The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks

In 1969, during the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia, a student protester set himself on fire and triggered mass protests across the country, slowing Russian consolidation and setting off a slow burn that would eventually consume the occupying forces.


The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks

Soviet tanks roll into Czechoslovakia in 1968.

(U.S. National Archives)

Czechoslovakia was firmly democratic for decades before World War II, but German forces partially occupied it during World War II and, in 1948, it was conquered by the Soviets. The Communists had supporters in the working class and a stranglehold of government leadership, but students and academics kept fomenting the seeds of unrest.

Even when most of the Soviet-aligned countries went through soul searching in 1953 after the death of Stalin, Czechoslovakia basically just marched on. But in the 1960s, leadership changes and an economic slowdown led to a series of reforms that softened the worst repressions of the communist regime.

The leader, Antonin Novotny, was eventually ousted in 1968 and replaced by Alexander Dubcek who then ended censorship, encouraging reform and the debate of government policies. By April, 1968, the government released an official plan for further reforms. The Soviet government was not into this, obviously.

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks

Czechoslovaks carry a national flag past a burning soviet tank in Prague.

(CIA.gov)

The biggest problem for the Soviets was the lack of censorship. They were worried that ideas debated in Czechoslovakia would trigger revolutions across the Soviet Bloc. So, in August, 1968, they announced a series of war games and then used the assembled forces to invade Czechoslovakia instead. The tanks crossed the line on August 20, and the capital was captured by the following day.

Initially, the citizens of Prague and the rest of Czechoslovakia were angry and energized, but they eventually lost their drive. But one 20-year-old student, Jan Palach, wanted to revitalize the resistance. And so he penned a note calling for an end to censorship, the cessation of a Soviet propaganda newspaper, and new debates. If the demands weren’t met, he said, a series of students would burn themselves to death. He signed the note “Torch Number One.”

The Soviet leadership, of course, ignored it, but on Jan. 19, 1969, he marched up the stairs at the National Museum in central Prague, poured gasoline over his body, and lit his match.

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks

Jan Palach

Bystanders quickly put him out, but he had already suffered burns over 85 percent of his body. He died within days. He was not the first man to burn himself in protest of the Soviet invasion, but his death was widely reported while earlier protests had been successfully suppressed by the Soviets.

Other students began a hunger strike at the location of Palach’s death, and student leaders were able to force the Soviets to hold a large funeral for Palach. Over 40,000 mourners marched past his coffin.

While the Soviets were able to claw back power through deportations and police actions, the whispers of Palach’s sacrifice continued for a generation.

On the 20th anniversary of his protest, mass demonstrations broke out once again in Czechoslovakia, and the weakened Soviet Union could not contain them. By February, 1990, the Soviets were marching out of the country, a process which was completed amicably in June, 1991.

Palach’s protest had taken decades to finally work, but in the end, Czechoslovakia was freed of the tanks Palach and others resented so much.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 Ways to Show Your Gratitude During Military Appreciation Month

May is Military Appreciation Month. Each year the President makes a proclamation reminding the nation of the importance of the Armed Forces, and declaring May as Military Appreciation Month.

Here are 10 ways you can show your gratitude to military members during Military Appreciation Month:

Wear your pride

Pull out those patriotic and military themed shirts, or buy a new one and wear them with pride. This shows those members of the Armed Forces that you support them and appreciate all that they do.

Donate to a military charity

If you want to give of yourself or financially, consider donating to a military charity. It can be difficult to know which charities are worthy of your gifts, as there are so many out there. The key to this is to do your research before you decide. A few of the top rated charities are: The Gary Sinise Foundation, Homes for Our Troops and Fisher House Foundation.

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks

Fly the flag

As Americans, this is always the number one way we show our patriotic pride. During the month of May fly those colors (properly, of course) and show your pride and appreciation for those who protect our country every day.

Buy a military member a drink, coffee or meal

If you are out, why not buy a military member a drink, a coffee or even a meal? Acts of kindness are always appreciated by the men and women of the Armed Forces.

Take to social media

This Military Appreciation Month, fill up social media with notes and posts of how much our military is appreciated. Paint your gratitude across Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms.

Send a note or card

There are thousands of men and women deployed across the world from all branches of the military. Send them a note or a card telling them how much you appreciate their service and sacrifice. Better yet, get the kids involved and have them make cards to send to the troops.

Send a care package

If you want to take things a step farther, care packages are always appreciated by the troops, especially those deployed. Websites like Operation Gratitude give information on how to best get care packages to the members of the Armed Forces.

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks

Pay respects at a military cemetery or memorial

Part of the month of May is Memorial Day. This is one of the reasons this month was chosen for Military Appreciation Month. Take the time to visit a cemetery or memorial and pay your respects to those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Support military-owned businesses

There are many military members, military spouses and veterans who own their own business. Find some in your neighborhood and make a point to support them by stopping by, purchasing their goods, and recommending them to your friends and families.

Say thank you

Any of these options are a wonderful way to show appreciation to members of the military. However, oftentimes a simple ‘Thank You’ is more than enough. If you see a member of the military out and about, take the time to give them a smile, a handshake, and a thank you. Those two words mean more than you can know.

May is Military Appreciation Month. However, these men and women serve and sacrifice every day of the year. Yes, this month in particular show your gratitude towards them. But, remember them the rest of the year as well. They make the choice to serve and to sacrifice for you, give them your thanks every day.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Russian missile could be the last thing you ever see

While Russia likes to point to the “successes” of its state re-armament program, the fact is that many of the weapons have fallen well short of their touted potential. The T-14 is underfunded and probably overhyped. The Su-57 can’t be stealthy and fast at the same time. The nuclear-powered cruise missile might be what killed Russian scientists last month.


But the biggest Russian weapons program that America can’t afford to have succeed is the Bulava missile that could end American cities.

Russian Submarine Launches RSM-56 Bulava Ballistic Missile

www.youtube.com

The RSM-56 Bulava missile has some problems that we’ll get into in a minute, but on paper, it’s one of the most impressive weapons in the world today.

These nuclear-armed missiles are able to fly over 5,000 miles from the Borei-class submarine that launched them. That’s far enough for the sub to fire from the southern coast of Brazil and hit anywhere on the U.S. East Coast. And when it hits, it hits hard. Estimates of its punching power vary, but it’s thought to carry between 6 and 10 independently targeted warheads. And each warhead has a 100-150 kiloton yield.

While it’s hard to get good numbers for how far the different warheads can spread, each one can essentially take out a city, and those cities can likely be spread 100 miles or more apart. Oh, and each sub carries 12-16 missiles.

Add to all of that the warhead follows a lower arc, foiling many missile defenses, and can deploy decoy warheads. It’s a recipe for absolute destruction. Each submarine can take out, conservatively, 72 city-sized targets. Well, they can do so if each missile works properly.

But, you know, this is Russia we’re talking about. There are 24 publically known tests of the Bulava missile, and only 16 of them were considered successful. That’s not a horrible test rate for what was an experimental weapon, but since Russia has a history of overstating success and hiding failures, the real numbers could be worse.

Russia overhyped the Su-57, failed to field the T-14 in significant numbers, and then claimed its nuclear-powered cruise missile was ready to go about a year before that missile blew up in testing and killed top scientists. So, yeah, there’s always the possibility that the Bulava doesn’t work as advertised.

But since the missiles have had successful tests and can take out entire regions of America, it could legitimately be the last thing millions of Americans ever see if there’s a nuclear shooting match between the U.S. and Russia. But hey, at least the suspense won’t last long.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Beijing isn’t happy about this US cruiser sailing past its outpost

The US Navy challenged China’s excessive claims to the South China Sea on Nov. 26, 2018, by sending a warship past a Chinese military outpost in the disputed waterway.

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville “sailed near the Paracel Islands to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,” US Navy Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a spokesman for US Pacific Fleet, told CNN Nov. 29, 2018, in a statement that was also provided to Business Insider.

A Chinese vessel reportedly shadowed the US Navy warship during the operation.


“US Forces operate in the Indo-Pacific region on a daily basis, including the South China Sea,” Christensen added. “All operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.”

“FONOPs challenge excessive maritime claims and demonstrate our commitment to uphold the rights, freedoms, and uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law.”

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks

The Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville.

Beijing responded with a formal diplomatic protest, CNN reported, citing multiple US officials.

China claims the vast majority of the South China Sea, and while those claims were discredited by an international arbitration tribunal two years ago, the Chinese military has continued to bolster its presence in the region through the deployment of jamming technology, anti-ship missiles, and surface-to-air missiles.

Two days after the latest FONOP, the US Navy aggravated China again by sending a destroyer and an oiler through the Taiwan Strait. The destroyer USS Stockdale and the underway replenishment oiler USNS Pecos pushed through the closely-watched strait Nov. 28, 2018, drawing some criticism from Beijing.

“We urge the United States to … cautiously and appropriately handle the Taiwan issue and avoid damaging the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait and China-US relations,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang said Nov. 29, 2018.

“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Pacific Fleet told Business Insider Nov. 28, 2018.

The US military has been increasingly active, both at sea and in the air, in areas China considers key national interests, as tensions between Washington and Beijing have been rising over the past year.

In addition to US Navy FONOPs, the US Air Force has regularly sent B-52 bombers into the South China Sea, occasionally drawing Beijing’s ire.

While most incidents are uneventful, the US and Chinese navies had a close call in late September, when a Chinese warship challenged a US Navy destroyer, forcing it off course through aggressive maneuvers that US officials called dangerous and unprofessional.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The guerrillas and gangs that fought on behalf of the Confederacy

In the U.S. Civil War, people on both sides of the conflict decided that their best contribution would come in the form of “irregular resistance,” rather than uniformed fighting, but Southerners joined the bands in larger numbers and provided a more material contribution to the war effort.

Here’s a quick primer on who these men were and how they fought.


The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks

Confederate cavalrymen raid union livestock in the west in 1864. Guerrilla forces could often conduct missions like this, but had to be sure and melt away before Union forces caught them.

(A.R. Waud, Harper’s Weekly)

First, we have to define exactly who we’re talking about: the guerrillas and gangs who took up arms to uphold the Confederacy and its values, not the criminal gangs and bands of deserters who used weapons to fight off the law. While these groups overlapped at times, we’re going to ignore (for now) those who did not provide material support to the secession.

But that still leaves a large number of people and groups, some with famous names, like Mosby’s Rangers, McNeill’s Rangers, and William C. Quantrill.

Guerrilla operations varied state to state and battle to battle, but usually combined elements of screening, spying, and sabotage.

Remember, these were typically disorganized bands of men, often with even less formality than a state or local militia. They knew they had little chance in a knockdown fight with trained Union companies, so they didn’t fight that way. Instead, they would attack targets of opportunity and melt away.

This was useful for Confederate leaders at times. For instance, John McNeill and his rangers would sometimes screen Confederate troop movements. Basically, McNeill would position his force at the edge of where Confederate troops were marching or conducting river crossings, interrupting Union columns drawing close to the southerners and giving them a chance to form proper defensive lines.

But, they wouldn’t stay for the full fight. They’d melt away into the trees after a few shots, forcing the Union troops to either break up and give chase or re-form to face regular Confederate troops.

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks

John S. Mosby and his men were a terror for Union forces, but they generally fought well within the rules.

(Library of Congress)

But, even better, the guerrillas could move in areas where the Union held control and either nip at the federal underbelly or spy on them and report back. This was the mission where John Mosby and his men made their mark. They were known for hit-and-run fighting, inflicting casualties on Union forces and then riding away before the enemy could form up.

At times, they would steal supplies or even capture buildings and infrastructure for a short time, often disabling bridges and railways that were crucial to federal supply.

Mosby even once captured the general sent to hunt him down, reportedly waking the general in his bed with a slap on the back.

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks

In August, 1863, at Lawrence, Kansas, Quantrill’s Raiders attacked and destroyed the city because of its support of abolition policies and pro-Union sentiments.

(Harper’s Weekly)

So, why did the Confederacy see so many more guerrillas join their ranks than the Union? Well, the biggest reason was likely that most irregular forces fought locally, where their networks of friends and supporters could hide and supply them.

Union gangs fighting locally would’ve only happened when Confederate troops crossed the border north, something that was fairly rare during the war.

Also, the Union had a much larger training apparatus and the ability to equip more men, making it less necessary for their supporters to find unconventional ways of fighting. And the North didn’t have such a strong tradition of frontiersmanship, meaning that much of the population was less suited for roughing it deep in the woods and swamps.

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks

Guerrilla leader Capt. William C. Quantrill was reportedly a brutal murderer who sometimes targeted Confederate sympathizers.

(PBS)

Of course, there were exceptions to this. Some Northerners, especially those living in the west, were quite handy with horses and would’ve been fine as guerrilla fighters. Some even did fight as pro-Union guerrillas, mostly in border states, often clashing with Confederate guerrillas.

So, how did this all pan out for the South? Well, of course, they lost the war. And there’s an argument to be made that they lost partially because of the support of guerrilla forces rather than despite it.

While forces like Mosby’s and McNeill’s made measurable, concrete contributions to the war, most were little more than violent gangs. William C. Quantrill was reportedly an animal abuser in his youth, and was a bloody murderer as a guerrilla for the South.

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks

“A Rebel Guerrilla Raid In A Western Town” (1862)

(Thomas Nast)

He and his men committed massacres of Union troops but also of men and boys that they suspected of being Union sympathizers. They and other groups stole supplies from farms, tore down fences, and burned homesteads whenever they felt like doing so.

And they allegedly felt that way often. Combine the actions of these guerrillas and those of deserter bands and gangs of pro-Union southerners, and state governments often found that they needed armies at home just to instill law and order, limiting the forces they could send to the front. In some cases, formerly pro-secession Confederate citizens welcomed their nation’s surrender simply because they wanted a return to normalcy.

So, while the efforts of men like Jesse James and Jack Hinson stirred Confederate spirits, the actions of their contemporaries undermined the national effort and galvanized Union support for the war, arguably contributing to the South’s destruction.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

The threats that failing governments and foreign influence pose to the United States have not been the norm in the Western hemisphere. Since the institution of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, the United States has opposed efforts by European and other powers to meddle in the United States’ backyard, keeping a watchful eye on its neighbors. There has been much turmoil the last fifty years — Pinochet’s reign in Chile, the civil war in El Salvador, drug-fueled gang violence in Colombia, and others, are all conflicts that divided nations, destabilized the region, and engrossed the world.


Despite the violence and attention, Latin American conflicts have generated, the United States was largely successful in limiting influence from foreign nations and overseas organizations seeking to exploit these conflicts and undermine the integrity and influence of the United States. Now, the Monroe Doctrine faces perhaps its most challenging test yet: recent unrest in Venezuela. The growing discontent in the country has reached a boiling point, with the specter of civil war looming and national security concerns that threaten the safety of the United States.

What To Know About The Attempted Coup In Venezuela (HBO)

www.youtube.com

To blame for this recent disorder is the resurgent cancer of socialism and communism, not new to the Western Hemisphere. One need not look further than 90 miles south of Florida to see Cuba: a state whose current complexion was born of communist revolution, nurtured barbarous dictators and violent revolutionaries, and welcomed as a military ally by the Soviets, nearly triggering a nuclear war. When Hugo Chavez tightened his grip over Venezuela at the turn of the 21st century, history knew how this story would end. But the predictable rise and fall of socialism in oil-rich Venezuela now creates a danger we have not seen in our hemisphere since the Cold War.

The proud people of Venezuela have witnessed what socialism provides to a country: empty promises, rampant poverty, widespread corruption, and hopelessness. Their cries for freedom were silenced by bribes and force at the hands of Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro. Free elections were touted but marred in such overt corruption that would be laughable if the consequences were not so dire.

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks

Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

On Jan. 23, 2019, the hope of the nation turned to Juan Guaido, the opposition leader and President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, who took the oath of office as Interim President of Venezuela. This peaceful, constitutionally-valid shift of power has flipped the suffering nation on its head. Since then, President Trump and allies across the world have pledged support for Guaido and have left all options on the table with respect to lending aid and military intervention in the country to ensure his security and authority as leader.

Freedom, however, is not easy to gain or preserve, as Americans discovered during our war for independence some 244 years ago. On the ground in Venezuela, violence, and unrest have intensified as many military leaders remain loyal to President Maduro. Local government institutions have been paralyzed, and a people already crushed by a centrally-planned, corrupt economy have nowhere to turn for help. As if to say, “Let them eat cake!” Maduro’s forces have barricaded major highways to stop the flow of relief from neighboring countries.

Most troubling however may be dueling threats from major geopolitical adversaries that put the safety of our hemisphere in jeopardy. Russia has sent bombers to Venezuela in support of the Maduro regime – a provocative show of force that harkens back to the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. As global support for Guaido grows, so does Russian resolve to prop up a failed despot.

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks

Nicolas Maduro.

Further testing American dominance of the Western Hemisphere is another sinister force lurking in the shadows: radical Islamic terrorism. For years, reports of burgeoning terror cells popping up in Latin America have made their way into newspaper headlines, with the most recent example involving the growing presence of Iran-linked terror organization, Hezbollah, in Latin America. The ever increasing instability within Venezuela offers fertile grounds for these terror networks to take root and grow amid a nation made susceptible to radical proposals offered by fanatical organizations in the face of social and economic collapse. Consider: there remains air travel between Caracas and Tehran, and American intelligence has little way of knowing who all are on those flights. Should bad actors from the Middle East’s largest state-sponsor of terrorism with intentions of harming the United States make their way to Venezuela, what will that mean for the United States and the continent at large?

If terror organizations find safe-haven on the streets of a failed state in South America, the threats to our homeland become incalculable. Crossing into the United States via our southern border, once difficult, has been made easier by assistance from international non-profits, failure to enforce and reform current immigration law in the United States, and “Coyotes” – individuals guide those seeking entry into America across the border for a fee. This has already been made manifest in the formation of migrant caravans comprised of hundreds if not thousands from all over Latin America seeking asylum in the United States in mass numbers, regardless of the validity of their claims. The political class’ failure to seriously address this immigration problem is a dream come true for international terrorists, drug smugglers, and other criminals seeking to cross our borders — with smuggled arms, drugs, diseases, and more — to then harm the American people.

So where do we go from here? First, we must recommit to the Monroe Doctrine and assure Interim President Guaido that we, as well as our partners and allies in the region, have his back. This means potentially mobilizing both naval forces and ground troops in areas of strategic importance to signify not just our support for the Guaido presidency, but also to send the message that foreign interference in our hemisphere will not be toleration. Our aim is not to violently provoke but to firmly warn.

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks

Juan Guaido.

(Flickr photo by Senado Federal)

Second, we must finally secure our borders. On top of violent drug trades and human trafficking that pose a risk to people throughout the American continents, our border is now facing an even graver security threat considering recent developments in Latin America. Our southern neighbors have proven incapable of controlling migration across their borders, unable to filter out narcotics and criminals in an acceptable manner before they invariably arrive at ours. Every day that passes where our border is left unsecured while tensions mount in Latin America, American workers and their families face an ever-imminent threat to their work, their communities and their way of life.

The current situation in Venezuela is a new and evolving crisis for the Americas the likes of which have not been seen since when John F. Kennedy was president. The success or failure of the Guaido presidency will depend on the shared ability of the U.S. and our allies to pressure Maduro to leave office and cede power to Guaido. If we do not take care of our nation’s homeland security in the meantime, the fallout from potential catastrophe in Venezuela in the near-future will spell disaster for the entirety of Latin America and significantly harm the United States. The time to act is now, and I believe these recent developments give ample justification to do just that.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This failed assassin was North Korean special forces’ ‘Lone Survivor’

The year was 1968, one of the most tumultuous years in American military history. The North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive and North Korea captured the American spy ship Pueblo outside its territorial waters. Riding high on his “victory” over the United States, Kim Il Sung and the North Korean military mounted its most daring provocation to date.


The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks
Kim Il-Sung was a pretty big a-hole.

 

Read Now: I went to North Korea and saw the captured ship USS Liberty

They were going to assassinate South Korea’s president at his home.

The North Koreans trained an elite group of 31 special operations commandos to infiltrate the South across the demilitarized zone. They were led by Kim Shin-jo, a proud revolutionary who was ready to liberate the south from the heel of American occupation.

“We thought the president there was a stooge, an American collaborator,” Kim told the LA Times in a 2010 interview. “I hated him.”

 

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks
Kim shin-jo, after his capture. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

He formed the 124th Special Forces unit. Their goal was to make it to the Blue House, South Korea’s version of the White House, where President Park Chung-hee lived and worked. They were then to take photos to prove he was dead.

They broke into teams of six, dressed as South Korean troops, and crossed the border through barbed wire, observation posts, and minefields. They traversed the steep mountains and deep valleys only to immediately run into South Koreans near the DMZ.

Instead of killing their Southern cousins, Kim and the elite unit warned them not to give away their presence and sent the Southerners on their way. Of course, the South Koreans immediately told the authorities. The South Korean military launched a massive search for the commandos.

Within 200 yards of their objective, one South Korean soldier halted them to check their IDs. The North Koreans unloaded on the unprepared South Koreans — like an ISIS offensive 200 yards from the White House.

 

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks
So maybe 100% ID check isn’t as annoying as we thought.

They killed 35 and wounded another 64 people. Kim Shin-jo took cover near the woods, and never even fired his weapon. He wasn’t interested in killing civilians — he wanted Park Chung-hee.

He never got the chance.

All but two of the 124th Special Forces were killed. One of them managed to evade capture, eventually returning home across the border. Kim was captured. He was shown on television in handcuffs for all of South Korea to see.

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks

 

Kim was interrogated for months and eventually broke down, seeing the South Korean military’s compassion through a high-ranking officer, who convinced him the fight was between them and the North Korean regime, not the North Korean people.

Since he had not fired his weapon, Kim was forgiven for the actions of his comrades.

Eventually, Kim gave his services (and information) to the military, became a citizen, and married a South Korean. For this, the North Korean regime executed his immediate family, and — as is customary in the North — sent three generations of relatives to its Siberian prison camps.

Kim Shin-jo was reborn in many ways: he renounced his Communist upbringing and became a born-again Presbyterian minister. He leads a church of 70,000 outside of Seoul, one of the largest congregations in the world, right under the shadow of North Korean artillery.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taiwan’s new cruise missile can strike mainland China

Facing increased pressure from China, the Taiwanese military has added another weapon to its arsenal — a stand-off cruise missile designed to give the air force the ability to strike Chinese coastal military bases and amphibious ship groups, according to The Taipei Times, citing defense officials.

The Wan Chien cruise missile, a long-range cluster munition developed by the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, was declared fully operational after a recent live-fire test against sea-based targets. All Indigenous Defense Fighters have been upgraded to carry the new missiles, which reportedly rely on GPS and inertial navigation system guidance.


The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks

An AGM-154C Joint Standoff Weapon glide bomb, which the Wan Chien cruise missile reportedly resembles.

The new missile can hit targets as far 124 miles away, and the Taiwan Strait is only 80 miles across at its narrowest point. The air-to-ground cruise missile is said to resemble the US AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon or Europe’s Storm Shadow, accordingto the Asia Times. With its range, the Wan Chien cruise missile is reportedly the longest-ranged cluster munition carried the Taiwanese air force can carry.

During the most recent evaluation last week, an unspecified fighter from Chihhang Air Base fired on surface targets to the southwest of the island while another fighter and a drone monitored the exercise from a distance, sending real-time data back to Jioupeng Military Base.

The Taiwanese air force took all possible measures to maintain secrecy during testing. For instance, one evaluation was cancelled after a fishing boat entered the restricted area.

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks

Soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army 1st Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Division prepare to provide Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen with a demonstration of their capabilities during a visit to the unit in China on July 12, 2011.

(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

In recent years, tensions have been running high between Beijing and Taipei as the two sides continue to disagree over the fate of what the Chinese government considers a separatist territory. China has ramped up military drills near the democratic, self-ruled island.

“The mainland must also prepare itself for a direct military clash in the Taiwan Straits,” the widely-read, state-affiliated Global Times reported in March as China geared up for military drills in the strait. In the months prior to the drill this past spring, China’s military conducted air and naval drills near Taiwan to send a message.

Last year, Taiwan touted its ability to strike deep into Chinese territory. “We do have the capability and we are continuing to reinforce such capability,” Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan said at the time. “Should the enemy insist on invading, we will weaken their capabilities by striking enemy troops at their home bases, fighting them at sea, crushing them as they approach the coastlines and wiping them out on the beaches,” a defense report added.

Several days later, Feng revealed that China had positioned DF-16 precision-strike missiles for strikes on Taiwan should such action prove necessary.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said Aug 6, 2018, that she is determined to bolster the island’s defense budget as the situation with Beijing worsens, according to the South China Morning Post. Her aim is to increase Taiwan’s military spending by 5.6 percent, raising the annual figure to .3 billion.

“Our national security is faced with more obvious and complicated threats,” Tsai said.

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

MIGHTY FIT

This guy dropped 160 pounds to fulfill dream of joining US Army

Just a year ago, Christian Montijo was a different man. In fact, he was almost twice the man he is today.

He figured he weighed a little more than 350 pounds. But it was more of a guess, since his scale only went up to that number.

Overweight and realizing his unhealthy habits, the 28-year-old banker from Kissimmee, Florida, set a goal to transform himself. And, if he could, revive his dream of joining the Army.

“I would wake up tired,” he said Tuesday. “I’d be sitting down watching TV and my wife would be, ‘are you OK because you’re breathing really heavy?’ So I decided that I had to make a change.”


The father of two started to eat healthier and drink water instead of several bottles of soda each day. He began to walk after work, then that turned into a jog and eventually a 2-mile run.

He also worked on his situps and pushups as the pounds shed off.

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks

Christian Montijo before the weight loss.

“Last year at this time if you told me that ‘I’d give you a million dollars to do one pushup,’ I could not have done it,” he said. “Honestly, I would go down but I couldn’t go up to save my life.”

A new man

Over the past year, his daily routine allowed him to lose about 160 pounds.

“It’s night and day. I’m a whole new person,” he said. “I wake up with energy, I sleep through the night. I can run now and be fine, and I can keep up with my kids.”

His new frame also met the Army’s weight standards. Coming from a military family, Montijo aspired to be a soldier since high school.

Now eligible, he searched for a job that fit his interest in either technology, communications or intelligence. He then came across 25S, a satellite communications systems operator-maintainer.

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks

Christian Montijo after the weight loss.

“It had two things that I wanted: communications and technology,” he said. “It was a two-for-one pretty much.”

In January, he plans to ship out to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for basic training.

A positive example

Before signing his enlistment papers, Montijo credited his recruiter, Sgt. 1st Class Isaac Ayala, for motivating him when he was still overweight.

Ayala stayed in touch with Montijo since the summer to answer his questions and help map out his goals.

“I wasn’t really expecting that type of engagement that he had with me,” Montijo said.



But for Ayala, he said Montijo’s positive attitude got himself into shape and prepared for the strenuous training to come.

“He’s more than ready, because he’s continuing to lose weight,” Ayala said. “All the working out he has done has been on his own.”

If Montijo is able to carry that same outlook into the Army, Ayala said he wouldn’t be surprised if he quickly jumps up in rank.

“I explained to him that if you have this type of drive to accomplishing his goal, you’re going to pass me up a lot faster in rank,” he said. “The sky’s the limit on the stuff you can accomplish while you’re in the Army.”

Ayala also likes to use him as an example when potential recruits get discouraged about being overweight.

“They look at me all dismayed that their bubble has been popped about joining,” he said of when he informs them about the weight standards.

The recruiter then goes over to his computer and shows them his desktop screen, where he displays Montijo’s before and after photos.

“They’re like ‘wow’ and I even had a couple people say, ‘well if he can do it, I can do it,'” he said.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

This is the legend of the Knights of the Round Table

According to medieval legend, King Arthur lived in the late 5th and early 6th centuries where he fought off the Anglo-Saxons with his legendary sword, Excalibur. He lived in Camelot, and his life long mission became the quest for the Holy Grail.


While Arthur would attend festivals, his noble knights often got into violent brawls over who should be sitting at the head of the table — granting them power over those in attendance. The other war-hardened Knights just couldn’t figure out a resolution to the issue.

Therefore, King Arthur used his wisdom had a round table constructed, making all his men feel equal. It was a good leadership move and created what we all know today as the “Knights of the Round Table.”

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks
The Knights of the Round Table (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

The Knights embodied a unique code of chivalry like righteousness, honor, and gallantry towards women — but one of them was bound to carry it too far.

Sir Lancelot was King Arthur’s closest friend, the best swordsman and knight in all the land. He was also known for sleeping with a lot of women. He even started a romantic affair with Arthur’s wife, Queen Guinevere. This action sparked a civil war, which led to the death of King Arthur and the dissolution of his knights.

But the legacy of the Knights of the Round Table lives on forever. Learn more in the video above.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Ex-U.S. Marine could face 10 years in Russian prison for drunken incident he can’t remember

MOSCOW — When Trevor Reed traveled to Moscow last summer, it was to study Russian and spend time with his girlfriend Alina Tsybulnik, whom he hoped to marry in September.

But days before he was due to fly home to Texas, Tsybulnik’s co-workers hosted a party that would end with the 29-year-old American spending a night at a Russian police station and, ultimately, standing trial on charges of violently assaulting the police officers who brought him there.


On July 29, a Moscow court is expected to issue its verdict in a case that has shaken Reed’s family and prompted speculation that the former U.S. Marine has become a pawn in a geopolitical standoff between Russia and the United States.

Charged with the “use of violence dangerous to life and health against a representative of the authorities,” Reed has languished in detention since August 2019 and faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. When the final hearing in his case wrapped up at Golovinsky District Court on July 27, he told RFE/RL that he had lost 20 kilograms and was tired “all the time.” He hoped the ordeal would end soon.

“Based on the evidence in my case, I think it’s clear what the outcome should be,” he said.

Reed claims to have no memory of what happened following the party on August 15, where he says he was encouraged to drink large quantities of vodka. But the events leading up to the police officers’ arrival are subject to little dispute.

According to Tsybulnik, in the early hours of August 16 she asked to share a ride with two of her co-workers. On the way, Reed felt nauseous and tried to get out of the vehicle. When the driver pulled up beside the busy road, Reed began drunkenly pacing in dangerous proximity to oncoming traffic. Tsybulnik’s co-worker called the police. She then drove off with another colleague, leaving Tsybulnik alone with Reed.

“I wouldn’t have called the police myself,” Tsybulnik, 22, said in an interview with RFE/RL. She suspects law enforcement took a special interest in Reed on account of his nationality. “After all, he’s an American, and we have a strange relationship with America right now.”

Inconsistencies And Retractions

Two police officers arrived and took Reed in to sober up, telling Tsybulnik to come back in a few hours and pick him up. When she arrived at the police station around 9 a.m., she said, he was being questioned, without a lawyer or interpreter present, by two men who introduced themselves as employees of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia’s FBI equivalent. He was accused of endangering the lives of the policemen who brought him in, Tsybulnik was told, by yanking the driver’s arm and elbowing another officer who tried to intervene.

But from the outset, the case against Reed has been marred by inconsistencies. Video evidence reviewed in court appeared to show no evidence that the police vehicle swerved as a result of Reed’s actions, as alleged by the police officers. Speaking before the judge, the officers themselves have claimed to have no memory of key moments in the journey, have retracted parts of their statements on several occasions, and have failed to answer simple questions from Reed’s defense team.

“Let’s put it this way. Almost everything introduced in the trial, that’s in the case, has been fairly well disputed,” said Reed’s father, Joey Reed, who has attended every hearing in his son’s trial. “We understand the nature of the judicial system here — it works differently to what we’re used to. But even within this system, there just seems to be a lot of irregularities as to what’s going on.”

The elder Reed traveled from Texas last September to be near his son, renting an apartment and riding out the height of the coronavirus pandemic in the Russian capital. He has sought to drum up media coverage and regularly updates a website he created and dedicated to Reed’s case, where he points out flaws in the evidence and keeps a record of each court session. A clock on the home screen counts the time Reed has spent in a Russian jail.

Americans On Trial

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has sent a Russian-speaking representative to each court hearing, but Ambassador John Sullivan has made few public remarks about his case.

“The United States Embassy has not visited my son in five months,” Joey Reed said. “Their only contact with him was a two-minute phone call last month.”

The embassy declined, via its spokeswoman Rebecca Ross, to comment on Reed’s case.

Reed is among several Americans whom Russia has placed on trial in recent years on charges that their supporters, and in some cases the U.S. government, have said appear trumped-up. On April 22, speaking about Paul Whelan, another former U.S. Marine tried in Moscow this year, Sullivan said “he is foremost in my thoughts every day as I continue my service as ambassador, along with other Americans who have been detained — Michael Calvey and Trevor Reed.” Calvey, a Moscow-based investor, is under house arrest pending trial on fraud charges he disputes. Whelan was convicted of espionage, a charge he denies, and sentenced to 16 years in prison on June 15, in a ruling Sullivan called “a mockery of justice.”

In July 2019, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called on the United States to free Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving 20 years on a conviction of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine, and proposed a prisoner swap that would involve the release of a U.S. national held in Russia. Ryabkov did not specify whom he meant, but some took the comment as evidence that Moscow is using Americans like Reed as bargaining chips amid tensions with Washington. Viktor Bout, a Russian gunrunner whose arrest by U.S. authorities inspired the 2005 movie Lord Of War, is another Russian serving time in the United States whom Moscow has sought to repatriate.

‘I’m Ashamed’

The last major prisoner swap between the two countries was a decade ago, when Russia sent several prisoners including Sergei Skripal and the United States transferred 10 deep-cover agents operating in suburban America in a case that inspired the hit TV show The Americans.

Joey Reed plans to leave Russia if his son is sentenced to prison, and continue fighting for his release from the United States. “I’m sure the United States government will be involved,” he said. “And I will probably be spending a lot of time in Washington, D.C.”

Tsybulnik, a Moscow attorney specializing in criminal and international law, said Reed is ready to appeal a conviction before Russia’s Supreme Court. If he’s released, they will marry and seek to expedite her planned move to the United States.

The case against her partner of more than three years has changed her attitude not only to Russia’s legal system, she said, but to her country as a whole.

“There is no evidence of a crime here. This person is not guilty. But they’ve been trying him for a year — a year he’s spent in jail,” she said. “I no longer want to practice law in Russia. I’m ashamed. Ashamed for Russia’s reputation.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

‘Quiet professionals’: These are the legendary Vietnam War marksmen every Marine scout sniper trains to be

Marine Corps snipers struck fear in the hearts of their enemies in the jungles of Vietnam. The exploits of three sharpshooters, in particular, are legendary.

Charles “Chuck” Mawhinney, Eric England, and Carlos Hathcock had almost 300 confirmed kills combined and even more unconfirmed. They were masters of their craft, and their skills in battle, as well as their silent professionalism and humility, made these men examples for the Marine snipers that followed.

“The Marines who go forward and work to put 120% into it and let their accolades speak for themselves are the guys that we encourage [Marine snipers] to emulate,” Staff Sgt. Joshua Coulter, a Marine Corps Scout Sniper instructor, recently told Insider.

As skilled marksmen capable of putting precision fire down range at a distance, snipers excel at providing overwatch and gathering intelligence, eliminating enemy officers, and demoralizing opposing forces, among other things.

In many conflicts throughout US history, Marine Corps snipers have proven to be valuable assets on the battlefield. But when the fighting finished, the Corps time and time again failed to build the kind of lasting programs needed to preserve the skills. That finally changed with the Vietnam War.

“Vietnam was the foundation for our modern program,” Coulter said. He explained that the remarkable capabilities demonstrated by Marines like Mawhinney, England, and Hathcock during the conflict highlighted the value of  snipers in a very visible way.

“The only reason there is still a sniper program today is the guys who came before us, the quiet professionals who worked their assess off, went down range, and came home,” Coulter said.

They didn’t try to tack their names into the legends of the Corps, but by giving it their all, these snipers left their mark on history.

Gunnery Sgt. Carlos N. Hathcock:

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks
Carlos Hathcock 

In Vietnam, Hathcock had 93 confirmed enemy kills and several hundred unconfirmed. He also set the record for the longest combat kill shot in 1967 at 2,500 yards — a distance of about 1.4 miles. The record held until the early 2000s.

The Arkansas native deployed to Vietnam in 1966 as a military policeman, but because he had previously distinguished himself as a marksman, Hathcock was recruited by Edward James Land, another talented Marine sharpshooter who had been tasked with building a sniper program from scratch to counter the enemy’s irregular warfare tactics.

As a sniper, Hathcock inflicted such tremendous pain on enemy forces that the North Vietnamese army placed a $30,000 bounty on his head, putting him in the crosshairs of elite enemy snipers.

One of his most memorable battles in Vietnam was with a notorious sniper nicknamed “Cobra” who was sent to kill him. The enemy sharpshooter had been purposefully killing Marines near Hathcock’s base of operations to draw him out. It worked, but not the way Cobra had intended.

As the two expert snipers stalked one another, Cobra made a mistake. He moved into a position facing the sun, causing his scope to reflect the light and give away his position. Hathcock fired, shooting clean through the enemy’s scope and killing him.

The nature of the shot suggested that had Hathcock not seen the glare or been faster than Cobra on the trigger, his enemy would have shot him instead.

Among Hathcock’s famous kills was also a woman nicknamed “Apache” who tortured captured Marines and a North Vietnamese general. He pulled off the latter on a secret one-man mission deep into enemy territory.

For many years, Hathcock was believed to have the most confirmed kills of any Marine Corps sniper. That never mattered to him though, according to Charles Henderson’s book, “Marine Sniper: 93 Confirmed Kills.”

“You can take those numbers and give ’em to someone who gives a damn about ’em,” Hathcock is said to have told a fellow Marine during a discussion about his kills.

“I like shooting, and I love hunting. But I never did enjoy killing anybody,” he said. “It’s my job. If I don’t get those bastards, then they’re gonna kill a lot of these kids dressed up like Marines. That’s the way I look at it.”

Hathcock left Vietnam in 1969 after suffering severe burns while rescuing Marines from a fiery vehicle that struck a mine.

Although his injuries prevented him from serving as he once had, he remained active in the sniper community, providing instruction even as his health failed later in life.

Hathcock died in 1999 after a long and painful battle with multiple sclerosis, but his memory lives on. Though he does not actually hold the record for the most confirmed kills as previously thought, Hathcock is widely regarded as one of the finest snipers in the history of the Corps.

Master Sgt. Eric R. England:

England is one of two Marine Corps snipers who had more confirmed kills than Hathcock during the Vietnam War, though not a lot is known about his service.

Before the war, he had proven himself to be an excellent marksman in shooting competitions. Once in Vietnam as a sniper with the 3rd Marine Division, he continued to excel. In a period of just seven months before he had to be medically evacuated, he had 98 confirmed kills, with possibly hundreds more unconfirmed.

The Georgia native never really talked about his service or his kills, according to a 2011 report from the Union County Historical Society. His record, as was the case with Hathcock, was relayed by Marine Corps officers familiar with his accomplishments on the field of battle.

England opened up a little about his experiences during an interview with the Marine Corps in 2017, just one year before he died.

“About Vietnam, well, like all wars, it ain’t no good feeling, especially some of the jobs you have,” England said, explaining that shooting at human beings in war is different from shooting at targets in competition, though snipers can’t focus on that.

“When you go to get that one shot off, you have to put yourself in another world,” he said. “You try to put yourself in a little bubble. You cut the world out, and you just concentrate on those things you got to do to get a good shot off because if you don’t, you could be dead.”

He told the Marine Corps that he did not not brag about his kills because he was not seeking glory. He did, however, say that he considered himself better than the average Marine because a good shot makes a better Marine and he could shoot better than most.

Despite his legendary status, England is not very well known outside the US military sniper community, but Hathcock once said that “Eric is a great man, a great shooter, and a great Marine.”

Sgt. Charles “Chuck” B. Mawhinney:

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks
Charles Mawhinney 

Mawhinney spent almost a year and a half in Vietnam, but when he returned home to Oregon in 1969, he kept the details of his service a secret. No one outside a small circle of Marines he served with knew the truth: he was the deadliest sniper in Marine Corps history.

Mawhinney’s story went untold for two decades, but in 1991, friend and former Marine sniper Joseph Ward published a book that credited Mawhinney with 101 confirmed kills, a new record.

Ward’s book triggered an investigation into Marine Corps records, and it was found that the number he reported was incorrect. It turns out that Mawhinney actually had 103 confirmed kills. He also had another 216 “probable” kills.

With the release of Ward’s “Dear Mom: A Sniper’s Vietnam” and the end of Mawhinney’s quiet life of anonymity, this outstanding sharpshooter came out of the shadows and shared parts of his story publicly.

In one particularly intense engagement, Mawhinney put 16 bullets in 16 enemy troops in just thirty seconds, and he did it in the dark.

“I got 16 rounds off that night as fast as I could fire the weapon,” Mawhinney said in an interview for a documentary on Marine scout snipers. “Every one of them were headshots, dead center. I could see the bodies floating down the river.”

Vietnam, as it was for many, was hell for Mawhinney, but he extended his tour of duty because he knew he had the abilities to keep his fellow Marines alive.

One of the things that haunted Mawhinney after Vietnam was an enemy soldier that got away after an armorer had made adjustments to his rifle. He fired off multiple shots. All of them missed.

“It’s one of the few things that bother me about Vietnam,” he previously told The Los Angeles Times. “I can’t help thinking about how many people that he may have killed later, how many of my friends, how many Marines.”

Mawhinney left Vietnam after being diagnosed with combat fatigue. He is still alive, and his M40 rifle is on display in the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

The only US military sniper with more confirmed kills than Mawhinney in Vietnam was Army sharpshooter Adelbert Waldron with 109 confirmed kills.

Examples for modern Marine snipers

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks
31st MEU Scout Snipers during a live-fire exercise 

There is a lot that modern-day Marine scout snipers can learn from legends like Mawhinney, England, and Hathcock. For Staff Sgt. Coulter, who instructs future Marine snipers, what stood out as most impressive was their attention to detail down to the smallest level.

“Their attention to detail was unparalleled,” he said.

“Those guys back in the day were handloading their own rounds,” Coulter continued. “They went to great depths to understand the equipment they used, the ammo they used, the effects of their environment.”

“They understood you are naturally at a disadvantage walking into someone’s backyard,” he said, explaining that they thought carefully about how they camouflaged themselves, the routes they took, the positions they held, and so on.

“They went into such nitty-gritty detail, and that was kind of the definition of success for them,” he told Insider.

As part of their training, Marine Corps scout snipers are required to take time to study their history and the outstanding snipers who came before them. It’s a reminder, Coulter explained, that “the only thing that kept our program alive was performance.”

During the Vietnam War, snipers proved their worth. It is said that for every enemy killed, the average infantryman expended 50,000 bullets. For snipers, with their “one shot, one kill” approach, it was an average of 1.3 rounds per kill.

And snipers continue to make a difference today.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy destroyer tracks advanced Russian warship in the Caribbean

One of Russia’s most advanced warships is sailing around in the Caribbean, but it’s not alone, as the US Navy has dispatched a destroyer to keep a close eye on it.

The Admiral Gorshkov, the first of a new class of Russian frigates built for power projection, arrived in Havana on June 24, 2019, accompanied by the multipurpose logistics vessel Elbrus, the sea tanker Kama, and the rescue tug Nikolai Chiker, The Associated Press reported.

The Russian warship made headlines earlier this year when Russia reported that it was arming the vessel with a new weapon — the electro-optic Filin 5P-42 — that emits an oscillating beam of high-intensity light designed to cause temporary blindness, disorientation, and even nausea.


The US military said on June 26, 2019, it was monitoring the Russian ship’s activities.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham was operating roughly 50 miles north of Havana as of June 25, 2019, USNI News reported, citing ship-tracking data. The Navy told the outlet that it was monitoring the situation.

The Admiral Gorshkov entered the Caribbean Sea via the Panama Canal on June 18, 2019. The ship departed its homeport of Severomorsk in February 2019 and has since traveled more than 28,000 nautical miles, making stops in China, Djibouti, Sri Lanka, Colombia, and now Cuba.

The warship is preparing to make port calls at several locations across the Caribbean, the AP reported, citing the Russian Navy, which has not disclosed the purpose of the trip.

Over the past decade, Russia has occasionally sent warships into the Caribbean. While these deployments are typically perceived as power plays, Russia characterizes them as routine. Russia has also sent Tu-160 strategic bombers into the area, most recently in December 2018.

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks

Russian Tupolev Tu-160.

(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

While Russian ships have made visits to the Caribbean in the past, this trip comes at a time when the US militaries are finding themselves in close proximity. For instance, earlier this month, a Russian destroyer nearly collided with a US cruiser in the Pacific, an incident that came just a few days after a Russian fighter jet aggressively buzzed a Navy aircraft over the Mediterranean Sea.

Russia also sent ships from its Baltic Fleet to monitor the NATO Baltops 2019 exercises held in mid-June 2019 near Russia. These exercises involved ships and aircraft from 16 NATO allies and two partner countries.

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

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