The 'Nightfighters' attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades - We Are The Mighty
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The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades

In the final six months of World War II, the 104th Division — “The Frontier Division” — launched a series of night attacks against German troops while equipped with only empty rifles, bayonets, and grenades, slicing and exploding their way through enemy lines on the drive to Berlin.


The 104th Division was stood up in Oregon on Sep. 15, 1942, around the same time that its future commander, Maj. Gen. Terry “Terrible Terry” Allen, was loading the 1st Inf. Division into ships for the invasion of North Africa.

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
A 1st Infantry Division tank in Germany in world War II. Maj. Gen. Terry Allen left the 1st Inf. Div. to command the 104th Inf. Div., a unit which quickly proved itself after arriving in France in 1944. (Photo: U.S. Army Tech. Sgt. Murray Shub)

One of Allen’s big takeaways from commanding the 1st in Tunisia was that night attacks were generally less costly than daytime assaults, especially against fortifications and massed guns. So, when he handed the 1st over to Maj. Gen. Clarence R. Huebner and was sent to take over the 104th, he insisted that the Frontier Division learn to fight at night.

According to a 1946 news article about the Division, Allen required the men to train 30-35 hours a week at night, well above the Army standard of eight to 12 hours.

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
American troops march in the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia. Tunisia was a formative experience for Maj. Gen. Terry Allen who took lessons from the battlefield there to the 104th Infantry Division. (Dept. of Defense photo)

After training in the U.S. and England, the 104th finally landed in France in September 1944 and was sent to Antwerp a month later to help capture the port there. In two weeks of bloody fighting that included multiple night assaults, the Timberwolves worked with the Canadians and British to eliminate Nazi defenses.

And some of those night assaults were conducted with only cold steel bayonets and the explosive fire of hand grenades.

Even when the “Nightfighters” had rifle ammunition and permission to use it, they seemed to prefer their bayonets and explosives, likely in a bid to reduce tell-tale muzzle flashes that would give away their position.

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
The bayonet has served the U.S. from the Revolutionary War to Iraq and Afghanistan, but was especially useful in World War I. (Photo: U.S. Defense Visual Information Center)

During the Battle of the Dykes near Antwerp, then-1st Lt. Cecil Bolton tried to use mortars to knock out enemy machine gun positions raining fire on his unit. After being knocked unconscious by German artillery, he awoke and led a two-man volunteer bazooka team against the German lines by sneaking through chest-deep, nearly frozen water in the canals to the enemy positions.

The three men took out one position with grenades and an artillery position with the rockets, only using rifle fire to take out a sniper and machine gun position who spotted them before they could attack. Bolton was wounded a second time while returning to U.S. lines and was later awarded the Medal of Honor.

The night attacks were usually reserved for positions in relatively open terrain, but were sometimes conducted against cities. The city of Eschweiler was captured in November thanks to a pre-dawn insertion of troops into the city center. Those men raised hell inside German lines at sunrise while the rest of their unit attacked from the outside.

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
104th Infantry Division soldiers drive a captured German tank in 1944 after painting it with U.S. markings. (Photo: U.S. Army)

A midnight attack on Lucherbourg went south when the Americans were spotted immediately after crossing a river, but the men pressed on anyways, seizing four houses at the edge of town and holding them against enemy counterattacks, including armored assaults, all night and the following day.

Then-Maj. Gen. Joseph “Lightning Joe” Collins praised the men for their daring and success during the campaign:

The second phase, involving the crossing of the Inde River and the advance to the Roer, was even more difficult, but with characteristic skill and dash, in a series of brilliant night attacks, the 104th Division forced a crossing of the Inde, and in a few days had cleared its entire sector to the Roer River.  I regard the operation which involved the seizure of Lamersdorf-Inden-Luchererg as one of the finest single pieces of work accomplished by any unit of the 7th Corps since D Day.

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
German mortars fire towards American positions during the Battle of Hurtgen Forest. (Photo: German Army Archives)

On Oct. 23, 1944, the division deployed to the Battle of Hurtgen Forest, the longest single battle in which America ever fought.

The 104th later took part in Operation Grenade, the late-February 1945 crossing of the Roer River and the drive into the heart of Germany as well as the March 22 crossing of the Rhine. Over the following week, they captured important strategic points like airfields and created blocking positions to stop the escape of Nazi units.

On April 11, the division arrived at Nordhausen, Germany, and found a German concentration camp with 6,000 survivors and 5,000 corpses. The inmates of the camp had been forced to manufacture V-2 bombs until the American approach forced the Germans to withdraw.

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
This is the underground facility in Germany where prisoners of the concentration camp near Nordhausen were forced to create V-2 rockets for German use against the Allies. (Photo: German Federal Archives)

On April 26, the 104th met up with Russian troops that had been pushing the Germans west from Moscow. The Allied forces continued to hunt German units until May 5 when they ran out of Nazis to fight. Thus ended 195 days and nights of continuous combat, some of it conducted at night against machinegun nests and artillery positions by attackers armed only with blades and grenades.

The Timberwolves were scheduled to take part in the invasions of the Japanese home islands as part of Operations Olympic and Coronet. The operations were made unnecessary by Japan’s surrender on Sep. 2, 1945.

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
A memorial plaque for the 104th Infantry Division in Arlington National Cemetery. (Photo: Tim1965 CC BY-SA 3.0)

The 104th is now a training unit in the Army Reserve. It still proudly carries the names “Timberwolves” and “Nightfighters.”

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Vietnam vet to receive overdue medals thanks to late battle buddy’s nephew

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
One veteran will receive the medals earned during Vietnam thanks to the nephew of his late battle buddy.
Three years ago, Curtis Sidwell of Watson, Illinois decided to research his uncle Donald Sidwell’s experience in Vietnam.  Donald passed in 2009, and never shared his experiences behind enemy lines with his family.
While searching through his uncle’s effects, Curtis found that Donald had written two letters to the wife of a man named Phillip Taylor. In the first letter, Sidwell had written the worst news any friend might have to deliver to a loved one. Donald’s letter said that Taylor had been killed in a helicopter crash. The second letter corrected the first. It wasn’t true; her husband was not dead. Sidwell had been misinformed. Taylor was in fact, alive.
Stars and Stripes described the situation in an article titled, “A Whisker”:
“Severely injured during a firefight south of Pineapple Forest on Oct. 18, 1968, Taylor waited for an medevac chopper to transport him to a hospital in Chu Lai. When a chopper came, it took fire as it hovered over a row of trees, went into a tailspin, and then crashed. Taylor was thrown from the chopper, and was the only survivor of that accident.”
Curtis Sidwell was able to track down Taylor, and during a phone conversation Taylor recounted his ‘lone survivor’ incident.  He also said that one of his superiors had promised he would receive a citation for how he’d conducted himself. Sadly, decades had gone by and no such thing happened.
“You could tell in his voice that he was bothered about that,” Curtis said in an interview with The Edn. “Knowing the day that Philip had and what he went through for the United States of America and for us, it only seemed fair to get him his medals.”
Sidwell embarked on a three-year effort to ensure Taylor got the recognition he was due, and his work paid off in the form of Taylor receiving a Purple Heart, an Army Commendation Medal, a National Defense Service Medal, a Vietnam Service Medal with four Bronze Star awards, a Combat Infantryman Badge, a Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon, a Sharpshooter Badge, and a Marksman Badge. According to The Edn, a review is underway at Fort Knox for a Bronze Star related to Taylor’s bravery.
“It’s the least I can do,” said Sidwell. “And I think my uncle would be tickled if he could know what I’ve done.”
MIGHTY HISTORY

What if a Soviet mechanized infantry battalion had tried to start World War III?

The Fulda Gap is not well known outside military planners and wargamers. But if World War III happened, that would be where one of the first battles would be fought between the United States Army and the Soviet Red Army.


Who would come out on top?

Let’s go away from the big picture – and instead take a more tactical look at this scenario.

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
A Russian-made BMP with the Polish army.

 

We’ll put a troop from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (nine M1A2 SEP Abrams tanks, 13 M3A3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicles, two M1064 120mm mortars, and a M577 command track) against a battalion of Soviet mechanized infantry (42 BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles, plus 3 BRDM-2 reconnaissance vehicles and eight 120mm mortars).

The American cavalry troop’s nine M1A2 Abrams tanks feature the M256 120mm gun, and each tank carries 40 rounds for that weapon. While the M256 is able to fire a number of rounds, the primary two we will look at are the M830A1 High-Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) round and the M829A3 armor-piercing “sabot” round.

The HEAT round uses a shaped charge to create a jet of molten metal to penetrate armor. The latter is, essentially, a dart of depleted uranium weighing about 20 pounds.

But let’s not sell the weapons on the 13 M3A3 Bradleys short — the Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicle has the M242 Bushmaster, a 25mm chain gun with 1,500 rounds of ammunition and a two-round launcher for the BGM-71 Tube-Launched Optically Tracked Wire-guided missile, with a dozen rounds.

The M3A3 has a crew of three and can carry two cavalry scouts.

The primary opponent that the Americans will face is the BMP-2. BMP is short for Boyevaya Mashina Pekhoty, or “infantry combat vehicle.”

The BMP-2 has a 30mm 2A42 autocannon with 500 rounds, and a launcher for the AT-5 “Spandrel” anti-tank missile with five rounds. It has a crew of three and carries a squad of seven infantrymen.

The BRDM-2 is a four-wheeled armored car that has a 14.5mm KPV machine gun and carries a crew of four.

You may ask, why mechanized infantry and not tanks?

Believe it or not, it’s due to Soviet doctrine. As Viktor Suvarov pointed out in “Inside the Soviet Army,” the doctrine of the Red Army was “the maximum concentration of forces in the decisive sector.” The Soviets would not be sending their tanks first, but instead, mechanized infantry to probe and find a weak spot. Once found, then more and more reserves would be sent to punch through the hole.

So, these 42 BMP-2s and the three BRDM-2s make their way through their sector of the Fulda Gap, probing to find a weak point in American lines, they happen on the American cavalry troop.

 

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
(DoD photo by Eddie McCrossan)

So, how does this fight go down? The real answer depends on who sees whom first. Here, the Americans will have an advantage due to their thermal sights and their advanced fire-control systems. Furthermore, the BRDM-2 is not exactly what one would call “well-protected,” having less than half an inch of armor.

The Americans, on the other hand, would likely be fighting from positions that are somewhat prepared – providing both cover and concealment.

The BRDMs may find the Americans, but the announcement will likely be marked by the BRDMs turning into bonfires. That will give the Red Army battalion commander an idea of where the Americans are – but he won’t have much more information. He may send one of his companies (consisting of 12 of his BMP-2s) forward, at which point, the best he can hope for is to get some fragmentary information as that company is wiped out.

Meanwhile, the American cavalry troop is re-positioning itself for the next round. When the remainder of the Soviet battalion attacks, there will be a longer firefight.

This is where the Russian battalion finds itself in a world of hurt. The 30mm autocannons won’t be able to beat the armor on an Abrams tank, but in order to use the one weapon they have that can defeat an Abrams tank (the AT-5 missiles), they have to hold still – making them sitting ducks. The Soviet battalion will likely be quickly wiped out, even as it uses its mortars to try to suppress the American units.

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David N. Beckstrom)

After that engagement, the American cavalry troop would probably pull back to another set of positions. It will have suffered some losses – probably among its Bradley Fighting Vehicles — but it will likely have most of its strength, ready for the next attack.

Even though they won the skirmish, it is very likely that they would have needed to pull back anyhow – the Soviets would have used their numerical superiority to find a gap, and NATO would have had to adjust their lines to avoid a decisive breakthrough. But the Americans could take some small comfort in knowing that they gave the Soviets a very bloody nose in the first round.

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Here are the winners of the 2014 US military photographer awards

A panel of judges in Fort Meade, Maryland have made their selections for the 2014 Military Photographer awards.


The judges have handed out awards to military photographers for their amazing work in ten different categories including Sports, Pictorial, and Combat Documentation (Operational). The judges have also named the overall best military photographer for 2014.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Vernon Young was selected as the Military Photographer of the year. His photos ranged from evocative portraits of Afghans to scenes of US forces training before deployment.

“Recon Patrols” (First Place: Combat Documentation, Operational)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: SGT Harold Flynn

Soldiers assigned to Palehorse Troop, 4th Squadron, 2nd Calvary Regiment move over rough terrain during Operation Alamo Scout 13, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, on Feb. 10, 2014. The operation was a joint effort between Palehorse troops and the Afghan National Army’s 205th Corps Mobile Strike Force to conduct reconnaissance patrols in villages around Kandahar Airfield.

“Wounded Warrior” (Second Place: Combat Documentation, Operational)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: SSgt Perry Aston

Casualties airlifted by an Afghan Air Force C-130 Hercules from a Taliban attack on Camp Bastion, are offloaded on Dec. 1, 2014 at Kabul International Airport. The Afghan military successfully repelled the attack on the camp after receiving control of the base from coalition forces a month earlier.

“Afghan Gunner” (Third Place: Combat Documentation, Operational)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
TSgt Jason Robertson

An Afghan Air Force (AAF) Mi-17 aerial gunner fires an M-240 machine gun while flying over a weapons range March 13, 2014, near Kabul, Afghanistan. US Air Force Airmen from the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing/NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan flew a night-vision goggle training mission with an AAF aircrew to further increase the operational capability of the AAF.

“Night Fire” (First Place: Combat Documentation, Training)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Pfc. Nathaniel Newkirk/US Army

US Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, fire a 120 mm mortar during a tactical training exercise on Camp Roberts, Calif. on Jan. 30, 2014. 

“Land Nav” (Second Place: Combat Documentation, Training)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Sgt. Marcus Fichtl/US Army

Sgt. Timothy Martin, a native of Waipahu, Hawaii, wheeled vehicle mechanic, Company B, 204th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, prepares to conduct night land navigation during the brigade’s 3-day-long Soldier and NCO of the Year competition at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, on April 23, 2014. 

“Dustoff! Dustoff!” (Third Place: Combat Documentation, Training)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Staff Sgt. Corey J. Hook/USAF

US Army Soldiers assigned to the 3rd Squadron 17th Regiment are picked up by a blackhawk helicopter after participating in a survival, evasion, resistance and escape exercise during Decisive Action Rotation 14-09 at the National Training Center on Aug. 13, 2014. Decisive action rotations are reflective of the complexities of potential adversaries the US military could face and include training against guerilla, insurgent, criminal and near-peer conventional forces.

“Drown-proofing” (First Place: Feature)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen/USAF

Members of the Special Tactics Training Squadron enter a pool with their hands and feet bound. The drown-proofing exercise teaches students to remain calm in the water during stressful situations, skills that may prove vital during real-world operations.

“Retiring the colors” (Second Place: Feature)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Senior Airman Jordan Castelan/USAF

Three 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Airmen secure the American flag during the sounding of retreat on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on June 27, 2014.

“Down and Dirty” (Third Place: Feature)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: SSgt Vernon Young/USAF

Staff Sgt. Kyle McGann, Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician, climbs into a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle during EOD blast-pit training on March 16, 2014. Blast pit training prepares EOD technicians to handle detonations by practicing procedures and communications for real-world responses.

“The Reach” (First Place: Illustrative)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Airman 1st Class Devin N. Boyer/USAF

As the military’s despcription of this photo puts it, “Family and friends can be important influences in helping someone get treatment for mental health issues. Reaching out and letting them know you are there to help them is the first step.”

“Cyber Deception” (Second Place: Illustrative)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Airman 1st Class Devin N. Boyer/USAF

Per the military’s description: “Social media opens doors for meeting new people. However, are the people you meet who they say they are? The internet allows predators to use deception to take advantage of their victims.”

“The face of domestic violence” Third Place: Illustrative

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Senior Airman Rusty Frank/USAF

This illustration is meant to show the effects of domestic violence. According to the Family Advocacy Program, more than 18,000 cases of domestic violence were reported in 2013.

“The Thunder Returns” (First Place: News)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Staff Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr./USAF

The US Air Force Thunderbirds fly the Delta formation over Falcon Stadium during the US Air Force Academy Graduation Ceremony on May 28, 2014. 

“Remembering” (Second Place: News)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Eric R. Dietrich/US Navy

US Air Force Master Sgt. Tiffany Robinson, assigned to 449th Air Expeditionary Group, kneels in front of a battlefield cross following a Memorial Day ceremony at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, on May 26, 2014. The cross was created with combat gear representing each of the five US military branches, in commemoration of fallen service members.

“Coast Guard Memorial Day Weekend Rescue” (Third Place: News)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Chief Petty Officer Lauren Jorgensen/US Coast Guard

Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua Zartman of Coast Guard Station Mayport, Florida, pulls 10-year-old Nmir Ali Mahmoud toward a Coast Guard boat while rescuing him, his father and another man who were stranded aboard their 21-foot boat after running it aground on top of a jetty near Mayport, May 24, 2014. 

“Out of the Sea” (First Place: Pictorial)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen/USAF

A 22nd Special Tactics Squadron Airman climbs a ladder into a CH-47 Chinook helicopter hovering over the ocean on June 20, 2014. 

“Sky Miles” (Second Place: Pictorial)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Gunnery Sgt. Ezekiel R. Kitandwe/USMC

A US Marine assigned to Echo Company 4th Reconnaissance Battalion rappels out of a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter at Camp Upshur, Marine Corps Base (MCB) Quantico Va., July 17, 2014. The training exercise was part of a week-long jump, dive, breach, and shooting package conducted around MCB Quantico.

“Assault overwatch” (Third Place: Pictorial)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Spc. Steven A. Hitchcock/US Army

US Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment prepare to lay cover fire for the assault element advancing on the objective during task force training on Fort Hunter Ligget, Calif. on Jan. 23, 2014. 

“Survivor” (First Place: Picture Story)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young/USAF

Staff Sgt. Chantel Thibeaux was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2014 during her very first class as an Air Force technical school instructor. With the support of her family, she was able to fight through a disease that claims the lives of thousands each year. As a US Air Force technical school instructor, Thibeaux has been charged to train the next generation of dental assistants. 

“Becoming “Semper Fidelis”” (Second Place: Picture Story)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Staff Sgt. Jodi Martinez/USAF

US Marine Corps female recruits endure and conquer the Crucible, one of the toughest challenges a recruit will face during their 3-month boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., on Sept. 10, 2014. The women used teamwork, grit, and perseverance to earn the title of Marine and their emblem: the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor.

“Tenderfoot” (Third Place: Picture Story)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Mass Communication Specialst 3rd Class Siobhana McEwen/US Navy

Per the military’s description, “Farrier Henry Heymeiring has been shoeing horses for more than 40 years, and describes the trade as an art. The foundation of Heymering’s art is his love of the animal. A man of few words and many smiles, Heymeiring’s smiles truly convey his passion for his work.”

“Loud and Clear” (First Place: Portrait)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Master Sgt. John R. Nimmo/USAF

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Nadia Rowell, health services management journeyman, 43rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Pope Army Airfield, N.C., stands for a portrait outside the aeromedical evacuation crew tent at Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La., March 15, 2014. Service members at JRTC 14-05 are educated in combat patient care and aeromedical evacuation in a simulated combat environment. 

“Game Time” (Second Place: Portrait_

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Senior Airman Daniel Hughes/USAF

A player for the Fort Dorchester High School Football team yells to motivate players in a hostile regional game against Bluffton High School at Bluffton High School Stadium, Oct. 24, 2014. 

“The Army Chaplain” (Third Place: Portrait)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Joshua L. DeMotts/USAF

A Polish World War II re-enactor portrays an army chaplain with the 106th Infantry Division in the same forest the 106th fought in 70 years previously during the Battle of the Bulge, on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014. 

“Beyond” (First Place: Sports and Photo Of The Year)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen/USAF

US Air Force Capt. Sarah Evans jumps rope in a gym in San Antonio, Texas. Evans was diagnosed with cancer while deployed to Afghanistan and was medically evacuated back to the United States where her leg was amputated.

“Roar” (Second Place: Sports)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Joshua L. Demotts/USAF

AFNORTH’s Eliska Volencova reacts with teammates Erica Balkcum and Emma Rainer after coming back from 10 points to defeat Hohenfels 22-19 in the DODDS-Europe basketball championships Division III semi-final game Friday, Feb. 21, 2014.

Untitled (Third Place: Sports)

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Senior Airman James Richardson/USAF

Cheerleaders from the University of Missouri gather prior to the start of the game against the University of South Carolina Sept. 27, 2014 in Columbia, S.C. Missouri won, 21-20.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Vernon Young won photographer of the year for the following photos: “Timing” …

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young/USAF

A US Army soldier swings a golf club after duty on March 29, 2014.

“A Deeper Connection” …

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young/USAF

US Army Staff Sgt. Damion Kennedy shares a laughs with a local Afghan man as he provides overwatch for a base detail project on April 8, 2014.

“Low Pass” …

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young/USAF

US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Josh Martin, 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron, Mi-17 aerial gunner, provides rear security on a Mi-17 helicopter over Kabul, Afghanistan, on May 31, 2014. 

“Faces of Afghanistan” …

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young/USAF

An Afghan man spends a moment alone inside the Afghan National Army (ANA) military planning room prior to serving tea to soldiers on June 11, 2014. The Afghan man provides drinks and cleaning supplies to soldiers as they transition in and out of the ANA command section. 

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NOW: These Striking Photos Show The True Nature Of America’s Veterans 

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How the US is caught between Turkey and the Kurds

Turkey and the US-backed YPG forces — which have been helping the coalition fight ISIS in Syria — have been clashing off and on since at least April.


At the end of that month, the two sides exchanged rocket fire, which Turkey says killed 11 YPG fighters. In early July, Turkey deployed troops to the Kurdish-held border in northwest Syria, which the YPG commander called “a declaration of war.”

YPG and Turkish-backed rebels — who the YPG call mercenaries — clashed in northwest Syria on July 17, Reuters reported. The YPG said it killed three Turkish-backed rebels and wounded four more.

Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist group and extension of the PKK, which has been trying to set up its own Kurdish state within Turkey for decades. And the US has placed itself right between the two sides.

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
President Trump (left) and President Erdogan of Turkey (right). (Photo from Moscow Kremlin.)

Turkey is the third-largest purchaser of US weapons, and in early May, the US began supplying weapons to the YPG to help in the coalition’s fight against ISIS.

The latter move has angered Turkey even more than the US’s unwillingness to extradite Fethullah Gulen, according to Kemal Kirisci, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Gulen is a Muslim cleric who lives in Pennsylvania and has been accused by Turkey of organizing the attempted coup in 2016.

These developments have coincided with Turkey’s gradual drift toward Russia. Ankara and Moscow recently agreed to build a pipeline through Turkey, which allows Moscow to bypass Ukraine, and last week, Turkey signed an agreement with Russia for the $2.5 billion purchase of Moscow’s advanced S-400 missile-defense system.

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
SA-400. (Photo by Vitality Kuzmin)

Turkey is also one of the three guarantors, along with Russia and Iran, of the Syrian de-escalation zones.

Kirisci told Business Insider that he can’t prove there is a direct connection between Turkey moving closer to Russia and the US supplying the YPG with weapons, but he did say, “You don’t need to be escorted to a village that you can see in the distance.”

“[Turkey] has been pissed off at the US for a long time,” Aaron Stein, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council, told Business Insider. “They’re not leaving NATO, but they’re trying to show everyone that they have options.”

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Stein added that “the US is partly to blame” for increased tensions between Turkey and YPG, but, he said, “all sides have blood on their hands in this thing.”

Kirisci also said that “the Pentagon is running its own show,” and the US State Department doesn’t appear to be checking its decisions.

“We are concerned [about increased tensions between Turkey and YPG] but doing everything we can to defuse the situation,” Marine Corps Maj. Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman, told Business Insider.

Rankine-Galloway said that the weapons, which are tracked with serial numbers, will be collected from the YPG after the fight with ISIS concludes.

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades
A fighter for the Free Syrian Army loads a US-made M2. The YSA is supplied by the US, but opposes the YPG, also supplied by the US. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

But Kirisci and Stein both said they were doubtful that the US will be able to collect the weapons from the YPG. “They’ll try, but it won’t happen,” Stein said.

It’s “to be determined” if a full-scale war will break out between Turkey and the YPG once the fight against ISIS is over, Stein said. The US probably won’t leave northwest Syria for a while, and its presence will help deter fighting between the two sides.

The skirmishes that have happened between Turkey and the YPG have happened in areas where there is no US troop presence.

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This is how piracy became totally legal during wartime

What’s the difference between pirates and patriots? A government to be loyal to, of course. Such was the case during the age of sail, when warring nations would literally hire pirates and other captains to raid enemy shipping.


When officially endorsed by a belligerent nation, pirates were issued a Letter of Marque – the marque being a pledge to fight for one nation…at least for the time being.

Such was the case with England’s “Sea Dogs,” hired by Queen Elizabeth I to raid gold-laden Spanish treasure fleets sailing from the New World. Capturing a ship meant money for both the ship and her crew as well as the Marque-issuing government.

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades

The Catholic King Philip of Spain was determined to flip Protestant England back to Catholic control. The English Protestants and their Queen were having none of it. For some 19 years, the two countries were bitter rivals, fighting a series of battles on both land and sea that saw little else but money change hands.

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades

For the crews who shared the prize money, life was harsh. Disease and starvation were common among sailing crews at the time. For the Sea Dogs’ commander, a few good prizes could make them rich. One pirate would become the second highest-earning pirate of all time.

That Sea Dog was Sir Francis Drake, a Protestant captain with a distaste for Spanish Catholics. Perhaps one of the greatest English leaders of the age, Drake led the expedition that defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588 and took his piracy tour to the Pacific for the first time in history.

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades

The Spanish put a price on his head that would be the modern equivalent of almost $7 million.

Queen Elizabeth died in 1603 and the war ended the next year. Drake would also not survive the war, dying of dysentery after attacking Puerto Rico. Though the peace restored the status quo, the war was a disaster for Spain.

Embracing the Sea Dogs was a disaster for England as well. After the war, they joined the raiders of the North African coast, continuing their anti-Catholic piracy careers alongside the Turkish corsairs of the Barbary States.

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This presidential nominee’s campaign was tanked by a tank

In the 1988 presidential campaign, Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, the Democratic nominee for President, had a problem: he needed to look credible as a commander-in-chief during a time when Democrats were being criticized for their defense policies.


Throughout the 1980s, the Reagan Administration had been pushing through a major peace-time military build-up.

According to CQ Researcher, a large portion of the Democrats in Congress had opposed that build-up in the 1984 elections. That caused the perception that the Democrats were being weak on defense, which led to Reagan’s 49-state landslide.

Dukakis had been among those who were critical of the buildup, the mainstays of which — the B-1B Lancer, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, and a host of other weapon systems – are in service today (with a few exceptions).

 

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An E-2C Hawkeye early warning and control aircraft flies over the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zackary Alan Landers/Released)

Worse, according to a 2013 article in Politico, during the month of August, Dukakis had gone from leading Vice President George H.W. Bush by 17 points to trailing him, and one big reason was that 54 percent of Americans felt that then-Vice President Bush would do a better job on national security, while only 18 percent thought Dukakis would.

To counter that, Dukakis went on a swing that discussed defense, but one event was marked by defense workers jeering him. Then, he went on a visit to a General Dynamics plant in Michigan where he planned to ride in an M1 Abrams tank, a key part of the buildup that Democrats had criticized.

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Aerial drone image of an M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank crew. (Dept. of Defense image)

 

However, to do the ride, Dukakis was told he had to wear protective headgear. He did so, and ended up sealing his fate.

Within a week, the photo of Dukakis in the helmet had become a joke (think Kushner in his vest), but the worst was to come when operatives with Bush’s campaign developed an attack ad. Using 11 seconds of footage, they highlighted Dukakis’s opposition to the Reagan buildup and foreign policy.

Dukakis, who had already been trailing, and already saw 25 percent of Americans less likely to vote for him, was now in freefall. He eventually lost the 1988 election by seven million votes.

You can see a video by Politico on the infamous tank ride below.

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These are some of the best military challenge coins

The challenge coin game is a military tradition with murky roots. The game is played where one service member at a bar challenges another to present their challenge coin. If the challenged doesn’t have their coin, they have to buy the challenger a drink. If the challenged service member has their coin, they get a round on the challenger.


Few people play the game anymore, but unit coin designs say a lot about a command. Here are some of the best challenge coin designs we’ve seen.

1. U.S. Army diver coin

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Photo: Andrew Rayle

It’s cut into a cool shape and has many of the Army’s diver badges on it. It both identifies the holder and calls them to go after even higher certifications as a diver.

2. The Mickey Mouse challenge coin

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Photo: Leticia Lapp

The military has a long history with co-opting copyrighted materials for its unit coins, murals, and posters. While most units go for something violent or that caters to an adult crowd, the Naval Air Warfare Center in Orlando made one that reminded everyone just how easy it is to get to Walt Disney World from the center. It’s a 40-minute drive.

3. Trample the weak

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Photo: David L. Nye

Most units, especially in the Army and Marine Corps, go aggressive. But this Airborne infantry coin went the extra mile to remind everyone that the infantry has one job and Chosen Company, 173rd Airborne Brigade plans on being good at it.

4. Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy

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Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Abraham Essenmacher

The most senior enlisted man in the Navy has to represent, and this coin from Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Rick West lets everyone know where the coin came from. The cut of the coin is very impressive as well, with a gold chain trailing down the anchor.

5. South Park

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Photo: David L. Nye

The South Park coin is a popular design. Everyone just changes the location and calls it a day. It gets laughs and lets the holder brag about their former duty stations.

6. Friday the 13th

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Photo: Leticia Lapp

For Navy chief petty officers, one of the major ceremonies is being accepted into the chief petty officer mess hall. The men given this coin were accepted on Friday the 13th and were rewarded with an awesome coin.

7. Aggressive POW-MIA coin (via Military-memes)

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Photo: Facebook.com/military-memes

The barbed wire and flag of the National League of POW/MIA call to mind the nature of life for prisoners of war while the crossed rifles hammer home the meaning of, “… or send us back.”

8. Tickets

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Photo: Leticia Lapp

These clever coins remind sailors of the ball they went to by appearing as their tickets into the event.

9. Medal of Honor challenge coin

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Photo: Mike Dowling

While the coin’s design is fairly basic, it’s also well done and instantly tells people that the bearer has met one of the nation’s greatest heroes.

10. Submariner memorial coin

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Photo: Doug Lapp

Members of the Silent Service patrol the world’s oceans 24/7. This coin lists the hull numbers of every ship lost to the depths.

11. The poker chip

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Photo: David L. Nye

Poker chip coins are lightweight, iconic, and allow a phrase to be printed on the edge of the coin. This one celebrates the Marine Corps School of Infantry.

12. The classic stamp

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Photo: David L. Nye

The classic stamped metal disc is a great coin design that seems most commonly used by iconic units. The Marine helicopter squadron of HMX-1 that flies the President gave out this coin.

13. Clear challenge coin

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Photo: Cristina Collesano

It’s hard to tell from the photo, but this coin is clear. It’s a rare choice that makes it stand out despite a relatively simple design.

MORE: The 18 greatest fighter aircraft of all time

AND: 6 things the US stole from the Germans during WWII

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Russia boosts its propaganda division

The Russian Defense Ministry has formalized its information-warfare efforts with a dedicated propaganda division, Russian state-run media said on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports.


“Propaganda needs to be clever, smart and efficient,” said Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in reference to the new unit.

Retired Russian Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, who leads the defense-affairs committee in the lower house of parliament, said the unit would “protect the national defense interests and engage in information warfare.”

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The U.S. may have the stronger military, but Russia reigns when it comes to propaganda. (Image of Vladimir Putin)

But Russia has long been accused of spreading propaganda in the West. Business Insider’s Barbara Tasch detailed one case where Russian outlets spread a false story of a Russian-born 13-year-old being raped in Germany by a group of three refugees.

In December, US intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had meddled in the US election and that its interference may have been directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.

Russia’s use of propaganda as an element of “hybrid warfare” proved instrumental during the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the later insurgency in Ukraine.

Russia has vastly improved their conventional and nuclear military assets as well. An Associated Press report on Wednesday said that Russia will deliver 170 new aircraft, 905 new tanks and other armored vehicles, and 17 new naval ships.

Russia’s forces in Eastern Europe now vastly outmatch NATO’s.

A NATO spokeswoman told Reuters earlier this month that “NATO has been dealing with a significant increase in Russian propaganda and disinformation since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.”

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PACOM commander puts China on blast over ‘preposterous’ reaction to THAAD

Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of United States Pacific Command, called Chinese criticism of the deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system “preposterous” during testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.


The blunt talk comes in the wake of reports that China has unleashed hackers against South Korean government and business interests after the South Korean decision to allow deployment of a THAAD battery. According to Defense News, a battery has six launchers, and a Missile Defense Agency fact sheet notes each launcher has eight missiles. So, this battery has 48 missiles ready for launch.

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AiirSource Military | YouTube

While the United States has other missile-defense options to protect allies in the region like South Korea and Japan, THAAD is one of the more capable options according to ArmyRecognition.com, with a range of about 600 miles and the ability to hit targets almost 500,000 feet above ground level. The system is also highly mobile.

The MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile, which proved itself capable of intercepting ballistic missiles during Operation Desert Storm, is already operated in the region by the United States, Japan, and South Korea, according to ArmyRecognition.com. The Patriot has a range of 43.5 miles and is capable of also targeting aircraft in addition to ballistic missiles.

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A Patriot Air and Missile Defense launcher fires an interceptor during a previous test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The latest configuration of the system, called PDB-8, has passed four flight tests and is now with the U.S. Army for a final evaluation. | Raytheon

Adm. Harris also declared support for a study into the feasibility of deploying Ground-Based Interceptors to Hawaii. This system currently is based in Alaska and California, with 30 interceptors split between Fort Greely and Vandenberg Air Force Base. The GBI has shown a success rate of almost 53 percent in tests, per the Missile Defense Agency.

A Hawaii basing option for the GBI would add another tier of defenses to that state, which along with Alaska are potentially in range of North Korean ICBMs like the Taepodong 2 and KN-08.

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6 lessons today’s military could learn from old cartoons

Wisdom comes in all sorts of places. Here are 6 lessons modern military leaders could learn from Bugs Bunny, Pinky and the Brain, and Winnie the Pooh:


1. Don’t rely on technology to solve all your problems

via GIPHY

Yes, F-22s, M1 Abrams, and Apache helicopters are sexy marvels of engineering, but they can’t win wars on their own. In a 1982 battle, Syria lost all of its fancy surface-to-air missile batteries in only two days of fighting because, instead of keeping them mobile or emplacing them in hard-to-template areas, they deployed them near bathrooms so they wouldn’t have to dig latrines.

2. A plan that is “so crazy it just might work!” usually doesn’t

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GIF: YouTube/winniethepooh414

For all the flashy tricks in war, the best plan is often relatively simple. Don’t make a nine-step plan with 100 moving parts when you can send in an infantry company and get the job done. More moving parts equal more failure points.

3. Take care who you’re getting your advice from

via GIPHY

Not all intel is trustworthy. Plenty of locals are willing to provide fake tips to U.S. troops to get rid of political or business rivals. Troops in Afghanistan learned this the hard way when Pech River Valley residents got rid of families in Korengal Valley by siccing Americans on them. Soldiers deployed to the Korengal Valley footed the bill for those early mistakes.

4. Pick your allies and recruits wisely.

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GIF: YouTube/TammieRD’s channel

Allies have to be rigorously screened. Some of the senior Iraqi political and military allies of the U.S. stripped their own army of key leaders, neutering it and leaving the country ripe for takeover by ISIS. Now U.S. troops are filtering back into the nation to redo the work they thought they completed just a few years ago.

5. Don’t bring more gear than you need

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GIF: YouTube/8thManDVD.com™ Cartoon Channel

Whether it’s a training ruck march or troops establishing a new combat outpost in country, packing should be done according to mission requirements. Food, water, ammo, and batteries are essential. Everything else should be scrutinized before it’s packed.

6. Don’t let your actions become predictable

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GIF: YouTube/Adeem Works Studios

All militaries practice battle drills and write doctrine, even if they call them something different. This is vital to make sure that all units know what to expect from one another. But, they need to take care that they don’t make their actions predictable for the enemy. When trucks stop 50 meters from a suspected IED, insurgents will immediately begin planting secondary IEDs 50 meters from a primary.

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27 unsung WWII heroes most people have never heard of

Sadly, the heroes of World War 2 are leaving us every day. With the vast majority of war veterans past the age of 90, it won’t be long before only a few WW2 heroes and veterans are left to tell their stories of courage and triumph in the face of murderous odds. While some soldiers and important figures of the time are well known to the culture in general, most aren’t. Some didn’t survive, and many others simply never spoke about what they did. This list of World War 2 heroes will show the courage, bravery, and selflessness of many men you may not have heard of, but who made important contributions to the war nonetheless.


World War Two made heroes out of countless soldiers, scientists, officials, and even cooks and the World War 2 timeline is dotted with remarkable and heroic individuals. Whether fighting the Nazis on the European front or making a difference against the Japanese in the Pacific, these real life heroes helped the Allies win the war and helped make the world what it is today. Their sacrifices for their fellow fighters and even strangers they’d never feet were truly heroic.

This list features many World War 2 soldiers, pilots, and fighters who you should know something about. Some were officers and aces, others peasants and ordinary foot soldiers. They hailed from around the world, and some never even wore a uniform. But all of them took actions that saved lives, inflicted damage on the enemy, and collectively won World War II, the worst war in human history.

27 Unsung WWII Heroes You May Not Know About

 

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This shocking video illustrates the huge number of WWII fatalities

A new data-driven video produced by Neil Halloran illustrates the massive number of fatalities of Second World War like never before.


The video, which was released on Memorial Day, “uses cinematic data visualization techniques to explore the human cost of the second World War, and it sizes up the numbers to other wars in history, including recent conflicts,” according to a press release. “Although it paints a harrowing picture of the war, the documentary highlights encouraging trends in post-war battle statistics.”

The video features a number of eye-opening insights, such as the relatively small number of German losses during the initial invasions, or the huge numbers lost — both civilian and military — by the Soviet Union during the war. At one point, the chart showing Soviet deaths continues to grow higher, leaving the viewer to wonder when it will ever stop.

“As the Soviet losses climbed, I thought my browser had frozen. Surely the top of the column must have been reached by now, I thought,” a commenter wrote on Halloran’s fallen.io website.

From Fallen.io:

The Fallen of World War II is an interactive documentary that examines the human cost of the second World War and the decline in battle deaths in the years since the war. The 15-minute data visualization uses cinematic storytelling techniques to provide viewers with a fresh and dramatic perspective of a pivotal moment in history.

The film follows a linear narration, but it allows viewers to pause during key moments to interact with the charts and dig deeper into the numbers.

Now watch:

The Fallen of World War II from Neil Halloran on Vimeo.
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