Every issued weapon in military history was inspired by asking the same question: “How can we make our boys kill better?” Around the turn of the 20th century, one engineer answered that question with, “hold my beer” before rolling up their sleeves going on to invent the Mark 1 trench knife.
Knives, in one form or another, have been used in combat for as long as people have been sharpening things and, pretty soon after that, people have put metal guards on their blades to prevent their hands from getting sliced up while stabbing.
But it was during World War I when the fine folks at Henry Disston & Sons took a pair of brass knuckles and added a knife and a spiked pommel to it because… f*ck it. Why not?
Fighting in the trenches of WWI was brutal. During the day, opposing fortifications hurled shots at one another and No Man’s Land, the space between opposing trenches, was a hellscape under constant barrage by artillery fire. So, any kind of advance was likely done under cover of night.
Once raiders made it into the enemy line, they would need to keep quiet for as long as possible as to not give away their position, alerting more than just an enemy sentry. They needed something both quiet and lethal to get the job done. Bayonets were plenty, but the trenches were way too narrow to properly utilize what is, essentially, a long spear. This is where detachable bayonet knives came into play.
By the time the Americans arrived in WWI, the American Expeditionary Forces decided to adapt the M1917 trench knife. It wouldn’t have the signature knuckleduster just yet, but it did sport spikes where they’d eventually go. The knife also had the infamous triangular tip that was hell for a medic to suture (and would probably be illegal today under the Geneva Convention’s rule against “unnecessary suffering”).
The blade was extremely flimsy and it was meant exclusively for stabbing. This was (mostly) improved with the introduction of the M1918 trench knife that everyone knows and loves today. This new version sported proper brass knuckles and a dual-sided blade. Unlike the earlier knife, the M1918 could be used for both slashing and thrusting. This knife was upgraded once again, using a more durable steel that was less likely to snap the first time it struck a German, and it was dubbed the the Mark I Trench Knife.
The spikes weren’t just for punching people, despite what you’ve seen in movies. They were designed more to prevent anyone from simply taking the knife out of your hand.
Finally, there’s the never-manufactured, but still-patented trench knife called the Hughes Trench Knife. Take all of the lethal features of previous designs and then turn it into a spring-loaded switchblade. You can see why it never made it past the design phase.
Trench knives lived on through WWII, were issued sparingly in the Korean War, and again in the tunnels of Vietnam — today, they’re are only sought after by collectors.
On Oct. 23, 1941, US Navy destroyer USS Reuben James left Newfoundland to escort a convoy bound for Britain. Two days later, the German U-boat U-552 left the French port of St. Nazaire to prowl the North Atlantic on its sixth patrol.
The US was not a belligerent in the war in Europe at the time, but Washington had set up neutrality zones in the Atlantic in which its ships would guard British and neutral merchant ships. US ships would also notify convoys of U-boats’ locations.
The James and the U-552 sailed a few weeks after a U-boat fired on the Navy destroyer USS Greer without hitting it. After that incident, President Franklin Roosevelt told the public that “if German or Italian vessels of war enter the waters, the protection of which is necessary for American defense, they do so at their own peril.”
In the early-morning hours of October 31, when the Reuben James and the U-552 crossed paths near Iceland, the de facto state of war between the US and Germany in the Atlantic intensified.
German Capt. Lt. Erich Topp and other crew members aboard the U-552 in St. Nazaire, France, Octo. 6, 1942.
The James and four other US destroyers were escorting the more than 40 ships that made up HX-156, a convoy of merchant ships sailing from Halifax in Canada to Europe. At that time, US warships would escort convoys to Iceland, where British ships took over.
As day broke on October 31, the Reuben James was sailing at about 10 mph on the left rear side of the convoy. Just after 5:30 a.m., the U-552 fired on the James, its torpedoes ripping into the left side of the destroyer.
“One or more explosions” occurred near the forward fire room, “accompanied by a lurid orange flame and a high column of black smoke visible for several minutes at some miles,” according to the Navy’s Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
The ship’s forward section was blown off, and it sank rapidly. Only two sailors on that part of the ship survived the blast. Others who made it out were sailors “berthed, or on watch, [aft of] the forward fireroom.”
No official order came to abandon ship, but crew members launched three rafts and started to leap overboard as the sea swallowed the ship. The captain had issued life jackets to the crew and told them to have them on hand at all times, which meant many sailors were able to get to them as they fled the ship.
A German U-boat.
While many men made it off, a number of those in the water around the ship were killed or later drowned after at least two depth charges on the ship detonated as it sank.
The escort commander sent two destroyers to investigate. With a smooth sea and little wind, they were able to spot the James’ sailors just before 6 a.m. and began rescuing them minutes later. The destroyers’ crews used cargo nets, Jacob’s Ladders, life rings, and lines to pull survivors, many covered in oil, out of the water.
Rescue operations were over by 8 a.m.; 44 of the crew were recovered, but 93 enlisted men and all the ship’s seven officers were killed.
US merchant ships had already been sunk in the Atlantic, and in mid-October, another US destroyer was hit by a torpedo but made it to Iceland. But the James became the first US warship sunk by the enemy in World War II.
“The news of the torpedoing of one of our destroyers off Iceland was the first thing that the President spoke of this morning, and that has cast a shadow over the whole day,” Eleanor Roosevelt wrote on November 1. “I cannot help but think of every one of the 120 men and their families, who are anxiously awaiting news.”
US Coast Guard cutter Spencer crew members watch a depth charge blast a German submarine attempting to break into a large US convoy, April 17, 1943. The U-boat was critically damaged and sunk off the coast of Ireland.
Germany was unapologetic, saying US ships were escorting British ships in a war zone and had fired on German vessels before. The US didn’t declare war, but the sinking drew the US further into the conflict in Europe, which was already more than two years old.
On November 1, Roosevelt signed an executive order reassigning the US Coast Guard from the Treasury Department to the Navy. About two weeks later, under pressure from the president, Congress further amended the Neutrality Acts passed in the 1930s, revising them to allow US merchant ships to be armed and to sail into war zones.
The James was stricken from the Navy’s official register on March 25, 1942. The U-552 continued the fight. It joined U-boats that preyed on US ships along the East Coast in 1942 but was later transferred to waters closer to Europe.
The U-552’s success waned, as did that of the rest of the U-boat force, as the Allies improved their convoy and anti-submarine tactics and invaded Europe, recapturing ports. In early May 1945 — days before the surviving Nazi leadership surrendered in Berlin — the U-552 was scuttled in waters off the North Sea.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Hundreds of Marines who gathered here in July 2018 were given a risky mission: to challenge their leaders when they’re doing something that doesn’t make sense.
That will be essential as the Marine Corps prepares to take on future adversaries, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told attendees here at the third-annual Innovation Symposium.
“We’ve got to go faster; we’ve got to be more willing to take risks,” he said. “The only thing we can’t accept is not being willing to change. We’ve got to change.”
Being innovative in an organization as steeped in tradition as the Marine Corps, which also lives by its rank structure, doesn’t come easy. Leaders might not like what their junior Marines have to say, Neller warned, but the Corps needs people willing to challenge the status quo.
Marines here spent a week doing just that, presenting their ideas in civilian clothes and without much reference to their ranks. The vibe was more TED Talks than your typical military PowerPoint briefs, and the ideas were briefed up to a team of general officers.
Here are five ways some of those rank-and-file leathernecks think they can shake up the service.
A Marine yells orders to his squad members during an Integrated Training Exercise.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
1. Empowering the disruptors
Sgt. Ryan Reeder says it’s time for the Marine Corps to go through a culture shift. The infantry assaultman is getting ready to leave the service, and it’s not because his military occupational specialty is being phased out.
“No one incentivizes innovators,” said Reeder, an infantry assaultman who’s been studying computer science and will leave the Marine Corps in late 201 “… I can go get a six-figure job anywhere I want to. I want to stay in the Marine Corps, but innovation isn’t recognized.”
Reeder’s been serving with the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory’s noncommissioned officer fellowship program, which allows corporals and sergeants to test concepts and gear before they hit the fleet. NCOs who are willing to speak up offer some vital insight, he said, and leaders should want them to become the next staff NCOs.
“A lot of people don’t like a sergeant coming up here and talking to a star or a colonel like I do,” he said. “But … it’s all about the ideas, not the rank that you wear.”
2. Crowdsourcing ideas
Marines face plenty of problems throughout their careers, and it can be tough to know if a solution already exists. Chief Warrant Officer 4 Sean Flores, a utilities officer with III Marine Expeditionary Force, helped build Phase Zero, a platform where Marines can share their problems and solutions in real-time.
“Maybe you’re trying to deal with countering [unmanned aerial vehicles]. Somebody else might’ve already solved that problem,” Flores said. “So you source it out, and some subject-matter expert might chime in and say, ‘This is how we dealt with it’ or ‘We’re having the same problem, so let’s work on it together and collaborate.’ “
Phase Zero had its soft opening on the marines.mil website in early 2018. Now, Flores said, they’re looking for Marines willing to help edit, code and moderate the site
Marines with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, duck down for a deception breach during a company attack as part of Integrated Training Exercise 3-18 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, May 10, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Antonia E. Mercado)
3. “Flattening the battalion”
In order to prepare for the future, Neller said the Corps can’t just take legacy gear and make it a little bit better. “We’ve got to change the force,” he said.
Two officers with 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines — 1st Lts. Christopher Mershon and Walker Mills — have ideas about what needs to change. They call it “flattening the battalion,” and they say it will move infantry units from the 20th century into the 21st.
Infantry units are set up in a pyramid structure and built for efficiency, Mershon said. Flattening them out by eliminating non-combat command billets would instead optimize them for adaptability. By integrating logistics and intelligence officers and analysts at the company level and sharing information from across the battlespace, Mershon said, it’ll allow commanders to make decisions faster.
“We’re making the correct relationships in our battalion because those relationships with our friends close our decision-making cycle,” he added.
Mills and Mershon also propose removing Marines performing administrative functions from the battalion, such as the headquarters and service or weapons platoon commanders. Those extra personnel could be moved into a training cadre, which Mills said would help relieve some of the strain on company commanders, and provide higher-quality training across the whole unit.
4. Improving training
Over the next decade, the Marine Corps’ maintenance depots will lose about 1,000 years of experience when officers and staff NCOs assigned to them retire. Those on their way out have come up with ways to get their replacements trained up quickly.
“Is the workforce we’re going to hire going to adhere to paper manuals that stack four feet high?” asked Maj. Dan Whitt with the Marine Corps Logistics Command innovation cell. Instead, depot personnel pitched moving toward animated digital manuals that display on a pair of augmented-reality glasses.
“We have 400 pieces of equipment we work on,” Whitt said. “How great would it be to speed up our training requirements?”
Now, other commands, including Training and Education Command, want to see what they can do with augmented-reality manuals. That’s why it’s important for Marines who have innovative ideas that could revolutionize the Corps to share them so they don’t go unheard, Whitt said.
5. Finding the best approach
When Staff Sgt. Alex Long was a lance corporal, he learned about those risks the commandant mentioned about challenging your leaders. When one of Long’s NCOs asked his Marines what they thought about his plan, Long didn’t hold back when he replied that it was stupid.
“That resulted in some quick and effective counseling,” he said. When Long was asked by his sergeant during one of his counseling sessions to define “tact,” he realized his mistake. His leaders weren’t offended by his ideas, but by his approach. He decided to work on his delivery in order to make his voice heard.
“Data has no rank,” said Long, who would go on to win the Marine Corps’ 2016 Innovation Challenge for a lightweight wearable device that allows Marines to communicate and resupply quickly. “You just have to know how to present it.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
It looks like the Department of Defense is finally retiring the Cyber Awareness Challenge training. Sure, it’s outdated, uses graphics from the early 2000s, and barely scratches the surface of cybersecurity in a world where new threats emerge every other minute. But the campiness is what made it so ridiculous that it was enjoyable.
I just want to throw out there that everyone freaking hated that training when it came out. Eventually, everyone started to like it in spite of it being silly – kind of like Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. Then as soon as too many people started to actually enjoy the ridiculousness of it… They pull the plug on it.
Coincidence? I think not.
Pour one out for the dude who always believed in your cyber security abilities when you doubted yourself. Jeff, you’re never going to be forgotten. These memes are for you.
(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)
(Meme via Not CID)
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
(Meme by Yusha Thomas)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
(Meme via Valhalla Wear)
(Meme via Uniform Humor)
(Meme via SFC Majestic)
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme by Ranger Up)
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)
BONUS: You guys have a good, safe, and UCMJ-free four-day weekend! Happy Easter.
In the famous words of my old First Sergeant… “Don’t do dumb shit.”
Some of our nation’s greatest treasures aren’t places, they are people. Leo LaCasse survived three crash landings and evaded 4,000 enemy troops during World War II. He now lives at a VA Community Living Center in Salem, Virginia. Here is his story:
Born on July 4, 1920, Leo LaCasse was one of five children–all of whom were born on birthdays of former presidents. At the age of 15, he joined the New Hampshire National Guard, and later the Army Air Corps, where he was assigned to a recruiting command. The private was soon promoted to corporal, then sergeant, as he traveled New England recruiting pilots from colleges and universities.
One day, Leo learned that he was accepted to flight school. It was a reward from his commanding officer who had submitted the application on his behalf. Despite never having gone to college, the Army sent Leo to college under an accelerated learning program, and when he graduated, he became a B-17 bomber captain.
Soon, flying planes “felt like home” to Leo.
“Some of them [planes] were cramped, but it didn’t make any difference to me because I was the pilot. When you’re packed in an aircraft and don’t have the room to move your body in the cockpit, any airplane you fly after that is good.”
In June 1943, Leo was assigned to the 8th Air Force, Bomb Group 548th in Suffolk, England, where he served under General Curtis Lemay.
Leo LaCasse flew 35 missions over Germany and other occupied countries, and survived three crash landings. During World War II, Leo evaded 4,000 enemy troops over 4 months.
One of Leo’s crashes landed in France, which was then occupied by Germany. He instructed his crew to head for the front lines, to surrender and tell whoever interrogated them that he was headed for Berlin. Instead, Leo left for Luxembourg to meet up with the French Resistance, where he crossed the Pyrenees Mountains, and made his way to Portugal.
In all, he spent four months avoiding Nazi capture. When the war was over, he was sent to Berlin for debriefing. That’s where he met and befriended a German general who recognized Leo’s name and revealed there had been 4,000 German troops looking for him following the crash landing in France.
Captain Leo LaCasse in front of his B-17 Bomber.
Leo retired from the military as a Brigadier General. For his service he has received numerous medals including the Silver Star Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Legion of Merit Air Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Combat Medal, Joint Services Commendation Medal, World War II Victory Medal, European and Middle East Campaign Medal, Army Air Force Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, and the American Defense Medal.
On June 5, 2016, Leo received the Legion of Honor Medal, France’s highest honor.
Leo now resides at Salem VA Medical Center’s Community Living Center located in Salem, Virginia.
On July 4, 2019, Leo will celebrate his 99th birthday.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
President Donald Trump’s deployed National Guard troops have already begun arriving at the US-Mexico border — and they’ll mostly be providing aerial support and helping with surveillance and infrastructure projects, the Pentagon said April 9, 2018.
But the troops are explicitly barred from helping arrest or deport immigrants, as the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 limits the military’s ability to enforce civilian law without authorization.
The troops are set to use drones and light-, medium-, and heavy-lift helicopters during their deployment, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jamie Davis told The Washington Post in a statement. They’ll also assist with surveillance systems such as cameras and blimps.
Beyond that, the troops will be doing maintenance work on roads and facilities, as well as clearing vegetation, Davis said. He did not clarify whether those infrastructure tasks would include border wall construction.
The Department of Defense confirmed in a statement that the troops won’t conduct law-enforcement activities or interact with migrants or detainees without approval from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
Davis also said the troops won’t be conducting armed patrols, and will only carry weapons in limited circumstances, depending on their mission.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)
“National Guard personnel will only be armed for their own self-protection to the extent required by the circumstances of the mission they are performing,” he said.
It’s still unclear exactly how many troops will be deployed to the border — though Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico have so far committed nearly 1,600 members altogether. Trump said April 5, 2018, he hoped the states’ governors would authorize “anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000.”
The only border state that hasn’t yet responded to the Trump administration’s request is California, whose Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has been a vehement critic of Trump and his anti-immigration agenda.
It’s also unclear what the deployments will cost and how long they’ll last, though Mattis has already authorized a payment that would cover the cost of up to 4,000 National Guard members through September 30.
Trump’s demand to have the National Guard deployed along the border came after a days-long tirade against a “caravan” of hundreds of central American migrants traveling through Mexico. Some of those migrants intended to seek asylum in the United States or enter illegally.
Though the caravan has mostly dispersed, organizers said April 9, 2018, that roughly 200 migrants still intend to claim asylum in the US.
The US Army wants guns, big ones. The service is modernizing for high-intensity combat against top adversaries, and one of the top priorities is long-range precision fires.
The goal of the Long-Range Precision Fires team is to pursue range overmatch against peer and near-peer competitors, Col. John Rafferty, the team’s director of the LRPF who is part of the recently-established Army Futures Command, told reporters Oct. 10, 2018, at the Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, DC.
The Army faces challenges from a variety of Russian weapons systems, such as the artillery, multiple rocket launcher systems, and integrated air defense networks. While the Army is preparing for combat against a wide variety of adversaries, Russia is characterized as a “pacing threat,” one which has, like China, invested heavily in standoff capabilities designed to keep the US military at arms length in a fight.
The US armed forces aim to engage enemy in multi-domain operations, which involves assailing the enemy across the five domains of battle: land, air, sea, space, and cyberspace. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said the US desires “a perfect harmony of intense violence.”
Rafferty described LRPF’s efforts as “fundamental to the success of multi-domain operations,” as these efforts get at the “fundamental problem of multi-domain operations, which is one of access.”
“Our purpose is to penetrate and disintegrate enemy anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) systems, which will enable us to maintain freedom of maneuverability as we exploit windows of opportunity,” he added.
Long-range hypersonic weapon and strategic long-range cannon
At the strategic fires level, the Army is developing a long-range hypersonic weapon and a strategic long-range cannon that could conceptually fire on targets over 1,000 miles away.
With these two systems, the Army is “taking a comprehensive approach to the A2/AD problem, one by using the hypersonic system against strategic infrastructure and hardened targets, and then using the cannon to deliver more of a mass effect with cost-effective, more-affordable projectiles … against the other components of the A2/AD complex.”
The strategic long-range cannon is something that “has never been done before.” This weapon is expected to be big, so much so that Army officials describe it as “relocatable,” not mobile. Having apparently learned from the US Navy’s debacle with the Zumwalt-class destroyer whose projectiles are so expensive the Navy can’t pay for them, the Army is sensitive to the cost-to-kill ratio.
The Zumwalt-class destroyer
(U.S. Navy photo)
This cannon is, according to Rafferty, going to be an evolution of existing systems. The Army is “scaling up things that we are already doing.”
Precision Strike Missile
At the operational level, the Precision Strike Missile features a lot more capability than the weapon it will ultimately replace, the aging Army tactical missile system.
“The first capability that really comes to mind is range, so out to 499 km, which is what we are limited to by the INF Treat,” Rafferty explained.” It will also have space in the base missile to integrate additional capabilities down the road, and those capabilities would involve sensors to go cross-domain on different targets or loitering munitions or sensor-fused munitions that would give greater lethality at much longer ranges.”
Extended Range Cannon Artillery
At the tactical level, the Army is pushing ahead on the Extended Range Cannon Artillery, “which takes our current efforts to modernize the Paladin and replaces the turret and the cannon tube with a new family of projectiles that will enable us to get out to 70 km,” the colonel told reporters. “We see 70 km as really the first phase of this. We really want to get out to 120 and 130 km.”
And there is the technology out there to get the Army to this range. One of the most promising technologies, Rafferty introduced, is an air-breathing Ramjet projectile, although the Army could also go with a solid rocket motor.
The Army has already doubled its range from the 30 km range of the M777 Howitzer to the 62 miles with the new ERCA system, Gen. John Murray, the first head of Army Futures Command, revealed in October 2018, pointing to the testing being done out at the Yuma proving grounds in Arizona.
“We are charged to achieve overmatch at echelon that will enable us to realize multi-domain operations by knocking down the systems that are designed to create standoff and separate us,” Rafferty said. “Long-range fire is key to reducing the enemy’s capability to separate our formations. It does that from a position of advantage.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Freedom variant littoral combat ship USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) conducted a live-fire missile exercise off the coast of Virginia May 11, 2018.
The Milwaukee fired four longbow hellfire missiles that successfully struck fast inshore attack craft targets.
During the evolution, the ship’s crew executed a scenario simulating a complex warfighting environment, utilized radar, and other systems to track small surface targets, simulated engagements and then fired missiles against the surface targets.
“The crew of the USS Milwaukee executed superbly and the test team ran the event seamlessly, both were critical in making this event successful,” said Capt. Ted Zobel, LCS Mission Modules program manager.
This marks the completion of the first phase of the Surface-to-Surface Missile Module (SSMM) Developmental Testing (DT) for the LCS Mission Modules (MM) program. This was the first integrated firing of the SSMM from an LCS. Additionally, this was the second at-sea launch of SSMM missiles from an LCS. SSMM leverages the U.S. Army’s Longbow Hellfire Missile in a vertical launch capability to counter small boat threats. Initial operational capability (IOC) and fielding of the SSMM is expected in 2019.
The Milwaukee, homeported at Naval Station Mayport, is a fast, agile, mission-focused platform designed for operation in near-shore environments yet capable of open-ocean operation. It is designed to defeat asymmetric “anti-access” threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft.
“The east coast littoral combat team continues to grow and mature with two Freedom variant LCS arriving annually in Mayport. We look forward to conducting the next phase of SSMM testing onboard USS Detroit (LCS 7),” said Littoral Combat Ship Squadron Two Capt. Shawn Johnston.
The ship is a modular, reconfigurable ship, designed to meet validated fleet requirements for surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasures missions in the littoral region. An interchangeable mission package is embarked on each LCS and provides the primary mission systems in one of these warfare areas. Using an open architecture design, modular weapons, sensor systems and a variety of manned and unmanned vehicles to gain, sustain, and exploit littoral maritime supremacy, LCS provides U.S. joint force access to critical areas in multiple theaters.
Retired Rear Adm. Alene B. Duerk, the Navy’s first female admiral, passed away July 21, 2018. She was 98 years old.
“It took 197 years and a forward-looking Chief of Naval Operations, Elmo Zumwalt, to break with tradition before Alene Duerk became the first woman admiral in the U.S. Navy,” said Naval History and Heritage Command director Sam Cox. “But the credit goes to Duerk. From the crucible of caring for wounded sailors, Marines and prisoners of war during World War II in the Pacific, she blazed a trail of stellar performance in tough jobs, serving as an inspiration for an ever increasing number of women officers who have followed her path.”
Born in Defiance, Ohio, on March 29, 1920, she received nursing training at the Toledo [Ohio] Hospital School of Nursing, from which she earned her diploma in 1941. From there, Duerk entered the U.S. Naval Reserve and was appointed an ensign in the Nurse Corps.
“Alene Duerk was a strong and dedicated trail blazer who embodied the very principles that continue to guide Navy Medicine today,” commented Vice Adm. Forrest Faison, Navy surgeon general, upon learning of her passing. “She will forever be remembered as a servant leader who provided the best care to those who defended our nation, honoring the uniform we wear and the privilege of leadership.”
Her first tours of duty included ward nurse at Naval Hospital Portsmouth in Virginia, Naval Hospital Bethesda in Maryland, and sea service aboard the Navy hospital ship, USS Benevolence (AH 13), in 1945. While anchored off the coast of Eniwetok, Duerk and the crew of the Benevolence would attend to the sick and wounded being brought back from the Third Fleet’s operations against Japan.
Upon cessation of hostilities on Sept. 2, 1945, Duerk and the Benevolence crew took on the task of repatriating liberated Allied prisoners of war, an endeavor that solidified her commitment to nursing and patient care.
An undated official portrait of Rear Adm. Alene B. Duerk.
(U.S. Navy photo)
Years later, when asked about her service for the Library of Congress’ Veteran’s History Project, Duerk said, “The time I was aboard the hospital ship and we took the prisoners of war, that was something I will never forget . . . that was the most exciting experience of my whole career.”
Thereafter, Duerk was assigned to Naval Hospital Great Lakes until being released from active service in 1946.
In 1951, Duerk returned to active duty serving as a nursing instructor at the Naval Hospital Corps School in Portsmouth, Va. and later as inter-service education coordinator at the Naval Hospital Philadelphia, Penn. Her skills in ward management, surgical nursing and mentoring would be put to use over the next two decades while serving at hospitals in San Diego; and Yokosuka, Japan; at the Recruiting Station in Chicago; and in Wash., D.C.
In May 1970, following assignments as assistant for Nurse Recruitment in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) and assistant head of Medical Placement Liaison (Nurse Corps) at the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Duerk was appointed director of the Navy Nurse Corps.
Over the next five years, Duerk provided direction for the Nurse Corps, updating policies affecting Navy Medicine and expanding the sphere of nursing into ambulatory care, anesthesia, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology.
Her selection to the rank of rear admiral was approved by President Richard Nixon on April 26, 1972. The first woman to be selected for flag rank, she was advanced on June 1, 1972.
Rear Adm. Duerk retired in 1975, but remained a strong advocate for Navy nursing through the remainder of her life.
Duerk was awarded the Naval Reserve Medal, American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with bronze star; World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal, Asia Clasp; and the National Defense Service Medal with bronze star.
The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through our nation’s history, and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, nine museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is calling for the eventual creation of a European army, echoing a suggestion by French President Emmanuel Macron that recently angered the U.S. president.
“What is really important, if we look at the developments of the past year, is that we have to work on a vision of one day creating a real, true European army,” Merkel said in a speech before the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Nov. 13, 2018.
“A common European army would show the world that there will never again be war between European countries,” she said.
Merkel said she envisioned a European army that would function in parallel with NATO and come under a European Security Council, centralizing the continent’s defense structure.
“Europe must take our fate into our own hands if we want to protect our community,” Merkel said.
Her comments came a week after Macron called for a European army that would give Europe greater independence from the United States as well as defend the continent against such possible aggressors as Russia and China.
His comments provoked an angry response from U.S. President Donald Trump and prompted Trump to step up calls on European countries to increase their contributions to NATO.
President Donald J. Trump visits Suresnes American Cemetery to honor the centennial of Armistice Day, Paris, France, Nov. 11, 2018.
(Photo by Cpl. Kevin Payne)
On Nov. 13, 2018, after returning from a visit to France where his clash with Macron featured prominently, Trump tweeted again on the subject.
“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China, and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One Two — How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!” Trump wrote.
Macron did not publicly respond to Trump’s latest tweet. But former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted that France helped the fledgling United States win its war of independence against Britain in the 18th century and criticized Trump for “insulting our oldest ally.”
“Stop tweeting! America needs some friends,” Kerry said.
The French and German proposals to create a European army are controversial within NATO and the EU, where many member states are reluctant to give up national sovereignty on defense issues.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has said “more European efforts on defense is great, but it should never undermine the strength of the transatlantic bond.”
That sentiment was echoed by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Nov. 13, 2018.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
“We see NATO as the cornerstone for the protection of Europe in the security realm and we fully support nations doing more to carry the load,” Mattis said.
France has proposed the initial launch of a European intervention force backed by a small group of member states to handle crises in regions such as Africa, which could later be expanded into a European army.
Germany is critical of that proposal, however, as Macron would like to establish the new force outside the EU framework so as to involve the soon-to-depart Britain, which is a defense heavyweight within NATO.
The EU already has so-called battle groups to respond in crisis situations, though they have never been deployed.
Merkel’s speech came days after she announced that she will step down as chancellor when her current term ends.
The EU stands at a critical juncture, with Britain preparing to leave the bloc in March while populist, anti-EU forces are on the rise.
As head of the EU’s largest economy, Merkel has wielded considerable influence in the bloc during her nearly 13 years as chancellor.
But political wrangling at home has diminished her powers. Following months of infighting in her three-way coalition government and two disastrous state elections, Merkel announced on Oct. 29, 2018, that her current term as chancellor would be her last.
People often associate the military with fighting wars, which makes complete sense. The infantry, which is the spearhead of the military, is the primary combat job. So, one might would think infantrymen are in every country upon which the United States is dropping bombs. The truth is: they’re not. In fact, chances are, they’re stuck on a boat, an island, or in a porta-john waiting for the next war to pop off so they can play in the big leagues.
Being in the infantry between wars is a lot like being on a professional sports team that only ever goes to practice. Realistically, the United States has been at war for quite some time, but what people don’t know is that infantry probably aren’t involved in that war.
Here’s what they’re doing instead:
It might be accurate to assess military life as 80% waiting. Hell, most of the time you spend in boot camp is in lines.
Whether it’s in a line, in the field, or in a barracks room, the infantry is stuck waiting. Always. Waiting. Anthony Swafford, author of Jarhead, truthfully wrote, “…we wait, this is our labor.” If that doesn’t define “peacetime” military life, what does? The fact of the matter is that you’ll spend most of your time waiting for something and no one knows what that something is, not even your command.
You’ll probably spend more time holding a broom than a rifle, honestly.
Everyone knows veterans are extremely organized and are good at keeping things clean. That’s because we spend so much of our time cleaning everything that it becomes habit. In the military, you even clean things that can’t be cleaned. In fact, most of what you do is polish turds, considering military barracks (specifically those of the Marine Corps) haven’t been renovated since the day they were built.
This isn’t for everyone, but quite a few people pick up the habit because it’s a great time killer. Remember how we said you spend 80% of your career waiting? Well, if you pick up smoking, you’ll bring that down to 70% and use that other 10% to smoke as you combat the boredom of waiting.
Whether it’s a three-hour lecture on sexual assault, the importance of wearing a seat belt, or why the desert tortoise is sacred at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (a.k.a. Twentynine Palms), you’re going to sit in the base theater for an entire day listening to one commander “piggy back” off another.
Don’t worry, there will be porta-johns in-country.
‘Appreciating’ adult films
If you don’t pick up smoking, you might instead find yourself killing time in a porta-john doing this. If you’re at Twentynine Palms during the summer (or in general), you might even challenge yourself to see if you can complete your “mission” before you pass out in the porta-john.
Just to be clear, this will probably be in addition to killing your lungs.
You’ll probably play a video game where you portray someone doing your job, too.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ash Severe)
Remember what we said about waiting in a barracks room? This is what you’ll probably do during that time. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a leadership position or if you’re a boot rifleman (if you’re a boot, you should study instead), you’ll be killing time by playing video games. When you’re taking a break from that, you’ll probably be doing #3 or #5 instead.
Just make sure one of the first things you do in your unit is buy a small T.V. and game system or a highly efficient laptop. Even if you go on a combat deployment, you might be able to take it with you to kill time between patrols or other duties.
There has never been an active-duty military spouse elected to Congress. As overall military representation has fallen by roughly 20% over the past 60 years, spouses of service members are seeking to close the military-civilian representation gap.
Military Families Magazine spoke to three military spouses running for elected office in 2020 to see what led them to take the leap from concerned citizen to candidate.
First active-duty spouse in Congress?
If elected in November, Lindsey Simmons, a candidate for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District, would be the first active-duty military spouse elected to Congress. To put that in context there are currently 535 representatives in the 116th Congress. Since the election of the first female representative in 1917 there have been 51 sessions of Congress and thousands of opportunities to elect an active-duty military spouse.
Army spouse Lindsey Simmons is running for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District. Her political journey began when she started working with and for veterans in her community, trying to close the civilian-military representation gap. (Military Families Magazine)
Like many military spouses, Simmons’ journey into public service started through her advocacy for military families, with a desire to improve schools and health care access.
“I recognized that There was a huge gap between military families and civilian families,” Simmons said. “And so much of the policies coming down from Washington and how they were affecting our families never made the news.”
On the surface, the military population seems diverse, with increased participation from women and minorities. However, those who join the military are more likely to come from military families. With the overall size of the military in decline, the average citizen’s connection to someone in the military has dropped. Seventy-nine percent of baby boomers have a military connection as compared to only 33% of millennials.
If military families choose not to participate in a “second service” by running for elected office, then their voices and experiences are left out of the political process, widening the civilian-military representation gap.
Simmons is running for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District. Her political campaign was born out of her concern for her communities’ access to healthcare and other services. (Military Families Magazine)
With fewer experienced representatives in Congress, “their [politicians’] only notion of the military is what they see,” Simmons said. “And often the liaisons that DOD sends are going to be higher-ranking officers.”
Because military spouses are not subject to DOD Directive 1344.10 — the regulation that prevents active-duty service members from engaging in politics — there is no reason they cannot attempt to close the gap. According to Sarah Streyder, Director of the Secure Families Initiative and active-duty Air Force spouse, there is a lack of clarity surrounding what level of political engagement is acceptable for military families. Military programming is “missing a call to public sector engagement,” Streyder said. There are no reasons spouses should not “lobby our representatives, by voting, by speaking up in order to be a more active part of the conversations that drive war and peace.”
Serve where you want to see change
Not everyone feels called to serve in Congress, but their participation is no less valuable. Navy spouse Alexia Palacios-Peters is running for the school board in Coronado, California. Things shifted for Palacios-Peters during a parent-teacher conference.
Coronado, California School Board candidate and Navy spouse Alexia Palacios-Peters participated in #thefrontstepsproject while actively running for elected office. Photo credit: Katie Karosich. (Military Families Magazine)
“It became clear that the teacher didn’t realize dad was deployed and had been extended four times,” Palacios-Peters said. “You’re in a military town and how many kid’s parents are on the [U.S.S. Abraham] Lincoln?”
It seemed that Coronado, a proud Navy town with a high military population, didn’t have strong military representation.
“Not all of them are residents here or are able to vote here,” Palacio-Peters said. As a politically-active resident, she hopes to “be that voice for military families because decisions are going to affect our kids.”
Being a voice in local communities is not out of reach for the average disinterested citizen.
Before Melissa Oakley decided to run for elected office, she actively participated in politics, founding the Onslow Beat Conservative News Blog. Oakley is pictured interviewing Congressman Dr. Greg Murphy (R) after his first town hall. (Military Families Magazine)
“I really wasn’t into politics,” Melissa Oakley, a Marine Corps spouse who is running for the Board of Education in Onslow County, North Carolina, said. “I had the mindset ‘I’m a military spouse and they know I’m going to move, and they don’t want us.’ But in reality, they really do want us.”
Oakley’s call to service was born out of her personal conviction to help her community. She founded a food pantry and supported local like-minded political leaders. According to Oakley, local government involvement is vital.
“A lot of people think that we need to focus on the president; no not really. Because if you’re a homeowner your local government is controlling your property taxes being raised,” she said.
Military spouses can make a difference in the communities in which they live. The only hurdle is finding a way to get involved.
Where do I start?
Because Melissa Peck, a Navy spouse, was stationed in Japan with her family, she felt removed from the 2016 election cycle. Rather than throwing up her hands in frustration, upon her return to the U.S. she immediately joined her local political committee and brought her family along for the ride.
“All four of my kids have gone canvassing with me,” Peck said. “They have attended political rallies. We hosted a meet and greet for a congressional candidate in our home.”
Today, Peck is an elected leader of her local political party.
All candidates agree. You don’t have to run for office to make a difference. Whether you contribute one hour a month, or you turn your volunteering into a full-time job, it is appreciated. It’s attainable. And it makes a difference.
Wondering what you can do to make an impact on your community? You don’t have to run for office to make change happen:
Easy next steps
Register to vote.
Volunteer for a candidate or political party you support.
Research candidates for the 2020 election via Vote411.org.
Go to school board meetings.
Show up to virtual and in-person town halls.
Sign a petition for a cause you support.
Involve your kids. Show them the process isn’t just for politicians.
In the early days of the U.S. Navy, boarding and capturing enemy vessels was common practice. As naval firepower increased, the practice became to sink the other ship rather than capture it. Then in 1944 with some daring actions–and a stroke of luck–the U.S. Navy captured a German U-boat, its first such accomplishment since the War of 1812.
The German U-boat, U-505, was known as a hard-luck case, though it could also be said that it was a boat that wouldn’t sink. On her fourth patrol of the war, a British Hudson bomber scored a direct hit in an attack run so low that the explosion caused the plane to crash as well. The captain gave the order to abandon ship but the technical crew insisted on staying aboard to save the vessel. After two weeks of repairs, the U-boat was able to limp back to Europe and had the honor of being the most heavily damaged submarine to ever return to port.
Despite numerous abortive cruises due to French saboteurs, U-505 finally sailed for another patrol; this time, however, it earned another dubious honor when her skipper became the first–and only–known submarine commander to crack and commit suicide while under attack.
Finally, in the spring of 1944, fully-repaired and under the command of a new captain, U-505set a course for the coast of West Africa for an 80-day war patrol.
Also heading towards West Africa during that time was Task Group 22.3, commanded by Captain Daniel Gallery from his flagship, the escort carrier USS Guadalcanal. Task Group 22.3 was employed as an anti-submarine Hunter-Killer group as part of the Battle of the Atlantic. Along with Guadalcanal the group also consisted of five destroyer escorts.
During Task Group 22.3’s second Hunter-Killer cruise, Captain Gallery had an important revelation. A long-running battle with U-515 ended when the U-boat was too heavily damaged to continue and surfaced so its crew could abandon ship. As the Germans abandoned ship, the task group blasted it until it finally sank. Gallery realized that if he had a trained boarding party ready they could quickly board a scuttled U-boat and save it from sinking. As the task force returned to port, Gallery began making preparations for just such an event during the next sortie.
On June 4, 1944, Task Group 22.3 found the perfect prey. As U-505 was returning from its war patrol, it inadvertently stumbled right into the middle of the task group. The sub tried to dive but the clear waters allowed the Guadalcanal’s aircraft to maintain visual contact and use their guns to mark the submarine’s location in the water. The task group’s destroyer escorts then moved in for the kill.
USS Chatelain began its attack by launching its Mark 4 Hedgehog anti-submarine weapon at the U-boat. When those failed to score a hit, Chatelainrepositioned and dropped a pattern of depth charges against the sub.
A U-505 surviving crewmember, Hans Goebeler remembered the attack vividly. “They really gave it to us,” he said. “The explosions were the biggest I ever heard.” The depth charges caused severe internal and external damage to the U-boat. With all hope seeming lost, the commander gave the order to surface and abandon ship–just as Gallery had anticipated.
As the sub came to the surface, the American ships and aircraft raked it with gunfire, hoping to quickly drive off the German sailors before they could properly scuttle the ship. The fire had the intended effect. The Americans killed one German and wounded two others as the rest of the crew quickly jumped overboard to escape the maelstrom of bullets.
Normally the American destroyer escorts would have moved in to finish off the U-boat and send it to Davy Jones’ Locker but Captain Gallery’s decision to try to capture a German submarine called for a different action. As the Germans fled the sinking sub, a nearby destroyer escort, the USS Pillsbury, launched a boarding party to rescue the stricken vessel. The other ships picked up their new German POWs.
Led by Lt. Albert David, the boarding party plunged through the conning tower and into the submarine. It was a race against time–the ship sinking beneath them was rigged with scuttling charges that could explode at any moment. The boarding party quickly found the open sea strainer, an 11-inch pipe pouring water into the submarine, and capped it. To their relief, the party found that in their haste to abandon ship, none of the Germans had taken the time to arm the scuttling charges. Most of the submarine was below the water with just the front portion and most of the conning tower still visible. The sub was hanging on by an air bubble in one of the dive tanks.
The boarding party quickly secured the biggest prize of all: U-505’s log books, charts, codes, and its Enigma machine. The ship was still in danger of sinking, however, and with little working knowledge of German submarines, the task of salvaging U-505 fell on the task group’s chief engineer, Commander Earl Trosino. As Gallery would later say when the situation was the most precarious, “thanks to Trosino’s uncanny instinct for finding the right valves, and his total disregard for his own safety, we succeeded in saving U-505.”
With the submarine secured, the task group took it under tow and headed for Bermuda. The intelligence gained from the capture of U-505 was invaluable. By maintaining strict secrecy of the operation, the Germans were never aware that the Americans had captured their U-boat intact with its precious cargo of information. The entire task group was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for their actions. Lt. David was awarded the Medal of Honor for his part in leading the boarding party.