“An author cannot, of course, remain wholly unaffected by his experience.”
These are the words of arguably the most influential writer of the 20th century and WWI veteran, John Ronald Reuel “J.R.R.” Tolkien.
In June 1916, the newly commissioned lieutenant kissed his newly married wife goodbye as he boarded the transport to Calais, France. Come July 1st, one of the bloodiest battles in human history took place near the Somme River. That day, his closest friend was killed and Tolkien forever changed.
Shouldering the burden of leadership and the ever looming threat of death, by disease or the enemy, Tolkien carried on. Ultimately, it was Trench Fever that sent him home ten days before the dust settled.
Deemed no longer medically fit for service, Tolkien returned to his passion: writing. The rest is history.
When the second edition of TheLord of the Rings was released, the foreword stated: “The real war does not resemble the legendary war in its process or its conclusion.” Tolkien continued with, “But I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers.”
He hated direct comparisons of his works to real world events. No real world leader is Sauron. No real world army are the orcs. And the One Ring is not a reference to the nuclear bomb.
Much of the psychology and emotions of his works, however, did pull from his time on the battlefield, most notably with the Dead Marshes. In the second volume (and film) The Two Towers, the ghoulish Gollum lead the protagonist, Frodo Baggins, through a swamp full of bloated bodies under the mud and water.
Tolkien’s biography, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, explained that what Frodo experienced in the Marsh was specifically based on the Battle of the Somme where Tolkien saw countless bodies across the muddy battlefield.
Themes were also pulled from his leadership and the bravery of his men. Tolkien studied at Oxford and lead men from mining, milling, and weaving towns of Lancashire. In another biography, Tolkien and the Great War, Tolkien said he “felt an affinity for these working class men, but military protocol forbade him from developing friendships with ‘other ranks’.” This man-apart thematically affected many of the characters in his novels.
One of the largest changes from the novel to any film adaptation is the “Scouring of the Shire” and the mindset of Frodo after the war. In the final chapters of the last book, Saruman attacked the Shire and all of the townspeople had to defend their home.
Afterward, Frodo was left alone.
War changed him. Frodo couldn’t just return to being a happy, singing Hobbit like everyone else after the war. He’d been stabbed, poisoned, and lost a finger. Frodo, like Tolkien himself, had become “shell-shocked” after combat.
The forward of the 1991 release of The Lord of the Rings added another Tolkien quote: “The country in which I lived in childhood was being shabbily destroyed before I was ten. Recently I saw in a paper a picture of the last decrepitude of the once thriving corn-mill beside its pool that long ago seemed to me so important.”
Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader who lives in constant fear of assassination, has reportedly hired Russian ex-KGB bodyguards to protect him in case of an attempt on his life.
Japan’s Asahi Shinbum reported that Kim hired about 10 former KGB counter-terrorism agents to train his bodyguards on how to detect and respond to terrorist attacks.
The KGB, the former Soviet Union’s main security and spy agency, had decades of practice in defending high-value targets against attempts at regime change.
The source told Asahi Shinbum that Kim was particularly scared of US advanced-weapons systems, like the Gray Eagle drone the US is set to operate in South Korea in 2018.
However, it’s unclear how counter-terrorism bodyguards could protect Kim against a drone high in the sky raining down bombs.
South Korean media has reported that the US and South Korea have been working together on a “decapitation force” to kill the North Korean leader in the event that Pyongyang becomes intolerably aggressive.
Kim has a history of going to extreme measures to shore up his reign over North Korea, with some reports saying he killed his half-brother Kim Jong Nam to thwart a Chinese-backed coup attempt.
Ah, the vaunted Blue Book, known throughout the U.S. Army for being the first drill guide for American land troops. It is more properly known as Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, and it was authored by Baron and Inspector General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, but it wasn’t actually the first drill manual for American troops.
Revolutionary War re-enactors.
(Lee Wright, CC BY-SA 2.0)
See, von Steuben came to the Americas in 1778, nearly three years after the battles of Lexington and Concord and over 19 months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. So, von Steuben was falling in on an American army that already existed. Clearly, someone had some idea of how to drill them before that, right?
Included in the short work was a two-page primer, Instructions for Young Officers, by British Maj. Gen. James Wolfe. Wolfe was a hero of the British empire and had distinguished himself against the French in Canada.
A 2006 re-printing of the text is available online as a PDF, and the first section is a sort of “by-the-numbers” breakdown of poising, cocking, presenting, firing, and then re-loading the “firelocks,” another word for the firearms of the day. If you think it’s odd that “aiming” wasn’t part of that process, good catch. But that wasn’t a big part of an infantryman’s job at the time.
Muskets and similar weapons had entered the hunting world hundreds of years before the American Revolution, but most weapons still weren’t horribly accurate. So rather than “aiming,” soldiers before and during the Revolution “presented” their weapons. Basically, they pointed the weapons in the direction of the enemy formation. Good enough for imperial work.
A 1740 Austrian drill manual shows rather than tells how troops would perform key actions.
But even before 1764, colonial forces were using a manual of arms that was likely more useful for many young militiamen than the king’s manual. The Austrian Infantry Drill from 1740 is made up almost entirely of illustrations that show rather than tell how troops should ride in formation, march, fix bayonets, etc.
In a surprising bit of honesty, it even shows troops maintaining the line as troops on either side collapse in combat. It is crazy optimistic in showing only three people having fallen during at least one full exchange of gunfire, but, still.
At a time when as much as 15 percent of the population was unable to read, these illustrations would have been quite valuable. For them, it wouldn’t matter that the descriptions were in a foreign language. They can tell from the pictures which illustrations were showing the fixing and unfixing of bayonets, shouldering and unshouldering arms, and so on.
The cover page of a printed “Blue Book,” Baron and Inspector General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben’s Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States.
For instance, chapter one of the book details what equipment was needed for soldiers, non-commissioned officers, and officers. Chapter two defines what leaders’ roles would be, and chapters three and four details what men were needed for an army company, regiment, and battalion.
It goes on from there, detailing how to recruit and train troops, how to employ a company in training and combat, and more. So, even militiamen who had taken advantage of older drill guides, like those from 1764 and 1740, would find plenty of value in von Steuben’s manual.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
An F-16 Fighting Falcon with the 18th Aggressor Squadron prepares to take off from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, shortly after sunrise Jan. 24, 2016, in transit to Kadena Air Base, Japan, to participate in training exercises. More than 150 maintainers from the 354th Fighter Wing will keep the Aggressors in the air and prepare U.S. Airmen, Sailors and Marines for contingency operations along with coalition partners in the Pacific theater.
A mine-resistant, ambush protected vehicle, driven by a member of the 451st Expeditionary Support Squadron Security Forces Flight, patrols the flightline as the sun sets on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Jan. 20, 2016. Security forces members at the airfield are responsible for the security of more than 150 aircraft and $2.2 billion in resources.
Senior Airman Ian Kuhn, a survival, evasion, resistance, and escape (SERE) instructor with the 103rd Rescue Squadron, demonstrates how to build a concealed shelter during a combat and water survival training course at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., Jan. 20, 2016. During this training, aircrew members gained refresher training on using their emergency radios, tactical movements through difficult terrain, how to build shelters, ways to build fires and methods for evading the enemy.
Senior Airman Christopher Gonzales, of the 144th Security Forces Squadron, is welcomed home by Megan Woodby at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport, Calif., Jan. 21, 2016. Gonzales was deployed for more than seven months in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
Green Berets, assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group-Airborne, exit the water during a beach infiltration training exercise, part of Combat Diver Requalification, in Key West, Fla., Jan. 20, 2016.
Snipers, assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment, make adjustments on the scope of an M110 semi-automatic sniper system during a field training exercise at Adazi Training Center in Latvia, Jan. 27, 2016.
Soldiers, attached to SOCEUR, U.S. European Command (EUCOM), participate in a night airborne operation near Malmsheim, Germany, Jan. 21, 2016.
Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Valentin Sanchez, from Brownsville, Texas, and Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Zack Smith, from New Caney, Texas, prepare launchers for F/A-18E Super Hornets on USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) flight deck. Providing a combat-ready force to protect collective maritime interests, Stennis is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment.
Personnel Specialist Seaman Dennis Tran, from Riverside, Calif., and Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Darryl Roberson, from Joliet, Ill., fish off the stern of the guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106) during a fish call. Providing a combat-ready force to protect collective maritime interests, Stockdale, assigned to the Stennis strike group, is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment.
A Marine undergoing the 2nd Marine Division Combat Skills Center’s Pre-Scout Sniper Course prepares to move during a stalking exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Jan. 22, 2016. The exercise required students to traverse approximately 1,000 meters of high grass and fire on a target, all without being detected.
Marines with the Combined Arms Company, Black Sea Rotational Force Bulgarian and Romanian Forces conduct a joint exercise utilizing Bulgarian and U.S. main battle tanks, indirect fire, mechanized infantry, and close air support from U.S. Air Force assets during Platinum Lion 16-2 at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, Jan. 15, 2016. Exercise Platinum Lion increases readiness and demonstrates our collective ability to operate as a single force committed to protecting the sovereignty of NATO allies and other European partners.
At Air Station New Orleans, we are one of the few units who train for and help support the Rotary Wing Air Intercept (RWAI) mission primarily carried out by Air Station Atlantic City. This National Capital Region air defense mission provides safety and security to not only the federal government and entities within Washington DC but its citizens as well.
Take a ride with U.S. Coast Guard Hawaii Pacific Air Station Barbers Point and Maritime Safety and Security Team Honolulu crews as they train doing hoists.
Women in the military have only just begun to join combat jobs, but their influence on military service has been felt for decades. Some of their contributions changed the way we treat our veterans or even changed the way we live our lifes. They all advanced the cause for women becoming equal partners in service to their country. Here are the stories of six of these female military pioneers:
1. Grace Hopper – U.S. Navy, Creator of Modern Life
If you’re not familiar with the effects of the COBOL programming language, it can best be summed up by saying that the average American requires at least 13 uses of the code every day. It’s used for business transactions, things like placing phone calls, taking public transportation, or using credit cards. There are 200 times more processes using COBOL applications than there are Google searches. Every. Day. This language was developed by Grace Hopper in 1959 after she had already been in the Navy for 16 years.
Before “Amazing Grace,” computers only spoke to each other in binary, which humans couldn’t read or interact with. COBOL was an offshoot of the first programming languages, MATH-MATIC and FLOW-MATIC. She also created the compiler, which changes source codes in the programming language to the computer language (often a binary code). She originally retired from the Naval Reserve in 1966 at the rank of Commander, but was recalled to active duty a number of times, promoted to Commodore in 1983 (then the Navy’s O-7), and was allowed to stay on active duty well beyond mandatory retirement, by special order of Congress. She died in 1992 at age 85.
2. Kit Coleman, First Female War Correspondent
The pen name of Canadian journalist Kathleen Blake, Kit Coleman covered the Spanish-American War for the Toronto Mail in 1898. She was the first accredited female war correspondent and was the first president of the Canadian Women’s Press Club.
The Toronto Mail sent Coleman to Cuba to write feature stories, not news from front line combat there. After receiving her accreditation from the U.S. government, she was authorized to follow U.S. troops. Male journalists tried to sabotage her and leaver her in Florida but she made it to Cuba anyway. her coverage of the aftermath of battles and the human casualties made her famous.
3. Valentina Tereshkova – Soviet Air Force, The First Woman in Space
Tereshkova was the first woman in space and is still the only woman ever to conduct a solo space flight. On her first trip, she orbited the earth 48 times over the course of three days. At the time, she was a decade younger than the youngest Mercury 7 astronaut, Gordon Cooper. With her 1963 flight, she logged more time in space than all American astronauts combined.
She kept a meticulous log and took photos of the Earth’s horizon, which were used to identify aerosol layers in the atmosphere. She would later become a prominent Soviet politician and goodwill ambassador. The Tereshkova Crater on the moon is named in her honor.
4. Linda Bray – U.S. Army, The First Woman to Lead U.S. Troops in Combat
U.S. Army Captain Linda Bray was leading a Military Police company in Panama during Operation Just Cause. The U.S. invaded the country to oust the dictator Manuel Noriega, ensure the neutrality of the Panama Canal Zone and uphold the Torrijos-Carter Treaty. Bray’s platoon was ordered to neutralize a canine unit belonging to the Panamanian Defense Force and prevent their communicating warning of the invasion. When her unit, the 998th Military Police Company, approached the dog kennel building, they instead found an arms cache and a unit of the Panamanian special forces.
She led her platoon in the ensuing firefight, killing three and taking one prisoner before being forced to withdraw. Her unit took no casualties. This action earned her the distinction of being the first woman to lead a U.S. military unit in combat.
5. Dr. Mary E. Walker, First Female POW and Only Female Medal of Honor Recipient
After graduating from Syracuse Medical College in Upstate New York, Mary Walker started a lucrative medical practice. After the outbreak of the Civil War, Dr. Walker, a dedicated abolitionist, offered her services to the Union Army. She treated wounded soldiers in the Washington, D.C. area, which makes Walker the first female surgeon in the U.S. military as well. She pulled wounded soldiers off the battlefields in the middle of firefights and often used her medical abilities to cross the lines, retrieving wounded soldiers while collecting information as a spy.
On one such occasion, she was arrested by Confederate troops as a spy and sent to a POW camp near Richmond, Virginia until she was exchanged for a Confederate major. After the war, she was awarded the Medal of Honor for her extended, heroic service to frontline troops. As of 2016, Dr. Walker remains the only female Medal of Honor recipient.
6. Nell Gwyn, Founder of the First Veteran’s Hospital
An actress and sometime prostitute in Shakespearean England, she came from some of the most violent slums of London. She would come to the entrances of theaters to sell oranges and hope for a part in a play. King Charles II met Gwyn while disguised and going about the theaters of London one night. She was with a high-born “customer” in one of the theater boxes that night. The man, Lord Buckhurst, recognized the king. She ended up spending a lot of time with the king and the public grew to like her.
She felt for the aging soldiers who fought for Charles and the monarchy in the relatively recent English Civil War. They were neglected and dying en mass. While most ladies at this time would use their pull with the nobility to get titles and money, Gwyn used hers to found Chelsea Hospital, the first hospital exclusively to treat and care for veterans.
So, after sitting through weeks of military transition classes, you’ve decided, “screw it! I’ll just turn to a life of crime!” Congrats! You’re joining a long tradition — a tradition mostly limited to privateers in the 17th and 18th centuries, sure, but a tradition nonetheless.
So, how about piracy? It’s glamorous, it’s profitable, and it’s exciting (also brutal, uncomfortable, and morally repugnant — but don’t get wound around the axle). Here are seven awesome pirates and their crews who turned their seafaring skills into fun, usually short careers in sea vessel re-appropriation:
The face of a blacksmith who will absolutely start a crime syndicate and use it to topple an empire.
French Pirate King and American hero Jean Lafitte
Jean Lafitte was a French blacksmith who expanded his business into smuggling and piracy until he, his brother, and their men controlled a fleet in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, that was stronger than anything the U.S. Navy had in the area. During the War of 1812, Great Britain decided that it would be way easier to buy their way into New Orleans through him than fight for it.
So they offered him ,000 and a captaincy to help them, but he apparently loved America and told Louisiana instead. Authorities didn’t believe him and imprisoned him until then-Gen. Andrew Jackson pointed out that the British would totally do that. Lafitte and his men fought on Jackson’s side during the Battle of New Orleans and were granted full pardons. They later returned to piracy, focusing on Spanish ships because screw those guys.
Madame Cheng was known for her *ahem* humble roots and her ability to cut your fleet to shreds, fool.
The prostitute pirate Madame Cheng
Cheng was a pirate king looking for love when he fell in with a prostitute and married her. She took the name Cheng I Sao and, when her husband died in 1807, turned his pirate fleet from a successful operation into possibly the largest pirate fleet in history. She overhauled the command structure and rule of law in the fleet, captured vessel after vessel, and made enemies of every European power in China at the time.
Captain Bart Roberts captured 400 ships, including one filled with the Portuguese king’s personal jewels from the middle of a 44-ship fleet.
Black Bart’s buccaneers on the Royal Fortune
Black Bart was born John Roberts (and likely was never called Black Bart while he was still alive). He was forced into piracy in 1719, but was so good at navigation and assessing enemy ships strengths that he was elected commander only six weeks later when the captain was killed.
His flagship was generally named Royal Fortune, and the crews of his ships did very well for themselves when they weren’t attempting to mutiny. Bart’s crews once stole the best ship out of the Portuguese treasure fleet of 44 ships, including two man-of-wars. Onboard were 40,000 gold coins and a cross covered in diamonds destined for the King of Portugal. Black Bart and his men stole another 400 ships during their short career from 1719 to 1722.
Unfortunately, Bart pushed it too far, constantly pushing off his retirement until a British man-of-war forced the issue with grapeshot through his neck.
Benjamin Hornigold was known for his antics as well as his fuzzy features and thin ankles.
Blackbeard’s mentor, Benjamin Hornigold
Benjamin Hornigold began his pirate career in 1713 as the head of a small gang of men in canoes, but he quickly built up a fortune and a fleet, eventually leading 350 men in the 30-gun Ranger, possibly the most heavily armed ship in the Bahamas in 1717. In one awesome incident, they stopped a merchant ship and boarded it. Instead of stealing the cargo and ship, though, they said that they had all lost their hats the night before and needed to take the crew’s.
But his men were annoyed that Hornigold never allowed them to attack British ships, so they mutinied. Hornigold fled to Jamaica and received the king’s pardon for his piracy, then became a pirate hunter. No honor among thieves.
Henry Every stands on shore while his ship fights an enemy vessel. Not sure why Every is waving his sword around while hundreds of meters from any action, but whatever.
Henry Every and the Fancy’s successful retirement
Henry Every began his life at sea as a boy and, by 1693, he was an experienced seaman. He took a slot as first mate on a privateer vessel named Charles II. But the vessel sat in port for months and the crew went without pay, so Every stole that ship and renamed it the Fancy.
Capt. Jack Rackham got his nickname, “Calico Jack,” for his wardrobe. You’d think the fact that he helped a woman escape from prison and potentially got her pregnant while she was on his crew would be what he was known for, but nope. Calico.
(George S. Harris Sons)
Calico Jack Rackham
John Rackham was known for his calico clothing and for stealing the Ranger from then-Captain Charles Vane. He used the Ranger to plunder a series of merchant vessels, but then took the King’s pardon for a seemingly peaceful life. A peaceful life that involved an affair with the wife of a pirate informant. And then he voided his pardon to break said wife out of jail, and they started a new pirate crew and ship.
Rackham had another few months of successful piracy but then partied a little too hard. Capt. Jonathan Barnet was sent to capture Rackham and found him and most of his crew too drunk to defend themselves. Rackham was executed, but the two women in his crew, the aforementioned informant wife, Anne Bonny, and another woman, Mary Read, were pregnant and allowed to live.
William Kidd, pimp and traitor
William Kidd and his motley traitors
William Kidd was commissioned as a privateer, and he and his men were sent to the West Indies in 1696 where it didn’t go well. They couldn’t find good targets, so, in 1697, they went to Madagascar and started preying on Indian vessels. Then, in 1698, they spotted the Quedagh Merchant, a 500-ton ship loaded with treasures.
Kidd and his crew stole it, making off with a massive boatload of gold, silk, spices, and other goods. Unfortunately for them, one of the owners of the ship was a senior member of the Indian government and put pressure on the English government to turn Kidd over. Kidd tried to escape to America, but he was caught, bundled to England, and hanged on May 23, 1701.
In the ancient Greek imagination, the Spartans were considered the best of the best. A Spartan knew the difference between right and wrong, and he never chose wrong. He was always pious toward the gods, he said little but made every word count and he would rather die in a losing battle than come home in defeat. Under Spartan law, it was illegal to surrender. Creating a Spartan man was a process that took more than two decades and cost many lives. Here are 6 things to know about the agōgē, the education of the ancient Spartans.
1. Spartans practiced an early form of eugenics
When a male child was born in Sparta, he would be bathed in wine to test his strength. The Spartans believed that weak babies would react poorly to the wine and convulse or cry. Those infants which failed the test would either be left to die, or would become a slave. If a child passed the test, it would be examined by the Gerousia, the council of elders; a child born with defects would be deemed unfit and left to die. Those children that survived would be raised in their family households, where every day their parents would drill into them the need to put Sparta before themselves.
2. Spartan education started at 7 years old
At the age of seven, a Spartan boy would leave his family’s home for the last time. He and the other boys would enter the agōgē, the training program where he would spend the next twenty-three years of his life. The boys were assigned to an ilea, a group of sixty boys under the watchful eye of an eiren; the eiren were in their twenties, further along in their education but not full Spartan citizens. The eiren would train the children’s bodies with sports, races, and all kinds of exercises, and would train their minds with history, politics, and literature. Spartans were also trained in the art of wit, to make them careful with their choice of words and allow them to talk down to other Greeks.
3. Children were impoverished to make them tough
The Spartans wanted to create soldiers who would never complain about the harsh conditions of war. Boys foraged their own reeds to weave their own beds, teaching them to be comfortable sleeping anywhere. They were deprived of clothing to make them comfortable in the boiling heat and the freezing cold. Children were deprived of food to make them familiar with hunger, but implicitly encouraged to steal food in order to make them stealthy; a boy who was caught would be whipped without mercy. Spartan boys were trained to be expert survivalists before they even finished puberty. (Some said that Spartans loved war so much because campaigns were less strenuous than their own training!)
4. A Spartan’s life revolved around his mess
When a Spartan man turned twenty, he would start applying for entry into a syssitia, a small club of men who ate all their meals together. This was the core of Spartan society; a man needed the unanimous consent of all members of the syssitia to join. If a man was unable to persuade a syssitia to accept him before he was thirty, he could not become a full citizen of Sparta. According to Spartan law, Spartans had to eat all their meals with their syssitia to encourage comradery. This created extremely strong bonds between the soldiers, and excluded everyone who could not meet the standards the Spartans set for themselves.
5. Some Spartan men joined the secret police
Young Spartans who proved themselves worthy were allowed to join the Crypteia, a secretive order which was responsible for oppressing the helots. The helots were the slaves of Sparta; the state owned the helots as public property and distributed them to Spartan families. Every year the Spartans declared war on the helots, allowing them to murder their slaves with impunity. Members of the Crypteia were sent into helots’ lands, to camp out and keep a watchful eye; those helots who seemed dangerous were to be killed before they could become a threat to the Spartan regime.
6. A Spartan’s education did not end until he was thirty
At 30, a Spartan man could become a full citizen who was allowed to marry and hold public office. He and his wife would be provided with a house, a farm and helots by the state, so the Spartan men could spend all their time on training for combat rather than worry about economic matters. For the first time since he was a child, a Spartan man would live under a private roof, though he would still eat all his meals with his syssitia.
The United States should withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan and stop listening to “stooges” in Kabul, the Taliban warned in an open letter to US President Donald Trump on Tuesday.
The Trump administration is working to finalize a regional strategy that could include nearly 4,000 additional US troops, part of a NATO-led coalition, that have been requested by commanders in the country.
That plan has faced skepticism in the White House, where Trump and several top aides have criticized years of American military intervention and foreign aid.
“Previous experiences have shown that sending more troops to Afghanistan will not result in anything other than further destruction of American military and economical might,” the Taliban said in the English-language letter released to media and addressed to Trump.
The Taliban, seeking to restore Islamic rule, have been waging an increasingly violent insurgency against the Western-backed Afghan government since losing power in a US-led military operation in 2001.
In the lengthy statement, the Taliban criticized the Afghan government as “stooges,” “lying corrupt leaders” and “repulsive sellouts” who are providing Washington with overly optimistic “rosy pictures” of the situation in Afghanistan.
“The war situation in Afghanistan is far worse than you realize!” the statement said, while arguing that the only thing preventing the insurgents from seizing major cities was a fear of causing civilian casualties.
The statement also took aim at generals, who the Taliban said “are concealing the real statistics of your dead and crippled” soldiers.
“We have noticed that you have understood the errors of your predecessors and have resolved to thoroughly rethink your new strategy in Afghanistan,” the letter said. “A number of warmongering congressmen and generals in Afghanistan are pressing you to protract the war in Afghanistan because they seek to preserve their military privileges.”
The senior US commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, has requested several thousand additional troops to act as advisers to the struggling Afghan security forces.
Powerful voices in the US government, including Republican Senator John McCain, have also called for an “enduring” US military presence in Afghanistan.
The Taliban letter concludes by saying the conflict could be resolved by the withdrawal of foreign troops.
“Everyone now understands that the main driver of war in Afghanistan is foreign occupation,” the Taliban said.
“The Afghans have no ill-intention towards the Americans or any other nation around the world but if anyone violates their sanctums then they are mighty proficient at beating and defeating the transgressors.”
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Two Israeli F-35 “Adirs” fly in formation and display the U.S. and Israeli flags after receiving fuel from a Tennessee Air National Guard KC-135, Dec, 6, 2016. The U.S. and Israel have a military relationship built on trust developed through decades of cooperation.
Airmen, assigned to the 366th Fighter Wing, perform diagnostic checks on an F-15E Strike Eagle at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Dec. 3, 2016. Their particular F-15E was gearing up to deploy to the annual Checkered Flag exercise hosted by Tyndall AFB. Checkered Flag is a large-force exercise that gives a large number of legacy and fifth-generation aircraft the chance to practice combat training together in a simulated deployed environment.
U.S. Soldiers assigned to Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division fire a M777 A2 Howitzer in support of Iraqi security forces at Platoon Assembly Area 14, Iraq, Dec. 7, 2016. Charlie Battery conducted the fire mission in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, the global Coalition to defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria.
Ukrainian Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 80th Airmobile Brigade fire a ZU-23-2 towed antiaircraft weapon before conducting an air assault mission in conjunction with a situational training exercise led by Soldiers from 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Nov. 28, 2016 at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center. This training is part of their 55-day rotation with the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine. JMTG-U is focused on helping to develop an enduring and sustainable training capacity within Ukraine.
MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Dec. 11, 2016) Petty Officer 3rd Class Alexis Rey, from Stratford, Conn., conducts pre-flight checks on an EA-18G Growler assigned to the Zappers of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 130 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Dwight D. Eisenhower, currently deployed as part of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Dec. 10, 2016) Petty Officer 1st Class Jeremy Parrish, from Apopka, Fla., signals to the pilot of an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Sidewinders of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 86 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Eisenhower, currently deployed as part of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
A Marine participates in a field training exercise during Exercise Iron Sword 16 in Rukla Training Area, Lithuania, Nov. 29, 2016. Iron Sword is an annual, multinational defense exercise involving 11 NATO allies training to increase combined infantry capabilities and forge relationships.
Combat cargo Marines grab a short nap in the well deck of USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) December 1, 2016 before the ship prepares to receive amphibious craft during Amphibious Ready Group, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit Exercise off the coast of Onslow Beach, North Carolina. The Marines worked nearly 20 hours the previous day on-loading and securing equipment and vehicles to Carter Hall. These Marines were assigned the combat cargo billet as a part of ship taxes and come from a myriad of military occupational specialties native to the Marine units aboard the ship.
An aircrew aboard a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., prepares to take the load of a 14,000 pound buoy that washed ashore just south of the entrance to Tillamook Bay, in Garibaldi, Ore., Dec. 12, 2016. The Army aircrew assisted the Coast Guard in recovering the beached buoy that normally marks the navigable channel into Tillamook Bay.
Coast Guard Cutter Munro crewmembers render honors to the national ensign during colors at an acceptance ceremony for the Munro on December 16, 2016 on the ship’s flight deck at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
Heroes come in many forms; some are even furry and four-legged. Due in part to their superior ability to sniff and hear trouble, dogs have long been a fantastic ally and a great protector of humans. After all, it was Lassie who, through a series of barks, told the grown-ups that Timmy was in trouble again (Note: Timmy never actually fell down a well. Mineshaft, sure, but no well.) Dogs can also be quite brave and have been known to run into dangerous situations without a moment of hesitation. Throughout history, several dogs have gained a reputation as being courageous in wartime.
Here are the stories of five such dogs that became war heroes and helped saved human lives:
Gunner – Australia’s Alarm
Japanese bombs started raining down on the capital city of Australia’s Northern Territory, Darwin, around 10 am on February 19, 1942, just over two months after the Japanese bombing of America’s Pearl Harbor. After the initial attack, which sunk eight ships and badly damaged 37 others, soldiers went looking for the injured among the rubble.
Under a destroyed mess hall, they found the smallest survivor of them all, a six-month-old male stray kelpie (an Australian sheep dog). He had a broken leg and was whimpering. Eventually, the injured pup ended up in the hands of Leading Aircraftman Percy Westcott. He made it his duty to get this dog help. Westcott took the dog to the doctor, who said he couldn’t treat any “man” who didn’t have a name or serial number. So, Westcott named the kelpie “Gunner” and gave him the number 0000. Satisfied, the doctor put a cast on Gunner’s leg and set them on their way.
From that point forward, Gunner and Westcott were inseparable. When Gunner’s leg began healing (despite his habit of chewing the cast), he would join Westcott on his daily tasks. One day not long after the attack, as the men worked on repairing several planes in the airfield, Gunner started barking and jumping up and down. The men paid no attention to the dog, but within a few minutes Japanese raiders swooped in and commenced shelling Darwin again.
Luckily, the men and Gunner managed to dive to safety, but it was another surprise attack. Well, to everyone but Gunner. In general, Australian Kelpie hearing, even more so than many other breeds of dogs, is fantastic. Two days later, Gunner again started making a commotion. This time, the men knew to find cover and prepare for the upcoming attack.
From February 1942 to November 1943, over sixty air raids were commenced on Darwin. Gunner warned the soldiers of nearly every one, saving countless lives. Another amazing aspect of this was that Gunner never barked when Australian planes took off or were returning. He was able to differentiate between Australian aircrafts and Japanese aircrafts. It is not known what happened to Gunner after the war.
Rip the Rescue Dog
The Blitz commenced on London on September 7, 1940. For the next 57 days, German bombers enveloped the city in destruction. Right after a particular heavy shelling during one of the first days of the Blitz, an Air Raid Warden named E. King found a hungry stray walking the streets. He threw it some meat and the dog refused to go away. The dog followed King back to his post and, eventually, became something of a mascot. But Rip, as they called him, soon showed his worth beyond a simple mascot.
Rip came out with King after a bombing one night and his nose started twitching. Rip followed the scent to a collapsed building and started digging. What Rip found was a man, still alive, buried beneath. It was probably the best image this man had ever seen; a barking, sniffing mutt.
Despite never being formally trained, Rip became England’s first urban search and rescue dog. It was reported that he found and rescued over hundred people with his sensitive, life-saving nose. Due to Rip, today London’s police force and military trains hundreds of dogs per year to be part of their urban search and rescue teams.
In 1945, Rip was awarded the Dickin Medal for bravery, an honor bestowed animals for their service during war. On the medal, it reads “For Gallantry. We Also Serve.” Rip passed away in 1946 and is buried in Ilford Animal Cemetery in London.
Antis – The “German” Who Saved Frenchmen
As French Air Force gunner Robert Bozdech came barreling toward Earth in his now-disabled plane, death was on his mind, not making a new best friend. But that is exactly what happened when he crashed landed in Northern France, ominously known as “No Man’s Land.” He, amazingly, emerged from the wreckage of his plane barely hurt, but heard sounds from a nearby farmhouse. Thinking it was the enemy, he took out his gun, ready to shoot. What emerged was a gray ball of fur, a German Shepard puppy. He took the pup in his leather jacket and hitched a ride back two hundred miles to St Dizier Air Base. Bozdech’s peers were stunned he was still alive, much less having a new best bud.
Antis, named so because Bozdech loved to fly Russian ANT dive-bombers, became not just a loyal friend, but a seasoned war veteran. Much like Gunner, he barked in warning about oncoming enemy fire. Just like Rip, he learned how to sniff and dig for survivors. Robert and his comrades also considered Antis a good luck charm and, most importantly, braver than many a human soldier. He would hide away in Bozdech’s gunner plane to ensure that he would be there to protect his pal. Antis would also run into enemy fire to notify others where the injured men were. He was even once injured himself, yet that didn’t stop him from performing his duties. Several days after being injured, he somehow snuck onto Bozdech’s plane as a stowaway.
After the war, Antis was also awarded the Dickin Medal and lived with Bozdech the rest of his life, passing away at the age of 14 in 1953.
Salty and Roselle Safety Guides on 9/11
While 9/11 wasn’t necessarily during war, it was certainly an act of war and war-like situation. Salty and Roselle were both part of the Guiding Eyes for the Blind program in New York, but came upon their fates differently. Roselle was only one and half when she was introduced to Michael Hingson, the man she was to guide. Hingson had been blind since birth, but earned a masters in physics from the University of California. On September 11, 2001, he was working as a computer sales manager on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center Tower 1.
Roselle was asleep when the plane struck the 99th floor. Calmly and cooly, she guided Hingson, and several others in the office, down over 1400 hundred darkened stairs and out of the door. The whole escape took about an hour, but within moments of making it to the street, Tower 2 collapsed, sending debris everywhere. Roselle was struck by pieces, but she was unfazed and continued moving, just like she was trained to do.
As Hingson said,
She saved my life. While everyone ran in panic, Roselle remained totally focused on her job. While debris fell around us, and even hit us, Roselle stayed calm.
Salty had always loved fast-paced, city-living. When he was introduced to Omar Rivera, it was a perfect match. Rivera had gone blind due to glaucoma, but continued to work for New York’s Port Authority as a senior systems designer. He was working on the 71st floor of the World Trade Center Tower 1 on 9/11. Salty was lying next to Rivera when the plane hit. The whole building swayed, but Salty calmly got up, offered Rivera his guidance, and lead them down the stairs. At one point a co-worker, thinking the dog needed help, tried to take Salty’s leash, but he refused to leave his master’s side. They made it out the door and were two or three blocks away when the second tower collapsed.
Both Salty and Roselle were given the Dickin medal for their heroics despite all the chaos around them. Salty passed away in 2008 and Roselle in 2011. They are remembered as American heroes.
Dogs weren’t the only animal to be bestowed the honor of a Dickin medal. In fact, pigeons were awarded the medal thirty two times, more than every other animal combined. It was given eighteen times to a dog, three times to a horse, and once to a cat. The cat’s name was Simon and he was given the medal in 1949 for his efforts in raising morale, surviving a cannon shell injury, and killing off a rat infestation during the Yangtze Incident. The Yangtze incident involved the British Royal Navy ship Amethyst being trapped on the Yangtze River for three months during the Chinese Civil War.
It isn’t known whether the dog was purposefully domesticated by humans or if they were self-domesticated, with certain of the gray wolves becoming friendly with humans from continually scavenging food scraps around human camps. Also, similar to the domestic cat that all likely descended from just a handful of cats, it is thought that all dogs descend from just a handful of gray wolves in a small number of domestication events. In the dogs’ case, this probably took place in East Asia, with the dogs quickly being bred and spreading throughout the world, even to North America around 10,000 years ago.
It seems like so many dictators just love movies. We all do, but absolute power takes it to a whole new level. Gaddafi had a channel set up just to play his favorite movie – his one favorite movie. Kim Jong-Il kidnapped his favorite actors and actresses to star in North Korea’s movies. Then, of course, the next natural step for these guys is directing movies.
Kim Jong-Il made several films. Benito Mussolini pitched to Columbia pictures. And even Saddam Hussein made a $30 million war epic. But Joseph Stalin was the Soviet Union’s “ultimate censor.”
At the time, global Communism was still very much a growing threat, one Stalin wanted to continue to spread around the world – under Soviet leadership.
He saw how much power and influence films – and the stars in them – held over large audiences. He saw it in Nazi German propaganda during the Second World War and he used it effectively himself to further his own personality cult.
So when he saw John Wayne’s power as an virulent anti-Communist on the rise, he ordered the actor killed and then sent (allegedly) more than one hit squad to do the job. He saw the Duke as a threat to the spread of Communism around the world – and especially in America.
Obviously not one to let a thing like Communist assassins get him down, Wayne and his scriptwriter Jimmy Grant allegedly abducted the hitmen, took them to the beach, and staged a mock execution. No one knows exactly what happened after that, but Wayne’s friends say the Soviet agents began to work for the FBI from that day on.
But there were other incidents. The book also alleges KGB agents tried to take the actor out on the set of 1953’s Hondo in Mexico. A captured sniper in Vietnam claimed that he was hired by Chairman Mao to take the actor out on a visit to troops there.
Stalin died in 1953. His successor, Nikita Khrushchev, met privately with John Wayne in 1958 and informed him that the order had been rescinded. Wayne told his friends Khrushchev called Stalin’s last years his “mad years” and apologized.
The entire time Wayne knew there was a price on his head, he refused the FBI’s offer of federal protection and didn’t even tell his family. He just moved into a house with a big wall around it. Once word got out, though, Hollywood stuntmen loyal to the Duke began to infiltrate Communist Party cells around the country and expose plots against him.
Several Naval Academy alumni have asked the alumni association to rescind an award planned for former U.S. Sen. James Webb because of his decades-old essay questioning the decision to admit women into military service academies.
Webb, who also served as Secretary of the Navy, wrote the 7,000-word essay “Women Can’t Fight” for Washingtonian Magazine in 1979.
“There is a place for women in our military, but not in combat. And their presence at institutions dedicated to the preparation of men for combat command is poisoning that preparation,” Webb wrote.
He called the dormitory Bancroft Hall “a horny woman’s dream” and quoted former male alumni arguing that attending the academy is “scarring many women in ways they may not comprehend for years.”
The essay has been described by several alumni as a “manifesto” that potentially empowered male midshipmen to harass their female counterparts.
Retired Navy Cmdr. Laureen Miklos, a 1981 graduate, wrote in an email that the decision by the Naval Academy Alumni Association to give its Distinguished Graduate Award to Webb was “a hit to the gut.” She taught at the academy from 1998 to 2001 and described Webb’s essay as a “living document” still referenced by mids.
Miklos wrote the Annapolis-based association, arguing Webb’s essay validated those who thought women didn’t belong at the academy. She recalled an upperclassmen ordering a female classmate during her time at the academy to stand at attention at meals and shout “I am not a horny woman, Sir.”
Webb plans to be be present Friday when the association holds its Distinguished Graduate Award Ceremony. The award is given to alumni who have “personal character which epitomizes the traits we expect in our officer corps” and have made “significant contributions” as officers or leaders in industry or government.
Webb, who graduated from the academy in 1968, served as a rifle platoon and company commander during the Vietnam War. He earned the Navy Cross for “extraordinary heroism” and two Purple Hearts for injuries that ended his active-duty career.
Webb released a statement to The Capital on March 27, 2017, saying he wrote a “strongly argumentative magazine article” during the intense national debate of women serving in combat.
“Clearly, if I had been a more mature individual, there are things that I would not have said in that magazine article,” he wrote in the statement. “To the extent that this article subjected women at the academy or the armed forces to undue hardship, I remain profoundly sorry.”
But Webb, who ran a brief campaign for the presidency as a Democrat in 2016, said he doesn’t regret debating the “long-term process of properly assimilating women” into the military. He said he is “deeply proud” of the contributions he made as Secretary of the Navy and a senator from Virginia. He cited the Navy-wide study he commission as secretary, which he said “opened up more positions to women than any secretary in history.”
Retired Adm. Robert Natter, chairman of the Board of Trustees for the association, said in a statement that Webb’s most recent comments “reflect how his views have evolved since that article 38 years ago.” Natter said Webb was selected by an independent selection chaired by retired Adm. Mike Mullen, a classmate of Webb’s and a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“His many years of service are a matter of very public record, and on that entire record he was selected as a Distinguished Graduate,” Natter wrote.
Retired Capt. Jack Reape, a 1984 graduate, said an upperclassmen handed him a copy of the essay as a plebe. Reape said he and his classmates didn’t “support the women at the academy” during his time but that has since apologized to several of his female classmates.
Reape said he doesn’t see the point of taking the award from Webb because he “couldn’t name anyone else on that list.” He also said the award doesn’t have a big impact.
“He wouldn’t have been on my list of people,” Reape said. “We were in the Navy, we’re used to things not going to our way and pressing on. It’s the way it goes.”
Kelly Henry, a 1984 graduate, also wrote the association with criticism of the award. Henry said Webb’s essay was highly-circulated while she was in Annapolis and it caused “harm” to many of her classmates.
“The women will tell you that article was like throwing gasoline on the fire,” she said.
Henry said she was one of the “lucky” ones during her time at the academy and was in a company that welcomed the female mids. She said she was surprised to see Webb honored with the award, since 2016 marked the 40th year of women attending the Naval Academy.
She attended the academy’s celebration in the fall.
“At that celebration I felt we were embraced in the community,” Henry said. “We are no longer seen as something that tainted it, but now to see this? It completely takes away that feeling.”
Other 2017 Distinguished Graduates
—Retired Adm. Harry D. Train II ’49 — Train served as NATO supreme allied commander Atlantic and was also commander of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet from 1978 to 1982. He retired in 1982 and became involved in civic affairs in Hampton Roads, Virginia.
— Milledge A. “Mitch” Hart ’56 — Hart is the founder/co-founder of seven companies. After serving as a Marine in Oklahoma and Okinawa, he worked with alumnus Ross Perot to found Electronic Data Systems, a information technology equipment and services company. He later co-founded Home Depot, which became the second-largest retailer in the country.
—Retired Vice Adm. Cutler Dawson ’70 — Dawson is president and CEO of the Navy Federal Credit Union and was in the Navy for about 35 years. Under Dawson, the Enterprise Battle Group conducted strikes for Operation Desert Fox in the Arabian Gulf and Operation Allied for in the Adriatic Sea. He retired from the military in 2004 and became president of the Vienna, Virginia-based credit union.
—Retired Adm. Eric T. Olson ’73 — Olson is the former commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command. He’s the first Navy SEAL to reach three- and four-star rank and the first naval officer to lead Special Operations Command. He retired in 2011 after serving for 38 years. After retiring, he founded ETO Group, an independent national security consulting firm.