These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

The tiny mountainous country of Switzerland has been in a state of “perpetual neutrality” since the major European powers of the time declared it as such during the Congress of Vienna after the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815.

Why did they do this?

The French conquered Switzerland in 1798, establishing the Helvetic Republic in attempt to make Switzerland something of a strategically positioned French satellite state. Not long after, Austrian and Russian forces invaded the country in their war against France. The Swiss, rather than fighting alongside their French overlords, largely refused. This ultimately led to the Act of Mediation, giving the Swiss back much of their former independence. Twelve years later, they got the rest thanks to the aforementioned Congress of Vienna in which their neutrality in the wars of their neighbors was officially recognised.


Beyond the Swiss themselves having long tried to stay out of the conflicts of Europe (since the early 16th century after a devastating loss at the Battle of Marignano), part of the reason Switzerland was granted neutrality in perpetuity in 1815 is because the European powers of the time deemed that the country was ideally located to function as a “a valuable buffer zone between France and Austria.” Thus, granting their neutrality in wars, so long as they continued to stay out of them, would “contribute to stability in the region.”

Since that time, with a few minor exceptions, Switzerland has steadfastly refused to compromise its neutrality for any reason, though on the war-front they did suffer an exceptionally brief civil war in the mid-19th century resulting in only a handful of casualties. While minor in its scale, this civil war drastically changed the political landscape of the Swiss government, including the establishment of a constitution partially borrowing from the then less than a century old United States constitution.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

Swiss officer barracks in the Umbrail Pass during World War I.

In any event, as for those aforementioned “minor exceptions”, Switzerland has occasionally taken part in some global peacekeeping missions and prior to 1860 Swiss troops did sometimes take part in various skirmishes, despite their neutrality.

In more modern times, Switzerland needed to defend its borders from both Allied and Axis (see: How Did the Axis and Allies Get Their Names) air incursions during WW2. For instance, they shot down nearly a dozen German planes in the spring of 1940 alone, as well as shot down some American bombers and forced down countless others on both sides. This included grounding and detaining the crews of over a hundred Allied bombers that tried to fly over the country. When Hitler tried to counter Swiss measures at keeping the Luftwaffe from their skies by sending a sabotage team to destroy Swiss airfields, the Swiss successfully captured the saboteurs before they could carry out any bombings.

You might think it a bit silly for the Swiss to risk war with both sides by shooting or forcing down foreign aircraft from their skies, but on several occasions Allied bombers accidentally attacked Swiss cities, mistaking them for German ones. For instance, on April 1, 1944, American bombers, thinking they were bombing Ludwigshafen am Rhein, bombed Schaffhausen, killing 40 Swiss citizens and destroying over fifty buildings. This was not an isolated incident.

So how exactly did Switzerland, surrounded on all sides by Axis (or Central in WW1) and Allied powers during the wars to end all wars, manage to keep enemy troops at bay without much in the way of any fighting?

Officially Switzerland maintains a policy of “Aggressive Neutrality” meaning that although it actively avoids taking part in conflicts, as evidenced by their air-force activities during WW2, it will defend its own interests with vigour. How vigorous? To ensure other countries respect its neutral stance, Switzerland has long put itself into a terrifyingly over prepared position to fight, and made sure every country around them was, and is, well aware of this fact.

As for specifics, to begin with, a common misconception about Switzerland is that because it doesn’t actively take part in global military conflicts, that it doesn’t have a strong or well prepared military. In reality the Swiss military is a highly trained and competent fighting force, and due to the country’s policy of compulsory conscription of males (today women may volunteer for any position in the military, but are not required to serve) is surprisingly large for a country of only around eight million people.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

Swiss border patrol in the Alps during World War II.

In fact, approximately two-thirds of all males are ultimately deemed mentally and physically fit enough to serve in the Swiss military, meaning a huge percentage of their population is ultimately military trained. (Those who are not, and aren’t exempt because of a disability, are required to pay additional taxes until they are 30 to make up for not serving.)

As for what fighting force is actively maintained, the Swiss military today is only around 140,000 men strong and just this year it has been voted to reduce that to 100,000. This is a major downsize from just two decades ago when it was estimated the Swiss military had some 750,000 soldiers. For reference, this latter total is about half the size of the United States military today, despite Switzerland having only about eight million people vs. the United States’ three hundred million.

In addition to this, Switzerland has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world and many Swiss people are highly competent in handling said firearms due to both compulsory military service and a strong culture of recreational shooting (half a million Swiss children are said to be part of a gun club of some kind).

This said, in recent years the rate of gun ownership has declined somewhat after a series of gun related incidents, such as one where a man shot his estranged wife with his old military issued rifle. Prior to the shooting, military conscripts would take their rifle home with them after their service ended and were expected to keep it ready for use in defending the country should the need arise.

After these incidents, the military curbed this and implemented a new policy stating that any conscript wishing to keep their gun after service must buy it and apply for a permit. As part of this new policy, the Swiss military also no longer provides ammunition with the guns, instead keeping it in secure locations that citizens must get to in the event of an emergency.

Speaking of emergencies, generally speaking, Switzerland is prepared for near any global catastrophe from nuclear fallout to a surprise invasion from an enemy force thanks to a defensive plan it has been implementing since 1880, but which was doubled-down upon during WW2 and later during the Cold War.

Dubbed the Swiss National Redoubt, in a nutshell Switzerland has taken advantage of it unique natural geography, which includes mountains that surround it on nearly all sides, to build countless bunkers, fortifications and warehouses across the country that can be accessed at a moment’s notice. The full scale of the fortifications is a closely guarded secret, but some of them are kept in plain view as part of a comprehensive campaign of deterrence.

Initially the National Redoubt consisted of tunnels bored into the many mountains of Switzerland in key strategic positions for retreating troops and citizens to take shelter in, but over the years these have evolved to encompass a host of ingenious defensive and offensive structures. Along with tunnels and bunkers (which are fully stocked and contain everything from bakeries and hospitals to dormitories), the mountains of Switzerland also hide countless tanks, aircraft, and hidden artillery guns (some of which are pointed directly at Switzerland’s own roads to destroy them in the event of invasion).

Oddly for a landlocked country, Switzerland does maintain an active navy of sorts, though they don’t store any boats in its mountains as far as we could find. The naval branch of the Swiss forces’ primary role is in patrolling the country’s lakes on the border and providing aid in search and rescue operations.

As for more specifically how they kept themselves out of the world wars, during WW1, the Swiss military, under freshly appointed General Ulrich Wille, mobilised well over 200,000 Swiss soldiers and deployed them across its major entry points to deter any outside forces from considering waging war on the country. After it became apparent that Switzerland’s neutrality would be recognised by all powers in the first Great War, the vast majority of the Swiss troops were sent home. (In fact, in the final year of the war, the Swiss military had shrunk its numbers to just 12,000.) Nothing further was required to keep the Swiss out of WW1.

WW2 was a different beast altogether with Switzerland not banking on Hitler respecting their long-held neutral stance in European conflicts. Thus, newly appointed Swiss General Henri Guisan was given the unenviable task of trying to figure out a way to defend the small country from their neighbors, Hitler and his allies, despite that said powers drastically outmatched the Swiss army in a variety of ways.

Towards this end, leading up to the war, the Swiss withdrew from the League of Nations to help ensure their neutrality, began to re-build their military (bringing the number up to 430,000 combat troops within three days of the start of the war), and strongly encouraged its citizens to keep at minimum two months’ worth of supplies on hand at any given time. On top of that, they also began secret negotiations with France to join forces against Germany, should Germany attack Switzerland (a risky move that was discovered by the Germans after France fell to them).

But even with all that, knowing the Swiss couldn’t win if Hitler really wanted to invade, Guisan and co. made the decision to drastically ramp up their WW1 era strategy of making invading Switzerland as unsavory an option as possible. Guisan noted that by utilizing Switzerland’s harsh terrain, a comparatively small amount of Swiss soldiers in a secure defensive position could fight off a massive fighting force if the need ever arose. So the plan was essentially to perpetually defend and retreat to some fortified position over and over again, ultimately conceding the less defensible populated areas of the country once the government and citizens had managed a retreat into secret fortified positions in the Alps. They’d then use the Alps as a base from which to both launch guerrilla attacks to make life miserable for any successful invasion force and to use highly defensible positions there to keep crucial supply lines from the invaders.

More controversially, Switzerland continued to trade with Nazi Germany during the war in order to further de-incentivise Hitler from invading. (There is some speculation that some of the Allies’ “accidental” attacks on Switzerland were really not accidents at all, given that some of the buildings that were blown up were factories supplying the Axis powers.)

The multi-pronged plan worked and, while Hitler did have a detailed plan in place to invade Switzerland eventually, the cost of doing so was always too high given the Axis power’s troubles both on the Eastern and Western fronts. Thus, Switzerland was largely ignored by both Allies and the Axis throughout WW2, despite its amazingly well placed location right next to Germany, Italy, France, and Austria.

Switzerland stepped up their level of defence during the Cold War, again mostly out of a desire to deter any potential invaders. This time, however, the focus was on “aggressively” defending Switzerland’s borders instead of defending them only long enough to cover a retreat into the well fortified mountains.

Towards this end, Switzerland’s roads, bridges and train lines were rigged with explosives that could be detonated at any time. In many cases, the engineers who designed the bridges were required to come up with the most efficient way, using explosives, to ensure the complete destruction of those same bridges. Once the destruction plan was developed, hidden explosives were installed at the appropriate locations in the bridges. On top of that, the military also lined hundreds of mountains flanking major roads with explosives to create artificial rockslides. All total, over three thousand points of demolition are publicly known to have been implemented throughout the small country.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

Large-scale construction of hangers were conducted by the Swiss military in the 1950s.

With ground attacks covered, the Swiss looked to the skies. Unfortunately for them, attack by air is much harder to defend against for a country so small that enemy air forces could penetrate anywhere within its borders before an adequate defence could be mustered to defend its cities. To protect against this, the Swiss government constructed thousands of bomb shelters in homes, towns and cities to such a degree that it’s estimated that anywhere between 80 to 120 percent of the country’s population could hide in them for extended periods. Many of these shelters also included small hospitals and the necessary equipment to set up independent command centers. In fact, homes built after WW2 were often made with over 40 cm (16 in.) thick concrete ceilings to help them survive aerial bombings. If your home didn’t accommodate such a shelter, you had to pay a tax to support places that did.

It’s also rumoured that much of Switzerland’s gold supply as well as vast supplies of food stores have been similarly squirreled away somewhere in the Alps, which comprise just over half of the country’s total land area.

As a further example of how ridiculously well prepared the Swiss are for any and all threats, there are things like hidden hydroelectric dams built inside of unmarked mountains so that in the event of mass bombings, they’ll still have electricity from these secret facilities. And, remember, these are the things the Swiss government has let us know about. It is thought that there are probably more fortifications and hidden goodies scattered about the country’s landscape.

Since the end of the Cold War (see How Did the Cold War Start and End), similar to how the Swiss government has been slowly disarming its population and reducing its standing army, decommissioning some of these fortifications has begun in order to reduce government spending. The Swiss government is somewhat coy about the extent of this disarming, but it has been reported that many of the more extreme defenses, such as the explosives that used to be hidden inside the country’s bridges and along its road and railways, have been removed. As for the bunkers, unfortunately, simply abandoning many of these facilities is not an option, and it’s fairly expensive to decommission them.

As such, as the head of security policy for the federal Department of Defense, Christian Catrina, said “…in most cases we’d be glad if someone would take them off our hands for no price”.

In some cases, this has resulted in companies using the ridiculously well protected and secure mountain facilities as data repositories and server farms. In one such converted bunker, the servers inside are even completely protected from outside electromagnetic impulses that result from nuclear explosions.

In another, detailed instructions on how to build devices for reading all known data storage formats, even older formats like floppy disks, are kept, so that if that knowledge is otherwise lost, future generations can still decode our data storage devices to access the data within correctly. Essentially, the researchers involved in this particular project have attempted to create a “Rosetta Stone” of data formats and are using a ridiculously secure Swiss bunker as the storage point for that knowledge.

As a result of military downsizing, the fate of the rest of the fortifications is unclear and there are calls to decommission all of them, despite the estimated billion dollar price tag to do so. There is even a growing minority of the Swiss population who would like to see the entire military disbanded, including ceasing mandatory conscription.

But for now, at least, any country that wishes to ignore Switzerland’s long-held neutrality in military conflicts will find the tiny country an exceptionally difficult one to conquer and occupy. And presumably if war ever again threatens Swiss’ borders, regardless of how small they make their military today, they’ll likely keep themselves in a position to rapidly ramp back up their defences as they did for WW1 and WW2.

Bonus Facts:

  • Shortly before WW2, Switzerland passed the Swiss Banking Act, which allowed bank accounts to be created anonymously, in no small part to allow German Jews to squirrel their liquid assets away into accounts that the Third Reich would have difficulty finding out about or getting access to.
  • The term “Swiss Army Knife” was coined by United States soldiers after WWII. The soldiers had trouble pronouncing the original name of “Schweizer Offiziersmesser” (Swiss Officer’s Knife) and thus began calling the multi-tool a “Swiss Army Knife”. The company that makes Swiss Army Knives is Victorinox, named after the founder, Karl Elsener’s, deceased mother, Victoria. The “nox” part comes from the fact that stainless steel is also known as “inox”, which is short for the French term “inoxydable”.
  • Karl Elsener himself was originally the owner of a surgical equipment company. He later took over production of the original Modell 1890 knives, which were previously made in Germany. He moved the production to Switzerland and greatly improved the design of the original multi-tool. His big breakthrough came when he figured out a way to put blades on both sides of the handle using the same spring to hold both sides in place. This allowed him to put twice as many features into the multi-tool as was previously possible.
  • There has been a “fact” floating around that Switzerland has the highest number of guns per citizen and the lowest rate of people killed by firearms per year, but this isn’t correct. Switzerland is actually 4th in number of guns per 100 people (at 45.7 guns per 100), though does maintain a relatively low number of deaths per year due to firearms at just 3.84 per 100,000, which is good enough for 19th place overall. However, it should also be noted that 3.15 of those deaths per 100,000 are suicide. Their homicide rate (.52 per 100,000) is good enough for 31st place, with the rest of deaths from firearms (.17 per 100,000) being either accidental or undetermined.
  • While the United States has by far the most guns per capita at 94.3 guns per 100 residents, it is only 12th in firearm related deaths per capita at 10.3 per 100,000 people. 6.3 of those 10.3 firearm related deaths are suicides. This equates to the U.S. being in 14th place on the number of firearm related homicides per 100,000 and overall 103rd as far as total murders per 100,000 at 4.8. For reference, that’s four times the murders per 100,000 than the United Kingdom, which sits in 169th place in murders per 100,000.
  • Number 1 by far in firearm related deaths per 100,000 is Honduras with 64.8 deaths per 100,000 from firearms. Surprisingly, Honduras only has 6.2 guns for every 100 people in the country. Honduras also has the highest rate of murders per 100,000 overall at 91.6.
  • On average, more people commit crimes in Switzerland who aren’t Swiss citizens than who are every year, which has very recently led to harsher deportation laws. In fact, of the top 25 nationalities to commit crimes in Switzerland, 21 of them commit more crimes than the Swiss while on Swiss soil, with the average of all those immigrants being 390% more crimes than are committed by Swiss citizens. Immigrants specifically from Austria, France, and Germany to Switzerland, however, commit an average of only 70% of the crimes the Swiss do on Swiss soil.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

4 times movies changed because of Chinese pressure

When the “Top Gun: Maverick” trailer was released, it took the internet by storm with its exciting shots of legendary Navy fighters doing incredible things and legendary actors looking a bit older than any of us would have liked. Responses were largely positive at first… that is, until some people began noticing changes made to Maverick’s old jacket. Namely, that both Taiwanese and Japanese patches had been removed.


For those of us who have been following China’s influence over American cinema, it didn’t take long to figure out why these patches had been removed. It isn’t simply about winning over Chinese audiences; it’s about winning over the Chinese government. See, unlike here in the United States where our movie rating system may be corrupt, but it isn’t legally mandatory, Chinese censors decide which movies are suitable for release in Chinese markets… and as big-budget action flicks of recent years have proven, Chinese markets are too lucrative for studios to pass up.

As a result, studios have taken to playing ball with China’s censors just to ensure Dwayne Johnson doesn’t have to rely on American theaters to pay for his next giant gorilla movie, and if you think removing patches from Maverick’s jacket is as bad as it gets, you’re in for a rude awakening.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

The Ancient One wasn’t always a white lady.

(Marvel/Walt Disney Studios)

Marvel’s Doctor Strange white-washed “The Ancient One” to appease China

The Marvel Cinematic Universe may be among the most lucrative film franchises in history, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to Chinese pressure. This presented a serious problem in pre-production for “Doctor Strange,” as the titular character’s storyline heavily involved a comic book character known as “the Ancient One” — historically depicted as a Tibetan monk.

Chinese censors likely wouldn’t have allowed the release of a movie that so prominently featured a character from Tibet (a nation China doesn’t recognize as independent), so they instead chose to cast the decidedly white Tilda Swinton and take a media beating for “white-washing” the role instead.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

The studio swapped China out for North Korea after the film was already finished.

(MGM)

The “Red Dawn” remake changed villains after the film was already wrapped

The 2012 remake of “Red Dawn” was, for most of us, a real disappointment. The beloved original depicted desperate teenagers fighting an enemy invasion in a very personal way — forgoing flag-waving patriotism for an understated kind many service members can truly appreciate: a quiet but steady resolve to protect one’s home. The remake lacked that insight… as well as a believable villain. The idea that North Korea could render American defenses useless and capture a large portion of the U.S. mainland seems laughable… but then, it was never supposed to be the North Koreans in the first place. The entire movie was filmed using China as the invaders.

After Chinese media voiced concerns about their nation’s depiction in the film, the studio panicked and hired not one, but five special effects companies to remove any sign that the invading force was Chinese, replacing all flags with North Korean ones.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

You can’t stop time (or China’s influence on Hollywood)

(TriStar Pictures)

Looper changed locations and its cast to replace Paris with Shanghai

As if it isn’t weird enough to see Joseph Gordon Levitt walking around with Bruce Willis’ nose, the 2012 sci-fi action flick “Looper” also saw significant changes in order to meet Chinese film regulations. After a deal had already been struck between the studio (Endgame Entertainment) and a Chinese studio called DMG, the Chinese government stepped in to mandate a number of changes to the story.

While the original story would have featured a future Paris heavily, Chinese censors mandated that at least a third of the film take place in China in order to maintain the production deal with DMG. Any scenes meant to take place in Paris were then rewritten to take place in Shanghai, with Willis’ on-screen wife changed to Chinese actress Summer Qing.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

Rampage made 3 times as much on the international market than it did in the U.S.

(Warner Brothers)

Many new blockbusters aren’t even aimed at American audiences

It’s been said that America’s chief export has become culture, and that may well be true. There are few places on the planet where American movies and music can’t be found, but increasingly, being produced in America doesn’t necessarily mean the intended audience is American.

Movies like “Rampage,” “Skyscraper,” “Venom,” and “The Mummy” all have at least two things in common: they underperformed domestically, and they still went on to make a fortune. These movies (along with just about every entrant in the Transformers franchise) may be panned by critics and moviegoers alike, but Chinese audiences absolutely eat them up. If you’ve wondered how poorly written action movies without a plot keep being made — this is the reason.

Even movies that are widely considered good get the Chinese market treatment, with so much Chinese product placement throughout “Captain America: Civil War” that a more appropriate name may have been “Captain China: Check out these Vivo Phones.

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4 unusual military units

From a faith-based U.S. Army unit to an entire “ghost” army, take a look at the four most unusual military units of all time.


These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral
An inflatable tank, styled after the M4 Sherman (Wikimedia Commons)

 

The Ghost Army

Inspired by a trick that the British pulled in North Africa, the summer of 1944 found soldiers of the U.S. Army undertaking a very unusual task – building a phantom army. To achieve this goal, the Army gathered artists, designers and sound effects experts to encourage confusion behind enemy lines. The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops is better known as the Ghost Army because it used inflatable rubber tanks and jeeps, along with sound effects and subterfuge to deceive Germans during WWII.

The 23rd took part in more than 20 missions, many of which used illusion and artistry that rivals any Hollywood set. Painters and illustrators worked collaboratively to design uniforms and create dummy vehicles. Sound engineers helped by broadcasting phony radio traffic and mimicked the sounds of an army on the move. There were even actors hired to spread misinformation that would hopefully get picked up by Nazi spies.

The Germans fell for it, and the ruse worked. With the Ghost Army in place, Germany had no clear idea of the US forces’ actual size. The Ghost Army was so convincing that they were even plugged a hole in General Patton’s lines for several days without being discovered. It wasn’t until 1996 that the Ghost Army’s contribution became public knowledge, and by then, many of its members had gone on to illustrious careers in art and design.

The Monuments Men

This particular unit was tasked with attempting to preserve Europe’s cultural heritage during WWII. The Monuments, Fine Arts and Archies unit included handpicked art historians, museum curators and academics who skirted the front lines of combat to prevent historically essential buildings and art from being destroyed.

Members from the unit created special maps for the Allies to ensure that culturally significant structures weren’t inadvertently destroyed as the Allies pushed deeper into Europe. To do this, the unit drew plans that showed aircraft pilots where to avoid on bombing runs. While the war was in full swing, the Monuments Men even set about restoring landmarks that were already damaged.

As the war wound down, the unit shifted its focus from preservation to rescue. It tracked down and recovered sculptures and paintings looted by the Nazis. As the Nazi regime crumbled, Monuments Men found thousands of pieces of art stolen from Jewish families and museums. Most of these pieces of art were placed deep in salt mines and castles to avoid detection. The Monuments Men did their part in finding the pieces, and then after the war, the artwork was returned to its original owners.

The Mormon Battalion

Composed entirely of Latter Day Saints service members, the Mormon Battalion has the unique and unusual honor of being the only faith-based battalion in all of U.S. Army history. When negotiations between Brigham Young’s church leaders and the US military reached an impasse, it was suggested that a battalion be formed made up of all Mormons. The Mormons hoped their unit might pave the way for their planned exodus to the American West by providing training, equipment and pay. But President Polk saw it as a way to make allies of the Latter Day Saints.

The 500-person battalion never saw any combat, but it became one of the most well-traveled units in all of American history. The service members marked the start of their service by making a grueling might from Iowa through indigenous lands all the way to Santa Fe. From there, they marched on through the untamed lands of Arizona and then to southern California. Once in SoCal, the battalion performed garrison duty in both San Diego and Los Angeles.

Just two years after being formed, the battalion was retired in July 1847. Most of its members headed back north to the Utah Territory to join the rest of their religious pioneers.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral
King Frederick William I (Wikimedia Commons)

 

The Potsdam Giants

Everyone always wants to have the biggest army, but for King Frederick William I of Prussia, the idea of having the strongest soldiers in the world was an obsession. At the start of the 18th Century, the monarch tried to gather the tallest troops he could find in all of Europe and create an elite regiment called the “Potsdam Giants.” Records indicate that several of the service members were over seven feet tall.

To entice this elite unit, King Willian spent a fortune hiring tall soldiers from other militaries in the world. He even instructed his own covert agents to conscript unusually tall civilians into the unit. At one point, William tried to encourage his tallest soldiers to marry tall women. The unit eventually disbanded, but not before William managed to spend a significant amount of money.

From a ghost army to a unit dedicated to preserving history, these four units prove that there’s a lot more to being part of a military than just standing in formation.

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines irony as the following: incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result. It’s like being run over by an ambulance that’s on its way to save you — instead of saving you (the expectation), it’s turned you into roadkill (the ironic twist).

Now, these are not to be confused with just bad moments — if you want examples of those, take pretty much any example listed in Alanis Morissette’s song, Ironic (then again, writing a song entitled Ironic and failing to cite a single example of real irony is kinda ironic…).

Another hilarious example of situational irony stems from the fact nearly every well-known “peace” symbol has a military origin. Sure, they may have been co-opted throughout the years to take on entirely different meanings, but if you go by the original definition of each symbol, you’re effectively intimating the opposite of your intent.


Pretty much every symbol for peace, shy of the Roerich Pact’s Three Jewels, has roots in military culture — in fact, many of them have been used as signals of martial might. You may be familiar with a few of these:

The “V” sign

The simple hand gesture, synonymous with counter-culture hippies, Richard Nixon, and teenage girls, actually has concrete beginnings that can be traced to one man at one moment: Winston Churchill threw up his index and middle fingers to signal a ‘V,’ for “victory,” after the Allies triumphed over the Axis Powers.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

I like to think that he knew full well that he was giving everyone the forks, but wanted to see how long it took anyone to say something.

But before that, Belgian Minister of Justice, Victor de Lavaleye, began spreading the use of the finger ‘V’ across Europe. In 1941, he was using it as a quiet protest to say that “victory is coming” or “freedom is coming” in the Netherlands (“freedom” in Dutch is “vrijheid,” which also starts with a “v”). Churchill, upon co-opting the symbol, eventually turned his palm outward to avoid sending the British gesture for “up yours.”

In either case, the symbol that is now known for peace started as a way to signal impending or fresh military victory, depending on your cited origin.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

You can go ahead and pick whatever color you like — it all sends the same message.

White poppies

After WWI, wearing a red poppy on one’s lapel was a sign of respect for fallen troops. It was a direct homage to Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s famous poem, In Flanders Fields. In 1933, the Peace Pledge Union shifted the tradition, imploring people to wear white poppies instead of the red ones to honor the casualties of war without extolling it.

If you really want to be specific, however, the poem never really identifies which color poppy grew at Flanders Field, just that there were poppies. So, if you’re wearing poppies of any color, you’re referencing one of history’s most famous wartime poems. The only reason he chose the red version of the poppy is because it’s eye-catching.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

The “peace symbol” 

The most famous symbol to come out of the 1960s is actually a clever use of military speak to directly get the military’s attention for a specific issue: nuclear disarmament. Just after the UK had developed their H-Bomb and tested it near Christmas Island, the Direct Action Committee called for a pause on the manufacturing of nuclear weapons. The Committee agreed that outright pacifism wasn’t the solution — but they also agreed that nuclear weapons weren’t the answer to the Cold War, either.

The DAC needed a symbol to rally behind, so designer and DAC board member Gerald Holtom created one, incorporating the flag semaphores for ‘N’ and ‘D’ in the design, for “nuclear disarmament.”

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

Funnily enough, Joker is using the symbol in its proper context. His pin says that wars shouldn’t be fought by nuclear means, but through conventional warfare.

(Warner Bros.)

They never trademarked the design, so it was free to use among members of the counter-culture and anti-Vietnam War protesters ran with it.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

The olive branch

The most misunderstood signal of peace is the olive branch. The first example of olive branches being used as a symbol dates back to the stories of ancient Greece when Athena was trying to win the patronage of Athens over Poseidon. Legend has it, she threw her spear into the ground and it blossomed into the first olive tree. The new tree was, essentially, a giant “f*ck you” to Poseidon because her olives were more useful than his salt water.

Athenians later gave olive branches out as a symbol of Athena to mighty warriors and Olympians. The olives and their branches represented prosperity after long-fought wars.

During the time of the Romans, Mars, the God of War, was often depicted holding an olive branch. To the Romans, “extending the olive branch” meant to be from a god or ruler and given to their subject. It was something more along the lines of “we fought, now enjoy this peace and prosperity.”

The Romans knew best that si vis pacem, para bellum, or “if you want peace, prepare for war.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 things everyone should know about Russia’s October Revolution

Communism was not the best experiment for the Russian people. If they had known that the revolution against the Tsar and the Imperial government was going to lead to decades of rule by the repressive Soviet Regime, they might have thought twice.


These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral
Worst. Boy band. Ever.

Of course, when you take a look at the life of a common Russian before the October Revolution, you can kind of understand why they took their chances with the Bolsheviks.

Submit to the present evil, lest a great one befall ye.

6. Russian peasants were serfs for 600 years.

European feudalism in the 11th century bound poor peasants to work the land for their noble masters. Until Tsar Alexander II abolished the practice in 1861, the common Russian was essentially a slave to the imperial aristocracy. Working the land for someone else meant very little time for subsistence farming – and that the Russians were always just one bad season from starvation.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral
Just plowing away, rethinking that whole Napoleon thing.

Russians were practically enslaved from the time of the First Crusade until the start of the American Civil War.

5. The people never forgot the “bloody Sunday” of 1905.

Russian people, upset at the low standard of living and scarcity of food, staged a series of strikes around the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg. Led by an Orthodox Priest — and completely unarmed — the demonstrators aimed to present a petition to Tsar Nicholas II, demanding things like working hours, wages, and improved conditions.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral
First you emancipate them and then they ask for crazy things, like not dying at work.

Instead, the Russian Imperial Guard slaughtered them, firing into the crowd and killing or wounding 1,000. The Tsar agreed to share power with the state Duma, a parliament. But the revolution was coming.

4. World War I didn’t help.

The Russian military before World War I was large, but led by ineffectual generals and filled with obsolete technology. To make matters worse, the conditions in the field were as deplorable as the working conditions in the factories on the home front. Paying for the war left the Russian economy in shambles as food prices soared.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

The economic trouble compounded the calls for higher wages and better working conditions. Soldiers would join workers in forming the “soviets” that would help oust the Tsar from power when the time came.

3. The Tsar was already out of power.

As a matter of fact, by the time the Bolsheviks seized power in October, the entire Romanov family was already captured by the government. The October Revolution came eight months after the February Revolution when Tsar Nicholas II abdicated and his brother declined power.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

The government ended up in the hands of the Duma and a lawyer named Alexander Kerensky in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) and in small councils across Russia, called “soviets” at the local level. It was during this period of shared power that the old and new order clashed and vied for power.

2. It sparked a civil war.

It was the only time the American Army and the Red Army fought in an official battle between the two. Shortly after the October Revolution, the new government made peace with the Central Powers still fighting World War I, as it became embroiled in a Civil War that pit Red Russians (the Bolsheviks) against White Russians (an amalgamation of monarchists, capitalists, and social democrats).

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral
Yeah, well… that’s just like, your opinion, man.

Soldiers and sailors from all across the empire chose sides as Red Army formed and took on conscripts. Former Tsarist officers defected back and forth between the Red  Army and its White Resistance. There was also a non-ideological Green movement that had the support of the peasants, but not were reluctant to actually fight.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral
Just like in America!

1. The U.S. invaded Russia.

In order to reopen WWI’s Eastern Front, the Allied Powers landed a number of international units in Russia, to both keep the peace and bolster the White Army to keep Communism from spreading to Europe, if possible. The Americans were deployed in the Siberian city of Arkhangelsk, near the Arctic Circle.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

Dubbed the “Polar Bear Expedition,” the Americans joined a British contingent who attempted to fight their way to link up with the Czechoslovak Legion, which held the Trans-Siberian Railway. The Great War ended before any significant headway could be achieved and the Allies eventually left Russia altogether.

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The most famous Navy SEALs

This list contains information about famous Navy SEALS, loosely ranked by fame and popularity. Many famous U.S. Navy SEALs became well-known through combat operations, while many others have also gone on to successful careers in politics, entertainment, and even space exploration. Among the most respected and feared warriors on the planet, Navy SEALs are trained for the Sea, Air, and Land. Just to become Navy SEALs, these soldiers must complete what is widely considered the toughest training in any military worldwide.


navy seals

Who is the most famous Navy SEAL? Jesse Ventura tops our list. Following his service on the Underwater Demolition Team, Ventura was a pro wrestler and Governor of Minnesota.  Two people on the list have gone on to become NASA astronauts.

Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history, achieved a new level of posthumous fame when his book American Sniper was adapted into 2014’s biggest movie. Marcus Luttrell detailed his combat experience in his book Lone Survivor, which was also adapted into a popular film.

Explore this list of the most famous United States Navy SEALs and just try not to feel bad about yourself in comparison. Do you think you could have what it takes to be a Navy SEAL? Let us know in the comments section!

Famous Navy SEALs

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Here’s what would happen if every US state declared war on each other

We recently came across the following question on Quora: “If every state of the USA declared war against each other, which would win?


We’ve published the full answer from Quora user Jon Davis, a Marine veteran who is now a writer and blogger on military, veterans, and Middle Eastern affairs. In Oct. 2014, Davis’ answer was optioned by a Hollywood producer for a potential television series.

These are the accounts of the Second American Civil War, also known as the Wars of Reunification and the American Warring States Period.

After the breakup many wondered which states would come out in control of the power void created by the dissolution of the United States. There were many with little chance against several of the larger more powerful states. The states in possession of a large population, predisposition for military bases and a population open to the idea of warfare fared the best. In the long term we would look to states with self-sufficiency and long term military capabilities.

Here are the states that held the greatest strategic value from day one. They have the ability to be self-sufficient, economic strength, military strength, the will to fight and the population to support a powerful war machine.

  • California
  • Texas
  • New York

Others that have many of the qualities that gave them an advantage are also listed.

  • Washington
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Virginia
  • Florida
  • Georgia

For all intents and purposes Alaska and Hawaii ended well enough since they were so far removed from the center of the country that they never really suffer greatly nor benefit from the shattering.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

Day 12: “It’s getting scary. My mom said we are going back to Oklahoma to stay with Grandma. The other day my dad was yelling at some men at the door. They seemed really upset. I held Jamie. She is still little. She’s scared and doesn’t understand what is going on. I am scared too. There are also some boys at school who keep picking on her and calling her an “Okie”. We were both raised here, but I don’t really think that matters. All the other families on my street have huge one-star flags hanging from their homes. I don’t want to leave my house, but Mom says we have to go. The highways are packed with people. I wish things would just go back to how it was.”The Diary of Sarah Brennan

First came a period of massive migration back to the homelands. Facing the newly invented discrimination that will be created many felt the need to go back to their own people. While the individual states retained all military assets they couldn’t control the individuals who fight. A Texas Marine stationed in California, would not fight for California. A soldier in New York would not fight against their home in Virginia and a sailor in Houston would not fight against their home state of Florida. The warriors returned to their home states and the states had to reconsider that when they measured troop strength of their new nations. Ultimately, they measured troop strength by how much of the population would return home.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

After the migrations rough approximations left the states even, additionally, the balance of foreign nationals changed. At some point there was a migration of people back to their non-United States homeland. Over the next several months many from the North migrated to Canada and in the South to Mexico and South America. Millions of Latinos fled back South to the safety of their families and away from the looming danger of the war.

Day 42: “Citizens of California are advised to stay away from the Mexican Border. In response to the recent surge of immigrants back to Mexico, authorities out of Mexico City have closed entry into the country. Agents from Tijuana are now manning armed sentries posted along the border. There have been scattered reports of refugees attempting to storm the gates being shot by soldiers on the Mexican side. It has also been communicated that the No Man’s Land will be mined within the week and that Mexico will not be allowing any non-Mexican immigrants to enter the country from this point forward. Once again, we strongly advise all those wishing to leave the country to stay in their homes.”
Jennifer Aranda – Channel 14 News

The war was little more than a very tenuous peace for several months. The new nations were mostly focused on the reconsolidating of their forces and trying for quick grabs at resources that were easy to hold. Alliances were beginning to form as some of the smaller states sought to ally with known powers in the region.

The first of what we would call real battles was mostly when some of the regional powers overtook mainly unmanned installations or took over now abandoned Federal assets.

Day 63: “We are gathered here today as the inheritors of a lost legacy. Our nation has been lost to shattering and disarray. For that reason it is our duty to bring back our house to a structure undivided. When we arrived in the District we found it empty and abandoned. The monuments to our civilization watched silently over the broken halls of our once proud Capitol. We came to the District to bring back order. We have done this deed and now it is our charge to bring back the greatness of America and return her to her proud place of honor… We will do these things and we will do the others because we are a great people. We are Americans. We are VIRGINIANS!”

Inauguration speech of President Anthony Stokes

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

The first real occupation attempts happened when attempts were made to secure more assets.

The Republic of Texas sought to gain strategic advantages in the Central United States. To do this they sought to gain two strategic assets. The first was control of Whiteman AFB, the home of the B-2 bomber program. The base was easily secured and the most coveted military bomber in the world was now in the hands of the Republic of Texas. The next was control of Colorado and her military installations of great value. Then finally was access to the Mississippi River. Two main offenses took place to do just that. The First Battle of New Orleans involved a massive force occupying the city to claim it as a port and artery for future engagements. In Colorado they met stiff resistance as many of the Texas military were unfamiliar with Mountain warfare. Colorado’s major bases fell quickly since Colorado enjoys the smallest force to fight back the Texans, but they adapted an unconventional warfare stance that kept the Texans on edge for months. Still, at this point the mission behind taking Colorado had been achieved–control over its military bases and strategic assets. The insurgency does however slow down the growth of Texas.

New York pushed Northward. They pushed to claim all of New England and the food wealth they will need to supply their people now that resources from the Midwest are no longer available. The takeover is mostly peaceful as many of the states have large, but mostly non-military, populations. They encountered problems when large groups of refugees tried to flee to Canada and rioting ensued.

Illinois was calm. The Midwest Alliance grew steadily by seeking to secure the Great Lakes. They were able to take Ohio through a few fierce, but brief encounters. They also took on Minnesota and the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

The West coast was now controlled by the two main powers–California with its seat of power in San Francisco and The North West Union centered in Seattle. California gained support and took control of all the states West of the Continental Divide and South of the Union. The North West Union pushed as far as Wyoming.

In the South, Georgia gained strength as Alabama and South Carolina joined. The leadership of Georgia advocated a return to confederalism as fanatics gain headway among the people. The Neo-Confederacy movement takes root and spreads throughout the Old South and rekindles a sense of unity among the states who engaged on the side of the Confederacy during the First United States Civil War. Peacefully they are able to convince Mississippi and Tennessee to also join. The growth of Confederate States puts an ever-growing pressure on Florida as it slips into isolation.

Virginia took on the mantle of the Restored United States. They assumed the moral responsibility for reunification, and by taking Washington they were able to secure much of the federal assets and infrastructure available to the country before the collapse. They then commandeered many ships and weapons housed overseas that weren’t lost during the first two months of disarray. They began to gather support among the neighboring states and press their advantages– intelligence, military strength and the symbolic leadership they held by holding D.C. One strategic advantage they wished to push was their economy. While the rest of the former United States was in complete economic disarray, Virginians’ consistent use of the dollar provided a stability that others didn’t have. They wished to solidify this with control of the nation’s gold supply housed in a crossroads what was now a very desperate strategic region. After they peacefully brokered a treaty with Kentucky they received an attack on Fort Knox from forces located in Indiana.

Day 112: “When we arrived at Knox we received heavy resistance from the defenders. Their fire was, for the most part, inaccurate and they lacked unit cohesion, so we found ourselves at an advantage. Not that we are much better off. We received intel that their units were something of a haphazard array of whatever Marines, Sailors, Soldiers or Airmen came out of the woodwork and they just threw them together and called it a unit, much like our own. Still they were professional warfighters. We were lucky they hadn’t yet made it to secure the fort. Back to Knox. We were able to take the base. The fact was that the Kentucky defenders were mostly woodsmen and good-ol-boys from the South. More a militia reliving stories of the Old South than an army, but they fought like wild dogs. After a few hours their main line broke and they retreated back towards the center of the state. About halfway through the day we were able to break into the main buildings where the gold was supposed to be stored. Easily, it would be safe to say we were surprised at what we found. We arrived to find bloodstains in the main hallways and leading into the vault room. The trail faded and we see that the vaults are all completely empty. Every last bar, every last ounce is gone. All that is left are red stains all over the room and bullet holes riddling the walls that look like they could have happened months ago. Those hicks didn’t even know they were guarding a giant empty building. Now the big question is…’So where is the gold?'”

Log of Lt Col. Thomas Scott 2nd Raider Battalion Midwestern Alliance.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

At that time the nations were coming together in larger groups. They had access to larger populations to support military strength, economic power to reach out and fund the state, food sources, and leadership.

In the West, states along the coast received the most fighting. Washington began bombing San Francisco from the air to try and decapitate what had become the center of California’s leadership. Retaliation strikes from combined naval and air forces severally weakened Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle. California launched a two-pronged attack by sending in land forces up Interstate Highway 5 and Marines to attack from the North. Their mission was to enter Washington through the Salish Sea and secure Mt. Vernon, preventing escape of enemy forces. The Marines were by and large undetected and completed their mission successfully. The Californian army received shelling on their movement near the town of Cresswell, Oregon. They retreated back to the nearby town of Cottage Grove and secured the Airport there. Now a temporary air base had been established and sorties began taking place allowing for the immediate deployment of troops to the defending town of Eugene. Casualties were high, but once Eugene was secured the way was open to take Portland.

Day 234: “I don’t know what the Army is doing. We have been here holding the Canadian border for days and the Army still hasn’t made it past Eugene. Just get it out. Burn the city to the ground. Mow them down. Just do your damn job. It’s us or them. Make it happen for God’s sake.”

Private First Class Anthony Sullivan – 1st Californian Marine Regiment

In the East the Restored United States was desperately in need of sound military strategy and allies. They had now become completely surrounded by enemy states. Such a solution came through the plan brought about by one General David Meznick. The Meznick Doctrine called for the destruction of strategic economic assets in the North to weaken their ability to make war. The greatest of these were the attacks on the infrastructure of the Great Lakes’ shipping system. With the locks destroyed and the Erie Canal in ruins, shipping between Chicago and the outside world had ended. New York was also cut from its most valuable resource which was the hope of once again shipping America’s goods to the rest of the world after the war. This maneuver had massive consequences to the region. Now deprived of many of their shipping lanes, the Midwest Alliance began to break as food and other supplies were unable to reach its people. Riots in Chicago began to erupt as the people accused the government of corruption, which for all purposes was true. Seeing the coming of the end, much of the Chicago legislature slipped out in the night and booked passage to Montreal on private planes. Left without leadership and provisions, the Alliance crumbled. Its resources became split between the Texas Republic and Restored United States with what was now known as the New England Union claiming Ohio.

In the South, tensions between Florida and the Neo-Confederates had reach their zenith. Troops had taken Tallahassee and were dug in along the Jacksonville-Gainesville Line. Florida was desperate. In a deal made in Houston, Florida agreed to join Texas if it was free to maintain its sovereignty in exchange for military support. With this, Florida and the forces staged in New Orleans attacked. The Jacksonville-Gainesville line was pushed back. Floridian forces moved with speed to besiege Atlanta as Texas occupied the city of Montgomery, Alabama. Texas and Florida forces converged on Atlanta and the siege went on for another month. No one really knows what led to the succeeding events, but a fire broke out in the city. Reports blame Texas shelling or Floridian sabotage, but most official accounts believe that it originated in an apartment complex where a family had been prying up floorboards to burn for heat. The fire spread to the rest of the neighborhood and, lacking their emergency infrastructure, parts of the city were overcome as the rest began to go into disarray. Texas forces secured the major areas of the city while Florida troops took charge of the relief effort for escaping refugees.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

The next hundred days were among the most peaceful of the war.The lines between the Republic of Texas and the Californian Union of Democratic States were now amassing troops and solidifying their positions. The Northeastern cites were in the processes of being rebuilt after California gained control as were the cities of Montgomery and Atlanta. Old forces of the losing states’ armies were redistributed to victor nations. Texas held a tenuous peace with the Restored United States as they erected fortifications along the 36th parallel and western side of the Mississippi. California and Texas began building in unison a mass of fortifications on either side of the Continental Divide. Texas also enjoyed use of the river as shipping lanes now connected everything from the Midwest to the Carolinas. This eased the growing concerns of food shortage and redeployment of men.

Most of the fighting was centered between the Restored United States (RUS) and New England Union (NEU). Control of Ohio and Pennsylvania changed hands a few times as the region sought stability. The war reached a turning point when a New York based flotilla made a decisive push to take Washington D.C.  In response, a nuclear device was used on the fleet and all the ships, sailors and Marines on that mission were lost. The first active use of a nuclear weapon in more than half a century sent waves through the warring nation states. Other nations of the world grew terrified as they waited for the NEU’s strategy. The worst fears came to pass when a weapon was exploded in Washington D.C. bringing down the powerbase of the Restored United States. Alarms across the world rang out as the RUS gathered itself and prepared to launch retaliatory strikes along the Eastern Seaboard. Before this came to pass a message from New York City came initiating their surrender. The device had been set by a rogue general from New York. Fearing its own impending annihilation, New York City seceded from the Northeast to become its own independent city-state. The rest of New England issued their surrender and joined the Restored United States without incident. The Capitol was moved to Philadelphia.

Day 647: “I can’t believe Washington’s gone. I mean, what are we even fighting for? There is nothing left that was the same. I swear I am starting to feel like all we are animals trying to survive, fighting over the scraps of our fathers. We all knew it was over when D.C. got smoked, but at least that didn’t happen. Many of the men are still sure that NYC planned this out. Leave the rest to fight over the charred out ashes while they run from it all. I just don’t know what to think. Now we are inheriting the Northeast and all its problems. They better be ready. Now Texas has us to the West and South along Carolina. Two years this has been going on and for what? I don’t know how long we can keep this going.”

Log of Col. Thomas Scott 1st Marine Regiment Restored United States.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

During the next year the war reached a standstill. Maneuvers and deployments mounted the full force of all three nations. Tensions mounted as the borders grew more and more defended.Texas forces were spread thin. They held the most land, the longest borders and the least population to support their land. It was composed of the elite Texas troops, highly militant neo-confederates, thousands of independent militias and partisans as well as millions of individuals ready to fight their own private backwoods battles.

The Restored United States was a broken nation. Much of it was the remains of conquered other nations. The former state of New York was now missing its greatest assets, income from the the Midwest and international access from New York City. The Capitol had been lost. Their people were now disheartened and disillusioned. The nation they lived in was nowhere near what they were experiencing, yet they still had to survive. A new national identity was forming.

California was doing well relatively speaking. Though there was damage done to the major cities, they enjoyed a good deal of time to rebuild. Their troops were stationed along the divide. Border tensions began to build until a small town skirmish in Wyoming escalated the war to its peak.

Wyoming was now effectively existing on two sides of the divide. Many of the services and resources were split between a small segment of the Western end of the state and the rest of Wyoming. The distance from California was too great for support from San Francisco to offer the Western segment of the state. In many ways they were fending for themselves. Near the division line were two towns, Green River and Rock Springs. Green River lay on the Western side of the state. They also held the only viable water resource between the two. Since the war began, they were able to share, but after rationing was instituted by the Republic, Rock Springs began to need more of the water. Though neither truly identified as Texan or Californian, they were now forced to abide by their laws. Rock Springs was in demand of water. Green River was forced, however, not to abide. Officers from California were sent to enforce the policy to not aid the enemy in any form. After frequently being denied, leadership of Rock Springs went to the town and make a formal request with the officers at Green River. The officers had taken over the mayoral office of the town. The officers denied again Rock Springs’s request. One young man, Jeffery Irving, protested violently. A scuffle began in the office before the officers drew their side arms. Two of the men were shot and Jeffery was killed in the office of the Green River courthouse. The next day citizens from Rock Springs came to the city and stormed the mayor’s office. The two officers were barricaded in the office and requested for support from a nearby base. An hour later troops arrived in the town. They discovered the office broken into and the officers murdered. The order was given to track down the perpetrators. California troops made their way to Rock Springs.

While in town they barricaded the main road where they began searching passing vehicles and taking people in for questioning. A crowd began to build. Taunts and screams let out from the crowd. The crowd became violent. A rock was thrown at the soldiers. A rifleman knocked a man to the ground with the butt of his weapon…

“Crack.”

A gun shot sounded from one of the windows on Main Street. The soldier fell down beside the man on the ground. The crowd was silent and a moment of stillness seemed to roar throughout the valley.

A soldier began firing on the window; others fired at the crowd. In a moment the entire crowd was under fire. They ran for the nearest building and anywhere for cover. As the firing stopped the lives of dozens of men, women and children lay frozen on the street. The detachment gathered themselves and left the town before a battle began between themselves and the townspeople. This was the Massacre of Rock Springs.

Day 812: “When we arrived most the bodies had been carried away. Some were lined along the street covered in sheets of white stained crimson. The town was in shock as our troops began filling the streets. Mothers were screaming with anguish as old men roared for action. There was talk of many of the men leaving an hour before we arrived to handle things themselves. I don’t think they know what they’re getting themselves into. We won’t be able to assist them. I feel for these people. I am shocked with them. They are Texas citizens now and we let this happen. It won’t go unavenged for long though. I haven’t seen this many troops gathered like this since we took Atlanta. This is definitely going to be the big push we have all been waiting for to take California. All Hell is about to break loose. God protect us as we march on California.”
Journal of Sgt. Alexander McAnally 33rd Texas Infantry Regiment

A massive invasion force gathered at Rock Springs. Six divisions of the Texas Army and the 1st and 3rd Marines were mobilized for the battle. In the morning B-2s from Whiteman AFB in Missouri began strategic bombing sorties against a number of Californian Union air bases. Conventional bombing missions were also launched. Suffering the greatest were bases near Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Air defense was  launched from bases in San Diego, LA and Sacramento with relief forces in the North. Next came what was known as the battle over Nevada. Fighter squadrons met over the desert in many numerous engagements to gain air superiority. Texas was equipped with superior aircraft since they were the only power still investing heavily in improving their local manufacturing capabilities and advancing military technology. They also had the advantage of more experienced warfighters from the wars in the East. California was heavily invested in passive defense systems scattered throughout the desert. Their missile defenses tore heavily into the Texas planes. The air battle was by far the largest air battle in history with thousands of planes involved and hundreds lost to the skies. The fighters from Texas were able to protect bombers in raising the remaining defenses in Salt Lake and Las Vegas while severely damaging others in Los Angeles, San Diego and China Lake.

The Battle of Salt Lake began the Land War. With the region softened, Texas mobilized forces invaded Northern Utah by way of the Forward Operating Base Rock Springs and following Interstate 80. They met fierce resistance in Salt Lake city. Sniper and rifle teams were thoroughly entrenched along with machine-gun nests. Five battalions of thoroughly entrenched Californian infantry were able to hold the city for three days against the overwhelming Texas forces while the air war continued over the sands of the Great American Desert. On the fourth day of courageous fighting the Californians retreated as relief troops arrived. The Texans were now dug into the hollowed-out shell of the former capital of Utah. From this point the Siege of Salt Lake lasted another three weeks.

The battle continued. Texas reinforcements joined on day six. The battle intensified. Texas was the first to escalate. M.O.A.B. bombs were dropped and cleared away a great deal of California defenders. Texas movements quickly divided and overwhelmed the Californians. 6000 were lost and the Californians retreated back to Sacramento. Once Salt Lake was secured Republic forces moved on to Las Vegas. Vegas was easily secured after the battle of Salt Lake. Republic forces gathered in the desert city preparing for the push to Los Angeles. As the army moved out they destroyed the Hoover dam to prevent Las Vegas from becoming a strategic point again. This caused a surge in the Colorado river that destroyed the Davis, Parker and Imperial Dam systems as well. The region would become by modern standards a completely uninhabitable desert again.

It was then that something unexpected happened. The Restored United States attacked in an unsuspected maneuver designed to strike when the Republic and Californian Union were entangled and spread thin. General Meznick again planned out a massive attack to take out the knees from under the Republic forces. His plan was to take out the port at New Orleans and land a decisive series of blows against Texas. As Republic troops moved out to Southern Nevada, covert agents blew the dikes holding back the flood waters from the Gulf.  The city, its troops, its ships and resources were all flooded and in disarray. Air strikes and land forces were also made on the stations and bases along the Mississippi River, including Whiteman and the B-2’s stationed there. Transport  boats carried thousand to secure the bases along the river down to Baton Rouge. From there bombers cleared a path through to Beaumont, Texas, and on to Houston. Texas Defense forces scrambled to meet the invasion. With eyes to the West, few were prepared for an attack in the heart of Texas. Reserves from Dallas and Austin raced to Houston. The battle intensified. After the destruction of New Orleans, naval forces stationed in the Atlantic maneuvered to support the Texas invasion. Without the support of the New Orleans ships at port, the Republic Navy was overcome. Naval bombardment was laid down on the defenders in Houston, paving the way for the surgical team of RUS soldiers and the wave of troops following the river. The defenses were hindered by the sea of terrified citizens fleeing Houston. As shells rained down from the sea, chaos ensued. The city was going to be lost.

With the loss of Houston imminent, Republic soldiers spread thin on two fronts, and the country severed down the spine of the Mississippi, Texas made a last desperate strike.

It is believed the first city to fall was Chicago. Boston and Philadelphia came shortly after. At the same time, San Francisco and Seattle were lost. Retaliatory strikes claimed Austin, Houston, Atlanta and Oklahoma City. It is believed that many other cities were targeted for destruction, if not for the intervention of some unknown power.

Four high-altitude nuclear devices were detonated over the former United States. These weapons showered the region with energized electrons that shorted the circuits of electrical devices in their target radius. Below is a graphic representation of what this blast did to the United States.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

Most of the country fell into regions of 50 to 80% damage, however considering overlap, historians assume that the damage was at least 90% to all of the continent and all its coveted luxuries were reduced to plastic and glass. This of course didn’t stop at the devices themselves, but everything networked into the infrastructure was brought down as well.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

The four devices together were seen from various parts of the country. Their effects brought down all major computer systems, information networks, communication relays, and nearly all circuit-based technology on the continent. There is no official record of who fired the weapons. Any logs created were probably lost in the very blast they created. Many believe that it was a last ditch effort to limit the destruction of the United States in the event of Atomic Holocaust. Some believe it was due to international intervention. The world’s final discipline upon them for what they were doing. Many of the religious groups who would come from this era believe it was the work of God, though they cannot agree whether it was a sign of his mercy or punishment upon a sinful nation. Whoever was responsible, the truth is that the devices probably stopped more bombs than actually went off that day, but they didn’t protect anyone from the next five years. America was dark.

Day 842: “I was out on the porch catching fireflies with Jamie on the night the lights went out. We had caught a whole jar full when I saw a bright light come from the sky way far off in the North. Daddy screamed and jumped on us and he held me really close as we fell to the ground. The light grew really bright and then all of a sudden this wind crashed the field. The wind whooshed through like it was going to carry Daddy, me, and Jamie away. Then it went away. I looked up and the light in the sky faded away. I watched it dim until it turned to nothing. Then I looked around and realized I couldn’t see anything. All the lights in the house went off. All the other houses did too. All the street lights were off and the whole town was dark. I asked Daddy what had happened. “I don’t know,Sweetie. We need to get back into the house before it gets too cold.” I looked hard and tried to find a path back to the porch. Then I saw the light flicker on Jamie’s cheek. The jar in her hand began to flicker and I could see the fireflies coming back to life. It wasn’t much, but they were the only lights for miles and Jamie was all I could see.”

The Diary of Sarah Brennan

 

Day 846: I don’t know which is worse, the casualties we suffered at Salt Lake or the retreat back through the Sierra Nevadas. We lost the vehicles and had to go the rest of the way on foot once we reached the California border. All the trucks stopped dead and everything’s gone silent. We have lost all contact with San Francisco. I am trying to keep the men going, but I honestly don’t know if I am going to be able to keep any of us alive. The snow is thick and is keeping us moving at a crawl. Foraging is not providing us the food we need. We have already lost as many men trying to get back to the base as we did in the battle. My greatest fear is that the men will begin to realize where we are. I don’t know why God would put me in this situation in the middle of the Donner Pass. Please don’t let the men know what happened here and start to get any ideas. We are no longer being pursued. Perhaps they know how desperate we are. Please Lord, just let us make it out the pass.” 

Log of Lt. Joseph Ramirez, 3rd California Infantry Regiment

After the collapse came the period historians remember as the American Dark Age.

Five years passed. With all the infrastructural losses came a loss in leadership. The cities were evacuated due to no water, food, or power coming in. Towns like Ardmore, Oklahoma became overnight metropolises taking in the flood of humanity escaping from cities like Dallas and the  ruins of Oklahoma City. A local Indian casino to the South from before the war became a refugee camp for more than 60,000 people. The Oklahomans welcomed them warmly as now there was no war. There was no Texas, nor California and certainly no America. Now everyone was simply a survivor of the 2nd American Civil War.

In the chaos of the collapse, micro-wars sprang up. With no government protection, towns and villages attacked one another. Local Sheriffs declared themselves Generals of fifty-man armies.  Much of the former United States fell into a feudal bid for power waging county against county and town against town. They fought battles over salt mines, water from a local creek, or farmland.

In the South a plague swept through the countryside. Many reputable reports indicate that it happened when the controls at the CDC in Atlanta were destroyed after the bombing or from the EMP. Genocides and ethnic cleansing also scarred the landscape in Chicago, Alabama, Miami and Los Angeles.

It was towns like Ardmore, Oklahoma that finally brought us out of the dark. They rebuilt the agricultural backbone and got people back to work now that peace was assured through the destruction of the capacity to make war by the large nation-states. Veterans gathered to provide a unified defense force for the new agrarian cultures that built themselves out of the ashes. New farms were established and refugees built homes all along the landscapes. As food became less of an issue for the people, factories began to rise again. The infrastructure began returning as power was restored, transformers were replaced, networks were brought back online. As the towns became secure and prosperous again people moved back into the

cities. Dallas, Sacramento, Columbus, and Richmond rose to become important regional powers again. The eyes of the nation looked to these cities as fears of the rekindling of the Unification wars began to surface. Old hatreds began to echo.

It was from Dallas that a movement started. One young girl led a peace movement from the heart of the former Republic of Texas.

Day 2871: “This girl in Texas is calling for us to formally end the hostilities. I don’t know if I could ever trust someone from Texas again, but she was just a girl when this whole thing started. It’s not like she is to blame for anything, but it is just hard to get behind someone from down there. We are tired, there isn’t anything left worth fighting for. If there is anything left it would have to be that this has to end before it all happens again.”

Sgt. Anthony Sullivan – California Civil Restoration Administration

 

Day 2912: “Give this girl your support. What we did was criminal. As a people we destroyed what took great men hundreds of years to bring together. It took us less than two years to bring each other to the brink. We lost our greatest cities and our best people. Now there is one of our own calling for repentance and recompense. Pray for her strength and success.”

Pastor Joseph Ramirez

 

Day 2945: “There’s going to be a peace conference in New York City. They’re back up and running for the most part. Hopefully we can do something good there. I will be part of the delegation from the RUS. We haven’t thought of ourselves as that for years. Still, we have to go and let it be known that Columbus doesn’t want anymore fighting. We are more than this collection of third-world city-states that are built on the breakdown of our legacies. I hope this little girl from Dallas is more than hopes and dreams.”

Mayor Thomas Scott of Columbus

 

Day 2953: As the much talked-about New York City peace accords prepare to open, all the attention of the country is on this girl from Oklahoma. She was one of the early people to flee with her family from Texas. She, with her father, mother and young sister, lived with family on a small farm in Southern Oklahoma. There they survived the conscription notices for service, the bombings, The Dark and the two-year winter.

She took up work in an old cookie factory, now shelling pecans from local harvests. After the Dark she administered relief efforts at a local Indian casino for refugees fleeing Texas after the they lost power and feared their own annihilation. She was able to gain respect and was eventually made responsible for finding the refugees work on the local farms. Thousands knew her for work and generosity. She built up relief shelters to gather together aid to the refugees and give them jobs. While still barely in her 20’s she was one of the main people responsible for the rebuilding of vital resources in Oklahoma City. When the lights came back online and grocery shelves were stocked again in Dallas, she was there. Pushed into local politics she was a unifying force for the region.

While in Dallas she championed a peace movement. Dallasites and Texans began to question if the war should continue, if their safety could be secured with the history of the war and Texas’ role in it. She was the voice of reason in a sea of fears. She gained support from those she helped and her message spread across lands owned by the Republic and all the way to Columbus and Sacramento.

Now leaders from across America are going to New York City and are meeting for the first time since the break-up of the United States to discuss a resolution to the failed Wars of Reunification. In her honor, the much talked about Brennan Treaty will be presented to the delegation, ratified and hopefully pass within the week. Here’s to hope and to Sarah Brennan.

Jennifer Aranda – New San Diego Union Tribune

– End

Sources:

List of U.S. states and territories by population

List of countries by number of military and paramilitary personnel

John Burgess’ answer to Which states commit the most troops to the US Military?

United States Armed Forces

Jon Davis’ answer to Hypothetical Battles: If every nation in the world allied and attempted to invade and conquer the United States, would they succeed?

All the other answers on If every state of the USA declared war against each other, which would win?

I was also inspired by watching some of my favorites on human nature and warfare Hotel Rwanda and Red Dawn. Just be thankful I didn’t rewatch the documentary series “Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State.”


Thanks for reading!

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MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Marines ripped through the Iraqis in Operation Desert Storm

When Saddam Hussein ordered the invasion of Kuwait, the Marines were one of the first units to respond. By Feb. 23, 1991, I Marine Expeditionary Force was controlling two reinforced Marine Divisions poised to strike Iraqi forces in Kuwait.


Facing the Marines were two massive minefields and some ten Iraqi divisions.

In the lead up to the invasion, the Marines worked furiously to find gaps in the minefield that they could strike through. They also frequently clashed with Iraqi forces when conducting artillery raids and during the pre-emptive Battle of Khafji.

 

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Marines from Company D, 2nd Tank Battalion, drive their M-60A1 main battle tank over a sand berm on Hill 231 while rehearsing their role as part of Task Force Breach Alpha during Operation Desert Storm. (Dept. of Defense photo)

That battle convinced the Marines that maybe the task ahead was not as formidable as they might have assumed. The Marines realized the Iraqis lacked aggression and coordination, and if hit hard they would back down.

But before that could happen they still had to find a way through the minefields. The commanders of the two Marine divisions had their own ideas of how that would happen.

The 1st Marine Division, commanded by Maj. Gen. Mike Myatt, was divided into four task forces – Ripper, Papa Bear, Taro, and Grizzly. Two task forces would clear lanes through the minefields before allowing the other two to pass through to spearhead the attack.

The 2nd Marine Division, commanded by Maj. Gen. William Keys, had a different plan. Keys ordered the Division to breach the minefields before storming across Kuwait to meet the Iraqis.

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An Iraqi T-55 main battle tank burns after an attack by the 1st United Kingdom Armored Division during Operation Desert Storm. (Creative Commons photo)

Before the ground war even started, the Marines of Task Forces Taro and Grizzly were infiltrating into Kuwait and through the minefield in order to take up blocking positions when the invasions started.

Then, on Feb. 24, 1991 at 0430 local time, the invasion officially began. The 1st Marine Division’s two task forces, Ripper and Papa Bear, began their assaults through the gaps provided by Taro and Grizzly.

On their flank, the 2nd Marine Division, augmented by the U.S. Army’s 2nd Armored Division’s 1st Brigade, began breaching operations at the minefield. Mine-clearing line charges and plow-equipped tanks blasted a path through the mines.

As the Marines cleared the minefields, they prepared to engage Iraqi forces. However, instead of an immediate fight, they were confronted with waves of surrendering Iraqi soldiers.

Unable to handle the large numbers of POWs, and with objectives to meet, they simply pointed the Iraqis towards the rear and drove on.

On the first day, the Marines only encountered light resistance and captured all of their objectives.

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Oil well fires rage outside Kuwait City in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm. The wells were set on fire by Iraqi forces before they were ousted from the region by coalition force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David McLeod)

However, the next day, Feb. 25, the Iraqis launched counterattacks in force against the Marine positions.

Using the burning Burqan oil fields as concealment, the Iraqis were able to infiltrate very close to the Marines before launching their attacks.

The sudden appearance of an Iraqi brigade to the Marine’s flank caused quite a stir. The 1st Tank Battalion of TF Papa Bear bore the brunt of the Iraqi advance. The Marine commander reported, “T-62s everywhere, scattering like cockroaches from the Burqan oil field.”

As the Marine’s M60 Patton tanks engaged the Iraqis, daring Marine aviators came in low under the smoke to blast Iraqi tanks with Hellfire missiles. In three and a half hours of hard fighting, the Marines drove off the Iraqis while destroying 75 armored vehicles.

On TF Papa Bear’s other flank, another Iraqi force was massing to attack the 1st Marine Division’s forward command post. A platoon of infantry and another of LAV-25s commanded by Cpt. Eddie Ray were all that guarded the CP.

When artillery rounds began raining down around the Marines Ray raced forward to assess the situation. What he found was a numerically superior Iraqi force of tanks and armored personnel carriers approaching their position.

Ray’s small force immediately began engaging the Iraqi’s as they made a move for the CP. Seeing the attack developing, Brig. Gen. Draude, the assistant division commander, quipped, “If I die today, my wife is going to kill me.”

Another officer quickly called for reinforcements from TF Ripper and I MEF headquarters. He was told everyone was in a fight and there was no available air support.

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M1 Abrams during Desert Storm. (Photo: US Department of Defense)

 

He responded by simply holding the radio headset in the air for a few seconds before vehemently stating, “We are in a REAL fight at division forward!”

I MEF sent two Cobra gunships to support the beleaguered Marines. With the gunships on station, Ray made a bold move — he counterattacked. Despite overwhelming odds, Ray’s small force hammered the Iraqis and drove them from the vicinity, destroying 50 vehicles and capturing 250 prisoners.

Ray was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions.

In the 2nd Marine Division’s sector, the Iraqis were fighting just as tenaciously. B Company, 4th Tank Battalion — a reserve unit and the only Marines armed with the new M1 Abrams — awoke on the morning of Feb. 25 to see a massive Iraqi armored column moving in front of their position.

In what became known as the Reveille Engagement, the men of B Company, despite being outnumbered 3-to-1, maneuvered on line and engaged the Iraqis. In just 90 seconds, the Marine tankers wiped out the entire Iraqi force of 35 tanks and APCs.

After defeating the Iraqi counterattacks, the Marines continued their drive north the next day. They took the vital Al Jaber airfield and made it to the outskirts of Kuwait City and the international airport.

While the 2nd Marine Division cut off the Iraqi’s retreat, the 1st Marine Division attacked and secured the airport with support from two battleships firing from the gulf.

The 100-hour ground war cost the Marines five killed and 48 wounded. In that time they fought over 100 miles through occupied territory, crushed seven Iraqi divisions, destroyed over 1,600 tanks and armored vehicles, and took over 22,000 prisoners.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The troublesome history of Zimbabwe’s dead dictator

If you were surprised to see some of the tearful farewells from those worst affected by the lifelong policies of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, you aren’t alone. Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years after helping free the country from British colonial rule. Mugabe was very much the central figure in then-Rhodesia’s struggle for freedom.

The African world rejoiced at his success, and then watched him plunge the country into every economic and human rights disaster there is.


At the end of the 1970s, African colonialism was taking its dying breaths. Zimbabwe, then called Rhodesia, was one of the last remnants of the African colonial era, where the minority white population ruled over the majority black population with an iron fist. The struggle to correct this resulted in the 15-year Rhodesian Bush War that saw thousands of Zimbabweans die at the hands of Rhodesian armed forces. The central figure to emerge from that struggle was Robert Mugabe, a charismatic freedom fighter and former college professor who idolized Mohandas Gandhi who started his firebrand career giving speeches in his home country.

After spending years in prison for sedition in Rhodesia, he left for neighboring Mozambique to join the militant wing of the struggle for freedom, the Zimbabwe African National Union. After the leaders of ZANU were assassinated by the Rhodesian government, Mugabe quickly rose to the top of its ranks. Rhodesia soon realized the writing on the wall, as Mugabe and other groups sent more insurgents into Rhodesia faster than the Rhodesians could kill or capture them. In the election that followed the political stalemate, Mugabe was victorious and became Prime Minister in 1980.

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Mugabe with Joshua Nkomo at the Constitutional Conference on the future of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia at Lancaster House in London.

He renamed the country Zimbabwe and the capital Harare. He also expanded educational opportunities to most of the population. In 1987, he and his ZANU-PF party amended the Zimbabwean constitution and installed himself as Executive President, a new position he made for himself while his one-party dominated the Parliament. Mugabe became just one more African strongman. Mugabe betrayed his own revolution.

Although he was an educated man, he was not fit to rule an entire country on his own. After sending military forces into the countryside to root out dissent, Zimbabwe found itself deeply in debt and a mineral sector in virtual collapse. The value of its currency began to drop, and Mugabe began to exploit the ethnic differences in his country to stay in power, a textbook dictatorship move. The wealthy and educated began to flee the country, and by 2000 the economy was in freefall. Hyperinflation became synonymous with the Zimbabwean dollar. He created a repressive police state in order to stay in power, while stripping the rights of everyone, not just white farmers.

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

Mugabe died in Singapore on Sept. 6, 2019. He was 95. He will still be buried in the country he fought to loot for 37 years.

Even after the total collapse of the Zimbabwean economy, widespread corruption, and Mugabe’s brutal suppression of all opposition, Mugabe remained in power. He and his inner circle of cronies stole the revenues from the country’s mineral wealth while stealing elections and killing the opposition. Finally, after 30-plus years of brutality, Western powers slapped sanctions on him, the country, and anyone caught doing business with Zimbabwe. Yet only after he began to groom his second wife, Grace, to take his position after he died, did Zimbabweans organize his ouster. When he died, he was still working to undermine the government in Harare that had succeeded him.

So while Robert Mugabe was an undisputed liberating force for so many black Rhodesians-turned-Zimbabweans, along with those affected by the subsequent anti-colonial and anti-apartheid movements that came after his success, he was also responsible for 37 years of pillaging the country he fought to liberate.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why you can’t climb the arm of the Statue of Liberty anymore

More than 100 years ago, European powers were in the middle of World War I and looking everywhere for potential enemies and allies. In 1916, even President Wilson believed it would soon be inevitable for the U.S. to enter the war on the side of England and the Triple Entente. Then, an explosion on July 30, 1916 shattered windows in Times Square, shook the Brooklyn Bridge, and could be heard as far away as Maryland.

But the effect that would have lasting impression was the shrapnel that peppered the nearby Statue of Liberty.

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New York Harbor in 1916.
(National Board of Health)

German saboteurs moved to hit a munitions plant in New York City’s Black Tom Island (an artificial island near Liberty Island) that was already making weapons and ammunition bound for Britain and France. They did it in the early morning hours on the poorly lit, poorly defended ammunition depot.

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View of the debris of the Lehigh Valley pier wrecked by an explosion of munitions on Black Tom Island, New Jersey. Five dead and $25,000,000 worth ($500,000,000 in 2018) of property destroyed.
(National Archives)

It was part of a two-year German campaign of sabotage in the United States and shook far away America to its core. The outrage over the previous year’s sinking of the RMS Lusitania and the loss of 120 Americans aboard that ship already began to turn American public opinion against Germany.

The Great War had finally come home in a big way.

This was not the first explosion or “accident” that occurred in munitions plants or on ships bound for Europe. German agents operating out of New York and its port facilities hired German sailors and Irish dock workers to plant bombs and incendiary devices on ships and in plants working on war materials. The number of accidents aboard those ships skyrocketed. But the Black Tom incident was different.

Two million tons of explosives were set off in a single instant. Five people died and it’s fortunate more people weren’t killed, considering the size of the blast. The buildings on the landfill island were smashed and flattened.

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The aftermath of the Black Tom explosion.
(U.S. Army Signal Corps photo)

The shrapnel that exploded in every direction damaged the Statue of Liberty and didn’t just scar her lovely face, it popped the rivets that connect the arm that bears the torch of freedom, forcing the the arm to be forever closed to tourists. For a little while, even the years following the end of World War I, Black Tom was all America could talk about.

That is, until a new Germany rose from the ashes of the Kaiser’s Empire.

popular

10 things to avoid saying to veterans

As we enter the third decade of the 21st century and America’s “forever wars” in the Middle East continue, it’s more important than ever to consider the plight of our veterans. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were more than 18 million veterans in the United States in 2019. In Charles W. Hoge’s 2010 handbook Once a Warrior–Always a Warrior, the MD and retired Army Colonel writes: “Warriors and their family members are often surprised at how difficult the transition period is after coming back from a combat deployment. Many expect that they’ll need just a little time for things to go back to ‘normal,’ but find that ‘normal’ is elusive and time is relative.”

With that sensitivity in mind, here are some things to avoid saying to our brothers and sisters returned from the front line. Warriors recognize that most of these awkward overtures are well-meaning, but it’s worth developing a keener sense of empathy when relating to those who have served.

1. “Is it tough being away from your friends and family?”

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Spc. Robert Costa, Human Resource Specialist of the 147th Human Resource Company, returned to his family and friends in Minnesota from a year long deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom on Nov. 11, Veterans Day.

The answer to this question is usually contradictory. While being separated from loved ones can be challenging, warriors find new friendships and familial bonds in each other during deployments. 

2. “I would’ve joined, but…”

Projecting your own fantasy of the road not taken to a veteran only demonstrates self-centeredness, thwarting any meaningful connection. 

3. “How many people did you kill?”

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A Green Beret assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) fires the M240B machine gun during a training exercise at Camp McGregor, New Mexico March 24, 2020. 

Asking this of someone who served might force them to relive a trauma they experienced – and the guilt, shame or rage associated with it. It’s a personal question that requires a great deal of trust. While some vets may be open to sharing this sensitive info with their closest friends or family, others prefer not to discuss it at all. Leave this one up to them.

4. “It must’ve been Hell over there.”

There’s an uncomfortable voyeurism to asking too many details of a veteran’s combat experience (unless that information is volunteered freely), but it’s also wrong to assume what the working environment was like for a soldier.

5. “My uncle or cousin was in this unit, did you know him?”

The U.S. Armed Forces are a humongous outfit. The Army’s 101st Airborne division alone has 18,000 soldiers. You probably don’t even remember everyone who went to your high school. Whoever said “there are no stupid questions” didn’t hear this one. 

6. “Do you have PTSD?”

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Then 2nd Lt. Tom Blackburn sits in the turret of his tank while on a mission in Mosul, Iraq, in 2007. Blackburn’s deployment would leave many scars that he still deals with today.

Though we shouldn’t stigmatize mental disorders, it can be tough for those with PTS to talk about their experiences. As HelpGuide explains: “Comfort for someone with PTSD comes from feeling engaged and accepted by you, not necessarily from talking.”

7. “Did you lose any friends in combat?”

Trauma doesn’t only occur in those veterans who have taken lives, but from the survivors of combat as well. We should always tread lightly over these themes in conversation with warriors. 

8. “You must be happy to be home.”

The feelings of returning soldiers are often complicated. “Roughly two-thirds of all veterans (68%) say, in the first few years after leaving the military, they frequently felt proud of their military service.” It’s better to not risk patronizing a warrior by making broad assumptions.

9. “What do you think of the president?”

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President Joe Biden disembarks Air Force One here at the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Milwaukee, Feb. 16, 2021. Biden made his first official trip as president to tape a town hall meeting in Milwaukee. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Kellen Kroening)

This question puts veterans in a bind. They are required to respect the office and defend the Commander in Chief, but still do possess independent political views that fall anywhere across the spectrum. 

10. “I’m sorry you had to go through this.”

This is a condescending statement to make to anyone who has served, a sentiment expressed succinctly in a 2014 WSJ article: Treat Veterans With Respect, Not Pity.
For most of us, trying to connect with veterans comes from a good place. If you’re in doubt about what to say and what to avoid, here’s an easy rule: when in doubt, talk less and listen more. That’s the beginning of a real conversation.

Articles

This is how the remains of a WWII hero made it home after 75 years

A New York military aviation researcher got more than she bargained for on a dream trip to a battle-scarred South Pacific island — the chance to help solve the mystery of an American soldier listed as missing in action from World War II.


Donna Esposito, who works at the Empire State Aerosciences Museum in upstate Glenville, visited Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands this spring and was approached by a local man who knew of WWII dog tags and bones found along a nearby jungle trail. The man asked if Esposito could help find relatives of the man named on the tags: Pfc. Dale W. Ross.

After she returned home, Esposito found that Ross had nieces and nephews still living in Ashland, Oregon. A niece and a nephew accompanied Esposito on her late July return to Guadalcanal, where they were given his dog tags and a bag containing the skeletal remains.

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Marines rest in this field during the Guadalcanal campaign. (Photo under Public Domain.)

Although it’s not certain yet the remains are the missing soldier’s, the nephew who made the Guadalcanal trip is confident they will be a match.

“It’s Uncle Dale. I have no doubt,” said Dale W. Ross, who was named after his relative.

The elder Ross, a North Dakota native whose family moved to southern Oregon, was the third of four brothers who fought in WWII. Assigned to the Army’s 25th Infantry Division, he was listed as MIA in January 1943, during the final weeks of the Guadalcanal campaign. He was last seen in an area that saw heavy fighting around a Japanese-held hilltop.

When the Japanese evacuated Guadalcanal three weeks later, it was the first major land victory in the Allies’ island-hopping campaign in the Pacific.

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Members from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency transfer a case of unidentified remains believed to be military personnel onto a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane to be transferred to Oahu from the Solomon Islands, Aug. 9, 2017. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle.)

Ross’ relatives handed the remains — about four dozen bones, including rib bones — to a team from the Pentagon agency that identifies American MIAs found on foreign battlefields. On August 7, the 75th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Guadalcanal, an American honor guard carried a flag-draped coffin containing the bones onto a US Coast Guard aircraft.

The Pentagon said the remains were taken to Hawaii for DNA testing.

“Until a complete and thorough analysis of the remains is done by our lab, we are unable to comment on the specific case associated to the turnover,” said Maj. Jessie Romero of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

The other three Ross brothers made it back home, including the oldest, Charles, who served aboard a Navy PT boat in the Solomons and visited Guadalcanal in the vain attempt to learn about his brother Dale’s fate.

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Gen. Robert B. Neller lays a wreath during the 75th Anniversary of the Battle for Guadalcanal ceremony. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.)

Ross’ niece and nephew made their trip last month with Esposito and Justin Taylan, founder of Pacific Wrecks, a New York-based nonprofit involved in the search for American MIAs from WWII. They met the family whose 8-year-old son found the dog tags and remains. They also were taken to the spot on a slope in the jungle where the discovery was made.

“I never met this man, but I was a little emotional,” Ross, 71, said of the experience.

For Esposito, 45, finding evidence that could solve a lingering mystery in an American family’s military history is the most meaningful thing she’s ever done in her life.

“I can’t believe this has all happened,” she said. “It has been an amazing journey.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New JFK carrier 50% complete with massive chunk added

The midway point on construction of the Navy’s next aircraft carrier, the John F. Kennedy, CVN 79, was reached at the end of August 2018, when the latest superlift was dropped into place, shipbuilder Huntington Ignalls said in a release.

The modular-construction approach the shipbuilder is using involves joining smaller sections into larger chunks, called superlifts, which are outfitted with wiring, piping, ventilation, and other components, before being hoisted into place on the Kennedy.


The latest superlift makes up the aft section of the ship between the hangar bay and the flight deck. It is one of the heaviest that will be used, composed of 19 smaller sections and weighed 997 standard tons — roughly as much as 25 semi trucks. It is 80 feet long, about 110 feet wide, and four decks in height.

Below, you can see Huntington’s Newport News Shipbuilding division haul the massive superlift into place with the shipyard’s 1,157-ton gantry crane.

www.youtube.com

Workers installed an array of equipment, including pumps, pipes, lighting, and ventilation, into the latest superlift before it was lifted onto the ship.

The modular approach has allowed the shipbuilder to reach this point in construction 14 months earlier than it was reached on the USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy’s first-in-class Ford-class carrier, the company said.

“Performing higher levels of pre-outfitting represents a significant improvement in aircraft carrier construction, allowing us to build larger structures than ever before and providing greater cost savings,” Lucas Hicks, the company’s vice president for the Kennedy program, said in the release.

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A superlift is dropped into place on the aft section of the Navy’s next aircraft carrier, the John F. Kennedy, August 2018.

(Huntington Ignalls)

Huntington Ignalls started construction on the Kennedy in February 2011 with the “first cut of steel” ceremony. The ship’s keel was laid in August 2015, and the carrier hit the 50%-constructed mark in June 2017.

The shipbuilder said in early 2018 that the Kennedy reached 70% and 75% structural completion, which “has to do with superlifts and the number of structures erected to build the ship,” Duane Bourne, media-relations manager for Huntington Ignalls, said in an email.

With the nearly 1,000-ton superlift added at the end of August 2018, work on the Kennedy — structural or otherwise — is now halfway done.

The ship is now scheduled to move from dry dock to an outfitting berth by the last quarter of 2019, which would be three months ahead of schedule. Hicks said in April 2018 that the Kennedy was to be christened and launched in November 2019 and delivered to the Navy in June 2022.

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USS Gerald R. Ford underway on its own power for the first time in Newport News, Virginia, April 8, 2017.

(US Department of Defense photo)

The Kennedy includes many of the new features installed on the Ford, like the Electromagnetic Launch System and Advanced Arresting Gear, both of which assist with launching and recovering aircraft. (One notable feature not included on the Ford: urinals.)

The Ford was delivered to the Navy in June 2017 — two years later than planned — and commissioned that year. The ship came at a cost of about .9 billion, which was 23% more than estimated. The Ford has faced a number of issues and is still undergoing post-commissioning work before it can be ready for a combat deployment.

The Navy and Huntington Ignalls have said lessons from the construction of the Ford will be applied to future carriers — though the Government Accountability Office said in summer 2017 that the .4 billion budget for the Kennedy was unreliable and didn’t take into account what happened during the Ford’s construction. The Pentagon partially agreed with that assessment.

The Kennedy is the second of four Ford-class carriers the Navy plans to buy. Work has already started on the next Ford-class carrier, the Enterprise, with the “first cut of steel” ceremony taking place in August 2017.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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