Mexico. Although invented in Mexico, nachos are not Mexican food. They – like fajitas, chimichangas, and ground beef enchiladas – are American inventions. Not to say that Mexicans didn’t have a hand in creating said culinary gems. However, most were invented by Mexican restaurateurs in the southwestern United States to please the “Gringo palette.”
So how did three American women sort of invent nachos? In 1943, a group of American military wives, whose husbands were stationed in Eagle Pass, Texas, did what everyone does in American border towns: crossed the border to the Mexican sister city. When they got to the Victory Restaurant, the restaurant’s cook was nowhere to be found. Well, the maitre d’, Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, was not about to turn away potential clients. So he looked around the kitchen, and as you might have guessed, he got some tortillas, cheese (real cheese, not the kind we are used to now…more on that later), and jalapeños together and BAM! Nachos Especiales were born.
Now, you would think that, as the inventor of one of the most popular foods in America, Mr. Anaya would have become quiet rich. Well, you’d be wrong. He never capitalized on the success of his invention. By the 1960s he saw how successful his creation had become, and he and his son tried to take legal action and claim ownership of the recipe. Lawyers informed the pair that the statute of limitations had run out on the matter.
And what about the cheese? Frank Liberto, an Italian-American owner of concession stands did not want his customers to stand in line waiting for their nachos. So he concocted a secret recipe for the orang-y, gooey, nacho cheese we see today. So secret was his concoction, in fact, in 1983 a man was arrested for trying to buy Liberto’s formula. Little known fact: according the FDA, the cheese used on nachos today is not actually cheese.
Earlier this week, the United States was reminded that veterans of World War II and the Korean War are passing away at a remarkable rate when Frank Levingston died at 110 years old. He was the oldest living WWII veteran but the median age of this era of vets is 90, and 430 of them die each day. The National WWII Museum estimated that there are only roughly 690,000 left of the 16 million who served.
It can’t be easy to be the last of a dying generation, but someone has to be. World War II and Korea veterans have a little bit of time left, but not much. The last surviving World War I veteran died in 2011. Here’s a look at who the last surviving veterans were for each American war and when they were laid to rest.
Lemuel Cook, Revolutionary War
Cook was born in 1759, the only one on this list to be born a British subject. He was from Connecticut and enlisted in the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons at age 16, seeing action at the Battle of Brandywine and Siege of Yorktown. He was also present at General Cornwallis’ surrender during the Virginia Campaign. After being discharged in 1784, Cook would watch the beginning and end of the Civil War as a civilian. He died in 1866.
Hiram Cronk, War of 1812
The last surviving veteran of “Mr. Madison’s War,” Cronk was born in 1800 in Upstate New York. He and other New York Volunteers fought in the defense of Sackett’s Harbor, west of Watertown, which held a major shipyard during the War of 1812. He lived to be 105 years old, drawing a monthly pension of $97 from New York and the Federal government for his service ($1,443 in today’s dollars).
Owen Thomas Edgar, Mexican-American War
The Philadelphia native was a U.S. Navy sailor on the frigates Potomac,Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and Experience. Born in 1831, he lived to be 98 years old, dying in 1929. After three years of service, he was only promoted once during his enlistment.
Albert Henry Woolson, Civil War – Union Army
Woolson was born in Antwerp, New York in 1850. His father was wounded in the Union Army at the Battle of Shiloh. Woolson himself was enlisted as a drummer in the 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery Regiment. His unit never saw action and Woolson spent the rest of his life as Vice Commander in Chief of the political action group, Grand Army of the Republic, fighting for the rights and views of Civil War veterans. He died in Duluth, Minnesota in 1956.
The last combat veteran of the Union Army was James Hard of the 37th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He fought at the battles of First Bull Run, Antietam, and Chancellorsville, and met Abraham Lincoln at a White House reception.
Pleasant Crump, Civil War – Confederate Army
Born in Alabama in 1847, Crump and a buddy enlisted as privates in the 10th Alabama Infantry Regiment in November 1864. He fought at the Battle of Hatcher’s Run and the siege of Petersburg before watching General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House. After the surrender, Crump walked home to Alabama. He died in 1951 at age 104, the last confirmed survivor of the Confederate Army.
Frederick Fraske, Indian Wars
Fraske was an immigrant from the Kingdom of Prussia, now part of Germany. He came to the U.S. in 1877 with his family, settling in Chicago. At 21, he enlisted in the Army and was sent to the 17th Infantry in Wyoming. Although he spent his career preparing Fort D.A. Russell for an attack from the native tribes, the attack never came and he spent his three years of enlisted service and went home to Chicago. He died at age 101 in 1973.
John Daw was born Hasteen-tsoh in 1870. He would grow up to become an enlisted U.S. Army tracker, looking for Apaches in New Mexico until 1894. He would return to the Navajo Nation in Arizona after leaving the service, dying in 1965 as the last surviving Navajo Tracker.
Jones Morgan, Spanish-American War
Morgan was a Buffalo Soldier who lived to be 113 years old. He enlisted in 1896 in the 9th Cavalry Regiment. He later maintained the horses of the Rough Riders and served as a camp cook on the war’s Cuban front. Despite the controversy surrounding his claim (his enlistment papers burned in a fire in 1912), no one doubted Morgan, but he wasn’t given recognition until 1992, the year before he died.
Nathan Cook, Boxer Rebellion Philippine-American War
Cook is probably the saltiest American sailor who ever lived. Enlisting in 1901 (age 15) after quitting his job at a Kansas City meat packing plant, he served in the Philippines, during the uprising after the Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish-American War ceded the Philippines to the U.S. Cook also saw action during the Boxer Rebellion in China and the fighting along the U.S.-Mexico border precipitated by Pancho Villa. He was promoted to warrant officer after 12 years of service. He continued to serve during World War I, commanding a sub chaser and sinking two U-boats. He was the XO of a transport ship during World War II and retired in 1942, after some 40 years of service. He died in 1992 at age 104.
Frank Buckles, World War I
Yes, all the doughboys are gone now. The last was Frank Buckles of West Virginia who died in 2011. he enlisted in the Army at age 16 in 1917 to be and ambulance driver. he was turned down by the Marines because he was too small and by the Navy because he had flat feet. After the Armistice in 1918, he escorted German POWs back to Germany. He was discharged in 1919. He would work in shipping as a civilian and was captured by the Japanese in the Philippines in 1942 and spent the rest of the war in civilian prison camps.
Buckles spent his last days appealing to the American public to create a World War I memorial in Washington, DC. Buckles died at age 110, but his dream did not. The National World War I Memorial is set to be built where Pershing Park is today.
The Republic F-105 Thunderchief could go fast — it had a top speed of 1,390 miles per hour. But this “fighter” was, in reality, a powerful tactical bomber. But despite being designed to put bombs on land targets, the F-105 proved to be a deadly adversary to those who attacked from the sky — it was a rare bird; it was a bomber that could kill a fighter.
The F-105‘s design process started in 1950 as the intended replacement for the F-84F Thunderstreak, a plane that hadn’t yet made its first flight. The YF-105A prototype first flew in 1955 and was soon followed by the first production version, the F-105B. However, the F-105B was quickly deemed out-dated, as it could only operate in daylight and in good weather.
A look at the wide variety of weapons the F-105 Thunderchief could carry into battle.
The main weapon of the F-105 was supposed to be a B28 or B43 “special store” — a nuclear bomb. The later B57 and B61 nukes were later made options for the plane as well. Thankfully, these were never used in anger. But what did get use was the F-105’s ability to carry up to 14,000 pounds of ordnance — not to mention AIM-9 Sidewinders and a M61 Vulcan gun with 1,028 rounds of ammo.
With the onset of newer models, specifically the F-105D, the Thunderchief became a lethal plane in any weather condition, day or night. The F-105D was the workhorse during the early days of the Vietnam War. The plane successfully pummeled land targets, like the Paul Doumer bridge, while excelling in air-to-air combat. The F-105 scored 27.5 kills in the skies.
The F-105G Wild Weasel version of the Thunderchief was used to kill or suppress enemy surface-to-air missile sites.
The F-105F, intended as a combat trainer, instead became the basis for the most notable Wild Weasel of the Vietnam War – the F-105G. One Wild Weasel pilot, Leo Thorsness, would earn the Medal of Honor in the F-105 for taking on North Vietnamese MiGs during an effort to rescue a downed air crew.
The F-105 stayed in service until 1984, marking nearly three decades of service. Learn more about this lethal multirole fighter in the video below.
Meyer Lansky was the mind behind the mob. Active in the criminal underworld since the days before Prohibition, Lansky – the “Mob’s Accountant” – was able to figure out how to make mafia earnings and turn them into legitimate businesses. It was because of his acumen that the mob was able to form a kind of national crime syndicate with the likes of Lucky Luciano and Bugsy Siegel. He would become the highest-ranking non-Italian in the Mafia.
His kids were going to do something very different.
To the Sicilians, being in the mafia was an honorable occupation. According to the onetime head of the Bonnano crime family, Joe Bonnano, one of the terms that designated a mafioso was loosely translated as “Man of Honor.” For Jewish men like Meyer Lanksy, however, it wasn’t so honorable. In fact, Lanksy found the business shameful, despite spending his life building it. Still, he wanted a different life for his children.
One of his children, Paul, would actually attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point – on his own merit.
Meyer Lansky with his family: Sons (from left) Paul and Buddy, who had cerebral palsy, daughter Sandra, and first wife Ana.
“The Lansky boy has justified the confidence which was placed in him,” wrote Tennessee Sen. Estes Kefauver upon appointing Paul Lanksy to West Point. It was a far cry from the life his father lived, having created Las Vegas with his friends, other legendary members of America’s most notorious organized crime families. The younger Lansky would graduate from the Academy in 1954 and join the Air Force.
Lansky was in the Air Force until 1963, ultimately resigning his commission while at the rank of Captain so he could take a civilian engineering job in Tacoma, Wash. He stayed far from his famous father’s profession, going so far as to pretend that he and the elder Lansky had some sort of falling out and didn’t speak.
Intense humidity, leeches, and snakes were just a few of the dangers our Vietnam Veterans faced while in the jungle — besides getting shot by bad guys. In all, 2.7 million Americans suited up for The Nam, and the average age of an infantryman was just 19-years-old.
And every single one of them at one time or another claimed the title of “f*cking new guy,” or “FNG.”
Patton, Schwarzkopf, and Mattis didn’t start out on day one of their military careers by making all the right decisions, they had to learn from their mistakes time and time again, adapting to them before ultimately succeeding.
Like every story, every man whose served has a beginning — a seed.
“I didn’t know squat, I wasn’t prepared for this,” Larry “Doc” Speed, a Combat Medic from 173rd Delta Company, explains in an interview about his first few days in the bush.
Entering the grunt world as an “FNG” is a stressful time in every new infantryman’s life.
Having to prove your worth from the moment you step onto the battlefield was just as difficult as shaking off those first dramatic moments of being pinned down by accurate enemy gunfire. Until you prove yourself, you’re just another blood bag with a name stenciled on a uniform.
“It’s a different world when you’re brand new, you’re just scared,” Jesse Salcedo, an M60 machine gunner admits. “It took three or four firefights before I could function before I could see the enemy.”
If you’ve joined the Marine Corps or if you’ve studied military history, then you’re likely very familiar with the legendary Dan Daly. For the uninitiated, he’s known for being one of the most decorated service members of all time. He coined an expression that will forever live on in books, movies, and among troops,
“Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”
Although Marines of all ages are taught many incredible things about the career of this bold war hero, there are few things you probably didn’t know about Sgt. Maj. Daniel Joseph “Dan” Daly.
Daly wasn’t the bigger guy ever
The New York-native joined the Corps in January, 1899, expecting to see action during the Spanish-American War. Unfortunately for him, the war was over before he had finished his training.
Sgt. Maj. Daly stood 5 feet, 6 inches tall and reportedly weighed about 135 pounds. Regardless of his size, the prideful Marine was well-respected within the ranks and was seen as a tough, fearless man.
He earned two Medals of Honor — and almost got a third.
Sgt. Maj. Daly was one of only two Marines to be awarded two Medals of Honor during two separate conflicts. He earned the first one during the China Relief for killing numerous enemy combatants on his own. He received his second for heroic actions done during the invasion and occupation of Haiti. Alone, he crossed a river to retrieve a machine gun while under intense enemy fire.
He almost earned a third for his part in a counterattack against the enemy in the famous Battle of Belleau Wood. Instead, Daly was given the Distinguished Service Cross and, later, the Navy Cross.
Daly turned down an officer commission
For his outstanding leadership, the Marines offered Daly a commission. He turned it down by saying,
“Any officer can get by on his sergeants. To be a sergeant, you have to know your stuff. I’d rather be an outstanding sergeant than just another officer.”
That’s so badass!
The USS Dan Daly (DD-519)in honor of the Marine Corps legend.
On February 6, 1929, Daly hung up his rifle for good and received a hero’s parade that marched from Bedford Ave. to the Williamsburg Plaza in Brooklyn in honor of his decorated military service. From then on, Daly led a quiet life as a guard at a Wall Street bank.
He never married. It just goes to show that if the Corps wanted you to find a spouse, they’d issue one.
Adm. Bill Gortney told reporters that, according to the Pentagon’s assessment, North Korea now has the capability to place miniaturized nuclear warheads on its latest KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
Pyongyang has “the ability to put a nuclear weapon on a KN-08 and shoot it at the homeland,” Gortney said.
This union of highly advanced military capabilities places an additional strain on US missile defense. The KN-08 is a road-mobile ICBM, meaning that Pyongyang can move the launch system throughout the country.
“It’s the relocatable target set that really impedes our ability to find, fix, and finish the threat,” Gortney said. “And as the targets move around and we if don’t have the persistent stare and persistent [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] that we do not have over North Korea at this time, that relocatable nature makes it very difficult for us to counter it.”
North Korea experts John Schilling and Henry Kan estimate that the KN-08 would have a maximum range of 5,600 miles, making the missile capable of hitting the West Coast of the Continental US. However, the weapon is unlikely to have the accuracy required for precision targeting on large US cities.
The missile also has yet to be flight tested, raising questions, most prominently from South Korea’s Ministry of Defense, as to whether the missile can even be outfitted with a nuclear warhead.
However, Gortney said the Pentagon continues to believe that Pyongyang has a miniaturized nuclear weapon, and a delivery system capable of reaching the US.
Gortney did qualify his statement by saying noting that it is better to be prepared for a North Korean nuclear capability even if there’s uncertainty as to the actual state of their technology. And he believes that the US could easily deflect a North Korean nuclear strike.
“Should one get airborne and come at us I’m confident we would be able to knock it down,” Gortney reassured reporters.
Ms. Alyce Dixon, the oldest living female veteran well known for her ‘elegant sense of style and repertoire of eyebrow raising jokes’ died in her sleep at the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s Community Living Center on January 27.
Brian Hawkins, the Medical Center director told a local news station: “She was one-of-a-kind; a strong-willed, funny, wise, giving and feisty WWII veteran. Her message touched a lot of people. It has been an honor to care for the oldest female veteran.”
In a release to share the news of her death, the Washington DC VA Medical Center wrote the following:
At the medical center, she was affectionately called the “Queen Bee” and was known for impeccable dress. She never left her room without fixing her makeup and hair. She always wore stylish clothes and jewelry and sported well-manicured nails. She loved to sit in the medical center Atrium and watch the people.
Born Alice Lillian Ellis in 1907, the Boston native has always lived life on her own terms. At 16, she saw a movie starring actress Alyce Mills. “I thought it was so pretty spelled like that, so I changed my name to Alyce,” she said.
One of the oldest of nine children, Ms. Dixon helped her mother raise her younger siblings. “After I got married, I never wanted children, I felt like I’d already raised a family,” she told Vantage Point, the VA’s official blog. Ms. Dixon would later divorce her husband over an $18 grocery allowance.
“I used to manage his paycheck until he found out I was sending money home to my family,” she said. He then started managing the money and gave her an allowance, a move which did not sit well with the independent young woman. “I found myself a job, an apartment and a roommate. I didn’t need him or his money,” she said with no trace of regret in her voice.
In 1943, Dixon became one of the first African American women to join the Army. She served in the Women’ s Army Corps where she was stationed in England and France with the 6888th Battalion. Her job was to ensure the ‘backlog’ of care packages and letters families were sending to their loved ones fighting on the front lines were delivered. After leaving the Army in 1946, she worked 35 more years for the federal government at the Census Bureau, and later for the Pentagon as purchasing agent – buying everything from pencils to airplanes.
Upon retiring in 1973, she served as a volunteer at local hospitals for 12 years. “I always shared what little I have, that’s why He let me live so long,” she said. “I just believe in sharing and giving. If you have a little bit of something and someone else needs it, share.”
The centenarian recently offered this advice on aging: “Don’ t worry about getting old, just live it up all the time.”
Rest in peace, Queen Bee.
Watch this hilarious video of Alyce telling jokes:
Watch this video of Alyce’s birthday party last year:
Samuel J. Seymour was present at Ford’s Theatre the night — April 14, 1865 — that President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Seymour ended up being the longest survivor witness of this tragically historic moment, living long enough to be interviewed on television. On on February 9, 1956, he appeared on an episode of the CBS show I’ve Got a Secret at the age of 95 — Seymour incorrectly states he is 96, but when you’re that old, you’re allowed to say whatever you want — in which celebrity panelists try to determine each contestant’s secret by asking a series of “yes-or-no” questions.
The panelists — Bill Cullen, Jayne Meadows, Henry Morgan, and Lucille Ball — figure out Seymour’s secret without much difficulty, allowing host Garry Moore to summarize Seymour’s memory of that fateful evening. Moore explains that, at the age of five, Seymour did not understand that the president was shot, and therefore was only concerned about the well-being of the man who fell from the balcony. Seymour died shortly after on April 12 of that same year. Watch the video below.
California may start giving legal help to veterans who have been deported.
The state Assembly passed a bill May 8 to provide legal representation for people who were honorably discharged from the military but have since been deported.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher says her bill is intended to help deported veterans return to the country. The San Diego Democrat says the bill would help them reunite with their families and access health services and other benefits.
“It’s time we bring our deported vets back,” Gonzalez Fletcher said. “California can lead the way by trying to bring them home.”
The American Civil Liberties Union says it has found dozens of cases where veterans have been deported.
Many deported veterans would have been eligible to become naturalized citizens but were not properly informed about the process, Gonzalez Fletcher said.
Funding for the bill will be subject to availability of money in the state budget.
The bill directs the state to contract with a nonprofit legal services organization. AB386 passed the Assembly without any dissenting votes and now goes to the Senate.
A nuclear thermal propulsion system meant to operate in low Earth orbit may sound like the stuff of the future, but the future will come much sooner than most of us expect.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (better known by its acronym, DARPA) just announced three companies will be designing America’s most futuristic engine – and it’s expected to be operational by 2025.
This engine is not known by its acronym, DRACO, which stands for Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations. DARPA says the three big contractors designing over the next four years will be General Atomics, Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin.
DRACO is not only advanced because the propulsion system will be the first of its kind, it’s also advanced because electric and chemical systems don’t give current technology anything close to the kind of maneuverability we’ve come to expect from space vehicles that don’t actually exist, like X-Wing fighters and Federation Runabouts.
Designers aren’t exactly thinking that the new system will give any space vehicle the kind of handling current air fighters enjoy, but it’s fun to think about what the future may hold. Military planners are hoping for any kind of advanced agility in orbit, something that offers the best of the chemical and electric propulsion currently used by orbiting vehicles.
Current chemical systems are only half as efficient as the nuclear thermal system will be. Chemical systems create water as a waste product
“The performer teams have demonstrated capabilities to develop and deploy advanced reactor, propulsion, and spacecraft systems,” Maj. Nathan Greiner, the project’s Air Force program manager, said in a statement. “The NTP technology we seek to develop and demonstrate under the DRACO program aims to be foundational to future operations in space.”
The first phase is (appropriately) the foundational phase of the design plan. General Atomics will develop the system’s reactor and propulsion mechanics. The other two companies will build off of that design and each create a concept for a spacecraft.
This won’t be the first time The United States has conceived the idea of a nuclear-powered engine in space. In 1961, NASA built nuclear reactors for use in rocket engines with its Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application (NERVA).
Then-Director for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center conceived the idea of manned missions to Mars using spacecraft powered by three NERVA engines each, eight years before man landed on the moon. The proposed mission was supposed to embark in 1981 and land on Mars by 1982. Instead it was scrapped in 1972.
DARPA’s nuclear thermal rocket system will use fission to heat liquid hydrogen and fire that heated element in its gaseous from the rear of the rocket. As it expands through a nozzle, it will create thrust in space.
If you’re worried about the possibility of an exploding rocket filled with radioactive elements spewing those elements all over the Earth, you’re not alone. But scientists assure us that nuclear thermal rockets will use low-enriched uranium, which would not be usable as a weapon if that happens.
They also assure us that the uranium used in the propulsion system won’t be radioactive until the rocket is well clear of Earth’s atmosphere.
Right now, DRACO rockets are being considered for transit between the Earth and its moon, but it would significantly cut down on travel times inside the solar system, potentially reaching Mars in as little as three months.
The tank is far from obsolete and the US will need a new armored vehicle to replace its 1980-vintage M1 Abrams, the Army Chief of Staff said here this afternoon. But what kind of tank, on what kind of timeline? Gen. Mark Milley made clear he was looking for a “breakthrough,” not incremental evolution – which probably means that the new tank will take a long time.
“Are we sort of at that point in history where perhaps mechanized vehicles are going the way of horse cavalry and going the way of the dinosaur?” Milley asked. “I don’t think so — but I’m skeptical enough to continue to ask that.”
“We have a good, solid tank today,” Milley said of the M1. “Having said that, we do need a new ground armored platform for our mechanized infantry and our tanks, because it’s my belief that, at least in the foreseeable future — and you can follow that out to 25 years or so — there is a role for those type of formations.”
“What are some of the technologies?” Milley said. “There’s Active Protection Systems” – electronic jammers and mini-missiles to stop incoming anti-tank weapons – “(and) there’s reduced crews with automated turrets” – as found on Russia’s new T-14 Armata, which Milley said the Army is studying closely – “but the real sort of holy grail of technologies that I’m trying to find on this thing is material, is the armor itself…. If we can discover a material that is significantly lighter in weight that gives you the same armor protection, that would be a real significant breakthrough.
“There’s a lot of research and development going into it,” Milley said. That’s true, but in all my conversations with Army and industry experts in recent years, no one believes we’re close to a “breakthrough.” Modest improvements in armor materials are in the works, but nothing that would change the fundamental calculus that makes protection heavy.
The trend, in fact, has been for everything to get heavier. The M1 tank started out in 1980 weighing about 60 tons, enough to stop most Soviet anti-tank shells and missiles of the day, but has grown to almost 70. The M2 Bradley, a heavily armed troop carrier called an Infantry Fighting Vehicle, grew from a fairly fragile 25 tons to a robust 40, with contractor BAE now proposing a 45-ton model. Some designs for a Bradley replacement, the proposed Ground Combat Vehicle, grew as heavy as 84 tons before the cash-strapped Army cancelled the program.
While the Army is now looking at lighter vehicles, the experts I’ve talked to are not counting on lighter armor. Instead, they’re contemplating trade-offs once deemed heretical, like building an air-droppable light tank to support paratroops, or having the Bradley replacement only carry half an infantry squad.
Such smaller vehicles would be lighter, as well as more maneuverable on narrow city streets – a key consideration because many Army leaders, including Milley, expect future warfare to be fought increasingly in urban settings. Mosul is a brutal but ultimately small-scale “preview” of future city fights in sprawling megacities, Milley said July 28. In Mosul – as in Fallujah in 2004 and Sadr City in 2008 – it took tanks to retake the city, working closely with regular infantry and special forces, he noted.
Lasers, Railguns, Robotics
While Milley put lighter-weight protection as priority number one, he also highlighted two other technologies that could revolutionize armored vehicle design. One is electrically-powered weapons, such as railguns – which use electromagnets to accelerate a solid metal slug to supersonic speeds – and lasers – which fire pure energy at the speed of light. “We’ve been using kinetic or powder-based munitions for five centuries,” Milley noted, but there are now major advances in alternative forms of firepower.
So far, lasers and railguns are being developed primarily as defensive weapons, able to shoot down drones or cruise missiles more quickly and cheaply than surface-to-air missiles. However, Air Force Special Operations Command plans to put a 150-kilowatt laser on its AC-130 gunships to disable enemy vehicles by silently burning through key components. It’s not too far from an offensive laser that can fit in a big airplane to one that can fit in a big ground vehicle.
The other potential breakthrough Milley mentioned was the “revolution in robotics.” The land is harder to navigate than empty sky or open sea, he emphasized, so ground robots will lag drones or unmanned ships, “but eventually we will see the introduction of wide-scale robotics.” Many of those will be small and relatively expendable scouts, designed to carry sensors or weapons ahead of the human force. Milley also wants his future tank to have enough automation not just to reduce the human crew required, but to optionally leave out the humans altogether, depending on the mission.
“Every vehicle that we develop, we probably need sure it’s dual use, so the commander on the battlefield at the time has the option of having that vehicle manned or unmanned,” Milley said. “They can flip a switch and have it be a robot.”
Building these future warbots will take a lot of thought. If you make an artificial intelligence smart enough to operate the tank some of the time, can you et the AI drive all the time and leave the human crew safe at home, where they can’t get killed or screw things up? If the humans aren’t inside the tank, do you let the AI pick targets and make the decision to kill them on its own? Pentagon policy says “never,” but if our robots have to wait for a human to say (or just think) “fire,” less scrupulous adversaries will be quicker on the draw. It’s a hornet’s nest of difficult questions that the Army – and the nation – will have to answer.
Major H.G. Duncan of the United States Marine Corps once defined a grunt as, “a term of affection used to denote that filthy, sweaty, dirt-encrusted, footsore, camouflage-painted, tired, sleepy, beautiful little son of a b*tch who has kept the wolf away from the door for over two hundred years.”
While this is true, we often think of the term as being synonymous with infantryman — you know, the guy who kicks in the doors and blows things up — but the fact of the matter is that terms like this and ‘POG’ have relatively unknown origins. If you were to ask a service member about these terms, the response is typically a definition, not a history lesson.
Some say the term started in Vietnam when POGs needed their own term to describe the dirty, smelly infantrymen who made fun of the troops who sat in air-conditioned buildings all day instead of getting stuck in the jungle. Legend has it that the first POG to use the term was making a reference to the same term as used in the early 1900s to describe those who performed the less desirable jobs, which were typically physically demanding but not mentally stimulating. In this story, the first grunt to hear the term was unfamiliar with its history and instead took it as a compliment.
But, much like the term ‘POG,’ ‘grunt’ can also be thought of as an acronym. This origin story takes us back to the second World War when infantry united sustained extremely high casualty rates, forcing troops from rear-echelon units (often referred to as rear-echelon motherf*ckers or REMF) forward they were quickly trained, often in-theatre, to be foot soldiers. These troops were categorized as “General Replacement Unit, Not Trained,” or GRUNT.
Whichever piece of history you find to be more believable, the fact remains that infantry soldiers and Marines really do a lot of grunt work. These days, you might find infantrymen who have spent just as much time with a mop or broom than with their own rifles. Being just as accustomed to the smell of Pine-Sol as spent brass.
No matter the case, infantrymen tend to see their nickname as a compliment — unlike those uptight POGs.