How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War's 'Mud March' - We Are The Mighty
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How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’


The Mud March, an offensive launched into Virginia by the Union army on Jan. 20, 1863, was the perfect storm of bad luck, poor logistical planning and atrocious weather.

It was a huge operation aimed at striking a mortal blow to the Confederacy that ended up collapsing under its own sodden weight in the mud, with practically no combat to speak of.

Following the disastrous Union defeat at Fredericksburg, Virginia on Dec. 13, 1862, morale among Union soldiers and the public was hitting a new low.

The Union Army of the Potomac, under the command of the newly appointed Gen. Ambrose Burnside, had hoped to quickly cross the Rappahannock river at Fredericksburg and race to Richmond, the Confederate capital. The Army of Northern Virginia under Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was waiting for them.

The Union suffered nearly 13,000 casualties, mostly in doomed frontal assaults against dug-in rebel troops on Marye’s Heights, who had ideal shelter behind an existing stone wall. The Confederacy had taken less than half as many losses, and the Union army was sent reeling back.

Burnside was desperate to retrieve his reputation, which the slaughter at Fredericksburg had left in tatters. He proposed a bold new offensive against Lee’s left flank, drawing the enemy into the open from their defences where they could be destroyed. January had been mild and dry so far, and the need for a quick victory to make up for Fredericksburg was paramount.

But when the army departed on Jan. 20, a drizzling rain gradually became a total downpour that lasted for days. Pontoon bridges to be laid over the Rappahannock river were delayed by logistical problems and huge traffic jams developed. Two entire corps were misdirected through the same crossroads becoming completely ensnarled.

Artillery and wagons became hopelessly mired in the muddy roads. Hundreds of draft animals dropped dead of exhaustion trying to pull their loads. Some units could move less than two miles a day.

Faced with miserable soldiers shivering in the mud, Burnside decided to lift their spirits by ordering a ration of whiskey issued to the army. But the liquor was distributed a little too freely,and many units started to descend into drunken squalor. A brawl broke out between two regiments with a history of rivalry, leading a third regiment to intervene in an effort to break it up.

The resulting chaos may have been one of the largest fistfights in American history.

All surprise had been lost. Lee and his army were dug in on the other side of the Rappahannock. Confederate scouts and pickets observing the Union army jeered and shouted insults, waving signs emblazoned with “Burnside’s Army Stuck in the Mud” and “This Way to Richmond” with arrows pointing in the opposite direction.

The ill-fated offensive was called off. It was such a fiasco that Burnside was relieved as commander of the army on Jan. 25 and replaced the next day by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker.

Burnside had never wanted the job of replacing general George B. McClellan, his predecessor, believing himself unfit for an army level command. He took it only after being informed that the command would go to Hooker, whom he greatly disliked and distrusted.

Following the disasters of Fredericksburg and the Mud March, Hooker ended up with the command anyway. Hooker went on to face calamity at the battle of Chancellorsville, where his army was routed by Lee despite outnumbering him by over 2-to-1.

The Union Army had faced a string of defeats in the Eastern Theatre, from the first Bull Run to the abattoir at Fredericksburg. But the Mud March shows how bad weather and bad planning can stop even a powerful army in its tracks as effectively as rifles and artillery.

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Russia is about to launch this massive military exercise as tensions with west simmer

Russia is preparing to mount what could be one of its biggest military exercises since the Cold War, a display of power that will be watched warily by NATO against a backdrop of east-west tensions.


Western officials and analysts estimate up to 100,000 military personnel and logistical support troops could participate in the Zapad (West) 17 exercise, which will take place next month in Belarus, Kaliningrad, and Russia itself. Moscow puts the number significantly lower.

The exercise, to be held from Sept. 14-20, comes against a backdrop of strained relations between Russia and the US. Congress recently imposed a fresh round of sanctions on Moscow in response to allegations of interference in the 2016 US election.

The first of the Russian troops are scheduled to arrive in Belarus in mid-August.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Putin meets with Chief of the General Staff of Russia’s Armed Forces and First Deputy Defence Minister Valery Gerasimov and Belarusian Defence Minister Yury Zhadobin, 2013. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Moscow has portrayed Zapad 17 as a regular exercise, held every four years, planned long ago and not a reaction to the latest round of sanctions.

NATO headquarters in Brussels said it had no plans to respond to the maneuvers by deploying more troops along the Russian border.

A NATO official said: “NATO will closely monitor exercise Zapad 17, but we are not planning any large exercises during Zapad 17. Our exercises are planned long in advance and are not related to the Russian exercise.”

The US vice-president, Mike Pence, discussed Zapad 17 during a visit to Estonia in July and raised the possibility of deploying the US Patriot missile defense system in the country. The US may deploy extra troops to eastern Europe during the course of the exercise and delay the planned rotation of others.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander, US Army Europe, is awarded the German Federal Armed Forces Golden Cross of Honor by German Lt. Gen. Joerg Vollmer, the chief of staff of the German Army. Photo courtesy of US Army.

The commander of US Army Europe, Lt Gen Ben Hodges, told a press conference in Hungary in July: “Everybody that lives close to the western military district is a little bit worried because they hear about the size of the exercise.”

The Russian armed forces have undergone rapid modernisation over the last decade and Zapad offers them a chance to train en masse.

Moscow blames growing west-east tensions on the expansion of NATO eastwards and in recent years the deployment of more NATO forces in countries bordering Russia. NATO says the increased deployments are in response to the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2013.

Russia has not said how many troops will participate in Zapad 17, but the Russian ambassador to NATO , Aleksander Grushko, said it was not envisioned that any of the maneuvers would involve more than 13,000 troops, the limit at which Russia – under an international agreement – would be obliged to allow military from other countries to observe the exercise.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Zapad 13. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Russia could, theoretically, divide the exercise into separate parts in order to keep below the 13,000 limit. Western analysts said the last Zapad exercise in 2013 involved an estimated 70,000 military and support personnel, even though Russia informed NATO in the run-up it would not exceed 13,000.

Igor Sutyagin, co-author of Russia’s New Ground Forces, to be officially published on September 20 said, “unfortunately, you can’t trust what the Russians say.” He said, “one hundred thousand is probably exaggerated, but 18,000 is absolutely realistic.”

He did not envisage an attack on the Baltic states, given they are members of NATO . “Well, there are easier ways to commit suicide,” he said. But Putin is a master at doing the unexpected, he said, and Russia could take action elsewhere, such as taking more land in Georgia.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Zapad 13. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

In a joint paper published in May, Col Tomasz Kowalik, a former special assistant to the chairman of NATO’s military committee and a director at the Polish ministry of national defense, and Dominik Jankowski, a senior official at the Polish ministry of foreign affairs, wrote that Russia had ordered 4,000 rail cars to transport its troops to Belarus and estimated that could amount to 30,000 military personnel.

Adding in troops already in place in Belarus and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad as well as troops arriving by air, it might be the largest Russian exercise since 1991.

NATO said its biggest exercise this year, Trident Javelin 17, running from Nov. 8-17, would involve only 3,000 troops. Trident Javelin 17 is to prepare for next year’s bigger exercise, Trident Juncture 2018, which will involve an estimated 35,000 troops.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Zapad 13. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

The NATO official added: “We have increased our military presence in the eastern part of the alliance in response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its military buildup in the region. We have four multinational NATO battle-groups in place in the Baltic states and Poland, a concrete reminder that an attack on one ally is an an attack on all. However, NATO’s force posture is not in reaction to Zapad 17.”

During the Cold War, Zapad was the biggest training exercise of the Soviet Union and involved an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 personnel. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was resurrected in 1999 and has been held every four years since.

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Stryker armored vehicles spotted rolling into Syria

In would could herald a major escalation in America’s effort to fight ISIS in Syria, photos emerged in early March appearing to show a convoy of specially-modified U.S. armored vehicles rolling toward a town recently liberated by anti-ISIS allies.


Media outlets in Syria posted photos and video footage of what look like tricked-out M1126 Stryker infantry carrier vehicles rolling across the Euphrates river into Syria headed toward the town of Manbij, now the front line in the anti-ISIS coalition’s fight to take the last remaining militant stronghold in Raqqa.

The vehicles appeared to be carrying U.S. special operations troops and were flying American flags on their antennae.

Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Air Force Col. John Dorrian confirmed the influx of American armor in a March 4 statement via Twitter, saying the armored push was a “deliberate action” to reassure allies and to defeat ISIS.

The armored escalation comes just days after top Pentagon brass reportedly delivered a new plan to President Donald Trump on how to defeat ISIS. In a Feb. 28 speech to a joint session of Congress, Trump vowed to “demolish and destroy ISIS” and to “extinguish this vile enemy from our planet.”

Though details of the new plan have not been publicly released, the Washington Post reports one preferred option weighs heavily on an increase in U.S. combat power into Syria, including ground troops, helicopters and artillery. There are currently an estimated 500 U.S. special operations troops operating in Syria in a largely advisory role.

The Stryker vehicles rolling into Syria appear to have incorporated modifications that make it more like an ultra-up-armored Humvee as opposed to an armored combat vehicle. Some of the photos show an open crew compartment and a unique driver capsule that sits above the usual eye line.

A fleet of up-armored Humvees are also pictured rolling into Syria accompanying the Strykers.

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13 radio calls troops really love to hear

Troops on the ground spend a lot of time talking on the radio to a variety of commands and assets: planes and helicopters overhead, their headquarters, and artillery lines, and as they do, they use certain brevity codes and calls to make these communications fast and clear.


Here are 13 of the codes troops really love to hear when they’re outside the wire:

1. “Attack”/”Attacking”

Ground controllers give an aircraft the go-ahead to drop bombs or fire other munitions on the ground with the word “Attack,” and the pilot replies with “attacking.” Troops love to hear this exchange because it means a fireworks show is about to start on the enemy’s position.

2. “Bird”

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Photo: US Army

The official meaning of “bird” is a surface-to-air missile, but troops sometimes use it to mean a helicopter. Since helicopters bring missiles and supplies and evacuate wounded troops, this is always welcome.

3. Bomber/CAS/CCA callsigns

While these callsigns change depending on which air unit is providing them assistance, troops love to hear any callsign from a good bomber, close air support, or close combat air pilot. These are the guys who drop bombs and fire missiles.

4. “Cleared hot”/”Cleared to engage”

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Photo: US Air Force

The ground controller has cleared an air asset to drop bombs or other munitions on their next pass.

5. “Danger close”

The term means that bombs, artillery, or other big booms are being fired in support of ground troops but that the weapons will fall near friendly forces.

While danger close missions are exciting to see in movies and troops are happy to receive the assistance, soldiers in the field usually have mixed feelings about “danger close” since an enemy that is nearly on top of them is about to die, but they’ll also be near the blast.

6. Dustoff

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Photo: Staff Sgt. Corey J. Hook/USAF

Service members on the ground don’t like needing a medical evacuation, but they love it when the “Dustoff” bird is en route and when it finally lands. It’ll take their wounded buddy off the battlefield and will typically replenish the medical supplies of their corpsman or medic, making everyone safer.

7. “Engage”

Fire control uses “Engage” to let operators of a weapons system know that they’ve been cleared to fire. This could open up the mortar section, gun line, or other firing unit to attack the enemy.

8. “Good effects on target”

A bomb or artillery rounds have struck the target and destroyed it, meaning something that needed to die has, in fact, died.

9. “Hit”

This is said by the ground controller or artillery observer to let a plane, artillery section, or other weapons platform know that it successfully dropped its munitions within a lethal distance of the target. If the target survived anyway, the ground controller may say “Repeat,” to get more rounds dropped or may give new firing directions instead.

10. “RTB”

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Photo: US Navy Lt. Chad A. Dulac

It stands for “return to base” and troops love it because it means they get to head home and take their armor and packs off.

11. “Shot”

The artillery line uses “shot” to say that they’ve fired the rounds requested by the forward observer. The FO will reply with “shot out” and listen for the word “splash,” discussed below.

12. “Speedball”

This is the unofficial term for a small resupply dropped from a plane or helicopter, typically in a body bag. Troops short on ammo, water, batteries, etc. will request them. Medical supplies aren’t generally included in a speedball since the helicopter can just kick a normal aid bag out the door.

13. “Splash”

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Jon Cupp

The firing line tells an observer “splash” five seconds before a round is expected to hit the target. When the observer sees the detonation from the round, they reply with “splash out” to let the artillery unit know the round hit and exploded. The FO will then give the firing line adjustments needed to hit the target or confirm that the target was hit.

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These are the 7 most disappointing military commanders in Westeros

Daenerys Targaryen FINALLY landed on Westeros in HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” She’s even started using the dragons and Dothraki on Westerosi armies! Even though she hasn’t (yet) moved on King’s Landing, there’s a lot of reason to believe it’s just a matter of time before the “game” is over.


How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
The face you make when you have the only Air Force.

This gives us a chance to stop and reflect on all the battles and strategies in the game that led us here. Even better, it gives us a chance to laugh at the worst leaders in the place and question why the hell they thought they could hang in the first place. At least Tommen knew he just wasn’t cut out for it.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Tommen performs an actual king’s landing.

7. Theon Greyjoy

Theon’s big victory wasn’t even really a fight. He told the Stark Army there was an attack somewhere else, and when they left he forced Bran to concede Winterfell to him. Then, right before the Iron Born immediately turned on him, he killed some farmer’s family and torched their two kids. Cool.

You know who the real loser was in the sack of Winterfell?

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Yes, an argument could be made for Ser Rodrick.

Rickon Stark. Rickon is the real loser in all this. By the time the Starks retake Winterfell, Bran can see through time, Arya has face-melting assassin skills, Jon Snow is hanging with the Mother of Dragons, and Sansa runs the place. What did Rickon get?

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Oh riiiiiiiiiight…

Theon sucks. He knew it, his men knew it, the Boltons knew it. And he’s at number seven on this list because we knew it too.

6. Ramsay Bolton

Sure, he seized the North (after it was decimated by the Iron Born, but whatever). We’ll give that to him. But the thing about the way a ruler like Ramsay Bolton operates is that there has to be an element of fear to fighting for him. That also means that there has to be a good chance you’ll survive. If you know you’re going to die no matter what, it makes it difficult to fight for survival.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Also, when his gimmick is a bunch a flayed dudes, you have to wonder who’s getting flayed next.

In the Battle of the Bastards, Ramsay so casually mows down his own troops with arrows to the point that they’re indistinguishable from the enemy in the pile of bodies. See if you can spot the point when a bunch more guys from the Bolton Army would have really come in useful during the Battle of the Bastards:

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Look closely.

Where was the shirtless Ramsay Bolton who fought the Iron Born at the Dread Fort?

5. Joffrey Baratheon

If only Stannis Baratheon had attacked King’s Landing with a bunch of prostitutes, then Joffrey would know how to kill the enemy. Donning the King’s Armor in the one time he had a chance to be a real leader, he bravely left the battlefield to go see what his mom wanted.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’

And don’t forget, Arya was embarrassing Joffrey before it was cool…and before she even had face-wrecking assassin powers.

4. Balon Greyjoy

Remember Balon? No? Funny how the worst among us are completely forgotten as soon as someone with skills and ability comes along.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
(Stares in Iron Born)

The thing about Balon that’s different from most of the people on this list is that the other people had a reputation for valor, daring, and strategic thinking before the events depicted on the show. Not Balon. Before the events of the show, Balon led a rebellion from the Iron Islands and was quickly owned by Ned Stark. His biggest win was having Theon taken hostage.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
We all know how that turned out.

Everyone spends the first season making fun of Balon in front of Theon. Only Yara gave a damn when Euron threw the old man over a bridge. In fact, the whole Game of Thrones series got exponentially better as soon as someone killed Balon.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
The world actually cheered as Balon was helped off the show. Probably.

3. The Night King

The Night King has existed since the age of the Children of the Forest. He has practically unlimited manpower that only grows the more he fights. And it’s next to impossible to stop his army in close quarters combat…unless you can figure out the three things that can actually hurt them.  And the Night King is giving the living SO MUCH TIME TO FIGURE IT OUT.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
¯/_(‘   ‘)_/¯

Seriously, what is he doing beyond the wall? Every time we see him, he and his army of White Walkers look like they’re just walking around endlessly. Don’t they know they’re supposed to attack in the winter? I know it’s supposed to be the longest winter ever but that doesn’t mean he has to wait until the last minute to attack.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
One step at a time? Oh jeez this is going to take FOREVER.

If he just started attacking now, he could swarm The Wall before Jon Snow can mine the Dragon Glass. Or before Dany can beat Cersei and focus the dragons on the North. But no, he’s going to walk around the land beyond The Wall because it’s apparently much more fun than winning.  People who are older than history love to take walks.

2. Jaime Lannister

For all the stories you hear about Ser Jaime’s fighting ability, all he ever seems to do is get captured or almost die. When he does win, it’s not because he’s actually fighting. He makes the disappointment list because you feel like he should be better at fighting. And yet we have come to love him anyway.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
But you could choose someone who isn’t your sister.

Jaime didn’t kill Tyrion even though he believed Tyrion killed his son. Jaime failed to kill a small child by throwing him out a window. Even in combat, we’ve seen more success from Samwell Tarly. Tyrion managed to get a few kills in at the Blackwater — the most Jaime ever did was kill his cousin and lose a hand for his trouble.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Yeah, nice.

It’s mind-boggling why Tyrion is the most disappointing Lannister (to the Lannisters, I mean). Jaime is the biggest liability in Westeros and all Tyrion has to do is tell an Army, “Let’s go kill those dudes attacking our city,” and he wins the day.

“But what about Riverrun?” you might ask. Early on, we hear about Jaime taking Riverrun from the Riverlords but by season six, he has to go retake it from the Blackfish. Taking a castle doesn’t do you any good if you can’t keep it. Ask Theon Greyjoy about that.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
You’ll have to catch him first.

For the ultimate in Jaime Lannister’s bad decision-making skills, see the last five minutes of the seventh season episode “The Spoils of War” and remember Jaime’s quote: “We can hold them off.” Hey bud, everyone knows she’s got fire-breathing dragons and a barbaric horde of Dothraki horse archers.

Not only did Jaime do nothing for his troops, he didn’t even get the anti-dragon gun ready to fight. That thing stayed in the wagon waaaaaaaaaay too long.

1. Stannis Baratheon

For what all the bookreaders have to say about Stannis Baratheon, we sure expected some magic from this guy. The only magical thing about Stannis came out of Melisandre.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Run, Jon Snow. This will not end well.

At the Battle of the Blackwater, Stannis drove his Navy into the bay, which would seem like the best idea. But a little bit of intel work and he would have known the Lannisters poured a ton of electric green stuff into the bay in anticipation of the battle, which everyone knew was coming. Then, Stannis did exactly what everyone expected him to do – a frontal assault. No wonder the Lannisters knew exactly how to wipe the floor with his gate crashers.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
If Baratheon leadership could be summed up in one clip, this would be it.

Also, underestimating the wealthiest family on the continent was a terrible call. They control Casterly Rock and King’s Landing. Why did Stannis never consider the possibility of a relief force from Casterly Rock? Tywin Lannister was known for his ability as a soldier and general and the Lannisters were allied with the Tyrells. Stannis, whose moves surprise no one, never considers outside forces. Like…did he forget he was in The War of Five Kings?

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Stannis has never been good at showing emotion. Or leadership ability. Or fatherhood. Or anything, really.

To top that, the real heir to Robert Baratheon led a depleted army against Winterfell. A real commander would work to prepare the army, maybe get some more allies at the last minute, work on a secret plan or weapon to even the odds of assaulting a fortified position. Not Stannis. His ace in the hole was to roast his daughter alive.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The B-36: The plane ‘so good it never dropped a bomb in anger’

There was a plane designed during World War II and completed just after cessation of hostilities that served for 13 years but was never called upon to fly an operational mission: the B-36. According to some, this is a sign that it was so successful at deterrence that no foreign adversary wanted to tussle with it. But it’s not that clear cut.


How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
The first B-36A sits next to a B-50 SuperFortress at Carswell Air Force Base, New Mexico.
(U.S. Air Force)

The B-36 Peacemaker was massive, weighing in at 278,000 pounds without bombs or fuel, but could tip the scales at 410,000 pounds when it had its 86,000 pounds of bombs and a full fuel load. And those 86,000 pounds of bombs could be made up of conventional or nuclear weapons.

The design phase for the aircraft began in 1941 when American leaders asked for a plane that could take off in the states, fly into Germany and bomb Berlin, and then fly back home. But the first B-36 prototype rolled out of a hangar six days after the Japanese forces surrendered, ending World War II. Its maiden flight didn’t take place until August 8, 1946, almost a year after the end of the war.

The final design had a wing span of 230 feet and featured six engines and propellers. These propellers were mounted on the back of the wing, pushing the aircraft through the sky instead of pulling it. At that point in history, it was one of the largest planes to ever fly.

The U.S. built 384 of them and the plane ushered in the era of strategic bombing deterrence, the idea that you could threaten an enemy with such wholesale destruction that they would instead opt to just not fight you. And, while it can’t be directly tied to this one aircraft, the B-36 did fly over a period of tense peace. It never once dropped a bomb in anger, possibly because it could carry large nuclear bombs and it could fly from Maine to Leningrad and back without refueling.

But it did drop bombs — both in training exercises and on accident. In February, 1950, a B-36 crew was forced to jettison their nuclear bomb near British Columbia after flames were sighted in three of their engines. There is a chance that the weapon was a dumb bomb used for practice runs, but it was unarmed either way.

In 1957, a B-36 crew accidentally dropped their Mark 17 nuclear bomb near Albuquerque, New Mexico. The conventional explosives in the weapon did explode, but the nuclear material, thankfully, did not.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
The NB-36 with a nuclear reactor onboard flies near a B-50 bomber. The NB-36 was a testbed plane created to one-day fly using nuclear power, but it used conventional fuel for all of its 47 flights.
(U.S. Air Force)

But the craziest part of the B-36’s career with nuclear material arguably came during planned experiments rather than an accident in flight. In 1942, one of the Manhattan Program scientists spitballed the idea of a nuclear-powered aircraft, one with a nuclear reactor instead of huge gas tanks.

Over the following 16 years, the Army and then the Air Force devoted increasing amounts of time and money to studying and then experimenting with the concept. In 1951, they selected the B-36 Peacemaker, the only aircraft large enough to hold the test reactor and the necessary cockpit modifications to protect the crew.

One B-36 was modified into the NB-36, the nuclear-powered bomber. While it flew 47 test flights and had a powered reactor for most of them, it only ever flew using conventional fuel as scientists and engineers studied how the reactor worked in flight. Advances in conventional aircraft design made a nuclear-powered bomber largely irrelevant, and the program was shelved in 1958.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
A YRF-84F fighter in flight with its parent B-36 Peacemaker.
(U.S. Air Force)

The bomber was big enough and strong enough to take part in the short-lived “parasitic fighter” concept wherein a massive bomber could take a fighter escort with it into combat.

The larger plane would head towards its target and, if it was spotted by enemy radar or fighters, would release a fighter from its belly. The fighter pilot would engage the enemy forces, breaking them up or destroying them before returning to its parent bomber.

The B-36 would then receive the fighter into its belly again and continue toward the target. The advent of mid-air refueling made the concept obsolete, and it also ended the necessity of larger bombers with larger fuel tanks like the B-36. After all, a smaller bomber with more conservative tanks could take off, top up on fuel just outside of the enemy air defense ring, and then pierce the airspace.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
A B-47B takes off using rockets to assist in generating the necessary thrust.
(U.S. Air Force)

So, the B-36 had a long and fairly storied career without once going on an operational mission against an enemy force. It gets a lot of credit for that, but it’s not actually the only aircraft to carry that distinction. The B-47 Stratojet and the B-58 Hustler were jet-powered aircraft with a similar mission to the piston-powered B-36.

They were all designed to fly from U.S. bases, drop big bomb loads, and then fly home. They were all nuclear-capable and they all went their entire careers without dropping a bomb on an enemy — but that alone doesn’t necessarily mean that they were or weren’t successful bombers.

While their strategic deterrence mission was important, they were unsuitable for a conventional bombing mission because they all had handling or speed issues that made leaders worried they would be too susceptible to being shot down. So, it’s not really that they were too good to need to drop bombs, it’s that they were too specialized for a specific deterrence to complete the operational missions.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 345th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, takes off during exercise Trojan Footprint at RAF Fairford, England, June 1, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Emily Copeland)

The modern B-1 and B-2 stealth bombers, on the other hand, have both served as nuclear-deterrent bombers but had the handling, speed, and stealth necessary to survive while dropping bombs in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

In fact, the U.S. will likely turn to these modern successors to the B-36 in case of war with China, Russia or North Korean, not for their nuclear payloads but for their value at dropping conventional bombs (the B-1 has been modified to remove its nuclear capability to comply with treaties).

So, toast the success of the B-36 and its peers — but don’t forget the modern bombers that rose above the forebears.

Articles

Dogfighting in an F-35 is ‘like having a knife fight in a telephone booth’

Civilian pilot Adam Alpert of the Vermont Air National Guard wrote an interesting and enjoyable article on his training experience with the vaunted F-35 in a mock mission to take out nuclear facilities in North Korea.


Chief among the interesting points in the article is a quote from Alpert’s instructor pilot, Lt. Col. John Rahill, about the F-35’s dogfighting ability.

Also read: Beyond the F-35: Air Force and Navy already working on 6th generation fighter

Speaking about the nuanced technical and tactical differences between the F-35, the future plane of the VANG, and the F-16, the VANG’s current plane, Rahill said this:

“If you get into a dogfight with the F-35, somebody made a mistake. It’s like having a knife fight in a telephone booth — very unpredictable.”

The F-35 has been criticized for its dogfighting abilities. But as more information comes to light about the F-35’s mission and purpose, it becomes clearer that measuring the F-35 by its ability to dogfight doesn’t make much more sense than measuring a rifle by its capability as a melee weapon.

“The pilot uses onboard long-range sensors and weapons to destroy the enemy aircraft before ever being seen. The combination of stealth and superior electronic warfare systems makes the F-35 both more lethal and safer,” said Rahill, according to Alpert.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Mission planners could risk four airmen in fifth-generation planes or up to 75 in legacy aircraft when embarking on dangerous missions. US Air Force

In Alpert’s mock mission to North Korea, planners sent only four planes, two F-35s and two F-22s, instead of the older formation of F-18s for electronic attacks, F-15s for air dominance, and F-16s for bombing and airborne early warning. Altogether, the older formation totals about 75 lives at risk versus four pilots at risk with the F-35 version.

Alpert’s piece highlights many of the ways in which the F-35 outclasses the F-16 with an easier, more intuitive interface that allows pilots to focus more on the mission and less on the machine. In fact, Alpert compares the F-35’s controls to an “elaborate video game” with a variety of apps he can call up seamlessly to access any relevant information — including an indicator that tells him how stealthy he is.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’

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19 photos of Navy SEALs doing what they do best

As America’s elite, U.S. Navy SEALs are constantly called for operations around the globe.


With a motto of “the only easy day was yesterday,” the average day in the life of a SEAL is usually anything but. Whether they are deploying to global hotspots, honing new skills in some of the military’s toughest schools, or going through training evolutions stateside, SEALs learn to be ready for anything.

Here are 19 photos showing what they do best around the world.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
SEAL qualification training students from Class 268 take aim during a 36-round shooting test ranging from 100, 200 and 300 yards at Camp Pendleton. SQT is a six-month training course that all SEAL candidates must complete before being assigned to a SEAL team.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
An East Coast-based U.S. Navy SEAL practices shooting drills at the Naval Special Warfare Eagle Haven Indoor Shooting Range at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William S. Parker/Released)

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Navy SEALs demonstrate a special patrol insertion/extraction from an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter during a capabilities demonstration as part of the 2009 Veterans Day Ceremony and Muster XXIV at the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Fla. The annual muster is held at the museum, which is located on the original training grounds of the Scouts and Raiders.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Navy SEALs simulate the evacuation of an injured teammate during immediate action drills at the John C. Stennis Space Center. The drills are a part of the SEALs pre-deployment training.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Navy SEALs conduct immediate action drills at the John C. Stennis Space Center. The drills are a part of the SEALs pre-deployment training. (Photo by: Petty Officer 2nd Class Eddie Harrison)

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
A Navy special warfare specialist assigned to Seal Team 7, a unit comprised of both active and reserve component members based in Coronado, Calif., climbs into the turret gunner position during a mobility training exercise through a simulated city. SEAL Team 7 is conducting a pre-deployment work-up cycle.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
U.S. Navy SEALs search for al-Qaida and Taliban while conducting a Sensitive Site Exploitation mission in the Jaji Mountains, Jan. 12, 2002. Navy Special Operations Forces are conducting missions in Afghanistan in support Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Tim Turner)

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
U.S. Navy SEALs exit a C-130 Hercules aircraft during a training exercise near Fort Pickett, Va.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
SEALs and divers from SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1 swim back to the guided-missile submarine USS Michigan (SSGN 727) during an exercise for certification on SEAL delivery vehicle operations in the southern Pacific Ocean. The exercises educate operators and divers on the techniques and procedures related to the delivery vehicle and its operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristopher Kirsop)

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
A squad of U.S. Navy SEALs participate in Special Operations Urban Combat training. The training exercise familiarizes special operators with urban environments and tactical maneuvering during night and day operations.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
East Coast-based Navy SEALs fast rope during a training evolution on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story Jan. 10. Fast roping is an asset SEALs utilize for quick insertion and when a helicopter is unable to land. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William S. Parker)

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
U.S. Navy SEALs from Naval Special Warfare Group Two rehearse ship-to-ship boarding procedures using Zodiac RIB boats deployed from the coastal patrol boat USS Chinook (PC 9), on April 28, 1996, during Combined Joint Task Force Exercise ’96. More than 53,000 military service members from the United States and the United Kingdom are participating in Combined Joint Task Force Exercise 96 on military installations in the Southeastern United States and in waters along the Eastern seaboard. DoD photo by Mike Corrado

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
An East-Coast based U.S. Navy SEAL (Sea, Air, and Land) climbs a caving ladder during visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) training on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, July 16. (U.S. Navy Photograph by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William S. Parker/Released)

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
U.S. Navy SEAL Qualification Training students ride an inflatable boat in San Diego Bay after plotting a course on a map during their 12 days of maritime operations training on June 16, 2009. DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle D. Gahlau, U.S. Navy. (Released)

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Kodiak, Alaska. (December 14, 2003) — Advanced Cold Weather training not only allows operators to experience the physical stress of the environment, but how their equipment will operate or even sound, in adverse conditions. The training covers a broad area of tactics, techniques, and procedures necessary to operate efficiently where inclement weather is the norm. This includes, but not limited to, Cold Weather Survival, Land Navigation, and Stress-medical Conditioning.Special Operations is characterized by the use of small units with unique ability to conduct military actions that are beyond the capability of conventional military forces.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Remote Training Facility (February 22, 2004) — Members of a SEAL Team practice desert training exercises in preparation for real world scenarios.Official U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Eric S. Logsdon, Naval Special Warfare Command Public Affairs Office. (RELEASED)

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’

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The real story behind ‘The Mutiny on the Bounty’ is different from what you think

The story goes that captain of the Royal Navy’s HMS Bounty, Lt. William Bligh, was a harsh captain, prone to giving out abuse and unfair punishment in an already-harsh environment. The officers and men had enough one day and set Bligh to sea aboard a rowboat, only to land in the Polynesian islands and live happily ever after, free from the sweat and toil aboard a British ship. 

That’s not exactly what happened aboard the ship. Bligh wasn’t entirely unjustified in his treatment of the crew and the crew wasn’t entirely unjustified to kick him to sea. The Bounty’s mission was simply to bring breadfruit plants from the Pacific to the West Indies for use in feeding slaves there. It never made it. Here’s what happened.

Lt. Bligh was an accomplished sailor, having traveled around the world on Capt. James Cook’s third circumnavigation of the globe. Bligh served as the ship’s chief navigator, called the sailing master. Bligh paid attention to how Cook kept his men alive along the long voyage, paying particular attention to the quality of the food aboard the ship and its cleanliness. He never took a risk with the safety of his crew, even turning around when Cape Horn proved too treacherous to pass, and sailing the Cape of Good Hope instead. 

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
HMS Bounty II 1960 Tall Ship with full sails on Lake Michigan near the Port of Chicago for the 2010 Great Lake Tall Ship Challenge. (Wikimedia Commons)

On land, he gave his crew ample time to rest, recuperate and replenish their stores. He had hoped the entire voyage would pass without a disciplinary action, and for much of the longest parts of the voyage, that was the case. Bligh was not just the ship’s captain, he was also the purser and managed a few other parts of the voyage. He even took a huge pay cut from his regular work as a merchant seaman to make the voyage. 

The handful of troublemakers aboard the ship on their way to Tahiti were still relatively light but laid the foundations for a much bigger problem. Chief among them was the surgeon, Huggan. A drunk, Huggan bled a sailor to death while treating him for asthma, but told the captain (and thus the crew) the man died of scurvy. As captain and purser, Bligh took this very seriously. 

Bligh not only paid Fletcher Christian (the man who would lead the mutineers) when he didn’t have to, Bligh lent him money when he needed it while aboard the ship. When the crew finally reached Tahiti to acquire the breadfruit for their mission, Bligh made them work only light duty while enjoying their time on the island. So why did the men mutiny?

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Tahitian War Galleys in Matavai Bay, Tahiti. (Wikimedia Commons)

Once landed in Tahiti, the men had their way with the island’s women for months. Bligh didn’t bat an eye at this behavior until the men and officers began slacking in their duties. Many contracted sexually-transmitted diseases and Huggan drank himself to death. Equipment began to disappear, and discipline was slipping away. Bligh used the Royal Navy’s punishment system to maximum effect in an effort to reestablish it. Sailors even began to desert. 

After five months, it was time to leave, but the men didn’t want to go. Once at sea, Bligh reinstated the disciplinary actions to an almost-paranoid degree. He would routinely embarrass the officers and men, especially Fletcher Christian. Everything came to a head when someone stole from the Captain’s coconut supply, for which they were punished by the book. That’s when they mutinied. They put Bligh on the ship’s launch along with 18 loyal men – two others wanted to go but couldn’t be spared in the operation of the ship. 

With Bligh gone, they returned to Tahiti while some went to Tubuai the Pitcairn Islands. Bligh and his men, using the rations afforded to them by the mutineers, made their way 3,500 nautical miles to the Dutch colony of Kupang, where he informed the Admiralty of the mutiny.

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This Congressman wants to add “Marine Corps” to the Navy Department’s name

North Carolina Representative Walter Jones wants to elevate the Marines to be included in the name of the Navy Department. For the past 15 years, he has introduced legislation into the annual National Defense Authorization Act to create “the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps.” Each year the action gets increased support in both houses of Congress but ultimately is shot down in the Senate. Jones believes not including the Marines in the official name of the department is an offense to Marines who’ve fought and died for the United States.


How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Paul A. Ochoa

“When we die, when mama and dada get that letter of condolence, it would be kind of nice if the Marine Corps was mentioned,” famous Marine Corps alum R. Lee Ermey told the Marine Corps Times in 2010. “Just change the letterhead. What’s the harm in that?”

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the harm would come in the form of a cost of about $500,000 per year over a few years’ time. Since the National Security Act of 1947 delineated the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps as separate services, the only change to the Marines’ structure was the addition of the Commandant of the Marine Corps to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1979.

Jones was elected in 1995 to North Carolina’s 3rd District, which includes Camp Lejune and Marine Corps Air Station New River. He has been introducing this legislation since 2001.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler W. Stewart)

In 2010, Jones’ amendment was introduced to the House as a standalone bill, but even then, with 415 cosponsors (there are only 435 Representatives in the House), the Senate still killed it. Jones’ 2010 bill received the most cosponsors of any bill in Congress since the Congressional Record started keeping track. The effort to kill that bill was led by Senator John McCain.

“This isn’t about Walter Jones,” Jones told The Hill. “This isn’t about John McCain. This is about the Marines who serve this country. Haven’t they earned the right to be recognized?”

MIGHTY HISTORY

A French resistance fighter escaped execution with the most impossible prison break

Throughout World War II, the Nazi occupiers of France housed Jews and captured Resistance fighters in the supposedly escape-proof Fort Montluc prison, a nineteenth century fortress in Lyon.


But there was one escape.

Only one.

Leading that escape was Andre Devigny, a former French army lieutenant whose escape made him a legend in the Resistance.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
André Devigny, a real-world Houdini.

Devigny was one of the leaders of the Réseau Gilbert, an intelligence network that helped refugees escape occupied France, gathered intelligence for the Allies, and sabotaged German installations and material as the opportunity arose. He was betrayed by a German infiltrator and arrested Apr. 17, 1943, taken to Lyons, and turned over to Klaus Barbie, chief of the Gestapo there.

Known as the Butcher of Lyons, Barbie is believed to have personally tortured men, women, and children. Some estimates hold him directly responsible for the deaths of up to 14,000 people.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
German SS officer and Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie (1913 – 1991) in army NCO uniform, 1944.

Devigny was tortured for two weeks, including use of the baignoire, a World War II form of waterboarding, before being imprisoned in handcuffs in the 10-square-foot cell 107 at Fort Montluc. He was allowed into the courtyard for exercise one hour a day. On Aug. 20, he was again brought before Barbie, who told him he would be executed on Aug. 28.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’

By this time, Devigny had learned to remove his handcuffs with a safety pin. He had also been able to remove three wooden slats at the bottom of his cell door using a soup spoon he ground down to a point on the cell’s concrete floor. He got to the point where he could remove or replace the three slats in less than two minutes.

When his death sentence was announced, he knew the time to act had come.

Related: Two POWs made a daring escape from prison just to relieve the boredom

Returning to his cell from meeting with Barbie, however, Devigny discovered he had been given a roommate. Perhaps he was a spy sent to watch him or perhaps he was what he said he was, an 18-year-old deserter from the Vichy-created French militia. In either case, he would have to be included in the escape.

On Aug. 24, a moonless night, the two men removed the cell’s wood slats, slipped out of the cell, and climbed up a heavy, metal rod that operated a roof transom, exiting on to the prison’s flat roof.  Devigny threw a parcel containing a second grappling hook and rope over the parapet, hooked a grappling hook he was carrying — all items he had been able to make in cell 107 — and climbed down the rope to a courtyard. The 18-year-old followed.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Montluc Prison.

Once in the courtyard, the two men could hear a sentry approaching and stepped back into the shadows. As the sentry passed, Devigny grabbed the man around the throat from behind forcing the German to the ground where he used the sentry’s own bayonet to kill him. Devigny and the 18-year-old then crossed to the prison’s inner wall and, using the second grappling hook and rope, climbed up and over the wall on to a covered gallery atop the prison infirmary.  From there, they scaled the building’s sloping roof and were able to see the outside wall and the brightly-lit fifteen-foot roadway between the walls.

The roadway was being patrolled by a sentry on a bicycle.  At 3 a.m., after timing the guard’s rounds several times, Devigny tied an end of his rope to the infirmary chimney, threw the grappling hook out and over the outside wall, and launched himself hand over hand with the 18-year-old following.

The two men made it, jumped down from the outside wall, and were free.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
An aerial view of the prison area.

Devigny and his former cellmate then separated, and Devigny eluded German search parties and dogs by spending five hours hiding in the Rhone River and along its muddy banks. He was finally able to work himself to the home of a doctor friend in the city where he was given clothes and papers and guided to Switzerland.

Devigny returned to the war and was eventually awarded the Cross of the Liberation by then-French President Charles de Gaulle.

The Resistance liberated Fort Montluc in August 1944, almost exactly one year after Devigny’s escape.

 

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7 leadership lessons from former commanders of America’s most elite warriors

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Former Navy SEAL Task Unit Bruiser commander Jocko Willink, left, and Charlie Platoon leader Leif Babin. | Courtesy of Jocko Willink and Leif Babin


The United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) oversees the American military units that take on incredibly difficult and unconventional missions.

These units contain some of the most elite warriors in the world.

And though each unit in SOCOM has its own culture, certain approaches are universal.

From their writings and from our interviews with former Navy SEAL commanders Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, former Delta Force commander going by the pseudonym Dalton Fury, and retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal — who led the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) branch of SOCOM before leading American forces in the war in Afghanistan — Business Insider noticed recurring lessons on leadership that could apply in any type of career.

We’ve collected those lessons here.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Students assigned to Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL class 282 participate in Rock Portage at Coronado Island in 2010. | Seaman Kyle Gahlau/Navy Visual News Service via Flickr

A team’s success falls entirely on its leader

After returning from duty as a SEAL platoon commander in the 2006 battle of Ramadi in Iraq, Leif Babin became a SEAL training instructor. It was during one “Hell Week” of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training (BUD/S) in 2008 that he saw an incredible example of leadership at work, he wrote in his 2015 book “Extreme Ownership,” cowritten with Jocko Willink.

Babin and his fellow instructors split the SEAL candidates into teams of seven for a string of boat races, which required the teams to run with a 200-pound raft held aloft and then placed into the ocean for a short course. After several races, Boat Crew II was almost guaranteed to win and Boat Crew VI was almost guaranteed to come in last place.

The most senior instructor decided to swap the team leaders of Crews II and VI. To Babin’s surprise, Crew II performed well but never reached first, and Crew VI won nearly every race.

“When the leader of Boat Crew II took charge of Boat Crew VI … [h]e didn’t wait for others to solve his boat crew’s problems,” Babin wrote. “Rather than tolerate their bickering and infighting, he pulled the team together and focused their collective efforts on the single specific goal of winning the race.”

What it all comes down to, Babin writes, is “whether or not your team succeeds or fails is all on you.”

Manage your boss

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’

Dalton Fury spent more than 20 years in the US Army as a Ranger and then as a Delta Force operator.

Fury is the pseudonym he uses for his writing, since his time in Delta Force, one of the  most secretive and elite forces in the US, has required him to conceal his true identity.

He sent us a collection of leadership lessons he learned in Delta Force and Rangers

Fury writes that part of being an effective leader is knowing not only how to instill confidence in your subordinates, but in your superior.

He explains that there are times in special operations where plan A isn’t going exactly as planned, and if the leadership in charge of the mission’s commander gets nervous, the entire thing could turn into a disaster. It’s why, Fury says, leaders need to assure their own leaders in advance that they are prepared for whatever unexpected situations arise.

 

Mitigate risk as much as possible

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
The Delta Force unit that served in the battle of Tora Bora.

Whoever’s in charge can’t waste time excessively contemplating a scenario without making a decision. But when it’s time to make that decision, all risk must be mitigated as much as possible.

Willink and Babin both write about situations in Ramadi in which delaying an attack until every detail about a target was clarified, even when it frustrated other units they were working with, resulted in avoiding tragic friendly fire.

Fury says it is the leader’s responsibility to “see the forest through the trees” and anticipate as many scenarios in a mission as possible, in order to always have a plan ready to go with the least risky choice available.

Have a set of standards that guide decisions

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal sits aboard a helicopter during active duty in 2009.

“There are a set of standards that you know are right,”McChrystal told Business Insider. “They may look and feel different at times, but those standards should guide you.”

He said that there was once a time when he was mulling over a weighty decision with a command sergeant major, and he was questioning what his values were telling him was right. They worked over the decision for six months.

“And at the end of that decision, I thought I had consensus, and I announced this decision, and I looked to him for approval and he said, ‘It was the right decision. But you could have made it six months ago.'”

“The reality is we often delay making decisions when we already know the right answer and we’re trying somehow to prevent ourselves from having to make that step because we’re trying to mitigate all the reaction we’ll get to it,” he said. “But sometimes you just have to cut bait and do it.”

Be the alpha, but don’t be overbearing

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Retired Navy SEAL commander Jocko Willink. | Twitter/Jocko Willink

As a SEAL officer, Willink needed to be aggressive. (“Some may even accuse me of hyper-aggression,” he said.) But he differentiated being a powerful presence to his SEAL team from being an intimidating figure.

He wrote that, “I did my utmost to ensure that everyone below me in the chain of command felt comfortable approaching me with concerns, ideas, thoughts, and even disagreements.”

“That being said,” he added, “my subordinates also knew that if they wanted to complain about the hard work and relentless push to accomplish the mission I expected of them, they best take those thoughts elsewhere.”

As Fury put it: “Play well with others — but remain the alpha.”

Be calm without being robotic

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Retired Navy SEAL commander Jocko Willink, left, during the 2006 battle of Ramadi in Iraq. | Courtesy of Todd Pitman

Willink says that while leaders who lose their tempers lose respect, they also can’t establish a relationship with their team if they never expression anger, sadness, or frustration.

“People do not follow robots,” he writes.

For Fury, this comes when a leader is humble. “And at that moment when you apply this secret, realizing you are not one of the action heroes — more Clark Kent than Superman — you have met the first standard for actually leading high-performance teams,” he wrote.

Trust your subordinates

Fury says that in the military, commanders establish relationships with officers they can trust to act on their own and come through in a crisis.

For example, Fury writes, “Year after year, commander to commander, maverick warrior … Jim ‘Serpico’ Reese, a stand-out Ranger and Delta officer, quite possibly would have made [Ulysses S.] Grant appear wanting when it came to working through chaos, calming nerves, and demanding the best out of subordinates.”

It’s this trust in each other that makes elite units so special.

When talking about the Navy SEALs in particular, McChrystal wrote in his book, “Team of Teams,” he said it is their intense, selfless teamwork from the top down that allows them to process any challenge with “near telepathy.”

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
Delta Force operators in Afghanistan, their faces censored to protect their privacy. Courtesy of Dalton Fury.

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This Blackwater shootout in Baghdad might not have gone down like the prosecution claimed

Four contractors with the security firm formerly known as Blackwater may have come under fire before they shot and killed more than a dozen Iraqis in 2007, federal prosecutors admitted in a hearing before the United States Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.


According to a report by Circa.com, the government lawyers’ admission could result in the convictions of the contractors over the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians being overturned by the appellate court. The contractors had claimed they opened fire in self-defense during their 2014 trial.

The incident drove a deeper wedge between the American and fledgling Iraqi governments over the perception of trigger-happy security contractors running roughshod over Iraqi civil rights. Five Blackwater contractors were involved in the incident, which took place in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. Three were given 30-year sentences, one was given a life sentence and one had the charges dropped.

The prosecution’s main witness, Jimmy Watson, testified during the trial that there was incoming fire, according to an August 2014 report by Bloomberg News.

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
A Blackwater contractor in Afghanistan (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“In fact, what [Watson] thought he heard was enemy fire,” Demetra Lambros, the federal prosecutor arguing the case in front of a three-judge panel, allegedly admitted during the oral arguments. “[Watson is] very clear about it. Those first shots did not come from the convoy.”

The contractors had been sent to secure the area in Nisoor Square where an employee of the Agency for International Development was holding a meeting after an improvised explosive device, or IED, had been detonated nearby. A vehicle that approached a convoy under their protection may have reinforced the perception that they were under attack, reports say.

“So for all these years the federal government has been painting this case as cold blooded, a cold-blooded shooting,” Blackwater founder Erik Prince told Circa.com. “Here they are acknowledging, yes indeed, there is incoming fire. We’ve known that all along.”

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’
A Blackwater Security Company MD-530F helicopter aids in securing the site of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad, Iraq, on December 4, 2004, during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. A similar bombing in 2007 lead to the incident that resulted in Blackwater contractors facing charges of manslaughter. (USAF photo)

“This could be a major boon to the defense,” Jeffrey Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s Law School, told Circa.com. “The appellate court could throw the entire conviction out based on that alone.”

This would not be the first time that claims of an unprovoked massacre were debunked.

Eight Marines faced charges in the aftermath of a Nov. 15, 2005, firefight in Haditha, Iraq that resulted in civilian casualties. Then-Democrat Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha, a former Marine, claimed the killings were “cold-blooded murder,” according to CNN.

In the end, Reuters reported that one Marine plead guilty to negligent dereliction of duty. The Associated Press reported that the other seven Marines charges had their cases dismissed or were exonerated.

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