German crime novelist Norman Ohler rocked the boat with historians when he published “Blitzed,” his well-researched and compelling argument that Adolf Hitler was high as a kite during World War II.
“Nazi Junkies” (out now on DVD and Digital) is a documentary series that relies heavily on Ohler’s research for “Episode 1: Hitler the Junkie,” digging deep into the Führer’s relationship with sketchy doctor Theodor Morell, a man whose “vitamin shots” were laced with cocaine and Eukodal, a German version of oxycodone.
Ohler appears in the documentary, which uses excellent footage from the war years to support the case that Hitler’s questionable military decisions were fueled by the sense of invincibility his drug habit caused.
We’ve got an exclusive clip from “Hitler the Junkie” below.
“Episode 2: Nazi Junkies” explores the widespread use of methamphetamine in the German military. After its introduction in the 1930s, Pervitin became widely used all over Germany and was even sold mixed into chocolate bars. Meth supported the booming economy, and historical records indicated that it fueled the troops during the Blitzkrieg.
The use of drugs in battle by the Nazis is far more established in WWII historical literature, and this episode seems to have been made before Ohler’s research into Hitler caused such a stir. His book also tells this story, but the novelist-turned-historian didn’t participate in this part of the documentary.
The filmmakers make a point of emphasizing the fact that German doctors insisted that troops have their access to Pervitin severely curtailed before they began fighting on the Eastern Front. The size of the territory they aimed to conquer was far bigger than they’d tackled in Poland and France, but could their effectiveness have also been undercut by a lack of access to drugs?
Both episodes make the case that drugs were a critical part of Nazi Germany’s rise and fall. The conclusions are logical, and the arguments are coherent. “Nazi Junkies” takes these arguments from history books and shares them with the audience that loves WWII documentaries. It’s worth a look.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
On April 15th, 2018, one of the finest Marines to ever grace Hollywood, R. Lee Ermey, passed away. He left behind a legacy that will stand the test of time, portraying troops and veterans in a positive light while connecting civilians to the military by being a cinematic icon.
Nearly every time pop culture alludes to the military, they’re inadvertently referencing his works — typically because of his incredibly popular role in Full Metal Jacket. Blizzard Entertainment’s legendary World of Warcraft is no exception to that rule.
In fact, the newest expansion, World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, features an entire series of quests dedicated to the Gunny himself.
You know, actual Marine Corps stuff.
Over the years, the game has included a total of three nods to his works. First, there’s a character exclusive to Halloween-time events named Sergeant Hartman that aids you in your fight against a fiendish Headless Horseman. There’s a dwarf named Gunny at Honor Hold that makes snarky comments about the player, according to your character’s in-game rank. And there’s a Lieutenant Emry, a misspelling of Ermey’s name, that offers the player a quest to take a beach from the Horde like any good Marine would.
But all of those characters were simply flavor NPCs — none of them really added anything to the story and they were more or less based off of Gunny Hartman, not Ermey himself. The fourth and most recent tribute character pulls nods from his life, sprinkling in just a bit of Full MetalJacket. Since the latest expansion is very heavy on Naval themes, much of your time is spent landing on beaches.
And this nice little riff that would have made Ermey proud. You may be gone, but you’ll never be forgotten.
To begin the quest, you must first play on the Alliance, reach level 110, and begin the War Campaign. You’ll be given three sites to invade the Horde-controlled Zandalar. From these options, you’ll need to pick desert location, Vol’Dun. This is where you meet Sergeant Ermey of the 7th Legion — a human character bearing a striking resemblance to our beloved Gunnery Sergeant Ermey sporting an alliance-themed campaign hat.
Your very first mission is called “Ooh Rah!” and requires you to storm the beaches with Sergeant Ermey to secure a beachhead for the Alliance. Once you’ve killed your requisite number of baddies, Sergeant Ermey has another quest called “Honor Bound,” during which you need to go behind enemy lines to rescue a missing Marine, Private James.
As you work to locate and rescue the private, Ermey delivers plenty of heartfelt lines, waxing on about how he’ll never leave a comrade behind. A few slain creatures, inspected items, and explored areas later, you eventually save him. Once freed and ready to return, Private James will thank you and Sergeant Ermey. For all of his sentiment, when the moment finally comes, Ermey responds with a simple, “You better square yourself away, Private.”
To watch the scenario play out, check out this clip.
Since its Cold War inception, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has been keeping Russian aggression in check as an increasingly fragmented Europe has shifted and moved over 70 years. Founded in 1949, the alliance started off with 12 members but has grown over the years to 29 member states. Even as the Soviet Union gave way to the Russian Federation, the alliance has cemented its status as the bulwark that keeps Western Europe free.
A lot has happened over 70 years. Political shifts in member countries caused members to rethink their role in the alliance. Russian threats kept many members out for a long time – and still does. And the mutual defense clause, Article V, was invoked for the first time ever.
There were 12 founding members.
Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States founded NATO on April 4, 1949, as a hedge against growing Soviet power in the east. The centerpiece of the alliance is Article V, which obliges member states to consider an attack on a NATO ally as an attack on itself and respond with armed forces if necessary.
The alliance is more than a bunch of disparate parts, it has a unified military command that guides its strategy, tactics, and training on land, on the oceans, and in the air, complete with its own installations and command structure.
You might know of the first Supreme Allied Commander.
An American is always at the top.
The alliance is organized almost like the United States’ command structure. A Chairman of the NATO military committee advises the Secretary General on policy and strategy. The second highest position is the Supreme Allied Commander, always an American general, who heads the operations of the alliance in Europe.
The United States, Britain, and France are currently the most powerful members of NATO, but after the U.S., only Greece, the United Kingdom, Estonia, Poland, and Romania met NATO spending standards. Greece and Estonia are the second-highest spenders as a percentage of GDP.
“Paix en quittant.”
Countries actually left NATO.
Many balked at the idea of the United States leaving the alliance, as then-candidate Trump threatened to do while running for President of the United States. While the U.S. withdrawing from NATO would be a disaster for everyone, a member country leaving NATO isn’t unprecedented.
France left NATO between 1966 and 2009 because President Charles DeGaulle resented the idea that France wasn’t on an equal military and nuclear footing with the United States and wanted more independence for French troops. Greece left between 1974 and 1980 because of a conflict with NATO ally Turkey.
This is as close as they get. Right after this photo, they raided English coastal towns. Because tradition.
One member doesn’t have an Army.
Iceland doesn’t have a standing army (it has a Coast Guard though!) but is a member ally to NATO anyway. The island nation actually does maintain a peacekeeping force of troops who are trained in Denmark, but Iceland joined the alliance on the condition that it wouldn’t have to establish a standing army – NATO wanted Iceland because of its strategic position in the Atlantic Ocean. The island is protected by the Canadian Air Force.
Poland will no longer be taking Russia’s sh*t. Ever again.
Former enemies have joined NATO.
With the fall of the Soviet Union came a slew of countries who were much smaller than their former Soviet benefactor. Many of these countries were once members of the Warsaw Pact, the USSR’s answer to the West’s NATO. In order to keep former Soviet Russia from meddling in their newly-independent domestic affairs, many Warsaw Pact countries who trained to fight NATO then joined it, including Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and (after the unification of Germany) East Germany.
Pictured: Why Georgia wants to join NATO.
New NATO members could trigger the war it was designed to prevent.
The alliance is always courting new members to counter the threat posed by Russia. This means eventually NATO had to start looking east to find new partners – and many were willing. Unfortunately, pushing eastward puts NATO troops on Russia’s doorstep and there are certain countries that Russia considers a national security threat were they to go to NATO. Two of those, Ukraine and Georgia, have seen Russian invasions of their territory in the past few years in an attempt to thwart their eventual membership.
Russia warned NATO of a “great conflict” should either of them join the alliance.
Most troops and vets know very little about what the Coast Guard actually does. They’re often seen as either the “Navy National Guard” or as a bunch of puddle pirates trying to pretend like they’re one of the cool, DoD kids.
Yeah, sure; we’ll hear their name get brought up whenever a hurricane hits or they’ll be cursed at when they catch someone speeding on a private lake, but the truth is that they’ve more than earned their right to be a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.
When they aren’t out helping idiotic boaters, they’re dropping narco-terrorists just like their grunt brothers.
When it kicks off, Coasties stay busy and can probably expect six or so busts in a week after that long-ass wait.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Leake)
It all begins with actionable intelligence. Despite what you might think about gangs not snitching on each other to save their own hides — they absolutely do. Apparently, it doesn’t even take that much to get them to talk. A threat of extradition and being sent back to their home country (where they face grave, domestic threats) is usually enough to get them singing like a canary.
So, the Coast Guard goes out to the expected route of traffickers in their Cutters and they wait… and wait… and wait…
This process could take days, weeks, or even months. If it turns out that the collected information is indeed legit and they find the smugglers, then the fun begins.
First is the show of force and an appeal to try and get them to surrender peacefully. There’s literally no escape when the Coast Guard has you surrounded with much faster vessels and helicopters flying overhead. The ones who value their well-being will give themselves up.
If they don’t, warning shots will strafe the waters in front of the bow. If they still don’t get the message, snipers from inside the helicopters will disable the engines — that’s right: The Coast Guard has highly trained snipers who can hit speedboats from helicopters with surgical precision.
They should get the hint by now, but just in case they don’t, the Coast Guardsmen then board their vessel and detain the smugglers while remaining very weary of any potential threats that may appear. For a look at what that’s like, in a safe-for-television manner, check out the video below:
Ever wonder what half a billion dollars looks like? This was from just three busts.
(U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Mariana O’Leary)
The traffickers will go into custody and may be sent back to their host nation for trial (or execution, depending on the country). Then, the drugs are incinerated or destroyed by other means.
We’re not talking small amounts either. We’re talking about cartel-level quantities. Each bust account for tons of narcotics that will never make it to the streets. When they’re set ablaze, that’s millions that will never make it back to the cartels. Between 2010 and 2015, the U.S. Coast Guard took out 500 tons of cocaine — billion in street value.
The war on drugs is a constant battle, but busts like these make significant dents.
EDITOR’S NOTE:An earlier version of this story incorrectly characterized the operating system and capacity of the M1. It is a gas operated rifle that has an eight-round capacity.
This is his rifle. There are many like it, but “Ginger Dinger” is his.
That was the name ‘Gunny’ R. Lee Ermey gave his beloved M1 Garand rifle. It’s been heralded by General George S. Patton as “the greatest battle implement ever devised.”
In an era of lever-action or bolt-action rifles, nothing can compare the speed and accuracy of a semi-automatic that uses the high-pressured gas from the cartridge being fired to do all the work for you. All troops had to do was just pull the trigger, the spent shell is ejected, the next round is chambered, and you’re ready to fire again. At the time of it’s creation in 1936, this was an absolute game changer.
Once you pop in a eight round en-bloc clip of .30-06, the M1 Garand becomes one of the most reliable weapons any service member has been issued. It was issued to the U.S. Army in 1938 and has seen service in World War II, Korean War, and selectively used in a sniper variation for the Vietnam War.
Currently, it is still available for civilian ownership and is widely praised by collectors and marksmanship competitors.
The U.S. Military still uses the M1 Garand for ceremonial purposes by drill teams. It’s said that they are also very well balanced, spin easily, and present well.
Also, both pronunciations are widely accepted. As in it’s either “Gahr-rund,” as if it rhymed with ‘errand,’ or “gur-rand,” as if Tony the Tiger was trying to say ‘grand.’
Check out the video down below if you want to watch R. Lee Ermey sh*t talk during a shooting competition with British Rifle Expert Gary Archer in his show “Lock ‘N Load with R. Lee Ermey.”
*Writer’s Note: At first I mistakenly attributed the M1 Garand as a recoil operated rifle with a five round clip. This is not the case and I own up to my mistakes. Thank you to everyone in the comment section.
As the B-1, call sign Hawk 91, approaches the airport, air traffic control asks how many people and how much fuel is onboard. The response is four airmen and enough fuel for roughly four hours of flight time.
The B-1 is then assigned a runway.
“Approach, Hawk Nine-One, airfield in sight, cancel IFR [instrument flight rules], we are going to be making a long, straight-in approach,” one of the crew says. IFR is a set of Federal Aviation Administration rules requiring civil aircraft to use instrument approach procedures for civil airports. Approach procedures are different for military pilots and aircraft.
The tower tells the crew to maintain visual flight rules (VFR) instead. Once the B-1 lands, the crew tells the control tower it will be “emergency ground egressing.”
In July 2018, then-Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Robin Rand awarded Distinguished Flying Cross medals to the crew, including Maj. Christopher Duhon, Air Force Strategic-Operations Division chief of future operations at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and an instructor pilot with the 28th Bomb Squadron; Capt. Matthew Sutton, 28th BS weapons system officer instructor; 1st Lt. Joseph Welch, student pilot with the 28th; and 1st Lt. Thomas Ahearn, a weapons system officer assigned to the 37th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota.
“Thank you for showing us how to be extraordinary. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your sacrifice. I have never been prouder to wear this uniform than I am today because of you four,” Rand said during a July 13, 2018 ceremony honoring the airmen.
U.S. Air Force Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, left, takes a group photo with the B-1B Lancer aircrew during a Distinguished Flying Cross medals presentation, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, July 13, 2018. Rand formally recognized the heroism and exceptional professionalism of the B-1B aircrew members involved in the May 1, 2018, in-flight emergency and resulting emergency landing in Midland, Texas.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Emily Copeland)
Officials said in a release that it was the first-ever successful landing of a B-1B experiencing this type of ejection seat mishap.
Weeks preceding the ceremony, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed speculation that the Dyess B-1 had to make an emergency landing over an ejection seat malfunction.
The B-1 crew “were out training,” she said during a June 18, 2018 speech at the Defense Communities summit in Washington, D.C.
When the crew tried to eject, “the cover comes off, and nothing else happens,” she said, referring to the weapons systems officer’s ejection hatch. “The seat doesn’t fire. Within two seconds of knowing that that had happened, the aircraft commander says, ‘Cease ejection, we’ll try to land.’ “
The incident occurred around 1:30 p.m. May 1, 2018. Local media reported at the time the non-nuclear B-1B was not carrying weapons when it requested to land.
Images surfaced on Facebook purporting to show a burnt-out engine from the incident. Photos from The Associated Press and Midland Reporter-Telegram also showed the B-1B, tail number 86-0109, was missing a ceiling hatch, leading to speculation an in-flight ejection was attempted.
While the B-1s returned to normal flying operations, both Foreign Policy and The Drive reported that the ejection seat issue may be more widespread than previously disclosed.
“While specific numbers will not be released, not all B-1Bs were affected by these egress system component deficiencies,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told Military.com in a statement on July 19, 2018, following the news reports.
“The Air Force has 62 B-1Bs in the fleet. All B-1Bs are cleared for normal flight operations. We always apply risk management measures for flights based on the aircraft, the flight profiles, and crew experience,” Stefanek said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The U.S. Air Force has grounded the entire B-1B Lancer bomber fleet, marking the second fleetwide stand-down in about a year.
Officials with Air Force Global Strike Command said that, during a routine inspection of at least one aircraft, airmen found a rigged “drogue chute” incorrectly installed in the ejection seat egress system, a problem that might affect the rest of the fleet.
“The drogue chute corrects the seat before the parachute deploys out of the seat,” said Capt. Earon Brown, a spokesman with Air Force Global Strike Command.
The issue is “part of the egress system,” or the way airmen exit the bomber in an emergency, Brown told Military.com on March 28, 2019. The problem does not appear to be related to the issues that occurred last year, AFGSC said.
“There are procedural issues of how [the drogue chute is] being put into place,” Brown said.
Officials will “look at each aircraft [para]chute system and make sure they are meeting technical order requirements to employ” the drogue chute appropriately, he added. The B-1 has four seats, for the pilot, co-pilot and two weapons systems officers in the back.
A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 28th Bomb Squadron, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, maneuvers over New Mexico during a training mission on Feb. 24, 2010.
(U.S. Air Force photo/ Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)
AFGSC commander Gen. Timothy Ray on March 28, 2019, directed the stand-down for “a holistic inspection of the entire egress system,” according to a press release. “The safety stand-down will afford maintenance and Aircrew Flight Equipment technicians the necessary time to thoroughly inspect each aircraft.”
Brown said the Air Force does not have a timeline for when fleet will be back in the air, but said the fixes are a “high priority.”
In 2018, the command grounded the fleet over safety concerns related to the Lancer’s ejection seats. The stand-down was a result of an emergency landing by a B-1 on May 1, 2018, at Midland Airport in Texas.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed speculation at the time that the B-1, out of Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, had to make an emergency landing after an ejection seat didn’t blow.
A B-1B Lancer.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brian Ferguson)
The B-1 crew “were out training,” she said during a May 2018 speech at the Defense Communities summit in Washington, D.C.
Local media reported at the time the B-1B was not carrying weapons when it requested to land because of “an engine flameout.” Weeks later, images surfaced on Facebook purporting to show the aircraft with a burnt-out engine. Photos from The Associated Press and Midland Reporter-Telegram also showed the B-1B, tail number 86-0109, was missing a ceiling hatch, leading to speculation an in-flight ejection was attempted.
Officials ordered a stand-down on June 7, 2018, which lasted three weeks while the fleet was inspected. Months after the incident, UTC Aerospace Systems, manufacturer of the bomber’s ACES II ejection seat, said the seat itself is not the problem.
After coordinating with the Air Force, UTC determined “there’s an issue with the sequencing system,” said John Fyfe, director of Air Force programs for UTC.
It had been implied “that the ejection seat didn’t fire, when in fact the ejection seat was never given the command to fire,” Fyfe told Military.com in September 2018.
“This particular B-1, [the sequence system] was not ours,” he said, adding that there are multiple vendors for the sequencing systems.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
As veterans re-enter the civilian workforce, many struggle to make the transition. This is why opportunities (ahem — touring with famous heavy metal bands) for employment are so important. Five Finger Death Punch has made it a mission to offer such opportunities.
Not only does the band provide direct jobs for veterans, but they also raise money for different veteran initiatives — like PTSD awareness — through their merchandise site, which also acts as a resource guide for accessing help through various links.
Zoltán Báthory, guitarist for Five Finger Death Punch, is a founding board member of the veterans nonprofit Home Deployment Project, which provides safe places to live for displaced veterans suffering from symptoms of PTSD. He is also a member on the Board of Advisors at the anti-Poaching organization Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife. Although Zoltán himself is a civilian, his support for the military is without question.
“I have a lot of veterans around me and it’s not an accident.”
Videographer Nick Siemens is a Marine Corps Combat veteran touring with Five Finger Death Punch. He describes the energy and movement of working with the band as being very similar to that of his time as an active duty Marine.
“I absolutely fell in love with this job and it gave me a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging that I had lost when I left the Marine Corps and I haven’t looked back.”
Check out the video above for an inside look at what it’s like for the veterans on tour with Five Finger Death Punch.
That still didn’t stop these 8 famous veterans from going Absent Without Leave, and they all faced the consequences.
8. Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey Bogart is an iconic Academy Award winning actor, but prior to his acting career, Bogie served in the United States Navy during the tail end of World War I. While most of the other cases on this list were clearly some level of intentional, in Bogart’s case, going AWOL seemed to be a complete accident.
When the King of Cool finally returned to his post, he was sentenced to 41 days in the brig for his insubordination. McQueen served his sentence and eventually returned to duty, ultimately using the benefits of the GI Bill to sponsor his acting education.
6. Jerry Garcia
Some vets will probably be pissed to learn some of these celebs almost deserted, but could anyone be surprised to learn about Jerry Garcia? The Grateful Dead singer/guitarist/songwriter was one of the faces of the 60s countercultural movement, but before becoming a rock legend, he served in the United States Army upon his mother’s insistence.
The only foreigner on the list, Schwarzenegger was born in Austria, where a year of military service was mandatory for teenage males. Even as a young man, the future Governor was far more focused on bodybuilding, and chose to go AWOL to hone his craft.
After realizing he would get the gig, Ramone turned himself in and asked what he had to do to be discharged and allowed to play with the band. For going AWOL, Ramone had to serve five weeks in jail — but to his surprise, Johnny Ramone called him to tell him he still had a job if he wanted it.
1. Randy Orton
Randy Orton is a 12-time WWE from Charleston SC, known professionally for his short temper and rebellious attitude. They say the best characters stem from real life, and Orton’s rebelliousness started as a member of the USMC, where he went AWOL twice, serving 38 days in jail.
Orton also disobeyed orders from a commanding officer and was dishonorably discharged. His poor record of service lead to controversy when WWE announced Orton would star in The Marine 3, a casting choice that got scrapped when his poor military record became public.
For years, men and women have stepped into the gym looking to lift to gain some extra muscle — which is awesome. We, the dedicated, alternate between “arm day” and “chest day” in a never-ending quest to keep our bodies guessing, avoiding that awful “plateau effect.”
Despite its importance, however, many of us dread “leg day.” You should never neglect your lower body strength, but it’s harder to find the motivation to work on something that isn’t glamorous. Thankfully, if you want to bulk the entire body up at the same time, there’s one particular exercise that’ll do the trick: the deadlift.
The deadlift gets a bad rap in the gym world. Many amateur lifters perform exercise using lousy form or simply too much damn weight and end up injuring themselves. The fact is, there are many ways to screw this movement up — and only one way to do it right. Use these tips to get the most out of each massive rep.
Proper foot positioning depends on the individual and how much power they can generate. However, in general, most people want to stand with their feet about shoulder-width apart, if not just a tiny bit wider. Keeping your feet too close together lowers your center of gravity and knocks you off balance.
We don’t want that.
A solid footing will better ensure you lift properly.
After putting on a lifting belt, many people wrap their hands around the bar in opposing positions — one palm facing out and one palm facing in. Others take a simpler route and lift with both palms inward. What’s most important here is to maintain a symmetric angle with both arms. Having one arm flared out more than the other can result in an injury — our bodies weren’t meant to carry more weight on one side than the other.
Most people position their hands just outside of their knees to maintain symmetry. However, different types of deadlifts require different hand placements. For starters, keep your hands in the standard position until you get comfortable.
A rounded back will probably result in a sore back.
Your feet are set, your grip is firm, and you’re ready to do the lift. Give the weight an initial tug upward and straighten out your back. As your rise up into the lock-out position, the weighed bar should just about scrape your shins. If the bar is more than an inch or two away from your front leg, it’s not correctly positioned and you’re risking injury. Remember, the closer the better.
The 13th Demi-Brigade is one of the legendary units of the French Foreign Legion. During World War II, it was the only formation to immediately join Gen. Charles de Gaulle and the Free French Forces when France capitulated to to the Nazis.
From the creation of Vichy France to the country’s eventual liberation, the 13th Demi-Brigade carried the Legion’s honor in battles across the world. The 13th fought in Norway and across Africa, Syria, Italy, and France before victory was achieved.
Allied soldiers during the Battle of Narvik where French legionnaires with the 13th Demi-Brigade and other forces liberated Norwegian ports from Nazi occupation.
The 13th took part in two landings in Norway, both aimed at the port town of Narvik. The first was on May 6 at a point seven miles north of the city, and the second was on May 26 from a position to the south. Conditions during the fight were brutal. Temperatures fell as low as minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit and the legionnaires were attacking a force three times their size.
While the German’s conquest was ultimately successful, the victory wouldn’t matter. The legionnaires fought through vicious machine-gun fire, Luftwaffe attacks, and artillery bombardment, finally pushing the Germans out of Narvik and into the surrounding country. The Legion was pursuing the Germans across the snow and were only 10 miles from the Swedish border when the call came in to return home.
The Germans had invaded France, and all hands were needed to defend Paris.
France surrenders to Germany following the fall of Paris.
But it was too late. The brutal blitzkrieg laid France low before the legionnaires could get back. They landed in France only to learn that it was now German territory. After a brief debate about whether to continue fighting, the force’s commander executed a lieutenant who wanted to abandon the mission, and the bulk of the force went to England.
It was here that the 13th, answering the call of de Gaulle, joined the Free French Forces, the only legion able and willing to do so. As the rest of the Legion decided how much to cooperate with German authorities assigned to watch them per the armistice, the 13th was deciding how many Germans each of them would kill.
They first got their chance when they were sent to North Africa in the end of 1940. There, they captured Gabon and the Cameroons essentially unopposed and helped the British during vicious battles against Italian forces to secure territory in East Africa. In June 1941, they were sent to Syria where they would fight their own — Legion forces loyal to Vichy France.
The 6th Foreign Legion Infantry was garrisoned in Syria, an area under French mandate. Vichy France was allowing German forces to use their ports and airfields in Syria, posing a threat to the Suez Canal and British oil fields in the Middle East. The situation could not stand, and legionnaire was doomed to fight legionnaire.
The 13th, for their part, took a risk in the hopes that a legion civil war could be avoided. They fought through other French forces, at one point using outdated artillery in direct-fire mode as improvised anti-tank guns. When they had fought through to the Legion forces, they sent a small patrol to the outpost.
The outpost sent out a guard who presented the patrol with a salute and then arrested the patrol’s members. The fight was on.
Free French Forces legionnaires, likely members of the 13th Demi-Brigade, maneuver during the Battle of Bir Hacheim.
(Photo by Sgt. Chetwyn Len)
Luckily for the 13th, the 6th and other forces under Vichy control had been stripped of most of their serious weapons and were suffering severe morale problems. But the fight was fierce but brief. The 13th Demi-Brigade won the battle, a fight that included bayonet charges and grenade assaults, and it marched into Damascus in triumph eight days later.
They allowed all members of the 6th to join the 13th if they so wished. Less than 700 of nearly 3,000 did so.
Instead, the French forces destroyed 33 tanks in the first hour and held out for another two weeks. When the defenders finally gave in, they did so on their terms, conducting a nighttime breakout through German lines with the walking wounded and healthy troops marching and providing cover fire for the wounded on litters.
Allied forces celebrate at the end of their successful evacuation out of Bir Hacheim.
They made it through the desert to El Alamein where the commander, the legendary prince and Lt. Col. Dmitri Amilakhvari, reportedly had a dream where he was hit with a mortal wound and the last rites were administered by someone other than his chaplain.
During the first morning of the Battle of El Alamein, a German counterattack with tanks and air support felled the brave prince when a shell fragment pierced the iconic legion white kepi that he wore instead of a helmet. His last rites were administered by a French chaplain.
The 13th failed to take their objective, and the British command sidelined them for the next year.
While the end of their time in Africa was less than glorious, they were still heroes of fighting in multiple countries, and they were still needed to continue the war. Their next chance at glory was in Italy in April, 1944, during fighting that would be brief but bloody.
The legionnaires, with two infantry battalions, an artillery battery, and an anti-tank company, were sent against Italian troops dug into the mountainsides and fortresses of Italy. They were tasked in some areas with climbing rock faces and castle walls under fire. In one case, six troops climbed a wall with bags of grenades and managed to take the high ground from the enemy and rain the explosives down on the enemy in a daring coup.
Italy cost the legionnaires over 450 killed and wounded, but the war wasn’t over. The D-Day invasions of Normandy were underway, and the French Foreign Legion wasn’t about to sit out the liberation of France.
13th Demi-Brigade troops parade during a ceremony in the 1950s or ’60s.
(Private collection of Lieutenant-colonel Paul Lucien Paschal)
Paris was liberated on August 25, but the legionnaires were to the south and east, continuing to push the invaders from the southern French coast north past Switzerland and east, back towards Germany. The 13th, unfortunately, was not allowed to follow.
It had suffered over 40 percent losses in the fighting in France and western Italy as they pushed the Germans back. The unit was put on other duties as newly revived Legion units and Free French Forces drove with the rest of the Allied forces into Germany.
Johnie Webb’s corner office is full of memories from a grim but fulfilling mission.
As the Army veteran leans over his desk — strewn with gifts given to him over the course of a 40-year career — he grabs a wooden box and pulls out a modest bracelet. Engraved on stainless steel reads the name of a staff sergeant killed in the Vietnam War.
When he begins to share the story of how he received it, his light blue eyes well up with tears.
“I keep it on my desk, because this is what we’re all about,” said Webb, deputy of outreach and communications for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
Since 1975, Webb has traveled dozens of times to former combat zones as a Soldier and later as a civilian for the joint agency or one of its predecessors. The agency is responsible for locating the remains of the more than 82,000 Americans who are still missing from past conflicts.
While much of his time had been in search of those fallen service members, Webb, 72, is now an advocate for their families who continue to wait for updates.
“I’m not going to say closure, because I’m not sure if there ever is closure when you lose a loved one. But at least [we can] provide them answers and give that loved one back,” he said. “That’s extremely important and I’m honored to play a small part.”
Early in his Army career, Webb, a retired lieutenant colonel, led convoys as a logistics officer all over Vietnam to ensure bases had fuel for operations during the war.
Under the constant threat of roadside bombs and ambushes, he briefed his Soldiers to move their vehicle out of the road if it were ever hit so other vehicles could escape.
“If you block the road, then we’re all done,” he recalled saying.
During one of those missions, a Soldier did just that after a rocket-propelled grenade struck the cab of his 5-ton vehicle and left him with severe burns.
His sacrifice was something Webb never forgot.
“Unfortunately, he didn’t survive,” he said. “But he probably saved the rest of us by doing what we were trained to do and that was to get his truck off the road.”
A few years after his tour, the Army assigned Webb to the Central Identification Laboratory-Thailand, which was later moved to Hawaii and consolidated into DPAA.
The role of the new unit was to find the remains of Americans from the Vietnam War.
At first, he was confused, he said, since he knew nothing about the organization or its mission. In the Army’s eyes, though, he was qualified for the job because as a young lieutenant he once took a course on graves registration.
It would eventually come full circle for Webb in 1985, when he was chosen to lead the first recovery team into Vietnam only a decade after the end of the war.
“It became very personal for me,” he said, regarding the sacrifices made by fallen comrades. “We couldn’t let them be forgotten.”
Being back in Vietnam was initially “unnerving,” he said. After all, he had once fought an enemy there and it was uncertain how his team would be treated.
The mission was to search for human remains from a B-52 bomber crash site near Hanoi. But the team’s visit to Vietnam was also an opportunity to rebuild the diplomatic relationship between the former warring nations.
The Vietnamese still distrusted Americans then, he said, and even photographed his team with cameras that were crudely hidden in briefcases.
Now, more than 30 years after that first mission, Vietnamese officials work closely with the DPAA teams that rotate in and out of the country each year. The agency is even permitted to permanently base one of its detachments in Hanoi to support teams as they search for roughly 1,600 Americans missing from that war.
“We were there before we had diplomatic relations. We were there before an embassy was ever established,” Webb said. “A lot of groundbreaking effort went into getting us to where we are today.”
While the agency’s mission started with the work to account for those lost in Vietnam, it grew to include sites from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War and other conflicts.
Webb was again behind another pioneering effort, but this time in North Korea. He and others took several trips to the country and helped negotiate with the North Koreans so teams could conduct missions at former battle sites from 1996 to 2005.
They even traveled from the capital, Pyongyang, to the Chosin Reservoir, where a decisive battle had taken place in the winter of 1950. As they were driven through the country, Webb recalled seeing how desperate the North Koreans had lived.
“It was very interesting times,” he said, “but it made sure you were really appreciative of being an American.”
As U.S. and North Korean governments currently aim to thaw relations between each other, Webb hopes it will lead the reclusive country to reopen its borders to the agency’s teams.
About 7,700 Americans are still unaccounted for from the Korean War, with the majority believed to be in North Korea.
“If we want to get answers to the families, and we definitely want to get them answers, we’re going to have to get access back into North Korea,” he said.
With the days of digging at excavation sites now behind him, Webb maintains a pivotal role in keeping families, distinguished visitors and veterans service organizations apprised of agency efforts.
“I couldn’t say enough good things about Johnie Webb and the fact that he is literally one of the staunchest contributors to this mission,” said Kelly McKeague, the agency’s director.
McKeague, a former Air Force major general, credits Webb’s “Texas roots” for his compassion and calm demeanor. There is no better person, McKeague said, to speak with families struggling with loss.
“Johnie has a sense about him to be able to communicate with them, to be empathetic to them, and to literally not just be their friend but be their confidant,” he said. “They have so much confidence in him.”
Whether in a foreign country or back at the headquarters in Hawaii, Webb said the younger troops at the agency have always impressed him.
“Most of them weren’t even born when the guy who they are trying to recover was lost,” he said. “Still, they feel that kinship to that military buddy who wore the uniform for them.”
The “grunt work” these troops — many of whom are Soldiers — do at an excavation site can take months to years to find remains, if there are any. Once recovered, it can take even longer to identify them by lab staff.
While the long process sometimes leaves families irritated, the agency wants to ensure human remains are properly excavated and identified.
“Not only is it frustrating to the families, it gets frustrating for us as well because we want to provide those answers,” Webb said. “We want to return that loved one, but we want to do it right.”
When the answers do come, some family members do not want to believe them.
Inside a wooden box on his desk, the engraved bracelet reminds Webb of one such family member.
The father of the staff sergeant whose name is on the bracelet often spoke to Webb about his missing son before he was found. He had hoped his son was still alive and pleaded to Webb to bring him back.
A team then discovered remains from a site of a crashed helicopter, which the staff sergeant was on. Shortly after, Webb advised the father to prepare to receive his son’s remains so he could honor his life.
“It was clear that he was not wanting to hear that,” Webb remembered.
Webb asked other families who knew the grief-stricken father and had also lost loved ones to talk to him so he could come to terms with the news. He finally did.
When his son’s remains were returned to the family, there was a huge outpouring of public support. The funeral had full military honors and even dignitaries showed up to it.
“It was a day of celebration for this young man to come back home,” Webb said. “I was happy that he had honored his son the way he should have been honored.”
A few weeks later, a brown envelope addressed to Johnie Webb came in the mail. In it, there was a “thank you” note along with the bracelet, which the father always wore.
“I’m giving to you the POW bracelet that I have worn since my son was lost,” Webb said, recalling what the father wrote. “I finally took it off when he came back home. I want you to have it as a token of my appreciation.”
As the Red Army pressed into Finland, their progress was continuously slowed. Their soldiers were being harassed by Finnish infiltrators before they could reach the frontline. Even the Soviet commando teams dispatched to hunt the evasive Finns were being cut down. The havoc that these raiders created led the Soviets to place a bounty on the unit’s leader – 3,000,000 Finnish Marks for the head of Lauri Allan Törni.
Born in Finland on May 28, 1919, Törni started his career of service early, serving in the Civil Guard (a volunteer militia) as a teenager. In 1938, he entered military service and joined the 4th Independent Jäger Infantry Battalion, a unit that specialized in sabotage, guerilla warfare, and long-range reconnaissance. When the Soviet Union carried out a surprise attack on Finland the next year and started the Winter War, Törni’s battalion was quickly brought to the frontline.
Törni after graduating cadet school in 1940 (Finnish public domain)
At Lake Lagoda, a body of water previously shared by Finland and the USSR, the Soviets attacked the Finns with superior numbers of infantry and armor. During their defense, the Finnish troops lost contact with their headquarters. Without hesitation or orders, Törni stealthily skied through the Soviet lines to re-establish communications. Upon his return to the Finnish lines, he took command of a Swedish-speaking unit of demoralized troops. Though he didn’t speak their language, Törni organized the troops with a series of gestures, shouts, and punches. For his bravery during this engagement, Törni was promoted to 2nd Lt. However, despite some Finnish victories and high Soviet casualties, the Winter War soon ended with a Soviet victory and Finland was forced to concede 11% of its territory.
In the months following the Winter War, Nazi Germany became a strong Finnish ally, and in June 1941, Törni went to Austria for seven weeks to train with the Waffen SS. During this training, Törni wore an SS uniform and swore an oath of loyalty to the Nazi party, both of which would haunt him for the rest of his life. Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union with Operation Barbarossa, Finland made a push to retake the land they had lost to the Soviets in what became known as the Continuation War.
Törni in an SS uniform (Finnish public domain)
At the onset of the Continuation War, Törni was given command of a Finnish armored unit, employing captured Soviet tanks and armored cars. On March 23, 1942, Törni was skiing behind enemy lines to capture Soviet prisoners when he skied over a friendly mine. He recovered from his injuries, immediately went AWOL from the hospital and returned to the front. Törni’s unit was tasked with hunting Soviet commandos that had infiltrated Finnish lines, and eventually infiltrated Soviet lines themselves to attack headquarters and communication sites. Impressed with his ruthlessness and efficiency on the battlefield, Törni’s commanders allowed him to create a hand-picked, deep-strike infantry unit that became known as Detachment Törni.
Törni and his raiders conducted sabotage and ambush missions deep behind Soviet lines. Operating separately from the rest of the Finnish Army, Detachment Törni equipped themselves with Soviet weapons which both confused their enemy and made ammunition plentiful for the raiders. Their engagements often led to close-range, hand-to-hand combat in which they brutalized Soviet troops. Their reputation on the battlefield spread and resulted in the Soviet bounty on Törni’s head. For his leadership and bravery, Törni was awarded the Mannerheim Cross, Finland’s highest military honor, on July 9, 1944.
Despite Törni’s efforts and other Finnish victories, the sheer size of the Red Army could not be matched and the Continuation War ended in a Soviet victory in September 1944. Finland was forced to concede more territory, pay reparations, and demobilize most of their military, including Detachment Törni. Unhappy with this result, Törni joined the Finnish Resistance and went to Germany for training in 1945.
Törni went to Germany with the intention to return to Finland, train resistance fighters and free Finland from the Soviet Union. In order to conceal his involvement with the Nazis, Törni assumed the alias Lauri Lane. During his training, the Red Army had taken over all of Germany’s eastern ports. With no way to return to Finland, Törni joined a German Army unit and was given command as a captain. Though he spoke poor German, Törni used the same ruthless tactics he employed against the Soviets in Finland and gained a reputation for bravery, quickly earning the respect and loyalty of his soldiers.
Törni (center) as Finnish Army Lieutenant (Finnish public domain)
By March 1945, the German Army was all but defeated. To avoid capture or death at the hands of the Soviets, Törni and his men made their way to the Western Front where they surrendered to British troops. Imprisoned in a POW camp in Lübeck, Germany, Törni feared that the British would turn him over to the Soviets or discover his past connection to the SS and try him for war crimes. To avoid either fate, Törni escaped the camp and made his way back to Finland. While trying to locate his family, Törni was caught and imprisoned by the Finnish State Police. He escaped, but was imprisoned again in April 1946. Törni was tried for treason, having joined the German Army after Finland signed a peace treaty with the Soviet Union, and was sentenced to six years in prison.
During his time in prison, Törni made several escape attempts. Though all of them failed, he was released in December 1948 after Finnish President Juho Paasikivi granted him a pardon. Törni made his way to Sweden where he became engaged to a Swedish Finn named Marja Kops. Hoping to establish a career before settling down, Törni adopted a Swedish alias and sailed to Caracas, Venezuela as a crewman aboard a cargo ship. From Caracas, Törni joined the crew of a Swedish cargo ship bound for the United States in 1950.
While off the coast of Mobile, Alabama, Törni jumped overboard and swam to shore. He made his way up the east coast to New York City where he found work in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park “Finntown” as a carpenter and cleaner. In 1953, he was granted a residence permit and joined the U.S. Army in 1954 under the Lodge-Philbin Act which allowed the recruiting of foreign nationals into the armed forces.
Upon enlisting, Törni changed his name to Larry Thorne. He befriended a group of Finnish-American officers who, along with his impressive skill set and combat experience, helped him join the elite U.S. Army Special Forces. As a Green Beret, Thorne taught skiing, survival, mountaineering, and guerilla tactics. After attending OCS in 1957, he was commissioned as a 1st Lt. and was eventually promoted to Captain in 1960. In 1962, while assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group in West Germany, Thorne served as second-in-command of a high risk mission in the Iranian Zagros Mountains. The team searched for, located, and destroyed Top Secret material aboard a crashed U.S. plane. Thorne’s performance during the mission earned him a positive reputation in the Special Force community.
Thorne’s official Army photo (U.S. Army photo)
In November 1963, Thorne deployed to Vietnam with Special Forces Detachment A-734 as an adviser to ARVN forces. During an attack on their camp at Tịnh Biên, Viet Cong forces managed to breach the outer perimeter and nearly overran the U.S. and South Vietnamese troops stationed there. All members of the Special Forces detachment were wounded during the attack, including Thorne who was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for valor. The character Captain Steve “Sven” Kornie in Robin Moore’s book, The Green Berets, is based on Thorne and his courageous actions at Tinh Biên.
A U.S. Army H-34 Choctaw similar to the one that carried Thorne on his final mission. (U.S. Army photo)
Thorne volunteered for a second tour in Vietnam and was put in command of a MACV-SOG unit. On October 18, 1965, Thorne led a clandestine mission to locate Viet Cong turnaround points on the Ho Chi Minh trail and destroy them with airstrikes as part of Operation Shining Brass. The mission was the first of its kind and the team was composed of Republic of Vietnam and U.S. forces. During the mission, the U.S. Air Force O-1 Bird Dog observation plane and the Republic of Vietnam Air Force H-34 Choctaw helicopter carrying Thorne went missing and rescue teams were unable to locate either crash site. After his disappearance, Thorne was presumed dead, posthumously promoted to the rank of Major and awarded the Legion of Merit and Distinguished Flying Cross.
It was not until 1999 that Thorne’s remains were found by a Finnish and Joint POW/MIA Accounting Team. It was concluded that Thorne’s Choctaw had crashed into the side of a mountain while flying nap-of-the-earth. His remains were repatriated and formally identified in 2003. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on June 26, 2003 with full honors along with the remains of the RVNAF casualties from the crash. Thorne is the only former member of the SS to be interred at Arlington.
Though he was engaged at one point, Thorne spent most of his life committed to fighting communist forces. He left behind no wife and no children. His ex-fiancée would go on to marry another man. Instead, Thorne’s legacy is one of a warrior who ruled the battlefield. He was a scourge on the Soviets in Europe and a deadly threat to Viet Cong in Vietnam. His service and commitment to both his home country of Finland and adopted country of the United States stand as models for anyone willing to take up the profession of arms.