When did having a prisoner's last meal be anything they want start? - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?

If you happen to ever find yourself slated to have society as a whole decide it would be best if they killed you, the silver lining is that in many parts of the world where this is still a thing, the last meal you ever eat is likely to be significantly better than the ones you’ve been consuming up to that point in prison. So how did this rather odd meal tradition come about and is it actually true death row inmates can get anything they want to eat?


To begin with, while it’s commonly stated that the whole idea of the last meal request came about due to Christ’s famed last supper, there doesn’t seem to be any direct evidence of this.

So how did the tradition actually start?

While history is absolutely littered with various cultures having feasts associated with death, such as the public feast for Roman gladiators the night before their potential date with death, called the coena libera, it wouldn’t be until slightly more modern times where we start seeing those being executed widely granted such a courtesy en masse. Once this did start to become a thing, in the early going, while wealthy individuals slated for execution, as ever, could generally request whatever they wanted any time, and were even often allowed servants to attend them as they awaited their execution, common things granted to the poor before their execution seem to have been at best a swig of some alcohol or the like.

Things began to pick up steam considerably on this front around the 16th century, however. Or, at least, things appear to have. It is entirely possible that such courtesies were widely granted before this to even the poor, with documented evidence of it simply not surviving. On that note, things like the printing press’ invention in the 15th century began making documented history of rather mundane events like the executions of random Joe Citizens more, well, documented. Thus, it may or may not be coincidence that accounts of such courtesies started to pop up more and more around the 16th century and progressing from there.

Whatever the case, by the 18th century, particularly in places like England, such practices were definitely around and relatively common. For example, in London it was common to allow the condemned to enjoy a meal with various guests, generally including the executioner, on the eve of the execution. Further, there is record of Newgate Prison death row inmates being allowed to stop at a pub on their march to their death at the Tyburn Fair gallows. At the pub, they would typically share drinks with their guards and executioner.

Over in Germany, perhaps the best documented case of the food practice around this time was that of Susanna Margarethe Brandt of Frankfurt. On January 14, 1772, Brandt, a poor servant girl, was executed for allegedly killing her newborn child. Eight months before this murder, she’d become pregnant by a journeyman goldsmith who she never saw again after they had sex. She subsequently successfully hid her pregnancy all the way to the eighth month when she gave birth secretly and alone in a laundry room on August 1, 1771. Unfortunately, when the baby came out, whether because newborn babies are insanely slippery or she just failed to realize it was about to drop, it fell from her and smacked its head against the stone floor. The child then, according to her, wheezed momentarily and then ceased to breathe. Brandt subsequently panicked, hid the baby in a stable and fled the scene. However, having no money or means to support herself, the next day she returned to Frankfurt where she was eventually arrested for murdering the child. Whether she did or not, and even if it would have survived anyway given it was premature, is a matter of debate even today, but she was nonetheless convicted of the murder and sentenced to death.

Shortly before her execution, however, she was the guest of honor at what has been dubbed the “Hangman’s Meal”- a rather large feast prepared for the condemned and various officials who had condemned her. If you’re curious, the meal in this case supposedly was “three pounds of fried sausages, ten pounds of beef, six pounds of baked carp, twelve pounds of larded roast veal, soup, cabbage, bread, a sweet, and eight and a half measures of 1748 wine.” Of course, the young Susanna reportedly ate none of it, merely drinking a little water as the officials feasted around her. Not long after, her head was lopped off.

Moving over to the United States where the idea of the “last meal” is perhaps best known today, it would appear this tradition did not initially jump across the pond when Europeans began setting in the Americas. Or, at least, surviving accounts of executions don’t seem to mention such courtesies, with some exceptions usually having to do with drink or something to smoke. For example, in 1835, the New York Sun reported shortly before his execution, murderer Manuel Fernandez requested and was granted a bit of brandy and some cigars, courtesy of the warden at Bellevue prison.

As the 19th century progressed, this sort of thing became more and more reported, as did eventually the practice of granting last meal requests, which by the early 20th century became quite common.

This all leads us to why. Well, as far as more historic cases, such as the early known instances in Europe, it’s generally hypothesized that people did it as a way for officials and executioners to more or less say to the prisoners “We’re going to kill you, but it’s nothing personal.” In essence, offering a bit of kindness to the condemned before their death with the prisoners themselves seemingly appreciating the courtesy, at least when it came to the alcohol.

On that note, it’s widely reported from this that the practice was instituted as a way to ensure the ghosts of the executed would feel friendly towards their condemners and executioners and thus not come back and haunt them, but we couldn’t find any primary documentation backing such a notion.

Whether that’s true or not, moving on to more modern times, the underlying reason why prison officials started doing this is not any better documented and there doesn’t ever seem to have been any laws requiring it, for instance. It’s just something people did on their own and the idea spread, presumably thanks to the media’s then love of reporting everything about the last hours of those being executed, and the general public eating it up across the nation.

Whatever the case, law professor Sarah Gerwig-Moore, co-author of Cold (Comfort?) Food: The Significance of Last Meal Rituals in the United States, posits of all this,

Last meals may be an offering by the guards and prison administrators as a way of seeking forgiveness for the impending execution, signaling that ‘it’s nothing personal.’… There are standard operating procedures that put up a wall between guards and prisoners, but nevertheless, there is a fondness between them… The last meal as a tradition is really a way of showing humanity between the caregivers of people on death row who are completely powerless and who come to care about these people — they feel complicit, and conflicted. The last meal is a way to offer, in a very, very small way, a show of kindness and generosity.

On this point, she also notes from her research, “The most generous meals correlate to the states that execute the most people — except for Texas…”

Texas, of course, having executed about 1,300 people in the last two centuries and trending the opposite of everyone else- actually increasing the number of executions in recent decades. For reference here, they’ve conducted 562 executions (almost half their couple century total) since 1982- apparently doing their best to adhere to the supposed 13th century Papal decree at the Massacre at Béziers, “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.” This translates to, “Kill them. For the Lord knows those that are His own.” Or to put it in the form that is apparently Texas’ state motto- “Kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out.” (Joking asside, Texas’ state motto is actually the single word- “friendship”, owing to the fact that the name of the state derives from the Caddo word for “friends” or “allies”.)

On the note of Texas, last meals, and being friendly, in 2011 Senator John Whitmire very publicly pushed for an ultimately got the special meal requests for those about to be executed abolished, at least officially. He noted of this, “It is extremely inappropriate to give a person sentenced to death such a privilege… enough is enough… If you’re fixing to execute someone under the laws of the state because of the hideous crime that someone has committed, I’m not looking to comfort him… He didn’t give his victim any comfort or a choice of last meal.”

That said, proponents on the other side of that argument generally state that part of the point of offering such courtesies is to demonstrate that while the state is killing someone on behalf and with the express consent of the public as a whole, if it’s not done in a humane way, the public and the state are no better than the person being killed. As Professor Kathy Zambrana of the University of Florida sums up, “It comes down to how do you treat one human being when you’re about to take someone’s life.”

History professor Daniel LaChance of Emory University further chimes in, “These last meals — and last words — show the state is democratic and respects individuality even as it’s holding people accountable. As horrible as the deed they’ve been convicted of [is], the person still has some kind of dignity that we’re acknowledging.”

As to what drew the ire of Senator Whitmire to come against the then almost century old Texas tradition of the last meal, it was the meal request of death row inmate Lawrence Russel Brewer, who was sentenced to death for taking part in the rather horrific and senseless racially motivated murder of James Byrd Jr in 1998. So what did Brewer ask for? A couple chicken fried steaks, a triple decker bacon cheeseburger, a beef and cheese omelet, fried okra, a full pound of BBQ, a half loaf of bread, three fajitas, and a meat lover’s pizza. For dessert, he requested a container of Blue Bell ice cream and peanut-butter fudge. To wash it all down, he asked for three root beers.

When the time came, however, he ultimately ate nothing.

This all brings us to whether inmates can actually request and receive basically anything they want. While the media widely reports this is the case, including with this specific example of Brewer, this isn’t correct at all. In fact, in the vast majority of cases where inmates request something elaborate like this, what they actually get is just a simple, one-person version of it.

As famed “death row chef” Brian Price, who prepared well over 100 such meals, states, “The local newspaper would always say they got 24 tacos and 12 enchiladas, but they would actually get four tacos and two enchiladas… They only get items in the commissary kitchen. If they order lobster, they get a piece of frozen pollack. They quit serving steaks in 1994. If they order 100 tacos, they get two or three.”

That said other states and prisons sometimes do it differently. For example, in nearby Oklahoma, they allow the meal to be purchased from a local restaurant if desired, though capping it at … Other states that allow similar, such as Florida, are more generous, allowing for a budget of .

Of course, as you might have guessed from all we’ve said so far, those actually involved in making or acquiring the last meal may or may not pitch in if they so choose to go beyond. For example, in Cottonport, Louisiana, when one unnamed death row inmate requested lobster, the warden at the Angola prison, Burl Cain, went ahead and paid for a full lobster dinner, with Cain then dining with the inmate. You see, much like many historical instances of this sort of thing, before Cain’s recent retirement, he would always extend an invitation to the condemned to have their last meal with him and sometimes other select guests.

Of course, as with Susanna Brandt and Lawrence Brewer, it’s quite common for death row inmates to forgo eating their “last meal”, as the whole impending death thing generally leaves many without an appetite. To try to get around the problem, the so-called last meal is sometimes not actually the last meal at all, with it generally designated the “special meal” by prison officials. Even when it is literally the person’s last meal, it is usually scheduled far enough ahead that they might still be able to eat, but not so far away that they’ll have to go an extended time without eating before their execution. For example, in Virginia the rule is the meal must be served at least four hours before the execution. In Indiana, they go even further with the special meal often coming a few days before the big show, in a time when the person can actually enjoy it on some level.

For those who don’t have an appetite, they often share. For example, in places like Florida, in certain cases family or friends may be allowed to enjoy the meal with the condemned. Some inmates instead donate it to others. For example, in 1951, Raymond Fernandez, one of the “Lonely Hearts Killers” along with his lady love Martha Jule Beck, made a request that his meal be given to another inmate to enjoy.

On a similar note, in the early decades of this tradition in Texas, it was relatively common for the condemned to order and be given large portions of food for their special meal precisely so they could have enough to share with every other inmate on death row in the prison. This extra food request was usually honored by prison officials because it was seen not just as a mercy, but something that helped keep all those on death row in line directly before executions.

That said, not all inmates have trouble eating. Perhaps the most famous case of this was murderer Rickey Ray Rector. After committing two rather senseless murders, he attempted to kill himself by shooting himself in the head. However, he ended up living through the ordeal owing to shooting himself in the temple- a common way to kill one’s self in the movies, but in reality very survivable if medical aid is nearby, with the person effectively having just given themselves a lobotomy.

Despite his rather deficient mental faculties as a result of the whole bullet through the brain thing, Rector was controversially sentenced to death. The issue became even more of a media sensation after the fact when it was learned that while he happily ate his last meal, he chose not to eat the pecan pie that he got with it. Why? He told the guards he was “saving it for later.”

Once again showing the humanity of the guards involved, they went ahead and saved the piece of pie just in case there was a last minute stay of execution.

This all brings us to what prisoners actually usually request for their last meal. While exact fare is rather diverse (for example in one case a person simply requested a “jar of pickles” according to the aforementioned Brian Price), if categorizing this into groups, it often comes down to either things you’d find at McDonald’s or KFC (or literally McDonald’s or KFC meals in many cases), something fancy, or a favorite home cooked meal from the person’s childhood or the like.

As for the first two categories there, it’s noted that the vast majority of death row inmates come from rather impoverished backgrounds, and thus often go with favorite food items they are accustomed to and haven’t gotten while in prison- things like fried chicken, cheeseburgers, french fries, and soda, or the like. That said, some go the other way, picking foods they couldn’t really afford when in the land of the free, or may have never even tried at all, like lobster or filet mignon. As for favorite home cooked meals, the aforementioned Brian Price states when he prepared these meals, he always did his best to make it just as the inmate described, or even potentially getting a specific recipe from the condemned’s loved ones.

Regardless of what camp one goes with, some choose their last meal not on what they necessarily intend to eat, but rather to make a statement.

As for such statements, going back in time a bit in 1963, murderer Victor Feguer requested nothing more than a single solitary unpitted olive for his last meal. He then requested the seed be buried with him in the hopes that it would grow an olive tree as a symbol of peace and rebirth.

On a similar note, one Jonathan Wayne Nobles, who apparently had been on drugs since he was 8 years old living in foster homes, as an adult murdered two women while high on a cocktail of substances. In prison, however, he got off the drugs and became a devout Catholic and, not just model inmate, but model person. As one example, at one point he attempted to save the life of a random woman he heard about who was dying from kidney failure. However, while he did successfully find a doctor willing to perform the procedure to take one of his kidneys out and give it to the woman, it ultimately turned out the pair were did not have matching blood types and the woman died. Doubling down, Nobles later attempted to have all his organs donated after his execution, but this request was denied as Texas did not allow death row inmates to donate their organs. Going back to his last meal request, he simply asked for the Eucharist (communion).

To end on a lighter note- well… relatively speaking…- in the 1940s Wilson De la Roi, who murdered a man while in prison, was slated to be killed via a somewhat newly minted poison gas chamber in San Quentin. When asked what he wanted for his last meal, he merely requested a bunch of indigestion tablets. When asked why, he stated that he felt sure he was soon to have rather severe case of gas…

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is Russia’s airborne combat armored vehicle

Paratroopers are a force to be reckoned with. They can slip far behind enemy lines and wreak havoc against an enemy’s support units, making life easier for those in the main assault and striking fear into those who assumed they were safely behind defenses. What’s worse (for the enemy), after the initial airborne assault, you’re left with the famous “little groups of paratroopers” — small pockets of young men brave enough to jump out of an airplane, all armed to the teeth, ready to defend themselves, and devoid of supervision.

But for as daring and lethal as paratroopers are, they’re still, essentially, light infantry once they hit the ground. Light infantry can do a lot of things, but when they’re tasked with hitting prepared positions or facing off against enemy tanks, they tend to take heavy casualties.

So, how do you reinforce troops that drop from the sky? You drop armor out of the sky, too.


When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?

The BMD-1 was the Soviets’ answer to the question of bringing armored support to their paratroopers.

(DOD)

In 1965, the Russians began designing an infantry fighting vehicle that could be air-dropped. Eventually, this came to be known as the BMD-1. BMD stands for Boyevaya Mashina Desanta or, in English, “airborne combat vehicle.”

The BMD-1 packs some impressive firepower: it uses the same turret as the BMP-1, packing a 73mm gun, a launcher for the AT-3 Sagger missile, a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun, and a bow-mounted 7.62mm machine gun. This vehicle has a crew of two and carries five infantry. It has a top speed of 40 miles per hour and can go a little over 370 miles on a tank of gas.

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?

The BMD-1 was widely exported. Saddam Hussein’s regime was one of the purchasers.

(USMC photo by LCPL Andrew P. Roufs)

Unlike its American contemporary, the M551 Sheridan, a vehicle designed to support American paratroopers in similar ways, the BMD was exported to a number of Soviet clients. The BMD saw action in the Angolan Civil War, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Iran-Iraq War, Desert Storm, and fought in the Second Chechen War and the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.

Learn more about this 7.5-ton hunk of metal that’s designed to be dropped from the sky in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiWi5ChNAxg

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY MONEY

Deadline to transfer GI Bill benefits coming this July

Soldiers with over 16 years of service who want to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill to a dependent must do so before July 12, 2019, or risk losing the ability to transfer education benefits.

Last year, the Department of Defense implemented a new Post-9/11 GI Bill Transfer of Education Benefits, or TEB, eligibility requirement, which instituted a “six- to 16-year cutoff rule,” said Master Sgt. Gerardo T. Godinez, senior Army retention operations NCO with Army G-1.

Further, soldiers who want to transfer their education entitlement must have at least six years of service, he said. All soldiers must commit to an additional four years of service to transfer their GI Bill.


However, soldiers who are currently going through the medical evaluation board process cannot transfer GI Bill benefits until they are found fit for duty under the new DOD policy.

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?

(U.S. Army photo)


“For Purple Heart recipients, [all] these rules do not apply,” Godinez said.

Prior to the new policy, there were no restrictions on when a soldier could transfer their education benefits.

Since 2009, over 1 million soldiers have transferred their GI Bill benefits, Godinez said.

“To transfer their GI Bill, soldiers have to go into milConnect website, login with their common access card, then select the tab there that talks about the transfer education benefits,” Godinez said.

If a soldier needs additional help, they can visit their installation’s service and career, or education counselors. In July 2019, the new rules will be in effect and those soldiers with more than 16 years of service will not be eligible to transfer education benefits.

“Soldiers need to [review this benefit] to make an educated decision,” he said.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

popular

How to earn a free certificate in piracy using your GI Bill benefits

Avast! America is suffering from two major trends that could adversely affect its future for years to come: an obesity epidemic and a lack of skilled trades. While the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) may not have intended for one of its certificate programs to tackle both issues, it’s likely that its piracy certificate offering could do the trick. 

For veterans, this also means that they can earn this certificate for free, using the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits they earned during their service, along with any other veterans benefits offered by the school. 

MIT, the esteemed Cambridge, Massachusetts institute that brought the world such notable alumni as Kofi Annan, Buzz Aldrin and Dolph Lundren, along with 95 Nobel Prize winners and other notables, wanted to offer its student body a little something extra for those students’ bodies. 

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?
Who says a serious school can’t have a serious sense of humor? (MIT Physical Education & Wellness Office, Facebook)

In 2011, the school instituted a new physical fitness regimen for the fall semester designed to encourage more physical activities in student schedules. It may have been the first direct assault on the “Freshman 15” in modern academic history. 

Any student at MIT who completes all four specified courses in archery, fencing, pistol/rifle shooting, and sailing will be rewarded with a pirate certificate from the school.  They physical education department holds regular “pirate induction days” with undergraduate and graduate students who often dress up for the occasion.

The MIT pirate certificate isn’t just another piece of paper to be mounted on a wall and forgotten about. True to the romanticism of old-time pirate lore, the certificate of piracy is presented on a piece of faux-parchment paper, and reads:

“This document certifies that the below-mentioned salty dog has fulfilled the Physical Education General Institute Requirement by completing Archery, Fencing, Pistol and Sailing [and] therefore is no longer a lily-livered landlubber. And so, MIT Physical Education Confers upon [STUDENT’S NAME] The Pirate Certificate, with all its privileges and obligations. Given at the swashbucklin’ Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ahoy, Avast and finally, Arrrrrr!”

Huzzah! Nothing like some archery to combat the stress of midterms. (MIT Physical Education & Wellness Office, Facebook)

The “pirate’s license,” according to one former MIT student, began as a goof between some members of the student body, but was soon embraced officially by the school after numerous requests from students to do so. 

Aside from Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Nobel laureate alumni, the department of piracy can now boast actor Matt Damon as one of its notable alums. He was awarded the certificate as a commencement speaker in 2016. 

Veterans who want to attend MIT can do that by applying and enrolling like any other student, but the school will help guide you through the process of applying for veterans benefits like the Post-9/11 GI Bill and military tuition assistance, for those still on active duty.

Since the piracy certificate is open and available to graduate students and undergraduate students alike, those seeking a Master’s-level education can also get help from MIT in applying for benefits. 

MIT’s graduate programs are a partner in the Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program, in which the school volunteers to contribute up to 50% of student expenses as the VA matches the same amount. It’s free, it’s fun and there’s plenty of plunder for the plucky pirate in today’s global economy, so there’s no reason not to enroll now.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Army will revolutionize long-range precision fires

In kick-starting its efforts to prepare for future high-end conflicts, in late 2017, the U.S. Army identified six modernization priorities: Long-Range Precision Fires, Next Generation Combat Vehicles, Future Vertical Lift, the Network, Air and Missile Defense, and Soldier Lethality. To support this plan, the Army stood up Cross-Functional Teams (CFTs) for each of these areas focused on speeding up the process of developing requirements and ensuring that the programs in each of these areas are achievable, affordable and effective. The bulk of the Army’s Science and Technology resources were refocused on these six priorities.


But not all priorities are equal. In recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Army Secretary Mark Esper revealed that Long-Range Precision Fires (LRPF) is his service’s top priority. The criticality of LRPF to the future of the Army’s future ability to dominate in a high-end conflict was made clear by Brigadier General Stephen Maranian, the leader of the CFT for long-range fires:

The Army has got to modernize our surface-to-surface fire capabilities at echelon to guarantee that we have clear overmatch in the close fight, in the deep fight, in the strategic fight. If we are unable to do that we will not be able to do for the joint force what it is that surface-to-surface fires do; which is to open those windows of opportunities to allow our joint and Army aviation forces to exploit deep.

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?
German soldiers assigned to Surface Air and Missile Defense Wing 1 fire the Patriot weapons system at the NATO Missile Firing Installation.

Creating overmatch in long-range fire is about more than merely increasing the range of artillery and surface-to-surface rockets and missiles. Dr. Thomas Russell, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology, defined the key elements of a plan for LRPF: “The Army’s top modernization priority is to regain dominance in artillery and missile system range, lethality, and target acquisition with respect to strategic competitors.” Success in these areas could well return the artillery to its erstwhile status of queen of the battlefield.

Currently, the Army has a multi-phased program designed to first improve and then transform the capabilities of its artillery, rocket and missile systems. The need for volume fires, particularly in the close battle, makes it vitally important to modernize the Army’s artillery systems.

In the near-term, this means increasing the supply of precision rounds such as Excalibur and providing jamming-resistant precision-guidance kits for 155 mm artillery projectiles. It also requires the rapid completion of the program to upgrade the Army’s fleet of Paladin self-propelled howitzers.

The Army should consider ways of expanding its inventory of mobile artillery tubes, regardless of what kinds of rounds they fire. One option is to equip infantry and Stryker brigade combat teams with the Hawkeye, a version of the widely deployed Humvee, carrying a modified version of the M20 105 mm howitzer designed by the Mandus Group.

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?
Humvee-Mounted Howitzer

The Army hopes that by the early 2020s it can substantially increase both the range and lethality of tube artillery with the Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) program involving the Army’s Picatinny and Watervliet Arsenals. ERCA involves both a new projectile, the rocket-assisted XM1113 and a longer barrel for existing 155mm artillery pieces.

Together these improvements could increase the system’s range to as much as 70 km. The Navy has a program, the Multi Service-Standard Guided Projectile (MS-SGP), which is expected to extend the range of five-inch naval guns and Army and Marine Corps 155 mm howitzers out to a range similar to that of the ERCA.

For the longer-term, the Army is looking at the possibilities for land-based extremely high-velocity artillery systems. There are several paths being explored including hypervelocity or ramjet rounds fired from ERCA artillery or a rail gun. Not only would such systems fire shells out to ranges of 100 km or more, but their high velocities also make them potential candidates for engaging air-breathing and even short-range ballistic targets.

With respect to guided rockets and missiles in the near-term, the Army is seeking an extended range variant of its currently deployed, highly effective Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) that would provide an area strike capability out to 150 km. This would cover some of the targets now the responsibility of the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) which has a range of up to 300 km. The Army is considering upgrading the ATACMS with a new seeker and warhead thereby expanding its capabilities to include a land-based anti-ship capability.

Finally, the Army has initiated the Precision Strike Missile (PRSM) program as a longer-range replacement for the ATACMS. The desire is for a missile smaller than the ATACMs so that two can be carried in a single GMLRS launch cell but with a range approaching 500 km and a precision targeting capability.

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?
The Army’s new Long-Range Precision Fires modernization effort is looking at how to increase the range of cannon artillery among a variety of other efforts.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Gabrielle Weaver)

The Army is currently planning to test prototype PRSMs designed by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin in 2019 with plans to deploy an initial version in the mid-2020s. There have been suggestions that a PRSM program also will look at longer-range options, so-called strategic fires, in the event the U.S. withdraws from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

An issue the Army needs to address is the high-quality targeting information needed by these new long-range, precision strike systems. The Air Force wants to cancel the Joint Surveillance Targeting Attack Radar replacement program. Neither the Air Force nor the Army has an unmanned aerial vehicle that can survive in a high threat air defense environment. It makes no sense to develop long-range fires that can strike deep if the Army cannot see that far.

The Army vision for LRPF would fundamentally transform land-based fires and counter Russian and Chinese efforts to achieve dominance in indirect fires. The question is how rapidly the Army can implement this vision. While the CFT is suggesting that new capabilities could be rolled out in as little as five years, the Army is only asking for $1.6 billion over the Future Years Defense Program for its number one modernization priority, well below the amounts requested for next-generation combat vehicles or improvements to the network. One way to save money is by speeding up the acquisition process.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS is now fighting US Marines head-on in Syria

U.S. Marines, attached to special operations forces in Syria, often found themselves in direct-fire gunfights with Islamic State fighters early 2018, according to the commander of the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response for Central Command.

The unit, designed with capability to launch combat forces within six hours anywhere in the CENTCOM theater, sent two rifle companies to support Special Operations Command units operating in Northern Syria between January and April 2018, Marine Col. Christopher Gideons, commander of the task force, said June 8, 2018, at the Potomac Institute.


“When Marines deploy, they want to get involved,” he said. “When there is a gunfight out there … they want to find that opportunity to feel like they are making a meaningful contribution. We did exactly that.”

Gideons initially deployed a platoon-size element that linked up with Army Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) teams.

“They were integrated with [special operations forces], absolutely integrated. We were providing Marine infantry, we were providing indirect fires, and we were providing anti-tank fires,” he said.

The SOF elements would push forward, advising Syrian Democratic Forces, “the ones that were primarily engaged in the direct firefights with ISIS,” Gideons said.

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?

“You would have Marines integrated with those ODAs … providing fires down at that lower tactical level,” he said.

During its 243-day deployment, the unit had to conduct several “rapid planning processes” to deploy forces on short notice, he added.

Over time, more support was needed in Syria, so Gideons deployed more Marines to grow the platoon-size element to “two infantry [companies minus]” that were located in two separate locations in Northern Syria.

“We anticipated that that requirement would grow with a need for Marine Corps capabilities, and it did,” he said.

Soon the fighting intensified.

“On a number of different occasions, there would be various engagements, some direct, some indirect,” Gideons said. “As the SDF would close in sometimes, they would outstretch particularly what our mortar fires could provide.

“We would displace out of our small [forward operating bases] we were operating out of, move closer in behind the SDF and then provide fires — a lot of times mortar fire … and of course as you were getting into an engagement, there is the potential for stuff to come back at you,” he said.

Marines operated in both mounted and dismounted roles. F/A-18s coming out of Bahrain provided close-air support when needed, Gideons said.

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?
F/A-18

Despite the action Marines saw, there were no casualties.

“I am very happy and proud to say that we brought everybody home,” Gideons said.

He described the deployment as “dynamic.”

“What was unique on our watch is over our 243 days in theater … from our perspective, we were more distributed than any other SPMAGTF up until that point,” he said. “We had Marines operating in 10 different countries and 24 separate locations. I had Marines from Egypt to Afghanistan.

“I didn’t own missions in Iraq or Syria, but I had capabilities that could augment and support that mission’s successful accomplishment.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The mysterious disappearance of an EC-47 crew during the Vietnam War

In the early morning of Feb. 5, 1973, a USAF EC-47 was shot down over Laos. The plane, callsign Baron 52, had a crew of eight airmen aboard. Only four sets of remains were recovered from the wreckage. The other four were never found. 

The EC-47 was a converted Douglas C-47 cargo aircraft, first built during World War II. It carried specialized electronics and flew top secret missions. The nature of its mission has led many to believe the four missing crew members were actually captured and taken back to the Soviet Union. They were never recovered. 

Just a week before the downing of Baron 52, the United States agreed to end its involvement in the Vietnam War during the Paris Peace Accords. The plane was carrying electronic warfare equipment on a mission to monitor the Ho Chi Minh Trail for North Vietnamese tanks.

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?
A modern Douglas C-47 Skytrain similar to the Baron 52.

It was shot down in Salavan Province, Laos that morning, with the fuselage upside down and its wings completely stripped away. Air Force search and rescue arrived on the scene within an hour, finding the bodies of pilot Capt. George R. Spitz, copilot 2nd Lt. Severo J. Primm III  and navigator Capt. Arthur R. Bollinger still in their seats in the cockpit. 

The remains of the third pilot, 1st Lt. Robert E. Bernhardt, was in the rear of the plane but outside of it, near the jump door. The door, the top secret radio equipment, the four members of the rear crew and their parachutes were removed and never found. 

The Air Force listed all eight of the crew as killed in action, but some Missing in Action/Prison of War advocacy groups question that assessment, considering four of them are still unaccounted for. Still the four were declared “accounted for” and were part of a mass memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. 

Lynn O’Shea, one of the advocates, said her research shows that the four missing men may have been captured after bailing out of the plane and taken to the Soviet Union. The information they had on the sensitive equipment in the plane would have been extremely valuable to the USSR at the time. Sadly, O’Shea died in 2015. 

In the years following the end of the war in Vietnam, researchers discovered that American intelligence had intercepted NVA radio traffic describing the capture of four airmen who were transported to the USSR. 

For months, the United States heard radio traffic about airmen who were shot down the same day as Baron 52 and a Laotian intelligence asset reported seeing four prisoners held captive by the NVA. The incident and its aftermath remained classified.

The families of radiomen SSgt. Todd M. Melton, Sgt. Joseph A. Matejov, Sgt. Peter R. Cressman, and systems repair technician Sgt. Dale Brandenburg still believe their loved ones survived the crash and ended up captives in the Soviet Union. Many hope the airmen are still alive. They believe that the Nixon Administration didn’t pursue the missing airmen because the Laos flight was illegal under the terms of the Paris Peace Accords. 

In November 1992, the government of Laos allowed a team of Americans to survey the crash site. That team turned up a number of bone fragments and a dog tag belonging to one of the missing airmen, but the results of the bone fragments were not conclusive. The United States maintains their status as “accounted for.” 

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy’s ‘agile’ new fleet prepares to counter Russia in the Arctic

In the six months since its activation, the Navy’s 2nd Fleet has bulked up and is embracing its mission in the North Atlantic and the Arctic, where the US and its partners are focused on countering a sophisticated and wily Russian navy.

Second Fleet was deactivated in 2011 for budget reasons — 65 years after being set up to deter the Soviet Union in the Atlantic and around Europe. Most of its assets were shifted to Fleet Forces Command.


The fleet returns amid a shift toward a potential great-power conflict, but the new version will differ from its predecessor by being “leaner, agile, and more expeditionary,” Rear Adm. John Mustin, the fleet’s deputy commander, said Jan. 16, 2019, at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium.

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?

Rear Adm. John Mustin at Naval Base San Diego, Feb. 24, 2017.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Craig Z. Rodarte)

“When I say lean, what does that mean? The staff complement is organized and billeted to be operational. The majority of staff will focus on operations, intelligence, plans and training,” Mustin said.

Questions have been raised about how 2nd Fleet will integrate with other numbered fleets — particularly 6th Fleet, which oversees waters around Europe, and 4th Fleet, which is responsible for the Caribbean Sea and waters around Central and South America — but Navy officials have said the goal is not to draw stark lines in the sea.

Second fleet’s primary focus will be working with 6th Fleet and 4th Fleet “to ensure a seamless command and control for force employment — ensuring there is no vulnerability, no seam in the Atlantic,” Lt. Marycate Walsh, a spokesperson for 2nd Fleet, told Business Insider in December 2018.

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?

US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham hits heavy seas in the Atlantic Ocean, deployed in the 2nd Fleet area of operations, Dec. 18, 2018.

(Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Clay)

Prior to its deactivation, 2nd Fleet was mostly a training command for units getting ready to deploy.

Now, however, the focus is “to develop and dynamically employ maritime forces ready to fight across multiple domains in the Atlantic and Arctic,” Mustin said at the symposium.

“Previously, forces reported to 2nd Fleet when they entered the fleet’s geographic area of operations. Under the new model forces will be assigned once in the final stage of the training cycle and through the end of the period in which forces are available for operational tasking, unless the unit transitions to the control of another numbered fleet,” Walsh told Business Insider in December 2018.

“This allows 2nd Fleet to focus its attention on the development and employment of forces at the highest level of warfare,” Walsh added.

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?

An MH-60S Seahawk helicopter crewman watches simulated fast-attack craft approach the USS Kearsarge during a Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training exercise, June 24, 2018.

(US Navy photo Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Ryre Arciaga)

Like the stand-up of 2nd Fleet, the Navy’s first East Coast use of Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training — a Top Gun-like exercise meant to impart advanced knowledge of weapons and tactics to surface crews — is part of the effort to train for warfare against an enemy fleet.

Mustin said during his remarks that he was the 18th staff member to report to 2nd Fleet and that by March the command will have 85 people assigned — a “number that will continue on a glide slope that is increasing rapidly,” he said.

To avoid bloat and redundancy, the 2nd Fleet will work with Fleet Forces whenever possible, Mustin said. Both commands are based in Norfolk, Virginia. Ships will be under Fleet Forces’ operational command, while 2nd Fleet will have tactical control.

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?

A fire controlman trains sailors on firefighting tactics in an engine room l aboard Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham in the 2nd Fleet area of operations, Dec. 17, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Clay)

But the fleet is growing to be fit for purpose and fit for its time, Walsh told Business Insider.

“It makes sense to describe 2nd Fleet in terms of capability rather than in terms of the number of personnel assigned,” Walsh said. Most of the personnel assigned to it will focus on operations, intelligence, plans and training, “with only a few staff members focused on higher headquarters administrative functions.”

Mustin also told attendees at the symposium that they could expect 2nd Fleet personnel to be roaming their area of operations — working from forward posts on command ships or from austere locations ashore — while keeping in touch with home base in Norfolk.

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?

Guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham approaches fleet-replenishment oiler USNS Joshua Humphreys, right, for replenishment-at-sea in the 2nd Fleet area of operations, Dec. 19, 2018.

(US Navy photo Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Clay)

Those personnel will include staffers from allied countries and other partners who are fully integrated rather than assigned as liaisons, said Mustin, who added that surface warfare officers interested in 2nd Fleet had been approaching him at the symposium.

Moreover, plans are to rotate Navy reservists through the fleet to work alongside active-duty sailors, with the goal of keeping those reservists up-to-date. “This is not your grandfather’s 2nd Fleet, or, as my staff likes to point out, my father’s 2nd Fleet,” Mustin said.

Second Fleet will also work on development in other aspects of naval warfare.

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?

Lt. Gen. Robert Hedelund, commander of II Marine Expeditionary Force, and Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander of 2nd Fleet, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Aug. 27, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nicholas Guevara)

Working with the Naval War College and the Warfare Development Centers, the fleet “will be a hub for the Navy’s concept development and implementation, ensuring that when the Navy operates around the world, it is prepared to compete, fight, and win in great-power competition,” Walsh told Business Insider in December 2018.

In September 2018, the Center for Executive Education at the Naval Postgraduate School led 2nd Fleet staff in a seminar to develop the fleet’s mission set, and in coming months the 2nd Fleet will work with the Naval War College on staff training to “ensure the fleet is equipped to command and control naval forces at the highest level of warfare,” Walsh said, adding that most 2nd Fleet staff will attend the school’s College of Maritime Operational Warfare.

“Going forward, this same kind of integration applies to the employment of the naval forces [that] 2nd Fleet commands,” Walsh added.

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

Articles

Canada and Denmark are using booze and flags to fight over this island

Hans Island is a tiny speck of rock that lies almost exactly halfway between Canada and Greenland in the Nares Straight, a thin body of Arctic seawater between the two countries. Denmark and Canada both claim the island as sovereign soil.


For over 95 years, they’ve been fighting the world’s most gentlemanly military struggle by sending their navies to claim the island using sarcastic signs, national flags, and bottles of Danish brandy and Canadian whisky.

The island was mapped in 1920 and has been a spot of contention between between Canada and Denmark ever since. Since the .5-square-mile island has no resources, inhabitants, wildlife, and hardly any soil, the island has limited value in itself.

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?
Photo: Copyright Free/Twthmoses

But, its location makes it a prime spot for managing sea traffic going into and out of the Arctic, something that is becoming more important with each bit of sea ice that melts. So, the two countries sat down and settled most of their border disputes in 1973 but were unable to come to terms on Hans Island.

Sometime in the 1980s, the bottles began appearing on the island. Denmark upped the ante sometime in the early 2000s when they placed a large flag on the island and a sign that said, “Welcome to Denmark,” with the liquor. Canada answered back with its own flag, sign, and liquor in July 2005.

The conflict has edged into more serious territory a few times. A visit to the island by the Canadian Defense Minister in 2005 drew angry comments from Denmark as did a 2004 increase in Canadian defense spending increase that cited Hans Island as a factor.

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?
The small rock in the center of this satellite image is Hans Island. Photo: NASA

Still, the island has continued to exist in a polite limbo. Canada even suspended operations on and near the island in 2013 amid worries about creating an international incident with Denmark.

Potential solutions to the issue have been discussed many times, and splitting the island down the middle or sharing it is the solution proposed most often.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think

December 1969 was not a very merry Christmastime for many American families. The war in Vietnam was ramping up and the draft lottery was held for the first time. 366 blue capsules were drawn, each containing a day of the year. Each calendar date was assigned a number based on draw order. The lower the draft number, the higher the possibility was of being drafted.


soldiers who were chosen in the vietnam draft

Related: This is how to see if you would have been drafted for Vietnam

Conscription in the United States was a common practice, especially during wartime. It had been a part of American life since the Civil War. It wasn’t until 1975 that the draft disappeared and the U.S. military turned into an all-volunteer force.

But back in 1970, one Ph.D. student in computer planning saw the “random” Vietnam draft lottery as flawed — mathematically flawed. According to a New York Times article from the period, he wasn’t the only one.

Mathematicians and statisticians challenged the legality of the process, as it did not produce a truly random result. As the Times’ article points out, hundreds of thousands of men were already preparing for service in Vietnam.

The Nixon White House and the Selective Service System claimed they made a great effort to produce a random result, one that was as fair as possible. Pentagon experts, at the time, estimated that anyone with a number over 200 was unlikely to get drafted.

Soldiers from vietnam draft

Experts said the resulting monthly average number could have been predicted if the capsules containing the dates early in the months were on the bottom and the later days were at the top and the capsules were not adequately mixed — which is exactly what happened.

David Stodolosky, the aforementioned Ph.D. student, is the one who filed a suit against Selective Service, based on the findings that the drawing wasn’t truly random. His lawyers argued that President Nixon’s orders called for a random draft and that wasn’t what they got.

His argument was that later birthdates were drawn much earlier than others and, thus, were more likely to be drafted for wartime service.

The student tried to get an injunction against the government pressing men into service until the draft lottery process was truly randomized — a task as simple as attaching numbers to dates using a random number table and then sorting them.

A judge refused the injunction. Besides, a live lottery made for a much better show.

MIGHTY CULTURE

2 more women attempt Air Force special warfare training

Two more women are attempting to enter the U.S. Air Force’s combat controller and pararescue (PJ) battlefield airman career fields.

The women, who were not identified for privacy reasons, are the first to enter the official training pipelines of those career fields, according to 1st Lt. Jeremy Huggins, a spokesman for the Special Warfare Training Wing.

However, they are not the first two female candidates to attempt PJ or combat controller training overall, he said Nov. 1, 2019.


“One candidate is pursuing pararescue, [but] she is currently not in training,” Huggins said in an email. “The most common reasons for this are medical hold, administrative hold or waiting for a training class to begin. The second woman is a combat control (CCT) candidate, and she is currently in the Special Warfare Preparatory Class.”

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?

U.S. Air Force pararescuemen.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Erik Cardenas)

The prep class runs eight weeks. Once she graduates, she will proceed to the Assessment and Selection (AS) course, he added.

The two new candidates make the 10th and 11th women to attempt any type of battlefield courses under the Special Warfare Training Wing, and the 11th and 12th to express interest in the program since the Defense Department opened combat career fields to all in December 2015.

Of the female candidates who have previously attempted to join the service’s special warfare program, seven pursued Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) training; one tried pararescue training. Another woman recently dropped from the special reconnaissance program — previously known as special operations weather team, or SOWT — in August 2019, according to Air Education and Training Command.

The 10th, who attempted to become a combat controller, left the program, Huggins said. AETC previously mistakenly said that she had graduated the prep course.

The battlefield airmen career fields are comprised of special tactics officer, combat rescue officer, combat controller, pararescue, special reconnaissance, TACP specialist and air liaison officer.

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?

Combat controllers from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron fast-rope from a CV-22 Osprey.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

Huggins said it’s no secret that these career fields are tough.

“There is no specific timeline as to when we’ll see our first woman serving as a Special Warfare airman in one of the seven combat-related career fields,” he said. “From start to finish, it may take up to two years for a woman to join an operational unit because of the Air Force’s natural timeline to recruit, access, select and train.”

Earlier this year, Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, said in written testimony before the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on personnel that attrition in these career field pipelines has been high because of the grueling training.

Attrition across the elite training pipelines ranges between 40 and 90 percent, depending on specialty, he added.

“Consequently, we do not foresee large numbers of females in operational units in the near term,” Kelly said in February 2019.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch how the US Army sinks ships

It’s been decades since the United States Army attacked a ship on the high seas. The last time it happened was when an AH-6 “Little Bird” with what eventually became the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (better known as “the Nightstalkers”) caught an Iranian vessel, the Iran Ajr, laying mines in the Persian Gulf in 1987.

Well, the Army has now sunk another vessel — with an assist from the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force. This took place during RIMPAC 2018, when both forces fired ground-based, anti-ship missiles during a SINKEX, an exercise in which a decommissioned ship is towed to a designated location and then hit by live anti-ship missiles, gunfire, and torpedoes.


In February, 2018, the Army announced their plans to use a truck-mounted version of Kongsberg’s Naval Strike Missile, also known as the NSM, during these exercises. A few months later, in June, the United States Navy selected the NSM as its new beyond-visual-range, anti-ship missile.

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?

The Army fired a truck-mounted version of the Kongsberg NSM.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zachary D. Bell)

Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force has also been using truck-mounted, anti-ship missiles for a while. Their mainstay in this department is the Type 88, also known as the SSM-1. A slightly modified version of this missile is widely used by Japanese ships, called the Type 90.

The Type 88 has a range of just under 112 miles. The Type 90’s range is a little over 93 miles. The service is soon introducing the new Type 12 truck-launched missile, which will replace both the Type 88 and the Type 90 and has a range of 124 miles.

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?

Japan’s latest truck-mounted anti-ship missile is the Type 12, with a range of 124 miles.

(Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force)

During RIMPAC 2018, these militaries tested their missiles on a decommissioned Newport-class tank-landing ship. Their target, the USS Racine (LST 1191), could carry 29 tanks and 400 troops, was 522 feet long, and displaced almost 8,800 tons. A total of 20 Newport-class ships were built, all of which served at least 20 years with the United States Navy.

Watch the U.S. Army and the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force launch their missiles in the video below!

MIGHTY SPORTS

People are raising money for Australia by hanging from workout benches

First, it was the Ice Bucket challenge then it was the Mannequin Challenge. Now, the Koala Challenge is going viral — and for good reason.

FITAID, a fitness beverage company, has challenged people to participate in the Koala Challenge to help raise money for the people, firefighters, and wildlife affected by the wildfires in Australia. For every video that is posted on social media of someone doing the challenge, the company will donate $5.


In the Koala Challenge, you must start by lying flat on your on top of a work out bench then shift your entire body to the underside of the bench without ever touching the floor. If done correctly, you will be hanging from the underside of the bench, looking just like a relaxed koala.

The challenge isn’t for everyone, as it does take a great deal of strength, but some have succeeded.

Others gave it their best shot.

Meanwhile, some partipants took a more creative approach.

If the Koala Challenge is too hard for you, there are plenty of other organizations that accept donations to help fight the fires in Australia.

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

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