A recent Navy Times article notes that the crew of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) joined the “Order of the Blue Nose” — a distinction reserved for ships and crew that crossing the Arctic Circle.
That list includes both well-known orders and not-so-well known orders. They are for notable feats — and in some cases, dubious ones.
Perhaps the most well-known is the “Order of the Shellback,” given to those sailors who have crossed the equator. The “Crossing the Line” ceremony has been portrayed both in the PBS documentary series “Carrier,” as well as being the plot point for an episode of “JAG” in the 1990s.
But there is more than one kind of shellback.
If you cross the equator at the International Date Line (about 900 miles east of Nauru), you become a “Golden Shellback” (since those who cross the International Date Line are called Golden Dragons).
If you cross the equator at the Prime Meridian (a position about 460 miles to the west of Sao Tome and Principe), you become an “Emerald Shellback.”
Now, we can move to some lesser-known, and even dubious orders.
The “Order of the Caterpillar” is awarded to anyone who has to leave a plane on the spur of the moment due to the plane being unable to continue flying. You even get a golden caterpillar pin.
The eyes of the caterpillar will then explain the circumstances of said departure. The Naval History and Heritage Command, for instance, notes that ruby red eyes denote a midair collision.
Then, there is the becoming a member of the “Goldfish Club.” That involves spending time in a life raft. If you’re in the raft for more than 24 hours, you become a “Sea Squatter.”
Using the Panama Canal makes you a member of the “Order of the Ditch.”
Oh, and in case you are wondering, crossing the Antarctic Circle makes you a “Red Nose.”
Think of a military helicopter. Think of it in combat. Is it a Black Hawk dropping off operators in urban combat? A Chinook picking troops up from a remote ridge or rooftop? Maybe you’re old school and you see a Piasecki H-25 or H-19 Chickasaw from the Korean War. But few people will think all the way back to World War II when German and American helicopters all served on the front lines.
The Sikorsky R-4 helicopter was one of America’s only helicopters to see active service in World War II, acting predominantly as a rescue and transportation asset in the China-Burma-India Theater.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
America’s military helicopter program was largely carried by two companies, both prominent helicopter manufacturers today who, oddly enough, are now competing to create the Army’s next generation of vertical lift aircraft. Sikorsky’s founder, Igor Sikorsky, was a Russian-American immigrant who wanted to help his adopted country fight in World War II.
He received financial backing from friends to start manufacturing aircraft, predominantly fixed-wing planes, for the U.S. military. But, off to the side, he was developing new helicopter designs including the VS-500, an aircraft that used one large rotor blade to generate lift and another, smaller rotor blade mounted on a long boom to generate anti-torque. This is the same blade configuration now used on everything from the UH-60 to the AH-64 Apache.
The VS-300 prototype quickly gave way the R-4, a two-seater helicopter that would serve most predominantly with the U.S. Army but also the Navy, Coast Guard, and the Royal Air Force. It first began rolling off the production line in 1942 and was primarily used for observation and to ferry supplies.
The German-made Flettner 282 helicopter was employed against Allied naval assets near the end of World War II, but was then captured by Allied troops. In this photo, it’s undergoing testing with the U.S. military.
But, the helicopter was also employed in two daring rescue missions in the challenging terrain of the China-Burma-India Theater. The helicopters could just barely make it through the high mountain passes that planes could easily fly over, but the rotary aircraft could land in small clearings that were impossible for planes to stop in or take off from.
Other helicopters were in development during the war. The Bell Aircraft Corporation, later known as Bell Helicopters and now Bell Flight, created the Bell Model 30 that would see limited use on the home front, but it would not be deployed overseas.
Meanwhile, Germany’s helicopter program was much more advanced than America’s or the Allies’. They debuted experimental helicopter designs before the war and even flew prototypes in front of adoring crowds for weeks in 1938.
The Focke-Angelis Fa-223 helicopter was a German machine popular during the war. It had a heavy lift capability for the day that allowed it to re-position artillery in forward positions.
(U.S. Air Force)
This pre-war research led to the Fa-223, the “Dragon.” Five types were planned with missions from anti-submarine, to search and rescue, to cargo carrying. But it really predicted future developments when it was used to recover crashed aircraft and to move artillery batteries to inaccessible mountaintops where they would have greater range and better defenses.
Meanwhile, the Flettner-282 Hummingbird was designed to seek out enemy submarines at sea and other threats. It was completed late in the war with early models going through testing in 1943. But the first 24 were completed in time for limited deployments to the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Aegean Sea.
Officials say 12 US paratroopers have been hospitalized after they sustained minor injuries during a nighttime parachute jump in Romania.
Brent M. William, a spokesman for the “Atlantic Resolve” military exercises, told Romania’s Agerpres news agency the accident occurred early July 22 at the Campia Turzii air base in northwest Romania. He said 500 troops jumped from C-130 Hercules planes during “a very rigorous exercise, which carries a certain level of risk.”
The Cluj Military Hospital spokeswoman, Doina Baltaru, said 11 soldiers were discharged July 23 from the hospital. She said one other soldier suffered a bruised spine and would remain hospitalized up to two more days.
The soldiers were participating in Saber Guardian 17, a U.S. Army Europe-led exercise, which aims to increase coordination between the US, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania.
While no one was keeping good track of exactly how often troops got laid in World War II, historians studying tensions between U.S. and Australian soldiers in northern Australia have noted that rationing, combined with differences in pay and uniform design, gave at least the impression that U.S. soldiers were getting a leg up in romance down under.
Men of USS Northampton and USS Salt Lake City were welcomed when their ships visited Brisbane.
(Australian War Memorial)
First, let us say that there’s no appearance that anyone was doing this on purpose so Americans could bring adorable wallababies back home after the war. But a series of decisions and facts combined to make a perfect storm.
Number one: U.S. troops were sent to help defend Australia from Japanese incursions, necessarily putting them in proximity with Australian civilians, including the female ones they were most likely to pursue romantically.
Number two: U.S. troops were paid much better than their Australian counterparts with privates collecting about three times as much if they flew Ol’ Glory instead of whatever Australia calls their flag.
Number three: U.S. troops had access to Post Exchanges that sold items, like pantyhose, at low prices that weren’t available at any price to an Australian soldier (unless the Aussie bought it from an American). And, U.S. rationing of alcohol and other consumables was generally done on a unit-per-time scheme, such as two drinks per day, while Australian troops could consume a set amount at a very specific time, like X number of drinks during this specific hour.
U.S. military police outside the Central Hotel, Brisbane.
All of this combined meant that an Australian soldier who wanted to woo a woman could invite her out to a date, but had to be careful about costs. They could invite her to drinks, but the couple could only drink for a very limited period at a specific place. And he could give her a gift, but typically just items that were available in the Australian civilian market.
An American soldier, on the other hand, could spend more money, could get more alcohol in a more flexible way, and could purchase gifts made of silk or nylon that would otherwise be nearly impossible for the woman to procure.
Believe it or not, historians think this might have been the cause of some of the tensions between U.S. and Australian troops in World War II. If you’ve never heard about those tensions, whoa boy. This’ll be fun.
U.S. troops disembark at New Britain in December 1943 where they worked with Australian troops.
(Harold George Dick, Australian Government)
U.S. and Australian troops had such a fraught relationship that the military dedicated multimedia efforts to trying to keep them tied together, putting out comics, pamphlets, and other short materials to try to bridge the gap between them. Slang translation guides were released, and U.S. troops were told how key Australia was to Allied victory.
Japan, meanwhile, knew about some of the tensions and released propaganda with an opposite message: U.S. troops are there to steal your women and destroy your culture. Kick them out or risk the unmaking of your society.
On at least one occasion, this tension erupted into violence. The “Battle of Brisbane” was a riot in that Australian city that raged for two days between U.S. troops and Australian troops and civilians. A number of the Australian complaints during the riot are listed above, including the presence of the American PX mentioned above.
U.S. and Australian troops celebrate 100 years of “Mateship” in 2018.
(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
One person died, and at least 18 were seriously wounded. Rioters in some places beat U.S. soldiers to the point of hospitalization, and U.S. military police fired weapons at a crowd at one point, injuring eight and killing one. We won’t go through the whole thing here (Blake Stilwell already did a good job of it last year), but it’s a good example of the tensions between the forces overflowing.
But of course, Australian and American soldiers were able to get along when it counted, especially when they were deployed too far forward to fight over women. U.S. and Australian troops fought near each other during landings in North Africa and Sicily as well as in Europe. The bulk of Australian service was in the Pacific, and U.S. fought hand-in-hand with Australia against Japan at the Solomons, Borneo, and other areas.
And now, Australian soldiers have the same access to nylons that the U.S. does, so it’s probably not an issue anymore.
It was one of the most beloved and abused weapons in the history of warfare. The Browning Automatic Rifle was the weapon of choice for infantrymen, vehicle crews, and even gangsters from its debut in World War I, through two World Wars and Korea to the jungles of Vietnam.
The BAR was invented by its namesake, John Browning, in 1917 for use in World War I. The Army, newly arrived in Europe to fight on the Western Front, was told that machine guns were the way to go in the new war, and America agreed.
One of the first soldiers to carry the BAR into combat was Browning’s own son, 2nd Lt. Val Browning. Browning and his men employed the weapon at the Meuse-Argonne offensive to good effect just like thousands of other soldiers in the war.
Just as important, the BAR was very accurate for such a light automatic weapon. It was employed in a counter-sniper role by shooters firing quick bursts at known or suspected enemy positions, suppressing or killing the enemy.
In World War II, the attributes that made the BAR so great for trench-fighting also made it great for sweeping Nazis and Japanese soldiers from bunkers. It was mostly chambered in .30-06 that left the barrel at 2,682 feet per second.
While the Browning was able to reprise its World War II infantry role in Korea, the 1957 debut of the M60 machine gun forced the BAR from the top spot in Vietnam. Still, it was a valuable asset for special operators and as a weapon for vehicle crews.
But that was the swan song for the BAR in American service. The M249 was introduced into the American arsenal in 1984, nine years after the Vietnam War ended. When the Invasion of Panama took place in 1989, it was M60s and M249s that sprayed lead downrange in the BAR’s stead.
Every combat arms unit needs a radio operator. Whether they enlisted as one or they were “voluntold” to be one, someone’s gotta do it. There’s a steep learning curve between being a guy with a radio pack and being the go-to radio operator. If you can manage to be the best, your unit will cherish you.
To be the best, you need to master your equipment. Learning the ins and outs of the radio takes years of hands-on training that you won’t find in any schoolhouse — you can only find it by volunteering during every field op.
That being said, there are some tips and tricks that anyone can pick up to make as a radio operator a whole lot easier.
Never place the blame on the distant end for comm problems
Want to know the fastest and easiest way to lose all credibility as a radio operator? Blame the distant end.
It might actually be the other radio operator’s fault — too bad your squad won’t look at it that way. Instead, just say that you’ve done everything you can and continue to try and make it right.
The problem with the radio is probably the time
The way that frequency hop works, broken down Barney style, is that a radio is given a sequence of radio frequencies to hop around to depending on the time of day. If you’ve loaded the COMSEC fill into a radio and you’re not able to talk to anyone, the time is probably wrong.
All COMSEC uses Greenwich Mean Time, so it might be easier to just set your watch to London time, regardless of where you are in the world.
Drop tests totally work
Don’t question why or how it works, it just does.
Realistically, if you pick up any piece of electronics and drop it from about a foot off the ground, it could shatter or break. A SINCGARS and some of the older radio systems, however, can handle the abuse.
Carry an eraser or chapstick
W4 cables are used to transmit audio and fill between a radio and whatever. Getting these damn cables to attach properly will be the bane of your existence.
Some people recommend licking the end to get it to work, but that’s just nasty. You can get the same result by just cleaning the prongs and removing gunk with an eraser. You can also use chapstick to lube it up. Sure, that might damage the cable, but since W4 cables are a dime a dozen, it doesn’t really matter.
Extra batteries are worth the weight
Every good radio operator has a bug-out bag filled with extra crap. This bag includes the radio system itself, maybe cheat-sheets for the nine-line and everyone’s call signs, an extra hand mic, and a few spare W4s. I know they get heavy after a while, but bring some extra batteries, too.
SatCom antenneas work best on the roof of a vehicle
Unlike most line-of-sight antennas, a SatCom antennae works by, as the name implies, communicating to satellites. Just because you’ve pointed the antennae toward the other hill doesn’t mean you’ll be able to talk.
Giant metal vehicles disrupt the relatively weak signal, so placing it on the ground next to an MRAP is a terrible idea — but don’t be afraid to climb on top and place it up there if you’re not planning on moving soon. Oh, and point the antennae towards the Equator. That’s around where the satellite is supposed to be.
OE-254s still work if the antenna is a bit wonky
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen new radio operators and uptight NCOs waste plenty of time trying to get their OE-254 antenna to stand up perfectly straight. The actual pole doesn’t matter. As long as the head of the antenna isn’t broken and is connected, it’ll work just fine.
Now, don’t misinterpret that. This is just meant to say that it’ll be operational. Hell, you could duct-tape it to the top of a tree and it’ll still work (trust me, I know). This doesn’t mean you should half-ass setting up an OE-254 just because you think it’ll be fine. You better be damn sure that it’s secure.
When a veteran or active duty service member watches a movie that depicts life in the military, they automatically begin to look for flaws. With a little attention to detail, they can spot even the most subtle of goofs.
But even on the surface, there are some mistakes that Hollywood makes that can get pretty annoying — especially when it wouldn’t take much to get it right.
1. Radio etiquette
This is something that’s so simple that it’s frustrating when we see it done wrong. What most people don’t understand is that, in the military, using the word ‘repeat’ over the radio tells your fire support assets to repeat their mission. So, saying it is an absolute no-no unless, well, you want your destroyed target to be even more destroyed.
Aside from that, the proper response to a message over the radio is ‘roger,’ not ‘copy.’ The reason you would say ‘copy’ is if the messenger gave you the information that needed to copy down, such as map coordinates, headcounts, etc. If someone says, ‘stand-by,’ your response should be, “roger, standing by.”
Since military tactics vary between countries and branches, this is somewhat excusable. But, for the most part, all countries understand the fundamentals: never enter a room or building alone, don’t stand in the open while being shot at, and don’t move without covering fire.
These things are so simple that it’s practically common sense. Going against these concepts is a really bad idea but, for some reason, filmmakers just don’t get it right.
3. Customs and courtesies
The military is known for the respect and discipline that’s instilled in every service member — you’d think it’d be pretty easy to capture in a movie.
But what seems to be misunderstood is that a lower enlisted does not call a general by their rank in a conversation. In fact, no one calls an officer by their rank — not even other officers. They’re referred to as, ‘sir.’ Only when being discussed in the third person are they referred to by rank.
The only case you would refer to an officer by their rank is if you need to get their attention. For example, you would say, “Lieutenant Parker, sir.” When they talk to you, end every sentence with, ‘sir.’
4. Duty stations
If you’ve been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, you know about this. When someone on screen claims they were “stationed in Afghanistan” for four years or however long, it’s essentially the same as that one guy in the bar who claims they were a Marine scout-sniper Space Shuttle door gunner SEAL — it’s bullsh*t.
You may spend 9 months to a year in Afghanistan, but that’s not a duty station, it’s a deployment. This is something you can learn in a conversation with literally anyone who has been there.
5. Trigger discipline
This one should bother everyone. It’s pretty hard to believe someone on screen spent any amount of years in the service if they don’t know to keep their finger straight and off the trigger. Everyone learns this in boot camp — everyone.
This is even common sense in the hunting community or among anyone who has had even the most basic level of training on a firearm. That finger should NOT touch the trigger until you’re ready to unload some discontent toward a monster, alien, or person.
The 2001 film “Tomb Raider” had a ton of acting talent, including two Oscar winners (Jon Voight and Angelina Jolie), as well as a future 007 (Daniel Craig). But it also has inspired a prototype that could find its way to U.S. special operators.
At the 2017 Armament System Forum in Fredericksburg, Virginia, hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association, We Are The Mighty met Paul J. Shaskan, the Founding Partner and Chief Innovation Officer of Torrent Loading Systems, LLC. Shaskan has devised a piece of gear inspired by the 2001 hit film – which is being rebooted.
Shaskan has developed a rapid loader that holds three magazines for just about any semi-automatic pistol – including the Beretta 92FS that is the basis for the M9 currently in service and the SiG-Sauer P320 that is the basis for the new XM17 Modular Handgun System. Rather than having to fumble with the magazines and retrieve them from a pouch, the magazines are held at an angle, and the pistol is lowered on to them. Once the magazine is seated, the pistol is pulled away with the magazine in it.
“We understand that the sidearm is a secondary system for most military operations, but when it is a necessity, we also believe the operator should have the advantage even with his secondary weapon,”Shaskan told WATM in an e-mail. “The device is mountable on a MOLLE or on the belt and is completely detachable and replaceable in the field.”
In Tomb Raider, Lara Croft’s rig wasn’t spring-loaded, but it did have the magazines positioned for an easy reload. Then again, Lara Croft wasn’t using MOLLE gear.
The device, which has been in development for four years, is currently undergoing a final round of testing that is expected to be completed by the end of June. In essence, special operations forces may have gear that was inspired by an Angelina Jolie film.
Below, here’s the opening scene of Tomb Raider – to see what inspired this new gear.
There is a special bedtime story that all platoon sergeants and petty officers tell their troops; there exists a special rank of chief warrant officer that is the premiere technical expert in their field. This mythical rank is called “Chief Warrant Officer 5.”
Young service members typically believe in the story for the first few years, but then begin to question it. If warrant officers 1 and chief warrant officers 3 could really grow up to be chief warrant officers 5, wouldn’t they have seen one by now?
But now, in a We Are The Mighty exclusive, we can confirm that CW5s — a commonly accepted abbreviation for the species — do really, truly exist.
While many of their superpowers are still unknown, here are the ones they’ve demonstrated in view of our crack team of researchers so far:
1. Insane levels of knowledge (probably)
This photo reportedly depicts a CW5 from the New York National Guard dropping some major knowledge bombs on other troops. WATM could not independently verify that this particular CW5 exists, but the chest markings are consistent with the specimen we observed. (Photo: U.S. Army National Guard Master Sgt. Raymond Drumsta)
The video at the top highlights the power that supposedly makes the CW5s so valuable. Legend says that they know everything about their assigned area. Aviation CW5s can quote the length and placement of each storage panel on the body of an Apache. Signal CW5s can quote frequencies like chaplains quote chapter and verse.
Having witnessed one of the beautiful creatures in action, WATM can confirm that they say a lot of technical stuff that sounds super impressive. Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell if what they’re saying is accurate since it usually involves details so obscure that literally no one else knows where to check for answers.
2. CW5s can appear and disappear at will
A CW5 and chief warrant officer 4 sit in a helicopter together a short time before they disappeared without a trace. Aviation CW5s may be the most elusive of their breed since they can literally fly away from observers. An unsubstantiated report claims that the two chiefs in this photo are brothers. (Photo: U.S. National Guard Sgt. Jodi Eastham)
The only specimen which WATM was able to observe was working in an office with an open door on a separate floor of our building. We, of course, established a 24-hour watch with a duty log filled with hundreds of pages of blank paper that we thought would soon be filled with observations.
But, somehow, after only a few hours, the CW5 disappeared without a sign. According to troops of more common rank in the area, that’s how CW5s work. They’ll be present at a random formation or two and visible in the office for an hour at a time, but then they’ll be gone. When they return, everyone is so carried away with awe that they forget to ask the CW5 where they were.
3. CW5s are masters of camouflage
Think this is a prior service lieutenant? Then he fooled you. That’s a Marine Corps CW5. It takes only a slight amount of glare to render their markings indistinguishable from the lowly LT. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Timothy A. Turner)
One possible explanation for the disappearing act is that CW5s are able to blend in with lesser members of the military thanks to two important features of their markings. First, their skin is covered in the same pattern as other service members, allowing them to blend into the herd like zebras would.
Second, their identifying rank markings are a thin bar of blue, black, or red sandwiched between two silver bars. This causes many observers to mistake them for extremely old lieutenants.
4. Still, there’s a lot we don’t know
While WATM is excited and proud of this advance in warrant officer science, many avenues of research remain open and require answers. Is it true that CW5s retire from the military? Does the president really have to sign off on their rank? Do they really originate from the ranks of chief warrant officers 4?
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Dave Dale sprays down Chief Warrant Officer 5 Richard Wince following his final flight in a Delaware National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk on Wednesday, February 15, 2017. It’s possible that this ritual allows CW5s to prepare their knowledge to transfer into a new vessel. (Photo and first half of the cutline: U.S. Army National Guard 2nd Lt. Wendy Callaway)
WATM’s working theory is that CW5s do not retire and are not created by promotion. Instead, CW5s are reincarnated in a system similar to the Dalai Lama and Panchem Lama. When a CW5s mortal body fails, its knowledge moves to a new human frame. Other CW5s find this new repository and grant it the ancient markings of their people.
Of course, we will continue our research into this amazing discovery.
Six-pack abs for the front, traps for the back. If we had to pick one vanity muscle for your back, the trapezius would be it. Long and triangular, this muscle rides from the base of your neck, across your scapula, out to your shoulder tips, then down your spine to your mid-back. Given the real estate it covers, it’s no wonder it can give your upper back awesome definition when properly flexed.
Of course, that’s not the only reason you should give your trapezoid muscles a workout. The traps hold the key to just about every upright functional movement you want to perform, from carrying kids to lugging groceries to changing lightbulbs (seriously). These muscles give your spine and shoulders proper reinforcement and provide the tension that prevents you from slouching over at the end of a long day of work.
If you’ve never found yourself saying, “Hey, let’s make today a traps day!” Then this trap workout is for you. A 15 to 20-minute, 7-move routine, you can add it to the end of arms day, or work it in after a bout of cardio. Do it three times a week to see major changes in about a month.
1. Barbell shrug
Works: Upper traps
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a barbell in front of you, arms extended, using an overhand grip. Keeping your arms straight, shrug your shoulders, raising the barbell several inches as you do. Relax. 8 reps, 2 sets.
Holding a light dumbbell in each hand, bend knees and hinge forward at the waist so your back is flat and parallel to the floor. Raise arms out in front of you in a Y shape, like you’re getting ready to dive into a pool. Hold five counts. Release. Repeat 8 times.
3. Farmer’s carry
Works: Upper, middle, and lower traps
Holding a heavy dumbbell in each hand, arms straight by your sides, walk around the room. Focus on keeping your spine straight and shoulders back. 60-second walks, 3 times.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand. Holding weights vertically (north/south orientation), raise your arms out to the sides. Hold for two counts, slowly lower. 10 reps, 2 sets.
5. High pulls
Works: Lower traps
Stand with feet hip-width apart about three feet from the cable pull. Position the pulley at head height. Using the Y-handle, pull the cable directly toward your head, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you do. Hold two counts, release. 10 reps, 2 sets.
6. Overhead carry
Works: Upper, middle, and lower traps
Holding a heavy dumbbell in each hand, raise arms straight over your head, palms facing each other. Press shoulders down and keep your spin straight as you walk around the room. 60-second walk, 3 times.
7. Row machine
Works: Middle and lower traps
Get your cardio done along with your traps toning with 10 minutes on the erg. Focus on fully extending your arms in front of you as you push back with the quads and feet first, then squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull the cable to your chest. The speed of your rowing motion will raise your heart rate, but for muscle building, it’s more important to think about good form.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
While many Westerners associate Islamic State propaganda with violence and beheadings, the terror group also likes to showcase its deceptively “softer” side to those within its territory in the Middle East, as a Vocativ analysis showed this week.
And given that their target audience is disaffected Sunnis living in war-torn Iraq and Syria, the plan is working.
Videotaped beheadings and action-packed fighting scenes might be effective recruitment tools for young people who are thinking about traveling to Syria to fight with the militants, but the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh) knows that winning hearts and minds is just as important to its longevity.
Vocativ notes that “in the areas it already controls or is fighting to take over, almost half of what [ISIS] broadcasts has a positive theme to it. ‘Come to the Islamic State,’ is the message. ‘There is fun here, and food, and services.'”
ISIS markets itself as an Islamic utopia that can provide happiness and stability its residents. In addition to enforcing a strict interpretation of Sharia law, ISIS sets up schools and consumer protection bureaus in the areas of Iraq and Syria it holds.
And apparently, ISIS also operates a mall and amusement park near Mosul, Iraq:
The above propaganda video shows children playing and residents talking about how much better life is now that ISIS has moved in and taken control of Mosul.
The video makes no mention of the headless bodies that can also be seen in the streets of ISIS’ self-proclaimed “caliphate,” an aspirational Islamic empire that aims to unite the world’s Muslims under a single religious and political entity.
With its civil services and positive propaganda, ISIS seeks to build a sense of community within its caliphate. And given that many ISIS members are from disaffected Sunni communities, the group has a natural advantage over Westerners in uniform trying to win hearts and minds.
Recruiting with camaraderie
ISIS also uses positive propaganda, along with more brutal propaganda, to bring in foreign fighters replenish their ranks on the battlefield.
In an extensive analysis of ISIS propaganda for the counter-extremism think tank Quilliam Foundation, Charlie Winter noted that the idea of belonging is “one of Islamic State’s most powerful draws to new recruits,” especially Westerners who are thinking of traveling to the caliphate.
“Through their regular publication of, for example, videos and photographic reports depicting istirāḥat al-mujāhidīn — fighters relaxing with tea and singing with each other — the propagandists emphasise the idea of brotherhood in the ‘caliphate,'” Winter wrote.
“The carefully branded camaraderie that one is absorbed into upon arrival in Islamic State-held territories is, as the propagandists would have their audiences believe, almost overwhelming.”
ISIS “recognize[s] that offers of friendship, security and a sense of belonging are powerful draws for its supporters abroad,” Winter wrote.
But ISIS doesn’t just want to attract fighters who are willing to die on the battlefield for their cause. They also see women and families as crucial to their long-term quest for dominance and control of territory.
In their recent book “ISIS: The State of Terror,” Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger noted that ISIS leadership says “hijrah (or emigration) to the land of Islam is obligatory” for all Muslims. They recruit doctors, administrators, engineers, scholars, and women who could marry future martyrs and bear their children.
“They’re the first terrorist group that aren’t interested in [just] fighters, they want families to come,” Patrick Skinner, director of special projects at The Soufan Group, told Vocativ. “They need women and children, they believe they have a state, they now need a future. A lot of people are going there just to live in the caliphate.”
The propaganda depicting bucolic settings and a fully functioning society is obviously false.
ISIS’ caliphate is extremely violent, and militants loot homes, tax residents heavily, and behead opponents. Some who have decamped for ISIS territory have desperately sought to return to their home countries after realizing that the reality on the ground is vastly different from the propaganda they saw online.
Nevertheless, ISIS is still seeing foreigners stream into their territory (many through the Turkish border), and the US is trying to come up with ways to counter the propaganda and come up with an effective counter-narrative.
1963’s The Great Escape told the story of British POWs escaping the Nazi camp Stalag Luft III. The film was based on a firsthand account of the real-life escape, where the British troops attempted to get 220 men out of three tunnels in a single night. Of the 149 escapees, 76 actually escaped Nazi Germany and 73 were recaptured.
Of those recaptured, 50 were shot on Hitler’s personal order. The remaining 23 captives were relocated. Four of those would be chained in their cells following another escape attempt. Those POWs made the Germans use an estimated 5 million men over the course of the following weeks searching for them, which is exactly how POWs are supposed to aid the war effort.
The Nazi Great Escape turned out a little different. During the second World War, the U.S. held some 400,000 enemy prisoners of war at 500 camps across the United States. Just as American POWs would burden their captors with escape attempts, the Germans were no different, attempting more than 2,200 escapes throughout the war.
Security unit #84 in Arizona’s Papago Park housed captured Nazi Kriegsmarine U-boat commanders and their crews. It was the POWs from #84’s compound 1A who would trigger the biggest manhunt in Arizona history. The U.S. military would call in local and state law enforcement, the FBI, and Papago Indian scouts.
John Hammond Moore’s book about the escape, The Faustball Tunnel, documents the entire episode. There were three main problems with the situation at #84. First, the Germans were housed in a way that put all the troublemakers together. Second, there was a blind spot in the guard tower’s view, one the Provost Marshall, Capt. Cecil Parshall knew the Germans would exploit. Finally, German officers and non-commissioned officers were exempt from work details under the Geneva Conventions, so all they had was time to plan their escape.
They began tunneling sometime in September 1944. Capt. Parshall was right, they used the blind spot in the guard towers. The Germans worked in 90 minute shifts of three-man crews digging near a bathhouse. They would go in, ostensibly to shower, sometimes excavate up to three feet per night, and a fourth crew would get rid of the dirt the next day. They eventually convinced the Americans to let them build a faustball (volleyball) court, which the Germans smoothed out with rakes provided by their captors.
Most were apt to make the 130-mile trek to Mexico. They were going to use toasted bread crumbs that would be mixed with milk or water for sustenance. They also needed things they could only get by co-opting the Americans. American photographers took snapshots of them to send home to Germany, and the Germans used those photos to make fake passports and other items. They would pose as foreign sailors making their way to the coast. They also earned U.S. money by making fake Nazi paraphernalia out of toothpaste tubes and bootblack.
Three other prisoners would instead plan to make their way 30 miles West to the Gila River, and so built a flatboat from scavenged lumber. The boat was designed to be folded up and carried in 18-inch segments. The guards just thought they were making handicrafts.
On December 23, compound 1B began to loudly celebrate news of the Battle of the Bulge as compound 1A quietly began their escape. Ten teams of 2-3 men left with packs of clothing, provisions, and false credentials, escaping by crawling through their tunnel. 25 men in all escaped into Papago Park that night.
The next evening, by the time Parshall knew there had been an escape, five of the escapees had turned themselves in because they were tired of being cold, hungry, and wet. A sixth would also be captured that day.
Soldiers, FBI agents, sheriff’s deputies, police, border patrol, and customs agents all joined the search for the nineteen remaining Germans. Ranchers and Indian scouts were drawn by the $25 reward posted for the capture of each escapee. Newspapers carried mug shots of the men.
By January 8th, 1945, only six men remained at large. The three boatmen were capture three days later, after discovering the Gila wasn’t much of a river and that their boat was largely useless.
The last three escapees didn’t try too hard to escape at first. They hid out in a shallow cave near Papago Park. They even went bowling in Phoenix and had a few beers one night. One of those would exchange places with other prisoners on work details outside of camp, then sneak back out on another detail, allowing another POW some time outside the camp. Eventually he was discovered and the last two men would be captured outside of Phoenix.
“Conceiving of it, digging it, getting out, getting back, telling about our adventures, finding out what happened to the others…why, it covered a year or more and was our great recreation,” one of the escapees recalled years later. “It kept our spirits up even as Germany was being crushed and we worried about our parents and our families.”
None of the 25 escapees were shot or killed by their American captors as retribution for their escape. No German POW ever escaped the United States and made his way back to Germany.