That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself

When the Axis attacked the town of Sommocolonia the day after Christmas, 1944, they thought they made quite a breakthrough. Dislodging elements of the 92nd Infantry Division, they stormed through the town intent on retaking it.


They didn’t reckon on running into Lt. John R. Fox.

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself
Lt. John Fox, U.S. Army. (Image from U.S. Army)

Fox grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio before attending Wilberforce University outside of Dayton. While at Wilberforce, Fox was a member of the University’s ROTC detachment and studied under retired Chief Warrant Officer Aaron R. Fisher.

Fisher was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross during WWI for holding his position against superior odds while a member of the 366th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Infantry Division.

Upon his graduation in 1940, Fox was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of artillery in the U.S. Army. When World War II broke out, Fox, being African-American, was assigned to the segregated 92nd Infantry Division as part of the 598th Field Artillery Battalion.

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself
Hasbro honored Lt. Fox with his own G.I. Joe in their Medal of Honor series. (Image from Hasbro)

The 92nd arrived in Italy in August 1944 and participated in actions in the Allied drive northward. The Division crossed the Arno River and contributed to the attack on the Gothic Line. By November, the division was holding the line and conducting patrols in the Serchio River Valley.

Around this time, Fox was transferred from the 598th Field Artillery to the Cannon Company, 366th Infantry Regiment – the same regiment his mentor, Aaron Fisher, bravely served in 26 years earlier.

Opposite the Americans was an amalgamation of Italian and German infantry forces preparing for a renewed offensive.

On the morning of Dec. 26, 1944, this group of eight Axis battalions launched Operation Winter Storm and crashed into the 92nd Infantry Division’s positions in the Serchio River Valley.

Caught off guard by the surprise attack, units of the 92nd fell back across the line.

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself
The African-American troops who fought hard in Italy were nearly forgotten as time went on.

As his unit retreated from Sommocolonia, Lt. Fox volunteered to remain behind to call for defensive fire against the attacking enemy. Several other members of his forward observation party agreed to stay behind as well.

They took up a position in the second story of a house which offered an excellent vantage point as the Germans poured through the streets. While the Germans pressed the attack, Fox rained down fire into the village.

The Germans came closer and closer to Fox’s position, and as they moved, so did the artillery fire – until it was nearly right on top of him.

At this point, the Germans must have realized where Fox was positioned as they were swarming around the house. He radioed, “that last round was just where I wanted it, bring it in 60 yards more.”

He was asking for the fire to be brought down right on top of his position.

The man on the other end was confused and asked Fox if he was sure of what he was asking. “There are more of them than there are us,” Fox said “fire it.”

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself
Artwork from the Congressional Medal off Honor Society.

American artillery obliterated the house, but Fox had not died in vain. His heroic deeds held up the German advance and allowed for American forces to regroup for a counterattack.

When the Americans retook the village, they found the rubble of the house Fox had made his stand in. In the ruins were the bodies of Fox and eight Italian partisans who had been fighting alongside him. Surrounding the house, the bodies of over 100 German soldiers were counted.

Unfortunately, due to the pervasive racism of the time, Fox’s sacrifice was not immediately recognized. A later review in 1982 recognized the error and awarded Fox a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross.

A second review in the 1990s once again came across Lt. Fox’s actions and upgraded his award to the Medal of Honor. His widow received the award from President Bill Clinton in 1997.

The grateful Italians of Sommocolonia erected a monument to the sacrifice of Fox and the eight Italians who died by his side.
MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the US used an island-hopping campaign in World War II

In World War II’s Pacific Theater, the United States had a big problem: the operating area was humongous. In one sense, it’s no surprise — the Pacific is the world’s largest ocean and they needed to get across that ocean in order to defeat Japan. But Japan had also occupied a lot of bases in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands during the inter-war period (and illegally fortified them). Finally, the Allies needed a way to deal with the fierce Japanese force, but they needed to do so without endangering the “Germany first” grand strategy for defeating the Axis.

This problem proved extremely difficult. The Japanese, at Guadalcanal, in the Philippines, and elsewhere, had proven to be fierce fighters on the ground. It was painfully obvious that fighting island to island on a campaign across the Pacific would take a lot of time and cost many lives. But at the same time, the Japanese bases had to be neutralized.

In 1943, after Guadalcanal had been cleared, Admiral William F. Halsey and General Douglas MacArthur began planning the next phase of the offensive in the massive ocean, with the ultimate objective of taking out Rabaul, Japan’s major base in the south Pacific.


The first plan they came up with would have required additional forces drawn from efforts in Europe. That, of course, didn’t fly with politicians.

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself

Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers fly over an atoll in the Pacific during the island-hopping campaign.

(US Navy)

Instead, the answer to the Pacific question was to grab a few key bases and then use air power and submarines to cut off the other Japanese installations from resupply and reinforcement. The term for this was “island hopping” or “leapfrogging.”

There were two primary benefits to this strategy: First, it could be accomplished with fewer troops. Second, it meant the cut-off enemy forces couldn’t be pulled back to reinforce important objectives, like the Philippines.

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself

Bases seized by the Allies were used to launch strikes that targeted enemy supply lines. One of the most famous actions was the Battle of the Bismarck Sea.

(USAF)

The targeted bases in the island-happen campaign were selected for two purposes: First, they were the jumping-off points for the next “hops” towards Japan. Second, they served as bases for forces that had the job of plastering the now-isolated garrisons left behind. This was what John Glenn did while serving in World War II.

While plans originally called for capturing Rabaul, the decision was made to bypass it after successfully seizing some other locations where Allied forces could build airfields.

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself

John Glenn’s World War II service included a combat tour striking bypassed Japanese garrisons in the F4U Corsair.

(US Navy)

The island-hopping strategy worked. In less than four years, the United States had forced Japan’s surrender. While much of history focuses on the hotly-debated use of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the ability for America to deliver those weapons hinged on some very strategic leapfrogging.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy drops $72 million for new, low-band electronic jammers

The U.S. Navy awarded Demonstration of Existing Technologies (DET) contracts Oct. 25, 2018, valued at approximately $36 million each to L3 Technologies Communications Systems West and Northrop Grumman Corp. Mission Systems in support of the Next Generation Jammer Low Band (NGJ-LB) capability.

The Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) Systems and EA-6B Program Office (PMA-234) headquartered here manages the NGJ-LB program.


NGJ-LB is an external jamming pod that is part of a larger NGJ weapon system that will augment and, ultimately, replace the aging ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System currently in use on EA-18G Growler aircraft.

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself

Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Autumn Metzger and Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Mark Homer wipe down an ALQ 99 jamming pod.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman)

“NGJ-LB is a critical piece of the overall NGJ system in that it focuses on the denial, degradation, deception, and disruption of our adversaries’ abilities to gain an advantage in that portion of the electromagnetic spectrum,” said Capt. Michael Orr, PMA-234 program manager. “It delivers to the warfighter significant improvements in power, advanced jamming techniques, and jamming effectiveness over the legacy ALQ-99 system.”

Each DET contract has a 20-month period of performance, during which the NGJ-LB team will assess the technological maturity of the industry partners’ existing technologies in order to inform future NGJ-LB capability development, as well as define the NGJ-LB acquisition strategy.

PMA-234 is responsible for acquiring, delivering and sustaining AEA systems and EA-6B Prowler aircraft, providing combatant commanders with capabilities that enable mission success.

This article originally appeared on NAVAIR News. Follow @NAVAIRNews on Twitter.

Articles

These British troops launched a ‘proper angry’ bayonet charge during the Iraq War

In May 2004, about 20 British troops were on the move 15 miles south of al-Amara, near the major city of Basra in Iraq. They were on the way to assist another unit that was under fire when their convoy was hit by a surprise of its own.


Shia militias averaged five attacks per day in Basra when the U.K. troops arrived. British soldiers tried to arrest Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr for supporting the violence and the locals were not happy about it. An unpredictable level of violence broke out. British troops were frequently under assault – an estimated 300 ambushes within three months.

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself
UK troops in Southern Iraq (U.S. Army photo)

“We were constantly under attack,” Sgt. Brian Wood told the BBC. “If mortars weren’t coming into our base, then we were dragged out into the city to help other units under fire.”

Wood and other troops from the 1st Battallion of the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment were on their way to aid Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who were attacked by 100 militiamen from al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army when their vehicle struck an IED. The surprise attack actually hit two vehicles carrying 20 troops on a highway south of Amarah. Mortars, rockets, and machine guns peppered the unarmored vehicles.

Rather than drive through the ambush, the vehicles took so much punishment they had to stop on the road. The troops inside dismounted, established a perimeter, and had to call in some help of their own. Ammunition soon ran low.

The decision was made: the British troops fixed bayonets.

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself
A UK troop with fixed bayonet. (MoD photo)

They ran across 600 feet of open ground toward the entrenched enemy. Once on top of the Mahdi fighters, the British bayoneted 20 of the militia. Fierce hand-to-hand combat followed for five hours. The Queen’s men suffered only three injuries.

“We were pumped up on adrenaline — proper angry,” Pvt. Anthony Rushforth told The Sun, a London-based newspaper. “It’’s only afterwards you think, ‘Jesus, I actually did that’.’ ””

What started as a surprise attack on a British convoy ended with 28 dead militiamen and three wounded U.K. troops.

Jihadi propaganda at the time told young fighters that Western armies would run from ambushes and never engage in close combat. They were wrong. Irregular, unexpected combat tactics overwhelmed a numerically superior enemy who had the advantage in surprise and firepower.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Robert Downey Jr. might already be back as Iron Man

We loved him 3,000 in Avengers: Endgame, and even gave him an extended tearful goodbye in Spider-Man: Far From Home, but now it looks like Tony Stark might already be back in the Marvel game.

On Sep. 5, 2019, news broke that actor Robert Downey Jr. is already in talks to return as Tony Stark/Iron Man for a new Disney+ TV series. If true, Tony would feature in a show called Iron Heart, based on the Marvel comic book series and character of the same name. In contemporary Marvel comics, “Iron Heart” is the alias for a new version of Iron Man, who is actually a woman named Riri Williams. In the series, Riri takes over the mantle of Iron Man from Tony Stark, who basically retires.


If this all sounds a little like the relationship between Tony and Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming and the past few Avengers movies, it should. But, because legal issues will likely prevent Spider-Man from crossing over with MCU films ever again, it’s telling that Iron Man may have another successor lined-up.

The only tricky part here, of course, is the simple fact that we all saw Tony Stark die in Avengers: Endgame. It feels pretty unlikely that Marvel would undo Tony’s meaningful sacrifice so soon, particularly if he wasn’t actually the star of a new Marvel film. After all, if an Iron Heart series happens, it will be Riri’s story about learning how to become the titular hero, not Tony’s.

The best bet? Maybe Robert Downey Jr. is coming back to play the voice of Tony Stark, and maybe Iron Heart is just one more installment of the upcoming animated What If? series, which specifically reimagines big Marvel heroes in a Sliding Doors kind-of-way. If that’s the case, then all of this makes sense. But, if Downey Jr. really is back, in the flesh, as Tony Stark, then Marvel has a lot of explaining to do. Plus, we’re going to bet that his daughter, Morgan Stark, is going to want to see him.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Russia’s UN vetoes have enabled mass murder in Syria

Since the start of Syria’s uprising in March 2011, Russia has vetoed 12 UN Security Council resolutions concerning the conflict. Among other things, these resolutions covered human rights violations, indiscriminate aerial bombing, the use of force against civilians, toxic chemical weapons, and calls for a meaningful ceasefire.

Russia’s behavior at the Security Council is not motivated by humanitarian concerns. Its vetoes have provided political cover for the Assad regime, protected Moscow’s strategic interests and arms deals with the Syrian state, and obstructed UN peacekeeping. They’ve helped shift the locus of peace talks from a UN-backed process in Geneva to a Russian-led one in Astana. And they’ve had real and dire consequences for the people of Syria.


The Syrian conflict has claimed more than 500,000 lives, turned millions of people into refugees, and all but destroyed the country. While all sides have contributed to this catastrophe, the Assad regime in particular has made repression, brutality, and destruction its signature tactics — and Russia has chosen to protect it.

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Some seem resigned to dismiss this behavior as everyday international politicking. Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary of the UK’s opposition Labour Party, recently offered an excuse: “People will always block resolutions. If you look at the number of resolutions America has blocked, I mean that’s the way of politics.”

This is nothing more than idle whataboutism. Yes, it’s right to note what the US has done in defiance of the UN over the years, not least over Iraq and with its 44 Israel-related vetoes in the Security Council. But Russia has taken vetoes to another level on Syria, covering for and enabling atrocities while working to make sure the UN cannot do what it needs to do to stop the carnage.

Regime maintenance

Moscow first intervened militarily to prop up Assad’s deadly authoritarian rule in September 2015; had it not entered the fray, Assad’s reign would have almost certainly given way to a successor. But Russian backing for Assad began well before 2015.

For a start, his government has long been a major Russian arms client. While public data is incomplete because many transactions are highly opaque, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has tracked the build up of Syrian weapons purchases in the years leading up to the 2011 uprising. Russian military resources to Syria increased from 9m in 2000 to 272m in 2011.

Consider the Russian (and Chinese) veto of February 4 2012, which blocked a draft resolution calling on Assad to relinquish power. At the time, there was uncertainty about whether Russia would abstain or vote no. Facing defeat amid mass protests and now armed resistance, the Assad regime accelerated its brutality through bombing. On the eve of the scheduled Security Council meeting, Assad’s forces bombarded the city of Homs, murdering scores of civilians.

Was this massacre designed to signal to Russia that Assad was prepared to go all out, burn the country, and win at any cost, meaning Moscow might as well back him? Or was Assad informed in advance that Russia would cast the veto, so he could slaughter with impunity? Does a veto clear the way for more brutality, or do acts of brutality force Russia to veto UN reprisals?

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself

A poster of Syria’s president at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Damascus.

(Photo by Elizabeth Arrott)

The most likely answer is both. The pattern is now firmly established: Assad kills civilians and political opponents, the Security Council considers a resolution, Russia vetoes it and puts outs propaganda to provide cover for Assad’s abuses, and the cycle of mass killings goes on. As Russian vetoes have become routine, they have emboldened Assad. As an Oxfam report said, even UN resolutions which were not blocked “have been ignored or undermined by the parties to the conflict, other UN member states, and even by members of the UNSC itself”.

The vetoes flaunt Moscow’s power to the world and reassure Russians at home. They are also helping Russia maintain a permanent military and political presence in the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean. In exchange for intervention, the Kremlin has gained access to Syria’s energy infrastructure and secured the future of its major Syrian bases on the Mediterranean.

The wrong path

But Russia still has a choice: it can be a force for peace, liberty, and inclusion, or it can continue to shelter and defend tyrants. Given the Kremlin’s general hostility towards equality, liberalism, and democracy, it has chosen another path: to thwart the Security Council, violate its own ceasefire agreements, and overlook the consequences for civilians. This implicates it in the deaths of thousands of Syrians – more than the so-called Islamic State and the rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra combined.

To be sure, not all Security Council resolutions are worthy of support, and Russia cannot be held responsible for all of Assad’s crimes and human rights abuses. Western nations are certainly not unbiased; their decisions and interventions have had long-lasting pernicious effects on civilian populations in the Middle East, and they too have failed civilians in Syria and elsewhere.

The US intervened in Iraq to oust a dictator, Russia intervened in Syria to preserve one in power. Both moves have turned out to be disasters. But to document that Russia has killed civilians via its military and political interventions is not Russophobic. The death of each Syrian matters, regardless of who fired the shot, dropped the bomb, or maintained the siege.

Providing political cover for one tyrant will embolden others everywhere, as they learn how far they can push the boundaries of oppression. And all along, steps could have been taken to prevent or at least limit the carnage. Russia’s failure to do so in Syria and elsewhere will be to its eternal shame.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

In the summer of 2007, in a bizarre incident shown live on Russian television, scientists accompanied by a couple of senior politicians descended 4,300 meters to the floor of the Arctic Ocean in two Mir mini submarines. Divers then planted a Russian flag on the seabed, and Russia officially notified the United Nations that it was claiming the ridge as part of its sovereign territory.

In effect, the Chinese did the same kind of thing when they decided to start building islands in the South China Sea by dredging sand from the bottom of the ocean.

In both cases, the countries were creating new sovereign territory.


One implication of their declaration was that anyone traveling within the 12-mile limit defined by international law was traversing through their sovereign waters, and could only do so subject to their approval.

Indeed, the Chinese take their claim so seriously that it even threatened that it “is not frightened to fight a war with the US in the region” to protect its sovereignty.

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself

A Russian flag planted by from a submarine undersea at the North Pole.

So the question is: why do American policymakers care about seemingly insignificant tracts of land so far away from America’s shores?

International law and American concerns

International law is pretty clear. You can’t declare any territory submerged under the sea outside the conventional 12-mile limit as your own, although you may have some privileges in the waters that lie immediately beyond it. You certainly can’t build up some land to above the waterline, thus creating an island, and call it part of your own territory. And in neither case can you legitimately control access by other vessels. Indeed, no international commission has upheld the Russian or Chinese claims. But that hasn’t stopped either the Chinese or the Russians from trying.

Americans, however, are pretty emphatic when it comes to denying such claims have any legitimacy.

In the Russian case, American policymakers were understandably caught off guard and bemused by this strange symbolic act.

But, at the same time, American policymakers have a right to be worried. Climate change could vastly increase sea traffic through the Arctic Ocean. And the future implications of Russian control of these sea-lanes have lots of potential downsides, given recent friction over Ukraine and Syria.

In the Chinese case, Americans were caught off guard and bemused when they shouldn’t have been.

The Chinese have been making claims for a long time about their sovereignty over huge portions of both the East and South China Sea. But in this case, Americans are worried about what China’s control of these waterways might do now to these commercial shipping lanes. Every year an estimated 50% of the world’s total of commercial trade plus oil passes through the area.

Global trade and American national security

The question of why we do care isn’t as obvious as it may seem.

America’s policymakers declare that the maintenance of global trade and commerce is in its national security interests. So America needs to keep these shipping lanes open to what they call “freedom of navigation.”

What that means is that they can send an Aegis class destroyer (so this was a powerful ship, not the equivalent of a coast guards vessel) and sail it past the Subi Reef (think of an island so small it would drive you mad if it was deserted and you had to live on it alone). It’s the equivalent of a drive-by — just to send a message.

Then you put the US secretary of defense on an aircraft carrier, the USS Roosevelt, and do it again — just to ensure that both the Chinese and America’s important regional allies understood the message:. “This isn’t your territory — and our mighty navy is not about to allow you to push us out.”

You might understandably assume that the Chinese, with their huge volume of exports, would also want to maintain open seas. And that the Russians would want to ship oil and gas to keep their economy afloat by water. So there is nothing to worry about.

But that’s where more modest concerns about global trade are replaced by those about deeper, hardcore national security interests. For Americans there is a difference between “our” open seas and “their” open seas.

Freedom of navigation and American doctrine

A central element of American national security doctrine is the notion of “Freedom of Navigation” or FON.

In effect, we (Americans) assert our right to sail where we want, when we need to. Behind that, however, is the deeply embedded concept of “control of the commons..”

Military historian Alfred Thayer Mahan popularized this idea over 130 years ago. He stressed the importance of America’s navy in ensuring the free flow of international trade. The seas were his “commons.”

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself

Alfred Thayer Mahan 1840 – 1914.

Mahan argued that the British Empire was able to retain its commercial and military advantage by ensuring its ships could go anywhere. And that it could deny anyone else from doing so, if needed, in times of war. The overriding lesson is that wars are not won on the land. They are won on the sea by denying your adversary access to resources.

Today, Mahan’s work remains a core element of America’s military doctrine. It is taught to America’s naval officers at their major training academy where he himself once worked and where his work is still regarded as having biblical significance. But it no longer is just applied to commercial trade. It now is applied to the access of its military in all kinds of commons — in the air, on the sea, in space and even in cyberspace.

So American policymakers become frustrated when they believe Chinese hackers spy on the US or they build islands because it demonstrates that the US can’t “control” that commons.

The answering message is clear. As Ash Carter, the US Secretary of Defense, said in a speech about Russia “At sea, in the air, in space and in cyberspace, Russian actors have engaged in challenging activities.” Carter went on to make it clear that the US wouldn’t tolerate Russian efforts to control those domains. Responding to Chinese threats, he also clearly implied in the same speech that China’s continued activities could indeed lead to conflict.

The importance of chokepoints

But the sea remains the priority when it comes to controlling the commons.

And Chinese sovereignty over the South China Sea offers the prospect that a key trading route located in a narrow strip of water between land masses either side, what they call a chokepoint could be closed by the Chinese, in the future, if not today.

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself

(US Department of Defense)

The Malacca Strait on the Western end of the South China Sea is one chokepoint — the immediate object of the US’ concern. The Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, where much of the world’s oil passes through, is another. And, at least according to the US Congressional Research Service, the Arctic Ocean, where the Russian planted their flag, could become another.

So this leaves the Americans with an abiding dilemma.

They are saddled with a grand military doctrine built on the principle of keeping the globe’s key access points freely accessible to the US. The barely audible counterpart is that it should maintain a capacity to deny that access to any potential adversary in case of war. The doctrine, however, in practice can itself engender conflict — as we saw with the Chinese.

America may have a much bigger military capacity and even newer technologies that allow it to fight conventional wars. But defending the open seaways is expensive and often counterproductive. The Chinese, for example, are the world’s largest importer of fossil fuels and China is far more dependent on foreign oil than the newly fossil fuel independent United States.

So critics ask why the US is defending the Persian Gulf when the Chinese are the prime beneficiaries?

The answer, it appears, has far more to do with military strategy than with global commerce.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUK on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Peter W. Singer and August Cole’s latest book Burn-In has everything you need to pass the pandemic time a little quicker

Their last book, Ghost Fleet, had parts that rang truer than others, but I really enjoyed it. Ghost Fleet’s portrayal of US Marines liberating a US state from foreign occupation added up. As a former grunt, I could absolutely see a senior leader eating an Osprey ramp under full combat load on insert, breaking his nose and getting stuck fighting that way for days.

On the other hand, the war widow turned murder-hooker or the grizzled Navy Chief’s love story seemed harder to buy (everybody knows Chiefs don’t have hearts). Basically, you read Ghost Fleet for the rail guns not the feels. So you can imagine my surprise when I picked up Burn-In and found the storyline of the Marine war-bot wrangler turned FBI agent’s disaster of a homelife just as compelling as the high stakes domestic terrorist hunt she was leading. It might be the pandemic talking, but the upside-down outside world following the characters home and wreaking havoc on their relationships will be equal parts release and escape for anybody who’s spent a little too much time at home over the past several months.


Big tech offers a utopian view of our connected future but Burn-In plays trends forward and explores the dystopian outcomes lurking around the corner. Ever feel a pang of guilt when you hand over your biometric data without reading the terms and conditions or connect your new toaster to the cloud? Burn-In will make you painfully aware of what all that data can do in the wrong hands.

The book is extensively researched and footnoted so the reader can link the real world to the future storyline. Did I mention there’s a ninja robot, plagues visited on DC, and elite hostage rescue FBI agents fighting in exoskeletons?

Burn-In hits the e-shelves today and We Are The Mighty recently caught up with Peter Singer to talk about the coming technological revolution, the future of terrorism, and tactical robots.

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself

WATM: The characters in Burn-In are living through a technological revolution not that dissimilar from the pandemic-induced disruption we’re all living through. The economic upheaval follows the characters home, straining their relationships, upending their careers and even changing their identities. How did you paint this picture so accurately?

Singer: A lot of the trends that the book explores in this future that’s a mix of fiction and nonfiction are at play in the pandemic—from the move toward AI and automation, to the challenges of greater amounts of distrust in our politics and our society, to critical infrastructure and public services that are more brittle than we ever wanted to admit—and coronavirus has drastically accelerated them. Much of the population has been rapidly thrown into distance learning, remote work or unemployment.

Telemedicine is now used at a level that no one anticipated would happen for at least a decade. Robots are policing curfews and cleaning subways and hospitals. AI and data tracking implementations are rolling out that go beyond even the most wild science fiction. It’s guaranteed that we’re not going to go back to the way it was before, so all of the tough social, political, legal, moral, security issues that our character wrestles with in this future are going to come faster for us in the real world.

WATM: The term sabotage was coined when workers fought back against technology in the Industrial Revolution. What will be the first flashpoints between workers and robots?

Singer: Science fiction is starting to come true but the reality is very different from the familiar story lines. The word ‘robot’ was coined a hundred years ago and there’s an early 1920s sci-fi play that’s informed our fears of robot overlords since. In the play mechanical servants wised up and rose up—it’s always been a story of robot rebellion. Instead, what’s happening is that we’re going through an Industrial Revolution. Revolutions have a good and a bad side. The Industrial Revolution gave us mass consumer goods and modern concepts of rights but it also gave birth to climate change and new political ideologies like fascism and communism that we spend the next 100 years working our way through.

We’re entering a technological revolution with three key trends. The first is job replacement and displacement and it won’t be just a matter of changing the tool in someone’s hand in an early factory. This is a tool that takes on the job of the people, whether they’re lawyers or soldiers. A McKinsey study argues that AI and automation will replace over 40% of current occupations in the next 20 years.

Second are the new ethical, legal, moral questions that always accompany new technology but go further this time because they’re now about machine permissibility and machine accountability. What do you allow the machine to do on its own and who’s in control? These questions impact everything from combat to your kids getting to soccer practice and there are already real world examples such as the fatal Tesla wreck. Who was responsible? The human driver that wasn’t driving? The municipality that allowed it to be deployed before there were good laws? The software programmer?

The third set of issues involve new kinds of security vulnerabilities. We’ve mostly thought about cyber security as information theft: stealing a jet fighter design or stealing credit card information. Instead as we move into this new world cyber means will be used to cause kinetic damage like any other kind of weapon. There will be new kinds of attacks and crimes such as a murder conducted via a smartphone hack or the ability to hold all of Washingtion DC hostage through critical infrastructure control (DC has flooded before). A country that’s divided politically, socially, economically is less able to weather that kind of change.

The Industrial Revolution was rife with outbreaks of extremism and worker protests that morphed into what we’d now call insurgency and terrorism. In 1814 more British soldiers were fighting Luddites at home than were deployed in the War of 1812. Luddites were craftsmen who were put out of work by the early factories and in turn, they assassinated factory owners and orchestrated street violence to try and check technological progress. What does it look like when a modern Luddite doesn’t have a hammer and a musket but a drone, an AR-15 and malware?

WATM: The book takes place decades from now but the social media landscape is recognizable. Users provide their data freely and live in a completely connected world. Events trend in real time and the characters have to navigate the consequences of the culture of influence during a terror attack. Is social media as we’ve come to know it inevitable?

Singer: There’s a lot of action in the book but the scariest scene to me is when Lara Keegan, the protagonist, takes her little girl to the Starbucks of the future and the staff greets them by name. Lara has an internal dialogue asking herself if they know her by name because she’s been coming there for years or because of face recognition technology and a record of her visits in the past. Is there a human connection or not? We’re always going to be trading back and forth between privacy, security and convenience and that balancing act is something that will touch every aspect of our lives: how we interact with government and businesses, who we are politically, and what happens at home.

Who is going to own the information and who is going to be able to access it? The individual, the private sector, or the government? We talk about this with Twitter and FaceBook now but there will soon be other dimensions including the camera on the street and the delivery robot. An observer will not only be able to know what you’re doing right now, but could access all of your life’s history, and shape the decisions you make in the future. You will not always be conscious of this shaping. What can we do? We have to understand the ecosystem—if you’re ignorant of it you’re just a target.

The next step is implementing things that support the better and limit the bad. How do we protect privacy and limit malicious influence? Deepfakes are in the book and they’re also being used to misinform during the pandemic. The Belgian premier was just targeted with a deepfake. The book explores virtual watermarks and that type of verification is possibly the policy path out of deepfakes and malicious disinformation.

If you’re stuck at home, it might as well be with a great book. Pick up Burn-In and you’ll find that your quarantine just got a whole lot more interesting.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are the best meme pages for each branch

It’s hard to pin down when, exactly, memes got their start. Some say they began with the original rage comics, others say the very first were painted on cave walls. Regardless, the beautiful internet memes of today allow anyone, anywhere to be a comedian. They give people a setup and a punchline — all you’ve got to do is change the text (and maybe photoshop a face on there).

When 2011 rolled around and the popularity of Facebook grew like the boot population at the off-base strip club, meme pages started cropping up, watermarks started getting slapped on, and entire brands have been built on shoddy internet graphics. Over time, people from the different branches of the U.S. Armed Forces started making memes to share their own experiences — and thus, the military meme page was born.

Initially, these pages were run by active-duty service members who were disgruntled about working conditions, but have since become mostly veteran-operated pages. If you thought the inter-service branch rivalries were rough, just wait until you take a look at the fight for the title of best military memes page.

Here’s the best each branch has to offer:


That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself

(Air Force Memes)

Air Force — Air Force Nation & Humor

The Air Force may not be the toughest, but they’ve certainly got brains — and that’s an essential asset in the world of memes. For memes of premium quality, check out Air Force Nation Humor.

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself

(The Salty Soldier)

Army — The Salty Soldier

The Army has some of the best memes on the internet right now and this is one that is relevant across the board, in all branches.

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself

(Pop Smoke)

Marine Corps — Pop Smoke

There are plenty of great meme pages run by Marine Corps veterans, but Pop Smoke has, bar far, the best content. One of the best things about Pop Smoke is that the page’s main admin makes memes out of his own personal photos and doesn’t keep his identity a secret.

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself

(Decelerate Your Life)

Navy — Decelerate Your Life

A lot of the best memes on Decelerate Your Life are actually about the Coast Guard, but here’s one that’ll make you laugh — especially if you’ve been on a float before.

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself

(Coast Guard)

Coast Guard — Coast Guard Memes

If you didn’t think the Coast Guard itself was enough of a meme, this page just gives everyone more to laugh about.

MIGHTY MOVIES

A special ops veteran and his Marine dad created History’s ‘Six’

It’s a testament to the everlasting mythology of the SEAL Teams when a screenwriter – who also happens to be an Air Force Pararescue Jumper – and his Marine veteran dad team up to write a TV show about them. That’s exactly what happened with History’s show Six, now in its second season.

David Broyles is the son of Hollywood (and Vietnam) veteran William Broyles, writer of some of the best military films and television in recent memory, including China Beach, Apollo 13, Jarhead, and Flags of Our Fathers. Now father and son can add Six to that list.

Related: 6 things military veterans will love about History’s ‘Six’

Before David joined the military, he watched the Twin Towers fall with his father, who was a lieutenant of Marines in Vietnam. He had just finished his degree at the University of Texas at Austin. Within a week, he was looking at joining the military, judging them by their special operations teams.

Yes, he considered joining the Navy to be a SEAL. What he chose was Air Force Pararescue.

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself
David Broyles during his Air Force PJ days.
(Courtesy of David Broyles)

“I looked at the SEALs, I looked at the Marine Corps, and I found Pararescue,” says David Broyles, co-creator and one of the main writers on Six. “It seemed really challenging with the high washout rate. But also the job was to save lives, so after watching the towers come down I wanted to help. I want to make a difference. And probably like most of us, I wanted to challenge myself.”

There were 82 would-be pararescue jumpers in Broyles’ initial class. By the time he graduated there were only two (and four more would graduate later). Broyles spent his career in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Karshi-Khanabad in Uzbekistan. There were good times and there were bad.


“I never felt more alive and never felt more terrified,” Broyles says. “The bonds of brotherhood that I experienced have always stuck with me and the things I saw and did have always powered my writing.”

Broyles always knew he would be a writer. After the military, he attended Columbia Film School in New York City. When the opportunity came to write Six, it was a chance to express in writing what it all meant to him and his friends that went through the war together.

“It was a way to work through that through writing,” he told We Are The Mighty. “A cathartic way to explore it and really honor the guys that were still in there and the guys that didn’t come back.”

With his father William Broyles, the two wrote the pilot for Six, the elder Broyles bringing his experience in Vietnam while the younger Broyles brought his experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. For Six, however, William Broyles was also bringing his experience as a father who watched his son go off to war.

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself
WIlliam Broyles and his fellow Marines in Vietnam.
(Photo courtesy of David Broyles)

William Broyles went off to Vietnam as a youth and didn’t really think about how his mother or father felt during his time away. his recent experiences with war put him in just that position. While his son was deployed, William Broyles would go to his cabin in the mountains and not answer the phone. It was a trying time for the families back home.

So while Six highlights the military family in the field, it doesn’t forget the family at home that gets left behind.

The father-son duo knew they couldn’t please everyone (they acknowledge how hard it is to please the entirety of the military-veteran community) but were determined to zero-in on the emotional truth of those moments of what it meant to serve and to be part of a brotherhood.

And they succeeded.

David’s friends and colleagues in the special operations community reached out to him to voice their support and admiration for the show and appreciate his message of what it means to be part of that team.

“I think they respect what we’re trying to do,” Broyles says “But, it’s the toughest group to please. There’s no doubt about it. We’re constantly straddling the line between reality and drama. We try to straddle the worlds between the hard authenticity, the tactics, the equipment, the movement. We wanted to make it as real and authentic as possible without putting any of the guys who are actually doing the job at risk.”

The other side of the coin is telling the story to those who have no experience in war and loss, but making them come to understand what is to be part of that bigger picture.

“That is drilling down to the emotional truth of the moment,” he says. “It’s not just about war, it’s about brotherhood and loss and family. I think people respond to those kind of broader, deeper issues regardless of whether or not you have military experience.”

History’s Six airs Wednesday nights at 10pm.

Military Life

What you learn while living in hotel during a 6 month PCS

When we received PCS orders to the Washington D.C. area, our plans certainly did not include living in a hotel for six months with an escape artist cat.

In our minds, we would be in temporary lodging for a few weeks while we closed on a new house. With a July move, we fully expected to have household goods delivered by August and be celebrating the holidays in our new home.

My husband and I had firmly decided we wanted to buy a house in the area. He was a cyber operations specialist and I had just separated active duty myself, and still maintained a current security clearance. Between a heady mix of defense contractor jobs available for me and the likelihood of an extended military assignment for him, we knew buying would be a smart move.


We had no idea that decision might take six months.

Due to a ridiculously tight housing market, we struggled to find anything that fit our realistic, non-million dollar budget. Homes that did fit our needs were gone in hours. Others needed such extensive repairs, as to be unfeasible. Days ticked by, summer eased into fall and by the time we finally found a 1950’s Cape Cod with renovations we could actually afford, our California wardrobe of shorts and flip-flops were useless. Our winter clothes were in our household goods, which had gone into storage, and I had received a job offer working downtown – which required a new professional wardrobe. We shook our heads in frustration at trying to figure out how to make living in a hotel with 250 square feet of space functional.

It turned out to be a very powerful lesson in embracing minimalism.

What is Minimalism?

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself

Minimalism can best be explained over many mediums. It appears in art, music, fashion and architecture. Merriam Webster defines it as, “a style or technique characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity.” Others explain minimalism as a lifestyle. In the book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Marie Kondo challenges readers to evaluate what items in their environment bring them joy and how to eliminate clutter with the KonMari Method. The military tends to define and embrace minimalism as doing “more with less.”

In our own lives, as we learned to function and live with less, we slowly discovered several advantages in a lifestyle stripped down to the essentials.

1. Re-evaluating purchases

We quickly realized any purchases brought into our tiny space had to be carefully evaluated. Limited by pure square footage and storage capacity, we were forced us to bring in less of everything. It didn’t take long for the habit to become second nature and lead to new shopping patterns.

2. Saving more than just money

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself

As we shopped smarter and bought only essentials, we weren’t surprised that we started saving real money. What did come as a surprise however, was the feeling of actually having more. With less physical space to fill up, and a reduced urge to do so, we not only gained more money and time, we also gained a fresh sense of renewed mental space. Adopting a minimalistic lifestyle created more room for things that mattered.

3. Collecting experiences versus things

Instead of collecting “stuff” that always seemed to turn into clutter, we developed a new focus on collecting fresh experiences. We had more money to travel, to explore new neighborhoods or try a unique restaurant. We quickly embraced this new feeling of liberation – and I knew unequivocally that we had made a permanent lifestyle shift.

4. A new sense of freedom

By the time we finally moved into our home, we were ready for a new change. As we slowly unpacked the sky-high boxes, we realized that by living in a hotel with less, we had refined our priorities. What we truly needed was quickly distinguishable from what could be culled and eliminated. As a result, our next PCS was cleaner and lighter, which turned out to be a very powerful lesson for an overseas assignment. We were allotted 14,000 pounds for Germany and couldn’t help but giggle when our household goods topped the scales at a mere 3,700 pounds.

What began as a challenging PCS turned into a beautiful and liberating life lesson in simplicity. And couldn’t we all use a little more simplicity in this crazy, but wonderful military life.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Strange reports in Saudi Arabia spark rumors of a coup attempt

Twitter and news outlets came alive with spotty, unconfirmed news reports of an incident in Saudi Arabia that some sources were describing as a possible “coup attempt.” There has been no official verification of significant or organized action in the region and no reports have surfaced as of 00:30 Riyadh time on the BBC World News, but the volume of Twitter reports and private messages received by this reporter seem to indicate an incident of some significance.


Saudi Arabia has been so far successful in avoiding inclusion in the “Arab Spring” revolts that have toppled governments across the Middle East and began in Tunisia in 2010. Since then Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Syria and Bahrain have been subject to either government coups or coup attempts. The attempts at overthrowing the Syrian government have resulted in one of the bloodiest conflicts in the history of the region now in its seventh year.

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself

As the minutes have passed during the last hour the volume of traffic about Saudi Arabia on Twitter has increased, but the region’s top Twitter reporter, @SamiAlJaber, has reported nothing specific about a “coup attempt”.

“An official Riyadh district police spokesman said that at about 19:50 p.m. on April 21, 2018, a security screening point in the Al-Khuzama district of Riyadh noticed a small, remote-controlled recreational aircraft (drone) flying without being authorized to do so, which required security personnel at the security point to deal with it in accordance with their orders and instructions in this regard,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported according to Newsweek.

The following traffic was monitored in the aftermath of the reported gunfire. It might be completely unrelated to the alleged attempted coup, still it’s worth of note, considered that according to flight tracking authority @CivMilAir the GL4 has always shadowed the Crown Prince’s UK, USA, France tours.

For instance, the same aircraft, registration HZ-MS4B was part of the fleet that supported the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman during his U.S. tour. Here’s a tweet dating back to a couple of weeks ago:


Concern about unrest in the country have been top of mind in the region for several years but the existing government has, to date, been mostly successful in moderating large, overt attempt at leadership change.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster

Tom Hanks is no stranger to producing incredible dramas that vividly revive battles and wars of the past.


From Saving Private Ryan to Band of Brothers and onward to the more-recent hit series, The Pacific, Hanks has outdone himself in bringing to light the gritty, true stories of combat throughout the Pacific and European theaters.

Now, Hanks, one of Hollywood’s best war-movie producers, will be teaming with another war-movie legend to tell the tale of the Allied airborne assault on Normandy in advance of the D-Day landings in June of 1944.

That’s right — Tom Hanks will be partnering up with retired U.S. Marine, author, and actor Dale Dye on his newest film project. Called No Better Place to Die, the movie tells the true story of a small group of paratroopers operating behind enemy lines during Mission Boston.

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself
A U.S. Army paratrooper prepares to jump into combat on D-Day, June 1944 (Photo U.S. Army)

The actual mission itself, run by the U.S. Army’s 82nd “All American” Airborne Division, was later heralded as one of the most critical factors in ensuring the success of the D-Day amphibious landings.

“This is such an important and dramatic story that I’ve always wondered why no one has made a movie about it,” Dye remarks.

The defense of La Fiere Bridge, a vital part of the mission and the focus of the movie, was easily one of the most grueling engagements the 82nd’s All Americans would find themselves in throughout the war.

Listen to Dale Dye talk about the real story behind his movie and his plan to hire veterans to make it:

“I’m very glad to be teaming with Dale on this project,” Hanks said. He especially notes the importance of enhancing the discussion around D-Day and Operation Overlord with the 75th anniversary of the landings coming up later this year.

Hanks himself was a central character in Saving Private Ryan, playing Captain John Miller, an Army Ranger tasked with searching for and bringing home a paratrooper as part of the Sole Survivor policy, and his brothers were all killed in combat.

This won’t be the first time Hanks and Dye have worked together on a war drama.  In 2001, Dye was featured in Hanks’ mini-series, Band of Brothers, playing Col. Robert Sink, commander of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Before that, Dye had a role in Saving Private Ryan as a War Department officer. The two also worked together on Forrest Gump in 1994.

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself
Tom Hanks on the set of Forrest Gump (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In both Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, as well as Hanks’ recent series, The Pacific, Dye contributed his combat experiences and background as a Marine by advising the production team to ensure accuracy, and by leading actors through a conditioning boot camp to give them a brief yet necessary look into the military lives of the soldiers they would be portraying.

While these silver-screen hits do a lot to share the realities of war and the numerous untold stories of heroism and bravery with the general public, Dye and Hanks will be taking it a step further by actually hiring military veterans to play characters in the new movie. It doesn’t just tell the stories of combat veterans, it helps modern-day veterans, too.

That time a soldier saved the day by calling an artillery strike on himself
Dale Dye speaks to members of the press during the premiere for The Pacific (Photo U.S. Marine Corps)

Dye is no stranger to war, having served in combat in the jungles of Vietnam during the height of the war. Though a combat correspondent by trade, he wound up serving as an assistant machine gunner, volunteering to step outside the wire multiple times, even with a fresh injury from the Tet Offensive of 1968.

Retiring as a captain in 1984 after 20 years of service, both as an enlisted and a commissioned officer, Dye left the Marine Corps with a Bronze Star with a Combat V for his heroism in battle, earned while repeatedly exposing himself to withering enemy fire to rescue fallen comrades, and 3 Purple Hearts for wounds sustained in battle.

Given Dye’s track record with war movies, as both an advisor and an actor, and Hank’s history with WWII dramas, you can bet that No Better Place to Die will be an incredible must-watch when it makes its debut.

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