Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47 - We Are The Mighty
Articles

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
The dapper young Hungarian revolutionary named József Tibor Fejes holding a captured AK-47 in what is believed to be the first widely distributed photo of the weapon. (Public domain photo.)


Sixty years ago the weapon that became a symbol of Cold War guerrillas and current day insurgents made its debut in a most unlikely way.

The AK-47, arguably the most widely used assault rifle in the world, first appeared in the hands of both Communist troops and Hungarian revolutionaries during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The revolution against the nation’s communist government began on October 23 but was ruthlessly crushed by Hungarian secret police and Soviet troops by Nov. 10.

In particular, one photo from the revolution gained worldwide attention – and it is arguably the first time the Kalashnikov entered the public consciousness.

C.J. Chivers, former Marine Corps infantry captain and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, wrote in his book The Gun that nobody knows which Hungarian revolutionary first picked up a captured AK-47.

But a LIFE Magazine photographer snapped a picture of József Tibor Fejes – “22-years-old, fresh-faced, sharp-eyed, purposeful, and seemingly unafraid” – whose costume as an insurgent always included a bowler hat. “The Man in the Bowler Hat” was also hefting an AK-47, making Fejes the first known revolutionary carrying what became widely known as a revolutionary’s weapon.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Fejes with other revolutionaries, still wearing his bowler and carrying a captured AK-47. (Public domain photo.)

“The AK-47 was destined to become a symbol of resistance fighters almost everywhere, a weapon with innumerable spokesmen,” Chivers wrote. “Fejes had nonchalantly assumed the requisite pose and begun to flesh out this historical role. He did so before Fidel Castro, before Yasir Arafat, before Idi Amin. He was years ahead of the flag of Zimbabwe, which would expropriate the AK-47 as a symbol. He was ahead of Shamil Basayev and Osama bin Laden, who would convert the product of an atheist state into a sign of unsparing jihad. József Tibor Fejes was the first of the world’s Kalashnikov-toting characters, a member of a pantheon’s inaugural class.”

Although the Soviet Union had first publically acknowledged the rifle’s existence in 1949, firearms experts and military intelligence analysts in the West knew little about the weapon.

In fact, it was not until 1956 that the Army’s Technical Intelligence Office issued a classified report about the AK-47 – a report that mistakenly labeled the rifle a submachine gun and led to Pentagon brass dismissing the effectiveness of the weapon.

Eventually, the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, and a host of Soviet satellites and licensees manufactured more than 100 million AK-47s. First encountered by U.S. fighting men during the Vietnam War, the robust construction of the weapon and its reliability soon made believers out of Americans who faced it in the hands of their enemies.

To this day, U.S. soldiers and Marines continue to face adversaries armed with some version of the Kalashnikov.

As for József Tibor Fejes, his fate was sealed. Charged with the execution of a State Security Forces officer by gunning him down in the streets of Budapest, a Hungarian court found Fejes guilty and sentenced him to death.

Despite an appeal, authorities hanged Fejes on April 9, 1959, his punishment for what the court said was an attempt to overthrow the Hungarian people’s republic, the murder of a police officer, and the theft of state property – namely an AK-47 assault rifle.

Articles

How being a woman in the North Korean military is basically a living hell

North Korea’s awful record of human rights violations may place it as the worst regime in the world in how it treats its people, but first-hand tales of the abuses rarely slip the secretive country’s borders.


While oppression in North Korea knows no bounds, a video from South Korean Digitalsoju TV shows how the regime can be especially horrific in its treatment of women.

In the video, women defectors who formerly served in North Korea’s military sit down with a South Korean host in a military-themed restaurant famous for its chicken. The cultural divide between the two Korean women becomes palpable when the North Korean points to mock ammunition decorating the restaurant, and the South Korean says she recognizes them from comics.

“Aww, you’re so adorable,” the North Korean replied.

(Digitalsoju TV | YouTube)The defector explained that all North Korean women must serve in the military for six years, and all men must serve for 11. During that time, she said she was fed three spoonfuls of rice at mealtimes.

Unsurprisingly, malnutrition is widespread across all sectors of North Korea. And despite North Korea being a communist country, the defector still said that even within the military, people badly want money and withhold or steal each other’s state-issued goods, like military uniforms.

The defector said that in North Korea, women are taught that they’re not as smart, important, or as strong as men.

A second defector said that the officers in charge of uniform and ration distribution would often leverage their position to coerce sex from female soldiers. “Higher-ranked officers sleeping around is quite common,” said the second woman.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

But the first defector had a much more personal story.

“I was in the early stages of malnutrition… I weighed just around 81 pounds and was about 5’2,” said the defector. Her Body Mass Index, though not a perfect indicator of health, works out to about 15, where a healthy body is considered to have a BMI of about 19-25.

“The major general was this man who was around 45 years old and I was only 18 years old at the time,” she said. “But he tried to force himself on me.”

“So one day he tells everyone else to leave except for me. Then he abruptly tells me to take off all my clothes,” she said. The officer told her he was inspecting her for malnutrition, possibly to send her off to a hospital where undernourished soldiers are treated.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Photo from Flickr user Roman Harak.

“So since I didn’t have much of a choice, I thought, well, it’s the Major General. Surely there’s a good reason for this. I never could have imagined he’d try something,” she said. But the Major General asks her to remove her underwear and “then out of nowhere, he comes at me,” she said.

The Major General then proceeded to beat her while she loudly screamed, so he covered her mouth. She said he hit her so hard in the left ear, that blood came out of her right ear. She said the beating was so severe her teeth were loose afterwards.

“How do you think this is going to make me look?” the Major General asked her after the beating. He then instructs her to get dressed and tell no one what happened or he would “make [her] life a living hell.”

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Photo from Flickr user Roman Harak.

“There wasn’t really anyone I could tell or report this too,” she said. “Many other women have gone through something similar.

“I don’t know whether he’s dead or alive, but if Korea ever gets reunified, I’m going to find him and even if I can’t make him feel ten times the pain I felt, I want to at least smack him on the right side of his face the same way he did to me,” she said.

Articles

This is what the new VA chief thinks about using medical marijuana to treat PTSD

On May 31, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said he is open to expanding the use of medical marijuana to treat soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder.


Shulkin said that although federal laws would limit the ability to use marijuana, he said it could be possible to take action in states where medicinal marijuana is legal.

“There may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful and we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that,” Shulkin said during a press conference. “Right now, federal law does not prevent us at VA to look at that as an option for veterans … I believe that everything that could help veterans should be debated by Congress and by medical experts and we will implement that law.”

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
David Shulkin (right) seeks major VA hospital reform. (DoD Photo by Megan Garcia)

The head of the VA also said the agency he oversees is in a “critical condition,” likening the veterans’ healthcare provider to a patient in bad health.

Shulkin, a doctor appointed by former President Barack Obama, said patients wait too long for services from VA hospitals and government bureaucracy prevents the agency from firing employees who perform poorly. The VA oversees the care for more than 9 million veterans.

“I’m a doctor and I like to diagnose things, assess them, and treat them,” Shulkin said. “Though we are taking immediate and decisive steps stabilizing the organization … we are still in critical condition and require intensive care.”

“As you know, many of these challenges have been decades in building,” Shulkin added.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Shulkin aims to improve medical services for our nation’s veterans. DoD Photo by Greg Vojtko.

In reference to the VA’s inability to fire employees quickly, Shulkin said “our accountability processes are clearly broken.”

In one example, it took the agency more than a month to fire a psychiatrist who was caught watching pornography on his iPad while seeing a veteran.

Shulkin said now is the time to face the VA’s challenges and address them “head on.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the battle behind ‘the Star-Spangled Banner’

The Star-Spangled Banner” is known from sea to shining sea, but few know the circumstances under which Francis Scott Key wrote America’s national anthem. Oddly enough, it was penned just after the short but bloody Battle of Baltimore.

In September of 1814—two years into the war between the U.K. and the U.S.—the British navy turned its attention towards Baltimore, Maryland. As a busy port, the city would either prove a devastating American loss, or a crucial victory if they managed to thwart the attack on Baltimore Harbor’s Fort McHenry.


As 5,000 British troops marched towards Fort McHenry, they encountered an unexpected setback at the Battle of North Point. There, American troops were lying in wait, prepared to stall the British until Baltimore’s defenses could be finalized. When they were satisfied with their delay, the Americans retreated, then awaited the main attack from within the city.

At dawn the very next day, approximately 4,300 British troops began to advance, forcing the U.S. troops to fall back. Still, the battle wasn’t easy for the British: They were startled to find that the Americans had 100 cannons and over 10,000 troops. Not long after they breached Balitmore’s inner defenses, the British soldiers fled to their ships, wanting to regroup for a less frontal attack.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

Meanwhile, at Fort McHenry, 1,000 U.S. troops awaited the British navy, who arrived in a rain of rockets and mortar shells. Harsh fire ensued for 27 hours, though this did not deter the Americans’ from their daily reveille: As the fighting drew to a close on the morning of September 14, an oversized American flag—made by a local woman and her 13-year-old daughter—was raised over Fort McHenry. In response to this sign of American strength, an encampment of British soldiers fired a final taunting round at the sky. With that, the Battle of Baltimore was officially over.

But prior to this, Francis Scott Key stood aboard the British ship HMS Tonnant, negotiating the release of Maryland resident Dr. William Beanes. Having succeeded in his mission, Key and the newly-freed Beanes watched the battle unfold from their enemy’s decks. At the sight of the raised American flag, Key was struck by a burst of poetic inspiration. He quickly scribbled a series of verses on a scrap of paper, not knowing these words would become an enduring symbol of American patriotism.

Originally titled “Defence on Fort M’Henry”—and then renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner” shortly thereafter—the poem became a sensation after its publication in the Baltimore American. Over 100 years later, Congress made it the national anthem of the United States.

But what exactly was going through Key’s mind as he jotted down the lyrics to the song of our country? In The Dawn’s Early Light, historian Walter Lord describes the Battle of Baltimore in vivid detail, providing intimate insight into the birth of the “Star-Spangled Banner” and the man who wrote it.

Click here to read an excerpt of The Dawn’s Early Light, and then download the book.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

Articles

SOCOM wants drugs to turn its K9s into super dogs

Officials in charge of equipping America’s top commando units are looking for some high-tech drugs to help boost the performance if their 150 “multi-purpose canines.”


According to news reports, U.S. Special Operations Command wants to find pharmaceutical products or nutritional supplements that will enhance canine hearing, eyesight and other senses.

Think of it as a “Q” for America’s four-legged special operators.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Military Working Dog Toby, 23d Security Forces Squadron, prepares for an MWD demonstration, Feb. 2, 2017, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Ttoby is a Belgian Malinois and specializes in personnel protection and detecting explosives. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wolf)

According to an official solicitation for the Performance Enhancing Drugs, SOCOM is looking for a product or combination of products that will do the following:

  • Increase endurance
  • Improve a dog’s ability to regulate body temperature
  • Improve hydration
  • Improve acclimatization to acute extremes in temperature, altitude, and/or time zone changes
  • Increase the speed of recovery from strenuous work
  • Improve hearing
  • Improve vision
  • Improve scent
  • Decrease adverse effects due to blood loss.

SOCOM’s military working dogs have been front and center on several top commando raids — with the most famous being Cairo, a Belgian Malinois who joined SEAL Team 6 in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

SOCOM, though, is also looking to neutralize enemy K9s through what another solicitation calls “canine response inhibitors.”

Now, during the Vietnam War, the preferred “canine response inhibitor” was known as the “Hush Puppy.” But these days SOCOM is looking for some less permanent methods, including:

  • Inhibit barking, howling, and whining
  • Inhibit hearing
  • Inhibit vision
  • Inhibit scent
  • Induce unconsciousness
  • Induce movement away from the area where the effects are deployed

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Julia A. Casper

Like the performance enhancers, the “canine response inhibitors” could also be used outside the military.

So, the company or companies that win the hearts and minds of SOCOM’s puppies could catch a huge break.

Articles

This is how the rest of the world sees the threat from the US — and it isn’t good

A recent poll from the Pew Research Center shows some pretty surprising statistics when it comes to how countries see the threats around them.


Pew says that most of the world thinks terrorism from the ISIS is the biggest threat to security, followed closely by climate change.

But when researchers dug deeper and asked major countries — including longtime U.S. allies — how they saw the influence of the United States, China and Russia, the results were a major bummer for Uncle Sam.

The country most fearful of the United States is Turkey, with 72 percent of those surveyed seeing the U.S. as a major threat.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Don’t believe ’em for a second. (U.S. Army photo)

By a large margin, NATO ally Greece sees the U.S. as a “major threat” to their country, with 44 percent of those surveyed worried about too much U.S. influence as opposed to 22 percent who see the U.S. as a minor threat. And that’s 5 percentage points lower than a similar survey three years ago.

In a true head scratcher, 59 percent of Spaniards see the U.S. as a major threat — a 42 percent swing over the 2013 survey. Are there some plans lurking around to lure Lionel Messi to the U.S. we don’t know about?

“The proportion of the public that views American power as a major threat to their country grew in 21 of the 30 nations between 2013 and 2017,” Pew says.

Ouch.

But hey, at least we got Poland and India who each swung 8 percentage points more in favor of the U.S. than three years ago — with 15 and 19 percent seeing the U.S. as a major threat respectively.

Shockingly, fewer Russians see the U.S. as a major threat than do Canadians, with 39 percent of our northern brothers seeing the U.S. as a major threat as opposed to 37 percent of Russians.

“Just in the past year, perceptions of the U.S. as a major threat have increased by at least 8 percentage points among several long-standing American allies, including Australia (13 points) and the UK (11 points),” Pew said. “Concern about U.S. power is up 10 points in Canada, Germany and Sweden, and 8 points in France and the Netherlands.”

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Guarding the perimeter against a Chinese attack … or from the Yanks? (U.S. Army photo)

Japan? Don’t get us started on Japan. The Pew survey finds about the same amount of Japanese think the U.S. is a major threat at 62 percent as they see China as a major threat, with 64 percent saying Beijing worries the heck out of them.

Ugh.

But, hey, we’ve always got Israel, right? Just 17 percent of Israelis see the U.S. as a major threat with neighbor Jordan coming in at 24 percent. So at least we got that going for us.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This false flag attack triggered world’s largest war

We in the west have a tendency to focus on the European tensions that led to World War II. And while the rise of Mussolini and Hitler caused a massive conflict that rocked Europe and Russia, open fighting was going on in Asia for years before Germany’s encroachment into Sudetenland. And Japanese officers triggered a round of fighting in 1931 by attacking their own railroad.


Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

Japanese troops enter Tsitsihar, a city in northeast China.

(Japanese war camerman, public domain)

The Mukden Incident took place in 1931. Japan had ambitions on the Asian continent, but the Japanese political establishment was, shall we say, less aggressive about it than the Japanese military would have preferred.

There was a railroad running through the Liaodong Peninsula near Korea. It connected key cities in the peninsula to the rest of the continent. Japan acquired the railroad and peninsula after the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905, giving it a much larger foothold on the continent. The railroad became one of Japan’s most economically important assets on the continent.

But that wasn’t enough for the nation of Japan, and the troops stationed there were especially hawkish. They wanted Japan to take much more of China (Korea, too, for that matter). But the government kept focusing on increasing political and economic power over the surrounding area. But economic and political expansion takes time and doesn’t include artillery.

And, worse, China was politically unifying at the time. It created a real risk that China may become resilient to further expansion. There was even a possibility that Japan would eventually be kicked off the continent.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

The site of the 1931 railway sabotage that became known as the Mukden Incident and kicked off the fighting in Asia that would become World War II.

(Public domain)

So, in the middle of all this tension, someone blew up a short section of the railroad on Sept. 18, 1931. An under-powered bomb did little lasting damage, and the railway was operating again almost immediately.

But even more immediate was the counter-attack. In just a day, Japanese artillery was sending rounds into Chinese-held territory. In just a few months, Japan had conquered the most resource-rich areas bordering the peninsula. The limited damage, the quick Japanese retaliation, and the brutal invasion has led some historians to believe that mid-level Japanese Army officers conducted the bombing to give themselves a pretext for invasion.

It has become known as the Mukden Incident.

Japan occupied the area for the next 14 years, and its troops continued to conquer China. It attacked Shanghai in 1932, threatening European and American interests as well as, obviously, Chinese security and sovereignty.

The American and European navies stepped up their game in the Pacific, reinforcing Pacific outposts and building new ships. Meanwhile, Japan remained on the march, continuously expanding until 1942. It would conquer vast portions of China and all of Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Burma, and more.

And it all started with a shady as hell attack against its own railroad in 1931.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The ‘Jedburghs’ were the best anti-Nazi commandos of WWII

In World War II, months before D-Day, a loudspeaker on military bases played a short recruitment message. The few men who answered it would become heroes after tackling one of the deadliest and most complicated missions of D-Day.


Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

Jedburghs train on an obstacle course in World War II.

(Office of Strategic Services)

The loudspeaker message went:

Wanted: Volunteers for immediate overseas assignment. Knowledge of French or another European language preferred; Willingness and ability to qualify as a parachutist necessary; Likelihood of a dangerous mission guaranteed.

Men who volunteered had a chance to be selected for a Jedburgh Team. The teams typically featured a mix of Canadian, British, French, and American troops, but they were tiny, typically with two to four members. So, obviously, there was just one man of each nationality in each team.

So, that was one reason that knowledge of European languages was preferred, the other was that these tiny teams would fight directly alongside resistance forces in Nazi-occupied Europe, mostly in France but also in the Netherlands and Belgium. Their motto summed up the mission well: “Surprise, kill, and vanish.”

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

Jedburgh team members in World War II.

(via CIA.gov)

Very few people were selected. A post-war accounting put the number at 276 of which 83 were Americans. There were also 90 British and 103 French troops. The most typical team size was three, but all teams were required to have at least a commander and a radio operator.

The most common third member was an officer from the country in which the team was deployed. So, French members rounded out teams in France, Dutch in the Netherlands, and Belgian in Belgium.

The Jedburghs trained hard and wanted to go into Europe two to six weeks before the D-Day invasion, but Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower restricted the Jedburgh insertions until June 5, 1944—the night before D-Day—so the sudden presence of international troops wouldn’t clue in the Nazis to the coming invasion.

So, on June 5, the teams began their insertions, and these few hundred men brought lots of extra weapons with them and rallied the resistance fighters of Europe. The Jedburghs and their allies fought far ahead of the invasion forces, in some cases taking and holding key infrastructure that the rest of the Allied forces wouldn’t reach for weeks.

The Jedburghs severed Nazi supply and reinforcement lines, and they protected key infrastructure like bridges that would be needed by the tanks and trucks of the invasion force. As volume two of the OSS War Report says:

Will well-trained, capable radio operators, the Jedburghs represented, wherever they were, a strong radio link between FFI (French Forces of the Interior) leaders and other Allied groups in the field, such as the SAS (Special Air Services) and headquarters in London … Besides the all-important task of making available … arms and supplies to the resistance and preparing landing and dropping fields, they acted as translators and interpreters, assisting in surrender arrangements, helped lead sabotage and ambush operations, provided intelligence on resistance and enemy strength and other information as well, and worked to coordinate separate resistance forces under a unified command.
Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

Members of the Jedburgh teams prepare to insert via parachute in World War II.

(US Army Signal Corps via CIA.gov)

And yes, the rest of the Allied forces saw and appreciated these efforts. While the Jedburghs complained after the invasion that they wished they were allowed to insert earlier and do more, Allied commanders were just grateful that so many resistance members were well-armed and organized, breaking up Nazi forces and tying up German units, and that so much infrastructure survived the Wehrmacht’s destruction efforts.

The Jedburghs were broken up, but some special operation units are spiritual successors to the Jedburghs. For instance, the Army’s first operation Special Forces group, the 10th Special Forces Group, was commanded by Col. Aaron Bank, a former Jedburgh. And one of the Special Forces’ primary missions is to deploy overseas, train up and help arm indigenous forces, and then fight alongside them.

But at least ODAs typically have 12 members. Jedburghs were running around in a Three’s Company configuration, slaughtering Nazis with just their closest friends to rely on.

Fun side note: The name Jedburgh was selected because it was the name of a town near where the men trained and where Scots had conducted guerilla operations against England in the 1100s.

Articles

Researchers unveiled cloaking technology that the US military has been waiting for

Breakthrough research from the University of California-San Diego could take the US military one step closer towards having cloaked aircraft and drones.


Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Photo: US Air Force Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt

Researchers Li Yi Hsu, Thomas Lepetit, and Boubacar Kante havesucceeded in creating an ultra thin “dielectric metasurface cloak,” which is composed of a multitude of ceramic cylinders embedded into a layer of Teflon.

Like an invisibility cloak, this coating could mask objects from visible light and radio wavelengths, the Army Times notes, and the military is paying attention.

“I am very excited about this work,” Kante told the Army Times.

The cloak functions by either absorbing or directing electromagnetic waves away from an object. This, in turn, effectively masks the object making it ‘invisible.’ While experiments in 2006 first showcased a limited degree of invisibility cloaking, the new breakthrough has two main advantages over older methods.

First, Kante told the Army Times, the new material his team discovered uses ceramics rather than metal particles making the material easier and cheaper to manufacture. Second, the method of using ceramics and Teflon allows the cloak to be effective with coating layers as thin as millimeters.

“Previous cloaking studies needed many layers of materials to hide an object, the cloak ended up being much thicker than the size of the object being covered,” Hsu said in a statement. “In this study, we show that we can use a thin single-layer sheet for cloaking.”

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen

These advantages make a world of difference in real world applications, which is why the military has taken a keen interest in the new cloak. Whereas older cloaking technology would have required 30cm of Teflon coating to mask a Predator drone from a surveillance system, the new cloaking technology could hide the same drone from the same radar with only 3mm of coating, the Washington Post reports.

This suddenly takes the idea of cloaking away from the realm of sci-fi and moves it firmly towards real world applications. Kayla Matola, a research analyst with the Homeland Defense and Security Information Analysis Center, told the Army Times that the new cloaking technology is “basically what the military’s looking for.”

“If anything this could provide the military with air superiority,” Matola told the Army Times.

And although the technology is still in its nascent stages, Matola estimates that due to the ease of manufacturing the coating from ceramics and Teflon, full scale production and utilization of the technology could occur within the next decade.

“There’s no fundamental roadblocks,” Kante told the Army Times. “It would be easy to manufacture.”

However, despite Matola’s optimism, there are still fundamental issues associated with the technology. The cloak can only be used to block one potential wavelength at a time currently, Endgadget reports, drastically limiting the current applicability of the current cloak.

Additionally, the cloak only blocks wavelengths that hit the target within a six degree range of a 45 degree angle. Beyond that range any item covered in the cloak would still be fully visible. The researchers said they are working on widening the range.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

The building has withstood the test of time. It has seen generations of Marines enter and leave its halls. It has seen Marines off to several wars from the shores of Pacific Islands, the mountains of North Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, and the deserts of the Middle East. It has served as the operational and cultural epicenter of the 1st Marine Division — the most storied and consequential Division in the United States Marine Corps. It has seen its share of history both for the division and the Corps.

The building has even been reviewed as a historical site, still bearing the simple style and white paint associated with World War II era buildings, which were originally meant to be temporary. Few of its kind are still standing across the nation, yet it remains, bold in both color and design, while its peers have been replaced over the decades. If you walk through the musty halls that were once treaded by the likes of Chesty Puller and James Mattis, you can see the artwork — paintings of past commanders, old battle scenes ripped from the pages of history and photos of Marines from modern wars.


“It’s a unique building,” said Colonel Christopher S. Dowling, former Chief of Staff of the 1st Marine Division. “When it was built in 1942-1943 it was supposed to only last five years, five years — that was it.”

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

U.S. Marine Corps Col. Christopher S. Dowling.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Audrey M. C. Rampton)

Humanity creates things that last; tools which pass through dozens of hands before becoming worn beyond use, structures that stand strong for decades, centuries and even several millennia. There are also occasions where we make things for a simple and easy use, where they are only meant to last for short periods of time. Building 1133 of Camp Pendleton, better known as “the white house” was one such structure. Acting as both a headquarters and administration building for the growing conflict in the Pacific, it even expanded to accommodate the needs of the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions that also participated in World War II’s Pacific Theatre.

“The sergeant major’s office is my favorite room,” said USMC Sgt. Maj. William T. Sowers, former sergeant major of the 1st Marine Division. “The amount of detail in the wood and the fire place gives it that really old feeling and gives off the air of a museum.”

In the early years it did not have the nickname “the white house”. It stood amongst many buildings that were painted the same cheap, bare off-white and was not unique beyond its purpose. Styled like many of the buildings to ensure the security of the command, it served many Marines throughout the Pacific for the course of World War II.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

The 1st Marine Division Headquarters Building on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Prado)

The structure grew upon the Marines that called it home and in 1946 it was officially ordained the 1st Marine Division Headquarters building. This would lead to it being modified decades later, not once, but twice to ensure the building could continue to function and support the many Marines that passed through its halls. Though the renovations have ensured the building has stayed with both the times and technology of the era from phone wiring to internet within its walls, its overall structure and design are still the same as it was when first built.

“It was not as iconic to us during our time,” said U.S. Marine Corps Retired General Matthew P. Caulfield. “We never knew it as ‘the white house’. We never thought about the fact it was the division command post during World War II. We simply knew it as the place we work, though we sometimes referred to it as ‘the head shed’.”

Due to the era in which ‘the white house’ was made, there were many developmental needs required of it during that time. One of the largest was the need to withstand a possible attack. A Japanese invasion of the U.S. was a realistic threat in the 40s. To ensure the safety of the command staff, the building was meant to be indistinguishable from the rest. To those born in the last 40 years, the very concept of a military attack on the U.S. is simply something that would not and could not happen. But in 1940, when Camp Pendleton was officially opened, thousands of Marines marched up from San Diego for combat exercises against a fake enemy. It caused a panic within the civilian population. People initially thought a Japanese invasion had occurred. The base’s presence even led to a drop in the housing market, a fact that is inconceivable to most Southern California home owners today.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

The main gate of Camp Pendleton.

The threat of attack from the skies influenced much of what would become Camp Pendleton as we know it today. The camps on base are spread wide across the camp’s more than 195 square miles, originally designed to protect the base from being crippled in one decisive airstrike, according to Dowling. In the attics of the White House and other buildings from the era, there is still evidence of the original plywood roofing used. Pressed wood was used at the time for two reasons: actual wood planks were in immediate need to build and replace decks of Navy ships, and pressed wood was less likely to create deadly wood debris if the buildings were stuck by a Japanese bomber.

“The white house” was designed by Myron B. Hunt, Harold C. Chambers and E. L. Ellingwood. Their firms handled the development of several buildings across Camp Pendleton during the 1940s. Based on the U.S. Navy B-1 barracks, which was a common design to further make the building indistinguishable from other building on base at the time, making it less of a target for Japanese bombers after Pearl Harbor. Few of these barracks are still left standing after the 70 plus years since their development. The B-1, much like its sibling structure, “the white house” was only a temporary design meant to last for the duration of the war. In 1983 congress would pass the Military Construction Authorization Bill of 1983, which demolished many of the older temporary structures of World War II in favor of new designs. Some structures were renovated due to their historical significance. “The white house” interior was included in these renovations. The building underwent changes to its exterior but maintained its current shape with only a few minor changes.

Since its construction many people have entered “the white house” and many more have driven past it. It is an iconic symbol of the 1st Marine Division with dozens of memorials surrounding it, capturing the sacrifice of every Marine who fought with the Division during its many battles through our history. From officers arriving at its doors in 1940 Ford staff cars, to 1968 Volkswagen Beatles, and even more recently, a 2018 name your make and model. When one steps out of their vehicle, they would gaze up at the white building marked by the iconic blue diamond and the battle streamers the division has earned.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

The 1st Marine Division Headquarters Building on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, May 17, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Prado)

In the old days it would support the entire command staff, but now much of the command is spread out across Camp Pendleton. Many Blue Diamond alum have even thought of making it into a museum, given the many historical pieces that already line its halls. It gives off that feeling of having entered a place engrained with history.

“The iconic building of the ‘Blue Diamond,’ it is the division,” said Sowers. “Many people assume that this is the main command post for the Marine Expeditionary Force or even the Marine Corps Installations West.”

Many of the older veterans were not using to dealing with the commands of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said Sowers. When they thought of “the white house” they’d think of the commanding general who presided over all they knew of the Marines on the West Coast at that time.

Generals, majors, sergeants and lance corporals have walked its halls over the last 70 years. Some still live amongst us while others have given the ultimate sacrifice. Their memories and actions live through both the 1st Marine Division and “the white house” itself, which has been an unchanging monument to the Marines of the 1st Marine Division. No matter the age in which one served the Division, all have known that building in one way or another. It is a testament to both the Division and the Marines that have served. Our ideals have become engrained into its very structure and it has become a permanent member in both the hearts and minds of the Marines of the 1st Marine Division.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

Articles

The beloved ‘woobie’ gets a much-needed update

It’s about the most useful item the U.S. military has ever issued and has earned a soft spot in every servicemember’s heart for its versatility and the cozy comfort it delivers when Mother Nature turns against you.


But while the success of the elegant square of quilted heaven rests largely on its simplicity, it has recently received a much-needed update that’ll deepen a trooper’s smile.

Enter the Woobie 2.0.

Marines are now being issued the so-called “enhanced poncho liner,” which to most of those who’ve cuddled up to its synthetic-filled goodness will notice has a huge upgrade that many a servicemember has been clamoring for for years. The new version of the woobie keeps its various tie down points and parachute chord loops, but adds a heavy-duty reversible zipper to turn the thing into a no joke cammo cocoon.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
One of the most logical moves in the poncho liner’s redesign is the addition of a reversible, heavy-duty zipper to turn it into a lightweight sleeping bag. (Photo from Breach Bang Clear)

“They added the zipper because most people like to use these as a really lightweight sleeping bag,” said Brian Emanuel, general manager at Climashield, which make the insulation that gives the woobie its magical warmth.

The changes to the new poncho liner are more than skin deep, with the old insulation being replaced by the more durable Climashield insulation that can be compacted tighter, is lighter than the old version but delivers more insulated goodness than the poncho liner of old.

“Basically you now have the same weight and 50 percent more warmth,” Emanuel said.

The insulation is so tough, the new woobie doesn’t need to have as much stitching (the old version had what’s called “dumbbell quilting” in order to keep the insulation in place). In fact, the insulation and new shell materials are so tough, there didn’t need to be any stitching at all — typically a major contributor to cold spots when the mercury dips.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
(Photo from We Are The Mighty)

But the Corps was worried about large rips, so developers kept some stitches running down the liner’s length.

While the Marine Corps has outfitted the enhanced poncho liner to its Leathernecks, the Army is still tweaking the design for its own use, Emanuel said.

“They tried to entice the Army to adopt this system as is, but they’ve decided to change the dimensions so it’s the exact same size as their tarp, which is significantly larger than what the Marines have,” Emanuel explained.

So Climashield is trying to work with the Army to decrease the weight of their poncho liner by reducing the amount of insulation with the larger size.

“We’ve said we can reduce the weight by 10 percent from what you’re using today and deliver 30 percent more warmth,” he added.

Articles

For military veterans, finding a job is one thing — staying in it is another

Tommy Diaz was looking to make a career move after graduating community college in 2008, so he joined the U.S. Army. In 2010, he was deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan, where he worked in military intelligence.


“I talked with high-level Taliban members,” Diaz said. “I did over 400 debriefings. The euphemism is debriefings. They’re really interrogations.”

The job was high pressure, but Diaz knew it mattered. He picked up important skills, but he struggled to put those skills to work when he came home to Southern California. He got his first full-time job tracking inventory for an aircraft parts supplier.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
DoD Photo by Noriko Kudo

“I did that for about 10 months, but I just got bored of it,” Diaz said. “It just felt like a dead end. It wasn’t clicking. I was just hashing out reports, and I wanted to do more.”

So, he left. And Diaz isn’t alone. A 2016 survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation found that 44 percent of veterans left their first post-military job within a year.

The unemployment rate for U.S. military veterans is down from nearly 9 percent back in 2010 to just above 4 percent today. Thanks to a big push from the federal government and a bunch of corporate initiatives, U.S. companies have done a good job hiring veterans in recent years, but keeping them is another story.

Many leave because they have trouble matching military skills to job requirements or finding a sense of purpose in the job. But for many vets, the very experience of being in an office causes problems.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Photo Courtesy of the DoD

“It just becomes kind of a minefield of how to interact with people,” said Emily King, author of “Field Tested: Recruiting, Managing and Retaining Veterans.”

King has been hired by companies to help integrate veteran employees. She said it’s hard for them to reorient from the military way of doing things.

“An attitude where the mission comes first and interpersonal communication and effectiveness come second is not usually effective in a civilian environment where they tend to pay as much attention to how you do something as to what you do,” King said.

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
DoD Photo by Lt. Col. Angela Wallace

Some veterans’ service providers say the recent push to get companies to hire veterans has actually unwittingly played into the turnover problem.

“They’re looking more into quantity than they are into quality,” said Mark Brenner, of Los Angeles nonprofit Veterans Career XChange. “If you have to put 40 people to work, they’ll put them to work wherever they can.”

So, vets are thrown into jobs they’re not prepared for, or jobs they don’t see a future in. Brenner said if we need people to volunteer to fight wars, helping them find meaningful careers when they get back is crucial.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of May 6

That day when you’re trying to shake off the Cinco de Mayo hangover while preparing for the weekend parties. Good luck.


In the meantime, check out these 13 funny military memes:

1. Our condolences to anyone who rooms with that guy/gal this morning:

(via The Salty Soldier)

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Maybe just spray them with Febreeze whenever they do this.

2. It’s the one injury prevention tip that isn’t endorsed by the safety NCO (via Military Memes).

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
But hey, as long as that PFC lifts with their legs, it’ll probably be fine.

SEE ALSO: The Corps had to force this 52-year-old Marine off Guadalcanal

3. Back in the day, you could send a text message for the low cost of 10 breadcrumbs (via Military Memes).

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
The original Blue Force Tracker was just watching the sky to see which directions the pigeons flew in from.

4. To all the weapons stuck in arms rooms instead of on patrol, we’re sorry and we miss you (via Pop Smoke).

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
We’ll be together again soon.

5. Come on, sergeant. We’ve heard this story before (via Why I’m Not Re-Enlisting).

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
We’ve learned to read the regs, contracts, and guidance from higher before signing.

6. It’s like the classic video game but with even more cussing (via Afghanistan Combat Footage – Funker 530).

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Packing lists filled with unnecessary gear wouldn’t be so frustrating if the d-mn gear would fit in the f-cking ruck.

7. Are you ready to Cross into the Blue?

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
This is the creepiest airman I have ever seen.

8. Even the smoke pit has bought into tobacco cessation (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Looks like dip and Rip-Its are all you have left.

9. You know who the real MVP is?

(via Military Memes)

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Jerry. Because instead of covering his buddy, he took a photo of the guy taking a photo of the guy working.

10. Gunny Hartman is the senior NCO we still all look up to (via Pop Smoke).

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
We can’t legally follow 90 percent of his example anymore, but we still look up to him.

11. Oooooh, that’s what the PT belt is for, so your T-Rex can always find you (via Air Force Nation).

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
Also, this is the first ad that makes me want to join the Air Force. I don’t care that it’s fake.

12. Shaving with a sink and water is a crutch (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47
If you can’t get inspection-ready in a parking lot while hungover, you don’t deserve to wear those cammies.

13. How you find out the pre-workout powder may have been crystal meth:

(via Military Memes)

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47