For an ordinary man, ‘Manila John’ Basilone did extraordinary things. Despite a short life, Basilone accomplished great acts of heroism and patriotism. Born on Nov. 4, 1916, in Ruritan, New York, Basilone would go on to become the first U.S. Marine of enlisted rank to earn the Medal of Honor during World War II. He was also the only enlisted Marine to earn the Navy Cross posthumously.
Basilone hadn’t begun his career in the Marine Corps. Basilone enlisted in the U.S. Army just before his 18th birthday in 1934. He was sent to the Philippines as an infantryman from 1934 to 1937. While in the (at the time) U.S. colony, Basilone became a champion boxer and fell in love with his style of life there. Three years after his return to the United States, Basilone enlisted in the Army, thinking he would be more likely to return to the Philippines in that service. His Marine service did take him to the Far East, but, sadly, he never saw his beloved Manila again.
After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. joined the fight against Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Fascist Italy. America’s late entry into WWII has drawn criticism, but there was no doubt that once America joined it came with full force. Basilone’s unit (1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division) soon found themselves in the thick of the fighting defending the island of Guadalcanal. Guadalcanal was where this ordinary man’s extraordinary courage first showed itself.
Guadalcanal was as rough a posting as any soldier could want, or fear. Sited well within Japan’s emerging empire, it was vital to the Americans–and the Japanese wanted them out. Allied forces had captured an airstrip at Henderson Field, which allowed Allied aircraft to strike Japanese forces. In response, the Japanese naval force known as the Tokyo Express regularly bombarded the airfield and American positions. The fight for Guadalcanal was long and bloody. Basilone was smack in the middle of it.
During Oct. 24-25 in 1942, the Marines faced a frontal assault from over 3,000 Japanese troops of the Sendai Division. The Japanese, probably World War II’s best jungle fighters, attacked in typical Samurai fashion. The troops regarded death in battle as something to aspire to, not fear. Commanding two machine gun sections, Basilone readily obliged their aspirations. The citation for his Congressional Medal of Honor described his efforts in the battle.
“In a fierce frontal attack with the Japanese blasting his guns with grenades and mortar fire, one of Sgt. Basilone’s sections, with its guncrews, was put out of action, leaving only two men able to carry on. Moving an extra gun into position, he placed it in action, then, under continual fire, repaired another and personally manned it, gallantly holding his line until replacements arrived.”
A brave effort indeed, but ‘Manila John’ wasn’t finished yet. His citation continues:
“A little later, with ammunition critically low and the supply lines cut off, Sgt. Basilone, at great risk of his life and in the face of continued enemy attack, battled his way through enemy lines with urgently needed shells for his gunners, thereby contributing in large measure to the virtual annihilation of a Japanese regiment.”
Thirty-eight bodies were left around the gun that Basilone had personally manned. His mission to collect ammunition for his gunners saw him fighting through Japanese lines on foot both ways, using a pistol. Not surprisingly, his commander Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis ‘Chesty’ Fuller recommended Basilone receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. It was well deserved.
Newly promoted to Gunnery Sergeant Basilone, CMH, USMC, he was sent home for publicity tours, using his celebrity status. He wasn’t happy. Like many soldiers, Basilone disliked celebrity and hero-worship. Like many Marines, he said as much. Within months, he requested re-assignment to the Pacific. The Corps refused, offering a commission and a safe posting stateside.
His national war bond tour had earned him ticker-tape parades, newsreel coverage, and a spot in Life magazine, but he wanted to be in the front line with his fellow Marines. He reportedly said, “I’m just a plain soldier and want to stay one. I ain’t no officer and I ain’t no museum piece. I belong back with my outfit.”
Eventually, the Corps relented. Basilone went to Camp Pendleton to train for combat in the Pacific. There he met his wife, fellow Marine Sergeant Lena Mae Riggi, who became Mrs. Basilone in July 1944. In December, Basilone returned to the Pacific, headed for Iwo Jima. He never saw his wife again.
Iwo Jima was a bloodbath. Over 20,000 Japanese troops defended it: Only about 200 of them are known to have survived. The Marine Corps suffered nearly 26,000 casualties, of whom nearly 7,000 were killed in action. On the first day of the invasion, Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone, CMH, USMC became one of the fatal casualties.
Attacking the Japanese-held Airfield One on Feb. 19, 1945, Basilone was killed. By then he’d already risked his life pushing two bogged-down Sherman tanks out of mud, by hand, and had killed numerous Japanese soldiers. According to his Navy Cross citation:
‘In the forefront of the assault at all times, [Basilone] pushed forward with dauntless courage and iron determination until, moving upon the edge of the airfield, he fell, instantly killed by a bursting mortar shell.’
He was 28 years old. Basilone’s actions just before his death would posthumously earn him a Navy Cross and Purple Heart. Basilone was the only Marine who was awarded these three major citations (Navy Cross, Purple Heart, and Medal of Honor) during World War II.
Basilone’s wife, Lena Mae, never remarried. She died in 1999 and was buried wearing her wedding ring. Aside from numerous decorations, Basilone received other honors. The U.S. Navy named a destroyer after him in 1945, which Lena Mae christened. Another USS John Basilone is scheduled for commission in 2019. He also appeared in the ‘Distinguished Marines’ postage stamp series and was a central character in the HBO series The Pacific.
The U.S. Marine Corps still consider him a soldier’s soldier, a Marine’s Marine. He lies beside many of America’s heroes in Arlington National Cemetery. You can find Basilone’s grave in section 12, Grave 384.
Russia still wields enviable cyber warfare prowess, tremendous conventional military strength, the world’s most dangerous nuclear weapons, and electronic warfare capabilities among the best on earth.
But nobody is talking about Russia as the US’s top military threat anymore. Today, it’s China.
Under President Donald Trump, the US has introduced a new National Security Strategy that lists China and Russia as its main strategic threats, rather than terrorism or climate change. China is listed first, and mentioned more often throughout the report.
The T-14 Armata, another great idea that never really happened.
The culprit behind Russia’s decline? Stagnation
The Russian threat is a known quantity. NATO exists to counter Russia in Europe. Besides Russia’s 2014 illegal annexation of Crimea, its constant aggressive behavior towards its neighbors hasn’t really changed much over the decades.
Russia’s newest generation of nuclear weapons promises to evade and trick all existing US missile defenses, but that’s also old news. Even the US’s 1970s Minuteman III nuclear missile can likely evade Russian defenses. In any case, nuclear war has been a moot point since the establishment of mutually assured destruction.
Russian systems near Eastern Europe can out-range and in some cases overwhelm its NATO counterpart, but Russia stands to gain little in conventional conflict, and under President Vladimir Putin it’s mainly chosen to engage in hybrid warfare and to push its foreign policy goals with hacking and other nefarious plots.
For the T-14 and Su-57, economic stagnation caused by flat or falling oil prices and US sanctions likely struck the final blow.
Aircraft Carrier Liaoning CV-16.
China running wild
China used to buy and reverse engineer Russian weapons systems, which provided it a healthy base to start building its military, the largest in the world, but now it’s clearly surpassed Russia in terms of high-end warfighting.
China, not Russia, provided the first foreign answer to the US’s total dominance in stealth aircraft with the Chengdu J-20 . China has also leapfrogged ahead in software and computing, pursuing both quantum computing and artificial intelligence at a break-neck place.
China, not Russia, has become the US military’s boogeyman despite sitting half a world away. And with ten times Russia’s population, and an economy set to displace the US as the world’s top, it’s unlikely Russia will hang around much longer in the conversation of top-tier militaries.
Russia can achieve many of its foreign policy goals by spreading its own brand of information in Western democracies and leaning on its smaller satellite states. But China is building an all-aspect military capable of fighting the US military head-on.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In a hearing before the House Appropriations Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Subcommittee, Wilkie said veterans who have earned the Purple Heart will be placed “at the front of the line when it comes to claims before the department.”
According to Wilkie, the change is in “recognition of wounds taken in battle.”
He didn’t provide details on how the change will be implemented but said it is among the many improvements the department is making as part of the claims and appeals modernization effort.
The new process, created under the Appeals Modernization Act, gives veterans three choices for appealing their claim, including providing new evidence to the original reviewer; having a more senior adjudicator review the decision; and appealing to the Board of Veterans Appeals.
Wilkie described the change as part of a 21st-century transformation at the department.
The VA appeals backlog, which will be handled by the legacy system of appealing decisions to the board, stands at roughly 402,000 cases.
The new system will not only be used for disability compensation claims decisions, it will tackle decisions on education and insurance applications, vocational rehabilitation, caregiver benefits and claims with the National Cemetery Administration, according to the VA.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The United Nations has introduced a treaty that it believes will eventually lead to the total elimination of nuclear weapons. A recent watchdog report said the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is a historically significant effort that’s gaining traction, which highlights the profound power imbalance between the few nuclear powers and the many countries without the devastating weapons.
“The rate of adherence to the TPNW is faster than for any other weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) treaty,” the report says.
But with an estimated 14,485 extant nuclear weapons, total elimination is more of a long-term goal.
This is an overview of the nine nuclear-armed states and the 31 nuclear-weapon-endorsing states — countries that do not develop or possess nuclear weapons but rely on another nuclear-armed state for protection.
All of these countries would need to make profound changes to reach the UN goal of a nuclear-weapons-free world.
The Russian Federation has an estimated 6,850 nuclear weapons in its arsenal.
Armenia and Belarus, who both rely on Russia’s arsenal for “umbrella” protections, stand in violation of TPNW.
Russia is also only one of three nations to possess a nuclear “triad,” which includes intercontinental ballistic-missile delivery.
A nuclear “triad” refers to a nation’s ability to deploy its nuclear arsenal through intercontinental ballistic missiles, sea-launched ballistic missiles, and strategic bombers, as defined by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, an advisory board that conducts research and provides analysis to encourage diplomacy.
The US is the only country to detonate nuclear weapons against an enemy, as it did in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks against Japan in August 1945.
The US has agreed to potentially use its nuclear weapons to protect NATO member states, as well as Japan, Australia and South Korea.
Because of these agreements, all 29 NATO member states, and the three who hold bilateral protection agreements with the US, are in violation of TPNW.
The US, which has a nuclear arsenal that’s nearly the size of Russia’s, is the only nation in the western hemisphere that possesses nuclear weapons, and one of three countries to possess the nuclear “triad.”
The US is also the only nation in the world to store nuclear weapons in other countries.
According to the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor, the US is believed to store some 180 nuclear weapons in other countries.
This number has been “significantly reduced since the Cold War,” according to the report.
The United Kingdom can only launch its nuclear weapons from its four Vanguard-class submarines.
The United Kingdom is a NATO member state and shares in the umbrella protections of the alliance.
The kingdom maintains at least one nuclear-armed submarine on patrol at all times, under a Continuous at Sea Defense Posture, according to NWBM.
British policy also states that the country will not threaten the use of nuclear weapons against any “non-nuclear weapons state.”
A French Air Force Dassault Rafale fighter jet.
The French Dassault Rafale fighter jet can deploy a nuclear weapon with a warhead 20 times the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
France, also a NATO member state, can only deliver its nuclear weapons via aircraft and submarines.
The ASMP-A is a 300-kiloton warhead, approximately 20 times the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, at the end of World War II.
If a warhead of that size were to drop over Washington, DC, it would result in approximately 280,000 casualties.
Israel maintains a policy of “opacity,” while other nations promise not to use their nukes against countries that don’t have them.
China possesses a nuclear “triad,” but has agreed not to employ nuclear weapons against any nation in a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone, which include Latin American and Caribbean nations, as well as some in Africa, the South Pacific and Central Asia.
US-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies reported 13 undeclared missile bases in North Korea.
Although North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has publicly proclaimed a desire to denuclearize the entire Korean peninsula, there is no evidence that he has made any attempt to do so.
Reports vary as to the size of the North Korean nuclear arsenal. While the monitor follows conventional views that the country possesses 10 to 20 nukes, The Washington Post has previously reported that it may hold up to 60, citing confidential US assessments.
Negev Nuclear Research Center in Israel is said to have produced enough plutonium for 100 to 200 nuclear warheads.
Israel has never publicly admitted to possession of nuclear weapons.
Nevertheless, the international community operates on the assumption that since its inception, Israel has developed and maintained a nuclear arsenal.
The size of Israel’s cache remains unclear, and though it is possible that the nation holds enough enriched plutonium for 100 to 200 warheads, the NWBM accepts estimates from the Federation of American Scientists, which show that Israel possesses approximately 80 nuclear weapons.
The next Cold War may be between India and Pakistan, neither of which will back down its nuclear stance.
Attempts to develop intercontinental and submarine-launched nuclear missiles indicate that India may soon possess the nuclear “triad.”
Mainly due to tensions with Pakistan, some experts have questioned whether India’s “no first-use” posture will endure.
Pakistan can deliver its nuclear weapons from the ground and air and is allegedly developing methods of sea-based delivery to complete the nuclear “triad.”
Despite facing sanctions, Pakistan is reportedly expanding its nuclear arsenal faster than any other nation.
Similar to British policy, Pakistan claims it will not use or threaten to use its nuclear arsenal against any “non-nuclear” state, leaving many questions unanswered on the potential use against neighbor India, which also maintains nuclear weapons.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Maj. Gen. Arthur MacArthur, wearing the Medal of Honor he earned in the Civil War.
Arthur MacArthur joined the Union Army soon after the start of the Civil War at the tender age of 16, but he was popular with the other men and the command and was promoted to first lieutenant in Wisconsin’s 24th Infantry Regiment the following year.
The 24th was involved in a series of tough scrapes. It marched into Kentucky in September 1862 in pursuit of the forces of Gen. Braxton Bragg. The 24th fought alongside other Union forces at Chaplin Hills, Stones River, Chickamauga Creek, and others. The 24th performed well in most of these battles, hitting hard when ordered and reportedly staying organized even when the tide turned suddenly against them.
But the regiment’s order on the battlefield should not be misread as the product of great leadership. The men reportedly performed well, but officers resigned fairly regularly.
Just at the senior ranks, the regiment suffered a resignation of its lieutenant colonel and acting commander in December 1862. A major took over until the colonel could return. That major was promoted to lieutenant colonel, but then he resigned in March 1863, and so a lieutenant was promoted to lieutenant colonel. Then the commander resigned in August 1863, and so the lieutenant colonel took over the regiment.
And that’s just the officers that gave way under the pressure. They also lost a brigade commander to enemy fire in September 1863 on the same day that the regimental commander, that lieutenant turned lieutenant colonel who had just taken over, was paralyzed by shrapnel and captured.
So the regiment’s men were used to chaotic situations, even in their own chain of command, is what we’re getting at. They performed well and earned praise wherever they fought, even when other units were breaking around them, even when their own leadership was going through high turnover, even when they were exhausted and dehydrated, like they were at Chickamauga Creek.
The regiment wasn’t always flashy, but they were seemingly steady. So it might not come as a huge surprise that, when the orders and leadership at the Battle of Missionary Ridge went wobbly, the 24th just kept doing the best job it could.
Soldiers with Wisconsin’s 2nd Volunteer Infantry Regiment in 1861.
(WisconsinHistory.org, public domain)
Our hero, First Lt. Arthur MacArthur, was the 18-year-old adjutant at this point. And the entire regiment was pointed at the Confederate defenses on Missionary Ridge. The rebels had been attacking Union forces from this ridge since the Union defeat at Chickamauga Creek, and Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant needed to clear it for his future plans in the faltering Chattanooga Campaign.
Grant’s first major assaults on Missionary Ridge, launched by his stalwart companion Brig. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, failed. A second failure would force the Union Army to retreat back to Chattanooga and face a siege. A victory would cement control of Tennessee and open Georgia to invasion. The 24th Wisconsin Infantry was placed near the center of the line for this important attack on Nov. 25, 1863.
The Union advance at the center went well at the start, with regiments up and down the line breaking the Confederate defenders and taking the pits. In some cases, confused Confederates believed they were supposed to give up the pits, and so they retreated with little fight.
So the pits were taken relatively easily, but then the attack stalled as the confused commanders simply manned the pits and waited. Meanwhile, the 24th and some other regiments understood that they were supposed to take the ridge, and they advanced forward with gaps in the line. The Union advance nearly failed because of simple confusion about orders.
It was during this assault that the color bearer was hit by Confederate fire and either killed or wounded (accounts differ). In the Civil War, absent colors could quickly break a unit’s assault as the men became either confused about what direction they were supposed to be going or afraid that the leading ranks had been completely destroyed and the fight was lost. MacArthur stepped forward to get the colors back up.
Despite heavy Confederate fire, he grabbed the colors and rushed forward yelling, “On Wisconsin!” as he did so. Confederate soldiers, trying to prevent the rush, aimed for him and wounded him at least twice as he charged, but they failed to stop him.
By day’s end, the 24th was camped 2.5 miles past the ridge they had fought so hard to take. The way into Georgia was open, and the 24th would take part in the advance to Atlanta.
MacArthur was awarded the Medal of Honor and promoted to major, soon taking command of the 24th amid the constant leadership churn of that unit. He was dubbed the “Boy Colonel” for being an 18-year-old in temporary command of a regiment, but he continued to prove his worth, leading his men to more victories and nearly dying at the head of their advance during the Battle of Franklin.
Moments of levity are a must. It’s those little moments of relaxation that give our nation’s war fighters the rest they need operate at peak efficiency. That, and everyone would rather spend their downtime drunk than sitting at battalion staff duty on their day off.
Nobody wants to get a call informing them that their weekend plans have officially gone to sh*t. We know you don’t want to do it, but we’re going to advise against going AWOL, getting locked up, ending up in the hospital, or flat-out telling your superior to f*ck off. There are a few ethical ways to wiggle your way back into doing nothing productive until Monday.
“Nope… I don’t see that ’09 Mustang bought at 39% interest rate… he must be gone already.”
(Photo by Sgt. Melissa Bright)
Park somewhere else
Form habits. Let everyone know your routine.
If you park your car in the exact same place, day in and day out, pretty soon, that’ll become the go-to indicator of your presence. If, one day, you happen to park your car in the other parking lot, they’ll take a quick glance and assume you’re not there. Now just be sure to keep your phone on silent and never answer your door.
“I’m so sorry, I’d love to help, but I got this thing. Yes. That totally legit thing.”
(Photo by Airmen 1st Class Dana Cable)
Someone has pull staff duty or charge of quarters (CQ). The goal here isn’t to screw over the unit, it’s to hot potato that responsibility onto someone else.
If you let your superior know that you’ve got responsibilities that you can’t or “can’t” wiggle out of, like “helping someone in your unit move,” they’ll probably pick that other guy.
Bonus points if you tell them you’ll be somewhere without service and you just turn your phone off.
(Photo by Airmen 1st Class Frank Rohrig)
Be out of town
Let everyone know you’ve got big plans. Be obnoxious about it. Everyone from the lowest private to the battalion commander should know that your ass has tickets to whatever.
If you plan on having fun, whoever is coming to ruin your weekend should know well in advance that you’re not going to be anywhere near.
If they do take the time to go check the paperwork and you were bullshitting, then plausible deniability is your only way out…
(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Morales)
Put in a 4-day pass (or say you did)
Having a piece of paperwork that says the commander has approved you to do nothing all weekend is great. Take a photo of it with your phone and send it along any time someone asks you what you’re doing.
Or, if the NCO is out on the prowl, trying to find some lower-enlisted to pull CQ and you feel like your poker face is good enough, go ahead and say your 4-day pass is up at battalion and hope they don’t call your bluff.
Just keep one by the door, if you have to.
(Photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Magbanua)
Be drunk or “drunk”
If there’s any tried-and-true method that every member of the E-4 Mafia and LCpl Underground know too well, it’s this one: Never answer your door without a bottle of beer in your hands.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve actually been drinking; it doesn’t matter if it’s 0900. There’s no way you can go to some BS duty if you might be intoxicated. Always keep that in mind.
A number of active-duty US troops, the first of thousands, have arrived at the US-Mexico border.
US military personnel deployed to the border ahead of the anticipated arrival of migrant caravans have started constructing bases of operations and running razor wire to prevent illegal crossings.
These photos show some of what troops are doing at the border:
(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)
Soldiers from the the 89th Military Police Brigade, and 41st Engineering Company, 19th Engineering Battalion, Fort Riley, Kansas, arrive in Harlingen, TX on Nov. 1, 2018.
The active-duty troops which have been or will be deployed to parts of Texas, Arizona, and California are among a group of more than 7,000 troops expected to be sent to the border in support of Operation Faithful Patriot.
(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)
Many of the engineering teams are expected to be involved in activities such as barrier construction and the hardening of key border facilities.
Active-duty military personnel are heading to the border to support the Customs and Border Protection mission.
The troops deploying to the border, according to the US military, will provide planning assistance and engineering support, as well as equipment and resources, to assist the DHS as it attempts to secure the southern border against migrant caravans from Latin America.
The number of troops slated for deployment to the US-Mexico border has risen three times in the past week, surging from several hundred into the thousands, and the number could rise again in response to operational demands.
(Angela Camara/Operation Faithful Patriot)
A C-17 Globemaster III carrying soldiers and equipment from the 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, landed in southern Arizona on Oct. 31, 2018, in support of Operation Faithful Patriot.
There are already over 2,000 National Guard troops serving at the border, advancing the mission for Operation Guardian Support. They were deployed in April and serve in a different role than the troops presently heading south.
(Angela Camara/Operation Faithful Patriot)
Troops are bringing significant amounts of equipment for border operations, including miles and miles worth of concertina wire.
President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly characterized the approaching caravans — without evidence — as an “invasion,” has warned the migrants that the military will be waiting for them when they arrive.
He has said that the total number of troops deployed to the southern border could ultimately be as high as 15,000. The president has also indicated that US troops may open fire on migrants who become aggressive.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brandon Best)
A US Army soldier assigned to 309th Military Intelligence Battalion hammers a stake into the ground while setting up tents at Fort Huachuca, Arizona on Nov. 1, 2018.
The military units currently being sent to the border are acting in a Title X capacity. Military police, engineers, medical teams, airlift units, and command teams will be constructing barriers, hardening points of entry, and assisting CBP officials. These troops are not permitted to engage in law enforcement activities on US soil.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brandon Best)
The Department of Defense has made it clear, despite the various claims stating otherwise, that these tent cities will house troops arriving at the border, not migrants.
While some observers argue that sending active-duty military personnel to the border is a waste of manpower, one that could costa s much as 0 million by the end of the year, the administration says troops being deployed to the border are responding to an escalated threat to US national security. As of Friday, there were around 3,500 troops deployed to staging bases along the border, the Pentagon told the Associated Press.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brandon Best)
Multiple staging areas are being established at Base Support Installations, areas where troops from ten different states will set up operations.
One of the larger groups recently clashed with Mexican authorities on the border of Guatemala, a violent exchange which appears to have led President Trump to state that US troops might shoot migrants who throw rocks at US military and border patrol personnel, a position he has since backed away from.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristine Legate)
Airmen from the 355th Civil Engineering Squadron construct Air Force deployable airbase systems (DABS) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona on Nov. 1, 2018.
The migrant caravans heading north toward the US-Mexico border are currently believed to be around 800 miles away, putting them a few weeks out.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
These tents, like those set up at Fort Huachuca, will house military personnel deployed to the border in support of Operation Faithful Patriot.
In recent days, as the midterm elections come around the corner, the president has proposed eliminating birthright citizenship, denying asylum to anyone who crosses illegally, and using disproportional military force against migrants who become violent, moves and rhetoric presumably intended to highlight his administration’s tough stance on illegal immigration.
(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)
Soldiers from the 97th Military Police Brigade, and 41st Engineering Company, Fort Riley, Kansas, run 300 meters of concertina wire along the border in support of CBP operations in Hidalgo, Texas.
Critics have accused the president of engaging in a political stunt ahead of midterm elections. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who approved the deployment of troops to the border in response to a DHS request, has countered such accusations, stating, “We don’t do stunts in this department.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)
US troops deployed with enough concertina wire already in position to cover 22 miles, with officials noting that the military had the capability to run wire along another 120 miles if necessary.
“It’s all preparation in anticipation of the caravan,” Manuel Padilla Jr., US Border Patrol’s Rio Grande River Valley sector chief, told the Associated Press. “We’re hoping that these people do not show up at the border. They’re not going to be allowed in.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
With the Cold War raging and the Soviets securing victory after victory in the Space Race, America’s CIA wasn’t sitting on the sidelines. The Soviet Union’s space technology was beating America’s in just about every appreciable way, and America’s intelligence agencies were working overtime to monitor and decipher data spilling out of Soviet rockets as they poured into the sky. It was a time of uncertainty–and perhaps even a bit of desperation–for the burgeoning superpower that was America in the 1950s. So, when a Soviet Lunar satellite was sent out on a global tour to parade their successes before the world, it offered a unique opportunity for the CIA to hijack the satellite for a bit of research while it was still firmly planted on the ground.
From our vantage point in the 21st century, we have a habit of looking back on the Space Race as though America’s ultimate victory was a sure thing. After all, in the decades that followed World War II, America was uniquely positioned to help rebuild the Western world, gaining diplomatic, economic, and military leverage around the globe and rapidly ascending to the lofty position of the planet’s only remaining superpower by the close of the century.
But the truth is, to paraphrase famed Marine general James Mattis, America had no pre-ordained right to victory in the Cold War, and perhaps least of all in the Space Race that ran in parallel to the America-Soviet military arms race of the day. The Soviet Union didn’t just beat America and the rest of the world into orbit with Sputnik in 1957, they proceeded to pummel the United States’ space efforts without mercy for years to come.
The Sputnik Crisis and Soviet space supremacy
Let there be no mistake, the importance of Sputnik in terms of how it framed America’s contemporary perception of the Soviet threat, both military and ideological, can’t be overstated. Immediately following Sputnik’s beeping transmissions from low earth orbit, the United States, and indeed much of the Western world, plummeted into what has since come to be known as the “Sputnik Crisis.”
In no uncertain terms, early Soviet space victories were seen by many around the globe as a clear argument in favor of the efficacy of the Soviet communist model of government and societal structure. With each subsequent win at the technological forefront of human reach, the Soviet Union wasn’t just proving what could be done through their approach to economics and policy, they were also demonstrating what America’s capitalism couldn’t do… or at least, couldn’t do as quickly.
That overarching fear that the communists were not only winning in terms of nuts and bolts but also in terms of hearts and minds directly led to the establishment of NASA, the reshuffling of resources toward rocket and orbital sciences, and of course, a flood of funding into both defense and prestige programs meant to offset the Soviet advantages that were becoming manifest on multiple fronts. In the New York Times alone, Sputnik 1 was mentioned in articles an average of 11 times a day between October 6 and October 31 of 1957, so pronounced was America’s general fear regarding the Soviets in space.
It didn’t get better from there. In November of 1957, the Soviet Union became the first nation to put a living animal in orbit with Sputnik 2 carrying Laika the dog. The following month, America made its first attempt to put a satellite into orbit with the Naval Research Laboratory’s Vanguard TV3 (Test Vehicle 3). The rocket made it approximately four feet off the launch platform before collapsing back down onto itself and exploding.
The following month, however, America would make it into space with Explorer 1, and later that year, NASA would replace the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) and help to steer the nation toward its eventual space supremacy–but that supremacy wasn’t to come for some time yet. In 1959, the technically failed Soviet Luna 1 rocket flew further than any platform before it, escaping the moon’s orbit and finally settling into orbit around the sun. Later that same year, the Soviets claimed yet another first with Luna 2; the first spacecraft ever to reach the surface of the moon.
Soon, Luna 3 would send back images of the moon’s surface from orbit and by 1960, the Soviets were the first to send animals (two dogs, Belka and Strelka) and plants into space and bring them back alive. Within just another year, they would secure their crowning achievement to that point: Putting an actual human being in space with Yuri Gagarin.
There was no doubt, no debate, and no uncertainty. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Soviet Union wasn’t just leading the Space Race, it was dominating it. If America wanted to turn the tables on the Reds, they’d need a closer look at what they were packing under the hoods of their rockets.
How to plan a spacecraft heist
In 1959, the Soviet Union decided to leverage their recent technological victories for a little PR, choosing a number of technologies, vehicles, and equipment that represented the very cutting edge of Soviet advances for a traveling exhibit. You might expect that the Soviet Union would know better than to send their actual top-tier tech for what amounted to little more than a bit of show-and-tell, and the CIA thought so too… but with the Soviets continuing to extend their lead in space, the opportunity to take a closer look at the crown jewel of the exhibition, a Lunic spacecraft very similar to Luna 2, housed within a modified rocket upper stage, was simply too great.
After a few plain-clothes agents got as close as they could without drawing any suspicion, they were surprised to see that the spacecraft tucked away behind glass-covered cutaways in the rocket housing appeared to be the real deal. Declassified reports have a habit of sucking the humanity out of a situation, but one has to assume this revelation came with some open mouths, raised eyebrows, and perhaps even a bit of covert intelligence officer hand-wringing within the CIA when word reached Langley.
Immediately, plans began to form to get an even closer look at Lunic, but the Soviet’s seeming naivety in parading a real satellite around didn’t extend to the security at their exhibitions. Soldiers guarded the satellite at all times while on display, including during off-hours when the museums and exhibition halls housing it were closed. It seemed clear that accessing Lunic while it was on display would be practically impossible, so the CIA turned their attention to how it was transported from exhibition to exhibition.
While all of the items were transported from city to city by rail car (with accompanying guard), the CIA identified some vulnerability in the way each item was transported from each exhibition to that rail car. The items were simply placed in unassuming crates and loaded into trucks that would drive them to the train station for loading. This transition was not heavily monitored by Soviet security, with items arriving at the train at random intervals and little coordination between drivers and the train personnel to speak of. In fact, the guards at the rail depots weren’t even provided with a list of what deliveries to expect, perhaps as a part of compartmentalizing information, but it was this specific shortcoming in the Soviet security strategy most of all that granted the CIA the opportunity they needed.
Hijacking a rocket is easier from the highway
Intelligence operatives are often thought of as superhuman, as though it takes a unique biology to be a truly successful spy. The truth, as history so often reveals, is that spies are most often regular people like the rest of us; superhuman not in capability, but arguably perhaps, in audacity.
When the night came to enact the CIA’s plan, the agents responsible were hopelessly lacking in James Bond-esque gadgets to assure victory. It began, quite simply, with agents in plain clothes following the crate containing Lunic out of an exhibition, looking intently for signs of supplemental Soviet security. Surprisingly, despite their air-tight security during showings, no guards manifested and it soon became clear that the unassuming box truck carrying a nondescript crate full of Soviet state secrets would be making its short trip to the train station utterly unaccompanied.
So as the truck approached its turn off toward the train station, the CIA simply pulled the vehicle over and escorted the driver to a nearby hotel. From there, an agent hopped in the driver’s seat and guided the truck into a nearby salvage yard that had been chosen specifically for the high walls intended to hide the interior scrap from the rest of the neighborhood. It was one of the most daring espionage capers of the Cold War, and certainly had the potential to ignite a conflict between the planet’s two nuclear powers… But at the point of execution, the best the CIA could muster was little more than a carjacking and a local junkyard. Sometimes, it really is audacity that makes all the difference.
For thirty long minutes, CIA agents hovered in the shadows surrounding their freshly stolen truck, waiting for some sign that the Soviets had noticed Lunic’s absence. Once it seemed the coast was sufficiently clear, they descended upon the truck, and the 20 foot long, 11 foot wide, and 14 foot-deep crate housed inside. For their plan to work, it wasn’t enough to get to the satellite, disassemble it, and photograph what they could–they also had to re-assemble it, tuck it back inside its crate, and deliver it to the train station before morning, to keep the Soviets from knowing anything had even taken place.
Take off your shoes and hop in the rocket
To their relief, the crate itself had been re-used a number of times, making it fairly easy to open without leaving any clear signs of tampering. However, with no means to pull the rocket stage out of the crate, the team soon realized they’d have no choice but to do their work inside the wooden box. Agents took off their shoes and split into teams, climbing to the bottom of the crate using rope ladders they’d brought specifically for the job, and delicately removing hardware and panels to gain access to the secrets held within.
Soon, their plan hit a snag, however. The Lunic spacecraft wouldn’t be hard to access through the rocket stage it was housed in, but as they attempted to make entry, the CIA agents found a small, plastic seal with a Soviet logo emblazoned on it. In order to get to the spacecraft, the seal would have. to be broken, but doing so would almost certainly reveal their meddling to Soviet authorities. Quickly, calls were made to CIA assets in the area, who assessed that they could replicate the seal and get their replacement to the salvage yard in time to re-assemble and return the rocket by morning.
Although the engine had been removed, its mounts, as well as tanks for both fuel and the oxidizer remained, granting the CIA enough information to extrapolate the rocket’s engine size and payload capabilities. With the seal removed, Lunic itself was pulled out, prodded, disassembled, and photographed extensively. Information gleaned wasn’t only valuable from a design perspective, it also offered important context regarding the Soviet rocket program. Having measurements and weights recorded for a Luna 2-esque payload, the CIA would be able to make more sense of telemetry data they were gathering around each Soviet launch. It was a significant intelligence victory for the United States, and would go on to shape plans and policy regarding America’s own space efforts for years to come.
But getting the information was only part of the job. Getting it back unnoticed would require a similar degree of good luck and proper planning.
With the moonlight waning, CIA operatives working with hand tools and clad in their socks feverishly re-assembled Lunic and its rocket housing, adding the replica seal, removing their rope ladders, and re-securing the top of the crate. By 5 a.m., the original driver was reunited with his truck and payload, and he delivered it to the train station in time to beat the first guard’s arrival at 7 a.m.
The information gleaned from the operation gave America a fuller understanding of what the Soviets were capable of, which allowed them to plan their own efforts accordingly. No longer was America operating under the looming anxiety of the Sputnik Crisis without the real data they needed to make an honest assessment of the situation. And one could argue, it was in that newfound knowledge that America’s future space dominance would begin to sprout. In order to beat the enemy, you have to know where they are and what they can do… and the CIA learned more about that in the back of a stolen truck, with their shoes off and their flashlights on, than they had through the rest of their combined efforts to that point.
Less than ten years later, the United States would declare victory in the Space Race when Apollo 11 landed on the moon right before a Soviet lander crashed into the other side. A bit more than twenty years after that, the Soviet Union would collapse, and the Cold War would officially come to an end.
Activision Blizzard’s latest “Call of Duty” game is facing a fierce backlash in the Russian media for its depiction of the Eurasian country.
Despite being praised by many Western video game publications since its release last week, the title has not gone down well in Russia, which features heavily in the game.
The game has received thousands of negative user reviews on the review aggregator Metacritic, with users — many of whom wrote in Russian — variously accusing it of misrepresenting and even slandering the country.
On Metacritic, the average rating given by users to the PlayStation 4 version of the game at the time of writing stood at just 3.4 out of 10.
One user, writing in both English and Russian, demanded that Activision “return me my money,” another accused it of “Russophobia,” while a third accused Activision Blizzard of “demonizing Russia.”
Russian media outlets have also reportedly criticized the game. According to the BBC, the state TV channel Rossiya 24 released a four-minute report criticizing “Call of Duty,” while a prominent Russian blogger branded the game “too much” in a tweet Oct. 29, 2019, and called for Russian gamers to “boycott it and show some respect for themselves.”
The game has received positive reviews from professional critics in spite of the backlash.
(“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare”/Activision)
Most of the controversy seems to stem from the game’s “Highway of Death” mission, which sees players advance along a highway while sniping at Russian forces.
Users have said the highway depicted in the mission resembles a real-life road called Highway 80, which links the Iraqi city of Basra and the Kuwaiti town of Al Jahra. The road was dubbed the “Highway of Death” in the 1990s because of its prominent role in the Gulf War.
This isn’t the only controversy Activision Blizzard has faced in recent weeks. The firm is receiving ongoing criticism for its decision to bar the esports professional Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai after he voiced pro-Hong Kong sentiments during a livestream.
Activision Blizzard did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider on the “Call of Duty” backlash. In a blog post last week, the firm described the game as “a fictional story that does not represent real-world events.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Let’s face it, with more women than ever serving in the military, not to mention in combat positions, there’s still a lack of acknowledgment for female veteran service (and quite often this comes from our own brothers-in-arms). Female veterans are in a unique position; the military tends to be associated with the high-and-tight haircut on, well, a man, but modern technology and shifting mindsets mean there are more women serving than ever before.
Still, we all look different, have different grooming habits while out of uniform, and remain subject to stereotypes.
Most of us still encounter the look of surprise when someone realizes we served. Usually, people thank us for our service or ask questions about military life, but inevitably, we also get judgment and assumptions. Here are a few of the worst:
4. Assuming a woman could never have been in the military based on her appearance
The problem female veterans face, during service and when they get out of the military, is that people automatically judge a woman based on appearance.
The reality is veterans come in all shapes, sizes, and genders, but when women decide to reclaim some femininity, they are looked down upon or disregarded as vets. It’s a lose-lose situation when lipstick and colored hair are equated with loss of veteran credibility.
3. Assuming anything about a woman’s mental health status based on gender or career field AFSC/MOS
We all know career fields in the military are not created equal as far as physical stress or deployment tempos go. People may assume that administrative careers in the military, and anything other than combat positions, don’t get exposed to trauma. This simply isn’t true. First of all, you don’t have to go beyond the wire to be attacked, but more importantly, trauma is experienced in many forms — a veteran’s experience is between them and their doctor.
Women of all career fields deploy, and many come home with PTSD from traumatic events they experience during their time overseas — just like men. According to the U. S. Department of Veteran Affairs, “among women Veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, almost 20 of every 100 (or 20%) have been diagnosed with PTSD.”
What these numbers don’t reflect are the women who have not sought help and been diagnosed for their PTSD. Also, these are just the statistics for Iraq and Afghanistan — they don’t mention every other conflict that women served in. Women work, fight, come home, and live with what they experience, exactly like their male counterparts.
Furthermore, it doesn’t take a deployment to be affected by the life-and-death stress situations the military demands.
2. Assuming female veterans are lesbians
Now, this is almost a joke to even mention because it seems so far-fetched, but it is more common than one would think! There is nothing wrong with being a lesbian or any other sexuality, for that matter, but for some reason, when women tell people that they are veterans, many are then met with assumptions about their sexual orientation. Well, I guess since it needs to be said: not all women who serve are attracted to other women.
It doesn’t take a scientist to figure out that military service and sexual orientation are unrelated. Yes, women who have served and are serving need to be able to throw femininity to the side regularly to get the job done, but that doesn’t mean sexuality changes as soon as it’s time to get our hands dirty.
Women can be feminine and brave at the same time, and neither of these things has to do with who they’re attracted to.
1. Assuming a woman is the spouse of a veteran and not a veteran herself
Statistically, this at least has a little merit. Nevertheless, showing up to a VA appointment and being asked, “Who’s your husband?” is frustrating. It doesn’t just happen at the VA, but also at Veteran Resource Centers, American Legions, and anywhere where there is an abundance of veterans present.
It might not seem like this is such a big deal, but the assumption behind the question is that women don’t serve in the military — or worse, that we can’t serve. Plus, it gets exhausting trying to explain why we joined and how we fared “in a man’s world.”
The U.S. Army loves robots and wants its soldiers to love them, too. The U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command recently conducted its annual Joint Warfighting Assessment in the Pacific Northwest, with most of the testing at the Yakima Training Center. From late April to May 11, 2019, troops from Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 2-2 Stryker Brigade and 2nd Ranger battalion, along with U.S. Marines from Camp Lejune and Camp Pendleton, tested new weapon concepts for a Pacific war scenario set in 2028.
One of the concepts they were testing was the “optionally manned vehicle,” which would allow leaders in the field to decide to switch their systems to remote operating systems instead of putting their troops on the line.
“The idea is that the robotics could be available, so when they pick that platform you can put the robotics on it, and now you can do the manned (or) unmanned team and push the robotics out on the battlefield,” explained Lieutenant Colonel John Fursmo, the officer commanding the opposing force for the exercise.
The Assault Breacher Vehicle.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Some of the vehicles that have been brought out for testing are actually quite old, brought back to life and stuffed with robotic capabilities by engineers tinkering with them like Frankenstein’s monster. Troops and engineers explain that it’s all about testing, experimentation and soldier feedback. “These are concepts, these are not necessarily the pieces of equipment we would actually use,” said Fursmo. “The Army still has to decide what it wants for this new combat vehicle that will replace some tanks and other armored vehicles.”
Fursmo pointed to an old M58 mobile recon vehicle that’s been retrofitted with remote control capabilities. “It’s a tracked vehicle, it’s been in the Army a very long time, [and] essentially the Army stopped using it several years ago because the mission itself was so dangerous that it was just decided it wasn’t worth it,” he explained. “But make it a robot and now it’s at least conceptually worth looking at it again.”
Robotics and digital tech are already changing the way wars both big and small are being fought around the world every day. What were once science fiction dreams (or nightmares) aren’t as far away as some might think. Some are already here.
An experimental quadcopter mounted on a Stryker during JWA 19.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Eyes in the Sky
Cavalry scouts often call themselves the ninjas of the U.S. Army. Though considered combat troops, their job is more often to scope out the enemy without drawing fire and to report their findings. “A big problem we have is seeing without being seen,” explained Major Dave Scherke, a cav scout squadron leader with the 2-2 Stryker Brigade.
A scout team might move with three troops aboard a Stryker and three dismounted on the ground. They use maps, rulers, and measuring tape to take down mission critical information while conducting route reconnaissance. “It’s very time consuming and, from a security standpoint, can leave you exposed,” Scherken said.
However, at Yakima Training Center, Scherke’s men have been testing the Sensor Enabled Scout Platoon concept. They’ve tested the “Instant Eye” quad copter, an aerial drone surveillance system. “We have that all the way down to the squad level. So instead of just having one of these for each one of my cav troops, now I have six of them, and that massively increases our ability to see over the ridge and see the enemy first,” Scherke explained.
The quad copter itself isn’t particularly unique — you can buy similar models at Best Buy. Drones have already become part of the new normal for warfare. In Iraq and Syria, ISIS militants have used store-bought drones to help them target mortars and have even modified them to drop grenades and other improvised explosives. During the battle of Mosul, frustrated Iraqi troops started purchasing commercial drones of their own to fight ISIS. Robots are everywhere.
However, the small drones the scouts are testing are equipped with the Instrument Set Reconnaissance and Survey (ENFIRE) system that uses software and algorithms that can help measure terrain features, roads, and even calculate how much weight a bridge is capable of supporting. “There’s a bridge classification app that tells you the whole bridge classification,” said Colonel Chuck Roede, the deputy commander of JMC. “It really allows the scouts to do the job we expect them to do.”
ENFIRE connects directly to systems in the Stryker itself, which connects to a larger network. “It takes all that information, aggregates it into a computer, and creates a route overlay,” Scherke explained. “[Plugging] into our mission command systems to send very rapidly [means] our logistics planners and our other maneuver planners can get that information right away. So it speeds up what our scouts can do, and now instead of having six scouts on the ground just doing this while other guys are securing them, you can put fewer scouts on the ground to do that mission.”
Deep purple, the drone utilized by chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist, prepares to lift off on an NBC reconnaissance mission at the Joint Warfighting Assessment 19 training exercise at Yakima Training Center, Yakima, Washington, April 29, 2019.
(Photo by Pfc. Valentina Y. Montano/302nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, U.S. Army)
The Instant Eye has night vision, infrared, and powerful zoom and camera clarity features for checking out targets, as well as signal tracking. “We can get some eyes on there without exposing our scouts and then bring indirect fires down to win that fight first because we want to be fighting an unfair fight,” said Scherke.
Cav scout Sergeant Joseph Gaska, who was in the field operating the prototype, told Coffee or Die that he was impressed with it. “As long as you’re high enough, you won’t hear it, so it’s not going to be that buzzing sound above your head,” he said of small, nimble drones’ ability to move nearly undetected. It has other ambitious features, too, Gaska noted. For instance, he said that if they were to somehow lose their connection to the drone, it’s programmed to remember where its handlers are and will return to them.
The Joint Warfighting Assessment JWA19 WA, UNITED STATES 04.28.2019
One of the most difficult things ground troops are asked to do is breaching operations against enemy strongholds. The defending side nearly always has the advantage. Good defenders lay out layers of defense that can include walls, barbed wire, ditches, minefields, and countless other hazards and traps. “It’s a very challenging task because you have to imagine your opponent on the far side of that position ready to destroy you with every weapon system that they have,” Fursmo said. “If you can take humans out of that, you’re going to have fewer casualties — it’s really the most dangerous thing a ground force does.”
Troops in the field trained with various aerial drones for detecting chemical threats and minefields, but more of the efforts focused on ground-based systems. One of the key systems they were testing was the Assault Breacher Vehicle. Their ABV working prototype was built around the hull of an M1A1 Abrams tank armed with mine charges and a .50-caliber machine gun and equipped with plows and dozer blades.
“Basically, the concept of this vehicle is that this one vehicle with two operators can do what an entire platoon of engineers would be required to do in a breach,” U.S. Marine 1st Lt. David Aghakhan explained. “It’s not taking anything away from my capabilities — I can still manually operate it — but it gives me the option of saying ‘I don’t want to expose my Marines in this obstacle belt because it’s too dangerous,’ and I can pull them out and we can robotically operate it.”
A soldier remotely operates a humvee from inside another humvee.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Working from remote controls in command vehicles, soldiers and Marines could also remotely control other vehicles to move in and provide suppressing fire for the ABV as it worked to clear mines, smash berms, and deal with other obstacles. Captain Nicole Rotte, an Afghanistan veteran and commander of the 2-2’s engineer company, said that she was impressed with it.
“The challenge that I have is my planning factor for moving through a breach is 50 percent loss,” said Rotte. “So all these concepts, to be able to take an unmanned vehicle and bring them down the battlefield, to be able save soldiers from being lost in the breach, that’s awesome for me.”
Rotte said they only had minor technical issues that were easily solved by turning the systems off and on again. She added that if anything, she’s excited for the prospect of having more robots available to her and seeing what they can do.
Unmanning the Battlefield?
Some futurists have envisioned a world in which war was waged entirely by robots. The U.S. military and CIA have already used drones with operators in Nevada pulling the trigger to kill enemies as far away as Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. However, while the vehicles are referred to as “unmanned,” they require regular maintenance — and usually have a human operator somewhere.
At times, U.S. military commanders have underestimated the strain on personnel in regard to upkeep and the long hours of operation. “The explosion in demand had created a snowball effect that never allowed the […] staff to take a pause and say, ‘Let’s normalize all the processes that we should be doing,'” the Air Force reported in one of its official annual histories from 2012. “Instead, normalization was put off to some future date after the pace of combat operations slowed down.”
But the wars continued, as did the extreme hours. Airmen working six days a week were constantly asked to work extra hours while leave got cancelled. They were never “deployed” but remained almost constantly on duty, remotely fighting wars in several countries that were continents away. “It’s at the breaking point and has been for a long time,” a senior Air Force official told The Daily Beast in 2015. “What’s different now is that the Band-Aid fixes are no longer working.”
A remotely operated humvee with a robotic firing turret.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Even without the logistical hurdles, many commanders (even those that fully embrace a robotic future for war) don’t believe grunts will ever become obsolete. “It’s technologically feasible to fly a drone from Nevada and have it circling over Iraq or Afghanistan. But the demands of the terrain, as Army soldiers we are so tied to the terrain — you need to have leaders on the ground to see and understand the terrain,” Roede said.
Col. Christopher Barnwell, head of the field experimentation division at JMC, said that while he could see a future where commanders could run a war without ever going to the field — adding that at this point communications are advanced enough that senior officers already don’t have to — he doesn’t think a good leader would choose to stay home while war is raging elsewhere.
“No commander I know would do that,” he said. “I feel like I need to be on the ground and see things with my own eyes and get a feel for what’s going. Technically possible? Yes. Likely? I don’t personally think so.”
An Alabama Army National Guard Soldier with the 690th Chemical Company inspects a “deep purple” drone at YTC at Joint Warfighting Assessment 19, May 4, 2019.
(Photo by Pfc. Valentina Y. Montano/ 302nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, U.S. Army)
While they don’t see human judgement being removed from the equation, some military planners are excited by the prospect of artificial intelligence to allow vehicles to move on their own on the battlefield.
“As the concept matures, as we bring in elements of AI, as we bring in some measures of autonomy, the ratio of operators to vehicles will drop so that eventually you’ll have one operator who can control maybe a squad or platoon’s worth of vehicles,” said Roede. He suggested that AI could allow vehicles to autonomously navigate terrain and even rally into formations as they haul supplies and weapons.
Barnwell suggested it potentially going even further — he can foresee a day in the future when leaders can delegate to robotic weapons systems in combat and allow them to autonomously pick and engage targets.
“You tell these robotic vehicles, ‘You’ve got this part of the engagement area, and you are free to shoot at enemy vehicles; anything north of the niner-niner grid line is enemy and you are free to shoot it,'” Barnwell said. “And because these vehicles have AI, they know what to shoot […] on their own.”
However, the prospect of robots that can autonomously kill enemies based on algorithms or pre-programmed targets sets has potentially serious ramifications. The recent battles for Mosul and Raqqa proved incredibly bloody. House-to-house fighting and heavy bombing and artillery strikes led to untold deaths of civilians trapped in the cities, and the work of rebuilding the infrastructure since the battles ended has been slow.
Military strategists believe that urban fighting could be the norm for the 21st century. More than half of the world’s population now lives in cities, and that’s expected to grow. In particular, there are concerns about the challenges posed by potentially fighting in massive megacities like Seoul, Shanghai, Tokyo, or Lagos. Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley has pointed out that the entirety of Mosul — Iraq’s second largest city — isn’t equal to a neighborhood in Seoul.
Conceptual prototypes at Yakima Training Center.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Heavily armed robots combing the streets of a densely populated megacity picking targets based on algorithms have the potential to cause a lot of unintended collateral death and destruction. Machines feel neither remorse nor pity.
Barnwell said that they’re already considering these potential problems. “Through programming, we would be able to figure out what are appropriate targets, what are not. What is the ROE (rules of engagement), what are we going to allow these things to shoot at by themselves, and what are we not going to allow them to shoot at by themselves,” he explained. “In a megacity, for example, we may not even employ this sort of thing — or we may, depending on what the intelligence tells us the enemy is out there.”
But Roede stressed again that fighting wars is going to remain a fundamentally human endeavor, adding, “I don’t think we’ll ever be at a place where we’ll let the machine make the final decision on anything.”
French Marines were manning observation posts on either side of the Vrbanja Bridge. They were UN peacekeepers, the first to arrive in the decimated city of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War in May 1995. But their day was to begin in humiliation and end in bloodshed as their mission to hold the observation posts quickly escalated into the first UN combat mission of the war.
When they first began their occupation of the bridge, one side was overtaken by Bosnian Serb commandos. Dressed in French uniforms and donning French weapons, the commandos took one side of the bridge without firing a shot. They even pulled up to the post in a stolen French armored personnel carrier. For many of the Serbs, it was the last thing they would ever do.
At gunpoint, the 10 French marines were disarmed and taken captive, and driven to another location. The other two were to be used on the bridge as human shields. The other side of the bridge didn’t even know their comrades had been overrun and captured. When the other unit didn’t check in with headquarters, their platoon commander came to check in on the Marines – he then sounded the alarm. When their fellow marines discovered their friends had been taken captive, they decided to move quickly on the Serb commandos.
“When the Serbs took our soldiers under their control by threat, by dirty tricks, they began to act as terrorists, you cannot support this,” Said Col. Erik Sandahl, commander of the 4th French Battalion. “You must react. The moment comes when you have to stop it. Full stop. And we did.”
When French President Jacques Chirac found out about the captured French marines, he went around the UN and ordered his troops to retake the bridge and find the missing men. The French sent 30 more Marines, 13 APCs, and 70 French Army soldiers to the bridge. But they couldn’t just blow up the observation post or do a regular infantry assault on the position. There were still hostages inside. They were going to have to do it the old fashioned way.
The French marines mounted their first bayonet charge since the Korean War.
After the bayonet charge, a 32-minute firefight ensued that saw one of the French hostages shot by a Bosnian sniper, the other hostage escaped, three Frenchmen killed in action and another ten wounded, along with four Serbs killed, three wounded and another four taken prisoner. The 10 French hostages were later released. The Serbs soldiers captured were treated as prisoners of war and held by the UN peacekeeping force.
It was the last time the French Army ever launched a bayonet charge, but for the rest of the time the French were participating as UN Peacekeepers in Bosnia, the Serbian forces kept a clear, noticeable distance from them.
Few cinematic crime fighters are more revered than Inspector Harry Callahan, from Clint Eastwood’s 1971 film, Dirty Harry. Before that, it might have been Frank Bullitt, as portrayed by Steve McQueen in 1968’s Bullitt. Both movies are centered around a hard-boiled police detective working the streets of San Francisco. Frank Bullitt was fighting mafia hitmen while Harry Callahan was trying to bring down an insane serial killer.
Both of these fictional detectives are based on one man: real-life San Francisco detective, Dave Toschi.
At his desk in San Francisco’s Hall of Justice, one might not have picked out the man in a bow tie as someone who served in the 24th Infantry Division in Korea. It was the unit that took the brunt of a full-scale North Korean invasion with no reinforcements in sight, the unit that held the Pusan Perimeter for months on end, and the unit that pushed the Chinese back to the 38th Parallel the very next year. David Toschi was that guy, but he truly made his name as a police detective, cleaning the streets of San Francisco for 32 years.
He joined the force right after leaving the military, in 1953. His ties, signature suits, and “exaggerated” trench coats earned him the attention of the San Fran news media, but his work was his enduring legacy – and what ended up translated to the silver screen.
Even though Toschi’s flair won him attention from the media, it was his biggest case that earned him the most acclaim – and would later be his downfall. He began working homicide in 1966. Just three years in, he was assigned to work the murder investigation of cab driver Paul Stine. Stine picked up a passenger who wanted to be taken from Geary Street to Maple Street in San Francisco’s Presidio Heights neighborhood. Just one block North of Maple, the passenger shot Stine in the head, then took his keys, wallet, and a portion of his bloody shirt.
No one knew why until three days later, when the Zodiac sent a threatening letter to the San Francisco Chronicle with a piece of Stine’s shirt, to prove the cabbie was a victim of the Zodiac; the only time Zodiac killed inside the city.
Toschi estimated that he investigated 2,000-5,000 people while looking for Zodiac but the killer was never found. Toschi left homicide in 1978 and retired in 1985. Toschi was reassigned from the Zodiac case in 1977 after it was revealed that the detective sent so-called fake “fan letters” about his own performance in the case to the San Francisco Chronicle. Zodiac was active from 1969 through the early 1970s but sent letters to the paper for years.
Zodiac had a confirmed seven victims but claimed as many as 37. His last confirmed victim was Stine, and his last letter to the paper came in 1978. The prime suspect in the Zodiac case – and the man Toschi always suspected – was U.S. Navy veteran and schoolteacher, Arthur Leigh Allen.
“Why didn’t we get this guy?” Toschi once asked the Chronicle. “I ended up with a bleeding ulcer over this case. It still haunts me. It always will.“
Toschi could never find enough evidence to bring Allen to trial, despite spending nine years on the case. Toschi’s other cases include bringing down a gang of murderers calling themselves the “Death Angels.” The group committed racially-motivated killings against white victims. They are known to have killed at least 15 but may be responsible for as many as 73 murders in San Francisco in 1974.
Dubbed the “Zebra Murders,” they caused widespread panic in the city of San Francisco at a time when the city was still reeling from the exploits of the Zodiac. Toschi was part of the team that helped bring the gang down and put them away for life.
It was Zodiac that kept his attention, but he never managed to pin the killer down.
“I’m not a vengeful type, but when a life is taken, there must be justice,” he said.
In the years following his service on the SFPD, he took a job doing private security and even as a technical advisor on the 2007 David Fincher film, Zodiac, watching actor Mark Ruffalo portray him on screen.
Every October 11, from 1970 until 2017, Toschi sat in his car at the same Presidio Heights location where Paul Stine was murdered by the Zodiac, wondering what he missed. Toschi died in January 2018 at the age of 86.