In the Battle of Fallujah, Marines swept in to take the city away from insurgent forces, only to have politicians pull them out — and send them right back in months later. The first and second Battles of Fallujah have entered Marine Corps lore, alongside Iwo Jima and Chapultepec.
But what many don’t know is what happened at the Battle of Najaf, which played out before the 2nd Battle of Fallujah kicked off.
An Najaf is another sacred city in Iraq. It has approximately seven square miles of cemeteries — as above, so below. Under the cemeteries are miles of catacombs, haunting places where enemy fighters could be hiding, concealed in the dark.
A major player in the battle was the insurgent leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shia cleric who brought disgruntled Iraqis together under the idea of an Islamic democracy. To enforce that idea, he created a military wing, Jaysh al-Mahdi, also known as the Mahdi Army. He suddenly turned on the coalition, demanding an immediate withdraw of all coalition forces from Iraq.
Though the mayor of An Najaf brokered a ceasefire between the coalition and the Mahdi Army in June 2004, this only lasted until the end of August. In July of that year, the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit took over operational command from Task Force Dragon. That’s when the fighting in the city started to escalate.
In August, the Mahdi Army attacked the 1st Battalion 4th Marines, starting a significant battle of the new Iraq War. The next days were long and drawn out, characterized by house-to-house fighting, open-street engagements, and fighting across open farm fields. For eight days, the battle raged through the city.
Much like what happened in Fallujah a few months earlier, Marines and soldiers were taking the fight to insurgents. American troops were surprised by incoming small arms fire and indirect fire. Though the enemy forces were not well trained, there was a lot of them, which compensated for their lack of real infantry tactics.
At one point, the battle swept over the city’s huge cemetery, which was the stage for some of the most intense fighting of the entire Iraq War. Surrounded by the resting dead, Marines fought against extreme numbers and both sides suffered heavy casualties. Fighting on the surface was so brutal that soldiers and Marines were also forced to fight in the catacombs below.
Fallujah was the biggest urban battle since Hue City and An Najaf saw the first tunnel fighting since Vietnam.
The end of the battle brought with it a final tally of dead and wounded. Twelve Americans were killed in action and 94 were wounded. Iraqi soldiers also saw significant losses. The numbers for the Mahdi Army, however, are far greater, with 1,500 killed in action and an unknown number wounded, estimated to be in the thousands.
The battle removed Al-Sadr and most of those loyal to him from the city. Marines began to secure their area of operations and returned to rebuilding Najaf and the surrounding region. However, some of the Mahdi Army’s militiamen stayed in the city, challenging the 1st battalion, 4th Marines at every opportunity.
Instead of their normal black militia uniforms, they now wore street clothing. This allowed them to blend into the local populace. Coalition troops could no longer differentiate between friend or foe when the streets turned to a battlefield.
Marines and soldiers at the Battle of Najaf should be proud of the accomplishment of securing the city. As time passes, they remain hopeful that Americans will know about the heroes that came out of the battle and the ones who fell there — that we never let this battle be lost to history.
It will be remembered, just as much as The Battles of Fallujah.
The Air Force and Boeing have reached agreement on delivery of the long delayed KC-46 Pegasus tanker, with the two sides expecting the first aircraft to arrive in October 2018, according to Bloomberg.
Boeing’s original deadline to deliver 18 planes and additional materials was August 2017, but the $44 billion program has been hit by numerous delays and setbacks, and the Air Force said this spring it expected Boeing to miss its deadline to deliver the planes by October 2018, with the first KC-46 not arriving until the end of 2018 and all 18 planes by spring 2019.
The delivery of the first KC-46 by October 2018 is two months earlier than the Air Force anticipated. Matthew Donovan, the Air Force undersecretary, told Bloomberg the timeline was “aggressive but achievable.” Under the new schedule, the other 17 planes will arrive by April 2019.
The Air Force plans to buy 179 of the KC-46. Once it begins receiving them, the service will start phasing out its older KC-10 tankers. It will hold on to 300 of its KC-135 tankers, which average 55 years old. That would expand the tanker fleet to 479 KC-135s and KC-46s from the current 455 KC-135s and KC-10s.
(Boeing photo by John D. Parker)
Under their contract, Boeing is responsible for costs beyond the Air Force’s $4.82 billion commitment. But delays in delivery could mean the Air Force will have to keep 19 KC-135s in service through 2023 at a cost of up to $10 million a plane annually.
The most serious problem facing the tanker has been the risk of its refueling boom scraping the surface of planes receiving fuel, which can damage stealth aircraft and potentially ground the tanker.
Other issues include the operation of the remote vision system, which is used to guide the boom; problems with the unexpected disconnection of its centerline drogue system, which is used to refuel aircraft; and concerns about the plane’s high-frequency radio, which uses the skin of the plane to broadcast. The latter two issues were downgraded to category-two deficiencies early 2018.
Settling on a delivery date may mean that both sides believe Boeing is close to resolving the tanker’s deficiencies. Donovan, the Air Force undersecretary, told Bloomberg that a software fix for the boom scrapping the receiving aircraft is undergoing flight testing and that flight test verification for the fixes is set for September 2018.
‘It is prudent to explore options’
The Air Force has been trying to replace its aging tankers for years, and military officials have been critical of the recent delays, even as they’ve complimented Boeing on its cooperation.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told acquisition officials in November 2017 that he was “unwilling (totally)” to accept flawed KC-46 tankers.
Early 2018, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told the House Armed Services Committee that “one of our frustrations with Boeing is that they’re much more focused on their commercial activity than they are on getting this right for the Air Force and getting these airplanes to the Air Force.”
(Boeing photo by John D. Parker)
Her remarks came a few days after Donovan encouraged Boeing to “double down” to “get this program over the goal line” during a visit to the KC-46 production and modification facility in Washington state.
Even as the KC-46 program inches forward, lawmakers are looking beyond the current, manned tankers to adapt to emerging threats.
It its markup of the 2019 defense budget, the Senate Armed Services Committee expressed concern “about the growing threat to large high-value aircraft in contested environments” and recommended an extra $10 million in spending on Air Force research, development, testing, and evaluation, for a total of $38.4 million.
While the Air Force’s tankers allow greater operational availability and range for fighters and bombers, “these assets are manned and increasingly difficult to protect,” the committee said.
“Given the increasingly challenging operating environments our potential adversaries are presenting, it is prudent to explore options for optionally unmanned and more survivable tankers that could operate autonomously as part of a large, dispersed logistics fleet that could sustain attrition in conflict,” it added.
Boeing is researching automation for its commercial aircraft, part of an effort to address a protracted pilot shortage, an issue that has plagued both civilian and military aviation.
Russian aircraft maker Ilyushin is also working on a similar project, partnering with Kronstadt Group to develop an unmanned transport aircraft that could be used to access remote or difficult-to-reach areas.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The actual translation of Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak’s epic nickname might be “The White Lily of Stalingrad,” depending on the language you speak. Considering the Lily’s association with death and funerals, it’s rather fitting for such an incredible pilot.
Litvyak was only 20 years old when Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. The young girl rushed to the recruiter and tried to join to be a fighter pilot. The recruiters sent her packing. In their minds, she was just a small, young girl.
In truth, she was flying solo at 15 and was an experienced pilot. A biographer estimated she trained more than 45 pilots on her own. She knew she could do this. So instead of giving up, she went to another recruiter and lied about her flying experience, by more than a hundred hours. That did the trick.
The Soviets, probably realizing that this fight was going to kill a lot of Soviet people (and it did, to the tune of 27 million), were foresighted enough to consider gender equality when it came to their military units. Where American women pilots were only allowed to transport planes, Stalin was forming three fighter regiments of all-female pilots.
Young Lydia Litvyak flew a few missions with the all-female unit before transferring to a mixed-gender unit — over Stalingrad. It was here she earned her illustrious moniker, “The White Rose of Stalingrad.” She flew around a hail of anti-aircraft fire to engage an artillery observation balloon from the rear. She shot it down in a blaze of hydrogen-fueled mayhem — a notoriously difficult task for any pilot.
Litvyak wasn’t finished; she later became one of two women to be crowned “first female fighter ace” as well. She wasn’t flawless — she was shot down more than once and bled more than her share over Russian soil.
But even when forced to make belly landings, she hopped right back into the closest cockpit.
She was so good, the Russian command chose her to be Okhotniki, — or “free hunter” — a new tactic that involved two experienced pilots who were free to hunt the skies on seek and destroy missions. She terrorized German pilots all over the Eastern Front.
“The White Rose of Stalingrad” was last seen being chased by eight Nazi ME-109 fighters on an escort mission south of Moscow. Her body was lost until 1989 when historians discovered the unmarked grave of a female pilot in the Russian village of Dmytrivka.
The next year, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev awarded Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak the title “Hero of the Soviet Union,” the USSR’s highest military honor.
In 2019, retired Army Colonel Claude Schmid founded the nonprofit Veteran’s Last Patrol. Its mission is to forge vital connections and support for hospice veterans in their last days on earth, honoring them as they complete one last patrol.
“My last assignment on active duty I was the Chief of the Wounded Warrior Flight Program, which was an operation where we brought back our casualties from overseas. I recognized that when someone is in great adversity, they, more than ever, need friendship and companionship,” Schmid said. He explained that when he retired, he remembered his mother spending time visiting patients in hospice. It was there that he decided to devote his time to honoring veterans in their last days.
Schmid recognized that many nursing home and hospice care residents were deeply lonely and struggling. Knowing that veterans who served this country at great personal sacrifice were experiencing that didn’t sit well with him. “We decided we’d put teams together nationally to bring friendships to veterans in hospice care… When you go into end of life, it’s nationally to bring friendships to veterans in hospice care… When you go into end of life, it’s one final fight and their last patrol,” he explained.
This is where active duty members and retired military can lend their support, one last time. “The veterans’ community is particularly bonded because of the special work and abilities we have. When veterans move away and fall out of those connections they may be hurting more than most because they are used to that teamwork and support network,” Schmid explained. “Our focus is this mission, the goal of bringing them friendships,” Schmid said.
The core of this nonprofit is to promote volunteerism and provide financial assistance to veterans in need. Veteran’s Last Patrol partners with medical providers to connect volunteers with veterans in hospice care. With many of these volunteers being veterans themselves, it opens the door to sharing stories of the patrols of the past, one last time.
“The national media covers the stories of veterans that have passed away and no one knew they served until they are in the mortuary. The question was, ‘What about before they passed away?'” Schmid said.
Veteran’s Last Patrol also does formal honor ceremonies for the veterans and their families. “There’s been a number of times where within days of that ceremony, the veteran passed away. The family will tell us that they never had a better day than that day in the latter part of their life,” Schmid shared.
“Veterans are about service. We’ve served each other and our nation and this is one way you can continue to serve. I think it can instill future military service for the younger generation, too. As they see this kind of care throughout the life of the veteran and that deep commitment, they might be inspired by that,” Schmid said.
As the holiday season quickly approaches, Veteran’s Last Patrol has an easy call to action for every American to immediately and truly thank these veterans for their service. Operation Holiday Salute is a program to collect cards and letters for veterans in hospice for Christmas. By taking five minutes to write a message to a veteran, you could be making the world of difference. “It’s all about bringing holiday cheer – their last holiday cheer that these veterans will receive in their lives,” Schmid explained. Last year, Veteran’s Last Patrol sent over 4,000 letters to veterans in hospice care.
This year the goal is 10,000.
With the pandemic still impacting things like volunteering in person, writing a letter is a simple and an accessible act of intentional kindness. GivingTuesday is on December 1, 2020, and this is the perfect way to give back to a population that dedicated their lives willingly for our freedoms.
Although its headquarters is located in South Carolina, Veteran’s Last Patrol has teams in 14 states. Anyone can raise their hand and pledge to do this in their own communities by simply contacting Veteran’s Last Patrol through their website. Schmid hopes that one day they’ll cover the country, serving veterans everywhere in their last days.
Veteran’s Last Patrol is dedicated to ensuring that the lives and sacrifices of America’s veterans are never forgotten, especially in their last days. There is no better way to truly say, “Thank you for your service,” than by giving your time to honor a veteran in hospice. Listen to their stories and breathe in their devotion to this country before they are gone, forever. What are you waiting for?
Mail your card or letter for Operation Holiday Salute to: Veteran’s Last Patrol 140B Venture Blvd Spartanburg, SC, 29306
There are officers who seem to be made of glass, staying firmly behind the barriers and barbed wire that keep them protected from the enemy guns.
And then there are those guys who are basically the Black Knight from Monty Python, declaring every injury a flesh wound and jumping back into the fray like an amputated hand ain’t no thang.
That’s why Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart is a British legend; he literally lost a hand, an eye, and part of an ear while serving in three wars, including two World Wars.
Carton de Wiart was born to Belgian nobility in 1880 and sent to prestigious schools. But in 1899, the British found themselves in the second Boer War and Carton de Wiart jumped at the chance to experience combat. But the British only wanted British subjects aged 25 or older or who had their father’s consent.
So, Carton de Wiart employed a clever tactic called “lying” and shipped out under a pseudonym. His first war ended when he received enemy rounds to the stomach and groin and a trip back to England to recover.
But flesh wounds couldn’t keep the Black Knight out of the fight for long, and he volunteered for duty in 1914 during World War I, this time under his actual name as a naturalized citizen.
Similar to in the Boer War, Carton de Wiart found the enemy guns quickly and caught a few rounds from them, this time in his arm and face while fighting as a member of the Somaliland Camel Corps.
He accepted a Distinguished Service Order and headed out for a quick convalescence for his missing eye. According to Lord Ismay, Carton de Wiart was probably happy about the whole situation.
“I honestly believe that he regarded the loss of an eye as a blessing,” he said, “As it allowed him to get out of Somaliland to Europe where he thought the real action was.”
And Carton de Wiart did get into the action. He was sent to the Western Front in 1915 (that’s the year after the enemy rounds knocked out his left eye and took a part of his ear, for those keeping track). Sporting a black eyepatch over his empty socket in the Second Battle of Ypres, he was probably laughing when the German artillery barrage slammed into his position, severely injuring his left hand.
Doctors refused to amputate the hand, so our Black Knight tore off two of his fingers and went back to work. Doctors finally gave in and took the rest of his hand later. That was 1915.
In 1916, Carton de Wiart took command of a regiment at the Somme. Yeah, he once again returned to the front just a year later after a serious injury that would have ended anyone else’s career.
At the Battle of the Somme, then-Lt. Col. Carton de Wiart saw three other battalion commanders die in the back-and-forth fighting at La Boiselle. He was later awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions.
During World War II, the hero of one war and a distinguished veteran of another took an assignment in Yugoslavia. When — at the age of 60 — his plane was shot down over the Mediterranean, he went ahead and swam his way to shore and was captured by the Italians.
Fun fact: that was Carton de Wiart’s second plane crash. He survived another crash in Lithuania between the wars.
Of course, even capture by the Italians wasn’t enough to stop him, and he attempted multiple escapes. At one point, he managed to evade capture for eight days.
He survived the war and continued to serve the British until he retired in 1947 as a lieutenant general.
Even before the millions of everyday carry (EDC) pocket dump photos started popping up on social media, knives have been a common everyday tool. Young boys receive their first knife as a rite of passage, and more women are becoming acclimated to carrying knives everyday for protection and necessity.
In my line of work, I’ve handled a variety of knives from many companies. Ranging from truly impressive to mediocre, I’ve gained the hands-on experience to know a good knife when I see one. However, it doesn’t take years of blade enthusiasm or expertise to understand if the knife you’re holding is good enough to “make the cut.” It’s either sharp and durable or it’s just metal taking up space in your pocket.
The Sandrin TCK 416 is made of tungsten carbide and will retain its sharp edge indefinitely.
(Photo by Karen Hunter/Coffee or Die)
When I receive a new knife, the first thing I do is test for sharpness. A simple paper-cutting test will tell you more than you’d think. Simply take a piece of loose-leaf paper in one hand and cut down the center in one smooth, continuous motion. A sharp knife should cut from top to bottom without catching. If a knife catches or leaves snags/jagged edges, this is an issue.
I recently discovered a knife that not only cut clean through the paper test, it also holds its own among EDC knives: the TCK (Tungsten Carbide Knife) 416 by Sandrin. Sandrin is a division of Cabot Guns and brings innovations to the knife realm just as Cabot does with 1911s. The TCK 416 is incredibly thin (4.5mm) and lightweight (2.18 ounces). Although an ultra-slim gentleman folder is nice, the “cool” factor of the TCK is all in the blade. The blade is perfectly, measurably parallel. The circles on the blade are measured in the Fibonacci sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8) in both diameter and from the center of one circle to the next. If you’re not a math person, just know that’s actually pretty incredible.
The TCK 416.
(Photo courtesy of Sandrin Knives)
The TCK is not made of steel or ceramic. Instead, it’s made from a completely new blade material that is superior to both. This is where the fascination lies. You have to wrap your brain around the science — or “magic” — of it all, which began in Italy.
Sandrin is the brand name for knives manufactured by its parent company, Turmond. Turmond is a second generation family business that has been working with tungsten carbide for more than 40 years. They dominate the global cutting blade market and have intensely studied the science of cutting in controlled applications that other knife makers cannot. Allessandro Colombatto, the creator and director of Sandrin Knives, started grinding carbide at the age of 12. By age 24, he started crafting tungsten carbide blades for industrial high-speed cutting applications. Behind the TCK is measurable, proven science.
Tungsten carbide has been used for industrial wear purposes — such as the hulls of ice breakers and seals for oil pipes that sit miles below the ocean — but traditional grades of tungsten carbide will shatter like ceramic. Sandrin uses a patented method of sintering a proprietary grade of polyhedral tungsten carbide from particles of tungsten, carbide, and cobalt, making their blades hard and not brittle. Most steel knives have a hardness from 52 to 57 on the Rockwell scale, which is considered high. The TCK has a hardness of HRC 71.
The Longest Lasting Knife Edge – Sandrin Tungsten on a TCK
In addition to superior hardness, polyhedral tungsten carbide doesn’t rust and allows the TCK to retain an edge unlike any other blade — it will never require sharpening. You can, however, sharpen a steel knife with the top edge of a Sandrin blade. Tungsten carbide is the hardest metal on Earth — the only thing harder is the mineral diamond.
I’ve been carrying the TCK 416 for approximately six months, and it lives up to its reputation. This isn’t merely hype, it’s literal science, which is what makes the TCK so fascinating. Rob Bianchin, president and founder of Cabot Guns, echoed the sentiment: “I have been using my TCK for a year, opening boxes on a daily basis, and I can still shave with it. It remains razor sharp!”
Razor sharp is not an exaggeration. Regardless of experience level, handle the TCK 416 with care. This is a seriously sharp knife in a slim, lightweight package. If you remain mindful of its capabilities and level of sharpness, this could be a great EDC — especially with a reasonable MSRP of 9 and a lifetime guarantee.
(Graphic by Erik Campbell/Coffee or Die. Photo courtesy of Sandrin Knives.)
This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.
For as long as video games have existed, there have been fed-up mothers yelling at their kids to put down the controller and get back to their homework. As mom loves to remind us, “no one will ever pay you to play video games!” Well, we hate to disappoint you, ma, but for the last decade or so, there have been plenty of gamers who make a living enjoying their hobby.
As foreign as it may sound to some, there are people who are so good at video games that others will tune in (and even pay) regularly to see them compete, just like a traditional sports player. Today, we refer to this competitive gaming as “eSports.” This concept is slowly gaining traction, but just like any other idea, it’s been met with criticism from people who don’t understand that if enough are willing to pay money for something, it’s a feasible business model.
Now, the world of eSports may have just gotten the validation it needs from a brand people trust. Cloud9’s Counter Strike: Global Operations team has been officially sponsored by the United States Air Force.
Red Bull has made a huge impact in the eSports world. Seeing as nearly every gamer is addicted to energy drinks, that’s an easy win.
Video game tournaments are nothing new. Way back in 1972, students at Stanford University competed to see who could get the highest score at Spacewar. In the 90s, Quake tournaments gained recognition around the world and, by 2015, a League of Legends tournament drew in 27 million viewers — seven million more than the highest viewership average of the NBA finals.
But, in a big way, there’s one thing missing from eSports: sponsorship from outside the gaming world. The biggest sponsors of eSports have always been AMD, Intel, and, typical, the company responsible for whichever game is being played. Occasionally, you’d find a sponsor from outside the hardware/software realm, including soft-drink companies, a certain adult-entertainment company, and even Audi — but these are typically outliers.
This pattern makes good sense in a way. It’s easy for sponsors to use gaming events to promote products that are directly applicable to eSports. Do you want to play like these guys? Buy this mouse and keyboard. Do you want to enhance your reaction times? Buy these goofy, yellow-tinted glasses. Do you want to practice late into the night? Chug some of this energy drink.
The sponsors have almost always directly related to gaming — not to a generally huge audience. That is, until the recent sponsorship deal of the Los Angeles-based Cloud9 by the United States Air Force.
“By developing a dynamic partnership with the Air Force, we will be able to deliver extraordinary content that will show fans a totally different side of the team. No one else in the world can put our team into a jet and let our fans watch the sheer thrill come over their faces. It’s going to be amazing.” says Cloud9 owner and CEO, Jack Etienne.
Starting this week, at the ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier 2018, the Cloud9 uniforms will now proudly sport the U.S. Air Force logo.
“Join the Air Force! Do all the awesome stuff you see in the video games! Totally!”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Peter Reft)
The details of the partnership aren’t known — but it can be assumed that the USAF has spent more money on getting branded pens dumped into cups at recruitment centers than they did in putting the USAF logo on the t-shirt sleeves of four gamers. Money aside, this is huge news. This means that the United States Air Force has recognized the recruitment possibility in getting exposure in a new, emerging venue.
This offers legitimacy to the world of eSports. This means that a branch of the United States Armed Forces sees the possibility to attract potential recruits out of the pool of people watching eSports events. All jokes about the Air Force aside, younger, nerdy adults are kind of the Air Force’s target demographic — and they have been looking into many different avenues to meet recruitment numbers.
Since the Air Force has been pushing heavily for the cyber fields, this partnership makes absolute sense.
The Soviet Union has had a history of ripping off American designs. The Tu-4 “Bull” was pretty much an unlicensed bolt-for-bolt copy of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. The Su-25 “Frogfoot” was a knockoff of the Northrop A-9. Russia’s AA-2 “Atoll” air-to-air missile was pretty much a reverse-engineered Sidewinder.
But the Soviets haven’t just kept to swiping combat designs. They’ve also stolen civilian aircraft data (albeit, one report claims theft of Concorde data used for the Tu-144 “Concordeski” went very wrong). They also apparently knocked off an American transport design.
In the early 1970s, the United States considered replacing the C-130 Hercules transport plane. Two contenders engaged in a flyoff. Boeing sent in the YC-14, and McDonnell-Douglas went for the YC-15. Boeing’s plane was unusual in that its engines were placed above the wings. This creates what’s known as the Coanda effect, and as a result, the plane has great short-takeoff and landing (STOL) performance. TheAviationZone.com notes that the YC-14 had a top speed of 504 miles per hour, and a range of 3,190 miles.
Both the YC-14 and YC-15 did well in the flyoff, greatly exceeding the specs. The YC-14 even proved it could haul a main battle tank! But the need for more strategic airlift meant that neither plane would enter service. The Air Force instead bought what became the C-130H Hercules. Later, a modified version of the YC-15 became the C-17 Globemaster.
But the Soviet Union also needed a new tactical transport. The Antonov design bureau used the same method that Boeing used to get good STOL performance from the An-72 “Coaler.” However, TheAviationZone.com notes that the Coaler has a top speed of only 472 miles per hour, and a maximum range of 2,050 nautical miles. It also can’t haul a tank.
After the North Koreans poured across the 38th Parallel in 1950, starting the Korean War, the United States rapidly responded. The 24th Infantry Division was ordered to quickly make their way to South Korea from Japan while American carriers began launching strikes to delay the Communist advance.
One of the first ground units to arrive was called Task Force Smith. According to official United States Army history, this unit eventually consisted of two under-strength companies of infantry, four 75mm recoilless rifles, four 4.2-inch mortars, half of a communications platoon, and a battery of six 105mm howitzers. Most importantly, this force would be the first “boots on the ground” to face the Communist hordes on the Korean peninsula.
Their mission was to delay the North Koreans, affording others the time to get spun up for combat.
As the unit moved toward battle, they were faced with all the signs that things might not go so well. American planes hit a number of supply dumps and installations controlled by friendly forces — one such incident killed over 200 South Korean troops. Meanwhile, some of the C-54 Skymasters carrying the unit had to return to Japan due to thick fog and being unable to locate airfields.
Soldiers assigned to Task Force Smith arrive in South Korea.
When they finally met North Korean troops, it was a disaster. The North Koreans, equipped with Soviet-built T-34 medium tanks, approached. At 8:16 AM on the morning of July 5, 1950, near the city of Osan, American ground troops opened fire on the Communist forces. The fight was short — it didn’t go well for the United States. Bazookas and recoilless rifle rounds did practically nothing to the T-34s.
North Korean T-34s blew through the positions held by the unprepared American soldiers.
The North Korean forces blew through the infantry and went at the artillery. By the time all was said and done, of the roughly 440 soldiers in Task Force Smith sent to South Korea, only 185 made it back to friendly lines the next morning (a few dozen others would make their way back over the next few days and weeks).
Today, Task Force Smith is remembered for their courage — and for the lessons learned from the Battle of Osan.
The experience of this brave but unprepared unit led to major changes, at least through the Cold War. The mantra became, “No More Task Force Smiths.”
In essence, the troops who fell that day are remembered by efforts to continually keep American troops ready for combat, ensuring that sacrifices made by those who came before them are not in vain.
Britain is one of America’s closest allies and its service members are pretty impressive. One of its greatest forces is the Royal Marines, now known as commandos, who have fought on behalf of the British Crown since their original formation as the “Duke of York and Albany’s maritime regiment of Foot” in 1664.
Since then, they’ve proven themselves in hundreds of battles and dozens of conflicts everywhere from Massachusetts to Korea to the Falklands. Here are some defining moments from Royal Marine Commando history:
1. The Royal Marines carved out their names during the battle to take and hold the island fortress of Gibraltar.
In 1704, during the War of Spanish Succession, a combined force of 1,900 English Royal Marines and 400 Dutch marines hit the island fortress of Gibraltar in what was the largest English amphibious assault at that point in history. A large and unexplained explosion set the attackers back but the fortress was taken with relative ease.
One of the Royal Marines’ prouder moments actually came in 1775 while fighting against the U.S. when British army regulars twice attacked during the Battle of Bunker Hill and failed to capture it. As the army melted back, the marine commander yelled, “Make way for the marines, break and let themarines through!”
The third assault, conducted by columns of marines instead of lines of British regulars, was successful and resulted in the British capturing the fortifications. But the losses for the regulars and the marines were high: 1,054 versus American losses of 400.
3. They give up half their strength to take Graspan in the Boer War
But it wasn’t. Boer riflemen and field artillery fiercely fought off the attackers. Despite heavy losses to include the commander and other officers, the marines and their compatriots rallied for a final attack and charged with their bayonets against the Boer positions, pushing the defenders off though failing to capture the enemy artillery.
4. Marines are instrumental in blocking Zeebrugge
During World War I, the Royal Marines provided the landing parties and some of the gunners for a daring raid against the German U-Boats in Bruges. The plan called for ships to be sunk in the long canal from Bruges to the English Channel, but someone had to fight pitched battles against the German defenders on the coast to make it possible.
Yup, Royal Marines volunteered. They landed on the port’s mole with a specially modified ship, the HMS Vindictive. The marines and sailors landed on April 23, 1918, and wrought absolute havoc with machine guns and rifles, naval artillery, and flamethrowers.
5. The commandos capture an entire port as well as bridges and towns on D-Day
The Royal Marines, by this point known as (RM) Commandos, were obviously a big deal at one of history’s largest amphibious assaults. Five units landed on D-Day where their biggest job was capturing Port-en-Bessin between Gold and Sword beaches, an objective the 47 (RM) Commando completed on July 8.
6. Commandos capture an entire island to open a Belgian port
Walcharen was an island on the coast of Amsterdam in 1944, and Germans occupying it were making logistics challenging for Allies fighting their way to Berlin. So, the Royal Marines teamed up with Canada for Operation Infatuate, a week-long attack against the island.
Operation Musketeer was an honest-to-God conspiracy between Israel, Britain, and France to ouster Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser. Britain’s main goal was to regain control of the Suez Canal, a strategic asset nationalized by Nasser. The plan was for Israel to initiate a conflict with Egypt. France and Britain would mediate unacceptable terms, and then they would invade.
The role of Royal Commandos was to seize Port Said through the first ship-to-shore heliborne assault in history. The two commando units involved were also backed up by a small number of tanks and armored vehicles. Their mission was successful and almost achieved its objective on the first day, but orders from Nasser kept, leading to the commandos capturing the local Egyptian commander and his staff.
Ultimately, the commandos did amazing work but political condemnation for the mission stripped France and England of most of their gains.
On July 9, a female National Guard soldier became the first woman to graduate from U.S. Army Special Forces training since Capt. Katie Wilder did so in 1980, earning the coveted Green Beret. The woman, whose identity the Army is withholding for personnel security purposes, joins more than a dozen women who have completed elite schools that were only available to men until the Pentagon opened all combat jobs, including special operations positions, to women in 2016.
Coffee or Die spoke with several men who served in special operations units alongside women in combat to get their thoughts on the historic event.
Special Forces soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct an AAR after Counter Improvised Explosive Device training at Panzer Local Training area near Stuttgart, Germany, June. 10, 2020. Photo by Patrik Orcutt/U.S. Army.
Luke Ryan, right, served as a team leader with 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan/Coffee or Die.
Retired Army Master Sergeant Jariko Denman served with the 75th Ranger Regiment for 16 years.
“In Afghanistan, women in Cultural Support Teams (CSTs) attached to us and other special operations forces, including Green Berets and [U.S. Navy] SEALs. CSTs were enablers, just like explosive ordnance disposal techs or others whose specialties we needed to support our missions.
“On my last four deployments as a task force senior enlisted advisor, we had CSTs with us, so I’ve been in firefights with women, chasing down bad guys alongside them. There was never a case in my experience of women weighing us down. I can’t say that for every other enabler who attached to us. Women coming into that job realized they were going into that hyperkinetic environment, and they brought their ‘A’ game. They knew they could not be a weak link, so they came in shape, and they were very successful.
“For any leader building a team, we know the team isn’t as strong if everybody looks and thinks the same. You want a diversity of skills and backgrounds because that diversity reflects your needs. High-performing individuals who have vastly different life experiences are an asset in SOF.
“As long as we maintain the same SOF qualification standards for everyone, I think women in SOF are just as capable as men, and I’m glad to see more women joining our ranks and getting the same special designations men have always had the opportunity to attain.”
Joe and Shannon Kent with their sons. Photo courtesy of Joe Kent/Coffee or Die.
Luke Ryan served as an Army Ranger and team leader with 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
“I was on the mission where Captain Jenny Moreno was killed in action in October 2013. She was a nurse by trade but was attached to my Ranger platoon as a Cultural Support Team (CST) member. When she saw that several of my Ranger buddies had been seriously wounded, she moved to help them without regard for her own safety. She was killed in the process. That kind of selfless bravery is something I will never forget. I hold her in the same high regard as I hold my Ranger brethren who were killed doing the same thing.
“Women have already been fighting in special operations components for years. That part isn’t new. They were attached to our unit for my four deployments, and I will never doubt the ability of a woman to be courageous and effective on the battlefield. Moreno didn’t have a Ranger scroll, but in my opinion, she earned one. If I see her in the next life, I’ll give her mine.
“As far as integrating into traditional special operations units, I’ve seen the courage of women in SOF tested on the battlefield, and I’m in full support of it. As long as standards are maintained, allowing women in SOF will be a non-issue.”
Rob Garnett in Eastern Afghanistan on his last deployment in 2010. Photo courtesy of Rob Garnett/One More Wave.
Retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joe Kent served as a Ranger and Special Forces operator. His wife, Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent, was killed while serving on a special operations task force in the fight against ISIS in 2019.
“My wife trained as an Arabic linguist and signals intelligence collector. In Iraq, special operations forces relied heavily on intelligence professionals who had to work with local Iraqis to develop informants and gather intelligence for our missions. Iraqi women often had intelligence we needed, and women like Shannon stepped up to provide a capability that none of us had. Her contributions gave us a more complete picture of whatever situation we were heading into, which was invaluable.
“As years went on, Shannon gained more and more trust in the SOF community, and her performance in special operations opened doors for other intelligence professionals to try out for special operations forces.
“Anyone who has served alongside women in special operations should know it was just a matter of time before a woman would wear the Green Beret and Special Forces long tab.
“As Americans, our country has decided we’re going to have this all-volunteer force, so we get the military that shows up and volunteers to go fight. Plenty of women have fought and died, and to say they can’t go be combat arms or special operators is wrong. My wife was good enough to die alongside SEALs and operators on her fifth deployment but not have the same opportunity to prove herself in SOF qualification courses? That’s ridiculous.
“I’m very glad the ban on women serving in combat arms and special operations was lifted, and my hat’s off to the woman who completed Special Forces qualification.”
Nolan Peterson has covered conflict around the world. Photo courtesy of Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die.
Rob Garnett served as a Navy SEAL for almost 23 years.
“In Baghdad in 2003, I was waiting with an Iraqi Interpreter at one of the entrances to the Green Zone to escort an Iraqi National inside. As vehicles moved through the ‘s curves’ of the base access point, we heard the guards start shouting ‘Stop!’ at a small car approaching the gate. When the vehicle didn’t stop, the soldier standing next to me began firing at the approaching vehicle, and I began to fire as well. The vehicle slowly came to a stop after the driver was killed. As the soldiers moved to inspect the vehicle, they found the trunk was full of 155 rounds made into an IED.
“When I walked over to the soldier who had first engaged the vehicle to say ‘great job,’ I realized this person was not a soldier but an airman, as well as a female. I remember joking with her and saying, ‘No females in combat, right?’ She just smiled and said, ‘Fuck off.’ She told me she didn’t plan on letting anyone inside that wasn’t supposed to be there.
“From my perspective, we aren’t getting female commandos in SOF now; we are getting MORE commandos. We can engage with more of the population when we include females in SOF operations, and I feel like most folks wouldn’t be as concerned about someone’s gender but more about a new team member’s performance.
“I would guess the soldier who completed SF training doesn’t want to be known as the first female SF soldier; she just wants to be a commando like everyone else.”
Nolan Peterson is a former Air Force special operations pilot who served with the 34th Special Operations Squadron.
“On my first deployment to Afghanistan, I served alongside a woman pilot whose impact I’ll never forget. On a long night mission, orbiting above a Taliban compound, helping good guys kill bad guys, I was pretty stressed and anxious. My greatest fear was I’d screw up somehow and get Americans hurt, or worse.
“They measure a pilot’s worth in hours flown because experience matters most. And, lucky for me, I was copilot to a woman who had years of combat experience. She had actually been one of my instructor pilots and played a big role in training me, and I was able to do my job that night in spite of the nervousness — thanks in no small part to the steady leadership and proficient skills of my pilot. It’s easy to do your job well when you’ve got a good example to follow.
“As we left station and started flying back to Bagram, we could see meteors streaking overhead through our night-vision goggles. Then the sun began to peak over the Hindu Kush.
“‘Pretty cool, isn’t it?’ I remember her saying. Then, as if granted permission, I suddenly stopped being so afraid of screwing up and took a moment to appreciate that, yes, this was, in fact, pretty damn cool. Then she told me I’d done well that night and had turned out to be a fine pilot. She was confident I’d go on and make her proud. Since she’d played a key role in training me, my performance was a reflection on her too. That small compliment she gave me was worth more than any medal.
“More than anything, on that debut deployment I’d wanted to prove myself to the people who’d mattered most — that’s to say, the people who’d been to war before me. And that pilot had been to war a lot. Hell, she’d spent most of the best years of her life either in war zones or training for them. She was a warrior, a professional, a mentor, and a damn good pilot. And getting her stamp of approval was one of my proudest moments.
“So when it comes to the recent news of a woman graduating the Special Forces Qualification Course, I think it’s long overdue. Women have been serving in combat and in special operations forces for years. They volunteer for the same risks, assume the same responsibilities and have had to uphold the same standards as their male counterparts. Once the bullets are flying, all that matters is that you’re good at your job. And without a doubt, to make it through the Green Beret selection process, that woman has clearly proven herself to be among the best of the best.”
Disclosure: Nolan Peterson is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die; Luke Ryan is an associate editor, and Jariko Denman is a contributing writer.
You don’t have to be a history buff to be familiar with Alfred Eisenstaedt’s “Kissing Sailor” photo — though its actual title is “V-J Day in Times Square.” It was taken hours before President Truman officially announced America’s victory in the Pacific War. The sailor in the photo happened to be on a date in New York City. He suddenly decided to celebrate by kissing the closest nurse — it’s just too bad his date wasn’t a nurse.
Authors George Galdorisi and Lawrence Verria did an extensive background study on the photo in their 2012 book, The Kissing Sailor. Their extensive forensic analysis determined that sailor was George Mendonsa and the nurse was Greta Zimmer Friedman. Friedman was not prepared for the kiss. In later years, she admitted that she didn’t even see him coming and that the two were strangers.
Friedman was working in a dental office at nearby Lexington Avenue, and though the war hadn’t officially ended, the rumors around NYC were swirling that Imperial Japan was set to surrender. She went over to Time Square to read the latest news, and sure enough, the electronic tickers all read “V-J DAY, V-J DAY.” That’s when Mendonsa grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her in.
“It wasn’t that much of a kiss, it was more of a jubilant act that he didn’t have to go back,” she told a Veteran’s History Project Interview. “I found out later, he was so happy that he did not have to go back to the Pacific where they already had been through the war.”
He grabbed a nurse because he was so grateful to nurses who tended the wounded in the war. The good news was her bosses cancelled the rest of the appointments for the day. The bad news was she never knew the sailor’s name. She never even saw the photo until the 1960s. What she did know was that Mendonsa had been drinking (he was likely drunk).
Then-Navy Quartermaster 1st Class George Mendonsa was on 30 days leave from his ship, The Sullivans, at the time. He had been at the helm during the Battle of Okinawa, rescuing sailors from the carrier Bunker Hill after it was hit by kamikaze attacks. It’s small wonder he was happy to not have to go back into combat.
He was on a date with his then-girlfriend, Rita Perry, a woman that would later become his wife, waiting for his train back to the West Coast and back to the war. That’s when he heard the news that the war was over.
Rita can be seen just over Mendonsa’s right shoulder.
Former Navy Quartermaster 1st Class George Mendonsa and his wife of 71 years, Rita, celebrate George’s 95th birthday.(Photo by Hal Burke)
By the time The Kissing Sailor hit bookshelves, Rita Perry (now Mendonsa) and George Mendonsa had been married for 66 years. When asked about her feelings being in the background of a famous photo of her husband, 95 years old as of 2018, kissing another woman, she said, “he’s never kissed me like that.”
If you come from a family sporting dad bods, you’re more likely to carry extra pounds yourself. Some of that is nurture: You grew up in an environment where people ate more and possibly exercised less. The other part is nature: Some people carry an obesity gene that makes them more likely to be overweight.
If you’re one of those people, you might want to select your workouts carefully. A new study of 18,424 Chinese adults by Wan-Yu Lin of National Taiwan University found that certain exercises are more effective than others at encouraging weight loss in people genetically predisposed to obesity.
To arrive at this conclusion, researchers investigated gene-exercise interactions by first evaluating participants on five obesity measures (BMI, body fat percentage, waist circumference, hip circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio). After performing a regression analysis to determine their genetic vulnerability to obesity, researchers reviewed the type of exercise participants engaged in, and compared these findings with the obesity level.
There were some obvious — and not so obvious — findings. Jogging was found to be the best form of exercise for weight-loss, while cycling was near the bottom of the list. Fast walking was also beneficial, as were mountain climbing, dancing, and yoga. Swimming, meanwhile, was another weight-loss dud.
(Photo by Arek Adeoye)
While the scientists are still sorting through the reason that certain exercises favor weight-loss in those genetically predisposed to obesity, it’s plausible that the most effective activities consistently elevated participants heart rate for long durations, while activities like swimming and cycling either didn’t get the heart rate up or were too “gentle” on the body (they are not considered weight-bearing activities) for people to reap the full benefit.
Whether or not genetics is contributing to your fight to stay fit, you can take control of your destiny. Start with this 30-minute workout which takes the top five science-backed weight-loss exercises from the study and mashes them into one belly fat-burning, waist-slimming workout.
1. Warm up/Walk: 5 minutes
Start with a moderate amble and work your way up to a fast-stepping, arm-swinging walk that gets your muscles warm and your head in the right space to push hard.
2. Jog: 10 minutes
Break into an easy jog, choosing a pace you can sustain for 10 minutes straight. The right tempo should be slow enough that you can converse with a friend but hard enough that those sentences are pretty short.
(Photo by Tomasz Woźniak)
3. Climb stairs: 5 minutes
Since you’re unlikely to find a mountain nearby to scale (or have the time to do it), swap slopes for stairs and find a case you can climb for the next 5 minutes. (If that’s truly mission impossible, find a single flight and run up and down it repeatedly.)
4. Dance it off: 7 minutes
While the study found international standard dancing, also known as ballroom dancing, was great for weight loss, you can get the same benefits of fast footwork and solid cardio by busting a move to your favorite tunes in the house or at the gym. Choose music with 130 BPM or higher and don’t stop moving until 7 minutes is up.
Yoga might not seem like an automatic fat-blaster, but because the classes tend to be longer (an hour or so) and participants attend frequently, it gets points for consistency. Finish your workout with this sequence that stretches muscles while building strength.
Start in downward facing dog (hand and feet on floor, hips in the air).
Inhale and lift your right left off the floor behind you, bend at the knee and allowing your hips to open.
Swing your right leg forward and place it between your hands, knee bent, so you are in a low lunge. Breath in and out five times.
Transfer your weight from your bent right front leg back to your straight left leg, bending your left knee and straightening your right in a half-split position. Hold for five breaths.
Continue to shift your weight back, allowing your body to spiral slightly, twisting until you are seated. Allow your right leg to bend and coil over the top of your left into the double-pigeon pose (sort of like Indian-style but with your right foot over your left knee and your left foot beneath your right knee).
From here, let your arms fall by your sides, straighten your spine, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.