The Raid on Makin Island is one of those operations that Marines point to with pride. The Marine Raiders that carried it out were among the best of the best. It even became the subject of a 1943 movie, Gung Ho!, starring Randolph Scott and Robert Mitchum. That raid was also a strategic blunder that, in a very real sense, screwed over the 2nd Marine Division assigned to take Tarawa about 15 months later.
You may be asking yourself, “how did a successful raid screw over the 2nd Marine Division more than a year down the line?” Well, it’s all connected to a series of events put in motion by the end of World War I.
At the end of The Great War, Japan was given the Marshall Islands under a League of Nations mandate. Under Article XIX of the Washington Naval Treaty, these islands (and any other islands in the Pacific) weren’t supposed to be fortified. As you might imagine, Japan didn’t abide by these terms.
On the same day as the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese swept over the Marshal Islands, seizing control, adding these land masses to a collection of Central Pacific claims. Japan quickly fortified both the Gilbert and Marshal Islands. From these bases, they hoped to whittle down the American fleet in the Pacific to the point where their smaller force could win a decisive battle.
U.S. Marine Col. Carlson and his staff consult during training for the Makin raid.
Around the time the United States attacked Guadalcanal, the 2nd Raider Battalion was sent to hit Makin Island. They went in on two submarines, USS Argonaut (SS 166) and USS Nautilus (SS 168). The intent was to gather intel about Japanese forces in the Central Pacific while distracting from Allied landings on Guadalcanal and Tulagi.
The raid went pretty well for the United States Marines. They killed 46 of the enemy, but suffered 30 casualties, including losing nine who became POWs and were later executed.
The Raid on Makin Island prompted the Japanese to reinforce Tarawa, which made landing on that island a very costly affair.
Although it was tactical success, it had its consequences. It alerted the Japanese to the vulnerability of their bases in the Central Pacific — and they responded with reinforcements. The existing bases were further built up. When the Americans came knocking in November, 1943, the Japanese troops were dug in. Tarawa became a bloody fight.
The fact that nine Marines were left behind, taken prisoner, and later executed was not the worst consequence of the Makin Island raid.
In short, the Raid on Makin Island was a big morale boost for the United States, but that early attack exposed weaknesses on a small scale and arguably made the Central Pacific much more costly in the grand scheme of things.
With the first of the month comes a whole new promotions list across the board. To each and every one of you who made it, bravo zulu. You’re going to take the next step in your career. May your slight increase in pay help soothe over the mountain of sh*t that comes with the added responsibility.
And let’s be honest. When you’re the lowest guy on the totem pole, it seems like it sucks, but there’s nothing really demanded of you — outside of performing your assigned duties, cleaning the company area, and keeping out of trouble that is. No one is calling you into the MP station at 0300 on a Sunday night because someone you assumed was an adult did something you never thought to add to a safety brief. No one bothers seriously chewing your ass out for something someone else did.
So if you didn’t get promoted today, don’t sweat it. It could be worse. Regardless, one thing’s for sure: the memes have arrived.
Iran is negotiating a controversial 25-year agreement with China that has led to accusations that parts of Iran are being sold to Beijing.
Some critics — including the U.S. State Department — are comparing the proposed deal to the 1828 Treaty of Turkmenchay between Persia and tsarist Russia, under which the Persians ceded control of territory in the South Caucasus.
Iranian officials have dismissed the criticism as baseless while promising to make the text of the agreement public once it is finalized.
What Do We Know About The Agreement?
The pact was proposed in a January 2016 trip to Iran by Chinese President Xi Jinping during which the two sides agreed to establish their ties based on a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, while announcing discussions would begin aimed at concluding a 25-year bilateral pact.
The announcement received the support of Iran’s highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who was quoted by Iranian media as saying that the agreement reached between the two sides was “wise.”
The text of the agreement, which will need to be approved by parliament, has not been released. But in recent days an 18-page document has been making the rounds on social media that outlines future cooperation between the countries, including Chinese investment in Iran’s energy sector as well as in the country’s free-trade zones.
RFE/RL cannot verify the authenticity of the document, which has been cited by some Iranian and Western media as a leaked version of the planned pact between Iran and China.
Analysts note the agreement being circulated is very light on details and appears to be the framework of a potential deal.
According to the text, which is labeled “final edit” on its front page and dated the Iranian month of Khordad — which starts May 21 and ends June 19 — the two sides will also increase military and security cooperation while working on joint-projects in third countries.
Iran has in recent months increasingly reached out to China in the face of growing U.S. pressure to isolate Tehran. China remains Iran’s main trading partner but trade between the two sides has dropped due to U.S. pressure in recent years.
Analysts say China is not ready to give Tehran the support it seeks while also suggesting that some of the cooperation envisaged in the pact may never materialize.
Ariane Tabatabai, a Middle East fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said, given its importance, the U.S. will always trump Iran for China.
“Iran is a small, risky market, sanctions have severely impeded business [there], and the regime is isolated,” she told RFE/RL. “Meanwhile, China has major economic interests in the U.S. and the trade war is still an important concern for China, which will inevitably shape its relationship with Iran.”
“If we look into what we know about the document and make some educated guesses, we see that the agreement is little more than a comprehensive road map based on the 2016 framework, which does not resolve the main issue of the China-Iran partnership — its implementation,” Jacopo Scita, an Al-Sabah doctoral fellow at Durham University, told RFE/RL.
Why Is The Treaty Controversial?
The pact is being discussed at a time when Iran is under intense pressure due to harsh U.S. sanctions that have crippled the economy and a deadly coronavirus pandemic that has worsened the economic situation.
The timing as well as the scope and duration of the agreement has led to increased concerns that Tehran is negotiating with China from a position of weakness while giving Beijing access to Iran’s natural resources for many years to come.
A distrust in the Iranian authorities that intensified after a deadly November crackdown on antiestablishment protests and the downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet — which was initially seen as a coverup — has also contributed to the criticism of the proposed deal.
A lack of trust in China, as well as rising anti-China sentiments due to the coronavirus pandemic, has also contributed to the controversy surrounding the pact.
Tabatabai, the co-author of a book on Iranian ties with Russia and China, says the relationship between Tehran and Beijing has long been perceived as benefiting China far more than Iran.
“The perception isn’t fully inaccurate,” she said. “From the elite’s perspective, China makes big promises and delivers little. And from the population’s perspective, China has been benefiting from the sanctions on Iran, it’s flooded the Iranian market, pushed out Iranian businesses, and has delivered products that are subpar.”
She added: “Many Iranians feel like this deal will cement this unbalanced relationship.”
What Are The Critics Saying?
Criticism of the planned pact appears to have increased following comments by former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who warned in a speech in late June that a 25-year agreement with “a foreign country” was being discussed “away from the eyes of the Iranian nation.”
Others have since joined the criticism, including former conservative lawmaker Ali Motahari, who appeared to suggest on Twitter that before signing the pact Iran should raise the fate of Muslims who are reportedly being persecuted in China.
Scita, who closely follows Iranian-Chinese relations, says some of the hype and anger surrounding the agreement were boosted by public figures with political agendas, including Ahmadinejad, who is said to be eying the 2021 presidential election.
The exiled son of the shah of Iran, the country’s last monarch who was ousted following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, has also criticized the pact.
Reza Pahlavi, who’s taken an increasingly active role against the Islamic republic, blasted the “shameful, 25-year treaty with China that plunders our natural resources and places foreign soldiers on our soil.” He also called on his supporters to oppose the treaty.
The Persian account of the U.S. State Department referred to the planned agreement as a “second Turkmenchay” and said that Tehran is afraid to share the details of the pact because “no part of it is beneficial to the Iranian people.”
What Are Iranian Officials Saying?
Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif confirmed that Tehran was negotiating an agreement with China “with confidence and conviction,” while insisting there was nothing secret about it.
Since then, officials have defended the deal while dismissing claims that Iran will sell discounted oil to China or give Kish Island to Beijing.
President Hassan Rohani’s chief of staff, Mahmud Vaezi, said over the weekend that the framework of the agreement has been defined, adding that the negotiations are likely to be finalized by March 21.
Vaezi also said the agreement does not include foreign control over any Iranian islands or the deployment of Chinese military forces in the country.
The expedition crew aboard the late Paul G. Allen’s research vessel (R/V) Petrel discovered wreckage from USS Wasp (CV 7), which was sunk in 1942.
Wasp, found Jan. 14, 2019, was sunk Sept. 15, 1942, by four Japanese torpedoes from the Japanese submarine I-19 while escorting transports carrying the Seventh Marine Regiment to Guadalcanal as reinforcements. Of the 2,162 on board, 176 were killed as a result of the attack. The sunken aircraft carrier was found in the Coral Sea, 4,200 meters (nearly 14,000 feet) below the surface.
“Paul Allen’s passion for U.S. history lives on through these missions. He was dedicated to honoring the brave men who fought for our country,” said Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Vulcan Inc. “Paired with the discovery of USS Hornet announced in February, we’re excited to start out the year with these momentous discoveries.”
In 1941, Wasp was assigned to ferry vital army planes to Iceland, supplementing for a lack of British aircraft to cover American landings. The P-40 planes that Wasp carried provided the defensive fighter cover necessary to watch over the American forces. Wasp also aided two very important missions to Malta, a location being hit daily by German and Italian planes. After Wasp’s first mission to Malta, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, fearing that the nation would be “pounded to bits,” asked President Roosevelt to allow Wasp to have “another good sting.” Aside from providing vital enforcements in WWII, Wasp was the first ship to launch U.S. Army planes from a U.S. Navy carrier, paving the way for future collaboration between the armed forces.
Deep sea explorers discover WWII aircraft carrier USS Wasp
“Wasp represented the U.S. Navy at the lowest point after the start of WWII. Her pilots and her aircrew, with their courage and sacrifice, were the ones that held the line against the Japanese when the Japanese had superior fighter aircraft, superior torpedo planes and better torpedoes,” said Rear Adm. (Ret.) Samuel Cox, director of the Naval History and Heritage Command. “The first year of the war, it was touch and go. Those who served at that time deserve the gratitude of our nation for holding the Japanese back.”
In its final battle, Wasp was hit in arguably the most effective spread of torpedoes in history by a Japanese submarine I-19, which fired six torpedoes. USS Hornet, USS North Carolina and USS O’Brien were all hit and either crippled or sunk as well.
Although the torpedoes that hit Wasp caused a massive inferno on the ship, men showed reluctance to leave until all remaining crewmates were safe. Only when satisfied that the crew had been evacuated did Capt. Forrest P. Sherman abandon the ship. He later became the youngest Chief of Naval Operations to ever serve in the position. Another survivor, Lt. David McCampbell went on from being Wasp’s signal operator to becoming the number one navy ace pilot flying the hellcat fighter.
USS Wasp burning after receiving three torpedo hits from the Japanese submarine I-19.
(US Navy photo)
“The crew of the WWII Wasp exhibited the bravery, toughness and resolve that our crew today strives to emulate. We are humbled by the sacrifice of those Wasp sailors, especially those who paid for our freedom with their lives,” said Capt. Colby Howard, commanding officer of USS Wasp (LHD 1). “We hope this discovery gives remaining survivors and their families some degree of closure. I would like to sincerely thank the entire R/V Petrel crew, whose commitment and perseverance led to the discovery.”
The crew of R/V Petrel has also found the wreckage of USS Hornet, USS Juneau, USS Ward, USS Lexington, USS Helena and perhaps most famously, the USS Indianapolis over the past few years. PBS aired Jan. 8, 2019, a new documentary titled, “The USS Indianapolis: The Final Chapter,” which highlights the 2017 shipwreck discovery by the crew of the R/V Petrel of what remains the US Navy’s single greatest loss at sea.
Additional past Allen-led expeditions have resulted in the discovery of USS Astoria, the Japanese battleship Musashi and the Italian WWII destroyer Artigliere. His team was responsible for retrieving the ship’s bell from the HMS Hood for presentation to the British Navy in honor of its heroic service.
Army Private John R. McKinney was resting after a shift on guard duty in the Luzon area of the Philippines in May 1945 when his position was attacked by some 100 Japanese soldiers at a full run. McKinney, who was part of his unit’s perimeter defense, was cut in the ear with an enemy saber as he rested in his tent that night.
As the other men in McKinney’s machine gun squad worked to get the weapon ready, McKinney grabbed his service rifle and beat his attacker with it. He then shot another enemy soldier who tried to interrupt that beating.
Unfortunately, one of the machine gunners was injured in the attack and the other tried to carry him to safety. Private McKinney was now alone – and ten Japanese infantrymen were turning the machine gun around. McKinney jumped into the gun’s position and shot seven of those ten enemy troops at point blank range. He then clubbed the three others with the butt of his rifle.
Unfortunately for him, when McKinney took control of the machine gun, he found the weapon was inoperative. And there were more Japanese troops coming – a lot more. They were lobbing grenades and mortar shells onto his position. So, he did what any combat-hardened Army private would do: he switched positions.
His new position had ammo in it. Lots of ammo.
For 36 minutes, McKinney reloaded his service rifle and repeatedly picked up others as waves of oncoming Japanese troops attempted to swarm and overrun him. He fired almost nonstop into the charge. When he couldn’t fire anymore, he flipped his rifle around and began to club them to death or engage in brutal hand-to-hand combat.
When all was said and done, 40 Japanese soldiers of the 100 who attacked McKinney lay dead, including the two mortarmen… who were 45 yards away. He protected the fellow members of his company as they slept, killing one enemy soldier every 56 seconds for the duration of the attack.
Not only did he repel the Japanese assault, but he was still alive and in complete control of the area. John R. McKinney died in 1997, at the ripe old age of 76.
D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, and Operation Market Garden; no matter the campaign and no matter the battle, our nation’s bravest men fearlessly surged forward to defeat the German threat in World War II.
Although each infantryman was responsible for various duties throughout the war, they were all issued similar gear.
The basic issue wasn’t anything like what troops receive today, but they made it work. Here’s what they carried to victory:
This was also typically attached to the cartridge belt for quick access. Troops never knew when the call to “fix bayonets” was coming, so they had to be ready, sharp, and easily reached.
This pouch includes a canteen, canteen cup, and mess kit — all made of aluminum. It wasn’t uncommon for a forward-deployed troop to eat and drink all of his rations from this container, as many meals served on the front lines came from a large, communal pot.
Also known as an entrenching tool or shovel, the E-tool was used for digging fighting holes and for driving stabler stakes into the ground. This tool was famously worn on troops’ backs and doubled as a fighting stick when sh*t hit the fan.
The average WW2-era helmet was comprised of a plastic liner and a steel shell. The liner helped the helmet fit on a troop’s head properly and, of course, the steel shell offered the troop some protection from incoming shrapnel.
This pack contained a half of a tent, tent pins, and a blanket. Many troops decided not to haul this practical pack around and simply brought a raincoat instead.
Check out the video below to watch a complete breakdown of what these heroes carried into battle.
The fight continues in the Middle Euphrates River Valley to wrest the last 2 percent of land once controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria from the grasp of the terror group, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said in Washington.
“That fighting is on-going and as we forecasted, it’s been a tough fight and we are winning,” the secretary told reporters.
The secretary said Syrian leaders have to be well aware of the U.S. position on the regime using chemical weapons. He stressed “there is zero evidence” that any opposition groups possess chemical weapons or the technology to employ those weapons.
The U.S. goal in Syria remains to end the tragedy that would have ended years ago, if Russia and Iran had not intervened, Mattis said. “We want to support the Geneva process — the U.N.-mandated process. … In that scope what we want to do is make certain that ISIS does not come back and upset everything again.”
The U.S. and allies are training local security forces inside Syria. The United States is working with Turkey to launch joint patrols in Manbij. “I think we are close on that; it’s complex,” Mattis said. “Once we get those patrols going along the line of contact and we take out the rest of the [ISIS] caliphate, our goal would be to set up local security elements that prevent the return of ISIS while at the same time diplomatically supporting … the Geneva process.”
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis speaks to reporters during a news conference at the Pentagon, Sept. 24, 2018.
(DoD photo by Jim Garamone)
The secretary said Russia’s vetoes of United Nations resolutions early in the process with Syria, “kept the U.N. marginalized at a time when it might have been able to stop what unfolded. Iran then sent in their proxy forces.”
Iranians are in Syria. Iran is propping up the Assad regime with forces, money, weapons, and proxies. “Part of this overarching problem is we have to address Iran,” Mattis said. “Everywhere you go in the Middle East, where there is instability, you find Iran.”
Iran has a role to play in the peace process, the secretary said. And that “is to stop fomenting trouble,” he added.
Mattis condemned the terrorist attack inside Iran. “We condemn terrorist bombings anywhere they occur,” he said. “It’s ludicrous to allege that we had anything to do with it, and we stands with the Iranian people, but not the Iranian regime that has practiced this very sort of thing through proxies and all for too many years.”
And, the secretary praised the U.S. military response to Hurricane Florence.
“We rate ourselves as having done a good job so far,” he said. “The tactics were to surround it on the seaward side and the landward side, and keep people out of the area forecasted to be hit. So we had troops who were ready to go and follow the storm in from both directions, and we met all the requests from the Federal Emergency Management Agency … in a timely manner. We still have troops committed to it, but clearly it is winding down.”
Military equipment, to include deep water vehicles, boats and more, remain available if needed, he said.
The secretary announced he will travel to France and Belgium to take part in NATO’s Defense Ministerial Meeting.
It’s an airframe that dates back to the Vietnam War, but it’s served for nearly 50 years and is still a comforting presence for those protected by its missiles, guns, and rockets: Meet the AH-1 SuperCobra.
Pilots aboard an AH-1W SuperCobra helicopter fly into a forward arming and refueling point at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii, May 6, 2014.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matthew Bragg)
The AH-1 Cobra was the first dedicated attack helicopter, though it was technically an interim solution, filling a gap in capabilities until the AH-56 could make it to the field. The AH-56, however, was never constructed, so the Army stuck with the AH-1.
The Marine Corps, meanwhile, was looking for an attack helicopter of their own, and they were interested in what the Army had to offer. There was one glaring problem, though: The Army AH-1 had only one engine. The Marine Corps wasn’t comfortable with this since their helicopters might have to fly dozens of miles across open ocean to reach beachheads. If you lose an engine six miles from the ship or the shore, you really want a second engine to close the gap.
And so the Marine Corps asked Bell helicopters for an AH-1 with two engines, thus creating the AH-1 SeaCobra, which later became the SuperCobra. It first went into service in 1971, which the math nerds will note is 47 years ago.
An AH-1W SuperCobra, with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 775, Marine Aircraft Group 41, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, performs a break turn after conducting a close air support mission in an exercise at Twentynine Palms, California, June 18, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Samantha Schwoch)
The reason the AH-1 SuperCobra has lasted so long — and the reason that it’s being replaced by the AH-1Z Viper, which is basically just an upgraded version — is that it’s very effective. The first Marine variant, the AH-1J SeaCobra, was originally fielded with a three-barrel 20mm cannon in 1969. But the Marines wanted more power and weapons, and they’ve upgraded the helicopter multiple times over the decades since.
Now, the AH-1W can carry everything from from TOW missiles and Hellfires, both of which are very good at killing enemy tanks. The AGM-114 Hellfire is a potent weapon, carrying an up to 20-pound warhead. It uses either a shaped charge warhead, tandem warhead, or a HEAT warhead. The tandem warhead is the most effective and is thought to be able to defeat all current tanks and armored vehicles.
The TOW, meanwhile, is heavier and has even more variants, but can also open up pretty much any armored threat in the world today.
U.S. Marines assigned to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 load a 2.75-inch rocket configured with Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System II, a hydra 70 rocket motor and M282 High Explosive Incendiary Multipurpose Penetrator Warhead onto an AH-1Z Viper at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., March 29, 2018
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin/Released)
The helicopters can also fire rockets in support of the Marines on the ground, sending out Hydras against troop and vehicle concentrations. These rockets were historically unguided, but kits are now available when necessary. The rockets can carry fast-flying flechettes, small darts that shred enemy combatants, as well as explosive warheads, infrared flares, or smoke.
Zuni rockets, meanwhile, are technically an air-to-air or air-to-ground weapon, but since they’re unguided, the U.S. uses them pretty much only against the ground and ships nowadays. The rockets can carry warheads of almost 50 pounds, and can be sued to rip apart tanks, personnel, or pretty much any target that isn’t heavily fortified.
The rockets can also deploy chaff to throw off enemy radar-guided munitions.
U.S. Marine Cpl. Michael Michehl, a line noncommissioned officer with Marine Wing Support Detachment 24, controls forward arming and refueling point operations during a field test for the Expeditionary Mobile Fuel Additization Capability system at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, July 18, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Adam Montera)
Finally, the SuperCobras can fire Stinger Missiles, a potent, short-range air defense missile that can send shrapnel flying through enemy helicopters and planes, shredding the engines, wings, or cockpits of the target.
All of this combines to make the SuperCobra a Marine’s deadly big brother in the sky. They can tackle slow-moving air threats, armor, and personnel, protecting Marines under attack from nearly anything, though the helicopters can be made vulnerable themselves by enemy air defenses or air interdiction.
Of course, that doesn’t stop the pilots from laying waste, even when the enemy has their own weapons in play. Marine Capt. John Patrick Giguere earned the Silver Star for flying his AH-1T, a TOW-equipped variant, over enemy air defenses while protecting a downed aircrew in Grenada.
An AH-1W SuperCobra, attached to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167, takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima, March 8, 2017.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew Murray)
First Lt. Sydney Baker also earned a Silver Star. His came while flying an AH-1G supporting the insertion of Marines in Vietnam. Despite ground fire so fierce that it knocked out his communications gear and threatened to down the bird, he kept up a heavy volume of fire to protect Marines on the ground.
So, while their younger, sexier AH-64 Apache counterparts get all the love, the AH-1 SuperCobras and Vipers are out there saving Marines every day, so raise a glass for these old school infantrymen of the sky. They’ll be happy to save you if you’re ever in trouble.
The U.S. military hasn’t executed a prisoner since the 1961 hanging of Pvt. John Bennett at Fort Leavenworth. Prior to 1959, prisoners sent to the gallows by the U.S. military were afforded certain last rights demanded by regulations that included an escort, a chaplain, a last meal, unlimited letters to loved ones, and a military band.
Listeners might be familiar with aa few bars of legendary Polish composer Frederic Chopin’s Funeral March, either through military film or television – or through the WWE’s Undertaker entrance music. The Army’s regulations called for every execution (or series of executions) have a military band accompany the prisoner(s) to the gallows playing the classical tune.
The updated guidance for military executions as of 1959 did not call for the band, but still included the meal, letters, and religious paraphernalia. Only ten military members have been executed for crimes outside of wartime, and only two of those were executed after Apr. 7, 1959, and they did not walk to the gallows to the “Dead March.” Private Bennett and John E. Day, both convicted killers, were hanged in the boiler room of the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth to no fanfare.
How Chopin’s “Funeral March” became the official U.S. military death march is another story. The song comes from the composer’s Sonata No. 2 in B Flat Minor. Chopin was celebrated for his piano miniatures, and the Funeral March (the sonata’s third movement) was written much earlier than any of his sonatas. Chopin is said to have penned the work commemorating the 1830-1831 November Uprising, where ethnic Poles attempted to shake off the yoke of the Russian Empire.
The hopeful uprising was soon put down by the Russian Army, and the Tsar tightened Russia’s grip on Poland. Chopin’s original manuscript featured the date of the uprising’s start, Nov. 28, 1830. The piece’s dark tone and minor keys immediately associated it with death and it was played at the composer’s funeral – as well as those of John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, and even Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev.
The song would come to ingratiate itself in pop culture around the world as a song (rightly) associated with death and dying, from Saturday morning cartoons to Deadmau5.
The U.S. military’s (and many other armed forces around the world) bands, drums, and buglers all played an important battlefield communications function for centuries. Troops, unable to hear the orders of their officers over the din of fighting, would hear and could respond to general orders as played through songs.
In the years following Chopin’s Sonata No. 2, it became increasingly popular. The Funeral March was the most popular part of an already-popular musical hit. Soon after, the song’s popularity took on a life of its own and the song came full-circle from one of seriousness and piety toward the dead to one of parody. The music that called to mind death and the fragility of life was now being used to make fun of the same concepts.
The piece hasn’t always been just for executions. It accompanied the American Unknown Soldier from World War I as he made his way aboard ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean one night in Le Havre, France. It has been used for many a prominent U.S. official as they lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.
No matter how parodied it was or why it was used, the Funeral March would endure as a powerful piece of music, not just for the U.S. military, but for the world at large. Even to this day, it evokes the foreboding we associate with death and dying.
And that could be why it didn’t endure in military execution regulations. At this point, it just seems overly macabre and slightly cruel.
It was Prussian philosopher and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz in On War who said, “the culminating point of victory” is when an army has achieved its maximum possible gains relative to its political aims and the resources available. Everything that comes after that point is unnecessary and runs the risk of incurring a devastating, strategic loss.
It was Chinese philosopher and general Sun Tzu who said the first essential to victory is knowing when to fight and when not to fight. The second essential is knowing what to do when encountering an inferior force.
It was American philosopher and “Gambler” Kenny Rogers who said, “you got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.”
There have been a lot of amazing upsets in military history, but these losses were especially humiliating because they came at the hands of an ideological or geopolitical rival or just turned the bigger country’s military into a joke.
Arab Allies vs. Israel in the Yom Kippur War (1973)
Israel’s Arab neighbors, taking a page from Israel’s playbook, launched an all-out surprise attack on Israeli positions during the Jewish day of Atonement — the holiest day of the year in Judaism. Since it was also Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims, it was the most unlikely time to launch an attack.
Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and even freakin’ Cuba sent troops to fight the Israelis, effectively fielding three times as many soldiers and twice as many tanks and artillery pieces, all armed with the latest Soviet weapons. So, naturally, they crushed the IDF — right? Wrong.
Within a goddamn week, Israel’s artillery was shelling parts of Damascus. By the time the UN brokered a ceasefire (19 days later), the IDF was 99km from Cairo.
Soviet Union vs. Finland in The Winter War (1939)
Comrade Stalin was feeling pretty good about his chances of occupying Finland at the end of 1939. All the other dictators were invading smaller neighbors, so why not him? Well, the “why not” is the Finnish Army who really, really hated the Red Army. So, despite being outnumbered and facing down thousands of tanks with their paltry 32, the Finns went to work.
Most importantly, the Finns were ready to fight in waist-deep snow and freezing temperatures while the Russians, surprisingly, were not. Rather than use good equipment with superior tactics, Stalin threw thousands of troops at the Finns – who promptly killed as many as they could. When all was said and done, the Soviets took three times as many casualties as Finland and only “won” the war because they forced territorial concessions.
When World War II broke out, Finland immediately sided with Germany, invaded those concessions and inflicted another 305,000 deaths upon the Red Army.
India vs. Pakistan at the Battle of Longewala (1971)
In 1971, Pakistan also tried to take a page from the Israeli playbook, launching an all-out surprise attack on India. They moved 2,000 troops, a mobile infantry brigade, and 45 tanks to secure an Indian border post at Longewala. Unfortunately for the Pakistanis, there were 120 Indians at Longewala who would have none of it. They had one recoilless rifle and strike aircraft that couldn’t fly at night.
For hours, Pakistani artillery pummeled the Indians as tanks and infantry advanced. But the recoilless rifle was the perfect weapon against the T-59 tanks Pakistan was fielding – it turned the thin armor into Swiss cheese. They made easy targets, too, often getting stuck in the soft sand at the border post.
The advancing infantry got caught up in barbed wire and, thinking they’d walked into a minefield in the dark, flipped out. They waited two hours for minesweepers to clear the field of mines that didn’t exist. By that time, air support was on the way and the Pakistanis were lit up in full retreat.
Han Xin vs. Zhao Armies at the Battle of Jingxing (205 BC)
What happens when you put 30,000 troops against a force of 200,000? It should be a total rout. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t.
Sun Tzu’s fourth essential for victory is,
“He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.”
In this case, Han Xin prepared himself. The night before the battle, he sent 2,000 men, each carrying a red Han Xin battle flag, to the rear of the Zhao Army’s camp. Their orders were to occupy the camp as soon as the Zhao pressed their attack.
Xin also dug earthworks on the “wrong” side of a river, putting his back up against the natural feature. The position gave his men fortifications, but also left them no retreat. He marched his army out to meet the Zhao forces. When the fighting began, the Han forces feinted back to the earthworks. With no retreat, they fought like madmen.
Seeing that they weren’t going to take those fortifications right away, the Zhao called for a temporary fallback to regroup. When the Zhao Army saw the thousands of battle flags in their camp, they thought they were being flanked from the rear and promptly fell apart. The Han slaughtered 150,000 Zhao soldiers.
Romans vs. Parthians at the Battle of Carrhae (53 BC)
A wealthy, young Roman politician named Crassus allied himself with two of the biggest Roman military leaders — perhaps two of the biggest of all time: Julius Caesar, who needs no introduction, and Pompey the Great, who really earned that title. Not content with being just a political ally, Crassus wanted to make a name for himself militarily as well.
He did. But not how he expected he would.
Crassus, then Governor of Syria (conquered by Pompey), led an army of 43,000 legionnaires against the Parthian Empire, running them with no food or rest in order to surprise a mounted force of Parthians in the middle of Mesopotamia. He ran into 10,000 horse archers and some 1,000 heavily armored horsemen, called cataphracts. To defend his army, he formed them into a hollow square, the best defense against mounted units at the time.
Well, after a few hours of raining arrows on the Romans, the Parthians broke and ran, but it was a feint. As a part of the Roman Army broke off to pursue them, the Parthians (again) shot them with arrows. When the Romans were far enough away from the main force, the cataphracts slaughtered them.
When night fell, Crassus retreated to the nearby town of Carrhae. Parthians killed all the stragglers then cut off Crassus’ head during the next day’s “peace negotiation.”
This loss is particularly humiliating due to the fact that we still reference this battle to this day, with terms like “crass stupidity” and “parting shot.”
America’s 26th President was well-known for his love of fisticuffs. He could be considered one of the world’s first mixed martial artists, considering his love for jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and, of course, boxing. He would have to give up boxing after holding a series of bouts at the White House. He challenged an Army artillery officer to a match, and the officer rung the Commander-In-Chief’s bell so hard, TR couldn’t see straight.
Theodore Roosevelt’s glasses were so synonymous with the President, they might as well have been trademarked. The President had eye troubles from an early age and wore spectacles for all of his adult life. His glasses never prevented him from doing any of the amazing feats to which he is credited, including boxing matches. Just don’t call him “four eyes.”
Even as President, he would get so caught up in his enthusiasm for boxing that he would ask professional boxers to hit him in the jaw as hard as possible, even while in the West Wing. And the President had no reservations about hitting those same boxers right back.
He challenged a military aide, Capt. Daniel T. Meade, to a boxing match at the White House. Knowing the Commander-In-Chief’s demand for the highest possible effort at all times and that he would be in trouble only if he didn’t give his boss the fight of his life, Capt. Meade delivered a blow that changed Roosevelt’s life forever.
Meade, the President, and Kermit Roosevelt were in the White House gym one day when Roosevelt told Meade to put on his boxing gloves.
“When you put on gloves with President Roosevelt, it was a case of fight all the way,” Meade later wrote. “… he wanted plenty of action, and he usually got it. He had no use for a quitter or one who gave ground and nobody but a man willing to fight all the time and all the way had a chance with him.”
Roosevelt wrote in his autobiography that Meade’s punch smashed the blood vessels in his left eye and “the sight has been dim ever since. … Accordingly, I thought it better to acknowledge that I had become an elderly man and would have to stop boxing.” Doctors later believed Meade’s hit may have detached part of Roosevelt’s retina.
For Meade’s part, he had no idea the hit blinded the President. Roosevelt would not reveal the fact that he was blinded by the hit until relaying the story in 1917, twelve years after the incident occurred. By this time, Capt. Meade had become Col. Meade and confirmed the story to The New York Times.
“I give you my word I didn’t know I had blinded the Colonel until I read about it in the paper a few days ago,” Meade told the New York Times. “I shall write the Colonel a letter expressing my regrets at the serious results of the blow.”
It’s more than a Grunt Style t-shirt, those awful Oakleys, or an American flag ball cap — you know, the one with the IR patch on the front? People don’t need to hear you ask if there’s a veteran’s discount or relate everything back to how your old unit did things.
People can tell you were in the military — just by looking at you.
8. The way you stand.
Some call it “command presence” while others call it “closed body language.” No matter what you call it, you stand there with your arms crossed, feet planted beneath your shoulders, and shoulders slightly hunched – you’re in a power stance: a military power stance. How better to show someone you’re frosty, collected, and listening to them than looking like you’re leaning on a pole without actually doing it.
You may have started the conversation with his hands on his hips, thumbs through belt loops.
“Your party called ahead. What now, POG?”
7. You are always 15 minutes early to everything.
People will figure out that if you aren’t 15 minutes early, you consider yourself late. Especially since you’ll call them to let them know… meanwhile, they haven’t even left their house yet.
For civilians, this works out because you’ll always be at a restaurant to put the group on the waiting list for a table. They will use this to their full advantage.
When you find out Yogurtland has froyo in Sea Salt Caramel.
6. You move fast.
It doesn’t matter if you actually have to be anywhere at a certain time, you move with a sense of urgency, a sense of purpose. You know that Pinkberry will still be there no matter when you arrive, but you still approach the cinnamon churro froyo like T-1000 chasing John Connor.
5. Your haircut.
This is a dead giveaway. Why would anyone on Earth willingly subject their head to the high and tight (or worse, the flattop) unless they were forced to keep it that way at some point? I’m pretty sure the coiffure equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome takes hold in TAPS class.
Like standing at parade rest for pizza.
4. You stand at parade rest for bizarre reasons.
Ever catch yourself staring out into the distance, perhaps over a lake at sunset, only to have an older guy tell you to “stop standing at parade rest for the goddamned lake, boot.” It’s a sign of respect for those above you and, after spending so long as an E-3, just a comfortable position to put yourself in.
Stand like you’re wearing a cavalry hat while meeting a foreign head of state.
3. Your ramrod-straight posture.
You stand tall. We all do. That’s not going to stop just because we stopped wearing a uniform.
It’s like they drilled it into you or something.
2. You walk with coordinated arm swings.
Have you ever noticed yourself walking down the street with your right arm perfectly in sync with your left leg and vice versa? That’s not an accident. You had all those military marches and facing movements drilled into you. They’re going to hang around for a while.
1. You eat so fast, people wonder if you ever taste food.
Appetizers, dinners, desserts — all gone in the blink of an eye. Wouldn’t it be great if you could slow down and enjoy the flavors of life? Well, you can’t. This is because you’re probably worried that, if you do, your stripper ex-wife will take that, too.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s old secret service ID card from the 1980s was found in an East German secret police archive on Dec. 11, 2018, and it shows the young man pouting and staring proudly into the distance.
Putin, who worked for the Soviet Union’s KGB security agency at the time, worked alongside the Stasi — East Germany’s Ministry for State Security — from 1985 to 1990. East Germany was under Soviet Union’s control at the time.
The ID was issued in 1986, when Putin was 33, The Stasi Documentation Archive said on Dec. 11, 2018.
He was a “subordinate officer to a KGB liaison officer” at the time, the archive said.
The front of the card showed Putin’s photo, the location of his service — Dresden — and the ID’s issue number — B 217590.
There are several stamps on the back of the card, which were stamped every three months and ended in late 1989. It’s not immediately clear what they represent.
Stamps on Vladimir Putin’s old Stasi ID card.
A spokesman for the Stasi Documentation Archive said it was normal for KGB agents stationed in East Germany to be issued passes giving them entry to the German Stasi offices, Reuters reported.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the news agency: “As is well known at the time when the Soviet Union existed, the KGB and the Stasi were partner intelligence agencies so you probably can’t rule out an exchange of such identity cards.”
After leaving the Stasi and the KGB, Putin went on to work for the KGB’s successor, the FSB.
He served as director there from 1998 to 1999, before becoming president in 2000.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.