture him.


Luke enlisted in the Army on Sept. 25, 1917, for service in the aviation field. He took his first solo flight that December, received his commission the following January, and was in France by March.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information
Army 2nd Lt. Frank Luke Jr. with his biplane in the fields near Rattentout Farm, France, on Sept. 19, 1918. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

After additional instruction there, Luke was ready to go on combat patrols. In an April 20, 1918, letter home, Luke described a severely injured pilot who later died and the constantly growing rows of graves for pilots. In between those two observations, he talked about what fun it is to fly.

Luke claimed his first kill in August, but the reported action took place after Luke became separated from the rest of the flight and few believed that the mouthy rookie had actually bagged a German.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information
Army 2nd Lt. Frank Luke had a short career on the front lines of World War I, but was America’s greatest fighter pilot for a short period. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

But the intrepid pilot would get his first confirmed victory less than a month later. He had heard other pilots talking about how challenging it was to bring down the enemy observation balloons that allowed for better artillery targeting and intelligence collection.

Flying on Sept. 12, 1918, Luke found one of the heavily defended balloons while chasing three German aircraft. He conducted attack passes on the balloon and it exploded into flames on Luke’s third pass, just as the balloon was about to reach the ground.

The flaming gas and bladder fell upon the ground crew and the winch mechanism that held the balloons, killing the men and destroying the site. Two more American officers at a nearby airfield confirmed Luke’s balloon bust.

Two days later, the Arizona native brought down a second balloon in a morning patrol, but he still wasn’t liked by other members of his unit. The same afternoon, he was designated to take the risky run against another balloon as the rest of the formation fought enemy fighters. One, a friend of Luke’s named 1st Lt. Joseph Wehner, would cover Luke on his run.

Luke once again downed the enemy balloon and was headed for a second balloon when eight enemy planes chased him. His guns were malfunctioning so he ran back to friendly lines rather than risking further confrontation.

Wehner and Luke became a team and specialized in the dangerous mission of balloon busting. Over the following weeks, they pioneered techniques for bringing down the “sausages.” The pair grew so bold that they scheduled exhibitions for well-known pilots like then-Col. William Mitchell, inviting the VIPs to witness German balloons going down at exact times along the front.

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information
Army pilot 1st Lt. Jospeh Wehner was a balloon buster partnered with 2nd Lt. Frank Luke, Jr. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Services)

But the men’s partnership was short-lived. Wehner had first covered Luke on Sept. 14, and over the next few days they each achieved “Ace” status and Wehner took part in two actions for which he would later receive two Distinguished Service Crosses.

On Sept. 18, the two men scored one of their most productive days including the balloon downing that made Wehner an ace, but Wehner was shot down during the attack on the second balloon. Luke responded by charging into the enemy formation, killing two, and then heading for home and killing an observation plane en route.

Luke was distraught at the loss of his partner and took greater risks in the air. His superior officers attempted to ground him, but Luke stole a plane and went back up anyway.

At that point, he was America’s highest-scoring ace with 11 confirmed victories, ahead of even Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker’s record at the time.

On his final flight on Sept. 29, he dropped a note from his plane that told the reader to “Watch three Hun balloons on the Meuse. Luke.”

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information
German observation balloons allowed for intelligence gathering and highly accurate artillery fire. (Photo: State Library of New South Wales)

The pilot flew across the battlefield, downing all three but attracting a patrol of eight German fighters. Sources differ on exactly what happened next, but the most important details are not in dispute.

Luke’s plane was damaged and he himself was hit, likely from machine gun fire from the ground. As he lost altitude, he conducted a strike against German troops, most likely with his machine guns, though locals who witnessed the fight reported that he may have used bombs dropped by hand.

After landing his plane in German-controlled territory, Luke made his way to a stream and was cornered by a German infantry patrol that demanded his surrender. Instead, Luke pulled a pistol and fired, killing an unknown number of Germans before he was shot in the chest and killed.

All of Luke’s confirmed victories had taken place in September 1918. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for Sept. 12-15, a second for his actions on Sept. 18, and the Medal of Honor for his final flight on Sept. 29.

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