When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war

Sen. John McCain, a giant of American politics who died on Aug. 25, 2018, at 81, was perhaps most profoundly shaped by his military service and more than five years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.

And McCain’s survival through years of nearly fatal torture and hardship in the Hanoi prison known as the “Hanoi Hilton” was made more impressive by his refusal to be repatriated before the release of all the American POWs captured before him.


President Donald Trump, whom McCain criticized extensively, has repeatedly disparaged McCain’s military service, suggesting at a rally in July 2015 that the senator didn’t deserve the title of war hero.

“He was a war hero because he was captured,” said Trump, then a Republican presidential candidate. “I like people who weren’t captured.”

But McCain’s military service and suffering have made him as something of an anomaly in American political history, and a hero in the eyes of many.

McCain was offered an early release — but he refused it

A graduate of the US Naval Academy, McCain followed his father and grandfather, both four-star admirals, into the Navy, where he served as a bomber pilot in the Vietnam War.

On Oct. 26, 1967, when McCain was a US Navy lieutenant commander, his Skyhawk dive bomber was shot down over Hanoi. Shattering his leg and both arms during his ejection from the fighter plane, McCain was captured by the North Vietnamese and spent 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war.

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war

Lieutenant McCain (front right) with his squadron and T-2 Buckeye trainer, 1965.

(US Navy photo)

Less than a year into McCain’s imprisonment, his father was named commander of US forces in the Pacific, and the North Vietnamese saw an opportunity for leverage by offering the younger McCain’s release — what would have been both a propaganda victory and a way to demoralize other American POWs.

But McCain refused, sticking to the POW code of conduct that says troops must accept release in the order in which they are captured.

“I knew that every prisoner the Vietnamese tried to break, those who had arrived before me and those who would come after me, would be taunted with the story of how an admiral’s son had gone home early, a lucky beneficiary of America’s class-conscious society,” McCain later recalled.

The North Vietnamese reacted with fury and escalated McCain’s torture.

‘Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine.’

McCain soon reached what he would later describe as his lowest point in Vietnam, and after surviving intense beatings and two suicide attempts, he signed a “confession” to war crimes written by his captors.

“I had learned what we all learned over there: Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine,” McCain wrote in a first-person account published in US News World Report in May 1973.

For the next two weeks, McCain was allowed to recover from his debilitating injuries — a period he later described as the worst in his life.

“I was ashamed,” he wrote in his 1999 memoir, “Faith of My Fathers.” “I shook, as if my disgrace were a fever.”

For the next several years, the high-profile POW was subjected to prolonged brutal treatment and spent two years in solitary confinement in a windowless 10-by-10-foot cell.

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war

President Richard Nixon Greets Former Vietnam Prisoner of War John McCain, Jr. at a Pre-POW Dinner Reception,1973.

McCain’s courage bolstered his political bona fides

In March 1973, two months after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, McCain and his fellow prisoners were released in the order in which they were captured. An emaciated 36-year-old with a head of white hair, McCain returned home to continue his service in the Navy.

McCain retired from the Navy in 1981, moved to Arizona, and began his political career in the Republican Party, serving two terms in the House of Representatives. In 1986, he won a landslide election to the Senate, where he served for 30 years, during which time he launched two unsuccessful presidential bids.

McCain’s courage during his brutal captivity bolstered his political bona fides. As David Foster Wallace wrote in a profile of McCain in 2000, when he was a presidential candidate, the former Navy captain commanded the kind of moral authority and authentic patriotism that eludes the average politician.

“Try to imagine that moment between getting offered early release and turning it down,” Wallace wrote of McCain’s decision to remain in Vietnamese captivity. “Try to imagine it was you. Imagine how loudly your most basic, primal self-interest would have cried out to you in that moment, and all the ways you could rationalize accepting the offer. Can you hear it? If so, would you have refused to go?”

McCain, a military hawk, forever remained a staunch supporter of the Vietnam War, during which 58,000 Americans and nearly 3 million Vietnamese were killed. But he worked closely with John Kerry, a Democrat and fellow Vietnam veteran who advocated against the war, to normalize relations between the US and Vietnam in the 1990s, bringing the devastating conflict to a close.

Amanda Macias contributed to this report.

Featured image: Lieutenant Commander McCain being interviewed after his return from Vietnam, April 1973.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How China plays it both ways in disputes over sea territory

China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea and its broad interpretations of international law often lead it to protest what many other countries consider to be normal naval maneuvers in the area. But farther afield, Beijing’s activity indicates that it doesn’t abide by the standard it applies to others.

China frequently protests military operations by US and other countries in its Exclusive Economic Zone, which can extend up to 230 miles from a country’s coast. Beijing has referred to those operations as “close-in surveillance.”


The US and other countries have countered that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, permits military activity inside EEZs. (The US is not a signatory to the UNCLOS.) An international tribunal has also ruled that China’s claims in the South China Sea have no legal basis.

In addition to its protests about military operations inside its EEZ, China has also protested ships passing within the territorial waters — which extend nearly 14 miles from a coast — of disputed islands in the South China Sea where China has constructed military facilities. The international tribunal also rejected those claims.

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war

According to the US Defense Department, however, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy has carried out a number of military operations inside the exclusive economic zones of other countries, seemingly contradicting the stance it takes in waters closer to home.

“Although China has long challenged foreign military activities in its maritime zones in a manner that is inconsistent with the rules of customary international law as reflected in the [law of the sea convention], the PLA has recently started conducting the very same types of military activities inside and outside the first island chain in the maritime zones of other countries,” the department said in its annual China military-power report, released this week.

“This contradiction highlights China’s continued lack of commitment to the rules of customary international law,” the report adds.

Since 2014, the Chinese navy has conducted what the Defense Department refers to as “uninvited” operations throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

In 2017, a Chinese spy ship entered Australia’s EEZ to observe US and Australian ships during military exercises; entered the US’s EEZ around the Aleutian Islands, in what was likely an attempt to monitor testing of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system; and carried out air and naval operations inside Japan’s EEZ.

Chinese naval vessels also carried out a delivery to Beijing’s base in Djibouti, which is China’s first overseas base and is near a major US outpost.

In 2018, China dispatched a spy ship to monitor the US-led Rim of the Pacific exercise around Hawaii, as it has done in years past, after the US rescinded Beijing’s invitation to the exercise over the latter’s actions in the South China Sea.

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war

US Navy destroyer USS John S. McCain conducts a patrol in the South China Sea.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class James Vazquez)

The US and other countries involved in those incidents have not protested the presence of Chinese ships in their EEZs, seeing it as allowed under international law. Some have cited China’s presence in foreign EEZs as justification for similar movements in China’s EEZ and as a tacit acknowledgement by Beijing of those rules.

In the South China Sea, the US has continued to carry out freedom-of-navigation operations around disputed islands, in part to show it does not recognize China’s claims there as valid under international law.

Days after one of the most recent FONOPS, as they are known, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis promised more and underscored their significance.

“They’re freedom of navigation operations. And you’ll notice there’s only one country that seems to take active steps to rebuff them or state their resentment of them,” Mattis said in late May 2018, adding that the US would continue “confront what we believe is out of step with international law, out of step with international tribunals that have spoken on the issue.”

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

Podcast

These are the best military movies by service branch


Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | Spotify

In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Tim, and O.V. talk with stand-up comedian and Marine veteran Mitch Burrow about what their favorite military movies are broken down by branch.

Everyone loves to watch movies from all genres. Veterans and service members have a unique connection to military films for various reasons other than great characters and storylines.

In this episode, we talk on a wide-range of topics including:

  • [0:55] Mitch humorously plugs Monster energy drink for sponsorship and advises how to avoid drinking sip cans on accident.
  • [4:10] Who was more badass? Maverick or Iceman from “Top Gun.”
  • [4:37] What scene in “Top Gun” made Mitch go straight to Mach-3 and our favorite Navy movies.
  • [6:30] Our take on the only thing the film “Hurt Locker” got right.
  • [11:30] Whic Army movies are considered our all-time favs. But not Army movies in Vietnam like Blake tried to get us to talk about.
  • [15:11] We create the perfect list of Marine Corps movies that are freaking epic.
  • [21:00] How awesome “Generation Kill” is and if you haven’t watched it you’re wrong.
  • [23:24] How difficult it was to watch and finish “Jarhead 2.” Long story short, it was tough.
  • [25:15] What we loved the most from “Heartbreak Ridge.”
  • [28:00] The best Air Force movies ever made.
  • [30:30] Then lastly, we funnel in our short list of favorite Coast Guard films.

Hosted By:

With guest host Mitch Burrow:

Mitch is a Marine Corps veteran that served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. He then started a career in manufacturing before realizing that it sucked. Now, Mitch has found his true calling in acting silly on a stage in front of strangers on a nightly basis. To follow Mitch or check out one of his shows visit his website: Mitchburrow.com.

Originally published 11/2017.

Articles

3 heroes who became POWs twice

There is no easy time to be a prisoner of war.


The United States military’s code of conduct implores captured service members to continue to resist by any means possible. This often means reprisals from one’s captors. Therefore, surviving one stint in a POW camp can be excruciating.

To do it twice is unimaginable — except these three American servicemen did it.

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war
The United States Code of Conduct is memorized by service members to act as a touchstone and a guide if captured. (Department of Defense)

1. Wendall A. Phillips

Phillips was assigned to the Air Transport Command as a radio operator on C-47 aircraft flying from bases in England.

While in Europe Phillips survived five separate crashes. During the last one, in late 1944, his aircraft was shot down. Though he walked away from the crash, he was unable to evade the Germans and was captured.

He and his fellow crewmembers were taken to a German POW camp in Belgium.

Phillips had no intention of sticking around though. After just 33 days Phillips and two other POW’s made a break for it.

Also read: Bob Hoover stole a Nazi plane to escape from a POW camp

Phillips simply snuck away while no guards were around. Finding a hole in the electric fence around the camp, Phillips and the other two men made good their escape and quickly found a place to hide.

Phillips travelled for three days before he linked up with the French Underground. The resistance fighters helped Phillips make it back to American lines.

After returning to American forces, Phillips was reassigned to the China-India-Burma Theater flying “the Hump” to bring supplies to forces fighting the Japanese.

Once again, Phillips’ airplane crashed and he was captured by the enemy.

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war
POWs at Stalag 11B at Fallingbostel in Germany welcome their liberators, April 16, 1945. (Imperial War Museum Photo)

According to an article in The Morning Call, Phillips endured torture at the hands of the Japanese — they even forcibly removed his fingernails trying to get information out of him.

Phillips would not escape this time but he would survive his ordeal as a POW; he was released with the Japanese surrender in 1945.

2. Felix J. McCool

When Gen. Wainwright conveyed the American surrender in the Philippines to President Roosevelt, he said, “there is a limit to human endurance, and that limit has long since been passed.” But Gen. Wainwright was certainly not speaking for one Marine sergeant, Felix J. McCool.

McCool was still recovering from wounds he had received earlier in resisting the Japanese when he, the 4th Marine Regiment, and the rest of the defenders of Corregidor were rounded up and shipped off to internment.

Just getting there was bad enough as the captives were crammed into cattle cars so tightly that when men passed out or died they could not even fall down.

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war
POWs in the Pacific Theater endured horrific conditions. Pictured here are men on the Bataan Death March with their hands bound behind their backs; later this would be labeled as a Japanese War Crime. (U.S. National Archives)

But for McCool, being a Marine meant that he was not out of the fight. He did everything in his power to resist his Japanese captors.

While working as forced labor on an airfield McCool and his fellow prisoners created a tiger trap on the runway — they later watched as a Japanese airplane crashed and burned due to their handiwork.  

McCool also managed to smuggle in medical supplies to help the sick and wounded.

He did this despite the constant threat of beatings and even summary execution. He carried on despite the horrendous conditions in the camp.

But there was worse to come.

McCool next endured a brutal voyage to Japan aboard a Japanese prisoner transport vessel, known as a “hell ship.” McCool survived the hellacious conditions only to be put to work in an underground coal mine. There he continued his resistance by sabotaging the work and keeping the faith with his fellow prisoners.

After thirteen months in the coal mine, McCool was freed by the ending of the war in the Pacific.

He returned to the United States and decided to stay in the Marine Corps. Then in 1950, now a Chief Warrant Officer, he found himself fighting the North Koreans.

McCool became part of the fateful Task Force Drysdale, an ad hoc, mixed-nationality unit that was attempting to fight its way toward the beleaguered Marines fighting at the Chosin Reservoir. When the task force was ambushed and separated along the roadway to Hagaru-ri, McCool was once again taken prisoner.

McCool and his fellow captives were marched far north through brutal cold with no rations. Once in their internment camp, the conditions hardly improved. Besides the brutal treatment, the men were also subjected to communist indoctrination and propaganda.

Related: The day we saved 2,147 prisoners from Los Baños Prison

McCool’s resistance earned him the ire of his captors and they threw him in the Hole — a barely three foot square hole in the ground. But he endured.

McCool was repatriated with many other Americans during Operation Big Switch after the end of hostilities.

According to his award citations, McCool spent over six years as a prisoner of war between his two internments.

He later wrote a book about his experiences and the poetry that he wrote to keep himself going during those terrible times.

3. Richard Keirn

Richard Keirn was a young flight officer on a B-17 when he arrived in England in 1944. On Sept. 11, 1944, he took to the skies in his first mission to bomb Nazi Germany. It would also be his last.

Keirn’s B-17 was shot down that day and he became a POW for the remainder of the war. Released in May 1945 after the defeat of Germany, Keirn returned to the United States and stayed in the military. He became a part of the newly formed U.S. Air Force.

In 1965, Keirn embarked for Vietnam, flying F-4 Phantom II’s.

Then on July 24, 1965, North Vietnamese surface-to-air missiles engaged and shot down an American aircraft for the first time. That aircraft was piloted by Capt. Richard Keirn.

Keirn ejected from his stricken aircraft and would spend nearly eight years as a POW in North Vietnam.

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war
Newly freed prisoners of war celebrate as their C-141A aircraft lifts off from Hanoi, North Vietnam, on Feb. 12, 1973, during Operation Homecoming. The mission included 54 C-141 flights between Feb. 12 and April 4, 1973, returning 591 POWs to American soil. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Keirn, like many of his fellow POWs, made every effort to resist the North Vietnamese. For his actions as a POW, he was awarded a Silver Star and a Legion of Merit.

Keirn was released from captivity with many other downed airmen as part of Operation Homecoming in 1973.

popular

4,000 volts, a dying man and the kiss of life

Every April, many Americans join energy cooperatives and utilities across the US in celebrating National Lineworker Appreciation Day. Roughly 114,930 lineworkers work around the clock to keep 328 million Americans connected to energy, and there is perhaps no better image to illustrate the gravity of the job and the sacrifices lineworkers make than Rocco Morabito’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning photo “The Kiss of Life.”

As a young newspaper photographer for the Jacksonville Journal, Morabito, who served as a ball-turret gunner on a B-17 with the Army Air Corps in World War II, was on assignment on July 17, 1967, when he happened upon a very troubling scene. Lineworker Randall G. Champion had been working on a utility pole when he contacted one of the power lines and absorbed more than 4,000 volts of electricity. According to First Coast News, the powerful current shot through Champion’s body, burning a hole in his foot as it exited, and he fell back, hanging unconscious from his safety harness at least 20 feet off the ground.

Fellow lineworker J.D. Thompson, who was working on the ground nearby, had been hired by Jacksonville City Electric (now Jacksonville Electric Authority) four years earlier on the same day Champion was hired. Realizing his friend was in trouble, Thompson’s emergency training kicked in, and he sprinted toward the pole.

In the 2008 documentary “Kiss of Life,” Morabito says when he arrived on the scene he heard people on the ground screaming and then saw Champion dangling. He snapped a single photo before rushing back to his car to radio back to the Journal’s newsroom and tell them to send an ambulance. Then he quickly reloaded his Rolleiflex camera with a fresh roll of film and rushed back to the scene.

By then, Thompson was ascending the pole, and when he reached Champion, he thought his friend was surely dead.

“His face—his cheeks were just blue, and there was no movement to him, no breathing, nothing going on there,” Thompson says in the Kiss of Life film.

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war

He started administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a lifeless Champion.

“I was putting air in him as hard as I could go and also trying to reach around him and hit him in the chest,” Thompson told First Coast News.

As Thompson tried desperately to breathe life back into Champion, Morabito started shooting and captured the iconic moment that netted him the 1968 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography.

After a while, Thompson felt a pulse.

“When he actually started breathing, I can remember it was just like a hiccup or something,” Thompson says in Kiss of Life. “He just kind of jerked a little bit, and I knew there was some life there then.”

Thompson yelled down to workers on the ground: “He’s breathing!” He unhooked and rigged Champion’s harness so he could get him down to the ground. Just before he reached the ground, Champion regained consciousness. Disoriented, he began flailing and kicking.

“I started fighting, trying to get loose from the wire because I didn’t realize I had been out, and I thought I was still on the wire,” Champion says in a 1985 interview featured in Kiss of Life.

Thompson and the other workers calmed Champion down and lay him down on some grass to wait for the ambulance.

Morabito, having captured the entire sequence of events, raced back to the Journal’s newsroom, and the paper’s editors pushed back their printing deadline to get the photo in the paper that day. After it was published, the wire services picked it up, and it ran on the front page of newspapers all over the country and was even distributed internationally.

In Kiss of Life, the narrator notes that, “After saving a man’s life, [Thompson] quietly went back to work. A thunderstorm was on the way, along with power outages. J.D. would be at it until 3 in the morning.”

Telling his story in the film, Thompson deflects the suggestion that his actions were heroic. Perhaps for him it really was just another day at the office for a lineman. But as he recalls his supervisor’s praise after the incident, viewers get a glimpse of what appears to be a more honest reaction to how it affected him.

“[Our supervisor] was proud of the fact we had helped this fella,” he says with a southern drawl. “I felt at that time, you know, that, well, I did it …”

Thompson then trails off as he’s overcome by emotion. His chin slightly quivers, and his jaw tightens as he stares off camera, lost in the memory of the day he saved Randall Champion’s life. The film then cuts to the interviewer’s next question: “Did you feel like a hero?”

“No … no,” he says.

According to the film, Champion was angry when he saw the photo in the newspaper the next day, and his daughter, Ann Dixon, offered this explanation: “He told us that he always kissed us goodbye in the mornings before he would go to work. And all he could remember as he lay in the hospital was he didn’t kiss us goodbye that morning, and he could have easily never had the opportunity to do that again. And that really weighed heavy on his heart.”

In 1991, Champion suffered a second injury in the line of duty, coming in contact with 26,000 volts (roughly six times more voltage than the 1967 incident) while carrying out his duties as a lineman. He suffered third-degree burns to his face and hands, according to the Orlando Sentinel. By that time, Thompson was the chief of the division where Champion worked at Jacksonville Electric Authority, and he told the Sentinel, “I’ve got 26 of these trouble men (linemen are sometimes called trouble men) working every day, and I worry about them every day.”

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war

According to a 1997 Florida Times-Union article, the surge from 26,000 volts of electricity burned off the side of Champion’s nose, his lip, the top of his forehead and one of his fingers. He spent five weeks in the burn unit at Orlando Regional Medical Center and almost six months at Memorial Rehabilitation Hospital, where Thompson visited him regularly as he underwent plastic surgery and rehabilitation.

Initially paralyzed by the incident, Champion eventually regained movement but had to use a wheelchair to get around. He retired from JEA in 1993 after 30 years of service. In 2002, he died at age 64.

Morabito worked for the Jacksonville Journal for 45 years, retiring in 1982, according to the Florida Times-Union. He died April 5, 2009 after a long, full life.

Thompson retired from JEA in 1994 after 31 years of service, and today, JEA uses Morabito’s iconic photo and the incredible story behind it in its orientation training for new lineworkers.

Every spring, American Public Power holds an annual Lineworkers Rodeo where one of the timed events requires lineworkers to put on gear, climb a 40-foot pole and rescue an injured man. The record for this feat is 43.33 seconds.

April 18 is National Lineworker Appreciation Day (though the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association celebrates it on the second Monday of April each year). Those who are familiar with the noble, difficult and dangerous work these men and women do have no problem celebrating lineworkers throughout the month of April and beyond. As the saying goes, “Thank a lineworker, because when the lights go out, so do they.” 

Today and always, Americans should celebrate the service and sacrifice of the men and women who keep the power on across the United States.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Pilot says the F-35 could take on anything else in the sky

An F-35 fighter pilot says he would be confident flying the Joint Strike Fighter against any enemy in the world, including Russian and Chinese 5th Generation stealth fighters.

An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be able to use its sensors, weapons, and computer technology to destroy Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth fighters in a high-end combat fight, service officials said.


“There is nothing that I have seen from maneuvering an F-35 in a tactical environment that leads me to assume that there is any other airplane I would rather be in. I feel completely comfortable and confident in taking that airplane into any combat environment,” Lt. Col. Matt Hayden, 56th Fighter Wing, Chief of Safety, Luke AFB, Arizona, told Warrior in a special pilot interview in 2015.

Furthermore, several F-35 pilots have been clear in their resolve that the multi-role fighter is able to outperform any other platform in existence.

Hayden was clear to point out he has not, as of yet, flown simulated combat missions against the emerging Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA 5th-Generation stealth fighter now in development or the Chinese Shenyang J-31 5th Generation Stealth aircraft. While he said he did not personally know all of the technologies and capabilities of these Russian and Chinese aircraft, he was unambiguous in his assertion regarding confidence in the F-35.

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war

U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Available information says the Russians have built at least 6 prototype T-50 PAK FAs for their Air Force and Navy; the Chinese conducted a maiden test flight of its J-31 in 2012. In addition, China is in pre-production with its J-20 5th-Generation stealth fighter. This fighter, called the Chengdu J-20, made its first flight in 2011.

While Hayden did not elaborate on aspects of the J-20, he did say he would be confident flying the F-35 against any aircraft in the world.

“All those other countries (Russia and China) are trying to develop airplanes that are technologically capable as well — from an F-35 perspective. We are no less capable than any airplane and any fighters out there,” Hayden described.

In addition to leveraging the best available technologies on a fighter jet, winning a dog-fight or combat engagement would depend just as much on the air-tactics and decisions made by a pilot, Hayden explained.

“I have not flown against some of those aircraft. When you fight against an airplane, it depends upon the airspeed. If I maximize the effectiveness of an F-35, I can exploit the weaknesses of any other aircraft,” he said.

Many analysts have made the assessment that the J-20 does appear to be closely modelled after the F-35.

In fact, a Defense Science Board report, cited in a 2014 Congressional assessment of the Chinese military, (US-China Economic Security and Review Commission) makes reference to specific developmental information and specs of numerous U.S. weapons systems believed to be stolen by Chinese computer hackers; design specs and technologies for the F-35 were among those compromised by Chinese cyber-theft, according to the report.

An AIN Online report from the Singapore Air Show catalogues a number of J-20 features and technologies — including those believed to be quite similar to the F-35.

Chinese 5th-Generation

From the Report: Original AIN Online Report.

“The J-20 is a large multi-role fighter with stealthy features similar to those found in the American F-22 and F-35. Although very little is known about its intended purpose, the aircraft appears to offer capability in a number of roles, including long-range interception and precision attack.
In terms of weapon carriage the J-20 has a similar arrangement to that of the Lockheed Martin F-22, comprising two lateral bays for small air-to-air missiles such as the agile, imaging-infrared PL-10, and a large under-fuselage bay for accommodating larger missiles and precision-guided surface attack weapons. The 607 Institute’s new PL-15 active-radar missile is thought to be the primary long-range air-to-air weapon, reportedly having been test-fired from a Shenyang J-16 platform last year. The PL-21, a ramjet-powered weapon in the same class as the MBDA Meteor, is another possibility for the J-20.
The sensor suite includes an electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) and a large-array AESA radar, which was developed by the 14th Institute at Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET, 14th Institute), and is possibly designated Type 1475/KLJ-5. Diamond-shaped windows around the fuselage suggest that a distributed aperture infrared vision system is installed.
In the cockpit, the J-20 sports three large color displays, plus other small screens, and a holographic wide-angle head-up display. An advanced datalink has been developed, and a retractable refueling probe is located on the starboard side of the forward fuselage. Much of the avionics suite has been tested by the CFTE (China flight test establishment) aboard a modified Tupolev Tu-204C, in much the same way as the systems of the F-22 were tested in a Boeing 757.”

Regarding the Russian T-50 PAK FA Stealth fighter, numerous reports suggest the aircraft has numerous technological problems and is a 5th generation plane “in name only.”

Russian 5th-Generation

The Following is a report on the T-50 PAK FA from Business Insider:

“Reporting from the Singapore Airshow 2016, IHS Jane’s reports that “Russian industry has consistently referred to the Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA as a fifth-generation aircraft, but a careful look at the program reveals that this is an ‘in name only’ designation.”
This is largely because of a lack of evolutionary technology aboard the plane compared with previous jets that Russia and the US have designed. Indeed, the PAK FA’s engines are the same as those aboard Russia’s 4++ generation (a bridging generation between fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft) Su-35. Additionally, the PAK FA and the Su-35 share many of the same onboard systems.
And even when the PAK FA’s systems are different from the Su-35’s, the plane’s specifications are still not up to true fifth-generation standards.
RealClearDefense, citing Indian media reports that are familiar with a PAK FA variant being constructed in India, notes that the plane has multiple technological problems. Among these problems are the plane’s “engine performance, the reliability of its AESA radar, and poor stealth engineering.”

F-35 sensor fusion

Despite various reports about technologies being engineered into the Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth Fighters, it is in no way clear that either aircraft is in any way comparable to the F-35. Most publicly available information seems to indicate that the F-35 is superior — however, to some extent, the issue remains an open question. More information is likely to emerge once the Russian and Chinese aircraft are operational and deployed.

For example, the Chinese J-20 is cited as having an Electro-Optical targeting system, stealth configuration, datalink, AESA radar, and precision weaponry quite similar to the F-35, according to the AIN report.

The computer algorithms woven into the F-35 architecture are designed to leverage early iterations of what could be described as early phases of “artificial intelligence.” Broadly speaking, artificial intelligence refers to fast-evolving computer technology and processors able to gather, assess and integrate information more autonomously in order to help humans make decisions more quickly and efficiently from a position of command-and-control.

“If there is some kind of threat that I need to respond to with the airplane, I don’t have to go look at multiple sensors and multiple displays from multiple locations which could take my time and attention away from something else,” Hayden added.

The F-35 software, which shows images on display screens in the cockpit as well as on a pilot’s helmet-mounted-display, is able to merge results from various radar capabilities onto a single screen for the pilot.

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war

An F-35 Lightning II.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro)

“The F-35 takes from multiple sensors around the airplane and combines them together in a way that is much more manageable and accessible — while not detracting from the other tasks that the pilot is trying to accomplish,” Hayden said.

For instance, the F-35’s Electro-Optical Target System, or EOTS, is an infrared sensor able to assist pilots with air and ground targeting at increased standoff ranges while also performing laser designation, laser range-finding and other tasks.

In addition, the plane’s Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, is a series of six electro-optical sensors also able to give information to the pilot. The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.

The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar, which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on the move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.

Hayden added that the F-35 has been training against other F-35s in simulated combat situations, testing basic fighter maneuvers. Having himself flown other fighter aircraft, he explained that many other F-35 pilots also fly the airplane after having experience flying an F-16, A-10 or other combat aircraft.

“The F-35’s low-observable technology can prevent detection. That is a strength that other airplanes do not have,” he said.

F-35 and F-22

At the same time, senior Air Force leaders have made the point that F-35 technological superiority is intended to be paired with the pure air-to-air dogfighting ability of the service’s F-22 – a stealth aircraft, with its speed, maneuverability, and thrust-to-weight ratio, is believed by many to be the most capable air-to-air platform in the world.

“Every airplane has flaws. When you design an airplane, you design an airplane with tradeoffs — give something else up. If I was flying against an adversary in actual combat, my job would be to exploit the enemy weakness and play to my strength. I can compensate for certain things,” Hayden explained. “There is a certain way to fly and fight in an airplane, using airspeed to maximize the turning performance of the airplane.”

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An F-22 Raptor.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

During a public speech in 2015, the Air Forces Air Combat Commander, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said the F-22 is engineered such that it can complement the F-35.

“You will use the F-35 for air superiority, but you will need the raptors to do some things in a high-end fight to penetrate denied airspace,” he said. “The airplane is designed for multi-role capability, electronic warfare and sensors. The F-35 will win against any fourth-generation airplane — in a close-in fight, it will do exceedingly well. There will be a combination of F-22s and F-35s in the future.”

Hayden further elaborated upon these claims, arguing that the F-35 has another set of strategic advantages to include an ability to use internally built sensors. This prevents the need to use external pods on a fighter jet which can add drag, slowing down and restricting maneuverability for an aircraft.

“As an F-35 pilot, I can carry bombs to a target area where I can now take out air-to-ground threats. You have to look at the overall picture of the airplane. The airplane was designed to overwhelm the battlespace in a non-permissive threatening environment where 4th-gen fighters are not going to persist,” he added.

The F-35 is engineered with a 25-mm gun and has the ability to carry and fire a wide range of weapons. The aircraft has already demonstrated an ability to fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), and AIM 9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.

So-called “Block 3F” software for the F-35 increases the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb and 500-pound JDAM.

As a multi-role fighter, the F-35 is also engineered to function as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform designed to apprehend and process video, data and information from long distances. Some F-35 developers have gone so far as to say the F-35 has ISR technologies comparable to many drones in service today that are able to beam a “soda straw” video view of tactically relevant combat locations in real time.

Finally, regarding dogfighting, it is pertinent to point out a “War is Boring” report from 2015 which cited an F-35 fighter pilot explaining how an F-16 was able to win a “mock dogfight” against an F-35; the F-35 Joint Program Office disputed this claim, saying the F-35 used in the scenario was in no way representative of today’s operational F-35s. The software, weapons and sensor technologies used in the mock dogfight were not comparable to the most evolved F-35.

Furthermore, F-35 proponents maintained that the aircraft’s advanced computer technology and sensors would enable it to see and destroy enemy fighters from much longer ranges — essentially destroying enemy fighters before they are seen.

OODA Loop

The idea is to enable F-35 pilots to see and destroy enemies in the air, well in advance of a potential dogfight scenario. This can be explained in terms of a well-known Air Force strategic concept pioneered years ago by air theorist and pilot Col. John Boyd, referred to as the “OODA Loop,” — for observe, orient, decide and act. The concept is to complete this process quickly and make fast decisions while in an air-to-air dogfight — in order to get inside the enemy’s decision cycle, properly anticipate, and destroy an enemy before they can destroy you.

The F-35 is designed with long-range sensors and data fusion technologies such that, as a fifth-generation aircraft, it can complete the OODA Loop much more quickly than potential adversaries, F-35 advocates claim.

Mission data files

Described as the brains of the airplane, the mission data files are extensive on-board data systems compiling information on geography, air space and potential threats in known areas of the world where the F-35 might be expected to perform combat operations, Air Force officials explained.

Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a database of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts of the world. The files are being worked on at a reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials told Military.com. The mission data files are designed to work with the aircraft’s Radar Warning Receiver engineered to find and identify approaching enemy threats and hostile fire.

The mission data packages are loaded with a wide range of information to include commercial airliner information and specifics on Russian and Chinese fighter jets. For example, the mission data system would enable a pilot to quickly identify a Russian MiG-29 if it were detected by the F-35’s sensors.

The mission data files are being engineered to adjust to new threat and intelligence information as it emerges. For instance, the system is engineered to one day have all the details on a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA stealth aircraft.

As a high-visibility, expensive acquisition program, the F-35 has many vocal detractors and advocates; the aircraft has, to be sure, had its share of developmental problems over the years. some of these problems include complications with its main computer system, called ALIS, and a now-corrected engine fire aboard the aircraft. Overall, most critics have pointed to the program’s growing costs, something program officials claim has vastly improved through various money-saving initiatives and bulk-buys.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How Army Apaches actually kill their numerous victims

The Black Death. The Monster. The Rifleman of the Sky.

The Apache is a lethal and feared military monstrosity that rakes its claws across the battlefield and leaves shattered bodies and buckets of gore in its wake. Here’s how it kills you — and anyone nearby. And anyone within a few miles.


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An Apache sits on the airfield in Germany in 2018. The Apaches main armament in the U.S. consists of rockets, missiles, and a chain gun. The chain gun is visible under the cockpit. The missile racks are mounted on either side of the Apache body and the rocket pods are the pieces with the honeycomb pattern mounted on the outside of the wing stubs.

(U.S. Army Charles Rosemond)

First, lets take a look at the Apache armament. While it can be fitted with other missiles and guns, Apaches are usually deployed with three offensive weapons: Hellfire missiles, guided and unguided rockets, and a 30mm chain gun that’s often described as an automatic grenade launcher.

All three of them are highly capable, and all of them kill in their own special way.

First, the chain gun. It’s commonly loaded with M789 High-Explosive, dual-purpose ammunition. When this is fired at personnel on the ground, it does look a lot like they’re getting attacked by an automatic grenade launcher. The weapon is fired in bursts with over two rounds per second striking the ground, all of which explode soon after, shredding the bodies of those targeted.

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A U.S. Army Apache helicopter fires its M203 chain gun during an exercise in Georgia in 2018.

(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ellen Babo)

The chain gun ammunition is dual-purpose and is designed to penetrate armor at ranges of up to 3 kilometers. Against older tanks, these rounds pierce the hull and blow up inside or nearly pierce it and then explode, turning the remaining armor into shrapnel that flies through the crew compartment. The helicopters carries up to 1,200 of these rounds.

Most modern tanks can survive this onslaught, but they’ll likely lose any externally mounted equipment, potentially including their main gun. For these rugged targets, the Apache will typically turn to its Hellfire missiles.

There isn’t a known tank that the Hellfire missile can’t kill, and the Apache can carry up to 16 of these bad boys if it foregoes rockets. The Apache originally carried laser-guided Hellfires, but now it often carries radar-guided Longbow variants of the missile which the pilot can fire and forget about. It’ll get to the target on its own.

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A U.S. Army Apache helicopter flies over Georgian tanks during a live-fire exercise in Georgia in 2018.

(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ellen Babo)

While there are now air-to-air and surface-to-air versions of the Hellfire, the Apache is essentially always equipped with the air-to-ground version in the U.S. arsenal. It has a variety of available warheads, including thermobaric, tandem charges, shaped charges, and blast fragmentation.

That basically means that the Apache can use the missile against enclosed structures, any-and-all tanks, and soft vehicles and personnel, but it does have to decide what it will likely be attacking before departing the base.

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war

An Army Apache helicopter fires rockets during a live-fire range in Korea in 2014.

(U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Vincent Abril)

Finally, the Apache carries rockets. Historically, this was the Hydra rocket, a 70mm unguided weapon. But then BAE Systems rolled out the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System, a kit that gives guidance to dumb rockets. So now, the pilots can send their rockets with warheads between 8 and 15 pounds.

These rockets’ payloads can be high explosive, but they can also be filled with darts called flechettes that zip through human flesh and bones, shredding arteries, nerves, and other flesh, and quickly ending life. Occasionally, the rockets are used with parachuting illumination payloads or CS gas.

So, when Apaches are flying at you, they can choose to kill you with a chain gun, a warhead, or rockets, all of which can explode on impact or carry a variety of other payloads. But what really makes the Apache so dangerous is how far away it can kill you from.

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war

A U.S. Army Apache helicopter returns from a maintenance test flight in 2018. The disc on top is a radar that allows to Apache to detect and engage targets from up to 3 miles away.

(U.S. Army Charles Rosemond)

The Apache has a super sensitive camera mounted under its nose and a variety of other sensors. One of the most powerful sensors is the radar mounted over the rotor blades.

These sensors and the on-board computers allow the helicopter to track up to 256 targets from up to 3 miles away. That’s further away than the sound of their rotor blades carries, especially if there is vegetation or uneven ground to break up the waves. So, for many people being hunted by an Apache, the first sign of trouble is the sudden sound of high-explosive chain gun rounds landing all around them.

This sound is quickly followed by the noise of the gun firing, since the rounds leave the gun at over Mach 2 at normal temperatures. Around the same time that the sound wave comes, the rounds begin exploding. You likely won’t hear anything else after that.

Unless you’re in a tank! But, then you likely wouldn’t hear any explosive rounds. Instead, you’d just take a Hellfire missile to the turret and be dead from the tandem warhead before you realize anything is wrong. Tandem warheads fire twice. The first explosive opens a gap in your reactive armor. The second pierces the remaining armor and sends you to your maker.

But it might hit you with rockets, shredding you with darts or destroying you with explosives and fragmentation.

So, uh, maybe don’t get caught burying an IED when any of these things are around. It’ll be a bad day.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The new Captain Marvel trailer is filled with military comic references

Every time a new comic book movie is set to come out, nerds flock to the internet and try to decode each and every detail in the trailers to figure what’s going to happen. Doing that kind of sleuthing relies heavily on having a deep understanding of comic book lore.

Last night, the new trailer for Captain Marvel dropped and, in short, it looks amazing. Since they’re changing much of her story from the comic books into a single, condensed, easy-to-follow plot, it’s left some civilian comic book fans scratching their heads.

Truth is, you need a good understanding of military culture to truly grasp the comprehensive awesomeness of this trailer.


Top 10 Super Heroes who were Military Veterans

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Kinda spoiler-y: but these guys are called the Star Force and they’re evil. Take what you will about the plot details from that.

(Marvel Entertainment)

In the comic books, Captain Marvel, otherwise known as Carol Danvers, was an Air Force Intelligence officer turned fighter pilot who went by the callsign, “Cheeseburger.” She later joins NASA and is promoted to colonel before being caught in an explosion with an alien known as Captain Mar-Vell.

The explosion intertwines his alien superpowers with her and she takes on the moniker of “Ms. Marvel” before eventually taking on the title of “Captain Marvel” herself. She occasionally teams up with other superheros, like Spider-Man, the X-Men (which is actually how Rogue gets her flight and super-strength), the Fantastic Four, and, later, becomes a leading member of the Avengers.

The film, on the other hand, takes all 41 years of storytelling and condenses it down to her just being an F-15C pilot that gets caught in the explosion. The match-cut editing of the trailer suggests that she’s going to have to slowly piece together knowledge of her previous life on Earth before eventually becoming the hero the Marvel Cinematic Universe needs in Avengers 4.

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That’s right. The Coasties may be getting a big screen superhero adaptation before the sailors do.

(Marvel Entertainment)

From the little bits shown in the trailer, we can see she was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and has Test Pilot School patches on her uniform. Earlier this year, Brie Larson, who plays Danvers in the film, took a trip to Nellisa AFB to get inspiration for her character from the real-life Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, who is the 57th Wing commander, the first female fighter pilot, and the inspiration for this new take on Captain Marvel. It’s no coincidence that Brig. Gen. Leavitt flew an F-15C, just as Carol Danvers will in the film.

Another awesome Easter Egg is her wingman, Lt. Maria “Photo” Rambeau. In the comics, Rambeau isn’t too noteworthy of a character. In the trailer, we see her taking on the moniker that her daughter, Monica, has as a callsign. Monica Rambeau later becomes an Avenger (more commonly known as Spectrum) and serves in the Coast Guard before becoming a superhero. Since this film is set in 1995, that leaves more than enough time for Monica to grow up and become a superhero by the time Avengers 4 takes place.

If you watch carefully, you’ll notice Carol’s cat is named Goose, a subtle nod to Top Gun. In the comics, the cat is actually named Chewie and is actually a demonic alien that can go through pocket dimensions that tries to kill Rocket Racoon at every occasion. In the film, the kitty just seems to be a regular cat with a name fitting of everyone trying to become a pilot in the late 80s and early 90s.

Check out the full official trailer below.

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How a good carrier landing can go bad in a hurry

Landing a plane on an aircraft carrier is a very dangerous task. Even the movies recognize this – remember the harrowing crash that kills off Charlton Heston’s character in Midway? So, just how easily can a carrier landing go bad?


Very easily. Take a look at all that’s involved: Unlike landing at an air force base, the target is moving. There’s also a lot less space. Yes, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is four and a half acres of sovereign United States territory, but that’s still much smaller than Mountain Home Air Force Base.

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war
An Attack Squadron 56 (VA-56) A-7E Corsair aircraft bursts into flames after a ramp strike on the aircraft carrier USS MIDWAY (CV-41). (U.S. Navy photo)

There’s also a much shorter stopping distance. Mountain Home Air Force Base a has a runway that’s 13,510 feet long. A Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is all of 1,092 feet long — the angled deck used for landing doesn’t even span the length of the carrier. A plane landing has to catch one of four arresting wires and, if it does, there’s always a chance the wire might snap.

Managing that landing is rough, too. If you’re too high, you don’t catch the runway. Too low, you have a ramp strike.

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war
If you’ve seen Midway or The Hunt for Red October, you’ve seen this crash that Navy test pilot George Duncan survived. (U.S. Navy photo)

There’s a reason that carrier landings, especially at night, have caused naval aviators stress. A 1991 Los Angeles Times article noted that these nighttime landings cause pilots more anxiety than combat. The risk is always there, no matter how much training and technology goes into improving the skills of pilots or making things easier.

Technology breaks, planes can be damaged (as was the case at the end of Midway), or some pilot’s luck just happens to run out on some cold night out at sea. When carrier landings go bad, the pilot’s only recourse is to trust in an ejection seat and the luck that’s betrayed him once already. Check out the Navy training video covering these horrible mishaps below:

 

(PeriscopeFilm | YouTube)
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The UK’s highest military award is cast from the guns of a fallen enemy

The Victoria Cross is only awarded to those in the armed forces of the United Kingdom and former British Empire countries, for valor “in the face of the enemy.” Since its creation in 1856, only 1,354 people have earned the award. The award itself has very little resale value; its worth is solely for the person who earned the award by risking life and limb in defense of their home and comrades.

The reason is that the metal making up the award is bronze, cast from metal taken from the Empire’s fallen enemies. The first ones were made from two guns captured by British forces in the Crimean War. The others were made from a captured cannon during the second Anglo-Chinese War of 1860.


The war in Crimea was a completely avoidable war that pitted the Russian Empire against the Ottoman Turks, Britain, and France. What started as a dispute over Christian pilgrims and holy sites in Jerusalem turned into a greater war when the Russians invaded the Ottoman Empire in 1853. The other countries joined the Ottomans in repelling the Russians as a check on growing Russian power.

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war
Major Adolphus Burton officers of the 5th Dragoon Guards in the Crimean War.

 

At that time, there was no award for valor in the British Empire that was open to men of all ranks. Incredible acts of gallantry often went unrewarded. By 1855, Parliament and Queen Victoria set the wheels in motion for an award that would become known as the Victoria Cross – a medal, rarely awarded, that would be prized above all other awards in the service.

The first of these medals, 800 or more, were cast from the bronze cascabel, of guns captured from the Russians in the Crimean War. Today’s Victoria Crosses are cast from another set of guns taken from England’s enemies. This set is Chinese-built, captured during the Second Opium War. Both are securely locked in the Ministry of Defence in London.

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war
Corporal Johnson Beharry, VC, with one of the guns from which the Victoria Cross military award is struck.
(MoD photo by Staff Sergeant Ian Vernon)

 

Once cast, the medal is engraved and finished by hand. The special bronze finish gives the award a distinctive color. On one side, it reads “For Valour” and the reverse side of the medal gives the recipient’s name, regiment, and date of the action that earned Britain’s most prestigious military award.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Indian military unit fought for the Nazis

During World War II, the military force aiming to install an Aryan master race over the world found potentially unlikely allies on the subcontinent of India where thousands of soldiers joined the “Free Indian Legion,” fighting on behalf of the Nazis against the Allied Powers from the China-Burma-India Theater to the Atlantic Wall on D-Day.


Hitler’s Indian Regiment

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Hitler’s Indian Regiment

India was a British colony during World War II that sent millions of loyal subjects to fight on behalf of King George VI, but the relationship between Britain and India was strained—to say the least—when the war started. India had been agitating for independence from the East India Company and then the British Crown for about a century.

Indian troops serving Great Britain fought valiantly and earned top awards for heroism in the battle against the Axis Powers, but not all Indian leaders thought the fight against fascism should trump the fight for Indian independence. Much like American patriots in the 1770s capitalized on Britain’s fighting with France, some Indian leaders thought Britain’s war with Germany was the perfect time to break away from the crown.

And the Nazis were happy to help. When they began to take Indian troops prisoner in Africa, they offered those men German uniforms, weapons, and training if they would take up arms against the British. The first 27, all seen as potential officers, were pulled out of German POW camps and sent to Germany for training in 1941. These were soon followed by thousands of others to fill out the ranks.

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Let’s all agree that, regardless of motives or other accomplishments in your life, the photo of you shaking Hitler’s hand will never look good.

(Public domain)

An Indian independence leader, Subhas Chandra Bose, helped start the legion and got serious concessions from Germany on how the troops would be trained, deployed, equipped, paid, and more. Basically, the agreement was that the unit would be trained, paid, and equipped at the same level as any normal German unit.

But, the Indian troops could not be deployed like normal German units. The agreement that formed the unit would limit it to combat deployments focused on overthrowing British control of India. So Germany had to fund the unit like any German force, but they could only use it for Indian independence.

But still, the trade-off was seen as worthwhile by Germany as it struggled with how it would one day root British forces out of the jungles of Asia. This worry would prove well-founded when Britain and India began sending “Chindits” into the jungles to break the logistics chains and defensive lines of Japanese forces.

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war

Soldiers with the Free Indian Legion fight side-by-side with other German soldiers in World War II.

(German Federal Archives)

So the Indian Legion was formed and given a distinctive badge of a leaping tiger. But, in direct contradiction of the agreement, Indian Legion troops would go on to serve almost exclusively in Europe during the war. This wasn’t some dastardly Nazi plot though. It was simply the reality of the battlefield.

Savvy World War II buffs will remember that, while the Axis Powers were triumphantly marching across much of the world in 1941 when the legion was first recruited, it was suffering serious setbacks just a year later.

While the Indian Legion was going through initial recruitment, organization, and training, America joined the war, Polish and French resistance gained strength against Nazi occupiers, England turned back the German tide in the Battle of Britain, and America began limiting and then defeating Japan in the Pacific.

Italy, meanwhile, crumbled under the Allied assault like it was an Olive Garden.

So the Indian Legion, still in Europe for training, was sent to the Netherlands and France to get experience guarding coasts in 1943 until Germany was ready to invade through either the Soviet Union or the Middle East into India. Some Indian Legion members were still on the French coast when the Allies launched the 1944 Operation Overlord, the invasion of Fortress Europe through France.

The Indian Legion saw some combat there, but was quickly pulled from the front lines as the men complained that they would likely be executed as traitors if captured by British forces. The legion continued operations across Nazi-occupied France and Belgium and maintained some presence on the Atlantic Wall.

It suffered a few casualties against French forces, but saw little combat overall until the last of its troops deployed in France were sent to join brethren already in Italy. It was there, in Italy, that the Indian Legion surrendered to the Allies. Indian Legion members generally opted to surrender to American and French forces, but they were handed over to British and Indian forces quickly after capture.

The Indian political climate after the war had little appetite for prosecuting Indians who had worked, albeit with the Nazis, for independence. And most of the soldiers who faced court-martial saw their charges dropped or commuted.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS has a plan to bust out 70,000 supporters from Kurdish jails

ISIS fighters will be closely watching the fighting between Turkish and Kurdish troops in northeastern Syria, waiting for a chance to break thousands of fighters, and tens of thousands of family members, out of Kurdish prisons, according to a former member of the group, Western intelligence officials, and Kurdish commanders.

Concerns of a mass-scale ISIS prison break have grown as Turkish troops enter northeastern Syria to confront the Syrian Defence Forces. The SDF is a predominately Kurdish group regarded as terrorists by Turkey but a key American ally in the ground war against ISIS. SDF officials, who have warned that their resources were already overstretched guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners before the invasion, now say the situation is critical.


Thousands of ISIS fighters are being held in a dozen SDF facilities. Nearly 70,000 women and children are being held at the al Hol camp in Syria. US special operations troops on Oct. 9, 2019, moved several dozen high profile prisoners, including those accused of murdering Western hostages, to an undisclosed location outside of Syria.

Turkey ramps up fight against Kurds in Syria

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But that won’t be enough to prevent ISIS from attempting to break out thousands of lesser known but vital fighters, according to a former member of the group.

“Prison is like their home,” a former ISIS fighter tells Insider

Abu Ahmed al Halabi fought alongside ISIS and its predecessor groups from 2012 until 2015 before quitting the group over its brutal treatment of other Syrian rebel groups in his hometown of Tal Riffat, outside of Aleppo. Although not in contact with the group any longer, he’s currently fighting in Idlib Province for a non-jihadist rebel group. He told Insider that the group is deeply experienced in prison breaks, and its men will have organized while they were detained.

“All of the big bosses in Daesh are Iraqis that were in jail together during the American occupation,” he said. “The group that Abu Musab [al Zarqawi] founded in Iraq in 2003 was all sent to Camp Bucca, it’s where they organized Daesh [ISIS]. Prison is like their home.”

“Daesh will be organized inside the prisons and ready to attack the guards and escape,” Abu Ahmed said. “Outside the prisons, Daesh will be watching the guards and defenses and planning an attack, at any of these prisons they know they can get an entire [battalion] of fighters if they succeed. They have people watching right now waiting for a chance.”

Western intelligence officials agree, one officer from a NATO member that served inside Syria with his government’s special forces told Insider.

“These guys are a jail gang, running their operations while detained might even be easier than [being outside] hiding from drones afraid to use a telephone,” the official, who lacks permission to speak to the media, said.”

We are sure that there is close cooperation between fighters in some prisons, the families in al Hol, and the units that are still free in the desert area between Iraq and Syria,” the official said.

As many as 12,000 ISIS fighters including about 2,000 foreigners are held in SDF prisons. Among the 70,000 women and children in al Hol are hundreds of women who are still loyal to ISIS’s ground leadership.

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war

Flag of the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”

“[ISIS leader Abu Bakir] Baghdadi even said in his last statement that his people should be patient and await rescue, and that was before the Turks upended what had been a mostly stable situation.”

ISIS fighters in Kurdish jails have been in constant contact with the group’s leadership via Telegram and Whatsapp 

The families of ISIS fighters currently held in deteriorating security conditions in al Hol — where the SDF was already stretched thin — were in constant contact with the group’s leadership via Telegram, Whatsapp and other secure messaging systems, the official told us.

“Of course, we know they are plotting something but the resources to stop them just aren’t available,” the official said.

Abu Ahmed described the release of women and children in al Hol as a goal for the group but secondary to the immediate military need to free as many of its captured fighters as possible.

“The women might escape al Hol themselves but the Daesh bosses will be watching the prisons holding the fighters first,” he said. “They want those thousands of mujahideen so they can also fight the Kurds and Iraqis. If they take one prison, they will use those new guys to take another prison and then it will be just like Mosul” in 2014.

“They will have planned to attack at the perfect time and will have trucks and guns waiting for all the men they free”

Abu Ahmed said that in a series of attacks on Mosul in 2014, the plan was merely to break out 2,500 fighters from a local prison. Fighting for the group in northern Syria at the time, Abu Ahmed’s commander had been assigned to help plan the mission.

“My Emir was Abu Omar [al Shishani], and he was commander for all Daesh ground forces in Syria and Iraq, I helped him plan the Mosul operation. We were just trying to get fighters out of prison when the Iraqi Army collapsed. Once Abu Omar saw this he ordered everyone to attack to take as much space as they could as the Iraqis retreated. But the Mosul operation was part of a campaign of jailbreaks called ‘Breaking the Walls.'”

“These are very careful people,” he added. “They will have planned to attack at the perfect time and will have trucks and guns waiting for all the men they free.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

A woman made it through SEAL officer test for the first time

The Navy marked a first earlier this year when a woman completed Navy SEAL officer assessment and selection, Military.com has learned.

At the quarterly meeting of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services in December, a Navy official disclosed that the woman had reached the end of the physically and mentally demanding two-week SOAS process in September. Ultimately, however, she was not selected for a SEAL contract, officials said.

While the military formally opened SEAL billets — and all other previously closed jobs — to women in 2016, no woman has yet made it to the infamous 24-week Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training to date. If the woman had been selected for a SEAL contract at the end of SOAS, she would have been the first to reach BUD/S.


Capt. Tamara Lawrence, a spokeswoman for Naval Special Warfare, said the candidate had not listed the SEALs as her top-choice warfighting community. She was awarded placement in her top choice, Lawrence said.

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US Navy SEAL candidates during Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

“We do not discuss details of a candidate’s non-selection so it does not interfere with their successful service in other warfighter communities,” she said.

Candidates for SOAS are taken from college Reserve Officer Training Corps programs, service academies, and the Navy’s Officer Candidate School, all prior to getting their first Navy contract. Lawrence declined to specify which pathway the recent female candidate had taken out of concern that doing so would reveal her identity.

Lt. Grace Olechowski, force integration officer with Naval Special Warfare Command, said five women had been invited to participate in SOAS since the pipeline was opened to women. Three had entered SOAS to date, but only one had completed assessment and selection.

Military.com broke the news in 2017 that a first female student had entered SOAS — an ROTC student at a U.S. college. She ultimately exited the process before reaching the selection panel, however.

Lawrence said the SEAL officer selection process is candidate-neutral, meaning the selection board does not know the gender or other personal information of the candidates.

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war

U.S. Navy SEAL candidates participating in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sean Furey)

“Selection is based on the candidate’s scores during the two-week SOAS assessment,” she said. “This process ensures every candidate has a fair and equal chance based on Naval Special Warfare standards.”

It’s also possible that not listing the SEALs as a primary career choice would factor against a candidate in the selection process.

The selection panel is made up of senior SEAL officers, Lawrence said, who use SOAS assessment data along with resume information to select “the most competitive candidates.”

Roughly 180 candidates are selected every year to attend SEAL officer assessment and selection, she said; on average, the top 85 candidates are chosen to continue on to SEAL training. There are four two-week SOAS blocks held every year.

While SOAS precedes the award of a final SEAL contract, it is not for the faint of heart. It was previously called “mini-BUD/S” in a nod to its grueling and rigorous nature.

“Physical stress and sleep deprivation are applied to reveal authentic character traits,” the Navy says on its official Naval Special Warfare recruiting site. “Performance and interview data on every candidate is meticulously documented and presented to the NSW Selection Panel.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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