The Civil War was one of the early “Total Wars” in world history, where every industrial, military, diplomatic, and economic asset on both sides of the war was pressed into service, and no holds were barred in combat, at least in the last few years of the fighting. For battlefield leaders like Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, that meant breaking the South in a way it couldn’t be fixed.
When Union officers began serious and successful forays into the Confederacy, they had to decide what infrastructure to protect and use as well as what infrastructure to destroy. If the rails would help Union supply lines, they stayed. But if the Union troops weren’t going to stick around, the rails, boats, and more needed to be destroyed as decisively as possible.
This may seem simple. After all, when it comes to railroads, you can just tear up the tracks and, voila, no train can roll down those tracks until they’re rebuilt.
But there’s a problem. The Union didn’t have the logistics capability to ship all the iron from the rails back north to use. So it would have to remain in place. But when troops tore up the rails and then moved on, Confederate troops and workers would slip right back in and fix the rails within hours or days.
Major-General McPherson will move along the railroad toward Decatur and break the telegraph wires and the railroad. In case of the sounds of serious battle he will close in on General Schofield, but otherwise will keep every man of his command at work in destroying the railroad by tearing up track, burning the ties and iron, and twisting the bars when hot. Officers should be instructed that bars simply bent may be used again, but if when red hot they are twisted out of line they cannot be used again. Pile to ties into shape for a bonfire, put the rails across, and when red hot in the middle, let a man at each end twist the bar so that its surface become spiral. General McPherson will dispatch General Garrard’s cavalry eastward along the line of the railroad to continue the destruction as far as deemed prudent.
That excerpt is from Sherman’s Headquarters on July 18, 1864, with orders for the next day. Soon, Sherman’s men were marching across Georgia, twisting rails into a spiral so they could never be properly repaired.
The soldiers usually did this by building the bonfire as described in the order and then wrapping the rails all the way around a tree. Twisting the rails around something allowed them to do the deed without having to heat the rails quite as hot. And while bent instead of twisted rails could be repaired, the rails on the trees were bent around back onto themselves, incorporating a small twist and leaving a tree in the middle of it.
Well-twisted rails had to be sent back to a foundry to be melted down, and the South simply did not have enough foundry space and manpower to do that for the majority of the damaged rails.
Russia can’t afford its Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, which still doesn’t work right and may not be combat ready for another decade, CNBC reports, citing US intelligence assessments.
Russian President Vladimir Putin proudly boasted last year that the weapon could skirt enemy defenses and fly indefinitely, giving it unlimited range, but the farthest this missile has ever flown in testing is 22 miles.
The most recent test took place in late January 2019, The Diplomat reported in early February 2019, noting that Russia had decided to restart testing after a pause last summer.
The test was apparently only “partially successful,” The Diplomat explained, indicating that the weapon still doesn’t function as intended. No country has ever fielded a nuclear-powered cruise missile, although the US briefly flirted with the idea many years ago.
US intelligence currently assesses it might be another decade before the Burevestnik cruise missile is ready for combat, but even then, Russia is expected to only produce a few of these potentially powerful missiles because they are too expensive for the country to develop, CNBC reports.
This certainly isn’t the first superweapon Russia has hyped up that turned out to be unobtainable due to budget limitations.
Russia unveiled its hard-hitting T-14 Armata tank at the 2015 Moscow Victory Day Parade, where one embarrassingly broke down and had to be towed away during rehearsal.
Russian T-14 Armata tank.
Russia had initially planned to mass produce and field as many as 2,300 Armatas by 2025, but that number was reduced to 100, as the cost of this state-of-the-art tank, which includes an unmanned turret and other expensive features, was way over budget.
Instead of buying more Armatas, Russia opted to upgrade and improve its older T-72, T-80, and T-90 tanks, capable armor units but definitely nothing like what Russia promised for the Armatas.
The country decided to do the same with its fifth-generation Su-57 stealth fighter.
Rather than mass produce the aircraft, which was built to take down the US F-35s, Russia instead chose to purchase only a limited number and focus on improving its fourth-generation fighters.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It can sometimes be hard for commanders to get a full picture of the battlefield, whether that’s on the ground in Syria or in the forests of Colorado. The “Space Cowboys” of the Colorado Army National Guard‘s 117th Space Battalion aim to solve that problem.
Just the Facts
The 117th Space Battalion is the only unit of its kind in the National Guard.
Its 12 space support teams work with commercial and classified space-based assets to support command requirements.
The 117th has the highest concentration of space support teams anywhere in the Army.
Army Space Support Teams are made up of six soldiers — two officers and four enlisted — each with unique skills. The teams deploy around the world to enhance intelligence and operations planning abilities.
U.S. Army Sgt. Rick D. Peevy, a crew chief from Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment, Colorado Army National Guard, surveys the scene while wildfires burn the training range at Fort Carson, Colo., June 12, 2008.
“The [space] support team allows the warfighter to see and overcome enemy forces using the most appropriate amount of lethality available to them,” said Army Sgt. Maj. Fred Korb, the 117th’s senior enlisted leader. “For example, this allows the maximum effectiveness for targeting enemy forces while limiting danger to the coalition warfighter and noncombatants.”
More than 55 percent of soldiers in the unit have advanced degrees.
“Support can include producing imagery products, deconflicting GPS issues, missile warning, missile defense, satellite communications, and space as well as terrestrial weather effects on operations,” said Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Fauskee, the noncommissioned officer in charge of one of the battalion’s space support teams.
The 117th’s soldiers also produce the imagery needed to support wildfire fighting efforts in their home state. This year, some of its soldiers responded to the Spring Creek fire, the third-largest wildfire in Colorado history.
British soldiers from the Grenadier Guard shared a video on Twitter showing the excruciating consequences to not having adequate battlefield awareness during training.
In the video, a gaggle of soldiers equipped with SA80 rifles are seen carrying a troop on a litter during a simulated mock casualty evacuation, when one of the soldiers inadvertently walks into a sharp broken branch protruding from the ground.
A groan can be heard as onlookers, including the soldiers providing security, look toward the soldier, who falls backward.
“Maintaining your 360-degree battlefield awareness is essential in the jungle,” the Guard said in the tweet. “You never know what it has in store for you next.”
A British Army spokesperson told Business Insider the soldier in the video was “absolutely fine.”
“Just dented pride,” the spokesperson said. “But he won’t be standing at attention for a while.”
The Grenadier Guards‘ roots dates to 1656, and it’s one of the oldest regiments in the British army.
Soldiers from the Guard have participated in all of the country’s major wars, including current fighting in Afghanistan. In addition to conventional war-fighting capabilities, the Guard says it uses unconventional equipment, such as quad bikes, to mobilize quickly.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
(Above: Lieutenant George Cairns Winning the Victoria Cross at the Battle of Pagoda Hill, Burma, 13 March 1944 by David John Rowlands)
George Albert Cairns fought World War II in Asia for three years before the night of Mar. 16, 1944. This is the night he would lose an arm in a fight that would ultimately cost him his life.
He was a British officer, a lieutenant overseeing a joint British-Indian special operation reconnaissance force. The chindits, as they were called, were experts in long-range recon patrols and raiding operations in the Japanese-held jungles of southern Asia. On the night in question, he and his fellow chindit troops were operating in a region controlled by neither side when they ran into a Japanese contingent of troops. Suddenly, the hills came alive with a small arms exchange.
The British allies had unknowingly dug in right next to a fortified Japanese position.
Cairns’ commanding officer, Brigadier General Michael Calvert, later wrote a couple of books about their time in the Burmese jungles. He describes a pagoda, sitting on top of a nearby hill. Both sides made for the structure, no bigger than two tennis courts. On the hill before the pagoda, Japanese and British troops shot each other, threw grenades into the group, and fought each other with both fixed bayonets and hand-to-hand.
Brigadier Calvert described the scene as a carnage-filled hackfest, like ancient battles fought on open ground, except now with columns from the South Staffordshire Regiment and 3/6 Gurkha Rifles fighting Japanese infantry.
Though Calvert led the attack, he saw Lt. Cairns engage a Japanese officer, who cut his arm off with his sword. Cairns killed the Japanese officer and picked up the dead man’s sword. He then began to slice his way through the Japanese forces.
One eyewitness description has Cairns and the Japanese officer on the ground, choking each other. That’s when the witness says Cairns found his bayonet and stabbed the enemy officer repeatedly before getting up and leading his men to take the hill.
The Japanese broke eventually, with 42 Japanese killed and a number of wounded. Lieutenant Cairns himself died the next morning.
With three living witnesses, Cairns was recommended for the Victoria Cross, the UK’s equivalent to the Medal of Honor. Unfortunately, that recommendation was lost when the general carrying it was shot down. Cairns was awarded the medal eventually. In 1949, King George VI awarded the VC to Cairns posthumously.
What do you think of the combat boots currently worn by the Service? I think they’re pretty BA. Great for kicking in doors, and stomping throats.
Turns out that may be the wrong way to look at our boots though…
When you compare the number of Spartan push-kicks and axe-stomps the average service member conducts during their career to the number of standard steps they take to get from the barracks to work it’s astounding.
It’s like one forcible entry for every 1 billion steps…..
Axe stomp, push kick, round kick… you know the drill
A Marine with Korps Marinir, 2nd Marines, 6th Brigade, Tentara National Indonesia, performs a kick during martial arts training with U.S. Marines with Landing Force Company May 27
I was astonished by these numbers as well. I remember having a lot more boots pressing into my jugular while on active duty than that. Numbers don’t lie though.
The above being true, shouldn’t our boots be designed to promote the best foot function while walking, hiking, and running?
According to one paper making its rounds through the Marine Corps, modern footwear is locking our feet into a poor position that is causing structural issues in humans of all ages from the feet all the way up the kinetic chain.
What exactly is the issue with our current boots, and footwear in general, then? How can they be fixed to prevent 20-year-old veterans from feeling like someone who fell out of the disability tree and hit every branch with their feet on the way down?
Apparently, there are four parts of standard shoes and boots that make us suck at using our feet.
The anatomy of a boot.
1. Toe Spring
It’s that bent up portion at the front of your boot.
Toe spring stretches out the various muscles of the sole of the foot and shortens the extensor muscles running along the top robbing toes of range of motion.
Over time, toe spring makes you weaker at being able to articulate your toes. Which means you’ll be getting weaker in your feet even when you are training hard.
Support is great for short term bursts of concentrated effort. Like a lifting belt, it’s great if you wear it for a one-rep max deadlift. But if you use it every rep of every session, you will become reliant and weak in the muscles of your core.
Marines with Company E, Battalion Landing Team 2/4, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit
Toe prison… See what I did there?
3. Toe Box
It’s where your toes hang out. It’s way more restrictive than it should be. You want your toes to be able to spread out and grab the ground. Currently, it should be called a toe prison.
This is probably the most egregious offender of foot deformities in the long run.
First off the heel makes us balance on the balls of our toes. This breaks the equal line of thrust of the arch from the heel and the ball and drives it all to the ball creating a collapse. This causes us to lose strength in the arch of our foot, which is supposed to naturally absorb shock when we walk or run.
Imagine what would happen to an arch bridge if you took away one of the supports on either end. The bridge would turn into the newest architectural addition to Atlantis when it crumbles and sinks to the bottom of the ocean.
That’s why insoles have become a “must buy” at boot camp and the other indoc courses. They give artificial arch support when the feet fail to provide the natural support that they should.
Second, the walking pattern is changed from a natural walking pattern to a “heel strike.” We aren’t supposed to walk heel first, try it in your bare feet, you’ll immediately realize it’s quite painful. The heel and cushioning of the boot take away that immediate pain response that you get when you walk barefoot, that leads to ever more forceful heel strikes that send a shock all the way up the body to the spine. Just another example of modern conveniences making us more comfortable but ultimately worse off.
The barefoot rickshaw driver circa 1951
From the Ronald H. Welsh Collection (COLL/5677) at the Archives Branch, Marine Corps History Division
Your feet are in a prison
So it turns out that just about every aspect of current footwear is flat-out wrong for the human foot.
The interesting thing is that this isn’t a new revelation.
Dr. Schulman of the U.S. Army had very similar observations back in 1949, during WWII. This guy was a high achiever, he’s in the middle of the largest war to ever consume planet Earth, and he decided to conduct a study on the human foot…wild.
Dr. Schulman compared those who wore restrictive footwear to those who didn’t in the native populations of China and India.
His most stark observation is that barefoot rickshaw drivers had none of the same foot deformities as those that wear shoes all day.
Rickshaw drivers spend all day running on concrete, or hard-packed roads, everyday for decades, and Dr. Schulman observed that their feet were strong and healthy.
Compare that to your feet crammed into those freshly brushed feet prisons you currently have on.
His conclusion? “…restrictive footgear, particularly ill-fitting footgear, cause most of the ailments of the human foot.”
Silent Drill Platoon performs during Cherry Blossom Festival
On their way to Dermo for new boots…
The movement for a new boot
There’s now a movement developing in the Marine Corps to change the culture of the service to promote health and longevity in the feet of today’s Marines rather than slowly break them down.
Are you in support of this movement? Do you think that a closer look at foot health and boot structure would make our services stronger and more capable? Would they do more or less to make the Force more resilient than the upcoming Plank addition to the PFT?
US Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer recently sailed through the Strait of Hormuz with an armored vehicle strapped to the flight deck, ready to fight off drones and Iranian gunboats.
A light armored vehicle belonging to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit can be seen on the flight deck as an AH-1Z Viper lifts off in a recently released Marine Corps photo, NPR’s Phil Ewing first noted.
The Marine Corps LAV-25 has a high-end targeting system that directs its 25 mm chain guns and M240 7.62 mm machine gun. The Boxer is armed with counter-air missiles, as well as various close-in weapon systems, among other weapons. The Vipers carry two air-to-air missiles, rocket pods, a handful of air-to-surface missiles, and a 20 mm Gatling cannon.
The Marine Corps began experimenting last year with strapping LAVs to the decks of the amphibs — flattops capable of carrying helicopters and vertical take-off and landing jets, as well as transporting Marines — to make the ships more lethal.
In September 2018, the 31st MEU embarked aboard the USS Wasp, another amphibious assault ship, for an exercise in the South China Sea with a LAV parked on the flight deck, training to fend off the types of threats Marines might face in hostile waterways.
The AH-1Z Viper taking off from the Boxer.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck)
“This was the first time,” Capt. George McArthur, a 31st MEU spokesman, told Military Times, “that an LAV-25 platoon with the 31st MEU performed this level of integrated targeting and live-fire from the flight deck of a ship such as the Wasp with combined arms.”
He added: “Weapons Company assets improved the integrated defensive posture aboard the Wasp.”
The Boxer was harassed by Iranian unmanned aerial assets in the Strait of Hormuz in July 2019, and the US says the warship downed one, if not two, of the drones with a new electronic jamming system. Another potential threat in this region is Iranian gunboats, which have targeted commercial shipping in recent months.
Marines with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, on a Light Armored Vehicle atop the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. E. V. Hagewood)
Commenting on why the Marines experimented with using armored vehicles on the flight decks of the amphibs, Marine Maj. Gen. David Coffman, the director of expeditionary warfare for the chief of naval operations, said in November 2019 that he “watched a MEU commander strap an LAV to the front of a flight deck because it had better sensors than the ship did to find small boats.”
That the Boxer was sailing through the Strait of Hormuz with an LAV out on the flight deck suggests that the ship was ready for a confrontation.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
“Hobbs & Shaw,” the Fast & Furious spin-off film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham, came strong out of the gate Aug. 2, 2019, earning $60 million at the box office. The movie was filled with quippy dialogue, badass action, and a few surprise cameos, including Ryan Reynolds playing Locke, a CIA agent who recruits Hobbs (Johnson) to help takedown the semi-superpowered Brixton (Idris Elba). Reynolds’ performance has been met with praise (and a few fan theories), however, a few fans are upset that his character gave a major “Game of Thrones” spoiler at the end of the movie.
Warning: This post obviously features spoilers about “Game of Thrones.”
Throughout the movie, Hobbs is shown discussing “Game of Thrones” with his daughter, including making a reference to the show’s most iconic catchphrase (you know nothing, Jon Snow). Later, in the post-credits scene, Hobbs receives a call from Locke, who ends up spoiling the ending of the show in a very Reynolds-esque way.
Hobbs & Shaw Final Trailer (2019) | Movieclips Trailers
“Jon Snow had sex with his aunt and then he killed her!” Locke says.
It’s a throwaway joke but it’s also accurate, as Snow does end up killing Daenarys in the series finale after she unleashes her dragon on civilians. Of course, we live in the age of post-spoilers, so it’s hard to imagine anyone getting too worked up about the show’s ending getting spoiled months after the series finale aired.
Still, if you know someone who has been holding off watching the divisive finale, you may want to give them a heads up before they watch “Hobbs Shaw.” Otherwise, they may end up holding a life-long grudge against Reynolds.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
In a section of the National Archives dedicated to historic panoramic photos, there’s an odd selection of wide images that show the troops and trainees who would soon deploy to France as America joined World War I. (Panoramics are obviously wide photos, so you may need to turn your device sideways and/or zoom in to see all the detail in the photos.)
(Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs – Panoramic Views of Army Units, Camps, and Related Industrial Sites)
This photo shows engineers of the 109th Engineers in June 1918 as they trained at Gila Forest Camp, New Mexico. It’s unlikely the men made it to France in time for the fighting, but training like this allowed U.S. forces to overcome the trench works and other defenses of Germany as they pushed east and liberated France.
(Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs – Panoramic Views of Army Units, Camps, and Related Industrial Sites)
Company H of the 347th Infantry pose in Camp Dix, New Jersey, in January 1919. During the war, men like this rotated into position on the lines or, during major offensives, were sent against German defenders en masse, hitting machine-gun nests with grenades and bodies to ensure victory. After the war, they were sent into Germany as an army of occupation to ensure the terms of the armistice and the peace treaty were followed.
(Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General)
“White trucks” at Fort Riley. The trucks in the photo were made by the White Sewing Machine Company, later renamed the White Motor Corps. The Army had asked the manufacturer to design a motorized ambulance in 1902, just two years after the company had produced its first car. By World War I, their trucks were well-respected, and they did so well in the war that France awarded the trucks the Croix de Guerre.
(Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel)
Sailors go through boat exercise at the Naval Training Station, Hampton Roads, Virginia, in September 1918. The naval war was largely over by the time America joined the fray, but sailors still fought against German U-boats and protected the convoys that kept troops ashore supplied and fed.
(Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs)
At Camp Meigs, Washington D.C., quartermasters trained on how to keep the men full of food and weighed down with valuable ammunition. This was more challenging than it might sound. Allied advances in the closing months of the war were frequently slowed down by artillery and logistic support getting choked up for hours on the heavily damaged roads behind the infantry, forcing the infantry to slow or stop until support could reach them.
Quartermasters and other troops who could get the trucks through could save lives.
Two soldiers from the South Carolina and Pennsylvania National Guard are the first enlisted National Guard females to graduate from U.S. Army Ranger School.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jessica Smiley, a South Carolina National Guard military police non-commissioned officer serving with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, and U.S. Army Sgt. Danielle Farber, Pennsylvania National Guard 166th Regional Training Institute Medical Battalion Training Site instructor, completed the mentally and physically challenging school at Fort Benning Dec. 13, 2019. The school prepares soldiers to be better trained, more capable and more resilient leaders.
“My mindset going into this was to leave 100 percent on the table and never have regret or look back and say, ‘I should have pushed harder or I should have done something different,'” said Smiley. “My mindset today is that I did just that. I gave 100 percent. I did everything that I could, and now here I am.”
U.S. Army Sgt. Danielle Farber, Pennsylvania National Guard 166th Regional Training Institute Medical Battalion Training Site instructor, and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jessica Smiley, South Carolina National Guard military police non-commissioned officer currently serving with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, graduate U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia, Dec. 13, 2019, as the first National Guard enlisted females to complete the leadership school.
(Photo by Sgt. Brian Calhoun)
As the first female National Guard enlisted soldiers to graduate from the school, Smiley and Farber join a small group of women who have earned a Ranger tab since the Pentagon lifted the ban on women serving in combat arms positions. The others are U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest and U.S. Army 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, who in 2015 became the first women to ever complete the school; U.S. Army 1st Lt. Emily Lilly, who was the first female National Guard officer to graduate in 2018; and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Amanda Kelley, the first enlisted soldier to graduate, also in 2018. However, Smiley and Farber do not think Ranger school is an accomplishment only they are capable of achieving.
“I don’t think it’s charting a course for other women because it’s something that we all have in us. We just haven’t been allowed to do it … There are many women out there who are completely capable of doing it,” said Smiley. “Do it … Put in the hard work, put in the dedication to accomplish the goal.”
Smiley and Farber said the accomplishment took years of training and did not come without setbacks. Farber has been working toward this goal since 2016 when she first tried for the Pennsylvania Ranger/Sapper state assessment program and was not selected. She tried again in 2018 and was selected, with approximately 10 other soldiers. A year later, she left for Ranger school.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jessica Smiley, South Carolina National Guard military police non-commissioned officer currently serving with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, graduates U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia, Dec. 13, 2019, as one of the first National Guard enlisted females to complete the leadership school.
(Photo by Sgt. Brian Calhoun)
“Train hard for it,” said Farber. “Come into it knowing you’re going to be doing things that every other male that comes through here has to do. Don’t come through here and expect any sort of special treatment because it won’t happen.”
Now that they have earned their Ranger tab, Smiley and Farber hope to use the skills they’ve gained and help the soldiers they work with and lead.
“This day to me is not the end of the school, but is the beginning of the new chapter in my career, not only for myself but for future soldiers,” said Smiley.
U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Russ Vickery, South Carolina National Guard command sergeant major, said he is proud of what Smiley and Farber achieved.
“It is a big deal to be the first enlisted females in the National Guard graduating Ranger School. … It’s groundbreaking,” he said. “We always tell [soldiers] that they can do it. Physical size is not the limitation; it’s the amount of heart and soul that a soldier brings.”
During the Battle of Okinawa, one United States Navy ship went up against unbelievable odds — and survived to tell the incredible tale. The Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer USS Laffey (DD 724) faced off against a horde of Japanese pilots — some of whom, now known as kamikazes, were willing to crash into American vessels and sacrifice their lives to complete their mission.
Now, the Laffey’s story is coming to the big screen.
Mel Gibson, acclaimed actor and director of the Academy Award-nominated film Hacksaw Ridge, is currently working on Destroyer, a film based on the Wukovits’ book, Hell from the Heavens: The Epic Story of the USS Laffey and World War II’s Greatest Kamikaze Attack. The film will be centered around the 90 minutes of chaos experienced by the crew of the Laffey on April 16, 1945. In the span of roughly an hour and a half, the Laffey was hit by four bombs and struck by as many as eight kamikazes.
USS Laffey (DD 724) during World War II, packing six dual-purpose five-inch guns and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.
USS Laffey’s story didn’t start and end with those fateful 90 minutes, however. After Okinawa, she was repaired and went on to see action in the Korean War. After Korea, she served until 1975, when she was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Register of Vessels. Unlike many of her sister ships that went directly to the scrapyard, she was preserved as a museum and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
USS Laffey (DD 724, right) next to USS Hank (DD 702), a sister ship named after William Hank, the commanding officer of the first USS Laffey (DD 459).
Laffey’s commanding officer, Commander Frederick J. Becton, was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions that April day in 1945. Becton was a well-decorated troop in World War II. He received the Silver Star four times, including once for heroism on D-Day and twice more for actions in the Philippines while commanding the Laffey.
The first USS Laffey (DD 459), a Benson-class destroyer, pulling alongside another ship in 1942.
A previous USS Laffey, a Benson-class destroyer with the hull number DD 459, saw action in the Battle of Cape Esperance, but became a legend during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in the early morning hours of Friday, November 13, 1942. The destroyer closed to within 20 feet of the Japanese battleship Hiei and wounded Vice Admiral Hiroaki Abe before being sunk by enemy fire. The sinking of the Laffey cost many US lives, but left the Japanese without command in a pivotal moment.
It seems as though the name ‘Laffey’ is destined to fight the odds.
Check out the video below to see director Mel Gibson’s excitement as he discusses the near-impossible bravery of the USS Laffey at Okinawa.
Naval investigators are looking for answers after a female Marine discovered a camera in the women’s bathroom on a deployed US warship, NBC reported, citing three military officials.
The woman discovered the device aboard the USS Arlington, a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock currently in port in Greece, in March 2019.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) has been investigating the incident since that time, working to determine who placed the device and whether or not it had recorded anything.
“The command has taken, and will continue to take, all necessary actions to ensure the safety and privacy of the victim,” Sixth Fleet spokesperson Cmdr. Kyle Raines told NBC.
“The Navy/Marine Corps team takes all reports of sexual harassment seriously, and are committed to thoroughly investigating these allegations and providing resources and care to victims of sexual harassment,” he said.
This is not the first time the Navy has struggled with men spying on women aboard a ship.
The USS Wyoming.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James Kimber)
For 10 months on the USS Wyoming, an Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine, a group of sailors filmed at least a dozen women serving aboard the Navy boat as they undressed and showered. The videos were then distributed among other sailors.
Using cellphones and an iPod touch, sailors went into frame bays and unmanned spaces, areas that “provided the perpetrators a limited viewing area of the bathrooms/heads via piping penetration air gaps in the bulkheads,” Navy Times reported, citing investigation material.
The incident, characterized as a “breach of trust,” was said to be particularly shocking because of the close bond between submariners.
In a Rand Corp. report requested by the Pentagon and released in fall 2018, the Navy was unidentified as the service with the greatest risk of sexual harassment. The Navy was the only service with installations with more than a 15% risk of sexual assault, Stars and Stripes reported at the time.
Across the military, the various services have been actively striving to address the serious and pervasive issue that is sexual harassment.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Feature image screen captured from included YouTube video
In recent years, the United States has begun to shift its military focus away from counter-terror operations and back toward the possibility of a large-scale conflict with near-peer opponents like China. Unfortunately, nearly two straight decades of the Global War on Terror has left the American defense apparatus on the wrong footing for such a war. In some important respects, America now finds itself playing catch up; working to close capability gaps that have presented themselves in Europe and the Pacific.
While America retains the largest military on the planet, it also has further reaching obligations than any other force on the planet as well. In every corner of the globe, America’s military serves in a variety of capacities, from providing a stabilizing presence, to training foreign militaries to defend themselves, to enforcing international norms on the high seas. As we’ve discussed in some depth before, America’s Navy may be huge for this era of relative global stability, but it would find itself significantly outnumbered in a Sino-American war in the Pacific. That issue becomes even more clear when you consider that the U.S. Navy couldn’t deploy the entirety of its fleet to any one waterway without leaving a number of other important interests un-guarded.
When you combine China’s rapidly growing Navy with its well-armed Coast Guard and its maritime militia, you get a positively massive 770-ship Chinese presence in the Pacific. For context, the massive U.S. Navy currently boasts only around 293 ships–and while President Trump has pushed for growth to reach a 355-ship Navy, no real plans to get there have yet to materialize. That means the U.S. Navy would be left to face China’s massive sea fairing presence while outnumbered at least two to one.
When the most powerful military in the world isn’t enough
Having a massive fleet alone isn’t enough to win a 21st century conflict on the high seas–It’s equally important that you have the right kinds of ships to leverage for specific roles.
Over the years, advancing technology has enabled the United States to move away from the massive fleets of ships and aircraft it maintained during the Second World War, and toward a lower number of assets that are capable of filling multiple roles. Ships like the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, just like multi-role aircraft like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, are properly outfitted to serve in a number of capacities. This mindset has allowed the United States to expand its capabilities while reducing its personnel requirements and the overhead costs of maintaining far more assets with far more specialized roles.
But there are downsides to America’s love affair with “multi-role” platforms: They dramatically increase the cost of research and acquisition, and that increased cost forces purchases in fewer numbers. It also forces military assets into positions that don’t fully leverage their broad capabilities.
Three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Shoup (DDG 86) steam in formation during a photo exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Todd P. Cichonowicz)
For some useful context into how more advanced technology has enabled the U.S. to increase capability while decreasing volume, consider that America’s military apparatus wielded a whopping 6,768 ships and an astonishing 300,000 combat airplanes at its peak during World War II. As America poured money into better military technology throughout the Cold War, it transitioned to an era of valuing technology and capability over volume, and today the U.S. Navy boasts just 293 ships, and America maintains a comparatively paltry 13,000 military aircraft.
With so many fewer platforms to utilize, these multi-role ships and airplanes are left doing a wide variety of work that has to be prioritized. Despite being capable of filling multiple roles, these platforms can often only fill one role at a time — making them more effective for strategic posturing, but less effective in a combat situation. Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers are incredibly powerful ships, equipped with a variety of guns, missiles, and torpedoes, but are often relegated to simplistic missile defense operations because of their role within the Aegis missile defense apparatus. These destroyers serve as a shining example of how a ship with a number of uses may get stuck in a single defensive role during large scale conflict.
As former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson put it, BMD (ballistic missile defense) ships are restricted to very confined operating areas that he refers to as “little boxes.”
A cargo ship packed with missiles? Really?
If the United States were to find itself on a collision course with China, one of the nation’s first priorities would be finding ways to rapidly expand both America’s military presence and strategic capabilities in the Pacific. China owns a positively massive ballistic missile stockpile (including hypersonic anti-ship missiles), which would mean missile defense would be considered a significant priority for America’s Aegis destroyers. Unfortunately, that would limit the ability for America’s destroyers to operate in a more offensive capacity, as they steamed in circles around their area of responsibility, waiting to intercept any missiles lobbed their way.
Left to right, the guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69), and the guided missile destroyers USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), USS Carney (DDG 64) and USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) launch a coordinated volley of missiles during a Vandel Exercise (VANDALEX). (US Navy photo)
This would be a significant waste of destroyers, which would in turn limit the capability of other battle groups that couldn’t rely on the offensive power of these warships. In a real way, America would simply need more vertical launch missile tubes (commonly referred to as VLS cells, or Vertical Launch System cells) in the Pacific to bolster both offensive and defensive operations — and it would be essential to get them as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
That’s where the idea for missile barges, or missile ships, comes into play. In a 2019 article in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings, five experts, including a retired Navy captain and a retired Marine Corps colonel, offered their suggestion for rapidly procuring and equipping commercial cargo ships for combat operations.
“The Navy should acquire and arm merchant ships, outfitting them with modular weapons and systems to take advantage of improving technology and shipping market conditions while providing capability more rapidly and less expensively than traditional acquisition efforts.” -Captain R. Robinson Harris, U.S. Navy (Ret.); Andrew Kerr; Kenneth Adams; Christopher Abt; Michael Venn; and Colonel T. X. Hammes, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)
The premise behind missile barges has been around for some time; after all, at its most simplistic levels, this idea boils down to “just stick a bunch of missiles on a ship you have laying around,” but what differentiates this modern missile barge concept from past iterations is the technology of our day. America has long possessed “containerized” missile platforms that would sit comfortably on the deck of large cargo ships. Further, with data-fusing supercomputers like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, America has also already demonstrated the capability of engaging targets with surface-based weapons via targeting data relayed by nearby aircraft.
Put simply, we already have modular weapon systems that would work when operated off the decks of cargo ships, and we’ve already proven that weapons of that sort can be leveraged to engage targets identified by aircraft… That means this concept would require very little in the way of infrastructure building or development–which equates to both cost and time savings.
Procuring the hulls
The first step to building a fleet of missile barges would be procuring the hulls of commercial cargo ships, which would likely be a fairly easy endeavor if a war in the Pacific were to occur. It’s estimated that as much as 1/3 of all global commerce sails across the South China Sea on an annual basis, and a conflict between the United States and China would curtail a majority of these trips–due to both the drop in trade between these two economic power houses and the perceived danger of sending commercial ships through what would effectively be the site of the greatest naval conflict in all of recorded history. As a result, purchasing these vessels would likely come at a significantly reduced cost.
Purchasing a new commercial double hulled cargo ship would normally run the United States between and million dollars, but cargo ships that are already in use can be procured on websites like NautiSNP for pennies on the dollar, with some vessels currently on the market for just over id=”listicle-2647023060″ million.
Again, a significant drop in trade through the Pacific would likely result in even greater cost savings as firms liquidate their assets in the region to recoup some of their losses.
Modifying commercial ships into missile barges
Once the U.S. Navy had procured the ships themselves, it could begin the relatively significant task of refitting them for service as missile barges. This can be accomplished in one of two ways.
The Navy could utilize containerized missile and drone assets stacked on the ship, which would make it more difficult to discern from traditional cargo vessels while dramatically reducing the actual work required to convert each ship. While the vessels would have to be marked as U.S. Navy ships and flagged as such, the similar profile to commercial ships would force the Chinese Navy to positively identify each vessel before engaging, as many weapons systems rely on inverse synthetic-aperture radar that assesses targets through little more than low-resolution profiling.
That front-end investment could be further curbed by relying on external assets like nearby Aegis destroyers for command and control, relying on the warship’s radar, targeting, and command apparatus for what is effectively little more than an arsenal ship or “floating magazine.” In this regard, missile barges would effectively serve as a supplement to a destroyer’s existing weapons loadout.
Conversely, these vessels could be modified to carry traditional VLS tubes just like those employed by America’s guided missile destroyers today. A container ship could be modified to carry a slew of vertical launch tubes carrying Tomahawk missiles in as little as three to six months. The costs would be higher, but the trade off benefit would be utilizing the same basic systems found on other Navy ships, reducing the required training and logistical concerns associated with standing up a different weapon system.
Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Charles Coleman inspects missile cell hatches on one of two Vertical Launching Systems (VLS) aboard the guided missile cruiser USS Hue City (CG 66). The VLS is capable of launching numerous missiles including the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile and SM-2 Standard Missile. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Charles E. Hill)
As the proposal in Proceedings suggests, it would be important for the Navy to carefully consider how many missile barges they intended to build, and how many missiles they intend to keep on each.
While it’s possible to place more than a hundred VLS tubes and associated missiles on one of these vessels, that would represent both a massive expense and a massive target for the Chinese military. Instead, the proposal suggests converting 10 to 15 cargo ships into missile barges, each carrying between 30 and 50 Tomahawk missiles. That would limit the potential losses if such a vessel were lost, while giving it enough firepower to benefit the Navy’s overarching strategy.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Jimmy C. Pan)
The hybrid-crew model
Of course, another shortfall we have yet to discuss in a Pacific conflict could very well be trained Sailors. As the U.S. Navy rapidly procured and modified ships into missile barges, it would also have to rapidly staff these vessels — which likely wouldn’t be feasible leveraging a traditional Navy recruiting pipeline. Instead, the hybrid crew model proposed by Navy Captain Chris Rawley seems most logical.
Each missile barge would have a crew comprised of both U.S. Navy officers and civilian sailors that have experience operating these commercial vessels. By recruiting from the private sector, the U.S. Navy could rapidly field these ships with crews that are already trained and proficient at the tasks they’d be assigned, while placing Naval officers in command of the vessel and in other essential combat roles.
By using a military command element, operating missile barges in war with a crew made up in part of civilians would still be legal under international law. Indeed, this model is already in use aboard some specific Naval vessels, like the recently decommissioned USS Ponce amphibious transport dock.
These missile barges could be crewed with as few as 30 people, split between U.S. Navy and civilian personnel. Because the missile payloads would not come close to these ship’s total capacity, they could also utilize buoyant cargo sealed in the hull to help make these ships more survivable in the event of an attack.
It’s possible that these ships could be crewed by even fewer people in the near future, as the Navy has already earmarked 0 million in the 2020 budget for the development of two large unmanned surface ships. The Navy’s Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vessel dubbed “Sea Hunter” has already successfully traversed the open ocean between San Diego and Hawaii all on its own, demonstrating the capability for unmanned Navy ships to come.
Are missile barges actually realistic?
Although the U.S. Navy is in the early stages of what may come to be a transformative era, it seems unlikely that the United States would shift away from its current love affair with high-cost, multi-role platforms any time soon. The new USS Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers serve as a good example of how the U.S. military prefers new, shiny, and expensive hardware over old, rusty, and more cost efficient options. While some within the Defense Department are questioning the future of America’s supercarriers, the alternative posited is usually something akin to smaller, but still rather large and expensive Lightning Carriers built for short-take off, vertical landing F-35Bs.
However, it’s important to note that the Navy of today is a product of the past fifty years of foreign policy posturing, but that may not be the right Navy to see us through a return to large scale conflict. Today, war with China remains a distant threat, but as that threat looms closer, we may see a transition in the Navy’s mindset similar to that of the Air Force’s recent push for “attritable” aircraft to bolster our small volume of high-capability assets.
Attritable, a word seemingly designed to give copy editors stress wrinkles, is the term used by the U.S. Air Force to describe platforms that are cheap enough to be used aggressively, with some degree of losses considered acceptable. This has led the Air Force to investing in drones like the Kratos Valkyrie, which is a low-observable drone capable of carrying two small-diameter bombs for ground strikes while costing only a few million dollars a piece.
Kratos Valkyrie (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins)
While it would cost more than a few million dollars to field each missile barge, the price may still be discounted enough to be considered attritable when compared to billion behemoths like the Ford. As unmanned ships become more common, and as a result, more affordable, it may become even more cost effective to leverage existing commercial hulls as a means of offsetting China’s huge numbers advantage in the Pacific.
Does it seem likely that the U.S. Navy would start strapping missiles to old container ships any time soon? The answer is a resounding no, but if America and China continue on this collision course, America’s defense apparatus may find itself being forced to make some hard decisions about just how much capability it can squeeze out of America’s already massive defense budget. If that day comes, missile barges may represent one of the most cost effective force multipliers America could leverage.