Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus - We Are The Mighty
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Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus

The future Baseball Hall of Fame first baseman and civil rights pioneer Jackie Robinson was a young lieutenant facing court-martial in August 1944 for refusing to give up his seat on a bus near Camp Hood, Texas, while training as a tanker.


The segregation situation at Camp Hood was arguably one of the worst for black service members in the country. The civilian buses contracted to work the routes onto and off of post were fully segregated as were nearly all of the base facilities. While there for training, Robinson had fairly regular confrontations with other officers over racial issues on the base.

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus
Army 2nd Lt. Jackie Robinson was attached to a tank unit after finishing Officer Candidate School and Cavalry School. (Photo: LOOK Magazine/Public Domain)

Robinson was assigned to a black armored unit, the 761st Tank Battalion, as a second lieutenant. He was one of the few black officers in a unit with mostly white leadership.

On July 6, 1944, near the end of a two-year training pipeline, Robinson took a seat on a civilian bus next to a white woman on Camp Hood and the driver ordered him to move to the back of the bus.

Robinson refused and the military police were called to arrest him. While waiting for the MPs and again at the camp’s provost marshall office, Robinson was called “nigger” by both civilians and military personnel whom he outranked.

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus
Tank crews from the 761st Tank Battalion await orders to clean out scattered Nazi machine gun nests in Coburg, Germany, April 25, 1945. Army 2nd Lt. Jackie Robinson served with the battalion during its training period but accepted a medical separation after a racially-charged court martial. (Photo: National Archives)

Angry from his treatment and frustrated at the rampant discrimination on the post, Robinson refused to wait in the provost marshal’s office and was escorted to the hospital under guard and under protest.

Camp Hood commanders ordered the 761st to begin court-martial proceedings, but battalion commander Lt. Col. Paul L. Bates refused to sign the order. Unfortunately for Robinson, paperwork was already going through to transfer him to the 758th due to medical issues. When the transfer went through, his court martial began almost immediately.

The prosecution did not charge Robinson for his actions on the bus, but they did charge him for disrespecting a military police captain and for disobeying an order from the same captain.

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus
In the days leading up to his court martial, 2nd Lt. Jackie Robinson asked a trusted friend whether he should speak to the press. (Photo: U.S. National Archives)

His trial opened on Aug. 2 and ran for 17 days. Bates testified that Robinson was an outstanding officer. Bates even told the military panel that Robinson was traveling on the bus on July 6 at his request. Robinson had reported to a civilian hospital for a medical evaluation to see if he could ship out to Europe with the 761st.

Meanwhile Robinson’s defense attorney, Capt. William A. Cline, managed to highlight inconsistencies in the prosecution’s witness testimonies and prove that Robinson’s actions only took place after he was repeatedly disrespected by lower-ranking soldiers.

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus
Gunner Cpl. Carlton Chapman of the 761st Tank Battalion poses in his M4 Sherman tank near Nancy, France, Nov. 5, 1944.  (Photo: National Archives)

Cline even called into question whether the MP captain had properly ordered Robinson to remain in the office and got the captain to admit on the stand that he was unsure whether he had actually issued the order or simply meant to.

The defense won its case and Robinson was freed. Rather than fight to rejoin the 761st or train with the 758th, he decided to accept the Army’s assessment that he should be medically retired from service due to a bone chip in his ankle that sometimes caused the joint to seize up.

During the court martial, the 761st shipped out for New Jersey en route to Europe. It would become a legend in the final year of the war, earning 11 silver stars, a Medal of Honor, and the Presidential Unit Citation in 183 days of continuous fighting.

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These full-bird colonels are amped about vertical lift aircraft

The Army, the Marine Corps, and the Special Operations Command are working together in an ambitious drive to develop leap-ahead capabilities for future vertical lift aircraft that will provide greater range, speed, lethality, and survivability, but also have the maximum degree of commonality in platforms and systems to reduce cost and enhance sustainability.


Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus
A USMC V-22 Osprey lands aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The three colonels managing that complex effort say they believe they can do a better job of maximizing commonality and limiting cost than the tri-service F-35, or Joint Strike Fighter, program that continues to struggle with technology challenges, cost growth, and fractured schedules.

Appearing at a Center for Strategic and International Studies’ forum on future vertical lift (FVL) on Dec. 9, the three officers stated slightly different platform requirements for the future aircraft.

The Army and SOCOM are primarily interested in filling air lift and air assault missions currently performed by the different variants of the H-60 Black Hawks, according to Col. Erskine Bentley, the future vertical lift program manager at Army Training and Doctrine Command, and Army Col. David Phillips, program executive for rotary wing requirements at SOCOM.

Bentley described the Army’s focus as “primarily the utility mission,” which includes aerial medical evacuation and air assault, or “the ability to assault light forces and their equipment.”

SOCOM’s air lift missions tend to be long-range covert insertion and extraction of special operations units.

Marine Col. John Barranco, the rotary requirements branch head, expressed a need for both troop transport and attack capabilities as successors to the Corps’ current UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper helicopters. That did not include replacing the tilt-rotor MV-22 Ospreys, which already has speed and range far greater than those two.

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus
U.S. Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom flies during an exercise. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

But all three emphasized the primary focus of their FVL effort was more speed, range, power, and survivability than the current generation of helicopters. They emphasized that those enhanced capabilities were needed to overcome the emerging anti-access, area-denial defensive capabilities being fielded by “near-peer competitors,” which usually refers to Russia and China.

Bentley said greater “reach, speed, and power” would enable the Army to “conduct strategic deployment” from outside the combat theater, and immediately go into tactical operations on arrival.

Greater speed and reach, combined with additional protective systems, enhances survivability and “coupled with light-weight sensor systems, increases the lethality of Army aviation,” he said.

Barranco, noted that the Marines are fielding the “fifth generation” F-35B strike fighter, while their vertical lift aircraft, with the exception of the Osprey, are little better than the helicopters used in Vietnam. But, due to “the threat picture, the anti-access, area-denial, from a variety of near peer competitors,” he said, “there is a need across the joint force to leverage technology to develop a new, more capable aircraft.”

Phillips said the improved capabilities, and the open architecture systems were essential to “stay ahead of the environment,” which was his term for the threat.

The CSIS moderator, Andrew Hunter, challenged the officers on how they could achieve the high commonality for their different missions in light of the record of the Joint Strike Fighter program, which has been “challenged” and has had “less commonality than expected.”

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus
The F-35 was developed under a unique joint program office, while the FVL effort is under the established Army program office. (Photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen. (Cropped))

All three emphasized the time they have spent on confirming the key common requirements. Bentley said within each of those requirements was “trade space” that would allow each service to take from one capability to enhance another.

Barranco agreed, saying “every requirement is in a range of capabilitie,” so they could trade some speed or range for more troops. The Marine also stressed how they all needed the high commonality to enable them to get what they need within “the fiscally constrained environment,” which he predicted would not change.

In addition to reducing the procurement costs, commonality also would enhance sustainability by allowing common supply of spare parts and even cross-service maintenance, they said.

Although the individual platforms may be different, Barranco cited the example of the Marines’ new H-1s, which have 85 percent commonality in engine and mission systems, despite the significant difference in airframe and missions. 

Commonality also would be easier with open architecture in systems that would make it easier and cheaper to modify some performances, they said.

As the program lead, Bentley said the goal was to develop and test prototype aircraft in the 2020s and begin full rate production in the 2030s, when current vertical lift aircraft were due to retire.

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That time cadets at West Point rioted over Egg Nog

From the beginning, heavy drinking was fairly commonplace among the cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point (founded in 1802). In an attempt to stem this in 1826, the academy’s strict superintendent and the “Father of West Point,” General Sylvanus Thayer, began a crackdown by prohibiting alcohol on campus. As Christmas approached and the cadets realized that the prohibition would put a damper on their traditional Christmas Eve festivities that included consumption of a fair amount of eggnog, a bold few began to plan away around the problem.


Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus
Photo: Flickr/Erin Stevenson O’Connor

Back then, eggnog was always an alcoholic beverage (see: What is Eggnog Made Of and Who Invented It?), often made with rum or whiskey. Luckily for the cadets, both liquors were plentiful near campus, being served by three taverns within easy travelling distance: Benny Haven, North’s Tavern and Martin’s Tavern, just across the Hudson River.

Determined to make their season bright, a small cadre of cadets set out to smuggle some liquor into the North Barracks and chose Martin’s Tavern across the river as their supplier. A few nights before Christmas, three cadets crossed the Hudson, drank a bit at the bar, then purchased three to four gallons of whiskey to go. They then ferried the contraband back across the river. Met at the dock by a guard, they reportedly bribed him with $0.35  ($7 today) to look the other way while they unloaded the loot and snuck it into their rooms where it lay hidden until Christmas Eve.

On the fateful night, the superintendent assigned only two officers to monitor the North Barracks: Lieutenant William A. Thorton and Captain Ethan Allen Hitchcock. Things were quiet at first, and Hitchcock and Thorton went to bed about midnight. At about 4 a.m., however, Hitchcock was awakened by noise coming from one of the cadets’ floors above him. Upon investigation, he discovered a small group of obviously drunk cadets and ordered them to return to their rooms.

No sooner had he dispersed that group than Hitchcock realized there was another party in an adjoining room. Crashing that one as well, Hitchcock found these cadets so inebriated that he later reported they attempting to hide under blankets, and one even thought he could avoid detection by stubbornly keeping his face behind his hat. Unlike the first party, however, things got heated in the second room, and after Hitchcock left, the drunk-mad cadets decided to arm themselves with their bayonets, pistols and dirks to attack, and perhaps even kill, Hitchcock.

Thus began the Eggnog Riot. While the drunken cadets were gathering their weaponry, it sounded to Thorton and Hitchcock a few floors below as if the parties had simply resumed. Returning to the cadets’ floors, Hitchcock met Jefferson Davis (yes, that Jefferson Davis), then a cadet who was also drunk. Vainly trying to help his friends, Davis burst into the party-room just ahead of Hitchcock shouting: “Put away the grog boys! Captain Hitchcock’s coming!” Hitchcock soon joined them and ordered Davis to his room, which likely saved him from later expulsion, since he missed out on the remainder of the riot. Had he been expelled, of course, his future in the military and politics, culminating in becoming the President of the Confederacy, likely wouldn’t have ever happened. (See: What Ever Happened to Confederate President Jefferson Davis?)

Other cadets who had already made preparations to attack began assaulting Hitchcock and now Thorton, who had joined the fray. Thorton was threatened with a sword and knocked down with a piece of wood, while another cadet actually shot at Hitchcock.

Realizing things were spiraling out of control, Hitchcock ordered a cadet sentinel (who apparently had not been invited to the party) to get “the ‘com,” meaning the Commandant of Cadets; however, in their drunken state the rioting cadets thought he had summoned regular army men from a nearby barracks to attack them. Seeking to defend the honor of the North Barracks, even more cadets armed themselves (in total including about one-third of all cadets at the academy), and, as is standard operating procedure in any proper riot, the mob began arbitrarily breaking anything in sight, including windows, furniture and other items.

Eventually, the ‘Com came, and since the cadets truly respected his authority, they finally regained a semblance of composure, and the so-called Eggnog Riot ended sometime Christmas day.

Over the next week, Inspector of the Academy and Chief Engineer of the Army, Major General Alexander Macomb, entered Orders No. 49 and 98, the latter of which placed 22 cadets under house arrest, and the former began a court of inquiry.

The investigation revealed that the riot caused $168.83 in damage (around $3,500 today), and identified 19 ringleaders who were subsequently court-martialed between January 26 and March 8, 1827. Cadets Aisquith, Berrien, Bomford, Burnley, Farrelly, Fitzgerald, Gard, Guion, Humphreys, Johnson, Lewis, Mercer, Murdock, Norvelle, Roberts, Screven, Stocker, Swords, and Thompson stood trial, and other cadets, including both Jefferson Davis (who was among the 22 originally under house arrest, but otherwise went unpunished) and Robert E. Lee testified for the defenses. Eleven of the group (Berrien, Bomford, Burnley, Farrelly, Fitzgerald, Guion, Humphreys, Johnson, Lewis, Roberts and Stocker) were dismissed, and the remainder were allowed to stay, although Gard, Murdock and Norvelle chose to leave the academy anyway.

As a result of the riot, in the 1840s when new barracks were constructed, they were designed so that the cadets had to actually go outside to move between floors in an attempt to prevent another mob uprising.

Bonus Eggnog:

Here’s George Washington’s (yes, that George Washington) eggnog recipe (not verbatim):

Mix together well:

1 pint brandy

1 cup rye whiskey

1 cup rum

½ cup sherry

Separately, separate the yolks and whites of one dozen eggs. Then beat with the yolks:

¾ cup sugar

Add the liquor into the sugar-egg mixture, slowly at first, beating constantly so it fully incorporates.

Then add, again beating together slowly:

1 quart cream

1 quart milk

Separately, beat the whites stiff and gently fold those into the mixture. When incorporated, let it set in a cool place for several days, and as George said, “taste frequently.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the British paid respect to the Marines in the War of 1812

The War of 1812 isn’t remembered very much nowadays. Often considered America’s second war of independence, not much really changed on the map as a result of the war. But what’s more incredible than the story of the War of 1812 itself is the incredible number of small stories to which the war gives context.

The Battle of New Orleans, for example, was fought by pirates, American Indians, slaves, and civilians alongside the U.S. Army… after the war was over. Then there’s the outrageous fact that the biggest naval battles of the war happened on the Great Lakes, not at sea.

The event that few ever forget, however, is the British burning of Washington, D.C., when they put the Capitol and other government installations to the torch. British troops even had dinner at the White House before setting it ablaze. But there was one building in the DC area that was spared — and, potentially, for a very good reason.


It was the only time the American capital was ever occupied by a foreign country and the thought seems next to impossible these days. Some 4,000 British troops landed at the Chesapeake Bay and made their way eastward, toward Washington. The only thing standing in their way was 6,500 American militiamen and 420 U.S. Marines. The British routed the Americans so bad, the battle went down in history as “the greatest disgrace ever dealt to American arms.” Worse than that, it left the door to Washington open and the redcoats just walked right through it.

There was one bright silver lining to the Battle of Bladensburg, however. Navy Captain Joshua Barney and his 360 sailors and 120 Marines didn’t get the order from Gen. William H. Winder to retreat from the battlefield. Eventually, it was this force of just shy of 500 left to fight the entire British Army, often using their fists or the sailors’ arsenal of cutlasses. They would not be able to hold back the entire enemy force, but they made their stand last for two full hours.

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus

Marines making do at Bladensburg.

This stand gave many in Washington, including Congress, President James Madison, and his wife, Dolley, time to escape the city. Dolley Madison was able to take many of the White House’s most treasured artifacts with her.

A battle that was so mismanaged with a victory so lopsided lasted only a short few hours. That the most intense fighting was done against the United States Marines and the Navy did not go unnoticed by the British forces. Nonetheless, they pressed on to Washington.

The burning of the American capital was not just some sudden spark of victory-fueled euphoria. The Americans burned the capital of British North America, Canada, at York (modern-day Toronto) the previous year. Now, the British would get their revenge, torching the Capitol Building, the Library of Congress, the White House, and many, many other government buildings.

One of the few buildings that was spared in the melee was the Commandant of the Marine Corps’ house at the Marine Corps Barracks. The reason for this, according to Marine Corps legend, is that the British were impressed by the Marines’ performance at the Battle of Bladensburg and, thus, spared the house out of respect.

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus

The Home of the Commandants at Marine Barracks Washington is the oldest continuously used public building in Washington, DC.

This could be the reason, or even a secondary one, but some historians say it’s likely that the house was just overlooked in the chaos of the burning city. Still, an unscathed structure so close to the burning Navy Yard seems unlikely to go unnoticed, especially because the house looks everything like a military target and the British had all the time they needed to double check.

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The amazing way this Israeli pilot survived a birdstrike

An Israeli pilot only known as “Lt. H” was flying at a low level near 350 knots in an A-4 Skyhawk one day. He was flying over the desert near the Dead Sea in September 1985. He was flying straight and level when the next thing he knows he is laying on the floor of the valley near where he was previously flying. All he knows is that he has a massive headache and no memory of how he got there.


Eventually, H did remember seeing a small object coming at him at a high speed. As he approached, he instinctively ducked to avoid hitting the object, but to no avail.

“I couldn’t tell what it was,” he told the New York Times. ”As it got closer, instinctively I ducked. That’s all I remember. I woke up on the ground with a parachute around me and my neck broken.”

His command knows exactly what happened – he ran head-on into a migrating flock of birds. One of those birds penetrated the canopy and flew into the cockpit, then hit H in the head, knocking him unconscious. What happened next was nothing short of miraculous.

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus

This wasn’t an ordinary bird, it was a Honey Buzzard.

The Israelis found H laying in the desert, as H remembers. But they also found feathers and blood on the helmet of their young IDF lieutenant. They sent the evidence to a lab in Amsterdam to get some answers. That’s how they discovered what kind of bird the Skyhawk hit and how it was able to break into the jet’s canopy. It turns out Israel in the 1980s was smack-dab in the center of a migration corridor for storks, pelicans, and predatory birds like the Honey Buzzard.

It turns out the bird crashed through the front windshield and eventually hit the pilot’s ejection seat lever after knocking him out. Lieutenant H’s parachute opened on its own, and that’s how H ended up on the ground with a headache.

The bird, however, probably went down with the Skyhawk.

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This is why it’s actually illegal to shoot at pilots who’ve bailed out

Okay, you’re relieving some stress by playing some video games and you just downed an enemy plane.


The pilot bails out.

You’ve got him in your sights — one less bad guy to deal with later, right?

Wrong.

According to the law of war, it is a crime to gun down a pilot who’s bailed out of his plane. While the video game world might give some allowances on this, in the real world it’s a major no-no.

Field Manual 27-10, “The Law Of Land Warfare,” says that a pilot who has bailed out of his plane is a non-combatant. That’s different from a paratrooper who’s notionally armed on his way down and is technically engaged in combat while under canopy.

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus
Don’t do it Fritz! (Photo from Wikimedia Commons).

Here is the exact quote: “The law of war does not prohibit firing upon paratroops or other persons who are or appear to be bound upon hostile missions while such persons are descending by parachute. Persons other than those mentioned in the preceding sentence who are descending by parachute from disabled aircraft may not be fired upon.”

This was formalized in 1977, in Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions.

But even before all that legalese was codified in the Geneva Conventions, some militaries had already adopted a similar code of conduct. During World War II, the Nazis — whose crimes against humanity were legion — generally forbade its pilots from shooting downed enemy airmen.

One German commander, famously told his pilots, “You are fighter pilots first, last, always. If I ever hear of any of you shooting at someone in a parachute, I’ll shoot you myself.” Even Hermann Goering found potential orders from Hitler to carry out such acts as distasteful, approving of Adolf Galland’s characterization of such an act as “murder.”

On the American side, General Dwight D. Eisenhower issued orders that shooting at enemy aircrew who had bailed out as forbidden.

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus
These guys are fair game. (Photo by Elena Baladelli/US Army)

Pilots on the Japanese side had no such hesitation, partially stemming from a code that viewed surrender as dishonorable. Many Allied airmen in the Pacific found that bailing out from a crippled plane was sometimes like going from the frying pan into the fire.

One airman, though, was able to shoot a Japanese pilot trying to machine gun him with his M1911!

In short, if you’re even playing a video game and you’re tempted to shoot at the folks who bailed out, don’t do it.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happened when 200 insurgents attacked these 49 Americans

It would go on to be known as the Battle of Wanat, the most costly single engagement for U.S. forces in Afghanistan to that point. Nine U.S. soldiers would make the ultimate sacrifice alongside another 31 U.S. and Afghan troops who were injured. But their defense allowed 46 paratroopers, three Marines, and their Afghan allies to hold against a coordinated attack by over 200 insurgents.


(Writer’s note: This article contains descriptions of real-world violence and there is a video embedded that shows attack helicopters firing on insurgents on the burning outpost. Obviously, viewer/reader discretion is advised.)

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus

View of the 120mm mortar at COP Kahler days before the Battle of Wanat.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Queck)

The attack on the U.S. forces near Wanat in Afghanistan centered on Kahler, a combat outpost in the area. COP Kahler was a strong position, but it faced a number of defensive weaknesses. First, it wasn’t the high ground in the valley. That’s a compromise military leaders sometimes have to make, but you really don’t want to have to defend a position where an enemy can fire on it from above.

Another problem was that civilian buildings came close to the outpost. This included a mosque that the attackers would misuse as a fortress to get an advantageous position against the defenders.

Finally, and probably most importantly, COP Kahler was not yet done. Engineers had been working for weeks to prepare for construction, but the actual building only began on July 9, four days before the attack would come. And a number of important defensive measures wouldn’t be complete for weeks or potentially months.

Some of the defensive positions on July 13 were still just concertina wire and guns, though some positions were protected by boulders, HESCOs, or hasty earthworks. The task force had planned for the possibility that an attack would come early, while the outpost was still vulnerable. But the intelligence estimates did not anticipate an attack by hundreds, and the assets at the base didn’t either.

But Chosen Company of the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment was holding and building Kahler, and they had prepared well for an attack with what they had.

The defenders’ TOW missile launcher was mounted on a HMMWV that could be driven around the site, but a platform was quickly built to give it better fields of view and fire. And there were two mortars, a 120mm and a 60mm, to provide additional muscle.

And the Americans had built observation posts in the territory around the outpost. These would allow American forces to inflict casualties from higher ground, but it would also deny the enemy a chance to occupy those three positions, meaning that was three fewer positions the insurgents could attack from.

And the engineers were busy from July 9 to 13, filling as many HESCOs and digging out as many fighting positions as they could. They were able to provide significant protection to the 120mm and many fighting positions before the attacks came. The 60mm mortar had a pit and a few sandbags, providing some protection. (Some of the defenses and fighting can be seen in this video.)

There were signs in the buildup to the attack that it was coming. Men in the nearby bazaar were seen watching the Americans and seemingly doing pace counts to figure out distances. The number of children in the village slowly dropped, and Afghan contractors refused to bid on some services for the base.

So when Capt. Matthew Myer saw five shepherds traveling together near the base he immediately prepared for a complex attack, using his TOW and mortars to hit the men shifting around the base. Five shepherds will rarely travel together because that many shepherds signals that there are either too many shepherds or too many goats in one area for normal grazing.

But before Myer could give the order to attack, two bursts of machine gun fire signaled the enemy forces, and then a rain of rockets came onto the U.S. warriors. The Battle of Wanat was on, and the enemy had seized the initiative.

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus

A Army graphic shows the defenses at COP Kahler during the Battle of Wanat. Notice OP Topside which is physically separated from the rest of the defenses. The hotel and mosque were key buildings controlled by insurgents during the battle.

(U.S. Army Combat Studies Institute)

That first volley came in the first hours of July 13, and it contained a very large amount of RPGs. While the Army history of the battle gives no official number to the rockets that hit the base, quotes from the men who fought in the battle described an absolute rain of rockets that left dozens and dozens of tail fins on the ground around the Americans. A radiotelephone operator later said that the “RPG fire was like machine gun fire.”

The insurgent forces had sneaked up close to the outpost and unleashed hell, and the volume of fire indicated that there had either been a major buildup of rockets at these positions or else runners were keeping the shooters well supplied. This rain of explosions took the TOW launcher out of the fight and suppressed a mortar and some machine guns and grenade launchers.

Myers and his men were suddenly struggling to achieve fire superiority. The mortar crew got at least four high-explosive rounds off despite the incoming fire, but were driven back from the weapon by the RPGs and machine gun fire. Rounds were flying in from buildings and trees near the outpost, and the fire was concentrated on the mortarmen.

But they weren’t the only ones in trouble. Another main objective of the enemy force was cutting one of the observation posts, OP Topside, off from the main force. While the OPs provided protection to the COP, they would also be vulnerable to enemy attack until the engineers were done clearing vegetation from the fields of fire.

A mortar crewman was injured by an RPG, and then another was hurt while dragging the first casualty to safety at the command post. The TOW launcher and HMMWV exploded, and it injured an Afghan soldier, knocked out some American communications equipment, and dropped two unexploded but unstable missiles back onto the defenders.

The artillery assets supporting the outpost sent death back at the attackers whenever they could, but they were firing 155mm howitzers at high angle. Danger close starts at just over 700 yards, and anything closer than 600 yards in rough terrain is simply too risky to fire. The automatic grenade launchers on the base had a similar problem.

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus

Defenders at Kahler the day before the Battle of Wanat.

(U.S. Army soldiers)

The weapons that were available were fired at such a high rate that many of them began to overheat, and then the only .50-cal went down after an enemy round struck it in the feed tray cover.

But the worst of the fighting for the Americans took place at OP Topside. Only nine Americans were there at the start of the fighting, and the insurgent activity made reinforcing them a dangerous and tricky task, though the paratroopers would do so successfully multiple times.

The OP had its own artillery observer, but he was wounded in that first RPG volley. A paratrooper at Topside was killed in that same volley, and another died just moments later while attempting to throw a grenade. Another was wounded so badly that he could not fight.

The six men able to fight, including the forward observer, were forced to work through their own injuries and beat back the attack. Fortunately, the observer had sent a list of pre-planned targets back to the gun lines days before, and so artillery was able to send some assistance despite the fact that the observer could not conduct the calls for fire.

The defenders attempted to get the upper hand, but their own crew-served weapons went down from overheating or ammo shortages, and then one gunner was killed while firing his M4.

Finally, reinforcements from the main COP moved out. But the three-man team lost one soldier en route to a wound in the arm. Soon after they arrived, the enemy made it through the wire.

The attack was repulsed, but the two reinforcements were killed, and so was another soldier. A short time later, a sergeant moved forward to suppress fighters in a nearby building and was killed. Only one soldier was left in fighting shape with another three seriously wounded.

The defender managed to take out an enemy position with a light anti-tank weapon, giving most of the survivors just enough time to fall back to another position. But in their haste, they missed that the forward observer was severely wounded but still alive.

This artilleryman grabbed a grenade launcher and fired every round he had and threw every hand grenade he could reach. Just before he was forced to make a last stand at the OP, four men from the COP reinforced him, and Topside remained in American hands.

But a new attack, once again led by RPGs, strained this control. Every paratrooper on the OP was wounded, and one would die soon after. A platoon sergeant gathered a new force of seven paratroopers and two Marines and once again reinforced the OP, arriving shortly before the Apache attack helicopters.

Gun runs by the helicopters with their 30mm cannons finally drove the attackers back and allowed this larger force to protect the OP. Another platoon from Chosen Company arrived to help out their brothers-in-arms. This force brought multiple machine guns and two automatic grenade launchers with them on HMMWVs as well as multiple anti-tank rocket launchers.

The quick reaction force assaulted into the bazaar, driving the enemy from nearby buildings while suppressing other positions with the trucks. QRF fighters threw out smoke to mark insurgent positions and the Apaches eliminated them. Slowly, the volley of RPG fire lessened and, four hours after the attack began, the terrorist forces finally began to retreat.

Medical evacuation crews landed under fire to get the wounded out, in at least one case evacuating a casualty while an Apache made a gun run just 30 yards away. This limited American losses to the nine paratroopers already killed. A massive surge in U.S. and Afghan forces occurred July 13 with Afghan commandos coming in to clear the nearby village house-to-house and gain intelligence.

The biggest surprise for the Afghan commandos came when they searched the Afghan National Police station near the compound. A massive cache of weapons was there with most of them having been recently fired. But the evidence was that they had fired in support of the insurgents, not against them. The police chief and others were arrested.

Over the following days, American air assets pummeled insurgent positions, and future Chief of Staff of the Army Mark Milley set up operations in Wanat. An estimated 20-50 enemy fighters were killed in the fighting.

Despite the hard-won tactical success, senior leaders decided that holding Wanat was simply too costly and drained resources from more fruitful fights elsewhere. Chosen Company was pulled out.

Articles

Army still testing Ripsaw ‘Luxury Super Tank’

The U.S. Army continues to test a lightweight tracked vehicle known as Ripsaw that’s now being pitched to the consumer market as a “luxury super tank.”


A handful of the Ripsaw Extreme Vehicle 2, or EV2, products made by Howe and Howe Technologies Inc., based in Waterboro, Maine, are undergoing evaluations at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey to assess how they could be used in future combat operations. Indeed, on Tuesday, Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins, head of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, rode in one of the vehicles with a driver as part of a demonstration.

Related: SOCOM plans to test Iron Man suit by 2018

The company describes the 750-horsepower, optionally manned vehicle — which is capable of reaching speeds of almost 100 miles per hour and costs roughly $250,000 — as a “handcrafted, limited-run, high-end, luxury super tank developed for the public and extreme off road recreation.”

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus
A handful of the Ripsaw Extreme Vehicle 2, or EV2, products made by Howe and Howe Technologies Inc., based in Waterboro, Maine, are undergoing evaluations at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey. (Photo courtesy Howe and Howe)

For one, it’s too light. At 9,000 pounds, the EV2 is closer in size to the Humvee than a tank. For example, the Army’s M1A2 Abrams main battle tank tips the scales at more than 70 tons. Indeed, the Ripsaw isn’t even in the same weight class as an M1126 Stryker Combat Vehicle or M2/M3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle.

Also, it doesn’t carry the same firepower. The EV2 is designed to accommodate the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station, which can mount any number of weapons — including the M2 .50-caliber machine gun, Mk19 40mm automatic grenade machine gun, M240B 7.62 mm machine gun and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. By comparison, the M1A2 tank’s main armament is the 120mm L/44 M256A1 smoothbore tank gun.

Finally, it doesn’t have any armor to speak of, just an aluminum frame with gull-wing doors. So it’s really more of a tracked DeLorean than a tank (see picture below).

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus
A handful of the Ripsaw Extreme Vehicle 2, or EV2, products made by Howe and Howe Technologies Inc., based in Waterboro, Maine, are undergoing evaluations at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey. (Photo courtesy Howe and Howe)

Even so, the manufacturer says the Ripsaw is the “fastest dual tracked vehicle ever developed.”

And that may be why, several years after the vehicle was featured in “Popular Science” magazine in 2009, the Army remains interested in seeing how it might incorporate the EV2 into its combat formations. The service has tested the technology for at least a year — a soldier in 2016 operated a Ripsaw from a M113 Armored Personnel Carrier trailing a kilometer away, according to a press release at the time.

Here at Military.com, we’re fascinated by the technology and reaching out to the Army to learn more about how officials are evaluating this slick ride, which is almost guaranteed to get more popular in the months and years ahead.

See the Ripsaw in action below:

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time an Army officer tried to reach the center of the Earth

By the beginning of the 19th Century, it was already well established that indeed the Earth was round instead of flat. But the study of modern geology was still in its infancy and prompted many to established some hair brained ideas about how the Earth was actually made.


One of those came from Army Capt. John C. Symmes, Jr., who theorized that the center of the Earth was hollow and filled with productive farms that created cheap vegetables.

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus
“John Cleves Symmes, Jr and His Hollow Earth” by John J. Audubon, 1920

He believed this so fervently that he dedicated much of his life to organizing an expedition to look for an entrance for explorers to establish trade relations with the people who lived inside the planet.

Symmes began his military career in 1802 and served well during the War of 1812, rising in the infantry to the rank of captain. When the war ended, he left active duty to start a trading business on the American frontier. It was there that he began really expanding upon his theory of a hollow Earth.

His theory was simple. According to a 2004 paper by Duane A. Griffin from Bucknell Univeristy, Symmes believed that all planets formed in layers with gaps in between. Part of this theory went that Saturn’s rings were a collapsed layer of that planet which had partially broken away, leaving trails of dust.

The Appalachian mountains were supposedly the remnants of similar rings that used to orbit the Earth but which crashed to the planet’s surface over time.

According to Symmes’ theory, a large open hole near the planet’s poles allowed access to the inner layers of the planet. Strangely, he claimed that the circumference of these holes included areas which had already been explored, such as northern Canada.

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus
Illustration from “Symmes’s Theory of Concentric Spheres: Demonstrating That the Earth is Hollow, Habitable Within, and Widely Open About the Poles, Compiled by Americus Symmes, from the Writings of his Father, Capt. John Cleves Symmes”

The public ridiculed Symmes at first, but his perseverance gradually won them over, and his theories developed a following.

In 1818, he solicited for 100 people to join him on an exploration of the Arctic to find the hole to the center of the Earth.

Symmes believed that the hole in the Arctic would reveal a warm interior. Venturing into the ice in the Autumn is a huge gamble. For some reason, Symmes was unable to find 100 people to roll the dice with him.

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus
(Circular: John C. Symmes, Jr.)

In the late 1820s, Symmes worked with Jeremiah N. Reynolds to lobby Congress and President John Adams for the Navy to fund the expedition. While Congress was firmly against the idea, Adams eventually approved it.

The president helped search for a way to make the expedition happen with limited support from Congress. But, Adams was politically unpopular and could not get the resources together before the 1828 election when he was bested by Andrew Jackson. Jackson shut down the expedition.

Sickness claimed Symmes in 1829, so he died before he could see his claims debunked.

One of the best places to learn more about Symmes and his effect on modern science and literature is in Griffin’s full essay on that topic published by Bucknell University. 

Articles

The 5 worst modern battles to fight as a foot soldier

Let’s be clear — all battles suck for a foot soldier, even the smaller ones. But there were some in recent times that sucked more than others for the lowly grunt, with body counts piling up, bad commanders and leadership with a total lack of respect for the lives of their men.


Here is a partial list of five of the worst modern battles to be a bottom-of-the-barrel foot soldier.

5. The Battle of Kiev, 1941

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus
Soviet troops on the move to Kiev. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Battle of Kiev lasted from August 23 – Sept. 26, 1941. The German army, led by Fedor von Bock, Gerd von Rundstedt, and the famed Heinz Guderian, continued their spearhead towards Moscow but Hitler reconsidered.

Instead, he ordered Bock, von Rundstedt, and Guderian to focus their attack on the city of Kiev. The total amount of German forces heading towards Kiev numbered a little over 500,000. The reason for this was that Kiev was third largest city with a large concentration of Soviet forces with likely more than 627,000 Red Army troops facing the German onslaught.

How bad was it? In order to crush the Soviets in Kiev, the Germans were forced to systematically reduce the pockets of resistance. In other words, the Germans had to work at making each line (pockets of resistance) buckle and break.

Because of this, the fighting was unsurprisingly up close and personal. The total number of dead were 127,000 Germans and 700,544 Soviets — that’s over 800,000 killed in the battle for Kiev.

4. The Battle of Verdun, 1916

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus
French troops moving through the trenches during the Battle of Verdun. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Battle of Verdun lasted from Feb. 21 – Dec. 18, 1916, between the armies of France and the German Empire. Located in northeastern France, when the battle of Verdun kicked off, 30,000 French soldiers faced 130,000 German soldiers. Seeing that 30,000 troops were not enough, the French bolstered their forces to a staggering 1.1 million men. The Germans countered this by delivering 1.25 million troops.

The horrors of such a battle need little explanation. All one has to do is look at the photos of the battle site. World War I was a war in which the technology outpaced the tactics and strategies. Because of this, war came to a near standstill as men were mowed down by machine guns and blown to pieces by artillery fire on a daily basis.

If that wasn’t enough, living in the trenches was another misery all its own. Here’s a testimony.

A German soldier writes to his parents:

An awful word, Verdun. Numerous people, still young and filled with hope, had to lay down their lives here – their mortal remains decomposing somewhere, in between trenches, in mass graves, at cemeteries…

In total, the French would lose upwards of 500,000 troops while the Germans lost in some estimates more than 400,000 — nearly 1 million killed on both sides.

3. The Siege of Leningrad, 1941-1944

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus
Red Army troops fighting on the outskirts of Leningrad. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The siege of Leningrad lasted from Sept. 8 1941 – Jan. 27, 1944. The German army surrounded the city with 725,000 troops and began an on-and-off bombardment and assault of the city which was defended by 930,000 Soviet soldiers.

While the Germans made little advancement into the city, mainly controlling the outskirts, they were effective in starving the city to near death.

While war is indeed hell, the Germans suffered from the typical day-to-day engagements as did the Soviet soldiers. However, the people of the city suffered the worst. Due to the limited amount of supplies, many people ate whatever they could get their hands on, even people.

Once the siege lifted, the Germans suffered 579,985 casualties while the Soviets lost 642,000 during the siege and another 400,000 at evacuations.

2. The Battle of Stalingrad, 1942-1943

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus
A German soldier fights during the battle of Stalingrad. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The battle of Stalingrad lasted from August 23, 1942 – Feb. 2, 1943. Initially, the Germans besiege the city with 270,000 troops. But by the time the siege was lifted, the Germans army had swelled to 1,040,000 men.

The Soviets at first only had 187,000 personnel to defend the city, but by the time of the counteroffensive, more than 1.1 million troops were on the move.

The horrors of Stalingrad were an outgrowth of the hellish street-to-street and building-to-building fighting. Not to mention the many horrors both sides witnessed and committed.

Red Army Maj. Anatloy Zoldatov, recalled:

The filth and human excrement and who knows what else was piled up waist-high. It stank beyond belief. There were two toilets and signs above them both that read: No Russians allowed.

In total, the Germans would lose 734,000 killed, wounded and missing, while the Russians lost 478,741 killed and missing and another 650,878 wounded or sick.

1. The Battle of Berlin, 1945

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus
German troops teach Berliners to use an anti-tank grenade before the battle of Berlin. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The battle of Berlin ran from April 16 – May 2, 1945. The Germans had only 766,750 soldiers on hand to defend the city against 2.5 million Soviet soldiers. The result was a decisive Soviet victory that would lead to Germany’s surrender on May 7, 1945.

As for the horrors of the battle, many German citizens — including children — were forced to defend the city. Of course, this was the norm when the situation grows dire.

Like Stalingrad, the fighting in Berlin would be from street-to-street and building-to-building. However, the German army, like its people, were depleted from years of war and had 2.5 million angry Soviets kicking their door in.

Once Berlin was theirs, the pillaging began. In total, the Germany army lost 92,000–100,000 troops while the Soviets lost 81,116.

Articles

This is why the US must win the ‘Cyberspace Race’

The cyber threat is now our greatest national security challenge, a 21st Century “weapon of mass destruction” that is currently having serious impacts on America and is getting worse – militarily and economically – across public and private sectors, and socially across all segments of society.


Our adversaries around the globe, from rivals like Russia and China to belligerents including ISIS, Iran, and North Korea, have developed significant cyber capabilities.  This “global cyber proliferation” is serious and growing worse by the minute.  In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the emerging Cold War’s battlefront included the Space Race with the Russians, and eventually a symbolic American on the moon. Today, we have a similar situation: A “Cyber Space Race” which will represent the dominant high ground for decades to come.

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus
Louisiana Army National Guard photo by Spc. Garrett L. Dipuma

We are being hacked and attacked every day in America. Our personal accounts and lives, our critical infrastructures, and there are undoubtedly many serious incursions that we have not detected or have gone unreported.  A few recent examples illustrate this point: State-backed Iranian hackers conducted a denial of service attack against US banks to attack United States infrastructure, and not just the banks themselves.

Russian-backed hackers sought to influence elections in the United StatesFrance, and throughout Europe.  The Chinese military has carried out cyber-espionage attacks against US companies, hacking intellectual property from US public and private entities, including sensitive military IP worth billions. North Korea foreshadowed their cyber capabilities when hacking Sony Pictures, but has recently demonstrated a far more robust cyber arsenal, an alarming threat to the public and private sectors of America and its allies. Equally alarming is the Islamic State’s recruiting of jihadists who are then connected to encrypted sites for further radicalization and operational instructions.

The worst-case scenario is a potential “Cyber Pearl Harbor” or a “Cyber 9/11.” While once found only in doomsday thrillers, a massive cyber threat is now very real.

Related: Get hacking! America’s cyber warfare force is now operational

While America’s public and private sector cyber defenses have grown since the mid-1990s, the threat to all elements of national power has grown even more rapidly. America is at high risk. Of particular concern is our soft commercial-sector underbelly, which comprises 85% of Internet use in the United States.  Cyber breaches present an unprecedented and often disastrous risk to the value of commercial entities.

Consider the Target, Home Depot, Sony, and Equifax cyber intrusions. Each cost the companies billions in market valuation, lost revenue, employee productivity, reputation, and expenses. While it is harder to quantify than a stock price, companies and institutions are successful in large part due to trust. An individual company violating that trust with their customers can have devastating effects for that company, but the magnitude of recent data breeches strikes fear in the hearts of all Americans and undermines trust in the fundamental institutions of our society.

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus
Cadets, pay attention — our future could be in your hands. (U.S. AF photo by Raymond McCoy)

Just as techniques and technology developed in America’s space program resulted in innovations benefitting the full range of American life, so, too, can military-grade cyber capabilities be leveraged to harden vulnerable government and commercial entities. Techniques and technologies such as the commercial sector onboarding of military-grade technologies, implementing network segmentation to protect sensitive information, applying advanced encryption techniques to protect large databases, ensuring protection from insider threats, and using advanced analytics to uncover risks to commercial internal or external networks.

America must win the 21st Century “Cyber Space Race.” We must mobilize the entire spectrum of American enterprise, from the cyber education of our children to the highest levels of academia, business, and government. The US commercial sector must do everything possible to protect themselves, their customers, and this nation. This includes using military-grade cyber defense capabilities to ensure commercial viability, thus securing America’s increasingly vulnerable economic engine.

Articles

What Hollywood gets wrong about military stories

EDITOR’S NOTE: This op/ed by We Are The Mighty co-founder and CEO David Gale originally appeared on the Hollywood Reporter website on May 22, 2017.


In honor of National Military Appreciation Month in May, I decided to re-watch William Wyler’s 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives, which follows three WWII servicemen facing the challenges of transitioning to civilian life. The film won seven Academy Awards, including best picture, and proves that a well-told, honest and authentic story is still the most powerful way to instill empathy and provide some understanding of even the most complex emotions and human experiences.

While our military is still a quintessential part of American culture, today’s Hollywood rarely gets it right, often resorting to stereotypes and common tropes to portray veterans as either dysfunctional misfits or larger-than-life heroes. Perhaps this misconception is an expected result when less than 1 percent of our population is currently in uniform. Those who come home to work in the entertainment industry, are more likely to be offered jobs making coffee and copying scripts, than to encounter an employer who authentically appreciates and values the leadership, skills and responsibilities of military service.

While there is a handful of successful vets in this business, most notably Ron Meyer, vice chairman of NBCU, in my 30 years in entertainment, I never met an executive who served in the military and who has responsibility for making important creative decisions. This, even though we have been at war for 16 years and millions of veterans have returned home. While some studios and networks have helpful veteran hiring programs, and nonprofits such as Veterans in Film and Television are there to support veterans who work in this industry, there are few clear paths for vets to move into the creative and executive ranks of the business.

On the contrary, the cast and crew of The Best Years of Our Lives had veterans in nearly every major creative position. Wyler, the director, served in the Army National Guard; actor Fredric March served in the Army; the author of the book on which the film was based, MacKinlay Kantor, was a war correspondent who flew on bombing missions over Europe; Robert Sherwood, the screenwriter, fought with the Royal Highlanders of Canada; and Daniel Mandell, the film’s Academy Award winning editor, served in the Marines. Gregg Toland, the film’s acclaimed cinematographer, was a lieutenant in the Navy’s camera department; he also co-directed with John Ford a documentary about the attack on Pearl Harbor. And, of course, Harold Russell, who won the best supporting actor Oscar, was a WWII veteran and double hand amputee.

War and homecoming are undoubtedly part of the American experience, yet according to a study conducted by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, 84 percent of post-9/11 veterans believe that the American public has no understanding of the difficulties facing this current generation of veterans and military families. While we cannot expect the average person to comprehend what it is like to serve in the military, we can expect the media to do more to find and empower the storytellers who have served. Making sure veterans have more opportunities to play meaningful roles in entertainment and media is the best way for us all to begin to have some understanding of our military community and the challenges they face. This will allow us to discover the kind of extraordinary talent this next great generation has to offer. Not only is this good for our veterans, it is good for business; The Best Years of Our Lives was a huge financial success. In a time of perpetual conflict, in which so few are asked to do so much for so many, getting veterans right is also good for our country.

Intel

This WWII vet says killing his enemy was the saddest memory of his life

Understanding the mental cost of taking someone’s life can be nearly impossible for those people who have never experienced it. In this StoryCorps video, Joseph Robertson, an infantryman who served during the Battle of the Bulge, tries to explain to his son-in-law the guilt he has carried since he killed a German soldier approaching his position.


StoryCorps, which works nationwide to collect oral history, has a veteran specific program, Military Voices Initiative, where veterans and service members can tell their stories.

(h/t Upworthy)

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