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Motorcycle soldiers used to rush parts to tanks under fire

They were quite possibly the ballsiest men to serve in World War I — a group of motorcyclists who would wait for tanks to get bogged down or disabled and ride on their two-wheeler’s to the rescue.


Motorcyclists provided a number of services to the tank corps including signaling, dispatch riding, and delivering replacement parts or crewmembers to tanks under attack — even when the area was being targeted by enemy artillery or machine gun fire.

Motorcycle soldiers were envisioned by then-Army Capt. George S. Patton, Jr. when he was first standing up the American tank units. Patton wanted at least two motorcycles and riders for each tank company as well as an additional two riders and bikes for the battalion headquarters.

Motorcycles were necessary for traversing the shell-pocked landscape between World War I trenches — areas with mud so deep and inclines so steep that tanks would often get stuck or break.

Motorcycle soldiers used to rush parts to tanks under fire
U.S. Marine Corps motorcycle riders in Tientsin, China, in 1927. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Archives)

But the motorcyclists may not have had the worst job supporting the fledgling tank corps in World War I. That award probably goes to the salvage corps whose members had to yank tanks from the battlefield.

In the worst cases, members of the salvage corps would map out where all disabled tanks were in No Man’s Land, then crawl out to them through the mud and under artillery fire at night. If they could get the tank running again, they’d drive it off the battlefield. If not, they would strip it for parts as German snipers and machine gunners hunted for them in the dark.

Luckily, a young tanker whose name was lost to history eventually suggested a better idea — outfit one tank as a recovery vehicle to bring necessary parts and mechanics to their comrades under fire.

Motorcycle soldiers used to rush parts to tanks under fire
American Army Renault FT light tanks in the Argonne Forest in 1918. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

The recovery tanks could also deliver new crewmembers to the battlefield and could tow away damaged tanks, preventing the necessity of motorcycle riders to roar in under artillery fire.

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This is how missing or captured troops get promoted

Bowe Bergdahl was Pfc. Bergdahl when he walked off his post in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and was captured by the Taliban. Five years later, however, when the White House exchanged five Taliban detainees for his release, he was Sgt. Bergdahl.


According to the Department of Defense, prisoners of war and those under missing status continue to be considered for promotion along with their contemporaries. They must be considered for promotion to the next highest grade when they become eligible.

For enlisted, it is based on time in grade and time in service. The eligibility for officers is based on the date of rank in their current grade.

A notable story is of then-Cmdr. James Stockdale. When he was captured and sent to the Hanoi Hilton, he was the most senior POW and so was the ranking officer among the prisoners there. When Lt. Col. ‘Robbie’ Risner was also captured, he outranked Stockdale by time in grade.

Later, a newly captured naval pilot informed Stockdale of his promotion to captain, he assumed command again.

 

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Captured U.S. troops were paraded through the streets of Hanoi. Even living through Hell, none broke. (U.S. Air Force)

 

This continues for prisoners of war but stops for those on missing status when they are presumed dead under Title 37 of the U.S. Code, section 555.

This happened with 1st Lt. John Leslie Ryder. His aircraft, nicknamed “Bird Dog,” went missing during a visual reconnaissance flight during the Vietnam War on June 9, 1970.

During the flight, the crew failed to report in by radio and calls were not answered. The search could not be mounted until the next day. The search continued until the 19th to no avail. A year to the day later, Lt. Ryder was promoted to captain.

 

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Service photo of Capt. John Leslie Ryder (Image via Together We Served)

Payment is also changed from regular enlistments. Instead of being involved in DFAS, the payment is authorized by Congress and made directly through the Secretary of the Treasury, tax-free. Any earnings, leave and money, are still given to the individual at their appropriate rank and are held until return.

There is also no limit on leave accrual, meaning it is well deserved for the returning service member to take all of the leave at two and-a-half days per month.

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Oliver Stone thinks Edward Snowden is a hero

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Edward Snowdon in Oliver Stone’s new movie coming out in September. (Photo: Open Road Films)


In the first full trailer for Snowden, Oliver Stone’s biopic of the NSA contractor who leaked classified documents to the media in 2013, the director makes clear that he thinks Edward Snowden is an American hero.

 

The movie version of Snowden (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a good soldier who trains on broken legs without complaint for two weeks, aspired to serve in special forces and wants to join the CIA to serve his country. He is shocked by what he sees at the NSA and wants the rest of America to make an informed decision in the privacy versus security debate.

All of this matches up perfectly with Vietnam veteran Stone’s long-time movie obsessions with shadowy government figures and national security. After getting delayed twice, the movie finally opens in theaters on September 16.

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Marines look to ease strain on special operators in Middle East

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U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Spencer Knudson and Sgt. Mark Herd survey the landscape during a Combined Anti-Armor Team patrol at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Oct. 23, 2015. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Owen Kimbrel


The commander of Marine units across the Middle East sees opportunities for the Corps to take on more missions in the region that would typically be tasks for special operations forces.

In a recent interview with Military.com, Lt. Gen. William Beydler, commander of Marine Corps Central Command, said there were multiple traditional special operations mission sets that competent Marines could take on, freeing up the forces for more specialized undertakings.

“I’m not for a moment suggesting that Marine capabilities and SOF capabilities are the same, that’s not my point, but I do think, and I think that SOF would agree, that some of the missions they’re executing now could be executed by well-trained and disciplined general purpose forces like U.S. Marines,” Beydler said.

Marines maintain a constant presence in the Middle East between Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command, a roughly 2,300-man unit that operates across six Middle Eastern countries with an emphasis on supporting the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

They also operate consistently in the region off amphibious ships attached to Marine Expeditionary Units, or MEUs, that routinely provide presence in the Persian Gulf.

Beydler, who assumed the command in October 2015, said these Marines could take on quick-response force operations, security missions, maritime and land raids, and ship visit-board-search-seizure operations, all of which Marines train to do as part of the MEU pre-deployment workup.

“There’s a range of things Marines are especially well trained to do — they can offer up capabilities that might free SOF forces to do other things,” Beydler said. “We’re not trying to encroach on what they do, but we think that we can be better utilized at times and free them up to do even more than SOF does right now.”

Beydler said the Marine Corps was already stepping into some of these roles, though he demurred from specifics.

In one instance that may illustrate this utilization of conventional troops, Reuters reported in May that “a very small number” of U.S. forces were deployed into Yemen to provide intelligence support in response to a United Arab Emirates request for aid in the country’s fight against Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

While the Defense Department did not identify the service to which these troops belonged, officials told Reuters that the amphibious assault ship Boxer — part of the deployed 13th MEU — had been positioned off the coast of Yemen to provide medical facilities as needed.

In a January fragmentary order, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller emphasized his desire to see Marines operate more closely with SOF troops and develop a deeply collaborative working relationship.

To this end, six-man special operations forces liaison elements, or SOFLEs, began to deploy with MEUs in 2015 to improve communication between Marines and SOF forces downrange and coordinate efforts. Beydler said professional rapport had increased as a result of these small liaison teams.

“A part of this is again developing professional relationships, developing professional respect and having SOF appreciate that which Marines can do,” he said.

Currently, he said, the Marine Corps is considering creating SOFLEs for the Marines’ land-based Middle East task force. While there is no timeline to test out the creation of new liaison elements, Beydler said the unit informally looks for opportunities to coordinate with special ops in this fashion.

“I think that we’ve valued the SOFLEs at the MEU level,” he said. “We’ll continue to work with SOF to see if we can’t have more of these liaisons, more of those touch points.”

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8 US Navy ship names better than ‘The Deplorables’

In December 2016, a petition on the White House’s official petition site, “We The People…” called for naming the next “major U.S. Navy ship” the “USS The Deplorables.


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The Navy’s newest Freedom-variant littoral combat ship, USS Detroit (LCS 7) is commissioned. (U.S. Navy photo)

Related: The Navy just commissioned its newest littoral combat ship

The suggestion is a reference to then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s remark at a September campaign event about putting “half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.”

If the petition gets more than 100,000 signatures in 30 days, the White House will have to give an official statement on the status of the petition. After 10 days, the petition had only 5,070 signatures – a rate that won’t hit the desired goal for a response from the White House.

Maybe the name suggestion is the issue. “The Deplorables” just doesn’t seem to resonate with enough potential petition signers, so we came up with these alternatives, the petitioners – and the U.S. Navy – might want to consider.

1. “USS Rob Ford”

Donald Trump is reminiscent of this oft-misunderstood foreign government executive. The Navy once named a ship after Winston Churchill, so there’s even a precedent for it.

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He also supports Israel. (Photo by Flickr user John Michael McGrath)

2. “USS Seinfeld”

As Patty and Selma Bouvier once noted, it’s easier to be popular by leeching the popularity of others. So we also suggest changing the name of the next ship to “Seinfeld.”

Motorcycle soldiers used to rush parts to tanks under fire

3. “Trump Ship”

Why not? Trump names most of his business ventures after himself. Trump Steaks, Trump Vodka, Trump Magazine, Trump University, Trump Mortgage… you get it.

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4. “USS Carlos Danger”

The Navy is overhauling a cargo ship, the Cragside, for a floating special operations base. Why not name it the Carlos Danger, for those times when your real identity needs to be a secret.

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He’s definitely deplorable. Also, he should post this screengrab on a wall as a reminder. (YouTube/Sundance Selects)

5. Ask Mountain Dew Drinkers

When you crowdsource the names of seagoing vessels to the general public, they come back with names like “Boaty McBoatface.” But this is a name for a ship in the U.S. Navy. There’s no room for cute.

So, limit the pool of respondents to people who drink Mountain Dew, by putting a code under the bottle that allows them to make a suggestion.

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Drinkers of Mountain Shoutin, Moutain Lion, Mountain Explosion, and Mountain Frost could also be accepted. But not Surge. (Flickr photo)

The potential responses are guaranteed to not be cute.

6. “USS Bloodsport”

One of President-Elect Trump’s favorite movies is the Jean-Claude Van Damme martial arts classic “Bloodsport.” We think he would love to name a ship after this, and probably thinks it would strike fear into the hearts of the enemy. Frankly, we couldn’t agree more.

7. “USS Steven Seagal”

It’s not a secret that Trump’s win could bring the United States closer to Russia. Why not bestow the honor of naming a ship after one of Russia’s favorite stars and newly-christened citizen, Steven Seagal.

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He also cooks.

8. “USNS Hillary Clinton”

This might anger Trump supporters at first — they were, after all, the target of the “deplorables” comment in the first place. But remember that it’s important to be a gracious winner.

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Hillary and the Dry Cargo Ship USNS Lewis and Clark have something in common. Neither were ever under sniper fire in Bosnia. (U.S. Navy photo)

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This is how a US destroyer dodged 2 missiles off the Yemen coast

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) was targeted by two missiles believed to have been fired by Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen Oct. 9. Both missiles missed the 9,200-ton vessel and landed harmlessly in the waters of the Red Sea.


The latest near miss comes eight days after HSV-2 Swift was attacked and hit by at least two RPGs. The U.S. Navy reported that the Mason used “onboard defensive measures” as soon as the first missile was launched.

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The Arleigh Burke Class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) was targeted by two missiles fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Alexander Delgado/Released)

While the Mason carries a variety of weapons to address incoming aircraft and missiles — including the RIM-66 SM-2 Standard Missile, the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM), the Mk 45 Mod 4 5-inch gun, and the Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS), which take out the incoming aerial threats physically, or achieving a “hard kill” — the Navy says the ship used so-called “soft kill” systems to avoid a hit.

Soft kill systems work by fooling the inbound threat and getting it to hit where the targeted vessel isn’t.

The Mason has two such spoofing systems on board, the AN/SLQ-32 electronic countermeasures suite, and the Mk 36 Super RBOC chaff system. The AN/SLQ-32 electronic countermeasures suite is on virtually every Navy surface ship. The system works by jamming radar seekers of anti-ship missiles, causing them to either pursue phantom targets or by reducing the effective range of the seeker, enabling the ship to evade the missile.

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The Mk 36 Super RBOC system usually works with the AN/SLQ-32, and works by firing rockets that dispense chaff (essentially aluminum foil), creating false targets to confuse the seeker of an incoming missile. These “foil packets,” to use Chappy Sinclair’s term from the original Iron Eagle, were first used in World War II to confuse German radar.

Chaff was heavily used by the Royal Navy during the Falklands War. In one incident, a British frigate successfully decoyed a missile using chaff, but the missile then locked on to the Atlantic Conveyor, sinking the merchant vessel, which was carrying helicopters to reinforce the British forces trying to re-take the Falklands from Argentina.

The Mason was one of three vessels sent to assist HSV-2 Swift after the 1 October attack that damaged the vessel and started fires. Houthi rebels, surrogates for the Iranian regime, claimed to have sunk the vessel. Iran has been known to export anti-ship missiles like the Noor (a knock-off of the C-802 anti-ship missile). One exported missile damaged the Israeli corvette Hanit during the 2006 Lebanon War.

Yemen has been a risky place for U.S. vessels in the past. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Cole was damaged while refueling in Aden in October 2000. Despite having a 40×60-foot hole punched in her hull, the Cole returned to active service.

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That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride

In today’s Army, you can be the toughest general in the U.S. military, but when you turn 64, it’s time to go.


It’s well known most bodies just can’t take the rigors of duty and deployment beyond that (though Gen. Jim Mattis might be the exception), but history does have examples of military leaders who went well past their sexagenarian limitations.

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Though an excellent soldier, Miles was notorious for being stubborn, quarrelsome, overambitious and opinionated. Many, including President Theodore Roosevelt, wanted to see him cast out of the Army once and for all. Those who knew Miles best were aware that he wasn’t going to be forced out of the army without a fight. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

The 73-year-old Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher of the Battle of Warterloo fame did it, and so did the 62-year-old Gen. George Sears Greene, whose men fought off repeated Confederate assaults at Culp’s Hill during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Army Lt. Gen. Nelson A. Miles was another one of these timeless warriors who shattered this stereotype and demonstrated that age does not provide a restriction to some men.

Nelson Appleton Miles spent nearly 42 years in the U.S. Army leading up to his 64th birthday in 1903. During the American Civil War, He rose from a lowly lieutenant to the rank of major general of volunteers by the age of 26-years-old. He fought in such notable battles as Seven Pines, Antietam, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg.

At the Battle of Chancellorsville in May of 1863, he earned the Medal of Honor as the colonel of the 60th New York Infantry for his “distinguished gallantry while holding with his command an advanced position against repeated assaults by a strong force of the enemy.” He was severely injured in this action and suffered three other wounds through the course of the war.

Miles decided to remain in the army after the American Civil War. He is best remembered for his service on the western frontier during the 1870s and the 1880s — immortalized for his capture of the famed Apache leader Geronimo. By 1895, he rose to overall command of the Army.

Though an excellent soldier, Miles was notorious for being stubborn, quarrelsome, overambitious and opinionated. Many, including President Theodore Roosevelt, wanted to see him cast out of the Army once and for all. Those who knew Miles best were aware that he wasn’t going to be forced out of the army without a fight.

Miles’ time for retirement crept up in 1903. He felt that he was still fit for soldiering, so he set out to prove that he was still physically fit to endure the hardships of active campaigning.

At dawn on July 14, 1903, Miles, sporting a summer helmet and light blue shirt, rode out of Oklahoma’s Fort Sill headed toward Fort Reno 90 miles away, intending to shatter Roosevelt’s age barrier. He was accompanied by several younger officers and cheered on by a large crowd of observers.

The tanned and muscular Miles knocked out the first 34 miles in a record time of just under 2.5 hours. Only the 34 year old cavalry officer Capt. Farrand Sayre of the Eight Cavalry was able to keep up with the grueling pace Miles set under the punishing sun and sweltering heat.

Miles tackled the 90 mile ride in just over nine hours, arriving at Fort Reno to the salute of gunfire from the soldiers of the garrison showing “no signs of fatigue.” Within 40 minutes of arriving, Miles changed out of his dusty uniform, reviewed the troops of the garrison, and rode another four miles to catch a 4:00 p.m. train back to Fort Riley, Kansas.

Miles boasted afterward to the papers that, “I enjoyed every moment of the trip, and there was one time that I felt particularly good; that was when I came up to the men who had charge of the pack teams just south of the Canadian river. They had lunch ready and I enjoyed it with them. It made me feel extra good.”

Despite displaying that he was still very much fit for active service, Miles was forced to retire in August of 1903. At 77, the Civil War general and Medal of Honor recipient offered his services to Woodrow Wilson’s administration with the American intervention during World War I. The offer was politely refused by the secretary of war who wrote back to Miles, “in time of emergency out government may need to take advantage of your great experience. Please accept appreciation of your most patriotic offer.”

Miles was still spry enough to serve on the battlefield even in 1916. He did not pass away until 60 years after the American Civil War ended in May of 1925 from a heart attack, outliving President Theodore Roosevelt by six years.

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This psychedelic drug could be approved to treat PTSD

Just as cannabis is gaining traction as a legitimate treatment option for military veterans, the US Food and Drug Administration has given the “breakthrough therapy” designation to MDMA, the main chemical in the club drug Ecstasy, for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.


The move appears to pave the way for a Santa Cruz, California-based advocacy group to conduct two trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for patients with severe PTSD.

The nonprofit group Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies plans to test out the strategy on 200 to 300 participants in clinical trials this spring.

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Image from MAPS.org

“For the first time ever, psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy will be evaluated in [advanced] trials for possible prescription use, with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD leading the way,” said Rick Doblin, the group’s founder and executive director.

The FDA says it doesn’t disclose the names of drugs that receive “breakthrough therapy” designation. But if a researcher or drug company chooses to release that information, they are allowed to. In this case, the Psychedelic Studies group is the researcher.

Veterans have pushed for new treatments for PTSD, which some consider the “signature” injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Symptoms include depression, isolation, inability to concentrate and, in the extreme, suicidal thoughts.

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MDMA in pressed pill form. Image from DEA.

At present, the US Drug Enforcement Administration lists the drug as a Schedule I drug, which means there are no currently accepted medical uses and there’s a high potential for abuse.

The drug affects serotonin use in the brain.

It can cause euphoria, increased sensitivity to touch, sensual and sexual arousal, the need to be touched, and the need for stimulation.

Some unwanted psychological effects can include confusion, anxiety, depression, paranoia, sleep problems, and drug craving, according to the DEA.

Clinical studies suggest that MDMA may increase the risk of long-term problems with memory and learning.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a daring mission behind enemy lines turned into a disaster for the US’s secretive Vietnam-era special operators

Two US Air Force Bell UH-1P helicopters from the 20th Special Operations Squadron fly into Cambodia, around 1970 US Air Force/Capt. Billie D Tedford

Fifty-four years ago, a group of American and indigenous commandos fought for their very lives in a small, far away valley in one of the boldest special operations missions of the Vietnam War.

Codenamed Oscar-8, the target was the forward headquarters of the North Vietnamese Army’s 559th Transportation Group and its commander, Gen. Vo Bam, located alongside the Ho Chi Minh trail complex, which ran from North Vietnam to South Vietnam and passed through Laos and Cambodia.

U.S. commanders had intelligence that Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, North Vietnam’s top general, was visiting the area. A plan was quickly hatched to kill or capture Giap. U.S. commanders gave the mission to a highly secretive special operations unit.

The secret warriors of a secret war

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A Studies and Observations Group (SOG) team reconnoiters the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. (SOG)

Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) was a highly classified unit that conducted covert operations across the fence in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and North Vietnam.

Successive U.S. administrations claimed American troops didn’t operate outside of South Vietnam, so SOG was a tightly kept secret.

It was a standard operating procedure for any commandos who went across the border never to carry anything that could identify them as U.S. servicemembers. Their weapons didn’t have serial numbers, and their uniforms didn’t have names or ranks.

SOG was composed primarily of Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Reconnaissance Marines, and Air Commandos. They advised and led local forces, from South Vietnamese SEALs to Montagnard tribesmen who had lived there for hundreds of years.

During the Vietnam War, about 3.2 million service members deployed to Southeast Asia in combat or support roles. Of them, 20,000 were Green Berets, and out of those, only 2,000 served in SOG, with only 400 to 600 running recon and direct-action missions across the fence.

Although only the best served in SOG, luck and constant vigilance were necessary to survive. Many seasoned operators died because their luck ran out or because they became complacent.

A bold mission

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A CH-46 helicopter prepares to pick up a load of supplies at Khe Sanh in South Vietnam, February 22, 1968. (Bettmann/Getty Images)

Oscar-8 was a bowl-shaped area in Laos, only about 11 miles from the U.S. Marine base at Khe Sahn in northern South Vietnam. The area was about 600 yards long and 2 miles wide and surrounded by thick jungle.

The mission was given to a “Hatchet Force,” a company-size element that specialized in large-scale raids and ambushes. It was composed of a few Special Forces operators and several dozen local Nung mercenary troops, totaling about 100 commandos.

Several B-52 Stratofortress bombers would work the target before the SOG commandos landed.

The Hatchet Force’s mission was to sweep the target area after the B-52 bombers had flattened it, do a battle damage assessment, kill any survivors and destroy any equipment, and capture or kill Giap. The plan was to insert at 7 a.m., one hour after the B-52 run, and be out by 3 p.m.

To support them, SOG headquarters put on standby several Air Force, Marine, and even Navy fixed- and rotary-wing squadrons.

All in all, there were three CH-46 Sea Knights helicopters to ferry in the Hatchet Force, four UH-1 Huey gunships for close air support, two A-1E Skyraider aircraft for close air support, four F-4C Phantom fighter jets for close air support, two H-34 choppers for combat search and rescue, and two forward observer aircraft to coordinate tactical air support.

Disaster at Oscar-8

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A UH-1 Huey gunship flown by the Green Hornets in support of SOG missions. (Courtesy photo)

As the sun began rising, nine B-52 bombers dropped 945 unguided high-explosive bombs, more than 236 tons of munitions, on the North Vietnamese headquarters and the adjoining positions.

Minutes after the B-52s finishing refurbishing the area, a forward air controller flying overhead spotted North Vietnamese troops coming out of the jungle and putting out the fires.

The enemy numbers continued to swell, and it quickly became clear to the seasoned SOG operators who were coordinating the fight from above that the North Vietnamese had largely managed to escape the onslaught from above.

Sgt. Maj. Billy Waugh, a legendary Special Forces operator and later a CIA paramilitary officer, radioed headquarters and advised aborting the inbound Hatchet Force, which was due to touch down 15 minutes after the last B-52 bomber had bombed the target. He was too late.

The first two CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters full of men were shot down, as were two UH-1 Huey gunships that were providing close air support. An H-34 chopper attempting a rescue was also shot down.

The SOG force was immediately pinned down and had to take shelter in the bomb craters that pockmarked the area. Only the Hatchet Force’s firepower saved them from being overrun by the vastly numerically superior enemy.

Meanwhile, a pair of F-4 Phantom jets came in low to cover the survivors, but they also took heavy anti-aircraft fire, and one fighter was shot down, the pilot going down with his plane.

A pair of A-1E Skyraiders then came in to provide close air support, but they too received overwhelming anti-aircraft fire, and one of them crashed.

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A Green Hornet gunner firing on a target with an M134 mini-gun. (Courtesy photo)

There were about 45 SOG commandos taking cover inside two craters under heavy fire from the enemy on the ground. The American team leader requested napalm and cluster bombs to be dropped within 100 feet of their perimeter.

Meanwhile, another Hatchet Force was quickly assembled to act as a quick reaction force, while aircraft bound for North Vietnam on unrelated were redirected over Oscar-8 to keep the battered SOG commandos alive.

The North Vietnamese continued to fend off or shoot down any aircraft that tried to exfiltrate the SOG commandos, which prevented the quick-reaction force from inserting. But two days of concentrated air attacks against the NVA allowed the Hatchet Force to stay alive, and the commandos were eventually able to exfiltrate.

Twenty-three men from SOG and its supporting air units and about 50 of the indigenous fighters were wounded or killed, went missing, or were captured during the operation.

In addition, two CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters, one UH-1 gunship, one H-34 transport chopper, one F-4 Phantom jet, and one A-1E Skyraider were shot down.

During the fight, one seriously wounded American, Sgt. First Class Charles Wilklow, was captured by the North Vietnamese, who used him as bait for a rescue force for four days. Wilklow not only managed to survive his wounds but also escaped, getting picked up by a combat search and rescue chopper five days after the battle began.

Oscar-8 was a disaster for SOG. The Hatchet Force failed to achieve any of the mission’s goals, and if it weren’t for the sheer will and grit of the commandos and the aircrews, it would have been a lot worse.

Indeed, the operation highlights the dangers SOG operators faced on every mission. With the odds always against them, it’s miraculous that their successes outweighed their failures.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

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Russia boosts its propaganda division

The Russian Defense Ministry has formalized its information-warfare efforts with a dedicated propaganda division, Russian state-run media said on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports.


“Propaganda needs to be clever, smart and efficient,” said Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in reference to the new unit.

Retired Russian Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, who leads the defense-affairs committee in the lower house of parliament, said the unit would “protect the national defense interests and engage in information warfare.”

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The U.S. may have the stronger military, but Russia reigns when it comes to propaganda. (Image of Vladimir Putin)

But Russia has long been accused of spreading propaganda in the West. Business Insider’s Barbara Tasch detailed one case where Russian outlets spread a false story of a Russian-born 13-year-old being raped in Germany by a group of three refugees.

In December, US intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had meddled in the US election and that its interference may have been directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.

Russia’s use of propaganda as an element of “hybrid warfare” proved instrumental during the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the later insurgency in Ukraine.

Russia has vastly improved their conventional and nuclear military assets as well. An Associated Press report on Wednesday said that Russia will deliver 170 new aircraft, 905 new tanks and other armored vehicles, and 17 new naval ships.

Russia’s forces in Eastern Europe now vastly outmatch NATO’s.

A NATO spokeswoman told Reuters earlier this month that “NATO has been dealing with a significant increase in Russian propaganda and disinformation since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.”

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What the alleged mustard gas attack on US troops in Iraq could mean

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has allegedly launched a chemical weapons attack on a base used by American military forces to support Iraqi efforts to retake the city of Mosul. The Sept. 21 artillery attack on Qayyara Air Base that reportedly contained a chemical shell caused no casualties, but some American troops underwent decontamination procedures as a precaution.


The attack, which Pentagon chief Gen. Joseph Dunford said is suspected to have used mustard gas, is the first time American troops have faced hostile chemical weapons since World War I. A 1984 paper for the United States Army Command and Staff General College noted that the United States suffered over 70,000 casualties from German chemical weapons in that conflict, of which just over 1,400 were fatal.

Motorcycle soldiers used to rush parts to tanks under fire
A U.S. Soldier with the 76th Army Reserve Operational Response Command decontaminates a vehicle after a simulated chemical weapons attack during a base defense drill in Camp Taji, Iraq, July 23, 2016. This drill is one way Coalition forces maintain readiness and practice security procedures. Camp Taji is one of four Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve build partner capacity locations dedicated to training Iraqi security forces. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson/Released)

Military officials said a massive aerial attack on a former pharmaceutical plant near mosul Sept. 13 destroyed what they believe was an ISIS chemical weapons production facility.

Mustard gas, a liquid that is properly called “sulfur mustard,” is a blister agent that not only can be inhaled, but also takes effect when it contacts the skin. This nasty chemical agent causes large blisters on the skin or in the lungs when inhaled. The agent can last a long time – unexploded shells filled with sulfur mustard have caused casualties in France and Belgium decades after the German surrender in World War I.

Chemical weapons were widely used in the Iran-Iraq War, most notoriously by Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq during the Al-Anfar Offensive. The 1988 attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja, using nerve gas, gained world attention, particularly due to the casualties suffered by civilians. Chemical weapons use was widely feared during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. After Desert Storm, Saddam Hussein’s regime was supposed to end its chemical weapons program, but played a shell game for over a decade.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, concerns about Saddam Hussein’s apparent non-compliance with the terms of the 1991 cease-fire and United Nations Security Council Resolutions lead the United States to launch Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

While no large stockpiles of chemical weapons were found, coalition forces did encounter sarin nerve gas and sulfur mustard that had not been accounted for in pre-war inspections, and a 2014 report by the New York Times reported that over 5,000 shells filled with chemical weapons were found by American and Coalition forces during the Iraq War.

ISIS has been reported to use sulfur mustard against Iraqi and Syrian forces.

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Hackers can take a hidden test to become mid-grade officers in the US Army’s Cyber Command

As cyber attacks on the US become commonplace, disorienting, and potentially damaging to the US’s fundamental infrastructure, the US Army’s Cyber Command reached out to civilian hackers in a language they could understand — hidden hacking puzzles online.


In the opening sequence of a Go Army commercial for Cyber Command, green text scrolls on a vacant computer as the narrator details the ominous state of cyber crime today. Viewers who watch closely will find a URL at the bottom of the screen that leads to Recruitahacker.net.

From there, the user can enter rudimentary commands and access a hacking puzzle. Lt. Gen. Paul M. Nakasone told reporters at Defense One’s Tech Summit on July 13 that of the 9.8 million people who viewed the ad online, 800,000 went on to attempt the hacking test. Only 1% passed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LZnOorfS_Q
Business Insider attempted the test and failed swiftly.

“We have the world’s adversaries trying to come at our nation,” said Nakasone, who explained that in the next few months qualified hackers could undergo “direct commissioning” and find themselves as “mid-grade officers” in the Army’s Cyber Command. Hackers who can pass the test online will be invited to apply for a role within the Department of Defense.

With Russia’s attempts to hack into voting systems during the 2016 presidential election and its alleged infiltration of US nuclear power plants keeping the US’s cyber vulnerabilities constantly in the news, Nakasone said Cyber Command will put together 133 teams to do battle in the cyber realm.

In light of the recent attacks, Nakasone said he’s seen “more enthusiasm or desire to serve and join the government or military” and that he looks forward to bringing civilians into the battle against foreign cyber crime.

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This American submarine damaged two Japanese cruisers without firing a shot

American submarines have some impressive tales of taking down enemy ships – from the big one that didn’t get away to a classic revenge tale. But one of the most interesting tales involves perhaps the most decisive battle of the Pacific Theater, two Japanese cruisers, and an American submarine that damaged them both without firing a shot.


As the Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryu was in her final throes in the early morning June 5, 1942, a force of Japanese cruisers — the Kumano, Suzuya, Mikuma, and Mogami — were headed towards Midway with two destroyers. These were powerful ships, nowhere near compliant with the London Naval Treaty that had been in force when they were designed and built.

CombinedFleet.com reports that they each carried ten 8-inch guns, and had 12 24-inch torpedo tubes carrying the Type 93 “Long Lance,” probably the best surface-launched torpedo in the war. The ships also carried reloads for the torpedo tubes.

Motorcycle soldiers used to rush parts to tanks under fire
Cruiser Mogami, A503 FM30-50 booklet for identification of ships, published by the Division of Naval Intelligence. (US Navy graphic)

As the ships were retreating from Midway, the submarine USS Tambor (SS 198) came across them. At 4:12 AM, the Japanese sighted Tambor, and the commander of the force, Takeo Kurita, ordered a turn. The Kumano and Suzuya made the turn correctly, but a mixup in signals caused a collision involving the Mikuma and Mogami.

Mogami’s bow was damaged, while the Mikuma began to trail oil.

The Tambor shadowed the damaged ships briefly before losing track, but not before a contact report was sent. Kurita left the destroyers with the damaged cruisers, but within four hours of the collision, dive bombers from Midway arrived. None of the planes scored anything more than a near-miss, but when the SB2U Vindicator flown by Marine Capt. Richard Fleming was hit, Japanese witnesses report that Fleming crashed his plane into Mikuma. Fleming became the only Medal of Honor recipient for the Battle of Midway.

Motorcycle soldiers used to rush parts to tanks under fire
The cruiser Mikuma, prior to her sinking. (US Navy photo)

On June 6, 1942, Task Force 16 launched three waves of dive-bombers. The Mikuma took five hits, while Mogami took six. Both cruisers were set ablaze. The Mikuma’s torpedo reloads exploded, causing her to sink. Mogami’s crew was able to get their reloads off the ship before that happened – and the cruiser ended up spending a lot of time being rebuilt.

The Tambor saw 12 war patrols during World War II, sinking 11 Japanese vessels. She was decommissioned in December, 1945, and sold for scrap 14 years later.

Her wartime heroics are many, but she may best be known for the shots she didn’t fire.

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