What it's like to survive being scalped by native warriors - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

No one knows for sure just how the practice of scalping came to be, but for at least a century, removing the scalp of a fallen enemy as proof of valor and skill in combat has been synonymous with the native tribes of the Great Plains and beyond. They may not have started it, but if they didn’t, they sure got good at it. And if they did, it had the desired effect on their enemies.

One man could tell you exactly what it felt like.


William Thompson wasn’t a soldier or an outlaw. He was actually just a working-class, regular joe. His job was fixing telegraph wires along the Union-Pacific Railroad in Nebraska. One day, he was just chugging along to his work when his train was attacked by a band of Cheyenne warriors. When the train derailed, the warriors set out to kill everyone and remove their scalps, and that’s what they did.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

The extreme solution to dandruff.

Warning: This is not for the faint of heart.

Except William Thompson didn’t die. He lost his scalp, all the same, but he survived the gunshot wound and the scalping the Cheyenne inflicted on him. The practice of scalping means that Thompson’s skin was removed by a blade from his forehead on back. When the man awoke, he could see his blood-splattered hair tuft sitting next to him. He did what any of us would do if we just lost part of our head: he picked it up and tried to put it back on.

That, of course, did not work. So, he took it back to Omaha, the nearest city and enlisted the help of an actual surgeon. But even a pair of trained hands couldn’t put William Thompson back together again. When that didn’t work, Thompson was probably dismayed at the idea of his new forced hairstyle, but he made the best of it, putting it on display to earn a bit of money.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

Thompson, post-scalping.

After it stopped being the lucrative cash cow we all know it would certainly have been, Thompson sent it back to Omaha, to the doctor who he originally asked to reattach it. The doctor donated it to the local library, where it still lives to this day. Although it’s not on permanent display, it is sometimes brought out for exhibition. Maybe if you ask nicely, they’ll let you see it.

Check out the scalp here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part three

The one thing that seems to be a constant in Saigon is the delicious smell of food cooking – from the street vendors, open air cafes, coffee shops, and bakeries – it was that way in the late 60’s and remains so today. The first time I came to the city I remember walking to the headquarters with an officer I’d served with in Ban Me Thuot and stopping at a small coffee shop for a coffee and croissant – both were delicious and the whole event seemed surreal given what was going on in the rest of the country at the time.


This time, when I arrived at Tan Son Nhat airport in Saigon the first thing I saw were customs officials wearing what I remember as North Vietnamese Army uniforms – a bit of a flashback. Stepping out of the terminal I breathed deeply of the humid tropical air – a familiar scent that almost seemed comforting. Driving through the city on the way to the hotel I noticed the beautiful French inspired architecture which added a touch of grace to the cityscape.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

In 1969 Saigon was a multi-faced city, bustling with the business of war. The people were pursuing their livelihood as best they could, while hip deep in the middle of a war zone. They were trying as hard as they could to make life tolerable and better for their families. Today, later generations of those families are doing that same thing, less the war, making life better and succeeding on a grand scale.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

Revisiting Saigon and Vietnam after forty some years reaffirmed my faith in humanity – it doesn’t matter who won or lost, doesn’t matter who is in power – it’s all about the people. The Vietnamese people have always been entrepreneurs, caring for their families and their country and have made it a powerhouse in Southeast Asia. It gladdened my heart and closed a circle for me in a most positive way.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

How this Army vet clears unexploded ordnance in Vietnam

The United States dropped more than seven million tons of bombs on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia between 1957 and 1975, more than twice what it dropped on Europe and Asia during all of World War II. That’s a lot of ordnance. This doesn’t take into account the rockets, mortars, tank rounds, etc. used by American and allied infantrymen on the ground in Vietnam. An estimated ten percent or more of that tonnage didn’t explode – which means it’s still there.


It also means someone, now nearly 50 years later, is going to find it – a mother, father, or child. That’s where Chuck Searcy, a U.S. Army veteran, comes in. He’s on a mission to clear those UXOs.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

Chuck Searcy is a Georgia-based Army vet on a new mission.

Searcy co-founded Project RENEW in 2001, a million effort to clear unexploded weapons from the former war zone while teaching children about the bombs and helping those affected by them.

Since the war’s official end in 1975 – when North Vietnam invaded and forcibly unified the South – more than 100,000 Vietnamese civilians have been killed by unexploded ordnance in the country. Some of them were farmers or other kinds of laborers, clearing paths through fields as they’ve done time and time again. Others injured by the bombs were metal scrappers, gathering what they could to make extra money.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

Ten percent is a lot of explosive still sitting around.

In 2017, Searcy and Project RENEW cleared some 17,000 munitions found in the middle of Vietnam. Over the project’s lifetime, the group has cleared more than a million. Searcy first returned to Vietnam in 1995, the year after the United States formally normalized relations with the still-Communist country. Back then, he was helping kids find orthopedic devices for missing limbs, but he kept reading about the problems with explosives in the countryside.

“We kept reading about kids and farmers getting blown up by unexploded ordnance,” Searcy told Georgia’s Ledger-Enquirer. “Why aren’t we helping?”

Now they do. When someone finds a bomb and reports it, the group will send out a team to dispose of it as they always have. But in the last 20 years, they’ve become more proactive, more methodical. They not only interview villagers asking about bomb sightings, they examine U.S. Air Force databases, reviewing every single bombing run of the war.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

Chuck Searcy now and in his Vietnam-era years.

While often times, the difference can be difficult to measure, there is one important number to follow, and that is how many people were killed or injured by unexploded ordnance in a given area. In Quang Tri, a province that saw some of the heaviest fighting of the Vietnam War, the number killed or wounded in 2001 (when project RENEW began its education program) was 89. In 2017, the number dwindled to two.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US calls on Russia to allow access to Marine charged with espionage

The United States has called on Russia to permit increased access to ex-Marine Paul Whelan, who is being held in Moscow on an espionage charge his supporters say is unfounded.

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Andrea Kalan said on March 11, 2019, that officials would visit the 49-year-old “later this week.”

Whelan — who holds U.S., Irish, Canadian, and British citizenship — was arrested on Dec. 28, 2019, in Moscow and charged with spying. His pretrial detention runs until May 28, 2019.


“We urge the Russian government to provide consular officers unrestricted visits with Mr. Whelan, to include discussing his case freely and without obstruction from Russian authorities,” Kalan said in a statement on Twitter.

“We urge the Russian govt to allow Whelan to sign documentation that will allow his family to choose hire an attorney that best represents his interests,” she added.

Kalan said in February 2019 that the U.S. Embassy had been unable to release any information regarding the case because Russian authorities had not allowed Whelan to give a signed Privacy Act Waiver to the embassy.

If convicted, Whelan could face up to 20 years in prison. His family has said he is innocent and that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

Russian officials have not released details of the allegations against Whelan, who they assert was caught red-handed in an act of espionage.

Defense lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov has suggested his client was set up, saying he was handed a flash drive that he believed contained harmless personal material such as photographs but actually contained classified information.

Whelan, 49, was working as a global security director for a U.S. auto-parts manufacturer at the time of his arrest.

Relations between Russia and the United States have been strained over Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, its seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, and its support for separatist militants in eastern Ukraine.

Whelan’s detainment came weeks after a Russian woman, Maria Butina, pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to acting as an agent for the Kremlin.

The Kremlin has denied that Butina is a Russian agent and has organized a social-media campaign to secure her release.

In the past, Russia has arrested foreigners with the aim of trading prisoners with other countries.

Zherebenkov has also said that his client is innocent and suggested that Russian officials may be trying to use him in an exchange for Butina.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has rejected that scenario.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines

Purple Heart recipients will soon take priority in the queue for Department of Veterans Affairs claims adjudication, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie announced Feb. 26, 2019.

In a hearing before the House Appropriations Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Subcommittee, Wilkie said veterans who have earned the Purple Heart will be placed “at the front of the line when it comes to claims before the department.”


According to Wilkie, the change is in “recognition of wounds taken in battle.”

He didn’t provide details on how the change will be implemented but said it is among the many improvements the department is making as part of the claims and appeals modernization effort.

The VA launched a new process for handling compensation claims appeals Feb. 19, 2019, with a goal of reducing the wait time for a final decision from three to seven years to roughly four months.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

The new process, created under the Appeals Modernization Act, gives veterans three choices for appealing their claim, including providing new evidence to the original reviewer; having a more senior adjudicator review the decision; and appealing to the Board of Veterans Appeals.

Wilkie described the change as part of a 21st-century transformation at the department.

The VA appeals backlog, which will be handled by the legacy system of appealing decisions to the board, stands at roughly 402,000 cases.

The new system will not only be used for disability compensation claims decisions, it will tackle decisions on education and insurance applications, vocational rehabilitation, caregiver benefits and claims with the National Cemetery Administration, according to the VA.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army plans strategic shift to ‘multi-domain’ warfare

The US Army is preparing to more fully unveil its fast-moving strategic shift toward “Multi-Domain Operations” as part of a long-term effort to further operationalize joint-warfare techniques and tactics.

Senior Army strategists tell Warrior Maven this emerging strategic shift, which is expected to fully roll out at the upcoming annual Association of the US Army Symposium, represents a key next step in the strategic evolution beyond the often discussed “Multi-Domain Battle” initiative.

The advent of long-range sensors and precision fires on the part of potential near-peer adversaries has reinforced the need for the US military to operate in real-time across air, sea, and, land domains. Furthermore, the emergence of converging newer domains, such as cyber, space, and the electromagnetic sphere are naturally an indispensable element of this push to operationalize cross domain warfare.


The nuances of this shift toward “operationalizing” cross-domain fires are further explained in an essay by Training and Doctrine Command Commander Gen. Steven Townsend called “Accelerating Multi-Domain Operations: Evolution of an Idea.”

Published by the Modern War Institute at West Point, Townsend’s essay delineates the Army’s transition into a more complex, joint warfighting environment characterized by fast changing high-tech threats, escalating risks of cyber and electronic warfare attacks, and rapid connectivity between air, land, sea, and cyber domains.

“In battles, combatants can win time and space and they allow one side to take ground but they do not win wars. The world we operate in today is not defined by battles, but by persistent competition that cycles through varying rates in and out of armed conflict,” Townsend writes.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

LRASM launches from B-1B Lancer.

Townsend’s essay explores the unambiguous reality that modern warfare is by no means restricted to “kinetic” attacks or linear mechanized formations – but rather a mix of interwoven variables across a wide spectrum of conflict areas.

“Winning in competition is not accomplished by winning battles, but through executing integrated operations and campaigning. Operations are more encompassing, bringing together varied tactical actions,” Townsend writes.

As part of the Army’s pursuit of these strategic aims, the Army and Navy have been operating together in the Pacific over the course of 2018. The services have been collaborating to fire Army artillery from Navy ships, send targeting data to land weapons from Navy sensors and use coastal land rockets to destroy enemy ships at sea, service leaders said.

“The Army is looking at shooting artillery off of Navy ships. Innovation is taking existing things and modifying them to do something new,” Maj. Gen. John Ferrari, Director, Program Analysis and Evaluation, G-8, told Warrior Maven in an interview in early 2018.

Ferrari explained that experimental “teams” are combining air defense units, ground combat units, cyber units, and artillery units and putting them together in operations.

“Part of what we do is integrate with the Navy. The Naval threat for the Pacific is one of the major threats, so the Army is doing multi-domain battle. The Pacific is inherently Joint. There is very little that we do that is not done with other services,” Ferrari said.

Much of the ongoing work involves integrating combat units which have historically operated in a more separated or “single-focused” fashion. Combing field artillery, a brigade headquarters, air defense, Navy assets, and ISR units into a single operation, for instance, represents the kind of experiments now underway.

“Instead of having three battalions of artillery, you will have pieces of these things – then go out and use it,” Ferrari said.

Tactically speaking, firing precision artillery from surface ships could possibly introduce some interesting advantages. The Navy is now exploring weapons such as long-range precision-guided ammunition for its deck-mounted 5-inch guns, ship-fired offensive weapons such as the advanced Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), Maritime Tomahawk and an over-the-horizon weapon for the Littoral Combat Ship and Frigate.

Something like an Army Tactical Missile Systems rocket, Multiple Launch Rocket Systems or GPS-guided Excalibur 155m artillery does bring the possibility to supplement existing ship-fired Navy weapons systems.

One senior US military official explained that bringing Army artillery to surface ships to compliment existing Navy weapons could bring new dimensions to the surface attack options available to commanders. Tomahawk and LRASM, for instance, can fly lower and somewhat parallel to the surface to elude enemy defensive systems — something which could potentially be fortified by land-fired weapons.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

Land-fired artillery could also lend combat support to extensive layered defensive weapons on Navy ships such as SeaRAM, Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile and Rolling Airframe Missile, among others. These interceptors, it seems, could be strengthened by the potential use of land-fired weapons on Navy ships.

“Mixing all presents multiple dilemmas for the enemy,” a senior official told Warrior.

Navy commanders have been “all in” on this as well, previously using F-18s to identify targets for land weapons in exercises in recent years such as Noble Eagle in Alaska, senior military officials have described.

As part of the cross-domain effort, the Army and Navy are looking at improving ways to connect their respective networks; senior Pentagon leaders often say that “joint effects” in combat can be challenged by a lack of integration between different services’ “tactical ISR, target acquisition and fire control systems.”

For example the Navy’s integrated sensor network known as Cooperative Engagement Capability connects targeting and ISR nodes across the force. The emphasis now is to connect these kinds of systems with, for instance, Army weapons such as ground-fired Patriot missiles and Theater High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile defense weapons.

In addition, the Army’s Integrated Battle Command Systems is itself a comparable combat theater sensor network where various radar, command and control and weapons “nodes” are networked to expedite real-time data sharing. Part of the maturation of this system, according to Army and Northrop Grumman developers, is to further extend IBCS to cue Air Force and Navy assets operating in a given theater of operations.

One senior Army weapons developer told Warrior “it’s about target acquisition and ranges. Maybe target acquisition comes from a ship and I do surface fires on land. We need to experiment with sensors.”

In a previously written Army paper titled “Multi-Domain Battle: Evolution of Combined Arms for the 21st Century 2025-2040,” former TRADOC Commander Gen. David Perkins writes:

“It (Multi-Domain Battle) expands the targeting landscape based on the extended ranges and lethality delivered at range by integrated air defenses, cross-domain fire support, and cyber/electronic warfare systems. We must solve the physics of this expanded battlespace and understand the capabilities that each domain can provide in terms of echelon, speed, and reach.”

Perkins and other senior Pentagon strategists have explained Multi-Domain Battle, which is now leading to “Multi-Domain Operations” as a modern extension of the Cold War Air Land Battle Strategy which sought to integrate air and ground attacks to counter a Soviet attack in Europe.

“AirLand Battle started developing the concept of ‘extended battlefield.’ Multi-Domain battle endeavors to integrate capabilities in such a way that to counteract one, the enemy must become more vulnerable to another, creating and exploiting temporary windows of advantage,’ Perkins writes in “Multi-Domain Battle: Joint Combined Arms Concept for the 21st Century.”

Army – Air Force

The Army and the Air Force have been working on a new, collaborative war-gaming operation to assess future combat scenarios and, ultimately, co-author a new inter-service cross-domain combat doctrine.

Operating within this concept, Army and Air Force senior Commanders are launching a new series of tabletop exercises to replicate and explore future warfare scenarios – the kind of conflicts expected to require technologically advanced Army-Air Force integration.

In a Pentagon report, the joint wargaming effort is described as something which will “turn into a doctrine and concept that we can agree on.”

“The F-35 is doing ISR and could possibly deliver a weapon on the same flight. We can then use what they can generate on the ground, fusing sensors and target acquisition with land-based assets that can deliver effects,” a senior defense official told Warrior.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

Military Life

How to properly retire an American Flag

The American flag, also lovingly known as “the Stars and Stripes” and “Old Glory,” is one of the most famous patriotic symbols in the world. Over the years, it’s been modified to reflect our country’s growth and waves triumphantly across our great nation. We associate our nation’s emblem with the freedom and democracy the US champions.


The flag has been raised on various battlefields throughout the world and many Americans hoist it outside of their homes as a badge of loyalty. But nothing lasts forever and, eventually, flags need to be removed from operational service. When an American flag can no longer be used, the symbol must be removed from service in a dignified way.

So, how do you properly dispose of our nation’s flag?

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors
Members of the Dover Air Force Base Honor Guard prepare the American flag by properly folding during a retreat ceremony.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

According to the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization, first, the flag should be folded up in the customary manner. This means holding the flag waist-high and folding the lower half of the stripe section lengthwise over the field of stars. Then, folded again, keeping the blue stars facing up.

Next, triangularly fold the striped corner of the already-folded edge to meet the open side of the flag. Continue making triangular folds until you’ve covered the entire length of the flag. Once the flag is prepared, it’s to be placed in a fire. Any individuals in attendance must stand at the position of attention, salute the flag, and state the Pledge of Allegiance, which is to be followed by a period of silence.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors
Lt. Earl Wilson, from the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) places an unserviceable American flag into the fire during an American flag retirement ceremony.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brandon Cyr)

Once the flag is consumed by the flames, its ashes are to be buried.

Note: Please check with local fire codes before choosing your fire and bury sites.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These pocket-sized drones could be a game changer on the battlefield

US soldiers have started receiving pocket-sized drones that could be a game changer for troops on the battlefield.

Soldiers with the 3 rd Brigade Combat Team, 82 ndAirborne Division recently got their hands on FLIR Black Hornet personal reconnaissance drones, a part of the Army’s Soldier Borne Sensor (SBS) Program.

These drones, which are small enough to be carried on a soldier’s person, allow troops to see the field of battle more clearly without putting themselves in harms way.


What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

A soldier with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division trains with a personal drone at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

(US Army photo by Patrick Ferraris)

The personal reconnaissance system includes two drones, one for day and one for night, as well as a base station, which connects to a handheld controller and a display.

These drones are small — only about 6 inches in length — and extremely lightweight, making it possible for soldiers to carry these tiny unmanned aerial vehicles on a utility belt.

Able to fly out to roughly one and a half miles, these little drones allow soldiers to assess the situation beyond them without abandoning their cover.

This technology, according to the Army’s PEO Soldier, “mitigates future losses of life and injuries by having a drone complete dangerous work that combat soldiers would usually perform on their own,” such as sending out a fire team to gather intel and conduct field reconnaissance.

One of the engineers involved in the project likened the new drones to flying binoculars that allow soldiers to see their surroundings like never before.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

A personal reconnaissance drone flies in the sky at Ft. Bragg.

(US Army Photo by Patrick Ferraris)

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division will take these drones with them on their upcoming deployment, which will be the first time these UAVs will be deployed at the squad level.

Soldiers trained for a week at Fort Bragg in North Carolina with the new drones, getting a feel for the possibilities provided by this technology.

“This system is something new that not a lot of Soldiers have touched or even seen before, so it’s cool to test it out and push it to its limits before we take it with us on our deployment,” Army Sgt. Dalton Kruse, one of the operators, said in a statement.

He further commented that most of the operators who were trained on this new system had never flown a drone before, but they were able to adapt to the technology quickly.

“It was easy to pick up and fly, very user-friendly, and I can already tell that this system will benefit my unit downrange,” Kruse explained.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

A soldier with the 3rd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division gets his turn during the recent fielding at Fort Bragg.

(US Army Photo by Patrick Ferraris)

This is life-saving technology that helps reduce the risk soldiers face on the battlefield.

“This kind of technology will be a life-saver for us because it takes us out of harm’s way while enhancing our ability to execute whatever combat mission we’re on,” Sgt. Ryan Subers, another operator, said in a statement.

The Army plans to eventually equip every squad with its own personal reconnaissance drone.

“It is the start of an era where every squad will have vision beyond their line of sight,” Nathan Heslink, the Assistant Program Manager for SBS with PEO Soldier, explained. “This allows soldiers to detect threats earlier than ever, meaning it is more likely Soldiers won’t be harmed during their missions.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The survivors of the USS Cole recount the deadly attack in this powerful video

The explosion was sudden, violent, deafening, so intense that 8,500 tons of steel lifted out of the water and crashed back down. The very metal of the ship shimmered and rippled in front of their eyes, remembered survivors. The force of it threw retired Master Chief Sonar Technician Paul Abney out of his chair and sent a shipmate flying over his head. Then, everything went black.


YouTube, All Hands

At first, Abney thought the noise came from simultaneous explosions in a movie he was watching in the chiefs mess. Others thought there had been a kitchen explosion. The ship was also taking on some 200,000 gallons of fuel, and most Sailors assumed something had gone horribly, fatally wrong.

But the explosion had been on the port side of the ship, the opposite side of the fuel tank. It wasn’t just an explosion. It wasn’t an accident. It was an attack. It was terrorism, and a gaping 40-by-60-foot hole had been ripped into USS Cole (DDG 67), sending her listing by about 15 degrees.

When the ship had arrived in Aden, Yemen, that morning, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2000, something felt off. (Some Sailors had gut feelings of doom for much of the cruise.) The port itself was eerie, with rusting, hulking wrecks of Iraqi tankers abandoned almost a decade before, following Desert Storm. A small civilian craft lay on its starboard side, half submerged.

“I didn’t have good feelings when we pulled into Aden,” retired Master Chief Hospital Corpsman James Parlier, the ship’s command master chief, explained. “Those things started sending up red flags, not so much I expected an attack, but things didn’t seem right. You can just be more on guard, but we were given an order to go in on Force Protection Bravo. … Even if we were at a higher force protection, there’s no way we would have found the explosives in that boat alongside the ship.”

The crew had undergone anti-terrorist force protection training only days prior, but it hadn’t focused on waterborne attacks, or the dangers lurking in Yemen specifically. And, as Abney pointed out, under existing rules of engagement, Sailors couldn’t fire on anyone before being attacked. “In this case, the attack was a huge blast.”

The Yemeni pilot who directed the Cole to a concrete pier seemed jumpy and anxious to get off the ship, recalled Abney and Parlier. He insisted that the ship pull straight in, her bow pointed toward the port. The Cole’s captain, by contrast, wanted the bow facing out to sea so they could leave quickly. The captain prevailed, but then tugboats meant to guide the destroyer rushed in so quickly that gunners’ mates had to point their rifles and tell them to back off.

A small boat then pulled up alongside the ship. Abney photographed the seemingly ubiquitous garbage barge, but there was no way to know the destruction it would wreak at 11:18 a.m.

“It was a deafening sound,” said Abney. “But I recall more just feeling it than hearing it. The pressure of it knocked me back in my chair. Along with it, all the lights went out. The next thing I can recall from the blast is just this putrid, kind of acrid smoke. It was very hard to breathe.”

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors
US Navy photos

Even getting down to the ground didn’t help, he continued. When he felt his way to where the door should have been, it was blocked. The galley exit was obstructed as well. Along with several injured, dead and dying chiefs, Abney was trapped. He and a shipmate began banging on the bulkhead, hoping, praying someone would hear them before they all suffocated from the smoke.

“I had a crew member grab me by the right arm in a death grip and said, ‘Master Chief, you’ve got to help me. I’m dying,'” remembered Abney. “I ended up stepping on one of the other crew members. … It was pitch black and it was basically feeling my way around.”

After one of the Sailors cut into the mess and freed the chiefs, Abney went looking for help for his shipmates. He was stunned at the destruction he found throughout the ship. “The deck came up and was pushed all the way into the bulkhead. … There were people that were crushed up against this bulkhead.

“There were people that were still trapped in the machinery, caught in various different things. … There were two shipmates that were triaged and were laying in the (passageway). One, I think was already deceased and the second was struggling for breath and later did not make it. … Just to see this crew member struggling for breath and the amount of trauma that it took to put his eye out of socket, it really hit me then that we were in bad shape.”

Parlier was hard at work triaging the patients. He had missed the blast’s epicenter by minutes. Had he been in his office, instead of in a meeting, he would most likely have been killed instantly. With the electricity out on most of the ship, and the phones dead, Parlier wasn’t initially sure if the Cole’s regular doc was alive. He quickly provided some battlefield training to crew members on how to move the wounded – there weren’t enough accessible stretchers – and how to provide some rudimentary medical care. There were a lot of shrapnel wounds, broken bones, blast injuries.

One 19-year-old Sailor, Parlier remembered, “was in horrific condition. The crew didn’t know what to do with him. We put him on a door, basically, and put him back out aft. We took him out on the fantail on the flight deck. … I tried to do CPR on him, but he was … in really, really bad shape. He was the first guy I’ve ever lost in my life, and I had to make a call because we had over 25 casualties on the fantail and flight deck alone, people screaming.” Ultimately, 17 Sailors died. Most were in the chiefs mess with Abney or in the galley, lined up for chow.

With the assistance of the U.S. ambassador and some local authorities, corpsmen managed to evacuate the seriously wounded to a Yemeni hospital within that critical first hour. Able-bodied Sailors accompanied them as walking blood banks and body guards. American doctors in country on a mission trip also rushed to the hospital, which Parlier said was crucial in saving lives. From there, wounded Sailors were life-flighted to Navy hospitals in Djibouti and Sigonella, Italy, before receiving more complex treatment at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

Many of the deceased Sailors remained on the ship, however, inaccessible and officially classified as missing. (The Navy would continue recovering remains for years following the attack.) In temperatures that climbed well above 100 degrees, their bodies quickly decayed, making the situation unbearable for the Sailors left aboard the ship. The stench, exacerbated by rotting food, was choking, while flies swarmed the ship. Still worse was knowing that shipmates and good friends – in one case a fiance – lay trapped below and no one could do anything.

It’s not like being on a carrier. When you’re on a small boy, you know almost everybody on the ship. … These crew members were like your kids. It was pretty devastating. … It would be like someone bombing your home. You worked with these kids every day. The Navy environment isn’t like any other work environment. … You’re eating three meals a day with these folks. … Twenty four hours a day, you’re running across the same people, and you kind of get to know their different quirks and personalities and what makes them tick.” – STCM Paul Abney

In those first terrible days after the attack, as they fought to keep the Cole afloat, shutting down sections of the ship, jerry rigging pumps, forming bucket brigades, survivors didn’t have latrines, showers, drinking water, hot food or even MREs. Although the embassy arranged food delivery from an Aden hotel, many of the Sailors, including Parlier, didn’t trust it. They made do with snacks and sodas until help arrived.

That help first came from the British Royal Navy frigate HMS Marlborough (F233), which arrived the next day, bearing potable water, followed over the next few days by USS Donald Cook (DDG 75), USS Haws (FFG 53) and other ships as part of Operation Determined Response.

“There wasn’t a dry eye,” remembered Parlier of that first glimpse of an American flag. “There were tears in Sailors’ eyes because we knew our shipmates had come to help us.” The best part? Chefs on the Haws cooked up a big batch of chili mac for Cole Sailors. “We had our first hot meal in days and, man, that chili mac, it just raised the spirits of the crew.”

As the U.S. assets poured into Aden – the ships, Marines to guard the ship, SEALs, divers, recovery teams for the remains, engineers, investigators – each asset provided a layer of protection and security for the Cole crew. They had been alone in a hostile country, their major weapons systems disabled. It had been impossible to know who to trust. For example, at one point, as the Yemeni army set up a large perimeter around the wounded ship, its guns were actually pointed at the wounded destroyer.

“You felt pretty darn vulnerable,” Parlier said. “You didn’t know what was going to happen next. … At one point, we were low crawling because there were inbound boats. We didn’t know if they were armed or not. The .50 caliber accidentally went off. You’re on pins and needles. … We always thought there was another attack coming.”

“It was sad” to leave his ship behind, said Parlier, who was evacuated to Norfolk, Virginia, via Oman and Germany with the rest of the crew. “I was proud of her. … I was saddened. I would have never thought in my life that I would have to go through something like that.”

At the time, the Navy wasn’t sure the Cole, transported to Pascagoula, Mississippi, via the heavy lift ship MV Blue Marlin, could be salvaged. Officials argued that there were better uses of money, but the crew disagreed. They thought decommissioning it would send a terrible message to the enemy.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors
US Navy photos

Today, Parlier is thrilled that the Cole is back, stronger than ever, still defending the nation. “She needed to be put back in the water to show [the terrorists] that we weren’t going to be defeated and we were going to stand steadfast as Americans.”

A memorial on board honors the fallen Sailors, but, Parlier added, “she’s not a museum. She’s an American warship and she’s out there just like other destroyers, serving and doing their job, doing what they’re trained to do so I can be safe at home.”

Editor’s note: Read about how Cole crewmembers used their training to save their ship and learn more about Abney and Parlier by clicking here.

Articles

Taliban capture of US vehicles is the latest in a long history of gear falling into enemy hands

Over 200 vehicles provided to the Afghan government by the United States have fallen into the hands of the Taliban in Badakhshan province. That shocking claim comes from a former Afghan intelligence chief who claims that the vehicles include High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles.


“We lost 200 Humvees and Rangers in two or three months as the result of incompetence. Imagine what has happened to the people in those two or three months,” Rahmatullah Nabi told TOLO News. Faisal Bigzad, the governor of Badakhshan province, has urged that NATO assist the Afghan government by destroying the stolen vehicles.

The story might sound familiar for another reason. Humvees and other vehicles provided to the Iraqi government were captured by ISIS when the terrorist group seized control of portions of Iraq. American air strikes have since destroyed some of that equipment. However, ISIS and the Taliban aren’t the first American enemies to get their dirty mitts on American military gear.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors
Artists rendering of the capture of the USS Chesapeake. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Way back in the War of 1812, several American vessels, including the frigates USS Essex, USS Chesapeake, and USS President were among those captured by the British in the fighting. The U.S. Navy, of course, captured or sank a number of British ships as well.

At the end of the Age of Sail, the Civil War saw some American ships captured. Most famous was the USS Merrimac, which was repurposed into the ironclad CSS Virginia. But the USS United States, one of the original six frigates ordered in 1797, was also captured by the Confederacy and briefly used until it was scuttled.

In World War II, Japan captured the four-stack destroyer USS Stewart (DD 224). The Stewart had fought in the Dutch East Indies campaign in January and February 1942 before being damaged. As Japanese forces neared, Allied personnel used demolition charges to try to scuttle her.

Despite the scuttling attempt and a hit from a Japanese bomber, the Stewart’s wreck was captured and the Japanese fixed her up and put her into service as Patrol Boat 102. The ship would be notable for assisting the sub chaser CD 22 in sinking the USS Harder (SS 257). After Japan surrendered, the old USS Stewart was recovered, although the name had already been assigned to an Edsall-class destroyer escort, DE 238. The ship was eventually sunk as a target.

Germany, though, takes the prize for its acquisition of American gear. Perhaps its most notable coup was the way the Luftwaffe was able to either capture or cobble together as many as 40 B-17 Flying Fortresses.

The captured planes were often used by Kampfgeschwader 200, sometimes for inserting agents or for reconnaissance. But some were used to infiltrate Allied bomber formations.

Even after World War II, American gear fell into enemy hands far too often. In 1975, a lot of American equipment fell into Communist hands when South Vietnam fell, including F-5E Tiger IIs, C-130 Hercules and C-123 Provider transports, and A-37 Dragonfly attack planes.

In 2005, Hugo Chavez threatened to give China and Cuba F-16 Falcons that the United States had sold to Venezuela in the 1980s. The Soviet Union acquired an F-14 Tomcat from an Iranian defector. In 2006, Marines in Iraq killed a sniper team of two insurgence who were trying to carry out a sniper attack, and recovered a M40A1 sniper rifle that had been lost in a 2004 ambush.

American gear falling into enemy hands is not new — there has been a long history of that happening in the past. Infuriatingly, it will happen in the future, despite the best efforts of American military personnel.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army tests Black Hawk digital cockpit

Combat aviators are conducting operational tests of Army modernization efforts using three UH-60V Black Hawk helicopters.

The UH-60V Black Hawk will retrofit the Army’s remaining UH-60L helicopter fleet’s analog cockpits with a digital cockpit, similar to the UH-60M helicopter.

Retrofitting aircraft that are already owned by the Army is a major cost saving measure over purchasing new builds, according to Mr. Derek Muller, UH-60V IOT Test Officer, with the West Fort Hood, Texas-based U.S. Army Operational Test Command’s Aviation Test Directorate.

Muller and his test team worked with aircrews from Company A, 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade by applying realistic operational missions, post-mission surveys and after action reviews along with onboard video and audio instrumentation to collect data directly from crewmembers.


Instrumentation installed by Redstone Test Center (RTC), Alabama provided audio, video and position data for test team to review after each mission.

“The OTC/RTC partnership has been paramount to the successful testing and evaluation of the UH-60V,” said Muller.

“The data collected during the test will support an independent evaluation by the U.S. Army Evaluation Center,” he added.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

Aircrews from 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade and support personnel from 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team conduct sling load operations at Gray Army Airfield, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., during a logistics resupply mission during operational tests of Army modernization efforts with a new digital cockpit in the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter.

(US Army photo by Mr. Tad Browning)

The evaluation will inform a full-rate production decision from the Utility Helicopter Program Office at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

Aircrews flew over 120 hours under realistic battlefield conditions.

They conducted air movement, air assault, external load and casualty evacuation missions under day, night, night-vision goggle, and simulated instrument meteorological modes of flight.

“Anti-aircraft weapon simulation emitters are a valuable training enabler and reinforce much of the Air Mission Survivability training assault aircrews have received with respect to operations in a threat environment,” said Capt. Scott Amarucci, A Co. 2-158 Company Commander.

“This approach permitted evaluators from the U.S. Army Evaluation Center to see and hear how a unit equipped with the UH-60V performed operational missions against a validated threat in a representative combat environment,” said Muller.

“The operational environment designed by USAOTC and 16th CAB helped evaluators accurately assess the company’s ability to complete doctrinal missions, when equipped with the UH-60V,” said Mr. Brian Apgar, Plans Deputy Division Chief of USAOTC AVTD.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

Aircrews from 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade staged at Gray Army Airfield, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., prepare the cockpit and conduct final pre-mission checks for a nighttime air assault mission during operational tests of Army modernization efforts with a new digital cockpit in the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter.

(US Army photo by Mr. Tad Browning)

The U.S. Army Center for Countermeasures employed three types of threat simulations to stimulate the aircraft’s survivability equipment and trigger pilot actions using the updated cockpit capabilities.

“The three independent threat simulation systems enhanced the quality of the test and enriched the combat-like environment,” said Muller.

“2-158th aircrews reacted to threat systems they rarely have the opportunity to encounter,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Toby Blackmon, Test Operations Officer in Charge, USAOTC AVTD.

“Using Blue Force Tracking, the test operations cell and Battalion Operations Center tracked and communicated with crews during missions,” he said.

“Each day I hear feedback from the crews about the testing,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Clyde, 2-158 BN Commander. “Each Soldier I talk to is glad to place a fingerprint on a future Army Aviation program.”

Aircrews executed their Mission Essential Task Lists using the UH-60V conducting realistic missions against accredited threat systems.

“The UH-60V training has allowed excellent opportunities to train important tasks which enable our proficiency as assault aviation professionals,” added Amarucci.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

In this photo clip of a 360-degree-view, aircrews from 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade and support personnel from 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team conduct sling load operations at Gray Army Airfield, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., during a logistics resupply mission during operational tests of Army modernization efforts with a new digital cockpit in the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter.

(US Army photo by Mr. Tad Browning)

Testing at A Co.’s home station allowed the application of key expertise and resources, provided by the test team, while flying in its routine training environment.

New equipment collective training and operational testing caused A Co. to focus on several critical areas, including mission planning, secure communications, aircraft survivability equipment, and internal/external load operations, improving its overall mission readiness while meeting operational test requirements, according to Muller.

“Moreover,” Muller said, “the test’s rigorous operational tempo provided an ideal opportunity for 2-158th Aviation Regiment to exercise key army battle command systems including, but not limited to, Blue Force Tracker (BFT), secure tactical communications, and mission planning.”

Ground crews from the 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) prepared and hooked up sling loads during 18 missions, allowing pilots to see how the UH-60V cockpit displays provided situational awareness while carrying an external load.

“Static load and external load training not only improved unit readiness, but fostered safe operations during day and night missions throughout the test,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Keefer, AVTD’s Test Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge.

Future operational testing will ensure soldiers continue to have a voice in the acquisition process, guaranteeing a quality product prior to fielding.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 unused pieces of gear that make it onto the packing list somehow

Before any troop deploys or goes on a training mission, their chain of command will send down a list of items that they’re required to bring — or at least highly encouraged. Some things make absolute sense: Sleeping bags, changes of uniform, and a hygiene kit are all essentials.

Sometimes, however, the commander insists that the unit bring things that either nobody will use or are so worthless that they might as well be dumbbells.


Each individual unit decides what is and isn’t going to make the list, so each pack is different. What may be useful one day might not be the next, but these outliers almost always go unwanted.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

I’d like to say common sense is common… but… you know…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Nathaniel C. Cray)

Very specific hygiene items

Hygiene kits are essential. Don’t be that nasty-ass motherf*cker who makes everyone ponder the legality of throwing you out of the tent for the duration of the field exercise.

That being said, we should all be capable of exercising some common sense. Your packing list shouldn’t have to itemize little things, like nail clippers or deodorant. But at the same time, NCOs shouldn’t have to double check to see if you’re bringing the requisite number of razor heads.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

Besides, you get extra “TYFYS” points if you come back home in uniform.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airmen Alexa Culbert)

Civilian clothes

Does your unit have the word “special” anywhere inside its name? No? Well, you better not unfold that pair of blue jeans while in-country because you’re never going to get a shot at wearing them.

The reason for bringing a single change of civilian clothes is for the troops to swap clothes for RR or emergency leave while on deployment, but no one ever changes into them because they need to be in uniform while in Kuwait — and they’re probably not going to bother changing out of their uniform while on the plane.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

It may be a personal thing, but I toss all of my old, nasty boots the moment I get new ones. Or donate them. Just a thought.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Robert L. McIlrath)

Extra boots

Ounces make pounds and an extra set of boots actually weighs quite a bit, given their size. As long as you’ve got a good pair on you and you (hopefully) don’t destroy them while in the field, that extra set will probably just take up space — and make your duffel bag smell like feet.

Just use the pair that you’re currently wearing in uniform. That’ll do just fine.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

All you need is a woobie and you’ll be set for life.

(U.S. Army photo)

Unworn snivel gear

If it’s summer time, you probably won’t need that set of winter thermals and the additional layers that go over it. Yeah, it might get chilly at nights, but not that chilly.

This one’s all about using your head and taking what you may realistically need, even on some off chance. Does the forecast say there’s a slight chance of rain? Take your rain gear. If it says it’ll be sunny or partly cloudy, take some of your rain gear (it’s a field op. It always rains). Is it the dead of July and there’s absolutely zero chance of snowfall? Don’t bother except with anything but the lighter stuff for nighttime.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

If they do tell you to bring it… prepare for a world of suck.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Eric Unwin)

MOPP gear

If your supervisor specifically tells you to pack your MOPP gear for a training exercise, it’s probably because there’s going to be a lesson while you’re out there. If it’s on a hold-over from a copy-and-pasted spreadsheet, it’s dead weight.

Make an educated decision here. If you’re unsure, ask your team leader if it’s really necessary.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

Again, this falls under the “if your command says it’s a thing, it’s a thing” category.

(U.S. Army Reserve Photo by Spc. John Russell)

Laundry stuff

Obviously you’ll need laundry stuff for a deployment — you’re going to be gone for many months and your few changes of uniform won’t last. If it’s just for a weekend field op, however, you’re not even going to find a laundromat in the Back 40 of Fort Campbell. Sure, you might want to bring a waterproof bag to hold your smelly clothes and wet socks, but bringing laundry detergent? Not so important.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

Save yourself a buck or two and think.

(Department of Defense photo by Julie Mitchell)

Most “tacticool” crap

It’s not a terrible idea to swap some of the more, uh, “lowest-bidder” stuff that the military gives you for an equivalent of better quality. If you do, though, run it by your chain of command to make sure that it’s authorized. If it’s not, you’re wasting money, space, and weight.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The weapons the Army, Air Force, and Navy all want desperately

Russian and Chinese advancements in hypersonic weaponry are driving the US military to field a viable hypersonic strike weapon within the next couple of years.

The Army, Navy, and Air Force are jointly developing a common boost-glide vehicle to clear the way for each of these services to bring American hypersonic weaponry to the battlefield in the near future.

For the Army, that’s the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW). The Air Force is building the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) and the Navy is pursuing its Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) weapon, The Drive reported Oct. 11, 2018, citing an Aviation Week report. There is the possibility these systems could be deployed as early as 2021.


“There is a very aggressive timeline for testing and demonstrating the capability,” Col. John Rafferty, director of the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires cross-functional team, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, DC on Oct. 10, 2018. The progress already made “is a result of several months of cooperation between all three services to collaborate on a common hypersonic glide body.”

The Navy is responsible for designing the boost-glide vehicle, as the fleet faces the greatest integration challenges due to the spacial limitations of the firing platforms like ballistic missile submarines, the colonel explained.

What it’s like to survive being scalped by native warriors

U.S. Army Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers from the 1-426 Field Artillery Battery operate an M109A6 Paladin Howitzer at at Fort McCoy, Wis., Aug. 18, 2018

(US Army photo by Spc. John Russell)

“Everybody’s moving in the same direction,” he added, further commenting, “The Army can get there the fastest. It will be in the field, manned by soldiers, and create the deterrent effect that we are looking for.”

As the boost-glide vehicle is unpowered, each service will develop its own booster technology for launching the relevant weapons, which fly at least five times faster than the speed of sound. The goal for the Army’s AHW is for it to travel at sustained speeds of Mach 8, giving it the ability to cover 3,700 miles in just 35 minutes, The Drive reported.

The Air Force has already awarded two hypersonic weapons contracts in 2018, and the Navy just awarded one in October 2018. The Army’s LRPF CFT is focusing on producing a long-range hypersonic weapon, among other weapons, to devastate hardened strategic targets defended by integrated air defense systems.

The US military’s intense push for hypersonic warfighting technology comes as the Russians and Chinese make significant strides with this technology. Hypersonic weapons are game-changers, as their incredible speeds and ability to maneuver at those speeds make them invulnerable to modern air and missile defense systems, making them, in the simplest of terms, weaponry that can not be stopped.

Russia is expected to field its nuclear-armed Avangard hypersonic boost-glide vehicle in 2019, and China has conducted numerous tests of various hypersonic glide vehicles and aircraft, most recently in early August 2018, when China tested its Xingkong-2 hypersonic experimental waverider, which some military experts suspected could be weaponized as a high-speed strike platform.

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