These are weird Navy traditions and their meanings - We Are The Mighty
Articles

These are weird Navy traditions and their meanings

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.


Most people have not heard of such a mystical Navy order, and there are others that are equally shrouded in seafaring lore, according to a list maintained by the Naval History and Heritage Command.

That list includes both well-known orders and not-so-well known orders. They are for notable feats — and in some cases, dubious ones.

These are weird Navy traditions and their meanings
Command Master Chief of aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) Spike Call plays the role of King Neptune during a crossing the line ceremony aboard the ship. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Clemente A. Lynch/Released)

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.”

These are weird Navy traditions and their meanings
Crewmembers aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk (WMEC 913) line up on the flight deck and make sounds like a whale to call to the whales as part of their shellback ceremony. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by OS3 Vicente Arechiga)

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.

These are weird Navy traditions and their meanings

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.”

These are weird Navy traditions and their meanings

Using the Panama Canal makes you a member of the “Order of the Ditch.”

These are weird Navy traditions and their meanings

Oh, and in case you are wondering, crossing the Antarctic Circle makes you a “Red Nose.”

Articles

Pentagon reportedly considering sending ground troops into Syria

The Defense Department is considering recommending the US send ground troops into Syria to fight the terrorist group ISIS, according to a source who spoke to CNN.


“It’s possible that you may see conventional forces hit the ground in Syria for some period of time,” a defense official told CNN.

There are currently hundreds of US troops in Syria offering training and assistance to US-backed local forces there. But conventional forces would likely be on the ground in larger numbers, according to CNN.

Related: General claims 60,000 ISIS fighters have been killed

CNN reported last month that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was taking control of a Pentagon review to determine which options the Defense Department would present to President Donald Trump on the fight against ISIS.

These are weird Navy traditions and their meanings
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Joel Salgado

The defense official CNN cites in Wednesday’s report stressed that any decision on Syria would ultimately be up to Trump.

Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute and an expert on Syria, said he’s “not surprised” to see that the US is considering ground troops in Syria to fight ISIS.

“Fits Trump desire for a rapid victory + withdrawal,” he tweeted.

MIGHTY FIT

5 ways to work out with a trainer without paying for it

It’s no secret that enlisted troops don’t make a lot of cash (especially when you think about what’s asked of them). The military has mandatory fitness requirements for active troops, but even so, PT sessions concentrate on limited exercises geared toward passing the PT test. Many servicemembers also have families who want a healthy lifestyle, but who can’t afford a gym membership.

Most military base gyms are pretty exceptional but, like all tools, these workout faculties don’t mean sh*t unless you know how to use them. Hiring a personal trainer to put you through a series of workouts can get super pricey and most troops can’t afford someone’s expert advice on how to get leaned out.

So we came up with a few ways to help you learn from those expensive trainers without paying a freakin’ cent.


Learn workout tips from trainers as they work with their other clients

In many of the non-exclusive gyms, once you enter the facility you’ll notice many of the trainers are putting their clients through their paid workouts out in the open. This is a great time to be at the gym.

Now, without looking like a complete stalker, it’s okay to take mental notes of what exercises they’re conducting and how they are performing them.

You can use that visual information and put it in your bag of workout routines for later. If you just happen to overhear the trainer’s personal critique of a specific exercise, then that’s a huge plus.

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We don’t care what it is — it’s free!

Search for free personal training vouchers online with no commitments

One of the best ways for physical trainers to build their fitness empires up is by online marketing and their clients’ word of mouth. The hardest part for any trainer is to get you through their door and meet with them face-to-face. To get you into their gyms, many will offer you free training sessions to prove they can bring value to your lifestyle.

If you go through with the free sessions, make sure you read all the fine print on the voucher so you’re not falling into a more significant commitment than you thought. Free personal training vouchers could be your golden ticket to a healthier lifestyle.

Casually talk to trainer and have them pitch you why they should train you

Trainers are always looking for new clients; this makes them super approachable. In fact, they will try and make eye contact with you so they can start a casual conversation with you that will hopefully lead to you setting up an appointment with them. If you want to outsmart them and get some free training, you can tell them your fitness goals and they might recommend a workout program you’ve never heard of.

Take that information to the internet and research what the hell they were talking just about. You can save money by watching free video streaming services — let ad revenue pay for your work-out!

www.youtube.com

Watch one of several thousands free training videos on YouTube

The fitness market is flooded with ripped men and women trying to teach you their way of training using YouTube as their distribution system. All you have to do is type what workout you’re looking for and at the touch of a button, you’ll have thousands of training videos to choose from at no cost.

Everyone wins in this scenario. The YouTube trainer expands their personal following and you get great advice without shelling out boatloads of cash.

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We said “discreetly!”

Discreetly watch the other fit people

Ripped people at the gym have put in the time to build that muscle mass.

If you have no idea what exercises do what, discreetly take a look at what the ripped gym-goers are doing and how they are doing it.

Like they say, “Monkey see, monkey do.” Learn the movements and attempt to mimic what you just saw — with a manageable weight. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper than spending your hard earned cash on a trainer.

FYI: Sorry to all the fitness trainers out there for this article c*ck block. But we’re telling the truth.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch lightning strike an F/A-18C in flight

The following video is pretty impressive. It shows an F/A-18C being hit by a lightning bolt. Along with the flash of light, you can clearly hear a loud bang inside the cockpit, taking the pilot by surprise. Shock aside, the aircraft was probably not really damaged by the bolt.


We have published several articles explaining that close encounters between jets and lightning occur every now and then around the globe, usually causing little to no damage at all to the planes. Usually. Because sometimes, lightning strikes cause significant damaged. As happened on Dec. 19, 2017, when B-52 Stratorfortress (60-0051), with the 93rd Bomb Squadron/307th BW AFRC. The heavy bomber was about to land at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, when the crew heard something that sounded like a thud coming from the outside of the aircraft. The B-52 landed safely, but once on the ground the crew discovered that the sound they heard was actually a lightning strike that tore a person-sized gash completely through the tail of the aircraft!

Here’s what this Author wrote in one of those stories:

In the 1980s, some F-16 Fighting Falcon jets were lost after being hit by a lightning strike. In one case, the lightning ignited the vapors in the empty centerline tank, which exploded causing extended damage to the aircraft’s hydraulic system.

Since lightning strikes are quite rare (1 event each year on average) these are seldom a real risk to military or civil aviation.

Furthermore, planes are shielded by a so-called Faraday Cage externally made by a conducting material, that blocks out external static electrical fields: charges redistribute on the conduting material and don’t affect the cage’s interior.

Wide bodies are huge flying Faraday Cages: if hit by a lightning they let the current pass through the fuselage until ground, preserving the systems’ integrity.

All commercial and mil planes have to meet several safety lightning-related requirements to get the airwothiness certifications required in the U.S. or Europe.

For instance, they must be able to withstand a lightning strike without suffering significant airframe damage, without any possibility of accidental fuel ignition in the tanks and preserving the avionics and systems failures induced by the electromagnetic field created by the electrical charges of the lightning.

On the Internet, you can find some videos showing civilian planes hit by lightning strikes and continue flying as nothing has happened.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Everything we know about the state of the Top Gun sequel

Top Gun is one of the most beloved action films of all time so it should come as no surprise that fans everywhere rejoiced when Tom Cruise officially announced that a sequel, titled Top Gun: Maverick, was in the works. But what exactly do we know about the upcoming sequel besides its name and the fact that it exists? Cruise and the rest of the Maverick crew have remained mostly tight-lipped but thanks to the power of the internet, we have a decent amount of information about the film. Here is everything we currently know about Top Gun: Maverick.


The original Top Gun starts and ends with Maverick, so it should come as no surprise that megastar Tom Cruise will be reprising his leading role as the baddest fighter pilot on the planet. Along with Cruise, Val Kilmer is onboard, once again playing the part of Iceman, Maverick’s semi-friendly rival.

“I can’t comment on the screenplay, but we all know what we want to see!” Kilmer wrote on Facebook.

The biggest news in terms of casting came in early July 2018, when Miles Teller (Whiplash) announced via Twitter that he had been cast to play the son of Goose, Maverick’s original flying partner, in the highly anticipated sequel. It is believed that Goose’s son will be one of Maverick’s proteges in the new film.

Tony Scott, who directed the original film, was attached to direct until his death in 2012. Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy) has been brought on as Maverick‘s director in Scott’s place. Cruise and Kosinski previously worked together on Oblivion (2013), which received mixed reviews from critics and underperformed at the box office.

Justin Marks (The Jungle Book) wrote the first version of the script, which was then tweaked by Eric Warren Singer (American Hustle). As for the story itself, not too much is known in terms of actual plot, beyond Cruise telling E! News, “It’s about a guy who flies jets.”

Initially, it was believed that the movie might focus on drones and how they have changed warfare and made fighter pilots, like Maverick, increasingly less relevant in society. However, it has been reported that the drone storyline has been abandoned in favor of a more action-focused plot.

“Personally, I would never want to see a movie about drones,” Kosinski explained. “For me, Top Gun has always been not about fighter planes. It’s been about fighter pilots.”

Based on Cruise’s tweet, it appears that Maverick began filming on May 31, 2018, a date that was confirmed by the Department of Defense. Cruise and a crew shot for two days at the Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego before Cruise headed off to promote his upcoming film Mission Impossible: Fallout. Shooting will continue in September 2018.

So when will Top Gun: Maverick actually fly into theaters? The sequel is currently slated to be released on July 12, 2019.

Perhaps most importantly of all, Cruise said in an interview with ET Canada that the sequel could revisit the iconic volleyball scene, which featured an epic showdown between Maverick and Iceman.

“There could be a beach scene,” Cruise said. “That’s all I can tell you.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The French Foreign Legion in World War II was filled with Nazis

The French Foreign Legion is one of France’s elite fighting forces, filled with men who are ready and willing to do extreme violence on France’s behalf. When 1930s Germany started looking at its neighbors with greedy eyes, it knew that it had to do something about the Legion.

Germany saw its opportunity in the large number of Legion noncommissioned officers who were German by birth. The Nazis hatched a plan to send droves of men to the Legion. These men would then convince German noncommissioned officers to betray the Legion. The spies would also collect lists of Jewish legionnaires and other groups targeted by the Third Reich for extermination.

Somewhere around 80 percent of French Foreign Legion NCOs were German, so this was no idle threat. The Legion quickly caught on to the Nazis’ plan and began screening German recruits carefully.

 

Still, many Nazi agents got in before the heightened scrutiny began. Legion leaders, knowing they were compromised, began sending suspect Legionnaires to low-risk postings like road construction. At the same time, Legionnaires who might be targeted by the Nazis were sent to far-flung outposts in North Africa.

 

These are weird Navy traditions and their meanings
Free French Foreign Legionnaires attack an enemy strongpoint in Africa in 1942. Photo: Public domain

The level of German sympathies in the Legion was bad enough that France debated whether or not to deploy Legion units from their headquarters in Algeria to France ahead of the possible German invasion. They settled on recruiting new Legionnaires from anti-Nazi populations, such as political refugees from Germany and French reservists, and brought loyal Legionnaires from North Africa to train them.

Nine new regiments were raised but most lacked the standards and experience of the true French Foreign Legion. Most of these units were sent to the front before the Germans invaded and they fought bitterly to resist the blitzkrieg when it was launched. When war broke out, the Legion also took the preventative measure of arresting German Legionnaires suspected of being Nazi spies.

The Legion has a long and proud history of fighting well past when other units would have surrendered, and the Legion units fighting in France upheld that tradition. Most continued fighting even after taking losses of 75 percent or more, only ceasing when ordered by their commanders after the Armistice was signed.

The 11th Foreign Infantry Regiment, knowing it would likely be wiped out, even burned its colors to prevent their capture before launching a series of delaying actions to buy other units time to retreat.

After the Armistice was signed, Germany demanded that their spies be allowed to leave the Legion. The true Legionnaires were happy to see them go.

These are weird Navy traditions and their meanings
French Foreign Legionnaires assigned to Indochina pose under a plane wing. Photo: Public Domain

Those spies took lists of people considered “undesirable” with them, and the Legion quickly had to make false papers to protect them from arrest by the Nazis. Many were shipped under new names to remote outposts where the Nazis were unlikely to look for them.

Unfortunately, about 2,000 men were found out by the Nazis. Most were sent to a new German unit, the 361st Motorised Infantry Regiment, and forced to fight for Germany.

At the same time, Legion units split into three groups. Some of the newer units, filled with recruits who had joined “for the duration of the war,” were disbanded. Others joined the Free French Forces under Gen. Charles de Gaulle and continued to resist the Germans. A few units, mostly those in areas already controlled by the Germans, joined the Vichy French forces and fought against the allies.

In one battle in Syria, this actually resulted in men from the Free French Foreign Legion fighting those from the Vichy French Legion. Following the Legion’s mantra, “The Legion is our Fatherland,” the treated prisoners and wounded from the opposing Legion with special care.

Ultimately, the Free French Foreign Legion won and continued supporting the Allies well into the invasion of Germany.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Marine Corps’ all-time top fighter plane was a Navy reject

The Marine Corps has historically found itself on short end of the stick when it comes to aviation. In fact, during World War II, the planes they got were either obsolete (like the F2A Buffalo and SB2U Vindicator) or unwanted by the Navy. The latter case, though, gave the Marines one heck of a plane. One so good, the Navy eventually flew it, too.


That plane was the Vought F4U Corsair, probably best known for its appearance on the show Baa Baa Black Sheep, starring Robert Conrad as Maj. Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, the top Marine ace of all time. So, why didn’t the Navy want what would prove to be one of the great planes of World War II?

These are weird Navy traditions and their meanings

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Corsair had a top speed of 416 miles per hour, could reach a maximum range of 1,016 miles, and had six M2 .50-caliber machine guns. But this plane, originally designed to operate off U.S. Navy carriers, was just too hot.

Vought had taken the powerful R-2800 engine and tried making a compact fighter with it. They succeeded, but the Corsair proved to be a tricky beast to fly. It soon earned the nickname, “Ensign Eliminator.” As a result, the Navy went with the F6F Hellcat — an awesome fighter in its own right — and pawned the Corsair off on the Marines.

These are weird Navy traditions and their meanings
F6F Hellcats from VF-1 in flight. (U.S. Navy photo)

The Marines took to the Corsair like a duck to water. The plane gave them something that could go toe-to-toe with the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, but also carry a powerful load of bombs and rockets, making it a multi-role fighter.

These are weird Navy traditions and their meanings
A Vought F4U Corsair fires rockets at ground targets on Okinawa. (DOD photo)

The British acquired some, too, and operated them off of escort carriers. By the end of World War II, the United States Navy began to operate Corsairs from carriers to counter the kamikaze threat. The Corsair served through the Korean War, and even saw combat action in the Soccer War of 1969. Watch a video about this Navy reject turned Marine Corps legend below: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoJbdGjSwM0
(Dung Tran | YouTube)
MIGHTY TACTICAL

USS Ford accepts new weapons elevator to speed up attacks

The Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), closed out 2018 on a high note with the acceptance of the ship’s first advanced weapons elevator (AWE), setting the tone for more positive developments in the year ahead.

AWE Upper Stage #1 was turned over to the ship on Dec. 21, 2018, following testing and certification by engineers at Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding, where the ship is currently working through its post-shakedown availability (PSA). The acceptance marks a major milestone for the ship and the Ford-class of aircraft carriers to follow.


USS Gerald R. Ford is the first Ford-class aircraft carrier and is the first new carrier design in over 40 years. Unlike Nimitz-class carrier elevators that utilize cables for movement, the Ford class elevators are commanded via electromagnetic, linear synchronous motors allowing for greater capacities and a faster movement of weapons.

The new design will allow the ship to be able to move up to 24,000 pounds of ordnance at 150 feet-per-minute. This is in contrast to the 10,500 pounds at up to 100 feet-per-minute on a Nimitz-class carrier.

These are weird Navy traditions and their meanings

Chief Machinist’s Mate Franklin Pollydore, second from left, from Georgetown, Guyana, goes over safety procedures for the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator with sailors from USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) weapons department.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeff Troutman)

“This will allow us to load more aircraft faster, and in the long run, increase our overall sortie generation rates,” said Lt. Cmdr. Chabonnie Alexander, Ford’s ordnance handling officer.

But aside from the advantages of the new AWE, the new ship design also offered a chance to streamline the overall movement and assembly of weapons to allow for even greater efficiencies. Ford features three upper stage elevators that move ordnance between the main deck and flight deck, and seven lower stage elevators that move ordnance between the main deck and the lower levels of the ship. Ford also features a dedicated weapons handling area between the hangar bay and the flight deck, on the 02 level, that eliminates several horizontal and vertical movements to various staging and build-up locations. This ultimately offers a 75% reduction in distance traveled from magazine to aircraft.

An additional benefit of the ship’s design is a separate utility elevator that can serve as a dedicated elevator to move both ordnance and supplies, and also serve as a means to medically evacuate (MEDEVAC) injured personnel from the flight deck to the hangar bay. This allows the 10 main AWEs and Ford’s three aircraft elevators to be dedicated to their primary missions of ordnance and aircraft movement during real-world operations.

To keep up with the new technologies and radical changes that the AWEs offer, Ford sailors recently completed newly developed familiarization, operations and maintenance training in Newport News to become better educated on how to work with and maintain the elevators. The crew is now conducting hands-on training where they will validate technical manuals and maintenance requirements cards against the elevator’s actual operation. Their feedback and observations will ultimately inform future sailors how to properly and safely operate the elevators.

These are weird Navy traditions and their meanings

Chief Machinist’s Mate Franklin Pollydore, second from left, from Georgetown, Guyana, goes over safety procedures for the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator with sailors from USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) weapons department.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeff Troutman)

Alexander said sailors are now training with the elevator which will complement the classroom instruction they have received to this point.

“Getting this elevator turned over to the ship and allowing our sailors to get hands-on training on the elevator will help in two ways,” said Alexander. “One, it will help in the training and understanding of the system itself, and two, to work out any bugs that remain with the system during our PSA.”

Though the first elevator has been accepted, work still remains on the remaining 10. Currently, all shipboard installation and testing activities of the AWEs are due to be completed prior to the end of Ford’s PSA, scheduled for July 2019. However, some remaining certification documentation will be performed for five of the 11 elevators after PSA completion.

According to Alexander, while there was sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in having the first elevator turned over, the team working on the elevators can’t rest on this single event.

“We’re all 100 percent invested in this, but there’s still work left to do,” Alexander explained. “We’re all one big team with the same goal in mind: to get these systems operational and turned over to the ship.

“I think it was a greater sense of accomplishment to my sailors that have been working on these systems for the last 4-to-5 years,” he said. “To be able to finally push the buttons and watch it operate like it’s designed to do was a great feeling. Once these systems are proven, they are going to pay huge dividends for naval strike capability.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

For some vets, certifications are worth more than degrees

As a veteran, while I was active duty I had a hard time deciding where to focus my efforts to make myself competitive for a job after the service. I wanted to prepare for my future both in the military and as a civilian.

In the last couple years and following months leading up to transition, I was constantly debating the desire and effort to get either a master’s degree or get a professional certification. The difficulty I found was not that I wanted one or the other but that I was unsure what I wanted to do after transition and I wasn’t sure what would help me the most. I considered an MBA, MS in logistics or MS in Supply Chain Management, MA in operations or management etc. Then there was the factor of time available and time until I transitioned; neither of which I had a lot of.

When I talked to a mentor of mine I was advised to pursue the certifications rather than education. This surprised me, but it was good advice for my situation.


Here were some of the factors I was dealing with:

  1. I had a defined timeline. (less than 2 years)
  2. I wanted the best value for my effort and money with versatility. (I wanted to save my GI Bill for my kids)
  3. I didn’t yet know what I wanted to do for a career with enough specificity to invest in a master’s degree.
  4. I needed something to help me get a job/make me competitive in the job market and also demonstrate my skills to an employer.

For me the choice to pursue certifications was better than to pursue a masters and has been huge for me since I left active duty. This isn’t to say that certification is better than a master’s degree, but I think this is an overlooked opportunity for active duty before and during transition.

As I have coached individuals through this question over the past two years I start with a simple process.

  1. What field do you want to go into and what role do you want to have? *If you are unsure then look at a job posting to see what qualifications are required.
These are weird Navy traditions and their meanings

Ask the right questions

Knowing the type of industry and what position/type of work a person wants to hold/do helps frame and shape what qualifications, certifications, and education might be beneficial. Certain industries value certifications more than formal education. Things like IT/Software development tend to value certifications more (Security Plus, C++, ITIL, ACP, SCRUM). Areas like finance and business value more formal programs like MBA. Engineering and construction look for both (BS/MS degree and PE/PMP).

  1. What is your timeline? Various education programs have very different timelines to obtain. Master’s programs usually take about 2 years. Certifications are usually less depending on if there is a project associated or not.
  2. What is your budget? Formal education programs are typically much more expensive than certification programs.

As I began to look at the qualifications listed on jobs I was interested in two certifications stood out. Lean six sigma and PMP. Both of these I was able to earn and have funded by the military.

So what do you choose? Here are some pros and cons to each.

Certifications


Pros:

  • Affordability
  • Quick Timeline to obtain
  • Both narrow and broad application depending on which certification
  • Quicker return on investment
  • Often demonstrate education and experience
  • Cost may be reimbursed or covered by employer or military unit.

Cons:

  • Often Industry specific
  • Many require experience in a field (PE, PMP)
  • Not all instructional programs are quality (Flooded market)
  • Often require re-certification/maintenance

Formal degree 


Pros:

  • Often Required for upper movement in a corporation
  • Broad acceptance and application
  • More in depth learning and education
  • Costs may be reimbursed
  • No re-certification

Cons:

  • Long time to obtain
  • High costs
  • May be industry specific

The choice is not always easy but hopefully this provides some insights that have not previously been considered and a way to approach this decision.

I can tell you that for me my PMP certificate and the training I received was invaluable. I have used the training in my role as a Project Manager in a heavy rigging company and how as a consultant with a DOD firm. The best thing was that my military unit funded it as well as my lean six sigma certification.

This article originally appeared on G.I. Jobs. Follow @GIJobsMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Otto Skorzeny: The story of the German Scarface

Sensational press accounts were just plain rabid about this man from the time he “escaped” a post-WWII “Officers'” holding camp, until the start of the Vietnam conflict. All he ever really wanted to be was a Mechanical Engineer and to serve his country honorably. Most of us would never have heard of this Commando’s successes were it not for the British desire to explain WWII in detail to the world (in terms of their victorious achievements). This man was Otto Skorzeny.

In the frantic change of the Austrian government on 12 March 1938, Skorzeny was a member of the Gymnastic Club which was trying to support the police and keep antagonistic political factions from breaking into rioting. He was a big man with a strong sense of duty, an energetic attitude, and a loud, commanding voice. It is reported that he personally prevented two armed groups from coming to blows at a critical moment. Then the war came on 1 September 1939, and he tried to get into the Luftwaffe, but, at the age of 31, was labeled “too old” to be a pilot — so he ended up in the Army.


In his regular army training regimentation, Skorzeny saw individuality and personality broken in most of the younger men by the time-honored methods heralding back to 19th century Prussia. Sent on a tour of France after its surrender as an officer-cadet (~E5) he amazed superiors by obtaining the cooperation of Dutch workers to construct a ramp that he designed for loading heavy tanks on to ships in preparation for the invasion of Britain. Later when his trucks needed new tires to complete a mission, he threatened the NCO of a supply depot with harm if he (without written authorization) didn’t get what he needed to carry out his verbal orders. He was reprimanded by a general for being aggressive and transferred to a unit in Yugoslavia.

When he was leading his first combat patrol, a larger group of enemies walked right into his area. Instead of opening fire, Skorzeny jumped up and demanded their surrender — and got it, without firing a shot. He brought in 63 prisoners, including three officers, and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on the spot. He thought his next assignment would be in the battle for North Africa, and picked up a copy of “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” by T.E. Lawrence for reading on the train. The train stopped short and his unit was instead offloaded to participate in Operation Barbarossa and an extremely bloody Axis invasion of Russia, which began 22 June 1941.

He fought well and hard in the endless Russian forest and plains for the next six months, including during the Russian winter of 1941, when the German Army had no winter uniforms. Skorzeny developed colic, was invalided home to Vienna, and assigned as an Engineering Officer to a reserve regiment in Berlin. In the autumn of 1942, Waffen SS divisions were being converted into armored divisions, so he applied for a transfer and became the regimental Engineer of the 3rd SS Armoured Division. In mid-April 1943, he was sent to Waffen SS headquarters and informed that a technically trained officer was required for a special unit.

Why reserve 1st Lt. Skorzeny? What was going on?

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The German scarface.

British commandos were causing a problem, so Hitler wanted to develop a commando team. Here was a reserve officer with combat experience, but not quite an exemplary service record. For the General Staff, Lt. Skorzeny was perfect — suitable, presentable, technically trained, and non-political. (It might be noted that Hitler’s Commando Order of 18 October 1942 clearly stated that all Allied commandos captured “should be killed immediately without trial.”)

Skorzeny was promoted to captain and told to get to work on creating a special operations unit or two. Firstly, however, he had to be introduced to the “secret” side of the German military and was introduced to Admiral Canaris of the Military Secret Service (Auslands-Abwehr). He tried to get a number of junior officers transferred to his new unit — and was turned down. LTC Schellenberg of the General Staff advised him that he needed to collect all the information he could and start a School for Espionage and Sabotage while looking for men and equipment. His new command was already penciled in to take over a mission in Iran that was going badly.

Fortunately, the platoon of men he inherited were all combat veterans. Added to their number was a platoon size group of legal specialists from the Political Intelligence Section that knew how to gather surplus equipment and personnel. Finally, he was in contact with the Director of the State Security Department who he had known in his student days in Austria. This was the source of many enlightening discussions about Reichführer Himmler, who eventually became the sabot in all Military and Political machinery.

Fighting furiously against red-tape, Skorzeny located a 19th-century hunting lodge in a tract of forest and meadowlands at Friedenthal (Valley of Peace), close to Berlin. He then requested after-action reports on the British Commando attacks perpetrated since 1940 and received a vast dossier, which had been meticulously collected, but not well-reviewed. He learned from the apparent British mistakes. Immediately he realized that all training should be conducted at night because that is when small groups can beat larger formations. Everyone was to be trained to competency on every weapon and piece of equipment the units might carry into battle. Other training included parachutes and operation (and repair) of all sizes of transportation vehicles.

On 26 July 1943, Skorzeny took an afternoon off for lunch and a quiet chat with an old university professor — and the whole world changed. Checking with his admin office in mid-afternoon, he was advised that a plane would be at the aerodrome at 1700 to take him to the Führer’s Headquarters [FHQ]. He directed his XO to gather his uniform and meet him at Tempelhofer. No one in his office knew what or why. Upon arrival, he and five other officers — all more senior than him — were led into the command center of the Wolf’s Den and lined up according to rank. All made short statements about their military careers; his was the shortest. The Führer began asking about their knowledge of Italy and their thoughts on the Axis partner. The other five spoke the “party line,” but Skorzeny stated, “I am an Austrian my Führer.”

In order to understand that comment, it should be mentioned that as a result of WWI Italy took a portion of Austria — South Tyrol — that it could not win by combat. Hitler was also Austrian and understood what Skorzeny meant. The five other Commanding Officers of Special Force units were dismissed. Hitler personally charged Skorzeny with the rescue of Mussolini who had been arrested by Italian police in preparation for Italy’s surrender to the Allies and its change of sides. The location of the Duce was unknown.

Furthermore, Hitler did not want the German Army Commander in Italy or the German Ambassador in Rome to know of the operation. Skorzeny and his force were transferred to the Luftwaffe and reported directly to General Student. While discussing the situation with General Student, Himmler showed up to dominate the conversation with a short history of Italian vacillation since the Allied invasion of Sicily, and a ranting monologue of names of reliable Italians and traitors, and how to deal with each.

During a pause in the performance, Skorzeny requested to step out and call his commandos to put them on alert status. While waiting to have his call put through, he lit a cigarette to think of the scope of the assignment. Himmler came down the hall and chewed him out for smoking and declared him possibly unfit for the job. One of Hitler’s Staff Officers who overheard the remarks assured him that this was a trait of Himmler and General Student would fix everything once the operation got rolling. So began one of the great commando stories and the start of an amazing two years that ended with Skorzeny being declared “The Most Dangerous Man in Europe.”

Skorzeny’s phone call to his Chief-of-Staff was short and terse. Fifty of his best men and officers needed to be ready not later than 0500 for extended action in Tropical Uniform, with parachute gear, six days of emergency rations, and a teletyped list of equipment. Due to the mission’s classification, he could not tell them what they would do, or where and why they would be deployed. As he thought about a short nap, he realized that he had never made out a will. That was resolved immediately. He took a shower around 0600 and met General Student at 0730 at the aerodrome.

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Skorzeny and Benito Mussolini surrounded by German commandos and soldiers.

The tale of the 12 September 1943 rescue of Mussolini is one of great adventure for both Skorzeny, as a leader, and his commando team. There was even a delayed-and-failed first effort due to confusing intelligence. (The Nazi Propaganda machine created a motion picture of the event to splash across the theater screens and demonstrate Nazi invincibility when the General Staff knew they were losing.)

Because of the mission’s success, he was rewarded by being allowed to recruit from the Brandenburg Division. This was the original German Army Special Force. The Division would slip behind the enemy front line and carry out sabotage or prevent vital bridges from being destroyed. By 1943 however, the German Army was on the defensive or preparing for the next Allied invasion. These highly-skilled and qualified soldiers were being used as gap-stopping cannon fodder in Africa and Eastern Europe. The now-famous Skorzeny, as a Division Commander, began to “borrow” supplies and equipment from every depot within reach, based solely on his relationship with Hitler. While training the enlarged command, he was called upon to plan the abduction of other well-known figures who seemed to be potential or actual problems. First on the list was Marshal Pétain, the Vichy France Head of State. Skorzeny and his commandos made plans and practiced to perfection while waiting for the order to go. After over a month of waiting, they were told to stand down and returned to the Valley of Peace in time for Christmas.

Next on the list was Marshal Tito of the Yugoslavian Partisans. Skorzeny dispatch his division intelligence team to the area. A great deal of work was expended to locate Tito’s constantly shifting HQ — then in western Bosnia. Skorzeny sent his Chief of Staff to meet with the German Army Commander in the area to work out last-minute details. The liaison did not go well. Out of the blue, Skorzeny’s intel team reported that the local Army Corps was preparing their own operation against Tito, which would commence on 25 May 1944. Skorzeny realized that if his people knew about it in advance, so did Tito. The operation failed. (If you are interested in the details of this failure see KOMMANDO by James Lucas.)

Skorzeny brought his intel team home and began to train for the next problem proposed by the High Command. Off and on during the first half of 1944, he had been working with the Italian Decima Flottiglia MAS, led by Commander Junio Borghese, on special weapons for sinking ships. He received an order to report to Vice Admiral Heye who was forming up the Naval Small Battle Units (Kleinkampfverbånde) and was ordered by Himmler to assist in the training of the “K-men.” He also got involved with Luftwaffe Squadron 200, Hanna Reitsch, and the concept of piloted V-1 buzz bombs. Yet, most of his effort was spent dealing with entrenched bureaucracy. Once again, he was asked to train special pilots, but could not get any flight fuel for the effort.

The Western Front became active on 6 June 1944 and Skorzeny’s Commando Battalion 502 was put on alert. He was on his way to observe some frogmen exercises in Vienna on 20 July, when word of the attempted assassination of Hitler came. He was pulled off the train at the last station in Berlin and told to return to Berlin to deal with a military revolt. Confusion ran rampant and rumors were faster than speeding bullets. He was somehow detailed to protect the HQ of the Commender-in-Chief, Home Forces. High ranking officers were committing suicide or were being executed in the parking lot. Fear was gripping the staff at the Headquarters, and, according to Skorzeny, he took responsibility and got all the clerks back to work. Whatever he did, it raised his standing, and that of his battalion, in the eyes of Himmler and the political leadership. The Military Section D— the Counter-espionage unit — was attached to his command.

On 10 September 1944, he received a call to report to FHQ at a newly constructed Wolf’s Den in Berlin’s vicinity. After a three-day round of conferences and situation reports, he was briefed on his next mission. With Russian Armies breaking through Hungary’s defenses, the designated Hungarian head of state, Admiral Horthy, commenced secret negotiations with the Allies for surrendering. If successful, it would mean the loss of many German Army Divisions and Austria would become the next battleground.

Multiple German units were to be placed under Skorzeny’s command and he was directed to Budapest to see what could be done to prevent Hungary’s break away from the Axis camp. He was given a document that stated that he was on a personal and confidential mission for the Führer, and all political and military authorities were to assist him. It was essentially a Carte Blanche, personally signed by Hitler. The object this time was not to rescue anyone but to keep Hungary as a functioning Axis partner. Skorzeny sent in his command intel section and started quietly gathering his forces in and around Budapest. His favorite group was a battalion of cadets from the southern Austria WienerNeustadt Kriegsakademie. This may have been the first time he realized that he had become a legend.

Intelligence discovered that the son of Admiral Horthy was meeting with delegates from Tito’s partisan Army who was working for Russia as well. Another meeting was scheduled for the morning of October 15th. Working with great efficiency Skorzeny’s team rushed the meeting while others were fighting the Royal Hungarian Military guards. Within five minutes the son of Horthy and the Yugoslavians were captured, rolled up in carpets and loaded on a truck to the aerodrome, then flown across the border to Vienna. At 2 o’clock that afternoon a special announcement came over Hungarian radio: “Hungary has concluded a separate peace with Russia!” Orders for the German response “Operation Panzerfaust” were issued and German forces immediately took up planned positions around the Hungarian Government Citadel.

What occurred that evening and the next morning seems like a scripted scene from “Mission Impossible.” Skorzeny, with literally a handful of highly trained commandos, captured the whole Government Complex and Citadel and took the necessary steps to keep Hungary and its armed forces in the fight for the Axis. The whole action took less than thirty minutes and resulted in the death of three Hungarian soldiers and four Germans. Skorzeny was greeted by Hapsburg Archduke Frederick.

On October 18th, Skorzeny, now a LTC, escorted Admiral Horthy to meet with the Führer. He immediately returned to Budapest for joint ceremonial burial service. He would not see Admiral Horthy again until both were war-crime prisoners at the Nuremberg trials. Allied Intelligence took note of this event.

That evening, returning to Berlin with his primary commando officers, Skorzeny was given a written order to report to FHQ. After explaining details of the Hungarian Operation to Hitler, he was informed of the secret plan for December called the “Ardennes Offensive.” The big picture was to score a success in the West and work an armistice with Britain and the United States. Then Germany could send all remaining forces to fight Russia and thereby “save” Europe. His mission would be simple “just rush in to capture and hold three essential bridges, and, dressed in captured uniforms, have commando teams cause confusion behind Allied lines. All this was to be held in the strictest secrecy. Within a week, German High Command posted an order for English-speaking soldiers to be sent to LTC Skorzeny at Friedenthal for “Secret Commando Operations.”

Skorzeny, his Chief of Staff and one of his Battalion Commanders, held tight to the actual mission. Meanwhile, rumors were running wild through the collected gaggle of volunteers. Only half of about 400 English-speakers could communicate in that language. Captured American transportation equipment, which was promised, never materialized, and there was practically no ammunition for the larger U.S. guns. They only had one working Sherman tank, so a dozen Panther tanks were painted olive-drab with big white stars.

In the final phase of training, the rumor mill of the organization decided that the “real” mission would be to make a rapid dash to Paris and capture the Allied Headquarters and Eisenhower. Some of the junior officers and NCOs worked on various plans to get the organized groups to an assembly point in Paris — the Café de la Paix. Allied Intelligence and Security teams would spend the better part of December and January focused on that area.

There was a series of delays in commencing the operation and a series of final briefings at the Wolf’s Den. At some point, Hitler personally forbade Skorzeny from going behind enemy lines. This completely dismayed him. He was directed to coordinate the action by radio and stay with the 6th SS Armoured Army battle headquarters. His commando teams would operate in the battle area of the 1st SS Armoured Regiment under Colonel Peiper. At 0500 on Saturday, 16 December, the attack, known to the Allies as the Battle of the Bulge, began.

The primary mission of his battalion-sized “brigade” was to capture and protect three bridges across the River Meuse so that the Panzer Divisions could stream into Holland on their second day of the attack. When German forces failed to even make their first day goals, it became obvious to Skorzeny that making it to the Meuse wasn’t going to happen. His “brigade” was now used as a regular infantry unit.

However, he had sent half a dozen teams of English-speaking commandos in American uniforms to create confusion by changing or removing road signs and cutting phone lines between American front-line units. A rumor got out that Germans dressed like G.I.s were everywhere. The rumor took on a life of its own and a couple of hundred soldiers were arrested behind the lines, roughed-up to get information, and left in jail for a week — or more.

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The outcome of Skorzeny’s last operation: German commandos disguised as American soldiers.

General Bradley was stopped numerous times by over-zealous MPs while trying to visit his front lines. General Montgomery could no get through to discuss the situation with his American counterparts. In Paris, Eisenhower became a virtual prisoner of his own Intel and MPs for five critical days of the battle. An officer resembling Ike was dressed up and driven around Paris trying to trick “Kraut Commandos” into making their move. The rumors’ results would haunt Skorzeny for decades.

The Battle of the Bulge ended in German defeat. It was supposed to impress the Allies of the German Army’sviability and hopefully lead to negotiations about a separate peace treaty on the Western Front. It was the last straw for any German commando action. The remaining German forces were thrown into the losing battles — usually in the East. All that remained was the relentless closing in of the Russian Eastern Front and the Allied Western Front until Berlin was taken.

To cover faulty intel about Skorzeny’s activities, in December the U.S. Army circulated a “Wanted Poster” describing him as a “SABOTEUR, SPY, ASSASSIN” and declared him “The Most Dangerous Man in Europe.” He was tried in Nuremberg by the “Hanging Judge” but saved by the testimony of a British Special Operations Officer who claimed that everything Skorzeny was charged with (in violation of the pre-WWI “Rules of War”) had been done by Allied commando teams against the German Army. He spent years in courtrooms and prisons until finally cleared of all charges and false accusations.

He continued to be held in a detention center because the new German government was afraid to let him go. Finally, he told the warden he had enough and escaped. Not wanted for any crime, he quickly ended up in Spain and started a new life as a Mechanical Engineer.

A number of books were written about his actions: Charles Foley’s “Commando Extraordinary” was published in 1955. Ballentine’s illustrated history, compiled by Charles Whiting, and titled “Skorzeny,” was out in 1972. (Special forces were in the news then and back in vogue.) Skorzeny also released his own memoirs “Skorzeny’s Special Missions” which was written in 1957, immediately translated in English and published in London.

Editor’s note: This article was written by LCDR Sankey Blanton USNR (retired) and submitted by Robert Adams.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

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Navy faces difficulty decommissioning the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier

The Navy is having a hard time figuring out how to dispose of its first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.


The USS Enterprise aircraft carrier (CVN 65), also known as the “Big E,” was decommissioned at Newport News Shipbuilding on Feb. 3 after 55 years of service. Now, the question is: What is the Navy supposed to do with it?

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WASHINGTON (April 16, 2013) The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) transits the Arabian Gulf. Enterprise was one of several ships that participated in Operation Praying Mantis, which was launched after the guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) struck an Iranian mine on April 14, 1988. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Todd Cichonowicz/Released)

The Navy has been trying to come up with an answer since 2012, when the ship returned to its home port Naval Base Norfolk for the last time, reports DOD Buzz.

Initially, the Navy planned to have the ship towed to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Wash., where the reactors would be removed and the rest of the ship would be recycled, but officials realized the ship is more than the workforce at the shipyard can handle.

The next move was to solicit bids from private commercial recycling operations to properly and effectively dispose of the aircraft carrier’s non-nuclear components, but officials from the Naval Sea Systems Command announced Monday it was canceling its request.

“The Navy has identified that it requires more information to determine the approach for the disposal of CVN 65, including the reactor plans, that is more technically executable, environmentally responsible and is an effective utilization of Navy resources,” explained NAVSEA spokesman William Couch, adding the Navy will be “taking no action at this time.”

Radioactivity, which is still a factor even after defueling, makes disposal difficult, but there are several options on the table right now.

The Navy could turn the USS Enterprise over to a commercial company for partial or full recycling. The former would involve the disposal of the non-nuclear components; the latter, however, would require the dismantling of the eight defueled reactor plants.

Another option is to place the carrier in “intermediate-term storage for a number of years” and put off recycling the ship. The Navy is still searching for a suitable location.

Environmental impact studies are being carried out for the various options.

“The Navy is taking these steps to ensure CVN 65 is recycled in a cost-effective and environmentally responsible manner,” Couch said. “Given the complexities of the issues involved in recycling CVN 65, the Navy remains committed to a fully open and public process for conducting the first-ever disposal of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.”

The USS Enterprise is a ship in a class of its own. It completed its last deployment in 2012 after sailing 81,000 miles over a 238-day deployment to the Persian Gulf.

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This is the helicopter that will replace Marine One

The VH-3 Sea King has faithfully served Marine Helicopter Squadron One since 1962, operating as the official rotary transport for every president for over 55 years. But even though the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rings through for many pieces of military hardware, these aging Sea Kings, known as “Marine One” whenever a president is aboard, need to be replaced.


A lack of parts, considerable flight hours, and performance inefficiency (by today’s standards) make a worthy case for why the Sea King needs to be supplanted by something newer, faster and more capable. Just last week, Sikorsky’s answer to HMX-1’s request for a new helicopter took to the skies above Owego, New York, for the first time.

Known as the VH-92A, Sikorsky and its parent corporation, Lockheed Martin, hopes that this helicopter will be what finally sends the Sea King to a museum in the coming years.

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A depiction of the VXX proposal – a modified S-92 (Photo Lockheed Martin)

The VH-92 is based upon Sikorsky’s S-92, a proven multipurpose utility helicopter that has been functioning in the civilian world as medium-lift platform since 2004. When it enters service with HMX-1, the VH-92 will have been refitted with a new interior and a slew of other features needed for presidential transport.

It has taken years for a suitable replacement for the VH-3 to materialize as part of the Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program (VXX). The program was initialized in 2003, though it suffered a setback in 2009 when Lockheed Martin’s proposal – the VH-71 Kestrel – was nixed even though the Department of the Navy had already spent billions of dollars building 9 Kestrals for HMX-1.

The following year, VXX was restarted, and a joint Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky team offered a revamped S-92, replete with a comfortable and plush interior worthy of the president and other VIPs who would be using the aircraft from time to time. In 2014, the S-92 proposal was selected and the VH-92 began taking shape.

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These new presidential transports will only bear an external resemblance to their civilian counterparts. Their insides will be completely redone as per the requirements of HMX-1 and the Secret Service.

This includes defensive systems that afford each VH-92 a degree of protection against threats on the ground, from shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, to heavy-caliber machine gun rounds.

In addition to armoring the VH-92, all fleet helicopters will receive advanced communications systems, allowing the president to interact with members of the government and military while flying. Redundancy and safety systems round off the rest of the tricked-out VH-92’s modifications list.

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A VH-3D Sea King operating as Marine One (Photo US Air Force)

HMX-1 also operates the VH-60N White Hawk, essentially UH-60 Black Hawks reconfigured for VIP transport. These aircraft have been serving in the presidential fleet since the late 1980s, and will also be replaced in part, or as a whole, by the new VH-92s.

The VH-92, like its soon-to-be predecessor, won’t just operate in North America… it will also serve as the president’s short-range transport overseas on official visits. Like the VH-60N, it will be able to be folded up and stowed inside US Air Force strategic airlifters like the C-5M Super Galaxy for foreign travel.

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A VH-60N White Hawk parked while a VC-25 takes off in the background (Photo US Air Force)

Replacing the Sea King isn’t the only big move HMX-1 has made in an effort to modernize its fleet. The squadron’s complement of CH-53 Sea Stallions were recently replaced with newer, more versatile MV-22 Osprey tiltrotors, which can function like both a helicopter and a fixed wing aircraft. Older CH-46 Sea Knights, formerly used as support aircraft, are also on their way out.

HMX-1 is expected to begin taking delivery of its new VH-92As in 2020, phasing out the VH-3D and VH-60N soon afterward.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what other countries thought about the US Civil War

It may seem weird that another country would just show up to war to have a look, but it used to be a fairly common activity, one the United Nations still practices. A military observer is a diplomatic representative of sorts, used by one government to track the battles, strategies, and tactics used in a war it isn’t fighting, but may have an interest in watching — and learning from.

Professional soldiers were embedded within fighting units, but were not considered diplomats, journalists, or spies. They wore the uniform of their home country and understood the importance of terrain, technology, and military history as it played out on the latest battlefield. The Civil War had no shortage of interest from the rest of the world.


England, France, and Germany all sent observers to both sides of the fighting as early as 1862. They were concerned with the technologies related to metallurgy, rifling of cannons, explosive shells, cartridge calibers, and, of course, the new observation balloons used in the war. German observers were concerned with the power of militia and volunteer forces in the face of a standing, professional army. These observations formed many of the tactical developments used in later conflicts, especially World War I.

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General Helmuth von Moltke the Elder had strong opinions on the U.S. Civil War.

The Prussians, with an aforementioned interest in the superiority of professional armies, didn’t think much of the armies fighting the war. While noting the tactics used by American fighting men, Prussian observers thought the New World’s way of war was inferior to the Prussians’.

One Prussian captain, Justus Scheibert, divided the war into three phases. The first was made up of the disorganized skirmishes. At this point, neither side had really come to grips with the war and their own strategic capabilities. The second phase, which ran from 1862 through the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, was defined by a refinement in battlefield formations, which were used to great effect by both sides. After Gettysburg through to the war’s end, the fighting became defensive for both sides, where belligerents fought for inches of battlefield instead of mounting a great retreat or advance.

Scheibert believed that the construction of defensive fortifications that allowed officers time to make careful decisions replaced the skill of trained professional officers in quick decision making. Like many historians in the decades following the war, he cited Union manpower and industrial output as the chief tools of victory for the war while praising Confederate General Robert E. Lee for his innovations that allowed Confederate troops to stay relatively fresh and punch above their weight class, even when outnumbered.

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Despite proclaimed neutrality, thousands of British citizens volunteered on both sides of the conflict.

The British, meanwhile, were horrified at the war’s destruction and bloody death toll. The British government wanted the horror to stop and felt compelled to pressure the United States to accept a negotiated, two-state solution. London could not understand Lincoln’s motivation for keeping the Union together by force in a democracy where people are supposed to be able to determine their own futures by voting. Neither Britain nor France understood why the North and South both rejected publicly making the war about its central cause: slavery. They simply did not understand the politics of the U.S. as well as President Lincoln and did not understand the Confederate government’s chief fears as Jefferson Davis saw them.

London was also turned off by the Confederate threat of an embargo of cotton exports to Great Britain. It turns out they played this hand much too early, as British merchants would seek alternatives and replacements for Confederate cotton as early as 1861. But as the level of death and destruction rose, both Britain and France began to plan to intervene for the South. Even Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation angered European powers, who saw the limited emancipation as nothing more than an attempt to incite a mass slave uprising to save face in losing the war.

The only thing that saved the Union from a combined French-British intervention was the risk or war with the United States and that the South had not yet proven that it could fight the Union Army to a greater defeat on the battlefield.

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British observer Arthur James Lyon Fremantle visited much of the Confederacy in 1863. His exploits were well-documented.

One British observer actually visited nine of the eleven Confederate States during the war. Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, just 25 years old, took leave of the British Army to travel to Texas via Mexico, moving through nearly the whole of the Confederacy, He met Generals Lee, Bragg, and Longstreet, to name the most important, along with Confederate officials, including President Jefferson Davis. After observing the Battle of Gettysburg (where he met the Prussian Captain Scheibert), he crossed the lines and moved north to New York, where he left for home.

The Britisher remarked that Texas was the most lawless state in the Confederacy, that even Confederate generals were notably impoverished, but were in such good humor that they could ride their confidence into battle. As for the generals themselves, he thought it was amazing that a general like Longstreet would lead men into full-frontal assaults, and that a man like General Lee would speak to individual troops while taking responsibility for the losses on the field.

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Unidentified; State Department Messenger Donaldson; Unidentified; Count Alexander de Bodisco; Count Edward Piper, Swedish Minister; Joseph Bertinatti, Italian Minister; Luis Molina, Nicaraguan Minister (seated); Rudolph Mathias Schleiden, Hanseatic Minister; Henri Mercier, French Minister; William H. Seward, Secretary of State (seated); Lord Richard Lyons, British Minister; Baron Edward de Stoeckel, Russian Minister (seated); and Sheffield, British Attache.

(Diplomats at the Foot of an Unidentified Waterfall – NY State, August 1863)

The French were interested in a Union loss and the creation of a new republic, carved from the remnants of the United States because they were determined to recoup the losses suffered at the hands of the British during the colonization of the new world. France’s criteria for intervention were much the same as Britains, but were dashed after the Union victory in the war and any preparations made to use Mexico to capture former French territory west of the Mississippi were scrapped.

Though the world’s other powers didn’t think much of the war and its fighting for the duration, the preparations they all made throughout the war and in the years immediately following shows the lasting impact it had on global politics. In all, visitors from Germany, Britain, Italy, France, Russia, Nicaragua, and Austria all visited various battles of the war. The lasting legacy of this impact is the continued debate over what might have been, even more than 150 years later.

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