One of the key reasons the Americans were so dominant over the Japanese in the Pacific Theater of World War II was the security of communications. The U.S. broke the Japanese code early on in the war. While the Japanese could have broken American military cyphers, as they did diplomatic codes before the war, they still wouldn’t have understood the language.
The reason is that those codes were in languages of American Indian tribes, limited to the U.S. and only spoken by members of those tribes. And I don’t know if you’ve ever met American Indians, but they are very, very pro-U.S. military — so good luck getting a code talker to reveal their secrets
The use of American Indian languages in U.S. forces’ communications safeguarded every American move. There aren’t many countries that could use that same style of code. It wasn’t just Navajo, though. Marines used Comanche and Lakota to communicate between units as well.
The United States isn’t the only country to have such obscure languages safeguarded by limited use, however. In the event of another major war outbreak, there are a few others that could be used in place of American Indian languages — in case the Russians and Chinese are wise to that tactic by now.
But the Russians have their own potential code languages, too.
There aren’t many languages like Finnish around. As it is, the language is a Uralic language, related only to Estonian and Hungarian — not one of its Scandinavian neighbors. Despite being derived from other languages in the area of the Ural Mountains, it’s unrelated to Russian. An offshoot of Finnish, Mansi, only has some 1,000 speakers left and would be an even better choice.
The Russians could implement this language as a basis for their own code, so it would behoove U.S. intelligence to learn it. Chechen is a very isolated language and there aren’t many expatriate populations speaking the language outside of the former Soviet Union. As it is, only 1.3 million people speak Chechen.
While the language of Ireland is an Indo-European language, it is currently only spoken by just over 73,000 native users.
This lonely language is spoken in a small area in the Pyrenees between France and Spain. As of 2016, there were roughly 750,000 speakers left and has no known language relatives. Marines actually did use this language to great effect during WWII.
Though Welsh is an official language in Wales and is widely known as a limited language, Welsh has been proven to be secure for use in combat in both the Falklands War and in Bosnia.
This indigenous language is spoken in parts of Ethiopia and has only 400 speakers — but Ethiopia has long been a dedicated American ally since World War II, volunteering troops for the Korean War, Global War on Terror, and today’s UN Peacekeeping operations.
The Civil War is cemented in history as the deadliest war fought on American soil. For four years, the Unioners of the North fought the Confederates of the South, hoping to dismantle the institution of slavery. This led to the loss of over 600,000 lives and, ultimately, the assassination of President Lincoln in 1865.
Thousands of Civil War books have been written since the first shot rang out in 1861. Though no single book can attempt to cover the endless tragedies or important events that occurred over those four years, the following works add valuable new perspectives to the narrative. Between fictionalized accounts and battle retellings to soldiers’ eye-opening diaries, this list will satisfy any Civil War history buff.
1. Dee Brown on the Civil War
By Dee Brown
This trilogy focuses on the some of the Civil War’s most influential but lesser-known figures. In Grierson’s Raid, aformer music teacher leads almost 2,000 Union troopers from Tennessee to Louisiana. Their attack diverts attention from General Grant’s crossing of the Mississippi—an instrumental distraction for the subsequent Siege of Vicksburg.
The Bold Cavaliers stars Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, whose cavalrymen wreak havoc on Alabama. Meanwhile, The Galvanized Yankees tells the widely unknown story of a group of captured Confederate soldiers. Faced with the prospect of serving time in a prison camp or in the Union Army, they choose the latter. When they’re tapped to guard outposts in the Western frontier, their experiences have profound effects on their own loyalties—and make for a fascinating Civil War story.
2. Battle Cry of Freedom
By James. M. McPherson
This Pulitzer Prize-winning book charts the period between the 1846 outbreak of the Mexican-American War to Robert E. Lee’s surrender in 1865. Author James McPherson examines the economic, political, and social factors that led to the Civil War, particularly how small, violent outbursts evolved into America’s deadliest war. Both sides believed they were fighting for freedom—though their definitions of this freedom differed greatly. With in-depth analyses of nearly every major event, Battle Cry of Freedom is an indispensable addition to any history buff’s collection.
3. The Civil War: A Narrative
By Shelby Foote
In the first book of Foote’s three-volume series, the author opens with Jefferson Davis’ resignation from the US Senate. The Democratic politician was destined for another, bigger role: the first presidency of the Confederate States. So begins an extensively researched account of the events—and war—that followed, which culminates in the Union’s victory four years later. Maps are a welcome addition to the narrative, providing useful visuals of important battle sites and travel routes.
4. Mary Chesnut’s Diary
By Mary Chesnut
A native of South Carolina, Mary Chesnut kept a detailed account of her life as an upper class woman during the Civil War. Though her husband was a senator and a Confederate officer, Mary secretly hated the institution of slavery. From her reflections on witnessing the first shots fired in Charleston to hearing parts of her husband’s meetings, Chesnut’s diary is one of the few complete firsthand accounts of the war written by a non-soldier.
5. For Cause and Comrades
By James M. McPherson
After countless bloody battles and widespread death, how did Civil War soldiers find the will to keep fighting? In For Case and Comrades, James McPherson explores what drove them—namely, their unshakeable belief in the necessity of their actions. For both sides, victory was worth everything.
McPherson analyzed over 250 diaries and 25,000 letters to truly understand the soldiers’ thought processes. He was shocked by their eloquence and honesty, and the frequency with which they wrote of their daily lives. Their writings reveal how they were not just hardened men of war—but brothers, sons, fathers, and husbands who simply wanted to go home with their dignity in tact. The result is a humanizing study of war, and of the men who fought unwaveringly for their ideals.
6. The Black Flower
By Howard Bahr
As a war veteran and novelist, Bahr was a master of well-paced, engaging Civil War fiction—and lucky for us, he wrote three books. The first installment in his Civil War trilogy is The Black Flower, a New York Times Notable Book. When a 26-year-old Confederate soldier is wounded, the bond he forms with a medic gives him hope for a brighter, post-war future.
The Year of Jubilo sees a similar hero: Gawain Harper, who only fights in the Confederate army to be with the woman he loves. His return home is not as charmed as he anticipated when he discovers the rebels’ plot to incite new warfare—which Gawain must stop.
In the final book, The Judas Field, Civil War veteran Cass accompanies a friend to Tennessee, where they’ll retrieve the bodies of her brother and father. As they pass through devastated Southern towns, Cass cannot escape his haunting memories of the battlefield. All three novels explore the violence of warfare, the endurance of hope, and the lengths to which men and women fought to return to their loved ones.
7. The North and South Trilogy
By John Jakes
In the trilogy that has sold millions of copies, John Jakes examines how war can disintegrate even the closest of bonds. While training at West Point, Southerner Orry Mains quickly befriends Northerner George Hazard. But when the Civil War places them on opposite sides of the battlefield, tensions reverberate through their relationship, their families, and the rest of Jakes’ bestselling trilogy. Part war story, part family drama, the books were adapted into a wildly popular miniseries starring Patrick Swayze and James Read.
8. Murder at Manassas
By Michael Kilian
With the Civil War still in its earliest days, Virginian Harrison Raines is torn between his abhorrence of slavery and his love for his home state. He is also in love with actress Caitlin Howard—though her affection for John Wilkes Booth (yes, that one) poses a serious threat. Raines’ personal dramas reach new heights when, after taking Caitlin to watch the Battle of Bull Run, he becomes embroiled in a murder mystery involving a wrongly-disgraced major. What ensues is a fast-paced whodunit full of rich historical detail and real-life figures like Abe Lincoln.
9. Cold Mountain
By Charles Frazier
Nothing, not even war, can prevent Inman from reaching his true love, Ada, in North Carolina. After being gravely wounded in battle, Inman deserts the Confederate army, determined to return to the woman he left behind. As he journeys across the ravaged American landscape, Ada struggles to restore her late father’s farm back to its former glory. But with only a few moments shared between them, have Inman and Ada pinned their hopes on a foolish dream?
Frazier’s National Book Award-winning novel is based on stories he heard from his great-great-grandfather as a child. Gorgeously written and unrelentingly heartbreaking, Cold Mountain is at once an unforgettable tale of war and a deeply moving love story.
10. The Killer Angels
By Michael Shaara
Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel recreates the bloodiest battle in American history: Gettysburg. Over the four days of fighting, countless men died—men with families, men with futures, men who might have done great things for the nation. Shaara imagines who these men, whether Northern or Southern, may have been.
Told through the perspectives of multiple historical figures, the story begins with a very confident Robert E. Lee as he and his troops travel to Pennsylvania. But instead of finding the victory they envisioned, Lee and his fellow Confederates are demoralized by the battle—and many know they’re unlikely to win the war, or even see its end.
11. Cain at Gettysburg
By Ralph Peters
Another Gettysburg-centered novel, Cain at Gettysburg is a fictional retelling of what is considered “the turning point of the Civil War.” It follows a misfit group of characters—including desperate generals, a German refugee, and an Irishman who fled the famine—as they fight for their cause, unsure of their futures. Compelling and jam-packed with action, Cain at Gettysburg is a fascinating tale of battle, bravery, and brotherhood that no lover of Civil War history should miss.
12. Gone with the Wind
By Margaret Mitchell
If you ever had access to the Turner Classic Movie channel, then you’ve probably heard of the film version of Gone with the Wind. But before Vivien Leigh starred as Scarlett O’Hara, there was Margaret Mitchell’s epic book, which offers a more detailed look at Georgia during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. At the center, of course, is Scarlett—a Southern belle and the daughter of a wealthy planter—who is forced to change her spoiled ways once war divides the country. Though her enduring relationship with Rhett Butler is considered one of the greatest love stories of all time, the novel is also one of the best portraits of the effects of war on a place and its people.
On Sept. 22, 1917, a British Lewis gun team was hit by an incoming German shell during the third Battle of Ypres, near Passchendaele, Harry Patch was a member of that team. He was blown away by the blast, but his other three teammates were completely vaporized. He never saw them again. Patch struggled for years to tell that story, which he finally did before he died in 2009.
At his death, the last British Tommy to see World War I combat was 111 years, one month, one week, and one day old.
A Canadian soldier tests out a Lewis Gun similar to the one Harry Patch worked in World War I.
With Patch went our collective connection to a bygone era. While other Great War veterans outlived Patch, Patch was the last among them to fight in the mud, the wet, the disease-ridden trenches of World War I’s Western Front. He was born in 1898 and drafted into the British Army at age 18. After a brief training period, Private Patch was sent to the Western Front with the other members of his Lewis Gun team during the winter of 1916. The next year is when the German artillery round hit his position and killed his friends.
Patch was still wounded and recovering by the time of the Armistice in November 1918. For the rest of his life, he considered September 22 to be his remembrance day, not November 11.
Patch with Victoria Cross recipient Johnson Beharry in 2008.
By the time World War II rolled around, Harry Patch was much too old to join the Army and served as a firefighter in the British city of Bath instead. Patch never discussed his wartime experiences with anyone, let alone journalists, so he declined interviews until 1998, when the BBC pointed out to him that the number of World War I veterans still alive was shrinking fast. His first appearance was World War I in Colour, where he recalled the first time he came face to face with an enemy soldier. He shot to wound the man, not kill him. Patch was not a fan of killing, even in warfare.
“Millions of men came to fight in this war and I find it incredible that I am the only one left,” he told the BBC in 2007.
Six pall-bearers from the 1st Battalion The Rifles bear the coffin of World War I veteran Harry Patch into Wells Cathedral in 2009.
Before his death, Harry Patch returned to the fields of Passchendaele where his three best friends met their end. He was going to once again meet a German, but this time there would be only handshakes. At age 106, Patch met Charles Kuentz, 107-year-old German World War I veteran who fought the British at Passchendaele. The two exchanged gifts and talked about the futility of war.
Patch wrote his memoirs at 107, to become the oldest author ever, and later watched as World War I-era planes dropped poppies over Somerset in memoriam to those who served. He died in 2009, aged 111 years, one month, one week, and one day. The bells of Wells Cathedral in Somerset were rung 111 times in his honor.
When people think of traveling 1,000 miles it often conjures thoughts of long, uncomfortable drives with kids shouting “are we there yet?” or perhaps of long lines waiting to get through airport security.
But what it almost certainly does not evoke is the thought of running those 1,000 miles.
The mere idea of running such a distance would seem crazy to most people. But it seemed like a great idea to Lt. Col. Daniel R. Hanson, Task Force Guardian Arizona Joint Staff, Arizona Army National Guard, and he decided to set out to accomplish it in one year.
For Hanson running 1,000 miles in a year was a chance to strive for a goal that would stretch his physical and mental limits.
“I believe if you are not setting goals that stretch you, you’re probably not setting those goals high enough,” said Hanson.
To reach for such a goal, Hanson would take the lessons he learned while attending the Senior War College.
Lt. Col. Daniel R. Hanson, Task Force Guardian Joint Staff, Arizona Army National Guard, stands with the shoes and race bib he wore when running the Revel Mt. Lemmon Marathon, along with the medal he earned for completing the race held in Tucson, Ariz. on Nov. 02, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Nicholas Moyte)
“In 2017 I accepted admission into the Senior War College,” said Hanson. “I had seen several of my friends and leaders come out of the school wrecked. It is very hard to keep a balanced life in that, and so I decided when I accepted Senior Service College that I was going to make sure I kept all my fitness’s in check.”
For Hanson, this simply means focusing on establishing and maintaining a balance between all aspects of his life.
“Try not to be over-focused,” said Hanson. “If our goals support other goals, all of our fitness’s, I think that we find that we have a much better experience in getting to those goals and accomplishing them.”
Running 1,000 miles in a year is difficult in the best of circumstances, but it would be nearly impossible without the support of his wife. Fortunately for Hanson, his wife was right beside him providing support, balance, and often a training partner.
“In my case, my spouse is very involved in my military life, and she’s very involved in my spiritual life, and she’s very involved in my physical life,” said Hanson. “We’d go places and we’d run together. We’d go places and we’d hike together. We find ways to make physical fitness not separate from each other.”
Lt. Col. Daniel R. Hanson, Task Force Guardian Arizona Joint Staff, Arizona Army National Guard, gestures to the camera as he runs the Revel Mt. Lemon marathon in Tucson, Ariz. on Nov. 02, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Nicholas Moyte)
Hanson also had the support of his Army Family to help bolster his efforts.
“I know my team out here, they would make sure that I would hydrate,” said Hanson. “They would make sure that I ate properly. They would support me and motivate me.”
As he approached the homestretch of his journey, the idea of running a marathon to complete his 1,000 miles began to gain traction in his mind. He also saw it as an opportunity to take another shot at a goal he had once reached for but fell short of grasping.
“I did a marathon in 2004 and I did not reach my goal of doing a less than 3 hour and 30-minute marathon,” said Hanson. “But this one here, as I was running I was kind of watching my splits and in the back of my mind, I knew I had not met my goal in 2004. I started to mention to my wife that my splits are getting close to Boston times.”
Hanson decided to complete his journey and pursue his secondary goal at the Revel Mt. Lemmon marathon held in Tucson, Ariz. on Nov. 02, 2019. As the marathon progressed, he knew he would complete his 1,000 miles and felt confident he would finally achieve the goal that eluded him in 2004.
“I would say I was pretty doggone focused,” said Hanson. “Certainly you’re feeling discomfort, but up until the point I started having debilitating cramps, I fully felt I was going to be able to accomplish my goal.”
Lt. Col. Daniel R. Hanson, Task Force Guardian Joint Staff, Arizona Army National Guard, returns the salute of Capt. Aaron Thacker, Public Affairs Officer In Charge, Arizona National Guard, at Papago Park Military Reservation in Phoenix, Ariz. on Nov. 07, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Nicholas Moyte)
Hanson would complete the marathon and reach 1,000 miles. However, despite his spirit willing him to keep going, his body would rebel and he would fall short of his secondary goal of a sub 3 hour and 25-minute marathon. He would cross the finish line with a time of 3 hours and 40 minutes, which would place him in the top 23% of all finishers.
“So, my goal was to be under 3 hours and 25 minutes,” said Hanson. “I think I was on pace to be under until mile 23. Somewhere in the 23rd is when the cramping started and I lost my pace.”
Failure to reach a goal, even if not the primary goal, is often enough for many people to avoid striving for difficult goals in the future. For Lt. Col. Hanson it is simply a confirmation that he is setting goals that will continually push him to expand his own limits.
“Not meeting a goal is a disappointment, but it’s only a setback,” said Hanson. “It’s a mentality thing. Although I felt like I failed, it’s just setting goals for yourself that are relevant to yourself that push you to the next level.”
And that disappointment is not enough to stop Hanson, it is just more motivation to keep chasing his white rabbit.
“There is a marathon here in Phoenix/Mesa in February,” said Hanson with a grin. “I think I can get it next time. I just need to tweak a couple of things.”
Amphibious warfare is the cornerstone of how the Marine Corps trains and fights. For Assault Amphibious Vehicle crewmen or Amtrackers as they are often identified, the role is critical and contributes immensely to the Marine Corps warfighting capability. “AAV crewman are the tip of the spear when it comes to amphibious operations,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Storman, instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command.
At AAS the curriculum is focused on training Marines in the military occupational field of an AAV crewmen, which entails learning the base knowledge of how to operate, fix and tactically employ an AAV.
U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Sarah Brewster, left, student, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, instructs the operator of an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) P7/A1 with hand-and-arm signals during ground guidance drills at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
The AAV crewmen course is 55 training days long. In the first phase of the course, Marines are taught how to drive an AAV on land. The second phase teaches the basics for water driving and the third phase teaches employment of the vehicle’s two weapon systems; the MK19 40 mm grenade launcher and the M2 .50 caliber machine gun. In the final portion of the course, students learn how the AAV compliments non-motorized infantry forces, and advanced amphibious assault tactics.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Storman, (center) platform instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, calls his students into a school circle at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
“We teach the students everything from starting the vehicle to all the components on the vehicle and what they are called,” said Storman. “We also teach them how to drive the AAV on land and on in the water. Finally, how to shoot the vehicle weapons and how to employ them tactically.”
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Matthew Carstensen, amphibious assault vehicle instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, inspects an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) P7/A1 prior to a ground guidance drill at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
Amphibious assault school’s instructors are hand-picked for being the best in their community, and because they possess increased levels of experience. The greatest advantage of this selection process is that it ensures their knowledge and expertise is passed to new students, and that the probability of continued success on the battlefield improves.
“Amtraking isn’t just about what you learn in the classroom, it’s about what you can come up with on the fly,” said Storman. “As an amtraker you have to be able to think on your feet. Come up with the best solution for the situation that is going to help you to complete the overall mission.”
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Storman, platform instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, teaches a class on the basic operations of an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) P7/A1 to pipeline student attending AAS at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
AAVs transport Marines from ship to shore and can move inland up to 200 miles supporting the infantry along the way with fire power and supply.
“The amtrak community is very prideful in what we do,” said Storman. “We are what makes the Marine Corps amphibious, and we believe that to the core of our soul. We take what we do very seriously and we are some of the hardest working Marines you will find.”
Storman said it is important to continue to pass AAV skills down to new Marines to keep the Marine Corps alive and fighting hard. Adding that the “ball needs to keep rolling,” and AAV crewman must keep applying their knowledge and skills now and with future amphibious vehicle technologies.
Breastfeeding moms who also work face plenty of challenges, from a lack of dedicated pumping areas to unsupportive supervisors and colleagues. Things can be even tougher if your job is as a member of the armed forces, as Robyn Roche-Paull learned firsthand.
Per Romper, Roche-Paull was in the Navy when she had her baby in the 1990s, an era in which there were no breastfeeding policies, no deployment deferments, and just six weeks of maternity leave. When she returned to work, she had no time or place to pump, and she resorted to using dirty, chemical-filled supply closets that often didn’t lock.
A female supervisor even told here that she was “making all the women look bad with me asking for time to pump every three to four hours.” Yikes.
“There were no books on this subject, and no one to talk to about the questions and struggles I was facing,” she recalls, so when she left the Navy in 1997 she decided to fix that. She became a lactation consultant and created a Facebook group to collect stories from military moms that eventually became a book, Breastfeeding in Combat Boots.
“The page was way more successful than I ever dreamed, which in turn made me realize that I could have a website with all this information freely available to the public.”
The project morphed into a non-profit organization, also called Breastfeeding in Combat Boots, that provides resources to moms struggling to breastfeed while enlisted.
“Being successful with breastfeeding is a challenge. They have to overcome not only cultural issues, but finding time and place to pump, how to ship milk home from overseas, travel, deployments, and possibly exposure to hazardous materials, not to mention maintaining weight and physical fitness standards.”
And just as importantly, it’s a supportive community that can help moms realize that it is possible to balance the obligations of military service and motherhood, often through simply sharing photos of breastfeeding or pumping in uniform.
“These are moms who have decided that serving their country — a sacrifice in itself — is very important, but so is making sure that their babies receive their breast milk even if that means shipping their milk home from Afghanistan for six months,” Roche-Paull says.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
A lot of accomplishments in the military get overlooked or rewarded with a couple metal baubles to be worn on the chest.
But sometimes, a man leads a couple of invasions and gets to keep his callsign for the rest of his life as a nickname, or someone leaves their job as a respected religious leader to become a major general known as “The Fighting Bishop.” Here are nine awesome nicknames bestowed on military badasses:
1. Gen. Jim “Chaos” Mattis
While many more people know retired Marine Corps general and current U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis as “Mad Dog,” that nickname was actually foisted upon him by the press, and he apparently doesn’t like it.
Navy Adm. Arleigh Burke — yeah, the guy those destroyers are named after — was ordered to shut down a major Japanese troop transfer near the end of the Solomon Islands Campaign. But Burke’s ships were in need of repair and the convoy couldn’t attempt to move at its top speed, 38 knots.
So Burke’s commander sent him orders that began, “THIRTY-ONE KNOT BURKE GET …” and Burke readily agreed, pushing his convoy task force to 31 knots and getting to the Japanese evacuation just in time to launch a skilled attack on Thanksgiving morning that sank three of the five Japanese ships.
3. Maj. Gen. Leonidas “The Fighting Bishop” Polk
The story of Leonidas Polk‘s nickname is pretty simple. He attended West Point, left the military for religious life, became a bishop, and then returned to the military as a Confederate general in the Civil War.
He was a bishop who fought in a war, and his men started calling him “The Fighting Bishop.”
British Pvt. Edwin Hughes had a pretty unfortunate nickname. He was one of the cavalrymen who took part in the ill-fated Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854. That famous charge took place in the Battle of Balaclava, and Hughes’ “friends” apparently thought he would want a constant reminder of the day that all of his friends died, because they gave him the nickname “Balaclava Ned.”
8. Sir Douglas “Butcher of the Somme” Haig
Sir Douglas Haig was the British Field Marshal in World War I, commanding the entire British Expeditionary Force. He was well-regarded by the British public immediately after the war, but there were lingering questions about whether his offensive tactics led to too many British casualties.
Joe Stilwell was one of America’s greatest generals in the 20th Century, rated higher than famous names like Patton and Bradley in a pre-war survey of military leadership. And Stilwell had a reputation for a mouth that would’ve made Patton blush, lots of curse words and colorful insults. That led to his nickname, “Vinegar Joe,” referring to how caustic his tongue was.
The US Marine Corps received its first CH-53K King Stallion on May 16, 2018, landing at Marine Corps Air Station New River in North Carolina, according to The Drive.
“[This is] the most powerful helicopter the United States has ever fielded,” CH-53 program chief Marine Col. Hank Vanderborght said in April 2018. “Not only the most powerful, the most modern and also the smartest.”
But it’s also the most expensive. With a price tag of about $144 million, it costs more than the F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter.
Still, the King Stallion can haul three times more than the helicopter it’s replacing, the CH-53E Super Stallion.
Here’s what it can do:
Engineered by Sikorsky, the CH-53K King Stallion made its first flight in 2015.
It’s also fitted with a glass cockpit, which basically means it has digital displays, for the four-man crew, as well as fourth generation high-efficiency composite rotor blades with swept anhedral tips.
The Criminal Investigation Command is often known as CID and its special agents carry CID badges. This is a tie to the unit’s history as the command was originally formed as the Criminal Investigation Division in 1918 by the commander of the American Expeditionary Force, Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing.
Agents from the CID go in anytime the Army is — or might have been — a party to a major crime. This includes violent crimes like murder and rape as well as white-collar infractions like computer fraud.
Approximately 2,000 soldiers are assigned to CID, 900 of which are special agents. These soldiers investigate the crime on their own or in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies. Agents can build cases, request arrest warrants, and detain suspects the same as other federal law enforcement officers.
The Army CID gives commanders an option for investigating major crimes on their installations or at deployed locations, but the agents do not fall under their installation’s chain of command. The CID units report up the chain to the CIC commanding general who, in turn, reports directly to the Army Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Army.
This allows CID agents to conduct their investigations with less fear of repercussions from senior leaders on base.
A U.S. Army reserve agent practices clearing a corner as part of responding to an active shooter training during Guardian Shield, Aug. 1, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Audrey Hayes)
During times of war, CID can be called upon to investigate war crimes. Massacres, the use of illegal weapons like chemical and biological agents, and many crimes against humanity would fall within their purview.
But CID agents do more than just investigate crimes. The 701st Military Police Group (CID) contains the U.S. Army Protective Services Battalion. The Protective Services Battalion is tasked with guarding key Army leaders, the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Staff.
They also provide security for other leaders when tasked, including the senior leaders of allied militaries.
Agents for all CID positions are recruited largely from within the Army, though there is a direct accessions program that allows civilian college graduates to join.
It’s not everyday you hear about an American rising through the ranks of a foreign army, at least not in the last century. But it was surprisingly recently that one American did in an army in just that way. A U.S. citizen rolled over to Armenia during its Nagorno-Karabakh War with neighboring Azerbaijan. He entered the Armenian army having never fought with an actual army and rose through the ranks to command a force of 4,000 men.
California-born Monte Melkonian’s training regimen looks like the resume of a radical terrorist or Communist. But while he held some leftist views, his experience came fighting only for the lives of Armenians – and when the time came, Armenia itself. If you ask Armenians, who today live in a parliamentary republic, he’s a hero.
In 1988, the breakaway Azerbaijani oblast (province) of Karabakh voted to join the vote to leave not just the crumbling Soviet Union, but also the new country of Azerbaijan. It declared the creation of a new state apart from the USSR while the autonomous oblast of Karabakh declared itself free of Azerbaijan, joining Armenia instead. After all, it did have a majority Armenian ethnic makeup. In 1992, things really hit the fan, and Armenia made decisive territorial gains. At the center of some of those gains was Monte Melkonian, an Armenian-American who had traveled to Armenia at the end of the USSR’s lifetime.
Armenians, after facing a genocide and forced exile from their homelands, are a proud and patriotic people, and Melkonian was no different. He believed that if Azerbaijan were allowed to force Nagorno-Karabakh back into Azerbaijan, then other parts of Armenia would be taken by the Azeri military forces. This was unacceptable to Melkonian, who joined the fighting in 1991. By early 1992, he was a regional commander and quickly began to turn the tides of the war in favor of Armenia.
The California native might have had little experience running an army, but he knew how to fight. As a youth, he helped overthrow the Shah of Iran while a student in Tehran. After witnessing Iranian troops firing on student protesters, he moved north where he learned to fight with the Kurdish Peshmerga, still one of the most effective fighting forces in the Middle East to this day. He then traveled to Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War to protect the Armenian Quarter of the Middle Eastern city from right-wing militants.
While in Beirut, he decided to work toward the independence of Armenia and after years of imprisonments and living underground in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, he found himself in Armenia’s disputed territory, leading thousands of men. His training at the hands of the Peshmerga and Palestinians was paying off as he not only pushed the Azerbaijani forces out of Karabakh in less than a year, he captured the region between Nagorno-Karabakh and the Republic of Armenia, unifying the two on the map.
Just two months later, he was dead.
Monte Melkonyan’s tomb.
The Armenian hero was killed in a firefight after Azerbaijani troops got lost in the dark and stumbled into his camp. He was given full military honors at his funeral and is interred outside the Armenian capital of Yerevan, where he is still revered as a legend and brilliant military strategist. His ability against the enemy combined with his political views and personal charisma means Armenians and historians remember him as a sort of Armenian Che Guevara.
He is still revered in his adopted homeland, and the Armenian Military Academy, as well as a number of villages, streets, and schools were renamed in his honor. Armenia still controls the areas captured by his forces, even if the borders are still disputed.
At a quick glance, the rules as outlined by the Geneva Conventions on which weapons are allowed (and disallowed) to be used in combat make little sense. The objective of combat is, ultimately, to put an enemy down so the conflict will end — and yet such killing must be done via the most humane means available.
Weapons like a nuclear ICBM are strongly condemned by the international community — but a depleted uranium tank buster round is fine. A Browning .50 caliber Machine Gun is entirely legal, but simply shaving a side of a bullet is a war crime. Incendiary grenades are banned, but (and it’s very explicitly stated) a flamethrower was permitted and often used during the Vietnam War.
So how, exactly, do the Geneva Conventions delineate what is and isn’t allowed when killing the enemy? It all boils down to two simple words: military necessity.
We follow the rules and keep war humane because we are not — nor shall we ever allow ourselves to become — the f*cking bad guys.
(UN International Criminal Tribunal)
This idea of the Conventions was to keep war as humane as possible, not just for the sake of civilians that may be in the area of operations, but for combatants. This is achieved by limiting the infliction of undue harm.
It’s understood that, by the very nature of combat, one side’s troop will be required to end the life of the other, but such killing doesn’t need to be sadistic or cruel. The previously-mentioned shaved bullet, or “dum-dum round,” is banned because, instead of entering the human body and either exiting or stopping, a dum-dum round ricochets around the organs, causing an extreme level of pain before ultimately killing via internal bleeding.
Human rights abuses can and will be tried by the UN.
(Photo by Ludovic Courtes)
Say the enemy is attacking troops from a positioned reinforced by armor. The troops in that position are allowed to use the lowest-level solution to counter enemy actions. Sure, an ICBM would technically get the job done, but that’s escalating the situation to an extreme level, putting civilians at unnecessary risk. Still, The troops something to punch through that armor, like a depleted uranium tank buster round.
It’s not quite as cut-and-dry as that, though. “Military necessity” accounts for what’s available at any given moment. If troops roll up in a vehicle outfitted with an M2 machine gun and terrorists open fire, troops aren’t required to fall back and find something a little less powerful than the .50 cal they have on hand.
That being said, the use of weapon, round, or weapon system must be carefully considered when there’s a chance civilians are in the area. After all, the objective of a given conflict is to stop the enemy by whatever means — not to harm innocents.
It’s also assumed that a flamethrower is only used on strictly military targets and that the troops ensure what they’re burning is indeed a military target.
(U.S. National Archives)
With those qualifying factors in mind, let’s consider a weapon like the flamethrower. Despite its reputation, this weapon wasn’t designed solely to roast the enemy alive. The flamethrower’s intended use is to clear out hard-to-reach tunnels and bunkers when sending in troops with only conventional means would likely result in their deaths. This same justification can be applied to thick forests or jungles.
It cannot, however,be used as the sole weapon of a troop, unless it is the only weapon on hand, and it cannot be used to specifically destroy the plant cover to prevent it from spreading, unless the plant cover is being used by the enemy as a military objective.
The aftermath of using a flamethrower isn’t something that can be controlled, so it’s highly discouraged, but not forbidden if used with caution.
With the U.S. Navy’s longest-range platform — aircraft carriers — maxing out at a range of about 550 miles, this means China could theoretically use the missiles to shut the U.S. out of a battle for the South China Sea.
But theories and lines drawn on paper won’t beat the U.S. military in a battle.
In pursuing the strategy of anti-access/area denial, known as A2AD, China assumes that the U.S. must launch aircraft from bases or aircraft carriers. But the F-35B, the U.S. Marine Corps’ variant of the most expensive weapons system of all time, doesn’t work that way.
“You can fly the F-35B literally anywhere,” David Berke, a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, told Business Insider. “If your traditional places of operation are unavailable” — perhaps because Chinese missile fire cratered them, a likely tactic in a war — “the F-35B can be there.”
By taking off in just a few hundred feet or so and landing from a vertical drop, the F-35B frees up the Marine Corps from worrying about large, obvious bases.
If China targets carriers, the U.S. won’t use carriers
Marines have been training for this operating concept in the Pacific as well. In mid-January 2018, they landed an F-35B on a sloped platform, showing that future pilots could land their plane almost anywhere.
Throughout last year, F-35B crews trained on tactics like “hot loading” and “hot refueling,” which aims to turn reloading the F-35 — usually an affair that takes time, space, and a massive air base to support — into the equivalent of a NASCAR pit stop.
For the F-35B, the ground crew runs up to the jet while it’s still running to pump more fuel and load more bombs. In just a few minutes, atop a dirt floor with minimal support infrastructure in an improvised location China’s missiles won’t know to hit, the F-35B can take off again.
“Find me 600 feet of flat surface anywhere in the world, and I can land there,” said Berke, who compared the F-35B to the A-10 “Warthog,” the U.S. Air Force flying gun famous for its ability to land on dirt roads and fight on despite getting roughed up.
So while China has focused on pushing back the U.S.’s aircraft-carrier-bound fleets of F-18s, the Marines have cooked up a new strategy involving smaller carriers, like the USS Wasp, and heavy-lifting, quick-flying helicopters for support. Using the V-22 Osprey’s and the CH-53’s extreme-lifting capability, Marines could set up makeshift bases inside China’s supposed A2AD bubble.
From there, the stealth F-35Bs could take out the threats keeping the carriers at bay, poking holes in that bubble.
“If you’re looking at warfare two-dimensionally, you’re looking at it wrong,” Berke, a former F-35 squadron commander, said of the A2AD concept. “You don’t beat me in a boxing match ’cause your arms are longer than mine.”
The U.S. is sending the F-35B to the Pacific ASAP
The U.S.’s faith in the F-35B’s ability to shake up the balance of power in the Pacific is evident in recent deployments. The first outside the U.S. was in Japan.
“You’re about to put for the first time ever fifth-generation fighters on a ship at sea and put it into a highly contested area that is fraught with geopolitical risk and controversy and tensions,” Berke said.
“The implications of a fifth-generation airplane being in [the Pacific] is impossible to overstate,” he added. “They’re going to provide capability that nobody knows exists yet.”
As soon as Shawn Campbell saw his name on a plaque next to a statue sunken 40 feet on the seafloor, the memories of soldiers he had once served with flooded his mind.
The life-size statue, one of a dozen concrete figures that make up the nation’s only underwater veterans memorial, depicted a soldier wearing combat gear from the Iraq War — a war he had fought in three separate times.
“It really took my breath away,” said the former staff sergeant, now a master diver at a Florida dive shop. “It was a huge honor.”
His company made a donation to place his name at the base of the statue before the figures were recently installed about 10 miles off the coast of Clearwater, Florida.
The memorial, called Circle of Heroes, honors the entire military with statues portraying a variety of service members in what organizers hope will serve as a therapeutic dive for veterans and a unique diving experience for all.
Plans call for an additional 12 statues to be added to the memorial next year.
Circle of Heroes is the nation’s only memorial of its kind and will eventually have 24 life-size statues depicting troops from all services.
(Circle of Heroes)
For Campbell, who served about a decade in the Army as a combat medic, he said the memorial helped him remember those who never returned home and those who struggled once they did.
“I had a lot of friends who didn’t make it back,” he said Aug.12, 2019, a week after the memorial officially opened. “And even more who did make it back, but then couldn’t win the battle with themselves after the war.”
One such friend was Staff Sgt. Victor Cota. He and Campbell had been in the same 4th Infantry Division unit that provided security for senior leaders traveling in and around Baghdad.
On May 14, 2008, Cota’s vehicle hit a roadside bomb, killing the 33-year-old Tucson, Arizona, native.
“He was a really good friend of mine,” Campbell said. “We lost him during [my] second deployment.”
In 2013, Campbell left the Army to finish his associate’s degree and then worked as a commercial deep sea diver. He now teaches courses at a dive shop in the Tampa area, where he grew up.
Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, looks at his name on a plaque next to one of the statues at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.
(Video still by Bill Mills)
“I was like, well, if I survived the war, I’m going to start doing everything I want to do now,” he said.
Campbell said scuba diving is a relaxing activity that calms his post-traumatic stress and gives him time to analyze his thoughts in peace.
“It helps me deal with things,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to have a bad day when you’re underwater and you get to reflect upon yourself.”
Former Staff Sgt. Jace Badia, also a diving instructor, agreed, saying the sport gives him more freedom of movement.
Badia, an infantryman who lost his left leg above the knee to a roadside bomb in Iraq, said he and others who have had amputated limbs can move however they like while floating below the surface.
He even knows a blind veteran who enjoys scuba diving.
“If you don’t have the ability to run because of prosthetics, you can get in the water with a tank and you can swim as fast as you want,” he said. “Nothing is stopping you.”
Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, had a statue dedicated to him at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.
Badia, who manned a boat so other wounded veterans could dive around the memorial last week, said he is looking forward to seeing it soon in an upcoming dive.
“I can’t believe that they finally made an underwater memorial for [service members],” he said. “That’s amazing, I never even thought that was possible.”
While memorials are typically above ground, this one can allow visitors to connect to it on a deeper level. There is even a nonprofit that specifically takes wounded veterans to the site as an alternative form of therapy.
“The one thing about scuba diving is when you’re down there, even if you’re in a group, you’re still by yourself,” Campbell said. “You have no choice but to reflect on what you’re looking at.
“It’s more of a serene experience that you never get an opportunity to experience above the water.”