5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam's jungles - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Anyone who’s ever deployed can tell you there’s more to worry about in the field than just the enemy. While of course the North Vietnamese were the primary concern of American troops in the Vietnam War, just being in the jungle presented an entirely unexpected series of its own challenges – like giant centipedes.


Rumors persisted about things like fragging, rampant drug use, and even the appearance of Bigfoot in Vietnam. But when US troops weren’t earning the Medal of Honor while completely stoned, they were fighting off things that only previously appeared in their nightmares.

Related: This is the story of US troops who think they saw Bigfoot in Vietnam

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Bring on the flamethrower.

Giant insects

As seen in the cover photo of this post, the creepy crawlers of the jungle have the space and the food necessary to grow to an insane level. That guy in the photo is Scolopendra subspinipes, also known as the Vietnamese centipede, Chinese redhead, or Jungle Centipede. It’s extremely aggressive, and its venomous bite hurts like hell, sources say. But the fun doesn’t stop with centipedes, giant scorpions were also known to bother American troops in bivouac.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Weaver ants

Imagine you’re in some kind of tank or armored vehicle, busting down trees in the jungle when suddenly, you bust down the wrong tree, one filled with a nest of red ants. These buggers were reportedly immune to the issued bug spray and, given the choice between NVA small arms fire and dealing with red ants in the tank, tank crews would either bail on the tank or man the vehicle completely naked. They were often referred to as “communist ants” because they were red in color and never seemed to attack the Vietnamese.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Very pretty, but also what the KGB used to kill dissidents.

Debilitating plants

Troops in Vietnam were sometimes lifted right up out of troop carriers and other vehicles by low-hanging vines that seemed innocent at first, but as soon as they were touched, constricted around an unsuspecting driver, grabbing them by the arms or neck. They became known as the “wait-a-minute” vines. But that’s just the beginning.

Vietnam’s most beautiful trees and flowers are also its deadliest. Heartbreak Grass, Flame Lillies, Twisted Cord Flowers, and Bark Cloth Trees are all powerful enough to kill a human or cause blindness upon contact or accidental ingestion, which is more common than one might think.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Bring that flamethrower back over here.

Venomous snakes

You know what kinds of animals love a hot, humid place with lots of shade? Reptiles and amphibians, both of which Vietnam has in droves. Vietnam has so many snakes, American troops were advised to just assume they were all deadly – because most of them are. The country is filled with Cobras, Kraits, Vipers, and more. The snakes that weren’t venomous were all giant constrictors, still very capable of murdering you in your jungle sleep.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Yes, troops were mauled by tigers.

Large wildlife

Since we’re talking about giant jungle snakes, we should discuss the other giant creatures that inhabit the wilds of Vietnam. Southeast Asia is also home to aggressive tiger species, leopards, and bears. Those are just the traditional predators. There are also elephants, water buffaloes, and gaurs, giant cows, who will go on a murder rampage that an M-16 isn’t likely to stop.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Soviet Moose Cavalry almost rode into World War II

At the Battle of Krojanty in the early days of World War II, Polish cavalrymen famously charged a Nazi mechanized infantry unit, disbursing them and allowing an orderly retreat for other Polish units in the area. It was one of the last-ever cavalry charges, and perhaps the last truly successful one. But cavalry was still very much on the minds of some Soviet war planners – especially in the brutal fighting the Red Army saw in Finland.


5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

(Laughs in White Death)

Anyone who’s ever seen a moose in person, especially in the wild, knows just how huge and intimidating these creatures can be. Imagine how large and intimidating a giant moose could be while charging at you at full gallop – some Soviet leader did. And the USSR briefly imagined how useful the moose could be in the deep snows of Finland.

“Ask any local,” one moose farmer told the BBC, “and he will tell you that a tree is the safest place to be when you are facing an angry elk.”

Near Nizhny Novgorod, the Soviets started a farm to domesticate moose for that purpose. But they soon found – as Charles XI of Sweden did – that moose aren’t big fans of gunfire. They tend to run the other direction.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Moose are great for counter-espionage however.

But the moose had been used for centuries in Scandinavia as transport animals. After all, horses weren’t native to the region, but moose were. They proved to be too much effort for the Swedish military to handle though. Moose are more susceptible to disease and harder to feed, for one.

The Soviets decided that the moose they attempted to domesticate for milk would serve another purpose, using them as transportation and pack animals. They even thought the moose could be used as a meat animal – after all, much of the Soviet population was starving. The effort to train them for milk was relatively successful, but the effort to use them for meat wasn’t. Just as moose are too smart to run toward gunfire, they are also too smart to be led to a slaughterhouse.

popular

Why Argentina’s new French weapons will be a headache for the UK

You would think that, as NATO allies with the United Kingdom, France wouldn’t do anything to make the lives of British forces harder. Unfortunately, the French may have done just that with a small arms sale that didn’t really make much of a blip.


According to Scramble Magazine, the French sold Argentina five Dassault Super Etendard carrier-based attack planes. Now, you may wonder how this makes the life of the U.K.’s Royal Navy harder, especially since the Argentinean Navy hasn’t had a carrier since the Veinticinco de Mayo was decommissioned and sold for scrap in 1997.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
A Super Etendard refuels four other planes. (U.S. Navy photo)

For that answer, we need to go back roughly 36 years, to the Falklands War, when Argentina had seized the Islands. At the time, among their potent aircraft were some newly-purchased Super Etendards, armed with the Aerospatiale AM.39 Exocet anti-ship missiles. At the time, they had a grand total of five planes and five missiles but were waiting on delivery of several more aircraft, according to The National Interest. Despite that very limited inventory, the Super Etendards carried out two successful strikes that sank the Type 42 guided-missile destroyer, HMS Sheffield, and the merchant vessel, Atlantic Conveyor.

While the British eventually liberated the Falkland Islands from Argentina, the Etendard had left its mark.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
The Type 42 guided-missile destroyer HMS Sheffield, sunk by an Exocet fired by an Argentinean Super Etendard. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Nathalmad)

Argentina eventually got the full delivery of 14 Super Etendards. They also, presumably, had a good stock of Exocets. But in the 1990s and 2000s, the Argentinean military got hit with budget cuts after the country’s economy suffered serious problems. The Super Etendard force had declined to a lone operational plane in 2014, according to Scramble, with nine reserves in storage.

This sale of five planes will push Argentina to a minimum of six operational planes and, if the other nine return to service, the British could once again have to prepare for a fight near the Falklands.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why Iran’s Special Forces still wear US green berets

When looking at Iran’s 65th Airborne Special Force Brigade, you might notice a few striking similarities — the yellow enlisted chevrons seem a lot like the the yellow chevrons on old Army greens, for example. Before the Iranian Revolution, their unit insignia looked a lot like the De Oppresso Liber crest that signifies the United States Army Special Forces.

The distinctive green beret worn by the Iranians may not be the same shade of green worn by today’s U.S. Army Special Forces, but Iranian special operators wear green for a reason — they were trained by Americans.


In the 1960s, the United States sent four operational detachments of Army Special Forces operators to Iran to train the Shah’s Imperial military forces. The Mobile Training Teams spent two years as Military Assistance Advisory Group Iran. Before they could even get to Iran, the soldiers had to pass the Special Forces Officer course at Fort Bragg, then learn Farsi at the Monterey, Calif. Defense Language Institute. Only then would they be shipped to Iran to train Iranian Special Forces.

It’s been a long time since the 65th was a part of the Imperial Iranian Special Forces. Now called 65th NOHED Brigade (which is just a Farsi acronym for “airborne special forces”), the unit’s mission is very similar to the ones the U.S. Special Forces trained them for in the 1960s. They perform hostage rescue, psychological operations, irregular warfare, and train for counter-terrorism missions both in and outside of the Islamic Republic.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Inside the Iranian military, the unit is known as the “powerful ghosts.” The nickname stems from a mission given to the 65th in the mid-1990s. They were tasked to take buildings around Tehran from the regular military – and were able to do it in under two hours.

Since their initial standup with U.S. Special Forces, Iran’s 65th Airborne Special Force Brigade survived the 1979 Iranian Revolution, then they survived the brutal Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, and now advise the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as they fight for the Iran-dominated Assad regime in Syria against a fractured rebellion.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

NOHED members operating a machine gun in highlands of Kordestan during Iran–Iraq War of the 1980s.

The legacy of the harsh but thorough training with American Green Berets continues in Iran. The current training includes endurance and survival in desert, jungle, and mountain warfare, among other schools, like parachute and freefall training, just like their erstwhile American allies taught so long ago.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The one-eyed angry lawman played by John Wayne was real

Charles Portis’ 1968 novel, True Grit, has become a staple of Western fiction. In the story, 14-year-old Mattie Ross teams up with Marshal Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn and a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf to avenge the death of her father. The book has been adapted a few times, famously earning John Wayne an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of “Rooster” in the 1969 film of the same name, while Jeff Bridges reprised the role in the 2010 Coen brothers adaptation that earned him an Oscar nomination.


While True Grit has clearly left its mark on both the literary and film worlds, it’s mostly unknown that Portis’ character “Rooster” was actually inspired by a real-life gunslinger. John Franklin Cogburn, nicknamed “Rooster” by his uncle, made his own rules in late-1800s Arkansas. Though he never carried a badge of his own, Franklin was out for blood when it came to Deputy Marshal Trammel. Working undercover to identify moonshiners, Trammel had threatened the women in Cogburn’s family—strong-arming them for information—which is something that didn’t sit well with Franklin. On June 21, 1888, Franklin, his cousin Fayette, and a few others attacked lawmen—including Trammel—near Black Springs, Arkansas. The bloodbath that followed would result in a manhunt for Franklin and crew.

Brett Cogburn details the life of his great-grandfather, John Franklin Cogburn, in Rooster. While the character Charles Portis made famous is not entirely based on Franklin, there are most certainly elements from his life that inspired the classic story.

Read on for an excerpt from Rooster.

Rooster

By Brett Cogburn

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
Amazon,u00a0Barnes & Noble, Apple, iBooks, Google, Kobo

Blood Feud

Black Springs wasn’t much of a town as towns went, even in the backwoods of Arkansas. It might have been more aptly termed a “spot in the road,” as some folks will say, more of a community than a town proper. There was only one building that bore a second look and that was the general store. Even that wasn’t much in the way of opulence, its weathered timbers grayed and lacking a single coat of paint. The store commanded the settlement more by height than by any pretentious display of architecture and beauty, being the only two-story structure in sight. The first floor consisted of the meager offerings of merchandise the poor folks who graced its dark interior might want or afford, and the upstairs served duty as the local Masonic lodge. The large front porch overlooked the hardscrabble log and sawmill lumber buildings scattered along a stretch of dusty road that led west through the mountains into Indian Territory. The mangy old hound lying at the foot of the porch and scratching a flea off its bony ribs was in perfect keeping with the pace and prosperity of the tiny settlement.

The cold wind blowing and the gray clouds sliding over the pine treetops on the mountaintop above town reminded everyone that it was the dead of winter. Most folks were huddled around their fireplaces or standing over warmly ticking stoves, so not many saw the tall young man ride into town. He came up the trail from Fancy Hill on a pretty good horse for a hill boy. He left the animal out of the wind on the leeward side of the store and began to eke his way on foot from one building to the next.

Many in Black Springs would have known him, or at least recognized him for one of his clan. All of the men of his family were stamped much the same—high cheekbones, square chins, thick mustaches, and brown eyes that glittered like those of an Indian. The fact that he was bigger than most of his clan wasn’t what gave pause to those who saw him on that morning. Every man in the mountains was a hunter in some form or fashion, and it was obvious that Franklin “Rooster” Cogburn was stalking somebody.

It wasn’t unusual for a man to arrive in town with a rifle in his hands, as the roads could be dangerous to travel and leaving your shooter at home was a sure way to run short of meat in the cookpot. An armed man usually stored his gun to pick up later in whatever business or home he visited first if he came on foot, or he left it on his horse. Franklin didn’t leave his Winchester anywhere. In fact, he carried it across his saddle when he arrived instead of having it in a scabbard, as if he were ready to jump shoot a deer or a turkey. And when he started down the street on foot, the gun was still in his hands.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
(Paramount Pictures photo)

Mountain folk can smell trouble just as easy as smoke on the wind, and the word rapidly spread throughout the settlement that Franklin was on the prowl. And word spread just as quickly who it was that he was hunting. Folks gave him room just like you did a mean old bull when you had to walk across your neighbor’s pasture. Butting into somebody else’s business was always chancy, much less antagonizing one of the Cogburns. There were too damned many of them to risk getting crossways with—not if a man valued his peace and wanted to stay out of a fight. It was best to let the Law handle the matter, and that was bound to happen, considering it was a Deputy U.S. Marshal that Franklin was looking for with blood in his eye.

Franklin made no attempt to hide the fact that he was looking for a fight with J. D. Trammell, and he quietly slandered the man’s name to any who asked. He had heard Trammell was in town, and had ridden seven miles through the mountains to corner him. The rumor mill had it that Cogburns believed Trammell was working undercover either for the Revenue Service or for Judge Parker’s court. Trammell had lived and worked for a while among the Cogburns in their stronghold at Fancy Hill, but had recently fled the community due to tension between him and some of the clan.

Lots of the citizens of Montgomery County made whiskey, and the Cogburns made more than anybody. The old Hanging Judge and his army of badge packers out of Fort Smith got a lot of press chasing train robbers and murderers in the Indian Territory, but people of the time knew that the marshals’ main job was arresting whiskey peddlers and moonshiners. The Law was bound and determined to stem the distilling of illegal liquor, and especially to keep it out of the nearby Indian Territory. The mountain folks begrudgingly admired craftiness, and the “revenuers,” as they often called the deputy marshals and other government men, could be especially sneaky in locating and busting up a man’s stills. The kind of men brave enough or outlaw enough to break the law making whiskey often didn’t look too kindly on anyone threatening their means of living, and a detective working undercover risked life and limb.

And there were other things that a Cogburn would tolerate even less than a revenuer. Many of the wives of the Cogburns and other families in the area claimed that Trammell was visiting their homes while their men were gone and using strong-arm tactics to force them to inform on who was making whiskey and where the stills were located. Always hotheaded and ready for a fight, Franklin had come to Black Springs to set things right. Nobody, and he meant nobody, was going to abuse the women of his family. A killing was in order.

J. D. Trammell was indeed a Deputy U.S. Marshal, but what Franklin didn’t know was that Trammell wasn’t in Black Springs. However, Montgomery County Sheriff G. W. Golden just happened to be in town on other business. The first thing he came across at a distance was Franklin armed, angry, and hunting a man whom Golden knew to be a fellow officer of the law. He immediately went to seek the help of the local constable, whose name has unfortunately been lost to history. Both lawmen were in agreement that Franklin should be disarmed, but neither of them was anxious to confront him.

Among the people of southern Montgomery County, the twenty-two-year-old Franklin was known as an honest fellow, quick to lend his help, and a fine hand with a team of horses. While he may have been a likable sort, he was also known to be a part of the large moonshining operation run by some of the rougher sort in his family. He had a quick temper and would fight at the drop of a hat, and it was the opinion of more than a few citizens that his wild streak would eventually come to no good end.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

Articles

The British and Germans built these deadly hollowed-out trees in WWI

As if the lowly soldier of World War I didn’t have enough to worry about on the hellish battlefields of France — from massive flamethrowers, to giant artillery guns to poison gas — there was a lot of nastiness that could kill you in no-man’s land.


But killer trees? Come on, is there no decency?

(Gif: AllMovieVideos via YouTube)

Not quite the nightmare scenario of living, walking Ents from “Lord of the Rings,” the British and later the Germans nevertheless disguised sniper hides and observation posts in positions designed to look like trees destroyed on the battlefield made from steel drums and camouflaged to look like an everyday arbor.

In the constant game of cat and mouse that marked the stalemate of the Western Front, diabolical designers looked to the splintered wreckage of the pock-marked battlescape to hide their positions. According to a story about the deadly hollowed-out trees in the London Daily Mail, the Brits found wrecked trees they could use to construct what they called “O.P. Trees” for observation posts.

Is that a German Baumbeobachter behind me? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“The ideal tree was dead and often it was bomb blasted,” the MailOnline story said. “The photographs and sketches were then sent to a workshop where artists constructed an artificial tree of hollow steel cylinders.”

“It contained an internal scaffolding for reinforcement, to allow a sniper or observer to ascend within the structure,” the story added.

The trees were built to look exactly like the ruined ones in no-man’s land, so troops would sneak between the lines in the dark and replace the real tree with the fake one. Manned by a British Tommy, the O.P. Trees gave a better view of the battlefield than peering over the trench line.

Historians say a soldier perched within the tree would relay his observation to another trooper posted below, who’d carry the information back to the lines for an attack.

An O.P. Tree being installed on a World War I battlefield by British troops. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“As far as we know the trees were surprisingly successful and none of them were detected by the enemy,” a historian with the Imperial War Museum in Kensington, England, told MailOnline. “In 1916 the Germans had captured a lot of the higher ground on the Western Front and even the elevation of a few feet through one of these trees could prove crucial.”

The Germans later caught on to the tactic and built there own, calling them Baumbeobachter (which means “tree observer”) and used them throughout the war. The Brits are said to have used their first O.P. Trees during the battle of Ypres in Belgium in 1915, and historians estimate around 45 were deployed to the Western front.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch how Light Armored Recon fight chemical attacks

In the world of combat, enemies of the U.S. don’t typically fight fair. So, as a defensive measure, we need to prepare for every possible situation that could arise — even situations that involve the use of outlawed weaponry.


Fortunately, our armed forces go through detailed training to prepare for an event in which one of the countries we occupy decides to get froggy and releases a chemical attack.

It’s no secret that such chemicals exist and to combat the threat, allied forces have the technology readily available.

Related: Check out this tiny Navy SEAL team survival kit

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
Mustard gas victims with bandaged faces await transport for treatment. (Canadian War Museum)

Not all released chemicals are absorbed into the human body via inhalation. For some dangerous substances, any contact with the body can be deadly. So, the military has unique suits and a system called “Mission Oriented Protective Posture” to define the level of protection required by each circumstance.

The MOPP system technically has five different levels. Level 0 means the area appears to zero threat, but troops must still keep those specialized suites handy. This level rises as dangers become greater so that troops know to don additional gear for protection.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
What MOPP looked like back in 1991.

You might ask yourself, what if the troop works as a tanker and they cant put on their MOPP gear fast enough due to a lack of space?

That’s a great question and we’re glad we asked.

Moden day tanks and light armored vehicles are built to protect the troops inside, even in the event that the enemy decides to pass gas. Get it? How funny are we, right?

The cleverly constructed vehicles are fitted to have all the hatches seal airtight when closed. Those light armored reconnaissance vehicles are well constructed that they can maneuver through harsh terrain during attacks like it’s no big deal.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
(Marines / YouTube)

Also Read: 6 of the most common infantry training injuries

Check out the Marines‘ video below to get the complete breakdown of being prepared for any situation — like a chemical gas attack.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

US government warns Americans not to travel to Venezuela

The US Department of State issued a level-four travel warning for Venezuela on March 14, 2019, to tell Americans “do not travel” to the chaos-stricken country, and that all Americans in the country should leave. It’s the highest travel warning that the department issues.

The advisory pointed to “crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, and arbitrary arrest and detention of US citizens.”

The announcement aligns with a top-level warning that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued in May 2018. That warning said outbreaks of measles, malaria, diphtheria, and other infectious diseases are contributing to “an increasing humanitarian crisis affecting much of the country.”


The Department of State noted on March 14, 2019, that, throughout Venezuela, “there are shortages of food, water, electricity, medicine, and medical supplies.”

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

(Flickr photo by Anyul Rivas)

Political rallies and demonstrations occur with little notice, the warning said. And these rallies attract a strong police response with “tear gas, pepper spray, water cannons, and rubber bullets against participants and occasionally devolve into looting and vandalism.”

“Security forces have arbitrarily detained US citizens for long periods,” the warning said. “The US Department of State may not be notified of the detention of a US citizen, and consular access to detainees may be denied or severely delayed.”

After this warning was issued, American Airlines announced on March 15, 2019, that they would suspend flights into Caracas and Maracaibo. “Our corporate security team has a collaborative partnership with all of our union leaders and we will continue to do so to evaluate the situation in Venezuela,” the airline said in a statement.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China launches new flattop as it builds a force capable of invading islands

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army has three aircraft carriers in some degree of completion, but on Sept. 25, 2019, China launched a new kind of flattop — the first Type 075 amphibious assault ship.

The still unnamed ship was put in the water at the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai, the China Daily reported. A military expert told The Global Times that the launch “marked the beginning of a new era in the development of Chinese naval surface ships.”

The ship is not yet ready, as the ship still needs to be fitted with radar, navigation, electronic warfare, and other critical systems and go through sea trials before it can become operational, but Wednesday’s launch is an important step toward the fielding of China’s first amphibious assault ship able to transport dozens of aircraft, as well as ground troops and military vehicles — forces needed to mount a seabone raid or invasion.


The launch follows the recent appearance of photos online showing a nearly-completed ship, leading observers to conclude that a launch was imminent.

The Type 075, the development of which began in 2011, is expected to be much more capable than the Type 071 amphibious transport docks that currently serve as the critical components of the Chinese amphibious assault force.

“Compared with China’s Type 071, the new Type 075 can accommodate more transport and attack helicopters and, in coordination with surface-effect ships [fast boats to deploy troops], could demonstrate greater attack capabilities [than the Type 071], especially for island assault missions,” Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military affairs expert, told the South China Morning Post prior to the launch.

Unlike the Type 071, currently the largest operational amphibious warfare vessels in the PLAN, the Type 075 is longer and features a full flight deck.

With a displacement of roughly 40,000 tons, the ship is noticeably larger than Japan’s Izumo-class helicopter destroyer, which Japan is in the process of converting to carry F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, but smaller than the US military’s Wasp-class and America-class amphibious assault ships, vessels the Navy and Marines have been looking at using as light aircraft carriers.

Details about the capabilities of the Type 075 ships and the Chinese navy’s plans for them are limited, so it is unclear if China would eventually equip its 250-meter amphibious assault ships with aircraft with vertical or short takeoff and landing abilities.

China does not currently have a suitable jump jet like the F-35B or AV-8B Harrier II for this purpose, but older reports indicate the country is looking into developing one.

The launch comes just days ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, when China is expected to show off its military might. At least two more amphibious assault ships are said to be in the works.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Ex-Guantanamo prisoners appointed as peace negotiators

The Taliban says it has appointed five militants who spent more than a decade in the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay to be members of its political office in Qatar, where they will take part in any future Afghanistan peace talks.

The five former Taliban commanders — Mohammad Fazl, Mohammed Nabi, Khairullah Khairkhwa, Abdul Haq Wasiq, and Noorullah Noori — were settled in Qatar following their release from the U.S. detention center in Cuba in 2014, but until now had not been directly involved in political activities, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said on Oct. 31, 2018.


The men were released as part of a prisoner exchange in return for former Taliban captive, U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

The Taliban announcement came amid gathering momentum for talks to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan.

Qatar has emerged as a principal contact point between the Taliban and the U.S. government. In October 2018, Taliban officials met the recently appointed U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, in the Qatari capital, Doha, where the militants have a political office that serves as a de facto embassy.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Recently appointed U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad.

They met there in 2018 with U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells.

Taliban officials said the five Taliban commanders were close to the militant group’s late founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar, and are also close to its current leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada.

One Taliban official told Reuters that as former Guantanamo prisoners, they had been subject to restrictions on their movements, but they are now free to travel and attend peace negotiations.

The appointments follow the release by Pakistan in October 2018 of senior Taliban figure Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

A Taliban official told AFP the group had requested the release of Baradar and several others at the meeting with Khalilzad.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY GAMING

Soldiers sign up by thousands for Army eSports team

Recruiting officials are screening more than 4,000 applications from soldiers who hope to be chosen to play video games full time for the Army.

U.S. Army Recruiting Command may select up to 30 of the service’s top gamers to be on the new Army Esports Team and compete in local, regional and national gaming tournaments.

The Army Esports Team — which will become part of the new Marketing and Engagement Brigade based at Fort Knox, Kentucky — is a component of the new recruiting strategy the service launched after it missed its annual recruiting goal in 2018 by 6,500 soldiers.


Recruiting officials hope that soldiers who compete in these gaming tournaments will help the service connect with this specific, but growing, segment of the American youth population.

Roughly 35 percent of American males ages 21 to 35 participate in this market, which is estimated to be worth id=”listicle-2625430237″.9 billion, recruiting officials say. They often play multiplayer, first-person shooter games such as Overwatch and Call of Duty on systems ranging from personal computers to PlayStations, both on their own and in tournaments sponsored by civilian gaming leagues.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Capt. Ryan Lewis talks to Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Jones and @twitch.tv shout caster James “jchensor” Chen during the Army Entertainment Esports Street Fighter V tournament 11 August 2018, at the Alternate Escapes Café at Fort Gordon, Georgia.

(U.S. Army 2nd Recruiting Brigade)

Young soldiers are part of this subculture, according to Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Jones, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Army Esports Team.

“Soldiers are showing a want and desire to not only play gaming … but also be in competitive gaming, and we understand that is a really good connection to our target market,” he said. “These soldiers will actually be hand-selected, so what we are doing is grouping them together and — based upon the title and platform that they wish to compete in — having them scrimmage within those groups to find out who are the best we have.”

Jones has been gaming since he was five years old and has a “custom-built PC, a Nintendo Switch, PS4 Pro and an Xbox One X. So if there is a game, I normally play it,” he said.

Part of the screening process will include ensuring that candidates also meet Army physical fitness, height and weight standards.

“Those soldiers will be screened from there to make sure that not only can they compete, but [they] are the top-quality soldier that we are looking for in order to move here to Knox to compete,” Jones said. “We want those soldiers, when they go to these events, to be able to articulate to the public.”

Team members will serve 36 months at Fort Knox and travel to tournaments, supporting the Army’s recruiting efforts at high schools and colleges, he said.

Many applicants who aren’t selected for the team could still be involved in the effort, Jones said.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

“There are a lot of soldiers that just want to be a part of the community and want to help out even outside of competitive play,” he said. “We do have soldiers who have applied to the program and said, ‘I know I’m not competitive; however, I wish to help grow this.’ “

These soldiers can still participate on their off time, doing exactly what they already have been doing, Jones said.

“The difference is we are giving them a platform to play together … whether it be participating in online tournaments or just playing together and showcasing that to the American public,” he said.

“Essentially, soldiers are already playing video games,” Jones said. “We are just bringing to the light what is already in existence.”

The eSports world is widely shared on “Twist TV and all of these streaming services,” said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Dodge, a spokesman for Army Recruiting Command.

“We know that there is a large [portion] of the population out there that is watching these video game tournaments and watching people game, and this is allowing our soldiers who are already doing this and competing in these tournaments to get out there and connect with that large population,” Dodge said.

“So with this, we can touch a huge number of people and tell our Army story and help get them potentially interested in wanting to serve,” he added.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What’s up with fashion’s awkward adaptation of military threads?

Military dress and fashion have been linked for a long time. Bomber jackets were used to save pilots’ lives in WWI. Then, in the 1990s, they were used by sitcom bullies on TV shows. US soldiers have been wearing BDU camo pants since the 1980s. Now, Drake wears them in his “In My Feelings” music video.


5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Even the camo couldn’t hide him from his son.

Go to a hip coffee spot. Chances are there’s a dude with black-rimmed glasses wearing an army jacket or some form of a “war veteran” hat — basically walking around looking like an extra from Red Dawn.

But it’s always been like this. Hell, as soon as cavemen started battling in decorated loin cloths, I’ll bet their sons started ironically wearing decorated loin cloths to cave-school the next day. “Ug see, Ug do…”

Why are these trends adopted by people who (speaking in generalities here) are admittedly not involved or interested in military life? It’s odd, and, it’s actually getting a bit more extreme — streetwear and “hypebeasts” (someone whose identity is so tied up in what brands they wear that they become a walking billboard) have even started wearing tactical vests.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Just a “Supreme” sticker away from costing 0.

But nobody is guiltless here; the reverse is arguably just as bad — when military dudes bring a little too much HOOAH into the fashion world.

I mean, look at Grunt Style. Seeing a dude working out at the gym in a Grunt Style shirt is one of the fastest ways to recognize someone who has just enlisted and really wants you to thank them for their service. Don’t get me wrong —patriots should be allowed to express their pride however they want, but rockin’ a shirt that says “Alcohol. Tobacco. Firearms.” is the FNG equivalent of a sorority girl with a “Live. Laugh. Love 3” tattoo on her wrist.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Oh, by the way — Post Malone was seen, coincidentally enough, wearing that shirt at a concert. Another traditionally military-born fashion piece ironically worn to project some bizarre, label-manufactured street image.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Maybe it seems weird because of the odd political and social divide in our country right now. Maybe it seems weird because you don’t need camo when you’re on a giant stage with a spotlight on you. Maybe it seems weird because it’s just plain uninspired. No matter what it “seems” like, the link between fashion and military has always been here and always will be.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Paul A. Yost, Jr., later a Commandant of the Coast Guard, was leading a group of 13 swift boats during the insertion of Navy Underwater Demolition Team-13 and some Vietnamese marines when his column came under attack from a Viet Cong ambush that managed to heavily damage multiple boats, kill American and Vietnamese troops, and isolate the last boat.


 

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

When Yost found out that his last boat was trapped in the kill zone and his other ships weren’t in shape to recover it, he took his command boat and one other back into the kill zone to rescue the sailors who were still under attack.

The 13-boat movement was part of Operation Silver Mace II, which was put into action to break up Viet Cong operations in that section of Vietnam. The boats were to drop off the ground forces and then provide support from the river. The first five boats reached the insertion points for their marines and completed their mission without incident.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

The other eight boats continued upriver. When they went to drop off their marines, a U.S. Marine major assigned as an advisor went to Yost and asked that the Vietnamese marines be dropped another mile upriver because the going was hard and no Viet Cong activity had been spotted. Yost agreed.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
Riverine craft make their way up a narrow river in Vietnam. PCF-23 was one of the craft involved in Operation Silver Mace II. (Photo: Naval War College Museum)

Just to be safe, Yost ordered the two Seawolf attack helicopters assigned to him be launched. They were based on a ship 15 minutes away, meaning they would arrive as the boats got to the more dangerous parts of the river.

But Yost’s superior, Navy Capt. Roy Hoffman, ordered the helicopters to sit tight, possibly to ensure that they wouldn’t run out of fuel before they were needed. Yost wasn’t told of the change.

A short time later, everything went sideways. The eight boats were proceeding upriver when PCF-5, the lead boat, was suddenly hit with a claymore mine from the riverbank. More claymores, rockets, and machine gun fire rained down on the boats.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

Yost was in the second boat and ordered it to push through the kill zone, and the rest of the column followed.

The rear boat, PCF-43, was the slowest and needed maintenance, according to then-Lt. j.g. Virgil A. Erwin III — a boat commander during the operations. In addition to its maintenance issues, it was weighed down with 800 pounds of explosives, 10 UDTs, and all of their gear.

That boat was unable to keep up with the rest of the column as they pushed through the kill zone, and it was left as the sole target for a few fatal seconds during the ambush. The corpsman on board was hit with a rocket and killed just before another rocket struck the cabin, killing the boat commander and severely wounding the two others in the cabin.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

The boat ran out of control and beached itself, hard, on a mudbank. It hit so hard that it slid most of the way out of the water, leaving the engine’s water intake above the waterline and making it impossible for the boat to propel itself back off.

As the engine overheated, the UDT members jumped from the boat and established a defensive perimeter behind it, using the wreck as cover from the Viet Cong fire coming from a mere 20 feet away.

The closest boat, PCF-38, attempted to assist PCF-43, but their steering gear was damaged and they were forced to head back upriver. Once they reached the lead perimeter, they alerted Yost to the state of PCF-43.

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

Yost took his craft, PCF-31, and the former lead boat, PCF-5, back downriver. Once they reached the ambush site, 5 and 31 began pouring .50-cal. rounds into the jungle and forced the Viet Cong fighters to take cover. As 5 kept the fire up, Yost and 31 pulled up to the stricken 43 and began evacuating the wounded and dead.

The two crafts escaped with 15 survivors and the bodies of the two men killed in action.

Just a few hours later, PCF-43 exploded. The most likely cause was that the engines, which typically were cooled by water flowing through the engine for propulsion, had overheated and set fire to the leaking fuel. The fuel ignited the explosives and the whole thing burned hot until the boat itself exploded.

Yost was later awarded the Silver Star for his part in the fight. In 1986, he became the 18th Commandant of the Coast Guard.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information