Not everyone can maintain composure when the aircraft he’s in starts to lose control. But that’s just what this Medal of Honor recipient did, despite being severely wounded while it was happening.
Rodney Yano was born on the Big Island of Hawaii nearly two years to the day after the U.S. entered World War II. His grandparents had immigrated to the U.S. from Japan well before that.
According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, he’s one of 33 Asian-Americans to receive the Medal of Honor.
Yano joined the Army in 1961 before graduating from high school. He rose to the rank of staff sergeant and was on his second tour of Vietnam when he became an air crewman with the 11th Air Cavalry Regiment.
On Jan. 1, 1969, Yano was the acting crew chief and one of two door gunners on his company’s command-and-control helicopter as it fought an enemy entrenched in the dense Vietnamese jungle near Bien Hao.
The chopper was taking direct fire from below, but Yano managed to use his machine gun to suppress the enemy’s assault. He was also able to toss grenades that emitted white phosphorous smoke at their positions so his troop commander could accurately fire artillery at their entrenchments.
Unfortunately, one of those grenades exploded too early, covering Yano in the burning chemical and causing severe burns. Fragments of the grenade also caught supplies in the helicopter on fire, including ammunition, which detonated. White smoke filled the chopper, and the pilots weren’t able to see to maintain control of the aircraft. The situation wasn’t looking good.
But Yano wasn’t ready to go down with the ship, as they say. The initial grenade explosion partially blinded him and left him with the use of only one arm, but he jumped into action anyway, kicking and throwing the blazing ammunition from the helicopter until the flaming pieces were gone and the smoke filtered out.
One man on the helicopter was killed, and Yano didn’t survive his many injuries. But his courage and concern for his comrades’ survival kept the chopper from going down, averting more loss of life.
For that, Yano was posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant first class. On April 7, 1970, his parents received the Medal of Honor for his actions from President Richard Nixon.
In his honor, the cargo carrier USNS Yano was named for him, as well as a helicopter maintenance facility at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and a library at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
The expedition crew aboard the late Paul G. Allen’s research vessel (R/V) Petrel discovered wreckage from USS Wasp (CV 7), which was sunk in 1942.
Wasp, found Jan. 14, 2019, was sunk Sept. 15, 1942, by four Japanese torpedoes from the Japanese submarine I-19 while escorting transports carrying the Seventh Marine Regiment to Guadalcanal as reinforcements. Of the 2,162 on board, 176 were killed as a result of the attack. The sunken aircraft carrier was found in the Coral Sea, 4,200 meters (nearly 14,000 feet) below the surface.
“Paul Allen’s passion for U.S. history lives on through these missions. He was dedicated to honoring the brave men who fought for our country,” said Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Vulcan Inc. “Paired with the discovery of USS Hornet announced in February, we’re excited to start out the year with these momentous discoveries.”
In 1941, Wasp was assigned to ferry vital army planes to Iceland, supplementing for a lack of British aircraft to cover American landings. The P-40 planes that Wasp carried provided the defensive fighter cover necessary to watch over the American forces. Wasp also aided two very important missions to Malta, a location being hit daily by German and Italian planes. After Wasp’s first mission to Malta, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, fearing that the nation would be “pounded to bits,” asked President Roosevelt to allow Wasp to have “another good sting.” Aside from providing vital enforcements in WWII, Wasp was the first ship to launch U.S. Army planes from a U.S. Navy carrier, paving the way for future collaboration between the armed forces.
Deep sea explorers discover WWII aircraft carrier USS Wasp
“Wasp represented the U.S. Navy at the lowest point after the start of WWII. Her pilots and her aircrew, with their courage and sacrifice, were the ones that held the line against the Japanese when the Japanese had superior fighter aircraft, superior torpedo planes and better torpedoes,” said Rear Adm. (Ret.) Samuel Cox, director of the Naval History and Heritage Command. “The first year of the war, it was touch and go. Those who served at that time deserve the gratitude of our nation for holding the Japanese back.”
In its final battle, Wasp was hit in arguably the most effective spread of torpedoes in history by a Japanese submarine I-19, which fired six torpedoes. USS Hornet, USS North Carolina and USS O’Brien were all hit and either crippled or sunk as well.
Although the torpedoes that hit Wasp caused a massive inferno on the ship, men showed reluctance to leave until all remaining crewmates were safe. Only when satisfied that the crew had been evacuated did Capt. Forrest P. Sherman abandon the ship. He later became the youngest Chief of Naval Operations to ever serve in the position. Another survivor, Lt. David McCampbell went on from being Wasp’s signal operator to becoming the number one navy ace pilot flying the hellcat fighter.
USS Wasp burning after receiving three torpedo hits from the Japanese submarine I-19.
(US Navy photo)
“The crew of the WWII Wasp exhibited the bravery, toughness and resolve that our crew today strives to emulate. We are humbled by the sacrifice of those Wasp sailors, especially those who paid for our freedom with their lives,” said Capt. Colby Howard, commanding officer of USS Wasp (LHD 1). “We hope this discovery gives remaining survivors and their families some degree of closure. I would like to sincerely thank the entire R/V Petrel crew, whose commitment and perseverance led to the discovery.”
The crew of R/V Petrel has also found the wreckage of USS Hornet, USS Juneau, USS Ward, USS Lexington, USS Helena and perhaps most famously, the USS Indianapolis over the past few years. PBS aired Jan. 8, 2019, a new documentary titled, “The USS Indianapolis: The Final Chapter,” which highlights the 2017 shipwreck discovery by the crew of the R/V Petrel of what remains the US Navy’s single greatest loss at sea.
Additional past Allen-led expeditions have resulted in the discovery of USS Astoria, the Japanese battleship Musashi and the Italian WWII destroyer Artigliere. His team was responsible for retrieving the ship’s bell from the HMS Hood for presentation to the British Navy in honor of its heroic service.
Remotely piloted aircraft, more commonly known as drones, have become an established part of warfare, serving as both intelligence/surveillance/reconnaissance (ISR for short) assets as well as attack platforms.
More recently, smaller man-portable drones have been proposed as a way to provide infantry units with a faster organic method of scanning the battlefield around them and relaying critical intelligence and data back to infantry leaders. Now, Nexter — a French defense contractor — wants to take drone usage in a different direction and attach them to heavy armored vehicles.
More specifically… tanks.
The gunner’s station in a Leclerc tank
(Wikimedia Commons photo by Rama)
The theory behind fitting out tanks with small drones is maddeningly simple — just tether a drone to the hull or turret of the tank, and integrate scanners and sensors aboard the drone into the tank’s onboard computers. This allows the drone to seamlessly pass what it sees to the tank’s crew, and allows them to use the data to get a visual on the enemy before the enemy sees them, or to dial in their shots for better effects on target.
Using drones, tanks could shoot “blind” out of a defilade position, allowing them to mail accurate shots downrange without having to break out of cover or expose themselves to enemy fire and retaliation.
Nexter, the developer of the Leclerc main battle tank, states that its drone, which will be fully unveiled later this year at the 2019 International Defense Exhibition Conference in the UAE, will be able to designate targets for the Leclerc, and will likely work in tandem with the company’s upcoming POLYNEGE and M3M “smart” 120 mm shells.
Given that the idea and its surrounding development is in full swing over in Europe, it’s only a matter of time until target-designating drones become an asset for American armored elements, especially the Army and Marine Corps’ M1A2 Abrams tank units, which have seen action in both Afghanistan and Iraq in the past 15 years.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Ted Banks)
In recent years, both the Army and General Dynamics Land Systems (which supports, produces, and rebuilds M1A2s) have made moves towards developing methods for the Abrams to not only interface with drones, but also take control of them and use them to attack targets in a dynamic combat environment.
With a concurrent push for guided artillery munitions and “smart” shells for tanks, it’s only a matter of a few short years until the Department of Defense brings in Nexter’s tethered drone concept and implements it across the board with the latest iteration of the Abrams — the M1A2SEP V4.
The US military and its NATO partners have been looking to reassert their presence in Europe in the wake of Russian action in Crimea.
NATO has deployed multinational units to Eastern Europe, and the US Army has been looking to boost its armor for more rotational deployments. Armored units on the continent are also expanding their training repertoire.
Soldiers from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, from the 1st Infantry Division, arrived in Europe in September 2017, with roughly 3,300 personnel, 87 tanks, 125 Bradley fighting vehicles, and 18 Paladin self-propelled howitzers for a nine-month rotation at locations in Poland, Germany, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria.
When they disembarked in Gdansk, Poland, it would be “the first time two armored brigades transition within the European theater sending a full complement of soldiers and equipment into Germany and Poland in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve,” Eastern Europe operations command spokesman US Army Master Sgt. Brent Williams said at the time.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)
The unit’s rotation is also concluding with something of a first. Between April 22 and April 25, 2018, the 2nd ABCT carried out a tactical road march with over 700 vehicles on public roads between the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas in southeast Germany — the first time the exercise has been done at the brigade level in 15 years, according to the Army.
“The 7th Army Training Command, who conducts the exercise, decided to leverage the two training areas in Bavaria to connect multiple locations and units to create a more realistic training environment in Europe,” said Capt. Orlandon Howard, 2nd ABCT public-affairs officer.
The exercise was part of the Combined Resolve multinational exercise, which is taking place between April 9 and May 12, 2018, and includes personnel from 13 countries. The exercise is designed to give rotational brigades a graded culminating event in realistic and complex training environment before they return to the US.
After a maneuver live-fire drill, the brigade was ordered to conduct the march to Hohenfels, where it would start preparing for the 10-day, force-on-force portion of the exercise.
The road march required only limited recovery operations and avoided major damage to roads and towns along the route, which the release noted was a significant accomplishment in light of the size of some of the vehicles involved.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kathleen V. Polanco)
Soldiers from the 2nd ABCT were joined by the Polish army’s 12th Mechanized Division, and a number of local residents stopped to watch the procession.
A German family waved at the soldiers while a German man held a US flag across his body. Others wore shirts or hats with US Army printed on them or with unit patches. One local man, Ralf Rosenecker, and several of his friends set up a display of three remote-controlled tanks with US flags, according to an Army release.
“Rosenecker said he was excited to see so many tanks because it had been over 15 years since such a large tactical road march was conducted on German roads,” the Army release said.
The US deployed hundreds of tanks, trucks, and other military equipment, accompanied by about 4,000 troops, to Europe at the beginning of 2017. The deployment, part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, was meant to reassure US allies in the face of what many of them perceived as Russian aggression.
At the time, NATO said the planned deployments — which included US troops to Poland and Germany, Canada, and the UK sending 1,000 troops each to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — were strictly defensive, through Russia rebuked what it saw as a armed buildup by Western countries in Eastern Europe
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sharon Matthias)
Rotational forces have continued to cycle through Europe, carrying out training exercises with partner forces there.
In January 2018, a convoy of US Paladins traveling from Poland to exercises in southern Germany was briefly stranded, after German border police stopped the Polish contractors transporting them for violating transportation rules.
In March 2018, NATO announced its new logistics command — is meant to ensure the quick movement of troops and material across Europe in the event of conflict — will be based in the southern German city of Ulm.
The EU has also said it is devising a plan for military personnel and equipment to move quickly across Europe in a crisis, avoiding border delays and bridges and roads too weak to handle military vehicles.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Doylestown Brewing Company, located in Doylestown, Pa., has a mission that is bigger than just making fine craft beer. They use their platform as a local brewery to honor one of their hometown heroes, Travis Manion.
Travis Manion, a Doylestown native, was killed in action while serving in Iraq in 2007, and his family established the Travis Manion Foundation in his memory. The foundation hosts events such as leadership expeditions for veterans and families of fallen heroes, youth character development through a combination of informal discussions and activity-based learning, and community engagement.
A motto and conviction that Travis lived by was the phrase “If not me, then who,” words that Travis spoke before leaving for his final deployment. This motto has inspired a movement across the nation to promote character, leadership, and service. Joe Modestine of Doylestown Brewing Company was one such individual inspired by Travis, and for the last seven years has been brewing “If Not Me, Then Who” Blonde Ale.
Initially brewing the beer for various events and fundraisers, the support has grown dramatically.
“We have gotten calls and messages from all over the United States,” said Modestine of the brews’ popularity. “Everyone is excited about the beer and the ability to support the foundation. For every case of beer we sell, .00 goes back to the foundation, and just within the last couple of months, we have raised over 00, but that is just the beginning.
With the demand for the beer reaching all over the country we know we would never be able to support each chapter so what we are getting ready to launch is a program where we team up with a local brewery in each state, provide them the rights and recipe to brew the beer and support that state and foundation’s efforts. This has never been done before in the beer world, and we can’t wait to get things started.”
Doylestown Brewing Company
Doylestown Brewing Company has been in business for over nine years now, and their beers are currently primarily available in the Philadelphia area, with the goal of having their products available from coast to coast by the year 2022. They have used their business as a platform to educate and advocate for causes meaningful to them, and the people of Pennsylvania. In addition to their support of the Travis Manion Foundation, the company also brews Duffy’s Cut Irish Style Red Ale, which honors the 57 Irish immigrants and railroad workers that tragically died of cholera in August of 1832 while constructing a stretch of railroad west of Philadelphia.
Modestine added, “We are completely honored to be working with the foundation on this project. I often think of Travis and wonder if he would have liked the beer; believe me, that is the only concern I have. I would have wanted his approval and hope that I did him proud, the way he has for so many others.”
The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the bloodiest in American history with over 7,000 soldiers killed in three days of fighting.
(A single civilian, Mary Virginia Wade, was also killed.)
But if the modern military fought the battle, the costs could easily be much higher as today’s artillery, mortars, jets, and helicopters make every exchange more costly. And the increased range and firing rate of the M16 instead of Civil War rifles would make the missteps of generals even more catastrophic.
A squad designated marksman scans his sector while providing security. (Photo: U.S. Army)
When the two sides first clashed at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, it was largely an accident. Union Brig. Gen. John Buford, the head of cavalry for the North, had sent men to scout the area around the city and they ran into a group of men commanded by Gen. Harry Heth heading into the city to find supplies.
While many Union leaders thought there were only a few rebels in the area, and many rebels thought the Union forces were just a militia group, Buford and a few others suspected the truth. The two major armies in the eastern theater had just stumbled into one another.
But Buford was a pioneer of mounted infantry tactics and ordered his subordinates to prepare for a pitched battle the following day. He spent the bulk of that night getting the lay of the land and planning his attack. But, if he had been in command of modern, mechanized infantry, he wouldn’t have needed to.
Instead, he would have sent his dismounts forward to search out the enemy encampments and would have brought his Strykers up with them. Meanwhile, any UAVs he could wrangle up would be flying ahead, searching out the enemy.
But Rebels with modern communication equipment would have reported the chance engagement in the city to their higher headquarters. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who knew that the Union was pursuing them north, would likely have sent out his own scouts and drones to search for enemy forces.
When each side learned that their enemy was nearby, heavily armed, and deployed near the vital strategic crossroads of Gettysburg, they would have surged all assets to take and hold the key ground.
Buford’s mechanized infantry would likely have taken the same heights that it did in 1863, but this time it would have positioned Strykers with TOW missiles behind cover and sent those armed with machine guns to cover the approaches to the heights. Most infantry squads would dismount and take up defensive positions on the heights.
Meanwhile, each side would begin calling up close air support and alerting the Air Force that they needed air battle interdiction immediately. Unfortunately, when the jets arrived, they would be too busy trying to establish air superiority to start hitting ground targets.
As the duel began to play out in the sky, artillery units on the ground would begin lobbing shells at precision targets and using rockets and howitzer barrages to saturate areas of known enemy activity.
This is what makes it unlikely that Mrs. Mary Wade would be the only civilian casualty of a modern Gettysburg.
The Union forces would likely congregate in a similar fishhook that first night as they did in the actual battle on the second day.
But here is where things would go wrong for the Union. When Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles made his ill-fated move into the peach orchard, the Confederates would have been able to pin his men down with machine gun fire and then concentrate their artillery fire, wiping out Sickles and most of his men.
Down most of a corps and under fire, the Union would fall back to the heights once again and move forces to defend the flank where Sickles once was.
But Lee might once again make his great mistake of the battle. With a corps ground under his heel and the Union center losing men to guard the flank, he would order Maj. Gen. George Pickett, newly arrived on the battlefield in transports, to push against the seemingly weak Union center.
But as Pickett leads his men across the 1-mile of open ground to the Union center, his men would be cut down. The Union Strykers and Abrams would fire from behind cover and, while a few of them would be taken out by Confederate Javelins, TOWs, and other weapons, they would still wreak havoc.
Gunners on the ridge would open up with M2 .50-cals and M240Bs, walking the rounds on incoming Confederate infantry as they bounded into range. Union artillery would, once again, saturate the area. Fisters would identify command vehicles and pass their locations to helicopters and artillery crews for concentrated destruction.
Missiles would arc back and forth across the Gettysburg fields in the wee hours of July 1. The whole Battle of Gettysburg, fought over a three-day period in real life, would have played out on an advanced timeline with modern-day weapons of war.
But the outcome would likely be the same: Lee’s undersupplied, outnumbered troops would attempt to force the high ground against defenders who reached most of the important terrain first; a false sense of confidence after the Confederates took advantage of Sickles’ mistake would have led them to gamble much and lose it all.
The US Navy carrier strike group and US Air Force bombers deployed to the Middle East to counter Iran conducted simulated strike drills near Iran as tensions between Washington and Tehran remain high.
The US began deploying numerous troops and military assets to the US Central Command area of responsibility May 2019 in response to intelligence indicating that Iran was plotting attacks on US interests in the region.
The exact nature of the threat posed by Iran and its proxies is unclear, although Vice Adm. Michael Gilday recently told reporters at the Pentagon that the Iranian leadership has repeatedly made threats backed up by changes in their force posture.
Furthermore, there have been a string of attacks in recent weeks — including attacks on tankers in UAE waters, a drone strike on a Saudi pipeline, and a rocket attack in the Green Zone in Iraq — that have reinforced the US military’s view that Iran is involved in or plotting nefarious activities.
A bomber with fighter escorts fly above the USS Abraham Lincoln.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur)
B-52H Stratofortress bomber escorted by F/A-18E Super Hornets.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur)
Bombers and fighters supported by an early warning aircraft fly above the USS Abraham Lincoln.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amber Smalley)
Fighters and bombers fly over the Arabian Sea during combined arms exercises.
(US Navy photo by Lt. Brad Kerr)
F/A-18E Super Hornet on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Matt Herbst)
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The upcoming summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae In could result in a historic announcement, with the sides declaring an end to the 68-year long war on the peninsula, according to a report.
Newspaper Munhwa Ilbo cited an unnamed South Korean intelligence source as saying the coming Kim-Moon summit on April 27, 2018, the first time the leaders will meet face-to-face, may result in a peace announcement.
The news follows weeks of planning between the South and North that kicked off with a thawing of previously tense relations during the Winter Olympics.
Since then, Kim has expressed an unprecedented willingness to talk to the South, a desire to talk about denuclearization with the US, and traveled outside his country for the first time since assuming power in 2011 to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.
During the thaw, North Korea has seen an influx of South Korean visitors, including diplomatic delegations and Korean pop bands, with Kim himself sitting in on a performance that he reportedly loved.
North Korea has also opened up the Kim family to publicity, sending his sister Kim Yo Jong to the games and upgrading the status of Ri Sol Ju, the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, from “comrade” to “revered first lady” in a potential bid to create a cult of personality around her.
The US maintains a wait-and-see attitude toward the talks, and has vowed to stay tough on North Korea by not letting up on sanctions or military pressure. But the customary military exercises that take place with the US and South Korea have been delayed and toned down since 2017.
Experts remain skeptical that North Korea would actually go through with its promises to denuclearize, as it has entered into negotiations in the past only to have them fall apart when it came time to inspect their nuclear sites.
But South Korean diplomats repeatedly say Pyongyang has stuck to its promise of denuclearization, and even laid out specific plans for implementation.
In any case, the relations between North Korea and the world have markedly turned since 2017, when President Donald Trump threatened the country with presumably nuclear “fire and fury” and Pyongyang spoke of firing missiles at US forces in Guam and detonating nukes in the sky.
The horrifying events of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster have once again caught the world’s attention thanks to the recent HBO miniseries and subsequent Russian propaganda campaign, but films aren’t the only thing creeping out of what locals call the “exclusion zone” these days.
Now, thanks to one unusual group of scientists and researchers with priorities a guy like me can respect, there’s also Atomik Vodka: an artisanal booze concocted using ingredients harvested from inside the radioactive fallout-ridden territory surrounding Chernobyl.
Hopefully that burning in your throat isn’t cancer.
(Chernobyl Spirit Company)
After studying the amount of radiation that transfers from soil to crops within the Chernobyl exclusion zone, the team from the Chernobyl Spirit Company set about planting their own rye crops in the vast abandoned fields near the city of Pripyat, Ukraine (close to where the Chernobyl plant was located). They then watered their crops with irradiated water sourced from an aquifer that is also within the radiation exclusion zone.
Once the crops were ready for harvest, the team used the rye to make their new vodka, and even doubled down on its radioactive reputation by using pure water sourced from “below the town of Chernobyl about 10 km south of the nuclear power station” to dilute the vodka down to 40% alcohol, according to their website.
Once finished, the vodka is reportedly no more radioactive than the plastic bottle of Military Special we all acted like we weren’t taking swigs out of in the barracks when the First Sergeant came strolling around.
The boar depicted on the label was actually spotted living in the exclusion zone.
(Chernobyl Spirit Company)
“The laboratories of The Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Institute and the University of Southampton GAU-Radioanalytical could find no trace of Chernobyl radioactivity in ATOMIK grain spirit,” their website claims.
Just to be safe, they also went ahead and sent their new booze to the Southhampton University in the U.K. for further testing. They also confirmed that radiation levels were well below safety limits (as even the Chernobyl Spirit Company acknowledges that tiny levels of radioactivity can be found in many common products).
The novelty of this vodka also comes with some good intentions. Part of the idea behind Atomik Vodka is finding new ways to invigorate the economy in the communities that surround Chernobyl. Of the many concerns facing these communities, radiation isn’t really among them.
The Chernobyl Spirit Company includes this image of a “self settler” in her home in the Chernobyl area on their website explaining their process.
(Chernobyl Spirit Company)
“There are radiation hotspots [in the exclusion zone] but for the most part contamination is lower than you’d find in other parts of the world with relatively high natural background radiation,” Explains James Smith, a University of Portsmouth environmental scientist and founding member of the Chernobyl Spirit Company.
“The problem for most people who live there is they don’t have the proper diet, good health services, jobs or investment.”
Smith and his colleagues don’t imagine that the novelty of their vodka will make them rich. In fact, with plans to produce just 500 bottles per year, Smith says that he’s hoping the company pays well enough to make the business into a healthy “part-time job,” with an emphasis remaining on finding ways to bolster the standard of living for those residing in the region surrounding Chernobyl.
“Because now,” Prof Smith adds, “after 30 years, I think the most important thing in the area is actually economic development, not the radioactivity.”
The Maginot Line is a historic meme, a shrine to the failure of fixed defenses in the age of tanks and planes. But modern historians are increasingly making a bold claim: It wasn’t the Maginot Line that failed, it was diplomacy and French armored tactics.
YouTube channel Historigraph has a pretty great primer on this concept that you can check out above, but we’re going to go over his arguments and that of historians below.
And so it was constructed with thick concrete — reaching 12-feet thick in the most secure bunkers — and artillery and machine guns with overlapping fields of fire along a 280-mile front. The defenses were so imposing that military planners counted on second-rate troops to man them in case of a war.
But why would French planners place second-rate troops on the border with their greatest nemesis, even if they had great defenses? Because the French knew that Germany wasn’t limited to attacking over its shared border with France. And the military wanted its best troops available to fortify the less built-up grasslands in Belgium.
France had a deal with Belgium that, in case of a likely or actual invasion by a foreign army, would allow French troops to operate on Belgian soil. The plan was for the best French divisions to form a battle line with their Belgian counterparts along the River Meuse and Albert Canal.
The River Meuse was a great, natural bit of terrain for defenders that, when combined with the Albert Canal, would allow Belgian and French forces to hold back an attacking army for an extended time. It had seen fighting in World War I, and it always went bad for the attacker.
Nearly all of France’s tanks and most of her best troops would man this barrier and prevent a German invasion from the north. But, German forces would be forced to come against this defensive line because the only alternative was attacking against the Maginot Line — suicide.
But there were two flaws in France’s assumptions that wouldn’t be revealed until too late. The first was that Belgium was a neutral state in Europe prior to 1914. When Belgium was formed in 1830, it was as a neutral buffer state and all the major European powers gave some guarantee towards that neutrality. Most of the pledges stopped short of saying they would necessarily defend Belgium if it were invaded, but that was the general understanding.
So, Belgium was not actuallysuper comfortable with being an ally of a major European power in case of war. The country preferred neutrality instead. The other big problem was that Belgium in 1936 had a young and inexperienced king who headed a small military. King Leopold III needed strong guarantees of French resolve.
And so when Germany violated the Treaty of Versailles by moving their own troops into the Rhineland, German territory that was off limits to its military under the terms that ended World War I, Leopold III became scared. Rather than count on France to hold up its end of the bargain, he broke the pact with France and reasserted Belgian neutrality.
And that is what made the Maginot Line suddenly much less useful. Sure, it would still force the Germans to go around it, allowing 943 miles of border to be guarded with lower-tier troops. But France now had hundreds of miles of border, most of it bare plains, that were guarded by nothing but Belgian hopes and dreams.
Hitler invaded and France raced to set up a defensive line as deep into Belgium as they could. But the Germans broke through Belgian defenses even more quickly than anyone could have guessed, partially because the Belgians had under-supplied one of the world’s best forts.
The fort fell in the first day, and the three bridges it guarded were soon lost as well. The Germans swept east and finally encountered the French digging in on the River Dyle. And here was where French armored doctrine failed. French tanks were only slightly outnumbered, but were committed to battle piecemeal while German armor was formed into strong columns capable of forcing opening in French lines and then exploiting them.
And the French also underestimated the ability of modern tanks to navigate the tough terrain of the Ardennes Forest, failing to send either a counterattack or bombers to the forest despite multiple reports that German armor was making its way through.
And so, the Maginot Line stood, strong and proud and funneling German troops north just like it was supposed to. The Maginot Line allowed France to choose its ground. But because of diplomatic missteps and a failure by French generals to understand the changing role of the tank, the defensive lines to the north failed.
The general argument against the Maginot Line is that the money should have spent on tanks, planes, and other modern equipment instead, but those were the exact assets which France failed to properly employ.
Today, fixed defenses are out of vogue as strategic bombing and bunker busters have made them nearly impossible to man for long. But they had one last hurrah in them in the Battle of France — if only their successes had been combined with good combined arms maneuvering.
Think of D-Day. What do you see? Probably the U.S. Navy pounding the shores with artillery as Army soldiers landed in boats driven by Coast Guardsmen as German soldiers rained artillery and machine gun fire while Luftwaffe pilots bombed and strafed the landing zones.
Notably absent: The German Navy. You almost certainly have no idea what the German Navy was doing during the invasion, and that’s because they weren’t doing much.
D-Day: Where was the Kriegsmarine? – Normandy Landings (Neptune / Overlord)
The problems for the Kriegsmarine dated to well before the war. In fact, a lot of it dates back to the formation of the Earth as well as the last few mass extinctions. Germany doesn’t have a lot of natural resources, especially the ones necessary for large ship construction.
But Germany did have a navy in World War II, and its U-boats were small but lethal, so they still should’ve had an impact at D-Day, right?
Well, they could have, but there were more issues. Britain and the U.S. had gone all out to convince German high command that D-Day at Normandy was a feint, creating an entire fake army helmed by Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. that would supposedly land later at a deepwater port on the French coast.
So, many of Germany’s D-Day decisions were made with the belief that a second, larger invasion could be coming somewhere else. And they didn’t want to risk their minuscule naval forces on what could be an Allied feint. Worse, the Allies had learned about how to kill U-boats on the surface in the Atlantic. So, any underwater boats actually deployed would be extremely vulnerable.
All these ships, none of them German.
So, the submarines couldn’t deploy in broad daylight as D-Day got underway, knowing that any subs spotted leaving the safety of the harbor would be quickly hunted down and killed. One group of three torpedo ships did risk Allied wrath by slipping out to attack at Sword beach, successfully sinking a Norwegian destroyer.
That night, U-boats attempted to slip out and disturb the ongoing landings at Normandy, but they were quickly repulsed with two sunk and four heavily damaged. The Allies had sub-hunting planes that could detect German subs on the surface with radar, even in the middle of a dark night.
So, only U-boats with snorkels — those that didn’t need to surface — were viable. And Germany only had 14 left within range of the beaches. That’s partially because D-Day came in 1944, 13 months after the U.S. and Britain had savaged the German vessels in Black May.
So, for weeks, German U-boats were pinned in, and most of the German Navy was similarly limited. Eventually, they broke out and were able to inflict losses on Allied landing and logistics forces. But only eight Allied ships were lost to U-boats off the coast of Normandy at the cost of 20 German U-boats.
The surface story was similar. The Kriegsmarine was simply too small and too underpowered to take on the Allied fleet, and so it was doomed to failure.
Not that it was a bad thing since, you know, they were trying to stop the invading force that would later liberate the concentration camps.
The AC-130U gunship has completed its final combat deployment.
The U.S. Air Force said its AC-130U, known as the “Spooky,” has returned stateside from its last scheduled deployment.
The last U-model arrived home to the 1st Special Operations Wing under Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Florida, on July 8, 2019, according to a service news release.
The 1st SOW said the Spooky will remain on alert in case troops need it for strike or overwatch downrange. But its return comes as the command gets ready to deploy the Spooky’s follow-on model, the AC-130J Ghostrider.
The 4th Special Operations Squadron, part of the 1st SOW at the base, received its first upgraded J-model in March 2019. While the command has had and operated the J-model since 2017, officials touted AFSOC’s first plane with the Block 30 software upgrade. The improved Ghostrider arrived this spring.
The Block 30 model marks “a major improvement in software and avionics technology” over the AC-130J, which has the original Block 20 software, officials said in a news release in March 2019.
“The Ghostrider is the newest and most modernized gunship in existence, fulfilling the same mission sets as the Spooky but with upgraded avionics, navigation systems and a precision strike package that includes trainable 30mm and 105mm weapons,” the release states.
The fourth-generation AC-130J is slated to replace the AC-130H/U/W models, with delivery of the final J- model sometime in 2021, according to the Air Force. Crews expect the J to be deployed in late 2019 or early 2020. The service plans to buy 37 of the aircraft.
Along with the 105mm cannon the U-models sport, the AC-130J is equipped with a 30mm cannon “almost like a sniper rifle. … It’s that precise, it can pretty much hit first shot, first kill,” Col. Tom Palenske, then-commander of 1st Special Operations Wing, told Military.com last May at Hurlburt.
The J-model also has improved turboprop engines, which reduce operational costs with better flight sustainability, the service has said. It has the ability to launch 250-pound, GPS — or laser-guided small-diameter bombs (SDB). The aircraft is expected to carry AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, interchangeable with the SDBs on its wing pylons, AFSOC has said.
The upgrades come as the service is looking to keep more aircraft “survivable” in multiple conditions.
For example, last year, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command publicly said electronic jamming over Syria had affected the AC-130U model, and became reason enough for getting more military data protections amid an ever-changing multi-domain battlespace.
Two AC-130U Spooky gunships with the 4th Special Operations Squadron fly over Hurlburt Field, Florida, after returning from their last scheduled combat deployment, June 8, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Blake Wiles)
“They’re testing us every day — knocking our communications down, disabling our AC-130s, et cetera,” Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III said April 25, 2019, before an audience at the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s GEOINT 2018 Symposium. Thomas, who commanded SOCOM since March 2016, retired this year.
As a result, crews began checking and cross-checking their data, including target information, before they locked on with their cannons, Palenske told Military.com.
“You make sure you’re as precise as possible, only targeting the guys we’ve validated as bad guys,” he said, referring to operations in the Middle East where the gunships routinely flew countless missions, often with danger-close strikes.
“When there’s some glitch being put out there by trons that threatens the accuracy of that, then the [AC-130 crews] have got to make sure they do no harm,” Palenske added.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
A confrontation between Russian and Ukrainian ships in the Black Sea in November 2018 ended with Ukraine’s ships seized and its sailors jailed.
It was the first direct clash between Moscow and Kiev in years, and it stoked tensions that have been elevated for years, especially after Russia intervened in Ukraine in 2014 and seized the Crimean Peninsula and then backed separatist movements along Ukraine’s eastern border.
The Nov. 25, 2018 clash took place in the Kerch Strait, which divides Crimea and mainland Russia and connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. Photos show Russia appears to have struck one of the Ukrainian ships with a heavy weapon, such as a 30mm gun or missile.
Since claiming Crimea, Russia has taken a more aggressive stance toward the Sea of Azov, declaring invalid a 2003 agreement in which Moscow and Kiev agreed to share the body of water.
In 2015, Russia began construction of a bridge over the Kerch Strait. The sea is already the world’s shallowest, no deeper than 50 feet, and the height of the bridge further restricted the size of ships that could pass through.
Russia has also interfered with Ukrainian shipping in the area and at times closed the strait completely — all of which is particularly challenging for Ukraine, which has major ports on the Sea of Azov.
Ukraine and Russia have both pursued a military buildup in the area, but Russia has more forces and their activity has been more substantial.
US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross, background, conducts an underway exercise with the Ukrainian navy.
Moscow’s moves in the Black Sea region are of a piece of with what it’s been doing throughout Eastern Europe amid heightened tensions with NATO.
‘An arc of A2/AD’
Since 2014, Russia has “built up tremendous amounts of capability” in Crimea, said Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at geopolitical-analysis firm Stratfor.
Russian forces in the area now amount to about 30,000 troops and more than 100 combat aircraft, up from dozens that were in the area prior to the takeover, Lamrani said. (In May 2018, 17 Russian planes swarmed a British warship sailing just 30 miles from Crimea.)
“They have now three battalions of S-400s, plus other air-defense systems, like the S-300 [and the] Buk M2,” Lamrani said. Another division of S-400 missiles is on its way to Crimea, where it will be the fourth on duty, according to Russian state media.
“They installed a number of coastal missile-defense batteries” firing weapons like Bastion and Bal cruise missiles, which can strike land and sea targets, Lamrani said. Russian state media also said this week that more Bal and other anti-ship missiles were headed to the Crimean city of Kerch, which overlooks the strait of the same name.
“They have some Iskander missiles they rotate through the area, lots of new artillery systems, lots of new armor,” Lamrani added, referring to Russian short-range, nuclear-capable cruise missiles. “They didn’t really have main battle tanks there before 2014. Now they do.”
Russia sees Crimea as a stronghold from which to pressure Ukraine and assert control over a broader swath of the Black Sea, Lamrani said.
Weapons like the S-400 and coastal-defense systems can be employed as a part of anti-access/area-denial, or A2/AD, strategy, and their presence in Crimea and elsewhere along Russia’s eastern frontiers has garnered attention from NATO.
Russian “A2/AD capability [runs] from the high north through Kaliningrad, down to Crimea and all the way down into [Russia’s] base at Tartus in Syria,” Ben Hodges, who commanded the US Army in Europe before retiring at the end of 2017, told Business Insider at the beginning of November 2018.
The S-400, considered Russia’s most advanced air-defense system, is also deployed in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea and near Latakia on the Syrian coast. The S-300, which is older but still highly capable, has been deployed in the region, including in the breakaway Georgian province of Abkhazia, which borders the Black Sea.
“There are varying degrees of capabilities” at each of those sites, Hodges added, “but the one in Kaliningrad and the one in Crimea are the most substantial, with air- and missile-defense and anti-ship missiles and several thousands of troops” from Russia’s army, navy, and air force. “That’s part of creating an arc of A2/AD, if you will.”
Russia S-400 air-defense systems in Syria.
(Russian Defense Ministry)
Russian moves around the Black Sea were particularly worrisome, Hodges said, comparing the seizure of Crimea and subsequent territorial claims in the Black Sea to China’s claims and island construction in the South China Sea.
Some of the NATO members bordering the sea, like Romania and Bulgaria, don’t have a major naval presence there, but Turkey would likely prevent Russia from having free reign in the sea.
With the vantage point provided by Crimea, Russian combat aircraft and land-based weapons systems like the S-400 and Bal missiles can extend their reach hundreds of miles into and over the Black Sea.
“They can effectively support their navy with an umbrella defense of surface-to-air missiles and anti-ship missile systems that can keep NATO away in case of any threat,” Lamrani said.
A2/AD systems could provide similar defense in a place like Kaliningrad, which has Russia’s only year-round, ice-free Baltic Sea port and is close to St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city. In western Syria, where Russian S-400 systems have already been deployed, US-led coalition forces have worked hard to avoid Russian airspace.
Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2) flagship HMS Duncan, arrives to the harbor in Constanta, Romania, Feb. 2, 2018.
(NATO / CPO FRA C.Valverde)
‘Alive to these challenges’
Russian forces are outstripped by NATO as a whole, and an all-out Russian attack on another country is considered unlikely.
But concern has grown that Russian A2/AD in areas like eastern Syria or the Baltic and Black seas could create layered defensive bubbles and limit NATO’s freedom of movement — especially in an engagement below the threshold of war.
In the decades since the Cold War, NATO members also shifted their attention away from a potential conflict with a peer or near-peer foe, focusing instead on smaller-scale operations like counterterrorism. (The US and others have started to reverse this shift.)
“There’s been decline in … investments rather in this type of warfare, as NATO attention has shifted to other priorities,” Lamrani said of A2/AD.
But, he noted, Russia has pursued the mismatch to compensate for a weakness.
“Russia is stronger than NATO in air defenses and stronger than NATO in land-based anti-ship missile systems, as well as anti-missile systems in general,” Lamrani said. “That came out of Russia trying to mitigate its disadvantages in other areas. For instance, NATO naval forces are much stronger than Russia, and NATO air power as a whole is much stronger than Russia.”
Advanced stealth platforms, like the US-made F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, are seen as potential counters to A2/AD systems. And other assets, like the Navy’s EA-18G Growler electronic-attack aircraft, could help thwart them.
But it’s not clear those resources are available in the numbers needed to do so, nor is it likely such an engagement could be conducted without heavy losses.
Nevertheless, while Russia may find an advantage within the specific area of A2/AD, Lamrani said, “that doesn’t mean that NATO hasn’t been developing its own capabilities in other areas [and it] doesn’t mean that NATO hasn’t been thinking about this type of stuff.”
“Let’s just say the alliance is alive to these challenges, and it … will be prepared to use all the different things that would be required,” Hodges said in early November, without elaborating. “This is not something … the alliance has not looked at very closely.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.