These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas - We Are The Mighty
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These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

American troops have never shied away from taking the fight to the nation’s enemies, no matter the season.


But it’s a particular downer when U.S. forces are deployed to battlefields during the holidays. Here are six of the worst places the American military had to fight during Christmas.

1. Valley Forge (1777)

Just a year earlier, on Christmas Day 1776, Washington had led his troops across the Delaware and won a decisive victory at the Battle of Trenton.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Washington at Valley Forge. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

When Washington marched that same army into Valley Forge on December 19, 1777, the 12,000 Continentals were weary, under-fed, and under-equipped. Only about one in four still had shoes after the many long marches had literally worn them right off their feet.

The weather was also bitterly cold, which combined with the other problems facing the army led to over 2,500 soldiers dying due to starvation, disease, and exposure.

The bright spot of the army’s stay at Valley Forge was the training received by the Prussian drill master Baron Von Steuben. Thanks to his efforts, the Continentals began 1778 a much more professional fighting force than they had been.

2. The Winter Line (1943)

Central Italy may not be known to most for terrible winters. But for the American and Allied troops facing the German Winter Line at the end of 1943, it was far from favorable.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Fighting in the Italian Alps during Christmas during World War II. (Photo from 10th Mountain Division history page)

Stiff German defenses in the Apennine Mountains had brought the Allied advance to a standstill with tremendous numbers of casualties. To make matters worse, bitter winter weather had moved in dumping snow on the weary troops and dropping visibility to near zero.

Despite the weather conditions and determined German resistance the men of the 36th Infantry Division, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and the 1st Special Service Force fought on — particularly on Christmas Day, when the 1st Special Service Force captured a strategic hill on the Winter Line with heavy casualties.

3. Bastogne (1944)

When American troops think of a terrible Christmas this one usually tops the list.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Photo: US Army

The Battered Bastards of Bastogne (the 101st Airborne Division, elements of the 9th and 10th Armored Divisions, and other support elements) had arrived to hold the key crossroads against the German onslaught just in time for Christmas 1944.

As the Battle of the Bulge progressed, the paratroopers and soldiers were surrounded, short of supplies, and desperately lacking in winter gear to battle the freezing temperatures they had to endure. Despite the conditions they faced when the Germans requested the Americans’ surrender Gen. Anthony McAuliffe simply responded with “Nuts!”

After fending off a German attack on Christmas Day the defenders were relieved by elements of Patton’s Third Army.

4. Basically anywhere in Korea (1950)

Christmas 1950 in Korea was an ignominious affair. After the brilliant victory at Inchon and the drive towards the Yalu River, China had entered the fray and handed the UN Forces their first defeat since breakout of Pusan.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

In response, MacArthur launched the Home-by-Christmas Offensive to bring a quick conclusion to the war. But the Chinese were ready for it and decisively defeated American forces.  The 1st Marine Division had narrowly avoided annihilation at the Chosin Reservoir, but many other units weren’t so lucky.

For the Eighth Army in Korea morale was low and the temperatures were even lower. Not only were they not going to be home by Christmas, but New Year’s didn’t bring better tidings either.

Another Chinese offensive sent the demoralized Americans reeling and recaptured the South Korean capital of Seoul. Christmas 1950 was one of the lowest points in the war for the Americans.

5. Operation Linebacker II (1972)

By the end of 1972 the war in Vietnam was supposed to be all but over. President Richard Nixon’s program of Vietnamization had allowed large numbers of U.S. troops to withdraw from the country.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
A U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52F Stratofortress drops bombs over Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo))

However, negotiations in Paris were not going well for the Americans, so Nixon ordered a massive bombing campaign against the North in order to extract concessions from North Vietnam. Massive formations of B-52’s escorted by fighters took to the skies over North Vietnam in what became known as the Christmas Bombings.

From December 19 to December 29, 1972 the bombers flew 729 sorties against targets around Hanoi and Haiphong.

Unfortunately these bombings claimed 16 B-52s and numerous fighter aircraft, with the surviving crewmembers being interred as POWs just in time for Christmas. In all 43 airmen were killed and another 49 captured with a total of 28 aircraft lost to enemy action in the span of just over a week.

For a war that was drawing to a close flying into highly-contested airspace was a miserable way to spend the war’s last Christmas.

6. The lonely Combat Outposts of Afghanistan and Iraq (2001 – present)

As the War on Terror approaches its 15th Christmas with who knows how many more ahead, the soldiers stationed in the remote reaches of those war torn countries have to be included on any list of worst places to spend Christmas.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Gilliand Hudson, a carpenter with FLOUR, acts as Santa Claus and poses alongside U.S. soldiers with 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, on Forward Operating Base Clark, Afghanistan, Dec. 25, 2013. Hudson dressed as Santa Claus to spread holiday cheer for soldiers away from home for the holidays. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Amber Stephens / Released)

With the unprecedented length of these wars, there are likely American troops spending yet another Christmas overseas. In World War II even the first units to deploy would have only spent three Christmas’s in a combat zone; there is a good chance that thousands of troops have spent more than that at this point since 9/11.

Those holidays are even more difficult at the tiny combat outposts in the middle of nowhere. If the troops are lucky, there might have been something resembling a Christmas dinner flown in that they can eat while standing guard in a cold little shack or tower.

If they aren’t so lucky, Christmas dinner is just another MRE and the best gift they can hope for is a quiet day.

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Here’s The Hilarious Result Of Mashing Up Left Shark With Famous Military Quotes

We all know by now that Left Shark was the big hit of the big Super Bowl game, but he’s also pretty influential in military circles.


Well, at least he should be. Check out these famous military quotes with the infamous Gen. Left Shark, the hero we need and deserve.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

Gen. James “Mad Shark” Mattis is not afraid to fail, whether behind Katy Perry or in front of Marines.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

You shouldn’t be bummed just because you’re decisively engaged. Smile as you practice your marksmanship.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. reminded Katy Perry and Right Shark that if they can’t lead properly, Left Shark will make it’s own choreography.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

Sure, there are plenty of dancers on the stage. But only one is Greek Left Shark Hericlitus.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

Mad Shark Mattis reminds his enemies that, yes, he wants peace, but he has endless teeth to destroy those who don’t.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

Sgt. Left Shark wants good morale, and he will have it by any means necessary.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

Gen. Left Shark Patton Jr. knows how you win wars.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

Gen. Left Shark Sherman brought great destruction across the South during the Civil War. When protests reached him, he was unapologetic.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

Sgt. Maj. Dan Left Shark Daly might be able to live forever, but he doesn’t see any reason to.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

General Douglas Left Shark McArthur never went in for ball point pens when firings pins were an option.

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This is what the North Korean military looks like

North Korea’s military escapades were back in the headlines in December, after state media in the secretive country reported news of two large-scale military drills involving rocket launchers and fighter jets.


Also read: North Korea actually fired a missile that worked

Some analysts believe that Kim Jong Un, the country’s despotic leader, is gearing up for war against South Korea — pictures accompanying one report even showed a mock-up of the Blue House, South Korea’s presidential residence, being used as a target by artillery. Others, however, say the drills are the latest in a long line of “sabre-rattling” manoeuvres designed to intimidate neighbours.

In either case, the country’s missile development and huge artillery stocks pose a significant danger to South Korea and the rest of the world.

It is one of the world’s most secretive countries, so the information largely comes from other sources, but the state’s propaganda efforts mean there are plenty of pictures of the country’s colossal military capacity. Take a look.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
The largest part of the military is the Korean People’s Army Ground Force, which includes about 1.2 million active personnel and millions more civilians who are effectively reservists. (Photo: Reuters/KCNA)

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
North Korea’s elderly air force would be easily outmatched by South Korea’s, and the most threatening equipment belongs to other parts of the military. (Reuters/KCNA)

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
One of the most threatening things in the North’s arsenal is its powerful conventional artillery, with hundreds of these 170mm Koksan guns threatening South Korea. (Photo: Reuters/KCNA)

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
And those are actually small in comparison with some of the massive fixed guns in place to fire on South Korean islands if a conflict breaks out. (Photo: Reuters/KCNA)

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
The launch of satellite-carrying Unha rockets is watched closely, since it’s the same delivery system as North Korea’s Taepodong-2 ballistic missile, which was tested successfully in December 2012 and January 2016. (Photo: Reuters/KNCA)

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Though the equipment is outdated, North Korea does possess some armoured vehicles, which are largely copies of Soviet or Chinese-made models. (Photo: Reuters/KNCA)

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
In addition to its long-range missiles and nuclear programme, North Korea has a line of shorter-range Hwasong missiles capable of hitting Japan. (Photo: Reuters/KCNA)

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Despite being developed more than 20 years ago, Pokpung-ho battle tanks pictured on the left here are some of the most advanced equipment operated by the ground forces. (Photo: Reuters/KCNA)

*Mike Bird contributed reporting to an earlier version of this article.

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The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?

With the debate on close-air support raging between those who think the F-35 Lightning can perform the role versus those who think the A-10 Thunderbolt II (aka the Warthog) can’t be beaten, one other plane that excels in this role has been all but forgotten.


These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Marine Corps Air Station Cherry , North Carolina – Maj. James S. Tanis lands an AV-8B Harrier during field carrier landing practice sustainment training at Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue, N.C., Dec. 5, 2014. (Photo By: Cpl. J. R. Heins)

The McDonnell-Douglas/British Aerospace AV-8B+ Harrier has played a role for decades supporting troops on the ground in combat.

The Harrier had caught the fancy of Hollywood for a while – notably being used to evacuate a defector in the beginning of “The Living Daylights” – and especially after it proved to be a war-winning weapon in the Falklands in 1982. The U.S. Marines had a similar plane in the AV-8A Harrier.

Then, around 1985, the AV-8B and GR.5 entered service, offering a greater payload for ground attack. The 1990s saw the AV-8B+ enter service with the APG-65 radar used on the F/A-18 Hornet.

So, how does this plane stack up against the competition is a close-air support mission?

In a max-payload configuration, the AV-8B+ can carry 14 Mk 82 500-pound bombs. The AV-8B+ can carry a wide variety of other weapons as well, including the Mk 84 2,000 pound bomb, CBU-87 and CBU-100 cluster bombs, the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile, GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), and laser-guided bombs.

The Harrier also features an internal gun – the 25mm GAU-12 — with 300 rounds of ammo. While not as powerful as the A-10’s GAU-12, this gun still packs a punch.

So, how does this stack up to the F-35B which the Marines are using to replace the Harrier?

The F-35B can carry JDAMs, but cannot carry any 2,000-pound bombs. As this Military.com video shows, 2,000 pound bombs are sometimes needed to support grunts.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
U.S. Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, conduct the first ever hot load on the F-35B Lightning II in support of Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 1-17 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Sept. 22, 2016. (Staff Sgt. Artur Shvartsberg)

Even though the F-35 has a larger maximum payload (15,000 pounds to the AV-8B’s 9,200 pounds), not being able to drop the bigger bombs can be a problem. The F-35 also doesn’t carry the Maverick missile, which can be a problem when there are ground-based air defenses.

The lack of an internal gun is another killer. Sometimes, you don’t need a big bang, especially when you have to be aware of collateral damage. When you drop a 500-pound bomb, that’s still a lot of high explosives going off.

Even the AGM-114 Hellfire used on drones has caused some civilian casualties when taking out high-ranking terrorists.

The Marines need new aircraft, particularly since they had to be bailed out by the boneyard earlier this year. The high-tech F-35B may be a good replacement for the F/A-18C Hornets the Marines desperately need to replace, but the AV-8B+ may need to stick around a while to help with the close-air support mission.

Because like the Hog, it can do stuff that the F-35 just can’t do.

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Watch Russian and Chinese marines invade the South China Sea together

The Russian and Chinese militaries set the news world buzzing last September when they conducted a bilateral exercise in the South China Sea that, among other things, saw hundreds of Marines conducting beach landings and air assaults to take over an island.


These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
(GIF: WarLeaks – Daily Military Defense Videos Combat Footage)

While the week-long exercise also featured anti-submarine warfare and other naval operations, most of the news coverage was of the Marines hitting the island. (In their defense, getting good footage of submarine battles is kinda tough).

Sure, pundits wrung their hands about the ramifications of a China and Russia conducting joint operations. But the fear may have been a bit overblown. After all, China participates in a lot of naval exercises with the U.S. as well.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
(GIF: WarLeaks – Daily Military Defense Videos Combat Footage)

The location and the activities in the exercise are important, though. Portions of the hotly contested South China Sea are claimed by a few nations, including the Philippines, China, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. If China were to try to edge other countries off their claims by force, this is the exact exercise they would need to do to get ready.

And the Chinese marines do look good in the video below, working with landing craft, tanks, and air assets to quickly take and hold the island alongside their Russian counterparts in green. See more footage of them in the full video from War Leaks below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCc2rh74mHM
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The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
The aftermath of the explosion inside the Brussels metro. | Twitter


At least 34 people were reported killed and dozens more wounded after explosions ripped through Zaventem Airport and a metro station in Brussels on Tuesday morning.

The attacks came days after Saleh Abdeslam, a suspect in last year’s Paris attacks, was arrested in the Belgian capital, which is also the de facto capital of the European Union.

Clint Watts, a senior fellow at the George Washington University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, said on Tuesday that the Brussels attacks were in line with an “iceberg” theory of terrorist plots.

That theory purports that, just as for every iceberg seen above water, the underlying mass of a terror network and its plots are not immediately visible — or, “for every attacker, there are usually three to four additional people who helped facilitate the plot.”

“That the eight attackers in Paris used more explosive belts than ever before seen in the West suggests a sizeable European terrorist facilitation network,”Watts wrote for War on the Rocks in November.

He added: “The iceberg theory of terrorist plots suggests we should look for two, three, or possibly four dozen extremist facilitators and supporters between Syria and France. This same network is likely already supporting other attacks in the planning phase.”

Belgian officials have long been aware of the existence of an ISIS-linked terrorist cell in Brussels, believed to be centered in the district of Molenbeek. Belgium’s interior minister, Jan Jambon, has called Molenbeek “the capital of political Islam in continental Europe,” and multiple suspects have been arrested there in connection to the Paris attacks.

Outside Belgium, at least 18 people have been detained across Europe since November for their alleged roles in the Paris attacks, The New York Times reported last weekend.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
View from exterior of Zaventem Airport | Instagram

‘Considerable planning and coordination’

Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels bear a shocking similarity to the methods employed by ISIS in Paris on November 13, experts said. Those attacks are believed to have been coordinated by ISIS’ external operations wing, using multiple attacks across the city to overwhelm the police and evade capture.

Just as the Paris attackers planned their assault for at least three months prior to the attack, experts believe the attacks that rocked Brussels on Tuesday morning were most likely months in the making, the timing driven more by a desire to act before being disrupted than by revenge for Abdeslam’s arrest.

“Twin coordinated attacks on Belgian transport sites. Maybe revenge for Abdelslam, but planned and prepped ages ago,” ISIS expert Michael Weiss, author of “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,” tweeted on Tuesday.

Will McCants, author of “The ISIS Apocalypse,” agreed.

“Plots like this take weeks or months to put in motion,” McCants told Business Insider on Tuesday. “If the attackers are associates of Abdeslam, then they probably moved up the timetable of a preexisting plot to avoid capture.”

Significantly, traces of explosives were found in a Brussels apartment rented by the terrorists weeks before they carried out the terrorist attacks, The New York Times reported, suggesting the existence of a makeshift bomb factory in the heart of Belgium’s capital.

Terrorism expert Mia Bloom, professor of communication at Georgia State University and author of two books on terrorist-recruitment methods, told Business Insider “a plot of this caliber requires considerable planning and coordination.”

“It is likely that Abdeslam’s cell has been plotting this prior to his arrest (there was a substantial arms cache found),” Bloom said.

She added: “Coordinated attacks (multiple attacks in the same location, happening around the same time) tend to require the most planning. While it’s impossible to know for certain, in my humble opinion, it is highly unlikely that these attacks took only a few days.”

Geopolitical and security analyst Michael Horowitz largely echoed this sentiment in a statement to Business Insider.

“I think that more than a retaliation, the attacks (likely planned months ago), were in reaction to it: The cell was likely concerned that Abdeslam would talk and his capture eventually lead to dismantling of their own cell.”

JM Berger, coauthor of “ISIS: The State of Terror,” said in an email to Business Insider that while it was “very early to draw any major conclusions,” it was “certainly possible this attack had already been planned and the timetable was moved up after the arrest.”

A sophisticated ‘foreign infrastructure’

Analysts say the terrorist network’s ability to evade law enforcement after the Paris attacks long enough to plan and execute a major attack in the heart of the EU, even if its timeline was disrupted by Abdeslam’s arrest, is testament to the deep networks jihadists have consolidated across Europe.

The CT [counter-terrorism] federal police are actually very good,” Ben Taub, freelance contributor for The New Yorker on jihadism in Europe, tweeted on Tuesday. “It’s a numbers issue. Can’t keep up. Networks too deep.”

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Marine faces 12 years for killing a transgender woman

A court in the Philippines found U.S. Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton guilty for killing Jennifer Laude in a hotel room outside of Manila in 2014.


These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

The Philippine government sought murder charges against Pemberton but the court downgraded his crime to the lesser charge of homicide. The difference between the two charges is the charge of murder requires the killing be “aggravated by treachery, abuse of superior strength and cruelty.”

In Oct. 2014, Pemberton met Laude in a bar while he was on leave. The two checked into a nearby hotel where he attacked the transgendered woman when he found out she was born a male. He admitted to the attack but maintained she was alive when he left the hotel.

Laude was found strangled with her head in the room’s toilet.

The case strained relations between the two countries. The Philippines, a former U.S. territory, will hold Pemberton until the two governments reach a consensus on where he should serve his prison term. There are calls in the Philippine government to end its military relationship with the United States.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Laude with her German fiancé, Marc Sueselbeck

The current status of forces agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines allows the Philippines to prosecute members of the U.S. military, but the U.S. government is to hold them until all court proceedings are finished.

Pemberton is also ordered to pay the U.S. equivalent of $95,350 to the family of the victim.

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Iranian drone buzzes US carrier for the second time in a week

An Iranian drone has flown close enough to a US aircraft carrier to put the lives of American pilots of F-18 fighter jets at risk, the US Navy said on August 14.


In the second such close encounter in a week, an Iranian QOM-1 drone late on August 13 flew within 300 meters of the USS Nimitz in an “unsafe and unprofessional” manner without its lights on, said US Naval Forces Central Command spokesman Lieutenant Ian McConnaughey.

Controllers for the drone did not respond to radio requests for communications, he said, adding that the drone was unarmed but that it was a model that can carry missiles.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
An Iranian drone in flight. (Image: IRNA)

McConnaughey said flying the drone without lights “created a dangerous situation with the potential for collision” and was not in keeping with international maritime customs and laws.

US officials have complained of 14 such unsafe close encounters this year, almost always involving Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which Washington recently targeted with sanctions.

Last week, officials said an Iranian drone nearly collided with a US fighter jet that was landing on the aircraft carrier.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps issued a statement on August 15 saying their drones are guided “accurately and professionally,” dismissing the US Navy’s concerns as “unfounded.”

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The Marines want self-repairing smart trucks

In the not-too-distant future, Marine Corps 7-ton trucks may be able to diagnose worn-out parts before they go bad, put in an order for a relevant replacement, and get the part 3D printed and shipped to their location to be installed — all without a human in the loop.


It’s an aspiration that illustrates the possibilities of smart logistics, said Lt. Gen. Michael Dana, the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for Installations and Logistics. And the process has already begun to make it a reality.

In the fall of 2016, Marines at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri equipped about 20 military vehicles, including Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacements, known as MTVRs or 7-tons, and massive tractor-trailers known as Logistics Vehicle System Replacements, or LVSRs, with engine sensors designed to anticipate and identify key parts failures.

It’s a commercially available technology that some civilian vehicles already use, but it’s a new capability for Marine Corps trucks. Testing on those sensors will wrap-up this summer, and officials with IL will assess how accurately and thoroughly the sensors captured and transmitted maintenance data.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
A Logistics Vehicle System Replacement at work. (DoD Photo by Lance Cpl. Joey Holeman)

If all goes well, the Marines then will work to connect the sensors with an automatic system that can order parts that will then be 3D printed on demand and delivered to the vehicle’s unit.

“How do we use that data and how do we link that back to our fabrication or supply network to make the system operate in theory without a person in the loop, to make sure we’re doing push logistics [versus] pull logistics,” said Lt. Col. Howard Marotto, a senior member of the Marine Corps’ logistics innovation team and the service’s additive manufacturing lead.

“Now we have the part there waiting when the vehicle gets back in from the convoy, or it’s already there a week in advance before we know we need to change it out. So that’s the concept and that’s what we’re going to try to prove with that.”

Dana, who spoke with Military.com in June, is eager to bypass maintenance supply chains that sometimes have gear traveling thousands of miles to get to a unit downrange, and inefficient logistics systems that create lag while maintainers wait for parts to arrive.

“If we had the ability to print a part far forward, which we have that capability, that reduces your order-to-ship time. And you then combine that with what we call sense-and-respond logistics, or smart logistics, which is … it can tell you with a predictive capability that this part is going to fail in the next 20 hours or the next ten hours,” Dana said.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
3D Printing. (Photo by Jonathan Juursema.)

The goal of having trucks that can do everything but self-install repair parts is in keeping with the Marine Corps’ newfound love affair with innovative technology. The Corps recently became the first military service to send 3D printers to combat zones with conventional troops, so that maintainers could print everything from 81mm mortar parts to pieces of radios in hours, instead of waiting days or longer for factory-made parts to arrive.

For Dana, it’s simply time for the Marine Corps to cash in on technologies that industry is already using to its advantage.

“You look at Tesla, their vehicles literally get automatic upgrades; it’s almost like a vehicle computer that’s driving around,” he said. “My wife’s [2006 Lexus] will tell you when it’s due for an oil change. That predictive capability exists in the private sector. Hopefully we can incorporate it on the military side.”

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This Air Force general could be the first female chief of staff

General Lori Robinson experienced a meteoric rise through the ranks of the U.S. Air Force. From 2012-2014, she added a star per year to her epaulets. She was the deputy commander of the USAF’s CENTCOM area of responsibility and the vice commander of the U.S. Air Force’s global strike force. She became the first female to command USAF combat forces when she took over Pacific Air Forces, which controls Air Force operations from the United States to the east coast of Asia and from Antarctica to the Arctic Ocean.


Now, she’s poised to make history again in 2016.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
We assume she drops the mic at the end of her speeches. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Stewart/Released)

The current Air Force Chief of Staff (CSAF), General Mark Welsh III, is set to retire in the summer, and Robinson is on the short list to replace him.

She’s also in the running to head the U.S. Northern Command, which would make her the highest ranking combatant commander, tasked with defending the contiguous United States, Alaska, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

Robinson is also a unique choice because she would be the first non-pilot to be named CSAF. Her experience, however, includes more than 900 flight hours as a “senior battle manager” in the E-3B/C and E-8C aircraft.

“As far as the woman part of it all, I’m the commander at Pacific Air Forces,” Robinson recently said during an interview. “I’m a general of the United States Air Force; I’m an airman, and I happen to be a woman.”

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This World War II vet may receive the Medal of Honor for holding off hundreds of Germans and six tanks

The true story of Garlin Murl Conner’s heroism in the face of a Nazi onslaught might have gone to the grave with the soft-spoken Kentucky farmer if not for a chance phone call from another military man trying to piece together the last days of his uncle’s life.


These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Conner’s close friends say he never talked about the war, but a box full of medals and old records brought his story back to life. Photo: Courtesy Conner family

That call — and the heartbreaking developments that followed — left Richard Chilton with no answers, but gave the tenacious former Green Beret a cause: Seeing that Conner, who on one day in 1945 killed 50 German soldiers and saved his storied battalion on the front lines in France, is recognized with the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty.

“This man may have been the greatest soldier of our time,” said Chilton, whose bid to get Conner the Medal of Honor began in 1998, wended its way through a series of military panels and federal courts, and now stands closer than ever to fruition. “I owe it to him to fight like hell to make damn sure the Army gives him what he earned.”

After a series of denials that led Chilton and advocates including retired Air Force Col. Dennis Shepherd, an attorney for the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, to turn to the federal courts for help, the effort took a leap forward last week. The Army Board for Correction of Military Records bucked its own staff and ignored a federal judge’s ruling that the statute of limitations barred consideration and recommended Conner for the award, which can only be bestowed by the president.

The bravery of Conner, who died in 1998 at the age of 79, is well-documented. The first lieutenant, who was wounded seven times, earned an incredible four Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars, seven Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross for his World War II heroism. But it was what he did on Jan. 24, 1945, near Houssen, France, that elevated his courage to mythical status.

And the story would have remained in obscurity, alive only in Conner’s mind and packed away in a cardboard box near his Albany, Ky., home, were it not for Chilton.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Lt. General Alexander M. Patch awards Garlin Murl Conner the Distinguished Service Cross, Feb. 10, 1945 for extraordinary heroism in action.

Chilton, a veteran of the Korean War who later trained Israeli fighters during the Gulf War, wanted to learn more about his uncle, Army Pfc. Gordon Wesley Roberts. All he knew was that the brave man he remembered from his boyhood had served in the 3rdInfantry Division and had never made it home from World War II. It was 1995, and Chilton, now 82, started tracking down men from the division, which included movie star Audie Murphy – himself a Medal of Honor recipient – and which lost more men than any other in the war.

“I’d called about 200 men, and no one really was able to tell me much about my uncle,” Chilton recalled. “I was ready to give up but I tried one more. I left a message with Garlin Murl Conner.”

A few days later, Chilton got a cryptic message on his answering machine.

“I knew your uncle,” Conner said. “I was with him the night he died. He died from small arms fire. More to follow.”

But that was the last Chilton heard from Conner. When he finally mailed a letter to him, Conner’s wife, Pauline, wrote back to say her husband had had a stroke days later and could no longer speak. Chilton, who lives in Genoa City, Wis., drove more than 500 miles to Conner’s home in the desperate hope that a face-to-face meeting might yield information.

But it did not. As a dejected Chilton was walking out the door of the Conner home, Pauline suggested he look through her husband’s records. Maybe there would be a clue about his uncle there, she said. She emerged from a back room with a box full of medals, commendations, yellowed newspaper clippings and faded photographs.

Chilton found nothing on his uncle, but his amazement grew as he spent the next few hours digging through the box.

“I discovered the most decorated soldier I’d ever heard of,” Chilton said. “I was blown away. I’ve never seen a man with four Silver Stars.”

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Chilton, a Green Beret who served in the Korean War, knew a brave soldier when he saw one. Photo: Courtesy Richard Chilton

Through the pictures, medals and testimony of Conner’s superior officers, including legendary Maj. Gen. Lloyd Ramsey, the story of Conner’s heroic actions more than 50 years earlier in France came back to life. Earlier that day, Conner, who had been badly wounded in the hip, sneaked away from a field hospital and made his way back to his unit’s camp. His commanding officer was seeking a volunteer for a suicide mission: Run 400 yards directly toward the enemy while unreeling telephone wire all the way to trenches on the front line. From that point, the volunteer would be able to call in targeting coordinates for mortar fire.

Conner grabbed the spool of wire and took off amid intense enemy fire. He made it to the ditch, where he stayed in contact with his unit for three hours in near-zero-degree weather as a ferocious onslaught of German tanks and infantry bore down on him.

“My God, he held off 600 Germans and six tanks coming right at him,” Chilton marveled. “When they got too close, his commander told him to vacate and instead, he says, ‘Blanket my position.'”

The request meant Conner was calling for artillery strikes as he was being overrun, risking his life in order to draw friendly fire that would take out the enemy, too.

Circumstances conspired to thwart Chilton’s initial effort to have Conner awarded the Medal of Honor, which 471 men received for their efforts in World War II. His commander did not fill out necessary paperwork, an oversight he later apologized for. Records, which included testimony from fellow soldiers, were lost with millions of others in the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. But perhaps most of all, Conner never told his story.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Conner’s story was revealed when Chilton, shown here as a boy with his uncle, Army Pfc. Gordon Wesley Roberts, sought to find out what happened to his relative. Photo Courtesy Richard Chilton

Chilton’s application in 1997 on behalf of Conner was rejected. An appeal supported by the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs three years later was similarly nixed. But Shepherd and his team, with the help of Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., managed to find duplicate documents in which soldiers attested to Conner’s exploits in the National Archives.

Shepherd’s team took those papers and the recommendation of Ramsey, now 96, to federal court in 2009, seeking to have the Army re-examine the application. District Judge Thomas Russell rejected the motion, noting the seven-year Statute of Limitations had passed since the last appeal. But his reluctance was clear in his decision, in which he said a technicality should not diminish Conner’s “extraordinary courage and patriotic service.” Shepherd said Russell’s words helped set the table for an appeal to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In a dramatic proceeding in the Cincinnati court, the three-judge panel heard all the testimony about Conner’s actions, and the courtroom was stunned when Assistant U.S. Attorney Candace Hill told the judges her own father served with Conner.

For Shepherd and Chilton, the difficult part is getting someone to listen to the evidence.

“Anytime I’ve been able to put the facts regarding Garlin Conner in front of someone, we get results,” said Shepherd. “As soon as these judges saw what he had done that day, they didn’t care about the statute of limitations.”

The 6th Circuit ordered both parties into mediation, which led to last week’s ruling by the Army Board for Correction of Military Records. That recommendation will likely carry weight with the Senior Army Decorations Board, though it could take “several months” for a decision.

If the decorations board recommends the award, the Senate Armed Services Committee takes up the case and makes its own recommendation to the president.

If the words written by Ramsey, who went on to serve in Korea and Vietnam, where he commanded the Americal Division, when Conner’s bravery was fresh in his mind, hold sway, Conner’s ailing wife and numerous supporters could yet help repay an American hero.

“I just sent one of my officers home,” Ramsey, then a lieutenant colonel, wrote to a colleague in Kentucky in 1945, when Conner was discharged. “I’m really proud of Lt. Conner. He probably will call you and, if he does, he may not sound like a soldier, will sound like any good old country boy, but, to my way of seeing, he’s one of the outstanding soldiers of this war, if not THE outstanding.”

Articles

Celebrate NATO’s birthday with these 7 historical facts

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas


The NATO Alliance was originally established 68 years ago today. Political rhetoric notwithstanding, the modern alliance is currently fighting in Afghanistan while also facing down a resurgent Russia in Eastern Europe and figuring out how to stop ISIS at home and abroad. Here are 7 facts from its proud history:

1. NATO grew out of the more limited Treaty of Brussels of 1948

The Treaty of Brussels signed in 1948 established collective defense for Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The U.S. wanted a greater stake in Western European security and so began looking for a way to join an expanded version of the treaty.

2. The U.S. invited other countries into NATO to form a “bridge” across the Atlantic

America and the Brussels signatories largely agreed on the framework of what would become NATO, but one of the original sticking points was whether other countries would be allowed to join. America wanted to invite North Atlantic countries like Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Ireland, and Portugal as these countries would form a “bridge” across the Atlantic for deploying forces.

In the end, the Brussels Treaty countries, the U.S. and its above list of invitees, and Italy were founding members of NATO in 1949.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Mr. Dean Acheson (US Minister of Foreign Affairs)signs the NATO Treaty.

3. Both the Treaty of Brussels and the NATO Alliance were in response to Soviet aggression

After World War II, Stalin quickly began supporting pro-Soviet and pro-communist government in Eastern Europe. After a civil war in Greece, a coup in Czechoslovakia, and the Blockade of Berlin, Western European countries were increasingly worried about the USSR trying to topple their governments. They responded with the Treaty of Brussels and then the NATO treaty.

4. The NATO Alliance formed a “nuclear umbrella” over Europe

The first mention of a “massive retaliatory power” to any Soviet incursion was made by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954. This established a “nuclear umbrella” over NATO, the possibility that the U.S. would respond to any attack with nuclear weapons, but it wasn’t an immediately credible threat.

It wasn’t until the development of nuclear weapons like nuclear-tipped, intercontinental ballistic missiles and the implementation of practices like Operation Chrome Dome that the U.S. could truly threaten Moscow with nukes on short notice.

5. NATO had a clear nemesis in the Warsaw Pact

The increased readiness of NATO in the mid-1950s and its expansion into new countries, especially West Germany in 1955, spurred the creation of the Warsaw Pact in 1955. The Warsaw Pact was a sort of Soviet NATO that existed between the USSR and seven Soviet-aligned countries in Europe.

6. NATO has a science program

The Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1956 and the West realized it had to get serious about scientific development. This led not only to the establishment of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, (now the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in the U.S. but also the NATO Science Programme.

Now known as the Science for Peace and Security Programme, it provides funding, expert advice, and other support to security-relevant science and research between NATO countries and partner countries.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
President Clinton signs the NATO Enlargement Pact on May 21, 1998 admitting Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

7. A NATO training exercise nearly triggered a nuclear war

While the relationship between the Warsaw Pact and NATO was always strained, it reached a fever pitch on a few occasions. In addition to the Berlin Crisis of 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis, NATO military exercises in 1983 nearly triggered an actual war.

The annual war games were focused on command post operations, but the 1983 exercise included an unprecedented 19,000 troops flying in from the U.S. and jets carrying dummy nuclear warheads on simulated attack runs. The Soviets were worried that it was actually cover for an invasion and put their own troops on nuclear high alert.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks

In 1969, during the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia, a student protester set himself on fire and triggered mass protests across the country, slowing Russian consolidation and setting off a slow burn that would eventually consume the occupying forces.


These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

Soviet tanks roll into Czechoslovakia in 1968.

(U.S. National Archives)

Czechoslovakia was firmly democratic for decades before World War II, but German forces partially occupied it during World War II and, in 1948, it was conquered by the Soviets. The Communists had supporters in the working class and a stranglehold of government leadership, but students and academics kept fomenting the seeds of unrest.

Even when most of the Soviet-aligned countries went through soul searching in 1953 after the death of Stalin, Czechoslovakia basically just marched on. But in the 1960s, leadership changes and an economic slowdown led to a series of reforms that softened the worst repressions of the communist regime.

The leader, Antonin Novotny, was eventually ousted in 1968 and replaced by Alexander Dubcek who then ended censorship, encouraging reform and the debate of government policies. By April, 1968, the government released an official plan for further reforms. The Soviet government was not into this, obviously.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

Czechoslovaks carry a national flag past a burning soviet tank in Prague.

(CIA.gov)

The biggest problem for the Soviets was the lack of censorship. They were worried that ideas debated in Czechoslovakia would trigger revolutions across the Soviet Bloc. So, in August, 1968, they announced a series of war games and then used the assembled forces to invade Czechoslovakia instead. The tanks crossed the line on August 20, and the capital was captured by the following day.

Initially, the citizens of Prague and the rest of Czechoslovakia were angry and energized, but they eventually lost their drive. But one 20-year-old student, Jan Palach, wanted to revitalize the resistance. And so he penned a note calling for an end to censorship, the cessation of a Soviet propaganda newspaper, and new debates. If the demands weren’t met, he said, a series of students would burn themselves to death. He signed the note “Torch Number One.”

The Soviet leadership, of course, ignored it, but on Jan. 19, 1969, he marched up the stairs at the National Museum in central Prague, poured gasoline over his body, and lit his match.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

Jan Palach

Bystanders quickly put him out, but he had already suffered burns over 85 percent of his body. He died within days. He was not the first man to burn himself in protest of the Soviet invasion, but his death was widely reported while earlier protests had been successfully suppressed by the Soviets.

Other students began a hunger strike at the location of Palach’s death, and student leaders were able to force the Soviets to hold a large funeral for Palach. Over 40,000 mourners marched past his coffin.

While the Soviets were able to claw back power through deportations and police actions, the whispers of Palach’s sacrifice continued for a generation.

On the 20th anniversary of his protest, mass demonstrations broke out once again in Czechoslovakia, and the weakened Soviet Union could not contain them. By February, 1990, the Soviets were marching out of the country, a process which was completed amicably in June, 1991.

Palach’s protest had taken decades to finally work, but in the end, Czechoslovakia was freed of the tanks Palach and others resented so much.

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