On the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) shared a video on Twitter of a remarkable ceremony. “The letters on the white crosses almost disappear in the brightness of the stone, so a soldier fills the indentations with sand from Omaha Beach to bring the name forward.”
This video is particularly special to watch, as it clearly shows how effective the process is:
Visited the grave of my friend’s father and witnessed a remarkable ceremony. The letters on the white crosses almost disappear in the brightness of the stone, so a soldier fills the indentations with sand from Omaha Beach to bring the name forward. It sent shivers down my spine.pic.twitter.com/e2G8KvvALt
In the video, the soldier conjures the name of William A. Richards, a fallen World War II veteran, killed in 1944, with sand from Omaha Beach, one of the D-Day invasion sites. D-Day marked the turning of the war in Europe, where millions and millions of Allied service members perished.
Others began to respond to the tweet with their own experiences witnessing the ceremony, including the graves of their relatives. The sands from Normandy beaches are sent to military cemeteries throughout Europe. In the Netherlands American Cemetery, the graves of American service members have been adopted by Dutch families, who research the lives of the fallen and honor their graves with flowers.
I had the privilege of meeting the family that has been looking after my Uncle Neil. They took the day off of work to meet me.pic.twitter.com/MA4a6HLLKi
For so many, these rituals are powerful reminders of the cost of freedom. The sanctity of a military funeral is one that is shared across the country — and, in the case of the world wars, across the globe. It can be easy for many Americans to feel separated, through both time and distance, from the horrors of World War I and World War II; but for our allies in Europe, the wars were fought in their own backyard.
The sands of Omaha Beach bring forth the names of those who died fighting against Nazi Germany and the enemies of freedom, lest we ever forget.
In March, Wilma L. Vaught, Brigadier General, USAF (ret) is turning 90, and there is a celebration of her life and legacy at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial on March 14 from 1-4 p.m EST. She is one of the most highly decorated military women in United States history. Not only did she pioneer history for women with her many accomplishments, but she was also instrumental in the funding, building and creation of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, which tells the story of military women and keeps their stories as a record of history.
Brig. Gen. Vaught joined the military in 1957. She graduated from the University of Illinois in 1952 and began working, but saw very little chance of advancement. Having come across an Army recruiting letter that offered her an opportunity to work in a management position (officer), she started looking into joining the military. In her research, she was given the advice to see if the Air Force had a similar program and when she found out they did she decided to join the Air Force.
1957 was after the Korean War but before the Vietnam War. When Vaught went through her training, she wasn’t taught how to use a weapon, instead, she went through a course on how to put on makeup and how to get in and out of a car tastefully. When she arrived at her first assignment at Barksdale AFB, she was assigned to the Comptroller Squadron but was sent to manage all the ladies on base until another female officer arrived.
Vaught always did the best at whatever job she assigned, and worked to take care of the Airmen below her. Throughout her career, men would find out that a woman was their next commander and try to get transferred. After a few months, people would come up to her and say, “When I heard you were coming, I wanted to be reassigned because I didn’t want to work for a woman. But I just want to let you know I don’t feel that way anymore, I would work for you anyplace.”
When asked what the key to her success was, she talked about the stories of helping people. She was known for taking over commands that may have been meeting the mission, but no one was taking care of the people. She knew how important it was for people to be put in for awards and promotions and made it a point to ensure that happened while still meeting the mission. She also continually pushed those she worked with to get their education or take required courses for promotion. Story after story of people whose lives were impacted by Brig. Gen. Vaught involved her pushing them harder to be their best.
Not only did those who worked for her want to follow her wherever she went, but her leadership also didn’t want to go anywhere without her. In 1966, when her bomber unit was preparing to deploy, her wing commander asked her to deploy to Guam with bomb wing in support of the Vietnam War. She told her boss she thought she couldn’t deploy, but he found a way to make it so that she would deploy. She was the only female deployed with 3,000 men, and spent six months working for the wing commander as a management analyst. She was the first woman to deploy for Strategic Air Command, but that wasn’t her only deployment. She was also deployed to Vietnam. While she wasn’t the first to deploy to Vietnam, she was still one of very few, and she was not issued a weapon or given fatigues to wear. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t have a weapon hidden in her hotel room in case she needed it. She was assigned to the MACV headquarters.
In June of 1948, President Truman signed the Women’s Armed Service Integration Act to replace the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) that was set to expire.
In November of 1967, President Johnson signed Public Law 90-130. This law removed the promotion and retirement restrictions on women officers in the armed forces. These laws had far-reaching effects and were a tipping point in the role of women in the military.
In 1982, she became the first woman to reach the rank of Brig. Gen. in the comptroller career field. The second woman to reach that rank as a comptroller didn’t happen for another 22 years. When she retired in 1985, she was one of the three female Generals in the Air Force and one of the seven female Generals in the U.S. Military.
She was a woman who changed the course of history for the women who followed behind her. With her can-do attitude and perseverance to get the job done, doors opened that stayed open for the women who followed her. But one of her most lasting impacts is the Women in Military Service for America Memorial located at Arlington. As president of the Women’s Memorial Foundation board of directors, she spearheaded the campaign that raised some million dollars for the memorial that was opened in 1997. It stands today as a place of record where visitors can learn of the courage and bravery of tens of thousands of American women who have pioneered the future.
Ukraine’s border service has said that it will only allow Ukrainian citizens to travel to Crimea following the imposition of martial law.
Kyiv imposed martial law in 10 of its 27 regions for 30 days on Nov. 28, 2018, after Russian forces fired on Ukrainian ships and seized 23 sailors in the Black Sea off the coast of the Russian-controlled Crimean Peninsula.
“In connection with the introduction of martial law, the administrative border with temporarily occupied Crimea can be crossed exclusively with Ukrainian documents,” a spokesman said on Nov. 29, 2018.
Citizens from all nations were previously allowed to enter Crimea through the administrative border via mainland Ukraine. But the process for doing so for non-Ukrainians was fraught with bureaucracy.
Crimea is accessible by plane from Russia or via Russia’s newly built bridge from the country’s mainland. But under Ukrainian law, those routes are illegal. Violators — and there have been many — are given official bans of three years or longer by Kyiv.
Earlier in the day, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called on NATO to send ships to the Sea of Azov to help protect Ukraine.
He claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin sees himself as a “Russian emperor” and Ukraine as a Russian “colony.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Ukrainian president later on Nov. 29, 2018, tweeted that Kyiv will impose “restrictions” on Russian citizens in Ukraine.
“No need to run to shops and buy matches and salt. There will be no restrictions on cash withdrawals, currency-exchange operations, travels abroad for Ukrainian citizens. For Russian citizens, these restrictions will be introduced. And I think that’s quite justified,” he wrote.
Relations between Moscow and Kyiv have deteriorated after Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and shortly thereafter began supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has left more than 10,300 dead since April 2014.
In an interview with the German tabloid Bild published early on Nov. 29, 2018, Poroshenko said he hoped European states will take active steps, including increasing sanctions and military protection against Russia, to help Ukraine after providing verbal support in the wake of Russia’s capture of 24 Ukrainian sailors.
“We hope that NATO states are prepared to send naval ships to the Sea of Azov to support Ukraine and provide security,” Poroshenko said.
“The only language he [Putin] understands is the solidarity of the Western world,” Poroshenko said. “We can’t accept Russia’s aggressive policies. First it was Crimea, then eastern Ukraine, now he wants the Sea of Azov.”
Opening a German-Ukrainian economic forum in Berlin later in the day, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she planned to press Putin at a Group of 20 (G20) summit to urge the release of the ships and crews.
“We can only resolve this in talks with one another because there is no military solution to all of these conflicts,” she added.
Dzhemil Temishev wrote on Facebook on November 29 that his “colleagues” in the Lefortovo detention center in Moscow had informed him that some of the Ukrainian sailors had been brought there.
Also on Nov. 29, 2018, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov criticized Poroshenko’s request for NATO to deploy naval ships to the Sea of Azov, saying it was “aimed at provoking further tensions” and driven by Poroshenko’s “electoral and domestic policy motives.”
A NATO spokeswoman said the alliance already had a strong presence in the region, with vessels routinely patrolling and exercising in the Black Sea.
“There is already a lot of NATO in the Black Sea, and we will continue to assess our presence in the region,” Oana Lungescu said.
The Sea of Azov is the body of water that separates the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, from the Ukrainian and Russian mainlands. Russia opened a bridge over the Kerch Strait connecting Crimea with Russia in May and has asserted control over the strait.
The Kerch Strait is the only route for ships traveling between the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine has several ports, and the Black Sea, which is the arena usually patrolled by NATO.
Ukraine is a partner of NATO but not a member of the military alliance. NATO has already said it “stands with Ukraine” and has called on Russia to release the captured ships and their crews.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also warned Russia on Nov. 26, 2018, that “its actions have consequences.”
Poroshenko, who on Nov. 28, 2018, instituted martial law in parts of Ukraine in response to the Russian actions, told Bild he had evidence suggesting Russia is planning a new ground offensive against Ukraine, and he said he had shown NATO partners satellite pictures supporting that allegation.
“Germany also has to ask itself: What will Putin do next if we don’t stop him?” Poroshenko told Bild.
Ukrainian parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy has joined Poroshenko in calling for increased protection from NATO, saying on Nov. 27, 2018, that “I urged [NATO] to increase [its presence] in the airspace above the Black Sea and the number of military ships in the Black Sea as a guarantee of security and a guarantee of stability in the Black Sea.”
EU: ‘Utmost Concern,’ But No New Sanctions
Poroshenko’s remarks came as the European Union failed to muster support for any immediate new steps to either impose new sanctions on Russia over the naval incident or increase enforcement of existing sanctions on Moscow.
Poland, Britain, and the EU’s Baltic states have called for more sanctions, but after three days of debate, the EU’s 28 states could agree only to issue a statement on Nov. 28, 2018, expressing “utmost concern about the dangerous increase of tensions” and the “unacceptable” use of force by Russia.
The statement issued by EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini did not mention sanctions, saying only that the bloc will “act appropriately” while continuing to monitor the situation.
The bloc’s top powers, Germany and France, have so far emphasized efforts to ease tensions. Other members, including Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, and Cyprus, have been calling for a softening of sanctions on Moscow.
The EU first imposed sanctions on Russia after it seized Crimea, and it has ratcheted up those sanctions from time to time. The United States on Nov. 27, 2018, called for stricter enforcement of the EU’s existing sanctions on Russian and Crimean officials and businesses.
While the EU failed to take any immediate action against Russia, in a gesture of solidarity with Ukraine, Estonia said on Nov. 28, 2018, that it had summoned its Russian ambassador and condemned Russia’s use of military force in the incident.
These days, tattoos are so commonplace in the U.S. military that every branch has its own policy as part of its uniform regulations, but a few years ago that wasn’t the case. The U.S. Navy, however, has a long tradition of tattoos.
Here’s the meaning behind a few of the classics:
1. Fully-Rigged Ships
A tattoo of a fully-rigged ship from the age of sail means the sailor had been around Cape Horn, the rough, stormy waters around the southern tip of South America. A fully-rigged ship is one with three or more masts, square sails fully deployed.
2. Nautical Star
The star is a symbol of a sailor always to be able to find his way home. The nautical star is a five-pointed star in dark and light shades counterchanged to resemble a compass rose.
3. Shellback Turtle
Sailors can wear the Shellback Turtle when they get initiated into King Neptune’s Court after crossing the equator. If you’re unsure what exactly this means, We Are The Mighty has an explainer for you:
The crossed cannons mean a veteran has seen military service as a sailor.
Sailors earn a new swallow tattoo for every 5,000 nautical miles traveled, which is about 5,754 regular miles, roughly the distance between New York City and Tel Aviv. The circumference of the earth is 21,639 nautical miles, just about 4.16 sparrows.
A single anchor means the sailor crossed the Atlantic or has been a member of the merchant marine, a fleet of civilian ships that carries military cargo. In wartime, this fleet is mobilized to carry war materiel, including troops and supplies.
During World War II, the Merchant Marine took a beating with high casualties, entering the European war long before the United States itself. Since the U.S. was delivering war supplies to Britain through Lend-Lease, Nazi u-boats targeted U.S. shipping bound for the UK. The Merchant Marine casualty rate was 3.9 percent, whereas the Marine Corps’, the next highest, was only 2.94 percent.
7. Rope on the Wrist
A knot of rope on a sailors wrist identifies him as a deckhand, someone who maintains the hull, decks, superstructure, mooring, and cargo handling. Deckhands are still common in ocean-going vessels, though they’re far less likely to be maintaining wooden ships.
8. Hula Girl
Hula girls signify the sailor has been to Hawaii.
9. Crossed Anchors
Sailors wearing the crossed anchors on the webbing between their thumb and index finger are identifying themselves as boatswain’s mates, the guys who maintain the deck and take care of smaller boat operations and damage control parties.
10. HOLD and FAST
These words are a charm spelled out on the four front-facing fingers on each hand. Sailors hope it brings them good luck while gripping the rigging. Holding fast means the sailor isn’t going to let the line go, no matter what. Sailors were a superstitious bunch and life on a sailing ship was tough (to say the least). Anything that gave them the edge in saving their own lives was worth doing.
11. Pig and Rooster
The foot tattoos of pigs and roosters were worn by sailors in WWII in the hopes it would keep the sailor from drowning. The Navy shipped these animals in crates at the time. When ships went down, the crates floated, and the animals inside would sometimes be the only survivors
12. Compass Rose
Another good luck charm that allows a sailor to find his way home.
Worn on the soles of a sailor’s feet, these are thought to ward off sharks
14. Dagger through a Rose
This tattoo means the sailor is loyal and willing to fight anything, even something as sweet and beautiful as a rose
Wearing a dragon means the sailor has served in China.
16. Golden Dragon
When a sailor crossed the International Date Line, he earns the right to wear the Golden Dragon tattoo. The International Date Line is the imaginary line of longitude that separates two calendar dates. When someone sails from East to West, they set their clock back one hour for every 15 degrees of longitude they pass. When they pass the date line, they’ve gained a full 24 hours.
Sailors tattooed with harpoons were serving or had served in a whaling or fishing fleet.
18. King Neptune
Another badge of honor earned for crossing the Equator.
19. Palm Tree
The palm tree has two meanings, depending on your navy. Sailors in the Royal Navy during World War II could wear it after sailing on Mediterranean cruises. It can also be worn by U.S. sailors who served in Hawaii.
A seven-minute drive and there it was; a training site with water pits, steep hills and lots of mud. This was the playground-of-the-day for soldiers with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, during their wheeled vehicle recovery class at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, late July 2019.
The training was designed to submerge vehicles in a controlled setting so soldiers could use the skills they’ve learned to retrieve it safely, according to Sgt. 1st Class Thomas McKenzie, an instructor with the Regional Training Site Maintenance Company, from Fort McCoy. Soldiers train in the same scenarios they may face overseas to prepare for the elements, he added.
“I have the firm belief that if you have to call one of our recovery guys, something bad has happened,” said McKenzie, whose unit goes by the motto, “You call, we haul.”
U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Brett Cosaboom with the Regional Training Site Maintenance Company in Fort McCoy, Wis., prepares a truck during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy July 20, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)
“We never go out when it’s a bright, sunny day and pretty outside,” said McKenzie. “We always go out in the worst possible conditions.”
The group huddled up for a weather briefing just as the clouds rolled in. Despite the inclement weather, they continued mission. Each soldier stood in their respective positions and waited for the next move. Torrential rains pounded down creating conditions of limited visibility, but the soldiers carried on without hesitation.
U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, walk through deep water during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)
“We don’t stop during bad weather because this is the kind of stuff these soldiers are going to have to deal with, as long as we can do it safely. I tell my soldiers all the time, the number one goal for this class is 10 fingers, 10 toes, vertical and breathing when you leave it,” said McKenzie.
Each soldier took their turn walking into the mire pits to attach massive chains to the submerged vehicles for recovery.
U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, perform reconnaissance before an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)
According to Pfc. Kaleen Hansen, with the 445th Transportation Co., this type of training is an invaluable resource not only for the soldiers in the class, but also the Army Reserve as a whole. Wheeled vehicle mechanics do their job so that other soldiers can get on with theirs, she added.
Throughout the 17-day course, instructors practiced a crawl-walk-run style of learning to ensure soldiers are set up for success in the field, added McKenzie.
U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Austin Smith with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, prepares a vehicle during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)
“People think it’s just hooking up a cable or chain and moving on. It’s not. There’s a lot of math. These guys are doing a lot of complex equations to figure out what they need to do,” said McKenzie.
A U.S. Army Reserve Soldier with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, rinses out his uniform after getting soaked during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)
Safety and readiness are the two main concerns when conducting this type of training, according to Spc. Austin Smith, with the 445th Transportation Co. These vehicles weigh-in at 96,000 pounds, so all safety measures are taken seriously to avoid any accidents or injury, he added.
“You take care of us, we’ll take care of you … and we’ll get it done faster than heck,” said Smith.
U.S. Army Reserve Pfc. Kaleen Hansen with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, prepares a vehicle during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)
Despite tornado warnings, rain and gusting winds, soldiers of the 445th Transportation Co. weathered the storm enough to safely recover all vehicles in a training environment. After a couple more days of practical exercises, the wheeled vehicle mechanic course at Fort McCoy wrapped up July 24, 2019, ensuring, rain or shine, they will be able to support when needed.
No doubt about it, the Wild West is an evocative era in American history. This period of frontier expansion is synonymous with rowdy saloons, cowboys, suspenseful shootouts, and of course, the ever-present tumbleweed. Within this lawless atmosphere, the infamous 1881 gunfight at the O.K. Corral took place. Although it was a real historical event, the showdown between Wyatt Earp and the Cochise County Cowboys checks off every element of a good spaghetti western film.
Here are the basic facts: Approximately 30 shots were fired in the standoff between law enforcement and the group of outlaws known as the Cochise County Cowboys. The altercation left three cowboys dead and two lawmen wounded in the mining boomtown of Tombstone, Arizona Territory. However, the passage of time has meshed fact with legend. We’re here to set the record straight. Here are seven little-known facts about the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
1. The gunfight did not actually take place at the O.K. Corral.
Nope, the shootout didn’t happen inside or even next to the eponymous corral. Shots were exchanged in a vacant lot on Fremont Street, down the road from the corral’s rear entrance.
This common mistake can be attributed to the 1957 film, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. The movie made the shootout famous, but it was rather loose with the facts. (As for why the movie-makers decided on a location change, we’re guessing it’s because Gunfight at the O.K. Corral sounds more glamorous than Gunfight at the Vacant Lot on Fremont Street.) The corral still exists today, but instead of a business renting out horses and wagons, it’s a part of Tombstone’s historic district, where people can pay to watch reenactments of the gunfight.
2. The police may not have been the good guys.
There isn’t much room for moral ambiguity in standard depictions of the Old West. You have your bad guys (violent, lawless thieves) and your good guys (law-abiding sheriffs who try to protect the town). However, historians aren’t so sure what went down during the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
The Earp brothers and their friend Doc Holliday claimed afterwards that they were trying to disarm the cowboys, who were illegally carrying firearms when the cowboys opened fire. The surviving cowboys alleged that they were fully cooperating and had even raised their hands in the air when the lawmen started indiscriminately shooting them at point blank range. Alliances were strong in the small town–newspapers were not above taking sides, and witnesses of the scuffle gave conflicting testimony. To further complicate matters, the transcript of the ensuing murder trial was destroyed in a fire. All in all, we may never know for sure who provoked the shootout.
3. Wyatt Earp wasn’t really the hero of the shootout.
Wyatt Earp went down in history as the central figure of the gunfight. In reality, his brother Virgil was far more experienced than him in combat and shootout situations. Virgil had served in The Civil War and had a long career in law enforcement compared to Wyatt, who had a shorter stint in law enforcement and was even fired from one position.
However, Wyatt gained fame when a biography, Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, was published in 1931, two years after its subject’s death. Riddled with exaggerations, to the point that it was more fiction that actual biography, the book portrayed Wyatt as the deadliest and most feared shooter in the Old West. Another contributing factor to his notoriety was the fact that unlike his fellow lawmen in the O.K. Corral shootout, Wyatt wasn’t injured or killed. Nor was he harmed in any of the ensuing fights. His close calls in the face of death only added to his mystique. Which brings us to our next point …
4. The gunfight at the O.K. Corral was only a small part of the long feud between the Earps & the cowboys.
Tension was simmering between the cowboys and the Earps long before gunfire erupted. Naturally, the fact that the Cochise County Cowboys made their living through smuggling and thievery ruffled a few feathers with town marshal Virgil Earp. The cowboys were implicated in several robberies and murders. The Earps promised justice, to which the cowboys responded that they were being persecuted without evidence. Death threats were exchanged.
The gunfight wasn’t the end of the enmity between these men either. The surviving cowboys were believed to have organized the assassination of Morgan Earp and a murder attempt on Virgil that left him permanently disabled.
5. Wyatt Earp wasn’t always on the right side of the law.
And he definitely wasn’t the infallible hero later accounts made him out to be. Earp was apparently heavily affected by his first wife’s death and started acting out. Before moving to Tombstone, he faced a series of lawsuits alleging that he stole money and falsified court documents. He was also arrested for stealing a horse and escaped from jail before his trial. Later, he was arrested and fined for frequenting brothels. Rumors were abound that he was a pimp.
Earp tried to turn things around for himself and got a job on the police force in Wichita, Kansas. However, he was fired after getting into a fistfight. Luckily for him, it was pretty easy to wipe the slate clean for yourself in those days. He could simply pack his bags and head to a new town like Tombstone, where he could start with a fresh reputation.
6. The gunfight only lasted 30 seconds.
Yup, the dramatic confrontation that left three men dead and three wounded lasted less than a minute. In that span, around 30 shots were fired. The movie Gunfight at the O.K. Corraldramatized the shootout, showing the men heavily armed and engaged in a fight that spanned minutes. In reality, each man carried only a revolver apiece and in the confusion, nobody could be sure who fired the fatal shots.
7. Many of the townspeople sympathized with the cowboys.
You would think the people of Tombstone would regard the Earps as their heroes for driving out the outlaws. Not so. Public opinion was divided over the matter, especially after Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan testified in court that he witnessed the cowboys try to surrender peacefully.
However, even the sheriff had loyalties in this small town. Virgil Earp had clashed with Behan on several other occasions, claiming that he turned a blind eye to the cowboys’ illegal activities and was sympathetic to the criminals. Additionally, Wyatt Earp’s common-law wife, Josephine Earp, had lived with Behan for two years before entering a relationship with Earp. She left Behan after finding him in bed with another woman, but no doubt this contributed to the animosity betweens the Earps and Behan.
President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel appear headed for a one-on-one confrontation on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels after Trump slammed Germany as being controlled by Russia.
“You tell me if that’s appropriate, because I think it’s not, and I think it’s a very bad thing for NATO, and I don’t think it should have happened,” Trump said. “And I think we have to talk to Germany about it.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and President Donald Trump.
(White House photo)
A Reuters review of Germany’s official data shows that 35.3% of German imports of oil and gas come from Russia, but the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline project is expected to increase such energy trade.
Trump went on to bash Germany’s defense spending, which stands at 1.24% of its gross domestic product. The country has committed to reaching 2% by 2024, but Trump has pushed it to get there sooner.
“I think it’s very unfair to our country,” Trump said. “These countries have to step it up not over a 10-year period — have to step it up immediately. Germany is a rich country. They talk about they’re going to increase it a tiny bit by 2030. Well, they could increase it immediately.”
Merkel with Trump during the G7 Leaders Summit in Canada on June 9.
(German Federal Government)
Merkel fires back
Just hours after Trump’s comments, Merkel fired back, saying she lived in East Germany under Soviet control and that things are different now.
“I am very happy that today we are united in freedom, the Federal Republic of Germany,” she said. “Because of that we can say that we can make our independent policies and make independent decisions. That is very good, especially for people in eastern Germany.”
Merkel also defended Germany’s role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, pointing out that German troops were still fighting for US interests in Afghanistan after the US invoked NATO’s mutual-defense clause following the September 11, 2001, attacks.
“Germany is the second-largest provider of troops — the largest part of our military capacity is offered to NATO and until today we have a strong engagement toward Afghanistan,” she said. “In that we also defend the interests of the United States.”
Trump found Merkel’s weak spot, and he’s hammering it
Merkel faces serious difficulties in meeting Germany’s defense-spending commitments to NATO. They are unpopular domestically, and she is already struggling to stay atop a shaky coalition government.
At the same time, Germany’s military is in a poor state, and the country’s own defense minister has criticized a lack of readiness and defense spending. In May 2018, the German news outlet Der Spiegel reported that only four of Germany’s 128 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets were ready to fly combat missions.
While the US has moved to increase its troop presence in Germany and Eastern Europe as a counter to Russia, Merkel’s government has sought to increase some energy purchases from Russia, the very force NATO seeks to defend against.
But as Mark D. Simakovsky, an Atlantic Council expert who previously served as the Europe/NATO chief of staff in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, told Business Insider, Trump is unpopular in Europe, and that could make upping defense spending even harder for Merkel.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
If you visit the USS Constitution in Boston these days, the cannons you’ll see on her gun deck aren’t the originals launched with the ship. The guns aboard the ship are replicas, and only two of them are capable of firing salute charges. Even when the sailors aboard Constitution fire salutes, it’s a far cry from the way cannons were loaded and fired when Old Ironsides was first laid.
In fact, they’re inaccurate replicas, with 18 of them even bearing the Royal Cipher of King George II.
The creator thought the ship’s original guns were confiscated from the British. He was wrong.
(USS Constitution Museum Collection)
USS Constitution was first launched in 1797 and saw action against the Royal Navy during the War of 1812. She took down five British warships, victories that stunned not only the Royal Navy, but the rest of the world. Her most famous victory was against the HMS Guerriere, the victory that earned her the nickname “Old Ironsides” when the Guerriere’s 526-pound broadsides bounced off Constitution’s hull as if it were made of iron. But the 30 24-pounder long guns and 20 32-pounder carronades it launched with weren’t captured from the British during the Revolution.
The guns aboard Constitution were never designed to stay solely aboard the ship, as weapons at that time were moved as needed. Shortly before the Civil War, she took an illegal American slaver as a prize off the coast of Angola and was decommissioned. The ship was turned into a training ship for Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy. Eventually, she was turned into housing for sailors until the turn of the 20th Century.
The Constitution being refitted as training ship for Midshipmen.
It was around 1906 that Congress decided to restore Constitution to her former glory. After public outcry against the ship being used for target practice by the Navy halted its planned sinking, 0,000 was appropriated to restore the ship as a museum. This included new casts of cannon for her decks. Some 54 guns were going to be cast for the restoration. But the Naval Constructor in charge of the armaments, believing there was no documentation about the original guns, used a French design instead. So rather than long guns and carronades, the designer saved money by using the same gun on every deck.
In 1925, the Navy rectified this and went all-out in restoring Constitution. The new restoration scrapped all of the 1906 guns for being historically inaccurate. After four years in drydock, the guns the Navy used to replace the 1906 guns were also inaccurate. These were the aforementioned British-style weapons – but at least they represent the kinds of weapons found on the gun decks and spar decks. Two of them even fire salutes.
The two saluting guns aboard Constitution were retrofitted to fire 40mm shells of black powder just in time for the United States Centennial in 1976. On Nov. 11, 1976, the commanding officer of the ship decided to fire the salute guns in the morning and in the evening from the ship’s mooring in Boston Harbor – a tradition it has carried on ever since.
On June 28, 1914, an assassin supplied by terrorists shot and killed the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, igniting an already tense situation between Serbia and the Hapsburg-controlled monarchy in Vienna. By July 1914, a month later, the world was at war, and by the end of the war, Austria-Hungary would no longer exist, and Germany would be punished in the treaty that ended it.
Even though Germany had nothing to do with igniting “the powder keg of Europe.”
A Bosnian terrorist kills an Austrian noble in Serbia so Germany and Russia go to war. Get it?
It’s a little more complicated than who started what but Germany gets the brunt of the blame for the war because of how the fight between Austria and Serbia escalated so fast, and no attempt was made to de-escalate it. The resulting deaths of millions worldwide along with the destruction wrought on European battlefields and the use of poison gas left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth (sometimes literally) throughout the duration of the war.
While Germany didn’t necessarily start World War I, it didn’t do much to stop it, either. In fact, many historians believe Germany actively encouraged the war, despite the systems of alliances in place that should have deterred the European powers from fighting. The Germans knew if Austria-Hungary invaded Serbia, the Russians would intervene on Serbia’s behalf. Then Germany would have to come to Austria’s aid.
That’s what the Germans wanted.
Russians were still carrying religious icons into battle instead of modern weapons.
Even though Austria was satisfied with Sarajevo’s attempt to smooth things over, Germany convinced the Hapsburg Emperor that he could not only invade and win against the Serbians, but that Germany would have an easy time against all the other European allies. Germany really, really wanted a war with Russia to acquire new territory in the east, but couldn’t justify it. Going to war to back its Austrian ally was more than enough and Austria had a reason to go to war with Serbia. So Germany kept pushing its ally despite calls for peace from the rest of Europe.
Finally, Austria agreed and attacked Serbia, which caused the Russians to come to Serbia’s aid, which forced Germany to back Austria and France to back Russia. Then the Germans invaded France through Belgium, requiring England to intervene in the war as well. So Austria-Hungary technically started the war, but Germany tried to finish it. For four years.
That’s why Germany takes the blame for World War I.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said in televised remarks that Iran offered $80,000 per victim after it shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet on January 8, but that Ukraine did not accept the offer because “it was too little.”
Zelenskiy added in comments made on Ukrainian 1+1 television that “of course, human life is not measured by money, but we will push for more” compensation for families of the victims.
Air-defense forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) shot down Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 shortly after takeoff in Tehran on January 8, killing all 176 people on board.
Iran has said the downing was an accident, and in mid-January said it would send the black-box flight recorders to Kyiv for analysis.
However, Zelenskiy said that Ukraine had yet to receive the recorders, and that Tehran had instead suggested that Ukrainian specialists fly to Iran on February 3 to examine the black boxes.
“I’m afraid that the Iranians might attract our specialists and then say, ‘Let’s decipher [the recorders] on the spot,’ and then say, ‘Why do you need the black boxes now?'” Zelenskiy said.
“No, we want to take these boxes [to Ukraine],” he added.
The “Batwoman” premiere didn’t keep fans waiting long to learn the identity of the villainess Kate Kane is up against is actually her sister, Beth, who was believed to be killed in a horrific accident when the two were young.
Instead of dragging the reveal out for a few weeks, showrunner Caroline Dries told Insider they decided to reveal Alice’s real identity in the pilot for a couple of reasons.
“One is that, for a shock value, for those of us who knew from reading the comics that they were sisters,” Dries said of staying ahead of fans who are familiar with the characters.
“I wanted to just put it out there because if people did watch the show and had known about the comics, I was worried that it would be spoiled anyway and that everyone would just be waiting for the reveal. We would be playing catch up as opposed to keeping the audience guessing,” she added.
As Dries told Insider, if you’re familiar with the comics then you know who Alice is and you’re just waiting for the big reveal.
Beyond staying ahead of the audience and keeping them on their toes, Dries wanted to make it clear from the get-go that Alice has as much of a bond to Batwoman as the famed Batman and Joker relationship.
“The real reason [to reveal Alice’s identity] is because that relationship is what’s, to me, the most unique part of the show,” said Dries.
We’ll see this family relationship continue to play out over the first season.
“[Kate’s] greatest enemy is a woman that she wants to save,” she continued. “It’s somebody that she cannot kill. It’s somebody that she has to keep others from killing. It’s her twin sister. It’s her other half of her basically.”
As the series progresses, Dries is interested in exploring how Kate’s relationship with her sister played into the character’s growth throughout the series.
“I was really intrigued by an emotional journey for Kate that is all about, ‘How do I get my sister back? Even though she seems so lost right now, how do I find her again and at what cost?” said Dries.
Beth and Alice have a lot to work out.
Alice won’t be the only villain who Kate Kane will face on the show’s first season. Dries said popular “Batman” villain Hush will appear on episode three.
“Batwoman” airs Sunday nights at 8 p.m. on “The CW.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
In April 1951, Lt. Dave Teich heard a call from about 65 U.S. Army soldiers from the 8th Ranger Company. They were completely cut off from the rest of the main force and some of them were wounded.
Meanwhile, some 300,000 Chinese soldiers were on their way to overrun their position. The Rangers were calling for help from Lt. Teich’s tank company. Teich asked his captain if he could go to their rescue. His response was a firm no. Teich went anyway.
One of the trapped Rangers, E.C. Rivera, told NBC News he’d risked his life in a slow low crawl to make his way to a ridge just so he could get line of sight to use his radio. When he peeked over the ridgeline, he saw four American tanks.
He called it “the most beautiful sight of my life” 60 years after the end of the Korean Conflict, which is a title the view still held when the veterans met up for their 60th reunion.
The tankers and the rangers were about five miles south of the 38th parallel, which divided the two Koreas then, as it does today. When the Rangers radioed that they were in “bad shape,” Lt. Teich asked his captain if they could move to assist. The answer was a surprise to Teich.
“We’ve got orders to move out. Screw them. Let them fight their own battles,” he said.
Teich disagreed with his captain’s assessment. He stayed behind with four tanks as the main force moved out, disobeying order from both the captain and higher command. Teich felt he had a moral obligation to help the wounded and cut-off Rangers as both an Army officer and a human being.
“I know I did the right thing in my heart because if I didn’t and those guys got wiped out,” Teich said, “I could never live that down.”
The Chinese were coming in what the Rangers then described as a “river of soldiers,” blocking the Rangers’ escape from the napalm-charred hill they were defending. The Chinese came in hot, firing a barrage of bullets at the beleaguered Americans. They all had to move as fast as they could, even if they were wounded to rendezvous with the waiting tanks.
After carrying their wounded and sick comrades over a mile’s distance, a total of 65 wounded Rangers were loaded onto Teich’s four tanks, who sped them all to safety as the rest of the Rangers who could move beat a hasty retreat in the face of the Chinese wave coming at them.
Ever since that day in Korea that gave Dave Teich the opportunity to fulfill his moral obligation to the wounded and stranded soldiers of the 8th Ranger Company, he’s received calls and letters from the men he helped pull from the jaws of death.
“Though we don’t always say it, Dave Teich saved our lives,” the leader of the Ranger company, then-Capt. James Herbert said. “If it wasn’t for him, we figure all of the survivors of the battle would have been killed or captured by Chinese. We look upon Dave as our savior.”
Herbert himself had a hole in his neck from the Chinese attack. He survived by plugging the hole with his finger until he could get to an aid station.
Teich doesn’t know many of the men who send him cards, calls, and letters every year, but he knows their names, at least.
“If somebody asks for help, you can’t deny them,” Teich said.
The U.S. Army is refining a plan to extend by two months the service’s 14-week infantry one station unit training, or OSUT, so young grunts arrive at their first unit more combat-ready than ever before.
Trainers at Fort Benning, Georgia will run a pilot during summer 2018 that will extend infantry OSUT from 14 weeks to 22 weeks, giving soldiers more time to practice key infantry skills such as land navigation, marksmanship, hand-to-hand combat, fire and maneuver, and first aid training.
Currently soldiers in infantry OSUT go through nine weeks of Basic Combat Training and about 4.5 weeks of infantry advanced individual training. This would add an additional 8 weeks of advanced individual training, tripling the length of the instruction soldiers receive in that phase.
(Photo by Ashley Cross)
“It’s more reps and sets; we are trying to make sure that infantry soldiers coming out of infantry OSUT are more than just familiar [with ground combat skills],” Col. Townley Hedrick, commandant of the Infantry School at Benning, told Military.com in a June 21, 2018 interview. “You are going to shoot more bullets; you are going to come out more proficient and more expert than just familiar.”
A better trained infantry soldier
The former infantry commandant, Brig. Gen. Christopher Donahue, launched the effort to “improve the lethality of soldiers in the infantry rifle squad,” Hedrick said.
“In 14 weeks, what we really do is produce a baseline infantry soldier,” said Col. Kelly Kendrick, the outgoing commander of 198th Infantry Brigade at Benning, who was heavily involved in developing the pilot.
This works fine when new soldiers arrive at their first unit as it is starting its pre-deployment train-up, Kendrick said.
Unfortunately, many young infantry soldiers arrive at a unit only a few weeks before it deploys, leaving little time for preparation before real-world operations begin, he said.
“I was the G3 of the 101st Airborne and if a [new] soldier came up late in the train-up, we had a three-week train-up program and then after three weeks, we would send that soldier on a deployment,” he said.
With 22 weeks of infantry OSUT, “you can see right off that bat, we are going to have a hell of a lot better soldier,” Kendrick said. “I will tell you, we will produce infantry soldiers with unmatched lethality compared to what we have had in the past.”
The new pilot will start training two companies from July 13 to mid-December 2018, Kendrick said. Once the new program of instruction is finalized, trainers will start implementing the 22-week cycle across infantry OSUT in October 2019.
(Photo by John D. Helms)
The effort follows an Army-wide redesign of Basic Combat Training early 2018 designed to instill more discipline and esprit de corps in young soldiers after leaders from around the Army complained that new soldiers were displaying a lack of obedience, poor work ethic, and low discipline.
“If there are two things we do great right now, that’s physical fitness and marksmanship; I really think everything else has suffered a little bit,” said Kendrick. “If you went and looked at special operations forces … the SOF force has realized they have to invest in training and teaching. And they have done that, so we have been the last ones to get it.”
The Army has prioritized leader training for both commissioned officers and sergeants.
“[But] the initial entry, soldier side of the house, has not [changed] whole lot from the infantry perspective for a long, long time,” Kendrick said.
A new emphasis on land navigation training
Currently, soldiers in infantry training receive one day of classroom instruction on land navigation and one day of hands-on application.
“We put them in groups of four and they go and find three of about four-five points — that’s their land navigation training,” Kendrick.
The new land-nav program will last a week.
“They are going to do buddy teams to start with, and at the end, they will have to pass day and night land navigation, individually,” he said.
One challenge of the pilot will be, “can I get to individual proficiency in land-nav or do I need more time?” Kendrick said.
(Photo by John D. Helms)
“Part of this what we haven’t figured out is hey, how long do those lanes need to be — 300, 600, 800 meters?” said Kendrick, adding that it would be easy to design a course “and have every private here fail.”
“Then I can turn around and have every private pass no matter what with just a highway through the woods,” he continued. “We’ve got to figure out what that level is going to be — where they leave here accomplished in their skills and their ability and are prepared to go do that well wherever they get to. That is really the art of doing this pilot.”
A new marksmanship strategy
Currently, infantry OSUT soldiers train on iron sights and the M68 close combat optic at ranges out to 300 meters.
“We don’t do much ACOG training; you go out to most rifle units, the ACOG is part of the unit’s issue,” Kendrick said. “It’s a shame that we don’t train them on the optic that half of them when they walk into their unit the first day and [receive it].”
Soldiers will train with these system and their weapons “day and night with qualification associated,” Kendrick said.
The new program will also increase the amount of maneuver live-fire training soldiers receive.
“Everything from a buddy-team to a fire team to a squad, we are going to increase the time and sets and repetitions in getting them into live-firing, day and night,” Kendrick said. “Today when you do a fire-team, react to contact live fire, you do that twice — daytime only. At the end of this thing, when you are done, we will be doing live-fire [repetitions] on the magnitude of 20-plus.”
As with land navigation, Kendrick said, the time allotted for additional marksmanship training is not yet finalized.
“Like anything else, with being an infantryman, it’s sets and reps that make you proficient,” he said. “So now we are talking about the time to do that amount of sets and repetitions that will give them the foundation that can they can work in the rest of their career.”
More combatives and first aid training
Infantry OSUT trainees receive about 22 hours of combatives, or hand-to-hand combat training.
“We are going to take that to 40 hours,” Kendrick said. “At the end of 40 hours, we are going to take a level-one combatives test, so every soldier that leaves here will be level-one combatives certified.”
Level-one certification will ensure soldiers are practiced in basic holds instead of just being familiar with them, Kendrick said.
“We are talking about practicing and executing those moves.”
It will be the same with first aid training, he said.
Soldiers will spend eight days learning more combat lifesaver training, trauma first aid and “how to handle hot and cold-weather injuries … which cause more casualties than bullets do right now in some of these formations,” Kendrick said.
“You will have a soldier that understands combat lifesaver, first aid and trauma, all those things because right now you just get a little piece of that,” he said.
Infantry trainees will also receive more urban combat training and do a 16-mile road march instead of the standard 12-miler, Kendrick said.
The plan is to “assess this every week” during the pilot and make changes if needed, Kendrick said.
“Is it going to be enough? Do we need more? Those are all the things we are going to work out in this pilot,” he said. “In December, there will be a couple of 14-week companies that graduate at the same time, so part of this is to send both of those groups of soldiers out to units in the Army and get the units’ feedback on the product.”
The effort is designed to give soldiers more exposure to the infantry tasks that make a “solid infantryman here instead of making that happen at their first unit of assignment,” Kendrick said. “This is really going to produce that lethal soldier that can plug into his unit from day one.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.