Emir Abdelkader was born the son of a respected military leader who had helped harass French occupiers in Algeria. As might be expected, young Emir continued his father’s war against the French in a conflict that had religious overtones since, you know, the Algerians were mostly Muslim and the French predominantly Christian. But when he rode forth to save Christians from angry mobs in 1860, France conferred on him its top military honors, the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor.
Emir Abdelkader as a military leader in the late 1830s.
Further successes on the battlefield and in negotiations gave him control of more land and pushed most French forces back to a few ports. His success on the battlefield in service of Algerian independence led to him being dubbed the “George Washington of Algeria.”
But Abdelkader was unable to defeat the larger and better equipped French military forever. A renewed French campaign in 1840 slowly ground down Abdelkader and his supporters and, in 1847, he surrendered to a French general and the duc d’Aumale, the French king’s son.
But his story was not over. He was a prolific writer and was widely respected in the region and across the world. So, when political violence erupted into a summer civil war in 1860, Abdelkader’s calls for calm incited some popular support for peace.
A statue of Emir Abdelkader in Algeria.
(Mouh2jijel, CC BY-SA 3.0)
But the violence did continue and spilled into Damascus, now the capital of Syria. Abdelkader rode forth with his guard and supporters and personally rounded up Christians and took them back to his compound where he and his men guarded them. He put a bounty out for the safe delivery of any Christians to him and his men. And, he sent guards to escort local Christian leaders and officials back to safety.
His efforts were credited at the time with saving thousands, and he had hundreds of Christians at a time sheltered under his protection.
Let’s be clear — all battles suck for a foot soldier, even the smaller ones. But there were some in recent times that sucked more than others for the lowly grunt, with body counts piling up, bad commanders and leadership with a total lack of respect for the lives of their men.
Here is a partial list of five of the worst modern battles to be a bottom-of-the-barrel foot soldier.
1. The Battle of Kiev, 1941
The Battle of Kiev lasted from August 23 – Sept. 26, 1941. The German army, led by Fedor von Bock, Gerd von Rundstedt, and the famed Heinz Guderian, continued their spearhead towards Moscow but Hitler reconsidered.
Instead, he ordered Bock, von Rundstedt, and Guderian to focus their attack on the city of Kiev. The total amount of German forces heading towards Kiev numbered a little over 500,000. The reason for this was that Kiev was third largest city with a large concentration of Soviet forces with likely more than 627,000 Red Army troops facing the German onslaught.
How bad was it? In order to crush the Soviets in Kiev, the Germans were forced to systematically reduce the pockets of resistance. In other words, the Germans had to work at making each line (pockets of resistance) buckle and break.
Because of this, the fighting was unsurprisingly up close and personal. The total number of dead were 127,000 Germans and 700,544 Soviets — that’s over 800,000 killed in the battle for Kiev.
2. The Battle of Verdun, 1916
The Battle of Verdun lasted from Feb. 21 – Dec. 18, 1916, between the armies of France and the German Empire. Located in northeastern France, when the battle of Verdun kicked off, 30,000 French soldiers faced 130,000 German soldiers. Seeing that 30,000 troops were not enough, the French bolstered their forces to a staggering 1.1 million men. The Germans countered this by delivering 1.25 million troops.
The horrors of such a battle need little explanation. All one has to do is look at the photos of the battle site. World War I was a war in which the technology outpaced the tactics and strategies. Because of this, war came to a near standstill as men were mowed down by machine guns and blown to pieces by artillery fire on a daily basis.
If that wasn’t enough, living in the trenches was another misery all its own. Here’s a testimony.
A German soldier writes to his parents:
An awful word, Verdun. Numerous people, still young and filled with hope, had to lay down their lives here – their mortal remains decomposing somewhere, in between trenches, in mass graves, at cemeteries…
In total, the French would lose upwards of 500,000 troops while the Germans lost in some estimates more than 400,000 — nearly 1 million killed on both sides.
3. The Siege of Leningrad, 1941-1944
The siege of Leningrad lasted from Sept. 8 1941 – Jan. 27, 1944. The German army surrounded the city with 725,000 troops and began an on-and-off bombardment and assault of the city which was defended by 930,000 Soviet soldiers.
While the Germans made little advancement into the city, mainly controlling the outskirts, they were effective in starving the city to near death.
While war is indeed hell, the Germans suffered from the typical day-to-day engagements as did the Soviet soldiers. However, the people of the city suffered the worst. Due to the limited amount of supplies, many people ate whatever they could get their hands on, even people.
Once the siege lifted, the Germans suffered 579,985 casualties while the Soviets lost 642,000 during the siege and another 400,000 at evacuations.
4. The Battle of Stalingrad, 1942-1943
The battle of Stalingrad lasted from August 23, 1942 – Feb. 2, 1943. Initially, the Germans besiege the city with 270,000 troops. But by the time the siege was lifted, the Germans army had swelled to 1,040,000 men.
The Soviets at first only had 187,000 personnel to defend the city, but by the time of the counteroffensive, more than 1.1 million troops were on the move.
The horrors of Stalingrad were an outgrowth of the hellish street-to-street and building-to-building fighting. Not to mention the many horrors both sides witnessed and committed.
Red Army Maj. Anatloy Zoldatov, recalled:
The filth and human excrement and who knows what else was piled up waist-high. It stank beyond belief. There were two toilets and signs above them both that read: No Russians allowed.
In total, the Germans would lose 734,000 killed, wounded and missing, while the Russians lost 478,741 killed and missing and another 650,878 wounded or sick.
5. The Battle of Berlin, 1945
The battle of Berlin ran from April 16 – May 2, 1945. The Germans had only 766,750 soldiers on hand to defend the city against 2.5 million Soviet soldiers. The result was a decisive Soviet victory that would lead to Germany’s surrender on May 7, 1945.
As for the horrors of the battle, many German citizens — including children — were forced to defend the city. Of course, this was the norm when the situation grows dire.
Like Stalingrad, the fighting in Berlin would be from street-to-street and building-to-building. However, the German army, like its people, were depleted from years of war and had 2.5 million angry Soviets kicking their door in.
Once Berlin was theirs, the pillaging began. In total, the Germany army lost 92,000–100,000 troops while the Soviets lost 81,116.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Adrianna Stalker, 1st Marine Division Combat Camera/Released).
From adopting military customs to incorporating jargon and acronyms into everyday language, there’s a certain sector of the civilian population that just loves to play “military.” They might say sixteen hundred hours to mean 4 p.m., or call flashlights moonbeams, refer to dinner as chow, bedtime as rack time. Or they might consider doing one of these absurdly ridiculous things on this list.
What we’re including here is part of straight Internet Gold of unknown origins. What we do know is that there’s a list floating around the interwebs somewhere that covers over fifty ways civilians can pretend to be in the military … and it’s so bad, it’s good. For brevity’s sake, we’re only including the top ten most absurd ideas. They’re bad. Like, really, really bad.
Dig a big hole in your backyard and live in it for 30 days straight. (Because how else is a civilian going to truly understand what it feels like to suffer through an FTX?)
Invite 200 of your not-so-closest friends to come over and dig their own holes. Then, let them live in your yard inside their holes. Make sure your family waves to you from the comfort of the living room. After thirty days, fill in the holes and set out for a 25-mile walk and After-Action-Review. (Keep sharp and don’t you dare think about wearing a field uniform on this ruck.)
Build a scale model of your yard. Make your children draw sketches of it, including little arrows indicating what they are going to do when they go out to play. Post these sketches on a bulletin board for reference. (It’s ideal to make several copies of these and post them in the most ridiculous places. But make sure that the copies are faded and almost ineligible.)
Perform a weekly disassembly and inspection of your lawnmower. (We’re talking a full-on disassembly all the way down to the smallest parts. Make sure there’s someone watching while you do this, too. Otherwise it doesn’t count.)
Empty all the garbage bins in your house, and sweep your driveway three times a day, whether they need it or not. (Cleanliness is next to …?)
Repaint your entire house once a month. Paint white rings around all the trees in your neighborhood. Paint all curbs yellow. Paint all rocks red. (The color scheme is very important here, so don’t go trying to paint your rocks yellow and rings around the trees red. We’re not sure why it’s important; it just is.)
Do not sleep from 1:00 a.m. Monday mornings until 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoons. Tie a branch around your neck and chew on sand to stay awake. (This is mission-critical even though no one can tell you why. Also, we’ll know if you try to get some sleep in the early hours on Tuesday.)
Remove the insulation and widen the frames of your front and back doors so that no matter how tight you shut the door, the weather will still get inside. (Make sure you only bring out cold weather gear when the temperature drops below a certain pre-decided point.)
Walk around your car for 4 hours, checking the tire pressure every 15 minutes. Write down on a piece of paper everything you want the shop to fix the next time you bring the car in. Give your wife the list to throw away. (If you miss a 150minute check-in, you have to start all over.)
When your children are in bed, run into their room with a megaphone and shout at the top of your lungs that your home is under attack, and order them to cover their fighting positions. Don’t let them eat or sleep again for two days. (Once the enemy is gone, make sure you all set out as a family in full gear for an After-Action review.)
We couldn’t make this up even if we tried … but wow. The lengths civilians will go just to feel like they’re in the military. Might we suggest a visit to a local recruiting office instead?
Both vessels have roughly the same capabilities. They both provide area air-defense while also being able to attack surface ships and submarines.
The Ticonderoga-class cruiser’s main battery consists of two 61-cell Mk 41 vertical-launch systems. These can hold a wide variety of missiles, including the RIM-66 SM-2 Standard Missile, the RIM-174 SM-6 Extended Range Active Missile, the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, and the BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile. These cruisers also have two five-inch guns, two triple Mk 32 launchers for 12.75-inch torpedoes, two Mk141 quad launchers for the RGM-84 Harpoon, and two Mk 15 Phalanx Close-in Weapon Systems.
The Slava-class cruisers have 16 SS-N-12 “Sandbox” anti-ship missiles, 64 SA-N-6 “Grumble” surface-to-air missiles, two SA-N-4 “Gecko” launchers (each with 20 missiles), a twin 130mm gun, two quintuple 21-inch torpedo tube mounts, and six AK-630 30mm Gatling guns. This is a fearsome arsenl, but it leaves the Slava somewhat short on land-attack capability.
So, what happens when you pit these two powerhouses against each other? Of course, it depends in large part on who sees the other first. The Slava can operate one Ka-27 Helix helicopter compared to two Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawks on a Ticonderoga. This gives the Ticonderoga an edge, since the two Seahawks could, through triangulation of the Slava’s radar, give a good enough fix for the Ticonderoga to fire its Harpoons.
The key part of this hypothetical battle is the exchange of anti-ship missiles. The Slava has twice as many missiles as the Ticonderoga — each with a range of 344 miles — and a conventional warhead of roughly one ton that could tear a Ticonderoga apart, but these missiles fly at high altitude and, despite going more than twice the speed of sound, are easy pickings for the Aegis system onboard the Ticonderoga. Here, the Ticonderoga’s Harpoons may be more likely to get a hit or two in, despite the Slava’s missile armament. The SA-N-6 may have a long range, but the Harpoons come in at very low altitude. At least one or two Harpoons will likely hit the Slava. The Ticonderoga’s MH-60R Seahawks, if equipped with AGM-119 Penguin anti-ship missiles, could provide a second volley. At least one of the Penguins would likely hit as well.
After this exchange, the Slava will likely need to deal with fires, flooding, and disabled combat systems. From here, the Ticonderoga is left with two options: fire five-inch guns equipped with the Vulcano round or take the risk of closing to finish the job. Getting too close, however, would put the Ticonderoga within range of the Slava’s torpedo tubes, which could seriously damage — if not sink — the American cruiser.
So in a fight between a Russian missile cruiser and an American missile cruiser, who would win? At the end of the day, we’d put our money, as we always do, on the American Ticonderoga-class cruiser.
Deployments quickly turn into the movie Groundhog Day. You see the same people, do the same missions, and eat the same chow. You’ve got nowhere to go and nothing to do. As you might imagine, things get real weird real fast.
At about month six, you’ll see things like troops singing Disney songs to each other or guys starting fights with traffic cones as arms. If you don’t join in, you’d better be filming it.
Our deployment videos always kill on YouTube because people think we’re super serious all the time.
7. Wanting personal space
One unexpected advantage of Big Military cramming as many troops into as small of a space as possible is that we get close to one another. There’s nowhere to go, especially on a deployment, so you might as well get to know everyone who shares your space.
Civilians might be surprised at the level of closeness between troops in a platoon, especially when it’s snowing outside and everyone is wearing summer PTs.
“Here, we see a bunch of soldiers waiting for morning PT…” (Screengrab via BBC’s Planet Earth)
6. Mentioning it’s your birthday
For better or worse, hazing is highly frowned upon in the military. Any type of initiation or harassment directed toward fellow troops is a major offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. No commander would dare allow their troops to partake in any form of hazing — unless it’s someone’s birthday, of course!
If the unit finds out on their own, you’re in for a terrible surprise. If you’re the idiot who brings it up, don’t expect cake and ice cream from the guys.
5. Being gentle
To the normal person, this would contradict the earlier rules of “embrace silliness” and “forget personal space,” but this is different in its own weird way.
We tell ourselves that we’re hardened, ass-kicking, life-taking, warfighting machines. The truth is, we just don’t have the time or desire for little things, like talking about our feelings or establishing emotional safe spaces. If you just really need a hug, you’ll have to either disguise it as a joke or go and see the chaplain — and even they probably won’t give you a hug, wimp.
4. Asking questions
Normal people would try to figure out the little things, like “why are we doing this exact same, mundane task for the ninth time this month?” Troops, on the other hand, just give up hope after a while and do it.
This is so ingrained that when someone does ask a question, it’s treated like a joke.
3. Taking care of your body
Troops work out constantly. Once for morning PT and probably again when they go to the gym.
All that effort totally negates all of the coffee, energy drinks, beer, pounds of bacon, burgers, pizza, and cartons of cigarettes that an average troop goes through… right?
2. Turning down a chance to do dumb things
If a troop gets a call and the person on the other end says, “we need you out here quick. Don’t let Sergeant Jones find out about it,” context doesn’t matter. They’re there and are probably three beers in before anyone can explain what’s happening.
Best case scenario: It’s an epic night. Worst case: It ends up being a “no sh*t, there I was…” story.
1. Showering without flip-flops on
Only two types of people clean off in a community shower without “shower shoes:” Idiots and people trying to catch gangrene.
You have no idea what the person before you did in that shower nor how often that shower has been cleaned. Why on Earth would you dare put your feet on that same spot?
General James Longstreet was one of the Confederate army’s most trusted and capable officers. After the Battle of Gettysburg and long after the end of the Civil War, Longstreet takes much of the blame for the southern loss at the battle – and sometimes for the loss of Civil War itself.
For many people who blame Longstreet for the loss (or show outright disdain for the man), it all goes back to the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg — specifically, Pickett’s Charge. It was an attack Longstreet didn’t order or want, but he still takes the blame for its failure.
When Gen. Robert E. Lee gave the order, Longstreet openly voiced his disagreement with it. He relayed the order to Pickett anyway, but was very unhappy to do so. Longstreet didn’t think the Confederate army should have been so far north at all. He takes a lot of blame for the failure at Gettysburg overall, because it’s said he delayed his actions during the battle.
Whether it was a good idea or not, the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg saw 12,500 Confederate soldiers charged an entrenched and fortified Union position protecting Cemetery Hill. The hill commanded a network of roads essential to command of the battlefield. The Union commanders predicted the attack and the chargers took at least 50% casualties.
The Army of Northern Virginia never recovered from the failed assault and the Confederate Army never recovered from the loss of at Gettysburg. It was the turning point in a battle that was the turning point of the Civil War. Longstreet saw it all coming and tried to talk Lee out of it, but to no avail.
No matter what the armchair historians may say, Lee is actually responsible for the failed attack, and he knew it right away. He was so personally devastated by the losses incurred in Pickett’s Charge that he offered his resignation to Confederate President Jefferson Davis (who turned it down).
Longstreet takes a lot of the blame for Pickett’s Charge (and the defeat at Gettysburg) because he, for the most part, didn’t think the Confederate Army should have been there after the first day of fighting.
It’s said that Longstreet dithered and delayed so much and so often throughout the battle that it was almost considered intentional sabotage. When it came to Pickett’s Charge, he openly disagreed with Lee, which earned him a transfer West after the Confederate retreat from Pennsylvania.
Gen. Longstreet believed that it was more important to defeat Ulysses S. Grant in Tennessee and less important to invade the North. He felt so strongly that the disagreement went all the way up to Jefferson Davis. Lee argued that moving troops to the West would force his army to stay closer to Richmond. Davis sided with Lee, so the perception was that Longstreet’s disagreement and delays during the battle were mostly sour grapes.
And since the battle – and Pickett’s Charge – was so pivotal to the Confederacy’s survival, the idea that Longstreet didn’t do his best is why he takes much of the blame.
Longstreet also takes a lot of blame in the eyes of Southern historians, especially propagators of the “Lost Cause” mythology, because of his postwar activities. Longstreet actively sought to rejoin the Union and earn a pardon. He eventually ended up working in a presidential administration – under President Ulysses S. Grant.
As for who is actually responsible for the failure of Pickett’s Charge, when asked after the war, Confederate Maj. Gen. George Pickett went on the record as saying, “I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.”
Adapting a video game into a film or television series is always a difficult task. Even when you’re working with well-written source material that has a pre-established, dedicated fan base, converting a story from one medium to another comes with a huge number of challenges.
Some video-games-turned-movies have worked out well enough. The Tomb Raider movies (both from 2001, starring Angelina Jolie, and 2018, starring Alicia Vikander) gave fans a little more about Lara Croft without trampling over established motifs. The first Mortal Kombat film was fantastic because it gave fans of the series more of the over-the-top action they wanted. Even Warcraft was a hit because of the ravenous legions (sorry, we had to) of existing fans — but none of these films were released without meeting a bevy of criticism.
Other video game adaptations, however, like Bloodrayne (and basically anything else directed by Uwe Boll), dragged once-beloved characters through the mud, flopped hard, and left a permanent stain on the source material.
The recently announced Halo series that’s to air on Showtime has fans filled with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. Despite the overwhelming belief that it will never meet audiences’ expectations, we firmly believe it isn’t an impossible task to make this show great.
First and foremost, the biggest pitfall the creators of the show must avoid is going too deep into the psyche and history of series’ primary protagonist, Master Chief.
Master Chief, in the games, is an anomaly. We’ve followed him since 2001 and yet we know nothing about his past — or even what his face even looks like. That mystique will be thrown out the window if he’s the main character of upcoming series. If the show does feature him, he must be treated as if he’s the stand-in for the audience, just as he was in the short film Neil Blomkamp made a while back.
Instead, the series must be filled with countless other characters that the audience has never played. The Halo universe is rich with unique personalities, environments, political struggles, and futuristic weaponry. We’ve rarely been given a glimpse of what it’s like to not be the guy who’s single-handedly winning the war. We want to see the side stories of the other Spartans. We want to see battles from the perspective of the regular ODST guys.
It doesn’t need to be a flashback or so far removed from the plot of the original games — if the series takes us to a world built on lore and story lines we, as the audience, already know from fighting as Master Chief, things could get interesting.
Halo 3: ODST was beloved by fans because they took this approach — pitting the player in a secondary yet crucial battle. If that’s the basis of the show, we’re ready and waiting.
The crisis in Syria reached new, heartbreaking heights on April 3, 2018, when one of the most devastating chemical attacks left dozens of people — including at least 27 children — dead or critically injured.
While watching a humanitarian disaster unfold before your eyes across the world may make you feel powerless, there are some things you can do to aid the people still in Syria and the 4.8 million refugees who have fled their country since the civil war began nearly six years ago.
Here are some actions you can take to help:
Donate to a charity
These 13 organizations received 3 or 4 stars (out of 4) from Charity Navigator, an independent nonprofit that rates charities based on their financial management and accountability. Here are links to their websites, listed in alphabetical order:
If you pay attention, you might sometimes see long, cigar-shaped pods firmly attached to the undersides of classic fighter and attack aircraft, sometimes with unit markings on them.
Known as “drop tanks,” these simple devices extend the range of the aircraft they’re hooked up to by carrying extra usable fuel. Back during World War II, however, attack pilots found a secondary use for drop tanks as improvised bombs, used to bombard enemy ground positions.
Drop tanks became popular in the late 1930s as a means for fighters to carry more fuel for longer escort and patrol missions. Easily installed and removed, they were a quick solution for the burgeoning Luftwaffe’s fighter and dive bomber fleets, which would prove to be instrumental in the opening months of WWII.
By the onset of WWII, air forces with both the Axis and Allies were experimenting with the use of drop tanks in regular combat operations. In the European theater, British and German pilots stuck to using their drop tanks as range-extenders. American fighter pilots changed the game.
(US Air Force)
Though it wasn’t common practice, P-47 Thunderbolt pilots were noted for their creativity in combat, switching their fuel feed selector to their internal tanks while making a low pass over an enemy position. With relative precision, they would jettison their drop tanks, still filled with a decent amount of fuel, before climbing away.
After releasing their tanks, pilots would swoop back around and line up again with their target. If they timed it right and aimed well, a long burst from their cannons would ignite the fuel left inside the tanks, blowing them up like firebombs.
This didn’t always work, however, especially as paper tanks became popular during the war as a method of conserving metal. So, by the end of the war, American crews in both the European and Pacific theaters had to refine their drop-tank technique.
Instead of pilots peppering the tanks with shells from their cannons, they’d simply fill up the tanks with a volatile mixture of fuel and other ingredients to form rudimentary napalm bombs, which would detonate upon impact.
(US Air Force)
By the time the Korean War started, the newly-formed US Air Force had cemented the practice of filling drop tanks with napalm and using them as makeshift bombs for low-level close air support missions. According to Robert Neer in his book, Napalm: An American Biography, British statesman Winston Churchill notably decried the practice of using napalm during the Korean conflict, calling it cruel and noting the increased likelihood of collateral damage and casualties during napalm strikes.
In the Vietnam War, the use of napalm expanded greatly, though factories now began building bombs specifically designed to carry napalm internally. Today, the US military has virtually ceased using napalm as a weapon. Here’s what life is like for US Army Tankers, today.
Traveling about half the time of the year as a recruiter, Staff Sgt. Jon McCoy heavily relies on his wife to take care of their toddler and home.
“The whole reason why I’m here is the support that my wife is able to provide,” he said Feb. 4, 2019, before a ceremony at the Pentagon to honor some of the Army’s best recruiters.
Stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, McCoy is one of two warrant officer recruiters who handle the western region from Colorado to as far as South Korea.
While he may rack up some frequent flyer miles during his travels, he also gets numerous soldiers to stay in the Army or troops in other branches to join it.
In the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, McCoy had 150 individuals continue their careers as warrant officers in the Army — about one-third of all warrant officers boarded during that time.
Army Secretary Mark T. Esper honored McCoy and 12 other recruiters for their efforts this past quarter.
Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, left, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Army Vice Chief of Staff James McConville recognize Staff Sgt. Jon McCoy during an awards ceremony for recruiters at the Hall of Heroes, Pentagon, Washington D.C., Feb 4., 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)
“Readiness remains the Army’s top priority. Don’t doubt that. And you can’t achieve readiness without the right people,” Esper said. “It’s our recruiters serving across the country who are finding our nation’s best and brightest to join our ranks.”
Accessions are also now a crucial priority after Esper recently directed the Army’s recruiting efforts to modernize and give recruiters the resources they need to connect with qualified applicants.
Improvements to marketing and a larger presence in 22 target U.S. cities are also underway to bring greater awareness to the opportunities found within the Army.
Before the ceremony, Esper said he spoke to the group of recruiters and listened to their challenges and how they overcame them.
“The key to success is simple,” he said they told him. “It takes passion, it takes commitment, it takes honesty and transparency. That’s what America’s youth are looking for in a recruiter. That’s what their parents, their pastors, their counselors expect of us.”
Born and raised in Guam, Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Lujan works as a recruiter in Hagatna at the same station where he chose to enlist in the Army about 15 years ago.
Lujan, an aviation operations specialist, was able to sign up 19 recruits this past quarter.
“I’m able to relate to them and let them know that there’s more out there and that the Army is a stepping stone to help you get there,” he said.
Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, right, speaks during an awards ceremony for recruiters at the Hall of Heroes, Pentagon, Washington D.C., Feb. 4, 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)
He also strives to be a positive member of his community. He often volunteers to help his daughter’s Girl Scouts troop, joins in cleanups of the coastline, and helped collect ,000 worth of items as part of relief efforts for Typhoon Mangkhut, which hit Guam in September.
“We’re just not there to recruit and bring people in,” he said. “We actually give back anytime that we can get.”
About 10,000 recruiters are spread out over 1,400 locations around the world, said Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, commander of the Army Recruiting Command.
“These recruiters here stand in the trenches everyday as the face of the Army,” Muth told the audience. “Their accomplishments this past quarter is a testament to their professionalism, dedication and laser focus on the mission.”
Being a recruiter still remains a difficult task to ensure the Army fills its ranks with quality applicants.
Only 29 percent of today’s youth are able to meet the minimum requirements to join the service, Esper said, and only 4 percent of them have the propensity to serve.
On top of that, the service is up against the greatest economy in decades, he said.
“This is a challenge that we must overcome,” Esper said. “We have no other choice. Failure is not an option.”
But that task should not rest solely on the shoulders of a few, he said, adding all soldiers need to educate people on the opportunities the service offers.
“Recruiting is everyone’s responsibility,” he said. “It’s the Army’s mission, not just ours. We are all recruiters.”
The Aletti Hotel bar was reserved for field-grade officers. The bartender served drinks to an out-of-place group of muscular soldiers; one had a pair of jump boots slung over his shoulder by the laces. Their antics over the next hour grew too much for the other bar patrons to handle, and they were asked to leave, not the proper send-off for their last Saturday in Algiers before they would receive new assignments in war-torn Europe.
Jim Russell — an Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Jedburgh who had three combat jumps into North Africa, Italy, and Sardinia to his name — hopped into the driver’s seat of their three-quarter-ton truck. A pair of jump boots sat next to his leg. John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway had purchased them earlier in the evening at the Allied Forces Headquarters PX. Hemingway, simply known as “Jack,” was the eldest son of Ernest Hemingway, widely proclaimed as one of the greatest American literary figures of the 20th century. He was leaving for jump school in the coming days and had managed to convince Russell to grab a nightcap at a civilian sidewalk cafe located on the outskirts of town.
The rumbustious group of OSS commandos funneled into the cafe. Hemingway would bring his jump boots with him everywhere but decided to leave them within his view on the truck’s dashboard. The commandos were soon engulfed by curious “threadbare urchins” who begged to shine and polish their footwear, in a clever diversion. Hemingway’s prized jump boots were snatched from his sight, and the thief disappeared around the corner of a back alley. Hemingway, Russell, and the others gave chase and watched as the Arab thief threw the jump boots over a wall and into a courtyard.
Now the commandos were furious, as their drunken night turned from a celebration into a violent encounter. Three of the thief’s friends arrived holding knives. In an instant, all of the thieves were disarmed, sprawled flat on their backs, and on the receiving end of a well-choreographed lesson in hand-to-hand combat. The thieves had picked the wrong set of American soldiers that night because despite their heavy drinking, all were unarmed combat instructors for the OSS.
Hemingway never found his beloved jump boots, and he ended his night with a court-martial. An Arab workman threw a rock at their truck while they were returning to the OSS training base in Chréa. The commandos jumped out and beat the man senseless. The man reported the incident, and although Hemingway and Russell didn’t take part, they were threatened with being thrown out of the OSS.
An upcoming airborne operation was their saving grace because the planning stages were moving forward and they couldn’t be replaced. Hemingway’s orders to jump school were canceled, and he reported to a colonel leading a Jedburgh mission.
The Fly-Fishing Commando
Jim Russell had experience as a seasoned radio operator. Hemingway described Russell as “the complete antithesis of an OSS staff person.” The OSS had gained two reputations since its inception in 1942, one as an extremely competent paramilitary force and another as “Oh So Social” for its staff officers’ participation in diplomatic cocktail outings.
“Part of our OSS team at Le Bousquet, with a downed U.S. flier, seated left. I am in the center, Jim Russell, right, and two French ‘Joes.'” Photo courtesy of The Hemingway Project.
Russell and Hemingway, however, wouldn’t be handling the radios on this mission. Two French noncommissioned officers named Julien and Henri were tasked with the job. Their mission was to parachute into occupied France, take over existing information networks, and support the local resistance forces in their insurgency against the Germans.
France wasn’t some foreign land to Hemingway. His boyhood infatuation with fly-fishing materialized as he explored the rivers and streams around Paris with his father. His childhood was spent surrounded by his famous father’s friends: Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein. His first words were spoken in French, then English, Austrian, and German. The joys of running through the French countryside as a boy and fighting imaginary battles had become a devastating reality.
Their four-man team spent hours in their safe house studying maps, memorizing drop zones and names of contacts, and identifying intelligence on German troop movements. Hemingway had also assisted in previous planning phases to become familiarized with the process of how agents, including a woman and a one-armed man, were dropped into occupied France.
On the airfield’s tarmac, a British officer approached Hemingway before their jump and said, “You can’t take THAT with you, you know?” He was referring to Hemingway’s fly rod, which he deliberately packed in his gear wherever he went. “Oh, it’s only a special antenna,” he lied. “Just looks like a fly rod.”
Two B-17s took to the air. They were loaded with containers filled with weapons, ammunition, explosives, and radio equipment. One B-17’s belly gun turret had been removed, and the commandos used the hole in the floor to parachute safely to the ground. Hemingway’s first jump from a perfectly good airplane was during a real-world Jedburgh mission over France with zero training, and towing along his fly-fishing rod.
Capt. J.H.N. Hemingway, far right, training officer with the 10th Special Forces at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Screenshot from Hemingway’s autobiography Misadventures of a Fly Fisherman.
On the ground they linked up with the French resistance. While Russell and the French commandos were preoccupied with jury-rigging a radio transmitter, Hemingway ventured to a nearby water hole. “Limestone means rich aquatic life and healthy, well-fed trout,” Hemingway wrote in his autobiography. “I was in khaki, civilian garb not uncommon at the time, but wore no cap and there was a U.S. flag sewn to my right shoulder, but no insignia on the left.”
An overwhelming emotion of glee swept over him as he skipped down the mountainside with his fly rod, reel, and box of flies. As he entered the water, he didn’t study the flow of the stream as he normally would have and was oblivious of the world around him. A German patrol with their rifles and machine pistols marched toward him.
“They were all looking toward me and making what sounded like derisive, joking comments as they went along,” Hemingway wrote. “For the first time in my life I made a silent wish that came as close to a real prayer as I had ever come.”
He wished to not catch a fish because if he had, the German patrol would have stopped to watch and, under closer inspection, realized the fisherman had a US flag on his arm. They had mistakenly assumed he was the professional fly fisherman who fished for the local inn at Avesnes and continued their patrol.
This close call wasn’t the fly-fishing commando’s only brush with potential violence.
Escaping a German POW Camp
In October 1944, Hemingway took another assignment to recruit, infiltrate, and train allied resistance forces. While he traveled to his safe house with Capt. Justin Greene, who commanded the OSS team with the 36th Infantry Division, they stepped past a dead tank and into a German hornet’s nest. Greene walked up the slope and then immediately turned around and dove for cover, as if he had seen a ghost. Small arms fire and explosions followed close behind, and two German alpine soldiers appeared in Hemingway’s field of fire.
“After a hectic courtship, I finally got Puck to the altar in Paris, 1949.” Screenshot from Misadventures of a Fly Fisherman.
Another German opened fire from above Hemingway’s position, and he was hit with a single round. He dropped to the ground and tried to hide in a ditch as two more bullets ripped through his right arm and shoulder; grenade fragments peppered his side. He called out in German, surrendered, and immediately told them his cover story while they attended to his wounds. A German surgeon later threatened to amputate his arm, but he refused because, he reasoned, it was his casting arm.
Hemingway and Greene boarded the Luft Bandit en route for a German hospital prisoner of war (POW) camp. German civilians called their passenger train the Luft Bandit because it stopped often in tunnels and dense forests to escape American planes.
While in the POW camp, the commandos prepared for their escape. On March 29, 1945, US Army tank divisions broke 50 miles behind enemy lines to free US officers held in POW camps. Their intelligence, however, anticipated only 300 soldiers were being held in these camps — instead, the number averaged close to 3,000. Hemingway hitched a ride on one of these tanks as they rolled through an area the Germans used for army maneuvers and artillery practice.
“Preparing to net the catch on England’s Itchen River.” Screenshot from Misadventures of a Fly Fisherman.
From a distance of no farther than 3 yards, Hemingway was knocked off the tank’s turret by a Panzerschreck bazooka. He jumped onto another tank as American infantrymen decimated the hedgerow with their rifles and automatic weapons. Instead of staying with his rescuers, Hemingway decided to leave the tanks and travel on foot with another soldier. The next morning, six German Tiger tanks surprised and destroyed all 57 armored vehicles of the American tank division with overwhelming firepower.
Hemingway evaded German patrols for two days, surviving off raw rabbit and gardens of abandoned homes. He was nearly shot by a patrol of German teenagers who nervously trained their weapons on the unknown Americans. Hemingway spoke slowly in lousy German and was captured unharmed. For 10 more arduous days he and other prisoners death marched away from the evacuated Nürnberg POW camp to Bavaria. After a P-51 Mustang mistakenly strafed their position, they were forced to spell “US POW” on the ground. Once they arrived at their new home, which Hemingway called the biggest POW camp he had ever seen, they spent the next six months as POWs before being liberated on April 29, 1945. His once fit and healthy 210-pound body at the beginning of the war was a gaunt 140 pounds by war’s end.
Field & Stream
After World War II, Hemingway debriefed with X2, the OSS counterintelligence section, and took a commanding officer position at a German POW camp in Camp Pickett, Virginia. Hemingway kept alive his passion for fly-fishing after his service. He wrote for National Wildlife Magazine, describing his adventures hunting in Africa and trolling a fly behind a deep-sea fishing boat off the coast of Tanzania.
Screenshot from Jack Hemingway’s autobiography Misadventures of a Fly Fisherman.
“All together, while trolling and casting from shore and around a small atoll on the edge of the Pemba Channel, I caught twenty-seven different species of fish on the fly, including everything from small, brightly-colored reef species to dolphin in the blue water, and I had one big shark for a short while which had swallowed a tuna I was fighting,” he wrote in his autobiography.
In his 40s, Hemingway became the Northwest field editor for Field Stream, “which meant contributing an annual roundup of fishing prospects in my region and any other pieces I could produce that might fit,” he wrote in his autobiography. Hemingway also influenced decision making through the Federation of Fly Fishermen. As the commissioner of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission, he successfully swayed the state to adopt a catch-and-release fishing law.
Jack Hemingway was the son of a famous writer and the father to famous children, but he was also a legend in his own right. The former OSS commando, American POW, fly fisherman, conservationist, editor, author, husband, and father died of heart complications in 2000 at age 77.
In his final year in Congress, 87-year-old Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, a legendary Air Force fighter pilot in Korea and Vietnam and a former prisoner of war, is backing a bill to give enlisted Medal of Honor recipients and POWs the same honors as officers in burials at Arlington National Cemetery.
“My fellow POWs who served honorably demonstrated the utmost patriotism, but not all of them were eligible for full military honors at their burial, simply due to their rank. I believe this is wrong,” Johnson said in a statement.
Current rules restrict full honors at in-ground burials at Arlington, including a military escort and a horse-drawn caisson, to officers, warrant officers, senior non-commissioned officers, and service members killed in action.
Eligibility rules for in-ground burial at Arlington, which is running out of space, are the strictest of all the national cemeteries. They may in future be limited to those killed in action and recipients of the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart, according to a current proposal under consideration.
Prisoners of war who were discharged honorably and died after Nov. 30, 1993, are also eligible, according to the Code of Federal Regulations. There were no immediate figures available on how many enlisted MoH recipients or POWs may have been denied full honors at Arlington due to current rules.
Most honorably discharged veterans can request Arlington as their final resting place, but the eligibility rules are lengthy. (The list of rules can be found here.)
Arlington National Cemetary.
Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Michigan, is the main sponsor of the Full Military Honors Act, which was introduced in the House in early September 2018. He said he came to the issue at the behest of the family of a deceased constituent, Army Pfc. Robert Fletcher, a Korean War POW who was buried without full honors at Arlington in June 2018.
“America’s POWs and Medal of Honor recipients have sacrificed immeasurably in service to the United States, regardless of their rank,” Bishop said in a statement. “So I was shocked to find out that earlier this year a former POW from Michigan was denied a full honors burial at Arlington National Cemetery based solely on his enlisted rank. This has been an issue for too long, and my legislation will ensure those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty are provided the full military honors they have earned for their end-of-life ceremonies.”
Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minnesota, the highest-ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress, co-sponsored the bill. “I’m proud to join in introducing the Full Military Honors Act,” said Walz, who retired from the Army National Guard as a command sergeant major after 24 years. “To help ensure we honor the sacrifices these heroes and their families have made for our country, we must pass it without delay.”
The bill has been endorsed by the American Legion, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Military Officers Association of America, the National League of POW/MIA Families, the Special Operations Association, the Special Forces Association, and the American Fallen Warriors Memorial Foundation.
At a hearing of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel in March 2018, officials warned that space for in-ground burials at Arlington would eventually run out because surrounding communities restrict its expansion.
“We are filling up every single day” at the 154-year-old historic site across the Potomac from Washington, D.C., where an average of 150 burials take place each week, said Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries.
Estimates on when Arlington will run out of space vary, but some put the date for closing the cemetery to new burials in the 2030s or 2040s.
Members of the Navy Ceremonial Guard transfer Medal of Honor Recipient Navy Capt. Thomas Hudner to his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetary, April 4, 2018.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
As of August 2017, there were 5,071 living former POWs in the U.S., according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. There are currently 72 living recipients of the Medal of Honor, 45 of whom were in the enlisted ranks when they received the award, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
The full honors issue has resonated over the years with Johnson, a retired Air Force colonel and recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Silver Stars and two Purple Hearts.
During the Korean War, he flew 62 combat missions in a F-86 Sabre and was credited with shooting down one MiG-15. In Vietnam, he flew the F-4 Phantom II. On his 25th combat mission in Vietnam on April 16, 1966, Johnson’s aircraft was shot down over North Vietnam. He was a POW for nearly seven years, including 42 months in solitary confinement.
A battered tin cup he used to tap on the walls to communicate in code with other prisoners is now in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. In the prison camps, Johnson was part of a group dubbed the “Alcatraz 11” for their resistance to the guards.
“Any veteran who served honorably as a prisoner of war or whose actions earned them the Medal of Honor has already demonstrated extraordinary dedication to defending freedom,” Johnson said in his statement. “In return, they deserve to have the country they fought for bestow full military honors if they are eligible to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.”
Since the death of Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, in August 2018, Johnson is the only former POW serving in Congress. Early 2018, he announced that he would retire at the end of the term after serving in the House since 1991.
In his statement upon McCain’s death, Johnson, who was often at odds with the late senator on issues, paid tribute to the former Navy pilot who was with him in the prison camps.
“We have lost a genuine American hero today. John and I were fellow POWs at the ‘Hanoi Hilton,’ and I can testify to the fact that he did everything he could to defend freedom and honor our great nation — not just in that hell on Earth, but beyond those bleak years,” Johnson said. “John’s strength of spirit, commitment to democracy, and love of God and country all shape the inspiring legacy of service he leaves behind. God bless you, partner, and I salute you.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Richard Overton just celebrated his 112th birthday in his hometown of Austin, Texas. Unbeknownst to him, identity thieves were using his compromised bank account to purchase savings bonds through TreasuryDirect. Despite his well-known affinity for whiskey and cigars, the supercentenarian and World War II vet still requires round-the-clock care that costs up to $15,000 per month.
“What the hell are these debits?” Volma recalled thinking. Overton’s bank and TreasuryDirect are aware of the transactions are are taking appropriate measures.
Overton is a staple of the Austin community, a well-known personality who receives well-wishers from around the city on his birthday every year. He is featured on one of the city’s murals depicting influential African-American and Latino personalities. On his latest birthday, he received a visit Austin mayor, Steve Adler.
The 112-year-old is reasonably famous, especially among locals and much of his personal information is available online — though not his bank account and social security numbers. The drained account is separate from a GoFundMe account the family uses to raise money for Overton’s care.
His GoFundMe account keeps Overton in his home and away from having to live in a nursing home. Born in 1906, he has outlived all his closest relatives and requires $480 a day for his constant care.